Archives for November 2011 | Varied Celluloid - Page 2

Archive for November, 2011

CORMAN’S WORLD: EXPLOITS OF A HOLLYWOOD REBEL

Posted by Josh Samford On November - 10 - 2011
If you have kept an eye on Varied Celluloid, you may have noticed a decent amount of coverage for the work of Roger Corman. There are few filmmakers that have had the impact that this director/producer has had, and his contributions to low-budget filmmaking can not be denied. He provided the blueprint for making genre cinema without funding, and without his work American cinema would surely look quite different. Well, it appears that the man himself is about to be at the center of attention in the new documentary Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel. For anyone who is interested in independent cinema, or general grindhouse exploitation, I highly recommend you check out the following trailer. I watched it and nearly jumped out of my seat! This is an exciting production for Corman fans, because it seems as if the documentary will bring to life the most exciting and fun aspects of this man’s legacy. Take a look and leave your comments!


“MST3K: The Violent Years” Review

Posted by Josh Samford On November - 9 - 2011

As if you didn’t already have enough MST3K on your plate, here is the continuation of our Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXII boxset! Today we have our first Mike Nelson episode, the Ed Wood written The Violent Years! Surprisingly, it isn’t as “bad” as you might expect. Click on the artwork in order to read the review!

The Plot: Mike Nelson is trapped on the Satellite of Love with a group of robot friends who he has created. This crew of misfits are forced by the evil Dr. Forrester to endure many incredibly bad movies. The only thing that makes this process bearable is the fact that they riff and crack jokes during the entire ordeal. This week the group watch the Ed Wood written piece The Violent Years. In our story, Paula is the spoiled daughter of a very influential family. Her mother is a homemaker, but her father is the owner of a large newspaper enterprise. Although she has had everything she could have ever wanted in her life, Paula decides that her life simply isn’t filled with the excitement that she craves. She and her friends then turn to a life of crime, and begin robbing gas stations at gunpoint. As the police work to track her down, Paula remains oblivious to her parents who have no idea that their daughter is out every day committing horrible crimes. Will Paula and her gang of friends see the error of their ways, or will their violent lifestyle catch up with them?

MST3K: Violent Years, The

Posted by Josh Samford On November - 9 - 2011

The Violent Years (1994, original air date)
Starring: Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Trace Beaulieu



The Plot: Mike Nelson is trapped on the Satellite of Love with a group of robot friends who he has created. This crew of misfits are forced by the evil Dr. Forrester to endure many incredibly bad movies. The only thing that makes this process bearable is the fact that they riff and crack jokes during the entire ordeal. This week the group watch the Ed Wood written piece The Violent Years. In our story, Paula is the spoiled daughter of a very influential family. Her mother is a homemaker, but her father is the owner of a large newspaper enterprise. Although she has had everything she could have ever wanted in her life, Paula decides that her life simply isn’t filled with the excitement that she craves. She and her friends then turn to a life of crime, and begin robbing gas stations at gunpoint. As the police work to track her down, Paula remains oblivious to her parents who have no idea that their daughter is out every day committing horrible crimes. Will Paula and her gang of friends see the error of their ways, or will their violent lifestyle catch up with them?

The Review
There is no name that is as infamous in the world of b-movies as “Ed Wood”. A figure so famous now for making bad movies that when his name is attached to nearly any project it immediately becomes ranked with the worst movies of all time. With the release of Tim Burton’s film, Ed Wood, came a new notoriety for the writer and director who brought us Plan 9 From Outer Space. Even the most generic of movie fans can usually recognize the name and maybe even spout off a few of his more famous titles. His legacy is that of a cross-dressing man who was overly enthusiastic, and overly confident, when it came to making movies. With this unwarranted confidence he then created some of the worst films of all time. Whether or not this is a a realistic depiction of Wood as a person, I can’t say, but what I do know is that his notoriety far exceeds any work that he actually did. Plan 9 From Outer Space shouldn’t really be considered the worst movie ever made, and anyone who made films that were as uniquely entertaining as this director did had to at least have something going for him. The notoriety that surrounds the name Ed Wood is the reason why The Violent Years made an appearance on Mystery Science Theater 3000, despite the fact that Wood himself did not actually direct the picture.

