Monday, October 31, 2011

Outsiders In A Green Hell

Beware of THE MIGHTY GORGA, one of the worst monster movies ever made. Special effects, dialogue, and pacing are the pits. Several L.A. parks, including the ubiquitous Bronson Canyon, unconvincingly plays Africa. Poor Anthony Eisley, a one-time television star (HAWAIIAN EYE), starred in this, DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN, and THE MUMMY AND THE CURSE OF THE JACKYLS the same year.

Mark Remington (Eisley), owner of a small, financially insecure circus who refuses to sell out to a greedy bigger circus. However, unless he can come up with $86,000 in six months, he’ll lose the circus anyway. What he needs is a big feature attraction, something so amazing that people will flock to see it. Hearing rumors of a giant gorilla in the African Congo, Remington leaps on a plane for the continent (without taking any luggage or equipment) to meet a great white hunter named Tonga Jack.

Instead, he finds lovely April (Megan Timothy), Tonga Jack’s daughter, who stands to lose her compound unless she divvies up a debt to evil hunter Dan Morgan (Scott Brady). Mark and April hike through the African jungle, where they meet “Indians” (played by white actors, of course), a stupid puppet dinosaur, and, finally, the Mighty Gorga itself.

Using words to describe the special effects is a big waste of time, since no printed description could possibly convey the stunning ineptness of director David L. Hewitt’s work. Gorga, whose perspective is always off—is it ten feet tall or a hundred?—is played by an actor in the rattiest gorilla suit imaginable, complete with mussed hair and crossed eyes. The dinosaur is literally a plastic children’s toy, and the scene in which it battles Gorga is no less than a highpoint (lowpoint?) in B-movie history. Not only do the creatures look completely silly, but Hewitt (THE WIZARD OF MARS) attempts to put his live actors in the same shot, not by using blue screen effects, but by standing the men-in-monster-suits in front of a screen showing Eisley and company out of focus and facing the wrong direction.

Not that the acting and sets are much better. Timothy is terrible. Brady and Kent Taylor grunt like pros. Eisley is okay, I guess, considering what the working conditions must have been like. Hewitt, who also co-wrote the screenplay, is certainly no help, incompetent enough to recycle the same footage of villagers fleeing the attacking Gorga in two separate scenes.

There’s much more talk than action anyway, and the dialogue is laughable at best and headscratchingly obtuse at worst (I love the scene in which Eisley and his guide try to figure out if the other speaks English). The lines are sometimes drowned out by the incongruous music and sound effects laid in to cover the sound of the whirring camera!

No question about it—THE MIGHTY GORGA is some kind of classic. But what kind is something only the bravest or most tolerant movie lovers will ever learn.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

From The Depths Of Time And Space

It wasn’t unusual for AIP co-founder James Nicholson to dream up a title and/or a poster first, and then shoot the picture. So it is that he handed off the title “INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN” to first Al Martin (INVISIBLE GHOST) and then Robert J. Gurney Jr. (TERROR FROM THE YEAR 5000) to shape into a screenplay based on Paul Fairman’s 1955 short story “The Cosmic Frame.” Later, Gurney claimed that he wrote an intentionally funny picture, but I’ll let you be the judge of that.

INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN takes place all in one night and begins slightly reminiscent of THE BLOB. A teenage couple encounters an alien organism on an old man’s property and calls the cops, who don’t believe them. In fact, the police accuse Johnny Carter (Steve Terrell) and Joan Hayden (Gloria Castillo) of being drunk when they tell their story of running over a dwarf-sized creature with an overgrown head. These creatures are smart too. They kill drunken Joe (Frank Gorshin) by injecting him with alcohol using their hypodermic fingers, then hammer a large dent in Johnny’s car to frame him for murder. The Air Force has discovered the aliens’ (interestingly designed) spaceship and try to cut their way into it.

