Film Diary: March

I’m now at 130 movies for the year. If I keep up this pace I’ll wind up seeing 520, well above my goal of a one per day average. Looks like I can cut back and spend more time writing!

Lots of horror, as usual. Ghosts, werewolves, werespiders, giant radioactive bugs, zombies, bats, and golems. “The Man Who Laughs” and “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde” were made in the silent era, although “The Man Who Laughs” was released with an optional soundtrack of incidental music and crowd sounds. They’re impressively made. John Barrymore is simply astounding as Hyde, and despite some peculiar changes from the source it was a good flick. “The Man Who Laughs” was a bit of a mess, I thought, but the dental prosthetic was an astounding effect. Not only did the film inspire the look of Batman’s iconic foe The Joker, but the more expressionist sets established the eerie fable look Universal horror for the next few decades.

I saw a number of movies to further my research for The Web of the Big Damn Spider. Some of these were harder to get ahold of, so it was a thrill to set my greedy eyes on them. “Lunatics: A Love Story” had my favorite giant spider — a fairly good stop-motion effect — as well as scenes of Bruce Campbell and Ted Raimi attacking each other. “The Cosmic Monsters” was just a super-imposed close-up, which was frankly disappointing. Hammer’s “The Devil Rides Out” at least had the decency to use a tarantula in its super-imposed effect. It also had the audacity to fix everything with time travel, which was so insulting I had to applaud it for its disdain.

The biggest let-down of the month was “Daisies”, a Czech film from the 60s. I’d seen lots of images from it, and it looked absolutely nuts. It was. It was also determinedly off-putting and amounted to pretty much nothing. The visuals are striking, though. I’m left with a small handful of unmatched movies in the Criterion set that contained it. Like my BBS set I got for “Head”, it might just languish for a while more.

To wrap up on a happier note, I saw all three Shaft movies. “Shaft” was good stuff, and I could see why it made a splash. It’s immediate cash-in “Shaft’s Big Score” was okay but felt very much like a rushed cash-in. The following years “Shaft in Africa” was a goddamn hoot and should earn an honorary Oscar for Badassery. Not only was it a perfect blend of ridiculous fun and action, but it had the political awareness to address topics like female circumcision in the early 70s. Granted it was a set up for Shaft’s offer to show the woman what she’ll be missing, but still…

Anyway, here’s everything I watched. Yes, Lilo & Stitch is a repeat. It’s just a great movie!

Bad Milo! (2013)
Beast Beneath (2011)
Beyond the Time Barrier (1960)
Black Narcissus (1947)
The Blade Master (1984)
Brain Dead (1990)
Buried Alive (2007)
Contracted (2013)
The Cosmic Monsters, aka The Strange World of Planet X (1958)
Crawlspace (2012)
Curse of the Black Widow (1977)
Daisies (1966)
Dark Wolf (2003)
A Dead Calling (2006)
The Devil Rides Out (1968)
Do or Die (1991)
Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze (1975)
Doghouse (2009)
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)
Evil Remains, aka Trespassing (2004)
Fear Island (2009)
Fingerprints (2006)
Forget Me Not (2009)
The Frankenstein Theory (2013)
Gamera vs. Gyaos, aka Return of the Monsters (1967)
Guns (1990)
Hard Hunted (1992)
Haunter (2013)
House (2008)
In the Electric Mist (2009)
Intruders (2011)
Lilo & Stitch (2002)
Lovely Molly (2012)
Lunatics: A Love Story (1991)
The Man Who Laughs (1928)
Munger Road (2011)
Nomads (1986)
The Quatermass Conclusion (1979)
Screamtime (1983)
Shaft (1971)
Shaft’s Big Score (1972)
Shaft in Africa (1973)
Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
Starship Troopers: Invasion (2012)
Times Square (1980)
Vampire Bats (2005)
The Weight of Water (2000)