COMPILED BY ERIX ANTOINE
It was only a matter of time…
The B Action Movie Thread has been a gargantuan mainstay of this site for several years. So, in our continued efforts to dominate the internet in every conceivable way, here is a weekly column. A digest, if you will. Dig in and we’ll see you in the thread!
THIS WEEK ON THE B ACTION MOVIE THREAD (Last Week’s Installment)
Rene here with a spiked bat and smashing several pages together to bring you all the crucial info you want from the thread you love. It starts on 1431 and ends on 1438.
It begins with the raping of Sucker Punch and Hunter declaring it the worst film he’s ever seen. duke fleed says that he liked it, and I also say I haven’t seen it, but when I see it, I may think it’s at least ok. (I did like Legion and Jonah Hex. Can’t be that bad.)
I posted this in response to it being said it looked like Sailor Moon by Walker.
kain424 also saw Sucker Punch and was not impressed.
Erix and I talk about The Rite, as I had just seen it, and came away really impressed. Seriously, check it out. It’s really good.
Erix also had this to say about The Hunt For Red October.
Just revisited an old favorite – The Hunt For Red October – on Blu Ray.
It’s just such a classy action picture, very reminiscent of the type they would make in the 70s (complete with the PG rating to go with it). I love the exquisite pacing and the performances from a distinguished roster of great character actors.
I have once again confirmed Alec Baldwin as my favorite Ryan. I think Harrison Ford took up the mantle admirably, but I really enjoy the sense of boyish enthusiasm Baldwin brought to the table. He’s a very likable hero. You really root for him at the end when he gets to blow away the saboteur.
Speaking of which, I think it’s interesting how Tomas Arana plays basically the same character here that he does in The Bodyguard. He even dies in exactly the same way with the exact same look on his face.
It’s the best of the Jack Ryan films.
Moltisanti posts a picture of the poster for The Laughing Policeman and sparks a discussion. Fat Elvis also saw it, and just yesterday I got the dvd in the mail from Netflix, so I’ll be seeing it this weekend.
A discussion is spurred on the 3 Ninjas franchise by Hunter, and I post the poster for Surf Ninjas, because frankly, I don’t really like the 3 Ninjas movies. Except for Victor Wong. He rules.
Felix sees Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story and has mixed feelings on it.
Kain424 posts that he got the workprint of Cyborg in the mail (signed by Albert Pyun!)
Walker compares the trailer to The Laughing Policeman (Man, doesn’t that sound like an Italian Giallo?) to the trailer for Cruising.
This of course gives me the excuse to post this clip from Cruising featuring Joe Spinell and Mike Starr as Patrolmen DiSimone and Desher.
There should have been a spinoff movie with them as the leads.
Fat Elvis had this to say about The Laughing Policeman.
Interesting flick. Very grisly for its time, especially the opening bus massacre. The tone was almost unrelentingly dour, so I can only imagine how much it must have thrown people off coming in expecting a lite Walter Matthau movie. (Weird that Walt badmouthed CHARLEY VARRICK, but evidently had no prob with this one). But the tone creates a mood, and you do feel the dreariness and obsession that goes along with being Homicide on a case. If I have one complaint, there’s not a lot of fun chemistry between Dern and Matthau –in fact there’s almost anti-chemistry, and Dern’s usual odd ticks were, at least to me, particularly annoying in this one–however I guess that was part of the point.
The Perfect Weapon posts about some vhs tapes that he had bought several years ago from a flea market and found this gem.
He had this to say.
Imagine my shock when I saw this, having no idea this ever existed. I was never expecting to watch something that was supposed to make young men go through tissues a la Dave Lizewski in the opening minutes of Kick-Ass.
But I am pissed I can’t find the second segment I watched. THAT is totally WTF worthy. It’s a “cooldown” with a guy and girl. Both are wearing the same unitard! It starts out and you can’t make out what it is yet, but once you do, it looks as if the girl is giving the guy a BJ as they’re spread-legged facing each other. She gets up, and they do some sort of synchronized routine. You then see that the guy looks almost exactly like Kenny Loggins… if he wore eye-liner. It’s so preposterous, I can’t believe it’s not online, like many clips of Aerobicise are.
