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October 29th, 2007

VIDEO STORE GUY: DVD REVIEWS

by Steven Anderson

Earth Vs. The Spider  **
Directed & Produced by: Bert I. Gordon
Written by: Bert I. Gordon, Laszlo Gorog, GeorgeWorthing Yates
Starring: Edward Kemmer, June Kenny, Gene Persson
NR, 1958, running time: 73 mins

Ah, poor beleaguered Earth. You’ve been a battlefield, attacked by more things than we care to count, and been at risk on any of dozens of occasions. So why should you be at all surprised to find yourself squaring off against a spider in the American-International quasi-classic, “Earth Vs. The Spider”?

Interestingly, by reading the title, you’ve got a pretty good idea of what the movie’s going to be about–a small mountain town squares off against an enormous spider, enormous for reasons not really explored.

Not that the small mountain town is in any danger of being mistaken for “Eureka”–as an example, I offer you a summary of one particularly boneheaded scene:

Hey gang! They just killed a giant spider and left him in the gym until the college can get a flatbed down here and haul off its corpse!What’s the dumbest possible thing we can do right now? I know! Let’s have an impromptu sock hop not thirty feet from this quite thoroughly dead beastie and hope that it wasn’t merely stunned!

This is why Bert I. Gordon is remembered not as a great director, but as Mystery Science Theatre 3000 fodder.

And this is just one example why “Earth Vs. The Spider” is, by today’s standards, merely a massive, unintentional laugh riot with a stale and ultimately predictable plotline.

Pretty Cool Too  *
Directed & Directed by: Rolfe Kanefsky
Starring: Eric Fagundes, Julia Lehman, BrandiWilliams, Tiffany Shepis
Produced by: Alain Siritzky,
Esther Goodstein
R, 2007 running time: 92 mins

I can’t help but find it interesting when a movie spawns a sequel that’s almost identical to the first, only with some small details changed. And “Pretty Cool Too” is just such an example.

The first “Pretty Cool” revolved around a high school loser who, in a freak accident involving the mighty Internet, got the power to read and control people’s minds. You have a pretty good idea where that went. The second one, meanwhile, in a display of innovation and sheer creative grit that will impress absolutely no one, revolves around a high school loser who, in a freak accident, gets a cell phone with the power to read and control people’s minds.

See? See?! Huge differences. Huge.

Rolfe Kanefsky’s absolutely shameful cash-grab breaks no new ground whatsoever and exists solely for fifteen year old boys who are secretly blessing this man’s name every night in their prayers for providing them with a truly awe-inspiring amount of extremely attractive young women in various states of undress, but not so much that it can accurately be called porn.

Rancid   ****
DVD
Directed by: Jack Ersgard
Written by: Jesper Ersgard
Starring Matthew Settle, Fay Masterson, Currie Graham, Patrick Ersgard
Produced by Jack Ersgard, Brad Southwick
R, 2007, running time:102 mins

A life gone rotten makes for a movie gone gold in “Rancid”, the rousing and clever murder mystery from Lions Gate.

A struggling writer–struggling to both write and see a purpose to living– finds himself on the bad end of a bad marriage. Someone else’s. His high school sweetheart and high school enemy got married, and it turns out that his old enemy has been involved in pretty shady dealings around New York. Thus, our writer is now neck-deep in a multiple murder mystery.

It sounds complex, really, and it is. It will prove, in point of fact, to be one of the deepest and most ultimately satisfying detective pieces in quite some time.With plenty of clever twists and a rapid pace, it’s both eminently believable and eminently watchable. It’s well worth your time.

War of the Colossal Beast  **
DVD
Directed & Produced by: Bert I. Gordon
Written by: Bert I. Gordon,
GeorgeWorthing Yates
Starring: Sally Fraser, Roger Pace, Dean Parkin
NR, 1958, running time: 69 mins

You wouldn’t think there’d be a demand for a sequel to a movie like “The Amazing Colossal Man”, and yet, here it is. “War of the Colossal Beast” picks up where the last left off, as Army Colonel Glenn Manning, the Amazing Colossal Man is discovered in Mexico, attacking food delivery trucks for sustenance.Which comes as a big surprise to the U.S. Army, who thought they gave Col. Manning his discharge off the side of the Hoover Dam when he was attacking Vegas earlier. Not surprisingly, Col. Manning gets picked up by the Army and flown to Los Angeles, where he’s held temporary prisoner in an airport hangar. Manning escapes and runs amok all the way to Griffith Park where the final–some would say thankfully final–showdown with the monster begins.

Aside from the fact that most of the movie revolves around various government agencies engaging in relentless, almost incestuous, buck passing as to whose responsibility Manning actually is, the rest of the movie is sad and depressing. Including the ending, which is downright cringe-inducing.

Which almost makes it a relief to be able to mock it unmercifully in true Mystery Science Theatre 3000 fashion. Thank you, Bert I. Gordon, for yet another horrible, horrible movie to fuel our mocking fun.

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