Lobster Man from Mars (1989)
Film review #532
Director: Stanley Sheff
SYNOPSIS: A movie studio executive is plagued by money problems, and requires a tax-write off to keep the IRS away. He decides to produce a film brought in by a young film writer that is utterly absurd: “Lobster Man from Mars…”
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Lobster Man from Mars is a 1989 sci-fi film within a film. Opening up, we see Movie mogul J.P. Sheldrake, who is facing monetary pressure from the usual suspects: his ex-wife, the I.R.S., and so on. He decides he needs to release a movie that flops so badly he can make it a tax write-off and keep those he owes money to at bay. Fortunately, young movie writer/producer Stevie Horowitz walks in with the perfect potential film: Lobster Man from Mars, a film in the style of the old b-movie sci-fi films. The film (as a whole) becomes a film-within-a-film: The movie mogul sits in a theatre to watch the “Lobster Man from Mars” film, and we watch it as well, with a few occasional cutaways to Sheldrake to offer his thoughts. It’s an interesting setup, but was done prior in the 1968 film The Producers to much better effect. We’re also only taken out of the film a few times to see Sheldrake’s thoughts, meaning for the most part the “film in a film” element is irrelevant. With regards to the “Lobster Man from Mars” film itself, it follows a very typical b-movie sci-fi plot which it is aiming to parody: Mars is “leaking air” from it’s atmosphere, and so the ruler of Mars sends the dreaded lobster man and his assistant Mombo, who resembles a gorilla in a space helmet, to go to Earth and steal all it’s air…? Honestly, I’m not sure how they’re going to steal Earth’s air, and how it’s going to help if Mars is “leaking” any air it gets anyway, but regardless, when they arrive on Earth, the killing starts, and anyone who gets in their way gets turned into a pile of bones.
The film mostly plays it straight, with the film-in-a-film just being played without any commentary or over-the-top parody: it could easily pass for an actual b-movie. This is both a core strength and a weakness in the film: the best comedic moments come from the film playing it completely straight without any overt humourous moments, and it is the unexpected moments that provide the best comedy. The drawback to this is that it sometimes plays it too straight, and you forget you’re watching something that is supposed to be funny for fairly long stretches. The humour also feels fairly niche, in the sense that you would have to have actually watched these films originally to really get what it is parodying. Some of the really niche references, such as Colonel Ankrum being a reference to Morris Ankrum, who played similar characters in 1950′s films, is only going to be understood by a fraction of viewers. It definitely gets the b-movie feel right, but in 1989, there was plenty of other parodies of the genre that offered something new and entertaining from an entertainment perspective. This film just feels like it goes through the motions while reminding you it is a parody from time to time. There were a few of these b-movie parodies in the 80′s, but they typically went for a more upfront comedy and absurd premise, such as Killer Klowns from Outer Space. While a plot about Mars leaking air sounds quite silly, it definitely fits the b-movie mold, and would probably have fit right in. Although released in 1989, the film was actually written about ten years earlier, and it definitely feels that way. Lobster Man from Mars does something a little different, but it altogether feels a bit too niche and relies too much on in-jokes to appeal to a more general audience.
The Gingerweed Man (2021)
Film review #531
Director: Brooks Davis
SYNOPSIS: The Gingerweed man has started a weed delivery service in the city, catering to all sorts of clientele. When he stumbles upon a living, super strain of weed, he finds himself having to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands and being used for evil…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: The Gingerweed Man is a 2021 film and a spin-off of the Evil Bong film franchise. From the opening, we see that the Gingerweed Man has set up a weed delivery service with his partner Barbara, and delivers weed to all the wacky people around town. Meanwhile, a scientist has managed to create a living, super strain of weed powerful enough to save or destroy the world. The evil “Smokeahontas” hunts down the scientist, who manages to hide the super weed and subsequently falls into the hands of the Gingerweed Man. The film’s story is fairly easy to follow, although offers nothing really of any substance. As with the Evil Bong films from which it spawned, the film is only going to be entertaining if you are as high as a kite; the humour is crude most of the time, and apart from that, just doesn’t give anything entertaining to the viewer. Luckily, at just over fifty minutes long (spread over two chapters), it’s fairly quick and harmless, and the short runtime means it doesn’t waste time with extended dialogue or pointless things.
