FIEND WITHOUT A FACE

NB: I usually avoid SPOILERS but this review is loaded with them

Someone (fondly) mentioned this film a while back.  I remembered seeing it but not being too fond of it.  But what the hell, I put it on my Netflix queue.

I now know why I didn’t have fond memories: This 1958 b&w turkey is up there with Plan 9 in the howlingly bad category.

It starts off with a new airborne radar system that’s going to help us keep an eye on the Russians.  It runs on atomic power that’s beamed up to a plane (a B-52 that magically changes to a B-47 and back again).  But even though they ramp up the reactor to dangerous levels (think of Scotty saying, “Captain, she canna take no more!”) they can’t get enough power to the plane – something keeps sucking it off.

Hey, it’s 1957 and they’ve got broadcast power!

But never mind that: People are being attacked by invisible creatures who suck out their brains and spinal cords through 2 small holes in the back of the skull.  One wonders anxiously where do these things come from and what can they possibly look like?

Well, in a steal from Forbidden Planet’s id creature, a scientist wired up his head and created them.  He didn’t intend for them to be evil, but they are.  They gain strength from the energy from the reactor and feed on human central nervous systems.

Somehow the creatures rev the reactor into overload level and destroy the rods that will cool it down.  This extra energy allows them to become visible.  Know what they look like?

The brains and spinal cords of their victims.

Except that the brains have two antennae and the spinal cords are segmented.

Spinal cords are not segmented – the vertebrae around them are.

They use their (segmented) spinal cords to propel them like inch worms, with help from peripheral nerve trunks that act like spindly legs.

The stop-motion animation is bad while they’re on the ground or hanging from trees, but then they jump.

THEY JUMP!

Eventually the principals – army types and the designated female – are trapped in a house surrounded by the fiends.  They shoot them with their .45s – revealing that the creatures are filled with strawberry preserves – but there are too many of them.  The hero says the only way to stop them is to blow up the reactor.

Yes, blow up the reactor!!!

How’s he going to do this?  By stopping for explosives at the dynamite shack between town and the army base.

The dynamite shack???

Ever live in a town with a dynamite shack?

But he reaches it, breaks in, makes off with four (FOUR!) sticks of dynamite and blows up the reactor!!! (with 4 sticks of dynamite)

This causes all the fiends to dissolve into custard.

Whew.  The protagonists and the town have been saved by blowing up the local reactor!!

74 minutes of hilarity.  I couldn’t bring myself to use the FF button – I might miss something.

FF=0

McFARLAND, USA

Another of those warm, fuzzy “Hoosier” / “Friday Night Lights” based-on-a-true-story clones that’s totally predictable and totally engaging.  You know exactly what’s going to happen from the moment Coach White gets fired in the opening scene to the where-are-they-now? sequence at the closing credits. It never occurred to me to use the FF button. These films are feel-good tonics, and I’ll be there when the next one is released.

FF=0

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

Saw this in 3D. A stunning action film. They didn’t overdo the 3D but I did duck a few times. The scenery is stunning too – after all, the environment plays a crucial role in the Mad Max films. The stunts are over the top. Frankly, I can’t find the words to convey the visual impact of this film. You must see to believe. Since I saw it in a theater, I didn’t have an FF option, but I assure you it would have been a big fat ZERO.

TAKEN 3

Just when you think the series is going to break with formula…it doesn’t. I try to avoid spoilers but that’s not a problem here: if you’ve seen 1 and 2, you’ve seen 3. The cracks are showing and the feeling of déjà vu is overwhelming. Time to call it quits with this series.

FF=3.5

GRACE OF MY HEART

An easygoing bio-fic from 1996 about a female singer-songwriter in the 60s. The character is an amalgam of Carole King, Cynthia Weil, and Ellie Greenwich. John Turturro does a hilarious turn as a bewigged Phil Spector type.  Bridget Fonda plays a not-yet-out-of-the-closet Lesley Gore character.  The songs are surprisingly good (I’m thinking of picking up the soundtrack) as you watch music change from the girl-group sound to psychedelia, but it’s not a film that requires much focus. Good to have on while you’re puttering around the room doing other stuff.

FF=2

BIG HERO 6

What a delightful movie. On the negative side, it’s formulaic, doesn’t break any new ground, and the plot twist is obvious. But I don’t go to animated features for any of that. I go for the visuals. And this is beautifully rendered with charming, engaging characters, especially Baymax, the marshmallowy robot who’s the moral center of the tale.  I couldn’t help being reminded of the much darker The Iron Giant. I checked the credits for Brad Bird’s name but didn’t see it.

FF=0