Monday, August 26, 2019

Phil’s Horror Watch: BASKET CASE (1982) from Arrow Video - August 14, 2019

BASKET CASE Slipcover
BASKET CASE (1982)

Starring Kevin Van Hentenryck, Terri Susan Smith, Beverly Bonner, Robert Vogel, Diana Browne, Lloyd Pace, Bill Freeman, Joe Clarke
Screenplay by Frank Henenlotter
Cinematography by Bruce Torbet
Edited by Frank Henenlotter
Produced by Arnold H. Bruck (as Arnie Bruck), Tom Kaye, Edgar Ievins
Directed by Frank Henenlotter
Originally released by Analysis Film Releasing Corporation
Re-released by Arrow Video

For today's cinematic fright flick, I thought it would be fun to stroll down memory lane and visit the old grindhouse theaters that populated New York's 42nd Street. There, you could see some of the most outrageous films ever made! Sometimes I feel like I was born in the wrong decade. I would have love to see many of the film I have watched on Blu-Ray or on DVD up on the big screen. Just imagine walking around The Deuce, looking up at all the marquees, seeing what's playing, then buying a ticket to watch a movie and wonder what the hell am I watching! Take for example today's film. I guarantee that you have never seen a film like BASKET CASE before, nor could you ever forget it!

The film's official synopsis: Duane Bradley is a pretty ordinary guy. His formerly conjoined twin Belial, on the other hand, is a deformed, fleshy lump whom he carries around in a wicker basket. Arriving in the Big Apple and taking up a room at the seedy Hotel Broslin, the pair set about hunting down and butchering the surgeons responsible for their separation. But tensions flare up when Duane starts spending time with a pretty blonde secretary, and Belial’s homicidal tendencies reach bloody new extremes.

Now doesn't that sound like a fun film to watch in a 42nd street grindhouse theater? Well guess what? It DID play at a 42nd street grindhouse theater! Budgeted at only $35,000, the film was released by Analysis Film Releasing Corporation in April of 1982, but it gained a cult following once it was released onto home video by the mid 80's. The special effects for Belial consist largely of a puppet in some scenes and stop motion in others, which only added to the magic and the allure of the film.

Original Theatrical Poster (1982)
The film was written and directed by Frank Henenlotter, and it was his feature length debut. Henenlotter would go on to direct other cult classics such as BRAIN DAMAGE, FRANKENHOOKER, and two sequels: BASKET CASE 2 and BASKET CASE 3: THE PROGENY. He also directed the documentaries  HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS: THE GODFATHER OF GORE and THAT'S SEXPLOITATION! (both for Something Weird Video). He also did the audio commentary for FUGITIVE GIRLS along with Ed Wood biographer Rudolph Grey.

Arrow Video did a tremendous job with this release! It boasts a brand new 4K restoration from the original 16mm negative by MoMA )Museum of Modern Art), a High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation, Original Uncompressed Mono Audio, and Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing, and a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sara Deck, which looks awesome!

Then there's the Special Features, which are both phenomenal and plentiful: Brand new audio commentary with writer/director Frank Henenlotter and star Kevin Van Hentenryck, BASKET CASE 3-1/2: An Interview with Duane Bradley – Frank Henenlotter revisits Duane Bradley decades after the events of the original Basket Case, Seeing Double: The Basket Case Twins – a brand new interview with Florence and Maryellen Schultz, the twin nurses from Basket Case, Brand new making-of featurette containing new interviews with producer Edgar Ievins, casting person/actress Ilze Balodis, associate producer/effects artist Ugis Nigals and Belial performer Kika Nigals, Blood, BASKET and Beyond – a brand new interview with actress Beverly Bonner, Belial Goes to the Drive-In – a brand new interview with film critic Joe Bob Briggs, Outtakes Featurette, In Search of the Hotel Broslin – archive location featurette, SLASH OF THE KNIFE (1972) – short film by Frank Henenlotter, Belial’s Dream (2017, 5 mins) – brand new Basket Case-inspired animated short by filmmaker Robert Morgan, Behind-the-scenes of Belial’s Dream, Extensive Still Galleries, Trailers, TV Spots and Radio Spots! *whew* Holy crap that's a lot of special features!

BASKET CASE is a true bona fide cult classic, a grindhouse classic, a horror film classic, and still one helluva fun ride to watch! Take from me folks. Horror, B-movies, and exploitation films are my main passions in life, and I can assure you that this film is just awesome to watch! And thanks to Arrow Video, the film looks exquisite, contains astounding special features, and is required for any horror fans film library! This is a must-own release!! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!!



BASKET CASE is available on Blu-Ray from Arrow Video. To purchase a copy for yourself, visit the Diabolik DVD website at www.diabolikdvd.com.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the screaming!

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Phil’s Horror Watch: INVASION OF THE BLOOD FARMERS (1972) from Severin Film - August 13, 2019

INVASION OF THE BLOOD FARMERS Slipcover
INVASION OF THE BLOOD FARMERS (1972)

Starring Norman Kelley, Tanna Hunter, Bruce Detrick, Paul Craig Jennings, Jack Neubeck, Richard Erickson, Cynthia Fleming
Screenplay by Ed Adlum, Ed Kelleher
Cinematography by Roberta Findlay (as Frederick Douglass)
Edited by Michael Findlay
Produced by Ed Adlum, Milton S. Greenman
Directed by Ed Adlum
Originally released by N.M.D. Film Distributing Company
Re-released by Severin Films

Today's film review is an interesting one. It was probably one of the worst films ever made.  And I've seen some bad films in my lifetime. Granted, some you have to take with a pinch of salt, while others I wondered how they were even made, let alone how the filmmakers would watch their final cut of the film and say to themselves, "Yup, we have a winner here!" Today's film is one of those films that I would see religiously on the shelves at my local mom & pop video store, but nevr had the balls to rent it. Over thirty years later. I finally watched INVASION OF THE BLOOD FARMERS, and now I wish that I rented this all those years ago!

The film's official synopsis: In 1972, a team of New York City exploitation outlaws that included Ed Adlum (SHRIEK OF THE MUTILATED), Ed Kelleher (PRIME EVIL) and Michael & Roberta Findlay (THE TOUCH OF HER FLESH, SNUFF) – along with first-time assistant cameraman and future award-winning cinematographer Frederick Elmes (ERASERHEAD, BLUE VELVET) – descended on bucolic Westchester County with 8½ bottles of stage blood to make a movie about a Druid cult seeking to resurrect their dead queen. The budget was $24,000. The cast was paid in beer. And the result remains one of the greatest achievements in schlock/shock cinema history.

Original Theatrical Poster (1972)
Believe it or not, despite its low budget, the film has yet made its money back. Which is a real shame, if you ask me. The movie would have killed it at the drive-ins in rural America, and in the grindhouses that laced 42nd Street in New York City. The movie has it all: bewildering story, inane acting (both Richard Erickson () and Richard Kennedy () were so bad that they had to read off cue cards for their lines), and, according Adlum, the production went through eight and a half bottles of stage blood. Seriously, what more do you want in a cheesy low budget horror movie?

The film was released by N.M.D. Film Distributing Company on August 23, 1972 (364 days before my birthday). It was released on VHS in 1984 by Regal Video. After several years, it was released on DVD by filmmaker Fred Olen Ray's company Retromedia Entertainment in 2001. Afterwards, both Cheezy Flicks Entertainment and Code Red released DVD editions in 2011 and 2013, respectively, before landing at Severin Films.

Hailed as a  “accidental masterpiece” among genre fans, the film has garnered the status as a cult classic, and has been on many horror fans' Blu-Ray wish list. Again, Severin Films have come to the rescue, thanks to a brand new 2k restoration scan from the original negative for the first time ever! Plus they've added some cool bonus features to go along with this collector's release: Audio commentary with director Ed Adlum and actress Ortrum Tippel, moderated by Kier-La Janisse, author of "House of Psychotic Women", Nothing You’d Show Your Mom: Eddie Adlum’s Journey through Exploitation, Coin-Op & Rock n’ Roll, Harvesting the Dead: Interview with actor Jack Neubeck, Painful Memories: An interview with cinematographer Frederick Elmes, and the film's original theatrical trailer.

