TORPOIDAL MOVIE REVIEWS
Dr. Torpor takes on Dr. Frankenstein! Watch in awe as Dr. Torpor hosts the 1931 Universal Pictures film Frankenstein!
Dr. Torpor, cartomancer, doctor of the mind, and interpreter of the infinite, hosts The Phantom of the Opera. Using his tricyclic powers, Dr. Torpor hopes a tarot reading will help the Phantom avoid catastrophe.
The French Connection II
They Shoot Horses Don’t They? and Silent Snow, Secret Snow
The former is a 1969 film and the latter is a vignette in the TV horror anthology series, The Night Gallery.
Inferior Sequels That Are Inexplicably Preferred Over their Predecessors
For some reason, many mortals prefer certain sequels over the films that created the possibility of a sequel in the first place. There is no guarantee that the first of a series will be the best of its lot. But in the following cases, the original films have all taken a back seat in popularity to their upstart progeny. And somehow these sequels receive more adoration despite being markedly inferior. Three puzzling examples of this bizarre phenomenon stand out.
Bride of Frankenstein Preferred over Frankenstein
James Whale’s Frankenstein is a straightforward tale that does not overly strain believability despite its fantastic content. Whale follows this with Bride of Frankenstein, a film so full of silliness that it makes the first movie look like a documentary. From miniature bottled humans with perfectly tailored clothing to multiple ridiculous reasons for constructing the bride (collaborating with a mad scientist is always what occurs to me first when my spouse is kidnapped), the whole story is preposterous. Plus the heavy-handed comedic elements clash so uncomfortably with the horrific that Bride suffers from an uneven tone that makes The Devil’s Rejects seem stodgy.
Aliens over Alien
Alien is an efficient and terrifying film. Aliens is an inefficient and tedious film. Despite its many virtues, Alien does have the problem of unlikable characters. But Aliens is swamped with a legion of them. Even Ripley is less likable. In fact, the only truly likable character in Aliens (besides Newt) is Bishop. And, as Parker would say, “It’s a Goddamn robot!”
The Road Warrior over Mad Max
Mad Max is a bleak and nihilistic movie demonstrating that one cannot opt out of the craziness of existence. In Max’s case, we first see him as a noble savage in the form of a fearless cop. By the end of the film he is transformed into an empty monster drained of humanity. The world is depicted as offering no options other than the unpleasant and meaningless. While oblivion always lurks nearby.
The Road Warrior drives straight into stupidity town. Max decides to cruise around aimlessly in no man’s land? What does he do when he needs a new oil filter? All the comic book characters populating this film run their contraptions with no evidence of a garage anywhere. The hapless Gyro Captain is an irritating comic relief character approaching the level of Jar Jar Binks. Gone is the oppressive gloom of the first film. The Road Warrior ends with the hope that the settlers will actually prevail. And as Nietszche said, hope is the final evil.
The four films in the Billy Jack cycle are viscerally gripping and alarming in their depiction of the most noble human impulses being overwhelmed by negative forces. Good always wins but just barely. At the finish, one has the impression that this is a tentative victory and just one skirmish in a much larger perpetual battle. The good guys are never far away from becoming the decimated bus of ecological flower children in The Road Warrior. Consequently, these films pull off an astounding paradox of being simultaneously inspiring and pessimistic, almost cynical.
The Born Losers (1967) was an AIP motorcycle gang exploitation film that was written by Tom Laughlin who played the story’s hero, Billy Jack. It reflected both the hippie love culture’s inability to defend against depravity and evil as well as conventional society’s impotence in the same regard. Here we have law enforcement impotent to protect citizens and actually inadvertently protecting the wrong doers with unresponsive legal processes and technicalities. And these flaws in the social fiber are directly connected to liberalism and an over concern with protecting the rights of the accused.