Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Howling: New Moon Rising


Here we are.  The seventh entry in the Howling Series Retrospective Review.

Here it is.  The nadir of the entire Howling series.
Oh boy, this is a rough one.

Need a refresher?  Check out previous installments in the series here:
The Howling
Howling II
Howling III
Howling IV
Howling V
Howling VI


So, okay.  Full disclosure:  One of the main reasons I started this project of watching and reviewing all the Howling films was because I wanted to write about this particular sequel.  Why?  Well, I have fond memories attached to this one, of watching it with friends and laughing at its terribleness, and for a brief time this was one of my favorite bad movies.  When I started the HSRR this was actually the only Howling sequel I had seen and, in a way, this entire project has been leading to this point. . .

Which is a bummer because The Howling: New Moon Rising (1995) is such a bad movie.

Like, really bad.  So bad that it only barely qualifies as a movie at all.  Inept is the word that covers most of the qualities of the filmmaking.  This isn't a horror movie, it's more like the local community group made a commercial for a small desert town saloon and a flimsy werewolf story was grafted onto it.  The movie is full of local color, and while it is interesting to an extent, there is nothing particularly exciting, oddball, or weird going on here.  The only truly interesting thing about The Howling: New Moon Rising is that it exists at all.
The plot:  Basically a redheaded Australian motorcycle cowboy (Clive Turner) rides into this small town somewhere outside of Barstow where the residents like to line dance and hang out at the local bar, Pappy and Harriet's Pioneer Town Palace.  There are some werewolf killings, the town gets suspicious of the redheaded stranger, but in reality he is on the trail of the werewolf himself..

The story, as it is, is augmented by the cast's attempts at jokes and comedy and also with all the line dancing and musical performances (of which there are many).  The werewolf stuff in this movie is practically non-existent and that which does exist is mostly footage from previous Howling sequels. . . man this movie is bad...

Let's just cut to the chase.  Here's the 7 Things You Need to Know about The Howling: New Moon Rising:


1.  The badness of this movie cannot be understated.  Not only is this thing not scary and barely a horror anything, not only is it overstuffed with montages and cheap, lame humor and endless line dancing by its non-actor cast, but it is so poorly put together from top to bottom that its cheapness becomes fascinating.  It's a slow motion car wreck with a country-western soundtrack.




2.  I'd say close to 30% of this movie is made up of footage from Howlings IV, V, and VI.  In the business they call this "padding."  This movie is so padded it could fall off a building and be fine.  All of this exposition and backstory is told first to a detective by a priest, who partially recounts the events of Part V and VI.


Then later, Marie (Romy Windsor) from Howling IV returns to the series and tells the priest about the events from that film.  They wisely use the footage of Richard's gooey transformation scene, which is the best thing in Part IV.


The first glimpse of a werewolf in New Moon Rising doesn't come until about 30 minutes into the movie and it's footage from Howling V.  In fact, the only original werewolf scenes in this movie are unbelievably terrible.



3.  The CGI transformation.  Oh shit.  This is just, so damn awful.  Up until this point the werewolf in this movie has been represented by red lensed POV camera shots, running around the desert and stalking people.

During the finale, when it is revealed that. . whoever is the werewolf (Cheryl?), she transforms onscreen but it is done with a sub-shitty '90s morphing CGI effect which is quite simply the worst werewolf transformation of all time.

After the morph job, the werewolf busts through a door and the entire town shoots the creature down.  It immediately cuts to the band playing in the bar as the credits roll.  It's an abrupt and yet merciful end to such a movie. It struggled with everything else.  Why stick the landing?




4.  Line Dancing Purgatory.

I've mentioned all the line dancing.  It is often shown in cutaways during bar scenes and montages.  What isn't quite clear is exactly where these fun loving people are in relation to the band that is playing.  It looks like some dark empty barn but I think it's obviously some sort of country-western purgatory for lost souls.



5.  Most of the humor and jokes in the film are real corny or lowbrow type stuff, but there is one that I do like for some reason:  the "dirt in the chili" scene.

This attempt at humor has Pappy making chili outside in a pot hanging over a fire.  One guy looks in and says, "there's dirt in the chili, Pappy."  Pappy takes off his apron and replies "I need a drink!"
Cut to inside and Pappy gets his drink.  This is also a running joke, as Pappy is supposed to have quit drinking on the orders of Mrs. Pappy.  So when she walks into the bar and Pappy hurriedly hides his whiskey, she instead says to him "Pappy, do you know there's dirt in the chili?"

"I know it!  I know it," he shouts.  Classic Pappy!




6.  Clive Tuner:  producer, writer, editor, director, star.  I believe it is safe to say that he is the responsible party for what we have here.

Turner also co-wrote, co-produced, and co-starred in Howling IV and V.  He is apparently supposed to be the same character from Part V here in New Moon Rising, even though that guy clearly died during that movie.


