Category: Z-View

“A Bird in the Head” (1946) starring The Three Stooges / Z-View

A Bird in the Head (1946)

Director:  Edward Bernds

Screenplay: Edward Bernds

Stars: Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Curly Howard, Vernon Dent and Robert B. Williams

Tagline: None.

The Plot…

Larry, Curly and Moe are hired to wallpaper a room.  They totally destroy it and when running away from the guy who hired them, escape into Professor Panzer’s lab.  Panzer has been on the lookout for someone whose brain he can transplant into his gorilla’s head.  Curly looks to be a perfect fit!

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

A Bird in the Head was Edward Bernds first directing job!  Bernds would go on to direct over 100 projects, including many Three Stooges Shorts, two Three Stooges feature films, several Bowery Boys films, television episodes and more.  Bernds also wrote this short and made changes when it became clear that Curly, who had suffered a series of strokes, was having a difficult time.  Bernds wrote increased “business” for Professor Panzer and his gorilla Igor.  This kept Curly’s screen time up but with less pressure to get laughs.

The animated sequence when Professor Panzer looks into Curly’s head was created by Tex Avery!

A Bird in the Head earns 4 of 5 stars.

“Dark Shadows” (1944) / Z-View

Dark Shadows (1944)

Director:  Walter Hart, Paul Burnford (uncredited)

Screenplay: Edward Bock, Richard H. Landau

Stars: Henry O’Neill, Morris Ankrum and Paul Guilfoyle

Tagline: None.

The Plot…

A police psychiatrist is enlisted to catch a homicidal killer.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Dark Shadows is part of a series of Crime Doesn’t Pay shorts.  The plot makes it sound good, right?  It’s not.  At least it didn’t resonate with me.  It’s very talky with dull scenes.  Although it has a run time of just 21 minutes, I’d like to have every one of ’em back.

Dark Shadows earns 1 of 5 stars.

“Peeping Tom” (1960) / Z-View

Peeping Tom (1960)

Director: Michael Powell

Screenplay: Leo Marks

Stars: Karlheinz Böhm, Anna Massey, Moira Shearer

Tagline: WARNING! Don’t see Peeping Tom unless you are prepared to see the screaming shock and raw terror in the faces of those marked for death!

The Plot…

Mark Lewis (Böhm) hopes some day to be a filmmaker.  He currently works on a film crew and after hours he’s a photographer of soft core porn.  People see Lewis as a shy, quiet recluse.  If they only knew he’s a psychopathic killer who gets off by filming women’s faces as he murders them.

When Helen, a kind woman takes an interest in Mark, they begin to date.  Helen’s blind mother feels something is off with Mark and starts to dig deeper…

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

When Peeping Tom was released in 1960, it was marketed as horror and exploitation.  Peeping Tom failed to find an audience.  Over the years Peeping Tom became a popular cult film and its popularity increased.  Martin Scorsese has long championed this film.

While daring for 1960, it seems much less so now.  Kudos for the final scene when Mark realizes he has no means of escape and has planned for this eventuality.

Peeping Tom earns 3 of 5 stars.

“Dustwalker” (2019) / Z-View

Dustwalker (2019)

Director:  Sandra Sciberras

Screenplay: Sandra Sciberras

Stars: Jolene Anderson and Stef Dawson

Tagline:  It walks among us.

The Plot…

An object crashes just outside a remote Australian town.  Shortly after, citizens become infected and turn into fast-moving, zombie-like killing machines.  As the menace grows, a police officer and school teacher attempt to save as many people as possible.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Dustwalker is a mess.  The poster looks pretty cool and that’s about the best I can say for the movie.

What I’m sure the director thought would be tension-building scenes, came off as boring.  How many times and how long can one look at people just staring ahead?  Then there’s a huge dust storm that sits around the town not allowing anyone to leave.  I guess we can figure out that it was put there to stop the “zombies” from going to another city.  Who put it there?  Well, it appears that the scorpion/dog alien that rounds up the turned humans and incinerates them did.  Truthfully, I didn’t care who/what resolved the situation.  I was ready for Dustwalker to end.  It just didn’t resonate with me.  Your mileage may vary.

Dustwalker earns 1 of 5 stars.

“Small Engine Repair” (2021) starring Jon Bernthal, Shea Whigham, John Pollono, Ciara Bravo & Spencer House / Z-View

Small Engine Repair (2021)

Director: John Pollono

Screenplay: John Pollono

Stars: Jon Bernthal, Shea Whigham, Jordana Spiro, John Pollono, Ciara Bravo, Spencer House, Josh Helman, James Badge Dale and James Ransone 

Tagline:  None.

The Plot…

Frank (J. Pollono), Terrence (Bernthal) and Packie (Whigham) have been best friends since high school.  When Frank’s marriage broke up, he kept custody of his daughter, Crystal (Bravo).  Thankfully, the guys stepped in to help raise her.  When Frank had to do some time in prison because of his temper, the guys took custody of Crystal until Frank got out.  Now Crystal is about to go to college and the guys can breathe a little easier…

When Frank asks Terrence and Packie to meet him one night at his small engine repair shop, they have no idea what’s up.  When they learn that it involves something that happened to Crystal, there is no line that they won’t cross to make things right.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

I’m surprised that more people aren’t talking about Small Engine Repair.  It is one of the most under-rated movies I’ve seen this year.  John Pollono adapted his play for the screen, directed and also stars.  He’s joined by Jon Bernthal, Shea Whigham (both are always great), Ciara Bravo and Spencer House (who more than hold their own).

Small Engine Repair reminded me of Slingblade in that it’s a small budget film, focused on working class folks with a powerful story that was written and directed by the star of the film.  Small Engine Repair takes time to set everything up and covers a lot of ground.  Then we get to the last act and the tension mounts as we learn what Frank has planned.  Once all cards are on the table there is no turning back… or is there?

I loved Small Engine Repair and hope that more people get a chance to see it.

Small Engine Repair earns 5 of 5 stars.

“Hideout” (2021) Starring Katie Lyons / Z-View

Hideout (2021)

Director:  Kris Roselli

Screenplay: Kris Roselli

Stars: Katie Lyons, Audrey Kovár, Chris Wolfe, Bryan Enright and Eric Francis Melaragni

Tagline: No One Can Hide Forever

The Plot…

After a botched robbery where Reed (Wolfe) was shot, Sarah, Rick and Kyle need a place to hold up until the heat dies down.  They find a remote farmhouse where an old woman lives with her granddaughter… at least that’s how it appears…

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Hideout begins well enough with an interesting premise.  Four violent robbers on the run take shelter at a remote farm unaware that one of their hostages isn’t what she seems.   Unfortunately once it gets going Hideout doesn’t live up to its potential.  It’s slow with quite a bit of overacting by Wolfe and Enright,  Yelling and raising your eyebrows only takes you so far.  Katie Lyons is definitely the star of the show.

If you like low-budget horror, you can do worse, but I was expecting better.

Hideout earns 2 of 5 stars.

“Run Sweetheart Run” (2020) starring Ella Balinska & Pilou Asbæk / Z-View

Run Sweetheart Run (2020)

Director: Shana Feste

Screenplay: Shana Feste, Keith Josef Adkins, Kellee Terrell

Stars: Ella Balinska, Pilou Asbæk, Clark Gregg, Shohreh Aghdashloo and Marco Khan

Tagline:  None.

The Plot…

Cherie (Balinska) is a single mom, and pre-law student working her way through college working as a secretary for a high-priced lawyer.  When her boss calls saying that he needs her to take his place at a dinner that evening with an important client, she reluctantly agrees.

Cherie meets Ethan (Asbæk) who turns out to be rich, handsome, charming and interested in Cherie.  As the evening progresses, Cherie begins to feel attracted to Ethan.  When they arrive back at Ethan’s house, he invites Cherie in for a drink.  Although hesitant, Cherie says she’ll come in for just one.

Cherie will soon find herself on the run for her life.  Ethan was not at all what he seemed to be.  Who will believe that Ethan is a savage murderer who intends to kill Cherie before sunrise?