INVASION OF THE BLOOD FARMERS is an unspeakable, grizzly, gory, Grade-Z horror flick that will make you go mad just by watching the first five minutes of it! So of course it's gonna be awesome!! It's hard to believe that it's taken me 30 years to get around to watch this movie! And now, thanks to Severin Films, I, along with horror fans, can now watch it whenever we want! And it's never looked this good before! So grab yourself a copy of this diabolical fright flick, and see what the hype is all about! You'll be glad you did! 4 out of 5 stars! Highly recommended!


INVASION OF THE BLOOD FARMERS is available on both Blu-Ray and DVD from Severin Films. To purchase a copy, visit their website at severin-films.com.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the screaming!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Phil’s Exploitation Cinema: FUGITIVE GIRLS (1974) from Vinegar Syndrome - August 10, 2019

FUGITIVE GIRLS Blu-Ray Cover
FUGITIVE GIRLS (1974)

Starring Jabie Abercrombe, Rene Bond, Tallie Cochrane, Donna Young, Margie Lanier, Harvey Shain, Nicolle Riddell, Edward D. Wood Jr.
Screenplay by Stephen C. Apostolof (original screenplay) (as A.C. Stephen), Edward D. Wood Jr. (original screenplay)
Cinematography by Robert Birchall
Edited by Luigi Rogatoni (as Louigi Rogatoni)
Produced by Stephen C. Apostolof (as A.C. Stephen), S.B. Cooper
Directed by Stephen C. Apostolof (as A.C. Stephen)
Originally released by SCA Distributors
Re-Released by Vinegar Syndrome

Awww......is there anything better than 70's exploitation smut? The short answer is no! During this groovy decade, drive-ins and grindhouses were filled with these types of movies: sex crazed fiends, hot nude scenes, sizzling sex scenes, violence, and acting that ranks right below high school drama class. However, they were never boring; sometimes there were really risque with the subject manners ranging from lesbianism, rape, violence towards women, and prison treatment. A lot of these topics appear in the grindhouse sexploitation classic FUGITIVE GIRLS (which was co-written by the late, great Edward D. Wood Jr.) from Vinegar Syndrome!

The film's official synopsis: Beautiful Dee is implicated in a fatal liquor store shooting committed by her boyfriend. Sent to an all-female work camp, she quickly finds herself at the mercy of four other violent and sex crazed prisoners who force her into their daring escape plan. Once on the outside, the five fugitives embark on a brutal and sex filled rampage across the countryside, while making their way to a mystery site rumored to have a buried suitcase full of money!

Original Theatrical Poster (1974)
The movie was directed by Stephen C. Apostolof (as A.C. Stephen) and co-written by Edward D. Wood Jr. The same team that brought us ORGY OF THE DEAD (also from Vinegar Syndrome), this dynamic duo hit their peak with this movie (the two made nine films together). Hell, even Wood has a couple of roles in the movie, unfortunately you can see how hard life has hit him. Sadly, Wood would pass away on December 10, 1978, four years later after appearing here. Another legendary sexploitation star appears in the film. Rene Bond got her start acting in several Harry Novak produced exploitation flicks, such as COUNTRY CUZZINS, COUNTRY HOOKER, and PLEASE DON'T EAT MY MOTHER. She would also appear in several hardcore pornography films, and was one of the first actresses to have a breast enlargement. She left the film industry in the late seventies and was never seen again, until he appeared on the old game show Break the Bank in the mid-eighties. She passed away from of liver problems on June 2, 1996 at the young age of 45. Apostolof made two more movies after this, then left the film industry. He made several appearances in Ed Wood documentaries, then died on August 14, 2005, aged 77.

There were actually two different versions of the film being played back then. There was the exploitation version called FUGITIVE GIRLS without the softcore sex scenes, then there was the one with all the softcore sex scenes which was called FIVE LOOSE WOMEN. Now, thanks to Vinegar Syndrome, they were able to restore the film with all of the sexiness and put it out under the title.

Vinegar Syndrome once again has done an incredible job of restoring the film, featuring a newly 2k scan from the 35mm original camera negative. Some of the special features include the following: Audio commentary track with Frank Henenlotter (Exploitation filmmaker) and Rudolph Grey (Ed Wood biographer), archival audio interview with Tallie Cochrane (actress), moderated by Casey Scott, original theatrical and promo trailer, and English SDH Subtitles. The region free Blu-ray/DVD combo pack is limited to only 2,500 units, ans as I am writing this review, there are only eight copies left on their website!!

FUGITIVE GIRLS is a sexploitation cult classic for fans who love these films, and is a required addition to any Ed Wood library!! Here is a film that has been long overdue for a reissue and a rediscovery, and now you have a chance to won this amazing sex-filled, nudity laced, Ed Wood hamming it up acting, and lesbian loving gem of a flick! So what the hell are you waiting for? Order this movie now! 4 out of 5 stars! Highly recommended!


FUGITIVE GIRLS is available in a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack from Vinegar Syndrome. To order a copy for yourself, visit their website at vinegarsyndrome.com.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Monday, August 12, 2019

Phil’s Horror Watch: THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH (1964) from Severin Films - August 6, 2019

THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH Blu-Ray
THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH (1964)

Starring John Scott, Alice Lyon, Allan Laurel, Eulabelle Moore, Marilyn Clarke, Agustin Mayor, Damon Kebroyd, The Del-Aires
Screenplay by Richard Hilliard (additional dialogue by Ronald Gianettino, Lou Binder)
Cinematography by Richard Hilliard
Edited by Richard Hilliard, Leonard De Munde, David Simpson
Produced by Del Tenney, Alan V. Isolines
Directed by Del Tenney
Originally distributed by 20th Century Fox
Re-released by Severin Films

Horror films of the 1960’s were interesting to watch, to say the least. It really depended on the size of its budget. You had the Roger Corman directed, AIP produced, Edgar Allen Poe adaptations that are now considered to be classics in the genre, the game changing reincarnations of classic horror monsters from Hammer Films from Great Britain, and then there were the small, DIY horror films that challenged society’s standards on what was acceptable and what was deemed immoral, grotesque, and offensive. And then there were the cheapie fright flicks, that have gone one to become cult classics despite their limitations. Case in point, the fine people at Severin Films have restored the one and only THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH for a whole generation of horror fans who may have never seen or heard of the film before!

The film’s official synopsis: In 1964, 20th Century Fox released an independent shocker – shot in two weeks for $50,000 outside Stamford, Connecticut by local producer/director Del Tenney – advertised as ‘The First Horror-Monster Musical’. More than 50 years later, this “absolute classic of exploitation cinema” (Legends Magazine) returns like you’ve never seen or heard it before: When nuclear waste dumped into the ocean mutates a shipwreck full of corpses, it will unleash an onslaught of bikini teens, surprising gore, dubious science, an intrepid maid, The Del-Aires, and arguably the greatest worst monsters in horror movie history.

Original Theatrical Poster (1964)
I was first introduced to the movie through the Paramount Pictures tribute to bad movies 1982 film entitled IT CAME FROM HOLLYWOOD. Years later, I would see the movie again via the cult classic television show Mystery Science Theater 3000 (which is available in one of the many boxsets available from Shout Factory). I was finally to rent a copy at my local mom & pop video store and it was so bad I laughed the whole way through my viewing! Much like Edward D. Wood, Jr., Tenney tried so damn hard to make a good movie, but failed every step of the way! But it's his determination and spirit that makes the movie so much fun to watch!

Filmed in a mere three weeks with most of the secondary characters in the film were locals of Stamford, Connecticut, Tenney shot this film back-to-back with his other horror film THE CURSE OF THE LIVING CORPSE. The film's original working title was INVASION OF THE ZOMBIES before it was changed to its more infamous title. And despite being billed as "The First Horror Monster Musical" in the advertisements, filmmaker Ray Denis Steckler's The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies beat the film to the theaters by a couple of months. However, it did tremendous business at the box office for 20th Century Fox, when they picked up the film and released on June 1, 1964.

