Unexpectedly this starts the same way as The Terror, with a ship becoming icebound and seeing mysterious things on the ice, but this takes five minutes to get where Terror got in a couple hours. Dr. Kenneth Branagh Frankenstein is traveling to the ends of the earth to escape his creation, or something. Clearly this movie was an answer to Coppola’s Dracula, but Branagh turns in a faithful literary adaptation, one of those prestige pics where none of the actors are strictly bad in it, but the overall effect is weak. It’s nice when the camera whirls slowly through the middle of rooms during long conversations, anyway.

Also the monster can fly in this version

More than anything else, I liked this staircase:

After the framing story with Captain Aidan Quinn (In Dreams, the bad Handmaid’s Tale), Young Dr. Frank meets Helena Bonham Carter via family friend Ian Holm, then Frank’s mom passes away. “No one need ever die. I will stop this.” At school, Frank pals around with foolish Tom Hulce (Amadeus himself), challenges intolerant professor Robert Hardy (he starred in Demons of the Mind), and learns creepy secrets from John Cleese as Professor Snape, before the professor is murdered by anti-vaxxer Robert De Niro (no shit).

The classroom pet: a cursed monkey’s paw

The part where Frank floods the creature with amniotic fluid then releases electric eels into the chamber is the first thing worthy of Unbound, but Ken quickly goes too far into kookiness when the floor becomes slippy with fluid and nobody can stand up for a long minute, then Frank accidentally kills the monster through clumsiness and bad placement of ropes. But of course the monster survives, wanders off and bonds with a blind grandpa (Shakespeare specialist Richard Briers, also in Spice World). No orderly trial for Justine like in the previous movie, just mob violence. Helena B.C. is angry when Frank gets to work making a lady monster instead of planning their wedding, and even angrier when she’s murdered then wakes up as the lady monster.

John Hurt in the future year of 2031 creates an atomic weapon that disappears things into a time vortex, and as a side effect, causes time-storms. Hurt gets sucked into the past along with his silver Knight Rider-ass car (a 1988 Italdesign/Audi Aztec) ending up in 1817 Switzerland, running into Dr. Frankenstein and Mary Shelley and telling them he loves their yet-unpublished work.

Tooling around the 1810’s countryside in a futurecar:

Hurt wanders into court where Corman’s daughter is being unjustly accused of witchcraft, and tries to intervene. When writing letters doesn’t work, he grabs an axe and storm the gallows. This doesn’t work either, and the girl hangs, but it establishes Hurt as a good guy, so Mary has sex with him. Yes, Hurt is full of empathy and passion, the moral center of the movie, but wasn’t he just creating energy weapons that destabilized the universe?

Bridget Fonda and her pretty boys:

Finally the monster creates good mayhem, ripping some people apart and murdering Victor’s fiancee, looking like the DJ cenobite from Hellraiser III with the disc-shaped electrodes on sides of his head. Hurt zaps the castle, transporting them all to his own lab in a post-apocalyptic future, where he uses his hand-signal-operated lasers to burn up the monster.

I guess if you’re gonna adapt Frankenstein for the hundredth time, have some fun with it – this is the rare movie that would make a good double-feature with Gothic. The author also wrote the source book for A.I. Corman’s first credited directing gig in 20 years, and his last to date.

Myriam Cyr says “remember me from Gothic?”

Okay, I messed up… I had a couple of Frankenstein movies, one by Corman, so I thought I’d hold a weekend SHOCKtober triple-feature along with his William Shatner Esperanto demon movie. But I was thinking of Incubus (not by Corman), while Intruder is a social issues drama with Shatner as a rabble-rousing outsider trying to convince a Southern town to reject racial integration in schools.

Filmed in Missouri… where’d Corman find all these extras?

