Joe’s Blog

Archive for October, 2011

Uninvited (1988)

October 28, 2011 3:13 am

Here, kitty...

Nothin's gonna stop me gettin' to the Caymans!

 This contains spoilers. It’s a film about a mutant killer cat… so the spoilers won’t come as much of a surprise

Whilst many people turn their noses up at trash B-movie horror films, it has to be said they do perform a public service. They do a damn fine job of keeping past-it actors in work long after their time in the limelight has passed. Such luminaries as Joseph Cotten, Bette Davis, Veronica Lake and Glenn Ford all topped up their pensions by appearing in the absolute dregs of the genre.

Add to that list, George Kennedy. Oscar-winning Kennedy is one of the few people to have kicked Paul Newman’s arse six ways from Sunday on film in Cool Hand Luke; he successfully saved most of the passengers of FOUR stricken airliners filled with old timers, soap stars and Erik Estrada, as the only person to have appeared in every Airport movie; and was the best henchman a Bond villain never had in Charade.

In Uninvited he plays a henchman. I think. He could also be playing the mafia/muscle end of a ‘huge deal’ doing down in ‘the Caymans’. It’s a bit hard to tell, as Uninvited has a ridiculously bad script. It’s one of those films where things only happen to advance the (flimsy) plot, not because they make any sense.

The only thing you really need to know about Uninvited is that its about a killer cat. If that doesn’t get you excited then you shouldn’t read anymore to be honest.

In a ludicrously cheap prologue, we meet our hero. He’s played by a fluffy version of Garfield, and some nasty scientists are doing experiments on him. Not really sure what exactly, but it’s something to do with radiation. Garfield isn’t too keen and decides to mount the easiest escape in movie history.

Suddenly the lab is overrun with riot police all tracking the moggy down to an underground car park. Garfield really loses it now and decides to fight back, by unleashing his rage in the form of a mutant cat who emerges from his mouth !

Then its down to the plot. Two ‘hot’ blondes in awful late 80’s fashion are on the make somewhere, possibly Florida. They are trying to bluff their way into a posh restaurant when they are invited to join famous billionaire Walter Graham for dinner (they have no idea who he is, but everyone seems to; he’s been on the cover of Time magazine, so that might explain it).

About 30 seconds later, George Kennedy appears as Mike Harvey. he’s a little perturbed to find Walter wining and dining a couple of bimbos when they’ve got ‘business’ to discuss and apparently their boat needs to sail NOW. Ooh, intriguing.

Walter decides to bring the bimbos along as ‘the perfect cover’, but before they can get to the boat the bimbos pick up three random boys (two jocks and a science nerd) and bring them along too. Then on the way to the boat, who else should they pick up? I know, how about that mangy looking fat ginger cat with the ‘LAB CAT’ collar you just found wandering around the dock?

George/Mike is none too pleased about this, until someone mentions it’s good luck to have a cat on board a boat.

We then get some clumsy exposition about how the crew of the luxury yacht have all buggered off leaving just a ‘hot’ blonde captain and George’s own henchman, Albert (who’s introduced as a ruthless killer but then descends into drunk comedy relief).

This section of the film goes on for ages. It must have been a good 30-40 minutes of screen time introducing all this kitty litter fodder, and throwing in random references to ‘the deal’ and the ‘the business’. We never actually find out what ‘the deal’ is, but it involves getting to ‘the Caymans’ as soon as possible.

To alleviate the boredom before they get on the boat we get a throwaway scene of Garfield attacking a couple of rednecks in a pickup. It’s great, not only because you see the puppeteer’s hand thrusting mutant Garfield at the driver, but you also see the zip down the back of the puppet.

At sea, we get lots of POV shots of Garfield stalking the boat, lots of dodgy 80’s fashions (including a gratuitous aerobics scene) and lots of scenes of George looking bored/angry/tense. At one point he even tends bar for the kids. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an actor silently convey the thought of wanting to kill a bunch of teenagers so well. Or maybe he was thinking about killing the director. Either way, it’s a highlight.

