it’s a keep, not a keeper…

The KeepWell, well, well.. Many, many years ago I read The Keep (by F. Paul Wilson) and I liked it quite a bit. Ever since then I’ve wanted to see the movie and today, I finally got my hands on a copy. Now I won’t have to want to see it anymore. While the story and the movie had some potential, in the hands of Michael Mann (yes, he who would go on to bring us Miami Vice) in the director’s chair and behind the screenplay, and under the shadow of early 1980’s special effects… It just doesn’t live up to much of anything.

The Keep is the story of a group of German soldiers who are assigned to a keep in Romania to watch over a pass through the Carpathians. Even with Jürgen Prochnow in command, the villagers are none to pleased to see these fellows roll into town. Even less pleased are the family of hereditary keep keepers who strongly suggest that the soldiers not spend the night in the keep, saying the people who have tried are driven from the place by dreams. Just to make matters worse, the walls of the keep have 108 large crosses embedded in them that the soldiers think are silver and want to pry off of the walls, even after the keep keeper strongly advises against doing so.

The Keep

Of course, the first night some soldiers who are convinced that the crosses are a sign of treasure hidden somewhere in the keep, under the cover of Tangerine Dream, try prying a cross off the wall. This leads them to the discovery that there is something hidden in the keep, but it certainly isn’t anything I would call treasure. As things start to get fatally bad for the soldiers, Prochnow tries to get the unit reassigned.

Instead of that happening, things get worse. A unit of the S.S. are sent to take over. They are harsh and mean and led by Gabriel Byrne and so the movie still seems like it might turn out alright. Then Byrne ends up bringing in a surprisingly lame and melodramatic performance by Ian McKellen, the terrible effects start and everything settles down to a dry and forgettable film.

The Keep

It is hard to believe that with Nazi’s, ancient evil, and a Romanian village that this bad is how it would turn out, but it does. And then from there, a sudden, corny and anti-climactic ending wraps it up. The end.

The Keep

The DescentWe also watched The Descent again. As this is its 4th appearance in these pages, there isn’t really much to say about it. Admittedly the thrills and chills lose their thrilly chilliness after so many times through, but it is still a great and tense horror film. One that still cannot quash my interest in the idea of spelunking. But enough about me… The women still go down into the big dark cavern. They still encounter things that they wouldn’t want to encounter, their personal relationships still start to fray and it is still very, very dark down there. Oh yeah, and there is still madness on the bloom. In summation: it is one of the best horror movies in many, many years. But be sure to see it with the full British ending instead of the lame hacked-off American one.

pearls of wisdom based upon guarded personal experiences

Mondo ToplessFor another stop in the (rather limited view) Russ Meyer tour of the sordid side of America, we take a look into the go-go (topless) dancing scene of mid-60’s San Francisco with Mondo Topless. And though the title is fairly accurate, it’s not as exciting a composition as one might think. Starting out in standard Russ Meyer fashion with a few minutes of film montage (this time of San Francisco) and a rather dramatic and titillating narration about the glories and magnitude of the great metropolis that is San Francisco. Once we become aware of the worldly cultural and economic importance of this city, the narrator then whisks us off to North Beach to see the other side of the coin (or is it?). Be prepared as we are entering nearly an hour of “go go girls in and out of their environment”. And while somewhat enjoyable, it is generally a rather boring hour. While go-go dancing itself seems an exciting endeavor, how long can you really come up with the interest in watching little snippets of go-go dancers frolicking around? It seems like a one or two minute scene from and old movie played over and over again. Especially since he seems to follow the rule of “the less interesting that they are to watch the more screen time they get”. In terms of their environment, the focus is really on “outside of their environments” as the lion’s share of the scenes are outdoors (this is Russ Meyer after all) but still, they are seen in all sorts of hokey settings: from the stages of go-go clubs…

Mondo Topless

to writhing around in the mud…

Mondo Topless

While a dancer is being shown, we get to hear her expressing “sensitive comments and opinions” (generally regarding dancing) over a background of crazy rock n roll music. The movie focuses on about a dozen dancers, mainly good-old American dancers but there are a few foreign theme dancers who are the most boring segments (seemingly all of that footage is taken from Europe in the Raw) .

Mondo Topless, while certainly a “watch once, if you can manage to sit through the whole thing” film, does have some high points. First off, there is a lengthy segment with Lorna Maitland which, while it mainly consists of footage from her namesake film, does have an interesting and enjoyable commentary from her about getting the role of Lorna and the making of that film and, secondly… There are many, many scenes with the shocking British bombshell Darlene Grey…

Mondo Topless

Still, it’s not much worth watching the whole thing. Unless you are attempting to watch all of the Russ Meyer films in the Arrow Films collection.

there won’t be oil!

There Will Be BloodWe finally watched There Will Be Blood. I meant to watch this a year ago, as we read Oil! in my old Book Group not too long after the movie came out… Some of them even went to go and see it after we read it, though I did not go along. So as I really, really liked the book, and the movie did look to be exciting, I quite wanted to see it, even though I heard that it wasn’t so much a film version of the book as it was a movie based on portions of the book.

Now that I’ve seen it, and keeping that in mind, I feel the need to look at it from two perspectives. First off, as a movie in its own merits. I certainly thought that it was quite good… Very well made, well acted and well shot. It really just looked and felt great. It was a dark, compelling and engrossing drama, and quite well written… Except for some aspects I’ll mention below.