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Run Sweetheart Run takes surprising turns that some may not like.  I absolutely enjoyed them.  There are times when the fourth wall is broken.  When Ethan and Cherie go for a nightcap, as Cherie enters the house, Ethan turns and looks directly into the camera.  He then makes a go away motion to the audience and the camera backs up.  Ethan then enters the house and from a distance we hear screams, smashing furniture and suddenly Cherie bursts out of the house running for her life.

The movie takes on a supernatural aspect about three quarters of the way through, although there have been hints along the way.  Ella Balinska is excellent as the “girl on the run” who will have to survive by her wits and toughness.  Pilou Asbæk is believable as the charming date at one moment and terrifying killer in the next.  If you’re a fan of movies that break the mold and take chances, then Run Sweetheart Run may be for you.

Run Sweetheart Run earns 4 of 5 stars.

“Three Little Pirates” (1946) starring The Three Stooges / Z-View

Three Little Pirates (1946)

Director:  Edward Bernds

Screenplay: Clyde Bruckman

Stars: Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Curly Howard, Christine McIntyre and Vernon Dent 

Tagline: The Stooges’ newest tickler.

The Plot…

Larry, Curly and Moe are sailors who washed ashore on Dead Man’s Island.  After Curly flirts with Rita (McIntyre), the island’s ruler’s fiancée, the boys are sentenced to death.  Lucky for Larry, Curly and Moe, Rita has a plan to help the boys escape by dressing them as travelers from a strange land.  What could go wrong?

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

The highlight of Three Little Pirates is Curly and Moe performing the “Maharaja” routine.  Sadly this is the last short that features Curly throughout the whole production.  He had suffered a serious of small strokes and his health was in decline.  Larry gets in on the laughs when Curly and Black Louie have a knife-throwing contest.

Three Little Pirates earns 4 of 5 stars.

“Three Pests in a Mess” (1945) starring The Three Stooges / Z-View

Three Pests in a Mess (1945)

Director:  Del Lord

Screenplay: Del Lord

Stars: Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Curly Howard, Christine McIntyre, Vernon Dent and ‘Snub’ Pollard

Tagline:  Three screwballs on the loose!

The Plot…

Larry, Curly and Moe are inventors who become enamoured with a gold digger who thinks the boys are loaded. When she finds out they’re not, she calls in her partners to rough up the boys.  While making their escape Curly accidently shoots a mannequin.  Thinking that Curly has killed a man, the boys put the “body” in a bag and take it to a cemetery to bury it.  What could go wrong?

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Three Pests in a Mess is another Stooges classic.  Curly’s interactions with the gold digger and his shirt “preparedness” are priceless.  The cemetery scenes at night with Larry, Curly, Moe and the folks from the masquerade party (A devil, skeleton, and mad magician) are classic.  Curly shines when carrying the bag containing the mannequin and with each step he takes gets slapped in the head by the mannequin’s hand.  Three Pests in a Mess is another great example of how comedy and “horror” work so well together.

Three Pests in a Mess earns 5 of 5 stars.

Blonde Dynamite (1950) starring The Bowery Boys / Z-View

Blonde Dynamite (1950)

Director:  William Beaudine

Screenplay:  Charles R. Marion

Stars:  Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Gabriel Dell, Harry Lewis, Murray Alper, Bernard Gorcey, Jody Gilbert, William ‘Billy’ Benedict, John Harmon, Michael Ross and Karen Randle

Tagline:  THE ESCORT BUREAU’S GOOFIEST GIGOLOS! They’re professional Romeos…to a gang of glamorous gun-girls!

The Plot…

When Slip (Leo Gorcey) and Satch (Hall) are unable to get jobs as male escorts, Slip decides to open his own escort service.  Slip convinces Louie (Bernard Gorcey) to take a long vacation.  As soon as Louie is gone, Slip turns the sweet shop into a male escort service using himself, Satch and the rest of the gang as escorts.

Gangsters have a plan to rob the bank next to the sweet shop.  They’ll go in at night since they’ve got the combination to the safe.  The mobsters use some of the women they work with to hire the boys as escorts so they can break through the sweet shop wall into the bank.  What could go wrong?

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

The Bowery Boys as male escorts has a lot of potential for laughs.  I wish the movie was as good as the premise.

Blonde Dynamite earns 2 of 5 stars.