That aside, it could be considered interesting that Turner tried to connect the events of four different Howling sequels, four movies that really have nothing to do with one another.  The only other sequel that tries to connect with a previous film is Part II, which, while doing a bad job at that, is an infinitely better and more entertaining film than New Moon Rising.

Too bad, Turner. Your attempt at a shared universe was an abject failure.









7.  This movie has never been given a proper DVD release in America; it can only be legitimately found on VHS.  It can be found on foreign bootlegs and whatnot. . or you can check it out on YouTube. I don't normally advocate watching movies on that site, but in this crappy case, and also since there is no movie trailer to be found on the internet, I've made an exception.






Final Thought:  Don't see this movie, but if you do, just don't.


When I started this project I was unaware that there was an eighth and more recent Howling film. Crap.  I got one more of these to do!  I'm in Howling purgatory!!

Friday, June 12, 2015

RIP, Christopher Lee


Iconic and veteran British actor Christopher Lee has passed away.  He was 93.

It happened on Sunday morning (June 7th) at a London hospital where Lee was being treated for heart and respiratory problems; his wife, Birgit "Gitte" Kroencke Lee, decided to withhold the information until family and friends could be notified.

Ugh.  What a bummer, but hey, he was 93; he lived a long life and he lived it to the fullest.  That's the least most of us should hope for.

Lee was, quite simply, one of the best.  He's from that old school of acting, bringing a theatricality to his film roles throughout his career.  And what a career!

Frankenstein's monster, Dracula, The Mummy, Fu Manchu, Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, Lord Summerisle, Scaramanga, Saruman, Count Dooku, heavy metal recording artist, Christopher Lee did it all and did it with such style, gravitas, and panache!  One of the amazing things is that everyone from teenagers to grandparents know (or at least recognize) who Lee is.  He spanned decades which is a rarity in an era of increased specialization and shortened shelf lives.  Christopher Lee was truly one of the all-time greats.  It is sad that he's gone.

Thanks for all the movies and for all the scares.



---------------------------


Before taking up acting, Lee joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) right at the outbreak of World War II.  He wouldn't fly any planes due to an eye condition, but he volunteered with RAF Intelligence where he would assist in operations that took place in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia.  Most interestingly, after the war, Lee would help in the tracking down of Nazi war criminals (what a badass!).



<<< Lee in 1944, Vatican City




Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
Christopher Lee would work with British film production company Hammer Films many times throughout his career, and he would often work with his good friend Peter Cushing.  The first time for both was in this, the first Frankenstein film that Hammer released, kicking off their reainessance of new gothic horror films and kickstarting Lee's career.  Also, it's a pretty good movie.
Horror of Dracula (1958)
Lee might be best known for his portrayal of Dracula, in which is brought a lot of sex appeal to go along with the scares.  He would play the bloodsucker 8 or 9 times during his career.
The Mummy (1959)

Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace (1962)

The Whip and the Body (1963)
This Mario Bava film is one I haven't seen, but have always meant to.  I guess now would be a good time to finally check it out.
The Face of Fu Manchu (1965)
Lee would play Fu Manchu a total of five times, including the terrible Castle of Fu Manchu (1969) which is so bad that it is barely watchable in its MST3k version.
Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966)


Raw Meat (1972)

The Wicker Man (1973)
Lee called his role as Lord Summerisle his best.  He ain't wrong.
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

1941 (1979)

The House of Long Shadows (1983)
clockwise: Lee, Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, John Carradine.  Somewhere out there, all of these guys are having a great time.
 The Howling II. . .Your Sister's a Werewolf (1985)
You can read my review of this terribly fun movie HERE.
Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)
When Christopher Lee first met director Joe Dante he apologized to him for starring in Howling II (Dante had directed the original Howling film).
Sleepy Hollow (1999)

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) 
Lee is the only person who worked on the LOTR films who had actually met J.R.R Tolkien.  He was a mega-fan of the book, reading it annually.  He called the chance to participate in bringing the books to the big screen a "dream come true."
Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002)
I doubt he ever dreamed of wielding a lightsaber, but hey, he got to do that too.
Hugo (2011)

Christopher Lee became Sir Christopher Lee when he was knighted for services in drama and charity in 2009.

Proving that you're never too old to do new things, late in life, Christopher Lee started a new career as a metal recording artist.  He did an album about Charlemagne and also an album of Christmas songs.  This track is from his most recent EP, Metal Knight:



"I try to describe acting as a combination of the three D's and the three I's. Discipline, dedication, devotion. Imagination, instinct, intelligence. Even if all my films haven't pleased everybody, I'd like people to realize that I've always given each film my all. I would like to think that I've shown integrity and dedication in every one of my roles. I always do my best and, you know, I really do love what I do."


