Saturday, October 29, 2011

Saturday Scream Queen: Eliza Dushku

Born in 1980, Eliza Dushku made her film debut at age 12, and she has been busy ever since. As the world was panicking over Y2K, Dushku successfully made the transition from child actress to simply actress with leading and supporting roles in a variety of television series and films, with an emphasis on dark thrillers and horror.

Aside from playing then popular bad-girl vampire hunter Faith on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel," and starring roles in the short-lived series series "Tru Calling" and "Doll House," Dushku has been featured in hakf a dozannumehorror films, such as "Soul Survivor", "Wrong Turn", "Locked In", and "Open Graves". Dushku has also leant her distinctive voice to numerous computer games and animated features, most recently voicing Catwoman in the "Batman: Year One" animated feature.

Dushku has several projects in various stages of development, with the most prominent of these being slated part in "Ghostbusters III".

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Countdown to Halloween with Vampirella

There are Nine Days Left....

By Enrique Torres

Saturday Scream Queen: Brooke Adams

Born and raised in New York City, Brooke Adams started acting professionally in theatre productions while still a child and graduated from New York's High School for the Performing Arts and the School of the American Ballet. As an adult, she broke into film, and has appeared in film and TV programs of just about every genre, although horror and thrillers, mostly low-budget, have been the mainstay of her career.

Among her notable horror films are starring turns in "Song of the Succubs", "Shock Waves" and the first remake of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" during the 1970s; "The Dead Zone" and "Haunted" during the 1980s; and "The Unbord", "Sometimes They Come Back" and "Probably Cause" during the 1990s.

Noteworthy small horror parts include a role in of the best of the Black Dahlia movies "Who Was the Black Dahlia" and a tiny but fun appearance in "The Stuff".

Adams married actor Tony Shaloub in 1992, and after the birth of the second child in 1993, she increasingly shifted her attention to the stage, although she has continued to appear in small film and television roles. She appeared as three different characters during the seven year run of the television series "Monk", which starred her husband, and she will next be seen in 2012 in the big-screen docu-drama "Hemingway & Gellhorn", which will star Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman as the title characters.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Saturday Scream Queen: Suzanne Kaaren

Born in New York in 1912, Suzanne Kaaren was an accomplished high school athlete whose beauty so blossomed at a young age that she was offered the opportunity to join the Zeigfeld Follies at the age of 15. Her parents forbade her from pursuing the opportunity, just as they blocked her from an opportunity to compete in the 1930 Olympic Games.

Despite what seems to be the best efforts of her parents, Kareen turned to professional modeling, dancing and acting. Starting with local theater companies, she quickly rose through the theatrical ranks, and she was one of the original Rockettes and performed on stage when when Radio City Music Hall opened in 1932.

By the end of 1933, Kaaren had left New York City for Hollywood, and worked under contract for Fox and MGM, and also appeared in films from RKO, and famed low-budget movie factories Monogram Pictures and PRC.

Kaaren's film career never quite took off, and she was cast in mostly in small roles and more for exotic looks and shapely legs than for her skills as an actress. She appeared in numerous comedies and westerns, but is best remembered today for appearing in two Three Stooges films--"Disorder in the Court" and "What Matador?", and for her leading role in one of Bela Lugosi's best pictures--"The Devil Bat" from PRC. That one role, in that very fun movie, is remarkable enough to give her a place in this series.

Kaaren retired from film acting in 1944 and moved back to New York to focus on her family and raising her two children. She passed away in 2004.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Countdown to Halloween with Vampirella

There are 17 Days Left....
By J. Scott Campbell

(Yes... that IS Vampirella, as she appeared in the "Vampi" series from the late 1990s (Or early 2000s? I rightly don't recall anymore). In it, publisher Harris Comics and the writers/artists of Anarchy Studios transported her to a dark future where she was a manga character rock star who wielded dual machine guns and the big-ass swords she's posing with above. It wasn't bad for the first six or so issues, but it quickly got boring as a thin story was stretched waaaaaaaaaaay too long. Rather like just about any comic book you care to mention these days. What happened? Did people forget how to make good comics, are they fixated on graphic novel collections, or are they just too lazy to write and draw exciting, content-rich stories?)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The MonaLisa Twins at Hotel California

In this post at Shades of Gray, I lamented the fact that I'd not see a good video for "Hotel California." It's a spooky song that BEGS for a great video treatment, yet no one has done one.

