The House with a Clock in Its Walls (2018)

The House with a Clock in Its Walls (2018) movie poster

director Eli Roth
viewed: 09/29/2018 at AMC Metreon 16, SF, CA

I hadn’t any plan to see Eli Roth’s The House with a Clock in Its Walls. But this weekend both my teenagers (14 & 17) voiced rare interest in a sojourn downtown to watch a movie. Days of taking children to movies are rapidly elapsing, so I jumped at the opportunity.

Years back, I’d actually bought a copy of John Bellairs’s 1973 children’s novel, The House with a Clock in Its Walls, which I had discovered since the cover illustration was by Edward Gorey. Another great children’s author, who we enjoyed a good deal was Joan Aiken, who also had Edward Gorey art on all her books. A sign of quality I assumed.

Interestingly, I never got to read the book to the kids, though my son did read it. Another fun parental practice lost to me is reading to my kids.

So, the movie: Jack Black is somewhat restrained. I’ll take Cate Blanchett in anything. It’s even got a little Kyle MacLachlan for you.

It seems the most fun went into designing the sets and the house and possibly cramming as much darkness and scary stuff into a PG package as possible. I guess as long as you don’t say fuck or shit, almost anything flies.

A decent time was had by all.

 

The Flying Serpent (1946)

The Flying Serpent (1946) movie poster

director Sam Newfield
viewed: 08/26/2018

Archaeology vs ornithology vs paleontology battle it out in The Flying Serpent from 1946. The great Aztec god Quetzalcoatl is a raptor-sized reptile with wings at the command of  Prof. Andrew Forbes (George Zucco), world famous ornithologist (how many of those are there again?), gets sicced upon anyone coming close to his hidden treasure.

There’s a movie serial quality to the whole affair, very much in its Poverty Row bearing. That said, the creature effects are not too shabby for a B picture like this, though Quetzalcoatl hides in the shadows a lot when he’s not flying and attacking people who hold one of his feathers.

One other interesting angle on this is the whole coverage and detection done via radio broadcast, probably around the end of the Golden Age of that medium.

Deathstalker (1983)

Deathstalker (1983) movie poster

director James Sbardellati
viewed: 06/29/2018

The best thing about Deathstalker is the poster by artist Boris Vallejo. I’ve always thought it was cool.

Light in tone and occasionally comic, the world of Desthstalker is pretty rapey. But there’s also creatures and magic, mud wrestling, and lots of 80s T&A.

Roger Corman wound up producing nine flicks in Argentina, of which Deathstalker led the way. It was followed by other sword and sorcery stuff, the flooding wake of Conan the Barbarian (1982).

“Deathstalker” himself, Rick Hill, doesn’t exude a lot of charisma. Not like Kaira (Lana Clarkson, who would find her brief heyday in this spate of B-movie fantasy junk). Deathstalker also features Barbi Benton, a name that hasn’t crossed my mind in many a moon.

At first I was going to make it a double feature with Deathstalker 2, but I decided I had enough.

Highlander (1986)

Highlander (1986) movie poster

director Russell Mulcahy
viewed: 06/11/2018

I recall seeing Highlander in the theater back in ’86. I don’t recollect what I knew about it beforehand, but I believe I liked it and may have gone back to see it again. 

That said, I hadn’t seen it in decades. I’d totally forgotten the Queen music.

Much like I thought back in the day, Highlander is absurd but absurdly entertaining, with some top notch cinematography to boot.  The story, much like Highlander itself, came out of left field. This whole concept of immortal (except in cases of decapitation) warriors was wildly inventive, if also super silly.

The cast is fun, if bizarrely representing countries and cultures native to the actors.

I actually think the opening ½ hour is really strange and surprising. The narrative strategy doesn’t tell you much of why some guy at a wrestling match suddenly goes down to a parking garage to pull a sword and battle some other dude. Just when you think there doesn’t need to be exposition, you get it in the middle in which the it comes gets hammy and silly.

I’d argue that silliness is a big part of its charm.

Barbarian Queen (1985)

Barbarian Queen (1985) movie poster

director Héctor Olivera
viewed: 06/10/2018

“Barbarian Queen
Now we’re sharing the same dream
Boobs boobs boobs boobs boobs”

Way more entertaining than you’d imagine, Barbarian Queen is most notable for its star, Lana Clarkson, and sadly that is due to the fact of her murder in 2003 at age 40 by Phil Spector. 

