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MST3K: Gamera vs. Guiron

Posted by Josh Samford On August - 21 - 2011

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Gamera vs. Guiron (1991)
Starring: Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu and Kevin Murphy



The Plot: Joel Robinson and his robotic friends Crow and Tom Servo are stuck in outer space aboard the Satellite of Love where they are forced, by the evil Dr. Forrester, to watch very bad movies. The crew try to make the most of the flicks that are presented to them by continually cracking jokes while the movies play on for the audience at home. In this episode the crew tackle yet another Gamera movie: Gamera vs. Guiron. This time out we focus on two young boys who notice what seems like a spaceship crashing into earth near their home. When the two go out and find this mysterious aircraft, they accidentally hijack it and steer it toward its very strange homeplanet. As the family of the two boys deal with their disappearance, despite the sister of one boy continually telling them what happened, the boys find themselves coming face to face with the alien creatures who inhabit this planet. At first glance it seems that two women, who look VERY human, seem to be the main inhabitants of this desolate planet, however there is also Guiron: the giant knife faced monster lurking about. With the boys held captive here, their only hope turns out to be the giant monster Gamera who as we all know is a friend to all children!

The Review
As we get closer to the finale of the MST3K vs Gamera box set, it seems that the movies are becoming progressively more and more abstract. Although Gamera vs. Guiron is yet another very familiar title within the lineage of Gamera movies, it is a flick that ultimately takes the childlike innocence that was very much a part of the original movie but manages to amplify it to some rather insane levels. It seems to be the movie that director Yuasa was always moving towards, but in a slightly more disastrous turn that I would have ever imagined. Essentially Yuasa takes the concept of children being central figures within the Gamera universe, but moves the entire production in a direction that leaves the earth’s stratosphere both literally and figuratively in terms of general weirdness. The resulting mess creates a Gamera movie that leaves a lot to be desired as a movie of its own, but turns out to be a suitable and highly entertaining episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

With every episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, it always seemed as if Joel and the bots were getting better with what they do, and watching these Gamera movies in linear-order really allows for the viewer to see that in action. Straight out of the gates, Joel and the bots are all over this Gamera title in an episode that likely compiles the very best riffing that this series has seen. Not only is this Gamera title the most purely insane feature within the collection so far, it also acts as one of the most incompetently distributed. Sure, Gamera vs. Barugon and Gamera vs. Gaos weren’t exactly well-handled when it came to their English dubbing, but Gamera vs. Guiron is on a completely different level of bad. The introductory sequence which features Eiji Funakoshi, the scientist from the first Gamera movie making a return, marks one of the very best moments of MST3K riffing as far as Gamera movies go. Pointing out just how terrible the dubbing is, and how long it takes Funakoshi’s character to actually complete a very simple sentence, the guys exacerbate the ridiculousness of the situation and strike comedy gold. A gut-busting’ly funny sequence in the very opening minutes of the film thankfully doesn’t fill us with false hope, because the rest of the movie gains on those laughs.

According to Kaiju expert and resident man of awesomeness August Ragone, who has an amazing featurette on the MST3K vs Gamera box set, at this point in time the Gamera films were finding overseas financing in the form of American distributors who liked the movies so much that they were buying them up before the movies had even been made! So, with this Western influence on the productions we started to see Caucasian characters popping up here and there within these movies. With Guiron we’re introduced to a neighboring Western family who allow for their boy to spend time with their young star-gazing neighbor. Normally this kind of strange international casting would probably have you scratching your head… but lets be honest here, this is a movie where two young boys hijack a space ship and fly across the galaxy to another planet, where they are nearly devoured by cannibal women, until a giant space turtle comes to rescue them. The international casting is far from the strangest thing going on here.

When it comes to technical innovations from previous Kaiju movies, these flicks have one scale to judge them by: the monsters. Is the monster impressive? And how are the fights? Well, even though Guiron is probably the silliest looking Gamera creature ever, director Yuasa does a great job of quickly establishing Guiron’s incredible skills by immediately killing off one of Gamera’s greatest enemies: Gaos. Not only does Guiron kill Gaos, he completely butcher’s him. Literally! Guiron, whose nose is a gigantic blade, chops the bird monster into tiny little pieces in one of the most violent sequences I have seen from a Gamera movie at this point. This is of course quite odd, considering the considerable role that children play within this movie, but what exactly makes sense about a project like this? The fight sequences that Guiron and Gamera have throughout the majority of the picture turn out to be some of the most entertaining of his career, including the notorious bit where Gamera spins on the parallel bars like an Olympic athlete, but unfortunately there just weren’t enough. Truly the monsters play background roles while the majority of the film focuses on the children and their exploits on this wild and new planet.