That said, teenaged Austrian sister-act the MonaLisa Twins has covered the Eagles classic AND been featured in a good video for it. It's still not the spooky mini-horror flick this song needs, but it's a good clip for a good cover of a great song.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Countdown to Halloween with Vampirella

There are 23 Days Left....

By Mike Mayhew 

(Be nice... you don't want Vampirella gunning for you!)

Saturday Scream Queen: Denice Duff

Denice Duff started her acting career in 1990 after winning a contest held by talent agent Jay Bernstein, a contest she hadn't even considered entering until the judges encouraged her to do so.

After minor roles on television series like "Matlock" and "Northern Exposure", Duff was cast as the reluctant vampire Michelle in "Subspecies II" after the actress who originated the role did not come back for the sequels. She would play the part in two additional films, and she became so thoroughly associated with the part that few even remember that she was a replacement, and everyone agrees that she was a key element in one of the best series of vampire films ever produced.

Aside from "Subspecies", Duff is best known for a recurring role on soap opera "The Young and the Restless" during the years 2001 - 2002, and as a talented and sought-after celebrity photographer.

Although acting is no longer her main vocation, and she stepped away from the horror genre for a time after the "Subspecies 4", Duff came back to chillers starting with "Dr. Rage" in 2005. Earlier this year, she completed the soon-to-be-released thriller "Codex" and will also be appearing "Night of the Living Dead 3D: Re-Animation" along with a cast that is a vertible who's who if 1990s horror luminaries.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Low-budget but impressive, 'Bio-Slime' delivers goopy scares

Bio-Slime (aka "Contagion") (2010)
Starring: Vinnie Bilancio, Ronnie Lewis, Victoria De Mare, Kelli Kaye, Micol Bartolucci, Magic Ellingson, Gia Paloma, and Ron Fitzgerald
Director: John Lechago
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

Troy (Bilanco), a down-and-out artist whose talent has been drained away by alcoholism finds himself stalked by a mysterious slime-monster that is absorbing into its mass the occupants of the ramshackle building housing his small studio. Trapped with his agent (Lewis), a few friends (Ellingson, Kaye, and Paloma) and a porn actress from the film studio next door (De Mare), Troy has to find a way to defeat the creature before they all literally become one body and mind.

With a little nip and a tiny tuck here and there to get rid of some bare breasts, "Bio-Slime" is the sort of movie you might find on the SyFy Channel with a "SyFy Channel Original" logo slapped before the opening credits. I'm not saying that to insult the film, but to praise it, because I suspect that John Lachago made this self-funded, self-produced film for a fraction of what those movies are made for... and his end product was as good as most of them, and even better in the effects department.

And those creature effects are the real star in this film. Most of the characters really serve no purpose other than to be monster chow, each suffering a dire, disgusting, and wholly unique fate at the pseudo-pods and tentacles of the slime-monster. All the creature effects, with the exception of a few of the tentacles, were practical effects--make-up, puppetry, and cinematography tricks. And they look great, far better than even some of the computer-generated effects in recent films with budgets 100 or 1,000 times what "Bio-Slime" was made on.

This is a movie that shows that the old methods of making movies are still perfectly adequate--and even superior--to hi-tech wizardry when those time-tested tools are being wielded by talented and skilled artisans like Lechago and his special effects make-up artist Tom Devlin. Devlin and Lechago also worked together on "Killjoy 3", so they obviously make a good team. Here's hoping I see more from them in the future.

I should probably mention that while very little character development takes place in "Bio-Slime", that's not to say there isn't a fully fleshed-out story here. Not only do we get hints of what sort of life the main characters have led beyond the dingy walls they have been trapped within, but there is a sense of history surrounding the monster as well. It emerges from a hi-tech containment device that is opened by the characters through a mixture of curiosity and outright stupidity, it talks about having a life so long that it can't recall where it came from, and the "prologue" and "epilogue" scenes hint and a story far larger and a threat of a possibly global scale that might visit the terror of the few trapped in Troy's studio to the entire world.