The Violent Years is a bad movie, I will not run away from this fact. It was obviously shot on a shoestring budget and this fact continually shines throughout the entirety of the movie. However, I will say that director William Morgan actually manages to showcase a few qualities that make him seem at least slightly more visual than other b-movie directors such as Ed Wood. I have to give the film credit, it packs in a few very interesting choices throughout. The opening scene, in particular, is actually quite stylish. The camera is set up so that it may watch each of the “bad girls” walk up to a chalkboard, which has several lines about general decency written on it, and the girls all simply roll their eyes and walk off while the names of their characters read across the bottom of the screen. It is a fun little trick that establishes a sense of the unusual, and it actually tells us everything that these teenage delinquents are running from. If this were made in the feminist age, audiences could have likely found a lot to commend this film for, but unfortunately that doesn’t prove to be the case. Director William Morgan may have had a script by Ed Wood, but he actually shows he has an eye for tiny visual flourishes. Although the movie is shot in an amateurish way for the most part, using recycled footage and featuring several scenes with very static and boring camera placement, Morgan proves that he definitely has more visual promise than some directors of the era. Between some of the set decorations, interesting costume combinations, as well as the editing techniques employed, the movie at least seems competently handled. Even though it is most assuredly underfunded.

Unfortunately, and probably as expected, Ed Wood’s script isn’t very tight. I think the big gunfight during the third act is probably the greatest example of this. When confronted by the police while wrecking an empty classroom, these girls decide that their best chance lies in shooting it out with the police. It didn’t seem as if great detective work brought the police to this situation, and thus it seems that these girls instigate a gun fight over what could only be considered a misdemeanor at worst. The film really seems more than a bit confused about motivations in general. The entire reason for these women going into a life of crime remains a bit ambiguous. We know that Paula is a rich girl, bored with her lavish lifestyle, but the rest of the girls seem as if they are little more than eye candy with little to no background information. Even the little that we do learn about Paula doesn’t make her seem all that interesting. Without question, she doesn’t even become very sympathetic. In fact, she becomes far less sympathetic when we see just how gracious and respectful her parents are in stark contrast to her demeanor. However, the concept of a rich debutante becoming a heathen is actually somewhat interesting. It is one of the few plot-centered positive aspects that the movie has going for it, but it isn’t the only intelligent device in play. The fact that the movie starts with its ending, before such a concept was in vogue, is another conceptual idea that manages to give life to the movie despite all of the negative aspects working against it.

Although The Violent Years is our main presentation, in true MST3K fashion we are presented a short film beforehand. This short turns out to be another Jam Handy production, a company known for their instructional videos that were often used on this show. The title of the short sounds like a gay porno, but Young Man’s Fancy is instead a fairly misogynistic display of male and female relationships. The short almost seems completely pointless for the most part, but Mike and the bots still manage to tear into it relentlessly. A fun short, the MST3K gang are on point with their wit. The riffing is razor sharp and the guys have most fun when picking apart the stuffy way that these older films ignore the very basis of sex. In the short we follow a girl named Judy whose brother brings home a stud named Alex, who she finds utterly dreamy. When the daughter actually describes her infatuation for Alex as making her “squishy,” Mike and company start to really lay into the unintentional sexual innuendos that the short seems to hammer home. The short also acts as the most unintentional display of anti-feminism you can imagine. The entire short, from what I gather, is about teaching young women to take their place in the kitchen and become better future housewives. After all, a woman’s very best hope is to find a young beau such as Alex who will someday marry her off and provide for her while she idly prepares the household for him.


The Conclusion
Another solid entry into the Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXII boxset. Special features include two thorough interviews with the two most important loves of Ed Wood’s life. The special features on this box set more than make this set worth buying, but the episodes within are also quite entertaining. The Violent Years is another episode that borders between good and great. On the whole, I have to give it a three, but it has its moments where it ventures into the “4” territory.




“MST3K: Mighty Jack” Review

Posted by Josh Samford On November - 8 - 2011

We continue our look at the Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXII box set with the next episode, the immortal Mighty Jack! In possibly one of the most incoherent films to ever grace MST3K, Joel and the bots are dealt a difficult task in actually making this “movie” somehow seem entertaining. Click on the cover art to read the review and find out if they were successful!

The Plot: Joel Robinson is trapped on the Satellite of Love with a group of robot friends who he has created. This crew of misfits are forced by the evil Dr. Forrester to endure many incredibly bad movies. The only thing that makes this process bearable is the fact that they riff and crack jokes during the entire ordeal. This week’s film is the Japanese spy flick Mighty Jack! In our story, Q is a nefarious and evil organization bent on world domination. To combat this, the president (prime minister) of Japan enlists the service of a special group of men and women in order to fight for justice. This group is called Mighty Jack, and they are Japan’s leaders in international espionage. When top agent Harold Hatari goes missing, it remains up to Mighty Jack to find him and discover just what Q is planning. Their inevitable goal is world domination using a new form of ice that doesn’t melt at room temperature.