The most memorable aspect of the film is the creatures, which were designed by Paul Blaisdell and were prominently displayed in the marketing. They’re peculiar little critters with bulbous eyes and their faces frozen in a goofy grimace. You get a better look at them on the poster than you ever do in the movie, which is surprisingly well photographed by Fred West, who worked often with Roger Corman and SAUCER MEN director Edward L. Cahn. A battle between an alien and a prize bull is entertainingly silly and surprisingly gory.

It isn’t really a good picture overall, but West and Cahn are proficient at providing production value, despite a low budget that forced them to shoot almost all the exterior scenes on a green soundstage. The young leads are dull, but it’s amusing to see the future Riddler, Frank Gorshin, in a small but pivotal role. His conman partner is played by Lyn Osborn, who would have then been very familiar to SAUCER MEN’s target audience as Cadet Happy on SPACE PATROL.

Douglas Henderson, Russ Bender, Don Shelton, Jason Johnson, Sam Buffington, and Kelly Thordsen are solid as the authority figures. A young Ed Nelson plays a beer-swilling teen. Nicholson and his partner Samuel Z. Arkoff must have thought highly of the movie, because they asked Larry Buchanan to remake it for television. His version, which is so inept that it was accidentally titled ATTACK OF THE THE EYE CREATURES (sic), is much worse than Cahn’s original.

Boxoffice: October 8, 1973


Friday, October 21, 2011

Balance Of Terror

Note: this post is one of a series of STAR TREK episode reviews originally written for the alt.tv.startrek.tos newsgroup. For more information, please read this post.

BALANCE OF TERROR
Episode 9 of 80
December 13, 1966
Writer: Paul Schneider
Director: Vincent McEveety

Basically a ripoff of 20th Century Fox’s film THE ENEMY BELOW, which starred Robert Mitchum and Curt Jurgens, this first-season episode is one of the series’ best. It’s smart and suspenseful with crackerjack performances by William Shatner as Captain Kirk and Mark Lenard (HERE COME THE BRIDES) as his Romulan counterpart.

Schneider may have been derivative when coming up with the story, but he more than made up for it with his creation of one of STAR TREK’s most enduring villains. The Romulans appeared for the first time in “Balance of Terror”: a species that still plays a major role in the Federation’s film, television, and literary adventures 45 years later. I have always believed the Romulans were much more interesting as characters than the Klingons, which became overused by TREK creators. I think it’s because the Klingons, who are one-dimensionally evil, are a lot easier to write than the Romulans, who are honorable in their own way.

The plot finds the U.S.S. Enterprise investigating the destruction of Federation outposts near the Romulan Neutral Zone and discovering a Romulan Bird of Prey (a cool-looking model), led by an unnamed commander (Lenard), is responsible. What follows is a tense, sweaty game of cat-and-mouse between the two ships and, more importantly, two captains who develop a forced respect for each other.

Director Vincent McEveety, who must have recognized the show’s similarity to old World War II submarine pictures, handles the episode the same way. Although touches like having the crew whisper so as not to be heard and shots like the lopsided, crippled Enterprise hanging in space are not scientifically accurate, they’re nice homages to those old films and helped the audience get into the spirit of the adventure.

“Balance of Terror” contains another example of a Federation navigator freaking out. Bailey freaks out of fear in “The Corbomite Maneuver,” Riley turned killer in “The Conscience of the King,” and, of course, Mitchell became a god and tried to murder Kirk in “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” Here, Kirk has to contend with Stiles (Paul Comi), a bigot who suspects Spock (Leonard Nimoy) of treason when the crew discovers the Romulans look a lot like Vulcans.