There Will Be Blood

Daniel Day Lewis is quiet good as Daniel Plainview, a self-made Oil man in the early part of the 20th century. When he gets a hint that some goat farmer might have some oil under his land, he takes his son and goes to take a look. That’s where the meat of the story starts. He encounters Eli Sunday, a self-made preacher and prophet, whose father’s land is the land he is after. Eli is played by Paul Dano who does a really great job. He steals every scene he is in with his down-home yet intense fervor.

There Will Be Blood

Most of the rest of the characters are either peripheral or their roles don’t last through enough of the movie to make much of an impact. Plainview’s son, H.W., seems a major character but ends up more as a plot device and Plainview brother is really the only other key character, but the relationship between Plainview and Eli is really the meat of this film. While Plainview starts off as a driven and independent man as the movie (and many years) progress he becomes very much bitter, abrasive and misanthropic. Exactly why doesn’t seem clear and this is one minor aspect of the area that I thought that the film suffered in. There are many things in this story that seem to have much more implied than witnessed, giving the feeling that you’ve missed something, especially involving Plainview and his son. Which I thought was interesting… Considering that the key difference between the book and the film is that the lead character has been switched from the son to the father.

There Will Be Blood

As for the movie as it relates to Oil!, the novel of origin. If you haven’t read the book, then watching the movie won’t give the book away because the movie has a completely different focus. But they were kind enough to change the title, so that should serve as some warning that There Will Be Blood might not be the same as the book. The oil back drop and some of the characters are taken from the book, but that’s it. The book is told from the son’s point of view and is primarily the story of him growing from a child into an adult and discovering the truths behind labor, business, society, love and politics. His life revolves around his father and the oil business, but he is obsessed by the character Paul, the brother of the preacher Eli. Paul has a total of one scene in the movie and is barely referred to afterwords. The son is basically a non-speaking role, and in fact, the father here is cut from a much different (and less pleasant) bit of cloth than in the book.

I would thought, highly recommend both. Oil! is just one of the best epic novels I have ever read and There Will Be Blood, for all of its differences that I found unsatisfying is still a great and engrossing film. And one that I believe I would enjoy even more a second time around (having gotten my preconceived notions out of the way)!

I'm Not There
We also tried, unsuccessfully, to watch I’m Not There. This film felt like a confusing and pretentious mess, though I suspect that was intentional. Admittedly, I’m not a Dylan fan but I feel that even if I was, I would find this homage to the many brilliant geniuses that apparently are Bob Dylan to be tiring. Having a different actor play each phase was interesting and, I thought, clever… But the movie was too full of dull arty cleverness to really be worth sting all the way through. Rather than a life story, it is more like a collection of fictionalized vignettes of “how it might have happened to the great Dylan”. We only made it about halfway through, stopping, oddly enough, during the Cate Blanchett part, which was easily the best portion of the movie up to the point. Well, except for the scene when he unleashes the electric guitars at the Newport folk festival, an admittedly historic moment that has always been my favorite Dylan antic.

you sure do have a funny way of getting your kicks…

Faster Pussycat Kill KillSad how it’s taken me two years to get just a third of the way through my glorious 18 movie Russ Meyer boxed set, but, in what is hopefully the first step in proceeding in a more productive fashion, I have finally gotten around to watching another! I have set up a page to track my RM progress here :RM Project. And now, presented in non-glorious black and white, his most famous feature, Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill! is a family-friendly, tale of debauchery, sin and (as Russ might say) evil out under the hot California sun. With a cast of about a dozen and taking place over the course of one day in the desert entirely out of doors (except for a few scenes in a worn out house), this classic begins as usual with his always reliable gimmicky dramatic narration about sin (“Welcome to violence, the word and the act”) which again informs us that we are going to see a sordid tale of sin, sex, greed and violence all wound together tightly. We know what to expect before even the first scene appears on the screen.

Faster Pussycat Kill Kill

When three hard-edged, hard-driving, car-racing, Go-Go dancers encounter a happy-go-lucky couple out racing in the desert, the tough automotive egos unfold under the hot sun and things start getting ugly. When the fella beats the gang at their racing game, then things get really ugly. Off the girls go: Varna (Tura Satana as the alpha gang leader), Rosie (Haji as the girl with a thing for Tura) and Billie (the rebel) across the desert… With the racing fella’s girlfriend in tow.

Faster Pussycat Kill Kill

Of course, things are just starting. When Billie catches a glimpse of a muscle-bound hunk at the gas station and his crippled father, off the girls head in pursuit of some ill-gotten gains. But they don’t know what they are up against as they cross paths with this family of three men in the desert, especially the father (Stuart Lancaster in his second of many Meyer appearances) who is most certainly part of the mold for which the father in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre must have been taken.

Faster Pussycat Kill Kill

Of course, the desert ends up littered with bodies as we are shown this fable of cars versus cars, cars versus will, cars versus wheel chair and cars versus human strength… Tura Satana and Stuart Lancaster put in classic roles as two foul souls who will stop at nothing to get what they want and everyone else suffers between them. Not one of my favorite Meyer movies, but certainly action-packed and a must see for anyone.

Faster Pussycat Kill Kill


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