Piranha (1978)

piranha_1Starring Bradford Dillman, Heather Menzies-Urich, Kevin McCarthy, Keenan Wynn, Dick Miller, Barbara Steele, Belinda Balaski, Melody Thomas Scott, Bruce Gordon, Barry Brown, Paul Bartel, Shannon Collins

Directed by Joe Dante

Expectations: High.

On the general scale:
threestar

On the B-movie scale:
fourstar


Piranha is exactly the type of movie that I love. It’s equal parts genuine horror and outlandish comedy, with a premise so over-the-top and ridiculous that no one could possibly believe it as a plausible story. But then how did stories of piranhas in local waterways filter down to the schoolyard playgrounds of my youth? Piranha is a film that captures your imagination and runs wild. Its pace is quick, rarely coming up for air. The film’s villains may never be visible for more than a fleeting few seconds, but they are ever-present in the film’s atmosphere.

Piranha opens like hundreds of other horror films: a young couple is out at night in the woods looking for a good place to be alone together. These particular kids ignore the “No Trespassing” signs on the chain-link fences they sneak through in their quest. And of course, when they find a pool of water they decide that skinny dipping is the only course of action. What they never considered was that this secluded, abandoned Army installation wasn’t quite so completely abandoned. Shoulda watched more horror movies, guys.

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Shoot, Gringo… Shoot! (1968)

shootgringoshoot_1Shoot, Gringo… Shoot! [Spara, Gringo, spara] (1968)
AKA The Longest Hunt, Rainbow, Tire Django, tire (France)

Starring Brian Kelly, Keenan Wynn, Erika Blanc, Folco Lulli, Fabrizio Moroni, Linda Sini, Rik Battaglia, Giovanni Pallavicino, Luigi Bonos, Furio Meniconi, Robert Beaumont, Lina Franchi

Directed by Bruno Corbucci

Expectations: Low. You never know what you’re getting with these.

On the general scale:
twostar

On the B-movie scale:
threestar


Shoot, Gringo… Shoot! was directed by Bruno Corbucci, younger brother of famed spaghetti western director Sergio Corbucci who was responsible for such classics as Django, The Great Silence and Navajo Joe. But within the western genre, the younger Corbucci only made one spaghetti western comedy, The Three Musketeers of the West, and one straight western. Unfortunately, Shoot, Gringo… Shoot! is definitely not up to the same class of film as his brother’s legacy. That’s OK, though, as it’s unfair to expect brothers to make films of a similar caliber, or even of a similar style. For what it is — a second-tier spaghetti western — Shoot, Gringo… Shoot! is one of the better ones I’ve seen and it remains quite entertaining throughout.

Shoot, Gringo… Shoot! is about Stark, a lone badass who begins the film rotting away in a basement jail cell. He quickly escapes and seeks revenge on some guy for some reason, which leads him to killing a few guards and then getting himself recaptured. These men take him to their leader, who initially wants to hang him for his transgressions, but then decides to strike up a deal instead. If Stark can bring back the leader’s son, who’s absconded with a band of outlaws, then they will let him go free. Stark agrees with nothing to lose, and the game is afoot.

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Laserblast (1978)

Starring Kim Milford, Cheryl Smith, Gianni Russo, Ron Masak, Dennis Burkley, Barry Cutler, Mike Bobenko, Eddie Deezen, Keenan Wynn, Roddy McDowall

Directed by Michael Rae

Expectations: Low. The boring pace of End of the World leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

On the general scale:
onestar

On the B-Movie scale:
fourstar


Laserblast reportedly had a budget of $280,000, and producer Charles Band knew just where to spend it. Virtually every penny was sunk straight into entertainment and a finale that delivers slow-motion explosion after slow-motion explosion, further proving that the worth of a movie can exist on explosions alone. Add in some killer stop-motion aliens and a giant laserblaster as cherries on top and we’ve got ourselves a movie!

Laserblast opens as a crazed freak with a giant laserblaster on his arm jumps around in the desert. An alien ship lands and two upright-walking turtles without shells get out and pull their own, smaller laser guns. A short fight ensues, but the aliens are too clever and end up singeing the dude into fine black ash. They board their ship and set out for the far-reaches of the galaxy, but they forgot one thing. The human’s giant laserblaster!

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Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Starring Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Keenan Wynn, Slim Pickens, James Earl Jones

Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Expectations: High. I adore Kubrick and I’d only seen this once before.


Stanley Kubrick is one of my favorite directors, but this film has always been something of an enigma to me. I only saw it once, about 10 years ago or so, and at the time I enjoyed it but I just didn’t think it was as amazing as everyone else seemed to think it was. It had been built up as one of the great screen comedies, but for me it didn’t deliver at that level. I got the satire, but it’s more of a slight smile throughout kind of movie, instead of a raucous laughter kind of movie. I was really into Billy Wilder comedies at the time so I guess subconsciously I went in expecting something in that vein. This time around, obviously, I knew what I was getting myself into. That helped quite a bit and my second viewing of Dr. Strangelove was a much more pleasant experience.

The plot follows three separate but connected stories. There’s the story of Gen. Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) who orders his planes to commence “Wing Attack Plan R.” There’s also the story of the B-52 Bomber crew on their run towards their target inside Communist Russia. Finally, we have the War Room, where the President and many top advisors, including Gen. Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott) argue the fate of the world. The plots are skillfully intertwined and perfectly play off of one another. Sterling Hayden is fantastic and reminds me a lot of Clint Eastwood in this cigar-chompin’ role. I’ve always felt that he is one of the great actors that doesn’t get enough credit these days and his performance in Dr. Strangelove is one of his best.

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