Tuesday, June 14, 2011

This has probably been used in torture sessions

Dungeon of Harrow (1962)
Starring: Russ Harvey, Helen Hogan, William McNulty, Maurice Harris, and Michele Buqour
Director: Pat Boyette
Rating: One of Ten Stars

A shipwrecked nobleman (Harvey) finds love and lepers in the castle of the insane, torture-obsessed Count DeSade (McNulty).

If anything, "Dungeon of Harrow" shows clearly that Pat Boyette made the right call when he stopped making movies in favor of a career as a painter and comic book artist; this goes double if it was Boyette who painted the artwork for the promotional poster for this film as it's the best thing about it. This film is Boyette's in every way--he helped write it, produce it, direct it, edit it, and even scored the music for it. The only thing that isn't terrible about it is the voice acting present in the narration, which was also done by Boyette, and which aleviates some of the pain of sitting through stretched-out scenes of actors wandering, sitting, or lounging around.

Every other actor in the film is as stiff and unnatural as the dialogue they deliver. Boyette was clearly going for an Edgar Allan Poe vibe with this movie, with the narrator looking back on horrible events, rampant madness, florid dialogue, and a storyline that will remind well-read viewers of "The Oblong Box", "Fall of the House Usher", and "The Raven" in equal measure.

Unfortunately, none of Boyette's actors have the chops to deliver the lines with the amped up melodrama present in the Corman Poe-inspired pictures from the same period and instead perform as though tye are under sedation for the entire film; I don't think there's ever been a movie about torture and madness with a more subdued set of performances ever released for viewing by the general public. Time and again, the lethargic actors turn what could and should have been frightening or dramatic into a test of patience so severe it would be out-and-out torture if forced upon a captive audience.

It's equally unfortunate that no-one seems to have taken the script further than a first draft, nor read it from beginning to end at any point during rehearsal, filming or editing. If someone had, they would have noticed characters behaving in contradictory and inconsistent fashions (not counting the batshit crazy DeSade), and several plotlines and characters appear and are dropped seemingly at random.

The film has two worthwhile and scary scenes--one where the Count believes he is being visited by a demon, and another where the main character is chained in the dungeon with an insane leper--but they are not worth sitting through the crap that surrounds them.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

'UFO: Target Earth' is a misfire

UFO: Target Earth (1974)
Starring: Nick Plakias and Cynthia Cline
Director: Michael A. DeGaetano
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

Alan (Plakias) and his psychic sidekick (Cline) search for evidence that a UFO has crashed in a remote, backcountry lake, and of a possible government cover-up. Viewer boredom ensues.

While the advent of the DVD made many worthy films once again available to the general public, a lot of films that deserve to simply rot away have also been retrieved from the abyss of time. "UFO: Target Earth" is in that last category. Watch it, and all you'll find when the film's over is a deep wish you could reclaim the time wasted.

"UFO: Target Earth" starts out trying to present a documentary feel, but by the time our heroes head into the forest in search of the UFO, the filmmakers have given up on that conceit. Instead, they present a film that sounds like an 11th grader's research paper and a 9th grader's poetry served as its script, with a couple elements badly mimicked from "2001" and 1970s occult culture tossed in. And they present it in the most turgid and mind-numbingly dull fashion. I'm sure the filmmakers thought they were being artsy... but the null-zone of talent surrounding this movie resulted in something that's just dull.

I don't usually say things like "worst movie ever" or "worst actor ever", but I feel fairly confident in saying that Plakias is in the running for the Top Ten Worst Film Actors Ever award. The guy is so wooden that he might as well have been replaced by a department store mannequin in this film. His facial expression never changes, his inflections never move up or down... every line is delivered with the vacant tone of a heavily medicated mental patient.

Plakias is only the worst of a bad bunch. There isn't a good actor anywhere in this film, although those playing interview subjects early in the film come close to giving something resembling good performances. Of course, actors can only be as good as the material they are working with, and the material here is damn awful. The film only manages one bit of true suspense, giving the viewer hope that maybe something entertaining will start occurring--when the psychic starts hearing creepy voices over the walkie-talkie--but it soon becomes apparent that the filmmakers were just teasing us.

Some films need to be seen to be believed, but this is a film that shouldn't be seen by anyone.