Severin Film did a tremendous job of restoring the film to its original glory, featuring a new 2k scan from the original negative and loaded with all-new special features! The special features include: Return to Party Beach: A Retrospective Documentary on THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH, It’s the Living End: An Encounter with The Del-Aires – Interview with Band Members Bobby Osborne and Ronnie Linares, Shock & Roll: filmmaker Tim Sullivan On Rock & Roll Horror Movies, Archival Interview With director Del Tenney, and the film's original theatrical trailer.

THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH is a truly beloved cult horror film classic that is rip for discovery by a all-new generation of horror fans that might have missed out on it originally! Filled with cheesy rubber monster costumes, insane acting, surf music, teen beach party, it contains everything you would want to watch with a bunch of your friends on a Friday night! Forget about going out to see a movie at the mall! Call up your buddies, grab some pizzas and sodas, kick back and watch this movie! You'll be glad that you did! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!!


THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH is available on both Blu-Ray and DVD from Severin Films. To purchase a copy, visit their website at severin-films.com.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the screaming!

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Phil attends the 22nd ANNUAL BRONCHO BILLY SILENT FILM FESTIVAL: DAY THREE at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum - July 28, 2019

Greetings and salutations everybody and welcome to the third and final day of the 22nd ANNUAL BRONCHO BILLY SILENT FILM FESTIVAL here at the Edison Theater, the home of the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum! A lot of fun and excitement took place on Sunday, so folks, if you don't mind, let's get this day started!

The morning program was entitled THEY RODE OUT OF THE SILENT SCREEN, which was hosted by friend of the museum Larry Telles.

The early afternoon screening was 16mm SURVIVORS: THE ROLE OF THE 16mm COLLECTORS IN FINDING LOST FILMS.

The late afternoon program was the screening of LORRAINE OF THE LIONS.

Well folks, there you have it! Another great festival and another great time at the museum. Remember that the museum has weekly Saturday shows, and they will also be showing Laurel and Hardy talkies on Sunday afternoons. To learn more about the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, how to become a member, and view their film schedule, visit their website at www.nilesfilmmuseum.org.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!  

Phil attends the 22nd ANNUAL BRONCHO BILLY SILENT FILM FESTIVAL: DAY TWO at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum - July 27, 2019

Hello again folks and welcome to Day Two of my trip to the 22nd Annual Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival here at the Edison Theater, home of the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum. Today there were several programs, lectures, and films for silent film fans to attend. So let’s not waste anymore time, and let me tell you all what went down!

First off, we were once again treated another WALKING TOUR OF NILES, lead again by our Niles residents and gurus Rena and David Kiehn (they also did this tour during the Charlie Chaplin Days event). For those who chose to stay at the museum for the festival, they were treated to a screening of BRONCHO BILLY AND THE BANDIT’S SECRET, along with the making-of documentary WINDOW TO THE PAST.

Afterwards, there was the A SALUTE TO THE 100th ANNIVERSARY OF THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF CINEMATOGRAPHERS: ESSANAY CAMERAMEN AND THE BELL & HOWELL CONNECTION presentation at 1pm. Here, David Kiehn talked about all the various cameramen that worked for the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company, both here in Niles and at their Chicago location. Of course, Kiehn talked about the great and legendary cinematographer Rollie Totheroh, who would go on to become Chaplin's main cameraman. He also talked about other cinematographers who would join the ASC, including Fred Jackman, Ira Morgan, and Jackson Rose. Kiehn also talked about Frank D. Williams, the man who invented the Williams travelling matte process for special effects work.

At 3:30pm was the mid-afternoon screening event, which was called the ESSANAY STUDIO FILMS FROM CHICAGO TO NILES. It was five short film that were shot for both studios. I was super excited about this because I haven't seen too many of the films from Chicago, due to them being rare. Here was the rundown of film shorts:

TEN NIGHTS IN A BARROOM (1909): A cautionary tale about a family man who ends up spending too much time at his local bar, which ends up having a negative affect on his family and his job. A super cool rare short film from the Chicago studio. The movie was directed by Gilbert Anderson and was released on June 9, 1909.

A RANCHMAN'S RIVAL (1909) Made in the same year as the first short, but filmed in Golden, Colorado. Here, Gilbert Anderson portrays Broncho Billy, . This was the infamous film that Anderson was directing when his lead actor refused to listen to him. As a result, Anderson fired his actor right thee on the spot, and he took over the lead role, thus becoming the world's first cowboy superstar and making cinema history! The movie was directed by Gilbert Anderson and was released on December 11, 1909.

THE COWBOY COWARD (1911): Made in San Rafael, California (located in Marin County in the North Bay), Anderson plays a no-good card gambler that gets rejected by his sweetheart Gladys Field because of said bad habits. She meets the good-looking Robert Henry Gray, but lies to her to cover up his cowardly demeanour. The movie was directed by Gilbert Anderson and was released on December 16, 1909.

ALKALI IKE'S PANTS (1912): Made here in Niles, California, this was part of the Snakeville Comedy series. Here, Alkali Ike tries to woo the lovely and very available Margaret Joslin, but a monkey wrench is thrown into hi plan as Mustang and Coyote steals his only good pair of pants!
The movie was directed by Gilbert Anderson and was released on September 21, 1912.

FROM THE SUBMERGED (1912): Made in Chicago, the film stars E.H. Calvert as a poor homeless man who's about to commit suicide by throwing himself into the river when he is stopped by the good natured Ruth Stonehouse. When Calvert inherits his father's fortune, he remembers Ruth and begins to look for her, only to save her from trying to commit suicide as he tried to earlier. The movie was directed by Theodore Wharton and was released on November 12, 1912.

After the program, it was time for some dinner! So I headed over to my favorite place in Niles, Broncho Billy's Pizza Palace, where I ate some of the best pizza in town! After filling my belly up, it was time to head back to the museum for the night time show!

THE TRAIN WRECKERS (1905): A romance between a railroad engineer and the switchman's daughter is nearly ruined by train wreckers who knock out the girl and leave her on the tracks to be run over. The engineer perches on the engine's cow catcher and rescues the girl. Starring Gilbert Anderson and directed by Edwin S. Porter, the short was released by Edison Manufacturing Company on November 27, 1905 (it's also available on the Edison: The Invention of the Movies boxset from Kino Lorber).

THE BROKEN BRAKE (1920): Chapter of the popular serial by the name of "The Hazards of Helen", the short stars Helen Gibson, considered to be the first professional stunt woman. Here, she must save a both a train and a boxcar filled with dynamite! And she performs a really cool and dangerous stunt towards the end of the movie. Not many of her shorts survived over the years, so this was a really cool treat to watch! The short was released by the Capital Film Company in 1920.

Then it was intermission time! After, we all settled back in the theater, where Rena Kiehn awarded author/historian/researcher Marc Wanamaker with the prestigious Ray Hubbard Award for his contributions to preserving and protecting of film history.

RED SIGNALS (1927): Filmed on the Santa Fe Railway in and around Los Angeles in the late 1920s, the film is packed with action, this film showcases wooden box cars, speeding freight and passenger trains, explosions, derailments and almost a complete lack of regard for safety.  There’s even a treacherous switching move with a box car of dynamite. Starring Wallace MacDonald, Earle Williams, Eva Novak and directed by J.P. McGowan, the film was released by Sterling Pictures on March 1, 1927.

And that was it for Day Two of the festival!! Remember the Broncho Billy Film Festival concludes this Sunday! So make plans to attend this event! To purchase tickets and passes, view the festival's film schedule, and to become a member, visit the museum's official website at http://nilesfilmmuseum.org.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Phil attends the 22nd ANNUAL BRONCHO BILLY SILENT FILM FESTIVAL: DAY ONE at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum - July 26, 2019

Greetings from Niles, California! Today begins an annual film event that I’ve been fortunate to attend for well over a decade! Tonight begins the 22nd ANNUAL BRONCHO BILLY SILENT FILM FESTIVAL here at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum! After a long day at work, I was really looking forward to a weekend of silent films, lectures, and friends! So let’s not waste anymore time and let the festival begin!

The night began with THIS IS FRANCES X. BUSHMAN (2019), a work-in-progress documentary about the biggest star from the Chicago Essanay Studio. Produced by the museum, the film was introduced by the director himself Lon Davis. This was cool to see, mainly because I've only seen a couple of images from the Chicago studio. I cannot wait to see when this project is completely finished!

