Friday, November 24, 2023

The Marvels


This will not be seen as one of the top tier MCU films, and it may not even be mid-level MCU, but at worst it is near the top of the bottom tier of these films and as such it still offers some entertainment value. I am seeing this two weeks after the disastrous opening weekend, and a week after the movie crashed with a 78% decline in admissions. I was obviously not motivated enough by publicity, the characters or a story line, to make it an essential film. I had always planned on seeing it but it was going to wait, the only reason I went today is that someone else was choosing the movie. I am not disappointed that I waited, but I was also not disappointed in the film, it is fine.

One of the reasons for hesitating is that the film leans heavily into some of the MCU Streaming series that I have not seen or that I only can recall vaguely. Monica Rambeau is a character that started out in the original "Captain Marvel" film from 2019, and then evolved in the streaming service show "WandaVision". I seem to recall that there was an event in the show that might have transferred powers to her, but I only saw that show one time, and it was three years ago, and frankly, that plot seemed superfluous to the rest of the series. As for Ms. Marvel, the other series that contributes a character to this movie, I have not seen any of it. The most I saw of  Kamala Khan before today was in the trailer for this film, and she seemed like a breath of fresh air about to arrive in the strum and dang of the Marvel Films. 

The exposition in this film to bring we unenlightened viewers into the story, is not very artistic and it is quite truncated. However, it was clear enough to explain who the good guys were, who the bad guys were and a little bit about heir powers. Nick Fury shows up, and I think there is another TV series that features his character that would fill in some blank spots and maybe help make all of this a little more coherent. As it is, I shrugged my shoulders and went along for the ride, and tried not to worry too much about all that I was not privy to, and instead focus on what I was seeing in this story. I appreciated that the movie was a lot shorter than many of the recent films in this series have been, but that sometimes means that the obstacles the heroes face are unclear, their powers seem inconsistent, and the solutions seem to be a bit more ex machina than I would like. 

There are some elements of the movie that are entertaining, but are completely artificial and seem to be bizarre to begin with. The Skrull are now living on another planet that is being threatened by a Kree faction. How they got there, what connection Carol Danvers had with their presence in that location, and what Nick Fury is supposed to be doing about it all is never answered. We get a reference to quantum entanglements, which appears to be the tool the brain trust behind this movies, is going to use as a crutch to justify whatever new plotline they can come up with. The sequence on the planet Aladna, feels like a lost segment from "Flash", the 1980 comic book misfire, beloved by many but stupid beyond reason. 

Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel, steals the film as far as I am concerned. Her gee whiz adulation of Carol Danvers Captain Marvel is funny and will be something all the comic book geeks in the audience should appreciate. Her hysterical reactions to some of the events in the movie provoke enough laughter to keep the story fairly light. Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau was fine, although her tense relationship with Danvers is a bit forced and noting comes from it except a brief moment of tacked on drama. Brie Larson continues to be the sardonic hero, Captain Marvel, who has powers that surpass all other characters in the MCU, although she gets tossed around by secondary guard characters without much difficulty, so how is that possible? 

If you are looking for consistency in plot quality, you will not find it here. If you want the MCU to expand and the Avengers to be a central part of that expansion, you will only get a small fraction of what you are looking for. If you want a little entertainment, strung together around some impressive effects that signify things that you will not understand or care about, well now you will get your ten bucks worth of investment. "The Marvels" is not all it could be, but at least it is not "the Eternals", and for that you can be grateful. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2023



If you remember seeing "Grindhouse", the two film collaboration between Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, you will probably also remember that there were trailers between the two films. The fake trailers included two that were subsequently turned into actual films; "Hobo with a Shotgun" and "Machete". We now have a third film based on those fake trailers, "Thanksgiving" is also directed by Eli Roth, who made the fake trailer for a film titled "Thanksgiving" for the 2007 Grindhouse project. Not to disparage the other films, but "Thanksgiving" turns out to be the best of the bunch, at least until "Don't" or "Werewolf Women of the S.S." get made.

After the success of "Halloween" back in 1978, there were dozens of films that took holiday themes to the slasher market. "Friday the 13th", "April Fool's Day", "My Bloody Valentine", and many more. Roth's trailer for "Thanksgiving" is a parody and salute to those types of films. The full film does a great job of following that inspiration by repeating many of the tropes from those films. There is a foundational event that prompts a revenge scheme, we get a masked killer, the deaths are often played out as holiday related events, and there is macabre humor in just about all of it. 

This film is very satisfying to those who enjoy a dark humored look at American Traditions and horror films. The opening section includes a scene that reminds us of real world horrors associate with Black Friday sales at department stores. Unruly crowds are pretty darn scary without throwing in the gore, but why skip the gore when you are doing a parody like this, Eli Roth doesn't. He lays it on thick with his frequent use of skin being removed from the body by accidental means. Shopping carts and restaurant freezers are not benign objects in this movie. There are plenty of decapitations, stabbings, strangling's and assorted other mayhem to keep all of the gore-hounds engaged, but it is all delivered with a large tongue inserted into a cheek. When a severed body is displayed next to a 50% off sign, you know that this is not meant to be taken seriously. 

With one major plot exception, the film plays out the crimes with a pretty straightforward fidelity to law enforcement investigation. There has to however, be a point at which logic gets defied, and the results show up to start the third act. The creation of a mythical character, John Carver, as the avatar of the killer almost works. Like the Baby masks in "Happy Death Day", this allows for suspicions to be cast on a variety of supporting characters and it adds the requisite mystery to the plot. There are a few moments that brush up against the torture porn that Roth has been known for, but I think it mostly stays this side of being prurient.

There are not a lot of holiday films that feature Thanksgiving as their central premise. It's nice to have one more to add to the list, and especially one as self aware and entertaining as this one is. So fill your plate, over indulge and forget leaving room for dessert, the main course will fill you up and as the tagline says, "There will be no Leftovers". 

Thursday, November 16, 2023

KAMAD Throwback Thursdays 1975: Bite the Bullet

Throwback Thursday #TBT

Throwback Thursday on the KAMAD site will be a regular occurrence in the next year. As a motivational project, to make sure I am working on something, even in a week where I don't see a new film in a theater, I am going to post on movies from 1975. Along with 1984, this is one of my favorite years for movies and it is full of bittersweet memories as well. 1975 was my Senior Year in High School and my Freshman Year in College. The greatest film of the last 60 years came out in 1975, as well as dozens of great and not so great cinematic endeavors. Most of the films in this weekly series will have been seen in a theater in 1975, but there are several that I only caught up with later. I hope you all enjoy.

