Saturday, May 31, 2014

Midnight Cinephile's Favorite Scenes: Episode II - Halloween III

Welcome back for another episode of Midnight Cinephile's Favorite Scenes!  This time around I'm taking at a scene from Halloween III:  Season of the Witch.  There are many terrific scenes in the film so it may surprise you to learn what scene I am going to be looking at today.  Let's jump right in, shall we?

Halloween III:  Season of the Witch
The Gas Station Scene

That's right, tonight we're going to take a look at one of the film's opening scenes that (I think) really helps to set the tone of the film, as well as giving us some subtle foreshadowing that essentially tells us what's going to happen in the film.  Now of course I realize that some of you may not have seen this film yet so there shall be no spoilers ahead, fear not.

After we see Mr. Grimbridge narrowly escape being choked to death by one of the business suited fellows that are chasing him, the scene dissolves to an hour later.  Walter Jones, gas station attendant/mechanic and tow truck driver extraordinaire.  Walter is pulling the night shift at the gas station and has made himself comfy with a magazine while the news is on the television.  There is a news report about a missing stone from Stonehenge.  Then the commercial for the Silver Shamrock Halloween Masks comes on, playing that old familiar jingle (the tune is London Bridges)  "8 More days 'till Halloween, Halloween, Halloween....8 more days 'till Halloween......Silver Shamrock!" (You'll hear this jingle quite often during the course of the film).

Just as the commercial is finishing, the power goes out.  Walter hears a noise outside and gets up to check.  Seeing nothing out the window, Walter looks out the door.  Again, nothing.  Then, BLAMMO!  Jump scare as Mr. Grimbridge falls into Walter, grasping at him desperately before falling to the floor and ominously telling him "They're coming" and then promptly loosing consciousness.  Walter, being the nice guy that he is loads Mr. Grimbridge into his tow truck and takes him to the hospital.

So what's so great about this scene?  Well, first of all, it's got a fun spooky vibe to it.  Not quite that Campfire Tale Feeling™ to it, but a thunderstorm done right always adds some great atmosphere.  Plus, I can relate to Walter pulling the night shift and being alone.  See, I used to dispatch for a private ambulance company.  The base was located in an old woodworking shop in a less than savory neighborhood.  Late at night the ambulance crews would either all be in their quarters asleep downstairs, or they would be out on calls.  Either way, I was pretty much alone in a creaky old building.  I would often watch movies to pass the time.  Many a stormy night was passed that way....sitting alone in the dark watching horror flicks while a thunderstorm raged outside.  Anyway, I guess it gives me a bit of a sense of nostalgia.

Secondly, for those who pay close attention there are clues to what will take place throughout the film.  The news broadcast.  The commercial.  They tie in together.  How?  Well, you'll have to watch the movie to find out.  Suffice to say that it's pretty diabolical.

Furthermore, I enjoy scenes like this because it serves to prove that even if you think that you are completely detached and out of the way of potential harm and danger, think again.  Who would have thunk that working at a service station out in the middle of nowhere would involve you in a giant evil conspiracy.  Because Walter chose to help Mr. Grimbridge by bringing him to the hospital, Dr. Challis became involved.  Dr. Challis then became involved with Grimbridge's daughter Ellie and the whole things spirals from there.  Had Walter assumed that he was nothing more than a drunk, he may have been killed by one of the business suit assassins as well and that would have been the end of it.  Remember that next time something kinda odd, but seemingly insignificant happens to you!

John Carpenter's score, naturally helps to set the mood as well.  The electronic, yet sinister score evokes a sense of dread and impending doom, which you slowly learn is coming sooner rather than later.  If you haven't seen Halloween III yet because you heard it sucked because Michael Myers wasn't in it, well...shame on you!  Don't let other people's opinions sway you!  Get yourself a copy immediately and check out this great slice of 80's horror.  Coincidentally, Scream Factory has released a stellar Blu Ray of the film!

Here's the scene!  Enjoy!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Blood Diner - Gore Soaked Laugh Snack

Blood Diner
Directed by Jackie Kong
Written by Michael Sonye

Starring Rick Burks, Carl Crew & Roger Dauer 

Unrated - Approx 88 Minutes
Vestron Pictures

Tag Lines
 - First they greet you, then they eat you.

 - Food So Good, It Tastes Just Like Mom Used To ...

Alternate Titles
 Blood Feast 2 - US Alternate Title
 Um Jantar Sangrento (A Bloody Dinner)  - Brazi l
Il ristorante all'angolo (The Restaurant at the Corner) - Italy
Krwawa wieczerza  (Bloody Supper) - Poland
Jantar Fatal (Fatal Dinner) - Portugal

Garantiert geschmacklos (Guaranteed Tastless) - West Germany

"We interrupt this program to give you an important news bulletin: A suspect in the Happy Times All-Girls Glee Club slaying has fled the scene and managed to elude the police. He is armed and dangerous, and has been spotted in the West Side area, armed with a meat cleaver in one hand and his genitals in the other."

