June 2002 Damnaliens DVD Review by Steve Sawicki
Note: order the films from Amazon by following the hyperlinks to buy  junk food for the aliens and keep them away from the dog.) Steve seems to be a bit crankier than usual this month. It might be because I wouldn't buy him a ticket to go to Cannes, and rub shoulders with movie moguls and suntans with starlets. Want a second opinion? We suggest - Ernest

Recent Releases    /    Classics    /    SFTV    /     Anime

This is the month when Directors are hiding because their huge theatrical releases have flopped and theyíve got to figure out who to blame for it.  In sympathy for this process, both video and DVD releases tend to be garbage as the studios (who control everything) figure if they can make old stuff look worse youíll figure itís just you whoíve lost your taste for quality not their forgetting to put quality into their films in the first place.  Itís hard to be this cynical and every year I work on it and every year June rolls around to slap me back to reality.  I should vacation this month.  Somewhere nice.  Somewhere foreign. Some place to get away from it all. Maybe France.  Something on the coast, like Cannes.  Iím sure that would do it.  Send donations today.

Recent Releases  -

As if directors werenít playing fast and loose too much anyway with history and story theyíve started to play with soundtracks as well.  Some genius, and I bet heís not French and I wonít be the one to name him, although if I did it would probably be Brian Helgeland, decides that the ultimate thing to do is to add a modern soundtrack to a medieval story.  A Knightís Tale,  gives us warped history, some pretty awful acting and music by Queen, among others.  The story isnít half bad, assuming you can avoid the huge plot holes and idiot script.  

Just when you thought it was safe to stay home and watch dvds this flick comes out.   Outbreak, is a near future plague movie with Dustin Hoffman.  Itís made more interesting because of itís timely subject.  Otherwise it might have lingered as a video only release for another 10 years.  Intriguingly shot and directed, this flick will seem much better three or four years after youíve seen it than immediately after, especially if youíre in France, say on the Riviera.

Sometimes you just need to turn the volume off and look at the pretty pictures.  Sort of like lying on the beach in France.  Mission To Mars, provides another opportunity to do this with its incredibly stupid dialogue, inane plot and weird pacing.  How do the actors manage to keep straight faces?  Maybe Hitchcock was right?  Mooooo!!  Itís been said that this movie was made for and best enjoyed by eight year olds.  Frankly, I wouldnít insult an eight year old by making such a comparison.  Maybe they were thinking of two four year olds who would simply enjoy the colors and motion and not really have to focus on the fact that these things are supposed to make some kind of sense or at least play by the rules we know of like gravity and logic.

If I were, say, in France, and I wanted to go see a sporting event, it surely would not  be Rollerball .  While I am sure the French play a mean game of Rollerball, Iím pretty sure they would protest the way they show the game being played in the movie.  I mean, please, can you imagine any sport being so corrupt or controlled as to allow such shenanigans?  This movie makes Running man seem like something thatís very possible.  Not a single thing in this flick worth taking notice of.  They should have put the writers, directors, producers and crew on the track with wolverines.  Now that would have made an interesting movie.

Classics -

coverSometimes flicks should stay in the big vault in France where theyíre stored.  Hollywood doesnít work that way though and theyíll do anything to separate you from another drachma.  Just look at that Clone movie.  Well, with Spiderman crawling all over the theaters it was only a matter of time before all the other comic based heroes got dragged into duty.  Vampirella, should have been left alone. There is absolutely nothing, and this is hard to say for a character whoís supposed to be attractive and run around in a skimpy costume, and I repeat, nothing redeeming about this film.  The plot is stupid, the dialogue is atrocious and the acting is, well, French high school students imitating Jerry Lewis would win Oscars in comparison.

coverI was thinking about France and my Ďto seeí list the other day--LeMan, the French Gran Prix, Cannes, Vampire/Stripper movies--and figured I could scratch the latter off my list.  Well, I thought too soon.  To Sleep With A Vampire, popped onto my radar screen and showed my just how wrong I was.  Sure itís got blood and nudity but it takes more than those two wonderful things to make a film.  Yes, itís dark and brooding and there is that tender scene where the vampire rests his fanged head on the softly rising bosom of the stripper but thereís not nearly enough of this to carry this thing through to the end.  Itís sadly anemic.

coverBack when we were ignorant, and living in France, we thought Venus was a cloud covered paradise inhabited by babes in bikinis and the occasional monster.  20 Million Miles To Earth, does nothing to dissuade us of this.  Well, except that there are no bikini babes in this flick.  What you do get is some great Harryhausen miniature work as the thing from Venus rampages through Italy.  Hey, a two in one, monsters from Venus and Italy destroyed.  Not much of a plot but you canít beat when they decide to bring in the big equipment to handle the beast.  Thatís right, thereís elephants in this movie too.  A real gem of a classic and a must see.


Television has made somewhat of a revival in the genre, the Star Trek series notwithstanding.  ďDammit Jim, Je suis un Doctor, not ze Frenchman.Ē  Much of the revival can be tracked to a small blond haired girl with a wicked right cross.  Buffy The Vampire Slayer; The Complete Second Season, will allow you to gaze in wonder at what episodic television should be like.  Ignore those other, weak shows, which are either just not French enough or Enterprising enough and get this dvd.  Itíll allow you to pop an episode in anytime you want so you wonít be caught with nothing good to look at. (I can't believe Steve passed up a garlic joke as long as he's on about the French.)

Heís the new pretty boy and the show avoids the whole fact that heís got super powers, sort of.  Smallville, The Pilot Episode,  will allow those of you who missed it, and Iím betting thereís a bunch of you and you couldnít have all been in France at the same time, to catch up.  The pilotís pretty good as pilots go although if youíve followed the series itís a bit disconcerting to go back in time that way.  If youíve only caught an episode or two and are captivated then this is just the thing for you.

Anime -

Two potent forces are locked in an epic battle which is a good thing because if only one of them were impotent who could tell what would happen.  Soul Hunter: City Of Fire, Vol 5, continues the soul hunter story.  This ones got everything; immortals, twisted magic, north versus south and princesses.  Okay, thereís not a giant robot in sight but you canít expect the big boys to be mumbling about everywhere, can you?  I mean they do get vacations.  And I bet they go to Greece (I just donít think theyíd enjoy France.)

-- Steve Sawicki


The aliens are loose!! Read Steve's novella, "Invisible Friends," in the Spring 2001 issue of ABSOLUTE MAGNITUDE (, 
make plans to read his column FAR HAZE AND DISTANT THUNDER, the best short fiction review column on the planet, appearing monthly in SCIENCE FICTION CHRONICLE (, 
and while you're at it check out his short story, "Call Me Tandeleho," appearing in the current issue of Transversions (  Order copies today!!
For more insight, visit Steve's web page: (


© 2002 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu