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Sample Movie and Soundtrack Reviews Written for VideoScope Magazine

VideoScope Magazine
VideoScope Magazine

THE GIANT BEHEMOTH

D: Eugene Lourie. Gene Evans, Andre Morell, Leigh Madison, Jack MacGowran. 80 mins. Warners DVD

The Giant Behemoth is director Eugene Lourie's second of three giant reptile efforts with The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) and Gorgo (1961) as its bookends. In his 1985 book, My Work in Films, Lourie discussed the script's change from the menace being an unknown mass of something dangerous to a giant radioactive dinosaur. More specifically, a 70-ft. tall 200-ft. long creature whose existence is to wreck, ruin and radiate without prejudice. The outcome is a seriously structured, straightforward tale without distracting sub-plots or blossoming love interests. It is Evans' character, marine biologist Steve Karnes, who posits that the beast is slowly dying due to is own radioactivity, causing his proactive group to destroy it sooner than nature intends. Behemoth's weakness lies primarily in the first encounter where the beast is partly revealed. For it's an unconvincing static neck and head that sinks a Thames ferry rather than a stop-motion model, a weary letdown after 48 minutes of anticipation. On the other hand, the stop-motion behemoth is given a spectacular entrance shortly thereafter! It rises out of the river tearing through structures that dare block its path, an unstoppable juggernaut grandly revealing its full body view. While budgetary necessities caused the ensuing stop-motion scenes to be lengthened through repeated scenes, animator Pete Peterson is quite able of thrilling an audience. (Willis O'Brien is also credited, but it's primarily Peterson's work). Edwin Astley's marvelously monstrous score works beautifully, heightening and punctuating the behemoth's size and its inescapable threat. Warner's widescreen source material is very good, but not pristine. The DVD's true failing, though, comes not in the form of a static monster head. No, The Giant Behemoth's most aggravating content is commentary track duo Dennis Muren and Phil Tippett, two brilliant filmmakers who should know better. Muren actually owns the behemoth model and immediately relates the story of where and how it was found. Interesting stuff as is their unsurpassed knowledge of special effects. Alas, they can't help their condescending remarks and tone, a poor reflection on them and a disconcerted listen for us. It's been nearly a half-century since the movie's theatrical release. With its redundant title and filmic warts intact, The Giant Behemoth apologizes to no one -- wrought during a long-gone era when such a fanciful prevalence was simply majestic.



HOGAN'S HEROES The Sixth & Final Season

D: Jerry London, Edward Feldman, others. Bob Crane, Werner Klemperer, John Banner, Larry Hovis, Richard Dawson, Robert Clary, Kenneth Washington, Leon Askin, Howard Caine, Sigrid Valdis. 4-DVDs, 10hrs. 4mins. CBS/Paramount

The final 24 episodes of this CBS sitcom smash have at last made their escape, rounding out its six year, 168 episode run. This ultimate season originally aired during 1970-71, a shattering time for many of the network's long-running staples that were skewed to older viewers, a less desirable audience for youth-hungry advertisers. Hogan's Heroes would be canceled along with fellow faves that included Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, Mayberry RFD, Family Affair and The Ed Sullivan Show. While this season is mildly aggravated by the unexplained replacement of cast regular Ivan Dixon (Sgt. Kinchloe) by Kenneth Washington as Sgt. Richard Baker, it was monkey business as usual at Stalag 13. By this time, cast members were well acquainted with their characters and fellow performers and in some cases, too familiar. Crane and Klemperer both divorced and remarried during the show's run. Crane married Valdis on an adjoining soundstage while Klemperer hitched himself to occasional guest star Louise Troy. There is, however, a slight sense of languidness in the leads' performances. It's barely discernable and only reveals itself after viewing the prior seasons. A one-camera show shot in 35mm, the resulting transfer to DVD is as good as it gets. The CBS DVD/Paramount set retains the original 1:33:1 aspect ratio. There are no extras of any kind. Do watch for the fun occasion when exterior scenes reveal very obvious palm trees in the distant "German forest". Shot on the famous "40 Acres" backlot in Culver City, these visual flubs simply add to the charm of this beloved show. And yes, the abandoned set was later used (and abused) by director Don Edmonds for Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS.