I was quick to point out that clips of it with a less overtly pornographic sounding soundtrack were featured in Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter.
felix posts a review for the second DTV movie made out of episodes from Seagal’s True Justice tv series. He posts this choice quote from it.
“In ‘Street Wars’, Kane is a smug, mumbling disciplinarian who spends the majority of his time sitting behind a desk, admonishing his far more competent and pro-active team members, playing blues guitar, and relaxing by destroying what looks like a completely innocent cat scratching-post with his Samurai sword.”
We all are horrified and intrigued at the same time that Arnold’s first post Governor role will be voicing THE GOVERNATOR cartoon.
Jox informs us on 2 movies Dolph is doing. 1 with Cuba Gooding Jr. (One In The Chamber) and the other with Steve Austin. (The Package)
felix reveals that the date of the sequel to one of the greatest action movies in recent history will be released on August 17, 2012.
I finally saw Green Zone, and it was indeed a great film. Check it out.
Several of us (Myself, Moltisanti, wadew1, Walker, Vacuum Jockey, and Hunter) saw Hobo With A Shotgun since it’s hit On Demand. We all had VERY positive words on it.
kain424 posts this great video. I’ll let it speak for itself.
The Governator trailer is posted, and we all comment on how it looks like the trailer for an old 80’s cartoon. Thus begins a Youtube parade of clips from old 80’s cartoons. (One of the best is CAMP CANDY)
Dick Blaque is introduced.
Then, we discover that Wayne Kramer has dropped out of the Stallone vehicle, Headshot, and that WALTER HILL is in talks to take over the directing reins! Please let this happen. Oh please, let him direct the movie.
THE MIND OF RENE F. RANGEL
I remember when Spice World first came out during the height of the craze for those sexy British broads. I never saw it, but I did pick up the dvd at Big Lots in December of 2009 and found it to be a fun little romp.
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This week, we begin a very special retrospective of one of the great B Movie craftsmen – GEORGE P. COSMATOS.
Famous mostly for Tombstone and his work with Stallone, people seldom talk about him when discussing the great B Movies of the 80s. And he is seldom praised for the skill he brought to Tombstone, as it is still a matter of controversy whether or not he really directed that film.
But, going over his body of work the next few weeks, will hopefully showcase the man’s versatility. He crafted some of the most memorable and distinctive B Movies of the decade and he was taken from us all too soon.
THIS WEEK’S MOVIE
IN WHICH FAT ELVIS PAYS TRIBUTE TO OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN
In the early 80s, having cable was a Garden of Eden for a young movie buff. During the day, classics and the usual fare were digested, but at night, especially during sleepovers with school buddies, there was a challenge to stay up late and discover something scary or parentally-unapproved. As a kid at the age when scary movies actually scare, ( a too- short window), it was like a roller coaster-so terrifying that you wanted to get off but so much fun you couldn’t wait to get back on. The rush of terror was the fun-that rush has often been chased but never since matched.
Certain titles were “forbidden fruit” that promised dark mysteries. Stumbling across the title Of Unknown Origin in the cable guide, the name alone was enough to get the imagination of an eleven-year-old boy to run wild. What was discovered that night, watching it for the first time, was a B-movie Jaws – a movie that delivered chills and suspense with Hitchcockian precision.
The movie tells the tale of a man with a dream home, a restored, New York brownstone, that, unfortunately, as we soon find out, is also the dream home of a giant, seemingly-intelligent sewer rat. Just like Spielberg famously didn’t show the shark during most of the early running time of Jaws, director Cosmatos toys with us, the audience, by keeping the rat mysterious, giving us only point-of-view shots and glimpses of its long ugly tail at the edges of wide-angle shots.
The movie juxtapositions the man’s Ahab-like obsession with catching the rat with the rat race that is his high-pressure career. The rat’s ability to go wherever it wants becomes more and more threatening and terrifyingly invasive until, in a classic jump scare, the man can’t even go to the bathroom without his unrelenting, rodent nemesis jumping out at him.
