Friday, November 20, 2015

013. Deadtime Stories and 014. Counterblast

Jump to Counterblast (1948)

013. Deadtime Stories (1986)
Director: Jeffrey Delman
Writers: Jeffrey Delman, J. Edward Kiernan, Charles Shelton
From: Chilling

An uncle trying to get his nephew to fall asleep tells him three twisted versions of fairy tales: a story of 3 witches, a modern take on “Little Red Riding Hood,” and a psychotic spin on “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.”

The first is a story about two witches preparing to resurrect their dead sister. They have a servant/slave/son that they use to trick victims into coming into their lair to be murdered. The witches send the boy out to seduce a maiden so she can be used in bringing back their sister. Of course the kid falls in love with the maiden and the story proceeds from there.

And it's fun. All the pieces, by the way, are fun in their way and pretty competently handled despite their dramatic differences. This first piece really feels like it's drawing on Evil Dead for stylistic inspiration, which isn't a bad thing. Watching it, I remembered other times I'd stumbled across this movie and thought this short was an entire feature. It feels larger than it actually is and spins out a world and situation nicely.

The second piece is “Little Red Riding Hood” transposed to the 80's. Red is trying to deliver a prescription to her grandmother only the pharmacist mixes her prescription up with “the wolf's” prescription: an intense sedative that was being sold under the table. The wolf goes to the grandmother's house to try to get the pills back, but Red is meeting up with her boyfriend for sex. As night gets closer, the wolf's patience starts to run thin.

This isn't shot as well as the first one and its ideas are a little muddled. It makes “Little Red Riding Hood” semi-allegorical by framing the wolf character as a drug dealer, but then mixes that with “Little Red Riding Hood” as a werewolf story which kind of undoes any allegorical element. Plus the sex stuff makes it feel like a Skinemax version of “Little Red Riding Hood.” It's the weakest of the three shorts and definitely drags a bit in the middle.

The final piece is the strangest: “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” reimagined with the Bears being a family of criminal sociopaths who retreat to their isolated hideout only to find the telekinetic murderer, Goldi Lox using the place to bury the bodies of her ex-boyfriends. Tonally, this is completely different from the other two and doesn't even try to be a horror story. Instead, this feels like it was produced by the Subgenius Foundation: basically a live-action cartoon, but fun for just how off-the-rails it is right from the start.

Tying all the pieces together is the frame narrative of the uncle trying to get his nephew to go to sleep. Why he's watching the kid or where the parents are is never explained nor is it ever explained why anyone would trust their kid with this guy. He threatens to hit the kid, is telling him sexualized versions of fairy tales, and basically tells the kid he's getting ready to masturbate to some pageant show. He's not falling into the realm of “Uncle Touchy,” but he's definitely toeing the line of “Creepy Uncle.” The frame, of course, is just a pretense to get us to the shorts, but it's still a curious choice the director made.

Overall, though, it's a fun movie and I'd recommend finding a copy. It's a nice flick if you want to enjoy some mid-80's cheesiness. This was mistakenly thought to be in the public domain which is why it's on my copy of the Chilling box set but not on copies being distributed now.

014. Counterblast (aka Devil's Plot) (1948)
Director: Paul L. Stein
Writers: Jack Whittingham from a story by Guy Morgan
From: Cult Cinema

A Nazi bacteriologist escapes from a British POW camp and is forced into a plot to develop a new biological weapon and its cure—the cure for the defeated Nazis and the weapon for the rest of the world!

I don't want to say too much about this movie because I really enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone. It's a studio machine piece, just something cranked out after the war, but competently done. One of the upsides of the studio system is that even their cheaper pieces were produced by experienced professionals.

What stands out most about this movie, though, is that the protagonist is a Nazi. You're not watching some British spy try to hunt him down before he develops his super-virus, you're with the Nazi wondering if he'll perfect his formula, if he'll get caught, and if he'll sort things out with the other characters. I had moments watching this movie where I worried that he'd get caught and then realized, he's a Nazi literally trying to destroy the world. I want him to get caught!

That cognitive dissonance runs through the film as well. The movie opens with the scientist and several of his Nazi colleagues escaping the POW camp and then the main character getting back in touch with the remaining Nazi underground in post-war England. He wants to leave, they force him to stay and continue working on the virus. So the character is set-up with a certain degree of sympathy. He's in a situation that he wants to escape and can't.

The movie tries to make him monstrous later by referring his activities in the war and by having a scene where he seems to be reaffirming his commitment to the Reich, but it never quite succeeds at making him read as being anything but a man caught between two powers' fight.

And then you remember he's a Nazi trying to destroy the world and it's, “Movie! You fooled me again!” It's a solid little flick.

This appears to be in the public domain, unfortunately my copy has a Mill Creek Entertainment bug burned into it so it can't be uploaded. However, there is an mp4 of the movie here on archive.org

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