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Tales From The Crypt: Demon Knight (1995) ***1/2

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I kind of can’t believe I had never seen  Tales From The Crypt: Demon Knight (1995) before. It was way better than I expected it to be. An exquisite blend of action, horror, and humor, Demon Knight features jaw-droppingly good practical f/x, striking imagery, and a great cast of character actors. Enest R. Dickerson  blends a siege film (à la Night Of The Living Dead   (1968) (my review here ),  Assault On Precinct 13   (1976), and Demons (1985)) with  Evil Dead II  (1987) (my review here ) antics to fantastic results. The 1990s always get a bad rep for horror fare, but this gem would have fit perfectly alongside 80s cult classics. Billy Zane  oozes charm as the villain of the piece and looks like he was having a blast spouting all the amusing one-liners. William Sadler is reliably stoic and the legendary  Dick Miller  gets more screen time than is usual, which is always welcome. DK is thin on plot but big on fun. The story is fairly predictable but it moves along so well that you j

The Body Snatcher (1945) ***1/2

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Based on Robert Louis Stevenson 's 1884 short story of the same name, Robert Wise 's The Body Snatcher (1945) is a beautifully noir -like thriller full of pathos, atmosphere, and features a fantastic, tragic finale. This was one of nine horror features that  Val Lewton  produced at RKO and it's one of the best. Wise (with the aid of cinematographer  Robert De Grasse ) packed  TBS  with a wonderful creepiness, plenty of shadows, and indelible imagery. Boris Karloff , deliciously sinister and smirking, gives one of his very best, multifaceted performances as the titular character, John Gray (based on the Burke and Hare murders ). Graverobber Gray is the former friend and manipulative supplier of Dr. Wolfe 'Toddy' MacFarlane ( Henry Daniell ). Bela Lugosi has a small, but memorable role. In particular, the final scene that he and Karloff share is of the film's best moments. This was to be the last film that Lugosi and Karloff made together.  You can find my  Rob

Land Of The Dead - Unrated Version (2005) ***

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I saw  George A. Romero 's biggest-budgeted " Dead " film, Land Of The Dead (2005), twice the day it was released to theaters. I took the day off to do this. I don't think I've ever seen the same film twice in the same day, in the theater or at home. You have to remember that this was Romero's return to the zombie genre (which he grandfathered) after 20 years (and more than 10 years since I first saw his original " Dead " trilogy). I was excited . And I genuinely loved the film—it was one of my Top Films Of 2005 . After I saw the film twice in the cinema, I bought the Unrated DVD when it was released later that year, and watched and enjoyed the film again, with its extra gore and additional dialogue. I was amazed to see that that was the last time I had watched the film until now. I could have sworn I watched the film again sometime a few years later but my (meticulous) records show no log.  In any case, I've cooled on the film quite a bit. I s

The Jerk (1979) ****

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I've always really enjoyed Carl Reiner 's The Jerk (1979) but some reason when I watched it this time I liked it even more than usual. I seemed to laugh out loud at more of the jokes than on previous viewings. Perhaps it's because it's just subversive enough without being mean-spirited. Perhaps it's because it's a bit crude but never disgusting. Perhaps it's because the non-sequiturial quality never derails the film. Perhaps it's because the dialogue from Carl Gottlieb and Michael Elias 's script is so quotable. Perhaps it's because Steve Martin really was a comic genius and his lovable idiot is hard to resist. Perhaps it's because Bernadette Peters  is simultaneously adorable and foxy, and her reactions to, and the sweetness between Martin and herself (who were a couple at the time), feel(s) genuine. I believe it's all of these things.

Under Capricorn (1949) **1/2

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Under Capricorn  (1949) is bottom of the barrel Hitchcock . I'd seen the film once or twice before and I liked it even less this time around. There is some good filmmaking, costumes, and sets on display here, but the melodrama isn't terribly interesting, nor the love triangle, the film drags on too long, and normally fantastic actors  Ingrid Bergman  and  Joseph Cotten  (here still quite good, at times) are not enough to save this snoozefest. UC is not a complete dud, but it feels nothing like a Hitchcock film and everything like a boring period piece that hasn't aged well. You can find my  Alfred Hitchcock Feature Films Ranked  list  here . You can find my  Top 20 Directors  list  here .

