Monster Bites - Explorers on the Moon

BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE (1959)

There are lot of fan favourites in the Toho back catalogue, but in some way this is one of their truly archetypal releases. Alien threats, rocket ships, people landing on extra-terrestrial landscapes; it's all exactly what you'd expect from a 1950s science fiction B-movie. It also has a lot of other elements to enjoy from the essential Akira Ikufube military music to all the miniature destruction - this time on a global scale. As an Earth versus the invaders effects feature I'd certainly recommend it over Ishirō Honda's better know but far shakier effort The Mysterians, made just two years before this. However as a film on its own terms it's not all totally classic genre material.


Monster Bites - Smog Hog

GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH (1971)

Oh boy, where to begin. Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster as it's also know has quite a reputation. Hated by the studio and known by fans as a mix of ecological edutainment and trippy '70s musical scenes, this is a strange movie to say the least. But is it any worse than the two subsequent outings featuring things like World Children's Land and Seatopia? Is it more child friendly than the ones where Godzilla fought a giant lobster or did a victory dance on Planet X? Overall, probably not. Is it much better? I suppose it's debatable. However it has to be said that the bizarre score and the addition of animated scenes is a bit puzzling. Maybe unique is the kindest description I can give it. But that's not to say there isn't some entertainment value to be found.


Monster Bites - Spirits Within

YOKAI MONSTERS: 100 MONSTERS (1968)

There are quite a few popular films surrounding Japanese folk lore such as the ghosts and curses seen in Ju On and Ring. However here we'll take a look at something different, and the idea of a weirder kind of apparition. There's an entire range of supernatural creatures out there in this category, with examples to be found in films like Isao Takahata's classic animated film Pom Poko. You can spend days reading about this sort of thing. However our subject here is also a tale of greedy land owners who plan to smash up a village and throw people on the streets to build a profitable business. There's a lot of feudal drama mixed with a weird atmosphere as the spirits from traditional stories being told by candlelight start to appear in the real world.


Monster Bites - Atomic

GODZILLA (1984)

Also known as The Return of Godzilla to avoid confusing it with the 1954 original, the first reboot of the series ignores all those madcap adventures involving Rodan and Jet Jaguar opting instead to be a direct sequel. Which means they skip over the big guy becoming a protector of the planet Earth, and choose to revert him back into a purely malevolent force of nature. This parred back approach might not seem like the best idea after all those stories aimed at pleasing family audiences, however this is certainly the strongest entry in the series since the '60s. It's also nice that the original cut is available on home video so we can discuss the intended version and forever avoid any sign of Raymond Burr and the Pepsi logo.


Monster Bites - Mysterious Islands

DOUG MCCLURE'S LOST WORDS (1975-1979)

Time for a small series review albeit a rather loosely connected one, as these are linked by the star Doug McClure and the director Kevin Connor rather than any actual narrative threads. Yes that's right, you might remember him from such films as The Land that Time Forgot, At the Earth's Core, and Warlords of Atlantis. What titles, and what poster art! But do these films really hold up, and do the events on the posters even appear in the films? Luckily for us they're available together as a boxed set so we can easily find out. Let's dive right into a series of stories obsessed with lost civilisations, secret islands and muppets posing as dinosaurs.

Horror Bites - Thrill Me

NIGHT OF THE CREEPS (1986)

Nothing quite says the '80s like a mashup of weird ideas, horror, comedy and science fiction. The neon opening credits accompanied by a score from Barry De Vorzon certainly helps things along. Like Monster Squad this is another iteration of director Fred Dekker's idea to bring a whole bunch of influences into one film, in this case b-movie clichés. So this is zombie story that also includes a prologue involving both a space ship sequence and a serial killer, before it moves into college pranks and then the parasitic creatures right out of Shivers. Throw in a grizzled detective and a bunch of great practical effects and hey a good time starts to form. With so much going on not everything works, but as I'll discuss here it doesn't always matter.