Bite the Bullet

I have been extremely busy the last couple of weeks, including travel. This is a repost of two entries on a 1975 film that I love, but did not have time to watch again fore the project. 

Next time someone tells you everything is available on line, try to get them to find the original trailer for this movie. I looked all over the place and could not find it.

[As you can see above, this has changed since the original post]

That doesn't mean that it doesn't exist, but I suspect that may be the case.

Sometimes, you have to make due with what you have. I have this movie on a DVD that goes from a letterbox format for the credits to a pan and scan version for the rest of the film. This is really too bad because a lot of the pleasure in this movie are the vistas and wide-screen images of the contestants in this horse race. The scanning seems to take some of the grandeur and a lot of the energy out of the story, (at least as I remembered it.)

I saw this movie at the Chinese theater, on the big screen. Of course at the time there was only one screen at the Chinese Theater. There are actually quite a few westerns on my list, which is a little surprising since the 70's were supposed to be the death of the western. It so happens that this particular Western stars my favorite film actor Gene Hackman. I looked over his filmography, and for a guy who got started in the business in the late 60's, he has actually made a lot of Western Films. Earlier this week, we came across Zandy's Bride, which I had nearly forgotten and came out a year earlier. Gene Hackman was a big star at this point, he was cast as the leading man a couple of years earlier in "The Poseidon Adventure" but he has always been a character actor to me. When he plays a part, he is the charater he is playing not the star. In "Bite the Bullet" he is the first lead but really just one of a dozen characters that make up the story.

This film features a 700 mile horse race across deserts, over mountains and through forests. There are gunfights, action, dramatic twists and a sense of history as things go on. Hackman and James Coburn play two of Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders a few years after the Spanish-American War. The modern is mixed with the old west at a time when the world was in fact changing. Ben Johnson basically repeats his role as the last of a dying breed from the Last Picture Show. Candice Bergen is the female lead in a pretty solid part for a woman in a movie like this. This same month she was starring in "the Wind and the Lion", so it was pretty clear she was Box Office at this moment in time. There are other familiar faces as well, but I want to take special note that this was the period of time that Jan-Michael Vincent was ascending and he was very promising in the movie. It is a shame that drugs and alcohol sidelined a guy who could easily have taken over a lot of leading man roles in the next few years.

Opening the movie is a prologue that introduces several character, including the wealthy owner of the favored horse and the newspaper people that are sponsoring the race. It was a little odd that there was so much time devoted to those story arcs and that they basically disappear from the movie. The only thing I felt was unsatisfying about the film was the last ten minutes of the race. The result was fine, but there is no resolution for some characters and it feels like an epilogue would have been appropriate. I recall that the film got a very fine review from the LA times when it opened; probably Charles Champlian wrote the review, he was the main critic at the Times in those days. This movie seems largely forgotten now, which is too bad because it is a good action film with some realistic situations and characters. It runs off the track a bit in the last act, but that can be forgiven pretty easily.


This is an update to a post I did nearly two years ago on one of the Original Movie A Day Project Films. I have long wanted to see Bite the Bullet in it's original widescreen form, but it has not been available. The version in the original post was a pan and scan DVD that I acquired for a very modest price. You can find my original comments here. "Bite the Bullet" was a big scale Western at a time that such movies were dying out. It features a brutal 700 mile horse race across deserts and mountains and plains. It is perfect for a director to compose shots that will fill that screen with those vistas and also show the characters in relevant space. A month ago I read a review of a Blu Ray release of Bite the Bullet and went in search of it. It turns out that the film was not being mass marketed but was a specialty release with only 3000 copies being produced. None of them was available at any of my local retail outlets so off to the internet I flew. I could buy a new copy on Amazon for $36 plus shipping. I found a used copy on ebay for thirty and went for it. I am happy to say that it was worth the investment. I still think the last few minutes of the movie are underdeveloped, but the rest of the film looks spectacular.

There is an early shot of two trains passing each other in a railroad yard that would cut out one of the trains in the pan and scan version. Since the character we are following would need to stay in the frame, a severely cropped for television version leaves out a side of the picture. Here one gets a greater sense of the enormous changes that are taking place in the world at this time because of the trains passing each other in what might charitably be called a small town. Later shots of the railway also cut out the whole train in the shots, but here we get to see it as it moves across a bridge or travels though a forest. These are mostly little points in the movie, the real use of the widescreen comes in the horse race scenes, especially those set in some wide desert vistas. In the current widescreen Blu ray, we can see shots that include several of the contestants in the race at once, although they are clearly a great distance from one another. The empty spaces between them emphasize the desolate nature of the environment. In some later scenes, the layout of the territory in a chase and prison break makes more sense because of the way we can view it. There is a scene in which Gene Hackman's character chases down Jan Michael Vincent and lays into him for the negligent way he has treated his horse, it has more drama and excitement in it with the space not being as condensed as in the pan and scan version.

This was one of the first times I remember seeing the death of a horse from exhaustion being visualized in such a dramatic way. John Wayne's horse in True Grit gives up the ghost when he is trying to get Maddie Ross back to the trading post. Here, we see all of the horses perspiring and covered in foaming sweat. Their legs are shaky and the riders are either tender and cautious or reckless and indifferent. As the animals are falling in the sand or rolling down a hillside, the broad view makes us much more aware of how difficult the race really would be. I am very satisfied with the quality of the picture and the extra price was worth it to me. One more comment about the movie that is unrelated to it's presentation. Hackman has a great piece of dialogue about the charge at San Juan Hill that his character was supposed to be a part of. It sounds at first like it is going to be a sucker punch slam at the Spanish American War and Teddy Roosevelt. Instead it reminds me,and I hope you, of why Theodore Roosevelt was in fact one of our greatest leaders. After having his glasses shot off and his arm nicked, Roosevelt rallies the Rough Riders to storm the hill. Hackman's character says that they didn't follow out of a desire for victory, or to promote freedom. They went willingly with Roosevelt into the rain of death from above because they would have been ashamed not to. If it's not a true story, it feels like one.