After a brief intermission and social mingling, it was time for the feature presentation.

THE CHARGE OF THE GAUCHOS (aka Una nueva y gloriosa nación) (1928) is set in the early 1800s colonial Argentina, Manuel Belgrano (Frances X. Bushman) leads a revolt against the oppressive Spanish authorities, and his poorly trained and badly equipped army inflicts a series of stunning defeats on the superior Spanish and loyalist forces. Monica Salazar (the beautiful Jacqueline Logan), Belgrano's sweetheart, is the daughter of a prominent loyalist but is also a spy for Belgrano, sending him valuable information until she is caught and sentenced to be beheaded. Belgrano must gather his forces to rescue Monica before she goes under the headsman's axe.

Directed by Albert Kelly and released by in Argentina on May 10, 1928, the film was screened here in the states on September 16th that same year. However, it only played in theaters for a brief time before fading away to film obscurity. For years the film was thought to be forever lost, until a print of the movie was discovered in 2013. Tonight’s screening was considered to be the film’s first screening here in the states since 1928, and was an astounding silent classic! The print had Italian titles, which were lovingly translated by Jackie Capurro.

This was a historic film production, mainly because this was a major Hollywood studio production that was actually financed, supervised and produced by an Argentinean producer, in this case Julián Ajuria. The movie was released Film Booking Offices of America (FBO) to theaters in the fall of 1928. Ironically, Film Booking Offices of America would eventually morph into RKO Radio Pictures. The film's title was changed to THE BEAUTIFUL SPY for the American market, since most didn't know what a gaucho was.

I was familiar with director Albert Kelly, due to his contribution to the world of exploitation cinema. He directed some true cult classics, such as NO MORE CHILDREN (1929),  JUNGLE BRIDE (1931), DOUBLE CROSS (1941), and my personal favorite STREET CORNER (1948), which is available on DVD from the fine folks over at Something Weird Video!

And that my friends was the opening night of the festival! There’s still plenty more fun to be had, so don’t miss out on all this silent film festivities! To learn more the festival’s schedule, weekend passes, and how to become a member, please visit their website at www.nilesfilmmuseum.org.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show! 

Phil’s Horror Watch: DEAD PIT (1989) from Dark Force Entertainment/Code Red - July 22, 2019

DEAD PIT Blu-Ray Glow-in-the-Dark Slipcover
DEAD PIT (1989)

Starring Jeremy Slate, Cheryl Lawson, Stephen Gregory Foster, Danny Gochnauer, Geha Getz, Joan Bechtel, Michael Jacobs
Screenplay by Brett Leonard, Gimel Everett
Cinematography by Marty Collins
Edited by Gimel Everett, Brett Leonard
Produced by Jack A. Sunseri, Gimel Everett
Directed by Brett Leonard
Originally released by Imperial Entertainment
Re-released by Dark Force Entertainment/Code Red

Hello boils and ghouls and welcome back to another edition of Phil's Horror Watch! Today's film I'll be reviewing is one of my favorite horror films to come out of the late 1980's! The movie holds a special place in my heart, as it was filmed here in the South Bay, Santa Clara to be exact. The special effects were done over the hill in Santa Cruz. And it's one of the most excellent batshit crazy horror flicks this side of the nuthouse! I bought the special edition DVD years ago and I've been waiting it to be released on Blu-Ray. Now, thanks to Dark Force Entertainment, in partnership with Code Red, I just watched the brand new version of DEAD PIT Special Edition Blu-Ray and it was gloriously awesome!!

The film's official synopsis:

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Phil attends the LAUREL & HARDY TALKIE MATINEE Screening at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum - July 14, 2019

On the second Sunday of every month, the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum hosts a Laurel & Hardy Talkie Matinee show, hosted by the Sons of the Desert gang. The museum has been doing this for years, and it was the first show I've attended in a very long time. Because I was there volunteering that Sunday, I was able to check out the LAUREL & HARDY TALKIE MATINEE, with all the films dedicated to "The Boys", Charley Chase, and the Our Gang kids. And there were plenty of laughs to had!! Overall, there were four side splitting Hal Roach produced comedy short to watch!!

HOOK & LADDER (1932): Featuring the Our Gang kids, we see them set-up their own fire station. But when a real five alarm fire breaks out, the gang springs into action to combat the blaze, in their own hysterical fashion.And things get even more crazy, when they find crates of dynamite!

It's been a long time since I've seen a talkie OUR GANG short. I grew up watching these on TV back when I was a kid, and they're just as funny now as they were then when I was younger! The short was directed by Robert McGowan, produced by Hal Roach Studios, and was released by MGM on August 27, 1932.

THEM THAR HILLS (1934): Poor ole Ollie! Taking his doctor's advise, he and Stan take a trip into the mountains so that he can recover from his bad case of gout in his foot. However, a gang of bootleggers just dumped their moonshine in the well that the boys sample their 'healthy' mountain water.' from. Then, Mr and Mrs. Hall's car runs out of gas. He leaves his wife there while he heads back to the gas station. When he gets back, he finds his wife plastered, along with the boys! Oopsie!

This is a perfect example of the comedic timing and genius of Laurel & Hardy! This was one of the funniest short films that the duo made! I laughed my butt off! The short was directed by Charley Rogers, produced by Hal Roach Studios, and was released by MGM on July 21, 1934.

MIDSUMMER MUSH (1933): Starring the great Charley Chase as a Boy Scout leader, he causes a major traffic jam, keeps falling of his bicycle, causes trouble for a traffic cop, and meets the girl of his dreams in the form of Betty (Betty Mack). He leads her and her father, and his scouts to the camp site, where even more crazy hijinks continues to plague our poor friend Charley!

This was the very first talkie Charley Chase short I have ever seen, and I loved it! The repeat gag with him falling into the lake over and over again was funny as hell! It's a real shame that Chase never became as big as his peers. Personal demons kept him from becoming a household name, and unfortunately, he's best known for his small role in THE SONS OF THE DESERT with Laurel and Hardy. But we still have his shorts to watch, and because of that, he will live on forever! The short was directed by Charley Chase (as Charles Parrott), produced by Hal Roach Studios, and was released by MGM on October 21, 1933.

TIT FOR TAT (1935): Picking up after the events in THEM THAR HILLS, Stan and Ollie encounter their old nemesis Mr. Hall, whose grocery shop is next door to their home appliances store. Unable to let bygones be bygones, a war breaks out between the two camps. Will those tit-for-tat battles ever end?

This was new to me, and it was quite the surprise! Here's another example of continuity that bridges shorts together to create a universe with the Hal Roach Studio. This was really neat to see! Yeah, I sound like a dork, but who cares! Anyway, I laughed my ass off again, but that shouldn't come as no surprise. It's Laurel and Hardy people! You're supposed to laugh your ass off! But that fact that a short that was made 84 years ago says something. These guys are comic legends, and this one of the many reasons why they are legends! The short was again directed by Charley Rogers, produced by Hal Roach Studios, and was released by MGM on January 5, 1935.

Well, there you have it folks! Another fun-filled cinematic adventure here in Niles!! And I can't wait to come back for more silent film and talkie comedies! The museum is open for tours every weekend from 12pm-4pm and every Saturday night there's a silent film show starting at 7:30 (doors open at 7pm). So if you would like to learn more about the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, becoming a member, to view their film schedule, visit www.nilesfilmmuseum.org.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show! 

Phil sees AVENGERS: ENDGAME (WITH BONUS CONTENT) for the fourth time at the Cinemark Century 20 Oakridge and XD - July 11, 2019

AVENGERS: ENDGAME

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan, Josh Brolin
Based on the Comic Book by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Jim Starlin
Written by Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Cinematography by Trent Opaloch
Edited by Jeffrey Ford, Matthew Schmidt
Produced by Kevin Feige, Jon Favreau, James Gunn, Stan Lee, Victoria Alonso, Trinh Tran
Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo
Released by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

I know what you're all thinking. And yes, I'm a total freaking nerd. Moving on now...

