Saturday, 27 March 2010

Quirk Classics Gear Up For Dawn of the Dreadfuls

No doubt if your a fan of the Quirk Classics series, you will no doubt have already rushed out and got your grubby paws on thier latest release "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls", the prequel to the launch title for the series "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies".
You can read my own thoughts on this latest title here, while in the meantime the folks at Quirk classics have released another great trailer to promote this latest title, which is great to see especially seeing how fun their trailer for "Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters" was, which really makes me wonder, what they are going to come up with when it comes to promoting their next release "Android Karenina" in June, which will see the classic Tolstoy novel reciving a steam punk twist.
Still in the meantime enjoy thier latest trailer

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Elwood's Essentials #1: Destroy All Monsters

Welcome to the first entry in a new feature here on the blog, were I will be looking at the movies, which I consider to be essential. True I could have just done a list of my favourite movies, but rather than face being lumped with a list of movies, which would shadow me forever along with the fact, I could see it getting real depressing kind of quick, committing to a series of posts gushing over my favourite movies, in much the same way that you tend to get bummed out super quick, when you try to make a mixtape of just pop songs.
So what with us currently being the midst of "Kaiju season" here on the blog, what better place to begin this new feature, than with what I believe is one of the best entries in the Godzilla series. Still choosing just one of the 28 movies is no easy choice, especially when so many films in the series could easily (and still could) have been included on my list of essential films, but if forced to choose just one it would have to be “Destroy all Monsters” (1968) which I would deem to be the most essential one to watch.

“Destroy all Monsters” or “Attack of the Marching Monsters” as it was known in Japan, is the ninth entry in the Godzilla series, which at this point had truely established it’s format of giving audiences monster sized smack downs, with antihero Godzilla reigning supreme as the earths best defence against the various monsters which were eager to destroy human life or more specifically Tokyo. However the series was struggling upon the release of this title, which was originally intended to wrap up the series, with the studio bosses at Toho seeing it as a good way to send the series off with a bang, only to produce one of the most popular films of the Showa series and in turn helping to keep the series going for a further nineteen movies.

Plot wise the film sticks to the popular craze of space travel and alien invasion, which would prove to be popular themes throughout the Showa series and here it is no different, especially with the hero of this particular film being Captain Yamabe (Akira Kubo) and the crew of his spaceship Moonlight SY-3, which despite being a spaceship, is still more than capable of flying around normally in the Earths atmosphere.
Set in 1999 all the Earth’s monsters have been rounded up (though we are never explained how) and placed on an island which has been funnily enough re-named “Monsterland” however the island is covered in a mysterious fog, causing the monsters and the staff of “Monster Island” to disappear, only to reappear under the control of a race of mind controlling aliens called the Kilaaks, who are intent on destroying all human life using the giant monster they now have under their control.

One of the main selling points of this particular entry in the series, especially when I first saw, is the sheer amount of monsters which have been crammed into this single film, with Godzilla being joined by Mothra, Rodan, Angilas (my personal favourite), Kumonga, aswell as Minilla who still looks like he is made out of grey lumpy mash.
Still several of the monster who make appearances here, were never actually part of the Godzilla series and drafted in to make up the numbers, such as Baragon (Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965), Gorosaurus (King Kong Escapes (1967), Manda (Atragon (1963) and Varan (Varan the Unbelievable (1958) which despite this, still don’t seem out of place though it was a relief not to see that horrible King Kong costume from “King Kong Vs. Godzilla” (1962). This was feat certainly not seen again until the final film in the series “Godzilla: Final Wars” (2004) which also brought out monsters from the Toho back catalogue. The true highlight of this film though has to be the final monster rumble which sees the collected monsters teaming up to fight King Ghidorah, in a fight which has over years proven to be a sore point for some fans, especially seeing how overwhelmed Ghidorah becomes, but it is still a stand out Kaiju moment and makes for a fantastic climax to the film.

The miniature work is great here, with the military hardware and crumbling cities never looking better, especially with some great blue screen work only further helping to bring them to life further, much like the attention to detail which shows footage of people running to underground bunkers during the monsters attack on Tokyo, which kind of emphasises how used to giant monsters destroying the city the people of Tokyo are.

Despite the success of this film, it would sadly be the last film to be made with all four of the Godzilla fathers producer Tomoyuki Tanaka, Director Ishirô Honda, Special effects genius Eiji Tsuburaya and Akira Ifukube providing the rousing classical score, including the trademark “Godzilla March” which even now is still just as thrilling to hear, even after numerous viewings. Still it would prove a fitting end note for their career together, even though they would each work on further entries in the series, this would be the last time they worked together, with this film providing a suitable endnote for their collaboration in the series.

