Month: March 2017

The Evil Dead – tape 1549

And here’s The Evil Dead.

My history with The Evil Dead goes back (I think) to the original cinema release. I definitely saw it in a cinema, and I’m assuming that was the original release.

It was one of those films that got branded as a ‘video nasty’ and was taken to court on obscenity charges, more than once, I think. So for a long time it was unavailable on video in the UK.

I did get a chance to see it again on video when I went on a family holiday to Ireland to stay at my Uncle and Aunt’s house while they were away. They had a VHS VCR, something we didn’t have at home yet, so almost the first thing I did was go into town and take a membership at the local video rental shop, which had quite a large selection (and, I remember, fully a third of their shelf space was Betamax).

Because Ireland hadn’t yet succumbed to the Video Nasty panic, you could still get all the films that were banned in the UK, so I spent a fortnight watching things like The Evil Dead and The Burning. Lots of old-school gory makeup effects in otherwise quite bad films, but at the time it was quite exciting to be seeing these ‘banned’ items.

The Evil Dead is a film of its time. It looks like the low budget film it is, but it succeeds by throwing almost everything into a big, bloody pot and stirring with massive enthusiasm.

I love the occasional wacky shot in some of the sequences. Early on, when the doomed teens are still travelling to the cabin in the woods, they have a near miss with a truck, a stunt which is pulled off almost entirely in the editing. As they are swerving past the truck, there’s a brief shot of one of the passengers at the car window where she was obviously told ‘Look terrified’ as the camera jiggles around to suggest movement.

This tape looks like it might be a dub from a rental tape. I don’t think it would have been shown on TV in 1993, so I must have been copying it. There’s a severe problem with the sound synchronisation, and I can’t tell if that’s from the original source, added by the dubbing, or an artefact of the digitisation process. But there’s something at the end of the tape that’s perfectly synced so I suspect it’s the source or my tape to tape dubbing that introduced the problem.

This is a film that doesn’t even try to pretend that everything’s normal. It starts with the near miss on the road, which is intercut with a lot of shots of the camera prowling over the forest floor, point of view shots of something evil. And when they reach the cabin, it’s scored with spooky, tense music as the driver looks for the key to the door. From the point of view of the characters, they’ve got no reason to be nervous, but the film is making sure we, the viewers, are.

But it doesn’t take any time for strange things to happen. A girl is sketching a clock, the pendulum stops ,oving, there’s a voice from outside intoning ‘Join Us’ and her hand involuntarily draws something.

There’s a cellar under the cabin, and it’s chained up, but it suddenly opens when they’re having dinner. Cue one character (Scotty) going to investigate and not coming back, followed by another (Ash, played by Bruce Campbell) going to look for him.

Of course, he’s OK, and scares Ash. He’s found a bunch of stuff including a tape recorder, a knife with a carved handle, and a strange book with a face on it.

Check out the cool lightning effect.

One of the girls hears voices outside, so she goes out to investigate. We have to forgive this behaviour here because the horror movie rules were really being drafted at this point. But really, in the middle of a forest, I wouldn’t go outside on my own to investigate possible lurking intruders. Especially not in a dressing gown.

This is probably the most infamous sequence in the movie, as she’s attacked by tree branches, her clothes are ripped off, and she’s raped by a tree. This is the sequence which director Sam Raimi has said, in interviews since, that he probably wouldn’t include that sequence if he were making the film now. It’s very crude and raw, and still pretty shocking.

Incidentally, this sequence looks uncut to me, so I wonder which video release it was. This tape is numbered along with other tapes that date to 1993 so I’m presuming that’s when I recorded it.

The BBFC site shows a 1990 video release that was cut by 1m6s, but nothing else until a Film Four release in 2001. I think I had the VHS release from 1990, and it was very choppy, with tiny bits cut from a lot of the most gory sequences, which made it quite annoying to watch, as the whole rhythm of the film was disrupted.

Back to the horror, and the girl who was attacked insists Ash drive her to safety, but the rickety bridge they crossed at the start has been destroyed. “They’re not going to let us leave” she says.

Back at the cabin, there’s a nice reveal, as two other girls are playing cards, and trying to predict the next card, when the girl who was attacked starts getting the cards right every time, and turns from the window to reveal her stunning new look.

The makeup effects for this film are mostly excellent, considering the micro budget and relative inexperience of the filmmakers.

The writing isn’t quite as smart. After one of them has become possessed and had to be locked in the cellar, another girl is attacked by something unseen, screams from her room, and one of the men takes no notice, the other slowly walks to take a look. This is not normal behaviour by any measure.

Bruce Campbell also gets trapped under collapsing bookcases a lot.