                                             - Radio Newscaster

Yet another of the classic 80's titles that haunted my local video store with it's bright and promising artwork.  Somehow or another I never got around to watching this flick in my younger years. For the longest time it languished in the analog graveyard that is VHS until Lionsgate released it on DVD as part of a 6 Movie compilation pack.  I finally got a chance to sit down and see if the movie was everything I was hoping it would be!

The Many Faces of Uncle Anwar!
Blood Diner is played as a straight up comedy.  Even though the films premise is completely ridiculous, it would have been nice if they had tried to tone down the silliness a little bit.  Having said THAT....this film was a hell of a lot of fun!  While the plot treads very closely to Blood Feast for the most part (hacking up lovely young women to appease an Egyptian Goddess)  As a matter of fact, for a time the film's working title was Blood Feast 2 (Not to be confused with Blood Feast 2:  All U Can Eat).

Mike & George hang out with Uncle Anwar!

The film starts with two you boys, Mike and George.  Their mother leaves them alone to go and get some smokes.  The radio announces that a madman is on the loose.  He breaks into the house with the two young boys and we's actually their Uncle Anwar.  He gives them both magical amulets and we learn that he's been teaching them about black magic.  Then he heads out the door and is shot down by police.  Flash forward 15 or so years and Mikey and Georgie are digging up ol' Uncle Anwar's grave.  They saw his brain out with a hacksaw and stick it in a jar.  After an incantation from Mike, Uncle Anwar's alive and well in the jar.  I should mention also Anwar's brain also still has it's eyes attached, which move around and blink.  Weird.

Gunning down nude cheerleaders like Ronnie Reagen!

Having semi-resurrected their Uncle, the boys set out to make a body for the earthly incantation of Shitar (The Egyptian Goddess to which they pray).  They head out to the filming of a Nude Cheerleader Aerobics program being filmed for cable and slaughter everyone.  They hack up the pieces they want and head back to their diner (Tutman Cafe) to sew up the pieces Frankenstein-style.  Then it's off to collect pieces and parts of trashy women for the feast that will resurrect her!

Of course there are the obligatory detectives on their trail.  Detective Mark Shepard is a wise-cracking cop who is constantly getting smacked by the police chief or his partner for his bad jokes and puns.  Speaking of his partner, Detective Sheba Jackson is probably the worst cop in all of cinema.  Good grief!  With these two bumbling around no wonder Mike and George have no problem slaughtering people and then serving them to the customers at their diner as "health food"!

Detectives Sheba Jackson and Mark Shepard are on the case!

The whole thing culminates in a night club party (naturally) and things go completely bonkers.  Zombies, undead Egyptian goddesses with venus flytrap mouths on their abdomen, one of the strangest bands I've seen in a while.  Looks like something that you would have seen on Night Flight back in the day!   Where else are you going to see a guitar rhythm section comprised of two dudes dressed up as Hitler?  To be more specific Hitler by way of a methed-out Charlie Chaplin!  Holy hell!

Anatomy of a deep fryer death.  

There are some really fun kills in this one as well.  A man his hit in the head with a shovel so hard that his eyes pop out.  A women is seduced and covered in batter and then her head is put into a deep fryer...turning her head into a giant fritter!  Multiple people have their heads exploded by a supernatural burst of energy and more!  I can't say that I was ever bored with the film.  It moves along at a fairly brisk pace and there's plenty of blood, boobs and wackiness to keep your attention in place.

It's SHITAR!!!!!!!!!

Midnight Cinephile Tally

Death Toll - There are quite a few deaths in this one.  Once again it's hard to get a proper body count because there are some chaotic scenes where a lot of people die in rapid succession.  I suppose I could go back and watch it in slo-mo to get the count....but I'm just not that ambitious.  Suffice to say......LOTS of people die in this one!

Nude O Meter - There is quite a bit of flesh on display here.  The aforementioned Nude Cheerleader Aerobics show, several nubile victims bare not only breasts but some bush as well.  And of course there Shitar, who stands around mostly naked (except for a pair of men's briefs (!?).

Things thatt Go Bump In The Night - Lots of fun stuff here!  Sentient brain in a jar.  Shitar the ancient Egyptian Goddess, who is made out of several immoral girls.....and of course a bunch of zomibies!

Sad zombie......

Final Thoughts
Though I was initially disappointed by the fact that Blood Diner was played completely for laughs, after I got over that initial let-down, I had a lot of fun with the film and it really started to grow on me.  This is one of those films that is best watched late at night with some drinks, snacks and a like minded friend or two.....but no matter what time you watch's gonna feel like 3 in the morning!

Final Rating
Three out of Five Stars

Midnight Cinephile's Favorite Scenes - Episode I - Ghostbusters!

Favorite scenes.  We all have them.  Whether it's a favorite kill in a slasher film, a favorite bit of funniness in a comedy or your favorite line in a classic film, there are always scenes that speak to you.  Sometimes they are epic, sometimes they're quiet, sometimes they're intense and sometimes they are subtle.  There have been times that I find a scene that I absolutely love inside a movie that I do not like.  What I hope to accomplish in this (more than likely ongoing) segment is to explore scenes that I love and not only share them with you, but perhaps try and dissect them and try and figure out what makes them so effective for me.  So sit back and relax....heat up some pizza rolls, grab a Dr. Pepper and get ready for Midnight Cinephile's Favorite Scenes!