The Conclusion
A weak Gamera film makes for an epic and strong episode of MST3K as Joel and the bots tackle this movie with the greatest of ease. Although these episodes seem to get better and better as they go along, Gamera vs. Guiron is hard to beat.




MST3K: Gamera

Posted by Josh Samford On July - 17 - 2011

Gamera (1991)
Starring: Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu and Kevin Murphy



The Plot: Joel Robinson and his robotic friends Crow and Tom Servo are stuck in outer space aboard the Satellite of Love where they are forced to watch bad movies by the evil Dr. Forrester. The crew try to make the most of the movies presented to them as they continually crack jokes while the movies play on for the audience. In this particular episode Joel and company are forced to watch the original Kaiju classic: Gamera. This is the age old story of a boy, his pet turtle and a gigantic monster tortoise who destroys cities. After an airplane carrying nuclear explosives is shot down in the Antarctic, out of the icy terrain the ancient monster Gamera is awakened. A massive turtle who breathes fire and feasts on destructive energy, it seems that earth can in no way compete with this monstrous beast. However, a small boy named Kenny realizes that while Gamera most assuredly does destroy nearly everything in his path – he has a heart and is a friend to all children!

The Review
Take Mystery Science Theater 3000, now combine it with one of the most notable Kaiju series to ever come out of Japan and then what do you get? Well, you get MST3K Vs. Gamera, the latest box set from the fine folks over at Shout! Factory. This was ultimately a no-brainer for the company as they own the rights to the Gamera license as well as MST3K and when you look back on the many episodes from the series throughout the years you have to admit that any episode where the inhabitants of the Satellite of Love were to watch a gamera movie: the results were generally pretty spectacular. This box set packages all five Gamera episodes and today we start off with a look back on the very first in the epic series. If you read this site, you’re likely already vaguely aware of our love for Gamera from our review of the previous Gamera: The Giant Monster Shout Factory release, but I promise that with the English dub and the masterful riffing of Joel and the bots – this is a completely different movie experience entirely.

The history between this show and the Gamera series actually travels all the way back to the original KTMA local access station that originally hosted Mystery Science Theater 3000 before it was picked up by what would later become Comedy Central. Although the Gamera series would be visited in those early days, it wasn’t until the show had been given an actual budget that we would truly get a feel for what these two giants of Geekdom could produce when paired together. The Gamera series on the whole is rather child-like and surreal to enough degree that it would make for perfect fodder for this show, and it seems that the MST3K crew realized this. The original Gamera might prove to be one of the most serious entries, but Jole and the bots manage to keep things from being able to be taken as stoneface as it was originally meant to be. In the post-war years that the film was made in, and with the cold war threat of looming nuclear apocalypse surrounding it, the original Gamera was another stern look at the results of nuclear warfare. With the help of Sally Frank however, who distributed the series some time after their initial release, the movie becomes a bit of a farce and Joel & company perfectly capture the sense of silliness inherit in this new version of Gamera.

Although you’ll see in my Gamera: The Giant Monster review that this can, and very well should, be taken as a somewhat legitimate film in its original format, when Sandy Frank grabbed ahold of this series he sort of put a hole in all of that. With ridiculously over the top dubbing it proves much more difficult to picture these characters as anything remotely three dimensional. As anyone who has ever seen a Kung Fu movie can tell you, when it comes to children being dubbed the results are almost always annoying. Such is the case with young “Kenny”, the lead child and inevitable friend of Gamera himself, who in this dubbed form becomes an annoying nuisance. His whiny voice and hysterics over his recently deceased pet turtle grabs the attention of Joel, Crow and Tom Servo, who lampoon the young boy without mercy. Throughout the movie it becomes a running gag for the crew to insert “evil” lines of dialogue into the young boy’s mouth as things play out. The idea is ludicrous and generally makes no sense, but as they insert these evil lines about murder and Satan worship, you’ll find it impossible not to laugh.

As with each film featured on the MST3K Vs. Gamera boxset from Shout Factory, you can expect some very high quality special features. On this first disc there is a very nice featurette that details the background history between the show and the entire Gamera series. The background delves into both Gamera’s North American distribution as well as the original KTMA coverage of the series, all featuring interviews with the majority of the cast. The featurette is relatively short but incredibly informative and frankly its always nice to see the cast in their current day appearance. The DVD set is rounded off with cool mini-flyers as well as a metallic case that should look pretty swank on any collector’s DVD shelf.