And that’s a shame. Clarkson isn’t necessarily star material but she does have that je ne sais quoi. She’s tall (6’0″), gorgeous,  as well as very spry and athletic in her fight scenes (Wikipedia says she did all her own stunts.)

This 70 minute action/adventure fantasy Exploitation flick may be her best cinematic legacy. I speculate.

Those 70 minutes are pretty packed with fights and rapes and boobs and blood and killing. Barbarian Queen would have made a good time at the drive-in in 1985.

Probably the most notable scene is when Amathea (Clarkson) is tortured. She kegels clamps her rapist torturer’s penis until he submits to releasing her. Impressive.

Creating Rem Lezar (1989)

v

director Scott Zakarin
viewed: 04/29/2018

I’m late to the game on the Creating Rem Lezar funfair. But better late than never.

Apparently, in earlier times of ye olde internet, people had to post clips from this direct-to-video children’s odyssey oddity, because back then you couldn’t get the whole thing on YouTube. Well, nowadays, you can see the whole thing there, in its ripped from VHS glory and its astounding astoundingness.

Is there anyone who has watched Creating Rem Lezar who didn’t think “stranger danger”?

I don’t have much to add to the Creating Rem Lezar dialogue, other than to wonder if there was anyone who actually saw it back in the day, as a target audience kid, and what they thought at the time.

The Wonderful Land of Oz (1969)

The Wonderful Land of Oz (1969) movie poster

director Barry Mahon
viewed: 04/14/2018

“My, what a peculiar looking creature you are.”

Barry Mahon’s first foray into low-budget kiddie flicks, following a robust career in Exploitation movies of various stripes, The Wonderful Land of Oz is a fabulously bizarre creation. It stars his son, Chan at Tip in a relatively faithful interpretation of L. Frank Baum’s first sequel to the legendary The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (oddly enough, the only one of those books I’ve personally read.) 

What makes this pretty largely demented is the production itself, cheaper and wackier than the lowest of community theater productions. It starts with a terrifying purple cow before introducing s Mombi,  General Jinjur, Jack Pumpkinhead,  H. M. Woggle-bug T. E., the Scarecrow,  the Tin Woodman,  Ozma, Glinda, and the Gump.

The quality of the musical numbers are oddly slightly above all else. Though, Ack, Chan Mahon’s  singing.

Surely Oz has been done better, but this wonky, low budget fantasia is a marvel of chintz and accidental darkness.

Little Red Riding Hood and the Monsters (1962)

Little Red Riding Hood and the Monsters (1962) movie poster

director Roberto Rodríguez
viewed: 11/14/2018

“All the people that live in the witch’s house are really weird.”

And awesome!

Little Red Riding Hood and the Monsters was apparently a sequel to a couple of other Mexican children fantasy films, and so, it starts out running wild. The “Queen of Badness” as she is dubbed in American has a bevy of henchpeople from robots to Frankenstein and a vampire and even a pinhead. And she is ready to punish the wolf and the ogre for having helped Little Red Riding Hood (María Gracia) and the dickish Tom Thumb (Cesáreo Quezadas) in previous times. So those two heroes must come to her creepy forest and rescue the captives, with the help of Stinky, the skunk.

Little Red Riding Hood and the Monsters is demented and sublime with is mixed bag of knock-off villains and aesthetics and its nonchalant heightened danger. The evil witch prays to Satan. One of the generic villains is a kidnapper with a huge net.  And on the more ribald side, the skunk farts in the kidnapper’s face.

Oh my goodness, I loved this.

 

A Talking Cat!?! (2013)

A Talking Cat!?! (2013) movie poster

director David DeCoteau
viewed: 02/16/2018

“Cheese puffs wafting across a pool deck. Two families enjoying each other’s gifts. Yes, things are working out much much better.”

I made my teenage daughter sit through this one with me. I’m sure that is a violation of the Geneva Convention.

I think Eric Roberts had a stroke during readings.

Former child actor Johnny Whitaker and former Playboy cover model Kristine DeBell head up this wonder of awfulness.

Strangely, the cat doesn’t talk all that much. Though A Talking Cat!?! is most entertaining when he is. Or getting magically resurrected.

So weird.