Dodge City (1939) ****

Dodge City(1939) is good old-fashioned fun featuring derring-do from that classic derring-doer Errol Flynn, loveliness and spunk from the lovely and spunky Olivia de Havilland, villainous villainy from Bruce Cabot + gang, and humorous sidekickery from Alan Hale. Plus it has one of the most epic bar brawls put to film and from what I can recall doesn't even feature a single horse fall (I love westerns but I hate those). All this in Technicolor (not yet a common practice in those days), expertly directed by that hit-making machine Michael Curtiz, and released in 1939, considered one of the greatest years in film history.

You can find my Michael Curtiz Feature Films Ranked list here.

Top 20 Directors

I updated my Top 20 Directors Letterboxd list to include links to my Feature Films Ranked list for each director. You can view the list (and access those additional lists) here.

DB Mix Series 3 - What's In A Name?

It's been 4 months since the last DB Mixwas posted and now it appears to be a tradition to post them on the 16th day of the month posted. Today also happens to be Bryan's birthday!

For those unfamiliar with these music challenges - my cousin Bryan and I alternately choose a concept, we each choose the appropriate number of songs, make a playlist, share we each other, then I mix the playlists, design the album art, and share with you! You can check out the previous DB Mixes here.

The concept this month was chosen by Bryan - each of us was to pick an artist for each letter of our full names and make a mix. The songs and artists that we chose for each other's names should also represent each other's musical tastes. To avoid confusion, remember that the large name on the nametag of each cover (along with the names of the files that you can download below) is the opposite cousin than the one who created the compilation.

To recap one of our rules - we never tell each other …

Without Warning (1980) **1/2

Without Warning(1980) has a very solid first two thirds but falls apart in the last third when it becomes a snooze fest. The ending almost saves it but not quite. It's a by-the-books horror/sci-fi film in a lot of ways (there's even a Halloween (1978) rip off (homage?) at the end, but Dean Cundey did shoot both films). But there is still a lot to appreciate (i.e. laugh at) - a Marty McFly prototype (another Dean Cundey connection), some gooey, goofy f/x, some pretty cool "electronic music realization" by Dan Wyman, a radical theatrical poster, and, most importantly, Jack Palance and Martin Landau out crazy-old-man-who-knows-something-the-other-cast-members-don't-but-should-they-trust-either-one-of-theming each other.

It's Alive III: Island Of The Alive (1987) **1/2 [Killer Babies Triple Feature Pt. 3]

For the third and final film in the It's Alive trilogy, 1987's It's Alive III: Island Of The Alive, Larry Cohen takes the action to a tropical island to show his audience how these mutant babies turn out as adults. The creatures ended up on this island by decree of a judge presiding over a court case to decide their fate. Michael Moriarty and Karen Black play the parents of one of the mutant babies. When we're the on the island I got a very Predator vibe (interesting as that film was released just two months after this one), as we see people picked off, occasionally from (as in the other two films) the monsters' perspective (they see double). The action takes place in multiple locations (from Florida to the island to Cuba back to Florida) and while we're treated to even gorier f/x than the first two films and Moriarty's typically "out-there" style of acting, the script feels pretty scattershot and I'm not that big of a fan of the monsters as …

It Lives Again (aka It's Alive 2) (1978) *** [Killer Babies Triple Feature Pt. 2]

In Larry Cohen's It Lives Again(aka It's Alive 2) (1978), the sequel to his 1974 film It's Alive, Frank Davis (again played by John P. Ryan), the father of the mutant baby from the first film, returns, assisted by doctors keen to his cause - to help a husband and wife soon to deliver another mutant baby. In the tradition of horror sequels, It Lives Again ups the number of monsters and the gore (again delivered by Rick Baker), while still retaining the familial drama at the heart of these stories. It's Alive 2(as it's also known) is still a slow moving horror film by today's standards and it's not quite as good as the first in some regards but benefits from the improved f/x from Baker, as well as Bernard Herrmann returning to score. Cohen does a good job of retaining the feel of the first film without repeating it.

It's Alive (1974) *** [Killer Babies Triple Feature Pt. 1]

Larry Cohen's It's Alive(1974), while being on one hand a "schlocky" mutant baby horror film, is foremost a slow moving family drama about pollution, species adaptability, and the lengths that parents will go to protect their offspring. Cohen's screenplay is excellent, but the low budget nature of the picture can hamper it at times, particularly in the editing. On one hand Rick Baker's makeup f/x can look a bit cheesy but it sort of adds to the charm of the film. The score by Bernard Herrmann is distinctively his, including a very memorable theme, but with the added texture of synthesizers to give it an otherworldly feel.

Village Of The Damned (1995) **1/2 [Damned Kids Double Feature Pt. 2]

John Carpenter's 1995 remake of Village Of The Damned is a solid effort but it doesn't add much to the original 1960 film's premise (unlike his "remake" of The Thing (1982), which tops the original in many ways). In Carpenter's version of VOTD none of the cast quite feels right, and the children don't feel scary the way they did in the 1960 film (much creepier in black and white). The violence and explosions are upped but it doesn't necessarily make the stakes feel any higher. Additionally, there are some dodgy CG f/x and I prefer the ending of the original film. Unfortunately, one of JC's weakest efforts.

You can find my John Carpenter Feature Films Ranked list here.

Village Of The Damned (1960) ***1/2 [Damned Kids Double Feature Pt. 1]

Village Of The Damned(1960) plays a lot like a Twilight Zone episode and at a lean 77 minute running time it's not any longer than some episodes of many television series these days. VOTD feels more like it was made in the early 50s and so at times comes off a bit dated, but it does have some genuinely unnerving moments from its creepy children and the atmosphere created by its cast and crew.

Dunkirk (2017) ***1/2

Dunkirk (2017) definitely plays better in a theater (preferably IMAX) with as large a screen possible and with a loud high quality surround system but it's still effective on Blu-ray (I don't have 4K yet) at home. I did detract a half star from my original rating though because while Dunkirk is a thrilling, tense & rousing achievement, impeccably shot and designed, the lack of character development hurts it in the long run, as a film that doesn't warrant multiple viewings.