SCOTT’S FILM GEEK JOURNAL – Day 5: The “D” Is Silent

Scott’s Film Geek Journal is a daily account of all the films I watched in a given day. No full-length reviews here (unless they’re being linked), these are brief rundowns of my daily viewing habits. Some films I’m seeing for the first time, some I’m seeing for the hundredth. Some days will only have one or two entries, some will have more. But this should give a clearer picture of where I’m at on a daily basis. Hope you enjoy it!

DAY 5: JANUARY 5, 2013

maneater of hydraISLAND OF THE DOOMED (a.k.a. LA ISLA DE LA MUERTE, MANEATER OF HYDRA) (1967)first viewing – “What was the terrifying secret of the vampire tree?” says the poster of ISLAND OF THE DOOMED. Not to spoil anything, but the secret is pretty obvious – it’s a vampire tree. Once you’re a vampire tree, nobody cares about any other secrets. It’s not like anyone will be more shocked that you cheated on your SAT’s or something.

Cameron Mitchell (who at one time was in every movie ever made) plays a scientist who mutates plants on an abandoned island paradise which doesn’t look all that inviting. He also accepts a group of guests there on a vacation that must have looked better in the brochure. Soon, the guests begin dying off and the film actually tries to create suspense about who it could be? Could it be the vacant heroine (no), the visiting professor (no) or the possibly the obviously mad scientist and his meat-eating plants (seems a safe bet).

Don’t let the rating fool you. This is a bad movie – very bad, terribly bad. But that’s what made it enjoyable. The film boasts some incredibly hokey special effects, hilarious dubbing (the film was a co-production between Spain and West Germany) and jaw-dropping twists and turns. It’s not a quality film, but it’s a hoot and a holler.

I may have enjoyed the film more if I hadn’t been watching the faded public domain transfer, obviously taken from a battered 16mm print. The close-ups seemed way too close, likely a problem with the 1.33 cropping of a 2.35 film. Would love to get my hands on a restored widescreen print.

Great movie quote – “I’m sorry if you misunderstood me, Mrs. Robinson, but you were about to touch my giant gardenias.” ★★½ (out of ★★★★)

Django-Unchained-poster 2 WesternDJANGO UNCHAINED (2012)first viewing – You may have heard of DJANGO UNCHAINED. It’s the new Quentin Tarantino film that our own Austin Kennedy was just a little excited about. I also love Tarantino. The man appropriates influences throughout the world of psychotronic cinema and blends them all into a stew of his own unique concoction. DJANGO UNCHAINED represents his entry into the Western and like other genres he’s tackled it feels like a completely new, original creation, despite its obvious influences.

Django (Jamie Foxx) is a slave purchased by a bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) in order to track down a group of outlaws. Liking Django’s style, the bounty hunter agrees to take him under his wing for the winter, after which they will rescue Django’s wife from slavery.

The film has all the elements we’ve come to expect from Tarantino. Great characters, genre-bending, crackerjack dialogue and fine, well-shot action. Foxx and Waltz both do an amazing job with their characters. Being a fan of the original 1967 DJANGO, it was great to see Foxx sit next to Franco Nero in a scene that referenced his legendary barroom introduction from that film. I also think that despite what Spike Lee may say (Seriously, isn’t anyone tired of hearing that egomaniacal gasbag point fingers at anyone and everyone?), it was refreshing to see slavery presented with all the inhuman brutality it entailed. The film doesn’t flinch on the issue. I could feel the audience getting uncomfortable in several scenes – to which I say, “Good. You should be uncomfortable. Every one of us should be uncomfortable.”

However, while I enjoyed he film and its revolutionary approach, I couldn’t help but feel that some of the energy Tarantino brought to INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, PULP FICTION and KILL BILL wasn’t really here in full force. And the biggest problem of all – DJANGO UNCHAINED is way too long! Tarantino typically makes long films that go back and forth between characters. He has no shortage of ideas and throws them all in there. But this time, it semed like he would bring up set-pieces merely to pad out the running time. At 135 minutes (roughly a half hour shorter than it actually is), this would be a much more successful film.

While still a successful film, I must disagree with the general consensus that this is a masterpiece. I have to list DJANGO UNCHAINED amongst Tarantino’s lesser films.  ★★½ (out of ★★★★)

Total films watched in 2013 so far: 13

My soundtrack for January 5, 2013: “I’m drunk and the world is wild.”



Categories: Scott W. Davis, Scott's Film Geek Journal

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4 replies

  1. I thought DJANGO should have been longer. In fact, it was over 3 hours before he cut it. I can’t wait to see the longer cut. 🙂

  2. Totally disagree. I issue a challenge to you, sir, to come up with a solid argument for why any one scene in the film should have been cut out.

  3. P.S. I’ve seen the film 5 times now (I own a screener) and each scene is directly related to every other scene in the film either structurally or thematically. Now – while I admit that the film could have ended once the sale of Broomhilda had been achieved – Shultz’s polite “distaste” for slavery had been growing throughout their travels to the point where it was impossible for Shultz to even shake Calvin Candie’s hand – what followed had to happen. My ONLY criticism of the film is that Tarantino should have chosen another actor to play the bit part he himself played (the Australian in the group that was taking him to the mines) – but apart from a single awkward casting choice, I thought the film was easily Tarantino’s most morally complex film and, despite its humor – and indeed, in many ways, because of it – his most serious one. There aren’t many Tarantino films you actually feel emotionally invested in – let alone brought to the edge of tears by – and aside from “Jackie Brown”, which most consider his most “mature” work, “Django Unchained”, I feel, is his graduation to another level. He managed to bring his own style and genre fetishes to a real story – a LINEAR story (this is literally the first film he’s made that told a story with a traditional narrative structure) that emotionally affects its audience, in a way not tainted by irony. There are so many things to say about the film, but it’s LENGTH, to me, doesn’t even enter into it. I won’t say it’s his “best” film, simply because he’s made so many GREAT films – with a great director (in this case, writer/director), saying which one is the “best” would be silly – each film he’s made is great in its own way – but “Django Unchained” is FAR from a “lesser” work. The only film I’d say Tarantino has made that would even approach such a placement would be “Death Proof”, and the fault of that was really that after “Grindhouse”, they made the mistake of stretching it into a full-length feature, when it should have remained a short. Anyway, sorry for the long comment, but yeah, I just can’t see how “Django…” would benefit from losing even a single shot.

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