Review Roundup - Cat Power

BLACK PANTHER (2018)

With the Marvel hero roster slowly building up to a bursting point it's always a little concerning when they reel things back in to tell yet another origin story. It feels like a sidewards step and raises questions when certain characters are absent later on. However the introduction of regal warrior T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) was certainly a highlight during the earlier Captain America adventure, and my similar concerns with Spider-Man: Homecoming proved to be unwarranted. Would my scepticism be warranted here or is this another hit? If anything this avoids being a mid-tier by the numbers spectacle like Ant-Man, but as a film it's aims are more complex and requires further examination.


Monster Bites - Growing on You

MATANGO (1963)

Like a lot of oldschool Toho movies there's something that gets lost when they're given another title. Names like Fungus of Terror and... Attack of the Mushroom People. Oh brother. In most cases of course these would probably be quite apt, but here it's not quite a good fit for the material at hand. Ishirō Honda had just finished Godzilla vs. King Kong marking the big fella's first foray into full colour. However this is a drastic change of pace in terms of the tone and the overall style. At its core this is still island mystery b-movie and a film about people eating mushrooms that have some very bad side effects. But it's certainly not another light hearted monster romp.


Monster Bites - Under the Sea

LATITUDE ZERO (1969)

Time for a change of pace as we move away from monsters and suitmation, and into absurd sci-fi and fantasy. Where else can you find Cesar Romero and Joseph Cotten in a battle to rule an undersea kingdom? That's not to say this is lacking creature effects of course, but this is more of an adventure film than the usual disaster spectacles from Toho. Although at the same time it does still include a lot of Ishirō Honda's favourite themes about scientific research gone amok. Even if they spell his name wrong in the English opening credits you can tell it's definitely one of his features with all the lurid colour schemes and the focus on gadgets and secret islands. Let's dive into this tale of submarines and hybrid monsters.


Review Roundup - No Pain no Gain

SUMMER SPECIAL

Yes that's right, sunny days are here again. Which of course means it's time for sitting in the dark with the curtains closed to sit through plenty of ultra absurd, ultra violent foreign movies. What else were you expecting? Many years ago my mind was twisted forever after an explosion of DVD releases from the likes of CineAsia and Tartan that included such exciting and deranged classics as Oldboy, Versus and Battle Royale. It was a brain twisting eye opener to say the least, and something that meant I'd forever have an interest in this sort of world cinema. Halcyon days or blood soaked nightmares? Perhaps both and more. Let's take a look at a few movies in this vein.


Short Film Safari - BARTKIRA

Monster Bites - Old Stony Face

DAIMAJIN (1966)

Daimajin also known as Majin, Monster of Terror, is a lesser know blend of samurai drama and giant living statue movie. Daiei Films, best know for their Gamera series produced this at a time when their own features (and those of rival studio Toho) where starting to get a lot sillier. But be prepared for a full on story of feudal warlords and forced labour camps - the stone idol only starts to come to life during the last ten minutes. Is it all worth the wait? Is all the plotting and all the debate about disrespecting the gods building to something great? The short answer is yes. This is actually one of the best in the daikaiju genre, worlds apart from its contemporaries in more ways than one.


Horror Bites - Guess Who's Back?

BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY'S TOMB (1971)

Part of the Great Cinematic Catharsis Hammer-Amicus Blogathon


There are certain Hammer horror films that I tend to forget about over time, and then every so often they come to mind and I think hey, I'll give that another go. With a title as evocative as this how could you not? Well unfortunately this is another case of the name being better than the movie, in the same way the names of their Dracula and Frankenstein sequels got more catchy as the films got worse. It shouldn't be the case since like their other Mummy features this isn't part of a continuing narrative at all. It's not borrowing from the Universal series either this time. But despite it featuring familiar faces such as Andrew Keir and having a plot taken from a Bram Stoker story, things never really work the way they should. Let's take a peek inside the burial chamber and see what sort of rot lies in wait...


Scorecard

MAY


FILM OF THE MONTH Godzilla 1984 ☆☆☆☆
A Better Tomorrow ☆☆☆☆
Some Like it Hot ☆☆☆☆
The Golden Voyage of Sinbad ☆☆☆☆
Avengers: Infinity War ☆☆☆☆
Captain America: The Winter Soldier ☆☆☆☆
Daimajin ☆☆☆☆
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol2 ☆☆☆☆
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol ☆☆☆☆
Mission: Impossible ☆☆☆☆
Iron Man ☆☆☆☆