Damnaliens DVD Review by Steve Sawicki
I know exactly how the misguided movie scientists of the 1950's felt when the creature they created to free mankind from toil and suffering turns out to be a horrible monster on a rampage. I know, because I asked Steve Sawicki to review DVDs so you wouldn't have to wade through them yourselves. 

But is the cure worse than the disease?

Also, Steve's interpretation of Science Fiction and Fantasy has always been a bit odd. In this column he decides to include Triumph of the Will, a Nazi propaganda film as classic fantasy. I let him get away with it because he's got some good points...but it's a stretch. - Editor

Note: order the films from Amazon by following the hyperlinks to buy  junk food for the aliens and keep them away from the dog.)

Recent Releases    /    Classics    /    SFTV    /     Anime

Recent Releases - Yesterday's Tomorrows 

What happens when you gather a bunch of old astronauts one last time for a very important mission?  Space Cowboys  And you thought Tito was too old to go into space?  What Bob Dole does for Viagra, Eastwood, Garner, Sutherland and Jones do for NASA.  This is a slice of pure cornball.  But it’s 100% American cornball and you’re likely to find yourself wanting to stand and cheer by the end.  No one does cornball like we do and Eastwood, as director, has evidently added to his spaghetti repertoire.

Speaking of cornball or a reasonable facsimile thereof, we also have The Mummy, Ultimate Edition, coming out this month.

What’s ultimate about it?  Well, we have Brendon Fraser as the hero and Rachel Weisz as the babe and some really old dead guy as the mummy.  The special effects are great but they’re wasted on a plot that’s so full of holes you’ll think moths got into the sarcophagus.  Bad acting, terrible directing (Stephen Sommers), and some really bad character continuity all make this more of a popcorn tosser.  Toss it at the screen or let wild bees loose in your living room and try to take them out one kernel at a time, but find something else to amuse yourself on those rainy nights.

What do you get when you take an old Saturday Night Live star (apparently most of these ex-stars have pretty much used all their material on the show), an incredibly weak plot, even less direction than the Mummy had and an idea so insipid that even losers won’t go near it?  Why, Little Nicky of course.  Sandler is Satan’s youngest son who must come topside to retrieve his really evil brothers.  The usual complications arise.  This flick is notable only for the many cameos (Henry Winkler covered in bees, hopefully not the ones you’ve already pissed off with the popcorn), Regis Philben, Ozzy Osborne, etc.  Satan himself couldn’t save this worthless piece of drek.  The only redeeming quality is that it used video disks that could have been used for free AOL offers.

Classics - Not quite moldy...but definitely past the expiration date

Again, we’re not talking really old stuff here except for one.  Age, however, is a relative thing, just ask Clint Eastwood.

At some point in the fifties they started running out of things to make big with radiation.  The end result was giant ants, bats, rats and, yes the second film in this hot little number, Screaming Skull/The Giant Leeches. This is a pretty ingenious (or dumb depending on your age) packaging attempt because you get two features along with a cartoon and , countdown clock, concession stand ads, previews and intermission.  You can pretend you’re at the drive in right in your living room.  These two flicks are both in black and white and you can choose to watch with ‘Distorto’ sound which recreates bad drive in speakers. 

From out of the past comes a movie with a blurb so enticing that you’ll just have to watch.  Here it goes.  “With the help of Frederick the Dwarf, the “Bike Boys,” and Doc Storm’s infamous decapitating limousine, the new patients (of Brittlehouse Manor) are guaranteed all the “rest” they will ever need.”  Horror Hospital is the flick and you have got to rent you a copy.  This is a horror flick in case you needed some more information.  The movie was made in 1973 at the height of the schlock horror craze.  Stars no one you’ll recognize, directed by no one you’ll have heard of, and remembered by pretty much no one.  Contains some nudity and much graphic violence.  Watch it when the thunder makes you think someone’s in the house.

Or, if hospital mayhem is not your cup of tea (perhaps you’re just too old for it), then I recommend another classic with a blurb just as enticing.  Here it is.  “This woman has just chopped, broken and burned four men beyond recognition...But no jury in America would convict her!”  I Spit On Your Grave is one of the first and most gruesome shock and revenge flicks ever made.  This film was actually banned by Germany and the UK.  Don’t watch this with an angry girlfriend or Clint Eastwood if he’s had a bad day.

In 1933 Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party funded the production of a film to influence all of Germany to support the power of the Nazi Party.  Triumph of the Will was realized by Paul Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Reich Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propoganda.  Directed by Leni Riefenstahl with unlimited money, hundreds of thousands of feet of film were shot and then spliced together to create this.  Sets were built, scenes were re-shot (including huge crowd scenes, Hitler was shot by himself to make the best use of light and every aspect that could be manipulated, was.  This film comes the closest to being a pure fantasy since almost none of it really happened and yet it is presented as a documentary.  The other important aspect is that it is incredibly Orwellian in nature. Watch 1984 first and then watch this film and you’ll be struck by the words and the images. 

SFTV - Incredible breakthrough! Watch TV on your TV.

When all else fails you can forgo the big screen and (hey you’re going to watch this stuff on your tiny little screen on that crappy old couch anyway) revisit classics from television.

Grab your big bubble of corn and your favorite number 5 and sit down to watch some vintage episodes of The Prisoner (Set 4). For those of you out of touch, this is what happens to Secret Agent Men who try to quit the service.  Don’t worry if it’s somewhat incomprehensible, the entire series was intentionally made that way.

Or, if you’re in the mood for something completely recognizable, something so old you probably already know the dialogue, there’s Star Trek Original 41 & 42, I Mudd and The Trouble With Tribbles. Two pretty good (Clint Eastwood thinks the Tribble episode is the cat’s pajamas) episodes that tie together in an odd way.  You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll remember too why, you liked Star Trek to begin with.  Watch with someone who’s not seen the series so you share their enjoyment.

Anime - "Better than Giant Mumbling Robots!"

Finally a response to the Gundam people.  Urusei Yatsura,  is a classic piece of anime (I don’t really know this but it says so on the box) that’s been a while getting to this country.  Well, now it’s here and you can get it too.  You can also get the first episode which has the only piece of nudity in the whole series from what I understand.  The basic premise is actually quite wild.  The Oni, a mysterious race of aliens, come to Earth to take over.  We have one chance, beat their champion in a game.  The game is tag, their champion flies and our champion is a horny high school student.  He wins, using guile and a suction cup (this is were the nudity comes in) and somehow proposes all in a single move.  This not only pisses off his girlfriend but creates a running gag which continues for episode after episode.  Light entertainment and easily understandable.  Funny in places and worth checking out.  Much better than those giant mumbling robots.