Category Archives: Film

“THE INNOCENTS”— Faith and Solidarity”

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“The Innocents”

Faith and Solidarity

Amos Lassen

French director Anne Fontaine takes us back to Warsaw in December, 1945 with the end of World War Two. French Red Cross doctor Mathilde (Lou de Laage) is treating the last of her patients when suddenly a panicked Benedictine nun appears at the clinic begging Mathilde to follow her back to the convent. What she finds there is shocking: a holy sister about to give birth and several more in advanced stages of pregnancy. Mathilde is a non-believer, yet enters the sisters fiercely private world, dictated by the rituals of their order and the strict Reverend Mother (Ida Agata Kulesza). The nuns fear the shame of exposure and the hostility of the occupying Soviet troops and local Polish communists. They are going through an unprecedented crisis of faith and increasingly turn to Mathilde as their beliefs and traditions clash with harsh realities.

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This is a film that is all gloom and doom from beginning to end because of the scale of horror impinged upon an entire community. Seeing so many pregnant nuns could be comical if the pregnancies were the product of breaking their vows of celibacy. Here they are pregnant because of a series of gang rapes committed by occupying Russians. These terrible events lead some of the sisters to doubt their faith.

Some welcome Mathilde’s help, while others refuse it in the name of dogma, as being touched is a sin, even if it means letting syphilis go untreated. In one scene we see the severity of the convent’s repression as Mathilde gives a nun what seems to be her first medical examination; it may also be the first time that another adult has touched her body without violence. When Mathilde places her hand on the nun’s pregnant belly, the nun explodes in laughter, as if overwhelmed by the excitation but this is short-lived as the nun quickly recoils into muteness once she realizes another nun is watching her.

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The problem I have with the film is that we never spend enough time with each character in order to care about them as individuals. At times it is even difficult at times to tell the nuns apart. This helps make the film something of an allegory for women’s condition in times of war or peace. We see that their kinship (the discovered link between the pious ones and the sexually liberated nurse) despite their different beliefs, behaviors, and customs is that they’re never safe.

We see this is a scene when a Soviet soldier attacks Mathilde while his colleagues egg him on and begin lining up to do the same. We are reminded that the making of a woman isn’t in the materiality of their bodies, but in the ways in which their bodies are repetitively made to not matter. Here, war seems to be something of an excuse for men to band together so they can all vow to annihilate the bodies of women as if to disavow the fact that their own will also annihilated sooner or later as well.

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The Reverend Mother manages to persuade a very hesitant Mathilde, the only female doctor in the small Hospital to accompany  her back to the convent, to attend to the nun who is in urgent need of medical care, but first she swears her to total secrecy about the visit. The nun Mathilde goes to see is, in fact, not sick, but actually about to give birth. This is the result of some months back when the convent was overrun by the invading Russian Army who raped the nuns and took control of the region.

Seven of the nuns are pregnant and they fear that not only will the towns-people want to evict them, but also that they are destined to face damnation. Some of them will not  let Mathilde examine them as it is against Holy Orders to be touched or even be naked in front of anyone at all. The Mother Superior is loathed to let the doctor get involved at all, but when the babies literally starting dropping like flies, she realizes that she has no alternative.  The moment they are born she whisks them off to be discreetly adopted, and the first baby is actually taken to live with the nun’s aunt.

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Things deteriorate further when the Mother Superior who was also raped, develops a bad case of syphilis and adamantly refuses to let Mathilde help her. Whilst she is laid up the Russian soldiers suddenly return to the Convent and it is only quick thinking by Mathilde who tells them that there had been an outbreak of typhoid and it is this that averts further sexual abuse.

The story  also has a subplot based  at the Red Cross Unit where Mathilde’s boss, a very insecure Jewish man puts the moves on her. The two have a real connection but they both know that it is simply a temporary pastime during war even though he would like it to continue. This film is actually based on a true story, and is essentially about various crises of faith that are tested by all the traumas and iniquities of wartime. 