But these hints of a larger story are not presented in the hamfisted "Oooo we're setting up a sequel, kids? See? See?! We're not really giving you a complete story here, because we want you back for Part Two and Part Three!" that has become so annoyingly common over the past 15-20 years since everyone thinks their horror or sci-fi film is the next big trilogy or franchise. No... Lechago has written them into the film in an organic way, so we become curious about what might have happened before the film stars and what comes after the end credits finish their crawl. Any dreams he may harbor of sequels is up to him to discuss, but whether he had them or not, he managed to make the events of "Bio-Slime" feel connected to a much larger world, a world that viewers can't but help be curious about; he has planted his "sequel seed" the right way.

(In fact, Lechago did it SO right that I found myself imaging what could be going on... and the players in my on-again, off-again near-future sci-fi role-playing campaign will be dealing with something "borrowed" from this movie. And I can safely say this here, because none of them bother reading my film reviews, because they get enough of my rants in person.)

In addition to well-done story, the film also benefits tremendously from a nice, very traditional-flavored music score. I didn't really notice the music until the film was building to its climax and Troy was getting ready for his final showdown with the slime-creature, but it had been there previously as well. Michael Sean Colin's score is perfect in every respect, deployed at just the right moments and providing just the right intensity needed, mostly blending perfectly with the events unfolding on screen, but stepping to the fore when appropriate as during the film's climax.

Last, but far from least, the film features a great cast of actors. As I mentioned above, the characters in film are mostly here just to get killed, and there isn't much development that takes place with them. However, we get just enough to let us know the type of character each one of them is... and that type is then brought to seemingly full life through the talent and charisma of the actors playing them. While there might not be a whole lot for each actor to work with, what there is, they handle expertly, and they make us care about relatively shallow characters and to feel horrified as each one of them dies. Lachago matched the right actor with the exact right character, and the results are quite impressive. While I can nitpick some of the dialogue and some of the character interaction, I don't feel so inclined, because the actors gave such enjoyable performances, with Victoria De Mare as the bitchy porn actress and Vinnie Bilancio as the reluctant hero who was hoping to turn over a new leaf and make today the first day in the rest of his life, are particularly good in their parts.

"Bio-Slime" has not yet secured wide distribution, which is a shame. I think it's a film that deserves as audience beyond film festivals and cranky typists like yours truly.

(For a sample of what Lechago is capable of, you can check out "Killjoy 3" from Full Moon Features. Click on the link to read my review at the Charles Band Collection.)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Countdown to Halloween with Vampirella

28 Days Left....

By Mike Hoffman

The Complete Subspecies

Producer/writer/director Charles Band has put his stamp on nearly 300 horror and sci-fi movies since the late 1970s, but he has yet to top the quality of the "Subspecies" series. These four vampire films were helmed by his frequent 1990s collaborator Ted Nicolaou, and they are not only among the best movies to ever bear Band's famous Full Moon logo, but they are among some of the best vampire movies ever made.

You can read more about Full Moon movies at my other blog "The Charles Band Collection", but I am posting reviews of the Subspecies series here as well, because they are movies that any fan or student of the vampire genre needs to check out. Those of you who enjoy vampire movies with more of a gothic flavor to them than we've seen in recent years will be especially appreciative of the tone and nature of these films. It's a shame it's not been as popular as some of their other creations, such as the Puppet Master films.

Subspecies (1991)
Starring: Laura Mae Tate, Irina Movila, Michelle McBride, Anders Hove, Ivan J. Rado and Michael Watson
Director: Ted Nicolaou
Producer: Ion Ionescu and Charles Band
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

Three pretty grad students (McBride, Movila and Tate) working on disertations are in Transylvania to study the local legends and folk customs, only to find themselves in the middle of a vampiric family feud that's been brewing for centuries and that is now reaching it's brutal, bloody finale.

"Subspecies" is one of the better vampire movies to come out of the 1990s, despite the obvious budget constraints it was made under. It's an interesting merging of the hideous monstrosity vampires from the real legends and early movies and the sexy vampire that grew increasingly popular during the second half of the 20th century, reaching the pinnacle of pop culture success by the mid-1990s.

