Barry Sullivan

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Earthquake Review


OK
The land-based counterpart to The Poseidon Adventure provides the same decay of civilization, the same mix of jaw-dropping special effects (remember, no CGI in these days) and cheese, and the same George Kennedy. With names like Heston, Roundtree, Bujold, and Greene (Lorne), the film has plenty of star power to manage its obvious plot: The Big One strikes L.A., and a handful of stories play out in the aftermath. Some are inspired (a group of office workers attempt to escape a crumbling high-rise) and some are absurd (Roundtree is a stunt motorcycle driver whose wooden track falls apart). The stories roughly interlock, but the impressive effects steal the show, not to be outdone by some amazing howlers, like the crudely animated blood that "splatters" on the screen when an elevator falls to its doom. Priceless. (The movie had four Oscar nominations, won one, and got a special achievement award for visual effects. On DVD, the sound is awesome.)

Earthquake Review


OK
The land-based counterpart to The Poseidon Adventure provides the same decay of civilization, the same mix of jaw-dropping special effects (remember, no CGI in these days) and cheese, and the same George Kennedy. With names like Heston, Roundtree, Bujold, and Greene (Lorne), the film has plenty of star power to manage its obvious plot: The Big One strikes L.A., and a handful of stories play out in the aftermath. Some are inspired (a group of office workers attempt to escape a crumbling high-rise) and some are absurd (Roundtree is a stunt motorcycle driver whose wooden track falls apart). The stories roughly interlock, but the impressive effects steal the show, not to be outdone by some amazing howlers, like the crudely animated blood that "splatters" on the screen when an elevator falls to its doom. Priceless. (The movie had four Oscar nominations, won one, and got a special achievement award for visual effects. On DVD, the sound is awesome.)

Forty Guns Review


Good
A Western that's thoroughly urban in its outlook, Sam Fuller's Forty Guns was made at the height of his most fertile filmmaking period in the 1950s - he released China Gate and Run of the Arrow the same year - and represents a studio director working at the peak of his form: fast, vicious, and cutting all necessary corners. The forty guns of the title are the passel of mercenaries backing up Jessica Drummond (Barbara Stanwyck), a rancher who's the unofficial boss of a whole Arizona county and packs more of a wallop on her own than all her hired guns. At this stage, a few years past her bombshell prime, Stanwyck still cuts a mean, black-clad figure whipping her white horse into the horizon. (No stunt rider for this actress.)

Justice arrives in the laconic form of Griff Bonnell (Barry Sullivan), the federal marshal who comes to town with his two brothers, Wes (Gene Barry, grizzled) and Chico (Robert Dix, resembling a young Robert Vaughn), ready to clean things up. This interferes with the desire of Jessica's wastrel brother Brockie (John Ericson) to do things like get drunk and terrorize the town with the forty guns, and so the big showdown is set up. Jessica gets stuck right in the middle, torn between wanting to protect little Brockie and falling in love with Griff, a legendary gunslinger who's just about as granite-hewn as she is; an impressive feat.

Continue reading: Forty Guns Review

Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid Review


Terrible
Sam Peckinpah's virtually unseen Western turns out to be unseen for a reason. Interminably boring and filled with red paint-for-blood splattering, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid ought to turn you off, but if that doesn't do the job, I've got one phrase that will: "Also starring Bob Dylan." Nuff said, I hope.

The Bad and the Beautiful Review


Excellent
This biting behind-the-scenes look at Hollywood is as sharp as they come. Opening on the funeral of a producer, the film follows three people as they spew vitriol on the man. Kirk Douglas and Lana Turner are particularly fun. Hollywood wouldn't be skewered this horribly again until The Player, 40 years later.

Planet of the Vampires Review


Grim
1960s sci-fi was always a budget affair, and Planet of the Vampires is no exception to the rule. Directed by Mario Bava, who would later go on to fame as a master of the splatter genre, the vampires here are more like zombies who embody the minds of the hapless explorers who land on this otherwise desolate world, The Thing-style. Unfortunately, even Bava's camera tricks and boxum heroines can't save a plodding story and typically cheesy sets. The ending's a hoot, though.

Continue reading: Planet of the Vampires Review

Barry Sullivan

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