MOD Roundup: GOG, VISION QUEST, PAC-MAN and more
In the age of extras packed BluRays shelling out twenty bucks (twenty-five by the time you figure in shipping) for a barebones MOD DVD might seem a little less than fun. But cine-nuts like us should be happy the studios have responded to flagging sales of DVD's by launching these programs. Dozens of movies that would have never seen the light of day have become available in an age and I have to say I've been generally happy with the quality of the stuff I've received. So many great titles are now available that it would make a serious dent in my budget to try and keep up with the stuff I'd like to get. And all of this comes at a dangerous time.
Hear something in the wind? We may be fast approaching a time when physical product becomes a thing of the past. Want to watch Casablanca? Pay for it- every single time. Want a commentary? Pay more- every single time. Special features? Pay- every single time. Physical media will probably never completely disappear, but it could become a secondary delivery system or premium offered only to those willing to pony up bigger bucks. When that happens $20 bucks, even for a bare bones edition of a film you want to watch and OWN might not seem so bad. There are all sorts of ways this can play out but given the film and TV industries penchant for draconian measures in protecting individual copyright my money is currently on a less than ideal scenario emerging for collectors and those who have thus far enjoyed a golden age of relatively cheap self-education when it comes to America's rich movie heritage.
Made in 1954 Gog tops my MOD roundup because of several things. For one it is an absolutely definitive example of fifties sci-fi. For all the cheesy giant bugs and flying saucers that people associate with the era there are also many examples of thought provoking sci-fi rooted in the not so distant future. The Monolith Monsters (1957), Space Children (1954) and this nifty made on a shoestring killer robot/computer flick. Still another reason it should top of the list it is because of it's historical importance Gog was filmed in widescreen technicolor 3-D and, though screened almost exclusively flat (it came out at the tail end of the floundering fad) it is one of the better 3-D films from the period.
The cast and crew also bare special mention. Herbert Marshall is best known as the inspector from The Fly , and William Schallert (The Man from Planet X , Invasion USA , The Incredible Shrinking Man ) was one of the best known character actors of his generation.
Director Herbert L. Strock was an important genre figure helming such projects as I Was A Teenage Frankenstein (1957), Blood of Dracula (1957), How To Make A Monster (1958), The Devil's Messenger (1961)and The Crawling Hand (1963), none of which were particularly good films but all of which were widely seen and shaped how people saw the horror and sci-fi of the times. Coupled with his directing of many episodes of The Veil and Science Fiction Theater TV series it's fair to say he's worthy of note. As is, producer Ivan Tors, who was just starting his career here but who went on to become a prominent producer, writer.
My brother was a video game junkie way back in the day. I visited him once when I doing research on video game culture and was astonished to find that in addition to the dozen or so platforms and six hundred games he had collected he had also found, online, ?thousands? of old arcade games that had been converted for download and purchase. These days that is no big deal at all. But it an impressive testament to his devotion back then. Needless to say Pac-Man The Complete First Season will get his full attention and purchase. But what about you? Does one have to be a die-hard gamer or old enough to revisit for nostalgia's sake? Nope. Any fan of animation or voice over artistry in general should have a peek at the voice cast behind this show. An astonishing array of talent was brought to bear on this simpler than simple little kiddie show. Mention of Marty Ingels, Chuck McCann, or Frank Welker barely scratch the surface here. Look those names up in IMDB or wikipedia and then just go through the cast list of Pac-Man to learn about the rest. Amazing. The show looks good here. You get all the episodes from season one on two discs. No extras. The show only ran two seasons so completists can probably expect to see a finish here. But there are two TV specials that will hopefully be included as extras next time around.
WHAT DO YOU SAY TO A NAKED LADY?
