Forgotten Films: Night Watch (2004)
This is the 101st in my series of Forgotten Obscure or Neglected Films
I’ve got a brand new pair of cocoanuts … wait, that’s the wrong intro. I’ve got another foreign film this week. Yeah, that’s what I meant. Not that cocoanuts wouldn’t be fun, but they are the wrong stuff for this week’s film.
Let’s talk vampires this week. Not cute sparkly ones or clean cut ones or even white trash vampires. Let’s get down and nasty with vicious Russian vampires. Older than commies and twice as mean.
The novel The Night Watch was written by Sergei Lukyanenko in 1998. The book contains three long novelettes of which one forms the basis for this movie, the other two parts form the basis for the sequel movie The Day Watch even though there is a Lukyanenko novel of that name which does not have anything to do with the movie. There are two additional novels The Twilight Watch and The Last Watch.
The central character is Anton Gorodetsky who is a seer, one of The Others (a name for all forms of other-worldly or supernatural beings). Anton was discovered when making a deal with a witch to kill the child of his unfaithful wife. He sees those brought in to capture the witch which a normal person would not be able to do. In one sense, Anton is a screw-up. The best example I can give is that he is the film character that Charles Bukowski was born to play. We don’t have CB here but we do have Konstantine Khabenskiy. He does his performance very well. Anton is not a very likable person. He lives in a shabby part of Moscow next door to some vampires.
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FORGOTTEN BOOK: THE CONSTANTINE AFFLICTION by T. Aaron Payton, 2012
This is the 131st in my series of Forgotten Books.
Here is a book which escaped my notice when it was initially published. I used to be really up on these things. I’d read LOCUS every month; check the Forthcoming Books comparing English and American releases to see what would be the real first edition, all that sort of thing. But my comic store where I got LOCUS closed and I changed to working for myself with a spotty paycheck history and it all sort of fell away.
I was at the FACT (Fandom Association of Central Texas) Christmas Party and gift exchange when a copy of The Constantine Affliction came wandering through in a stack of books. I listened to the description and immediately stole the present from the recipient who really wanted it back. I offered it back except for the one title but, of course, that was the one she really wanted. She eventually got it back and I got The Dark Knight Rises DVD instead.
I forgot about the book and was visiting my friend/book dealer Willie (the first one’s free!) Siros when I saw it again. I inquired and got to take it home this time.
This is an odd one. It is partly steampunk and part detective and part alternate history and part mashup and lots of fun. The set up on the world is quite insane. In a Victorian age with some steam inventions far past what we know, an unusual plague has hit the land. Apparently, Virginia Woolf’s Orlando has brought a plague back to the bordellos of England wherein a person might get infected and find that they have changed their sex. Not everyone is affected and, in fact, many folks just die. But it occurs enough to have acquired a name – the Constantine Affliction, originally known as the Constantinople Affliction. Among the victims is Prince Albert, who is now confined for infidelity and known as Princess Alberta to the few privy to the fact.
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Forgotten Films: The Relic (1997)
This is the 100th (!) in my series of Forgotten Obscure or Neglected Films
So we reach a milestone here with my 100th Forgotten Film. Who would have thought we would all come together to discuss so many odd films, some good, some great, some bad, some horrid.
As I was thinking about doing this column, I wanted the film to be something special. So as I was surveying the shelves at home, I came across The Relic. This is a pretty good little horror film that I really enjoyed the first time I saw it. And that viewing experience was what made it special.
From 1980 to 2000 I worked for the gone but not forgotten department store chain Montgomery Ward as a field auditor. This meant that I traveled all over the country and did unannounced reviews of retails store, repair service centers, distribution centers, accounting units, call centers, and whatever else my boss decided he wanted me to look at. I had a fair bit of flexibility in my schedule. I was given a list of audits to conduct and I scheduled them however I wanted. If it involved a long distance I would schedule another unit nearby and stay out over the weekend. This meant that I got to visit many bookstores and other places over the years.
One such trip was scheduled around a science fiction convention in Wichita, Kansas. Joe Lansdale was the Guest of Honor. He had been scheduled the year before but the con chairman had died and the convention was delayed for a year. I decided that since I needed to go to Wichita I would arrange to be there for the weekend and hang with Joe and Karen. As luck would have it I even serendipitously had picked the hotel where the convention was going to be held.
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FORGOTTEN BOOK: THE PASTEL CITY by M. John Harrison, 1971
This is the 130th in my series of Forgotten Books.
There was a time in the late 60’s and early 70’s when I read virtually every fantasy I could lay my hands on. And there were not that many. But Tolkien, Eddison, Burroughs, Howard and Moorcock had whetted my appetite for the fantasy novel. So when things like Leiber’s Gray Mouser began to appear, I was ecstatic.
