ORBzine Movie Reviews February 2001


Blood Ties

This is a made-for-TV movie about a family of vampires - err, Transylvanian Americans being hunted by a cult of, well, vampire-hunters. The story is refreshing insofar as it was made relatively recently and yet before the World of Darkness roleplaying systems corrupted Vampire mythology.

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  • Carrie

    This is Brian De Palma 's 1976 shocker based on the novel by Stephen King . Carrie White is a social outcast at her high school, but as she goes through puberty she discovers she is a telekinetic.

    De Palma originally cast this in sessions alongside George Lucas. Carrie got Sissey Spacek and William Katt (Greatest American Hero), while Star Wars IV: A New Hope landed Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill. Ms Fisher apparently got the lead role in Carrie, but turned it down when she discovered she would have to do the nude shower scene at the start.

    The villainess is a bitchy Nancy Allen (who soon afterwards married the director), and her sidekick is John Travolta in a role similar to his later persona in Grease. The other villain is Carrie's religious fundamentalist mother, Piper Laurie .

    De Palma, a major Hitchcock fan, could not resist a number of homages (or possibly attempts to imitate his idol). For example, the Psycho music is played at tense times, and the girls attend the Bates High School.

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  • Cat People, The (1981)

    This is Paul Schrader 's updated version of the 1940s classic.

    Natascha Kinski flies into New Orleans and is reunited with her brother (Malcolm McDowell - A Clockwork Orange ). He disappears, and a mysterious black leopard is discovered in the city. Zoo expert John Heard captures it. Kinski is drawn to Heard, but she has a love rival in the shape of Annette O'Toole , his fellow zoo worker. Ed Asner Jnr also works at the zoo, and his sadistic streak makes him an easy victim for the big cat.

    While the original was a minimal budget film noir which implied its scares, Schrader employed some great SPFX.

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  • D'Artagnan's Daughter

    The title character is played by the utterly babelicious Sophie Marceau . The story is set in the 1650s, when France was ruled by Cardinal Mazarin and the young Louis XIV. Ms Marceau uncovers a plot, and her father ( ) calls in his musketeer chums to help investigate.

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  • Damnation Alley (1977)

    This is a little-seen 1970s B-movie disaster flick based on a novel by Roger Zelazny. It is a pre- Mad Max post-Apocalyptic odyssey which cost twice as much as the biggest SciFi movie released the same year - Star Wars: A New Hope . However, the cast is miniscule and the SPFX are cheap-looking (apparently done by film students on work experience), so nobody knows where the budget actually went. It quite understandably sank without trace.

    George Peppard ( Battle Beyond the Stars ), Jan-Michael Vincent (Airwolf) and Paul Winfield ( Terminator ) survive WW3 because they are in a US military bunker in the Western USA. After the war they load up into some hi-tech APCs and make their way across the USA to Albany, New York State.

    This may sound familiar. Possibly because it is based on a book that inspired the Judge Dredd: Cursed Earth books. The cloned dinosaurs section in the books does not appear in this film, but inspired Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park series.

    Peppard chews a cigar and bosses people about, as always. Vincent rides a motorbike (shades of Spikes Harvey Rotten, anyone?) and makes you wonder where his career went, especially after he starred in Airwolf. Hell, even Ernest Borgnine had more of a career than him in his later years! As for Winfield? Well, he is the token black guy. You work it out.

    En route they pick up a young boy (Jackie Earl Haley - Watchmen (2009) ). Also, they run into a group of rapacious hill-billies straight out of Deliverance . On the one hand, this is a standard trope in Western movies, which is what a post-Apocalyptic road movie basically is. On the other hand, it seems unlikely that trained military personnel (Okay, Airforce ground crew, but still!) would be blind-sided by hill-billies and then waste armour-piercing rockets blowing up a wooden shack to kill a single villain!

    Apparently this film was severely edited before its release. Not only does this explain the disappearing budget (all the best bits were cut out) and the plot holes (too numerous to mention), but it also explains the lack of a proper climax. The film just sort of peters out at the end. Quite anticlimactic, considering its subject matter.

    Producer Paul Maslansky is perhaps better known for his Police Academy films. This effort is not great, but it is mildly entertaining. It makes you think how good the Judge Dredd movie could have been if they had made an adaption of the Cursed Earth!

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  • Legend

    Ridley Scott gives us a fairytale, an example of style over substance which exceeds even Blade Runner . And speaking of Scott's earlier work, he got to use his beloved unicorns here.

    Tom Cruise is a peasant boy in love with the Princess ( Mia Sara ) - well, who wouldn't be?

    Among the group of dwarven types who lends a hand is Billy Barty (surprise, surprise).

    The villain is Darkness (Tim Curry - Rocky Horror Picture Show ), with Robert Picardo ( Star Trek: Voyager ) among his horde of Goblin followers. Well, it is not really a horde, there are about three of them in all.

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  • Neverending Story 2

    Yes, because it never ends then the producers have the perfect excuse to cash in big-time and make lots of sequels.

    A sorceress (the babelicious Mrs Clarissa Burt ) is somehow destroying the fairytale land. Sebastian (Johnathan Brandis - SeaQuest DSV ) must help his (fictional?) friends.

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  • Starship Troopers (1997)

    This is based on the infamous novel by Robert A. Heinlein . The director ( Paul Verhoven ) made it a satire, although he may have been too subtle for some people. Basically, a Fascist human race goes to war against an alien race of giant insects.

    The hero (Johnny Rico) was played Casper Van Dien, a virtual unknown. His previous roles had included Beastmaster 3 , while he went on to a supporting role in Legend of Sleepy Hollow . The point of having no stars, just talent in his film indicates that Verhoven managed to pull off a concept film rather than a star vehicle - something that was claimed to be impossible way back when the Judge Dredd (1995) movie adaption was being made!

    Denise Richards is the hero's love interest, although in the babe stakes she is beaten by Dina Meyer . A pity that Richards went on to become a Bond Girl while Meyer was not in anything except a few TV shows in the next four years.

    Xena: Warrior Princess fans will spot a cameo by Tim Omundsen (Eli in Season 5).

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  • Up Pompei

    Lurkio (Frankie Howerd) is the protagonist/narrator, a slave in Pompeii in the year 79CE - the year of the erruption.

    Lurkio accidently stumbles across a plot to assassinate the Emperor Nero. This is odd, since Nero died about ten years before Vesuvius erupted, but you should by now have realised that historical accuracy is not at the heart of this story.

    Lurkio bumbles about in a camp fashion, and makes lots of double-entendres to the camera. Typical of traditional British humour, owing more to Benny Hill than to Monty Python.

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  • Warlords of Atlantis

    Doug McClure goes to a mystical land where he has to fight dinosaurs, escape from slavery and overthrow an Evil Overlord. Sound familiar? Well, he did three other films with exactly the same plot! In some ways the plot also resembles Dino de Laurentiis' Flash Gordon (1980) effort.

    This time he is an 1896 bathyscaphe-builder who is hired to explore the ocean bed in the Bermuda Triangle. John Ratzenberger (Cheers) is one of the ship's crewmen.

    The ship is attacked by a giant octopus. The crew awake, hardly even wet never mind drowned, to find themselves in a massive underwater cave. They discover they are in the kingdom of Atlantis, ruled by Cyd Charisse (who is not afraid to show her legs, even at the age she must be at!).

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