Another scene where Cosmatos expertly uses suspense is when a friend enters the house at night, kicks off her shoes and climbs the stairs to see why he didn’t show up at work. We see her bare feet narrowly missing the industrial-strength rat traps littering the stairs, and we expect that at any moment she will step in one and lose, at the very least. The movie even has its own mesmerizing Indianapolis speech scene: our protagonist goes to a fancy business dinner and launches into a monologue about the history of the rat. He disgusts and enthralls the table with his now almost-encyclopedic knowledge of the rat’s place as both symbol of vileness and object of worship.
In the days after watching for the first time, falling asleep with my nightlight, I wondered if something was crawling in the walls or amongst the box springs of my bed-something ready to emerge from the darkness and chew its way through the protective wall of stuffed animals. Thanks a lot, George P. Cosmatos!
This should not be a legitimately great movie.
In essence, Of Unknown Origin is a horror variation of a live-action Tom & Jerry cartoon, featuring Peter Weller as a stressed-out, human Tom, and that cute little brown mouse we always root for in those shorts has been replaced with a fanged, diabolical rodent that would much prefer the taste of Buckaroo Banzai to cheese.
I’m completely low-balling the film, trying to make it sound cheap. Warner Bros., apparently, thought it was cheap too, as all of the marketing completely hindered the presence of the rat, literally emphasizing the title. How fitting that it was Fat Elvis and Rene, among many others, who finally convinced me that I should check out Of Unknown Origin late last year. Admittedly, I had only known George P. Cosmatos for his Stallone collaborations and Tombstone, and contrary to the popular belief that with those films in mind, he was not just a shadow of those films’ true auteurs, but the real deal.
Much like Jaws and Alien, Of Unknown Origin is a monster movie that doubles as a thunderous parable for obsession and desperation, and Cosmatos runs a tight ship by conveying the horror and graveness of the situation at hand with the claustrophobic, theatrical trappings of the story. Naturally, it only fits that Peter Weller gives such an effective, commandeering performance. At this point, Weller had a stronger reputation as a stage actor than the genre favorite he’s well remembered as now, and his reverence and dedication to the spiraling madness Bart Hughes undergoes in the film is a testament to his pedigree. The scale of Hughes’ problem is much smaller than those two more famous, aforementioned films. On one level, he borders on vigilantism, but the grudge against the rat is a necessary, primal rage that matches the ideology of the horror genre beautifully, as well as Weller’s range and prowess as an actor.
Honestly, I cannot embellish the excellence of Weller’s performance here more. Rarely, horror films boast a role that is not only iconic in how it is written, but has the gift of an actor who elevates the material to much, much more. Terry O’Quinn in The Stepfather and Cameron Mitchell’s frighteningly real, ripped-from-the-headlines psycho in The Toolbox Murders come to mind, but Bart Hughes is a brilliant personification of Reagan-era, hegemonic masculinity gone awry and leaping outside of a fathomable comfort zone. Elvis made a very apt Ahab comparison, and Hughes undoubtedly shares many admirable similarities to Melville’s famed whale hunter. Materially, Hughes is structured the same way as the average patriarch of an 80’s family sitcom, the financially comfortable, bread-winning bourgeois straight man and head of the family. However, the rat infestation that he becomes so taken by is a brilliant opening to explore the psyche of such a man, and at the same time we become attached to Hughes, Weller fascinates us with his undying charisma and dedication to playing this character so brilliantly.
The theatricality of the film is not limited to Weller’s performance, and it’s a commendable trait. While the film does break into other locations, such as Hughes’ workplace and the memorable dinner sequence where his obsession starts to bleed into his public dealings, the stage-like qualities of the film are what makes it so exceptional. Obviously, the Broadway crowd would jeer the living hell out of a production based around a man’s obsession with trying to kill a rat, and the serious handle on the subject matter would add further insult to injury, so it’s much more ideal to turn the concept—based on a novel—into a film that feels like a play.
Cosmatos directs the film with such a precise eye for the visceral and psychological fear that permeates the surroundings that it transcends even being one of the better, higher-tier creature features of the era—stuff like Alligator and Piranha come to mind, but this film plays it straight and never keeps its tongue towards its cheek. It’s a risky prospect that Cosmatos wonderfully pulls off, and surely, it’s hard to believe that a film this complex is also the one that proudly heralds the acting debut of Shannon Tweed, wife of Gene Simmons, Cinemax late-night staple throughout the 80’s and 90’s, and 1981 Playmate of the Year. She plays Bart’s wife, keeping a considerable distance from the film as she decides to take their son to see his grandparents while Dad anguishes with his rat prob—I mean, his workload. Tweed, of course, has always been better remembered as a delectable T&A package, but in spite of not having the same gravitas and pull that Weller does at acting, she does adequately.