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The movie is shot in dark drab hues that convey a world ravaged by all the fighting and battles that damaged it almost beyond recognition and that needs to be rebuilt and re-born like the people who still live there. Viewers are left with a fresh understanding of man’s capacity to respond to suffering with good or evil and then to find new ways to define vocation and grace. We get a quite serious look at the struggle to hold on to faith in the most difficult of situations.

“ENTER THE FAUN”— The Ability to Transform

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“ENTER THE FAUN”

The Ability to Transform

Amos Lassen

Tamar Rogoff and Daisy Wright’s “Enter the Faun” is the story of an unlikely collaboration between a veteran choreographer, Tamar Rogoff and Gregg Mozgala, a young actor with cerebral palsy. Quite simply, it proves that each and every body is capable of miraculous transformation. The fact Rogoff has no formal medical training and his fears and physical limitations are not obstacles at all but instead serve as challenges. What we see challenges the boundaries of medicine and art, as well as the limitations that so often are associated with disability.

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When choreographer Tamar Rogoff first encountered Gregg Mozgala, an actor with cerebral palsy, she thought his unusual physical presence would make for a unique piece of dance. She didn’t expect creating that dance to leave the performer so dramatically changed that he might walk down the street without revealing his disability. But that’s what happens during “Enter the Faun” in which Rogoff and co-director Daisy Wright follow the yearlong process from training to opening night. This is filmmaking that is plain and simple and it pulled me in immediately.

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When Mozgala danced in a performance of “Romeo and Juliet”, Rogoff saw a sensuality in him that led her to think of a faun. However, in her early sessions, directing Mozgala him and an able-bodied partner, she understood that he could hardly move through a dance gesture without losing his balance. She then set out to help him change his “alignment choices,” and overcome his fear of the ground. By the fourth month of their work together, Mozgala’s heels had never touched the ground before as he walked were capable of heel-toe footsteps. We see that even with no background in physical therapy, Rogoff’s coaching did what years of therapy and trips to the doctor could not. We see him Mozgala walking so steadily he’s able to play with strangers on the street as he searched for see him gain more confidence in rehearsals with two female partners and the intimacy that always exists between dancers seems more charged than usual. Of course there are unusual challenges that come up and arouse Mozgala’s terror of losing balance but he manages to get through them.

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Trained as a dancer, Rogoff has always been in love with the body and its intelligence and inspiration, its imperfections that are as compelling as its ultimate perfection. As a choreographer, she has been interested in working with non-dancers as well as dancers. When she met Gregg Mozgala, a young actor with cerebral palsy, she invited him to dance the lead in her newest piece. Some may find this strange but Rogoff saw it as an irresistible step. When it became clear that Gregg’s prognosis of being in a wheelchair at age 40 was becoming a far different reality, she began filming. Gregg’s transformation that was so radical that even before Tamar could understand its ramifications, she knew she had to capture it on film so that his and that Mozgala’s story would reach a larger audience.

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Mozgala’s story opens the door on stagnant images of disability. We see that the key to change in any area is to pay attention to the idea that change is possible. At the heart of our film we see the path and the proof of Gregg’s transformation. The film documents the unexpected and the hope is that it will. We hope our film will go out in the world and empower people with disabilities, connect the communities of dance and medicine, and make change not just a possibility but something that can be relied upon in every field and with every person everywhere.

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The work done by Gregg and Tamar is nothing short of revolutionary. Now we know that cerebral palsy is not a fixed disease.

