AUGUST 6 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES
Battle for the Planet of the Apes (thankfully) finishes the theater versions of the series. With the budgets decreasing, creative ideas waning, and costumes and makeup getting more worn-out, it's a good thing that this is the final sequel. There are some made for television movies, but I certainly have no desire to check them out after seeing this rather lame chapter. Only Beneath the Planet of the Apes is comparably inept, but that sequel at least has Charlton Heston for laughs.
Battle for the Planet of the Apes just isn't much fun, nor do the screenwriters even throw in a few deliberately cheesy laughs. Since the story concept comes from Paul Denn, who gave us those riotous apes from the previous sequel, I am assuming that John William Corrington and Joyce Hooper Corrington are the humorless couple that developed the joyless final script.
A few pieces of the puzzle are filled in. Battle begins some 600 years after the 1991 ape riots, as the Lawgiver, personified by veteran actor/director John Huston, tells about the heroic Caesar and how he led a band of apes to freedom in the late 20th century. More Huston would be a plus for this film, but he was just on the set for a one-day shoot to save on the budget.
Thus, we only see Huston in his orangutan outfit to bookend the movie. If we haven't realized his significance at the beginning, Battle does point it out by showing the statue of Caesar at the end, which is along the same lines as the religious leader canonized in the original of the series. That great leader is none other than our humble beginning and ending narrator, the Lawgiver.
Outside of Huston's appearance, there's not much to savor in this episode. Caesar and some apes are camped out in the woods like Robin Hood and are engaged in training for a new ape society. The humans are tolerated and used as teachers by Caesar and the chimpanzees while the gorillas, led by Aldo (Claude Akins), want to kill all the humans (and perhaps others).
Since the main message preached over and over is that "Ape does not kill ape," we can correctly predict that this basic law will be violated. And it's not difficult to figure out whom the lawbreaker will be, as the lines are delineated just as they are in previous episodes. Caesar and the chimpanzees counsel peace, Aldo and the gorillas just want to rumble, and the orangutans seek wisdom and balance.
At one point Caesar decides that he wants to find out what the future holds, so he must venture to a bombed-out city full of radiation to procure an archived tape of his parents, Dr. Zira and Cornelius. This brings him into contact with some evil humans living beneath the rubble, and they take off after the ape community like Mad Max characters in an old school bus and other rundown vehicles. The human leader, Kolp, is no professional hambone like Heston, so even his cheesiest line falls flat: "But every Caesar must have its Brutus, ape! And now Ape City is about to lose its king."
The battle scenes are really cheap and boring. Don't expect any great special effects: The bombs are little more than leftover 4th of July fireworks and hardly more powerful than sparklers. The cinematographers don't even give us any great close-ups during the action. It's all medium and long shots without specific focus. Perhaps this was a budgetary decision as well, since they obviously didn't spend much time to block out significant action sequences. The main way the director attempts to bring some excitement to the battle scenes is by turning up the overwrought musical score of blaring trumpets. It doesn't work.
Roddy McDowall does his usual fine job as the peacemaking chimpanzee. An interesting addition to the ape family is Paul Williams as the philosophic orangutan, Virgil. I must assume that he is an ancestor to The Lawgiver, as he consistently chooses Truth and modifies Shakespearean oratory with lines like, "All knowledge is for good. Only the use to which you put it can be good or evil."
After seeing the previous episodes of Planet of the Apes, you may eventually turn to this finale. Just don't expect it to tie up all the loose ends, because each episode is tacked on to the previous one without a view towards the larger picture. Though this gives a limited picture of what Caesar does immediately after the city riots, and shows a bit of the aftermath after a human war has devastated urban civilization, it leaves the apes and humans co-existing in peace. We know that that must change, but I certainly don't want to risk watching any of the made-for-TV movies to see what they invent to cover that plot hole. Watching this finale was painful enough.
AUGUST 6 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES
"Battle for the Planet of the Apes" is the fifth and, merciful God, the last of the ape movies. It takes place long after Charlton Heston and even James Franciscus have faded from the scene; we have a new generation headed by Caesar (Roddy McDowall), who is the son of the original ape leaders, Cornelius and Zira. Caesar is nonviolent and practices mutual co-operation with the human colony, but there's a militarist junta of trigger-happy professional gorilla soldiers plotting to overthrow the government.
Meanwhile, Caesar plans an expedition to the Forbidden City (which was destroyed by nuclear war in the last ape movie, you will doubtless vividly recall), in order to view a videotape made by his late parents. In it, they predict that the city will be destroyed by nuclear war. Thanks a lot. But the expedition also discovers that in the ruins of the city's subterranean vastness, a few mutant humans still survive.
Unlike the good humans, these humans have been weakened by radiation. Their leader is Severn (Second City) Darden, who seems somewhat unlikely in the role at first. But Darden, who is a comedian to the core, manages to salvage a glimmer of Mad Dictator savoir faire from the role, and who but the beloved Severn could lead a retreat wearing ski goggles and riding in a commandeered school bus? Meanwhile, back at Ape City, Caesar's young son has eavesdropped on the militarists and discovered their plans to raid the armory and bring an end to 12 years of peace. He is discovered by the evil gorilla leader, who hacks a vine in two and sends young Cornelius plunging to the ground. Thereupon Caesar, blinded by grief, keeps a vigil at his son's bedside while the gorillas put all the humans in the stockade and plunder the armory.
