Uncle Jasper reviews: Blackenstein [The Black Frankenstein] (1973)

Blackenstein [The Black Frankenstein] (1973)
AKA Black Frankenstein, Return of Blackenstein, Blackstein

Starring John Hart, Ivory Stone, Joe De Sue, Roosevelt Jackson

Directed By William A. Levey


After the runaway success of Blacula, it was only a matter of time before other studios would attempt to cash in on the blaxploitation/horror sub-genre. The most obvious attempt was 1973’s Blackenstein, a movie that takes everything Blacula did right and throws it completely out the window.

When Vietnam Vet Eddie Turner (Joe De Sue) loses all of his limbs from a land mine, his fiancée Dr. Walker consults her old teacher, mad scientist Dr. Stein (John Hart) for help. Dr. Stein attempts to attach new limbs to Eddie, and all is going according to plan. But when his assistant, Malcomb professes his love for Dr. Walker and is rejected, he secretly switches the bottles of DNA solution out of spite. The unbalanced solution is injected into Eddie, mutating him into Blackenstein, a hideous (?) monster who escapes the laboratory every night, limping around Los Angeles like a 93-year-old woman, killing random strangers by ripping out their intestines.

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Critters (1986)

Starring Scott Grimes, Dee Wallace-Stone, M. Emmet Walsh, Don Keith Opper, Billy Green Bush, Terrence Mann, Ethan Phillips, Billy Zane

Directed by Stephen Herek

Expectations: Fairly high. I’d wanted to see this since I was a little kid.

On the general scale:
onehalfstar

On the B-movie scale:
twohalfstar


I’ve seen parts of this over the years but had never seen it all the way through. I gave it a go, but this is definitely one that would be better with a bunch of friends. It’s a horror comedy and my sights were set a bit more towards gore-fest. The key flaw to my logic though is that I never bothered to notice that this was PG-13. That would have tempered my expectations quite a bit, instead of building them up over the last couple of decades.

Basically, the Critters (or Crites, if you want to get technical) make a daring escape from a prison asteroid, stealing a spaceship. A couple of shapeshifting bounty hunters head off in pursuit. The Crites land on Earth, rural Kansas to be exact. It’s been a long flight and their little Critter bellies are rumbling. From here it devolves into a slight clone of Hitchcock’s The Birds, if the birds were prison-breaking, meat-chomping little furballs from space. I loved the opening of the movie, even if it does focus on the family a little too much. As the film dragged on, my bloodlust raged. “When will the Crites start chomping the innocents?” I thought.

Continue reading Critters (1986) →

Mini-Review: Beer Wars (2009)

Starring Anat Baron, Sam Calagione, Rhonda Kallman

Directed by Anat Baron

Expectations: Moderate. I like beer.


Beer Wars seeks to informs its viewers on the fundamental differences between big business beer companies like Anheuser-Busch and small, independent breweries like Dogfish Head. It starts out on the right foot, entertaining and communicating the facts. About halfway through, it loses a lot of steam as the facts run out. At this point it becomes a mixture of random scenes that don’t go much of anywhere and don’t shed any light on the subject. Lots of hitting the “independent breweries are better” nail into the ground.

I’m already on-board with buying local and off-brand brews, so this film also has a quality of “preaching to the choir” for me. All the scenes with Sam Calagione, founder of Dogfish Head Brewery, are great though, as he is a very honest, likeable fellow. Just the type of guy you’d want to have some grog with. He seems to have great fun running his business and apparently hasn’t lost sight of the dreams that compelled him to open a brewery in the first place. I don’t want to be too negative though, I liked the film. I just thought that it wasn’t as focused or concise as it should have been. The film is definitely better than that train wreck of a poster.

Uncle Jasper reviews: Scream Blacula Scream (1973)

Scream Blacula Scream (1973)
AKA Blacula II, Blacula Is Beautiful, Blacula Lives Again!, The Name Is Blacula

Starring William Marshall, Don Mitchell, Pam Grier, Michael Conrad, Richard Lawson, Lynne Moody, Janee Michelle

Directed By Bob Kelljan


I have to admit I was pretty nervous about gearing down to review Scream Blacula Scream, 1973’s follow up to the surprise horror-blaxploitation hit, Blacula. I was almost certain I’d have to go through the motions and crank out the typical “Shoddy, uninspired sequel to surprisingly good b-movie” review.  Luckily that isn’t the case here. William Marshall turns in a performance that is every bit as classic as the original. And well, this time we have Pam Grier along for the ride… and she does voodoo! And Blacula kicks the shit out of pimps! But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves here.