“TALENT HAS HUNGER”— The Power of Music

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“TALENT HAS HUNGER”

The Power of Music

Amos Lassen

Music is a powerful force in our lives. It “consumes, enhances, and propels” how we live. lives. A Talent for Hunger” was filmed over a 7 year period and it takes us into the world of the musical artist and shows the passion that can sustain a young player from childhood onward. We become very aware of sacrifices and dedication that a budding artist must give to his craft. We go to Paul Katz’s New England conservatory where he meets with gifted students. Katz, himself, is a master cello teacher. In the film we see his challenges of elevating young people from being talented students to performing at the level of an artist. Katz has done so for some fifty years and he has worked with all kinds of people who have all kinds of temperaments. We also see the tremendous amount of detail necessary to master certain techniques. Musicians usually possess a high degree of sensitivity and Katz helps them feel emotionally open and confident enough to walk on stage to play at their highest artistic level.

This is a film that everyone can appreciate. The pursuit of becoming a master is quite simply a metaphor for the pursuit of excellence in an area. This is a powerful example of how to inspire talent of any type, at any age and it shows that this demands hard work hard and diligence achieve greatness. As we watch, we appreciate the work that goes into being a concert musician and we now notice it in ways we have never thought of. As the “Boston Globe” says, this is “An illuminating celebration of music and the art of teaching.” It wonderfully captures the “rare magical process of a master teacher at work” and while his students are students on the cello in the film, those of us who watch become students of life.

“DELUSION”— A Mysterious Woman

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“Delusion”

A Mysterious Woman

Amos Lassen

It is never easy to move on after a loved one dies and for Frank (David Graziano) who lost his wife Isabella (Carlyne Fournier) three years ago, the struggle seems to have no end in sight. and has been struggling ever since.  Tommy (Justin Thibault), Frank’s nephew, has been trying to help him out, but Frank is still is unable to cope even while medicated. Suddenly he mysteriously receives a letter from his wife urging him to try to live his life again and, Frank begins following that advice with hesitation. (After all, who gets letters from the dead?).

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Frank has noticed a very pretty woman who seems to appear at random—walking by his house, in the park and then suddenly vanishing. He even senses her sometimes in his house but he does nothing about it. These “hallucinations” appear to be warnings of some kind him against the woman, Mary.  We meet another strange character, Grayson (Kris Salvi), and we are not sure if he is real or a hallucination like Mary. He has philosophical questions for Frank and occasionally gives some kind of warning about those people Frank should be watching. All of this befuddles Frank just as it would for any of us in the same situation.

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Toward the end of her life, Isabella began to turn toward God and look for some kind of spirituality that would satisfy her needs. This leads Frank to visit Miss Lavinia (Irina Peligrad), a physic, for guidance, even though he has little faith.  She tells him that she sees possible danger ahead for Frank and she warns him of such. Lavinia actually becomes involved in the whole business.

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The film is like the old psychological portraits we used to love. But it is so much more than that. Christopher Di Nunzio directed this film and he should be very proud of himself. He brings his audience into the film almost immediately even though we really do not understand what is going on. It is as if we are peeking at everything that is going on with Frank. I found myself wondering if what I was watching was real or imaginary. The film very cleverly gives us a lot to think about. It seems that there is some kind of message for him somewhere. Lavinia warned him that doom is right ahead but Frank does not believe in spirits or in what Lavinia has to say. She tries her best to save him but there are powers out over which she has no control.

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One must be patient while watching this because of the thinness of the line between reality, this world and imagination, the world to come. As we move toward the end of the film, we suddenly get death and gore. Even though this seems inevitable, it is nonetheless shocking.

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You should keep an eye of Di Nunzio as he is an independent moviemaker to be watched. The story pulls us in immediately and almost everything about the film is a-one. The audience remains stunned and intrigued throughout the film. We can watch it over and over and find different aspects to be considered. I am writing this after my third viewing.

“WILD IN THE STREETS”— A Midnight Movie

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“Wild in the Streets”

A Midnight Movie

Amos Lassen

“Wild in the Streets was originally released in the turbulent year of 1968 and has been one of the most-requested Midnight Movies. I did not see it when it came out but was aware of the positive reputation the film has gained over the years. Unfortunately, for me at least, I felt let down by this anti-youth picture posing as a rebellious teen flick. The lead role of Max Frost was originally offered to singer-songwriter Phil Ochs, who turned it down after reading the script and believing that it portrayed the counterculture movement in a negative light. So, the part went to charismatic Christopher Jones, who unfortunately doesn’t exactly infuse the character with as much likability.