Monday, November 13, 2023

The Killer


As always, If I see a film in a theater, you will read about it here. I noticed several comments on-line that castigate this film as boring or even dreadful. I was very surprised at that evaluation because my experience was far from that. I enjoyed the heck out of the film, it has a slight throwback style that may not be satisfying to adrenaline junkies, but hits the spot with those of us who are interested in plot and character. Which may seem a bit strange because we know very little about the main character of this film, not even his real name, but in the long run, that is the point.

There are plenty of films about paid assassins out there. Most of them are focused on the job at hand or the intrigue behind the murder in the first place. This film essentially does not give a damn about those well worn paths, instead, it focuses on logistics and the kind of character that is needed to be a success in this business. Michael Fassbinder is playing a guy doing his level best to remain faceless and anonymous. We get to see the level of detail that he puts into his work. The meticulous set up and clean up of his job takes the first twenty minutes of the film, and when the job goes wrong, we see what discipline it takes to get away clean.  The movie reminded me early on of the Charles Bronson 70s classic "The Mechanic". In that film, we have a dialogue free opening ten minutes, and it is an excellent primer on how to tell a story visually. "The Killer" does not remain silent in the opening section, the main character is providing a voiceover to his actions. Most of the time he is explaining the principle behind his craft, not the details of it's execution, we see those being played out. 

There are action sequences but they usually come after a slow build up to the scene. For instance, there is a truly brutal fight scene that entails significant jeopardy to the main character, but first we see the stalking of the target. That process involves a lot of sitting in the car, waiting for other characters to act, and then a tentative approach to the subject. When the fireworks start, they are pretty elaborate with frequent changes in who is dominating the combat, and consequences for most of the physical actions. While lacking the perspective that we might have for John McClane, we can still feel the brutality and notice some of the aftereffects. That makes this movie feel a lot more authentic than some of the action cartoons that pass themselves off as drama in cinema's these days. 

I wonder if the reason that some of the people who are not reacting positively to the film comes from the fact that they watched this on Netflix rather than seeing it in a theater. As always, the theatrical experience forces you into a relationship with the film that is substantially different than the one you will have in your own home. The passage of time feels different and more immediate. The absence of ambient noise or side conversations press us into focusing on what is on the screen in a different way. The score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is propulsive without being in your face. The story transitions are smooth and fun to watch as the character makes his way from Europe, to the Dominican Republic, to the U.S. , and there is a running joke about the aliases he uses that some parts of the audience might miss but they got a chuckle out of me each time. 

Up front, the Killer himself talks about how dull his profession can be, because it involves so much waiting and watching. He goes to great lengths to avoid having to improvise. Sure it's fun when some character can Macguyver up a bomb with kitchen chemicals and a microwave, but that would be an anathema to our protagonist, who sticks to the plan, fights only the designated fights, and sees empathy as a weakness. The character has no story arc it is true, the fascination comes from watching how sticking to his foundational process works. It forces him to make choices that other screenwriters would have found a conventional way out of.  While we are spared having to watch him disassemble a body for disposal, we know he is doing it because that is what is called for. 

There are at least two times in the film when we could expect a screenwriter to try and inch the character away from his own manifesto, but the authors of the graphic novel that the film is based on, and the screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker, stay true to their character. The detachment the lead feels from his job, is aty odds with the relationship that powers the majority of the film. As a wounded subject, we might expect there to be emotional justification for his actions. The story never makes a point of his emotions in the murders he commits after the failed original mission. He simply puts his professional face on for a personal retribution that maybe lacks the satisfying punch that most revenge films seek, but nevertheless gets the job done. His confrontation with the Tilda Swinton character is a perfect example of how his professionalism can be seen as dull, but we also get to see it is the reason he is efficient. Director David Fincher allows stories to unfold in their own time. "Zodiac" and "Gone Girl" show us dramatic moments as they might play out, without the theatrics if an edited, rock score propelled sequence. If you are looking for a "Goodfellas" moment, there isn't one. There is just the cool, mannered and meticulous pathology of the Killer and his director.  

Saturday, November 11, 2023

The Holdovers


There seems to be a long line of movies about students and teachers at elite boarding schools. From "Goodbye Mr. Chips" to the "Harry Potter" series, something about the confines of elite education seems to fascinate us. Often the stories focus on the conflicts between rich entitled students and their poorer scholarship counterparts. Sometimes it is the ennui that privilege seems to inflict on the rich kids, which an inspirational teacher tries to overcome. Often, the ethical standards of the institution present a conflict with a student's sense of right and wrong, and the story tries to resolve that. "The Holdovers" joins that deep genealogy of academic settings and personal angst.

If you watch the trailer, you will get the premise immediately. Like young Scrooge in the Dicken's story, a student gets left at school during the holidays. In this case it is a student who seems to be thriving in his classes, although struggling with his peers. Newcomer Dominic Sessa plays Angus, a bright but but petulant kid who has been thrown out of three other elite schools and is on the brink of being removed from Barton Academy, the setting of the film in New England.   The teacher who ends up having to watch over the students during the holidays is history instructor Paul Hunham, played by the great Paul Giamatti. Giamatti has been largely engaged in television wok for the last few years, and I am unfamiliar with the shows he has been spending time on. I welcome him back to the big screen because he is a welcome presence as a dramatic actor with a gift for reaching the humor in even deep drama. That is exactly what he is doing here, and I think his performance will be one that is recognized by the end of the year honors that will soon be upon us. Mr. Hunham is an acerbic curmudgeon, who can see the faults in others and is not blind to the ones in himself. 

Both of the main characters eventually get left together with the occasional influence of a third character, Mary Lamb, the cafeteria manager of the school played by  Da'Vine Joy Randolph from "Only Murders in the Building". The film is set in 1970 and Mary worked at the school chiefly to allow her son to attend, but is now a grieving mother who lost her child to the Vietnam War. So you have a disaffected student, a bitter teacher and a depressed mother, stuck at the school together for a two week period. Maybe it sounds like there will be a lot of well worn plot points as these three people manage to bond and help one another through this period, you would be right in assuming that. You would be wrong though in thinking that the film will be trite as a consequence. It is really much cleverer than the set up. Each of the three characters reveal histories that give us insight into their conditions. The plot does not play out in the obvious ways that have been set down for it, and there is enough humor in the characters to keep us from wallowing in their tragedies.

