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Archive for November, 2010

Dinner With A Vampire

Posted by On November - 26 - 2010

Dinner With A Vampire (1987)
Director: Lamberto Bava
Writers: Lamberto Bava, Luciano Martino, Dardano Sacchetti
Starring: George Hilton, Patrizia Pellegrino and Riccardo Rossi

The Plot: When a local talent agency puts on an audition, several young people show up in order to grab a piece of the pie. Apparently the audition is for any and all entertainers, as we see an actress, a dancer, a singer and a comedian all show up to perform in order to gain access to a role in the famed Jurek’s (George Hilton) next feature film. Jurek is a rather creepy gentleman who has his own castle out in the far hills of Italy, where the four lucky winners (three young women and a young man) are invited to come stay. When they arrive, it turns out this might be a bit more than they expected. First they are shown a gruesome vampire film, and when Jurek finally arrives he seems more creepy than suave. As it turns out, Jurek is an immortal creature of the night! A vampire! Tired of his immortality, Jurek wants to die and he asks for this group of young people to attempt to kill him at some point during the night. Will they succeed or will they simply turn into another platter on Jurek’s dining table?

The Review
Although this may be a tad bit on the conceded side of things, but from what I have found on the internet with firsthand experience, I may be the most forefront Lamberto Bava apologist in all of the internet. Boastful? Hardly. I am unfortunately the one guy who apparently has a serious affection towards the man’s work, whether good or bad. Why do I like his films so much? That is a good question. I give this a lot of thought, but rarely come to a solid conclusion. Lamberto Bava is simply my kind of workman director. His projects look good, have flashes of brilliance and can really surprise you when they reach their very best moments. He, unlike Bruno Mattei or Claudio Fragrasso, has never seemed like an entirely talentless slob. Unfortunately in many of his very worst pictures it seems as if he folds over and gives in to budgetary or time restraints. Some of these films seem as if Bava had something bigger to say, but just didn’t have the time or money to do so. Dinner With A Vampire shares some of these elements to be sure, but this project was ostensibly doomed from the very beginning.

Part of a TV project from Lamberto Bava called “Brivido giallo”, there were four features made for television and Dinner With A Vampire was one of the final entries. Made on a low budget, even in eighties Italian exploitation terms, the movie does do a good job in hiding its limitations. Taking place within this castle, which I am sure was not cheap, really helps give the film some atmosphere. The very first thing you’ll notice when watching is how beautiful this castle really is. Every wall throughout is decorated in a different fashion, from textures carved in stone to the massive number of colors that make up the wallpaper. With sets like this, the movie can’t help but look good! Bava himself does a good job in handling the tension and keeps his camera movement fluid amidst all of this beautiful scenery. However, where the failures begin isn’t in the visual flow of the movie, instead it is the narrative. With any foreign film dubbed into English, you have to give a degree of leniency towards possible mistakes but I highly doubt those responsible for the dub could have helped in creating as infuriatingly stupid of characters as this film portrays.

I’ll start from the beginning. When we first meet Monica and Rita, they are introducing themselves to one another before going in for an audition. During this audition we get to see how dreadfully untalented our lead cast are, with Monica’s “dancing” really taking the cake for most pointless talent. Afterward we skip forward a week and apparently Monica and Rita have moved in together! Not only that, but after making the move in just one week they have their phone line established and have already given their new phone number to the talent agency because they soon receive a phone call on behalf of Jurek who wants both girls to come stay at his castle. Right off the bat, this logic hit me as being “wrong” and from there on out I found the film more and more difficult to really get into. Bava seems to try and manage camp comedy and serious bloody horror, but the mix never seems exactly right. Instead the comedy comes off as forced and annoying, especially due to the character of Gianni who is essentially your run of the mill Friday the 13th “smart-alec” type of character. This time around though, the smart alec doesn’t receive a quick death but instead has to become one of our strongest heroes.

George Hilton would probably be the strongest member of the cast. Although many of us are used to him playing the stoic cowboy in many of his Westerns, here he gets to cut loose and provides easily the most interesting role I have ever seen him play. He chews scenery at every given turn, and consistently remains over the top in the role. His being the most interesting part about the cast isn’t really the compliment that it could be, considering the caliber of players he is cast opposite to, but Hilton did manage to provide a good number of the laughs that I had with the picture. His second in command, a reluctant helper who dreams of escaping the castle, also provides a memorable turn. However, I think the only reason I even mention the character is due to the poor Transylvanian accent that he puts on. This could have been a dubbing choice, but I have to side with whoever made that decision because it is easily the funniest aspect of the movie.