One of the main problems with the film is that the main character, The Gingerweed Man, is not really interesting, and feels like a mish-mash of tropes: he dresses like a stoner, but talks like a posh Englishman with the accent to match. I’m just not sure how to situate the character, so it’s difficult to see where the comedy comes from. Smoke-ahontas as the villain doesn’t seem to really do anything other than to chase other characters, and “Buddy” as the super weed strain…thing is just an annoying high-pitched mascot thing which you will grow tired of quickly.
The Gingerweed Man could have been a chance to try something new after all the Evil Bong movies which are essentially all the same. Of course, being made by Full Moon Entertainment, it was never going to push things in an innovative or original way, but it is at least a bit different (in that it actually has some sort of plot). The film is shot decently, and there’s more than two different sets, so that’s a win. Overall though, I think it’s safe to say that The Gingerweed Man isn’t really anything worthwhile, unless you’re so high you’re detached from reality.
Evil Bong 888: Infinity High (2022)
Film review #529
Director: Charles Band
SYNOPSIS: Rabbit has opened up a new restaurant to try and go legit after his many weed-related adventures, with the evil bong, Ebee, working in the kitchen. However, many mishaps ensue, and tempt Rabbit to return to his old ways…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Evil Bong 888: Infinity High is a 2022 film and actually the ninth film in the Evil Bong series (if you’re counting Evil Bong vs. Gingerdead Man). The film opens up with series regular Rabbit preparing to open a new restaurant and attempting to go straight without smoking weed. Meanwhile the evil bong, Ebee, is helping out in the kitchen. If you’ve seen any of the other Evil Bong films, then you’ll know what to expect: a bunch of one-note characters come through the doors, and do their predictable humour, while the next characters come in and add to the scene. Everything that I have written about the previous Evil Bong films essentially just applies to this one: it is not a complex film, the plot is barely a plot, but the audience is people that are high and probably only aren’t going to follow any complexities, and just want to see some stupid, sexy or trippy stuff on screen. With a runtime of around an hour, at least the film does not overstay it’s welcome.
The film is, in some way, a return to basics (if you think the series ever evolved beyond “basics”), and takes out a lot of the characters and concepts that had driven the last few films, such as Lucy Furr, the Gingerdead Man, and Sexy Hell (yes, I did just write all of those things, and yes, they did happen). Although it’s unclear whether this is just because they couldn’t get any of the other actors to return; even though this hasn’t stopped them before from simply recasting a lot of roles. As such, we are left with Rabbit and Ebee, who became the only ones to appear in all the previous Evil Bong films. The “I tell you what” rednecks return doing their regular shtick, and even though they have been doing the same thing over numerous films, it’s strangely comforting to see them back doing the same thing, as it probably wouldn’t feel like an Evil Bong film without them at this point. The film also manages to bring back Larnell, one of the original characters, for the final few minutes, but he literally does nothing other than smoke a joint. The Gingerdead/Gingerweed man also make a brief cameo at the end, so there was at least some effort to acknowledge some of the other key characters of the series.
The film does try to be up to date with some it’s characters: you have a “Karen” who comes into the restaurant to complain, two teenagers who don’t know how to act in public post-Covid pandemic, and “Joe Exotic” (not actually him, in factm it doesn’t even look like him) It’s very little, and hardly biting social commentary, but it helps set the scene a little, and make the characters seem a bit more relatable (even though they are never anything more than clichés.) To balance this out as well, you also get the German chef named Sal Monella, whose personality is simply being German (you can probably imagine what that means). Again, it’s all simple stuff that doesn’t need to be anything more than what it is, but that doesn’t necessarily make it good.
Like most (all) of the Evil Bong films, the film has two sets: the restaurant, and the kitchen. Even then, quite a few of the scenes are obviously completely green-screened. It cuts back on trying to use CG and trippy special effects, and just sticks to having a laugh with the characters and tropes they have. Being as this is supposed to be the final Evil Bong film, it doesn’t really have a definitive ending or resolution, but at least it didn’t end on a cliff-hanger like Evil Bong 777 did (and which this film pretty much ignores). Overall, Evil Bong 888 is, as all of the films in this series are, crude, low budget, and without a plot. But as always, these films are meant to target an audience of people who are probably so high they are devoid of sense, so anything more complex than semi-nudity and weed jokes isn’t going to be truly appreciated. I think cutting a lot of the characters and lore it had built up helps the film in some regards by focusing on the characters that work, but it doesn’t offer anything new, or a definitive, satisfying ending to the series. I don’t think it’s the worst film in the series, as it attempts some relevant jokes, and returns some of the more memorable characters, but there’s still plenty of dull moments and flat jokes that would remain flat no matter how high you are. If you are familiar with Full Moon’s low budget films, you’ll recognise this as more of what they do, but if you’re expecting something entertaining that delivers something truly unique with its concept, you’ll be sorely disappointed: that ship sailed long ago.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (2022)
Film review #526
Director: Jeff Fowler
SYNOPSIS: While Sonic the hedgehog struggles to be a hero on Earth, his nemesis Dr. Robotnik is making plans to return to Earth, helped by the mighty Knuckles the Echidna. Meanwhile, Sonic manages to get some help from Tails, a new friend who comes to warn Sonic of Robotnik’s return, and his quest to find the master emerald…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is a 2022 film, and the sequel to the 2020 film Sonic the Hedgehog. The film starts off with Sonic trying to use his powers for the best, and struggling to fit into the role of a hero. Meanwhile, Dr. Robotnik is trapped on a planet of mushrooms, looking for a way to get back to Earth and get his revenge. The story feels like one you would typically see in a sequel, with the characters being given new problems to overcome, and some attempt to develop their characters. It feels very similar to the first film, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the first one was decent: nothing spectacular, but decent for its young target audience. However, I think the script could have done with another re-write or revision: the whole thing doesn’t really stick together very well, and the scenes feel disjointed, alongside the main plotline of the film getting lost through the mish-mash of scenes. The film does at least focuses on Sonic and his friends for most of it, and the story elements of the human characters is diminished, but this is what you want really. This also has the effect of having their story more self-contained and easier to follow than what Sonic and his friends are doing. At a runtime of two hours, the film could probably have been cut down easily by about fifteen to twenty minutes, and that is probably something that would have been achieved with another script re-write.
All of the characters from the original return, and have their own things to do. The introduction of Knuckles is a stand-out point, with Idris Elba voice the character and really making it his own. Probably the funniest moments in the film come from Knuckles and his over-serious nature. Jim Carrey brings the energy as Dr. Robotnik again, and Agent Stone is a good lackey for him. The introduction of Tails is a bit wobbly, and always feels like any explanation or development of his character is off-hand and implied. I think there should definitely have been more of a balance between the introduction of both Tails and Knuckles to properly flesh out both characters.
Overall, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is a sequel that continues the work of its sequel without too much fanfare: it carries on the bits which worked and improves on them to some degree, while focusing less on the human characters (but even their scenes feel a bit more focused, even if they’re mostly just for the sake of comedy). It’s still aimed at a younger target audience, but it can still get a few laughs, especially when it relies on good old-fashioned comedy rather than making awkward references (although I’m sure the target audience will enjoy them still). There’s definitely some issues with the story not flowing and coming together, the long runtime, and the story of some characters not being integrated fully into the story, and as mentioned, I think most of these issues could have been addressed with another script re-write or revision. Nevertheless, its still an entertaining film for its target audience, and fits nicely alongside the first film.
The Flight that Disappeared (1961)
Film review #525
Director: Reginald LeBorg
SYNOPSIS: A commercial flight to Washington D.C. starts to gain altitude uncontrollably, eventually losing contact with the ground. Among the passengers are three top scientists, who have been summoned to the Pentagon for a meeting, and eventually the only ones who are left conscious as the aircraft continues to ascend…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: The Flight that Disappeared is a 1961 film. The plot concerns a commercial flight to Washington D.C. that continues to gain altitude as the pilots lose control and radio contact with the surface ceases. The build-up of the mystery is fairly interesting, and it certainly makes you wonder where it is all going: there’s no evidence of any sci-fi or extraordinary influences, so it does keep you guessing as to what is actually happening. The cast is introduced with enough detail to set the scene well, although what turn out to be the three main characters, the scientists, Dr. Carl Morris, Tom Endicott, and Marcia Paxton, aren’t very apparent until a good portion of the film, which again helps with the mystery, but also leaves the film a bit directionless. The three main characters are unknown to each other when they board, but learn that they are all there for the same reason: to attend a secret meeting at the Pentagon for the development of a new “beta bomb,” a weapon more powerful than the atom bomb. There’s a passenger on the plane who tries to talk to them individually, saying that they must use their weapon on enemy countries with a pre-emptive strike, but the scientists are insistent that it is a weapon to only be used in self-defense or retaliation. The plot, as you can probably tell, is rooted firmly in cold war era politics, although it doesn’t contribute to the mystery too much. While the film does a lot to set up the scene and the people aboard the flight, it is let down by the fact that there’s barely any personality between them, and nothing really happens in the first part of the film.