McEveety’s sure directorial hand is demonstrated in the episode’s bookending chapel scenes. The show opens with a wedding between crew members and is shot with brightness and joy to symbolize a new beginning. The tag between Kirk and Martine (Barbara Baldavin), whose new husband has been killed, is dark and sad and brooding. I like the idea of a wedding about the Enterprise. It’s a nice reminder of one of the traditional roles of a ship’s captain that wasn’t seen very often in STAR TREK.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Less Of A Shrequel, More Of A Screamake

Eleven years after the previous sequel, Neve Campbell (PARTY OF FIVE), Courteney Cox (FRIENDS), and David Arquette (THE TRIPPER) reunited again to battle the Ghostface Killer, along with director Wes Craven (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET), cinematographer Peter Deming, composer Marco Beltrami, and writers Kevin Williamson (SCREAM and SCREAM 2) and Ehren Kruger (SCREAM 3). Because the characters played by Campbell, Cox, and Arquette are just about the only ones still alive after SCREAM 3, the veteran actors are joined by a new generation of hotties served up as slasher fodder.

If you liked the first three SCREAMs, prepare for a massive disappointment. Craven and Company bring nothing new or clever to the series; in fact, the very point of the film is to more or less remake the original SCREAM while also commenting on Hollywood remakes. Once you figure this out, which won’t take long, you’ve nothing to look forward to except a parade of nubile bodies (mostly female) getting rammed in the belly with a sharp knife and spitting up brackish blood.

It’s nice to see old friends again, and there’s some pleasure to be had in Sidney Prescott (Campbell) returning to her hometown of Woodsboro, the scene of the original SCREAM murders, after ten years to promote her new book and reuniting with lawman Dewey Riley (Arquette) and his wife, former tabloid journalist Gale Weathers (Cox). Craven doesn’t shunt them off to the side in favor of the new breed of teen horror star. He and Williamson (who did most of the scripting before Kruger signed on for a quick polish) make Sidney the focus of the film, though Gale and Dewey are mainly left to react.

Anyway, there’s a new Ghostface Killer in Woodsboro to coincide with Sidney’s return, and most of the victims are high school friends of Sidney’s younger cousin Jill (Emma Roberts). Earlier films established that the events of SCREAM had been made into a movie called STAB, which we now learn is up to its sixth sequel. Craven and Williamson take the opportunity to mock the movie business for its endless parade of unnecessary remakes and sequels, while forgetting their own movie has a “4” right there in the title.

Craven has cast his film with a lot of good-looking kids from teen-oriented television series, and the acting is fine. Forty years after entering the business, Craven the craftsman can still occasionally whip up suspense, but SCREAM 4 is basically a bore. The killer’s motivation doesn’t wash, and the whole exercise is just tiresome sadism without even the wry laughs of the earlier films.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Terror Beyond Your Wildest Dreams

New Line Cinema recruited a barely known Finnish director whose only American credits were a couple of low-rent exploitation pictures to helm its fourth Freddy Krueger picture. Two years later, after DIE HARD 2 went through the roof, Renny Harlin was on Hollywood’s directorial A-list.

With genre stalwarts John Carl Buechler (TROLL), Kevin Yagher (THE HIDDEN), Screaming Mad George (PREDATOR), and Christopher Biggs (GALAXY OF TERROR) working on the many icky prosthetics and makeup effects, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER became the top-grossing Freddy flick of all time. It opened at number one at the box office and stayed there for nearly a month.

A dog pees fire in an auto graveyard, and Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) is resurrected to kill three surviving teenagers from A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3. Kincaid (Ken Sagoes) and Joey (Rodney Eastman) go fairly quickly. Kristin (Tuesday Knight, replacing Patricia Arquette), the last surviving Elm Street Child, lives just long enough to call her best friend Alice (Lisa Wilcox) into her fatal dream—some friend, huh—and pass along to Alice her power to share dreams.

Writers Brian Helgeland (L.A. CONFIDENTIAL) and Jim and Ken Wheat (THE SILENT SCREAM) are more interested in spectacle than logic—the town barely notices the deaths of four teenagers in two days—and so is Harlin, whose visual style is clearly influenced by music videos. What’s fresh is that Alice also takes over various facets of the personalities of her friends that die, though it isn’t explained how this could be. So, for instance, when Alice meets Freddy for their final battle in the dream world, she can use martial arts skills acquired from her dead brother (Andras Jones).