There are moments of decent gore, more than one would expect from a made for TV project, but it isn’t enough to really save the project from its own genre-film dependency on cliche material. The FX work ranges, from very good to utterly atrocious. The creature FX for Jurek when he is fully transformed, it is quite phenomenal for a low budget project like this. I was almost blown away by how good the Jurek monster looked. However, in every other way the creature makeup is very plain. I am not usually one to complain about how terrible vampire fangs are in any given movie, but there are some really bad fang-effects in this one. You can get a slight taste of it in the above picture of Hilton exposing his fangs.

The Conclusion
Although I am a big fan of Lamberto Bava, this was one that even I could not defend all that much. Bland in every facet that doesn’t revolve around George Hilton, I was left quite bored throughout the majority of the picture. For a Lamberto Bava completest, this is probably worth tracking down but if you’re simply a vampire movie fanatic you can avoid this one. I give the film a two out of five.


VCinema Episode 17 Released

Posted by On November - 22 - 2010

I’m sure at this point, if you’ve read this site for any considerable amount of time, you’re well aware that I am one of the talking heads on the VCinema Podcast. For those of you who aren’t aware, my name is Josh and I am the primary writer here at Varied Celluloid! Also, the VCinema podcast is an Asian cinema podcast dedicated to all facets thereof. So this episode was my choice and I picked Chang Cheh’s amazing Crippled Avengers AKA Return of the Five Deadly Venoms!

Swing on over to the VCinema Podcast by clicking on the links above and give a listen to the show. I guarantee you’ll be left a happy fellow/gal!


Cosmos 2000: War of the Planets Review!

Posted by On November - 22 - 2010
Hey everybody, we’re back with some Grade-A quality content for you! Our good friend Prof. Aglaophotis delivers a review for this apparently wretched piece of Italian science fiction from the good ol’ days, just so you don’t have to watch it yourself! So do the man a favor and read onward, because he has already suffered for your cinematic pleasure!

The Plot: Taking place in the future of space travel and computer technology, a spaceship and its crew are following the orders of the recently built super computer known as Wiz. However, after sending the ship on a false collision course, Captain Alex Hamilton (John Richardson) of the MK31 space cruiser disapproves of taking orders from a machine. Despite his disapproval, his Commander keeps him on board the MK31, thinking he’s too valuable to their space endeavors. After fixing an old satellite, Hamilton’s crew are attacked by two unmanned UFOs who send them spiraling into outer space. Once the MK31 is stabilized, the crew find themselves being drawn towards a mysterious planet where the UFOs came from. What will the MK31 crew discover once they land? Furthermore, what is in store for the Earth once they discover the magnitude of the situation they’re about to face?


Cosmos 2000: War of the Planets

Posted by On November - 22 - 2010

Written for Varied Celluloid by Prof. Aglaophotis!

The Plot: Taking place in the future of space travel and computer technology, a spaceship and its crew are following the orders of the recently built super computer known as Wiz. However, after sending the ship on a false collision course, Captain Alex Hamilton (John Richardson) of the MK31 space cruiser disapproves of taking orders from a machine. Despite his disapproval, his Commander keeps him on board the MK31, thinking he’s too valuable to their space endeavors. After fixing an old satellite, Hamilton’s crew are attacked by two unmanned UFOs who send them spiraling into outer space. Once the MK31 is stabilized, the crew find themselves being drawn towards a mysterious planet where the UFOs came from. What will the MK31 crew discover once they land? Furthermore, what is in store for the Earth once they discover the magnitude of the situation they’re about to face?