Tonight let's discuss......

The Dead Have Been Rising From The Grave

One of my all time favorite films, Ghostbusters has everything that I love all rolled into 105 minutes of paranormal laughs and mayhem.  There are many scenes in Ghostbusters that I could count among my favorites but tonight I want to start with quite possibly the creepiest scene in the entire film.  Ray and Winston are driving in the Ecto1....who knows where they're going or coming from.  I like to think that they had a late-late night call and then stopped at some All-Nite Chinese Food place before heading back to Ghostbusters HQ.  Anyway, Winston is driving and Ray is in the passenger seat looking over the blueprints for the structural iron work in  Dana Barrett's building.  

Winston brings up the Bible and references to the last days and the dead rising from the grave.  Ray begins to quote The Book of Revelations:  "I remember Revelation 7:12. And I looked, as he opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became as black as sackcloth. And the moon became as blood."  Winston finishes the verse:  "And the seas boiled and the skies fell."  They both look a bit spooked and Ray somberly says: "Judgement Day" which Winston echoes in agreement. The look of fear on Ray's face in palpable as he looks at Winston and then in an effort to take their minds off of the potential looming Apocalypse, he suggests "How 'bout a little music?" 

Everything about this scene is perfect.  It evokes what I call The Campfire Story Feel* to it.  The score by Elmer Burnstein is absolutely essential to the scene, which is titled (appropriately enough) Judgement Day.  During their talk the music is low and menacing, always lurking just behind their words like some Lovecraftian horror waiting patiently in the darkness.  After Ray turns on the radio we are treated to this bizarre electro-funk beat that has it's own creep factor to it.  This may be because it's actually a funktified version of the track entitled Zool that we had heard only a little while earlier in the film.  The scene ends with a wide shot of the Ecto-1 driving  across the Brooklyn Bridge while the dawn slowly breaks over the cityscape.  

The scene is incredibly well placed in the film.  As the action begins to ramp up, this scene serves to shift the tone of the film a bit to set up for the finale.  Perhaps it's because there is no humor to be found for those 90 seconds.  Just the stark realization that the world may actually come to an end and that they were the only thing that may be standing in the way of total annihilation.  

*The Campfire Story Feelis what I've come to call a certain feeling that some scenes evoke:  You're sitting around a campfire and someone is telling a rather disturbing ghost story (as people will do on camping trips!).  You start to look around the circle of your friends and family gathered around the campfire and you start to get the sensation that there may be something lurking just out of sight in the darkness.  Perhaps you feel like the light offers a small amount of sanctuary, but by and large you feel as though the air itself is changed.  You can almost smell the fear.  You know it's only a story.  You know you're safe.  You're roasting marshmellows and hotdogs around the fire while drinking soda and beer.....but the second you have to excuse yourself to the bathroom and you're walking alone through the woods on the outskirt of camp or to that deserted and run down bathroom (you know...the one with the light that perpetually blinks?) that's a quarter-mile from your lot in the state forest, you can't help but think about that story.  Your heart beats a little faster.  Every little noise in the brush makes you jump.  THAT is The Campfire Story Feeling™ !

Well, you've made it this far and you're still reading, so as a reward I will save you the trouble of breaking out your DVD or Blu Ray or searching YouTube for the scene in question.  Give the scene a watch and then....when it's late at night and you're alone....perhaps Ray quoting The Book of Revelations will pop into your head and and you'll feel the ice start to climb up your spine.......

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Go Go Godzilla! A look back at Big G's Films!

Did you see Gareth Edwards take on Godzilla yet?  Got Godzilla fever?  Maybe you've never seen the original Godzilla films and want to know what they're like?  Look no further! I hereby present to you Midnight Cinephile's guide to Godzilla.  Capsulized reviews of all 29 films that have come before this years summer blockbuster.  Enjoy!

Shōwa Era (1954–1975)

Godzilla, King of the Monsters
(Gojira), 1954 -
The original and most serious of the Shōwa Series films, Godzilla is a strong allegory for the atomic bomb.  The film is quite somber in tone as it openly displays the pain and destruction of the rampaging kaiju and the human suffering at the hands of this seemingly unstoppable force of nature.  It’s stark black and white imagery is at once beautiful and apocalyptic.  There are some major differences between the Japanese and American versions.  Each has it’s own merit and both are worth watching.

Godzilla Raids Again
(Gigantis, the Fire Monster;
Godzilla’s Counterattack), 1955 -
A new Godzilla rears it’s head and this time he’s got company in the form of rival kaiju, Anguirus (a four legged dinosaur with a spiky back and tail).  The creatures are discovered fighting on a remote island.  After they fall into the sea they show up on the shores of Osaka and wreck the place with their gargantuan battle, which climaxes at Osaka Castle.  Interestingly, American distributors tried to pass Godzilla off as a completely different monster in Gigantis, The Fire Monster.