AMERICAN CARNY - TRUE TALES FROM THE CIRCUS SIDESHOW

D: Nick Basile. Todd Robbins, Jennifer Miller, Harley Newman, The Great Nippulini, Ula-the Pain Proof Rubber Girl. 99 mins. Koch Vision Entertainment

Beneath American Carny's scattered narrative is a sorrowful undertow. For we're witnessing the inexorable fade out of an entertainment form owing to its withering venues and thinning ranks of newcomers. Extant sideshow acts and attractions have become quaint throwbacks, relics of a time when successfully hoodwinking the masses was as artful as the dodgy displays and high-spirited hijinks. Director Nick Basile's study of carny culture lacks cohesion, but is sufficiently raised by the presence of Todd Robbins. Robbins is a carny performer, an extremely likable fellow whose craftsmanship, knowledge and professional polish makes one wonder why he's not well-known. For an act that includes the digesting of a light bulb (oh yes, he eats a real light bulb), swallowing a fragile, and lit, neon tube, hammering a nail up his nostril and triggering a steel animal trap with his bare hand, one would expect some recognition on a grander scale. Robbins menu of madness is remarkable, and he appears to be as delighted by his abilities as much as his astonished audience. He serves as American Carny's anchor personality whilst Basile wanders about the bizarre business presenting partakers such as opinionated Xenobia the bearded lady, professional lunatic Harley Newman, The Great Nippulini and other strange funsters. Mostly based in Coney Island they inhabit one of the very last bastions for permanent residence of purveyors of the peculiar. Alas, their hallowed site is in developer crosshairs and their survival is very much in question. Aided by Paul Johnson's creative musical score, some clever animations and its crazed cast, American Carny contains enough happy hucksterism for the most discerning fire-eaters and bed of nail nappers amongst us.



HOW WILLIAM SHATNER CHANGED THE WORLD

D: Julian Jones. William Shatner, Jonathan Frakes, Dr. Marc D. Rayman, George Takei, Martin Cooper. 86 mins. Allumination Filmworks

Titular misnomer aside and clocking 34 minutes shy of the "Approx. 120 minutes" DVD case running time, William Shatner's self-possessed proclamation is an enjoyable view. Whether you're a Star Trek fan or foe, it's undeniable that the iconic series inspired many to literally change our culture by pushing technological limits. While 60s sci-fi writers struggled to conform to Trek creator Gene Rodenberry's vision there was a disparate bunch of viewers who believed such fantastical gadgetry were assuredly in our immediate future. Shatner presents several insightful inventors and brainy bookworms who set about creating the series' commonplace things and abilities. Incredibly, NASA engineer Dr. Marc D. Rayman admits that he first heard of ion propulsion when it was used by an alien ship in Gene Coon's script for original third season opener, Spock's Brain. It was deemed impossible even in Kirk's day, yet Rayman cites NASA's 1998 launch of Deep Space 1 as the first such spacecraft to use ion propulsion! And it was Motorola's Martin Cooper who envisaged the flip-top communicator as a goal rather than some TV writer's flight of fancy. For on April 3, 1973, Cooper placed the first portable cellular phone call from the streets of New York to his competitor, AT&T. Keep in mind that simple cordless phones had yet to be invented. Alas, there are some things we'll likely never experience. National University of Mexico's Dr. Miquel Alcubierre mathematically proves that interstellar warp drive is entirely possible, but the means to bring it about are beyond scientific reality. Likewise for the Enterprise's transporter; an invention that would make planes, trains and automobiles obsolete. Based upon Shatner's like-titled book and humorously scripted by director Jones and Alan Handel, How William Shatner Changed the World is a smartly marketable extension of Star Trek's cosmos, one that could not have been made until now. We do wonder, though, who was responsible for the inclusion of an eight second music snippet from Franco Micalizzi's score to The Visitor (1979) at 78 minutes into the program. For Euro film music enthusiasts its presence is about as astonishing as the out of this world surprises that preceded it.