Towards the end there’s even some claymation as the evil dead start decomposing.

I think the film still stands up, if you accept it for what it is – a horror movie made for next to no money, delivering plenty of scares and buckets of blood. If you like that sort of thing (and I certainly used to) it’s great. Plus, it made Bruce Campbell a star (sort of) and we should all be grateful for that.

It’s rough around the edges, though, and the really interesting thing is that we got to see what a slightly older, more confident Sam Raimi would do with a bigger budget and the same material, when he practically remade the film as Evil Dead II. That one is an unequivocal masterpiece.

I still wonder if this was the original 1980s Palace Video release, as the film is followed by a ‘Palace Video’ trailer for Kathryn Bigelow’s The Loveless.

After this, there’s 20 minutes of black, presumably the end of the tape, before the source tape stops and begins rewinding, leaving us with BBC1 and a news bulletin, abaout protests against the BNP.

The recording stops a couple of minutes later.

LA Law – tape 1560

Yet more from the law offices of McKenzie Brackman, with the last three episodes of Season 7. First, Testing, Testing, 1… 2… 3… 4…

Jonathan is defending a baseball player who beat up a spectator for shouting insults.

Anne is defending a teacher who was accused of child molestation. The charges were dropped for lack of evidence, but the school are insisting he has his genitals strapped to a ‘penile plasythmograph’ which measures his arousal when shown pictures of naked children. He refused, so the school is refusing to reinstate him.

In Bourbon Cowboy, Arnie represents Ronny Cox as a washed up country singer in the midst of a divorce from his wife and longtime partner.

Gwen (Sheila Kelley) is struggling with the Bar exam, and asks her tutor for extra tuition. He hits on her, several times, and when she rebuffs him he tells her he’s no longer willing to give her extra tuition, and she shouldn’t sit at the front in lectures.

So she serves him with a harassment suit.

The next episode is Hackett or Pack It and sees the return of Dann Florek as Dave Myers, Roxanne’s ex husband.

Douglas is representing the comedian Buddy Hackett against a cartoon company who have appropriated his likeness.

And Benny’s girlfriend Rosalie (Kathleen Wilhoite) takes the stand accusing a man of raping her.

After this, there’s a brief announcement about Sky One going scrambled in September. This would coincide with their much hyped multi-channels

This recording stops, and underneath there’s a bit of Star Trek The Next Generation – the one where they all turn into children. The tape ends during this.

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Doctor Who – tape 1553

Ah, the early days of UK Gold, with the golden retriever idents. Simpler times.

It’s Jon Pertwee’s final season for this helping of Doctor Who and a sequel to boot. The Monster of Peladon is a sequel to The Curse of Peladon and returns us to Peladon. I wonder if this model shot is reused from the first serial?

The workers of Peladon have acquired the strangest hairstyle.

There’s a return appearance for Alpha Centauri. One of those creatures that you vividly remember when you’re nine years old.

There’s a problem with the mining on Peladon. The miners refuse to use the new equipment, the sonic lance, because they think it’s blasphemy against Aggedor (the titular monster) and indeed we see a miner zapped by a bright light at the start.

The Doctor and Sarah arrive in one of the tunnels underneath the citadel. Oddly, they arrive on film, and in the next scene are in the studio, but supposedly in the same tunnels. I assume the Tardis landing was somewhere on location, and they recreated the tunnels in the studio.

They are at first assumed to be saboteurs, but luckily, Alpha Centauri is the same person from the first serial (and not a descendant) and vouches for the Doctor.

Also at the court, in place of the king is his daughter Queen Thalira (Nina Thomas).

Of course she has a crusty, bearded ‘adviser’ Ortron (Frank Gatliff)

Also at the court is a human representative from the Galactic Federation, a man called Eckersley (Donald Gee). I Like that he has such a Victoria Wood-style name.

The miners on Peladon are not happy. As the Doctor says to Alpha, in the 50 years since Peladon joined the Federation, they’re now having to work harder for the same reward. A group of them find the sealed door to where all the Federation weapons are stored, and one of them comes to get Eckersley to force him to open the door. Alpha says they’re barbarous, but the Doctor thinks otherwise. “When miners have to take up arms to protect their rights, they probably have their reasons.”

He manages to defuse an armed rebellion, and goes to investigate the last place the ‘aggedor’ appeared, convinced it’s some form of trickery. But the miners have planted explosives there, and when he goes inside they trigger them, blocking him in.

Then Aggedor appears.

Before the next episode, there’s a small snatch of Top of the Pops, and it’s The Jam doing Down in a Tube Station at Midnight. Great stuff.

Rather less good is John Travolta and Olivia Newton John at number one with Summer Nights.

Then part two of Doctor Who. Gebek, leader of the miners, discovers what the other miners have done, and helps the Doctor escape from the cave-in.

But the political shenanigans are continuing. Ortron, the Queen’s adviser, decides the Doctor is in league of the miners, and casts him and Sarah into Aggedor’s pit.

Before the next episode, more Top of the Pops, with a folky/prog duo I completely don’t recognise.

Is that Rick Wakeman on keyboards, using a paint roller?

This is followed by Middle of the Road doing Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep. A true classic.

In Part Three, The Doctor remembers how to pacify Aggedor with his Venusian lullaby and spinning hypnotiser, so he gets out of the pit.

There’s something else going on here apart from unhappy miners and a high priest who wants to keep all the profits for himself. Something hidden in the refinery. I can take a wild guess.

Heh – in one of the ad breaks, there’s a compilation album and one of the tracks is “What is Love” by Haddaway, which only yesterday I heard played on the Wittertainment podcast. More synchronicity.

Gebek springs the Doctor from the cells. As he’s dragging a now unconscious guard into the cell, his stripy wig falls off. They still used that take.

And they finally find their way into the locked refinery, whre they find, to nobody’s surprise, Ice Warriors.

In Part Four, the Ice Warriors demand that the miners return to work, and take hostages who will be killed if the miners refuse. I don’t think these are the good guys.

In the face of this Alien intrusion, the Peladonians unite against them. And the Doctor gets to do some fencing.

He’s trying to stop one of the miners from using the sonic lance to destroy the citadel, but the leader of the Ice Warriors has booby trapped it, and it blows up.

Part Five sees the Doctor survive the explosion, and Sarah and Alpha Centauri discover that the Ice Warriros are working with the human Eckersley, in order to get the Trisilicate from the Peladon mines. Eckersley wants to be ruler of Earth.

In the final episode, the Ice Warriors are defeated, but Eckersley takes the Queen into the tunnels. But the Doctor brings Aggedor to the party, and Eckersley doesn’t come out on top.

After the final episode, the recording stops, and underneath there’s a bot of a previous recording, with a short piece of The Haunting. Then the tape ends.

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LA Law – tape 1559

Continuing from yesterday’s tape, more LA Law and first the episode That’s Why the Lady is a Stamp. The staff is worried about Benny getting involved in gambling. And a client’s stamp collection is appraised, and discovered to hide antique pornography. Peter Jurasik plays the pornography expert who appraises the collection.

The next episode is Come Rain or Come Schein. A weather man is suing the TV station for firing him and replacing him with a comedian. Stephen Root plays the opposing counsel.

Then Vindaloo in the Villows. Stuart is representing the owner of an Indian restaurant – it’s Babu from Seinfeld (Brian George)

Daniel Benzali is the judge in a case where the descendants of a slave were suing for the return of his paintings from the descendants of the slave’s owner.

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LA Law – tape 1558

This tape opens with the end credits of a Stephen J Cannell production, but I don’t recognise the music, so it could be anything.

Then we have some LA Law with the episode Where There’s a Will. This is late-era LA Law, with a lot of the regulars having left. I don’t have as much fondness for this era.

Sheila Kelley and A Martinez are being stalked by a woman who believes she’s Martinez’ wife, and who stabbed Kelley in a previous episode. Leland is trying to exonerate a client who was found guilty of morder when he was a young public defender. And Douglas meets the man who will play him in the movie of his life story – Erik Estrada.

Before the next episode, there’s a brief interview with Corbin Bernsen from Sky News.

The next episode is F.O.B. Leland is annoyed at the amount of non-company work being done by the staff so he calls them all in to either dedicate their time to the firm or leave, and even Arnie agrees, saying his other job as a studio executive is unfulfilling.

Griffin Dunne guest stars as a lawyer from the new Clinton administration who wants the firm to sue a mental hospital for releasing patients without due care. But he’s got a personal axe to grind, and he isn’t part of the Clinton White House.

Then, Cold Shower. Ethan Phillips (Neelix from Voyager) is a tax assessor.

Diane Ladd is the woman he’s assessing.

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The Simpsons – The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell Of Fear – tape 1567

First on this tape, The Simpsons and Stark Raving Dad. Homer’s shirt has gone pink in the wash, and as a result he’s committed to a mental hospital. There, he meets a man who thinks he’s Michael Jackson. Voiced by Michael Jackson.

Next, Selma’s Choice, Selma tries dating to find a partner. She thinks she wants a child, but then she takes Bart and Lisa to Duff Gardens, and it doesn’t go well.