In our modern film era, filled with superheroes, paid assassins, and horror premises that sound more interesting than they are, it is such a joy to have an adult drama to take in with an audience. We cab see a lot of what is coming in the story, but not everything. We have seen these kinds of characters before, but they are well played and still engaging. And the time period of the film reflects the characters and the emotional tone of the story, no anachronisms here. This is not a post modern twist on "The Dead Poets Society", it is instead a counterpart story. Characters, like people in the real world, gain insight into others and as a consequence into themselves as well. I think that is a universal concept that can be told in a movie on a repeated basis, as long as the characters are interesting, and here they are.

Alexander Payne has made some excellent films in the last twenty years or so. "Sideways" is a jewel, "Nebraska" was excellent, and "the Descendants" while not my favorite, was widely respected and worth your effort. His previous film "Downsizing" was an apparent misfire, the word of mouth on it was so bad that I never bothered to see it. "The Holdovers" seems to be a return to form and for my point of view, one of the best films of the year. 

Friday, October 27, 2023

Five Nights at Freddy's


Not scary, not tense, not funny, not good. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

It Follows: Panic! At the Paramount


The Paramount Theater here in Austin, wrapped up it's annual Halloween selection of movies, Panic! at the Paramount, with this atmospheric contagion movie. Director David Robert Mitchell (he of the three first names) delivers plenty of fright with this film that features a curse, passed on by sexual contact. So there is a provocative concept, layered in guilt which results in a fear induced sense of paranoia for our main character.

The movie "Smile" from last year, basically stole the plot of this film and just changed the nature of the contagion and the way characters react to it. The thing that makes it most clear that the two films come from the same DNA is the manner in which those infected must try to rid themselves of the curse. It comes from forcing it on someone else. Also, the pursuing malicious force can take on the countenance of someone the victim knows. That is the climax of both films, and it is a pretty effective fright tool when deployed.

When I saw this movie originally, I was most interested in the horror dynamics, but there are other elements that make the film work. Jay, the main character, is a college student who has a new boyfriend that she has sex with in his car. Afterward, in an idyllic mood with a very hopeful and sunny disposition, she is suddenly subdued and tied up by the boyfriend. This is the first instance of a negative result from an early in the relationship sexual encounter, but it is not the worst. The boyfriend tries to explain the curse to her and it seems that the entity that pursues, can be diverted by passing on the curse through sex. So now, promiscuity becomes a temporary safety valve, because once the next person dies, the evil will come to the previous possessor of the curse. Will there ever be enough layers between you and the cursed entity for you to sleep well at night? 

Outrunning the entity seems to be a good start, but we never quite know the dynamics at play here. The curse is a slow walker, so you would think that a four hour car ride would give you weeks of safety. It doesn't work that way exactly, but the real idea here is that you cannot run away from the consequences of your action. Although only the person with the contagion can see the entity, otherers can interact with it, much like an invisible man, but it can't be simply killed, as Jay's friends discover. Jay has two friends that she ends up relying on in addition to her sister. Greg, a high school boyfriend and former lover, and Paul, a childhood friend who has always longed after Jay. Both are willing to take on the curse to try to free Jay, and that introduces more moral indecision into the film. She is not really interested in a sexual relationship with either of the young men, but she is at her wit's end as to how to escape. The first choice she makes is guided by convenience. That decision ends in disaster, another commentary on the sexual revolution and it's failures. 

In what is a very straight horror film sequence, the friends form a plot to go after the entity and try to destroy it. It is a tense sequence and we see something that Jay sees, without quite knowing what is so fear inducing about the image. The plot backfires but there may be some hope that they have diffused the risk. Even so, to be sure, Jay makes another decision, and the plot finishes off with a horrifying implication. There may be a different kind of pandemic ahead.  

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Killers of the Flower Moon


Normally, I get my comments about a movie up the same day or a day later.. This may be the longest interval between when I saw a movie in a theater and when I wrote about it, at least on this site. My delay is largely due to my life rather than any shade being thrown on the film. Retirement has lead me to be busy, in ways that I had hardly imagined. Lots to see and do, and you sometimes have to prioritize. I did have a podcast episode up discussing this movie, we recorded on Sunday, so my comments here will reflect some of those thoughts with a little extra time layered in for editing.

"Killers of the Flower Moon", is a standard Martin Scorsese film. Maybe that phrase will provoke you, but hear me out. It is a long, detailed examination of a criminal enterprise, which is based on violence and murder. The two main characters are played by Robert DeNiro and Leonardo DiCaprio, and the comeuppance of the villains seems insufficient to the scope of their crimes. So does that sound like "Goodfellas", "Casino", "The  Departed", "The Wolf of Wall Street" or "The Irishman"? It sure checked a lot of those boxes for me.  This is a very good movie, but the only innovative thing about it is that it is a Western Gangster film, and Scorsese has made this movie before.

Visually, it would be hard to fault the director or his cinematographer, Rodrigo Prieto, the movie looks great. The streets of the town featured in the film, look authentically un paved and ready to soak up the blood that will be spilled on them. The vistas of oil wells, plains, and lonely ranch houses are capable of being displayed artfully on the wall. Prieto also manages to capture the faces of the era on the countenance of actors working a century after the events depicted here. The production design is top notch as well, with cars of the era, tools of the time, and houses that look as if they were lived in during the 1920s. 

If there are weaknesses, they come in three places from my point of view. Thelma Schoonmaker, the award winning editor of most of Scorsese's films, has apparently been overridden by her director's demands. This movie does not need to be three and a half hours long to tell the story, but someone seems to have insisted that many lovely shots or long sequences not be trimmed for time, even though doing so is not just commercially desirable but artistically legitimate.   Scorsese and his co-screenwriter Eric Roth, have explained the plot, and then elaborated on it, and then added some characters, and then found some additional story, so that it all seems more complex than it really is. DeNiro and DiCaprio are too old for the parts that they are playing the parts that they are cast in. Their method styles of acting seem jarring next to the naturalist performance by the Native American cast and the lowlife co-conspirators that make up their cabal of henchmen. DiCaprio seemed to me to be holding his breath, stuffing his cheeks and generally scowling through the whole movie. The marvelous secondary roles by Lily Gladstone and Cara Jade Myers are the real sparkplugs that give the movie the life it needs. 