King Kong vs Godzilla, 1962
 A pharmaceutical company hears of Kong’s existence and goes to his home on Faro Island to capture him.  Upon bringing him back to Japan, Kong breaks free just as Godzilla appears to tear up the town.  The JSDF (Japanese Self Defence Force) knocks out Kong and air lifts him to Mt. Fuji, where the two fight it out.  Originally conceived as King Kong vs. Frankenstein (to be produced by Universal) with Willis O’Brien animating Kong fighting a Giant Frankenstein’s Monster!  The script was then purchased by Toho and Frankenstein was scrapped and changed to Godzilla.

Mothra vs. Godzilla
(Godzilla vs. Mothra;
Godzilla vs. the Thing), 1964 -
The fourth film in the series is the last time that that Godzilla would appear in a “bad guy” role for 20 years!  A mysterious giant egg washes ashore after a typhoon along with a giant radioactive reptile scale.   Turns out the egg belongs to Mothra.  The Shobijin (the tiny little twins from Mothra’s home island) appear to help.  They convince Mothra to fly to Japan and fight Godzilla.  The American version was called Godzilla vs. The Thing, with posters blotting out the monster, but adding tentacles and putting a question mark in it’s place.

Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster
(Three Giant Monsters:  Earth’s Greatest Battle), 1964 -
This film marks the Godzilla’s first appearance as a protector of the Earth.  It’s also where plot lines start to get REALLY strange.  This one’s got everything:  A princess possessed by a Martian who ,with the gift of prophecy, foretells of doom and destruction at the hands of Ghidorah (A three headed space dragon!), who has already decimated Mars.  Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra arrive to fight off this new threat.   There is also a subplot revolving around the assassination attempts on the princess by her evil uncle.  Don’t miss the scene where the Shobijin are translating a conversation between Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra!

Invasion of Astro-Monster
(Godzilla vs. Monster Zero;
The Great Monster War), 1965 -
Ghidorah is back again for another round.  This is the first time that the action is brought off planet.  Planet X is discovered directly behind Jupiter and a crew is sent to investigate.  There The Controller of Planet X asks for Earth to send Godzilla and Rodan to help them, as they are under attack from Monster Zero (King Ghidorah).  In exchange the Xians will give Earth a miracle drug that will cure all disease.  Never trust an alien.  The Xians double cross us and put Godzilla and Rodan under mind control and send them back to attack Earth.  Don’t miss Godzilla’s victory dance after defeating King Ghidorah!

Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster
(Ebirah, Horror of the Deep;
Godzilla, Ebirah, Mothra: Big Duel in the South Seas), 1966 -
A somewhat disjointed film that feels a bit off.  This may be due to the fact that it was originally written as King Kong vs. The Sea Monster, with Godzilla being transposed into the starring role.  As a result, Big G acts a bit odd in this one, such as turning on Mothra after they’ve been established as allies.  This time around he faces off against a giant lobster that guards an island for a terrorist organization called The Red Bamboo.   Even though it feels a bit different, there’s still a lot of fun to be had here.  Bring lots of drawn butter!

Son of Godzilla
(Monster Island's Decisive Battle: Godzilla's Son), 1967 -
The series had slowly been becoming a bit silly, but this one really shifted it into kiddie territory.  On a remote island, giant praying mantis’ (called Kamacuras) dig up an egg that hatches into a baby Godzilla.  Godzilla appears and adopts the baby (named Minilla) as his own and starts to teach him the ways of the kaiju.  There are plenty of silly bits as Big G tries to get Minilla to use his atomic breath by stomping on his tail.  There’s also a big ol’ tarantula named Kumonga that Big G and Minilla tag team together.

Destroy All Monsters
(Charge of the Monsters;
Attack of the Marching Monsters), 1968 -
Originally intended to be Godzilla’s final film, this one pulls out all the stops and features a menagerie of kaiju. All the monsters on Earth are corralled together on an island called Monsterland.  They live there in peace there until female aliens, called Kilaaks, take control of the monsters and send them to devastate various cities.  As usual Earth narrowly escapes total disaster and manages to wrangle control of the rampaging kaiju.  That’s when King Ghidorah appears and a giant royal rumble takes place on Mt. Fuji.

Godzilla’s Revenge
(All Monsters Attack), 1969 -
This is one weird flick.  It revolves around a latchkey kid who daydreams that he is on Monster Island hanging out with Minilla.  Both have issues with bullies and help each other stand up to their enemies.  The plot is barely there and it’s sole function is to hang a series of stock footage scenes from it’s frame.  It really plays more like a Godzilla compilation package with footage being reused earlier films.  The most ridiculous part, especially in the English dubbed version, is Minilla’s voice which is cartoonish and completely over the top.

Godzilla vs. Hedorah
(Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster), 1971 -
This is another in the series that feels slightly off somehow, though it is a much welcomed entry after the completely whacked out Godzilla’s Revenge.  The film is fairly dark in tone as a creature born of pollution appears to wreck havoc on Japan.  Hedorah is the first kaiju in a Godzilla film to change forms (it goes from water, to land, to air forms).  Godzilla’s got some new moves in this one as well, using his atomic breath to fly!  Godzilla takes quite a beating in this one, almost losing an arm!

