#561 – Riders to the Stars (1954)
Riders to the Stars (1954)
Film review #561
Director: Richard Carlson, Herbert L. Strock
SYNOPSIS: A group of twelve men highly specialised in various fields are recruited for a top secret project. They undergo various physical and psychological tests until only four remain and they learn the secret of the project: to travel into space and collect a meteorite to discover how they exist in space despite being bombarded by cosmic radiation…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Riders to the Stars is a 1954 independent sci-fi film. The film’s story centres around twelve men, including Dr. Richard Stanton, who are highly trained experts in their field, all invited to a secret project, where they are put through a series of physical and psychological tests to determine their suitability for the project. When only four remain at the end, including Stanton, they are told the purpose of the project: they are to go into space to collect a meteorite, to see how they survive in space despite the large amount of cosmic radiation, which destroys man-made material. The story mostly revolves around these twelve men undergoing the various tests associated with space travel, including zero-G training. The film has quite a lot of detail and there’s obviously some knowledge and consideration about what would actually be required for a human to go into space, even though in 1954, no one would have done so, so it is a bit speculative. The trouble with all of this is that the film is that everything is so boring, and it doesn’t really bring the science or danger alive thanks to dull characters and long-winded exposition. There’s some discussion about how they need to go into space before their enemies (Soviets, presumably) so they can “keep space free,” but one of the men points out that position is no better than their enemies from conquering space, so the film does have a bit more depth than simple U.S. propaganda in the “space race,” but again, this often gets forgotten over the low energy of the overall plot and progression.
The cast of characters don’t really stand out from one another: the twelve candidates are all middle-aged men with short dark hair that are barely distinguishable from one another. There is, of course, one solitary female character in the main cast, but she is an actual scientist herself (with the “Dr.” title too), which is very rare. Unfortunately, her role devolves into being just a typical romantic interest for the male lead, which is disappointing. The finale of the film does have a bit more energy, as the three rockets head into space to try and collect meteorites, and Stanton being the only one who survives at the end. The cast learn that meteorites survive cosmic radiation by having a thin layer of carbon surrounding them (like diamond), and so presumably they can build satellites and space stations now thanks to this information. Obviously this isn’t really what happens in space, but again since nobody had been to outer space at that point, it probably seemed more believable at the time it was released.
Despite being an independently produced film, Riders to the Stars has a fairly good look and feel to it: the sets are detailed, including a Zero-G testing machine for the candidates, the attention to detail on the science is pretty good, but as mentioned, it does result in long scenes of people explaining things without being able to translate that knowledge into something interesting to watch. Also of note is that the film was filmed and released in colour, which most of these cheaper films of the time were not. A lot of stock footage is also used near the end of the film, including mice in a Zero-G environment, and some of the first footage taken of the Earth from space, but again, it doesn’t really accomplish much in the context of the film. Overall, Riders to the Stars has a decent amount of effort put into it’s production, and is obviously well-researched into what it would take for people to go into space, but the problem with this is that the film is often just dull exposition and dialogue, rarely able to bring the ideas and knowledge it is grasping with to life. Perhaps interesting at the time of release to show viewers how space travel would actually work, nowadays it is wholly unremarkable.
#560 – PK (2014)
Film review #560
Director: Rajkumar Hirani
SYNOPSIS: An alien arrives on Earth, and has his communicator with his spaceship stolen. Now stranded on the planet, he attempts to learn how to survive and learn the ways of the people here, but he is especially confused by the concept of religion. He meets Jaggu, a reporter who is looking for her next big story. She is intrigued by his naivety and how his simple questions challenge the conflicts between different religions, and how those that profess to know what God wants are the ones who know least about religion. Jaggu and PK show down with Tapaswi, a religious leader who has come into possession of PK’s communicator, claiming to be a religious artefact, and the pair try to expose him and get PK’s communicator back to he can return home…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: PK is a 2014 Indian sci-fi film. The story primarily revolves around PK, an alien who, in the film’s opening, lands on Earth, and shortly after has his communicator with his spaceship stolen, meaning he has no way to get back home. Attempting to adjust to life on Earth, he turns to God for help, but is perpetually confused by all of the different religions and their rules. He eventually encounters Jaggu, a reporter who is looking out for a worthwhile story, and becomes interested by PK’s naïve take on the world, and how it provides genuine insight on the world from a fresh perspective. Opting to tackle the absolute minefield that is differences and conflicts between religions, PK from the outset sets itself a dangerous task, but the comedic aspect of the film never strays into being offensive or controversial, focusing on what the religions have in common, rather than their confrontations. This might seem to be a bit simplistic, but this is one of the film’s greatest strengths; it manoeuvres through it’s subject in such an expert manner that it creates an entertaining experience full of life. On top of this, the dialogue and performances are precise and genuine, and again, are professionally executed.
