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Pretty good B-movie
Medieval torturer Vlad Tepesh as soft, romantic humanitarian?! Whose next, Mengele? If the hero's very unfortunate identity is forgotten, this sequel for To die for is nice, unpretentious vampire romance. It has stylish Gothic touches - old mansion, flying white curtains during romantic sex scene - and decent photography: no CGI, no draining of colors etc. Michael Praed plays Fabio look-a-like Vlad Tepish (sic) who works as a doctor and falls for a human heroine. Villains of earlier film are there, too. Full moon shines, Vlad can turn to a wolf and no one uses PVC costumes, thank God! (I am probably only person in the world who thinks that PVC looks just terribly ugly and unerotic, like a material for trash sacks.) All and all, pretty good B-movie, pleasant minor effort and notably better than overrated Underworld series or garbage like From dusk till dawn.
Notre-Dame de Paris (1956)
First color version of Victor Hugo's novel is indeed colorful, well-done historical spectacle, with Gina Lollobrigida as mature, pure, red-dressed Esmeralda - it is indeed easy to see the men fall for her - and Anthony Quinn as sympathetic Quasimodo. However, it is Alan Cuny who steals the show as hissable but tortured Frollo. He is very good, as well as too handsome in the role of prematurely aged, balding man. Unfortunately scripts cuts away the important scene where Frollo goes to the Esmeralda's death-cell, confesses his love, shows the marks of self-punishment - which he made when Esmeralda was tortured - and tries to drag the girl to safety. One of the highlights of the book - and they cut it! Still, an underrated movie.
The Scarlet Letter (1995)
Lusty, busty, but certainly not dusty!
I have never read Nathaniel Hawthorne's 19th century novel, but apparently this is total rape and murder of it. Admittedly Demi Moore's Hester is extremely irritating, like all of the movie's strrrooong women, and celebration of adultery would make poor, Victorian Nathaniel turn scarlet too, but production values are lush and the film is not without entertainment value. Think, for example, the hysterical scene where Hester (or whoever this modern woman among Puritans is) puts wreath of flowers to her head and runs in the woods like 17th century hippie! She is free spirit in narrow-minded, bigoted society, get it? As filmed version of Historical Harlequin book this is not bad at all, as Hawthorne adaptation it is, of course, insulting travesty and understandably angered book's fans.
Self-consciously stylish, "controversial" and oddly watchable
Another Exorcist? No, this is actually watchable. (Exorcist: 40 minutes - nothing happens and that nothing happens very boringly. Then girl urinates, vomits, is potty-mouthed, there's lot of medical examinations and it all ends with silly but unentertaing exorcism scene which comes dangerously close to parody commercial which I saw in TV years ago. And yes, book is even worse dreck - it is nothing but possessed Regan's bodily functions!) In Stigmata, script throws flowers, candles and Catholic imagery for good-looking (and yes, self-consciously stylish) effect with controversy-begging storyline - there's conspiracy theories involving Catholic Church, priest hero falling for possessed, stigmatized heroine etc. Catholic Church disliked it, so did critics, but I enjoyed the ride.
Twins of Evil (1971)
Flowers of evil in most beautiful bloom
I love whole Karnstein trilogy - yes, Lust for the vampire included. I think that film is silly instead of sleazy and whole lot of fun. Twins sucks younger generation in true seventies fashion - god how I hated suck-up adults as teen! - with Weil (almost sympathetic Peter Cushing) terrorizing poor misunderstood youth - there's not any innocent old lady among suspected "witches" - and yes, vampiric Count Karnstein gives very mu-ha-ha-performance. However, CINEMATICALLY this is my favorite witch-hunt film. Like all Hammer's costume Gothics, Twins looks fabulous, with lush sets, gowns and lighting. Virgin Mary's namesake Maria is pure and sweet and born-to-be-bad Frieda is filthy little hellion who bullies her. Like all violence in the film, it is melodramatic posturing instead of giving me " filthy sadist don't touch her or I will drown you to Castle Karnstein-s dungheap" feeling. Not that I don't sympathizes with bullied Maria - I do! - but it is the same thing than twitching "witches" behind superimposed flames - it lacks (thankfully!) sleazy, hard-hitting realism. Ah, what would world of cinema be without Hammer Gothic?