“Destroy all monsters” might look a little dated with its use of miniatures and lack of CGI, while for the Kaiju fans it might just be their cinematic wet dream, especially with the sheer amount of monsters on screen, with a storyline which isn’t just an excuse to have a bunch of monsters stomping on Tokyo, which several of the earlier films may have felt like, but out of those early movies, this film is a definite high point, if not for the series as a whole.

Friday, 19 March 2010


Title: Pulgasari
Director: Chong Gon Jo, Sang-ok Shin
Released: 1985
Staring: Chang Son Hui, Ham Gi Sop, Jong-uk Ri, Gwon Ri, Hye-chol Ro, Yong-hok Pak, Kenpachiro Satsuma

Rating: 4 / 5
Plot: An evil king (Yong-Hok Pak) aware of the peasant rebellion being planned, steals all the iron in the country, to make weapons for his own personal army. After discovering bandits in the local village he imprisons them along with their leaders grandfather (Gwon Ri), who staves himself to death, while creating a tiny figurine of the mythical creature Pulgasari, which comes to life when combined with the blood of his daughter.Growing bigger with the more Iron it consumes it also helps the peasants to fight back against their corrupt king.

Review: Pulgasari is a film most commonly known for the tales behind it’s making, rather than the film itself, seeing how its creation was the result of the North Korean dictator and film fanatic Jong-il Kim being a fan of South Korean director Sang-ok Shin and apparently not being content with perhaps an autograph, instead had Shin kidnapped, forcing him to direct seven films for him, which Jong-il Kim acted as executive producer for, before Shin eventually managed to escape back to the South. Out of those film, this is one is the most well known, no doubt a result of its ties to the Kaiju genre, which is no doubt the reason it hasn't been forgotten entirely.
From the outset it might look like the Korean version of Godzilla of whom the creators, Toho studios are also on hand here to provide the creature effects with Satsuma donning the Pulgasari costume, whom is best known for having worn the Godzilla costume during the Hensi series, which does make it all the more surprising that his performance as Pulgasari is actually pretty ropey, with most of his screen time seeing Pulgasari stomping around with none of the grandeur of his Japanese cousin, spending more time staggering around like a drunk bear. Still the iron eating monster still makes another great edition to the Toho monster catalogue and is still a hundred times better than their seriously ropey looking King Kong, seen in “King Kong Vs. Godzilla” (1962)

The idea of creating a creature out of rice and mud, which for some bizarre reason turns into steel really bringing into question what kind of rice they have in Korea is an idea, really reminisant of “The Golem” (1920) especially seeing how the creature protects the persecuted peasants, acting like their protector in much the same way that the Golem was created to protect the Jews of Prague. Still due to the political connections that the film has, it has also picked up numerous comments from various critics, who have stated that it is in fact a propaganda piece about the dangers of unchecked capitalism and power of the collective, which does depend on how much you are reading into the film and considering the circumstances which it was made.

The feudal Korean setting makes for a refreshing change, than the more traditional modern setting, much like the idea of having the monster uniting the peasant masses to battle, rather than being a creature of fear and destruction and in a way I would have liked to have seen more from the series, which unfortunately was not to be, thanks largely no doubt to the circumstances under which it was made. This fresh setting is truly made the most of, with the King resorting to more traditional traps including burying Pulgasari in a giant pit aswell as traping him in a cage and setting fire to it, before finally resorting to the use of a giant cannon, which results in Pulgasari using a rather unique version of spit-balling. Ironically these primitive methods seem awhole lot more effective than anything which the modern military can conjure up, which we have seen them attempt to use against Pulgasari’s Kaiju brethren, which usually tend to cause more damage to the surrounding area than the creature was causing in the first place.

The downside of the film I found not to be in the creature design, which is largely good, apart from a few select moments, when Pulgasari seems more rubber than steel, but instead my main qualm came from the score, which starts off with an orchestral score, but this is for some reason turns into a synthesized one with no reason why and in a way removed me from getting into the film more, seeing how it gives the film a feel of a low budget bollywood feature. I suppose the main gripe kind of comes from the lack of theme music which Pulgasari has, with nothing coming even remotely close to that of Godzilla’s theme “Godzilla March” which added such drama to the scenes, he appeared on screen, were as Pulgasari has instead got to rely on general background music and perhaps this is just another reason why Pulgasari makes for such a less imposing presence on the screen.