After this, recording continues with the start of an episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, which includes this tantalising credit

Who wouldn’t want to see Roger Sloman play Lenin?

After a couple of minutes, recording switches to the Movie Channel, and we get Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear.

I’d forgotten Richard Griffiths had a part in this.

There’s a tiny appearance from Weird Al Yankovic.

I like the way they credit tiny speaking roles in the film with their lines

After this, recording continues for a few minutes then stops.

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The Fisher King – Tales From The Darkside: The Movie – tape 1557

It’s movie time now, with a couple of movies from Sky’s various movie channels.

First, it’s The Fisher King. Jeff Bridges is a talk radio host, a ‘shock jock’ as they were called.

His agent is Frasier’s David Hyde Pierce.

He’s got a sitcom in development, everything looks perfect, but his life changes rather suddenly when a caller to his radio show, inspired by his invective against yuppies, takes a shotgun and kills twelve people and himself at a local bar.

Three years later, and he’s working at a video store, living with Mercedes Ruehl, who puts up with his frankly terrible behaviour.

He spends his time hatewatching the sitcom he was supposed to star in, which is now on the air starring Harry Shearer.

He goes out for a walk, drunk, and is attacked by a couple of frat boys who try to set him on fire, but he’s rescued by a homeless man called Perry (Robin Williams) and his homeless friends.

Perry thinks he’s on a quest to find the holy grail, which he believes is in the house of a New York Millionnaire. Bridges also learns that Williams lost his wife in the mass shooting his radio show inspired, so he fells that he has to fix his life.

Mostly, this involves Bridges and Ruehl trying to set Williams up with Amanda Plummer, an awkward woman whom Williams has basically been stalking for months.

However, after several attempts, they manage to engineer a double date, and Williams and Plummer get on, but just as Williams seems to be in a happy place, he’s revisited by his vision of a fiery knight, a symbol of the wrenching loss of his wife. The breakdown this causes leads him back into the path of the frat boy thugs from the start of the movie, and he ends up in hospital, in an unresponsive state.

Bridges, having discharged his life-fixing obligations, feels ready to get he career up and running again, and this also involves ditching Ruehl, because deep down he’s basically scum.

John de Lancie pops up as a producer pitching a show about homeless people.

So the only thing Brudges can do to fix things is to break into the millionnaire’s house and steal the grail, so Williams can come out of his coma and finally be happy. And Bridges does the right thing and returns to Ruehl.

I quite like this film, but I find parts of it unsatisfying, probably because I’d prefer Jeff Bridges not to be an enormous git.

After this, there’s Tales from the Darkside: The Movie. It starts with Debbie Harry, who’s got a kid locked up in her house, and is going to cook him, so to distract her, he reads from the Tales from the Darkside book.

The first story stars Christian Slater

And Steve Buscemi.

Who has a mummy

Slater’s sister is Julianne Moore

It’s all a bit frat boy and ho hum.

Next, William Hickey is an old man hiring a hitman to kill his cat.

This is truly terrible. Even the ending, with some gory prosthetics with a cat climbing into the hitman’s mouth – no, really – can’t enliven this. Also, the dialogue is massively sweary, which must sound awful from the little boy reading it out to Debbie Harry.

The final story sees a broke, rubbish New York artist, dumped by his agent, witness some kind of monster dismembering a man in an alley. When he begs to be left alone, the monster makes him promise he’ll never say what he’s seen, or describe how the monster looks.

Running away from the monster, he bumps into Rae Dawn Chong, and somehow persuades her that she’ll be safer off the street and in his apartment. Staggeringly, they’re soon snogging.

Pretty soon she’s pregnant, they’re getting married, and it’s ten years later, with a couple of children. He’s kept drawing the monster, but hasn’t shown his pictures to anyone.

Until that night when he shows her a model of the monster, and, to nobody’s surprise, she undergoes an icky transformation – she was the monster all along. And so are her children.

That just leaves us with Debbie Harry and her little Sunday roast. Obeying the rules of fairy stories, he escapes and she ends up in the oven.

This was about what I expected from a movie of Tales from the Darkside. Something cheap and not particularly interesting.

After this, recording continues for a few minutes with the start of one of those porny late night movies they occasionally showed on the movie channels which seem to involve lots of large rooms, women who wear long coats and not much else underneath and lots of mood lighting. This one’s called Games of Desire.

Just before the tape ends, it looks like I did a quick flip through some of the satellite channels, including this frame of credits from UK Gold

 

A bit of iMDb sleuthing tells me it’s probably A Cry in the Dark – the second fleeting appearance for Sam Neill on this tape. I hope he’s in good health.

The tape ends after a tiny bit more of the movie.

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