So, I went and saw AVENGERS: ENDGAME with the bonus content at the Cinemark Century Theater in Oakridge Mall today after work, and it was totally worth it. Not so much for the bonus content, but for the film itself. This was going to be the very last time I would be able to see the movie on the big screen. And that's the main reason why I went to see it again.

As for the bonus content, they were OK. The big one for me was the lovely tribute to the Man himself, Stan Lee. I still find it hard to believe that he's really gone. It doesn't feel like it, since we, the fans, still talk about him. Then there was a cut scene featuring the Hulk, but it wasn't completely rendered. The last bonus was featured the opening scene of SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME, which I just saw earlier this week. But as I stated earlier, I just wanted to see the film on the big screen one last time, and it was so worth it!!

AVENGERS: ENDGAME (WITH BONUS CONTENT) is currently playing in theaters nationwide, including the Cinemark Century Theaters here in the Bay Area. To view showtimes, visit their website at http://cinemark.com.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Phil sees SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME at the Cinelux Tennant Station Stadium 11 - July 8, 2019

SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME

Starring Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders , Jacob Batalon
Screenplay by Erik Sommers, Chris McKenna
Based on the comic book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
Cinematography by Matthew J. Lloyd
Edited by Leigh Folsom Boyd, Dan Lebental
Produced by Kevin Feige, Avi Arad, Stan Lee,Victoria Alonso
Directed by Jon Watts
Released by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

When I first saw SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING two years ago, I thought to myself, "Finally!! They did it right!! We finally have the Spider-Man we the audience have been waiting for!!" And it was glorious!! Unfortunately, the bad part was that we were gonna have to wait a while for the sequel, since the AVENGERS films would be released first. After the emotional rollercoaster that was AVENGERS: ENDGAME, I finally got to see the final chapter of the now called "The Infinity Saga" that first began with IRON MAN back in 2008. And needless to say, SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME lives up to the hype and is a fitting epilogue to this first epic conclusion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe!

The film's official synopsis: Our friendly neighborhood Super Hero decides to join his best friends Ned, MJ, and the rest of the gang on a European vacation. However, Peter's plan to leave super heroics behind for a few weeks are quickly scrapped when he begrudgingly agrees to help Nick Fury uncover the mystery of several elemental creature attacks, creating havoc across the continent.

SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME is a high intense, action packed, hilariously funny, ultimate superhero comic book movie sequel you've been waiting for! It's also a very satisfying and logical conclusion to the "The Infinity Saga" and sets up the next phase of the MCU perfectly!! So grab the family and go see the last MCU film of the year on the big screen!! 5 out of stars!! Highly recommended!!


SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME is currently playing in theaters in 2D, 3D, and IMAX nationwide, including at the Cinelux Theaters here in the Bay Area. To view showtimes, visit their website at www.cineluxtheatres.com.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Phil sees TOY STORY 4 at The Cinelux Almaden Theatre & Lounge - July 3, 2019

TOY STORY 4

Starring Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Jordan Peele,  Keegan-Michael Key, Madeleine McGraw, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves
Screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Stephany Folsom
Cinematography by Patrick Lin, Jean-Claude Kalache
Edited by Axel Geddes
Produced by Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich, Mark Nielsen, Jonas Rivera
Directed by Josh Cooley
Distributed by

When I saw TOY STORY 3 back in 2010, I balled my eyes out! Seriously balled my eyes out! If you saw that movie and said that that last half hour of the film didn't leave you a weeping like a little girl, then you are lying your monkey ass off!! Everyone I spoke to since the film's release have stated that they cried like a three-year-old. As I walked out of the theater all those years ago, I thought for sure that this would be the last time I would see Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Slinky, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, and the rest of the gang. Then in 2018, Pixar announced that they were making TOY STORY 4, for a 2019 release. And yes, I went and saw it this past weekend, and it was very good, just not great.

The film's official synopsis: Woody (voice of Tom Hanks) has always been confident about his place in the world, and that his priority is taking care of his kid, whether that’s Andy or Bonnie. So when Bonnie’s beloved new craft-project-turned-toy, Forky (voice of Tony Hale), declares himself as “trash” and not a toy, Woody takes it upon himself to show Forky why he should embrace being a toy. But when Bonnie takes the whole gang on her family’s road trip excursion, Woody ends up on an unexpected detour that includes a reunion with his long-lost friend Bo Peep (voice of Annie Potts). After years of being on her own, Bo’s adventurous spirit and life on the road belie her delicate porcelain exterior. As Woody and Bo realize they’re worlds apart when it comes to life as a toy, they soon come to find that’s the least of their worries.

So, let's get down to the nitty gritty of this movie. The computer animation is absolutely, mind-blowingly stunning!! I am always taken aback on just how awesome and realistic the animation looks! It's just astounding!! It's light years from what the original film looked like! You can see the blades of grass, hair blowing in the wind, individual rocks and pebbles, dust bunnies, it's all there for you to behold with your own two eyes!!

As for the story itself, it was OK. Truth be told, I found the film to be more of an epilogue than a true sequel. The third film ended on such an emotionally satisfyingly conclusion that there was no way this film could top it. And it doesn't even come close to that. With TOY STORY 3, we were on such an emotional roller coaster of ride, especially those last twenty minutes. Here, I felt like this was more of, "Hey, let's see where these characters are now. Just in case you were wondering." I wasn't wondering at all. In the years between the third and fourth film, we've been treated to some hilarious shorts and a couple of half hour specials, and I was fine with that. I didn't need, nor did I want, this sequel. It's totally unnecessary, but I can see why Pixar made it. I just wasn't emotionally invested in it, but if you have kids, then they are gonna love this! And that's why it was made: this is a love letter for all those kids who have now grown up with it, thanks to their parents, who watched these when they were kids. TOY STORY crosses generations, and it brings families together. It doesn't matter if your a child or a parent; there's something for everyone to love and enjoy. And. in the long run, that's all that matters. So pay no attention to me, I'm just sounding like "Old Man Phil" but I'm still glad I saw the movie. It made me want to bring my family to see.

TOY STORY 4 is a solid entry to this beloved franchise and is Pixar's best animated film to date!! You have never seen a film like this before!! And FYI, you might cry during the film, especially at the end! Anyway, this was a great movie for fans of the series! So take the family to your favorite theater and go see this movie!! 4 out of 5 stars!! Recommended!!

 
TOY STORY 4 is currently playing in theaters in 2D, 3D, and IMAX nationwide, including at the Cinelux Theaters here in the Bay Area. To view showtimes, visit their website at www.cineluxtheatres.com. 

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Phil attends the CHARLIE CHAPLIN DAYS Event at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum - June 28-30, 2019

Charlie Chaplin as The Tramp (1915)
During the year of 1915, the world of cinema was making history. D.W. Griffith's THE BIRTH OF A NATION  changed the landscape of cinema forever. Producer/distributor William Fox founded the new Fox Film Corporation. Also in the small town of Niles, California, a little comedian came into town, made about five films in three months, and then left. However, those five films helped paved the way for Charlie Chaplin's signature character The Tramp to become one of cinema's most beloved icons. This past weekend, the town of Niles, as well as the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, celebrated its most famous actor with its annual Charlie Chaplin Days, which are held this year on the last weekend of June.


Before I begin, let me tell you how Mr. Chaplin found his way to Niles real quick. In late 1914, Essanay Studio co-founder G.M. Anderson (also known as Broncho Billy, the screen's first cowboy superstar) signed the then yet well known comedian Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin had been discovered by Mack Sennett, founder of Keystone Films, the home of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, Mabel Normand, and the infamous Keystone Cops. Anderson offered the young comedian complete creative over his films: he would write, direct, and star in his films. To sweeten the deal, Anderson offered Chaplin a $10,000 signing bonus, which was a large sum of money back in late 1914. Chaplin made one film for the Chicago Essanay Studio branch, but he didn't get along very well with co-owner George Spoor. Chaplin soon left to make films out in Niles. During this time he made an astounding five films in just three months, as well as discovering his leading lady Edna Purviance.