It turns out the three scientists have been summoned to a trial of sorts by the people of the future who have yet to be born, and probably will never be, if their weapon is allowed to be built and used. The film quickly jumps here from nothing happening, to a bit too much happening: we’re not given any set up for this whole trial and having to face people from the future, and it is all a bit sudden. I feel like the message gets increasingly muddled as well in this part, as the future not born people (whatever we are calling them…) accuse the scientists of being guilty because they conceived the idea of these weapons, and despite opposing their use in anything other than self defense. Is the film’s message essentially seems to be that having a bad idea makes you guilty, whereas the person or politician that uses it is simply a bureaucrat following orders and ticking boxes. There’s something about the whole message here that seems a bit off. I appreciate that the film does look at the moral quandaries it raises with a good amount of depth, but the overall conclusion just seems a bit weird; holding oneself morally accountable to people that have not or may never be born just seems a bit misguided to me.
Despite the film being an independent production, it is made quite well: the airplane where most of the film is set is a set, but it is pretty convincing and accurate. Overall, The Flight that Disappeared has an interesting mystery, but is bogged down by dull characters, and slow pacing at the beginning. The resolution and messaging is also muddled, but it does at least explore it’s subject in some depth. It probably would have been at home as an episode of The Twilight Zone, and certainly fits that tradition of 60′s science-fiction.
The Tunnel (1935)
Film review #523
Director: Maurice Elvey
SYNOPSIS: Richard McAllan is an engineer who has a dream to build a tunnel between England and the United States. He convinces a group of billionaires including Lloyd, the world’s richest man, to fund the project, but there are many other problems that present themselves on the way to the projects completion, both in terms of McAllan’s private life, and those looking to profit from the tunnel’s failure…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: The Tunnel (released as Transatlantic Tunnel in the U.S.) is a 1935 science-fiction film based on the novel Der Tunnel by Bernhard Kellermann. The film opens up with an orchestra performing for a select group of billionaires at the home of Lloyd, the richest man in the world. Engineer Richard McAllan is also there, to propose the construction of a tunnel underneath the Atlantic Ocean, connecting England and the United States. After much persuading, he manages to get their support, and work on the most ambitious project in human history begins. The plot of the film goes through all the drama and problems that would be associated with such a project, and splits its time between looking at the tunnel itself and the logistical problems, and also how the project impacts McAllan and his relationships with those around him. The balance between the two is well executed, and everything flows and connects nicely. There are a few changes from the novel and the 1915 film version, but they are mostly minor. The setting seems to be a near-future setting, where the Channel Tunnel was completed in 1940, so it’s a different vision of the future rather than what was actually happening in 1940 in Europe.
The tone of the film is very uplifting and optimistic, and McAllan is presented as an idealist who wants to use this project to change the world for the better. We also see political leaders in the U.S. and U.K. similarly making speeches in the U.K. parliament and U.S. congress to this effect. The film stands out in two respects: First, the acting is pretty good for the era, and the emotional scenes are delivered very well. The dated romance stuff and traditional roles still feel dated, but when the film needs to convey more raw emotion, it does so very convincingly; more so than any other film I’ve seen of the era. The cast isn’t too varied, but everyone has a specific role to play, and you get a good sense of what they’re there for.
