Tuesday, June 10, 2008

'zilla wafers

Since my blog is titled Scraping the Barrel, I figure it's time I dealt with some blatant barrel scraping. And there isn't a better place to start than with the latest Godzilla movies to be released on DVD. Both All Monsters Attack (AKA Godzilla's Revenge - 1969), and Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975) are pretty much considered the absolute bottom when it comes to a barrel full of Godzilla. Sure, Vs. the Smog Monster and Vs. Megalon are hanging out down there too, but I contend that the only reason these two new releases are relegated to the bottom is strictly word-of-mouth critiques gone out of control. I swear by what I read on the web, folks who hate these movies have never seen them, but because the plot synopsis for both of them read pretty hideously they parrot the company line, or they just want more of the same when it comes to Godzilla movies, and any painting outside the lines is just not what they want in a Godzilla movie. Now, I'm not going to argue that these films are high-art, or even in the top 25% of all Godzilla movies (22 of 'em between 1954-1995!), but opinions are like noses, and since I'm picking mine in public, I think these two fit comfortably in the middle to better of all Godzilla films.
All Monsters Attack has always had the reputation as the worst of all Godzilla movies. I would concede that IF it was a Godzilla movie, it probably is the worst. When in fact Godzilla mostly makes guest appearances in various dream sequences. This film is much less a Godzilla film, but more a deeper study of the effects of industrialization and modernization on Japanese society. The grim city of the film, with it’s smoggy sunsets through billowing smokestacks, is the background for the story of a latchkey kid who apparently suffers from epilepsy. While in his unconscious dreamstate, Godzilla’s son befriends him and helps him sort out his bully problems, as well as deal with his own anger at being abandoned by his parents! Not the most upbeat Godzilla movie, but at least the kid ain’t annoying, or named Kenny. And it has a smokin’ surfin’ soundtrack unlike any other Godzilla film. I swear you can read reviews of this film where the writers absolutely loath the score. I think they are deaf.
As for Terror of Mechagodzilla, it was the last Godzilla film directed by Ishiro Honda, the man who started it all. Forgiving it’s first several minutes of reconstituted monster fights, the remainder of the film is quite unique, though on a really tight budget. Where in the past whether it be alien commanders or military Generals, most of the expository scenes took place in massive underground bunkers or spaceships festooned with blinking lights and giant screen video monitors. This time around, I swear it looks like the alien invaders are planning their world domination from a room rented at the Marriott. Instead of being a distraction though, it's the urban sterility that makes the film much more real-world, here and now, and much less the fantasy unreality of the previous 20 years of Godzilla films. With a major “robot in love with a human” subplot taking center stage for much of it’s running time, the whole film has a melancholy mood unlike any other Godzilla film (except maybe All Monsters Attack). The photography is also stunning at times, and benefits from proper framing this time around, not the barely panned and scanned version that has been junking up the cheap-o video stores for years if not decades. And though this was the first Godzilla with an all new effects team, they handle themselves admirably, with Godzilla no longer battling in barren countryside (the cheapest and easiest of all effects to choreograph and film).
Both of these DVD's are done up in super-deluxe, though reasonably priced editions. Each has commentaries and multiple language options, as well as both US and Japanese release versions of the films themselves. If your collection is barren of all things Godzilla, you certainly shouldn't start with these, but if you have the prerequisite first film, and maybe Vs. Mothra or Ghidorah, the 3-Headed Monster these would be welcome editions.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

While supplies last!

Often times I get confused by what passes for judgement when it comes to what is and isn't available on DVD. And the height of my confusion is reached whenever I get lists of titles which are being cut-out and deleted. Usually we are never given the heads up when things are going to be removed from circulation. One day we go to reorder something, and oh, that item is no longer available. Sometimes it's because a multi-disc gold-plated Leonard Maltin fancy schmancy enhanced version is just around the corner, and "they" would like you to purchase that version. And other times, there is no reason at all, besides the most likely reason being that a bunch of suits had replaced a bunch of other suits, and the new suits deemed these titles unnecessary. "Ya ain't pullin' yer weight kid. Ya gotta go". As luck would have it, this time around we got not only a fine list of titles being deleted, but we actually are "allowed" to purchase (non returnable, of course) these titles. Therefore, while supplies last, if you got a hankering for some fairly prestige DVD titles gettin' the heave-ho, I recommend you get thee to our store ASAP. "How much $$$"and "What titles?" you probably want to know. Prices pretty much stay around $10.00. Not super-cheap, but it doesn't take a Nostradamus to predict many of these titles will be selling on Amazon for waaaay more than that in the near future. As for titles, the list is quite extensive, but in a nutshell, these are all major studio DVD's, many of them deluxe editions. You won't find them at Walgreens, Target or the Jewels. All are Brand New and sealed. No cuts, marks or gashes. Here's a short list. If any of these titles hold any interest for you, please come on by. If you aren't familiar with some of these titles but curious, check out the Zachariah link and look 'em up yourself.
Last Tango in Paris
Myra Breckinridge
Phantom of the Paradise
Fellini's Satyricon
One Million Years BC
Lord Love A Duck
Masque of the Red Death
The King of Comedy
Hour of the Wolf
The Long Goodbye
Night Stalker/Night Strangler
Eating Raoul
Mystery Train
Empire of the Ants/Tentacles
Swamp Thing
Planet of the Vampires
Deranged/Motel Hell
and More More More!!!
While supplies last.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Great DVD or Greatest DVD?

