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The Ghost Camera (1933)
Enjoyable B flick
'Quaint' British mystery, with Henry Kendall and (in her first starring role) Ida Lupino. When a young man on holiday finds a camera, he develops the negatives to try to identify the owner so he can return it. He discovers one of the pictures appears to show a murder; the others may be clues as to where it happened. After identifying a young woman in yet another picture, he and she go off on a search through the English countryside to try to trace her missing brother, whose camera she believes it is.
Henry Kendall is engaging as the slightly bumbling lead, and a young (25) John Mills is excellent as the brother. But the standout is Ida Lupino. Looking, acting, and clearly playing a woman in her 20's, I was amazed to find she was only 15 at the time (there's a brief scene of her in her underwear, which I'm sure would cause a lot of people to get their own underwear in a bunch these days). Her appearance, demeanour, and self-assurance, whilst playing opposite older and far more experienced performers is amazing.
It's very much a 'B-picture', but it's also very enjoyable. Well worth a look if you like lines like "I don't mean to be melodramatic, but those marks rather look like blood!" 7/10.
The New Scooby-Doo Movies (1972)
Just finished rewatching the whole two-season DVD box set
Contains 23 out of the 24 episodes (absent is S1's Wednesday Is Missing, featuring the Addams Family, apparently due to licencing issues). For this series (which followed Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!), each episode featured a guest star or stars (some real-life, some Hanna-Barbera fictional characters). I hadn't seen most of these since first broadcast.
Season one; Ghastly Ghost Town (The Three Stooges) ~ 5/10; The Dynamic Scooby-Doo Affair (Batman and Robin)~ 6/10; The Frickert Fracas (Jonathan Winters) ~ 5/10; Guess Who's Knott Coming to Dinner? (Don Knotts) ~ 7/10; A Good Medium Is Rare (Phyllis Diller)~ 7/10; Sandy Duncan's Jekyll and Hyde (Sandy Duncan) ~ 6/10; The Secret of Shark Island (Sonny and Cher) ~ 8/10; The Spooky Fog of Juneberry (Don Knotts) ~ 7/10; The Ghost of Bigfoot (Laurel and Hardy) ~ 7/10; The Ghost of the Red Baron (The Three Stooges) ~ 5/10; The Ghostly Creep from the Deep (The Harlem Globetrotters) ~ 7/10; The Haunted Horseman of Hagglethorn Hall (Davy Jones) ~ 7/10; The Phantom of the Country Music Hall (Jerry Reed) ~ 5/10; The Caped Crusader Caper (Batman and Robin) ~ 4/10; The Loch Ness Mess (The Harlem Globetrotters) ~ 8/10
Season two; The Mystery of Haunted Island (The Harlem Globetrotters) ~ 7/10; The Haunted Showboat (Josie and the Pussycats) ~ 8/10; Mystery in Persia (Jeannie) ~ 6/10; The Spirited Spooked Sports Show (Tim Conway) ~ 5/10; The Exterminator (Don Adams) ~ 7/10; The Weird Winds on Winona (Speed Buggy) ~ 7/10; The Haunted Candy Factory ('Mama' Cass Elliot) ~ 7/10; The Haunted Carnival (Dick Van Dyke) ~ 6/10
A few very good episodes, several okay episodes - and far too many poor ones. When this series is bad, it's BAD. Instead of making the most of its longer-than-usual 43 minute format, many of the episodes feel they're just over-extended reworkings of standard 22 minute scripts. The result is they feel drawn-out, repetitive (especially in the chase scenes), and at times boring.
Nevertheless, Frank Welker (Fred), Casey Kasem (Shaggy), Heather North (Daphne), Nicole Jaffe (Velma), and Don Messick (Scooby) all bring their A-game. And despite the stretched-out feel, there is some very funny writing, and some great atmospheric settings.
It passes the time.
Lacklustre crime drama, starring Jimmy Hanley and Dinah Sheridan (who would marry five years later). Members of a theatrical troupe are trapped inside a Welsh theatre by a mudslide, only to be killed off one by one. Very much a B movie. 5/10.