Garfield’s attacks, when they finally arrive, are pretty shoddy to be honest, with the best reserved for George himself. Not only does he get a chunk taken out of his ankle (but still manages to walk to a chair), he then seems to develop some kind of fever, which leads to his stomach taken on the appearance of John Hurt in Alien, it starts to expand, and then…. oh. He’s dead. They cut to the remaining cat meat throwing him overboard. So why the elaborate stomach-expanding special effect?

I can only assume the resulting chest-bursting-cat scene didn’t quite match the excellent FX in the rest of the room, and was dropped.

The final third plods along with almost everyone getting mauled, and you’ll have no prizes for guessing who survives, although ultimately it’s pretty arbitrary. You won’t give a toss who gets killed because you won’t give a toss about anyone in the film. Except George Kennedy.

Killer cat movies are a dreadful idea. The only other one I can remember seeing is The Uncanny, a portmanteau movie with Peter Cushing and Donald Pleasance. there are others that I’m going to look out for, including Strays, which, with an imdb rating in the low 3’s, is surely a must-watch.

Unlike dogs, they don’t really have a fierce reputation and, for the most part, they are normally big enough to be dispatched with a swift boot up the arse (I do not condone the kicking of cats for pleasure, only if said cat contains a radioactive alter ego which emerges from his mouth), rendering them about as scary as a slice of toast.

Oddly, this kind of straight-to-video trash would normally be designed to ride on the coat tails of some big Hollywood hit. I can’t possibly think how the makers thought this was a good idea, who they thought the audience was, or how they persuaded George Kennedy to appear it. The only other remotely recognisable actor is Alex Cord as Walter, who played Jan Michael-Vincent’s boss in Airwolf.

If you’re drunk enough, Uninvited will produce a few giggles, but whenever Garfield isn’t on screen it grinds to such a juddering halt that you lose interest. Towards the end I was so bored I couldn’t tell you about the deaths of several characters because I was so disinterested.

Just watch the trailer, it really is all you need to see:

Uninvited (1988) Trailer

Death, Deceit & Destiny Aboard the Orient Express (2001)

October 5, 2011 2:25 pm

 

This train will be delayed due to plot failure...

This week I made one of the most life-changing decisions of my life, and cancelled my SKY TV subscription. On reflection almost £70 a month was quite a high price to pay to watch Modern Family, the odd football match and Lethal Weapon 3 every other night. But then I realised I would miss something that would almost make signing back up worth the money: Movies 4 Men.

For the uninitiated, Movies 4 Men is a non-subscription movie channel which shows, well, bloke movies. On any given day you will find long forgotten Westerns, cheap ass sci-fi rip offs (most Asylum films play regularly) and straight to video action movies. It was here I first discovered the joy of Skyscraper. And flicking through the guide a couple of nights ago I was overjoyed to see, just starting, was (as billed in the guide anyway) Death Aboard The Orient Express, listing Teen Agent himself, Richard Grieco, as its star.

Produced by Fu Manchu nut, and alleged pimp extraordinaire, Harry Alan Towers, Orient Express is a truly gob smacking mix of Agatha Christie, Under Siege 2 and Irwin Allen, produced on a budget doesn’t even stretch to a single shot of the REAL Orient Express.

This is what the Orient Express looks like:

The film thinks the Orient Express looks like this:

They don’t even paint the words ‘Orient Express’ on it!

Anyway, events take place on the eve of the millennium, despite being made in 2000, when everyone with a grain of taste had realised that movies set then would out of date as precisely a minute past midnight. A group of wealthy individuals (and partners/business associates/whatever) gather for a New Year jamboree through Europe to Istanbul. Oddly no one seems to know who invited them. This plotline always irritates the piss out of me, normally appearing in horror films, because not one single invitee thinks “I’m not going to a party if I don’t know who’s invited me”. Here, these are the sort of people who probably wouldn’t go to a party even if they DID know whose party it was, being mostly selfish rich business sorts who are far too busy for social occasions.