When Shatner arrives, he’s very pleasant to the locals, except for frequent, casual use of the n-word. Frank Maxwell (of the more seasonally appropriate The Haunted Palace) is the Only Good White Man, breaking up mobs with peaceful logic, while Shatner runs around making out with Frank’s teenage daughter and sleeping with the salesman’s wife next door. Accusations, setbacks, bombing and murder. I guess it all seems realistic until the townsfolk discover their sense of decency. Most interesting to me was that Shatner claims to represent “The Patrick Henry Society” since I’m staying in Patrick’s old neighborhood.

Embracing neighbor / church-burning:

A nice shock for Trek fans if this ever played on TV in the late 60’s:

Salesman next door was Leo Gordon of Riot in Cell Block 11, his wife from The Boston Strangler, the teenage daughter was in The Crawling Hand, and the rich guy who supports our intruder is from It’s Alive. Written by a Twilight Zone regular who also worked on Corman’s great Masque of the Red Death.

Stereo sound hard-panning left and right, songs cutting in and out, incomplete subtitles, footage warped and effected, recolored, switching to the wrong aspect ratios on purpose, speed-adjusted and frame-by-framed, interlacing, watermarks. He’s taking the “I invented the jump-cut” thing a little far, with an entire movie of technical errors.

Vertigo, Salo, L’Atalante, Alphaville, The Flowers of St. Francis, Freaks. Testament of Orpheus matched with Die Nibelungen. The Rules of the Game rabbit hunt. Paintings and late-era Scott Walker.

Doc footage of horrors to people and animals. Obviously there’s a point to distorting and mutating the film footage and in flipping between fictional and actual atrocities. “This is the law of destruction of the living. Every being must be sacrificed,” says gravel-voiced JLG, or at least that’s what the subtitles tell us he’s saying.

The nature of art and war are covered, briefly. Focus on Russia, trains, physical film apparatus, the Muslim world. Named/numbered chapters, but I’m not sure they help anything. Politically, he seems to be in a terrible mood.

You do eventually drift into its rhythm, or its lack of rhythm. Towards the end it feels like he might start telling us a coherent story about a would-be conqueror named Sheik Ben Kadem (“but the world wasn’t as simple as his dream” sounds like Adam Curtis) illustrated by the jumble of sources he’s been establishing… alas, JLG is just reading scraps from a 1980’s novel, and the subtitles lose interest in following him.

It’s such a homemade UFO, I’d believe you if you told me he made it alone in a weekend, or that it took many years with a team of researchers.

Blake Williams:

These are films that ignite every interpretative impulse in our brains without satisfying our desires to be passive, unproductive viewers; they do not give clarity or any obvious avenues through the deluge of information, even if they make us feel as though, were we smarter, more knowledgable, bilingual cinephiles, we would be able to do just that. It’s in this way that Godard’s films also invite us to improve ourselves, something I think very few other artists achieve.

Will Sloan:

Many years ago, Godard attempted to create a style of cinema that could inspire revolutionary change. At this point, he seems to not only regard such a thing as impossible, but also regards cinema as a tool of violence and colonialism. In the film’s longest and most lucid section, he argues for the Arab World as a lost paradise hurt by western intervention, and cinema as a tool of oppression (in his narration, he says something along the lines of “all representation is violence”). He doesn’t seem to draw a distinction between classical Hollywood cinema, news footage, Blu-Rays, and amateur cell phone video — he suggests they have all basically been flattened into the same thing.

Michael Sicinski:

In his comparison of war footage and fictional violence, Godard posits the old problem: which representation is the original, and what inspired what? The connections are pre-cognitive and deeply intuitive, posed as questions, and (like so much in late Godard) recall Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas. How have images — both “cursed” and “blessed,” in the current parlance — dipped and ducked into the unconscious across the ages, forming something like a universal art history?

