The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

grapesofwrath_1Starring Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell, John Carradine, Charley Grapewin, Dorris Bowdon, Russell Simpson, O.Z. Whitehead, John Qualen, Eddie Quillan, Zeffie Tilbury

Directed by John Ford

Expectations: Moderate.

fourstar


The Grapes of Wrath is a hard film to watch and not be affected by. It tells the story of the Joad family from Oklahoma during the Great Depression. Driven from their farm by foreclosure, they decide to move the whole clan to California. There’s talk of jobs picking produce there, and though it’s a hard choice, the promise of something on the other side of the country is better than the nothing they have in Oklahoma.

The film opens with Tom Joad (Henry Fonda) returning from a four-year stay in the penitentiary. He’s on his way home, and he learns of their plight when he arrives there and everyone is gone. They haven’t started for California just yet, though, so Tom is able to help his family get on the road. On the way to the house, Tom also meets Casy, a man who used to be the preacher when Tom was a boy. He finds Casy sitting in a ditch, devoid of faith and disillusioned. Between these two characters are the most interesting scenes of The Grapes of Wrath, not to downplay the other members of the Joad family, but more to highlight how important Casy is to Tom Joad’s evolution over the course of the film.

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Crash! (1977)

Crash! (1977)
AKA Akaza, the God of Vengeance, Draculas Todesrennen [Dracula’s Death Race], Death Ride

Starring José Ferrer, Sue Lyon, John Ericson, Leslie Parrish, John Carradine, Jerome Guardino

Directed by Charles Band

Expectations: High, I need some more giant 70s explosions courtesy of Charles Band.

On the general scale:
twohalfstar

On the B-Movie scale:
threestar


So last week I was pretty sorely disappointed with Full Moon’s latest offering, Killer Eye: Halloween Haunt, leading me to plumb the depths of Charles Band’s filmography in search of something sure to wet my whistle. I found it right at the beginning of the list in Crash!, a movie promising more car action than I would know what to do with. Perfect timing after my disappointment with the lack of said action in this summer’s Drive. While Crash! isn’t quite as exciting as the poster makes it out to be, it is a barrel four-barreled good time, with more crashes and explosions than you’d ever expect a low-budget film from 1977 to sport.

The plot isn’t the strong suit here, but as Crash! is Charles Band’s second directorial effort and earliest surviving film (his first film Last Foxtrot in Burbank is a sex comedy forever lost to the sands of time, perhaps for the better), it is interesting as foreshadowing for his later career path. I expected this to be nothing more than a rollicking car crash movie, but it’s actually a horror film about a driverless, killer car and a woman doing her best to avoid being killed by her invalid husband. The woman picks up a small, primitive idol at the swap meet and somehow it inhabits her car and starts driving around, blowing up other cars. I’m not sure exactly what happened, nor do I care, the explosions are great and the car stunts are spectacular, hitting notes that The Blues Brothers would echo a few years later.

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Uncle Jasper reviews: Las Vampiras (1969)

Las Vampiras (1969)

Starring Mil Máscaras, John Carradine, María Duval, Maura Monti, Marta Romero, Pedro Armendáriz Jr.

Directed By Federico Curiel


 

Boy, oh boy. If there’s anything I’ve always thought my lucha films were sorely lacking in, it’s impotent vampires and John Carradine. Thankfully Las Vampiras came just in the nick of time to remedy that situation. A famous character actor, hand picked out of John Ford’s legendary stock company and plopped right into the middle of the wacky world of Lucha Libre is enough to raise quite a few eyebrows. Unfortunately, the result is by far one of the worst genre offerings I have ever had the misfortune to sit through.

Sorry folks, I really was hoping for a better introduction to the films of Mil Máscaras, the final piece of the lucha holy trinity, than Las Vampiras provided me with. This movie is so careless and jumbled in terms of narrative and atmosphere that it insults the intelligence of even the most devoted follower of lucha cinema. I literally felt my brain cells popping off one by one like a bubbling vat of simmering frijoles.

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