Back when America was pure, before the rise of the VHS tape and the gentrification of the urban landscape, the grindhouse was a staple of the adventurous moviegoers diet. Throughout the 60's and 70's and into the 80's, double, triple and quadruple bills were their daily fare. A 24 hour a day cinematic side-show, most big cities had at least one. A place that showed the detritus of the film industry, the grindhouse was not for the faint of heart. Back when you could gouge out an eyeball, shoot up a saloon, pummel your enemies with nunchuks and throwing stars and still get a PG rating (or GP before 1972). New York, of course, led the grindhouse explosion, and 42nd Street was it's crown jewel. In honor of this distinction, Synapse Films has a series of DVD's called 42nd St. Forever, and volume three just came out. Compiling trailers for 40 some-odd films, each one just keeps raising the bar even higher. This time around, they added the bonus of commentary tracks with Fangoria's Michael Gingold, Chris Poggiali and AVManiacs Editor Edwin Samuelson. The minutia-per-second these guys throw at you is stunning, and guarantees repeated viewing will unearth more bits you missed the first time through. It's amazing what bases these guys can cover during the length of a trailer. And what trailers they are! Laid out thematically, this collection covers most bases of 70's and 80's exploitation film making. Beginning with martial arts and action (failed Chuck Norris' and Bruce Lee clones), onto possession and Satanism, killer cats, dogs, bugs and alligators, roller disco cheerleaders, chain gang prison stewardesses in 3D, pseudo Belushi's and singing truck drivers. Every good bit from these films went into these trailers, and though, in their complete form, most of these films would be an ordeal to sit through, in bite sized pieces I just can't seem to get enough. Add the trivia from the commentary and I'm in heaven! And it's just not trivia, but gossip too. Like how much cocaine was consumed during the making of Convoy? A consensus isn't reached, but all agree, it was a lot. Then there are the bonus TV trailers. Smaller versions of some of the trailers on the main program, they even throw in a Billy Jack and some biker trailers to top off an already full package. I've given this warning before, but get this while you can. Because of legal gray areas, many similar trailer compilations have been pulled off of shelves (Something Weirds long running Dusk to Dawn series comes to mind) and I can't guarantee these things will stick around either. Yeah Synapse, you've created a great (-est?) DVD.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Link o' the day

Well this is quite the product. Gotta love living in the future!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Robot Apocalypse!!!

With all this talk around the store about the coming Robot Apocalypse, we just so happened to get in a DVD with cover art emblazoned "Android Armageddon!". Whoa. A bit of research tells me that "Star Odyssey" is a forgotten bit of low budget late-70's Italian Sci-Fi. With the recent release of Starcrash on DVD, did I have an evenings worth of Italian space trash worthy of a theme party? It even gets a better overall rating on IMDB than Starcrash. Still well under a 5 out of 10, but Starcrash has David Hasselhoff battling space robots! Not to mention a dozen other worthwhile cinematic attributes, the two main ones being lead actress Caroline Munro. How can this be better than Starcrash? Well, I just got done watching Star Odyssey, and I think we're back to Starcrash as our sole theme party flick. How bad can Star Odyssey be? Let's start with the credits that begin "Starring In Alphabetical Order", and then proceeds to throw all knowledge of the alphabet out the window. Okay, let's cut it some slack, because it has been translated from Italian, and maybe before the names were randomly Americanized they HAD BEEN alphabetical. The next hurdle though sinks it for me. This thing has been edited OUT OF ORDER! Seriously, scenes begin in the middle, and the beginnings are placed elsewhere. It devolves into a series of random images with indecipherable dialog almost immediately. Some of those images are intriguing in a wholly unintentional way, and I guess I should point out some of my highlights. First off, whenever the R2D2-like robot serves drinks (which seems to be it's sole purpose) it's human arms have to close the compartments that held the drinks. This leads to some blind groping of it's "chest" which unmistakably looks like it's trying to make it's nipples hard. And it never actually succeeds in closing the compartments! Secondly, what were they thinking with the mustaches? Most of the guy's got 'em, and they are beyond hideous. No two are alike, and every one is groomed into submission. Speaking of submission, being someone with an appreciation for both cinematic dominatrixes AND female scientists, I think to have the scientist dress as a dominatrix is just wrong. I know they were trying to sexify the film a bit, but seriously, she's supposed to be a scientist. Ya' know. Mixing up vials of goo, and looking all sciency. It's just wrong, but what else can you expect from a movie that has the alien invaders pick only black Africans as slaves to bring back to it's home planet, or the WWII footage used to depict the alien's destruction of earths most populated cities? And where do I start with the "Android Armageddon"? There ain't one! The two main robots are IN LOVE! And it's a whiny, needy love that annoys even more 'cause for some reason the male robots voice (whiny as it is) is recorded so much better than any other voice in the film! Which leads us to the ending of the film. Because of the crummy sound and the disorienting nature of the film in general, I submit that there isn't really an ending to this thing. Maybe it came earlier in the film and I missed it, but I think not, and there's no way I'm going to go back and try to decipher it. Maybe you can. And for less than $10.00 you can have this experience as well as a second feature (Prisoners of the Lost Universe) which has to be a step up. From the seconds of it that I watched, it seems like a decent Sci-Fi Channel worthy film. Starring Battlestar Galactica's Richard Hatch, it has a decent amount of positive reviews on IMDB but for my next DVD viewing I have to take a bigger leap forward, and not just a step. Therefore, tonight I will tackle the new re-issue of Ray Harryhausen's classic Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers. It's a double disc with scads of bonus stuff, so it may take a while. All I know is that I'm sure it will help in my recovery from the blunt force trauma that was Star Odyssey.