"The movie Hollywood doesn't want you to see."
Directed by Alan Smithee (Arthur Hiller)
Starring Ryan O'Neill and Eric Idle
Eccentric British film editor Alan Smithee (Idle) is
brought in to direct a big-budget blockbuster starring Sylvester Stallone,
Whoopie Goldberg and Jackie Chan. When the studio edit butchers the movie, he
doesn't want to be associated with it but - and pay attention, because this is
the high concept premise here - he can't, because you can only take your name
off a film to replace it with the Director's Guild pseudonym 'Alan Smithee'.
The film is an account in roughly documentary form of Smithee's attempts to regain final cut, and at last to destroy the picture.
Laugh; I almost did.
The 'mockumentary' genre launched largely by This is Spinal Tap has produced some fine works, but this isn't one of them. It's very difficult to really say why this doesn't work but Spinal Tap did, but the fact is that something in this would-be satire falls flat.
The film does have a few funny moments, mostly provided by the descriptive captions that come up for each new character.
The film is not so much bad as it is sad. It won a Golden
Raspberry, and the director ultimately removed his name from the credits, but
the former was undeserved, and the latter - given that the director does appear
at the end of the film - may well be an attempt at a publicity stunt more than
anything else. I mean, I've seen other films abandoned for Alan Smithee to take
credit for: I've seen the extended Dune and
I've seen Solar Crisis, and this is not bad on that scale.
It's just a shame that you can see what it's trying to do, and that somehow it is failing, but you can't for the most part actually say why. It just doesn't quite work, and it probably isn't anyone's fault.
Good bits in this movie are brief and scattered. The highlights are the captions, and of those the funniest is probably Sylvester Stallone's: 'Actor, Rocket Scientist, Brain Surgeon.'
Production values - Not bad, if entirely undemanding. Points off - or rather on - for simply recycling old footage to make the trailer for the film Trio. 8
Dialogue and performances - This category is pretty kind to this film. The script was in no parts abjectly horrible, and the performances were of a generally high standard. Unfortunately, this was not enough to ever raise the movie above average. 7
Plot and execution - Well, there isn't a great deal of plot, and there isn't meant to be. The pacing is alright, but something about the direction is off, and in retrospect I think it's the fact that periodically the film shows things which do not appear to be part of the documentary. 8
Randomness - Very low. Almost nothing leaps out as being wildly off-the-wall and irrelevant, although parts of the film are very odd. 2
Waste of potential - Here is Burn, Hollywood Burn's big stumbling block. The film could almost certainly not only have been funnier, it could have been a lot funnier. 16
"The dead hand that crawls KILLS and LIVES!!!"
Directed by Roy Ward Baker
Starring Peter Cushing, Stephanie Beacham and Herbert Lom
Catherine (Beacham), the young bride of Charles Fengriffin
(Ian Ogilvy), dreams that she is violated by a one-handed spirit on her wedding
night. As time passes, she is haunted by the figure of a peasant with his eyes
gouged out, and by the creepy woodsman with the huge red birthmark, Silas son of
Silas. When she learns that she is pregnant she is horrified, and goes a little
loopy. Her husband calls in alienist Dr Pope (Cushing) to investigate.
Anyone who tries to tell Catherine what is happening gets offed through the agencies of a disembodied hand. Eventually Charles explains to Pope that this grandfather, Henry Fengriffin, raped a girl called Sarah, the virgin bride of Silas, father of Silas son of Silas, on her wedding night. When he tried to fight off his feudal running-dog overlord, Henry cut off Silas' hand. Silas swore the next virgin bride of a Fengriffin would be violated as Sarah was, and Charles' mother was a widow, meaning that the curse falls on Catherine.
The child is born one-handed and sporting a huge red birthmark. Charles shoots Silas son of Silas through both eyes then smashes up Henry's corpse and Catherine goes nuts.
Produced by Hammer rivals Amicus studios, the flaws of ANtSS run counter to those of their contemporary opposite numbers. While Lust for a Vampire was boring us with gratuitous nudity, Amicus offers Henry Fengriffin, the world's tamest libertine, and his gang of loser friends; you can tell they're debauched, they're speed-drinking yards of ale! It al seems rather pitiful. And Silas son of Silas is kind of creepy, but the same guy playing Silas father of Silas son of Silas doesn't convince as seethingly angry over Henry's vile behaviour.
The ghostly appearances of Silas are good for their time, and kind of scary. Stephanie Beacham is fetchingly bonkers and Peter Cushing is always worth the admission; even in Biggles.
Not terrible, but not great either. It's not on a par with Hammer at its best, but beats all hell out of Hammer at its worst. The main problem is that they've chosen such an explicitly sexual tale and tried to take out most of the sex.
Learning that she is almost certainly preggers by the ghost of Silas, Catherine tries to stab herself in the belly, only to find that the disembodied hand of same has leaped in the way of the knife and taken one for the team.