SASQUATCH

D: Jonas Quastel. Lance Henriksen, Andrea Roth, Jeremy Radick, Phil Granger, Russell Ferrier, Mary Mancini. 86 mins. Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment DVD

A corporate plane crashes in the dense Pacific Northwest forest. On board is billionaire Harlan Knowles' daughter and a prototype device called the Huxley. The Huxley's capabilities? From little more than a strand of hair it instantly provides a detailed DNA profile (and is ultimately the gadget which identifies the titular creature). The Huxley is a priceless machine and the fate of Knowles' (Henriksen) company, Bio-Comp Industries, is teetering on its whereabouts. He organizes a rescue team to retrieve his daughter's remains and the device. As if that isn't enough bad news, a sasquatch is targeting the group for its own vengeful reasons. Writer/director Quastel assembles a diverse group of experts who seem especially adept at giving each other a rash via their verbal skirmishes: a suffer no fools guide (Ferrier), a tech geek (Radick), a flask-toting hunter and author (Granger), an insurance rep and major looker (Roth), and an ex-military crash analyst (Mancini). Trekking deep into the frigid woods, something mighty unpleasant follows their every move. There's plenty of moderate jumps and scares along the way with Quastel utilizing camera angles, an unseen monster's hi-jinks, sudden noises and an increasingly tense, gun wielding search team as his vehicles. A frightening sense of the beast's raw power is the discovery of the wreckage site. The crash occurred on one spot, but the plane was dragged miles away! The final reel is the confrontation between Henriksen and his behemoth nemesis. We learn that monster's rampage is driven by more than just animal instinct whilst a shattered Knowles reconciles his multitude of losses. Shot as The Untold (a far less revealing title) in 2000 near Vancouver, B.C., it was lensed in just 12 days. Alas, the picture suffers from mis-matched creature costumes. Scenes were filmed using an earlier and hairier creature concept and the DVD audio commentary alludes to an embarrassing costume change when an almost hairless redux beast appears. It's a jarring few moments that remind us of the film's Slim-Fast budget. The commentary track features two actors (Granger & Radick), Quastel and producer Rob Clark. Be certain to listen as the main title hits the screen. No one had been told the title was changed! "Sasquatch?? What the ...? Is that what it's called now?!" Image transfer is sharp and bright and is shown in its 1.85:1 widescreen format. Based on "actual accounts" (yeah, The Amityville Horror was real too), double bill this Sasquatch with Ed Ragozzino's 1978 pseudo-documentary Sasquatch, the Legend of Bigfoot (VCA). May the beast man win.



SCORING SESSION: ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACKS
"THE CHRISTMAS THAT ALMOST WASN'T"

Music composed and conducted by Bruno Nicolai. 29 tracks, 55 mins. 7 secs. Digitmovies CDDMO73, Stereo


D: Rossano Brazzi. Cast: Rossano Brazzi, Paul Tripp, Lydia Brazzi, Mischa Auer, Sonny Fox.