Godzilla vs. Gigan
(Godzilla on Monster Island;
Earth Attack Command: Godzilla Against Gigan), 1972 -
Insectoid aliens from Space Hunter Nebula M take a page out of Planet of the Vampires,  possessing the bodies of dead humans.  They want to colonize Earth and destroy all it’s cities to make the planet more peaceful.  In order to do this they want to summon the space monsters King Ghidorah and Gigan (A cyborg monster with a buzz saw in his abdomen!).  Godzilla and (now ally) Anguirus fight them off.  This is also the third and final time that the monsters talk.

Godzilla vs Megalon, 1973 - 
The underwater nation of Seatopia has become angered by the use of nuclear weapons by the above ground nations and so hatch a plot to release Megalon, a giant bipedal cockroach.  The Seatopians also dispatch a couple of agents to capture a super robot named Jet Jaguar to guide Megalon from city to city, kidnapping it’s inventor as well.  Getting control back, Jet Jaguar is sent to Monster Island to get Godzilla.  In response Seatopia contacts the Nebula M aliens and ask for Gigan’s assistance. Jet Jaguar grows to kaiju size and another tag team battle ensues.

Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla
(Godzilla vs. the Cosmic Monster;
Godzilla vs. the Bionic Monster;
Godzilla vs. RoboGodzilla), 1974 -
Godzilla appears and starts wrecking stuff.  When a second Godzilla appears, it turns out that the first is a robot imposter.  MechaGodzilla is controlled by ape-like aliens from “The Third Planet from the Black Hole” who want to use the giant robot to conquer the Earth.  Yep, that old chestnut.  With the help of benevolent King Ceasar (A floppy eared kaiju) Big G manages to put the kibosh on the alien’s plan.  This film continues the trend of showing bloodshed that started in Godzilla vs Gigan.

Terror of Mechagodzilla
(The Terror of Godzilla;
Counterattack of Mechagodzilla), 1975 -
A direct sequel to Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla,  those simian aliens from “The Third Planet from the Black Hole” are still running amuck.  They’ve joined forces with a mad scientist who wants to control the world with an aquatic monster called Titanosaurus.  This time Big G goes it alone against the reconstructed MechaGodzilla and Titanosaurus with some help from a lovely female android created by the mad scientist.

Heisei Era (1984–1995)

Godzilla 1985
(The Return of Godzilla), 1984 -
Godzilla returns after nearly a decade away and he’s not defending the Earth anymore.   A return to the dark nuclear metaphor, this film is a direct sequel to the original 1954 film, completely ignoring everything that happened in between.  Raymond Burr is back in his  role as Steve Martin, once again watching as Godzilla trashes Tokyo.  There are no other monsters to fight, it’s just human vs. kaiju.  Godzilla himself has had an upgrade, no longer a kid’s matinee monster, this Godzilla is three hundred and twenty-eight feet of atomic fury.

Godzilla vs Biollante,  1989 - 
A deranged scientist combines the DNA of Godzilla, his deceased psychic daughter and a rose together to form a new monster called Biollante.  After some terrorists release Godzilla, the giant rose monster calls out to him and the two ensue in a battle.  Biollante takes a few different forms in this film before meeting it’s inevitable demise.  This film also marks the beginning of some interesting experiments with Godzilla’s this case giving him a sort of psychic power.

Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, 1991 - 
It’s back to classic foes for Godzilla in this one.  Instead of aliens, this time the antagonists are a group who call themselves “Futurians”, who are time travelers from the year 2204.  They trick some scientists into traveling back to 1944 and preventing the original Godzilla from being created and inadvertently create the new Godzilla that appeared in 1984.   After being mortally wounded by Godzilla, King Ghidorah is whisked away by the Futurians and returned with a cyborg head as Mecha-King Ghidorah!

Godzilla vs. Mothra
(Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth), 1992 -
This film once again brings back a classic Godzilla kaiju as well as introducing a new one.  Battra is the polar opposite of Mothra...a jagged nasty looking larva and an ever nastier winged beast.  The plot revolves around The Cosmos (taking the place of the Shobijin) being kidnapped and Mothra coming to their aid while fending off Battra as well as Godzilla.  The final battle at Yokohama Cosmo World is a highlight, with Godzilla using a Ferris Wheel as a weapon!

Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla II, 1993 -
Continuing the tradition of bringing back classic foes, yet completely ignoring all the films in the Shōwa Era.  This time around the UNGCC (United Nations Godzilla Countermeasures Center) finds the remains of Mecha-King Ghidorah in the ocean and use the technology to create MechaGodzilla and a ship called Garuda.  Scientists also take what they believe to be a pteranodon egg back to Kyoto.  This attracts both Godzilla and Rodan.  The egg hatches to reveal Baby Godzilla, who is sending psychic signals to Big G and Rodan.  Don’t miss Garuda and MechaGodzilla combining Transformer-style into Super-MechaGodzilla!

Godzilla vs Space Godzilla, 1994 - 
The JSDF are testing Project T, which would allow them to psychically control Godzilla.  Meanwhile, some of Godzilla’s cell’s that were brought into space by Biollante are exposed to radiation from a Black Hole creating Space Godzilla, a Big G doppelgänger with a bad attitude and crystal structures growing out of him.  The JSDF has also created Moguera, a bird like robot to replace MechaGodzilla.  Moguera and Godzilla team up to drive off the space invader.