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Jones plays the sneering egotist to the hilt, and makes it hard for the audience to actually support him. His political goals are motivated by a mix of sheer boredom and a senseless need for power and affection; yet hiding beneath this slimy veneer is a true love for children. This, however, is not enough make his political campaign anything more than personal gain. This is the film’s major problem: for a film obviously aimed at the young teenagers of the time who were, the “heroes”, we see them as self-indulgent kids.

w5Max Frost is built up as the hero of the youth movement of the late 60s and the parallels between the young upstart and Adolph Hitler’s uprising can’t be overlooked (the obvious hand motions and frenzied speeches being the most obvious, and then there’s the dictatorial laws he inflicts on the over-30 crowd and young Gestapo in all-black uniforms). He constantly calls his youthful followers “troops” and “babies.” Not only is he and his followers a nasty whitewashing of the popular hippie explosion of the decade, but the idiotic youth that voted for the drug-addled tyrant are just as much a target of the script, showing them as easily manipulated by the media.

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The best element of the film is the incredible musical score by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, including the superb 60s anthem “Shape of Things to Come.” I finished watching the film and was quite angry about the 1960s counterculture movement, which might have been the ulterior motive of the filmmakers in the first place.

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Unhappy teenager Max Jacob Flatow, Jr. (Christopher Jones) becomes sick and tired of his emasculating mother (Shelley Winters) and runs away from home after ripping apart the living room and blowing up his father’s new car. He grows to be Max Frost, a multi-millionaire in the music industry who makes top dollar selling his great rock records and publishing music by young artists. The pack of punks making up his group includes Richard Pryor in his first major appearance on film, hook-handed Larry Bishop, perpetually high blonde nymph Diane Varsi, and 15-year-old Kevin Coughlin (who is actually the earliest positive gay character I’ve seen in cinema, free of stereotypes and proud of his homosexuality).

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After learning that 52% of the population is under 25 years old, Max capitalizes on a musical appearance at Senatorial candidate John Fergus’ (Hal Holbrook) political rally by instigating his own political campaign to infiltrate the Senate, then become President of the United States. He recruits supporters from his nationwide fan club, and even steals Fergus’ son Jimmy from him, transforming him into a jive-talking asshole, much to the chagrin of his mother (Millie Perkins).

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“Wild in the Streets” was aimed squarely at the younger teenage audience that bought records and listened to the Top 40 stations. This audience can believe, if only temporarily, in the greatness of a performer. For this audience, “Wild in the Streets” needs no serious political comment and no real understanding of how pop music and the mass media work together. It’s a silly film, but it does communicate in the simplest, most direct terms.

“FRANCESCA”— The Return

francesca poster

“Francesca”

The Return

Amos Lassen

Fifteen years ago, Francesca, the daughter of the renowned poet and playwright, Vittorio Viscont disappeared and now the community where she lived is stalked by a psychopath inspired by Dante’s “The Divine Comedy” who is determined to get rid of the “impure and damned souls” that live there. Moretti and Succo are the detectives assigned to finding the killer. Francesca has returned, but she is not be the same girl that she once was. The detectives are in a race against time to stop the murders.

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The plot is fairly simple. There’s a murderer on the loose who wears a leather coat and gloves and a fedora that obscures the face. The murderer is a woman who is some sort of personal vendetta killing spree. Each of the murders curiously makes a reference to Dante’s “Inferno” and each of the victims in some way connected to the cold case of the disappearance of a little girl named Francesca. daughter of a noted literary historian, some fifteen years earlier.

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Francesca is the story of a slasher told in the manner of a classic giallo film replete with sexual licentiousness, sexual impotency, and sexual deviancy. The film looks like it was taken directly from the age of giallo and we see this in the attention to detail. We are very aware of the directors, Luciano Onetti and Nicolas Onetti’s love and admiration for the genre is clear.