The second stand out part of this film is the sets and design: you really get a sense of the tunnel’s massive scale in these large sets full of machinery, filled with crowds of men digging. The Tunnel is actually the third incarnation of the film released over two years, with the German and French versions released first, and the English version released after. Each version uses the same sets and mostly the same script, but changes the actors for the different languages (this was before dubbing was a thing). As such, the sets were probably meant to last. The English version also has a different director, which means it deviates a little more from the other two. Perhaps the big difference between the film and the novel is that the film presents a more evenly optimistic tone; and that the end justifies the struggle of the development of the tunnel. The novel focuses much more on the hardships though, and McAllan (Mac Allan in the original German) becomes a worldwide reviled figure. The ending is also a high note, marking the completion of the tunnel and new prosperity for “the English speaking world,” but we never see how this takes shape, but since the film is about the construction and completion of the tunnel, and dealing with it’s consequences would probably dilute that focus. The novel does look a little closer at the effects of the tunnel’s completion, but it’s not entirely optimistic: the tunnel is already shown to be updated (the completion of the tunnel takes a lot of years to finally complete, and by then, it had already become obsolete, as airplanes were now able to carry people across the Atlantic faster than travelling through the tunnel. With regards to this film version of The Tunnel, it has some very strong points in both the acting and the design, and really brings the story to life in this regard. Some parts are a bit predictable and rooted in the old-fashioned values of the day, but there’s enough to make it an interesting watch if you like the films of this era.
6 Hours to Live (1932)
Film review #521
SYNOPSIS: World diplomats have convened at a special assembly to agree on a new global trade deal that requires unanimous approval from all countries. The only country that is opposed to it is Silveria, whose representative Paul Onslow believes it is only his country which will suffer form it. When Paul is murdered, Professor Otto Bauer uses his experimental invention to bring him back to life, so Paul can identify his murderer and be present at the final vote of the trade deal. However, the experiment only allows him to live six more hours, so he must wrap up all his business in that time…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: 6 Hours to Live is a 1932 drama/sci-fi film, based on the story “Auf weidersehen” by Morton Barteaux. The film centres around a meeting of representatives from every country in the world, as they have convened to agree on a new global trade deal. The deal requires unanimous approval from every country, and the only country refusing to sign is Silveria, represented by Captain Paul Onslow, who believes the deal is bad for his country. This, naturally, has made him many enemies, and an attempt on his life is made after he leaves the conference. While he is in hiding, he realises he is in love with Baroness Valerie von Sturm, who his friend Karl Kranz is in love with, setting up a love triangle of sorts. Unfortunately, Onslow is killed in another attempt on his life, but Professor Otto Bauer’s latest experiment is able to bring him back to life. Unfortunately, it can only do so once for six hours, so Onslow has to find his murderer, deal with his affairs, and go to vote on the trade deal all before he dies for the second and final time. The story is primarily a drama; partly political, partly romance, and as such, there is a lot of dialogue to get through, and many of the scenes are just talking. A lot seems to happen to Onslow in one day, with him realising he is love, having two attempts on his life, and having to vote on this trade deal: with all these things going on, you’d think the film would be packed full of things, but as mentioned, the talking really takes over the majority of the scenes. I feel like more could have been done to set the scene of the film: the politics of this trade deal are left really unexplored, and we don’t know the details, and we are left to experience what feels like an entire relationship between Onslow and the Baroness in the span of one day. It’s easy to pick up and understand, but some exposition would have helped, like why the fictional country of Silveria is the only country in the world not to benefit from this supposed deal, and why he is holding out against it; since the representative who would fill in for him if he was absent also seems to want to vote for it. Him being against everyone else almost makes him seem like a villain, as we have no real knowledge of his motivations, over than “love of his country.” which could mean anything.
So when Onslow is brought back to life for six hours, it makes things a bit more interesting: he has to confront his murderer, vote against the treaty, and deal with his personal affairs all before his time runs out. Given only that a few people know of what has happened, he is able to mostly carry on like nothing has happened, and uses that to end his relationship with the Baroness and to force her to move on, as she is unaware that he is about to die (again), and that will be easier for her to accept. While you might think that returning from the dead would be a shocking and harrowing experience knowing you’re about to die again, Onslow is very serene and tranquil about the whole thing, and his “experience” of death has left him unafraid of what is to come. Instead of hurrying about, he revisits some people he met during the day, to comfort them and aid their troubles. He becomes almost an angelic figure, and I think the leaving of many things ambiguous is intentional to give it that mysterious feel and to keep the mystery of death intact. It almost feels like Onslow is meant to have a change of character when he was revived into this caring, empathic individual, but his personality was more or less like that to begin with, which doesn’t have the impact of something like Ebenzer Scrooge’s change of heart in “A Christmas Carol.” while the premise is interesting, it eventually falls into a very typical message of “science not going too far, and that some things should be left to God.” which crops up a lot in films of this era. Also, the whole reveal of the murderer at the end is anticlimactic, as it turns out to be someone who was only briefly seen at the start of the film, and plays no part whatsoever in anything. The scene where Onslow visits a prostitute to comfort her is a good one with some uplifting and genuine dialogue, but on the whole it is a very mixed bag.
