Sunday, August 27, 2006

DVD Review

"What are you gonna do now, Chuck?"
Of all the mythical childhood icons, the Tooth Fairy is the hardest to pin down visually. Bunnies are easy enough to visualize, and Santa has pretty much every retailer in the Western Hemisphere working as his PR agent. As a child I would visualize the Tooth Fairy as a variation on the Disney rendition of Peter Pan's Tinkerbell. The restraining order I received from Disney's legal department put a stop to that, effectively bringing my childhood to an end at the tender age of thirty-seven. To realign my visualization of the Tooth Fairy, the Disney folks sent along an eight by ten of Bea Arthur in a leotard, tutu, and wings. I have not been quite right since.

The Tooth Fairy we meet in this film is quite a different take on the character. More of a witch than a fairy, she's riddled with tumors and murders children. TRY TO TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME, DISNEY!

Peter Campbell (Lochlyn Munroe) is fixing up an old country home into a bed and breakfast with the aid of hunky young handyman Bobby (Jesse Hutch). Peter's former fiance Darcy (Chandra West) and her daughter Pamela (Nicole Munoz) come to visit for the weekend. Pamela makes friends with a little girl named Emma (Jianna Ballard) that no one else can see. Emma warns Pamela about the evil witch that used to live in the house and was known for taking the local children's last baby tooth and delivering gory lawn and garden tool death in return. She places the children's teeth in her magic music box, condemning their souls to wander the earth. After a spill on her bicycle, Pamela loses her last baby tooth and becomes a target for the witch.

The Tooth Fairy doesn't seem quite as selective as the legend would lead folks to believe. She starts whacking characters left and right--starting with Bobby who telegraphs his own demise when he says he can get that old wood chipper working again--then working her way through the cast. Genre vet P.J. Soles plays Mrs. MacDonald the next door neighbor who gives Peter and Darcy the secret to defeating the witch, and Peter's freeloading rock star wannabe pal Cole is played by Steve Bacic who played the pre-blue-furred Hank McCoy in X2.

Now, I've seen a lot of bad movies in my day. A film can go wrong in just about any area, but The Tooth Fairy commits probably the worst sin that a film can commit: it's cripplingly mediocre. Nothing is cringe-inducingly bad, which would at least make it memorable. Instead we have a cluster of reasonably talented actors playing some not terribly interesting characters in a film that I really find it hard to care about. Further whittling away at the film's credibility are a series of missteps, including an ultra dorky dinner montage sequence with cheesy pseudo pop music on the soundtrack, the fact that Darcy's near rape experience is practically ignored, and perhaps worst of all the use of one of film and television's most cliched lines used by an estranged couple, "we always did make a good team." Come on, people, who the hell says that?

The clunky use of expository dialogue trades believability for brevity. Pamela describes Peter as, "Peter Campbell. He and my mom used to be engaged. He was a doctor then. Now he quit. He just writes short stories." And when Stephanie (Carrie Fleming) introduces herself to Peter she tells him, "I used to dance down at the Grease Monkey in town, but I've saved up enough to retire from show biz so I'm going to veterinary college." To reinforce this she spots some humming birds and recites the Latin name for their species. Characterization that has been distilled into concentrated pill form does things to my gastrointestinal tract that one doctor told me was reminiscent of the Ebola virus.

Add to it all an historically inaccurate interpretation of the Salem witch phenomenon, and you've got another direct to dvd film that needs to be purged from your Netflix queue.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Yes, recent seismic activity in the Los Angeles area has been the apparent result of Peanut's creator Charles Schulz turning in his grave. Repeatedly.

That last animated short reminded me of the Peanuts parody from the first season of Cartoon Network's brilliant Robot Chicken. Marginally less twisted than Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown, this one still kills me.

Twisted Animated Short

Back when South Park first appeared on Comedy Central I recall one reviewer describing the show as a Peanuts cartoon gone horribly wrong. As apt a description as that was, here is an animated short that fits the bill quite literally. I found this over on Boing Boing which may well be the single coolest place in all the blogosphere. According to Boing Boing this grotesquely violent and utterly hilarious treatment of Charles Schulz beloved characters was a student film from animators who later went on to work on The Simpsons.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Santo y Blue Demon Contra Los Monstruos
(Santo and Blue Demon Vs. The Monsters)(1968)
DVD Review

Wow. Um, OK. This is… or rather that is… Wow.

This was my first Mexican wrestler/monster movie. I've read about the genre and seen clips here and there, but this was my first chance to partake, and I must say I was truly not prepared. In strictly clinical terms, it's pretty whacked.

Santo, the Man in the Silver Mask, is one of Mexico's greatest wrestlers, and has starred in countless films, often alongside his fellow Luchador Blue Demon. In this adventure Dr. Bruno Halder, a recently deceased scientist, is returned to the land of the living by his hunchbacked midget assistant and a small army of green-faced zombies. The good doctor wants revenge against Santo and Blue Demon for some reason or other. To accomplish this he creates an evil duplicate of Blue Demon and revives a pantheon of classic movie monsters to do his bidding.