In 1964 Barry Yellen and his father founded New York-based Childhood Productions as a product source for the wildly popular kiddie matinee circuit, the movies for which are now a beloved sub-genre. Begun in 1960 by K. Gordon Murray and his release of Rene Cardona's Santa Claus, the Yellens followed his lead by purchasing the rights to foreign filmed fables and rolling them out territory by territory. Childhood's product was an immediate hit and the company was well into the black by the end of its first year. "The Christmas That Almost Wasn't" was the company's first (and last) original production, which was an audacious deviation from the established formula. They cast children's television superstar Paul Tripp in a lead role as optimistic lawyer Sam Whipple. Tripp, an accomplished writer and lyricist, also authored the script and song lyrics. The Yellens knew Tripp well through their massive ad campaigns aired on his hugely popular Birthday House tv series. Another kiddie tv idol, Sonny Fox, whose Wonderama and Just For Fun series were weekend viewing faves, co-starred. The film was co-produced and shot in Italy as Il Natale che quasi non fu. When enlisted to compose the score, the Bruno Nicolai (1926-1991) was just beginning his famed collaborative years with Ennio Morricone. At the time, Childhood was licensing several of their titles to the budget Golden Records and RCA/Camden label for official soundtrack LPs. Christmas' RCA pressing was entirely devoted to the film's numerous songs by Tripp and musician Ray Carter. So nary a Nicolai note has ever been heard independent of the film ... that is until the December 2006 release of Digitmovies CD soundtrack. Based in Italy, Digitmovies has produced over 80 soundtrack CDs since 2003, including Stelvio Cipriani's Bay of Blood, Nicolai's A Virgin Among the Living Dead and Armando Trovajoli's Hercules in the Haunted World. "The Christmas That Almost Wasn't" is an especially welcome title as Nicolai's score is a departure from what fans are accustomed to from this celebrated musician. Curiously, Nicolai was never correctly identified as Christmas' composer, instead being credited for "music orchestrations and musical direction." By avoiding a cliched approach of adapting public domain tunes like Jingle Bells, Silent Night and What Child Is This? (Greensleeves), Nicolai delivers a thoroughly likable score. From its swaying marches with secretive underpinnings to a plucky holiday motif giving way to happily expressive strings for the mannerly land of make-believe, "The Christmas That Almost Wasn't" is an out of the ordinary Bruno Nicolai treat. It's filled with heartfelt strains, light dramatic themes, emotional strings, brassy buffoonery and pleasing motifs. Written around the same time as his Django Shoots First and Kiss Kiss Band Bang the music is evidence of Nicolai's skilled handling of any project for which he signed on. Patiently waiting for four decades in his own Edi-Pan vault (a label specializing in library music and issuing the composer's works) were the original stereophonic master tapes with every cue intact. Digitmovies has presented this release with an 8-pg. booklet that utilizes Childhood Productions' original campaign art and publicity material for its illustrations. Listen to it on a Saturday at about 2pm for maximum fulfillment.



SCORING SESSION: ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACKS
HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH

Music composed and performed by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth. 6-pg. tri-fold booklet, 25-track expanded edition, 68 mins, limited to 1000 copies. Alan Howarth Incorporated AHICD 001


Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) shares only one plot element with its titular brethren: Halloween. It also shares the wonderfully expressive and creepy sonic constructions of series co-creator John Carpenter. Carpenter, sole composer on the 1978 original, enlisted the help of Alan Howarth for Halloween II (1981) and III (Howarth would stay with the series through Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers [1995]). III's score was originally issued on vinyl LP with 12 tracks (MCA Records MCA-6115) and later on CD (Varese Sarabande VSD-5243) with original CDs routinely selling on eBay for $75-$100. That is until this 25 track expanded edition was released in October 2007 through Howarth's own company. Tracks 1 through 12 replicate the original album with 13 through 25 comprising unreleased bonus tracks. For this score the collaborators abandon earlier motifs in favor of a fresh approach. The result is an iridescent showcase of their musical compatibility, one that's immediately evident with a brilliant main title composition for an electronically generated jack-o-lantern visual. By combining beeping stabs and staccatos with rhythms and sustaining tones, the cinematic experience is completed in both mood and aesthetics. Further down the play list is "First Chase" (Track 5) a three minute set piece of tense and plucky edginess as hero Dr. Dan Challis (Tom Atkins) dodges and ducks the robotic minions of novelty toy maker Conal Cochran (Dan O'Herlihy) through Santa Mira's nighttime streets. The original 12 cut soundtrack is a cohesive representation of the larger score. The composers had chosen their tracks wisely way back when. The new 13 bonus tracks are where thematic repetition with slight variation will be found. Watch for a mastering snafu on Track 23 as it contains 55 seconds of silence. It runs 2 mins and 45 secs, but the music ends at 1 min 50 secs. Nevertheless, this definitive edition is a handsomely packaged CD with superb sound quality and fun (but brief) liner comments by Alan Howarth. Limited to only 1000 pressings, it's suggested you buy one soon. After all, "the clock is ticking ... it's almost time."



