Posts Tagged ‘Keir Dullea’

Movie Reviews 308 – Welcome to Blood City (1977)

July 28, 2017

When four men and a woman wake up in a desolate and remote region without knowing one another or any idea of where they are, how they got there or even why they are there, all they have for a clue is a slip of paper in each of their pockets telling them they are murderers and how many people they have killed in the past.  Picking a random direction in search of answers they encounter two mangy frontiersmen who kill one of the men and rape the woman before being rescued (sort of) by a black shirted sheriff wearing a conspicuously large Red Cross patch with a sewn in ID number.

Thus begins Welcome to Blood City as sheriff Frendlander (Jack Palance) leads the ragtag group to the outskirts of the titular frontier town in which similar black shirted ‘citizens’ run the show, Frendlander being the so called top gun. The others in the town are either hired security men or, like the new arrivals, basic slaves that do all the work. We soon learn that the working framework of this society is based on a brutal scoring system in which one’s place in the hierarchy is based on the number of kills they make. The protagonist among the new arrivals is Lewis (Keir Dullea) who is soon ‘provoked’ (a code word meaning coerced) into a battle with one of the citizens looking to get another point. But when Lewis ends up winning against those stacked odds he learns that he basically takes the place of his attacker and is now not only a ‘citizen’ but the town dentist, having inherited the losers possessions.

But Lewis is more interested in helping out his original acquaintances,especially Martine (Hollis McLaren) the woman in that group who is now held in the town jail for her own protection as she has a number of citizens hoping to claim her, either by rights or other means.

Almost as soon as we’ve grasped the inner workings of this new world we’re lurched to a scene depicting a modern (make that 1970’s contemporary) electronics and computer laden control room with two white robed scientists peering into monitor screens and overseeing the events unfolding in Blood City. In the background we see a slabbed body wired to apparatus and other scientists muddling about. The twerking body is that of Lewis, reacting to his immersed state in Blood City. Meanwhile the male operator is berating his co worker Katherine (Samantha Eggar) for having inserted a simile of herself into the ‘game’ and as she smiles and counters his arguments while watching her doppelganger ‘citizen’ perched on a horse, both observing and hinting Lewis.

It’s never made exactly clear the nature or reasons behind this game although the operators are briefed for updates by some administrator/politician (Barry Morse) with some sense of urgency to the overall mission at hand discussing possible ‘Termination’ at some points. Lewis and the others also suffer from momentary flashbacks to their past, more tranquil days prior to their current predicament.

The film begs comparison to Westworld with the similar blend of Science Fiction which incorporates a virtualized wild west world despite the visitors being convicts instead of vacationers. But were Westworld excels in presenting a cohesive and believable scenario Blood City tumbles trying to be too smart for itself as a even a tenuous scrutiny of the plot reveals glaring holes in logic. As a pairing of political and science fiction thriller it also fails on both accounts. There was no political intrigue at all presenting only a veiled suggestion of what the project overseers we’re trying to achieve with the experiment and how this would fit in some worldwide order. Based on the administrators (Morse) character I even had doubts as to whether we were watching good guys or bad guys. Was it normal and lawful to have murderers treated as they were or was this some rogue underground operation? As for the science it too was only hinted at and never fully explained. Were only one or two of the residents in Blood City being tested or were they all? Katharine’s role within the game is nothing more than a tease instead of being some sort of bridge between the real and virtual that would have been beneficial to the bereft plot.

What made this an especially tough viewing for me was the dreadful state of the video transfer on my DVD (a double feature DVD paired with a movie called God Said to Cain and with this movie simply titled on the cover as Blood City). It was bad enough that it was a ‘pan and scan’ 4:3 formatted transfer but it was also muddy as hell and obviously had some other cropping done since it contained a lot of scenes where the characters heads were at the utmost top of the frame and in some scenes even had the heads lopped off completely. Perhaps some well meaning editor was trying to warn me that this was going to be a brainless movie. Honestly the Youtube clips for this movie look better than this particular DVD release.

I didn’t feel particularly welcome, it was a small town not a city and despite all the killing there was no blood. Time to rewatch Westworld to remind myself how a well made Sci-Fi Western can be entertaining.

Movie Reviews 198 – Black Christmas (1974)

November 9, 2014

Black ChristmasThere are plenty of debates regarding the birth of the slasher film and what impact some of those films had on others that followed them. Black Christmas was one of those that, while not making an initial immediate impact (it’s US release was terribly bungled) influenced many genre filmmakers in the following years and is now considered a cult classic. With good reason I might add.

The Canexploitation bonanza that resulted from the infamous Canadian Tax Credit program of the 70’s intended to invigorate the fledgling Canadian film industry gave us such films as Prom Night, My Bloody Valentine and even financed some of David Cronenberg’s earlier films. But Black Christmas was one of the more polished films and is easily one of the best products to emerge from the initiative.

Producer and director Bob Clark enlisted genre favorite John Saxon and a bunch of young actresses including star Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder and even SCTV alumni Andrea Martin to play the sorority house members that are terrorized by mysterious prank phone caller “Billy”. Having already begun murdering girls in town, Billy manages to enter and hide in the attic of the Pi Kappa Sig sorority house upon which he then targets the occupants remaining after most have left for Christmas vacations.

Lt. Fuller (Saxon) is the cop piecing together the clues including a hilarious sex pun left in an official police statement by Barb (Kidder), the obvious rebel of the bunch of girls. He’s also got to deal with a nip drinking House Mother who sneaks a swig every minute she’s alone, and the obvious suspect in failed pianist scholar Peter (Keir Dullea of Starlost, 2001 fame), a spurned lover of Jess (Hussey). One of the reasons for the films success is not only the range of suspects viewers have to judge, but the open ending that keeps “Billy” almost as mysterious as he was at the beginning. “Billy” will never be as Famous as Jason, Mike Myers or Freddy Krueger, but he paved the way for his bloody brethren.

SlientNightEvilNightAlso released as Silent Night, Evil Night and Stranger in the House, (that last title being ironic in that the movie When a Stranger Calls released five years later basically stole the premise of this movie), the suspense is thick throughout and the chills are as cold as the film’s winter Holiday setting.

Another great irony is that producer Clark is probably best known for another classic Christmas movie he made a few years later, the holiday favorite A Christmas Story. But in that movie the threat comes from a Red Ryder B.B. gun and the everyone’s fear that Ralphie will shoot his eye out. I highly recommend a double feature night where you watch both of these classics together and get the very best, if polar opposite, takes on Yuletide viewing.