Frankly, the narrative is a real—ahem—nightmare. Harlin and his writers seem confused about Freddy’s powers and motivations, and Englund is just phoning it in. I don’t think he has any dialogue that isn’t a cheesy one-liner, which does little to build his character or make him scary. Krueger is just a clown in funny disguises (Englund even dresses in drag) at this point.

While NIGHTMARE 4 is a creative bust, it was, as mentioned above, the most financially successful Freddy film and would stay that way until FREDDY VS. JASON came out in 2003. You can hardly blame producers Robert Shaye and Rachel Talalay for making number five next.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Monster Movie

This big-budget ($12 million!) Hollywood disaster is idiotic and slow going, but, man, whenever the bear’s on screen, PROPHECY is Bad Movie Gold. Tom Burman (THE GOONIES) created the monster makeup, and the result is, hands down, one of the worst movie monsters ever.

Tree-hugging ghetto doctor Robert Verne (Robert Foxworth with a Mike Brady perm) and his pregnant, cello-playing wife Maggie (the perennially weepy Talia Shire) are sent by the Environmental Protection Agency to the forests of Maine to intervene a standoff between a paper mill run by Isley (Richard Dysart) and Native American conservationists led by hot-headed John Hawk (a miscast Armand Assante). Isley denies his mill is polluting the water, but it becomes hard for Verne to believe him after encounters with a salmon the size of a Buick and a spitfire raccoon that attacks Verne in one of PROPHECY’s most memorably loony scenes.

Meanwhile, hikers and campers are being systematically slaughtered. Isley accuses Hawk of the murders. The Indians blame a mysterious, murderous spirit-beast that wanders the woods. Verne figures the pollution, the mutated animals, and the killings must be connected, and, lo, he’s right. The perpetrator is one of cinema’s most laughable monsters—a giant, slimy, mutant killer bear that’s portrayed variously by a miniature, an animatronic figure, and a clumsy and/or drunk stuntman in a poorly designed suit.

It takes director John Frankenheimer about half the movie to figure out he’s making a horror film, wasting too many plodding minutes on a dreary ecological message showcasing Evil Rich White Guys vs. Spiritual, Earthy Native Americans. Not that the horror stuff is necessarily better, but it’s a lot more entertaining than Foxworth’s narcissistic rants about rats eating babies.

While GRIZZLY, an earlier killer-bear flick directed by William Girdler, is more consistently funny, the “best” parts of PROPHECY far outshine anything in GRIZZLY—a dog in a helicopter sling, the bear chomping down on the “wise” (he seems pretty senile to me) old Indian medicine man, an axe/chainsaw battle, Dysart continuing to assert that his mill is not polluting the environment despite obvious proof to the contrary, the bear managing to blow up a jeep while wrecking a camp, Foxworth’s final battle with the bear using a mere arrow as a weapon, and, especially, the notorious exploding sleeping bag scene, which is so ridiculous that I defy you to watch it only once without rewinding.

Filmed in British Columbia and on the Paramount backlot (which looks phony), PROPHECY fails both as horror and social commentary, but it’s mighty entertaining if you’re in the right frame of mind or with the right company. The cast is uniformly bad, Frankenheimer directs like a one-armed traffic cop, the script by David Seltzer (THE OMEN) is filled with implausibilities and clunker dialogue, and the monster is ridiculous, but deliciously so.

Leonard Rosenman’s score is pretty good though. Frankenheimer, one of the great adventure directors, was just coming off FRENCH CONNECTION II and BLACK SUNDAY, but never directed another box office hit. He later blamed his alcoholism, Rick Baker’s friends (!), and Paramount’s decision to cut the violence for a PG rating for PROPHECY’s failures.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Harry's Out To Steal Your Heart

Paramount originally released MY BLOODY VALENTINE in 1981 shorn of several minutes of gore, thanks to the nannies at the MPAA. Because it’s a solidly cast and crafted thriller, it was a hit anyway, even though horror fans were disappointed that juicy stills published in FANGORIA weren’t represented in the film.