BONE DRY

D: Brett A. Hart. Luke Goss, Lance Henriksen, Dee Wallace-Stone, Tommy 'Tiny' Lister. 104 mins. Allumination Filmworks

Bone Dry wastes little time in setting up its protagonist/antagonist structure. In short order, Eddie (Luke Goss) finds himself armed with a compass and walkie-talkie in the middle of an unforgiving desert. It's Jimmy (Lance Henriksen) who has placed him there, teasing and torturing Eddie from near and afar, but almost always within rifle range. With instructions to ceaselessly march in a northerly direction, sunburn will be the least of Eddie's worries. Jimmy guides his prey through preordained encounters, forcing cruel survival challenges that Eddie must surmount. Jimmy has his reasons that won't be revealed until the final reel, unless you make the mistake of watching the trailer first. It inexplicably discloses Jimmy's motivation. Bone Dry is director Brett Hart's feature film debut, supported by a filmmaking team who are expert craftspeople. This is a short budget affair, shot on HD video that looks expensive. The technical cleverness is superb as is Scott Glasgow's tensely orchestrated score. It's a talented group giving their expert best. Having bestowed such deserving praise, bone dry also describes this reviewer's gut response to Hart's co-written screenplay (with Jeff O'Brien). It is a tale that's short on heart and long on external expression. I wanted to care about what I was seeing, but there was no principled center on which to grasp. Also missing here is the heightened suspense such an ambitious storytelling should have had in spades. When twists are introduced, they struggle to convey any sense of urgency or surprise. It is an overly-long telling of what could have been a sensational hour-long television episode (44 mins sans commercials). Be sure to watch for the director's glaringly amateurish and indulgent screen credit, "A Brett A. Hart Vision". Bone Dry, with all its filmmaking moxie, is a skilled colorless experience.



BOUNCE: behind the velvet rope

D: Steven Cantor. Terence "Black Prince" Buckley, Alan Crosley, Frank Demaio, Mike Demaio, Jordan Maldonado, Lenny Mclean. Wellspring Media 71 mins

"Wanted: Stupid drunks and self-important punks requiring an occasional ass-kicking by human wrecking ball." Welcome to Bounce: behind the velvet rope, a documentary chronicling those nocturnal behemoths whose purpose is the removal of indecorous nightclub patrons. Director Cantor chooses seven such veterans for his New York to London record that reveals another side of these professional attitude adjusters. Told completely by the participants, film just barely manages to convey a "why we do this" message whilst leaving all judgments aside. New York's Jordan Maldonado tops the chart as the most disturbing of the bunch, openly admitting his love of violence. Father of a toddler and infant, his children's indoctrination scheme is having them repeat phrases back such as, "Say 'yeah' for killing! Say 'yeah' for hurting people!". The antithesis of Maldonado is Terence "Black Prince" Buckley whose love for his mom and child are unreserved. Soft-spoken and likeable, he'll still contort your arm like a Twizler and drop-kick your sorry self into a Queens gutter if called upon. Highlighting these tough guys is Lenny "The Guv'nor" Mclean, a brute of a Brit with an engaging style. Sporting multiple gunshot wounds, stab scars, broken bones and other bouncer keepsakes, he proffers his industry's ancient observation, "They walk in as nice guys. After the fifth drink, they all want to be tough guys." In fact, the tricky bunch are a wealth of noisome quotes such as Maldonado's, "It's impossible to kick my ass because if you're gonna try, you're gonna die," and "I love the violence; if there wasn't any I wouldn't be doin' it," and Alan Crosley's more reasoned and succinct take, "One shot in the jaw ... that's usually the end of the story." England's ill-fated appetite for political extremism has resulted in classes for bouncer hopefuls who are shown the proper way to handle an unruly patron. Cantor inserts traditional bouncer video over the audio of Brit instructors gently describing the correct way to grab a person's arm. If big city nightlife is where you're destined, Bouncer serves wonderfully as a "How-To" video lesson for returning home in one piece. As for the alternative lifestyle crowd into pain and humiliation, your muscle-bound Mecca's await you.



