Category Archives: Science Fiction

#226 – Hawk Savage: Renewed

(2014, US, 102 min) Dir Hal Hanry. Cast Leo Young, Demi Moore, Jeff Goldblum.

Here’s the story – the original Hawk Savage, about a daytime TV personality who dressed up as a big bird and transcended time and space to fight injustice in the evenings, was released in cinemas in the fall of ’84. Less than nobody went to see it. Had it been released ten years prior that, more likely than not, would have been that but over the following ten years it gained a steadily accumulating army of cult fans on VHS. This was good news for director Hal Hanry and lead actor Leo Young – neither of them having had much of a career since Hawk Savage – as it meant that their future on the science fiction convention circuit seemed assured. Then the internet happened. In 2006 a young fan called Jan Lawrence made a trailer for Hawk Savage: Renewed (as was promised, in the style of James Bond films of old, at the end of the original HS). Emboldened by the media interest in this trailer Hanry began an eight year tour of every studio he could get in the door of whilst keeping the internet public up to date with regular assurances of deals and rumours of deals and news of imagined deals. A Kickstarter fund was launched and it’s target exceeded. Fox got on the phone and their budget was doubled. The internet patted itself on the back. The real Hawk Savage: Renewed was released in the fall of ’14 and yet again less than nobody went to see it. What had originally been a film that was fleet of touch was now weighed down by callbacks to the original that rendered the proceedings impenetrable to neophytes. It didn’t help that the stars of the original like Demi Moore and Jeff Goldblum looked much less that pleased to be returning. Not Leo Young though – he was having a ball. Avoid unless you’re a die-hard fan and even them think twice about it.

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#222 – Man-Ant, The

(1947, US, 73 min, b/w) Dir Ray McCarey. Cast George Brent, Boris Karloff, Anna Lee.

Due to be Val Lewton’s next film for RKO following Beldlam with pre-production completed by him and his regular collaborator Mark Robson, it was picked up by B director McCarey (with this his last picture before his death the following year) following Lewton’s dismissal from the studio. While not up to the standard of Lewton’s other RKO productions such as Cat People or I Walked With a Zombie it’s still a fun addition to the studio’s repetoir of the fantastic. Brent plays one Professor Radley Hammond whose courtship of Dolores Pearson (Lee) brings the ire of her father, the well-regarded but undeniably mad scientist Dr Lawrence Pearson (Karloff). Dr Pearson reacts to the news of their engagement in the manner one would expect of an unhinged man of science – he slips the prospective groom one of his experimental formulas in his celebratory drink which shrinks the unfortunate man down to the size of, you guessed it, an ant. Cue lots of fantastically huge props and a great chase scene involving the fleeing miniature man and an enraged household cat. Good fun, like I say, though one can’t help but wonder what the finished product would have been like had Lewton and Robson been able to complete it themselves – surely a great more vim would have been instilled into proceedings, especially in a baggy first half.

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#216 – Action Dreaming

(1910, GB, 14 min, b/w) Dir James Gilroy Munce. Cast Unknown.

Possibly the craziest, most ahead of its time and influential fourteen minutes of early cinema as film pioneer James Gilroy Munce corrals every optical trick available to him and invents a few more for this mostly narrativeless explosion of invention. Now little seen (and only now available for viewing in the Munce museum in Colorado) it spent a good twenty years following its production travelling with Munce or one of his trusted associates to every corner of the United States with his other films, enrapturing audiences wherever it went. No doubt some of the future titans of SFX saw it on this run and, inspired by shots such as the lead character – usually referred to as The Dreamer – leaping to the moon, went on to replicate them in their own features in later life. Cooper and Schoedsack, it is said, were inspired by the Dreamer’s wrestling with a sea colossus (having first swollen to match it in size) to realise King Kong themselves in 1933. To any student of film history, afficianado of the medium’s early years or even the mere fan a pilgrimage to Colorado’s to view this relic of enterprise and inspiration is an absolute must.

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#198 – Plastic Song (Peullaseutig Song)

(2008, SKor, 131 min) Dir Kim Chang-wan. Cast Shin Ha-kyun, Kim Ok-bin, Kim Roi-ha.