Dementia 13 (1963)
Not dreadful, but not great
Early Francis Ford Coppola-directed, Pyscho-inspired, slasher produced by Roger Corman. A typically good performance from Patrick Magee, and very nice atmospheric (b&w) cinematography, but otherwise pretty unremarkable (although it does have a bit of a cult following). 5/10.
Barbie does Scooby-Doo!
No, not a porn parody. During spring break, Barbie and her friends head off to the Windy Willows for a week of winter fun. However, the planned skiing and snowboarding have to wait, as they soon find themselves with a ghost story and a mystery to solve! Hmm, sound familiar?
This is Barbie's take on Scooby-Doo, complete with crazy chase scene and villain unmasking (we even get the classic 'I would have gotten away with it, if not for you...' Well, you know the rest). I'm not exactly the target demographic for Barbie - but I am a lifelong Scooby fan (more years than I'm going to admit), and this was a nice little homage. For me 6/10, but I'm sure the target audience will love it. They may even get a little spooked! 'Ruh-roh!'
The Girl Can't Help It (1956)
Vintage musical comedy designed to capitalise on Jayne Mansfield's famous 'assets', but Tom Ewell and Edmond O'Brien provide great support (no pun intended). Plenty of featured rock 'n' roll performances from stars such as Little Richard, Eddie Cochran, and Gene Vincent. 7/10.
Very entertaining (but could have been even better)!
Scooby and the gang get zapped into a video game based on their own early adventures. The only way to survive and return to the real world is to battle and defeat all 10 levels. On the way they encounter cyber versions of monsters from Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! (1969-70) and The Scooby-Doo Show (1976-78) - plus cyber versions of themselves from the same era.
There are some great one-liners; the set-up is nicely done (with brightly-lit university research labs making a change from dark, dusty mansions), and the digital world the gang find themselves in is impressive. The early levels of the game are entertaining enough (although I can see myself fast-forwarding through these on rewatches), but when the classic villains and the cyber-Scooby gang turn up it really takes off. There's great interplay between the two versions of Mystery Inc. (including some lovely snarky comments on each other's fashion sense), and the bond that develops between the two groups is actually touching. There's no rivalry, just the 'real' gang being helped to escape by the cyber versions who know they have to stay no matter what.
So, a situation where anything could happen, involving any character(s), in any location in the entire history of the franchise! Why didn't the makers do more with it? Scenarios that wouldn't really work in the 'real' world of Scooby-Doo, could have easily played out 'inside a computer game', giving the audience some real 'WTF?' moments. It felt like a massive missed opportunity. What we get is good - but it could have been much more.
Artwork/animation though is really nice. The cast are good, with Frank Welker (Fred), Grey DeLisle (movie debut as Daphne), B J Ward (movie swansong as Velma), and Scott Innes (movie swansong as both Shaggy and Scooby) on great form. And the music is fine - including a version of the theme song from Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! Performed by the B-52s!
One of the better TNSDM episodes
I'm working my way through The New Scooby-Doo Movies, seeing some of them for the first time since they were first shown. This is one of the better entries. Don Knotts is a likeable and funny guest-star, who doesn't feel too shoehorned, and the setting of Moody Manor - with its adjacent graveyard and old mine - is one of the most atmospheric the gang have ever visited. The plot is okay, although there are quite a few holes (more than usual!), and - as with a lot of these 40 minute episodes - it does feel a little dragged out. But the regular voice cast of Frank Welker, Heather North, Casey Kasem, Nicole Jaffe, and Don Messick are on top form.
The highlight of the episode for me is Velma and Daphne in bed together (just chatting!), when Fred, Shaggy, and Scooby burst into their bedroom. On hearing the boys' news that they've just seen a ghost, Daphne exclaims 'I'm going to hide in the closet!'. I know it was 1972, but I can't believe the makers weren't having a little fun! 7/10.
Scooby Doo, Where Are You! (1969)
Just finished rewatching the whole two-season run on DVD
I watched this show first time around as a very young kid, and although I'm still a huge Scooby fan and own a ton of the movies and TV shows, there were some here that I hadn't seen since that first time. The best were easily as good as I remembered. Some others didn't really hold up so well. But as the series that kicked it all off, I still love it.