MEET YOUR MEAT

Narrated by Alec Baldwin. PeTA Video 13 mins.

PeTA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is world renowned for their heavy handed awareness campaigns urging the populace to shun animal derived foods and products as a way of life and embrace vegetarianism. Their effort is a noble one I suppose, and while they will never achieve a worldwide bowing to their vision they still busy themselves with DVD presentations like Meet Your Meat. Lasting only 13 minutes, it is a disturbing peek into the horrific and outright inhumane treatment of cattle, pigs, and poultry that will give the compassionate amongst us pause. It's ghastly footage and deliberately so, living creatures raised in ungodly conditions whilst being viciously beaten, crammed, sliced, thrown, kicked, stomped, burned and maimed. All being performed while they're fully conscious. It's heart wrenching. Sounds pretty grim, no? Well, it is grim and I have to hand it to the PeTA crowd. They know how to affect an audience and sell an agenda. However, the fact remains that we're a species prone to eating meat. It's been this way since the world's first dinosaur barbeque. Whether delivered to us as "two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions all in a sesame seed bun" or neatly trimmed and wrapped by our butcher, mankind will consume animal flesh. We will skin them for warmth as well as decoration and vanity. We'll kill them for sport and sustenance. And meat factories will pump them full of hormones and drugs to up their yields of eggs, milk and flesh on the bone. In the end, programs like Meet Your Meat will sway those who are susceptible while briefly disgusting the rest who'll continue to consume the best Oscar Mayer has to offer. And then there are those of us who are "humane consumers" who go with a feel good policy of eating meat. We'll buy meat that was raised without any antibiotics or hormone shots. The ones that are free range and fed organically grown feed. We're mildly sympathetic to the unjust abuse and will only consume humanely raised animals that are healthy for us (as if that carcass was somehow in less pain when its throat was cut). Whether PeTA exists or not, the fate of the animals is as it always has been - at the hands of mankind. For better or for worse. And the beat(ings) go on.



HELL'S HIGHWAY - THE TRUE STORY OF HIGHWAY SAFETY FILMS

D: Bret Wood. John F. Butler, Dick York, Hans Conried, Earle J. Deems, John R. Domer, Rick Prelinger, Mike Vraney. 91 mins.