Lionsgate licensed MY BLOODY VALENTINE from Paramount and released it on DVD in 2009 with the missing footage, which producer John Dunning had held onto all those years, reinstated. What was already a good horror movie became a much more effective one, as the creative makeup effects by Tom Burman (HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME) and others provide tantalizing shocks.

The small Canadian mining town of Valentine Bluffs is haunted by memories of Harry Warden, a miner who went on a Valentine’s Day 1961 murder spree, ripping out his victims’ hearts and delivering them inside heart-shaped candy boxes. It’s a rare Canadian production that doesn’t try to disguise it, stocking the sets with Moosehead beer and casting Canuck performers with thick Bob-and-Doug accents, eh.

Warden was captured and sent to a mental hospital, but not before pledging that he would return for more bodies if the town ever held another Valentine’s Day party. Twenty years later, the town gives it another go, decorating all the storefronts with banners and streamers and construction-paper hearts. Before you know it, candy boxes with bloody hearts inside start turning up…along with the mangled bodies the hearts belonged to.

While the local lawman (Don Francks) and mayor (Larry Reynolds) cover up the murders and cancel the town’s party, a group of fun-loving young people decide to throw their own party down deep in the local mine where they work. Yep, the same mine in which Harry Warden went crazy two decades earlier. Writer John Beaird opens up the characters a bit with the addition of a love triangle involving best friends Axel (Neil Affleck) and T.J. (Paul Kelman) and Sarah (Lori Hallier), who was T.J.’s girl before he left town to find himself on the West Coast. When he returned, Sarah had moved on to Axel, causing a riff between the two guys.

The authentic small-town atmosphere lends much to the production, as does the great idea to set the last half of the picture 2000 feet underground in a dark, creepy mine. Mihalka (PINBALL SUMMER) gets as much mood out of the location—an actual Nova Scotia mine—as possible, gliding his camera across all the nooks, crevices, and rafters he can find. The actors, including Keith Knight (CLASS OF 1984) and Alf Humphries (FUNERAL HOME), are convincing in their roles. Playing characters a few years older than the teenagers who usually populate these pictures gives the danger added weight.

Paul Zaza composed the musical score and an affecting folk ballad performed over the end titles by John McDermott. Rumors persist of still more cut footage (probably not any more gore), though director Mihalka gave his stamp of approval to the Lionsgate DVD. MY BLOODY VALENTINE was remade by DRIVE ANGRY director Patrick Lussier in 2009 with SUPERNATURAL star Jensen Ackles and DAWSON’S CREEK’s Kerr Smith in the T.J. and Axel roles.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Don't Give Him No Sass, Or He'll Kick Yo' Ass

The director of BLACULA tries to do for Robert Louis Stevenson what he did for Bram Stoker. William Crain’s blaxsploitation take on Count Dracula was a witty sendup propelled by William Marshall’s extraordinary performance in the title role.

In the 1976 ozoner DR. BLACK MR. HYDE, which also played theatrically as THE WATTS MONSTER, former Los Angeles Ram Bernie Casey—like Marshall an intelligent, erudite man—provides an equally strong performance, but is saddled with silly Hyde makeup (designed by Stan Winston!) that makes his monster more ridiculous than frightening.

Casey (HIT MAN) plays Dr. Henry Pride, a renowned physician and biochemist working with his girlfriend, Dr. Billie Worth (Rosalind Cash), on a serum that would cure liver disease. Testing it on a rat, Pride discovers that it A) turns the rodent’s fur white and B) enrages it into such a fury that it kills the other rats in the cage.

Undeterred, Pride tries to test the serum on a prostitute (Marie O’Henry) with hepatitis, but when she turns him down, he injects himself with it. It turns him into “Mr. Hyde,” a monstrous white man (we’ll get to that in a moment) with super-strength and a deep hatred for hookers.

