Friday, February 15, 2019

Beast Blogging: The "Cats Cocoon in Cold Conditions" Edition

Liam Neeson Hates You

New Slumgullion! We field strip the super weird Serenity (2019) with its blonde Anne Hathaways and extra nude Matthew McConaugheys. Then we go on a picaresque journey and find Judy Garland in blackface, the Lego Movie sequel, Bohemian Rhapsody, Sylvester McCoy singing on Skid Row, Velvet Buzzsaw, and Liam Neeson's best role, as a mute, imaginary baseball player.
(Serenity spoilers start at 12:30 and end at 37:00)

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Slumgullion 57: Old Dark GLASS House

Scott and Jeff try to agree about Star Trek Discovery but Jeff wants Prequels without Nostalgia! While Scott just wants to throw rocks at M. Night Shyamalan's Glass. Fortunately, horror novelist Steve Van Samson (Bone Eater King) chooses that moment to join them for the Unknown Movie Challenge and makes them watch The Old Dark House, which turns out to be the cure for grumpiness.

Have a potato.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

From the Depths of Disco, I Stab at Thee!

Mike and Ike time travel back to 1977 to review Star Wars, before it was Episode IV: A New Hope.

It doesn't take 'em very long.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Happy New Years!

Happy New Year! If you aren't doing anything fun (and Lord knows we aren't) come to The Slumgullion and join us for our annual tradition, as we exorcise the old year with burning sage and pissy comments:

And because you're the best people in the world, here's some holiday-themed cat photos while I still have a mildly reasonable excuse for squeezing them in.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Forward! Into The Past!

Just a quick note while you're enjoying Hank's exegesis of World Without End (spoiler alert: unlike a lot of Fifties films, the title is technically true thanks to the Future's acquisition of some mid-century He-Men whose genitals still function on the principle of hydraulic expansion).

Anyway, Batocchio has kept one of Blogging's most venerable and sacred traditions going for years now, by tending to the Jon Swift Roundup (The Best Posts of the Year, Chosen by the Bloggers Themselves), and the 2018 edition is out now.

Click here and catch up on all the cool stuff you were too busy being cool to read.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Let's Do the Time Warp Again: World Without End (1956)

By Hank Parmer

At first glance World Without End has a few things going for it: By far the trippiest poster of any of the movies I've reviewed to date, and one of my favorite actors, in an early role. Plus it can legitimately claim to be the first SF thriller filmed in Cinemascope, with a release date five months prior to Forbidden Planet.

Unfortunately, Allied Artists was no MGM, Nancy Gates was no Ann Francis, and a cheesy giant spider puppet was in no way a substitute for an Id Monster.

The movie opens with stock footage of an A-Bomb test, then a quick dissolve from the atomic fireball to a Moon's-eye view of the Earth set against a starry background, with the title blazoned in scarlet slash-script across the face of our cloudless, paper-mache globe. This Bernds guy sure isn't pulling his punches.

According to the credits, Hugh Marlowe is our lead. Not the best choice, if you ask me. Nowhere near as bad as John Agar, sure, but he does better as a supporting character. Especially when he's playing something of a dick, like in The Day the Earth Stood Still or Twelve O'Clock High.

In fact, writer/director Bernds is said to have described Marlowe as "often lazy and unprepared". Although that may be an understandable if not particularly praiseworthy reaction to the material, or sour grapes because he was consistently upstaged by far more charismatic Rod Taylor. Fun fact: The IMDB trivia page also claims the lead was first offered to Sterling Hayden, which would have been ... different, to say the very least. Then to square-jawed character actor Frank Lovejoy, before Hugh snagged it.

Nancy Gates shares the top billing. She's probably best remembered for her turn as "Ellen Benson", whose happy home is commandeered by would-be presidential assassin Frank Sinatra in the 1954 thriller Suddenly. Snark aside, she was pretty good in that one. But in today's nitwit narrative the actor is little more than eye candy slated for the "Princess Who Speaks Up for the Handsome Stranger" role.

Leith Stevens wrote the score, which will be the typical cut-and-paste of themes he composed several years earlier for George Pal's science fiction films Destination Moon, When Worlds Collide and War of the Worlds. By this point, Stevens really seems to have just given up trying. Though again, I can see why he didn't exert himself for this one.

Screenplay by Edward Bernds, from a story by Edward Bernds. Directed by -- wait for it -- Edward Bernds. (I'm getting a bad feeling about this ...)

After the credits, the movie whisks us to the not-too-distant future of [cue reverb] 1957, with an establishing shot of a towering radio aerial, which segues to the communications shack at an arctic outpost. They've lost contact with the XRM, in mid-message! At the Pentagon, a P.R. flack breaks the worrisome news to a handful of reporters, then to the wife and golden-haired children (a girl and a boy, natch) of one of the astronauts.

Oh FFS, is this a widescreen, Technicolor remake of Rocketship X-M? The fiends!

Cut to Mars, where the crew of the spaceship XRM are finishing up the first reconnaissance of the Red Planet with a polar orbit.

These intrepid explorers aren't concerned about losing contact with Earth: It's only Mars' magnetic field temporarily messing with the reception. Pilot John Borden (Hugh Marlowe) is disappointed they won't be landing on Mars this trip, but Pontificator and Commander Dr. Eldon Galbraith (Nelson Leigh) isn't willing to risk losing all the valuable data they've gathered, if they were to make the attempt and crash.

Their pole-to-pole circuit completed, Borden decides it's time to set the gyros for good ol' Terra. Flight Engineer Herbert Ellis (Rod Taylor) and Navigator Henry 'Hank' Jaffe (Christopher Dark) heartily approve. Aussie Taylor, taking his posh accent for a trial spin before he played H. G. Wells, in The Time Machine (1960), wryly jokes that it will make his creditors happy.

They blast out of orbit. Sorry, but I have to pause here to question a few things about this arrangement: The astronauts don't have safety harnesses, not even so much as a seat belt. Although their chairs recline, since the compartment clearly runs fore-and-aft, they're lying flat, parallel to the rocket's thrust with their feet pointing toward the nose. Which means once the engines fire up not only will the blood rush to their heads, they should start sliding off those slick, vinyl-upholstered cushions, to pitch headfirst onto the rear bulkhead.

It certainly must make those vertical takeoffs and landings rather tricky. Maybe their flying togs have Velcro butts.

As the XRM speeds away from Mars, the astronauts somehow adhering to their recliners, the ship unexpectedly encounters a flame hurricane.

"You should never have said Picard was a better captain than Kirk!"

(Aficionados of '50s space epics will of course recognize this iconic rocket miniature, which made its first appearance in Flight to Mars (1951) and would be trotted out more than once afterwards, most notably in the film that was one of the major inspirations for Alien: 1958's It! The Terror from Beyond Space.)

The XRM bucks like an emphatically goosed bronco. Considering they're not strapped in, that ought to have our helmetless astronauts ricocheting around the inside of that compartment like ball bearings in a tin can -- except, much, much gorier. And it's a wonder the actors didn't get singed by the real-life flames billowing through those portholes the production was too cheap to glaze. 

"Alright: Who left those open?" 

The spaceship accelerates uncontrollably, even though Borden commands Ellis to reverse the rockets! (He must have seen that Duck Dodgers cartoon, and thought this was a real thing.)

The hull temperature hits the danger zone as their velocity rapidly increases to an astonishing 81 miles per second. The crew blacks out.

While they're all unconscious, the space storm flames out. The XRM plunges into a planet's atmosphere. Of course, the friction heat when they hit even the most tenuous layer of the stratosphere at almost 300,000 miles per hour should vaporize their craft in milliseconds, but sure ...