For director Allen Funt the motive behind this questionable question is less prurient than whimsical. Funt, the progenitor of reality TV with his brilliant Candid Camera TV series branched out briefly into the movies with this racier version of the same concept in 1970. The idea is to spring the unexpected or outrageous on the unsuspecting and capture it all on film. In the show it involved crazy practical jokes like replacing real bowling pins with glass ones and watching the astonishment on peoples faces as the ball crashed through them. In the movie Funt splices a series of surprisingly frank discussions of human sexuality with staged appearances by naked actors in public situations- with pretty predictable results. It's really dated, mildly amusing and not nearly as dirty as all those kids in the video store hoped it would be.
This fun little time waster plays almost like an abandoned Joe Dante project. Sense of playful adventure? Check. Monsters? Check. Uncomplicated bad guys? Colorful character actors in roles that allow them free rein to play? Yup. I could go on but you get the drift. Set in 1944 the film follows a group of American GI's who discover an alien spaceship while they are trapped behind enemy lines in Italy. Expect to grin, a lot. Zone Troopers also manages to rip off music cues from Star Wars (specifically Vader's theme) which is all the more grin inducing considering it actually has a pretty fun score. The film also uses In The Mood as a theme. Cheap laser effects sealed the deal for me. Also Chief among the charms here is genre stalwart Tim Thomerson whose slightly campy dog jawed determination fits the role of "The Sarge" perfectly. But then again casting is everything here. Art LaFleur plays Mittens a krusty but honorable soldier type to perfection. LaFleur's credits are literally mind boggling. He has had a career that leaps across genre and has, very often, stolen scenes from some of Hollywood's best and brightest. Timothy Van Patten, well known these days as a director for a host of hit TV series such as Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, and The Pacific even has a minor role as a young recruit named Joey.
THE BED SITTING ROOM
Director Richard Lester is best known as the man who made A Hard Days Night (1964) and Help (1965). ext up on the average cinephiles radar might be The Three Musketeers (1973) or even A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To The Forum (1966). Superman II also figures in there somewhere, although it's hard to credit Lester without also giving Richard Donner major recognition leaving Lester in the dreaded position of "fixer". Yet Lester also made some wonderfully surreal satires that belie his eventual move into the mainstream. How I Won The War (1967) has already seen the light of day on MGM MOD. Now it's time for viewers to experience the decidedly strange post apocalyptic comedy The Bed Sitting Room. Made in 1969 the film tells the story of a group of Brits bent on survival even as they wander the radiated wasteland and are mutated into other forms. Besides Ralph Richardson, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore the film features a bunch of highly recognizable British character actors.
How could I NOT request an MOD of a movie called Ghost Warrior about a 400 year old samurai warrior who is thawed out and brought back to life in the modern US where he is predictably experimented on, escapes, cuts people with his sword and meets a tragic end for not being white. The above sentence makes as much sense than the movie it describes but I also hope it captures some of the twonky spirit of this 1986 so bad it's good gem. Ghost Warrior is the only directorial credit of J. Larry Carroll. Carroll was better known as the writer of such memorable badness as Tourist Trap (1979) and countless TV shows including the animated 80's versions of Ghostbusters, Dennis The Menace and She-Ra: Princess of Power. Playing Yoshimitsu the samurai is Hiroshi Fujioka. Hiroshi had a solid career before this appearance having starred in the Kamen Raida TV series through the 70's. He has since gone to become a leading voice over artist and appears in recent hits like The World Sinks Except Japan (2006) and the highly underrated Ten Nights of Dreams (2006). In fact it would be easy to spend almost the entire film playing spot the well known character actor.
Is it okay to love a movie that helped launch Madonna to superstardom? Crazy For You was the hit single for a film that was made when films had hit singles as a central part of their marketing. Not so much anymore. But then again most movies of this kind these days suck so bad not even Madonna or Kenny Loggins could save them. Vision Quest features a dynamic young Matthew Modine and an old school gorgeous Linda Fiorentino in her big screen debut. He's a young high school wrestler who wants more for his life who falls in love with an older drifter. Kitchen sink melodrama, albeit well-acted ensues. Sure it's easy to shelve this with Flashdance(1983), Footloose (1984) and St. Elmo's Fire (1985) but the truth is that any of those is more interesting than today's current crop of dance movies and teen romances.