The film is essentially divided into two halves: the first half deals with the more comedic aspects and a very “fish out of water” situation surrounding PK being stranded on Earth. The second half switches to a more drama and serious tone, with PK trying to expose the religious preacher Tapaswi, and get back his communicator that Tapaswi is claiming to be a religious icon to his followers. Again, when the film gets serious, it still maintains it’s expert exploration of it’s subject: avoiding being controversial, but still making a significant statement and creating some intense emotional moments. Even though the film is almost split down the middle, the change of tone doesn’t feel artificial, and feels like it moves on just when it needs to. If I were to find a fault in the plot, I would say the forced romance element that shows up at the final part of the film and about “letting go” just didn’t really need to be there, but even then, it is handled so well in terms of dialogue and acting, and producing a emotional reaction that it doesn’t really matter that it wasn’t really necessary, because it still produces something worthwhile.
The cast work so well in their roles, and although they are roles you are probably familiar with, such as PK being a clueless alien adjusting to life on Earth, they are still brought to life vibrantly, as mentioned, through stellar acting and sharp dialogue, and in the end it feels like you come out of it with a well rounded experience that never hits a lull. Despite having a few bumps in the story with a few elements that it could have done without, I think it is necessary to give PK high praise as a film: it is lots of fun, but also very heartfelt, alongside making a powerful statement without being mired in controversy. The film deserves the praise it received, and in particular, the absolutely solid script and dialogue, enhanced further with a host of strong performances. Not quite perfect, but deserving of it’s huge success.
#559 – The Magnetic Monster (1953)
The Magnetic Monster (1953)
Film review #559
Directors: Curt Siodmak, Herbert L. Strock
SYNOPSIS: The Office of Science Investigation (OSI), made to deal with new threats in the atomic age, send their agents, led by Jeffrey Stewart, to investigate a case of strange, powerful magnetism. It turns out that the incident is caused by the research of a scientist who has created a new element that is feeding off energy, and threatens all life on Earth…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: The Magnetic Monster is a 1953 science-fiction film. In the opening, we get a monologue about the threats faced in the new atomic age, and in response to this, the Office of Scientific Investigations (OSI) is established to counter this new threat. One of their A-men, (atomic-men) agents, named Jeffrey Stewart, is called to investigate a strange case involving items becoming magnetised, and stumbles upon some dangerous research and a new element that could threaten to destroy the earth. The film has a very serious tone to it: the narration by the main character is very dramatic and dry, and reminds me more of what you would find in a crime-noir film. The plot itself is decently structured, with some mystery that unfolds at an even pace. The narration helps explains the story, but perhaps overdoes it by relying on it too much rather than showing the story.
At a time of cheap b-movies which were cheap looking that leads them to not being taken seriously, The Magnetic Monster does put some effort into treating the new era of atomic warfare seriously, which presented science almost as if it was exclusively a weapon of war. As mentioned, the narration gives the film a very serious tone, and there’s not much light-heartedness or humour to supplement it. There’s also not really that much action: the “Magnetic Monster” is just some sort of…radioactive element that can only be seen through a microscope, so it limits how much of a threat it can be perceived it to be, but the effects it makes look quite nice. The characters are all fairly bland and similar: just middle-aged men in uniforms talking or arguing with each other, with a grand total of one female character, who’s only role is as Jeff’s wife.