Lawrence Garcia:

If, as Godard intones early on, pledging allegiance to the ideas of Swiss cultural theorist Denis de Rougemont, man’s condition is indeed “to think with hands,” then what happens when cinema subverts or displaces that tactile state? When a hand becomes, as in Godard’s famed aphorism, “not a just image, but just an image”? When real violence becomes conflated with the violence of representation? In a choice that will strike some as crass at best, and exploitative at worst, Godard continually rhymes the two, in one instance placing gruesome footage of ISIS throwing bloodied bodies into the water against the scene in Vertigo (1958) in which Scottie rescues Madeleine from the San Francisco Bay. The ultimate point that Godard arrives at here, though, is fairly direct: which is that cinema—even revolutionary, politically minded cinema—has not clarified, but obscured the reality of the Holocaust and other attendant horrors, and instead contributed to a larger confusion, an effective “flattening” of reality. (That the clenched fist of revolution is here traded in for a raised index finger is instructive.)

Sam C. Mac:

The Image Book ends with another display of madness that would be a more than appropriate sendoff for the French New Wave figurehead’s restless career. Taken from Max Ophüls’s Le Plaisir, it’s a sequence of a man dancing and spinning around furiously until, finally, he falls down. This moment also serves as a canny reminder that, whatever effort it takes to understand the exact nature of the work that Godard is doing here, he’s also exerting that effort with us—and he seems to mind not at all if he collapses in the process.


As a memorial screening, I watched one JLG short film per decade…


Une Femme Coquette (1955)

Agnès writes a letter to a friend to confess cheating on her husband, having witnessed a discreet prostitute picking up men from the street and wondering if she’d have the courage to do the same. The woman is portrayed as complicated, and the men (including JLG himself) as impulsive dickbrains. The filmmakers bring Guy de Maupassant’s apartment-balcony story outdoors, showing off Geneva parks, bridges and birds. Ten years later, Masculin Féminin was sold as an adaptation of the same story before being completely rewritten.


Montparnasse-Levallois (1965)

From the Paris vu par anthology, which people say is quite good overall but I’ll watch the rest some other time. In very mobile long takes, Monica comes to her bf’s metalworking studio to tell him about a delicate mixup: she’s sent two telegrams to her two men and mixed up the addresses. He doesn’t buy it and kicks her out, so she runs to her other metalworker bf’s place. Both guys are caught up in their work and don’t stop to listen to her. Seems she didn’t mix up the addresses after all, and Roger also kicks her out. Some tech issues here, a bad post-dub, but cute.


Schick (1971)

Brief, noisy apartment scene, filmed mostly from behind the actors, to sell aftershave. You can’t tell a whole lot from my unsubbed copy but apparently that’s Juliet Berto and they’re arguing about Palestine, haha. Don’t know whether this aired, but it made some quick cash for the Dziga-Vertov Group.


Puissance de la parole (1988)

The Power of Speech is the opposite of Goodbye to Language. Filmmaking apparatus, overlapping hypnotized dialogue, a bitter post-breakup conversation transmitted through 1980’s phones and satellites. Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan songs, used less abruptly than in the later features.

Strobing edits (cutting between sky/water/volcano looks cool) and space-age philosophy. I’ve always liked movies where two people speak abstractly at the shore. A couple of Rivettian ghosts on the beach: Warok and a Gang of Four lead. “No thought can perish, so no act is without infinite result.”


L’enfance de l’Art (1993, w/ Mieville)

A woman reads to a boy, a book about revolt and revolution, while violent battles and children’s games go on around them. Nice string music, an action scene, a bazooka.


Liberty and Homeland (2002, w/ Miéville)

I did not realize Godard had a 9/11 film, or that he ever used dub music in his work. Male and female narrators go off about France and art, finally settling on a story of a (fictional) painter. Blending sources with different aspect ratios, extremely enhancing the colors – it was all there 20 years ago.


Remerciements de JLG (2015)

Godard totters home muttering in scraps and quotes, falls down, and delivers a speech from the floor about cinema and the lack of it, gets up to his desk and talks politics and poetry – all this in five minutes.

Bald guy in outer space uses two Nintendo Power Gloves to make a robot unlock the hellbox (which opens via 1990’s computer graphics, not the best idea). Space soldiers come running in to stop him: we got the tough one, the smart one, the Black Guy Who Will Die First, and various others. But first, the movie wants to get very plotty, as Bald Guy narrates the hellbox backstory to explain his current actions.

