Ghoulies IV (1994)

ghoulies4_3Starring Peter Liapis, Barbara Alyn Woods, Stacie Randall, Raquel Krelle, Bobby Di Cicco, Tony Cox, Arturo Gil

Directed by Jim Wynorski

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:

Many moons and black magic spells ago, I reviewed the first three films in the Ghoulies franchise. I purposely chose to avoid Part 4, based on my highly negative reaction to the third film and the bothersome idea that the ghoulies of Ghoulies IV were actually dudes in suits and not puppets. Five years of writing for Silver Emulsion has cured my brain towards B-Movies far more than I could have ever imagined, so I felt it was finally time to take on Ghoulies IV. I even re-watched the other Ghoulies films in preparation and didn’t completely hate Ghoulies III! (It’s still shitty, but I was able to have fun with it this time.)

Even with these multiple years of thick B-Movie watching under my belt, I still entered Ghoulies IV with trepidation. The first two films in the franchise hold a special place in my heart as they were somewhat responsible for sending me down this B-Movie path, and I feared that Ghoulies IV would further trash the Ghoulies name as the third film had. But then the film opened with an explosion that ripping a door from its hinges, thru which a leather-clad buxom female emerged, and within a matter of moments she’s thrown a ninja star into the forehead of a well-meaning security guard. I was instantly won over — explosions and ninja stars are a quick way to my heart — and I am pleased to report that the rest of the movie continued this trend of tightly packed B-Movie thrills.

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Thieves After Dark (1984)

thievesafterdark_1Thieves After Dark [Les voleurs de la nuit] (1984)

Starring Véronique Jannot, Bobby Di Cicco, Victor Lanoux, Stéphane Audran, Camille de Casabianca, Micheline Presle, Rachel Salik, Claude Chabrol, Marthe Villalonga, Andréas Voutsinas

Directed by Samuel Fuller

Expectations: Very low.


Thieves After Dark is arguably the rarest of Sam Fuller’s feature films, but unfortunately it’s also the worst one I’ve seen. This one barely even resembles a Sam Fuller film outside of the scenes that bookend it; if it weren’t for his incredible cameo, I’d still be wondering if the people doing the titles had gotten confused. It’s watchable, but at times it’s almost painfully so. Thieves After Dark is supposedly a tribute to the French New Wave, but instead of exuding the detached, youthful spirit of the French New Wave films I’ve seen, it just comes off as a watered-down ’80s film without much in the way of anything, whether that’s entertainment, thought-provoking themes or nice visuals.

Based on the evidence at hand, Sam Fuller himself doesn’t seem too proud of this one either. In his autobiography it barely rates more than a couple of passing mentions, and every time it does come up it’s in a negative light. It can’t be a coincidence that the chapter where Sam Fuller discusses the film is also the one where he explains the book’s title, A Third Face. The third face is the face of a person on the inside, the one that no one sees and is only known to the person themselves. He tells us that you can’t lie to the third face, and then goes on to cautiously dance around talking about Thieves After Dark. I’m convinced that on the inside Fuller knew this wasn’t much of a movie, but he didn’t have the heart to plainly come out and say it. Just based on how much he passionately describes his other films, it’s clear that he knew defeat when he saw it.

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The Big Red One: The Reconstruction (1980/2004)

The Big Red One: The Reconstruction (1980/2004)

Starring Lee Marvin, Mark Hamill, Robert Carradine, Bobby Di Cicco, Kelly Ward, Siegfried Rauch, Marthe Villalonga

Directed by Samuel Fuller

Expectations: High. Been wanting to see this restoration since it came out.

This may be one of the hardest reviews I’ve ever written. Above all, I want to do justice to the film and to the memory of the Fightin’ First, the Big Red One. Like never before, after viewing Sam Fuller’s The Big Red One, I feel that I grasp the immensity of their service in World War II and their contribution to the war effort. Viewing the film takes the audience on the journey with the soldiers, almost like an embedded reporter out to capture the reality of the situation. It is remarkable and somewhat unfathomable that with so much death surrounding them, these men were able to come out as survivors. The Big Red One is a film that creeps up on you in subtle ways and before you know it, you realize that you absolutely love it.

Sam Fuller brings distinct credibility to the film, himself a member of the Big Red One during the times covered in the film. The film forgoes a distinct plot and takes on an episodic format that plays out like a war diary. It’s rather ironic that this type of semi-fragmented film actually ends up packing in more narrative, character arcs and genuine excitement than most traditional films. After recently viewing Saving Private Ryan again, I was a bit worried about watching this so close after. Both films cover the Normandy beach invasion and have similar themes.

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