Despite being an independently produced film, there’s some good points about the production: there’s a variety of sets and locations, and they’re fairly detailed so you get a sense of the different locations. The huge machine at the end of the film is quite impressive, but the footage of it is taken from the 1934 German film Gold, and the finale of The Magnetic Monster essentially revolves around the use of the footage from Gold, taking place in an underwater facility that provides the climax for a series of explosions. The Magnetic Monster feels like something a bit different from the usual 50′s sci-fi b-movie. It takes the spirit of the time seriously and delivers a sombre and straight story without any cheesy monsters of special effects. the downside to this is that it’s not that entertaining, and a lack of action and energy might this film difficult to concentrate on through it’s runtime.
#558 – Return of Mr. Superman (1960)
Return of Mr. Superman (1960)
Film review #558
Director: Sabir Manmohan
SYNOPSIS: A child from the doomed planet Krypton is sent to Earth as the last of their kind, and lands in rural India. A farmer finds the ship and the child inside, and takes them back to his wife, where they raise the child themselves. They realise that the child possesses super powers, but keep it a secret. As an adult, he moves to Bombay to work as a newspaper reporter, and also stopping criminals in his secret identity as Superman. However, when an imposter starts committing crimes dressed as the Superhero, Superman becomes wanted by the law, and must fight to clear his name…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Return of Mr. Superman is a 1960 Indian film and an unlicensed adaptation of the Superman character. The film starts out like every version of the Superman origin story, with Superman as a child being loaded onto a spaceship on the doomed planet Krypton, and sent to Earth to escape the planet’s inevitable destruction. The ship lands in rural India, where a farmer discovers the child and takes him back to his wife, and the two agree to raise him together. They learn that the child possesses extraordinary powers, including beating other children at wrestling, and finding a buried treasure (presumably via his x-ray vision or something). When the boy, now named Jairaj, grows up, he moves to Bombay to work at a newspaper, and starts to lead a double life; fighting criminals as “Superman,” and alerting the police to criminal activity. The story in this respect follows the origin story of Superman reasonably accurately (apart from the ship landing in rural India instead of the rural U.S.), and it has everything it needs to be a Superman story, even if it is unlicensed.
The main plot of the film revolves around a criminal smuggling gang hatching a plan to get revenge on Superman by having an imposter commit crimes dressed as him to turn the police against him. It’s really not an original plot, and one definitely not suited for Superman: how do you imitate someone with superpowers? The plot is a little all over the place, and doesn’t really go anywhere beyond where you would expect it to. The characters are all pretty bland, including the Lois Lane replacement, the comic relief of Johnny (probably meant to be the Jimmy Olsen character), and the criminal gang who serve as the villains not really having much to do with anything. Superman barely even does anything anyway: he usually just calls up the police inspector to report crimes. I don’t know if there is a limit to how much a film at the time could show someone being a vigilante rather than just calling the authorities (The U.S. film serials abandoned the “vigilante” role as someone who works outside the law around the time of the second world war), but either way, it makes the film really boring when you’re expecting Superman to do something and he picks up a telephone.
Speaking of Superman, the most notable thing about this film is probably his costume: forget everything you think you know about Superman’s iconic outfit, this one is clearly cobbled together with whatever the filmmakers could find lying around: driving goggles and leather helmet, complimented by a towel wrapped around his neck to serve as a cape of sorts. It looks like there was no thought given to the costume’s design, but thankfully you don’t see it very often. The film has the typical musical numbers you expect in Indian cinema, but the first one doesn’t show up until over thirty minutes in the film, but then they become constant. The songs also lack the usual dancing and choreography, so they’re not very interesting. This is the third Indian Superman film I’ve watched (the others were released in 1980 and 1987), and it’s easily the worst, although the others aren’t exactly great. The plot is all over the place and fails to provide anything unique or interesting. The costumes and production lack any kind of consideration, and the characters are barely established, leading to a dull and incomprehensible mess.