France’s Greatest Magician and his murderous toadie Adam Scott commission the box from a toymaker, then summon Angelique, a sexy lady demon who must do their bidding for a century.

Toymaker in happier days:

In present-ish day she breaks free, kills Adam Scott and summons a Hell Priest to harmlessly kidnap(!) the toymaker’s descendant’s family, demanding something or other, I dunno, I started looking up the actors’ resumés at this point. The Polish Brothers are chatting about transsexual desire before getting cenobitten. Good use is made of the Hellbox Building that ends part 3.

Back in Space, the toymaker’s even-more-distant descendant has summoned hell into space, and the Black guy (of Warlock: The Armageddon) is killed immediately. Pat Skipper of one of the Halloween remakes gets beheaded through a mirror. Some dude gets absorbed by the Twins, in an effect unfortunately reminiscent of the Bradley/Pinhead morphing from the last movie. It is fun that the flesh-obsessed Pinhead gets tricked by a hologram while the toymaker wanders away in the middle of a villain spiel, then is supposedly obliterated when the spaceship folds into a cosmic hellbox. None of the subsequent sequels are set after the year 2127, so we can assume this worked.

An ambitious attempt, conceived by Barker and Atkins to expand and complete the series, but the overall effect of the acting/dialogue/lighting has more of a high-end Puppet Master feel, which is certainly not what you want. Adding insult, the following year would bring Event Horizon, a much improved space-hell movie. It’s playing the Plaza this week, and Hellraiser 4 isn’t playing anywhere.

The studio was being sold to Disney at the time, and the Halloween 6 team was brought in to re-edit, cutting out chunks of backstory including “Aristocratic Cenobites wearing white powdered wigs,” hence the director disowning the picture. I checked out the workprint version on Internet Archive looking for 1790’s aristocrat cenobites – no dice, but I did get to hear Valentina Vargas’s Angelique voice undubbed.

Vargas is from Fuller’s Street of No Return, the magician an alien in Ed Wood, and all three toymakers are Bruce Ramsay, costar of Malcolm McDowell in Island of the Dead. 1990’s Toymaker’s wife is Charlotte Chatton, who went straight from this to Titanic, and their kid would play Danny Torrance in The Shining remake the next year. Bald Guy’s interviewer was Emilio’s girl in Judgment Night. Before Smithee took over, the director was Kevin Yagher, who did makeup on all three Bill and Ted movies.

Workprint disappointment:

Beginning of a long line of ill-reputed Hellraiser sequels and remakes, but I have a soft spot for this one, having watched it so many times on video as a teen. And compared to the stuff I’ve seen lately – The Mist, Books of Blood, Langoliers, this is shockingly well made (by the Waxwork guy). So, do I like this because I’ve seen it so much, or did I watch it so much because it’s actually good? Nostalgia, objectivity, always you wrestle inside me.

Fancy leather art collector buys the rotating pillar, which comes with an embedded hellbox and the hell priest himself. Failing young reporter Joey is ambulance-chasing with cameraman Doc when she witnesses a stray hellbox victim, picks up club girl Terri and starts investigating. Some promises and betrayals later, everyone’s a cenobite but Joey, who harnesses her dreams about her war-killed father to contact the pre-ceno Doug Bradley and summon him against his pinheaded self.

Tiny cameo by Ashley Laurence, who didn’t have a huge post-Hellraiser film career, appearing in a Warlock sequel that doesn’t even have Julian Sands in it. Lead girl is from Deep Space Nine, leather guy cowrote 3000 Miles to Graceland, Doc was involved in Phantom of the Paradise, and club girl Terri returned a year later in the director’s Warlock: The Armageddon, missing Ashley by one Warlock sequel. Sometimes I look up Barker online; he’s the Ween of authors, every year announcing new works that don’t materialize. I read his 2015 The Scarlet Gospels during a movie-sequel dry spell, now just killing time until the new HuluRaiser comes out.