The monsters themselves are a wonder to behold. Frankenstein (sic) sports the classic Universal Monsters look with a bad case of bed-head and facial hair presumably to add a Latin look to the creature. The vampire (not sure why they shied away from calling him Dracula) strongly resembles the John Carradine take on Stoker's character, despite a pair of ridiculously oversized bat ears. The mummy resembles an emaciated old dude who has had a tragic accident with a very large roll of gauze, while the wolf-man is little more than a befanged gentleman with an overgrown beard. The Cyclops bears a slight resemblance to the Ray Harryhausen creation of the same name from The 7 th Voyage of Sinbad, but swap the awe-inspiring stop motion animation for a big guy in a foam rubber suit. There's also some little bug-eyed guy with an exposed brain running around Halder's lab.

Halder's master plan is never made clear. He sends his creatures out to do away with Santo. They engage our hero in pro-wrestling style fisticuffs, get their asses kicked, and return to Halder's lair… repeatedly. Now and then the monsters prey upon random innocents. The order of the scenes seems almost arbitrary, and rearranging them would probably not alter the film in the slightest.

For some of the U.S. import versions of these movies Santo was renamed Samson, but Santo y Blue Demon Contra Los Monstruos retains the original Spanish soundtrack. The DVD menus are entirely in Spanish, and my unfamiliarity with the language required some trial and error before I could find the subtitles. Frankly, the movie probably works better without them, adding an additional layer of confusion to an already incomprehensible movie.

It's interesting to note that even though this film was made as recently as 1968, it apes much of its style from the Universal monster classics of the 1930s and 1940s. It's silly as hell to be sure, but after a fairly slow couple of reels, the pace rarely falters. A few beers certainly couldn't hurt, but even sober Santo y Blue Demon Contra Los Monstruos is a fun experience and worth seeking out.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Passing of a Drive-in Starlet

Tim Lucas just reported the passing of actress Candice Rialson over on Video Watchblog. She starred in a number of drive-in era flicks, but I know her best from the Roger Corman produced Hollywood Boulevard, a hiliarious movie built around action scenes cannibalize from previous New World Pictures productions. Having long ago left the public eye, her death last March at the age of 54 has gone unmentioned in the media. Lucas invited Hollywood Boulevard directors Joe Dante and Allan Arkush to share their thoughts on Rialson. There's also discussion on the topic over at Code Red DVD Blog.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Death Clip

The single funniest program on television today is Cartoon Network's The Venture Bros. Imagine Johnny Quest growing up to be a total failure and fathering two idiot sons. Add in a muscle bound secret agent/bodyguard voiced by Patrick Wharburton and numerous homages to cartoons and comics and you've got comedy gold.

As revealed in the second season premiere, the Venture Bros. die more often than Kenny and Jean Grey combined. Here now are the many deaths of the Venture Bros.:


Equinox was recently released on a two disk set by The Criterion Collection. A fantastic example of zero budget horror, and one of my all time favorite horror movies. Watch for Frank Bonner of WKRP in Cincinatti as one of the young people who stumble across an Evil Dead-esque book of evil. There's some terrific stop-motion animation too (in your face, CGI).

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Worshiping at the Temple of Schlock

Paul DeCirce posted a response to my posting regarding his old zine Temple of Schlock. I decided to post it here to give it better exposure.

Hey Matt, Paul DeCirce here. Thanks for the scan of the old issues. I've got pretty much all of them myself, mostly for posterity. Truth is, between Chris and myself, we really managed to hammer in on a lot of sleaze, and I often refer to our own reviews for refreshment.

TEMPLE OF SCHLOCK was published from July of 1987 to about 1991 or so. We managed 24 issues with (At one point) about 150 subscribers (cripes, for 75c who wouldn't?) Our zine featured a lot of amazing stuff: interviews with Fred Olen Ray, overviews of hammer's films, so much more. Quite complete and well rounded, if you ask me. One cat I wanted to mention was DAVE SZUREK, we gave him a column called the "Szurek Zone" and he wrote massive 30 page missives in straight printing, listing scads of films. Me and Chris would howl over this unbelievable dedication. Anyway, just thought I'd go back to the old days of Syracuse for a bit. Cold winters and warm VCRS, ya know? Chris was right, I am in music now ( and living in the Asheville NC area. So; who's going to offer me and Chris a book deal, binding all 24 issues? First copies go to those angry subscribers, eh ???
Book deal? This looks like a job for

Monday, August 07, 2006

Animated Pilot

"All really intelligent people should be cremated for reasons of public safety."

Combining Hellboy's tongue in cheek Lovecraftian antics with what is being called "steampunk adventure," the pilot episode for The Amazing Screw-On Head aired with little, if any, fanfair on the Sci Fi Channel a few weeks back. The show tells of a secret history of The United States. The title character is a disembodied mechanical head, moving from one artifical body to another as necessary, and answering only to President Abraham Lincoln. The pilot sees Screw-On Head, voiced by Oscar nominee Paul Giamatti, matching wits with his former manservant and arch Nemesis Emperor Zombie. Zombie has made a habit of doing away with all of Screw-On Head's subsequent manservant's, much to the concern of Mr. Groin (and yes, he IS a bit crotchety), the current holder of the position.

Based on the comic book by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, the show displays great promise if picked up for additional episodes. David Hyde Pierce, who voiced Abe Sapien in the Hellboy movie, is hilarious as the foppish Emperor Zombie. The animation is less than fluid, but the choppiness seems to work with look of the show, which nicely apes Mignola's distinctive drawing style.

Missed the broadcast? Don't panic. Put down the toaster and step away from the bath tub. The pilot can be viewed in its entirety here at the Sci Fi Channel's website. What's more, The Sci Fi Channel is looking for feedback and ask that viewers fill out a brief survey.

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