Season one; What a Night for a Knight ~ 9/10; A Clue for Scooby Doo ~ 8/10; Hassle in the Castle ~ 8/10; Mine Your Own Business ~ 8/10; Decoy for a Dognapper ~ 6/10; What the Hex Going On? ~ 8/10; Never Ape an Ape Man ~ 7/10; Foul Play in Funland ~ 8/10; The Backstage Rage ~ 7/10; Bedlam in the Big Top ~ 7/10; A Gaggle of Galloping Ghosts ~ 6/10; Scooby-Doo and a Mummy, Too ~ 8/10; Which Witch Is Which? ~ 9/10; Go Away Ghost Ship ~ 8/10; Spooky Space Kook ~ 9/10; A Night of Fright Is No Delight ~ 8/10; That's Snow Ghost ~ 8/10;
Season two; Nowhere to Hyde ~ 7/10; Mystery Mask Mix-Up ~ 7/10; Scooby's Night with a Frozen Fright ~7/10; Jeepers, It's the Creeper ~ 8/10; Haunted House Hang-Up ~ 8/10; A Tiki Scare Is No Fair ~ 7/10; Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Werewolf? ~ 7/10; Don't Fool with a Phantom ~ 8/10;
Frank Welker (Fred), Casey Kasem (Shaggy), Nicole Jaffe (Velma), and Don Messick (Scooby), all do a fantastic job through both seasons. Stefanianna Christopherson was a great Daphne in the first season, but by season two she'd married and retired to have a family, so Heather North took over. North did pretty well, but Christopherson remains my #2 Daphne after Grey DeLise.
Overall, despite a few weaker episodes, the show still gets an 8.5/10.
Hangar 18 (1980)
Not bad at all
Interesting sci-fi conspiracy thriller, starring Darren McGavin, Robert Vaughn, and Gary Collins. Reminds me a little of Capricorn One, in that astronauts are on the run from shady government types because of what they know. The effects are decidedly... 80s, but you can't really hold that against it! 7/10.
Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island (1998)
Still one of the greatest ever Scooby movies
Great characterisations; wonderful plot; real ghosts, zombies, and cat-people; fantastic art/animation that still looks top grade over 20 years later (the colours really pop - the opening sequence in the castle is possibly the most impressive of all). And Adrienne Barbeau!
This was Warner's first Scooby production after they took over from Hanna-Barbera - and they launched with a belter! 8.5/10
Happy Halloween, Scooby-Doo! (2020)
Entertaining - with the return of the REAL voice actors!
I'm sure Frank Welker, Grey DeLise, and Matthew Lillard could do Fred, Scooby, Daphne, and Shaggy in their sleep. Of course, pros that they are they never sound it, and their work here is faultless. Kate Micucci has proven a fine Velma since she took over in 2015, and this is her best outing yet; knowledgeable without being know-all, firm yet friendly - and sassy. She really gets to shine (and Velma's skirts are DEFINITELY getting shorter!).
Elvira, Mistress of the Dark and Bill Nye the Science Guy are entertaining guests. And the inclusion of Batman villain Dr. Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow (voiced by Dwight Schultz) gives a nice link to the DC universe. The movie does suffer from too many road chases, making the whole thing feel a little drawn-out, and for me pumpkins aren't scary - or even that exciting - as monsters. But it has top notch animation, witty dialogue, and incidental music with more than a hint of John Carpenter. 7.5/10
I don't know what the heck I just watched...
... But it sure as hell wasn't Scooby-Doo. Garbage.
The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo (1985)
Just finished rewatching the whole series on DVD
Great premise, with some incredibly inventive ideas, brought to life in animation that's not bad for its time. Some very good episodes, some pretty good episodes, and some reasonable episodes. There's nothing I'd call poor.