One that I read back in the day which was so different from every other fantasy was M. John Harrison’s The Pastel City. This was a fantasy novel so radically different from the others (though there was a touch of the language of Eddison in there). I will state that at this time I had not yet read Mervyn Peake, Clark Ashton Smith or William Hope Hodgson. I was young, enthusiastic but not yet well read.
Harrison wrote like CAS doing a high fantasy in a world that might be Hodgson or Peake or his own. The story was about the tale and not so much about the action. The world here may be our Earth. Might not be. It is very hard to tell but it does not matter. Look at the first few paragraphs of this piece:
Some seventeen notable empires rose in the Middle Period of Earth. These were the Afternoon Cultures. All but one are unimportant to this narrative, and there is little need to speak of them save to say that none of them lasted for less than a millennium, none for more than ten; that each extracted such secrets and obtained such comforts as its nature (and the nature of the universe) enabled it to find; and that each fell back from the universe in confusion, dwindled, and died.
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Forgotten Films: The Orphanage (2007)
This is the 99th in my series of Forgotten Obscure or Neglected Films
This week I want to do a horror film that many people have not seen, even though it was released just a few years ago and is associated with Guillermo del Toro. The Orphanage was produced by del Toro and directed by his friend Juan Antonio Bayona from a screenplay by Sergio G. Sanchez. It is a very effective haunted house film that, like The Haunting, relies more on tension and atmosphere than cheap special effects. It was made on a relatively low budget ($4,000,000 according to Wikipedia) and earned back $11,000,000. The film made its debut at the Cannes Film Festival where it was well received.
Laura (Belén Rueda) is a former orphan who lived in an orphanage down by the sea shore. She has grown older, married Carlos (Fernando Cayo), adopted a child Simón (Roger Princep) and come back to the orphanage to set up a home for disabled children. There have been interesting incidents at the orphanage in its past but Laura does not seem to remember them. Things are set in motion when a social worker Benigna Escobeda (Montserrat Carulla) shows up with Simón’s adoption file which includes the fact that he is HIV positive. Benigna is turned away indignantly by Laura who is aware of the condition. Later Laura catches her snooping in the house late at night. Police are called but Benigna escapes.
Soon the home is to open and there is a big party. Simón does not want to attend. He has an imaginary friend Tomás and he wants to go to Tomás’ little house. Laura gets impatient with him, slaps the boy and returns to the party. Soon she notices that Simón is missing
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FORGOTTEN BOOK: THE EXECUTIONESS by Tobias S. Buckell, 2011
This is the 129th in my series of Forgotten Books.
This is the second half of my previous review. Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias S. Buckell teamed together as two science fiction writers to write a sequence of two linked fantasy novellas. The Executioness is Buckell’s book while The Alchemist by Bacigalupi was last week’s Forgotten Book.
Last time, I noted that it was interesting when science fiction writers decide they want to do some fantasy work. Frequently it just does not work or is not very original. This week it does seem to work and quite well.
As in The Alchemist, the land is being slowly overrun by bramble, a poisonous weed which reacts negatively to magic use. Whenever someone uses magic, bramble proliferates somewhere else. The Alchemist dealt with efforts to destroy the bramble. The Executioness deals with people living within the land.
Tana, a middle aged woman, works in a butcher shop. Her father is the local executioner who is slowly dying. One day he is unable to perform an execution. If he fails to respond, someone else will get the job and money that Tana needs will be lost. Tana knows how to do the deed from watching her father and her work in the butcher shop. She assumes his role, puts on his robe and hood, and proceeds to perform the execution of a criminal. Badly. Her first blow is off and results in hideous pain to the criminal and it takes several more tries before the deed is complete. The Mayor, who has ordered the execution, loves this aspect, finding the old quick painless beheadings to be dull.
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Forgotten Films: Bride of the Gorilla (1951)
This is the 98th in my series of Forgotten Obscure or Neglected Films
This week saw the release party of the wonderful anthology The Apes of Wrath, which contains my essay on apes in comics entitled “The Four Color Ape”. Domestic issues with my condo association kept me away from the party but I have heard nothing but praise about the attendance and the sell through of the books. In honor of that book and party, I thought I might as well delve down into the Beyond Kong DVD anthology and pull out another ape film.
I decided on Bride of the Gorilla for a couple of reasons. I had never seen it. The cast was respectable. It was short. All good things in my book.
Bride of the Gorilla is not a biographic study of Cathy Finn, wife to madman Mark Finn, who did contribute the essay on the men inside the ape suits for The Apes of Wrath, though that would be an apt title.