“Alligator” (1980) starring Robert Forster / Z-View

Alligator (1980)

Director:  Lewis Teague

Screenplay:  John Sayles from a story by John Sayles, Frank Ray Perilli

Stars: Robert Forster, Robin Riker, Michael V. Gazzo, Dean Jagger, Sydney Lassick, Jack Carter, Henry Silva, Buckley Norris and Sue Lyon 

Tagline:  It lives 50 feet beneath the city. It’s 36 feet long. It weighs 2,000 pounds…And it’s about to break out!

The Plot…

An alligator that was flushed into the Chicago sewers twelve years ago begins feeding on discarded animal remains used in experiments.  This causes the gator to grow to a gigantic size with an insatiable appetite.  When body parts of missing city workers show up, police officer David Madison (Forster) and a rookie cop are sent into the sewer to investigate.

They discover the alligator, or perhaps it’s better to say the alligator discovers them.  Madison barely escapes but his partner isn’t as lucky.  Madison reports that there’s a giant alligator living in the sewers system, but no one believes him until the gator comes to the surface… and it’s hungry!

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Alligator is a better movie than you might think a low-budget Jaws knockoff would be. That’s  thanks to the folks involved.  Lewis Teague (Death Race 2000; Cujo) knows how to get the most bang for the buck directing low budget horror.  John (The Howling; Piranha; Lone Star) Sayles provides a story with more depth than expected from a giant alligator movie.  Robert Forster is joined by Michael (Godfather II) Gazzo, Sydney (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) Lassick and Henry (Sharky’s Machine) Silva.  Dean Jagger and Sue Lyons also appear in what would be their last film roles.

There are two cool Easter Eggs in Alligator: 1) The first sewer worker to go missing is named Edward Norton which is a tip of the hat to The Honeymooners.  2) There’s graffiti on a sewer wall near the end of the movie that says, “Harry Lime Lives”.  This is a reference to Orson Welles character in The Third Man who escapes through a sewer.

Bryan (Breaking Bad) Cranston worked on the film as a production assistant for the Special Effects department and became friends with Robert Forster.

Alligator isn’t a great film, but it’s better than you might expect.

Alligator earns 3 of 5 stars.

“An Ache in Every Stake” (1941) starring The Three Stooges / Z-View

An Ache in Every Stake (1941)

Director:  Del Lord

Screenplay:  Lloyd French

Stars: Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Curly Howard, Symona Boniface, Vernon Dent, Bess Flowers and Bud Jamison 

Tagline:  None.

The Plot…

Larry, Curly and Moe are delivering ice using their horse drawn ice carriage.  Along the way, their escapades cause a business man to twice fall onto a birthday cake he is trying to bring home.  When a woman at the top of a very long/steep staircase calls for a block of ice, the boys are at a loss as how to get it up before it melts.

After several false, but funny starts, they get the ice up to the house.  Their antics disrupt the woman’s caterers so much that they quit.  No worries.  Larry, Curly and Moe offer to cook and serve the birthday meal… which is for, you guessed it, the man who was trying to get birthday cakes home.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

An Ache in Every Stake is another favorite Three Stooges short.  If the long staircase looks like the same one Laurel and Hardy tried to get a piano up, it’s not!  Yeah, I was sure it was too.

An Ache in Every Stake earns 5 of 5 stars.

“The Parallax View” (1974) starring Warren Beatty / Z-View

The Parallax View (1974)

Director:  Alan J. Pakula

Screenplay:  David Giler, Lorenzo Semple Jr. based on The Parallax View by Loren Singer

Stars: Warren Beatty, Paula Prentiss, William Daniels, Hume Cronyn, Chuck Waters, Earl Hindman, Bill McKinney, Jim Davis, Ted Gehring, Doria Cook-Nelson and Kenneth Mars 

Tagline:  Assassination. Try to see it from their point of view.

The Plot…

Joe Frady (Beatty) is a newspaper man covering presidential candidate Charles Carroll’s press conference. Frady’s girlfriend, television reporter Lee Carter (Prentiss) is also covering the event when a gunman shoots and kills Carroll.  An investigation determines that the gunman acted alone.