The story feels a tad slow-moving, partly because the film telegraphs where it's going by leading with the vampires and their blood-feud and then cutting to our three soon-to-be damsels in distress--two very cute blonds and an androgynous brunette--for extended sequences as they wander around old castles and a beautiful countryside, broken only by scenes of the very creepy and disgusting vampire Radu (played by Anders Hove, in a fashion that makes Max Schreck's Count Orlock in "Nosferatu" look like a GQ cover model) rising from his coffin. Radu is so vile that you know he's going to be chewing his way through the cast, so you're going to be feeling a bit impatient with the film as it works its way toward the expected carnage.

However, the film is never dull, nor will you likely be tempted to turn it off. The cast are all good actors and they all play their parts well. The camerawork is excellent and the true Romanian settings lends an atmosphere of realism to the film that few modern-day vampire films can muster.

But when it gets going, it delivers vampire material running the gamut. We've got a disgusting, drooling taloned vampire that's a late 20th century take on the "Nosferatu"-style vampire, we've got sexy vampire babes in nightgowns who might have just flitted over from one of Hammer's Dracula movies, and we've got the male model modern vampire hunk love interest of one of the girls (played by Michael Watson, who was a soap-opera star when the "Subspecies" movie were made).

With all of the good things I'm saying about the film, why am I only giving it a Six Rating, you ask? Well, it's because of the inconsistencies and strange logic surrounding the pint-sized monters that are a mainstay of Charles Band-produced films whether they belong or not. Here, the tiny creatures are nasty demons that are created from severed tips of Radu's fingers, but they fail to seem real because of the truly crappy effects used to bring them to life. For example, in all but one scene, no one bothered to trick in shadows under the creatures, so they appear to be floating over the floor instead of walking on it. They look exactly like what they are: Puppets that have been placed in the scenes via special effects, and they ruin almost every scene they're in because of it.

Despite its flaws, "Subspecies" is a vampire movie that has a little something for everyone, including bare breasts. It's a good start for a series that only gets better.

Subspecies II: Bloodstone (1993)
Starring: Denise Duff, Anders Hove, Melanie Shatner, Kevin Spirtas, Michael Denish, Ion Haiduc and Pamela Gordon
Director: Ted Nicolaou
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

Young Michelle (Duff) has recently been turned into a vampire and is on the run from the evil vampire prince Radu (Hove) and his twisted, immortal mother (Gordon). Her sister (Shatner) arrives in Romania hoping to help her, but what can a mere mortal do against an ancient vampire who is not only chasing Michelle because he want to possess her, but also because she has stolen the magical Bloodstone?

"Subspecies II: Bloodstone" is a direct continuation of the original "Subspecies"--it picks up just one single night after the final scene of the first movie--and it's one of those very rare sequels that manages to turn out better than the movie it follows. This is an especially remarkable feat because a near-total cast change has taken place and the film takes some very unexpected directions as far as story goes.

The only actor to return in the sequel is Anders Hove, who repeats his performance as the extremely vile, supremely creepy Radu. Although Radu doesn't actually kill anyone in this film--or even sink his vampiric fangs into a single neck!--he's an even more menacing presense than he was in the first film. He developes a maniacal need to possess Michelle, the mortal woman who was made a vampire by Radu's brother Stefan and he seems to start deluding himself into thinking that she will care for him, partly because he murdered Stefan to gain her as a possession. This insanity makes him even spookier than he was in the first movie.

Radu also seems more creepy because of superior camerawork and lighting present in this film. From beginning to end, there is a consistant mood of dread and darkness in every frame of the film, most of it created with simple lighting techniques and camera angles. (The same is true of a number of low-cost effects that seem to make the vampires beings of living shadows--something that is created through well-considered placement of spotlights and cameras and the result is far more effective than more costly special effects could ever have been. (The one time where there is an animated shadow, it looks cheesy, but every time Radu's arrival or departure is demonstrated with shifting, giant shadows it's very dramatic and cool.)

Aside from the competent camera work and lighting, the film also sports a great soundtrack that is fresh yet still reminicent of the one present in the first film. The featured actors also do an excellent job in their various parts, with Denise Duff being particularly noteworthy for stepping into the role of Michelle quite nicely (even if one has to wonder why they chose to go with her as Michelle when Melanie Shatner, the actress who plays Michelle's sister, bears closer physical resemblence to the actress who played Michelle in the first movie) and Michael Denish for serving as the film's comic relief as a scatter-brained Van Helsing-type scholar.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the film when one considers it was produced by Charles Band's Full Moon Entertainnment is the fact that the film follows continuity from the first film very closely. Even with a near-total cast change and the film shifting in tone from Hammer-style gothic horror to a more modern sensibility, the storyline and all the characters remain consistent. Other Full Moon series, like "Puppet Master" and "Trancers" seem to almost go out of their way to screw up story continuity between the various movies, but writer/director Ted Nicolaou chose to actually pay attention to what he'd done before and remain consistent with it even though he took the story in a very different direction than the ending of "Subspecies" seemed to be leading toward.