In spite of my reservations, I still found the film compelling enough to recommend to people. This is a true story about one of the most proliferate murder conspiracies in American History. The authentic way that it is told, the location work, and the technical details are all things that give credence to the film. In the last act, there are more traditional courtroom scenes and procedural plot points, and they just feel like a different movie. It is certainly better than the overrated "Wolf of Wall Street", but it is unfortunately on a par with the average "The Irishman".   Scorsese would do well to step out of the comfort zone for creativity, but he is still a master film maker and this will be essential for all of his acolytes.  

Friday, October 20, 2023

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974): Panic! at the Paramount


I looked for a record of the review I saw of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" on KABC Eyewitness news. This was before Gary Franklin was the resident critic, I can't remember the name of the guy who covered movies there in 1974, but I do remember he had nothing good to say about it. He showed a clip of Sally being chased in the dark by Leatherface and he mocked the repetitive nature of the sequence. It took me years to overcome a prejudice against the film, formed by that childish review on the TV news. When I finally did see the film years later I enjoyed it immensely. However, it was not until relatively recently, that I decided it was in fact a masterpiece of the horror genre, and an incredibly well put together film. Tobe Hooper deserved to be remembered for this above all others of his filmography.

Like many horror films of the 1970s, this is a slow burn that sets up bizarre characters in the background and waits to unleash them fully in the later parts of the story. Listening to Kirk, Pam, Sally, Jerry and especially Franklin, yammer while on their road trip might be a little annoying at first, except, there is a set up about grave robbing that is part of what brought them out on the road trip together in the first place. When the radio is playing in the background of their drive, the news is all bad. Wars, natural disasters and a variety of tragedies are obliquely referred to. The news stories about grave desecration come up regularly and provide great foreshadowing of what is to come. 

Horror films of the 70s especially, tended to have disorienting moments or circumstances. When the kids in the van pick up a hitchhiker, things get weird very quickly. The young people are clearly good hearts because it is the oppressive heat and location that motivates them to offer the lone stranger a ride in the first place. Once in the vehicle, they try to play it cool as the new passenger reveals himself to be somewhat deranged and certainly lacking in social skills. After some crazy moments, he is ejected from the vehicle and the trip continues, but we know it is not going to be an everyday excursion into the world. Of course we know that from the opening titles as well, but it is this sequence in the film that establishes the crazy tone for the violence to come.

As our group of kids encounter a variety of problems, like peeing on the side of the road, meeting with the sheriff at the graveyard, or running low on gas, we learn that these kids are just not that lucky. Every contemporary horror fan might yell at the screen for some of the choices being made, but in 1974, you had not had a hundred earlier films with people making the same mistakes, these were among the first to make those mistakes. Pam and Kirk wander off and they enter a house when no one answers the door. Later Jerry makes the same mistake. Also, someone needs to keep track of the car keys. It was innovative to have one of the group be in a wheelchair, and to have him be a bit of a whiner. We simultaneously understand his frustration but also find him frustrating. When he and his sister get into a tug of war over a flashlight, you would think it was the last piece of food in the world, or the most precious jewel ever.  Character humor is sometimes subtle in the film, but as often as not, it is also way over the top.  

Hooper has designed some pretty terrific shots to establish mood for the film. A dead armadillo on a baking Texas road, the sun bearing down as seen through a turning windmill, and the establishing shots of the house where most of the bad things happen are all examples of a thoughtful film maker, not someone who is just interested in cranking up the gore factor. When you add in the production design, which was done on the cheap but was clearly thought out, you can appreciate Hooper even more. Once the mayhem breaks out, he gets even better in his directing choices. The first "kill" happens so quickly and with such brutal efficiency, it is over before you have time to process that it happened. The second death is not stylized, but rather it is brutal with an establishing shot of a meat hook that increases our anticipated revulsion. 

This film may be the harbinger of the "final Girl" trope, and if so, they have a great model to follow. Marilyn Burns character goes through hell. The nightmarish chase that seems to end with sanctuary at the gas station, is only a precursor for the the horrors ahead. If you have ever dreaded sitting down with odd relatives for a meal at the holidays, take a gander at what Sally is up against, you will see your reservations as minor in contrast to her plight. There is nothing artificial about the brutality or craziness that takes place in the last twenty minutes of the movie. Sally's desperation and fear are real, as you will notice from her screams but especially the extreme progressive close ups on her eyes. Those lovely green eyes are so freaking wide and popping out that you might think she was being tortured rather than acting. Her character is so committed to living, that she makes not one but two death defying leaps through glass windows to escape the depravity she is faced with. 

Almost every horror movie has jump scares, but Hooper keeps them to a minimum. The two best are in the house of horrors and and the trail in the dark. It's hard to call the first moment a jump scare because we can see it coming, there is auditory prompt to set it up, but it works anyway. A chainsaw is not a silent weapon, but when it comes out of nowhere, you won't be thinking about the question of how Leatherface managed to sneak up on someone, you will be happy that the effects budget did not allow for a close examination of what happens when chainsaw meets flesh. 

I would not say it is a happy ending, but it is satisfying. Sure you might wish for something more horrible to happen to two vile characters, but the one gruesome karma moment is pretty damn great. That whole scene is played out so realistically, it surprises me. The truck driver acts like a real person might when suddenly confronted by the insanity we have had half an hour to get used to. To quote a later horror film, "Go. Stay on the road." Sally responds to her actual moment of security with the kind of laughter we sometimes give during a horror film, relief and uncontrolled insanity. 

Thursday, October 19, 2023

KAMAD Throwback Thursdays 1975: Tommy

 Throwback Thursday #TBT

Throwback Thursday on the KAMAD site will be a regular occurrence in the next year. As a motivational project, to make sure I am working on something, even in a week where I don't see a new film in a theater, I am going to post on movies from 1975. Along with 1984, this is one of my favorite years for movies and it is full of bittersweet memories as well. 1975 was my Senior Year in High School and my Freshman Year in College. The greatest film of the last 60 years came out in 1975, as well as dozens of great and not so great cinematic endeavors. Most of the films in this weekly series will have been seen in a theater in 1975, but there are several that I only caught up with later. I hope you all enjoy.