Godzilla vs. Destoroyah
(Godzilla vs. Destroyer), 1995 -
Toho actually announced that they would kill Godzilla in this film.  It seems that Godzilla is dying as the film opens, there are bright glowing patches on his body and he wrecks havoc in Hong Kong.  Scientists discover that Big G’s heart is basically a nuclear reactor and he is going to have a meltdown, die and take the entire world with him.  The JSDF has created the all new Super-X III to try and stop the meltdown with freeze weapons.  Meanwhile, a military created monster called Destoroyah starts to rampage.  The JSDF (again using psychic powers) lure Godzilla into a fight to the death.

Godzilla (1998)
The first attempt at Americanizing Godzilla did not go so well.  Treated more of a parody of the Godzilla films that had come before, this big budget reboot found a completely redesigned ‘Zilla (as he was officially named by Toho and put in their canon of kaiju) that was essentially a mutated iguana who comes to New York City to nest.  Apparently he’s asexual and has laid a bunch of eggs under Madison Square Garden.  In addition to contending with ‘Zilla’s rampage, there are now a bunch of Baby Godzilla’s running around the underground.

Millennium Era (1999–2004)

Godzilla 2000: Millennium
(Godzilla 2000), 1999 -
The series is rebooted a third time with Godzilla 2000.  It seems that they are once again erasing what has come before and taking this as a direct sequel to the 1954 film.  This time a group called the Godzilla Prediction Network and Crisis Control Intelligence work to predict where Godzilla will appear next when they discover a 60 million year old UFO in the ocean.  The UFO reactivates when they attempt to raise it and starts to attack Japan.  The UFO tries to steal all of Japan’s files on Godzilla, particularly the ones regarding his regenerative properties.  Turns out the aliens (called Millenians) need Godzilla’s DNA to regrow their bodies.  After absorbing some of Godzilla’s DNA, a Millenian mutates into the monster Orga, a giant bipedal creature and tangles with Godzilla.

Godzilla vs. Megaguirus, 2000 -
Using a new weapon called Dimension Tide, scientists open a time portal.  A large insect flies through dropping off one it’s eggs, which eventually ends up in a sewer.  Turns out it’s a bunch of eggs and they react with the water, growing larger.  They hatch into large bugs called Meganula.  They’re attracted to Godzilla and feed off his energy, feeding it in turn to a giant larva that hatches into Megaguirus, a sort of mutant dragonfly.

Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack
(GMK), 2001 -
Things are a little different this time around, with the story taking on a much more spiritual element.  First off, Godzilla is possessed by the spirit of the souls of dead soldiers from WWII.  They are angry that Japan has forgotten their sacrifice and therefore now want to destroy the country.  In order to stop Godzilla the guardian monsters Mothra, King Ghidorah and Baragon are awakened.  Things get even weirder when a lone man equipped with a missile enters Godzilla’s body through his mouth, plants the missile and exits through a gaping wound!

Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla, 2002 -
This is a new incarnation of the giant mechanoid.  This time around the JSDF takes the skeleton of the original Godzilla and builds a robot around it, so technicall
y, MechaGodzilla is a cyborg in this one.  Kiryu, as MechaGodzilla is called (it means Machine Dragon), has memories of the original Godzilla’s death, causing him to short circuit and go on a rampage.  Eventually running out of energy, Kiryu is brought back and repaired, setting the stage for the final showdown between the two.  Call this an early precursor to Pacific Rim, when Kiryu’s remote controls malfunction and a pilot has to enter the cockpit of the cyborg herself to fight Godzilla.

Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.
(Godzilla x Mothra x Mechagodzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.), 2003
Kiryu, the cyborg mechanoid with Godzilla bones in it is back again to once again defend Japan for Godzilla’s rampage.  The Shobijin are back as well and warn the JSDF that Godzilla continues to attack because they used the bones of the original monster.  Mothra will agree to defend Japan if the JSDF will agree to send Godzilla’s bones back to the bottom of the ocean.  Right on time, Godzilla attacks and fights with Mothra.  Her larva hatch and come to aid her and Kiryu once again goes into battle as well.

Godzilla:  Final Wars,  2004 -
The final Toho film is an all out monster brawl featuring fifteen kaiju!  Those pesky aliens are at it again, this time a race called the Xiliens, who have gained control of most of the world’s kaiju, setting them on the major cities of the world.  After finally entombing Godzilla under arctic ice, the JSDF’s only hope is to break him out and lead him into battle.  This one’s got everything but the kitchen sink thrown in.  Matrix like fight scenes, tons of kaiju battles, mutants and aliens galore.  It is certainly a monster mash for the ages.  If this is truly the final Godzilla film from Toho (and I hope that it isn’t), then it’s one hell of a swan song for Big G.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Fearful Fiction Reviews: The Alchemist - H.P. Lovecraft

Welcome to a new spot I'm trying out here at Midnight Cinephile - Fearful Fiction.  Though I spend a good amount of time watching films, I also enjoy reading quite a bit.  I'm sure many of you do as well.  Henceforth, here's a little space for me to write about some of my favorite macabre tales.  