The Conclusion
Easily one of my favorite episodes and a great start to a classic collection. As good, in its own unique way, as the original Gamera: The Giant Monster, the MST3K treatment creates comedic gold. Some of the best riffing from this period in the show’s history and a really great episode of an amazing series, you can’t go wrong with snatching up the box set.




Oblivion

Posted by Josh Samford On June - 23 - 2011

 

Oblivion (1994)
Director: Sam Irvin
Writers: Charles Band, John Rheaume, Greg Suddeth, Mark Goldstein and Peter David
Starring: Richard Joseph Paul, Meg Foster, Andrew Divoff, Julie Newmar, Carel Struycken and George Takei




The Plot: The year is 3031 and on a planet light years from Earth life has become quite a lot like the American old west. Dusters and cowboy hats are big sellers and if you smart off to the wrong person you may just end up with a hole in your head. When the evil reptilian creature Redeye (Andrew Divoff, of Wishmaster fame) comes waltzing back into the small town of Oblivion, this whole planet is about to be flipped upside down. Redeye quickly uses some new tricks in order to bypass the local sheriff’s force-field, which allows him to kill the lawman and take over the entire town himself. What Redeye doesn’t know is that this lawman has a son named Zack Stone (Richard Joseph Paul) who happens to be quick on the draw, but Stone isn’t the type to take advantage of his prowess. In fact, he holds a secret about himself that prevents him from doing just about any harm to any person. Will Zack manage to fight back and save the town of Oblivion, or will it simply live up to its own namesake?

 

The Review

In the year 3031… it’s cowboys and aliens, or so says the new tagline attributed to the 1994 Full Moon Picture production: Oblivion. The only thing for certain is that in the year 2011… it’s all about capitalizing on bigger Hollywood productions. Although nowhere near as dishonest as The Asylum and their ‘similarly titled’ genre films, Oblivion is certainly hoping to cash in on the success of the soon to be released Harrison Ford title Cowboys & Aliens. If one were to actually buy into the advertising, and god help anyone that did, they would no doubt discover one incredibly odd little tidbit of cinema. The would also be left quite angry, I’m sure, due to the budgetary differences between the Harrison Ford film and the Andrew Divoff title that we are discussing today. What Oblivion actually is, instead of being a CGI-filled piece of action and excitement, is a throwback science fiction tale that is quite the ingenious piece of b-movie mania.

Featuring an all-star cast of B-movie luminaries, Oblivion is the culmination of all things that made the early nineties great within the straight to video b-movie market. Directly from the mind of Charles Band and his team at Full Moon Pictures, Oblivion is a strange brew of every western cliche turned over on its head and then re-invented with a sci-fi twist. Although you might think that this concept would give the movie an incredible aura of cheese and corniness, that fact actually marks the very reason to see the movie in the first place. After five minutes of screen time, it should be quite apparent that this movie isn’t going to be entirely serious.

The best moments in Oblivion come from its general spoofing on the idea and gimmickry of the science fiction genre, but its weaker moments tend to come across when the film falls into pure slapstick. The comedy ranges from snarky and subtle, to “smash you over the head with a sledge hammer” levels of broad humor. The small twists and inventions within the genre are where it excels, such as the opening moments where we discover new twists on the old “gunslinger walking into town” when we find that the new gunslinger is an alien being. This alien, who we discover later to be Redeye, stumbles into a very cliche western saloon/brothel where we watch a group play a friendly game of poker. However, this game of poker isn’t played with cards but with strange digital square boxes that resemble overgrown calculators. Later on we see the western cliche of an arm-wrestling match played out but instead of using a rattle snake on the table, usually used in order to raise the stakes, they use a peculiar alien-like frog creature. This is a title that definitely knows the genre that it is spoofing.

When talking about the major selling points that should be capitalized upon for promoting this title, aside from the utter ridiculousness of it all, you really have to mention the insane cast. We’ve got Andrew Divoff as Redeye, who appears to be doing his best impersonation of Buford “Mad Dog” Tannen from Back to the Future 3… but with alien makeup. Meg Foster, best known for They Live, stars as our cyborg-deputy sheriff. Due to her bizarre eyes (the color of her eyes are so bright, its like they aren’t there) she has always looked a bit cybernetic to me in the first place. This movie just re-enforced my belief that she is a cyborg from the future sent back in time to star in really crazy science fiction movies. George Takei shows up in what has to be the most outrageous performance of his career. His southern accent leaves a LOT to be desired and his riff on the Star Trek line “I’m a doctor, not a [insert line here]” makes for one of the most cringe-worthy scenes in the movie. It is all in good, goofy, fun though and the movie generally tends to work for what it attempts.


