Archive for Christopher Lee

House of Long Shadows (1983) Review

Posted in House of Long Shadows with tags , , , , , , , on November 25, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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HOUSE OF LONG SHADOWS

** Out of 5

Tagline- Room for Every Nightmare. A Nightmare in Every Room

Release Date- June 17th, 1983

Running Time- 102-Minutes

Rating- PG

Screenplay- Michael Armstrong

Director- Pete Walker

Starring- Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Desi Arnaz, John Carradine, Sheila Keith

Released in 1983 House of Long Shadows is a semi-forgotten film, but has retained some notoriety due to the cast, which includes iconic horror actors Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and John Carradine. The cast also includes the wonderful Sheila Keith who sadly seems sort of forgotten. Lastly, House of Long Shadows was also the last film directed by Pete Walker best known for his genre classics House of Whipcord and Frightmare, which are my two favorite Pete Walker films. With such a great cast, perhaps the best casting for any horror picture and a great filmmaker in Pete Walker, House of Long Shadows should have been epic and the film was also produced by Yoram Globus & Menahem Golan, but instead the end result was simply an average film that was a nice attempt, but ultimately extremely lackluster.

House of Long Shadows is in many ways a throwback to the Universal horror films of the 30s and is often compared to the James Whale classic the Old Dark House, which was later remade by William Castle in the 60s and Castle was a filmmaker Vincent Price had plenty of success with. Unlike many of Pete Walker’s films of the 70s, which could be graphic at times and of course 80s horror were often quite gory, House of Long Shadows relies more on atmosphere just like the horror films of the 30s. As much as I love 80s horror I also adore horror films from the 30s as it was a much simpler time. I have zero problems with nudity and gore, but when it becomes a cheap gimmick to cover up subpar filmmaking I do have as issue so I appreciate what Pete Walker was attempting it just again was lackluster. Getting a copy of House of Long Shadows is quite difficult and pricy. I saw the film on Amazon Instant Video and it had to be from a VHS since at times its far too dark to make anything out and maybe in someways it also hindered my enjoyment. As I read reviews I see a lot of perfect scores or nearly perfect and while I understand we’re all gonna have a different opinion, but would you really rate this as highly as something as Dawn of the Dead? When a film is long OOP or a seldom seen film it seems to me as if reviews are often overly kind and I can’t help except think people rate films like this higher since they’re tough to come by and aren’t well known.

Kenneth Magee (Arnaz) a successful author makes a 20-grand bet with his publisher he can write a classic novel in only 24-hours. He heads off to a remote manor to get started, but upon arriving he finds the manor inhabited by a strange family harboring a dark secret.

House of Long Shadows is based off a novel from 1913 titled Seven Keys to Baldpate by Earl Derr Biggers and is also based off a play by George M. Cohan of the same name as the novel. Since I never read the novel or saw the play I have no idea how true to the script sticks to the original material. The Old Dark House was also based off a novel from 1928 titled Benighted by J.B. Priestly. So I really couldn’t tell you if any of the novels are a like or if House of Long Shadows has more in common with one than the other. I love the idea behind the film, but the script by Michael Armstrong just isn’t as interesting as the plot. Characters are fairly decent, but also not interesting enough to carry the film despite having a truly terrific group of actors. I think many of the problems of the film boil down to the script. While not poorly written per se its just again never as interesting as the plot.

Director Pete Walker gained a cult following with his films in the 70s such as Schizo, House of Whipcord, Frightmare, the Confessional and the Comeback. House of Long Shadows was quite a departure from those films for two reasons. The first being all those films have a decent amount of violence however they aren’t body count films and Pete Walker really knows how to stage a great death scene and along with Dario Argento are my two favorites in that regard. Walker is also no stranger to controversy as such films as House of Whipcord, the Confessional and Home Before Midnight caused a bit of a stir and if released in modern times they would still be controversial in particular the last two films mentioned. House of Long Shadows however features very little violence and there’s no controversy either. Most of the deaths aren’t seen and the most graphic is a woman who has her face burnt, but we don’t actually see it happen we just see her face afterwards, but its nothing graphic and the PG rating is warranted unlike films such as Jaws and Grizzly, which are quite violent for PG rated films (of course those two as well as this came before PG-13 it wasn’t until 1984 with Red Dawn though Red Dawn was the 2nd film rated PG-13, but first to be released). As much as I like Pete Walker his films can at times have some pacing issues and I found the pace to House of Long Shadows quite slow and while there is some decent suspense at times this would easily rate at my least favorite film he’s made with this being the 6th film I’ve seen by him.

The cast as I mentioned was terrific and Price, Cushing, Lee and Carradine like always are wonderful too bad they didn’t have better material. Sheila Keith at least to me is just as iconic in the horror genre as the other actors in the film and she deserves far more attention than she gets. Her performances in Pete Walker’s other films such as House of Whipcord, Frightmare and the Comeback are amazing. Desi Arnaz, Jr is of course the son of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz and he’s gotten some negative reviews here, but I think they’re off base as he was actually quite good and it really isn’t fair to compare him to the other actors as they’re icons for a reason.