Three years later, Joe’s ex-girlfriend, Lee, shows up terrified.  Six witnesses to the Carroll assassination have died under mysterious circumstances. Lee believes that she will be next.  Joe tries to calm her and says that she’s over-reacting.  Yes, the witnesses died and some were in unusual circumstances, but all could be explained.  When Lee turns up dead of an overdose, Joe decides to do an investigation of his own.  Soon enough (and after some attempts on his life), Joe discovers an organization named the Parallax Corporation that he believes recruits assassins.  Joe decides to infiltrate the company and bring them down.  What could go wrong?

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

The Parallax View is definitely a product of its time.  Director Pakula lets scenes play out.  I enjoyed the long, shots and pace, which may be too slow for many of today’s audience members.  Pakula is joined by a cast of powerhouse actors: Beatty, Prentis, Daniels, Cronyn and McKinney.

I would have liked The Parallax View better if I cared more about Joe Frady.  When his ex-girlfriend comes to him scared out of her mind and convinced she is the next target of professional assassins, Joe displays little sympathy.  Then she turns up dead and Joe’s biggest concern is to take up her story.

Joe’s plan to infiltrate a corporation of professional assassins is pretty weak.  The fact that they’ve successfully completed hits on Presidential candidates and those who know too much doesn’t factor into Joe’s thinking.  I had problems with Joe’s actions when he discovers a bomb is on his flight.  Joe also under-reacts when the “corporation” discovers he’s been lying to them.  There are other things I could nit pick, but the truth of the matter is that the direction by Alan J. Pakula is entertaining enough that I went with the flow,

The Parallax View earns 3 of 5 stars.

“Count Yorga, Vampire” (1970) / Z-View

Count Yorga, Vampire aka The Loves Of Count Iorga, Vampire (1970)

Director:  Bob Kelljan

Screenplay:  Bob Kelljan

Stars:  Robert Quarry, Roger Perry, Michael Murphy and Judy Lang

Tagline:  Because of Certain Shock Scenes We Suggest You Don’t Come Alone!

The Plot…

Donna’s mother recently died.  She invites her boyfriend, Michael (Thompson), and close friends Paul (Murphy), Ericka (Lang) and Jim (Perry) to a séance performed by Count Yorga.  After the séance Donna says that Yorga and her mother dated shortly before she died.  The next day Erica shows up with what appears to be bite marks on her neck that she can’t explain.  She has little energy and has lost a large amount of blood.  As Paul, Michael and Jim follow the clues, evidence points to Count Yorga being a modern day vampire!

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Count Yorga is a low-budget release from American International originally conceived as a soft-core porn film.  Producers wanted Robert Quarry as the vampire.  Quarry said, he’d star, but only if they dropped the porn aspect.  The producers agreed.  Still, as you can tell from the poster, producers emphasized the sexual aspect and made sure there were scenes of women bathing, in nightgowns, etc.

Count Yorga is definitely a low-budget movie of the late 60s/early 70s.  With that said, it was also much better than I anticipated.

Count Yorga, Vampire aka The Loves Of Count Iorga, Vampire earns 3 of 5 stars.

“Return to Glennascaul” aka “Orson Welles’ Ghost Story” (1951) / Z-View

Return to Glennascaul aka Orson Welles’ Ghost Story (1951)

Director:  Hilton Edwards

Screenplay:  Hilton Edwards

Stars:  Orson Welles and Michael Laurence 

Tagline:  None.

The Plot…

Orson Welles is driving late one night on a nearly deserted road.  He spots a stranded motorist beside a car and asks the man if he could use a ride.  The man accepts and they drive off.  To pass the time, the man begins to tell Welles of an incident where, at the very same spot the man picked up two women who were stranded…

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Welles actually made Return to Glennascaul while he was on a break from filming Othello.  When Welles picks up the stranded motorist, he asks him what’s wrong with his car.  The man replies, “Trouble with the distributor.”  Welles replies that he’s had problems with his distributor as well.  Welles is of course referring to the producers of Othello which is a cute inside joke.

Return to Glennascaul is a short ghost story that is enhanced by having Orson Welles as the “star” narrator.

Return to Glennascaul aka Orson Welles’ Ghost Story earns 3 of 5 stars.