However, Niles was a little too boring and country-ish for Chaplin, who loved the city life. So with Anderson's permission, Chaplin took Purviance and a small crew to Los Angles, where he finished up his contract. The following year, Chaplin singed a deal with Mutual Pictures, where they offered him more money, his own production company, and a $150,000 signing bonus. But it was his time in Niles is where he developed his Tramp character. By combining pathos, sympathy, while still bringing a smile to our faces, Chaplin's Little Tramp became an overnight sensation, and thus creating one of cinema's most treasured characters.

The festivities began Friday evening at the museum, but the fun actually started in the early afternoon in San Francisco. Conducted by my old friend and a staple at the SF Silent Film Festival Rory O'Connor (under the auspices of the Friends of the Library City Guides), The WALKING TOUR OF SF SILENT FILM LOCATIONS took the group all over the city, showing the buildings, parks and locations where Chaplin filmed his movies.

Then at the museum, the fun began at 7:30 pm, where we had special guest visiting us, Dan Kamin! If you didn't know, Kamin created the Chaplin moves for Robert Downy, Jr. for his film CHAPLIN and worked with Johnny Depp for his role in BENNY AND JOON.  Then was saw 1918's SHOULDER ARMS, which was a video transfer from an vintage film print. The great Jeff Rapsis provided the musical accompaniment. Afterwards, we saw the short film CHAPLIN STUDIO TOUR from 1953. This was exciting because not only this was very informative and cool, but this was a 35mm film print that we were watching! I visited the studio back in 2011, and it's now known as the Jim Henson Studios. Chaplin's cinematographer Rollie Totheroh was the host in the film, giving us a tour of the famed studio.

On both Saturday (in the expansion are of the museum) and Sunday (in the main theater), the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum showed all five of Chaplin's films he made here in Niles: A NIGHT OUT (co-starring Ben Turpin), THE CHAMPION, IN THE PARK, A JITNEY ELOPEMENT, and his most famous film THE TRAMP, featuring the most iconic image and ending in film history of the Little Tramp walking away in Niles Canyon. One of Chaplin's most important films he ever made.

On Saturday morning in the main theater, the museum screened BRONCHO BILLY AND THE BANDIT'S SECRET along with the documentary of the making of the 2012 silent film. Then the afternoon consisted of the following: CHAPLIN AND HIS MUSIC with host and moderator Nigel Dreiner, where he discussed the music that Chaplin written for his films, the documentary short THE MOVIES GO WEST, the 1974 PBS short that was narrated by the late, great Hal Angus, THE IMPORTANCE OF CHUCK REISNER, who contributed with Chaplin in several of his films and was conducted by author Hooman Mehran, then it was the repeat screening of the short film CHAPLIN STUDIO TOUR.

Later that night, the museum screened one of Chaplin's overlooked films THE PILGRIM from 1923. In the film, Chaplin's The Tramp is an escaped convict who is mistaken as a pastor in a small town church. Also shown was Chaplin's short HOW TO MAKE MOVIES from 1918, the short CHAPLIN STUDIO TOUR again, and A DOG'S LIFE released by First National in 1918, which was introduced by Hooman Mehran.

On Sunday the day began with the aforementioned Chaplin Essanay shorts from 1915. After the screenings, the museum held their annual Charlie Chaplin Look-a-Like Contest! Later, it was the special screening of the 2019 documentary entitled CHARLIE CHAMPION, which told the story of Dr. Ashok Aswani, who helped create the Charlie Chaplin Fan Club over in India.

This was such a fun filled weekend! It was a lot of hard work, but everything went well and everyone had a great time! I can't wait for next year's Chaplin weekend. In the meantime, there are plenty more excitement happening at the museum. To learn more about the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, how to become a member, and to view their film schedule, visit their website at http://www.nilesfilmmuseum.org.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Phil sees AVENGERS: ENDGAME for the third time at the AMC Saratoga 16 - June 3, 2019

AVENGERS: ENDGAME

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan, Josh Brolin
Based on the Comic Book by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Jim Starlin
Written by Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Cinematography by Trent Opaloch
Edited by Jeffrey Ford, Matthew Schmidt
Produced by Kevin Feige, Jon Favreau, James Gunn, Stan Lee, Victoria Alonso, Trinh Tran
Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo
Released by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Yup, I saw AVENGERS: ENDGAME again for the third time. So sue me!

Anywho, I thought it would be nice to take my girlfriend to see it over at the AMC Saratoga 16 as an early Mother's Day night out. We'd go see a movie, have dinner afterwards, so that was my plan. Now, since we've been together, I've made it my mission to take her to see every MCU film in the theaters, and tonight I lived up to my duties as boyfriend.

But for tonight's screening, we saw the movie in IMAX!! Holy shit what a difference!!

Last year around this time, I took her to see AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR at the same theater. Needless to say, she was pissed on how that film ended. That whole week she just tore into that movie, yelling about how it ended, that Thanos won, and its cliffhanger ending, yeah, she was pissed. Truth be told, up until that point, I have never heard her cuss more than see that movie.

After the screening, she was very relieved that everyone came back, good triumphed over evil, Thanos was snapped out of existence, but cried when Tony Stark died and his funeral. However, she absolutely loved the movie! And after that, we had a nice dinner, had some alone time together, and went home to be with our son.  

AVENGERS: ENDGAME is playing in 2D, Real 3D, and in IMAX in theaters nationwide, including at the AMC Theaters here in the Bay Area. To view showtimes, visit their website at www.amctheatres.com.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Phil's Horror Watch: THE DEAD NEXT DOOR (1989) from Tempe Entertainment - May 8, 2019

THE DEAD NEXT DOOR Slipcover
THE DEAD NEXT DOOR (1989)

Starring Pete Ferry, Bogdan Pecic, Michael Gross, Jolie Jackunas, Robert Kokai, Floyd Ewing Jr., Maria Markovic, Roger Graham, Bruce Campbell (voice) (uncredited)
Screenplay by J.R. Bookwalter
Cinematography by Michael Tolochko Jr
Edited by J.R. Bookwalter
Produced by J.R. Bookwalter, Michael Todd, Sam Raimi (under the pseudonym The Master Cylinder)
Directed by J.R. Bookwalter
Originally distributed by Tempe Video
Re-released by Tempe Entertainment

The independent and underground film world unleashed some of the greatest, important, and infamous horror films of all time! Filmmakers like George A. Romero, Wes Craven, Sam Raimi, and John Carpenter have become industry icons and legends within the horror genre. One such filmmaker to emerge from this environment J.R. Bookwalter, a 19 years old from Akron, Ohio wrote, produced, and directed a zombified, Super-8mm full length feature film that became a popular video rental. Three decades later, THE DEAD NEXT DOOR remains a cult classic from the mom & pop home video era!

The film's official synopsis: Two and a half decades before "The Walking Dead" made zombies mainstream on cable television, 19-year-old writer/director J.R. Bookwalter (OZONE, WITCHOUSE 2: THE COVEN) embarked on THE DEAD NEXT DOOR, an ambitious horror feature pitting an elite team of Zombie Squad soldiers against hoards of the undead and the secretive religious cult hell-bent on protecting them. The film would ultimately take four years to complete with the help of a now-famous Hollywood director and more than 1,500 Northeast Ohio residents, who portrayed the multitudes of bloodthirsty ghouls.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Phil sees AVENGERS: ENDGAME (again) at the Cinelux Plaza Theater - May 6, 2019

AVENGERS: ENDGAME

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan, Josh Brolin
Based on the Comic Book by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Jim Starlin
Written by Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Cinematography by Trent Opaloch
Edited by Jeffrey Ford, Matthew Schmidt
Produced by Kevin Feige, Jon Favreau, James Gunn, Stan Lee, Victoria Alonso, Trinh Tran
Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo
Released by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

After a long five days of watching silent films in San Francisco, I decided to treat myself to a flick at the Cinelux Theaters. Because I was attending the 24th San Francisco Silent Film Festival, I was itching to see a new movie! A plethora of new movies were released, and I was super excited to see them all! But instead, I went and saw AVENGERS: ENDGAME again! Why did I see it again, some of you are asking? Because I felt like it!! Plus I really, really liked the movie!