Casino Royale (2006)
Art is Gloomy, Sulking and Cynic
Oh my God, Twilight is such Evil Fluff, while men have Serious Art. How do you know Casino Royale is Serious Art? Because it is painstakingly Gloomy, Sulking and Cynic, disastrous attempt to make men's own Superficial Series as Serious Art. Result is one of the worst Bond films ever, perhaps THE worst one. Daniel Craig as J Bond, always a sexist with brain between legs and without sissy things like moral compass, is now totally sociopathic and he and plastic Eva Green as tragically tortured heroine have less chemistry than me and my laptop. Story is boring dross with dollop of sadism and token not-too-happy ending. There's no style or entertainment value.
Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)
Stylish, well-made quality sequel
Four Victorian tourists spending their night in Dracula's castle find more than they expected in this classy, stylishly atmospheric sequel to Dracula (1958). Christopher Lee has actually very little screen time again, and as usual, he is not missed at all. Andrew Keir replaces vampire-hunting Van Helsing and does very good job as bad-tempered monk who treats mentally ill with surprising decency and humanity. However, it is Barbara Shelley who steals the whole movie (and very much worth of stealing it is, too!) as red-haired Helen, prim and proper middle-aged woman who turns to vampy beauty - many find her human form irritating, but not me. Scene between vampire Helen and sweetly bland young blonde Diana (Suzan Farmer) is highlight of the film and Helen's death in the hands of the monks is tragic and evokes sort of pity. Although not such stunning masterpiece than Hammer's first vampire films Dracula or Brides of Dracula, it is very good film, very good indeed.
Non si sevizia un paperino (1972)
Don't blame the mirror...
Technically this oddly named giallo is trashy, like all films directed by Lucio Fulci, but morally it is more don't-blame-the-mirror-from-dirt-in-your-face-basement. Someone murders children of smalll Italian village, and everything goes to Hell in the handbasket: children are not pure and innocent, depraved mob murders brutally a mentally unstable suspect, Catholic priest sees sex worse thing than violence, etc. All this gritty realism is shown by cheap-looking photography which never glamorises dry desolate landscape. Gore effects are not over-the-top and aforementioned vigilante murder seems more tragic and horrifying than sleazy.
Stephen Dung and his potty fetish
Good points: In the beginning of the movie, childhood friends save a boy from bullies. And there is worse settings to movie than snowy forest. Bad points: Everything else. Story and characters are boring and drab, so is mostly grey photography, and in some moments this film, like it's criminally overrated writer Stephen King, is like illiterate net-surfer - sleazy, juvenile cesspool of "fattie" hate and filth-obsessed scatology-and-gore fetish. (Excuse me, Dr Freud, I know you are quack with dirty mind, but I think you were right with theory of Other.) Result veers between mind-numbing dullness and disgusting grossness.
The Vampire Lovers (1970)
My favorite Carmilla film
... and great example how fun their much-criticized 1970's output really is. Untypically classy for 1970's sexy-lesbian-vampiress-story, probably because it is made with Hammer's old-fashioned British restraint, this little film actually works brilliantly. It has lovely 19th century sets and scenery, completed with wonderful misty graveyards and Gothic castles, beautiful color photography and lot of lush, romantic atmosphere. Like Hammer's Hands of the ripper, this film has a pretty, somewhat tragic female monster in 19th century home - storyline I feel is very fascinating. Sheridan LeFanu's plot is followed pretty faithfully, but for example film's young and beautiful governess, hopelessly smitten with Carmilla who prefers heroine Emma, was fat middle-aged lady in the original story, without any sexual/romantic interest to vampire lady.
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010)
Who hid the lighting lamp?