#556 – Superman (1987)
Film review #556
Director: B. Gupta
SYNOPSIS: As the planet Krypton is about to be destroyed, the parents of a baby boy send him to Earth to escape the destruction. He lands in India and is raised by a couple who soon realise he has superhuman powers, but keep his powers a secret, naming him Shekhar. As an adult, he travels to the city in search of his childhood, Gita, while his old rival for Gita’s love, Verma, is a tycoon and super-villain who aims to become rich by causing a series of natural disasters across India and buying up the land cheap…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Superman is a 1987 Indian film and an unlicensed adaptation of the comic book superhero. This is not the first adaptation into Indian cinema either, with similar (unlicensed adaptations) in 1960 and 1980. The film’s story follows the typical Superman lore fairly accurately, as in the intro, we see the planet Krypton about to be destroyed, and a young baby boy being sent to earth as the only survivor. However, rather than landing in the rural U.S. as is canon, he instead lands in India, where a young couple find him and give him the name Shekhar. They soon learn he has superhuman powers, but tell him to keep them secret. When Shekhar is grown up, he heads to the city to find his childhood Gita, now working as a reporter (the “Lois Lane” of this version), while his old rival for Gita’s affections, Verma, is now a crime-lord who attempts to get rich by creating a series of natural disasters across India in order to buy the land up cheap (being the “Lex Luthor” of this film). The story, apart from being set in India, fits the established story quite well…a little too well, as it is essentially copying the 1978 Superman film point-for-point. The capsule which takes Superman to earth as a child is the exact shape as the one from the original film, but obviously made from silver foil rather than expensive (for the time) CG. Also, it straight up steals footage from the 1978 film’s ending, where Superman flies around the Earth so fast he turns back time, alongside using the John Williams theme is definitely has no permission for. As such, we can’t give the film too much credit for it’s story if it’s just taking it from an other successful film, but it follows the beats of the film fairly well. It also adds in some usual musical and dancing numbers, but these feel quite underwhelming compared to other films I’ve seen; almost like they were focused on making a Superman clone and had to add in musical numbers because that’s what Indian cinema does. Alongside this, they also use Michael Jackson’s “Beat it” in one dance scene, which again I’m pretty sure they did not have the rights to do so.
As mentioned, the characters from the Superman franchise are all recreated here quite faithfully, although being based in India rather than the U.S. Superman/Shekhar has Clark Kent’s naivety and Superman’s bravery, Gita has Lois Lane’s dogged determination, and Verma has Lex Luthor’s evil streak. We see the planet Krypton at the start of the film, adorned with a cheap set full of random coloured blocks, and there is also the fortress of solitude, where Superman goes to learn about his home planet, all loving recreated with nowhere near the budget of it’s Hollywood counterpart. Superman seems to have all of his powers such as super strength and flight, but also has telekinesis for some reason too, shown in a scene where he unwraps food and sets a table with his mind. The film has a decent mix of humour, action and drama, so it’s not uninteresting, although being released nearly ten years after the very successful film it is copying, I’m not sure if the audience would have already seen the original film subtitled or dubbed by that time. Nevertheless, I suppose it’s a pretty good adaptation of Superman, only because it is ripping off a good Superman film beat for beat. Otherwise, the obligatory dance and musical numbers are poor and uninspiring, and a bloated runtime of over two hours to incorporate more typical drama elements weighs the film down. The choreography, in both the musical numbers and the fight scenes is pretty dire, as you can obviously tell that none of the punches are connecting to anyone. Despite all this, it is still one of those films you really need to see to believe, so if your curiosity is piqued, then maybe you’d better put two hours aside to savour this cinematic wild ride.
