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Tag Archives: 1970s

The Devils (1971): You Have Been Found Guilty of Covenants with the Devil

The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971)

The movie poster.

I feel as though my heart has been touched by Christ. photo credit: moviescreenshots.blogspot.com

N.B.: This is more of an essay than a review, and as such, some of what is contained herein could be considered spoilers. If that sort of thing offends you, enter at your own risk.

Spoiler Alert!

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Capsule Reviews, November 2014

Only late enough that December’s capsule reviews are coming next Monday…
[update 25Nov2014: and this should have been posted yesterday, but WordPress seems to be having problems with graphics uploads for some reason. I will get there, honest…]

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The Evictors (1979): Court Is Now in Session

The Evictors (Charles B. Pierce, 1979)

A dark figure carries a dead body away from a house on the movie poster.

We get ’em out the old-fashioned way!
photo credit: dailygrindhouse.com

There are a whole lot of directors at work in America today who should be sat down—with as much force as necessary—and made to watch The Evictors, which is an excellent example of how to make a stylish, effective thriller on a basement budget. But since that’s not going to happen, I can distill what they need to learn from this movie into a single sentence: look backward, not forward. Look, if you dare, at the plague of Asylum pictures and Syfy Original Movies and all that sort of dreck, and one thing you will likely notice is that everyone’s waving around CGI like it’s a brand-new toy they can’t get enough of. It’s a very loud, flashy toy, and it annoys the hell out of mom and dad five minutes after the box is opened. Now watch the opening sequence of The Evictors, which is filmed in sepia-tone; the sequence takes place in the thirties, and Pierce was going for that kind of look. It’s very well-shot, it’s obviously out of place, and it does what it sets out to do. If this movie was made in 2013, that sequence would probably be CGIed to death, and the movie would be the worse for it. This is not to say that The Evictors is a perfect film, not by any stretch of the imagination, but for what it is, it is a very good one.

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Solaris (1972): Into the Great Wide Open

Solaris (Andrei Tarkovski, 1972)

[originally posted 3Dec2002]

A large circle filled with geometric forms adorns the movie poster.

If that is not a perfect seventies sci-fi movie poster, I don’t know what is.
photo credit: magnoliaforever.wordpress.com

There is endless debate among film snobs as to which of Andrei Tarkovski’s seven feature-length films is the best; for me, there’s no comparison. Solaris, Tarkovski’s compelling, gorgeous epic retelling of Stanislaw Lem’s thin (and somewhat mediocre, unlike most of Lem’s work) novel, is first among equals. [ed. note 2014: it has encountered some serious competition in the past few years from Stalker, and the two are now almost running neck and neck with me.] Clocking in at just under three hours, Solaris is the tale of Kris Kelvin (Donatas Banionis), a psychologist sent to the spaceship orbiting the ocean planet Solaris to find out what happened to the crew. He soon finds that the planet is a sentient being itself, and that it sends visitors to the crew—beings that are for all intents and purposes human, but are constructs from the crew’s minds. The one it picks for Kelvin is his late wife Khari (Natalya Bondarchuk), and soon Kelvin finds himself in the same position as the rest of the crew: questioning everything he knows about humanity, existence, and what it all means.

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The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974): Scream Queen

[well, this was scheduled to post on October 1, the fortieth anniversary of the movie’s release, but for some reason it didn’t. Better late than never.]

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Tobe Hooper, 1974)

Leatherface starts his chainsaw in order to butcher a histage on the movie poster.

Here’s your invitation to come join Leatherface.
photo credit: Wikipedia

The first post I wrote when I started var.ev. was about my long and spotty history with Tobe Hooper’s second feature. I’ll try not to reprise too much of that here, so if this sounds disjointed, that’s why (go read the original post for all the stuff I’m leaving out here, I guess). The short answer is that I think of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre as the Bob Dylan of horror films. It’s been ridiculously influential, spawning three sequels—the first of which (and the only film in the entire franchise I have yet to see) also directed by Hooper—two remakes/reimaginings/whatever, one of which also came with a sequel (that trilogy of films is considered three of the worst movies ever made by a whole bunch of people—the recent “re-imagined” sequel from 2013, Texas Chainsaw 3D, was succinctly awarded Worst Horror Movie of 2013 by Dread Central), the careers of Tobe Hooper, Marilyn Burns, Ed Neal, and, amusingly, John Larroquette (among others), and…I like pretty much everything that came out of it better than I do the thing itself, in the same way that every cover of a Dylan song I’ve ever heard is preferable to the original article (yes, even U2’s simpering attempt at “All Along the Watchtower”).

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Apocalypse Now Redux (2001): Director’s Mutt

Apocalypse Now Redux (Francis Ford Coppola, 2001)

[originally posted 28Mar2002]

The movie poster for Redux is identical to the original, except with the word "Redux" added.

Run through the jungle. For another hour.
photo credit: fansshare.com

It is a long-known fact of Hollywood life that directors and studios are most at each others’ throats when it comes time to edit a film for final release. Judging by the various directors’ cuts I’ve seen over the years, ninety-nine percent of the time, the director is right (anyone who’s seen both the theatrical release and directors’ cut versions of Profondo Rosso knows exactly what I’m getting at, and it’s hard to argue with the superiority of directors’-cut releases of such films as Aliens, Bladerunner, etc.). One percent of the time, the director is wrong. Francis Ford Coppola’s new, fifty-three-minute-longer, cut of Apocalypse Now rides right on the line.

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Instar (1977): Outplot

Ryder Brady, Instar (Ballantine, 1977)

[originally posted 26Feb2002]

A man's portrait progresses from laughter to madness and death on the book's cover.

“Don’t you laugh, damn you, don’t you laugh!”
photo credit: risingshadow.net

The first question you’ll likely ask yourself after picking up Instar is, “what kind of a name is Ryder Brady?” It pretty much screams New England blueblood at you. And, true to the name, the book takes place in the heart of New England blueblood congregation spots in (presumably, given an offhand Falmouth reference) Massachusetts. And while the text generally reads as if William Makepeace Thackeray were trying his hand at a horror novel, the book does work on some levels as a sort of odd mix of drawing-room satire and existentialist suspense work.

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