The Review
Think about all of the silly American Sci-Fi movies you or any MST3K host ever joked about that came from the 1960’s: all of the cheesy sets, science jargon that even a kindergartner could call-out, bad special effects and goofy costumes. Now apply all of those to an Italian Sci-Fi production. No commentary could protect you from the horror that is the low budget Italian Sci-Fi movie. Now I do love me some Italian Sci-Fi movies such as Barbarella and Star Crash, but those were some genuinely fun and silly movies with a lot of style. Cosmos is The Creeping Terror of Italian Sci-Fi films: it’s poor in everything but plot.
Part of what makes this movie hard to watch is the amount of stock footage in it. Whenever there’s a big explosion or exterior shot, they show a scene of a volcano erupting or exterior shots of buildings and space imagery. I’m not too sure if I can even comment on the spaceship footage: sometimes it looks a little authentic because they have tiny still images of specific characters flying by it for exterior space shots. Then there are other times where the ship won’t be doing anything congruous with what’s going on.

The editing deserves a particular mention because it always manages to disorient the Hell out of the pace and setting. One minute, during a briefing, the scene will just cut to the mission at hand and that mission will cut to a shot of the ship flying through space, all the while the music begins and ends throughout the cuts. Halfway through the movie the editing gets worse. The crew returns to the ship after learning some pretty important information about the planet they’ve landed on and how they intend on acting about it, but then we see the crew relaxing in the psychedelic love-making room to which they relax in for what appears to be ten minutes. There’s a sub plot about one of the alien space fighters crash-landing on Earth in the Arctic that’s unimportant because it gets resolved almost immediately after the main threat is finished. Some of the plot points just happen out of no where, for no reason at all, too. Characters will be murdered by unknown means aboard the ship and their fellow crew members won’t elucidate on it or make any lead-up to it; to them it just… happened.

It’s hard to identify with the characters in this movie. I know that doesn’t seem like an important aspect, but it’s impossible to identify with them because most of them are hard to identify in general. We have Capt. Hamilton, Oko (the woman with the big cleavage), Meela (Hamilton’s poetry reading squeeze), Max (the black guy), the bearded Marseille (who spends most of the movie eating peanuts [huh?]) and Charles Borromel. Every other crew member, regardless of name, just kind of blends in with each other. Most of this is due to the fact that everyone wears the same dopey red cap and skin tight uniform, but it’s also due to the fact that when they die, no one seems to make a big deal about it.

The outer space scenes in this movie are hilarious. Early in the movie when the crew are repairing the satellite, the actors are gliding around via string in front of a still-shot of stars that never moves. There’s even a huge laminated photograph of their ship in the background of the satellite! It doesn’t stop there at all, though. Not only do the astronaut hats look stupid, but all of the uniforms are skin-tight (especially around the chest… probably intended for the ladies). Upon landing on the nameless planet, the crew encounters a few killer robots (or really, one) and the robot’s limbs are clearly the leggings and forearms to a suit of armor. Then again, the robots in this movie are unintentionally charming because they all look like giant versions of old wind-up toy robots.

Most of the alien planet sets consist of either cave entrances, gravel or slag heaps. The movie never tries to pull our leg or use any forced perception shots though, it’s all just wide shot sets of characters running around a quarry in what looks to be the dead of night. Judging by the looks of the planet they land on, I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the outdoor sets were shot in a parking lot. Hell, I think the only good effects are of the silver, half naked alien elves encountered on the planet. Then again, between the alien’s appearance and the rocky setting they live in, I thought the crew had landed on the Shikima Realm from La Blue Girl… and honestly, I think some horny muscle-bound elven dudes and tentacle monsters would’ve made this movie a bit more enjoyable.

There isn’t a moment in the movie where the music sounds original, it all sounds like it was lifted from every Sci-Fi movie/Science Documentary soundtrack from the 1960’s. There are some tracks that actually work, however. In the opening, sometime after the credits, we get plenty of shots of the Wiz super computer (as well as some NASA stock footage) and the music playing is this ambient metallic clashing that makes the computer system and its surroundings appear archaic; for awhile it made me think of Koyaanisqatsi. None of this lasts until the end credits though, especially when this weird lyrical piece pops up when a character is about to go into space. It reminded me of the weird edits I heard in the 3D VHS release of Robot Monster. They even use a Bach song several times in the movie, as if this is Phantom of the Opera… or The Unearthly, or SS Girls, or Sho’s level in Battle Arena Toshinden or any given media that uses that song!!