Obviously the lure of a posh train, and copious free booze and food is too much to refuse and they all duly turn up. And a motley bunch they are too: there’s a mobile phone salesman, a mobile phone manufacturer, a gymnast, the son of an Indian industrialist, a couple of women who could be con artists (I’m not really sure we ever find out) and an action movie star, Jack Chase! Seriously.

About two minutes after leaving the never identified station a bunch of bad guys shoot all the staff and, luckily all their uniforms fit them perfectly, and they take over the train, with one staying behind to prepare eight course dinners for everyone. Turns out this is our bad guy, Tarik, who tells everyone via a chunky widescreen TV that he has taken control of the train and wants everyone to pay him $50 million or he’ll blow it up.

Well, action star doesn’t take kindly to this and assisted by the gymnast, who he’s decided will be his love interest for this evening, he disarms all the bombs, saving one to blow up the train and the bad guy. Hooray!

You can probably fill in the rest for yourself. Or can you?

This really is an odd film. Not least because it features a truly once in a lifetime cast (who are all dreadful). First up is Richard Grieco as our star. Grieco was never a star in any sense, and is probably still best known for his role in 21 Jump Street where he played a guy who no one fancied because Johnny Depp was in it. Teen Agent is still probably his best known film, though he could have earned minor cult points for appearing in Asylum’s Thor rip-off earlier this year. Time will tell.

Amongst the support, former Bond henchman Gotz Otto appears as the gymnast’s ‘uncle’. For some reason he does a dreadful Marlon Brando in Godfather impression and loses a fight with Grieco by accidentally sticking an axe in his own back (!). His body is hidden and never mentioned again. Though the gymnast is so distraught she immediately sleeps with Grieco to get over it.

There’s a ‘before they were famous’ appearance from Heroes‘ Sendhil Ramamurthy, and B-movie experience support from Brit Nicky Henson and Yank Barry Flatman.

There’s also an Italian actress who spends most of the film in her bra.

But the real gem in the cast, is a future Oscar winner. Believe it or not, but the bad guy chef, is played by none other than Christoph Waltz! And… he’s… AWFUL!

To be fair, his first appearance is rather bizarre. He leads his henchmen onto the train, dressed as a chef, and wearing truly appalling latex make up that makes him look like Rondo Hatton. He spends the next hour dressed like this, cooking food, hidden away from everyone, so why does he leave the make up on? It’s worth noting here, that the film doesn’t actually take place over New Years Eve. No, it takes place over two nights and THREE DAYS! Three days, of Tarik cooking food, in heavy make up, in a hot kitchen, for his hostages!

The henchman perform their duties perfectly, if their duties were to be waiters and train staff for the hostages. They fetch them champagne and canapés (one even tends the bar) for room service; announce ‘dinner is served’ and always look the wrong way when Grieco is hanging upside down by a window outside the train.

There is a wealth a things this film could have done on a train, and it does very little of them. Of course there’s a fight on top of the train, but its pretty short. The main tension, if that’s the word, is derived from the ‘will they won’t they’ conundrum the hostages are put in. Some agree to pay up, others refuse, others have trouble raising the money. For some reason it’s the latter who ends up taking a tumble through a window to ‘teach you all a lesson’.

It’s a treat for blooper hunters though. There’s visible cables during the clambering around on the outside of the train scenes and inconsistencies in dialogue but the real treat was the crash mat bouncing into frame when one poor bugger is thrown from the moving train.

This truly is bottom of the barrel stuff. It’s initially quite entertaining watching a group of mildly familiar faces popping up, and you can easily waste half an hour trying to work out where you know them from. But once Grieco explains he knows how to defuse bombs because he went to ‘bomb school’ for his last film role, and he recorded his night of passion with the gymnast because ‘you never know when it might come in handy’ (and she STILL wants to be his girlfriend) you know you’ve entered a level of bad film-making in which man was not meant to meddle.