TBotG is your classic story of greed and lust. Dina Van Gelder (Barbara Payton) is married to plantation owner Klaus (Paul Cavanagh) somewhere in the South or Central American jungle. Klaus is concerned only for the plantation and neglects Dina. Foreman Barney Chavez (Raymond Burr) is more concerned about Dina than the plantation and is fired by Klaus when one of the men is killed while Barney is neglecting his duty. Before Barney can leave he convinces Dina to come with him, then he confronts Klaus whom he places into position for a snake to attack and kill.
Dr. Viet (Tom Conway) is aware of Klaus’ low blood pressure and has to rule that snake venom caused his death but he believes Barney helped it along. So does police commissioner Taro (Lon Chaney, Jr) but neither can prove anything. Barney is a jerk but that does not count for much with the law. Where it does count is with Al-Long (Gisela Werbisek) the local witch who curses Barney for the crime and for other offenses against women.
At night, Barney begins to wander off and to transform into a gorilla (something Mark Finn longs to do). But it may be all in his head. While he sees a gorilla, he may not actually change, though the movie leaves some ambiguity in this area.
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Forgotten Films: Dragon Age: Redemption (2011)
This is the 97th in my series of Forgotten Obscure or Neglected Films
I am back. Last week I was traveling to the frozen land of the Chicago and just did not have the time/energy/inclination to get the column done. So, as a penalty I forfeited my payment for the column. And, since I do this for free, it seemed a fitting fine.
With that out of the way, let’s go to this week’s film. I got this DVD for Christmas from some friends who knew that I love watching redheaded women and Felicia Day in particular. I first noticed her work, as many did, with Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog, Joss Whedon’s fabulous musical which featured Nathan Fillion and Neil Patrick Harris. That internet production won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form a few years ago. Since then Day has popped up on other shows, most notably The Guild (which she wrote) and Eureka where she played wonderfully ditzy Dr. Holly Marten.
I am not what you classify as a gamer. I play a few board games and have been known to play Dominion and Settlers of Cataan when the local science fiction group has their monthly gaming night. But I do not own a gaming system other than my computer and a first generation Game Boy. Never made it past level 3 of Super Mario World or level one of anything else.
I bring this up because this film is based on the Dragon Age video game, most specifically Dragon Age: Origins. Felicia Day apparently really loves this game and decided to write a short film based on the game which would include her as the lead.
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FORGOTTEN BOOK: THE ALCHEMIST by Paolo Bacigalupi, 2011
This is the 128th in my series of Forgotten Books.
This will be half a review this week. Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias Buckell teamed together as two science fiction writers to write a sequence of two linked fantasy novellas. The Executioness is Buckell’s book and it should be next week’s Forgotten Book.
It is interesting when science fiction writers decide they want to do some fantasy work. Frequently it just does not work or is not very original. This week it does seem to work and quite well.
Jeoz is the narrator of the tale, the title alchemist. He loves in the city of Khaim with his daughter. The city is slowly being overrun by magic brambles. Anytime someone uses magic, bramble roots and seeds are created. They do not affect the magic user. Rather someone else takes the hit. The bramble is everywhere, encouraged by people doing small magics that they feel are necessary. The Mayor has offered a huge reward for anyone who can destroy the bramble.
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Forgotten Films: The Vengeance of She (1968)
This is the 96th in my series of Forgotten Obscure or Neglected Films
I am fighting a bad head cold right now so this will probably be a short review. Some time ago (about 18 months or so) I reviewed the black and white version of H. Rider Haggard’s classic novel SHE starring Randolph Scott and Helen Gahagen from 1935. I quite enjoyed that film and am a big fan of Haggard’s work.
This film I picked up on VHS years ago because I liked the image from the poster and because of the connection to the earlier film. I was lying in bed looking for something to watch as the cable was awful this weekend when I chanced on this and in looking it over I noted that the screenplay was by Peter O’Donnell, the man who created Modesty Blaise. Now I like SHE and I like Modesty Blaise so this seemed like a good idea.
And it basically was. The film is a relic of the late 1960’s and has some elements that mark it as a relatively low budget operation (bad matte work, awful score, and other things). But I watched it.
The story centers on Carol (Olga Schoberova, though she was billed as Olinka Berova), a young woman wandering around Europe in a daze while fighting off lecherous men and mental commands calling for Ayesha. She finds herself on the boat of wealthy businessman George (Colin Blakeley), his wife Sheila (Jill Melford) and their friend psychiatrist Philip (Edward Judd). As they cruise the Mediterranean, things go well until George receives a notice about a town he should probably not visit if he does not enjoy local jails. This prompts a screaming migraine from Carol and she jumps off the yacht, causing George to follow after her to save her from drowning. Carol is saved but George dies and the yacht proceeds to the nearest town where Carol immediately leaves the group and begins her journey to the source of her mysterious and painful dreams.
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