Production values - For their time, pretty solid; no messing around. 3
Dialogue and performances - Ian Ogilvy is a little wooden, but basically the real letdown is Geoffrey Whitehead as Silas. Otherwise the playing is pretty solid. 9
Plot and execution - Somehow, despite a few creepy moments, the film fails to build much tension. The phantasmal appearances of the hand are only so-so at the foreshadowing, and the music is too light for real terror. 14
Randomness - The hand is kind of explained, but pretty random in its use. It's unclear why the ghost is young Silas, and why that name appears in the book. Not a parade of randomness by any means, but kind of iffy. 8
Waste of potential - Poor direction lets down a solid suspense story, but many a film of this ilk is much worse. 9
Directed by Albert Pyun
Starring (in the loosest possible sense) Lee Horsley, Kathleen Beller
In this sub-Conan offering from tatmeister Pyun - his very
first attempt at movie-making - the evil king Titus Cromwell (I shit ye not)
gains the aid of a big lizard-sorcerer dude called Xusia to overthrow good King
Richard of Ehdan, then stabs him and throws him off a cliff because he's too
dangerous to keep around. I'm sure that we all know this is a big mistake.
Richard's youngest son Talon (Horsley) escapes the massacre and grows up to be a
mighty - yet uncouth - mercenary, well-loved across the civilised world.
Eleven years after the overthrow of Richard, Talon returns to find the son of his father's adviser, Mikah (Simon 'Manimal' McCorkindale), plotting rebellion with Cromwell's sinister minister Count 'Not Xusia in disguise, not me no way guv' Machelli. Following Machelli's not-so-shock betrayal, Mikah's sister Alanna (Beller) hires Talon to rescue her brother, then gets captured herself. Talon rescues Mikah, then hangs around in the palace for no adequately explored reason until Cromwell captures him. His men try to rescue him but get captured, and Cromwell has Talon crucified as a centrepiece for his feast to celebrate a treaty between all the great kings and his marriage to Alanna.
With me so far? No? You lucky things.
Talon rips himself off the cross, the kings help him out since they all owe his mercenary band, the mercenaries are freed by some random plot wenches and Machelli/Xusia kidnaps Alana. Talon - unimpaired by having just lately had a nail through each palm - kills Cromwell and Xusia, boffs the princess then leaves her behind and rides off to adventure and sequels which - thankfully - never seem to have got made.
Oh, and Talon has a funky metal 'glove' and a three-bladed sword, two of which can be shot off like spears.
What isn't? The special effects are dreadful, the plot is
feeble and the production values poor. Pyun's trademark filters almost wash out
the lens in a haze of blood, and the view is constantly obscured by the parade
of sweaty, oiled flesh being flashed at us in the hope that if we're distracted
by the cheesecake - and beefcake; sword and sorcery
is something of an equal exploitation genre - we won't notice how awful the film
This does not work.
The princess is supposed to be spunky; we know this because she keeps kneeing people in the bollocks - not that it ever does any good - and joking with Talon about his 'sword' (see, it's funny, because when she says sword she means penis). She also just lies there while Xusia's oh-so-phallic python tries to grope...I mean, kill her. It's pretty lame.
And a word on the weaponry. First off, Cromwell clearly shops at a dodgy bargain weapon place for his goons, since their swords snap constantly. He on the other hand has the big-ass sword o' badness, which seems more or less indestructible - even shearing through the hero's sword - and has a miniature steel quarterstaff concealed in the fricking hilt. How he can wield the bugger without a pommel is a mystery to me, but doubtless unimportant to the filmmakers. Oh, and the hilt with it's bulbous pommel perpetually jut from the area of Cromwell's crotch in the most phallic manner imaginable.
Then there's Talon's three-bladed sword. It has three blades, in line and spaced out by about two inches, such that he doesn't have a scabbard, he has a rack instead. The side blades fly off (on wires, clearly), and then seemingly regenerate, since he always seems to have three blades, despite not stopping to collect the ones he fires. There's also a little dagger in the pommel, and his metal 'glove' (really more of a bracelet) has a hidden blade and proves more use than every sword in the film combined.
The score is halfway decent, but then composers are relatively cheap.
As a young lad I read the book of this piece of crap, and
it has stuck in my mind as being one of the worst books I had ever read.
The film is worse.
On the other hand, it is widely - and fairly - regarded as Albert Pyun's best.
Talon's men plan to rescue him with the aid of a bunch of pirate who owe Talon and the blonde hooker who's fallen for him and will soon die for not being the officially-sanctioned love interest. They get all macho and posture, and then it cuts straight to them having been captured. It's probably a budget decision, but played for laughs and actually kind of funny.
Production values - Cheap and cheerful, which is at least a step above most Pyun films, which aren't so cheerful. 12
Dialogue and performances - So this film didn't attract any great Shakespeareans or anything, but the playing is all of a fairly professional level, with the exception of a few background goons and Cromwell, who chews the scenery like it was toffee. The dialogue is a different matter, with the script laden down by lame innuendo and cod mediaeval dialogue, forsooth. 14
Plot and execution - The plot is pretty laughable, with most scenes either fights or manoeuvring to set up the fights. It tends to the incoherent, and the fact that everyone is some variation of big, sweaty and angry doesn't help when you're trying to work things out. 15
Randomness - This film is driven by randomness. Talon's decision to head back into the palace; the random plot wenches who release the captive mercenaries; the waprons! 16
Waste of potential - Okay; so this film isn't going to win awards, even by the standards of S&S movies, but I have to say, it could have been worse. It could have been Wizards of the Lost Kingdom. 8