Subspecies III: Bloodlust (1993)
Starring: Anders Hove, Denice Duff, Melanie Shatner, Kevin Spirtas, Ion Haiduc and Pamela Gordon
Director: Ted Nicolaou
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

After failing to rescue her sister from the clutches of the evil vampire prince Radu (Hove), Becky (Shatner) enlists the help of a young American diplomat (Spirtas) and a frustrated Romanian police detective (Haiduc) to stage a raid on Castle Vladislav. Meanwhile, Radu is educating the fledgling vampire Michelle (Duff) in how to use her new supernatural powers while attempting to corrupt her soul in order to make her is vampire bride in body as well as spirit.

"Subspecies III: Bloodlust" picks up at the ending of the previous film, seamlessly continuing the storyline of Michella, Radu, and the fearless (but hapless) vampire hunters led by Michelle's sister Becky. Characters who had minor roles in the previous film take the spotlight in this one and they launch a concerted and believable (once one buys into the idea that vampires and witches exist) effort to bring down the vampires.

Once again, the cast all give admirable performances, with Anders Hove making Radu even more disgusting in this installment than he had been in the previous ones. At the same time, however, he manages to evoke some degree of sympathy in the viewer as well. (He's a hideous, murdering monster who has more than just a few screws loose, but the love he has developed for Michelle--however twisted--and the pain it is causing him that she doesn't love him back gives the character a dimension that both makes him increasingly creepy but also gives the viewer something to relate to.)

In some areas, this film continues the trajectory started with the first "Subspecies" sequel, increasing the quality of the film instead of decreasing it as is the usual pattern when it comes to sequels. In other areas, the film holds its own quite nicely, and the end result is a film that will provide a satisfying viewing experience for lovers fo vampire movies of all stripes.

The script for this installment of the series is the best so far. I've already touched upon the great performances given by Anders Hove and Denice Duff, performances that wouldn't have been possible if they hadn't been provided with a great script as their starting point. The scripts quality is also manifested in the comic relief character of Lt. Marin (portrayed by Ion Haiduc), who has scenes that manage to inspire laughter on the heels of, or even during, some of the film's most intense and scary moments. The only complaint I have with the script is that I would have liked to have been given a bit more of a solid ending, but what we have isn't decent enough so that's a minor complaint.

The film isn't as impressive in the photography and lighting area as its predecessor was, with many of the shadow and transformation effects being acheived with animation or composite shots instead of simple lighting and camera tricks. The overall look of the film also isn't quite as dramatic as "Subspecies II", but it's still far beyond the average low-budget horror film and it is still good enough to place this film among the best movies to ever emerge from the Full Moon film factory. It is without a doubt evidence that the Golden Age for Charles Band and his Full Moon label was in the early 1990s. (Band may yet rediscover how to mount productions as impressive as this one, but nothing he has produced in recent years even comes close.)

"Subspecies III: Bloodlust" is one of the very best vampire films ever made. It should be on the "must-see" list of any serious fan or student of genre.

Subspecies 4: Bloodstorm (1998)
Starring: Denice Duff, Anders Hove, Floriela Grappini, Jonathon Morris, Mihai Dinvale, Ion Haiduc, and Ioana Abur
Director: Ted Nicolaou
Producers: Charles Band, Kirk Edward Hansen, and Vlad Paunescu
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

Free of her master Radu (Hove), fledgeling vampire Michelle (Duff) enters the care of a doctor who claims he has discovered a method to reverse her undead condition. But Radu is not ready to let her go yet, and he launches an effort to retrieve her, with the reluctant help of Bucharest's most powerful vampire, Ash (Morris).

In the annals of unnecessary sequels, few are more unnecessary than "Subspecies 4". The 1993 third movie in the series provided a satisfying conclusion to the core story of the series--Michelle resisting Radu's attempts to turn her to evil--and the heroes driving off into the sunrise as Radu was burned to ashy oblivion was a nice period at the end.