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However something is missing and it is probably because I did not get a sense of urgency and fear that were such parts of giallo films. Moretti and Succo and their investigation do not appear to be motivated by any sense of urgency to find and stop this killer. There is also less gore than we are used to seeing in the classic form.

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The film is a visual feast so the fact that the narrative is lacking does not really matter as we are wrapped up visually by the film. The Onettis recreate the giallo feel with the music, cinematography, set decoration, costume, special effects and performances. “Francesca” is impressive technically and aesthetically and is certainly worth seeing.

“IS THAT YOU?”— A Road Trip

is that you?

“Is That You?”

A  Road Trip

Amos Lassen

Ronnie (Alon Abutboul) is a 60-year-old Israeli film projectionist, who is fired from his job and sets off for America in search of Rachel (Suzanne Sadler), a girl he loved when he was young. Once he begins his trip, he meets Myla (Naruna Kaplan de Macedo), a filmmaker who is making a documentary about the regrets that people have in their lives, and she wants to interview Ronnie and document his trip. The two decide to travel together in search of Rachel and at the same to complete Myla’s film. While this is an Israeli film, director Dani Menkin decided his dramedy in English.

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Most of the action takes place in Syracuse, New York and I understand that Menkin considers this his tribute to American independent films. Myla shows Ronnie how to fearlessly acknowledge and overcome regret. We see the complicated nature of relationships, and how everyone has moments when they wish they could have acted differently. This is a feature film that has elements of a documentary in fact, we see the film through the lens of Myla’s documentary.

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The ticket to the United States was part of Ronnie’s severance packet when he lost his job. He planned to visit his brother, Jacob, who lives somewhere in New York state but that changed when Jacob told him that he accidentally ran into Rachel and in doing so he rekindled the flame that Ronnie had always held for her as his first love. Even though some forty years had passed since the love affair ended, Ronnie decides that he wants to see her and that he needs to do so. Jacob’s son finds what he thinks is Rachel’s address on the internet and Ronnie embarks on a road trip.

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Director Menkin examines the idea of what could’ve been in life and most of us have had experiences like that. Ronnie travels from one place to the next trying to track down Rachel. He makes new friends as he travels and he learns from others making this a very sweet and cute movie. Any more than that about the plot would ruin the viewing experience for others.

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The film opens in New York City on August 26 and in Los Angeles in September.

“FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS”—Meryl Streep as The World’s Best Worst Singer

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“Florence Foster Jenkins”

The World’s Best Worst Singer

Amos Lassen

Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant star in Stephen Frears’ film that focuses the true events of the latter days of America socialite, Florence Foster Jenkins. It is a very funny romp set in New York City towards the end of the second World War.

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Foster Jenkins (Meryl Streep) was known for her very off-key performances as an opera singer, her appearances on-stage fully financed from her fortune left to her by her late father. BY her side is St Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant), her common-law English husband and manager who continuously protects his other half from ridicule, and limits her live performances to a music club in the Grand Ballroom of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in the city, where she would perform alongside her pianist Cosme McMoon (Simon Helberg) to an extremely select audience. It really gets going when Florence decides to bring “her talents” before an audience, and eventually recording. She hires the constantly tortured McMoon, and then ultimately performing in front of an audience at Carnegie Hall.

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Florence Foster Jenkins was a real person and a terrible singer. She was also an heiress and this explains how she managed to persuade people to do what she wanted. What she wanted was to sing. In The Forties in New York, with a World War going on overseas, she organized concerts, or rather her English husband, St Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant), bribed, cajoled and orchestrated these events. including the hiring of an unknown accompanist Her pianist, McMoon, had a nervous disposition and a fear of ruining his career before it had started by being associated with someone like Florence’s who really could not sing.