Now here things become slightly complicated. We are asked to sympathize with Caesar the nonviolent. We are also asked to boo the bad guys, who are the human mutants from the Forbidden City. But then the demented Darden leads his kamikaze raid on the healthy and uncontaminated Ape City; it is the militarist gorillas that fight back the onslaught. So maybe the message is that nonviolence is great if you have an army to back it up?
The movie is incompetently made, which is something of a surprise considering that it was directed by an old and good hand, J. Lee ("The Guns of Navarone") Thompson. Transitions are ragged, a lot of the dialog is inaudible and the rest is listless, and the apes spend a lot of time sitting around discussing abstractions. The battle footage looks cheap. And the story is painfully thin.
"Battle" looks like the last gap of a dying series, a movie made simply to wring the dollars out of any remaining ape fans. To a degree, that's also the case with the new (and ninth) James Bond movie, "To Live and Let Die." But at least with that one, some attempt was made to reproduce the technical gimmicks and wry eroticism of the earlier films; in "Battle," there's simply no reason at all for going. Anyone who hasn't had enough apes after the first four in the series has probably, by now, gone ape all by himself.
AUGUST 6 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : LOVE CAMP 7
How do I get myself into these things?
Okay, so I choose February (for admittedly arbitrary reasons) to examine the sexploitation end of the low-budget spectrum. Fair enough. So an essential part of that is examining the Women in Prison (WiP) film. Fair enough. So Love Camp 7 has been sitting in my Watch Box for a year, and that's a sort of a Nazi Women in Prison film. Fair enough.
Trouble is, now I have to think of something to say about it.
After a fairly superfluous opening where an aging British chap is entreated by his annoying American client to tell his WWII story, we join a meeting of four Allied Generals: American, French, Russian (the uniform is Russian, but the accent is dime-store Mexican) and British (our narrator). The good news, the Yank tells everyone, is that Dr. Schell, who was developing a jet fighter for the Reich, has died. The bad news is, his assistant Dr. Martha Grossman (who was delivering secrets to the French Resistance) is a Jew, and without Schell's protection, she has been sent to the infamous Love Camp 7, where Jewish women are forced to act as prostitutes for officers on leave.
The information Grossman is carrying in her head is essential to the Allied drive to beat Hitler to the jet fighter punch, but all is not lost. All they have to do is sneak two women of their own into Love Camp 7, locate Grossman, find out everything she knows, then the Resistance will bust all three of the women out. "Sounds far-fetched," opines one of the Generals, perfectly reflecting the opinion of the audience. Nonetheless, we are assured, two WACs, Grace and Linda, have volunteered for the job.
Now, I have accepted giant monsters, talking brains and 90 minute long gun fights without batting an eye. But accepting the idea that two women of at least moderate intelligence have volunteered for what they know will be five days of near-constant rape has my willing suspension of disbelief asking for a transfer to the Russian Front.
The ladies have no problem getting arrested and sent to Love Camp 7, as everything has been arranged by (trumpet fanfare) Calais of the French Resistance! (Did the French Resistance actually operate on German soil like this?) To their dismay, after multiple humiliations and nude scenes, they find that Grossman has been remanded to Detention, where the recalcitrant inmates are punished. Linda acts up so that she will be sent to Detention, and after being whipped by the sadistic guard Klausmueller (who has taken a lecherous shine to the protesting woman), she finally finds Grossman. The planned escape goes awry, however, when the new Acting Commander for the region orders an orgy for his men at the agreed-upon time; it is up to Grace to grab a Luger and make herself useful.
Oh, yeah, in case you were wondering: we win the war.
There is a fairly interesting subplot regarding Sgt. Gothardt, the Sensitive Nazi. Gothardt longs to return to the War, and sees absolutely no purpose for the suffering and abuse of the women, and acts as kindly toward them as possible. Grace even tries to enlist his help in the escape, but he refuses, siting his duty as a soldier. When, during the final orgy massacre, he rushes in, gun drawn, there is a moment when he and the similarly-armed Grace freeze; Grace probably shows herself the better soldier by killing Gothardt on the spot.
Probably the standout in this whole exercise is producer Bob Cresse as the commandant of Love Camp 7. Fellow producer David F. Friedman once said that Cresse was a closet Nazi, and he does indeed give the performance of an actor in his dream role - by turns decadent, bored, sadistic, sniveling... he attacks all these with a singular gusto. In the final massacre, he is blinded by flying glass and fires at random into the room, barely missing Grossman and Linda, but actually managing to kill Grace (her death is probably demanded by Bad Movie Law, as she not only shot the single sympathetic guy in the flick, she actually enjoyed having sex with him). Cresse's final moments, crawling across the vista of dead bodies, sobbing for his dead adjutant, who can neither reply nor help, is almost touching, certainly bathetic. There are so many dead bodies littering the floor at the last, it's almost like Shakespeare. Except for the Nazis, of course. And the nudity.