But, Charles Band being Charles Band, a successful film WILL have a sequel no matter what, so four years later, Nicolaou was back in the director's chair at the helm of this film, which is an unnecessary sequel not just to the first three "Subspecies" films, but to the tangentially related "Vampire Journals", which was also written and directed by Nicolau. (Or maybe it's a prequel to "Vampire Journals"? With Full Moon's trademark disregard for continuity, I never can be 100 percent sure what they're intending....)

All that said, despite being a wholly unnecessary add-on to the other vampire films, it stands with the original "Subspecies" films and "Vampire Journals" as one of the most visually striking films to ever come from the Band direct-to-home-video assembly lines. Nicolaou really knew how to get the most out of the grand Romanian locations, especially at night. He also continues his flair for stretching his minimal budget to the point where he creates an end-product that looks better than films that cost ten times as much to make.

And while the film is not as good as "Subspecies 3"--the best film from Nicolau I've seen so far--it is an improvement on the overly slow "Vampire Journals".

As for the story, it's a tangle plots and counter-plots that rival the storylines envisioned by the creators of the 1990s roleplaying game "Vampire: The Masquerade" which these movies have always seemed like the perfect adaptation of. Radu plotting to conquer
Michelle, Ash plotting to destroy Radu, Dr. Niculescu's hidden agenda and dark secret... all of these intrigues swirl around Michelle who continues to resist the call of evil and dream of reclaiming her humanity. If you like the Anne Rice-style vampire genre and/or the 1990s White Wolf-style roleplaying games, you'll enjoy this movie.

You'll also enjoy the film if you liked Anders Hove performances in the previous "Subspecies" films. Hove's Radu is every bit as disgusting as he's always been, although he is also even more pathetic in this film that ever before, with his desire for Michelle now fully transformed from its initial need to possess into unrequited love. The rest of the cast do a good job as well, with Jonathon Morris actually being better as Ash in this film than he was in "Vampire Journals" and Ion Haiduc providing gallows-humor comic relief as a police detective turned bumbling vampire (making him the only returning character from the previous two films aside from Michelle and Radu).

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Countdown to Halloween with Vampirella

Thirty Days to Go...

By Jim Ordliss

'The Specialist' isn't very special

The Specialist (1975)
Starring: Adam West, John Anderson, Ahna Capri, Marlene Schmidt, Howard Avedis, Harvey Jason, and Alvy Moore
Director: Hikmet Avedis
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

A small-town attorney/political strongman (Anderson) sets out to discredit and crush a young attorney (West) who has not only set up practice in "his town," but has also stolen away one of his clients. His plan involves framing him for jury tampering using an out-of-town "specialist" (Capri)... whose specialty is seducing men.

This is a film that is a failure in almost every way. It's got a weak script that keeps drifting between being comedy to being courtroom drama to being suspense to half-assed attempts at soft-core porn, and failing utterly to succeed even in the slightest way at any of those genres. It's also indifferently filmed and flatly directed, with techniques that seem to emphasize the cheapness of the production rather than gloss over it.

But neither of those are really what damns this film to a low Three Rating, although they certainly play a part. No, it's the performance, as well as the character portrayed, by Ahna Capri, a buxom actress who enjoyed a long and successful career as a supporting player on television shows from age 13 in 1956 through her retirement from the profession in 1979. Simply put, while Capri is unquestionably beautiful, she doesn't have the screen presence to make one believe that a happily married, extremely intelligent, and extremely canny lawyer would be so dazzled by her charms to risk marriage and career just because she batted her eyes at him. While Capri certainly is attractive enough to be a "specialist" in the arena where "every body has a price" (to quote the film's tagline), the situation in this film is so unbelievable--or maybe just poorly and thinly written--that even the most willing suspension of disbelief can't make it work.

And then there's the fact it has one of the worst endings I've ever been subjected to. While it's kinda-sorta set up earlier in the film, it still feels completely unsatisfying and so badly motivated that one wonders if it didn't come about by Adam West saying, "Look, my contract says I'm DONE with this shoot in 20 minutes... and believe me, I am going to be DONE and all of you are going to be in my review mirror in 25 minutes!"