Reading comments on-line, people either love this movie or hate it. The work of collaborators Peter Townsend and Ken Russell has turned The Who's Rock Opera, "Tommy" into a motion picture and it does not lack for audacity or bombast. This is an in-your-face collection of 1970s excess from a director who was known for his excesses and a producer who would later give us another even more hated Rock Opera based on Beatles songs. Robert Stigwood was a record mogul who became a movie producer and is responsible for some of the biggest hits and flops in musical films of the 70s and 80s. Director Russel might have been willing to live with lesser artists, but Stigwood encouraged the excess by holding out for Elton John and Jack Nicolson to join the cast of this film. This was a confluence of egos that created a visual assault on the audience that can still be felt 48 years later.

Oh, count me in the loves the movie category.

A parable about family secrets creating a cult of personality, "Tommy" is a social satire par excellence. Avariciousness, idolatry, drug use, sexual mores  and more, all come in for some bashing with humor and style. Is it excessive at times? Yes, but it is also imaginative, invigorating and fun. Roger Daltry plays Tommy, the boy who has a psychosomatic condition that cause him to be blind deaf and unable to speak.  Daltry must have performed the opera hundreds of times as a member of The Who and now he he  gets to act as well as sing the part. I personally prefer the sound of the album version of the music, but the soundtrack here is quite good, adding as it does, a variety of other artists to interpret the songs, including some who are not noted for their singing.

The sequence with Eric Clapton as the Preacher, at a temple that worships Marylin Monroe as a deity, capable of performing miracles,  is one of the most disturbing conflations of ideas about pop culture that I have ever seen. The dancers who trudge down the aisles wearing a ceramic version of the face they worship is creepy as all heck.  Clapton's low key vocals are hypnotic as the rhythms entice the faithful to kiss the feet and peek up the skirts of an effigy to their object of adoration.  This is like a tent show healer without the fire and brimstone but rather the soothing melody of hypnosis as a solution to your problems.

Every few minutes in the film is a set piece highlighting the work of another guest star. Tina Turner dazzles as the Acid Queen and Russell has visualized an Iron Maiden of hypodermic needles to hive us nightmares. Add to that a mirrored split screen and some psychedelic lighting effects and the influence of the director's madness is evident. The show stopper tune however, is the "Pinball Wizard" contest, pitting blind, deaf and dumb kid Daltry,  against a rock icon of the era, never noted for subtlety, Elton John. The audience in the scene is equally frantic and when the Pinball Wizard falls, and is carried out by his oversized boots, you should be getting a great laugh.

Oliver Reed and Jack Nicolson both sang their own parts, although they are not singers. Reed is mostly bullying himself through the process with a gruff voice pushed to short bursts of trying to stay in tune. Nicolson would not be putting out a Christmas album, but he acquits himself very nicely in a short scene where his eyebrows interact with Ann-Margret most effectively. Speaking of Ann-Margaret, she was nominated for Best Actress for this part and I have seen a number of people question that nomination. I think it was perfectly justified, she does all the heavy lifting of the songs that have to hold the narrative together. Her character also has almost as elaborate a story arc as Tommy himself. If  you pay attention, you will see that it is not only the scene with the beans, bubbles an chocolate that she throws herself into. She is energetic as all get out in a number of other moments and she is also very poignant at times. It's best that she did not win, but being in the mix was certainly reasonable.

If you are looking for additional Ken Russell moments, watch the "I'm Free" number, where Daltry swims, runs, tumbles and flies in a kinetic montage while singing one of the best loved songs from the work.  Also, the reverse climax of the film which returns us to the long overture segment of the movie is really quite clever. This film is bursting in inventiveness but it is not always tasteful or coherent, which may account for why some people hate the film. It was a huge success when it was released in the spring of 1975, and that is when I first saw it. My memory is that I saw it at the Academy Theater in Pasadena. Today I watched it on a DVD that I burned from my Laserdisc years ago. 

The cast, the music and the costumes, and scenery make this a perfect snapshot of 1975. 

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night and [•REC] A Twofer during Panic! at the Paramount


A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Two more films during the "Panic! at the Paramount" Halloween Screenings, although technically, this should be "Panic! at the State". since they played next door at the State Theater. This was anot a double feature, but two separate shows, although I suspect many in attendance had done what we did, just plan on going to both.

"A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night" is a vampire film, set in Iran but filmed in Southern California. Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour, it tells the story of a dying town that is being drained of life by drugs and a vampire. In this case it is a lonely vampire woman. She seems to be able to be selective about her victims and chooses criminals, drug users and homeless people to feed on. All the while she is intrigued by the others she sees living in the area. She lives in an apartment filled with pop culture refernces on the walls and she listens to music that she has taken from some of her victims as she dwells on her life, alone in the dingy surroundings of the flat and her neighborhood. The idea that we might sympathize with a vampire who kills people is not new, neither is the perceived loneliness of such a life. That perspective was cover pretty well by  Tony Scott's "The Hunger".

Before we even meet the vampire however, we encounter Arash, a young man who seems to start the film by stealing a cat, and then proceeds to become more sympathetic in spite of his light fingered tendencies. Some of what motivates him is that he is caring for his father, a heroin addict incapable of doing anything other than remembering the past and shooting up his next dose of medicine. Deeply in debt to his pusher, a pimp who styles himself after the chic Eurotrash he wants to live like, Arash's father allows his son to shoulder the responsibility and the pimp takes his prized possession, his car. The car becomes a keystone in the story, later bringing together an aging prostitute, the vampire and Arash himself.

The film does seem to meander a bit, but most of that is establishing the environment and circumstances of the characters. The horror elements are very limited, with the creepy apparition of the Girl, appearing in the background and sometimes following other characters in the story. The Girl wears a Chador over more Western dress, so that when she is seen in public she simply seems to be a compliant woman, but when we see her in her apartment and at the party later, she is anything but that. Maybe there is some commentary implied about the rules that people live under in Iran, although it appears that there is plenty of privilege for those with means. 

Stylishly shot in Black and White, the film creates a foreboding atmosphere without ever provoking fear, just some anxiety. Lighting and shadow effects are used well to draw attention to some emotional points, and the sadness that permeates "Bad City", the town they occupy. My favorite scene in the movie occurs when Arash, dressed as Dracula for a party, drunkenly encounters the girl and the start of their relationship is funny as well as disconcerting. I'd seen this film before, but this was the first theatrical screening for me and I think, as usual, that the theater environment enhances the film in every way. 