Murder On The Orient Express (1974) ****

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Simply put, Sidney Lumet 's 1974 film of Agatha's Christie 's 1934 novel  Murder On The Orient Express   is one of the best adaptations of one of the best whodunits ever written. The absolutely stacked ensemble is perfectly cast, the shots are well staged, and the whole affair is terribly fun. I know there is a lot of love for Peter Ustinov 's portrayal of the Belgian detective  Hercule Poirot  but I've always loved and preferred Albert Finney 's lone outing in the role. Having read eleven of the Poirot mysteries, including the titular one of this review, Finney's performance is very much in line with how I imagine the character when I'm revisiting the novels. Lumet's version of the story will always remain a favorite—a film I can put on at virtually any time and enjoy immensely. You can find my  Sidney Lumet Feature Films Ranked  list  here . You can find my Top 20 Directors list here .

The Crimes Of The Black Cat (1972) ***

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Though on the surface, Sergio Pastore 's 1972  The Crimes Of The Black Cat  (Italian: Sette scialli di seta gialla ) seems derivative of  Dario Argento ' s  The Cat O' Nine Tails   (my review here ) from the year previous  (blind sleuth, the title), this rarely seen  giallo  has its own flavor to offer. Crimes ticks a lot of giallo boxes—title with animal or number in the title (in this case both, depending on country of origin), amateur sleuth, disloyal husband, fashion house, scantily clad models, lesbians, shadowy killer, detective who can't seem to do their job incensed by amateur sleuth who basically solves the mystery. The plot is as convoluted as you would expect in a giallo but the killer's MO is unique.  Manuel De Sica 's score is a highlight, the cast is very solid, and Pastore's direction is good. Though it's not the most exciting thriller in this genre, it builds to a great finale with a whopper of an ending (think of a famous scene from  Psy

Road Games (1981) ***1/2

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Road Games (1981) is Richard Franklin 's version of Hitchcock 's Rear Window (1954), only set on a refrigerator truck. More of a thriller than a horror film (as it was sold), the film starts out incredibly strong—due in large part to the magnetically charismatic performance by lead Stacy Keach —but fizzles out by the end and concludes with a weak climax.  Franklin doesn't quite know how to stage his action and tension or take advantage of the landscapes in a way that truly grabs the audience, the way fellow Aussie George Miller did in 1979's Mad Max  (my review here ) and especially in its sequel , released the same year as this film. RG  shares those films' composer, Brian May , and the score here is good, but again nowhere near as good as the Max  films. Jamie Lee Curtis is also not utilized nearly enough. All that said, Keach soliloquizes Everett De Roche 's dialogue most eloquently and there is a certain charm to a simple film like this, one that doesn&#

Happy 10th Birthday, Blog!

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Happy 10th birthday today to my blog,  The Danman Can ! Wow, a decade of blogging; hard to believe. Each year on this date I post the  number of films I've watched per year since I've been keeping track (16 years of doing so today). Here they are: 2005  -  338 films 2006  -  368 films 2007  -  274 films 2008  -  269 films 2009  -  234 films 2010  -  189 films 2011  -   237 films 2012  - 254 films 2013  - 352 films 2014  - 350 films 2015  - 337 films 2016  - 270 films 2017  - 265 films 2018  - 207 films 2019  - 254 films 2020  - 284 films I watched 30 more films in 2020 than in 2019, the most in a year since 2015 but I haven't hit the 300 mark since that year. I think the uptick definitely has something to do with the pandemic in 2020 but I certainly have been doing other productive and/or fun things in my life so I'm OK with not hitting 300.  Since 2018, I've been writing a review of every single film I watch, whether old or new to me. I hope that film lovers will u

Cold Heaven (1991) ***

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1990s  Nicolas Roeg  films, while still containing many of his trademarks, are a far cry from 70s and 80s Nic Roeg films. They are of course surreal, obtuse, over-the-top, disturbing and bizarre, and Cold Heaven (1991) is no exception, in regard to most of those qualities. But there's a certain magic lacking in his 90s output. I imagine some of it had to do with budgetary restrictions and what type of material would secure financing. But there is also a sense that Roeg was somewhat less adventurous. That said, CH  is a solid supernatural mystery involving Catholic guilt, infidelity, and challenged beliefs. Answers aren't really given as to a certain "miracle" that the story circles around, which is good because I wouldn't want them presented in a spoon-fed way. There is some pretty good melodrama here and  Theresa Russell  does a commendable job of carrying the film (though actors like Seymour Cassel and Talia Shire are utterly wasted), but the whole affair has