When I saw it at the Thursday Night Preview screening, I didn't have the best seat to really watch the film and to pay attention to all of the details within its frames. One was why did the Avenger fly Star-lord's ship to confront Thanos when Thor's new battle-axe Stormbreaker can open the Bifröst? How was Steve Rogers able to return the Infinity Stones in their current state when they were all in their original forms? And when Steve returned the Soul Stone to , what was his confrontation with the Red Skull was like? These are just some of the questions that popped in my head upon my second viewing. But overall, I love this freaking movie!

AVENGERS: ENDGAME is currently playing in theaters in 2D, 3D, and IMAX nationwide, including at the Cinelux Theaters here in the Bay Area. To view showtimes, visit their website at www.cineluxtheatres.com.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Phil attends the 24th SAN FRANCISCO SILENT FILM FESTIVAL: DAY FIVE - May 5, 2019

Hello again everybody and welcome to the fifth and final day of my trip to the 24th San Francisco Silent Film Festival! Oh how time flies, especially when you're watching silent movies for the past five days! It was a bittersweet Sunday. Hard to believe that it's all over! *sniff* It's OK, I'm not gonna cry yet. But before I let the fat lady sing, I still have five movies to talk about. So ladies and gentlemen, without any further ado, let's get on with the reviews!

The first screening of the day was artistically and emotional JAPANESE GIRLS AT THE HARBOR (MINATO NO NIHON MUSUME). The film focuses on Dora (Yukiko Inoue) and Sunako (Michiko Oikawa), who are best friends and students in Yokohama. The two are inseparable and vow never to let anything come between them. Enter bad boy Henry (Ureo Egawa) and his motorcycle, who in one fell swoop, breaks their vow and steals their hearts. But it's Sunako who's heart is broken, after she finds out from Dora the he's seeing another girl. In a fit of rage, she takes down Henry and his girl, and she kills her. Fast forward years later, and Dora and Henry are married while Sunako lives as a life of prostitution and despair, hoping one day to be worthy of Dora's friendship again.

This is a perfect example of how silent films transcend into works of art. This was the equivalent of a poem being written on celluloid. Director Hiroshi Shimizu crafted one of the most beautiful and emotionally charged films I have ever seen! His directing brings the characters to life as we see how they struggle with being just decent people. It was a breathtaking examination of love, friendship, loyalty, and redemption. I cannot praise the film enough! This was probably one of my favorite films of the festival! The film was originally released in Japan on June 1, 1933. Musical accompaniment was provided by Guenter Buchwald and Sascha Jacobsen.

The second silent movie shown was the Universal drama THE HOME MAKER. Meet Lester Knapp (Clive Brook) and his wife Eva (Alice Joyce). He's unhappy with his job, he gets no respect, and he gets passed over for that big promotion that was supposed to be his. Eva is overwhelmed home maker, can't control her rowdy youngest child, and is constantly cleaning the house. When the house is caught on fire, he tries to commit suicide so his family will have the money they need to start over. Unfortunately, he only manages to cripple himself. Now Lester stays at home, only to find the role of homemaker quite enjoyable and is very happy with himself. Then life takes an unexpected turn when Eva takes a low-paying job with his old company, only to get promoted and rises up the corporate ladder, leaving Lester somewhat jealous.

This was interestingly funny, poignant, and radical film for its time. Here's a movie, with a plot the flips the script of the roles of men and women, and challenges the norms of society. It was very clever of how to go about doing what they did, and the end results reflect today's world. The movie was way ahead of its time, and it speaks volume of where the country would end up! Amazing piece of silent art! The film was originally released by Universal Pictures on November 22, 1925. Musical accompaniment was provided by the great Stephen Horne.

The third film of the day was one I was anxiously waiting to see the whole festival! SHIRAZ: A ROMANCE OF INDIA is a historical romance movie set in the Mughal Empire. Though of royal lineage, Selima (Enakashi Rama Rao) was an infant foundling raised by a kind potter and her adoptive brother, Shiraz (Himansu Rai). She is kidnapped and sold as a slave to Prince Khurram, who would later become Emperor Shah Jehan (Charu Roy). The prince falls for his beautiful slave girl, much to the consternation to dark-hearted schemer Dalia (Seeta Devi) who has her own plans for the prince. When Shiraz tracks down her beloved sibling, their tearful reunion ends after Shiraz is thrown in prison and sentenced to die. Only a pendant -- which proves Selima's royalty -- saves Shiraz's live. Selima marries Emperor Shah Jehan, becoming Empress Mumtaz Mahal. When she dies, the Emperor builds the Taj Mahal in her memory.

I'm a big fan of Indian films and Bollywood films in general, and it was simply extraordinary to see a film from India from the silent film era! Not too many films have survived since, but the cinematography captured the beauty and exotic locations of India of the past! This was such a sight to see and I'm very fortunate and delighted to have seen it at the majestic Castro Theatre! Filmed entirely in and around Agra, the movie was one of three cinematic collaborations between pioneering actor/producer Himansu Rai and German-born director Franz Osten. The film was originally released in Germany by Universum Film (UFA) on December 20, 1928. Musical accompaniment was provided by the talented Utsav Lal.

After an hour lunch break, it was time for another dramatic Swedish export silent entitled SIR ARNE'S TREASURE (SIR ARNES PENGAR). A trio of Scottish mercenaries -- Sir Filip (Erik Stocklassa), Sir Donald (Bror Berger) and Sir Archi (Richard Lund) -- escape from prison. As winter rages, they arrive at the mansion of Arne (Hjalmar Selander). They loot Arne's treasure and burn the house, killing everyone inside except for an orphan girl, Elsalill (Mary Johnson). Despite the circumstances, Elsalill becomes romantically involved with Sir Archi, unaware that the stolen treasure might lead to disaster.

Another classic example of how European silent films were superior than the American movies. Their set-ups and compositions, the storylines and complex characters, harsh and beautiful landscapes. Whenever I watch a foreign film, I look at it and think just how advance they were with the art of filmmaking. They really took chances on the way they made their films, the subject matters, and at times political and social commentaries. And another film I enjoyed immensely. The film was originally released in Sweden by Svenska Bios Filmbyrå on September 18, 1919. Musical accompaniment was provided by the amazing The Matti Bye Ensemble.

And then it was time for the closing night film of the festival! As we opened the festival with Buster Keaton, it only seemed fitting that we would end it with another one of his all-time classics! OUR HOSPITALITY finds Keaton playing a character named Willie McKay, who travels from New York (where he's been living with his aunt since he was an infant) back to his hometown after he receives a letter saying he has inherited his father's estate. Unbeknownst to Willie that his family has been locked in a deadly feud with rival family the Canfields. They learn of Willie's arrival and plan to kill him off, but he falls for a lovely woman on the train ride named Virginia (Natalie Talmadge), who just happens to be the daughter of the Canfields patriarch Joseph (Joe Roberts). Crazy stunts, hilarious sight gags, and a sincere, but comedic, love story soon unfolds for Willie and Virginia.

It's been a long time since I've watched this, and it's still just as funny than when I first saw it. Keaton is my favorite comedian of this era of cinema. More than Chaplin or Lloyd. Reason is that there was something magical in his performance. He always had that same look on his face, but it was his eyes that were so expressive. In his eyes you can tell if he's happy, sad, confused, angry, or scared. He had a range of emotions and he could say all those feeling with only his eyes. Of course, it also helped that he made some of the greatest slapstick comedies of all time! Natalie Talmadge is the middle sister of Constance and Norma Talmadge, and was married to Keaton from 1921 till they divorced in 1932. The film was originally released by Metro Pictures Corporation on November 19, 1923. Musical accompaniment was provided by the astounding Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.

Well folks, there you have it! Another SF Silent Film Festival has come to a close. I just want to say "hi" to all my friends that I got to see again, and to all my new friends that I meet this year, I cannot wait to see you all again at next year's festival (dates for it has yet to be revealed) but there two more events coming up later this year! On Saturday, October 19th, the SFSFF will be having an event called JANE'S DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, and then on December 7th will be A DAY OF SILENTS event! Check their website for more information as it follows.  I had so much fun this past weekend! Now if you'd like to learn more about the SF Silent Film Festival, and how to become a member, visit their website at www.silentfilm.org.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show! 

