Archive for June, 2010

Seizure (1974)

June 13, 2010 Leave a comment


            Spoiler Alert: it was all a dream.  Yes friends, nothing says ‘f you’ to the audience more than a good ol’ recant of everything they’ve just seen.  By framing “Seizure” as a mere dream, the filmmaker (in this case, Oliver Stone) is apologizing for everything that has just happened by saying that there is no way this could have been real.  But, by doing that, isn’t the impact entirely erased?  Isn’t the pressure of this strange movie completely relieved?  By saying that an entire horror film has just occurred inside a man’s head, Stone is saying that everything is okay after all, the mark of a poor horror film.  The ending to “Seizure” is a crying shame, because the movie as a whole wasn’t that bad. 

            Writer Edmund Blackstone wakes up in a cold sweat, and tells his wife he had that dream again (red flags should be going up already).  She tells him not to worry because the guests will be arriving any minute.  Edmund’s friends promptly trickle in for a weekend getaway at Edmund’s lake side home.  His friends are over-the-top, Stone-esque characters who talk fast and mean.  Right from the start, they seem destined for the slaughter.  And slaughtered they are when Spider (Hervé “Nick Nack” Villenchaize), Jackal the Giant (Henry Baker), and the sexy and sultry, Queen of Evil (Martine Beswick) show up.  The group of friends is pitted against each other by the three demons in a kind of ‘Kirk versus Spock’ competition designed to test their strength and loyalty to each other.  One by one, the peripheral characters kill each other until only Edmund and his son are left.  The Queen of Evil gives Edmund a choice; give up your son and have me forever, or sacrifice yourself to save your boy.  Being that he is a complete coward, Edmund gives up his son.  Little does Edmund realize that his son has escaped from his hiding place and run for safety.  The Queen assumes Edmund is lying about his commitment to her, and she sends Spider out to kill him.  The movie ends with a double fake when Edmund awakens from his dream to find everything seemingly back to normal.  The ‘thank god’ moment is short lived when Edmund realizes that the Queen of Evil, not his wife, is sleeping next to him.  He instantly drops dead of a heart attack just as his wife goes to tell him that the guests will be arriving any minute.  Oh, burn.

            “Seizure” is not a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination.  The film was obviously shot on an ultra low budget, but it is clear from the start that there is somebody in the driver’s seat.  “Seizure” can best be described as a young director’s attempt to find his wings.  Oliver Stone has always been iffy in my book.  He is a textbook case of somebody who doesn’t understand subtlety, which isn’t always a bad thing, except when it is.  No other writer could have delivered Al Pacino’s “Scarface”, or painted Jim Morrison’s self-induced destruction in “The Doors” the way Stone did.  But when over-the-top isn’t called for, Stone flails about helplessly.  Though it won Best Picture, “Platoon” manages to attach every bad Vietnam scenario onto one platoon of men, from the Meli Massacre, to overindulgence in drugs.  In the same vein, “Any Given Sunday” is a classic case of a director who doesn’t know how to edit, either himself, or his movie.  The point is that the seeds of many a Stone archetype can be found in “Seizure,” for good or ill.  And while “Seizure” probably won’t win any awards, it certainly is a fun schlock flick.  But it was all a dream in the end and that tends to be an unforgivable sin, even when a young director does it.                    

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Atom Age Vampire (1963)

June 2, 2010 Leave a comment

            So, where are the vampires?  I was promised vampires in the title, but all I got was a really ugly guy that kills people at night, and the only reason the titular baddie is even good at killing people is because his victims are so stupid.  Ladies; if you are called into a dark alley at night by a deranged, male voice, it’s probably best to turn and run.  If the women in “Atom Age Vampire” had any sense, this movie would have been a whole lot less interesting, which is sad because even with the deaths, I felt like I was watching paint dry. 

            “Atom Age Vampire” kicks off when major-league-hottie, Jeanette, gets dumped by her sailor boyfriend, Pierre, at a night club.  Jeanette is then run off the road while driving her car, which promptly bursts into flames as it listlessly rolls down an embankment.  Jeanette survives the crash, but not without massive scaring on her face.  She is told by every doctor she sees that the scar is permanent, until she meets Dr. Levin.  The good doctor tells Jeanette that he has perfected a technique using (surprise, surprise) radiation that can remove the scar completely.  Though Jeanette believes that she is beyond hope, she agrees to the procedure.  True to his word, Dr. Levin is able to restore the poor girl’s beauty.  Her elation is short lived however, when the scar tissue begins to come back.  I’m not exactly sure how scar tissue can grow back but, okay.  Levin tells her that more treatments are necessary for the effects to remain permanent, but until then, she must stay at his mansion.  This might not seem like such a bad prospect, until it is revealed that Levin transforms into a hideous monster at night.  Jeanette’s ex and the police begin to suspect that she is alive and that Levin is keeping her captive.  The police and Pierre raid the mansion just in time to save Jeanette from being filleted by Levin’s monstrous alter ego.  Thankfully for the stupid women wondering the streets of this particular town, Levin is killed, never to stalk again.

            As far as I am concerned, every Italian film stereotype is confirmed by “Atom Age Vampire.”  First, the dubbing is some of the worst I’ve ever seen.  The American distributers obviously threw out the entire audio track because things like doors closing and people clapping aren’t accompanied by sound.  But underneath all of that, the acting is wonderfully over-the-top.  I’ve seen more subtle performances on SpongeBob.  “Atom Age Vampire” also seems to have a hard time figuring out how to sequence events throughout the story, and here’s a perfect example.  As the noose tightens around Levin, he is tracked by the police to a movie theater.  Once Levin realizes he was followed, he leaves and attacks a woman in her home, seemingly for shits and giggles.  While Levin tries to strangle the life out of the woman, her dog bites Levin on the ankle, and he runs back home, yet somehow, police find blood from that wound on the floor of the movie theater.  I thought I was nuts, so I went back and watched the scene again, and sure enough, “Atom Age Vampire” had grandfathered in evidence for the police! 

            The really crappy thing for “Atom Age Vampire” is even the existence of the ‘vampire’ is superfluous.  As far as I can figure, the movie’s overall plot wouldn’t have changed one bit if the vampire stuff was just left out.  The whole business felt tacked on and stupid.  According to Wikipedia, (which I trust just enough, as far as “Atom Age Vampire” is concerned) the original Italian version was longer than the American dub and included segments that might make the vampire stuff more logical.  Being that I am not without feeling, I am willing to give the Italian version the benefit of the doubt, but this is based on pure ignorance of its overall content.  But, it seems that there are no known Italian versions of “Atom Age Vampire” in existence, making the American version all we have to go on.  Besides, who’d want to be an Italian vampire anyway; there’s too much garlic in the food. 

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