This is a Spanish horror film that was remade in the U.S. as Quarantine. I never saw the remake and this was a first time watch for me. In essence this is a found footage film, since all of the content is recorded on a video camera by an operator we know as Pablo but who we never really see. The film starts out as an episode of a television program, that looks at everyday experiences. Ángela, is a reporter for this lifestyle news program and she is following a Fire Department crew on their nightly routine. Of course the experience turns out to be anything but routine.

Made up of edits and segments that would normally be culled down to a minimal running time, the realistic nature of the film technique enhances the excitement in the movie and it brings up the terror factor very effectively. We are only seeing what Ángela and her cameraman are able to record, hence the title of the film. She is committed to getting the truth out when dangerous things start happening in an apartment building that the fire crew has been called to. A Mysterious aliment seems to have befallen an elderly woman living on the top floor of the building, but anyone who has seen a zombie movie before, has a good idea of what is coming.

As the stakes get higher, outside authorities have closed off and sealed the building, refusing to let the occupants, the news team or the firefighters and cops inside to exit. Life threating injuries are being neglected and Ángela wants to document that neglect and find out the reasons. So often in movies, the reporters are annoying obstacles that are used for exposition and then treated as humor or fodder for the rest of the story. This film treats the press a little more fairly, although we do see that the two person team is deliberately ignoring the directions of the police during the events. 

The action scenes are quick but the after effects are shown in gruesome detail to make the film more horrifying. Towards the end of the film, we switch to a night vision viewpoint on the video camera because the power seems to have gone off in the building and at that point people are sequestering themselves inside the already sequestered building. There is a strange explanation of what might have originated the contagion causing people to become hyper aggressive monsters, but by the time those explanations arrive, they are irrelevant, except to set up a final sequence.

 [•REC] is an excellent example of both the found footage style of film making, but also the modern version of a zombies story. Actress Manuela Velasco has to carry much of the weight of the film as the on screen reporter who is essentially directing the movie by pointing her camera operator in the right directions. She does a great job of selling the character as a woman who knows the limits of her job, until push comes to shove and she levels up. This was a real discovery for me and highly [rec]ommended.  

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Pearl and X Double Feature Panic! at the Paramount


These were my two favorite films last year. I treat them a bit like I do the Lord of the Rings films, they are a piece and should always be connected to one another. Getting a chance to see both of them on the bog screen again was fantastic, and delightfully, they are shown as the story chronologically, not in how they reached the audience the first time around. I am not the only one with high praise for the films, the Paramount's main programmer Stephen Jannise, said as much when he introduced the program on Saturday night.

The audience was packed and it was a great surprise to see that more than half of the people attending indicated that this was going to be a first time watch for them. Listening to the laughter and the sound of breath being held, the audience got the picture. It sure sounded like they were responding appropriately. Having just reviewed these films last year, I will skip most of the critical analysis and direct you to those two reviews. "X" was the first to be released. It is the one set in 1979 and it owes everything to the Drive-In exploitation films of the era. Later this week we will be seeing the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and it would be a good companion piece to watch if you want a sense of the tone of films from this period.

"Pearl" is the prequel that came after the star and director created such an elaborate backstory for the character in X, that they had basically created another movie. More ambitious in story than "X", and although she does not get to play two roles in the film like she did in "X", Mia Goth simply takes your breathe away with the strength of her performance. If you want to be disturbed by a character, you could just skip to the credits at the end of this movie watch her smile for four or five minutes straight. It is as eerie as anything in that other horror film from the same month "Smile".

Watching the films in chronological order is not essential, but it does make the events of "X" a lot more understandable. Howard as a character is the one who seems to have changed the most in the sixty years between the events. If there is ever going to be a spinoff series, his story arc would probably be the place to start. Of course we are all anticipating the third film in the "X" universe. Maxxxine is currently in post production, for a release sometime next year.  Naturally, I'd hoped somehow that we would get the first drop of the trailer for that film, sadly it was not to be. There was an odd performance by a local drag celebrity prior to the first film, it seems to have been inspired by "Pearl" even if it was not particularly organic.

The Paramount did a nice job setting up some photo ops for fans. We of course took advantage and here are a few of the pictures.

Here is the teaser trailer for Maxxxine that ran at the end of "Pearl" in it's original release, but not last Saturday at the Panic! at the Paramount screening.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour Concert Film


I am not a Swiftie by any stretch of the imagination. I enjoyed several of her early recordings in a casual way but I have never listened to a whole album except in the car when being played by my daughter who is a big fan. She actually attended two of the L.A. Concerts that this movie was made from, and I suspect seeing this film is a way to reconnect with that experience as well as putting more money into Taylor Swift's bank account. The idea of five shows at a sold out SoFi Stadium is impressive, that's well over a quarter of a million people seeing this in the one venue. I remember when Led Zeppelin did six shows at the nearby Forum back in the seventies and that seemed like an impressive number.  The experience though has to be extremely different.

The idea of covering different periods of her musical journey is a good one, I was a little surprised that it was not chronological, but there may be a reason for that. Of the ten albums that she features in the show, the strongest songs are from the middle and early years, although I did appreciate a few bits that take place in the final album, I think the songs work much more effectively in a live show than they did in the car. When listening to her while driving, the latest period of her music sounds faceless, tuneless and lacking melody. On stage, with a dance troop, visual effects, and a lot more personality in the presentation, they came off pretty well.

Visually, the concert experience was incredibly ambitious, with an elaborate stage, proscenium and background sets, there was a lot to look at. The stage floor as well as the proscenium extending out on the field of the stadium, are integrated with video feeds that constantly change and reflect the songs or eras that are being performed. My favorite visual moment took place when she appears to dive right into the floor below her and can he seen moving as if under the surface of the water until she emerges, complete with costume change at the other end of the outcrop. Sections of the stage raise and lower depending on what is called for and they contain dance sequences, pantomimes and sets that make up what comes across as the world's most elaborate cabaret act. 

Maybe the filming of the concert draws attention to a mild weakness from my point of view. There are way too many dance sequences that consist of Taylor Swift, flanked by her primary dancers, walking in synchronized steps down toward the front of the proscenium. Often they have the detached facial expressions of models on a runway but in a more martial formation and maybe a little too ponderous. If it happened only seven or eight times I might not have cared, but by the middle of the film I had had my fill of this particular choreography. Had I been in the stadium, I doubt that this would have bothered me, but it seems like director Sam Wench is in love with that shot and uses it whenever there is nothing else to focus on.