I'm sure Stephenie Meyer had pure motives to do Twilight books: she wanted to create romantic, clean Love never dies story, with thrill of danger, but without jumping to the sewers. Unfortunately, these films are quite awful: there is nothing romantic, lush and otherwordly in them, so unlike in the mistitled but brilliant Bram Stoker's Dracula. Characters, plot and settings are boring - I'm sure Bella is sweet person, but I just can't care about her love life - and there is no visual style. Actually, one thing I really hate in these modern films is ugly photography. Who hid the lighting lamp? Atmospheric lighting is not same thing than BAD lighting and this ugly, muddy colour scheme. However, I hope that those who still ídiotically whine about changed vampire rules, would stop. Please, everyone and their cousin changes them, not even vampire folklore agrees with all rules because they differ from country to country, and for example, Dracula walked happily in sunlight.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
Overrated - for the love of God, read original story!
Much-touted animation is NOT stunning but it is decent, and Hellfire is great song which beautifully captures Frollo's tortured passion. Of course modern Disney films must have forced nod to feminism - in Mulan feminine woman is laughable clown, but tomboy saves the day, making "women's" work is slavery, being a soldier is fine - and thus Esmeralda fights better than trained soldier Phoebus, but she is also pretty and pure-hearted - unlike many others, I see no facial similarities between her and her voice actress, Demi Moore. However, characters of Frollo and Phoebus are wildly twisted and destroyed from their original forms. In Victor Hugo's book, Frollo does not persecute gypsies or try to kill or abuse Quasimodo. Actually, he is not sadist at all - when Esmeralda is tortured, madly obsessed Frollo tortures himself and tries later drag Esmeralda out of the death-chamber. Disney's Frollo is evil through and through, without any interesting shades. Hugo's handsome young Phoebus is a bully - he just tries to get in Esmeralda's skirts, insults deformed Quasimodo, knows that "witch" Esmeralda is innocent (long story) and instead of telling the truth, he lets to kill the girl in the end. Disney's de-sleazed Phoebus is genuinely sympathetic and heroic character, but why on Earth call him Phoebus?! Adding the fat jokes to pollute the story about "inner beauty" does not help, either..
French Angelique novels by Serge and Anne Golon (she apparently made most of the writing, while he took care of research) are quite good entertainment, even though characters, at least in the first books, are rotten to the core, including heroine whose only virtue is her good looks. (She becomes a bit more mature in later books). Films are well-made bodice-rippers graced by rich colours which (unfortunately) you don't see anymore, reddish-haired beauty of the heroine and sumptuous 17th century costumes and scenery. They look fantastic, and colourful plots have intrigue and splendor of Versailles, witchcraft trials, pirates, slavery and more.
Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Beautiful outside and within
This is atypical Academy award contender for Best movie (in 1991) - it is a good movie! Gorgeous Gothic romanticism of dark forest, Gothic castle and enchanted rose are lovely to look at. Belle is a heroine with inner and outer beauty, Beast makes interesting tragic monster who needs to learn to love and be unselfish and Gaston... well, he is sleazy, shallow bully, very villainous. Scene where the scum goes to attack the castle, singing the best song of the whole movie, shows that at least Gaston has voice! Much, much better than Pixar films - yes, Toy Story included! - and in par with such classics than Snow white... perhaps even better!
The Hunger: Clarimonde (1998)
Hunger for Clarimonde
This is decent and quite faithful adaptation of the vampire story La Morte Amoureuse (1836) by Theophile Gautier. Original novella, which I read as 1908 English translation called Clarimonde, is wonderful Olde World melodrama about forbidden love between young Catholic priest and beautiful vampiress, with the ornate language and most sumptuous vampire siren in the form of titular Clarimonde. In Gerald Wexler's adaptation, appropriately set in snowy 19th century Quebec, Clarimonde is not blood-sucker, however, but succubus, who shows her breasts in very pretty and stylized sex scenes. (Fun hairy facts: Clarimonde has short dark hair, not long and blonde, and her priest lover has no tonsure). Dreamlike atmosphere and beautiful production values really help, with Clarimonde's room being a place of opulent roses and priest's home being simple and cold.