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The embarrassment levels are high which must be the point unless this is a lesson in the power of money over integrity. The only person who refuses Bayfield’s charming advances is the NY Post’s music critic. His opinion of the Carnegie Hall fiasco is as true as it is cruel.

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Meryl Streep, fat and wearing a wig is perfect and Grant proves that he is a good actor. Helberg actually walks away with the movie in his pocket. He is able to convey the feeling of being trapped as an alternative to being free, with all its fears and uncertainty. Wealthy New York socialite Florence Foster Jenkins has gone down in history as the worst opera singer ever. She caused music lovers to feel queasy while everyone else would be struggle to hold in laughter. Yet in Stephen Frears’ and Meryl Streeps’ Florence is so much more than a figure of fun.

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Indeed, while the film finds hilarity in Florence’s awfulness as a singer it also finds something admirable about her pursuit of her musical dreams in 1940s Manhattan (even if those dreams are kept alive by a massive fortune, tremendous self-delusion and the loyal support of her partner, St Clair Bayfield).

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St Clair manages Florence’s amateur career, arranging her private recitals and coaxing everyone in her orbit into delivering a positive response whenever she opens her mouth to sing. As the story builds towards Florence’s legendary Carnegie Hall concert of 1944, the film is not only very funny but also totally gripping. We cannot help but wonder about St Clair’s true motives. Does he really love Florence or is she just a way to enjoy the lavish lifestyle that her fortune allows him to do?

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Streep wonderfully reproduces the horrible noise she made by singing Florence made with impressive fidelity, yet she also gives us insight into the heartaches and tragedies lying behind her desire to perform. Just wait until you hear her sing “The Queen of the Night” from Mozart’s “The Magic Flute”.

“SLUGS”— “They Slime. They Ooze. They Kill”.

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“SLUGS”

“They Slime. They Ooze. They Kill”.

Amos Lassen

People suddenly and mysteriously die in a rural community and no one knows what the cause is. Health inspector Mike Brady has a possible theory; he thinks that maybe the townspeople are being killed off by mutated slugs but the idea is not welcomed and is actually scoffed at by the mayor. With the help of a scientist and a sanitation officer, Mike decides to take action himself before any more people are die. Sure, this is a ridiculous premise for a movie but we have had worms and tremors, killer rats and centipedes so what is so strange about killer slugs—we don’t like slugs anyway. It is hard to think of a slug that lives in gardens being a monster but once seeing this movie….

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Instead of having the police chief or local ranger/warden as the hero, here we have a health inspector and a sanitation officer. These two characters are incredibly boring men and not just because of their jobs. The actors (Michael Garfield and Philip MacHale) that play them show no emotion whatever and could have been easily replaced by robots. It does not help that the dialogue is also awful.

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For small creatures, these slugs do some serious damage. A man eats a slug in a sandwich, only to literally blow up later on in a restaurant as the slugs eat him from the inside. A young couple find their bedroom floor covered in slugs and the girl slips on one of them and is promptly covered in slugs. A gardener puts on a glove to find a slug has squirmed inside. However the slug takes a firm bite of his hand and no matter how hard he tries to hit the slug on the bench or tries to cut it off with garden clippers, he can’t do it. So he cuts his own hand off, knocking a shelf of chemicals over himself in the process and blowing himself and his greenhouse up. 

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There is a lot of gore and some great make-up effects are served but to get to those there is awful dialogue and robotic performances first. The setting is a picturesque little town built on a toxic waste dump. For whatever reason, this particular chemical concoction only seems to have an effect on our slime-trail leaving buddies, the slugs, who’ve acquired a taste for flesh. Mike Brady, the health inspector discovers the truth about the slug menace fairly early on, but the sheriff and mayor do not believe him. The body count continues to rise and Mike, his wife’s British professor pal, and sewer warrior Don and have a climatic battle to the death in the sewers below.