Taylor Swift herself is working her butt off to make the show come alive. I don't think she has a personality that is compelling enough to hold us by itself, but she does have the dance moves down, and she maximizes movement and vocal performance for the best effect possible. When she just addresses the crowd, I think she is sincere but not compelling and she is much better when she plays or sings. The band does appear in a couple of numbers, but for the most part they are sequestered to the side of the stage, hidden from view like the orchestra at a Broadway musical or an opera. For my money, her best moments were during the acoustical set when she is just playing the guitar and singing and is not trying out for a part in the latest Circe de solei extravaganza in Vegas. Some of the moments in the show reminded me of a skit being put on to a record in the background, but other set pieces worked really well. The dancers in the cubicals that descend to the stage, that was great. The dinner table song with a solo dancer acting out a break up dinner date seemed trite. 

The show looks great and the high definition photography enhances all the sets and costumes. All of the dancers were excellent and I noticed that they often came in various sizes so that was a nice plus. The back up singers provide terrific support but ultimately it is Taylor Swift you have to love to love the movie. She has many moments where her voice does make an impact, but there were a lot of numbers, especially in the first half of this nearly three hour production, where she is letting the dancing do all the work. Taylor Swift fans will love the movie, movie fans will appreciate the technical aspects and sound quality. 

By the way, I saw this with an audience full of Taylor Swift Fans. They were exchanging friendship bracelets, they were decked out in clubbing attire, and they stood up and danced in the movie theater during several moments in the film. So it really enhanced the "live" vibe of the movie. I don't know if the film will play as well without the fan enthusiasm.  If they can keep up that energy level for forty more days, maybe they can knock that "Barbie" monstrosity off the top perch of films for the year. 

It probably won't happen but it would make me feel better about the movie going public if it did. 

Thursday, October 12, 2023

KAMAD Throwback Thursdays 1975: The Day of the Locust

Throwback Thursday #TBT

Throwback Thursday on the KAMAD site will be a regular occurrence in the next year. As a motivational project, to make sure I am working on something, even in a week where I don't see a new film in a theater, I am going to post on movies from 1975. Along with 1984, this is one of my favorite years for movies and it is full of bittersweet memories as well. 1975 was my Senior Year in High School and my Freshman Year in College. The greatest film of the last 60 years came out in 1975, as well as dozens of great and not so great cinematic endeavors. Most of the films in this weekly series will have been seen in a theater in 1975, but there are several that I only caught up with later. I hope you all enjoy.

Day of the Locust

Well it turns out there was a reason I never rushed to see this film when it came out in 1975. "The Day of the Locust" is a dour, black hearted takedown of the Hollywood Dream and by association the American Dream. It is showered in technical excellence in performances, production design and cinematography, but it is also lathered up by the most vile version of failed movie people you are likely to see this side of "Babylon". At least this film avoids the elephant shit. 

One of the reasons I never followed up on the film is that I could never get a sense of what it was about. Maybe I missed the trailers because the one above is pretty direct in saying it is the underside of Hollywood that we are going to see. Look, I know that there was a dark side to the Golden Age, there are always flip sides to any story. It's just there there is almost no one that you care about in the story, so whatever tragic outcome shows up will probably be met with indifference. Donald Sutherland is listed as the first lead in the movie and he does not appear for three quarters of an hour into what we see on screen. Meanwhile, we are introduced to a strange relationship that never takes on the quality it needs to make us want to know more about the two figures who are really at the center of the picture. William Atherton may have the most sympathetic role of his career here. He is notoriously the obnoxious prick in 80s comedies and action films. Maybe he is more sympathetic as a terrorist on the Hindenburg than here, because his character literally tries to rape a woman, and then apologize for it. So Drunken Rapist or murderer against the Nazi Airship, which one is the most appealing character? This was probably his biggest role and he is very good in it, but again, it is hard to feel sorry for people who are so obliviously self destructive. 

Karen Black, is the star of the film, playing Faye Greener, an aspiring actress who is struggling to get extra work, and lives with her aging vaudeville performer father played by Burgess Meredith. Faye is a character who seems like she could be appealing to start with, but she rapidly is revealed as a potential gold-digger,  and she certainly is aware of the effect she has on the men around her. She is self centered and leads Atherton's character as well as Sutherland and Bo Hopkins and Pepe Serna on for most of the movie. She is mercurial and insecure and thoughtless to the men in her life. You almost sympathize with Atherton's Tod when he does assault her. Maybe we could have more sympathy when she is forced to resort to prostitution, except she is such a bitch to everyone around her that it seems like maybe she has found her real niche.

Fecklessness thy name is Homer Simpson. Not the cartoon character, but the Sutherland role in the film. As a lonely man, maybe a cloistered homosexual, he has difficulty relating to others and when Faye latches on to him, it's like watching a cat play with a mouse. The incongruity of their relationship and her continued connection to Tod is simply befuddling. No one is getting what they want from any of the connections they are forming. Everyone feels like an object of pity. Little Person actor Billy Barty is aggressively confrontational in what is likely to be the biggest role of his career, and Burgess Meredith pushes the pity button but also is cloyingly cliched. 

Director  John Schlesinger has mounted a admirable visualization of old Hollywood, finding the homes in the hills to shoot scenes at, constructing moments of behind the camera elements for the work being done at a studio, and working with Cinematographer Conrad Hall, to produce a soft focus view of the corruption we are seeing on the screen. The work earned him a well deserved Academy Award nomination. Schlesinger's collaborator on previous films, Editor Jim Clark, probably needed to find a way to make the story flow a little faster, although his work on the two best scenes in the film is excellent. 

Those scenes that will remain with me, as the highlights of this movie, include an on set disaster during the making of a Napoleonic War film, and the extremely disturbing climax of the picture. Novelist Nathaniel West, on whose book this movie is based, clearly was down on the American dream and his nightmarish vision of the culture is embodied in the climax of the film where a character murders a child, is subsequently murdered by a mob, all of this taking place at the site of the most lavish of images from the 1930 depression era, a Hollywood Movie Premiere. The satire and cynicism in the two scenes is not subtle, but both sequences are staged very effectively and I think would justify a viewing of this film, if you can put up with the dark side of the Golden Age of Hollywood. 

[I watched this on a cropped laserdisc version, not the ideal aspect ratio]