But what the hell am I saying, trying to emphasize Shannon Tweed as a major component of this film? The fact that Of Unknown Origin isn’t regarded as a full-on classic may seem far-reaching to the general public, but it’s an absolute shame that the film has not become as widely regarded as some of its likeminded, spiritual brethren. It’s the epitome of a “minor masterpiece,” the sort of brilliance that never gets the widespread face time it rightfully should, anchored by a textbook command performance and a wonderful visual style. Lastly, while I don’t want to say anything about it (just watch the damn movie!), the film is up there with Cutter’s Way and Cop, among many others, has having one of the best abrupt endings ever.
ERIX SEZ – I’M GLAD I WATCHED THIS
Some things, you’re just glad they exist… And I’m very pleased I can live in a world where this little thriller was made.
I had never seen it before last week. And, outside of some vague recollection of it being advertised somewhere, I hadn’t even heard of it. But now I’m glad I sat there and watched 80 minutes of Peter Weller running around his brownstone screaming like an asshole.
Well… In actuality, about 65 – 70 minutes are taken up by that. The other 15 odd minutes consist of leisurely tracking shots as people walk through office buildings talking about business.
Look. I like the movie. Don’t get me wrong… But it has one of those set ups where you have to tell people – “Don’t worry, it’s going to get good really soon” … And, whenever it cut to those insufferable scenes of Weller in his office, I had to remind myself that I was watching a kick ass B Movie.
There is also some screen time devoted to Peter Weller’s blossoming relationship with his neighbor – a plumber who knows a thing or two about rats. But who, in an intriguing plot twist, doesn’t ever do a god damn thing to help Weller with his plight. In fact, at one point Weller just stops hanging out with him and we never see him again.
He shows up occasionally… We see him over by a dumpster glancing at Weller’s brownstone across the street, listening to the screams and then walking right back into his building to eat a bologna and cheese sandwich.
And there’s a truncated Friday the 13th-style “jump scare” sex scene with Shannon Tweed so, if that’s your bag, go ahead and take it.
But what really matters is Peter Weller and that fucking rat.
The villain of this picture is a rat. Not a giant rat. Not an alien. Not a whole plague of rabid rats… Just one ordinary fucking rat like the kind you see scurrying about on the NY subway tracks.
And that’s why I’m glad this movie exists.
It took balls to write the story. And it took a great deal of courage and creativity to go ahead and make the movie.
Is it scary? You bet your ass. I mean, I don’t believe for a second that any rat actually behaves this way. But the craft Cosmatos shows in staging the suspense, coupled with Weller’s deliciously neurotic histrionics, sure convince me that I’d better be on the edge of my seat. There are menacingly creepy shots of the rat gnashing his teeth, or slinking about… Something wonderfully disgusting happens to a little kitty…
Although all the action is reduced to one location, Cosmatos and his cinematographer keep things interesting and even visually arresting. We don’t see the rat a whole lot. But we are still taken into his world and the shots of all his hiding places as we track through all his tunnels … It’s great. A lot more interesting than tracking through cubicles and offices, I’ll tell you that much.
I am reminded of Larry Cohen’s It’s Alive – which convinced us that a newborn baby can be a powerful force of destruction and death. And, I suppose, much like Cohen’s thriller is really a parable for people feeling cannibalized by their children; Of Unknown Origin is trying to say something about yuppie paranoia and how fragile their life is, as it depends on a system that can very easily be destroyed…
We are told, early on, that Weller renovated the shit out of that brownstone. We are under the impression that he did it with his own two hands. It’s a beautiful fucking home. Then, along comes that rat and he can barely live in it. And it takes him just minutes to destroy it.
As has been pointed out by my colleagues, Weller is the main attraction here. I like the way he plays this hero. He’s not necessarily a likable character. He comes off as a bit of a work-obsessed prick, in fact. Even though he is set up as a family man who loves his son, you can’t really sympathize with the guy as he clearly wants to jump into his secretary’s pants the moment the wife and kid go on vacation.
