When we lost the great Stuart Gordon recently, I realized there were a few of his films I still hadn’t seen. It’s kind of nice, actually, to still have something left to discover. There’s a particular one that happens in space that involves truckers that I honestly have wanted to see since before it even came out, and somehow never have. It’ll be a few weeks before I can finally change that, because I decided to order a UK Blu-Ray instead of pay Amazon to stream it in standard def. But I wanted to watch this one first anyway – the one based on the David Mamet play.
Gordon and Mamet, if you don’t know, go way back. Long before RE-ANIMATOR, Gordon was doing envelope-pushing theater work in Chicago. He directed, at his Organic Theater Company, the production of Sexual Perversity in Chicago credited with establishing Mamet as a playwright, although there was an earlier one starring William H. Macy, who also stars in this movie.
Here he plays Edmond Burke, a dude who works for some kind of financial firm called Stearns & Harrington. He’s apparently had a bad day (his meeting on Monday got pushed back to 1:15 – WHAT IN THE LIVING GOD DAMN FUCK!?) when he heads home and, on a whim, stops to get a tarot reading. She tells him “You don’t belong here.” (read the rest of this shit…)
The way Stuart Gordon tells it, CASTLE FREAK was made because he saw Charles Band’s poster for it before it was even really a premise.
“What’s that about?”
“A castle and a freak.”
I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s how the majority of Full Moon Pictures come about, but they usually don’t have the brilliant director of RE-ANIMATOR and FROM BEYOND as the guy translating the poster into an actual movie, so they don’t turn out this well.
Gordon’s idea of CASTLE FREAK takes inspiration from H.P. Lovecraft. I’m sure you could also say that about what he eats for breakfast every morning. But he credits the short story “The Outsider,” about a man escaping from the castle where he’s lived alone for as long as he can remember. The screenplay is by Gordon’s longtime collaborator Dennis Paoli (RE-ANIMATOR, FROM BEYOND, THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, DAGON), and its hook is simple: American asshole John Reilly (Jeffrey Combs, THE FRIGHTENERS) inherits a 12th century castle from a Duchess and brings his unhappy wife (Barbara Crampton, FRATERNITY VACATION) and blind daughter (Jessica Dollarhide, 1 episode of Major Dad, 2 episodes of In Living Color, 2 episodes of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman) to check it out with him. Little do they know that his dead relative also left behind the feral, mutilated man she’d been torturing in the dungeon for most of his life. Probly should’ve mentioned that. (read the rest of this shit…)
It was July 19, 1996, and there were four new movies in theaters: the action movie with Laurence Fishburne, the genie movie with Shaquille O’Neal, the clone movie with Michael Keaton, and the ghost movie with Michael J. Fox. That last one did the best of the batch, but more people went to see previous releases INDEPENDENCE DAY, PHENOMENON, COURAGE UNDER FIRE and THE NUTTY PROFESSOR.
Not that surprising. Normal people didn’t know what the hell THE FRIGHTENERS was, or have any reason to give it much thought. Universal couldn’t make that big a deal about BACK TO THE FUTURE’s Marty McFly reuniting with Robert Zemeckis (as a producer) because it’s not that kind of movie. Whiz bang special effects movie, yeah, but rated-R, with some grossness and disturbing flashbacks to a realistic spree killing. Like the one we looked at last week, WOLF, there was no McDonalds tie-in (although the skeletal face imprint on the movie poster would’ve looked cool coming out of the side of those glass mugs!). (read the rest of this shit…)
“Confessions are only admitted under torture, otherwise you might confess just to avoid torture and it wouldn’t be a true confession.”
Stuart Gordon’s THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM opens with Grand Inquisitor Torquemada (Lance Henriksen, STONE COLD) and his Spanish Inquisition goons pulling a dead body out of a coffin, convicting him of heresy and giving him 20 lashes, which busts him apart until he’s a pile of bones. The man’s family watch, outraged, while a bunch of other rich people smile to themselves and lick their lips. Torquemada crushes the dead man’s skull into powder and uses it to fill an hourglass. That’s all before the credits start.
So, this movie is not fuckin around. And you guys know how I feel about a movie that’s not fuckin around. (Usually positive.)
