Anybody who has read this blog can figure out that I have a pretty eclectic taste in movies. To be fair this is partially due to the fact that many I watch many popular movies I normally wouldn't seek out just to say that I've seen them and keep up with references to them. This week I watched five films and they are all pretty different so I'll just post my thoughts in the order I saw each movie!
The Invisible Man (1933)
After watching The Mummy (1932) this summer I wanted to see more Universal horror movies and finally got around to seeing another. The Invisible Man features groundbreaking special effects that hold up shockingly well for a film that is almost 80 years old. Claude Rains plays Griffin, our invisible man. I was impressed with his performance since we get to know this character quite well even though we never really see him. I had seen Rains before in Casablanca as Captain Renault. Griffin's lover Flora is played by Gloria Stuart, who is best known to modern audiences as old Rose in Titanic (1997). Having already seen that movie it was quite fascinating to see her at such a young age! The Invisible Man was directed by James Whale who also directed Frankenstein (1931) and its sequel Bride of Frankenstein (1935).
While the film's pace is a bit slow by today's standards, there is still more going on than in The Mummy (the only other movie of its time and genre I have seen to compare it to). In 2008 The Invisible Man was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
While I was expecting this movie to be cheesy fluff, the tone is actually quite serious. However, the plot of a new guy in town who doesn't fit in and then gets in trouble because of it is pretty derivative. The movie tries to put a new spin on things with the strict local regulations on music and dance but it doesn't really work and still feels like I have seen it a million times before. Footloose is competently made and John Lithgow puts in a solid performance as the town minister, but at the end of the day the movie isn't anything special.
I knew that Lithgow and Kevin Bacon were in this movie but I was surprised to see Chris Penn and Sarah Jessica Parker in early roles. Ariel, the love interest of Kevin Bacon's character, was played by Lori Singer who is also a dancer in real life. I enjoyed the 80s soundtrack but think that this movie could have been better if it was a straight up musical instead of just featuring several montage scenes. Maybe the remake which came out earlier this year went in that direction? I don't know and frankly have no desire to see it.
I Eat Your Skin aka Voodoo Blood Bath aka Zombies (1964)
Despite the outrageous title there is no actually flesh eating in this movie. What a rip-off! This movie did not get released until six years after it was produced and was re-titled so it could be shown as a double feature with the unrelated film I Drink Your Blood. I had extremely low expectations coming into this movie and was actually pleasantly surprised. Now don't get me wrong, this is certainly an awful film, but its watchable and entertaining enough for a shlocky low budget flick. While watching this with some friends I remarked that it feels like a movie the TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000 would have featured. It turns out that I was pretty close since MST3K did riff the movie The Horror of Party Beach which was also directed by Del Tenney! This movie would have made great material for Joel/Mike and the bots to make fun. However, even if the MST3K crew were aware of this movie I bet they passed on it due to the unfortunate stereotypical portrayal of the island natives. If you like bad, campy old movies check this one out. Just be aware that it is a product of its time and doesn't feature zombies chomping on people.
Black Dynamite (2009)
While there are some great spoof movies out there (any Mel Brooks movie, Airplane) recently most of them have been historically bad (Date Movie, Epic Movie). The trailer for Black Dynamite is hilarious so I had to give it a shot. I am proud to say that Black Dynamite is up there as one of the best spoof movies of all time! This film parodies 1970s Blaxploitation films, and does it so well that it is arguably still part of the genre. While I haven't seen many Blaxploitation movies, that is not a requirement as long as one has a general familiarity of the genre and low budget flicks. Many of the jokes are intentional goofs. Some of these are humorously obvious while others are subtle but just as funny. The film stars Michael Jai White as the title character and he was also one of the screenwriters. Clearly White and those involved with making this movie love Blaxploitation (and B-movies in general) as Black Dynamite is as much a spoof as it is a loving homage. Although this movie is a silly comedy, it was painstakingly made to look, feel, and sound like it came straight of the 1970s and would probably fool people not in on the joke. If you have a sense of humor please do yourself a favor and watch this movie now! There is an animated Black Dynamite TV series featuring most of the film's cast in the works set to air in the summer of 2012 on Adult Swim. DYNOMITE! DYNOMITE!
Police Academy (1984)
Comedy is the most subjective genre of any medium, and film is certainly not an exception. I found this movie to be quite funny and wonder if its reputation has been tarnished a bit by the fact that there are seven movies in the series, with most of them said to be terrible. The plot is a mix of Stripes and Revenge of the Nerds but the reason the movie works is because the characters are fun to watch and we want them to succeed. Police Academy was Steve Guttenberg's breakthrough role and while I haven't seen him in too many movies, its ashame his career took a nosedive in the 90s. Shia LaBeouf reminds me of Guttenberg, but he is far more annoying and much less likeable than the Gutt! Former NFL player (a lot of football players became actors in the 1970s and 80s for some reason) Bubba Smith shines as Moses Hightower, while veteran actor George Gaynes plays the Commandant. The talented Michael Winslow essentially plays himself since his character Larvelle Jones can use only his mouth to create amazing sound effects with hilarious results. As much as I liked this movie I think I'll pass on the sequels.