Overall, 6 Hours to Live has an interesting premise, and provides some dramatic scenes, but some parts (particularly the romance and the dichotomy of science vs God) feels very much of it’s time. The acting carries the drama very well for the most part, but being very dialogue-heavy, it is not going to appeal to everyone. there’s definitely areas to improve in the film, but it still has some good points that keep the film together.
Rawhead Rex (1986)
Film review #519
Director: George Pavlou
SYNOPSIS: Howard Hallenbeck has taken his family on a trip to rural Ireland to do some research for a new book about the pagan deities of the area. Unfortunately, while he is there, the very kind of monster he is researching is released from it’s prison, and goes on a murderous killing spree. It becomes a race against time to stop the monster before everyone in the small town is slaughtered…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Rawhead Rex is a 1986 horror film, based on the short story of the same name by Clive Barker. The story centres around Howard Hallenbeck, who is visiting a rural town in Ireland with his wife and two children to research ancient folklore there for a new book he is writing. If this sounds like the opening plot to countless horror films, then you are spot on. you can also extend this to the rest of the film, as the whole experience feels very familiar and formulaic. Basically, an ancient demon is released from it’s prison and starts killing people in the village, leaving the authorities and the main cast to figure out what is going on. The plot unfolds very predictably: the monster kills, the cast try and figure out what goes on, and there’s very few surprises. Most of the kills are characters that haven’t been established or introduced properly, so there’s little investment in what happens to them. The lore behind the monster is never gone into in any real detail, and the occasional bit of gore and one brief bit of nudity just don’t leave any impact, nor do they escalate or build towards anything. The film feels like it has the fundamental building blocks, but never builds upo0n them, nor draws them together.
The monster, Rawhead, is based on a fictitious monster of the same name, but apart from said name, there doesn’t seem to be any real connection between the two. As mentioned, there could have been a lot more done with building the lore and have it impact the plot, but it essentially boils down to a mixture of paganism vs Christianity that offers little insight into either. Rawhead’s design is probably the thing that will ultimately make a viewer not take this film seriously: it is a pretty silly rubber mask which no real prosthetics or moving parts, and it never seems convincing. It also never seems too threatening either, since no one ever really has a chance to fight it, and just surprises people who can’t fight back, so we can’t really gauge it’s strength and ferocity. This is also true in the ending, in which the monster is simply resealed by a stone…thing, and the big twist is that a woman needed to use it (?), resulting in a climax which is just a bunch of CG chain things flying about and slowly imprisoning the monster. Again, there’s no real face off with the monster, so we don’t get a sense of it’s power and why we should fear it.
Other than the bare plot and monster design, the acting is for the most part fine, but there are a number of slip-ups, particularly with the accents, which you will undoubtedly notice at least once or twice. Apart from that, everything else is fine, just bland and unoriginal. Clive Barker, the writer of the original short story and the screenplay version, did not like the outcome of the film (unsurprisingly), and so took more control over the next film he wrote: which was the very successful Hellraiser. If you’re interested in Barker’s filmography, maybe you could give this a watch, but it has no other distinguishing features to mention.
The Adventures of Electronic (1979)
Film review #518
Director: Konstantin Bromberg
SYNOPSIS: Professor Gromov has constructed a life-like robot boy named Electronic, based on the image of a schoolboy named Sergey. Electronic has the dream of becoming a real human boy, and when the Professor forbids him from interacting with the outside world, he escapes and runs into his double. Sergey has the idea of having them swap places, using Electronic’s super intelligence and strength to excel at school. meanwhile a criminal gang is spying on Electronic, with the aim of kidnapping him to use in a series of high-value heists…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: The Adventures of Electronic is a 1979 three-part miniseries from the Soviet union. The story starts off introducing Electronic, a boy who is a robot created by Professsor Gromov to look human, and Sergey the human boy who Electronic’s appearance copies (who appeared on a magazine cover). The two eventually run into each other, and have the idea to swap places, so that Electronic can excel in Sergey’s classes at school, and Electronic is given the chance to live as a human; and naturally, hijinks ensue. The story is fairly obviously a combination of Pinocchio and The Parent Trap, although I’m not sure how accessible either of these were available in the Soviet union in 1979. Nevertheless, the story is simple to follow, and paces itself fairly well, with different things going on across the three different episodes of the series. Being aimed at children, there’s very mild threats and danger, but it’s pretty harmless. The series focuses more on humour, adventure, and the occasional musical number, and I imagine it would have been a fun and entertaining adventure for kids at the time. The story doesn’t really explore the range of potential of it’s set up, and often feels like a re-tread of the aforementioned Pinocchio and The Parent Trap, but you don’t really need to be groundbreaking for these types of films/series. The pacing is pretty solid, the characters develop at an even pace throughout, and there’s new elements added in as it goes along to maintain interest, so it does everything it needs to.