The Phantom of the Opera (2004)
Sumptuous and dramatic, with great music
Sumptuous, if chocolate-box-sweet Gothic romance and musical, with gorgeous, wonderfully over-the-top costumes and sets - Christine's rose-filled dressing-room! - and spine-chilling music and drama. Quite surprising that Joel "8MM" Schumacher directed this. No, it is not without flaws. Emmy Rossum stares a bit too much with her mouth open, but gets through purity and innocence of Christine. Gerard Butler is too young in the title role, and there has been lot of criticism of him being miscast, "hunky" Phantom, not aging, monstrously ugly "gargoyle" searching beauty and love before death. This criticism is perfectly valid and on-target: he was physically miscast (Phantom should be thin, not muscular) but I never thought he was attractive, hunky or sexy, so reading from the net that "Gerry is hawt" or "He is not ugly enough!" made me "Ooops" mode. Blame my asexual "hotness blindness" for that! I also enjoyed all the singing - but then again, I am not professional.
Notre-Dame de Paris (1998)
Best version of this musical
Sets and costumes are stark and simple - gypsies seem to find their clothes from modern-day garbage, Esme is stuck in ugly peasoup-colored dress - but what Notre-Dame de Paris loses in visual beauty and spectacle it wins with wonderful music and drama. Helene Segara is strong-voiced and suitably tortured as innocent gypsy Esmeralda, Garou is my favorite Quasimodo and Daniel Lavoie (too handsome to be Frollo, actually) is wonderfully hammy as racist, repressed priest: he gets many of the best and most evocative songs, sings them very well indeed and manages to evoke odd mixture of hate toward Frollo's actions and sympathy toward the man himself. Weird. For some reason librettists has changed Frollo's obsession to gypsy Esmeralda - his "angel of darkness" - from lust/infatuation to lust/hate. Unfortunately it has Hugo's downer ending, which is, quite frankly, even more depressive and frustrating than it's touching, but the result is oddly captivating.
Unfashionable opinions galore...
Place is early 19th century France, a handsome but cold place of elegance, squalor and violence, and "witty" porn writer Marquis De Sade (Geoffrey Rush) has sent to Charenton asylum, albeit for political reasons rather than insanity (at least in real life). Asylum is led by kind Catholic priest (Joaquin Phoenix as rather sympathetic character who was apparently very short and hunchbacked in real life) and he has scandalous notion that mentally ill do not need torture. Gasp! Where is this world going to, if filthy perverts cannot torture insane? Soon, De Sade's writings - which later inspired such celluloid filth than Salo - are somehow "liberating" whole France to orgy and enraging Napoleon, when laundry maid is carrying the smut out, turning Marquis as trashy bestsellerist in the vein of Stephen King. Michael Caine has chilling role of outwardly respectable but sleazy pervert, who gets his kick by torturing insane and raping his young porn-reading wife, and Rush does not physically resemble De Sade, albeit complaints seems not come from only desire to historical accuracy but mucky morality worthy of De Sade: being filthy scatological perv and sadist, totally sane but locked in asylum, is somehow better if the perpetrator is not short and fat. Why his character openly courts danger and torture when he gets possibility to keep his cushy lifestyle, if he just does not publish his stories and endanger anyone, is something I cannot fathom. More entertaining than horribly wooden Sade (2000), but screenwriter Doug Wright who has adapted his own play lets historical inaccuracies gallop horribly wild, especially in the tragic - and frankly heavyhanded - ending.
Thumbsdowns, here we come...
William Shakespeare's 16th century play in unabridged four hour format! Well, what can you say? It is ambitious and handsome - screenwriter/director/star Kenneth Branagh has set the film in Victorian times! - and yep, Bill knew how to write often beautiful dialogue. Of course these modern Ophelias are not white-dressed, flower-decorated angels of sumptuous Victorian paintings, harking back the play's "fair and unpolluted" madwoman - this time it's Kate Winslet's turn to lose her mind, and she does it in coarse, realistic manner. Shakespeare has often left me a bit cold, despite the highlights of aforementioned dialogue and handsome historical trappings. Change of pace to trash and filth modern cinema churns, though.
Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)
Very good Gothic fantasy from Hammer
Forget stinky garbage like Beyond the Rave! This is real Hammer - beautifully created Gothic fantasy with lovely fairytale trappings and plot of touching tragedy. Frankenstein (always stylish Peter Cushing) is not evil this time, actually the villains are sleazy trio of spoiled young men. Oh, yes, bullies should spend rest of their lives with their heads in the filth of Transylvanian outhouse, because that's where they belong, and that's where they should be left. But I digress. When I first saw this movie, I was on the edge of my seat so to speak and hoping can Christina (Susan Denberg) kill the last one of those young men who tormented her, murdered her father and lover and drove her to suicide! Classy film.