I guess it says something about the film's watchability that I got to the end, but the only reasons for that was a hope that it was about to get better every time it shifted genres, the fact that Adam West is almost always entertaining, and a rather nice bit of acting from former Miss Germany Marlene Schmidt as West's fiercely devoted wife. Schmidt was like a shining light in the darkness whenever she appeared on screen, giving a far better performance than this film deserved.

'One Girl's Confession' is barely worth hearing

One Girl's Confession (1953)
Starring: Cleo Moore, Hugo Haas, and Glenn Langan
Director: Hugo Haas
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

Tempered by the school of hard knocks from an early age, Mary (Moore) robs $25,000 from her mobbed-up employer out of revenge for him ruining her father many years earlier. She then confesses to the theft, but never reveals where she hid the money, so she is sent to prison where she is safe from retaliation. All she has to do is serve her time and then quietly retrieve the hidden fortune once she is released. But when the kindness shown to her by a professional gambler (Haas) inspires her to share the money with him to help him out of a tight spot, and he appears to repay her by stealing the entire secreted fortune, she sets out get "her" money back or to gain revenge.

I imagine that in 1953 "One Girl's Confession" had all the plot twists and reversals to keep viewers satisfied. Further, the acting is good, the cinematography is serviceable, and the direction is steady and well-focused. Personally, I think that Cleo Moore's character of Mary was a little too quick to develop such trust in Hugo Haas' character given her background, but if one accepts the idea that she was just a little girl at heart looking for decent father-esque figure.

But nearly seventy years later, the film's story comes across as feeling too straight-forward, too pat, and under-developed. When watching it, there are numerous complications that seem to be set up as the story unfolds, but which are brought to fruition. The mob angle is dealt with kinda-sorta, but it feels too easy for someone watching the film in 2011, and there are a couple of characters that are just begging to be revealed as duplicitous or as something other than what they appear to be on the surface. But, without spoiling anything, I can tell you that whatever twists you THINK might be coming, you'll only get a tiny fraction of the proverbial "storm" can one would expect to come down on Mary's head as she moves to collect the money she's "worked for."

Now, the plot twists that do materialize are all well-executed, and the signature "ironic twists" in a Hugo Haas picture are here in spades, but as "The End" flashed on the screen, I was left feeling like I'd somehow been short-changed. This isn't exactly a bad movie, it's just a little tame.

I suppose it might be a nice, light-weight introduction to the film noir genre if you have a 11-14 year-old girl in your household with a love of crime fiction and mysteries (and the same might be true of a boy, but I think it might be less likely), but I think time has left this movie behind as entertainment for adults. I'd move to hear other opinions, though.

Halloween Scream Queens

Here's a little something to kick off the October of 2011, possibly the LAST October ever if they Mayans were right and the world is going to end sometime in 2012: A post featuring all the primary actresses from the Halloween movies. Including those who appeared in the "Halloween" films I like to pretend don't exist... although as I was putting together this post, it appears to me that the worse the movie, the more breasts the producers and directors try to add to make up for it.

Jamie Lee Curtis: Laurie Strode
Halloween (1978), Halloween II (1979), Halloween H20, and Halloween: Ressurection
Click here to read Curtis' Saturday Scream Queen profile.

Danielle Harris: Jamie Lloyd &Annie Brackett
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers &
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers;
Halloween (2007) & Halloween II (2009)
Click here to read Harris' Saturday Scream Queen profile.

Ellie Cornell: Rachel Carruthers
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers &
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers
Click here to read Cornell's Saturday Scream Queen profile.

Marianne Hagan: Kara Strode
Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers
(Second Worst of the Original Series.)
Saturday Scream Queen  profile coming soon.

J.C.Brandy: Jamie Lloyd
Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers
Saturday Scream Queen profile coming soon.

Tyra Banks: Nora
Halloween: Resurrection
(Worst of the Original Series)

Katee Sackhoff: Jen
Halloween: Resurrection
Saturday Scream Queen profile coming soon.

Bianca Kajlich: Sara Moyer
Halloween: Resurrection

Scout Taylor-Compton: Laurie Strode
Halloween (2007) and Halloween II (2009)
Saturday Scream Queen profile coming soon.

Stacey Nelkin: Ellie Grimbridge
Halloween III: Season of the Witch
(The non-slasher one.)