This time around, the elder of a cult of voodoo practitioners lies dying and passes her own son up by naming Lisa (Pam Grier) her successor. The son (played here by Richard Lawson), understandably pissed off to no end, swears revenge on that “skinny, jive-ass bitch”. Now, in most circles revenge would entail taking sharp keys to your enemies’ car, or throwing eggs at his house. But in the world of voodoo, revenge consists of buying the bones of Blacula from some old man with a necklace made out of tiger teeth and resurrecting him by sacrificing a dove and drinking its blood… Yeah, you don’t want to mess with those voodoo guys. Thinking that the ritual didn’t work, the son pops open a Coors and sulks in his living room, only to have Blacula pop out of nowhere and feast on some of that sweet, red nectar.

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The Neverending Story (1984)

Starring Noah Hathaway, Barret Oliver, Tami Stronach, Moses Gunn, Thomas Hill

Directed by Wolfgang Petersen

Expectations: High, this was one of my movies growing up.


Some movies should stay in your childhood. Today I found out that The Neverending Story is firmly in that category. I still enjoyed it, it just didn’t have the same power that it used to. The main character, a book-loving boy who reads The Neverending Story, reminds me of myself at that age so it’s obvious why I connected to it and enjoyed it back then. Unfortunately, viewing the film as an adult, there just wasn’t enough to keep me interested.

Bastian runs away from some school bullies and finds refuge in an old, dusty bookstore. He acquires a copy of The Neverending Story from the man there and proceeds to his school’s attic to read the book. Reading is much more fun than a math test! He finds himself absorbed in the world of Fantasia and the quest of Atreyu to save the dying princess. For the most part, the film still holds up visually. The rock biter still looks fantastic and was still able to get an emotional response from me during his dialogue about not being able to save his friends. I was always touched by that moment and it’s still very powerful. The sphinx gate scene remains very exciting as well.

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The Cove (2009)

Starring Ric O’Barry, Louie Psihoyos, Hayden Panettiere

Directed by Louie Psihoyos

Expectations: High. I’ve heard nothing but good stuff.


The Cove is an interesting documentary. It seeks to expose the fishing practices of the Japanese village of Taiji, specifically the capture and killing of dolphins that goes on there. The practices are legal due to a few loopholes, but are definitely not right. The fisherman capture hundreds of dolphins at a time. Trainers from amusement parks and “Swim with the Dolphins” places come and select the dolphins they want. The fisherman kill all the unselected dolphins and sell them for meat. The film follows Ric O’Barry, who became famous after capturing and training the dolphins used in the 1960s television show Flipper. He now crusades to stop any and all wrongdoings against the creatures, feeling somewhat responsible for their rise in popularity. Ric worked with the dolphins on a daily basis and realized that they are not only incredibly smart, but that they are also self-aware.

Most of the film chronicles Ric and the team’s struggles to film the goings on in the killing cove. It is highly guarded and dangerous to get to. The team has to go to extreme lengths to plant cameras and sound equipment to capture what constitutes the last quarter of the film. The footage is shocking and disturbing. The politicians interviewed in the film may claim that the dolphins are killed humanely and instantly, but when the killing footage is revealed, it is anything but.

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Uncle Jasper reviews: Blacula (1972)

Starring William Marshall, Vonetta McGee, Denise Nicholas, Gordon Pinsent, Charles Macaulay, Thalmus Rasulala

Directed By William Crain


Transylvania, 1780 – Castle Dracula

It is a dark and stormy night and Count Dracula is entertaining African Prince Mamuwalde and his wife. (Because, as we all know, Dracula was well known for his important contributions to politics in 18th century Europe.) The lovely couple are enjoying small talk and champagne with Dracula when the Prince gets down to business and discusses the concerns of his people. All is going fine until Dracula scoffs at the prince’s attempt to convince him to do something about the slave trade. Tensions flare and the Count even has the audacity to propose a deal for Mamuwalde’s beautiful Zulu wife!  Dracula’s honkies of the night restrain the Prince, as the lord of darkness bares his fangs and sinks them deep into his neck, cursing him for all eternity and christening him… “Blacula.”

Transylvania, Present Day – Castle Dracula

Dracula’s castle has fallen on hard times. The Count has long been vanquished, and an interracial couple of flamboyantly gay interior decorators are sizing the property up in an attempt to strip it clean of its stylishly gothic furnishings and mark the prices up stateside. The real estate guy repeatedly warns them of Dracula’s curse, dark spirits, foreboding evils, and a lot of generally spooky talk that would turn most folks away. But these are gay guys in a blaxploitation film, so unfortunately you already know they are gonna ignore all common sense and be the first to get it. These films seemed to have a vendetta against homosexuals for reasons I could never really figure out. Yeah, it’s a little troubling… but look, if you’re watching a film titled Blacula chances are you aren’t going out of your way looking for political correctness anyway.

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