Pinocchio’s Revenge (1996)

Tagline: “Evil comes with strings attached

Unfortunately there is no Blue Fairy powerful enough to transform this into a film worth watching.  This was a tough one to sit through.  I know right now you’re saying, “Hey, how bad could it be?  A demonic, serial-killing Pinocchio sounds perfect for curing my Monday blues.”  In this case, you are so painfully wrong.  Let me lay out the story for you.

Jennifer Garrick is a defense attorney who is currently trying to defend a man named Vincent Gotto and prevent him from receiving the death penalty for killing his own son.  She uses the defense that the media is over-hyping his case, calling him a “serial killer” just because other children were killed around the same time and near the general area where his son was killed.  He didn’t kill THEM, just his own son, therefore he should not be sentenced to death….right.   Needless to say, this defense strategy is not successful and she is shocked when Vincent Gotto is sentenced to the electric chair.

Among the possessions left behind by the client she so desperately tried to save, Jennifer finds a very familiar looking wooden puppet that the man carved for his son shortly before he killed him.  Through a series of predictable events, Pinocchio accidentally becomes a gift for little Zoe Garrick, daughter of Jennifer, the defender of killers.  Zoe is a very unhappy girl with some major anger issues and soon she is carrying on conversations with Pinocchio and he tells her that there is nobody in her life she can trust…other than him of course.

A series of events start to unfold as several people begin having “accidents”. When confronted by her therapist, Zoe claims she had nothing to do with it.  It was Pinocchio.  As with any good b-movie plot line, the adults don’t listen when the kids try to warn them of immanent danger.  Naturally, things get worse from here.  I’m not going to spoil the whole plot, or the ending for that matter.  All I will say is that the most disturbing thing about this film has to be the fact that Pinocchio is voiced by Dick Beals, the original voice of Gumby and also Davey from “Davey and Goliath”.  I recognized the voice right away and let me tell you, it gave me the chills.

This film is an hour and a half, but there is absolutely no excitement until about 45 minutes into it.  And very little excitement at that.  It’s almost as if they spent 75% of their budget on the wood carver that made Pinocchio and then said, “Oh wait, I forgot we’re supposed to show him attacking people.  Oh well, we’ll just SAY he killed people.  Nobody will know the difference.”  As far as b-movies go, this one was a major letdown.  They could have done so much more with this story.  As they say, don’t judge a book by it’s cover.  Don’t set aside the time to watch a film and expect great things from it just because the title sounds interesting.

It is not hard to understand why this delightfully awful film wasn’t up for any awards after it’s release.  Oh wait, it WAS nominated for a Saturn Award in 1996 in the category of “Best Home Video Release”, only to lose to “The Arrival” starring Charlie Sheen (yes, I have added that one to my list).  Kevin Tenney, the director of “Pinocchio’s Revenge”, must not have been too mad losing the award to “Arrival”.  He went on to direct “Arrival 2” in 1998…which did NOT win any awards.

Notable mention:  There are only 2 scenes in this film where we actually see Pinocchio running.  These scenes mark the very first acting credit for Verne Troyer, well known for playing the character Mini-Me in the Austin Powers films.

Get all the details of this film on IMDB by following this link-Pinocchio’s Revenge

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The Alpha Incident – 1978

Tagline: “So horrifyingly close to the truth, it will blow your mind!”