Once you get past Hyde’s goofy appearance—if you can—Crain’s film is quite good. Larry LeBron’s screenplay insists that everyone who encounters Hyde believes him to be a Caucasian. Even those who know Pride don’t recognize this big white man. But because Hyde really looks like Bernie Casey with a layer of flour covering his face, any illusion of Pride transforming into a white man is immediately shattered.

Give it up to Casey for busting his hump to pull off the illusion. He lends Pride a kindly, dignified manner that contrasts harshly with the animalistic Hyde. LeBron and Crain succinctly establish the racial metaphors in Casey’s transformation. Instead of the class divide Stevenson served up in the 19th century, DR. BLACK is about the “evils” of selling out to white society. It’s too bad Dimension Pictures didn’t pony up a few more bucks that would have honed the rough edges, because the script and Casey deserved better.

The finale, which echoes KING KONG, was shot at the famous Watts Towers. Ji-Tu Cumbuka (metal-handed spy Torque on A MAN CALLED SLOANE) is great as a cop investigating Hyde’s murders. The great Tak Fujimoto, Jonathan Demme’s regular cinematographer, shot it, and Johnny Pate (SHAFT IN AFRICA) scored it.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

RIP, Charles Napier

The great character actor Charles Napier died yesterday at the age of 75. Blessed with the best grin in Hollywood, the Kentucky-born Napier was adept at playing heavies and heroes, comedy and drama, starring roles and supporting parts. One of his first television appearances was as a singing space hippie on STAR TREK's notorious "The http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifWay to Eden," and he is best known as Good Ol' Boy Tucker McElroy in THE BLUES BROTHERS and Rambo rival Murdock in RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II. Napier was also part of Russ Meyer's repertory company, and played starring roles in Meyer's HARRY, CHERRY AND RAQUEL and SUPERVIXENS.

1987's THE NIGHT STALKER is basically a routine policier with heavy doses of sex and violence, but is also a decent showcase for Charles Napier as a leading man. Stuntman Max Kleven, who directed the action-heavy RUCKUS and W.B., BLUE & THE BEAN, joined forces with noted cult-movie icons to make this violent crime drama for Almi Pictures, the distributor of Fred Williamson’s ONE DOWN TWO TO GO and Lucio Fulci’s HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY. Don Edmonds (director of ILSA, SHE WOLF OF THE SS) and actor Buck Flower (THE DIRTY MIND OF YOUNG SALLY) produced THE NIGHT STALKER, and Edmonds and John Goff of C.B. HUSTLERS and DRIVE-IN MASSACRE wrote the screenplay.

Napier takes above-the-title billing as J.J. Striker, a drunken, burned-out Los Angeles cop. Of course, he’s late with the alimony, drives a beater, gets suspended from the force, and says, “I’m too old for this shit.”

Okay, so far, not the most original concept. Striker and his gum-chewing, wisecracking partner, Charlie Garrett (Robert Viharo, star of BARE KNUCKLES, which Edmonds also directed), investigate a string of call-girl murders in which the victims are found with their necks broken and their faces painted. Yeah, we’ve seen this before too, though the agreeable buddy-cop chemistry between Napier and Viharo provides a great deal of humor.

Here is when it gets more interesting. The serial killer is hulking Chuck Summers (Robert Z’Dar), a psycho veteran impervious to bullets, punches, and pain. That’s because he’s learned an ancient Asian method of stealing the lifeforce from his murder victims to gain immortality for himself. Summers prolongs his own life by shortening others. Like a lot of Z’Dar’s roles, the role of “the Night Stalker” (although he’s never referred to that way) doesn’t allow him to do much acting, but his physicality and unique facial structure inspired director William Lustig to cast him in MANIAC COP a year later.

