Thursday, August 4, 2011

Weekend Cinema Listomania (Special Our Bodies, Our Shells Edition)

Video Event of the Week: Might Universal's Blu-ray updates of John Landis' work with John Belushi -- Animal House (great) and The Blues Brothers (not so great) -- be what we're talking about? Could HBO Video's DVD of Eastbound & Down: The Complete Second Season, starring Danny McBride as a disgraced former major league ballplayer, conceivably make the cut? Or even less likely, could Universal's new Blu-ray edition of the original Conan the Barbarian, a thoroughly idiotic film that the late Vincent Canby accurately predicted "will only be fully realized as a work of art when Woody Allen takes charge and dubs it into Icelandic," by any stretch of the imagination actually be The One?

All mostly worthy, in varying degrees, to be sure. But for my money it simply has to be Shout!Factory's absolutely glorious new metal boxed set edition of Mystery Science Theater 3000 XXI: MST3K vs GAMERA.

This is, as you may have already guessed, a collection of all five of the giant Japanese turtle movies the MST3K guys riffed on, starring show creator and original host Joel Hodgson, as the hapless Joel Robinson, along with the rest of what most fans consider the show's classic cast, i.e. Kevin Murphy and Trace Beaulieu as his robot pals Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot. (Oh, and also, of course, Frank Conniff as TV's Frank.)

Here's Shout!Factory's on-line trailer to give you an idea.

Pound for pound, this remains some of the most passionately funny stuff ever seen on TV, with perhaps the highest ratio of successful jokes per minute available in any entertainment medium this side of The Simpsons Movie. As always, SF has done the packaging up right, which is to say that along with razor-sharp new DVD transfers, you also get all sorts of cool bonuses, including new and suitable for framing mini-posters for all five movies, the original Japanese trailers for each film, and -- best of all -- the original MST3K Hour wraps, i.e. the very droll intros and outros done for Comedy Central's repackaged version of the show, featuring Michael J. Nelson as A&E's avuncular host figure Jack Perkins. It's some of the MST3K gang's best work, actually, and its nice to have it readily available again.

I should add that the segment below -- a love song to the much smaller tortoise owned by one of the alarmingly short-pantsed Japanese kids in the first Gamera flick -- remains pretty much my favorite MST-ie moment ever; Jacques Brel couldn't have come up with anything more poignant. Well, perhaps he could have, but certainly not anything as drop dead hilarious.

I should also add that the video quality of the above clip is vastly superior on the Shout!Factory set. But in any case, you can -- and frankly, what are you waiting for? -- order it over at Amazon here.

Okay, and with that out of the way and given that things around here will more than likely be a little quiet for the next couple of days, here's a fun and obviously relevant little project to help us wile away the idle hours:

Best or Worst Film in a Long Running Horror or Monster Series or Franchise!!!

And my totally top of my head Top Five is

5. Godzilla (Roland Emmerich, 1998)

A titular computer-generated monster that looks like the Jurrassic Park T-Rex instead of the made-in-Japan critter in the original films, not to mention even more embarrassing ethnic stereotyping than in Emmerich's earlier Independence Day? Yes indeedy, and the rest of this one is equally awful. Or as my old pal Ken Fox said in his review, "If CGI means that everything has to take place under the masking cover of rain and darkness in order to look 'real,' then bring on the guy in the rubber suit."

4. Dracula's Daughter (Lambert Hillyer, 1936)

Probably the most underrated of the classic Universal horrors; in fact, this is a gloriously atmospheric mix of Gothic chills and Sherlock Holmes-ish thrills, with an astoundingly sensual performance by Gloria Holden in the title role (not to mention a Lesbian scene I still don't understand how they got past the censors). Director Hillyer did almost nothing else besides B-westerns, incidentally, which after a viewing of this will strike you as a real waste of obvious talent.

3. Return of The Blind Dead (a/k/a Return of the Evil Dead) (Amando de Ossorio, 1973)

Those pesky eyeless Knights Templar return from the grave to interrupt some vaguely sleazy soft-core porn couplings in a cemetery. A thoroughly unpleasant experience on a number of levels, although this is probably the best of the inexplicably long-running series.

2. The Fly II (Chris Walas, 1989)

Technically, this is the fifth "Fly" film. More to the point, it's also an insultingly bad followup to David Cronenberg's 1986 masterpiece. A leading candidate for absolute shittiest sequel of all time, as a matter of fact.

And the Numero Uno Shiver Me Timbers classic of them all simply has to be...

1. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (Charles Barton, 1948)

The best horror/comedy evah, and unlikely to be bettered IMHO.

Inspirational Dialogue:
Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney): "You don't understand -- when the moon is full, I turn into a wolf."

Wilbur Grey (Lou Costello): "You and eighty million other guys."
Alrighty then -- what would your choices be?