In all Pulgasari is a fun movie and while it might not be quite the Godzilla beater, which I’m sure it was intended to be, it at least comes off as one of the better imitators, especially seeing how it bothers to at least provide a slightly unique setting, rather than just being about another monster stomping through a major city, alone making it a title worth tracking down, while any political attachments are no doubt dependant on how much you want to read into it.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

The Giant Claw

Title: The Giant Claw
Director: Fred F. Sears
Released: 1957
Staring: Jeff Morrow, Mara Corday, Morris Ankrum, Louis Merrill, Edgar Barrier, Robert Shayne

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Plot: While testing new radar systems, test pilot Mitch (Morrow) spots an UFO, which turns out to be a gigantic bird, intent on bringing doom to the inhabitants of Earth.

Review: It’s funny the things which inspire me to often hunt down a title, often having nothing to do with the plot and more often than not a desire to watch the film based on a single shot, or perhaps the prospect of seeing a certain scene, which is especially true for this film, a clip of which I remembered being featured in the title sequence, for “Monsterpiece Theatre”, which shows the clip of a man parachuting, with a look of terror on his face as we watch him falling in front of the monstrous face of the titular creature, which is without a doubt one of the most comedic looking monster creations I have seen, since I discovered that “The Thing” in “Godzilla Vs. The Thing” (better known as “Godzilla Vs. Mothra” outside of the states) was in fact a giant moth! This also go a long way to explaining why, you don’t actually see the whole creature on any of the posters, though leaving why the film is called “The Giant Claw” when the creature in question clearly has two claws! It is also worth noting that throughout the production none of the cast actually had any idea what the creature was going to look like, with Animatronics maestro Ray Harryhausen originally being considered to create the creature, an idea which would be scrapped due to budgetary restraints, leaving the creature effects to be handled by a small Mexican special effects company, which does prove slightly detrimental to the film, seeing how the effects are not just laughable now, but were considered laughable back when the film was first released, with audiences supposedly bursting in laughter whenever the creature appeared on screen.
Outside of the creature the majority of the effects are a combination of well edited scenes of stock footage, combined with some seriously ropey miniature work, which is amusing to watch as planes bounce around on strings and model trains get thrown through the air. Still Sears being keen to get the most out of his budget, even recycles footage from his earlier film “Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers” (1956), providing some of the better effects here.

Plot wise it’s a standard B-movie affair and rattles along at a quick pace, which goes a long way to explaining why it’s such a fun film to watch, despite suffering from numerous flaws, while at the same time it actually bothers to break several genre conventions seeing how Corday plays Sally a strong female character, rather than the usual damsel in distress which is almost expected in the genre, but here she is seen not only as a romance interest but also as a major part of the team, proving herself not only feisty but also quite handy with a rifle, putting her a whole head and shoulders ahead of the majority of her female b-movie predecessors, still the majority of the cast seem to believe that they are in a film which is more than B-movie fodder, judging by how the actors handle the dialogue combined with their general performances throughout, but then I guess no one really bothered to tell them that they are staring in a movie were the world is under attack from a giant rubber chicken. Still we do get the classic lines “I’ll never call my mother in law and old crow again” aswell as my personal favourite

“Holy Toledo! I've seen some mighty big chicken hawks back on the farm, but man, this baby takes the cake!”

Both lines spoken completely straight faced only further adding to the humour value and questioning if this was ever intended on being a serious movie?

Plot wise the one point which stuck with me which watching this film, is why does everyone keep referring to the creature as being “A giant battleship”? Seriously this one description is shared by nearly every character that comes into contact with the creature, but why call it a battleship? Why not at least describe it as something that flies at the least. I also have to wonder for a creature which is supposedly from space, how it actually travels through space, let alone generates its own force field which is pretty much accepted as fact, almost as if the idea of a giant chicken flying through space makes perfect sense.

I can’t help but feel had the creature effects been better, that this film might be remembered in more positive light, rather than for its unintentional humour value, caused by a seriously random looking creature, caused by the budget restraints the film was put under and certainly which resonates even now, when you consider the amount of half decent films, which are ruined by the inclusion of cheap bargain basement CGI. Still the film remains as it does a fun way to burn away a Sunday afternoon, especially when you can’t be bothered with the complexities of something heavier which after all is what this genre does best.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

You Wanna Win Yourself Some Free Quirk Classics Stuff?

To tie in with the imminent release of the latest release from Quirk classics "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn Of The Dreadfuls", the nice folks at Quirk classics not only sent myself an advance copy of the new book, a review of which you can now read here, but are also giving you all a chance to win yourself one of 50 quirk classics prize-pack which is not only worth $100, but includes

o A Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Journal
o Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Postcards
o Audio Books of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters
o An advance copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls
o A password redeemable online for sample audio chapters of Dawn of the Dreadfuls
o A Dawn of the Dreadfuls Poster

To be in with a chance of winning, all you need to do is click here and tell them in thier comments section were you read my review, along with this link to the article.