Låt den rätte komma in (2008)
Well, this is definitely not the right one!
If you except good vampire film or just good movie, that is. Plot is thin: School-bullied Swedish boy befriends with a vampire girl (who is actually boy) and is empowered in the process. Yes, bullies should spent the rest of their lives with their heads in the toilet seats, but this alleged VAMPIRE movie, based on the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, is dull as ditchwater, spending it's time and photography by showing the excruciating ugliness of Swedish suburbs. How an Earth can people enjoy this flick? Yes, the idea of vampire liberating victim of violence is great one, but movie around that general idea is just plain awful.
Married with Children (1987)
Heehaw! Sleazy, nasty, unfunny white trash at loose!
And no, this insufferable Bundy bunch was not trash because they were white and not because they were poor - I am both. But for Heaven's sake, someone called these people likable? Well, if you are like them, I suppose, but I weep for humanity! Actually, this is groan-inducingly unfunny sitcom of a hee haw family with such sleazy characters than nasty, sexist father and his violent, sleazy schoolbully daughter - gutter-trash who should have been drowned in the sewers. That would have been funny, instead of these oh-so-controversial jokes which made me grimace instead of laughing. Now, fans, give me so many "unhelpful" votes than you want.
30 Days of Night (2007)
Animalistic vampires hunting humans... good idea? Well, it depends. Like romantic vampire can turn boring "Sexy" bloodsuckers in trashy clothes (Underworld, I'm watching at you!), so can scary vampires create gory garbage instead of chilling atmosphere. Classic comic book Tomb of Dracula (which also introduced Blade, star of trashy movie series) had once atmospheric adventure where group of Transylvanian kids hid behind crosses in their small hut under the siege by vampires. 30 days of nights is based on comic book, too, and on very bad one, if this film is believed. Vampires led by murderous atheist (?) attack a little Alaskan town where is whole month of night. Young sheriff (Josh Hartnett) must to save the day... eer, night. Result is ugly, unentertaining, boring garbage - just like Blade franchise or sleazy From dusk till dawn movies.
Quality from old Hollywood
Two couples meet in Niagara Falls: one just married and happy, another jaded and in the midst of marriage problems. He is sympathetically unstable (Joseph Cotten), she is young, sexy and murderously scheming (Marilyn Monroe). A thriller made with the class and craftsmanship of old-fashioned Hollywood, Niagara's greatest stars are beautiful 1950's Technicolor and Marilyn Monroe. As a little girl I was impressed by rosy-cheeked beauty of brunette heroine (Jean Peters) while Marilyn was always too marshmallow to me, but as grown-up I am painfully aware how plain modern movie stars are compared to women in these old films. Still, I think Marilyn looked her best in visually gorgeous River of no return.
Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995)
Gorgeous Period Dress VS Filth Fetishism of Mental Illness Stigmatizers. Oy!
I just rewatched Dracula - Dead and Loving it. I like the movie - not because it is funny, actually it does not make me even smile - but because of the look and atmosphere of the film. Dazzling colours, ornate sets - which really look like sets - and beautiful costumes have impressive Gothic opulence. Grand mock-serious score is just icing of the cake. However, it is is also polluted by couple of things. The film has some thankfully brief language and bat dung jokes, which I barely registered, but the idea that mental and physical abuse, even torturing, of mentally ill is absolutely hilarious, just shows how concentration camps are not so much fun than they used to be. Let's put black, Jew, or gay in the place of person who must be humiliated and tormented and let's see the reaction - one character even says that Renfield is released from the asylum because of his "good behavior". Mental illness is a serious crime, abusing them is hilarious. But this is Mel Brooks, right? You can't take him seriously, can you? Well, problem is no Brooks. Problem is that mentally ill are still abused around the world. Movie-making quality: 10/10. Moral rating: Extremely offensive.