Saturday, July 31, 2021

Capsule Reviews - July 31, 2021

The Day the Sky Exploded (1958) – Widely regarded as the first ever Italian science fiction film, The Day the Sky Exploded (released in Italy as Death Comes from Space) was also co-directed by the great Mario Bava (at least one member of the cast claimed that Bava was the primary director, and not Paolo Heusch, as listed in the credits). An atomic rocket, piloted by American John MacLaren (Paul Hubschmid), takes off from Cape Shark, Australia, bound for the moon. Unfortunately, MacLaren and his ship run into problems while orbiting the earth. MacLaren is forced to eject the capsule, which falls safely on the coast. A miscommunication, however, prevented mission control from destroying the remainder of the rocket, which explodes in a nearby asteroid cluster, fusing hundreds of large rocks together and sending them spiraling towards the earth. Now, MacLaren and a group of international scientists must work quickly to determine if the earth can be saved, or if it’s the end for humanity. The Day the Sky Exploded has its moments; the early scenes, when the rocket first takes off, are exciting, as is the sequence when the ship malfunctions. But the movie relies too heavily on stock footage (I’d guess that at least 20 minutes to a half hour of its 78 minute runtime featured stock footage of one sort or another), and the romantic entanglements, including the scenes with MacLaren’s wife (played by Fiorella Mari), bog the film down. Worst of all is the final 10 minutes, when the powers-that-be scramble to save the world (scientifically speaking, these scenes are borderline laughable). Not a total disaster, but your time would be better spent elsewhere. Rating: 5.5 out of 10

The Invisible Man (2020) – After the misfire that was 2017’s The Mummy, the next generation of Universal’s classic monsters finally get the first-class treatment they deserve in writer / director Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man, which puts a nice spin on things by focusing not on the title character, but his intended victim. Tired of being manipulated by her boyfriend, wealthy optics engineer Adrian Griffith (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), Cecelia Kass (played superbly by Elizabeth Moss) finally summons up the courage to escape this abusive relationship. Living in fear that her former love will track her down, Cecelia eventually receives the good news that Adrian committed suicide. But her relief quickly turns to dread when she suspects that Adrian, who had been working on a technology that could make him invisible, is not only alive and well but secretly watching her every move. The Invisible Man gets off to a great start; even before we’re introduced to the characters, we witness Cecelia’s well-planned escape from Adrian’s secluded mansion, a sequence that is as intense as they come. And this heightened level of suspense only gets stronger as the movie progresses (a dinner sequence set in a fancy restaurant may be the most WTF moment of 2020). By the time the end credits rolled on The Invisible Man, I was both mentally drained and thoroughly entertained. Rating: 9 out of 10

Moon of the Wolf (1972) – This 1972 made-for-TV horror / mystery is better than its crappy title would lead you to believe. David Jannsen plays the sheriff of a small Louisiana Bayou community, where a string of recent, grisly murders has some people believing a werewolf is on the loose. Bradford Dillman has a supporting role as the town’s most prestigious resident, and Barbara Rush is his sister, who recently returned home after spending a few years in New York City. Also joining in on the fun are Geoffrey Lewis (as the brother of the first victim) and Royal Dano (as a backwoods yokel). The cast does a decent job (Janssen’s understated performance makes him a likable hero), and the mystery surrounding these homicides is what carries damn near the first 50 minutes or so of this 74 minute movie. The final scenes, when the werewolf is front and center, are effectively tense (especially a sequence set in the jail house), and while the ending is a bit of a groaner, it doesn’t spoil what went before it. Rating: 7 out of 10

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