#555 – 400 Days (2015)
400 Days (2015)
Film review #555
Director: Matt Osterman
SYNOPSIS: Four astronauts are chosen to undertake a psychological experiment to survive 400 days on a simulated space journey to another planet, undertaken in an underground bunker. As the crew loses contact with the outside world and the long journey takes its toll, the crew emerge into a changed world, and the distinction between what is a simulation and what isn’t begins to blur…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: 400 Days is a 2016 science-fiction film. The plot revolves around four astronauts who are chosen to undertake a simulated mission to another planet for 400 days in an underground bunker. As the mission progresses, they are expected to deal with the psychological challenges and unexpected issues that arise. However, as the mission nears completion, the crew start to feel like something is amiss, and leave the bunker into a completely different world, and the question of what is a simulation and what isn’t becomes increasingly prevalent. The film is a suspense/thriller film, but there is nothing really suspenseful or thrilling about any of it. Firstly, we hardly see any of the 400 day journey, apart from the beginning and a scene about halfway through, so we don’t really get a sense in the change of the character’s psychological state and how they are faring. Even when the characters emerge from the bunker into a strange new world, there’s not much more that’s added to the suspense and mystery. Any actual suspense is completely ruined by any jumpscares being telegraphed a mile off, with the pre-silence before a sting being so completely obvious you’ll know what is coming. Coupled with the cliché dialogue, there’s little to immerse you in the environment that the film creates.
The first thing you’ll notice about the characters is that none of them seem to be the type of people you would expect to be astronauts: their dialogue, on top of being cliché as mentioned, just seems uninterested and almost naïve: they definitely don’t seem to be the type of people you would lock together in a confined space for four hundred days. The acting isn’t bad. but the actors really aren’t given much material to work with. There’s a typical romance subplot that doesn’t really add anything, and the conflict that is generated between the crewmembers is ineffectual, and dissipates fairly quickly.
The film almost completely different during the second act: the crew emerge from the bunker after their 400 days to find that apparently the world has been plunged into darkness because the moon exploded and all the debris fell to earth causing some ecological apocalypse or something. Wandering around in a now b-movie plot, the crew stumble upon a town of survivors who all seem a bit mad, but the film just decides to constantly cast doubts on whether what they are experiencing is real, or just another part of the simulation, or it’s all in the astronauts imagination, which maybe was caused by the injections the medic was giving them under the guise of immunisation boosters? The film just throws more and more questions and points that contradict one another, but does it in such a haphazard way that you can’t really form a coherent opinion on what you think is happening. The whole idea that the moon exploded for some reason and somehow all the moon dust fell to Earth and destroyed everything is pretty farfetched, but a lot of the film feels unbelievable anyway, from the corny dialogue to the seemingly inept characters.
The worst part of the film is most certainly the ending: you probably know what is going to happen, as the crew are congratulated on surviving the simulation apparently, and just before they leave the bunker, the film snaps to black and the credits roll, leaving the question of what actually happened up for interpretation. However, this only works in films if what is up to interpretation is constructed properly, so you can somewhat imagine what has happened based on what you have experienced. This film throws out so much smoke and contradictions that it is almost impossible to imagine what happens next. The different possibilities have to be believable or derived from what the film gives you, but there’s just none of that here. The issue is definitely not the low budget either, it’s definitely a case of overwriting an idea and running away with it. Overall, 400 days is a bit of a mess, and undermines itself as a thriller, and falls short of being credible science-fiction. If you want a space-based psychological film, you can watch Solaris, and if you want a sense of mystery that gives you space to interpret the message, you can watch Inception.
#554 – Superman (1980)
Film review #554
Director: V. Madhusudhana Rao
SYNOPSIS: Raja, a young boy, witnesses the death of his Mother and Father at the hands of burglars who have infiltrated their home. Raja prays to the God Hanuman for a way to avenge his parents, and is granted superpowers. He keeps the powers a secret until he is an adult, when he happens to find one of the men who killed his parents, and sets off to avenge them…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Superman is a 1980 Telugu film based on the DC comics superhero, although is definitely an unofficial and unlicensed adaptation. The opening sees the young boy Raja and his family on the eve of Hanuman Jayanthi, preparing for the day. While their preparations are underway, three burglars enter the home and kill Raja’s Mother and Father while he hides. Raja prays to Hanuman for the power to avenge his parents, and is granted super powers. When he grows up, he begins tracking down his parents murderers. As you can probably tell, the plot has absolutely no correlation with the “official” superman story. In fact, Superman barely figures into the movie at all; it’s mostly just a typical family drama about romance, and Raja’s adopted sister bringing shame to the family by becoming pregnant outside of marriage, and Raja having to get her to marry the man that got her pregnant. The whole vengeance story arc is interweaved with the plot, but it’s not really enough to make the film stand out, and the only superman bits are very typical scenarios where he saves out-of-control vehicles and such, made possible by some very cheap special effects and just reversing the footage.
