Posts Tagged ‘Mako’

Movie Reviews 443 – Under the Rainbow (1981)

July 31, 2020

Under the Rainbow is one of the oddest and most un-PC films I’ve ever watched on the big screen as a teen, but for reasons that confound me I never forgot about it and had to see it again, if for no other reason than to confirm it wasn’t something I just dreamed up. I recall a lazy afternoon where a friend and I were scouring the “Now Playing” section of the local newspaper – that’s how we did it in those pre-computer, pre-Internet days – and deciding to go see it as there was nothing else of interest we hadn’t already seen. So this was already a non-standard movie going affair from the start. The only notable attraction in the film ad was that it starred Carrie Fisher, still riding high on her Star Wars notoriety. It also listed Chevy Chase but even then that was no draw for myself as I already loathed him as a comedian whose only track record was being the former SNL news anchorman. I hadn’t heard hide nor hair about it since then. One of those films shuffled under the rugs.

The title is a play on Over the Rainbow, the theme song of The Wizard of Oz movie and it is the behind the scenes filming of that film that is the setting for this comedy. To be precise, it is largely focused on the 150 ‘vertically challenged’ actors that were hired to portray the diminutive “Munchkins” in The Wizard of Oz. If legend and gossip are to be believed, those hired Munchkins, holed up in a hotel for months on end as the gruelling shooting for Oz wore on, were a drunken hoard of sex crazed maniacs that partied throughout the night and consistently got into trouble both on and off the set. In fact, a chaperone of sorts was hired to control and contain them lest their antics hold up shooting even longer.

This brings us to Under the Rainbow where that exasperated chaperone Annie (Fisher) shepherds the ‘little people’ into the Culver Hotel just across the studio where OZ is being filmed. There are only two other groups staying in the hotel. The first are a bus full of temporarily stranded Japanese tourists, all men wearing traditional white suits, a point that will be significant later. The second group is a travelling Austrian Duke (Joseph Maher) and his wife (Eve Arden) under the protective custody of U.S. Secret Service agent Thorpe (Chase), given worries of an assassin on the duke’s trail and the impending breakout of World War II.

Together these three groups will the intricately intertwined when Otto, a Lilliputian Nazi secret agent (Billy Barty), is scheduled to hand over U.S. invasion plans to a Japanese counter-agent (Mako) in the very same hotel. Otto is told to make contact with a white suited Japanese man, while the other is to look for a midget (their term, not mine). While both evil agents try to sort out which of the myriad other hotel guests are their supposed contacts, agent Thorpe fumbles at protecting his monarch charge while a real assassin hopelessly navigates the boisterous and meddlesome hotel invasion.

Yes, there are a lot of contrived and hokey wee folks slapstick, lame jokes, and even and oft scantily clad Fisher whose wardrobe is right up there with her golden bikini from The Empire Strike Back. Chevy Chase is … well Chevy Chase. And the film has one of those silly grand finale chase scenes where everyone heads from the hotel to the Oz film set to wreak havoc not only on OZ but Gone With the Wind.

But the film does have some genuinely funny scenes, a neat ‘wrap-around’ story with a short actor hoping for a Hollywood gig which kinda works, a recurring gag regarding the Duke’s wife’s dog ‘Strudel’, and some nice weaving of words in multilayered script.that play on the overlapping plot points.

Definitely an anachronistic oddity, and probably not for everyone, but sometimes this is exactly the kind of movie one needs for a change.

Movie Reviews 55 – Conan the Destroyer (1984)

August 16, 2012

The movie Conan the Barbarian was enough of success to spawn a sequel featuring the formidable Arnorld Schwarzenegger, but now that his character was introduced to audiences, a good follow up story was needed to expand on the character. Unfortunately the producers of the follow up Conan the Destroyer seem to have opted to just throwing in a bunch of quasi-stars to boost audience appeal. We’ve got the talentless Sarah Douglas, “Ursa” of Superman II fame, who looked a lot hotter in leather and talked a lot less in that movie which we now know was a good thing. Next, we’ve got retired basketball superstar Wilt ‘The Stilt’ Chamberlain, who was one of the few men on the planet at the time that could actually make Arnold seem puny by comparison. Then there’s pretty-face teen actress Olivia D’Abo would would later appear in The Wonder Years, and finally disco queen Grace Jones prancing around exposing her arse to the wind and using her 100 pound light frame to throw around 250 pound men in combat. You’d think she was the heavy in the movie instead of Arnie. With that kind of fluff for supporting start power it’s no surprise that Mako, reprising his role in the first movie, steals the show despite having a smaller role. Conan/Arnold are nearly insignificant in the typical Quest to save the Princess story where the voyage and characters in the journey are the real story. The few good scenes and battles are barely worth the sterile supporting actors and some of the flimsier fantasy effects. Only for Arnie completists and people who have a stomach for actors who can’t act. Not surprisingly, this was the end of the Arnold as Conan movie series.

Movie Reviews 54 – Conan the Barbarian (1982)

August 14, 2012

To a lot of people this movie was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s introduction to a worldwide audience. Others like myself, who had already heard of him and, more importantly, seen him on account of his bodybuilding career, knew that his physique was more than just another circus strongman. I was one of those anxious to finally see this muscle man in a movie and an adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s Conan character seemed like a perfect match. Up until that point I’d never read any of the Conan novels but I was as much influenced by the dark paintings of the muscular Barbarian by legendary fantasy artist Frank Frazetta in the pages of Famous Monsters, Creepy and Eerie and had seen some of the comics.
I clearly recall that there were discussions in print at the time questioning whether the heavily accented Austrian Schwarzenegger could effectively enunciate the dialogue. Was this going to be “Conan the Bavarian” in lieu of “Conan the Barbarian” was a question on everyone’s mind. In the end things worked out fine and while this is not a stellar movie by anyone’s accounting, it certainly has many charms. James Earl Jones as the Thulsa Doom who wants to rule the world and who has the magic mojo to do it, makes a formidable nemesis for Conan, while Sandahl Bergman and “Mako” (stalwart of the ‘one word’ stage name actors) provide good company for Conan. Aside from the many expected battles viewers are treated to some cool FX and, surprisingly, a decent enough story. Some of the more interesting segments include seeing Conan as a kid growing as a slave and slowing building up his body mass and there is of course that giant snake that make anacondas look like grass snakes in comparison. I don’t want to say too much about that, but you can get an idea of what that scene is all about when I tell you that there is an actress listed in the credits as “Sacrificial Snake Girl”. Welcome Ah-nold!

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