Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Monday, July 16, 2007

If You Kill A Bear, You Die

The family were watching a movie about a killer bear on Sky One. I say, you kill a bear, you die. This masterpiece of suspense, 'Grizzly Rage', I will not even begin to review, principally because I'd never watch such tripe, and didn't. Having said that there was a time, my formative years, when killer grizzlies, 'snowbeasts', giant crocs, invading swarms of bees, army ants, imported tarantulas, etc. were grist to the growing mind's mill. Yes, the early 80s. As I recall there was indeed a grizzly movie then called 'Grizzly'. I thought Dan Heggarty, of 'Grizzly Adams' fame was in it, but that just would have been too much. No, he was in a killer bee movie called 'Terror Out of the Sky' (1978) (TV), aka 'The Revenge of the Savage Bees' (USA). And then there was 'Snowbeast', a yeti-style killer at a ski resort, that is, a guy in a white fur suit. Then the tarantulas that came in with the bananas; 'Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo'. Then Lee Majors in 'Killer Fish'. Much better was another John Sayles' scripted flick, 'Alligator', using that old chestnut about the alligator being washed down the toilet into the New York sewers. Sayles being Sayles, illegally dumped test poodles from the local pharmaceutical firm caused the alligator to grow, erupt from the pavement (in a wonderfully modeled scene of cheap special effects; wow!), gatecrash the nasty capitalist's garden party and gobble all his rich friends. Sayles, you are a master! Sincerely, that movie was great.

Yes, it wasn't all mush. Some very talented directors and writers got their chance with these movies. Witness the John Sayles' scripted, Joe Dante directed 'Piranha', and marvel at a young James Cameron who did the sequel! (Sayles and Dante also did 'The Howling' before Dante hit it big with 'Gremlins' and Sayles went all serious with 'Lianna', 'Baby It's You', etc.. He later made the excellent 'Matewan' and '8 Men Out'). And of course some very big names made fools of themselves: Frankenheimer did the unholy 'Prophecy' (the environmental monster movie, not the later Christopher Walken vehicle), while Michael Caine, Henry Fonda and many other stars suffered 'The Swarm'. Yes, the threat from nature horror movie fell into two camps, the brilliant and the banal.

Tarantino may currently be celebrating the earlier, sleazier and more violent grindhouse flicks (in his forthcoming collaboration movie, 'Grindhouse'), but those cheap, tv-budget, threat of the week, Jaws rip-offs had a definite, if detrimental, effect on me. And as I think back, the hits just keep on coming, perhaps none more insane than Russell Mulcahy's looney Jaws rip-off, 'Razorback'. A little later than the others, with a slightly higher budget, and aimed at cinemas, it concerned a giant boar (yes, you read right, a giant pig) that thought nothing of ripping apart cars, or even houses. The movie even had a Robert Shaw-type old pig hunter who gets his comeuppance for his hubris. Junk certainly, but it did have style. And then their was that abattoir finale!!!!!!!!!!!!

In looking up these movies, I find that most of them were made a lot earlier than I thought; the late 70s. Could I have been that young when I saw them, or is it just a case of them getting to our screens some years later? Certainly they are etched very clearly on my brain. I remember seeing 'Killer Fish' in the school hall while I was in primary school, so it is possible it was the late 70s.

It would appear Sky seem to be resuscitating this sub-genre. Last week they had a monster spider movie, I think. (I happened to be making a cup of tea while a poor 3D Studio Max arachnid threatened a butterfly. At least it wasn't Jack Sholder's dire, 'Arachnid'). These movies, low-budget and laced with the cheapest CGI money was never intended to buy, seem to be a new wave of the old threat-of-the-week cheapos of my youth. I must stress, however, that I refer to the banal branch of the tree; B actors reading by-the-numbers scripts and monsters that were shown in bewildering shock cuts, too close and too fast to be seen until the climactic showdown (when the fur suit was painfully obvious).

Hell, you can tell I protest too much. They were crap, but they caught my imagination, and the chances are if I were that age now I would lap up this current fare. It is good pre-pubescent fare. Still what about the adults? How's about some new Dantes, Camerons and Sayles's?

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At 12:01 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I remember seeing 'Killer Fish' in the school hall while I was in primary school, so it is possible it was the late 70s." --- Me too! Terrible, terrible, terrible. Phil.


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