The script is lacking in the continuity, logic, and dialogue departments, extending to the cliché of putting Striker’s loved one—Denise (THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL’s Katherine Kelly Lang), the ward of Striker’s ex-hooker lover Rene (Michelle Reese)—in harm’s way as Summers’ next target. Kleven keeps the story moving, however, jazzing up his action sequences with interesting camera placements and beefy stunts and squibs. Really, Kleven doesn’t do as much with the script’s supernatural elements as he could have, but it allows him to bloody up Z’Dar in a series of shootouts that leave the monster standing.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Kill For Peace

I recently reviewed Synapse's new Blu-ray of James Glickenhaus' 1980 urban thriller THE EXTERMINATOR for the Micro-Film News Blog. Now to review Manor Books' 1980 novelization of Glickenhaus' screenplay.

THE EXTERMINATOR, the book version, was penned by Peter McCurtin, a very prolific paperback author whose work I've written about many times. Unsurprisingly, McCurtin imbues THE EXTERMINATOR with the same blunt style he used when writing about the Marksman, the Assassin, the Sharpshooter, and other men's action antiheroes.

See my film review for background and plot information. McCurtin more or less follows Glickenhaus' film closely with a few notable exceptions. The most glaring is the scene in which the Exterminator, a New York City vigilante named John Eastland, has kidnapped a New Jersey mobster named Pontivini and bound him in chains about a meat grinder. In both the film and book, Pontivini lies about having an attack dog at his estate when he gives Eastland the safe combination so Eastland can rob him. This leads to a crowdpleasing moment in the film when Eastland returns, now pissed about being chewed up by Pontivini's snarling Doberman, and smacks the button lowering the mobster into the grinder, resulting in a closeup of Hamburger Pontivini. In the book, strangely, when Eastland returns, Pontivini is already dead of a heart attack. I'm not sure why McCurtin would do this.

One scene created by McCurtin finds Eastland kidnapping Shecky (!), a dealer of illegal weapons, and stealing a cache of weapons he plans to use in his armed war against crime. Granted, this scene could have been written but not filmed by Glickenhaus. It's unclear whether McCurtin had seen THE EXTERMINATOR when he wrote the book. It's very doubtful he had, and he was probably working from a script draft.

Like the film that spawned it, THE EXTERMINATOR is tough and brutal with terse dialogue and sleazy violence. Obviously, that's a recommendation, though if you're familiar with the movie, there isn't much in McCurtin's novel that will surprise you.

Monday, October 03, 2011

New Generation Of Evil

THE CHILDREN by Charles Robertson is exactly the kind of novel I'd like to option and turn into a movie, if I had the money and the connections to do so. It begins as a horrific mystery, brings in a pair of attractive, bright heroes to handle the suspense and romance, and wraps up with a delightfully demented science fiction denouement and action-packed fireworks set in an exotic locale. The cover of the 1982 Bantam paperback makes THE CHILDREN look something like VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED, but it really isn't.

A low-rent private detective is pushed into the path of an oncoming subway train. A celebrity news anchorman and his one-night stand are shot to death in his luxury apartment. Both times, as the audience knows, but not the characters in the story, the killers are little boys, approximately ten years of age.

Separately, hangdog newspaper man Mark Chandler (Matthew McConaughey, maybe) and glamorous anchorwoman Shelley James (definitely Naomi Watts) suspect there's more the killings than meets the eye. Their respective investigations both lead to the murder of the detective's teenage girlfriend, a junkie and part-time whore with no connection to the wealthy anchorman. Yet clues indicate that there must be one.

Robertson, a Scotsman who taught high school English in Connecticut for ten years, became a novelist with 1980's THE ELIJAH CONSPIRACY and added THE CHILDREN three years later. It runs nearly 400 pages, but moves very quickly, taking its appealing, attractive journalist heroes across the globe to stop a devilish conspiracy that the world would probably never believe, even if they can manage to nail it down. Robertson sets up the climax in a mysterious prologue sure to have you scratching your head as the main story begins. By the time you've reached the final chapter, all the pieces have fallen into shape as a pulpy delight.

I wish I could say more about THE CHILDREN's central mystery, but, ah, that would be telling. I found the paperback for one dollar in a used book store, and I highly recommend you mystery or horror fans find a copy.