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No sane person would believe that slugs could be a potential villain for a horror feature. The idea might be ludicrous but the concept works. A slug is really the last creature we’d expect to have evil intentions, but everybody involved takes it so very seriously. Of course, clichés abound. There are sex-crazed teenagers who get both barrels of the Slug-Gun as their sexual awakening is tempered by the “rampaging” slugs and a few lusty teenagers die horrible deaths. Those who die do so in places where slugs are usually found. The easiest way around this is to not go into gardens or sewers or open drains, yet somehow many characters find themselves in these situations and meet a grisly demise as a result. Other than a couple of brief moments where the slugs actually invade people’s homes much of the violence could have easily been avoided.

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Some of the death sequences are so ridiculous that they’re brilliant. Most of these deaths are perhaps unintentionally hilarious and the film is gruesome and very funny at the same time.

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By the finale, where we have two identically dressed men in yellow suits trying to avoid being eaten alive in the sewers beneath the town but we have known how the movie would end from the very beginning., you’ve known since the opening act how it will end. Even though these toxic slugs appear to explode violently when set alight, we know that there will be at least one left to wreak havoc another day. Spanish director Juan Piquer Simon gives us a tale of mutant slugs on the rampage in small-town America and as bad of a movie as it is, I had fun watching it.

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Bonus Features:

* Brand new restoration from original film elements 

* High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation 

* Original Uncompressed PCM Mono Audio 

* Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing 

* Audio commentary with Slugs author Shaun Hutson

* Audio commentary with writer and filmmaker Chris Alexander 

* Here’s Slugs in Your Eye – an interview with actor Emilio Linder 

* They Slime, They Ooze, They Kill: The Effects of Slugs – an interview with special effects artist Carlo De Marchis 

* Invasion USA – an interview with art director Gonzalo Gonzalo 

* The Lyons Den – an interview and locations tour with production manager Larry Ann Evans 

* 1988 Goya Awards promo reel 

* Trailer

* Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Wes Benscote

“ROSEMARY’S BABY”— A Perfect Film

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Rosemary’s Baby (The Criterion Collection[Blu-ray])

A Perfect Film

Amos Lassen

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“Rosemary’s Baby” is a dark and unforgettable comedy that was also the American debut of director Roman Polanski. Adapted from the bestseller by Ira Levin, it stars Mia Farrow as a young mother-to-be who grows increasingly suspicious that her friendly elderly neighbors, Roman (Sidney Blackmer) and Minnie (Ruth Gordon) along with her self-involved husband, Guy (John Cassavetes) are hatching a satanic plot against her and her baby. Criterion has remastered the film and present it on a beautiful blu ray edition.

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Rosemary and her husband are expecting a child but she has begun to believe that she has been impregnated by evil itself and everyone she knows might be in on it. When the film was released it was condemned by the Catholic Church and the Legion Of Decency.

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John Cassavetes gives a wonderful performance as Rosemary’s husband and Mia Farrow is sheer brilliance as Rosemary. We sense her fears and her emotions and often just the look on her face communicates what she feels. This is a film that plays with the audience’s sensibilities.

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I see the film as one of the finest horror films ever made. Polanski adapted Levin’s terrifying novel of ancient evil in a modern setting with every thrill intact. He has managed to convey a sense of claustrophobia and quiet panic on busy streets and sidewalks of New York City. The suspense is for 2 hours and 16 minutes and I must say that watching the film again last night, I still felt the tension throughout.

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The special features are very special:

New high-definition digital restoration, approved by director Roman Polanski, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition

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New interviews with Polanski, actor Mia Farrow, and producer Robert Evans

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Komeda, Komeda, a feature-length documentary on the life and work of jazz musician and composer Krzysztof Komeda, who wrote the score for Rosemary’s Baby

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1997 radio interview with author Ira Levin from Leonard Lopate’s WNYC program New York and Company on the 1967 novel, the sequel, and the film

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PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Ed Park and Levin’s afterword for the 2003 New American Library edition of his novel, in which he discusses its and the film’s origins.