Me trying to decide what the hell to listen to:

Maybe unwise to watch two Stephen King movies in a week, but what’s wise about SHOCKtober? This movie is famous for its incredibly bleak ending (survivors are mercy-killed before discovering army is defeating monsters), the main change from the book, which is incredibly bleak in a different way (humanity loses).

Man vs. Tentacle:

Thomas Jane (lately of Shane Black’s Predator) is a poster artist working on a Dark Tower cover, going into town with his son and prickly neighbor Andre Braugher (of a Salem’s Lot remake), becoming trapped in a grocery store by the mist and its monsters. But the thing with The Mist isn’t the monsters, it’s everyone in town who hates each other suddenly getting trapped in a confined space and unloading their baggage. Got a real TV movie feeling despite all the pedigrees. Darabont’s still in gee-whiz period-piece mode in a modern setting, and all the theatrical on-the-nose dialogue doesn’t help. Performances are still a leg up on Langoliers (as are the digital effects, but that’s a very low bar).

Woman vs. Insect:

Little Billy followed this up with The Dark Knight, then a starring role in Joe Dante’s The Hole, not bad. Laurie Holden (Pyewacket) is the teacher who takes care of the kid while TJ works on becoming the hero of the story. Store Manager Robert Treveiler (the Richard Chamberlain Night of the Hunter remake) tries pulling rank, townie William Sadler (running the trifecta after Green Mile and Shawshank Redemption) tries to out-tough-guy TJ. Hard to keep track of every character as they quickly fall to bugs or suicide or murder, but the beardy hick dude who aggressively follows whatever’s the worst idea going around is veteran of terrible sci-fi/westerns Buck Taylor (Cowboys & Aliens, Wild Wild West, Timestalkers). There’s only one gun and Toby Jones claims to be a crack shot, so in a rare display of good sense, the group hands it over. He’ll eventually use it to kill Marcia Gay Harden, who starts raving about the apocalypse and demanding sacrifices. It’s cool that TJ recognizes early on that loud Christians are dangerous, though the movie’s overall theme seems to be having no faith in humanity.

Wasn’t kidding about the Dark Tower cover:

“Dad, I’m worried about you. You need to get back into biotech research.” Gotta give it up to Shinya for making the same exact cyberpunk movie for the fifth time. Diminishing returns, but once again a guy finds himself hulking out, turning into a machine.

Desaturated greys and browns except for a few popping colors. It’s in English; the dialogue and the plot being spelled out more explicitly are both weaknesses. When the action comes it’s prolonged and incoherent. The soundtrack is more pounding than ever. The clean HD photography clashes with the jittery underground lo-fi intentions. I did not hate it.

Hulking-guy’s son is run over by Shinya. He learns he was born from an android replica of his dead mom… he gets blasted by a hitman, also shoots himself in the head and lives… tetsuos a few city blocks. I wrote “I think Shinya wanted to be a suicide cult leader,” but I don’t know if I meant the director himself or the character he’s playing.

Perfect example of a whim of an experimental concept getting painstakingly taken all the way, the arthouse festival-film equivalent of those people who create live-action remake videos of Mario Kart games. In Stephen King’s The Langoliers, the villain’s extreme “idle hands” anxiety has him constantly tearing paper, so Maragkos has printed the 3-hour TV version onto copy paper and ripped and torn it into an hour-long edit.

Cool concept, but the problem with your source material being a 1990’s TV movie is that your experimental film feels a lot like a 1990’s TV movie, which is quite bad, especially when the never-idle Bronson Pinchot is onscreen. Billy Crystal’s wife in City Slickers is top billed, for some reason. Dean Stockwell plays a mystery writer who has Got It All Figured Out (RIP Angela Lansbury). Frankie Faison is here to be the Black guy who gets killed first. There’s a blind Shining-child who helps out by feeling the spooky vibes. Not gonna blame King (who cameos) since I remember digging the original story, and despite all the clunky dialogue, the new version is worth the ride.