Overall I really wanted to like House of Long Shadows as a fan of the cast and director, but after a decent start I found the middle sections a little too slow before getting better in the final act, but by this time the film lost me. Perhaps on another viewing I’ll warm up to it, but I just wasn’t feeling it. As I mentioned this was the final film made by Pete Walker.

Police Academy: Mission to Moscow (1994) Review

Posted in Police Academy 7: Mission to Moscow with tags , , , , , , , on July 15, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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POLICE ACADEMY 7: MISSION TO MOSCOW

** Out of 5

Tagline- Just When We Thought the Cold War Was Over, Leave It to These Guys to Heat It Up Again.

Release Date- August 26th, 1994

Running Time- 83-Minutes

Rating- PG

Screenplay- Randolph Davis & Michele S. Chodos

Director- Alan Metter

Starring- George Gaynes, David Graf, Leslie Easterbrook, Michael Winslow, Ron Pearlman with Christoper Lee and G.W. Bailey as Lt. Harris

In the 80s the Police Academy were highly successful and from 1984-1989 there were a total of 6 films made all, which opened at number 1 until Police Academy 6: City Under Siege. I suppose the beginning of the end started with the 5th film as certain cast members didn’t return with Steve Guttenberg being the most notable. However despite that the 5th still turned a profit and opened at number 1. As I mentioned in past reviews each film in the series pulled in less money than the previous, but when the 6th film only pulled in roughly 11-million, which was half of the previous part and opened up at number 2 it was clear Warner Brothers ran this series into the ground. However 5-years later someone at WB thought it would be a good idea to resurrect the franchise. Police Academy: Mission to Moscow was released in 1994 and this time around several cast members didn’t return some personal choice and others the producers. The only other change, which is common as a series goes on is the number is left off and I suppose Police Academy: Mission to Moscow sounds better than Police Academy 7. All of the previous films opened in March except the 4th, which opened in April. The sequels were released barley a year after the last part with some not even being a full year later. This part however was released at the end of August where studios release films that can’t compete with the blockbusters. Mission to Moscow continued the trend of pulling in less money, but this one didn’t even pull in a million dollars by far making it the lowest grossing of the series. However it doesn’t end there as 2-years later someone at WB again decided it was a good idea to continue the series, but rather than a film it was a TV show, which only lasted 1 season (1996-1997) and thus slamming the door shut on what was a very bankable series.

In another review for the series I compared the Police Academy series to Friday the 13th as Paramount, like WB constantly made sequel after sequel. However at least in the case of Friday the 13th and other horror films you don’t have to be scary to be successful. You get an attractive cast, perhaps throw in some nudity a little gore and stage a death every 10 or so minutes you can cover up poor filmmaking and make a fun film, but in a comedy you have to be funny and there isn’t much you can do to cover up a poor film. I’ll admit to being a fan of the series. The first was actually a very funny film and the sequels while absurd were entertaining. They weren’t great films, but made for mindless fun, but by the time part 6 rolled around the formula was dead and it just wasn’t very funny. I actually never saw the 7th film until I bought the blu-ray collection, which was a UK release, but is region free and will play on US players (or players from any country).

The Russian government brings in Lassard (Gaynes) and members of his police academy to help bring down a Russian mobster.

The screenplay by Randolph Davis & Michele S. Chodos is quite weak with a lame plot that had potential to be interesting, but the poor writing sinks it. The returning characters make no impact on the story and its clear by this point there isn’t much that can be done with them and even Harris who is my favorite character in the series is s bit tiresome by now. The new characters add nothing to the film are quite boring with Connors (Charlie Schlatter) being a poor replacement for Mahoney though to the actors credit he does his best with a weak script. The script at times puts too much focus on the newer characters and again they make no impact and the script may have been better served just focusing on the returning characters, but as I said before they don’t impact the film either so I guess it doesn’t matter. There really isn’t anything funny about the film and even though the 6th film was poor at least it had a couple of decent moments, but Mission to Moscow is simply just poorly written and not funny.

Director Alan Metter delivers a poorly paced film that’s devoid of any laughs. There might be a moment or two a tiny bit amusing, but at every turn pretty much, Metter fails at delivering much entertainment. Apparently, Metter wanted to make a comedy based on the cultural differences between Americans and Russians, but it was shot down in favor of slapstick, but to be quite honest I don’t think it would have mattered. Alan Metter has made some decent films, but this one is forgettable at every turn and despite running at only 83-minutes it feels like triple that at times.

The returning cast seems to be going through the motions and none of them have any character moments and as great as these actors are in their roles by this time it’s become old and tired. The cast does their best with the very little the script had to offer. The only reason I can see any of them coming back was either for the money or this was the best role they could get or perhaps the free trip to Russia. I have to wonder how this film landed Christopher Lee and Ron Pearlman both who like the rest of the cast is totally wasted. The only real bright spot was Claire Forlani as Katrina.

Police Academy: Mission to Moscow was easily the worst of the series. There really isn’t anything funny about this film and it simply exists because it could. The Police Academy films aren’t exactly high quality films, but at least they were fun, but here I really can’t think of much positive to say. As mentioned even these great characters were tiresome and boring, which is something I’d never thought I would say as even in the weaker ones they still made an impact to some degree. Even the die hard fans of the series won’t find anything of interest here.