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Phil attends the 24th SAN FRANCISCO SILENT FILM FESTIVAL: DAY FOUR - May 4, 2019

Hello again and and welcome to Day Four of my trip to the 24th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival! Holy cow! I have seen some truly amazing silent films thus far at the festival! So far I have seen a staggering 12 films! For today, I woke up early, took a nice warm shower, and drove from San Jose back up to the city to watch a total of six more films! Kids, don't try this at home. I am a trained professional! And with that, let the reviews begin!

The first screening of the day was the silent comedy LIGHTS OF OLD BROADWAY starring the lovely and funny Marion Davies. In the film, Davies plays twins who were separated at birth aboard a ship traveling to the states. Anne is adopted by a wealthy family in New York’s high society circle, while Fey lives with her poor but loving Irish family in the city's slums. Life for Fey changes forever when, on her way to her job at the music hall in the Lower East Side, she meets Dirk de Rhonde (Conrad Nagel), who just happens to be Anne's brother! Unfortunately, their fathers do not like each other at all, and they blame each other for their current woes and situations. Hilarious shenanigans transpire, but when a mob of angry Irishmen plane to take out Dirk's father, it's up to Fey to save the day and unite their families.

Based on the Broadway play of the same name, the movie was produced by William Randolph Hearst's company Cosmopolitan Productions. Davies is funny, beautiful, and was so damn talented and lovable that I found myself falling for her as well! The movie benefited from a good script, and great directing from Monta Bell. It also featured the use of tinting, Technicolor, and the Handschiegl color process. Another fabulous film starring the great Marion Davies! The film was originally released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) on November 1925. Musical accompaniment was provided by the great Philip Carli.

Movie number two had a short film before it called BROWNIE'S LITTLE VENUS and starred the last living silent film star and close friend to the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum Baby Peggy, aka Diana Serra Cary. She co-stars with Brownie the Wonder Dog as they both help her parents in foiling a burglar's crime spree! A classic short comedy that showed us just how talented and adorable Baby Peggy was. Fan fact: she was only eighteen months old when she made the film! At her age I couldn't walk properly yet! And here she was making movies! Damn I sucked as a toddler!

The main feature was the western HELL BENT directed by the iconic John Ford. Harry Carey stars as Cheyenne Harry, a card cheatin' cowboy he heads for Rawhide to start anew. There he meets his new best buddy  Cimmaron Bill (Duke Lee) and gets a job working at the town dance hall where he falls for Bess Thurston, portrayed by Neva Gerber. Things become crazy for Cheyenne as Bess' lazy, good-for-nuthin' brother ack (Vester Pegg) teams up with riffraff Beau Ross (Joseph Harris) to plan a heist, then he kidnaps Bess, which forces Cheyenne to do the right thing and go rescue his love and bring Beau back to Rawhide to face justice.

John Ford (named Jack Ford here) has become synonymous with the western genre and with good reason. No one made a western film quite like John Ford. NO ONE!! Period! Even in this early stage of his career, we see his style beginning to form: the sweeping landscapes, his moral code of good and bad, where men were men and men died for what they believed in. Carey worked with Ford on several films, and here Cary perfects the anti-hero cowboy that drove him to success! The film was originally released by Universal Pictures on July 6, 1918. Musical accompaniment was provided once again by the great Philip Carli.

After a quick break, I was ready for the film of the day! And this was an interesting screening. The film GOONA GOONA (yes that it the actual title) is something unique. Told to an anthropologist about a prince falls in love with a low class girl, but cannot marry her. His scheming sister gets goona-goona (a narcotic plant mixture) and feeds it to the girl. The prince rapes the girl while she is drugged, but leaves behind his kris (ceremonial knife), leading to tragedy. That's the plot in a nutshell.

Also known as GOONA GOONA: AN AUTHENTIC MELODRAMA OF THE ISLE OF BALI, LOVE POWDER, and KRISS: THE SWORD OF DEATH, this would be the movie that would kick off a subgenre of exploitation films called Bali-sploitation. In fact, the term goona-goona refers to native-culture exploitation films set in exotic locations like the Far East, Southeast Asia, Africa, South America, and the South Pacific. These movies rely heavily on stock footage of travelogues that feature semi-nude native peoples performing exotic rituals, traditions, and customs and were often interspliced with new footage shot here in the states. These pseudo-documentary films were very popular in the exploitation genre, with some titles to be considered to be cult classics like VIRGINS OF BALI, BEAUTY IN BALI, and MAU MAU. The film was originally released to theaters by First Division Pictures in 1931. Musical accompaniment was provided by the amazing Club Foot Gamelan, the combination of Club Foot Orchestra and Gamelan Sekar Jaya.

The fourth film I watched was the French drama L’HOMME DU LARGE (MAN OF THE OPEN SEAS. Devout Breton fisherman Nolff has taken a vow of silence and lives as a hermit beside the sea. Reasons for this is sad and depressing. As we flashback to see his story unfold, the tale begins when his wife gives birth to his son, Michel. He comes to the decision to have his wife raise their daughter while he raises his son to become a great fisherman like himself. But as we see, Michel grows up to become a punk young man who spends his time in taverns with his so-called friends, whom have a bad influence on him. This affects the family, especially when his mother is on her deathbed and he's nowhere to be found. Once Nolff finds him, he sends him off to the sea to be judged.

Like I stated earlier, this was really a sad and depressing movie, but really artistically poetic and meaningful. I hated the son and his dad, I felt sorry for the mom and sister, and I really wished someone would punish that damn kid! Anyway, filmmaker Marcel L'Herbier based the film on a short story by Honoré de Balzac. A rare and outstanding gem of a silent film! The film was originally released to theaters in France by Comptoir Ciné-Location Gaumont on December 3, 1920. Musical accompaniment was provided by Guenter Buchwald and Frank Bockius with intertitle narration by Paul McGann.

Up next was director Erich von Stroheim's epic love drama THE WEDDING MARCH. Here, Stroheim portrays Prince Nikki, Lieutenant of the Guard in pre WWI Vienna, is flat broke, but the only advice he gets from his parents is either to shoot himself or to marry money. During the Chorpus Christi parade his horse accidentally hurts poor Mitzi (Fay Wray), the daughter of inn-keepers in a Viennese suburb, who are trying to get her going to marry the local butcher Schani (Matthew Betz). When Nikki visits her at the hospital, they fall in love, much to the chagrin of her parents and Schani. While this happening, Nikki's parents have arranged a prospective marriage with Cecilia (Zasu Pitts), the limping daughter of a very rich non-aristocratic industrial. Will Nikki follow his heart, or would he marry money instead?

Well, it doesn't get more melodramatic than this people!! And what an ending!! I thought how it could end like it did, but then I remembered that this was a Erich von Stroheim film, so I was fine with its conclusion. The beautiful Fay Wray was only eighteen years old when she made the film, while Stroheim was forty-three years young. Looking back on it now, it looks kinda creepy, but hey, it's his movie! The story went back and forth, tugging on the audiences' heartstrings, and when it reached its ending, there was a gasp in the theatre! I absolutely loved the film! Stroheim made a sequel called THE HONEYMOON in 1930 and it picks up right where this one left off. This was one of best Stroheim films from the silent era! The film was originally released to theaters by Paramount Pictures on October 6, 1928. Musical accompaniment was provided by the beloved Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.

The sixth and final film of the night was L'INFERNO (DANTE'S INFERNO), another export silent from Italy. Loosely adapted from Dante's Divine Comedy and inspired by the illustrations of Gustav Doré, the film chronicles poet Virgil as he guides the lost Dante through the 9 Levels of Hell, at the request of Beatrice. During his journey, Dante witnesses unspeakable horrors, as he and Virgil make their way to Paradise.

While visually sticking and containing some truly horrific imagery and amazing special effects, the film was soooo sloooowwww. It was shot like a staged, static style with no camera movement at all, and even though its run time was only 116 minutes, it felt like three hours. But there is a gratuitous amount of nudity, so that was interesting. The film was originally released to theaters in Italy by Milano Films on March 10, 1911. Musical accompaniment was provided once again by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.

And that's the end of Day Four of the 24th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival! And with one day left, you don't want to miss out on all the screenings I saw on the final day! To view the festival's film schedule, purchase tickets and passes, location of hotels to stay at during the festival, please visit their official website at www.silentfilm.org.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!