RIP Christopher Lee
1922-2015

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Trailer Park Tuesdays - Roar


Welcome to Trailer Park Tuesdays.  This week we're looking at the movie trailer for Roar (1981), not a new movie, but an old movie that is now being released for the first time in the U.S.

Roar is quite possible the most irresponsible movie ever made.  Producer Noel Marshall and his wife Tippi Hedren (star of The Birds) set out to make a film that would bring exposure to big cats and their plight in Africa from game hunters, as well as to the inhumane treatment of big cats in captivity...or something.  They would do this by using the hundreds of wild lions, tigers, and other cats and animals that the couple had gathered and used to populate their animal sanctuary located north of Los Angeles.

This (crazy) idea was first (ill)conceived in 1970 and after the success of The Exorcist (which Marshall produced and made a lot of money from) they started filming in 1974.  Things did not go well as the cats proved unpredictable and unable to take direction.  This led to as many as 70 members of the cast and crew getting attacked or harmed while making this movie!

Noel Marshall was bit and clawed multiple times, Tippi fell off an elephant and broke her leg, and their daughter, Melanie Griffith, who was just starting her acting career, suffered facial lacerations and needed reconstructive surgery and 100 stitches.  Not to be outdone, director of photography Jan De Bont (future director of Speed and Twister) was SCALPED by a lion and required over 200 stitches!

Not surprisingly, the film took a total of 11 years to make and when it was finally released in 1981, it was only done so overseas and not here in America.  Until now. . . .

Drafthouse Films has acquired the film and has been releasing it in various cities the past couple weeks.  Check out HERE for full details on where you can see this amazing motion picture.  If you're like me and you live in or near Portland, Oregon, you can see Roar this weekend, May 2nd and 3rd, at the great Hollywood Theatre.

Here's the amazing and dangerous trailer:

This movie looks INSANE!  I've been looking forward to it greatly.  It looks like a visceral and surreal experience, a real jaw-dropper!

For more info on this crazy story, read THIS from Drafthouse Films founder Tim League, THIS blog post from crew member Randolph Sellars, and watch this piece from CBS This Morning.









Thursday, April 9, 2015

RIP, Tom Towles


Veteran character actor Tom Towles passed away earlier this week due to complications from a stroke he suffered while in Florida.  He was 65.
Not known to casual movie fans, Towles should be instantly recognizable to fans of the horror genre.  His IMDb bio describes him as often playing "scumbags or obnoxious men," which maybe seems harsh, but that is an accurate description.  Towles was real good at playing sons-of-bitches.

His first big role was in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (filmed in 1985, not released until 1990), opposite Michael Rooker.  The pair would prove to be electric.  Towles' character of Otis was based on real life serial killer Ottis Toole.  He's an absolute degenerate and sociopath and Towles is fantastic, displaying those qualities with a scary realism.
The thing I am most familiar with and am a fan of is Towles' turn as Harry Cooper in Tom Savini's under-appreciated remake of Night of the Living Dead (1990).  Good god, is he so hatable in that movie!  He shouts and he's stubborn and he's one of the supreme jerks of all time.  He's so damn good!
"Bunch of yo-yos!"
Towles would go on to star in smaller movies (like Adam Wingard's directorial debut Home Sick [2007]) and be featured in bigger movies (The Rock [1996]), usually in the horror or action genres.  Like any character actor, he also had a string of television appearances in everything from comedies to dramas to science fiction.  His gruff and rough demeanor served him well throughout the years.

It's a shame he's gone.  He was a good actor.  RIP, Tom Towles.

Tom Towles would reteam with Henry director John McNaughton on The Borrower (1991).  This trailer name drops Hellraiser, Reanimator, and, uh, Warlock, so maybe it's worth checking out:

Towles would co-star in Stuart Gordon's The Pit and the Pendulum (1991), reminding me once again that I need to see that movie.  The very next year he would co-star with Christopher Lambert in Gordon's science fiction action movie, Fortress (1992), reminding me that I once saw that movie.









In a first season episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993) he played a Klingon who dies on the transporter pad.  It's a brief appearance but he's a catalyst for the events of the episode.









In 1997 he would double dip into the Star Trek universe, playing a different bumpy headed alien on a season three episode of Voyager.


Seinfeld ("The Glasses," 1993).  Towles is credited as "Tough Guy."

Inspector Anthony Lastarza on NYPD Blue (1993-94).

Gridlock'd (1997)

Firefly (2002)

House of 1000 Corpses (2003), as George Wydell.  
He would reprise the role in The Devils's Rejects (2005).  I think his performance in Corpses might be better, but Rejects is the superior movie.

Miami Vice (2006)

Werewolf Women of the S.S. (fake trailer from Grindhouse [2007]).

Tom Towles
1950-2015