I finally checked out an animated movie I’ve been curious about for years! ‘The Plague Dogs’ from 1982 is from the same team who brought us ‘Watership Down’ so if you’re familiar with that you know right off the bat that you’re in for something quite special. Like Watership down The Plague Dogs is hardly a children’s movie, it deals with some pretty damn heavy stuff. We the follow two dogs Snitter (John Hurt) & Rowf (Christopher Benjamin) who’re caged in a lab where they’re continuously abused by scientists for testing purposes.
However one day, one of the “white coats” (as the dog’s call the doctors) accidentally leaves Snitter’s cage door ajar and both him and Rowf escape to the open countryside. In the wild they struggle to find food and shelter and find help from a mischevious fox named the Tod (James Bolam). The three of them go on an epic journey. where the two dogs long to find a new kind family to take them in, but once the Government tell the locals that the two of them are infected with the bubonic plague, it becomes a race for survival as true danger lurks around every corner.
The Plague Dogs goes in some shockingly dark directions, some sequences so surprising I’d paused the movie to double check the rating. Much of it’s admittedly depressing and bleak but done so beautifully with it’s animation and painted backdrops that’s it’s really worth the effort. It’s the morning after and the movie still weighs heavily in my mind so much so that I’d really rank this in the top 10 best animated features I’ve seen. There’s so much heart in it’s characters and by mid point in the movie there’s nothing more I’d wanted than to see these characters get a happy ending. Be warned though, this one doesn’t play out like a Disney movie of the 80’s, no one remains safe here and some of the directions it goes in will literally have you on the edge of your seat. At least it did for me. All that being said I’d wondered who they made this movie for back in the early 1980s, as most kids seeing it might be fully scarred after viewing. I suppose ‘Watership Down’ follows this same formula and has a similar reputation. I’m surprised it took me this long to finally view as it’s clearly in a league of it’s own, one that nearly had me in tears several times, unlike anything I’ve seen in recent years. Continue reading
Been a movie watchin’ fiend lately & luckily most of the flicks, most of which I’d call largely forgotten cinema, have been surprisingly damn good! So listen up I’m gonna throw a bunch of short reviews for some films that are worth the trouble to track down if like me you’re looking for some lost gems! Let’s get on with this shit today we’ve got some great what I like to coin ‘John Hughes Horror’ in…
Night Life (1989)
First up let it be known this cool ass little movie was never officially released on dvd so it’s a tuff one to track down. You can hunt down a copy on vhs or like I did buy a bootleg copy of it on dvd from Ioffer.com, a great site for stuff like this. Anyway I wanna start off saying that this movie has Scott Grimes, that red headed kid from Critters 1&2 so it instantly had me there as I love those two movies. It’s essentially an 80’s teen high school bully movie with zombies. Scott Grimes or “Archie” in the movie, who channels a bit of Michael J. Fox, works at a mortuary for his jerky uncle (John Astin) and is bullied by four assholes (two preppy jock-y couples) from his school. Turns out he’s totally infatuated with one of the girls and the bullies quickly devise a plan to set him up on a “date” that ultimately destroys him teenage life. He’s also got an older lady pal, a cute local mechanic that he hangs out with all the time that he’s also crushed out on, who’s clearly put him in the friend zone. Ahh to be a teenager again…
Well one day those same four prepster bullies meet their demise in a horrible car crash, and of course Archie has to take them back to the mortuary. It seems though he’s in high school he accompanies the police to crimes scenes and is oddly in charge of the “dirty work” of dealing with the dead, I guess that shit flew back in the 80’s huh? Only problem is the four assholes become zombies when a bolt of lightning strikes the roof of the mortuary, something clearly foreshadowed earlier when a dead frog’s legs twitch when given an electrical charge by his science teacher. The nice thing here is these Zombies aren’t your mindless walkers, they’re more ruthless, cunning & have one clear driving their every move: to turn Archie into mince meat!! This begins a totally outrageous game of cat and mouse that plays out like a great extended episode of Tales From The Crypt in the best way.
The movie’s got a light hearted feel to it but isn’t afraid to get down and dirty when it needs to either. The zombie bullies use their newly acquired blood lust to carry out some pretty inventive on screen kills too. This may not be a traditional zombie apocalypse flick, but it’s one of the most unique and who needs more of the apocalypse anyway. Even in the 80’s that shit was overdone. Even way back in 89′ Tony Timpone of Fangoria praised it “the most original, off-beat & entertaining zombie films in years, a must see!”. I gotta agree it’s a ton of fun, has great stunts, cool fx, gore, rad looking zombies, sets & characters. Pretty much everything I love about the 80’s all wrapped into one. This one deserves an official release it’s definitely a lost gem. I’m pretty floored at how this movie doesn’t have more love these days, hopefully someone will clean it up and give it a proper release if you’re a fan of 80’s horror and those John Hughs-esque flick of that era you’ll find a lot here to love!! One last interesting tidbit here is that director David Acomba was one the two directors responsible for the infamously bad 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special!! But hey don’t hold that against him!!
There are movies way back from when I was a kid that I never thought would see the light of day on dvd. I’ve fond memories of going to the video store (back in the 1980’s when everything was VHS or Beta!) on the weekend and picking out movies with my friends on our parents video store cards. Mostly what I remember most are the amazing VHS box cover art from the 1980’s and how excited I was to get back home and watch the movies! We had to be sneaky around our parents because a lot of these movies they would’ve never allowed us to watch. It’s funny to, looking back because most of these movies we were sneaking around with were incredibly cheezy horror, action or sci-fi flicks that most people today think are nothing more than laughable cinema. To us though that shit was fully legit!
So years have passed and many of those flicks have been forgotten right? WRONG!! Thanks to Shout! Factory we are getting a LOT of those classic movies released now on DVD! I recently had some extra money to blow and found two movies I’d thought would remain on VHS only forever. However not only did they have them both on DVD but they also came with three other movies each that I have never seen before, but fondly remember their cover art from back in the 1980’s!! First up is one of my faves as kid, The Eliminators!
This movie was featured a couple times at our Bad Movie Nights we have here in Pdx and it delivers the goods above and beyond every damn time! If you are looking for the ultimate movie to get wasted with your friends and laugh (and love at the same time) this is IT!
The DVD of this one also includes three other movies which I have never seen, “Arena” from 1989, America 3000 from 1986 & The Time Guardian from 1989. So for a mere $9.99 you’ve got quite an exciting quadruple feature!!
Second I found that they released “The Dungeonmaster” from 1985 which was also one of my all time favorite movies as a kid. Being eleven years old and seeing this one for the first time back then was a real treat. The movie is downright ridiculous but it’s jammed to the brim with stop motion monsters, puppets, animatronics, crazy action, adventure, Richard Moll in a cloak & a rock and roll battle against the heavy metal band W.A.S.P.!
This one should really be viewed as a double feature with Eliminators but the DVD also features 3 other flicks two of which I have never seen before! “Cellar Dweller” from 1988 which is a pretty cool little monster flick, “Catacombs” and “Contamination 7” from 1993. So if you love those old video store movies of the 1980’s as much as I do but don’t have a VHS player or access to these on video do yourself a favor and spend some time exploring the Shout! Factory website!