I've been in quite a Lovecraftian mood lately and as such I've decided to revisit his work.  As it just so happened, the first story I read was one of his first written and (if I'm not mistaken) his first published:  The Alchemist.  Written in 1908 when he was around 18 years old, it was published in the November 1916 issue of United Amateur.

The Alchemist is a terror tale written in the first person.  the Narrator, Count Antoine de C-, relates how his ancestors befell a terrible curse when in a fit of rage Henri Comte murdered an old alchemist, named Michel Mauvais, believing that he had kidnapped his son, Godfrey.  Mauvias' own son, Charles Le Sorcier places a curse upon Henri and his heirs, stating that non shall live past his current age of 32.  Le Sorcier then splashes a clear liquid from a vial in Henri's face, killing him and vanishes into the night.

As promised, each of Henri's heirs die shortly after turning 32 (it's kinda like the "Curse of 27" with musicians, I guess).  Arrow, drowning, undefined causes....but all upon each of them turning 32.  As Antoine draws ever closer to his deadly birthday, he searches for an answer and perhaps a counter to this curse.  He spends much of his time studying the occult until finally resigning himself and accepting his accursed fate.  With his last days in sight, Antoine takes to to exploring the ruins of the castle that he called home.  It is in the decrepit bowels of the castle that he discovers the truth behind The Alchemist's curse.  

This short (being one of Lovecraft's first) is not yet steeped in rich the rich Mythos of Cthulhu and other Elder Gods.  Instead what we have here is a very Poe-esque tale of revenge and murder with a few dabs of the unknown thrown in.  Though The Old Ones have not yet been explored by Lovecraft, you can see the seeds of what will come in his early writing.  It is clear that his fascination with the occult runs deep.  

As always, his prose are evocative and atmospheric.  While not his best work, it's still a worthy read....especially if you are a fan of Lovecraft's work and want to see it's roots and trace the evolution of the world that he created.  The Alchemist is available in most (if not all) of the Lovecraft anthologies and omnibuses.  

Friday, May 9, 2014

Unexpected Horrors - Part IV

It's time once again to sweep out the cobwebs in the darkest corners of my mind to bring you another selection of Unexpected Horrors!  We're going to change things up a little this time, however.  In the past editions of UH, it's been about finding horrors in the least expected cinematic places...but let's face it....there are more horrors out there besides on the silver screen.  The smaller screen, for instance has just as many opportunities to scare the pants right off you.....especially when you're an impressionable young lad, such as I was!

So let's do this thing!  Here are some Unexpected Horrors....the Television Edition!

The Magic of David Copperfield X:  The Bermuda Triangle

You may not know this, but among other talents and past professions, I am a magician.  I've loved magic since I was very young.  My hero as a child was David Copperfield.  Watching his yearly specials on TV filled me with wonder and helped me decide what I wanted to do with my life.  Clearly the magic thing has really panned out as I'm not performing nightly in Vegas and I certainly don't have my own TV show, but I did work on a professional level for a time and I will still perform  a miracle here or there for the right person when the mood strikes me.  But enough of that.  You're not here to be amazed by prestidigitation.....your here because for some strange reason you keep reading my work.  Cthulhu, bless ya!

So, what does Mr. Copperfield and his illusions have to do with Unexpected Horrors?  Well, in 1988, David aired his tenth magic special in which for his grand finale, he would vanish into the Bermuda Triangle and try to re-appear.  Now, keep in mind when I was watching this, I was 9 years old.  I bought the whole thing hook, line & sinker.  For those of you who have never seen David perform, he is one hell of a story teller and has a flair for the dramatic.  His whole introduction to the Bermuda Triangle and the mysterious forces that are alleged to be there made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end.  Then, the "experiments" began.

See, David is actually out on a barge on the water and according to him he's standing smack dab in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle.  He tells of a ship that vanished 33 years earlier.  He explains that he is going to run a few experiments before attempting to vanish.  On the barge (which is shaped like a pyramid) he's got a smaller pyramid made of tinted glass.  The front panel hinges open and inside there is a small lit pedestal.  First he places a bolt with a nut threaded on it on the pedestal.  This allegedly was part of the ship that had vanished.  The nut mysteriously unscrews itself and the bolt & nut vanish.  Next David takes a compass and places it in the pyramid.  It starts to rotate wildly as smoke starts to fill up in the pyramid and the light intensifies.  It too, vanishes.  Finally, a small wooden maqeutte, or doll, is placed into the pyramid.  It begins to move by itself.  It seems to fall to it's knees, it's hands almost seemingly clasped in prayer.  Then the fucking thing catches of fire!  HOLY SHIT!! FUCK!!!  Now keep in mind there is scary as shit music playing throughout the whole thing (it was part of the Aliens soundtrack, if I'm not mistaken) and by this point, I was just about shitting my pants.  THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE WAS REAL AND DAVID COPPERFIELD WAS PROVING IT!!!!