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The year is 1978, and a space probe has returned to Earth from Mars.  The probe has brought back a nice sampling of some unknown germ or virus that scientists are simply baffled by.  After being injected in mice and rats, the virus seems to kill them but after hours and hours of research, those men in lab coats who earn a fantastic living can’t seem to come up with a reason why.  Because it is such a disturbingly confusing specimen, they decide to move it from their small facility to a much larger facility until they can figure out what to do next.  The mode of transportation?  Why, a train of course!  A scientist is placed on board the train to make sure the cargo reaches it’s destination without incident.  Well, we all know this isn’t going to end well, don’t we?  The scientist, Dr. Sorensen (Stafford Morgan), is posing as a visiting train conductor….yeah.  Of course he’s not fooling the ACTUAL conductor, a dirty drunkard named Hank (George “Buck” Flower)…y’know, using big fancy words like “perpetual motion”.  Hank finds out what the cargo is, steals Dr. Sorensen’s keys while he’s sleeping, sneaks into the train car and accidentally breaks a vial of the substance.  OH NO!  (Oh, and a quick side note: I can’t even begin to count how many times Hank says the name “Mr. Sorensen” in this film.  Quite annoying, but not as annoying as little Joey from the movie “Shane”. ‘SHAAAAAANE!’  Sorry, rant is over.)

At this point we meet the 3 workers of the train depot where the cargo is changing hands.  The man in charge is Charlie, played by the great Ralph Meeker in his most mild role EVER!  Charlie has quite a bit of screen time, but very few lines.  Jenny (Carol Newell), who does the books once a week, and Jack Tiller (John Goff), the foul-mouthed womanizing handyman for the station, each have their own issues that I simply will not get into.  After finding out they’ve all been infected by the touch of Hank (it is NOT an airborne virus), Dr. Sorensen phones his superiors who immediately place them under quarantine. The next 30 or so minutes of the film is spent watching these folks sit and wait for the other scientists to create an antidote.  Zzzzzzzz….huh, WHA???  Don’t fall asleep yet!  This next part is important!  WAKE UP!!!!  The superiors call with some not-so-good news.  (What you read next is NOT an actual quote from the film. Dramatized with added humor for your amusement) “Umm, yeah, so guess what?  We haven’t found an antidote yet, but we know how the mice died.  Here’s the thing, the virus takes affect as soon as the body reaches a sleeping state.  So try to stay awake out there…or you’ll die.  And did I mention that if the virus kicks in, your brain will swell up until your head explodes?  Good luck to ya!”

I won’t tell you how the film ends, but needless to say there are some really “eye-popping” moments before it’s all through.  I’d say that this film is “adequately stupid”.  Yeah, I bet you’ve never seen those two words placed next to each other before.  What I mean is that it has all of the characteristics of a basic B-Movie.  I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this film, but I wouldn’t NOT un-recommend not seeing it.  Sorry, sleep deprivation makes me not…type…good…?  I’m flubbing my words.  Odd, I’m usually known for my somewhat impeccable locution.  My game must be off.

Check out more info for this film here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0075662/

Apologies for the link not working.  Still trying to make that connect.  Thank goodness for ‘copy and paste’. 🙂

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The Terror – 1963

Tagline: “There’s No Rest For The Wicked…”

I thought long and hard about which film I would write about first in this blog.  Of course I had to choose a Roger Corman picture because hey, when you want a B-movie done right, Mr. Corman is the man you call.

“The Terror” is set in 18th Century France.  Somehow separated from his regiment, Lieutenant Andre Duvalier (Jack Nicholson) finds himself wandering along the coastline on horseback. He stumbles upon a young woman named Helene (Sandra Knight), who surprisingly to him (but not so much to us) does not seem to respond to any of his queries.  Her expression seems bland, almost dead-like in a way, and she vanishes and reappears whenever she likes.  Hmmm….wonder what that could mean!  Andre comes across an old woman (Dorothy Neuman) who lives in a shack of a cabin in the woods, and she denies the existence of such a young woman…of course.  Andre soon finds out that Helene’s spirit is damned (shocking) and the only way to save her is to visit the nearby castle inhabited by Baron Victor Von Leppe (Boris Karloff).  The Baron and his butler Stefan (Dick Miller) are quite hospitable, and then not so hospitable.  They are not big fans of outsiders. Baron Von Leppe reveals to Andre that Helene is actually the Baroness Ilsa Von Leppe.  The only problem?  Yup, you guessed it, she’s been dead for 20 years!  WHAT?  Didn’t see that coming (insert sarcasm here).