South Korea, the near future. Lonely office worker Joon, disheartened by a life of unrequited heartbreak, orders himself something from the cutting edge of technological advance – a seemingly sentient plastic sex doll that is called a Song. Once released from her coffin-sized packaging she is initially all that he could have hoped for – pretty, meek and sexually insatiable – but after a while he finds himself overcome with conflicting emotions towards her, the chief one being love though complicated by guilt. As you might expect from South Korean cinema Plastic Song juggles genres, morphing from the lighthearted comedy of the opening to a dramatic second act before going out in the world with Joon as he advocates politically for the recognition of the Songs. Not only that but it then becomes an action film as he in co-opted by pro-Song revolutionaries and then it finally ends with a blend of sci-fi dystopia and romance as Joon finds peace and mutual love with an upgraded Song in a shack in the hills of a depopulated post-apocalypse Korea where she lives on forever after Joon grows old and dies. If you can withstand the genre whiplash there’s much to enjoy in this buffet of a film with Kim Ok-bin managing to imbue her Song with an array of emotion despite being limited to a mere half-dozen expression settings.

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#194 – Blue Octagon, The (Octogone Bleu, L’)

(2010, Can, 110 min) Dir Yorgos Solberg. Cast Felicity Bananier, Alain Nori, Reynoldson Caves.

French Canadian wig-out cult flick with rising star Felicity Bananier as Eva, a student who uncovers what she believes to be a vast conspiracy to keep humanity subjugated. This is part one of the three parts of this very rigidly compartmentalised film – an effective, paranoid thriller where her every footfall is shadowed by another and the whose location of Montreal University is fantastically used for maximum eeriness, despite the film being shot during the summer months. The second part details her post-abduction interrogation at the hands of the secretive Blue Octagon in a fantastic set of neon and perspex where she is set at by her interrogator (the supernaturally still, seven-foot tall Caves). This is where the films descent into real strangeness begins with long wordless stretches of her psychological breakdown realised as a constant bombardment of flying coloured shapes that will no doubt have a similarly hypnotic effect on the viewer as it does on Eva. The less revealed here of the actually insane wordless psychedelic final act the better. To be seen on the big screen or, failing that, at a distance of about three inches from a huge television.

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#160 – Kuyruk, Bir (Tail, A)

(2011, Tur, 99 min) Dir Ahmet Şen. Cast Nuri Kesal, Yılmaz Erdoğan, Cansu Demirci.

A whimsical, surreal little film in which everyone in the world wakes up one morning to find that overnight they have grown the tails of  animals – some have big green lizard’s tails, some have brightly feathered birds tails, some have twitching cat tails and some have a prehensile primate tail (which seems to be the least problematic and most useful of them all). The problem is that this kicks off a vast restructuring of the existing social norms – for example the President, who woke that day with a giant squirrel’s tail, is ousted from government by a cadre of monkey tails within his own party. All of this is seen from the perspective of young Nuri whose mother, a seamstress, is making a lot of money in the crisis from altering trousers. Previously a small fish in his school he has found his stock rising mightily now that he is in possession of a ferocious looking and potentially deadly scorpion’s tail. Of course if we learned anything from Spider-Man it’s the whole great power/greater responsibility thing and it’s the relationship between these two that guides Nuri’s story. A well-played, beautifully shot little film with surprisingly good practical effects for the tails, it’s only downfall is that it’s a little obvious in its allegorical intent. It was well received when it premiered in Sundance a couple of years ago but a wide release seems sadly unlikely by now. Worth tracking down.

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#154 – Death Trip, The

(1972, Can, 100 min) Dir Herbert Yates. Cast Mel McKenna, Virginia Barbeau, Alain Stopkewich, Molly Pilbrow.

Grey skied acid western from Canadian director Herbert ‘Head’ Yates. Mel McKenna (yes, Peterson from TV’s Peterson & Son) is the wild haired, black clad Mansonesque wanderer named X who drifts near dead into the peaceful community of proto-hippies that is Small Preston. Nursed back to health by young Adrianne he seems to pass onto her strange visions of lust and the greater universe, her naked body melding with some strange being of pure light from behind the moon. Soon enough he is championing her as, in his words, “a prophet of the New Religion!” With her blindfolded in advance the whole village follows out into the wilds in search of the new Jerusalem “where the New Gods will descend from the heavens and touch our hearts with their pure light.” Of course half of them starve or die of thirst but the other half make it to the mountains where they find their New Gods and pass through a totally trippy initiation where the world, and the film, becomes pure abstraction. Not bad, if totally hippy dippy, with some astonishing effects considering it was 1972 and they had no money.

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Twitter: @MadeUpFilms