Even still, it kinda snuck up on me. It’s a Full Moon production, and they’re doing a period piece (Spain, 1492) in the one castle they have access to, lots of fake looking wigs, some actors delivering their lines in a modern tone, some not. And then there’s a shitty looking font on the credits and they still couldn’t bother to change the title (it calls it THE INQUISITOR). And as it gets into the plot about a woman falsely accused by the Spanish Inquisition it seems like it’s gonna be mostly sitting through gruesome torture scenes: public whipping, burning at the stake, some citizens enjoying it, others being forced to watch, people tied to racks, screaming, getting slashed and/or sexually humiliated. But that’s just the fuel to a story that really comes together, a nice amalgam of Edgar Allan Poe ideas, adventure and most of all an extreme caricature of the type of hypocrites who stand in judgment of others to hide their own faults. Gordon worked in theater for years before RE-ANIMATOR made him a Master of Horror, and I imagine this is alot like one of his plays. (read the rest of this shit…)
FORTRESS is one of those rare b-movie (or B+ movie?) gems that you come across every once in a while that has everything: good cast, great gimmicks, unexpected emotion and substance, cyborgs. It’s a 1993 sci-fi action movie, but clearly without a summer blockbuster budget, so it feels somewhere between Paul Verhoeven and ROBOT JOX. And that makes sense, because it’s the same director. Man, why did I never see this before? Didn’t I know it was a Christopher Lambert movie directed by Stuart Gordon? Don’t I believe in the auteur theory?
Lambert plays Brennick, an ex-soldier (“the most decorated captain of the Black Berets, yet you quit in disgrace…”) busted with his pregnant wife Karen (Loryn Locklin) trying to sneak out of the country because it’s illegal to give birth twice. They both end up at the Fortress, a giant underground, privately owned prison. The convicts become property of the Men-Tel Corporation and used for prison labor. Their job: to keep building further into the ground, making more room for more convicts to build even further. That’s my favorite concept in the movie because it so deviously illustrates the problem of the prison industrial complex. Zed-10, the computer program that runs the place (voice of the director’s wife Carolyn Purdy-Gordon), keeps saying the Men-Tel slogan “Crime does not pay.” But of course for them it does. (read the rest of this shit…)
RE-ANIMATOR holds up as a timeless classic, BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR never was one and hasn’t gotten any better. This time Stuart Gordon was not involved (if a man wants to spend 1989 doing ROBOT JOX that is his right), and the directational reins were handed over to producer Brian Yuzna. I guess I’m comparing a shitty non-anamorphic DVD to a nice blu-ray, but this one seems cheaper and more obvious than the first one in every regard, from the broader acting to the shitty Richard Band keyboard score that, when it’s not ripping off the PSYCHO theme again, sounds exactly like every score he did for any Full Moon movie in that era.
Damn, talk about a movie that surpasses my memory of it being pretty good. Stuart Gordon’s FROM BEYOND is a minor horror classic with the elegant simplicity and tone of RE-ANIMATOR and the body transmogrifying ambition of John Carpenter’s THE THING. It’s all about an incident when another dimension bonks heads with ours, and you can guess which one of us gets a bloody nose.
Jeffrey Combs stars in this one too, this time as Crawford, the more reasonable assistant to his groundbreaking professor at Miskatonic, Dr. Edward Pretorius (Ted Sorel, NETWORK, BASKET CASE 2), whose invention “The Resonator” uses a bunch of analog computers and Tesla-tech hooked to a row of tuning forks to create a vibration that stimulates our pineal glands, causing us to see beings that have been around us, unseen, all along. (read the rest of this shit…)
RE-ANIMATOR is one of those good old ’80s college buddy movies, you know? You got the tall, blandly handsome star student Dan (Bruce Abbott), he’s fucking the dean’s daughter Megan (Barbara Crampton), there’s an uptight professor, Dr. Hill (David Gale – the one from SAVAGE WEEKEND, who I still don’t think is the same one THE LIFE OF DAVID GALE is about), who disapproves of the relationship. Then a new student comes to Miskatonic U., the socially inept but brilliant Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs), who maybe got kicked out of his school in Switzerland, or maybe had to flee. A troublemaker! Double secret probation!
Dan seems like a jock, Herbert like a nerd. Dan is a normal person, Herbert a creepy weirdo. And they become roommates! It would be fun if it was about Dan trying to loosen him up, bringing him to parties and stuff, or to pledge at a fraternity, but maybe that’s in the sequels.
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