Director Bret Wood's unusual documentary recounts the history of those blood-drenched highway safety films that were endlessly unspooled in 1960s schoolrooms. Clattering Bell & Howell projectors presented these 16mm mindblowers with nary a care whilst open-mouthed teens viewed uncensored images of deadly car crashes and their gory aftermath. With exploitive titles like Mechanized Death, Drive & Survive, Wheels of Tragedy and Highways of Agony these short subjects were enough to send students into tears. Credit one-time accountant Richard Wayman for this dense library of scare tactic teaching tools. Wayman's oddball fascination with photographing car carnage, and then volunteer lecturing about them, was transformed into a full-time biz when he launched the Highway Safety Foundation. Based in Mansfield, Ohio, Wayman produced his films under the Safety Enterprises banner, leading off his soon-to-be long career with Signal 30 (cop radio lingo for a fatal accident) in 1959. It established the bedrock storytelling formula for which most of the subsequent titles would follow--reenactments peppered with actual crash footage. Aided by newspaper photog John Domer and sisters Phyllis Vaughn and Dottie Vaughn Deems, Wayman established a lucrative niche for himself as the go-to guru for driver's ed films. In locating two surviving foundation toilers, Earle Deems and John Domer, director Wood utilizes their first-hand accounts for a fascinating inside peek inside Wayman's operation. Truly an amazing bit of luck that these gentlemen were still around and willing to discuss their unique film careers. Equally fascinating is the inclusion of former Mansfield chief of police, John Butler. For it was Butler who unreservedly supported Wayman's cause and closely consulted with the filmmaker on the handling of his subject matter. Later on, Safety Enterprises was enlisted to secretly film homosexual activities in public toilets (a rather lurid detour for the company) and produced what has arguably become their most notorious title of all, The Child Molester. It's still a creepy and disturbing affair nearly 40 years after its release. By the early 70s the company embarked on their most ambitious project of all-a national telethon promoting safe driving and hosted by supporter Sammy Davis, Jr.. While the final tote board screamed success, Wayman soon learned that phoned in pledges didn't necessarily mean they'd be followed by a check in the mail. The telethon lost a bundle and proved to be the company's undoing. Also riding along Hell's Highway is film historian and archivist Rick Prelinger who expertly explains the educational movie genre in a historical and cultural context whilst Something Weird's Mike Vraney discusses their guilty pleasure and artifact aspects. And even though some of the images are too grim to watch (such as the dead baby crunched under a car), Hell's Highway isn't nearly as horrific as today's disturbing and rampant cinematic content...CGI.



MIMIC SENTINEL

D: J. T. Petty. Alexis Dziena, Karl Geary, Rebecca Mader, Lance Henriksen, Amanda Plummer, John Kapelos. 76 mins. Dimension Home Video

Fess up time. I never saw the first two Mimic movies. Trying to catch up with a movie series with installment number 3 can be unsettling. And rather than do research prior to watching Mimic Sentinel, I opted for a clueless leap into established characters and elements. Perhaps this approach is what garnered it a near 4 Ro-Man rating from this scribe. The movie as a stand alone title is good! Clocking in at a scant 76 minutes, it openly swipes from Hitchcock's Rear Window to set up lead character Marvin Montrose's (Geary) incessant shutterbug activities from his Long Island City, New York apartment bedroom (film was shot in Romania). Suffering from Strickler's disease (an asthma-like affliction referencing back to 1997's Mimic), Marvin maintains a wall of across the courtyard neighbors' images with nicknames like World's #1 Dad, Ma Ball, Veiled Lady - who Marvin admires from afar (Mader), and Garbage Man (Henriksen). He's not a dangerous sort, he simply whiles away his secluded hours with inoffensive voyeuristic photography, deliberately leaving his lights on so that his subjects can clearly see they're being watched. Sister Rosy (Dziena) is a flitty type who casually dabbles in drugs and runs her brother's errands. She eventually delivers Carmen (the Veiled Lady) to Marvin's bubble and the trio decide to investigate the strange coming and going behavior of Garbage Man. World's #1 Dad's son is missing and now Rosy's drug connection has followed suit. Something's going on and Marvin and company are going to discover what in a very big way. Mimic Sentinel is a claustrophobic, eerily mounted thriller with edgy characters and very few wasted scenes. The model and computer-generated Judas Breed bugs, the genetically engineered flying critters originally created to wipe out New York cockroaches (they're also able to mimic human form), are minimally used. When they appear they're quite fearsome and with this reviewer having no point of reference to anything else, they came off as truly frightening bastards. They move quickly and tear into you like a can of soup. Henriksen's unpredictable Garbage Man is never clearly explained but he's a shady scientist type who's well aware of the Judas Breed and knows how to take them out. Scene transitions utilize dips to black to move things along to the final reel which features an action-filled payoff. Many will question my sanity here, but this creepy direct-to-video entry is one of my faves of the year. It's especially recommended viewing if you've passed on the previous two Mimic films. When watching, be sure to leave your window shades up for maximum spookiness.


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