To All the Ghouls I've Loved Before ~ 7/10; Scoobra Kadoobra ~ 6/10; Me and My Shadow Demon ~ 6/10; Reflections in a Ghoulish Eye ~ 6/10; That's Monstertainment ~ 8/10; Ship of Ghouls ~ 8/10; A Spooky Little Ghoul Like You ~ 7/10; When You Witch Upon a Star ~ 7/10; It's a Wonderful Scoob ~ 7/10; Scooby in Kwackyland ~ 7/10; Coast-to-Ghost ~ 7/10; The Ghouliest Show on Earth ~ 6/10; Horror-Scope Scoob ~ 6/10
Great vocal performances all round - especially the fantastic Vincent Price, as benevolent warlock 'Vincent Van Ghoul'! (Sad to note that with the exception of Flim Flam, the voice actors for all the principal roles - Scooby, Shaggy, Daphne, Scrappy, and Vincent - are no longer with us).
I'm an unashamed 'Scrappy-hater', but he's toned down here to a tolerable level.
No Fred and Velma (I'm in love with Velma Dinkley) is a minus, but despite that this still manages to be one of my favourite Scooby shows. The series was sadly cancelled before all 13 ghosts were recaptured (I've not yet caught the 2019 movie Scooby-Doo! And the Curse of the 13th Ghost that concludes the story), and it's a shame that not all episodes reached the high standard of the best. Still, overall 7.5/10
The Girl from Green Willow (1975)
Nice take on a classic urban legend
Interesting short (just 15 mins), based around the classic 'phantom hitchhiker' legend. If you know the story you'll know exactly how this plays out. Obviously a no-budget production, but the small cast (this is the only credit for all of them) do a pretty reasonable job. The pleasant rural setting with an everyday kind of atmosphere somehow makes it all the more unreal, and even creepy. Worth catching if you can. 7/10.
Contract to Kill (2016)
Bad, even for Seagal
A very out of shape Steven Seagal shuffles his way through a movie where the plot is almost as indecipherable as most of his dialogue. Very quickly cut fight choreography tries to hide how un-nimble (not sure if that's a word) the man is, but his slap-fu still looks like a pale imitation of that from his early films. Some very bad CGI in places. And there's a really creepy love/sex scene between Seagal and the lead actress's obvious body-double. She's naked; he (unsurprisingly!) isn't. I'm all for separating art from the artist (I use both terms loosely here), but all I could think about as it played out was the 'casting couch' allegations against him a while back. It just looked... off. This apparently has an RT score of 0. I give it 2/10.
A tragic story, with more depth than you'd expect
Certainly not the standard Charlie's Angels fare. The Townsend agency is hired by a 1930's bootlegger who's just been released from prison, to look into the unsolved 1935 murder of his wife (to whom Kris bears an uncanny resemblance). As the investigation progresses, events of the present begin to mirror those of the past, leaving Kris in an increasingly dangerous position...
This is a slower-paced episode than usual. There's no running around, and hardly any gun-play. It's all about the characters, and the legacy of tragic events long past. It evokes a fantastic sense of 30s nostalgia (that's on top of the 70s nostalgia experienced when watching the show now), and has a real bitter-sweet feeling throughout. There's a wonderful performance from Ramon Bieri as Jake the bootlegger, whilst Cheryl Ladd gets to show some real acting chops as Rosemary, Jake's dead wife. With beautiful direction by Ronald Austin (one of four episodes he directed overall) and writing by Lee Sheldon, this may just be the best of the whole run. 8.5/10
Charlie's Angels: Marathon Angels (1979)
I don't get the complaints!!
Charlie's Angels is often cited as THE example of 70s 'jiggle TV'. Well, this is possibly the 'jiggliest' episode ever! 80% of this is hot girls running in very tight T-shirts and very short shorts - and people act like it's a bad thing! I have only ONE complaint - the God-awful music that plays behind every running sequence. Other than that, this is great! 8/10 (God, I miss the 70s)
Never saw it coming!
I've long loved Murder, She Wrote, but this episode had passed me by. I don't want to spoil anything, I'll just say we follow a fairly standard MSW murder mystery, Jessica going through her familiar routine, suspects, alibis, more suspects - and then the ending! Which can be looked on as either a 'cop-out', or a 'Whoa!' Well, for me it was definitely a 'Whoa!'. I never saw it coming. Looking back, I should have done; but I never saw it. Great stuff 8/10
The Ghost of Monk's Island (1966)
Enjoyable for children - if you can get them to watch it!