There are a few moments in the movie that are surprisingly well done, though, and by ‘well done’ I mean attention grabbing. One in particular is the part where the MK31 first encounters the alien space fighters and when headquarters finds that the press has leaked information about the alien ships to the public. The panic and urgency in the scene is actually a little intense, forgiving the fact they never tell us how the press found out about it. It was certainly a lot more gripping and coherent than the the first encounter with the Natal in the opening to Battle in Outer Space (but then again, Battle in Outer Space was pretty cool).
The acting is okay for the most part. John Richardson is pretty good in the movie as the rogue captain who mistrusts the orders of the Wiz super computer, but really it just comes down to him flashing his good looks. He barely even gets into a fist fight! What little fist fighting there is was left to late stuntman/actor Aldo Canti who is actually kind of cool in the movie, but his character just doesn’t get enough to do. As I mentioned earlier, Charles Borromel – the Actor who played Kronos in Cave Dwellers and the Police Captain in Horrible – is in this movie and it’s interesting to note that this may be one of the better roles I’ve seen him in so far. His character starts off pretty standard, but near the end of the movie he actually starts to show some really good physical acting that is a little convincing.

Still, I have to give credit to the plot. The villain in Cosmos is something you generally don’t see in movies any more… or comic books, or novels, or even video games. I know this was made back in the seventies, probably as a belated cash-in on the popularity of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but the thought put into the story and its antagonist shows a little care regardless of the shoe string budget. It could’ve been a tad bit better I guess, especially in the guy’s motivations and reasoning, but for what it is, I appreciated it.

What gets to me the most about the movie though is how inconsistent the ending is. At first it’s all happy, but then one of our heroes dies and it gets depressing. Then the movie tries to lighten things up by saying one of our heroes is now a proud father… and then it gets depressing again out of nowhere. The depressing plot inconveniences seem really out of place and the first one is completely incongruous to the whole story, mostly because there was nothing about the antagonist that would’ve caused that stuff to happen! If it weren’t for the evil voice that shows up during that twist, I would’ve just assumed the movie turned into a pre-Pandorum in the end.

The Conclusion
Seeing how I’m a huge nerd, a part of me really wants to like this movie: it’s got a plot about space-borne robots, aliens, super computers, a despondent theme and an actor from Cave Dwellers. Unfortunately, the movie is so poorly shot, edited and acted it makes for a borderline miserable viewing experience. The goofy, skin-tight space uniforms, crappy special effects, stock footage, the half naked silver space elves and the clunky giant robots in shining armor just barely make this a movie worth watching for sheer hilarity, but there’s just not enough of either. On the lighter side, it’s not really the worst Sci-Fi movie about space exploration I’ve seen; I think MST3K covered a vast majority of the more wretched ones like Fire Maidens From Outer Space and 12 to The Moon… but it still hurts.


Raiders of Atlantis Review

Posted by On November - 20 - 2010
Hey everybody! I have actually had this review done and ready for a few days now but I just haven’t had the time to finish the update. Anyway, today I offer Ruggero Deodato’s Eurocult action spectacular: Raiders of Atlantis! For fans of Euro trash cinema, this one should definitely hold some interest.

The Plot: Our film opens in the distant future of 1994, where we follow mercenaries Mike (Christopher Connelly) and Mohammed (Tony King) as they are paid by a colonel to kill a man for $50,000. After pulling this job successfully, the two plan on getting away and heading to Trinidad until the heat blows over. At the same time, we follow Dr. Cathy Rollins (Gioia Scola), a expert in pre-Colombian dialects, who is brought aboard a rig located in the Atlantic ocean. She is brought in by the US government who has placed Dr. Saunders (George Hilton) responsible for her. Saunders asks Rollins to decipher a tablet that is dated over 12,000 years old and was recently found on the ocean’s floor. After some quick research, Dr. Rollins decides that this tablet could very well prove the existence of Atlantis itself! When the scientists begin diving for more research and using a submarine to possibly lift Atlantis, the great underwater paradise rises from the ocean’s floor. When it rises, the rig is destroyed and leaves Dr. Rollins and a select few stranded. Mike and Mohammed, on their way to Trinidad, find them floating and soon this group is off and traveling. They stumble upon San Pedro island where Manuel, Mike’s friend and guide, goes insane and tries to kill them. On San Pedro, the island has been turned into a war zone, bodies are strung up on buildings, and the streets are empty. A gang known as The Interceptors are killing off the entire population. Now Mike, Mohammed and the two doctors have to find a way to survive and put an end to this curse from Atlantis!




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Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.