Simple right?
So don't delay and good luck to everyone who enters!!

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn Of The Dreadfuls

“Quirk Classics” Have been riding the crest of quirky rewrite wave, since their first release “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” which with it’s cut and paste approach, brought an interesting twist to the classic Jane Austin novel, sparking a whole heap of imitators in its wake, in much like the “Twilight” saga causing the sudden boom in the paranormal romance genre. Despite this Quirk Classics have managed to stay at the forefront of this mash up craze, perfecting the method with their second and much stronger release “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters” which proved to be a much stronger release thanks largely to it’s 70 / 30 mix of new material with original material, which had proved such a breaking point for most readers of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” with so much of the new material looking clumsy pasted into place and stretching the joke dangerously thin.

It would be a lie if I said that I wasn’t surprised that the third release from “Quirk Classics” is infact not another literacy mash up, but instead a prequel to “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”, as we meet the Bennet sisters again, who we find far from being the capable zombie slaying warriors, they were the first time we met them, as when we join the sisters, England is still free from the zombie plague, having been years since the original war waged against the dreadfuls, making it a world much closer to the one created by Austin originally. Still it is a peacefulness which soon to be shattered, when the recently deceased body of Mr. Ford suddenly sits up in his coffin, as it seems that the dead have begun to rise once more.

I was unsure whether a prequel would actually work, but here it actually works, seeing how the original novel suffered from numerous plot holes, which the cut paste method failed to accommodate, as it fought to keep as true as it could to the source novel, meaning that we learnt hardly anything about how the sisters became the zombie slaying warriors which they are when we first meet them, with most of the information we were given, being in the form of the numerous references to training regimes mentions in conversation by the sisters. Thankfully it is these same plot holes which Hockensmith, appears to have set out to fill in as we finally witness their early training in the “Deadly Arts”, with “Master Hawksworth” a man who might have more than a few secrets of his own, making this latest volume, almost an essential read before readers new to the series attempt the original novel, which I now feel might work slightly better than before, now this alternative world has been more properly explored and given the time to flesh out the various ideas which were only touched upon in the original book.

It might be slightly unfair comparing this latest release to the two previous quirk classic releases especially, seeing how writer Steve Hockensmith does not have to work out a way of working his new material into the classic text, still despite not having such restrictions forced upon him, Hockensmith not only manages to stay true to the original characters of the source novel as well as their rewrites which they received in the original quirk classics novel, but also introduces several new characters of his own creation, including the limbless “Corporal Cannon” who is moved around via wheelbarrow by his always present personal guard, with one to represent each missing limb. Still the most interesting character for myself I found to be the eccentric “Doctor Keckilpenny” whose appearance almost screams homage, with his attempts to humanise his pet zombie “Mr. Smith” ideas all too familiar to those explored in George A. Romero’s “Day of the Dead” (1985), much like his attempt to disguise himself as a dreadful, which I couldn’t help but think of “Shaun of the Dead” (2004). Still these scenes along with the various zombie attacks scenes, which are written in a gleeful gore soaked prose, proving that Hockensmith not only has a way of writing action well, but is also clearly a zombie lover aswell.
This book is also really a first venture into the horror genre, for Hockensmith having been known more at this point for his “Homes on the Range” series, which follow two cowboy brothers and wannabe detectives using methods of their hero “Sherlock Holmes. Still after reading this first shot at the genre, I would like to see him attempt it again, especially as he finally has given many of us what we wanted with the original novel, a regency set zombie story and something no doubt that original author Seth Grahame-Smith could have given us the first time around, had he not be wanting to stick to the source material so closely, while at the same time Hockensmith also manages to bring a Terry Pratchett Esq. style humour to the proceedings with numerous scenes which left me a goofy grin on my face, reminding me once more that the quirk classics series is essentially about having fun with a classic story and readers approaching this latest entry in the series with this mind frame shouldn’t hopefully not be disappointed.
All in all "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn Of The Dreadfuls" makes for a fun read and while fans of the original might be able to predict, how it is going to end, especially in regard to characters which don't appear in the original novel, it still doesn't prevent it from being any less fun, while becoming an essential starting point for anyone who is yet to discover the "Quirk Classics" series, which is currently set to finally move away from the works of Austin, with thier next title "Android Karenina" set to instead change thier focus onto the work of Tolstoy, as the author of "Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters" Ben H. Winters, attempts to combine the classic novel with sci-fi and steampunk, which personally I can't wait to see.
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