But I guess that’s none of my business and Weller still makes this asshole compelling. And just stand back when he gets going, man. The sight of him running around calling the little rat a motherfucker and a cocksucker… It’s something to behold.
And as his sanity begins to crumble, as his very life begins to fall apart… So too does your faith in humanity.
That dark edge that permeates throughout the movie is what makes it fascinating and it shows off Cosmatos as a skilled handler of suspense and tension. The dark edge is also why I’m a little disappointed that they chose to go in a rather conventional direction for the film’s ending.
It shouldn’t actually matter whether or not he finally squashes that goddamn rat. What really matters is how just a little furball can come in and completely wreck his whole life. That’s what you take away from the movie.
My colleagues are right. This film should be more regarded than it is.
Besides, how can you not worship a movie that has this as Weller’s ultimate weapon.
It’s a bat and some nails and pieces of saw and I don’t know what the fuck else but it’s fucking amazing.
If Murphy had that on him at the warehouse, RoboCop never would have existed. You know what I mean?
Robocop vs a giant rat. That’s Of Unknown Origin in a nutshell. Of course there’s actually much more that occurs in the film, right down to some Polanski/Repulsion-esque hallucinations that happen.
Peter Weller stars as Bart Hughes. A Yuppie who owns a Brownstone in New York and is very much a neat freak. His wife (the sultry Shannon Tweed) and his young son go away to visit her father for a few days. He’s left to work at his firm, and little by little he notices things. Bitten food, scratching sounds. Then he discovers that his house has become home to a large rat. He goes to talk to a buddy of his named Clete who is the handyman for the apartment complex next door and he gives him the low down on rats in general. How they can survive a friggin’ nuclear blast, and are attacking people in subways. Crazy shit that you really don’t want to know about. It gets so bad that when he’s at a library watching a video (Rats eating rats. They really will eat anything) Bart gets disgusted and takes off the headphones and throws them down.
All throughout the movie, we’ve been seeing POV shots of SOMETHING in Bart’s Brownstone (that sounds wrong) The rat has some extreme close ups of its paws and body that are repugnant and it’s leathery tale slides over the camera. There’s even giant holes that the rat goes through. I love the POV shots since we get stuff like the camera peering through the blinds as Bart walks away. It almost makes you want to think it’s a human intruder. Rather than a rat.
When Bart goes to a surplus store, (run by the guy who played Hollis in the original My Bloody Valentine!) and he gives him crucial information that if the rat is female, it will be twice as vicious. This turns out to be true, as eventually Bart finds baby rats that he accidentally throws down a drain when the rat attacks him. From this point on, the rat seems to have an Orca-esque burning vengeance against Bart.
Of Unknown Origin is the greatest movie David Cronenberg never made. It’s very much a Canadian production from it’s Canadian cast (Kenneth Welsh, Lawrence Dane, Jennifer Dale, and Shannon Tweed) and it’s produced by Pierre David. I could definitely have seen Cronenberg go nuts with this man vs. rat tale. We still got a masterpiece directed very well by George P. Cosmatos. The commentary on the dvd is spliced together of him and Peter Weller, but it gets really in depth, even noting towards the end that it’s almost come to be a relationship between the female rat and Bart as he comically says “Honey, I’m home!” and when Jennifer Dale goes to tell him he’s gotten an extension on a deal that he has to do for his job he screams “LEAVE US ALONE!!!!” from within his house.
The entire end sequence is remarkable as Bart goes to town and destroys his home to get at the rat with the bat that he has modified with large nails and steel rat traps that he has separated and drilled on to it. This entire end sequence is Bart UNLEASHED. He’s on his last straw, and it’s broken. He virtually destroys his entire house. I think I would too, if I was forced to sleep in a hammock above my bed, and had nightmares of my son’s birthday party and the friggin’ rat jumping out of the cake.
It’s an amazing North American debut for George Pan Cosmatos and you owe it to yourself to see it. If not for him, do it for Peter Weller! Who knows, if you have a rat problem, this movie could give you an idea or two to deal with it.