Being an Indian film, there’s plenty of dancing and musical numbers interspersed throughout the film, although none of it is fairly memorable or impressive, which is odd, because this is the one element that these films typically excel in. The one that sticks out is the bizarre musical number with Superman/Raja picking up his wife and taking her to the moon or something? The shots of the moon and Earth floating around as the two sing is…very disorienting. The characters also have some some bizarre outfits, including “Superman’s” own outfit, adorned with a “H” on the chest, rather than the typical “S” (to represent “Hanuman” I suppose). The villains are overly dressed up in an almost comical fashion, with one wearing an oversized Stetson, and the main villain being absurdly overdressed like the cartoon version of an American businessman. Still, at least it makes the characters distinguishable.
Overall, Superman doesn’t really make use of the titular character it is unofficially using, and is overshadowed by a more typical family-based drama and romance that you would expect to find in this type of film. Even then, the usual musical numbers, dancing and costumes are also underwhelming. The special effects are daft, the fighting silly, and a surprising amount of obviously fake blood makes this a somewhat entertaining film to watch only based on how absurd it is, and how little they adapt the source material they do not have the rights to.
#553 – Scooby-Doo and Krypto, Too!
Scooby-Doo and Krypto, Too! (2023)
Film review #553
Director: Cecilia Aranovich Hamilton
SYNOPSIS: Mystery inc. are called by Jimmy Olsen to Metropolis, in order to investigate the disappearance of the Justice League: Superman, Batman, and the rest. They arrive to a Metropolis overrun by villains, and Lex Luthor plotting to buy the Justice League headquarters and demolish it. The gang team up with Krypto the super dog, as they attempt to find out what happened to the Justice League…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Scooby-Doo and Krypto Too! is a 2023 animated film and part of a long line of direct-to-video titles in the Scooby-Doo franchise. This time, Scooby and the gang are travelling to Metropolis, where Daily Planet photographer Jimmy Olsen has sent for Mystery inc. (via Daphne, who he thinks is his girlfriend because they were voted “best red-haired couple” when they were kids at summer-camp), in order to investigate the disappearance of the Justice League. When they get there they are immediately set upon by villains such as Giganta, The Joker, Solomon Grundy, and the like: who are all running amok since Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the rest aren’t around. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor is trying to get the mayor to sell him the now abandoned Justice League Headquarters so he can demolish it. The plot is set up as a typical Scooby-Doo mystery featuring all the usual essentials such as Scooby and Shaggy stuffing their faces, a list of suspects, a trap, and searching for clues. Though it must be said that it being a typical plot is not a bad thing: Scooby-Doo is a rare example of a franchise that has been successful for over fifty years without making significant changes. The only time the franchise falters is when it attempts to re-boot or re-imagine it (See: Scoob!). As such, even though it’s predictable, it’s still fun. This isn’t the first time Mystery inc. has had a crossover with superheroes though, as they have met Batman more than once, even hinting at it in the story, which is a nice touch. What strikes me is just how action-packed the film is: there’s rarely a lull in the energy of the film, and as soon as it starts, we are treated to Mystery inc. being chased around the city by the various villains from the DC universe, and it’s a pretty cool showcase of all the different characters that provides a bit of a twist on the classic Scooby-Doo chase. In fact, the whole film is full of references to the DC universe: probably far more than I noticed, but because of the relentless pace of the movie, you’ll have to be quick to catch some of them.
The Mystery inc. gang are on very typical form here, with everyone being the characters you are familiar with. No lengthy character establishments needed here. The supporting cast that provide the suspects for the mystery fill out their roles well, and Lex Luthor joins the gang to provide some comedy relief for the most part, and his part fits in really well, and adds something novel and fun, alongside his dog, “Rex Luthor.” Krypto shows up about half-way through the film, and even though he can’t speak like Scooby, still manages to capture a Superman-style personality with his actions, and is a solid support character too. I think more could have been done to explore the dynamic between Scooby and Krypto, but I don’t think the movie really needed it: it’s just a bit of fun that doesn’t need an in-depth character study or complex relation building.