From this point on, adventure ensues!  Hooray!  There’s a whole smorgasbord of cheesy one-liners, ghosts possessing the living, secret passageways with staircases that you can only access by the hidden lever disguised as a wall sconce…what more could you ask for?  Oh wait, did you say you’d like to see a man get his eyes pecked out by a demon bird and then stumble off the edge of a cliff because he can’t see???  Well then, you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

It was truly exciting for me to watch this film.  I’ve been a fan of the actors of this era (such as Lorre, Price, Lugosi) for quite some time.  That being said, I’m 33 years old which means one of my first experiences seeing Jack Nicholson was watching him portray The Joker in “Batman”.  So as you can imagine it was an extra special (and bizarre) experience for me to see him as a young 26-year-old starring opposite the great Boris Karloff!

Interesting side note:  The Second Unit Director and Associate Producer of this film was Francis Ford Coppola.

This film has the perfect mix of classic acting, slight goofiness, cheesy sets and great storytelling.  As of the date of this post, “The Terror” is playing on Netflix instant streaming and a couple people have posted the full length feature on YouTube as well.  So if you like old classics, I highly recommend this one.

If you want to learn more about “The Terror”, check out the IMDB page here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0057569/

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Things that make you go HAHAHAHAHAHA!

Hi everyone!  My name is Jake Marek.  I’m an avid watcher of films old and new, from the old cheesy B-movies of yesteryear to the multi-million dollar blockbusters of today.  I myself am a filmmaker, co-founder of Solitary Dodo Productions with my great friend, Dave Lester.  With a passion for film and storytelling, I’ve decided to start a movie review page for one of my favorite film genres: B-Movies.

B-Movies were developed around 1929, the year when “talkies” were first introduced to the mainstream market.  The average cost of filming an “A” production for a major studio in the late 1920’s averaged around $150,000 to $275,000.  They soon realized that they could produce mass quantities of lower-budget films to fill the gap between major film release dates.  The big guns like MGM, FOX, and Columbia Pictures used about 12 percent of their yearly budget to produce these cheap quick-fix films.  They soon found themselves in competition at the box office against smaller production companies like Mascot Pictures, Tiffany Pictures and Sono Art-World Wide Pictures, who could create the same quality “B” films for as little as $3,000.  These smaller companies were known as “Poverty Row” production studios. The major studios, reluctantly, started selling films to theater houses as a package deal, thus the Double-Feature was born.

Double features allowed production companies to sell their “A” movies to theaters, but only if they agreed to buy the cheaper films as well.  By selling them in a block, the studios didn’t have to worry about the quality of the small films and theater houses had to buy most of them without so much as a preview of what they were receiving.  The second feature, or “B” Movie, was used to give balance to the larger film, giving patrons the variety they were seeking. Contrary to what you may think, the second feature actually played BEFORE the main picture.  Maybe watching the cheap film first made the main film even BETTER!  With the popularity of B-Movies increasing, by the mid-thirties most major studios raised the budget for the small films from 12 percent to 50 percent.  By shifting their money and production line to focus on the “B” projects, the eight major studios created an unbelievable amount of films.  This is one of my favorite statistics:  Including the three hundred or more annual releases from the “Poverty Row” studios, in the 1930’s around 75 percent of the four thousand or so Hollywood films were “B” movies.  Crazy.

Because of the large amount of B-movies produced in this decade and decades to come, filmmakers and actors with no experience were given a chance to hone their skill with low-budget films because it really didn’t matter how the finished product looked.  Actors like John Wayne and Jack Nicholson got their start in B-movies and some like Peter Lorre, Bela Lugosi, Vincent Price, Pam Grier, Karen Black and Boris Karloff focused mainly on these low budget films.

Today most movies that fit in the “B” category are not usually taken too seriously.  Not quite good enough for major release, but funny enough to generate some DVD/Blu-ray revenue. So even as we sit back and watch the old B’s from the past and laugh until we’re sick, just remember that they weren’t really made to be taken seriously in the first place.

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