Short Takes: J

The Jackals (1967)

Producer/Director: Robert D Webb
Screenwriters: Lamar Trotti and Harold Medford (story: WR Burnett)

In South Africa, five outlaws on the run after a bank robbery come upon an old prospector and his granddaughter. At first, they are only trying to survive, but once they learn there is gold, conflicts develop.

The film works well enough with the head outlaw ultimately showing he is fundamentally decent and becoming attached to the granddaughter. But the main reason to watch this is for Vincent Price’s performance as the slightly crazy old man.

Starring Robert Gunner (Planet of the Apes), Diana Ivarson (The Jesus Trip), and Vincent Price (Theatre of Blood). Patrick Mynhardt (The Naked Prey) also has a small role.

The Jackals is under copyright. It’s available on DVD (there are other versions that you should probably skip). And it is on numerous collections.

2 April 2020

The Jack in the Box (2020)

Producers: Geoff Fowler and Lawrence Fowler
Director/Screenwriter: Lawrence Fowler

A man digs up a jack in the box and a creature comes out, kills his wife, and drags her away. It’s 12 years later and a museum has found the box. Now people start disappearing.

This film takes itself very seriously. At first it kind of annoyed me given the material. But about halfway through, it clicked. Jack is wonderfully rendered — up there with Freddy Krueger! Overall, a really well-constructed horror film.

Starring Ethan Taylor, Lucy-Jane Quinlan (Media Studies), Tom Carter, and Robert Nairne (In the Trap).

The Jack in the Box is under copyright. It is available on DVD.

4 November 2020

Jail Bait (1954)

Producer/Director: Edward D Wood, Jr
Screenwriters: Alex Gordon and Edward D Wood, Jr
Other titles: Hidden Face

Son of a famous surgeon rebels by leading a life of crime. He gets in big trouble. He dies, but otherwise, it all works out. It stars familiar Ed Wood people like Dolores Fuller, Lyle Talbot, and Timothy Farrell as the heavy. This was silent film star Herbert Rawlinson’s last film and future cinematic Hercules Steve Reeves’ first feature film. Word is, Wood shot 17 takes of Reeves trying to shave. I don’t know if that is true, but years later, Reeves said that Wood was a very kind director. This is the film to show anyone claiming Wood was a bad director. It’s a competent and enjoyable B feature.

It is in the public domain.

The January Man (1989)

Producers: Norman Jewison and Ezra Swerdlow
Director: Pat O’Connor
Screenwriter: John Patrick Shanley

A disgraced cop is reinstated to find a serial killer. While doing so, he also determines who set him up to take the fall for real corruption in the force.

This is a fun film. Just don’t focus on the serial killer because this film isn’t much interested in that part of the plot and it is absurd. Just enjoy the odd characters. That is enough.

Starring Kevin Kline (Dave), Alan Rickman (Truly, Madly, Deeply), Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (The Abyss), Susan Sarandon (Speed Racer), Harvey Keitel (Reservoir Dogs), Danny Aiello (Mistress), and Rod Steiger (On the Waterfront).

The January Man is copyrighted. It is available on an expensive DVD and Blu-ray neither with any real extras.

23 March 2021

La Jetée (1962)

Producer: Anatole Dauman
Director/Screenwriter: Chris Marker
Length: 28 minutes

Best known as the basis for 12 Monkeys, La Jetée is a film told in static shots with narration, sound effects, and music. As with 12 Monkeys, it tells the story of a man living in a post-apocalyptic world who takes part in time travel experiments to fix the present. The denouement is clever, but hardly the point of the film.

Jean Négroni does the narration. The film features Davos Hanich, Hélène Chatelain, and Jacques Ledoux.

La Jetée seems to be in the public domain in French, and it is available at Archive.org. There has never been a time when I haven’t been able to find it on a popular sharing site. It is available on disc along with Chris Marker’s feature-length documentary, Sans Soleil. You’d think it would come with 12 Monkeys but Terry Gilliam seems oddly defensive about the film (which is odd given that 12 Monkeys is one of the greatest films ever).

Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter (1966)

Producer: Caroll Case
Director: William Beaudine
Screenwriter: Carl K Hittleman

The granddaughter of Dr Frankenstein is in the old west doing even more dastardly deeds than he did. Jesse James gets shot during a robbery nearby and eventually falls into the evil hands of the female Frankenstein.

This was Beaudine’s last feature film. After it, he directed exclusively for television, including 80 episodes of Lassie. This film goes along with Billy the Kid vs Dracula, which I prefer.

Starring John Lupton, Narda Onyx, and Estelita Rodriguez (Rio Bravo).

Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter may be in the public domain. There is a reasonable copy on Archive.org. If you are willing to pay, Elite Entertainment produced a great version on DVD that comes with a commentary track by Joe Bob Briggs.

31 March 2020

Jim, the World’s Greatest (1975)

Producer: Don Coscarelli
Directors/Screenwriters: Don Coscarelli & Craig Mitchell

A high school boy tries to grow into adulthood while trying to protect his younger brother from their abusive alcoholic father.

This film was clearly a collaboration and I don’t want to diminish the contributions of Craig Mitchell, but this film shares a lot with Kenny & Co and Phantasm. It is a more serious and objective a rendering of growing up than the other films. Although it’s not really a psychotronic film, it’s shockingly engaging.

Starring Gregory Harrison (Logan’s Run), Robbie Wolcott, and Angus Scrimm (John Dies at the End). Reggie Bannister (Bubba Ho-Tep) has a small part as the hang-gliding hippy.

Jim, The World’s Greatest doesn’t look like it was ever released on VHS. And it hasn’t been released on disc in the US. I have seen a version that is apparently available in the UK, but I’m not sure if those sites can be trusted. I found it on YouTube. If you look around, you should be able to find it.

21 March 2020

John Dies at the End (2012)

Producers: Brad Baruh & Don Coscarelli and Andy Meyers & Roman Perez
Director: Don Coscarelli
Screenwriter: Don Coscarelli (novel: David Wong/Jason Pargin)

A new drug is on the street called Soy Sauce. It allows people to break out of time and space. Through it, David and John are drawn into a plot to destroy an AI in another universe that wants to take over ours.

The plot doesn’t so much matter. This is a very clever and fun film with some great action sequences. It’s one of my favorite films.

Starring Chase Williamson (Beyond the Gates), Rob Mayes (The American Mall), Clancy Brown (Cast a Deadly Spell), and Paul Giamatti (The Negotiator). Featuring Glynn Turman (Cooley High), Doug Jones (Pan’s Labyrinth), Daniel Roebuck (Eddie Presley), and Fabianne Therese (Teenage Cocktail).

John Dies at the End is copyrighted. You can, and should, get it on DVD or Blu-ray. They are both filled with extras as with all Coscarelli films.

Jug Face (2013)

Producers: Robert Tonino and Andrew van den Houten
Director/Screenwriter: Chad Crawford Kinkle

In the rural south, a community provides “the pit” with human sacrifices in exchange for health. Who is to be sacrificed is determined by the jugs made by a mystic potter. But when a young woman friend of his sees her face on a new jug, she hides it with terrible consequences.

This film is really well made but it suffers from a less than inspiring story. There’s no brilliant idea fueling it; the story is tired. But it is told with great skill and that very much includes the screenplay. It’s a good choice to show to your friends who may not be big psychotronic fans.

Starring Sean Bridgers (Deadwood) and Lauren Ashley Carter (Darling). With Kaitlin Cullum (Grace Under Fire) and Larry Fessenden (River of Grass), and Sean Young (Blade Runner).

Jug Face is under copyright. You can get it on DVD or Blu-ray.

15 February 2020

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