As mentioned, the pace of the film is quite relentless, and there’s plenty of high energy action scenes alongside the typical Scooby-Doo shenanigans. A criticism of some of these scenes, such as the opening chase with the super villains, and the finale with everyone chasing the Phantom Zone projector around, is that they perhaps last a bit too long without much variation to keep them interesting. The film does try, but they perhaps could have been cut down just a little bit to avoid viewers noticing that they have been going on for a while. But that’s just a minor criticism, and on the whole, Scooby-Doo and Krypto, Too! is a fun adventure that is full of life, character and references which turn a silly crossover into a solid Scooby-Doo adventure. The central mystery is a bit weak in places, and as mentioned some of the action scenes go on for just a bit too long, but overall it gets in all the classic Scooby-Doo tropes (plenty of “Zoinks” and “Jinkies”), while also giving room for something new, such as Lex Luthor’s comedic role providing some much welcome and unexpected humour. Obviously intended for younger audiences, but there’s enough fun for older viewers as well. Unfortunately, the film’s released was cancelled due to Warner bros. company restructuring; fortunately, the entire film was leaked online, probably by someone disgruntled with the decision, so go find it if you want some good old-fashioned Scooby-Doo fun with a superhero twist.
#552 – Marching Out of Time (1993)
Marching Out of Time (1993)
Film review #552
Director: Anton Vassil
SYNOPSIS: Fred Johnson is constantly hearing noises from his neighbour’s house, and is determined to find out the cause of them, much to his family’s annoyance. It turns out his neighbour is conducting experiments in teleportation. However, his experiments seem to interfere with a similar Nazi experiment in 1942 to transport troops to England, and instead they emerge in the teleportation device in suburban U.S. Fred and his neighbour must stop the Nazis from returning to 1942 with all the information they have gathered about all the mistakes that cost them the war, and rewriting history to make themselves the victors…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Marching Out of Time (also known by the debatably better title, Back to the Fuehrer) is a 1993 sci-fi comedy film. The film is set in the suburbs of the U.S., where Fred Johnson is becoming obsessed with noises coming from his neighbours house, much to his family’s annoyance. He breaks into his neighbour’s house and discovers Dr. Memo, his neighbour, is working on a teleportation device made from a pair of fridges. Unfortunately, the experiment goes wrong, and interferes with a similar experiment from 1942, which involved attempting to transport Nazi troops from France to England. The result being that the Nazis, led by von Konst, arrive not in England, but in Dr. Memo’s basement in the 1993 U.S. learning about this, they change their mission, and gather historical information about all the mistakes the Nazis made that cost them the war, and aim to return to 1942 with that information to ensure that they are not made again, ultimately winning the war. The stakes are raised and Frank, Dr. Memo, and a low-level cop must fight to prevent the Nazis changing the course of history. The film is a comedy film so everything is all a bit slapstick and silly. It definitely feels like Back to the Future, but instead of Biff Tannen trying to change history, it’s Nazis. The story is fairly linear and doesn’t really build up to anything, so it’s just an excuse for a bunch of silly scenarios and slapstick violence. There is one scene in the middle of the film in which the serious repercussions of the films events are highlighted, but that’s the only one. There’s other typical scenes like the Nazis “disguising” themselves in tie dye shirts and exploring the local area to “blend in,” but that doesn’t really go anywhere, or provide any funny situations. There’s not much laugh-out-loud comedic moments, I think it’s humour is more situated in the whole ridiculous scenario, and Fred being the last person on earth who should be stopping a Nazi invasion. Also, I guess this is technically a Christmas movie, as Fred is supposed to be going away with his family for the holidays, but stays behind to deal with his neighbour. However, this is the only real reference to Christmas in the film.
In terms of the characters, Fred Johnson is a typical suburban Dad, and a typical comedic lead: one which you’ll feel like you’ve seen in a movie before (but definitely haven’t, because the actor didn’t appear in any films before or after this). His family are tormented by his nosiness and whining, and you do wonder why they put up with him. Dr. Memo is the typical “mad scientist,” and von Konst is portrayed like every nearly every Nazi officer you’ve seen on film before. the acting isn’t bad at all, and the stereotypical characters have a familiarity to them that allows viewers to focus more on the comedic aspect of the film, rather than the characters.
The film, perhaps surprisingly, is made fairly well: it has the look and feel of a low budget film, but actually probably wasn’t: the locations are fairly detailed and full of props and things, and the camerawork is pretty good. There’s even a few stunts and explosions that, while not overly impressive, would still have taken effort to set up. It’s clear the film wants to situate itself in that low-budget parody genre of films, but it has a bit of budget and expertise to make it properly, without making it seem like the film is trying too hard to be a bad film. Marching Out of Time is mostly forgettable, but is made fairly well, and maintains its energy throughout, while exploring the premise of the film well enough. It definitely feels like a film of its time, riffing on Back to The Future a little, with it’s typical characters that are familiar enough so as to not need to dedicate a large amount of time to introducing and developing them. Predictable, but silly and fun enough to not be a waste of time.
#551 – Three Supermen in Santo Domingo (1986)
Three Supermen in Santo Domingo (1986)
Film review #551
Director: Italo Martinenghi
SYNOPSIS: FBI agent Brad Scott is once again required to team up with the international thieves known as “The Supermen,” this time they travel to Santo Domingo in South America to disrupt a money counterfeiting operation by some local crime gangs.
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Three Supermen in Santo Domingo is a 1986 film and the final instalment in the Three Supermen series of films. The plot is fairly typical and familiar to those who have watched any of the other films: an FBI agent has to team up with the international thieves known as “The Supermen,” this time travelling to Santo Domingo to stop a counterfeiting operation run by a local gang. There’s no time travelling or outlandish elements in this film; it’s just a simple crimefighting, slapstick bit of fun, although obviously the supermen still have their bulletproof suits, that villains never quite work out that they could just shoot them in their uncovered heads. There’s a variety of action scenes (which consist of a fair amount of speeding up and reversing footage instead of actual stunts), and setups involving disguises, and elaborate plans, but nothing too exciting.
As always, the film revolves around the three supermen, and once again, they are played by different actors; all with the exception of one, Sal Borgese, who has been playing the mute superman since the second film (in the ones which you could consider “canon” anyway). The names of the characters also change quite a lot, and this time it seems like they’ve just resorted to calling Sal’s character Sal. The other two actors change every film, and this time the change is quite apparent, as they are obviously a lot younger than Sal. One of them is Stefano Martinenghi, who is the son of the director, and clearly only got the role because of this: he doesn’t really fit the role of the charming, cheeky lead. The actor playing the role of FBI agent Brad Scott also doesn’t really work because he seems way too young, and typically the role goes to someone who is older and more straight-laced, to balance with the supermen’s goofiness. There are glimmers of that personality, but not much. The rest of the cast aren’t really worth mentioning, as the villains don’t really stand out, and the supporting cast barely exist on screen.
It’s perhaps worth mentioning at this point that this film series has been going on for nearly twenty years at the time this film was made; and there is no reason for it to have done so. The original was a cheap b-movie that spoofed sci-fi and spy films that were popular in 1967, but had a somewhat interesting twist by having professional acrobats play the lead roles, which led to some fun action scenes and well-choregraphed fights. The first film, while nothing more than a typical b-movie, did everything it really needed to, but for some reason it became a series that went on to satirise other types of films, such as Westerns, cold war plots, martial arts films, and even got a Turkish rip-off version…which further still, somewhat fused with the Turkish rip-off scene when production of the films moved to Turkey. The whole production of this series is all over the place, but I suppose credit should be given to the films somewhat adapting to changing to cultural trends. Three Supermen in Santo Domingo doesn’t really offer anything special in this regard though, and while it keeps things simple, it definitely feels like a format that is well past its sell-by date in 1986, and since this is the final film in the series, the makers probably knew this too. Definitely deserves credit for going for twenty years, but its last hurrah is uneventful.