The Conclusion

While I won’t try and fool anyone into thinking that this is an epic piece of science fiction or even a passable attempt at comedy (for the most part, its groan inducing when it tries too hard), but for all that it lacks it makes up for with its general ridiculousness. This is a movie I would put on if I were trying to show someone just how insane low budget movie-making had become during the early part of the nineties. It’s a brilliant example and a fun piece of “B” movie magic. I give it a high three. It’s not quite a four, but I’d still recommend checking it out.




Forbidden World Review

Posted by Josh Samford On July - 1 - 2010
I told you I would be quick with this! My review for the Galaxy of Terror semi-sequel (well, maybe in the eyes of fans) Forbidden World! Check it out and enjoy the continue scifi horror!

The Plot: Professional troubleshooter Mike Colby (Jesse Vint) has just woke up from a deep cryogenic freeze that lasted a lifetime. He is given orders to find a genetic research lab on the desert planet of Xarbia and discover why they have sent out a distress signal. When he arrives he discovers that the lab has been playing with genetic mutations and they have created a bizarre lifeform known as a metamorph. This being, which is at first being incubated inside of a pod, is soon let loose from its cocoon only to reek havoc on the station. Now it is up to Colby to figure out how to destroy this growing monster. It seems invulnerable to all known weapons and it has an insatiable craving for protein. Turns out human beings don’t have enough protein for it to really use, so it first has to infect any human being it comes in contact with and then that turns said human being into a massive gelatin-like blob of pure protein that it can feast off of for a much longer period of time. Will Colby save the day or will the crew end up as this monster’s food?



CONTINUE READING THE REVIEW HERE

The Stepfather on Blu-Ray June 15th

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 4 - 2010
The classic “my dad is a psychopath” slasher/thriller is making its way to the digital age! Shout Factory is giving the film a new bit of polish as they re-release the feature in the blu-ray format.

Without question a classic of the horror genre and perhaps the role that Terry O’Quinn will be most fondly remembered for. Well, I’ll say it is the role that I will best remember him for! For those rocking the new technology they will be able to enjoy O’Quinn’s spectacular HD manliness on June 15th! Here is the Shout Factory press release!

80’s cult classic horror flick The Stepfather is set for Blu-ray release for the first time ever, remastered and featuring new bonus features otherwise only available on Shout! Factory’s 2009 DVD release of the film. Available on Shout! Factory on June 15, the film stars Terry O’Quinn (Lost), in a role that won him a nomination for Best Actor at the 1988 Independent Spirit Awards and the Saturn Awards. The Stepfather was selected as one of the year’s Top 10 movies by Vanity Fair, Village Voice and LA Weekly and featured on Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments special. A remake of the film from Screen Gems, starring Dylan Walsh (Nip/Tuck) and Sela Ward (The Guardian, Once and Again), hit theaters in 2009.

Jerry Blake (Terry O’Quinn) is a man obsessed with having the perfect “American Dream” life — including the house with the white picket fence in the suburbs, an adoring wife and loving children. He believes he’s found it when he marries Susan Maine (Shelley Hack) and becomes the stepfather to Susan’s 16-year-old daughter, Stephanie (Jill Schoelen). But Stephanie gets an uneasy feeling when she is around Jerry with his “Father Knows Best” attitude — she can see that there is a darker side behind his cheerful exterior. Could he be the same man who brutally murdered his family just one year earlier?

Inspired in part by a gruesome true story and written by Donald E. Westlake (The Grifters, The Hunter, later made as Point Blank), and Brian Garfield (Death Wish, Hopscotch, Death Sentence) the script was picked up by ITC Entertainment, and Joseph Ruben (Sleeping With The Enemy, The Good Son, The Forgotten) was chosen to direct the film.

Special features include an audio commentary with director Joseph Ruben, film trailers (HD), a still gallery, and The Stepfather Chronicles – an all-new retrospective featuring interviews with director Joseph Ruben, producer Jay Benson, actress Jill Schoelen, author Brian Garfield and others on the making of the film and its enduring legacy (HD).

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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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