I could go on and do a laundry list of the heinous acts enacted in Love Camp 7, but there wouldn't be much point, really. You've got your boot-licking, suspension bondage, hosing down, forced lesbianism, whipping, and lots of rape. Throughout the 60's, it was practically impossible to avoid a spate of Men's Magazines that featured this sort of thing prominently on its covers: scantily clad women enduring all sorts of inhumanities at the hands of depraved Nazis. And somehow, this movie manages to make all these things dull. It's a problem that crops up many times in the filmography of Friedman - there's no joy in the storytelling, there's not a filmmaker here with a particular axe to grind or a point to prove, unless it's Cresse finally getting to be a Nazi - it is completely about making money.
Love Camp 7 kept showing up at drive-ins well into the 70s. And you won't find any better barometer of its success than the fact that David F. Friedman went on to also produce the thematically similar Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS, with a bigger budget and the ability to have better exterior shots, employing as they did the standing sets for TV's Hogan's Heroes. Love Camp 7, by comparison, is almost entirely shot in unconvincing interiors and nondescript exteriors, a wall here, a bush there. And its atrocities are similarly low-budget and home-grown, unlike the gory medical horrors of Ilsa. Which may perhaps be Love Camp 7's major weakness: it's really no different from any other roughie, like Friedman's other period nudies, The Defilers and Brand of Shame; there is not much to recommend it past naked women (of the 60's kind, the sort that makes today's idiot anorexia culture complain, "she's fat!") and a lot of German memorabilia on display. It is, quite simply, smut - and much as I like smut (I am male, after all), there's better examples out there.
After this, came the deluge, with a flood of Euro-imitations like Salon Kitty and Nazi Love Camp 27. You can't really say any of the acts contained within Love Camp 7 are tastefully done, but compared to what came after, this movie is almost a model of restraint. And whatever else you may think about Friedman, the man is no fool - he has a feel for what sells that Barnum might have envied. He also had a hand in starting two major genres, with this picture, and the grandpa of gore films, Blood Feast. To paraphrase his collaborator on that movie, H. G. Lewis: these flicks should be regarded with a certain amount of honor, like Walt Whitman poetry: they're no damn good, but they're the first of their kind.
AUGUST 6 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : MURDERLUST
A serial killer, who is actually a handsome Sunday school teacher, abducts young women and disposes their bodies in the Mojave Desert.
1) Here I am the first to review this film here, I guess it’s just thatdifficult to find. but I’m honored to be the first, although maybe only fivepeople may read this within the next 5 years. Well I heard of the film froma book, sounded like a slasher film, so I thought i’d buy it. I finallytracked the darn film down.
I put on the film, expecting some blood, a couple of slashings, but got noneof that. Just got a film about a depressed guy out to kill a couple ofprostitutes. Nothing bloody there. But the most surprising moment is when isaw Bonny Schnieder in the film, me being from long island, i watch channel12 News. Bonny Schneider is one of the weatherwoman on the channel. I wasshocked to see her play a prostitute in this film. I’m guessing she washelping out a friend while in college who was studing film, or maybe shetried the acting, even though this was her only film. Oh well, I found thatquiet interesting.
I always find it interesting to find a film that is so rare and no longerwatched by anyone. When i find films such as these, I see them as a timecapsule, caputuring the beauty of the slasher rise in the 80’s. Althoughthis movie wasnt anything special, we should all dig them all up and startworshipping them, they deserve it:)
2) Murderlust (1985) is a very low budget film about a Sunday schoolteacher who seems like a popular guy with his fellow teachers, but inhis spare time he likes to pick up young women (mainly hookers) andkill them (mostly by strangling).
Like i say the film was very low budget but also pretty boring, all ofthe killings were off-screen and there was hardly any blood at all, andno gore whatsoever, the acting was also pretty lame to be honest, andthe storyline was pretty flat and routine.
All in all a very rare horror film to find, but thats because it's justnot very good at all, stick with Henry: Portrait of a serial killer,it's far superior in every way to this poor effort!!! 3/10
3) I picked this film up in the horror section at the video store thinkingit would be your ordinary slasher film. I thought it would beoversexed, violent and possible funny, because that’s what I look formost of all in horror films. All the great horror films along withhaving interesting plot lines have to be hilarious. Some great examplesof this are steven kings maximum overdrive and silver bullet, and samraimies evil dead trilogy. So I picked it up, and when I watched it Iwas surprised how unique it was. I found it quite realistic, and theplot was interesting and strong. It also had some great horror filmhumour in it. It was definitely a good time. It wasn’t very violent orsexually explicit either. It had a strong sexual element, but it waspresented in a tasteful manner. The violence had a aggressive tone toit, but wasn’t graphic. Most murders weren’t shown. The killing was notdone in typical horror film fashion, It seemed like a cross between ahorror film and a psychological thriller. I was also interested in howthey showed the character in his separate lives. The contrast betweenhis church life and his private life and how they eventually overlap.It was definitely worth watching and I recommend it as a good film butit can’t compare to the very best of the genre.