My young mind nearly snapped in a million pieces.  The most mind blowing was yet to come though:  David took the burnt maquette out of the pyramid and started to examine it when it suddenly flew out of his hand and stuck to the glass of the pyramid.  This happened a couple more times and finally David gripped it tightly.  Still it flew to the glass, this time with David's hand still grasping firmly.  His hand punches through the glass.  Blinding light and smoke are pouring out.  THAT MUSIC IS SO INTENSE!  David has to put his feet up on the glass to gain leverage to pull his hand out.  It's covered in black goo.  Suddenly the glass gives way and his feet go through.  OH DEAR GOD, SOMETHING IS PULLING HIM IN!!!  SHIT SHIT SHIT, FUCK FUCK!!!!!!  David is now completely in the pyramid except for his arms.  They seemingly vanish into thin air as the pyramid panels all open and show that he is completely vanished.  Then a freakin' FIRE starts on the base of the pyramid and crew rushes in to put it out.

I was absolutely terrified.  DAVID COPPERFIELD JUST VANISHED INTO THE GODDAMN BERMUDA TRIANGLE!!!!!!!  At this point, we hear radio transmissions from the guy is shouting to get the fire put out on the barge, another guy is instructing rescue divers to jump in the water and look for him.  There's boats racing around on the surface, divers underneath....more radio transmissions that David is nowhere to be found.  Scary music is still pumping away.  This is some intense shit going down here!  As the first rays of the sun crest the ocean, the boats start to circle another platform on the water.  A voice instructs the camera crew not to cut away.  A large screen starts to roll out between three large columns.  Yep...'nuther triangle!  After the screen rolls out, we see David float out from underneath on a small triangle platform.  Phew!  He's alive!  Thank god for that, but man....that was kinda anticlimactic, wasn't it?  I mean why did he need that big ass rig to make himself reappear?  He pulls himself back towards the screen.  The screen falls.  SWEET MEPHISTOPHELES!  IT'S THE VANISHED BOAT FROM 1958!!!!!!  Crew members and divers alike stare slack-jawed at the boat.  So did I.  David stood there with his trademark "Yep, I'm the MAN!" look and pose.  The special ended.  I was convinced that I had just witnessed the paranormal.  The hair on the back of my neck stood up again.  Goosebumps encased my body.  I couldn't sleep that night.  Every time I closed my eyes I saw that glass pyramid and that maquette moving on it's own.

It's a blast to look back at the special now and see it for what it is.  As a magician whose been around for a while, I understand the principles of the various magical effects that went into making this.  As a matter of fact it helped to lead me to a dark little corner of the magic community.  A little subset group of conjurers who perform what they like to call bizarre magick.  But that's a story for another time.

For now I will leave you with a video of the 10 minutes that terrified me more than any other piece of magic before or since.  Enjoy!

The Musical Tone from A Current Affair

You may laugh at me for this one, but this scared the ever loving crap out of me every time I heard it:  It's the musical tone that they played on A Current Affair....especially on the promos for the show.  It didn't matter if it was a story about an unsolved murder or if it was some light-hearted fluff piece, they would also play that damn piece of aural terror that would literally freeze me in my tracks.  I've mentioned elsewhere in other posts about the neurotic fear of abandonment that I had as a child.  Well, when I was start to get really panicky that I was never going to see my family again, that stupid freakin music tone would suddenly play in my head and I would imagine the Current Affair promo in my head "A missing family....a young boy left all alone.  What happened to them?  Coming up on A Current Affair...."   Sssssshhhhhhhwwwwwhhhhmmmmmm!!!!  Yeah, I know that's pretty fucked up.  I was a kinda fucked up kid, what can I tell you.  On the plus side I've grown into this well adjusted adult that you have come to know and love!

Don't believe me about how scary the damn this was?  LISTEN!!!!!!!!!  That shit would pop up ANY time during the day....even during cartoons!  Talk about unexpected!

The Theme from Unsolved Mysteries

While we're on the subject of musical horrors, let's not forget to mention this soul destroying malignant melody.  Yes, I'm talking about the Theme from Unsolved Mysteries.  Dear Christ in Heaven, this music was enough to turn my hair white whenever I heard it.  I knew that music brought one thing and one thing only....Robert Stack standing in a scary ass graveyard in front of a mausoleum at 3am wearing a trench-coat and telling me about some poor bastard that's vanished off the face of the Earth, UFO's, Ghosts or an unsolved murder.  You know now that I've given it a moment of thought, it's not surprising that I had deep seeded fear issues as a kid....I WATCHED THIS SHOW!  I suppose you're going to want to give it a listen, aren't you?  Yeah, I was afraid you'd say that.  You may be wondering why I decided to put this one in:  Well, to be honest I suppose that it shouldn't really be counted as an "Unexpected Horror" but for some reason, this one always got me by surprise.  I would be happily playing with transformers on the floor and my mother would be watching TV.  Everything would be fine and then WHAMMO!  Instant trauma.  I didn't expect it most of the time.  So, there!

Well there you have it.  Three more examples of stuff that scared the crap out of me in my youth.  Three examples of things that still give me goosebumps when I think about them today.  I listened to that damn Current Affair sound effect like 20 times hoping it would lessen it's effect on me.  Nope.  Now I just want to find someone maternal.  Doesn't even have to be MY Mom....I just need a hug.