MST3K: Mighty Jack

Posted by Josh Samford On November - 8 - 2011

MST3K: Mighty Jack (1991, original air date)
Starring: Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu and Kevin Murphy



The Plot: Joel Robinson is trapped on the Satellite of Love with a group of robot friends who he has created. This crew of misfits are forced by the evil Dr. Forrester to endure many incredibly bad movies. The only thing that makes this process bearable is the fact that they riff and crack jokes during the entire ordeal. This week’s film is the Japanese spy flick Mighty Jack! In our story, Q is a nefarious and evil organization bent on world domination. To combat this, the president (prime minister) of Japan enlists the service of a special group of men and women in order to fight for justice. This group is called Mighty Jack, and they are Japan’s leaders in international espionage. When top agent Harold Hatari goes missing, it remains up to Mighty Jack to find him and discover just what Q is planning. Their inevitable goal is world domination using a new form of ice that doesn’t melt at room temperature.

The Review
Many critics who take their time out and review episodes of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 series will do so in a variety of fashions. Some will focus on multiple episodes in one sitting, some review the episodes instead of the movies, but sadly there are also many who are ridiculously condescending towards the original films being shown. I sometimes wonder if this isn’t because so many new viewers are not used to the magical world of b-cinema. Truly, if a film does show up on MST3K, it is most certainly because it is of questionable quality. However, if the viewer isn’t entirely familiar with the world of b-cinema, they may not recognize what type of b-movie they have just watched. You see, the world of bad movies packs quite the variety. Some films are just generally awful because the filmmakers didn’t know any better, such was the case with Manos: The Hands of Fate. Some are bad due to budgetary reasons and poor special FX, such as The Horrors of Spider Island. Then there are those which are bad only because of the poor treatment that the film received through North American distribution. Films such as The Magical Voyage of Sinbad and the Sandy Frank version of Gamera are prime examples of this. Mighty Jack, too, is a beast of the same variety.

I highly recommend picking up the Shout Factory box set, Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXII, even if you do it only for the excellent special features. Amongst the two featurettes on the disc is an excellent introduction by Japanese film expert August Ragone. I’ve been familiar with the man for a while now, but before he started popping up on these Shout Factory! discs I had no idea he was such a charismatic speaker. He, yet again, fills the audience in on the background information surrounding Mighty Jack, and all of the history that went behind this series. You begin to wonder if there’s any aspect of Japanese culture that Ragone isn’t familiar with. Apparently Mighty Jack was another, like Time of the Apes, expansive series that Sandy Frank condensed into a quick ninety minute version. Originally thirteen one hour episodes, somehow Sandy Frank’s company was able to compile all of this footage into one small portion. Unlike Time of the Apes though, this movie severely suffers from the transition. Confusion is everywhere once Mighty Jack begins, and if it weren’t for the MST3K crew then this would be entirely too difficult to sit through.

Mighty Jack, if one were to come into it unprepared, would have to easily rank as one of the most decidedly infuriating spy movies ever made. Although Joel and the bots continually riff on the film for not making sense, I have a feeling that if you watched the movie without commentary, and took notes on every single character, then it could perhaps make some form of logical sense. In the format that it is now though, it is a boring and tedious film with very few good qualities. This is what happens when you take a very intricately plotted spy television series and cut it down from thirteen full hours into just one and a half. The plot becomes almost impossible to follow without creating flash cards in order to keep your memory constantly refreshed over just what is happening. In fact, the film is so confusing that it only takes the MST3K crew about five minutes into the movie to flatly admit “I’m lost.” On top of this poor editing, the film is packed with many wordy scenes that are filled to the brim with expositional information, but due to the poor audio mix on the original film it is more than likely that audience members will miss out on much of this vital information.
If the movie is completely and utterly a drag, at least the riffing done is of a high quality. Joel and the bots were, at this point, very well versed in the world of poorly treated Japanese dubs. This can be seen in how they incorporate numerous in-jokes from throughout the MST3K series at this point. Running gags are the norm here, including the resurrection of the famous “toy boat, toy boat, toy boat” line originated in the previous Gamera episode. This classic line also gets a twist when it transforms into “toy diver, toy diver, toy diver” when the filmmakers obviously try to use a miniature in place of an actor who is supposed to be diving underwater. Another inside joke from previous episodes is the classic “Sandy Frank Theme Song,” which made its debut during the Time of the Apes episode, but is only sung in small sections here and isn’t given the full backup vocals. Overall, the quality of riffing during the Mighty Jack episode is actually very well done. Considering the fact that this film feels like an endless series of individual short movies, with no connection to one another, the guys actually manage to create a much more humorous narrative than what Sandy Frank could have ever envisioned.


The Conclusion
Overall, when the movie is this puzzling it is hard for the episode to really raise too high above expectations. With what they were working with, the MST3K gang did a very good job. A solid, but not spectacular, episode, I give Mighty Jack my go-to rating of three out of five.




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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.

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