I have very fond memories of watching this at Saturday morning cinema (where a lot of Children's Film Foundation stuff was shown). As a young boy I loved the story. It was the kind of adventure I wished I could have,
a cross between Enid Blyton and Arthur Ransome, tinged with the possibility of the supernatural. There's an innocence not seen so much these days (its dated style would probably put today's kids off from watching it). But I had another reason for loving it; my dad wrote the score, and I was very proud of him. Sadly, we lost him some years ago. But the film's still here, and well worth a look if you can find it, not least from a nostalgia point of view if you're over a certain age. I give it 6.5/10 (but the music is obviously a ten!). God bless, Dad.
The Cat and the Canary (1978)
Not one of the better versions
Good cast, plodding script, zero atmosphere (TCatC is arguably THE 'old dark house' tale - so why on Earth have every room and hallway ridiculously brightly lit?). Acting gets it a 5/10
Enter the... Dog-on??
A lot of nods to Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon. Great animation. The usual excellent performances from the regular voice cast (this was Casey Kasem's final performance as Shaggy - Matthew Lillard took over the following year). Guest voices include Kelly Hu, George Takei, and Brian Cox (the awesome actor, not that astronomer). Not the best Scooby movie by a long shot, but better than I expected. 7/10
For the most part, exceptional
A widowed dad searches for his missing 16 yr old daughter. The whole story is played out on computer screen from start to finish (online chat, social media, video/conference calls, news broadcasts, CCTV). Excellent central performance from John Cho, with solid support from Debra Messing as the lead investigator cop. The film opens with the family history (through videos and online photo album) from marriage, through birth of first (and only) child, wife/mother's illness and death, and dad/daughter's subsequent relationship. You feel for the two of them as they struggle to communicate during her teenage years; and you feel his utter heartbreak, incomprehension, and despair when she goes missing. The rollercoaster ride of his initial attempts to trace her, the false starts and dashed hopes, then finally the police investigation, are riveting. Unfortunately, the last quarter of an hour or so pushes the boundaries of credibility a bit too far for a film that up until then is so realistic. Still, 8/10
Night of the Demons 2 (1994)
As good as the first, in its own way!
Another bunch of teen stereotypes (this time from a local catholic school) decides to hold a Halloween party at Hull House, an abandoned funeral parlour on the outskirts of town and scene of the events of the first film six years earlier. The group includes the younger sister of Angela, the only one of the kids from the first film whose body was never found and who urban legend says is now a demon herself. Once the teens arrive they soon start falling prey to the evil that lurks within the crumbling walls...
The first Night of the Demons is up there with The Evil Dead, and this belongs right alongside it. The comedy is taken up a notch (but not overdone), and the girls are all INSANELY hot. The guys are (mostly) obnoxious jerks who pretty much deserve what's coming. When the action moves from the funeral parlour to the school it loses some of its creepy atmosphere; but we're soon back at Hull House for the climactic showdown between the forces of darkness and a bunch of teenage misfits - lead by a ninja-skilled nun!
There's a fair bit of female nudity (topless, plus some very brief full-frontal), and the practical effects feature a TON of gore (if any of that offends, obviously this isn't for you). Great stuff! 8/10
Last Shift (2014)
Great idea. Poor execution
A rookie cop spends her first night on duty as the sole officer at a police station that has just permanently closed. As her shift gets underway she starts to see and hear things that make her think she's not alone. Her belief that 'old hands' are playing a prank soon gives way to suspicion that the building may be haunted.
Good atmospheric setting, good story, good central performance from Juliana Harkavy, but it doesn't quite work. Individual elements that with someone like James Wan could have been fantastically creepy, somehow fail. With figures passing behind objects, yet failing to emerge from the other side, objects repositioning themselves with impossible speed, there are obvious influences from The Conjuring and Poltergeist (to name just two). There's also heavy inspiration from John Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13. Sadly, it's a pale imitation of all of these. It does get better in the last 15 or so minutes, but not enough to save it. 5/10