While Sergey and Electronic are up to their shenanigans, an international crime ring has been spying on Professor Gromov and, learning of Electronic’s existence, their boss plans to kidnap him to use his abilities to pull off a huge heist. As mentioned, the villains and danger isn’t too threatening as the series is made for kids, but it adds a little excitement to things. Apart from Sergey and Electronic (played by actual twins, but their voices are dubbed by different people), the rest of the cast play a minor role, but their appearance keep scenes energetic and busy, such as the gang of kids that Sergey and Electronic hang about with, the various teachers, and even a dog that joins the kids eventually. The familiar scenes of the school and the kid’s clubhouse also root the film in a very particular setting that the cast’s adventures revolve around, and makes a nice core along with the characters that interacts with the changing elements of the story, creating a nice balance.
The series was apparently very popular when it was released, and I think it’s easy to see why: it follows some tried-and-tested formulas story-wise, and also it’s produced fairly well, with solid camerawork and performances all round. It’s difficult to find too much wrong with it, since it’s aimed at a younger audience and is not intending to be groundbreaking. Overall, The Adventures of Electronic is an entertaining watch that hits the right notes, but is definitely something that would not stand the test of time, being firmly rooted in the time and place it was filmed. Some elements of the story are fairly timeless, but nothing original is added to make it worth a contemporary viewing.
Italian Spiderman (2007)
Film review #517
Director: Dario Russo
SYNOPSIS: When an asteroid that falls to earth turns out to have the power to clone people, it is stolen from Professor Bernardi by Captain Maximum, who wants to use it to create his own personal army. The world’s only hope, Italian Spiderman, sets out to stop Captain Maximum and save the world before it’s too late…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Italian Spiderman is a 2007 short film, which is a parody of the various knock-offs and copyright-infringing films were made in non-English speaking countries (where the owners of the characters would probably never know the films were made in the pre-internet days). Italian Spiderman is unsurprisingly a parody of Spiderman, and in the opening we see Spiderman playing a poker game and blowing his opponents away with a shotgun, which should give you an idea of how accurate the representation of Spiderman is. The plot of the film concerns an asteroid that falls to Earth and has the power to clone people when exposed to it. This obviously attracts the attention of the evil Captain Maximum, who steals it in order to create an army to take over the world, leaving Italian Spiderman to stop him. The plot would be pretty standard for the type of films it is trying to parody, and leaves scope for all manner of ridiculous setups to occur as Italian Spiderman battles all sorts of traps and villains. Parodying films which are already absurd and ridiculous certainly presents the problem of how you add anything to the original or present it in a different way. Italian Spiderman actually handles this pretty well: it is able to throw in plenty of surprises by adding really ridiculous things out of nowhere, and also throwing just the right amount of self-awareness in to add something new with the parody. With a runtime of just thirty seven minutes, it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, and accomplishes all it can probably do in that time.
Italian Spiderman (he is never just called “spiderman,” as an example of the aforementioned self-awareness the film has), in keeping with the type of film it is parodying, doesn’t look like the typical spider-man nor does he have any of his powers. The rest of the characters fill typical inconsequential roles that nevertheless keep some semblance of structure in the film. The use of practical effects, combined with the obviously misplaced stock footage, make for some humourous setups. I imagine when this was released online in 2007 it would have been quite popular, at a time where these sort of films were just being discovered by English speaking countries. Nowadays it might have less of an impact because the original films are so easily available and just as silly, but still, Italian Spiderman is a smart parody that balances self-awareness with the original absurdity which makes the films it is parodying so infamous.