As with most of us, I’m spending my time at home, only going out to the grocery store when essential. Like many of my movie collector friends, we’re all using our time at home to check out some movies and TV series we bought on sale but hadn’t gotten around to yet. So this month, I’d like to share with you some of what I’m enjoying during my self-isolation. Titles that perhaps you’ve never heard of, or hadn’t seen in a long time and would like to revisit too.
Last year, the small home video imprint Mill Creek began a series of blu-ray releases for Japan’s beloved “Ultraman” franchise. If you’ve never seen “Ultraman” it’s a fun sci-fi show about the space patrol, who keep Earth safe from monsters. One member of the team has the power to transform into “Ultraman,” a Godzilla sized hero who can fight the monsters. The first series in the franchise is “Ultra Q,” which is a sort of a mix of “The Twilight Zone,” “The X-Files,” and “Godzilla.” Some of the monsters who appear in “Ultra Q” would later appear throughout the various “Ultraman” shows and movies.
Shortly after “Ultra Q” came out on blu-ray I had two friends, independent of each other, reach out to me with glowing messages saying: “You need to see this, it’s up your alley.” Two months ago, I finally got my hands on the set and watching the 1966 Japanese TV series has been an absolute blast. The show was one of the most expensive TV series ever produced up to that time in Japan, and it shows. Between the wonderfully inventive designs on the monsters, to the rich, black and white photography, “Ultra Q” is a TV series that’s a great deal of fun. Unlike “Ultraman,” “Q” focuses on a team that investigates strange phenomena, supernatural occurrences, and, yes, monsters. The episodes run at just half an hour each, so it’s nice to “pepper” one or two between movies at night.
We move next to the 1968 movie “Boom!” starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. “Boom!” is a cult classic that recently came back into print thanks to those cinematic mavens at Shout Factory. “With a script by Tennessee Williams and none other than Noel Coward in the supporting cast, “Boom!” is … well … one of the weirdest and campiest moves I’ve ever seen. Taylor plays the world’s wealthiest woman, a recluse on an island she owns. Burton washed up on the island as a poet, who may or not be the angel of death, and things happen. What happens? Let’s just say that at one point during the movie Taylor wears a headdress that looks like an accident between a pile of cigarettes and a cub scout paper mache project, and Noel Coward gets a piggyback ride then wanders around yelling “yoo hoo!” a lot.
I really can’t quite figure out what to say about “Boom!” Just when I thought I had seen the darndest movie ever made, along “Boom!” came to grab the title. It’s a weird, wild, crazy trip. You can’t help but wonder if the movie is really happening, or if what you thought was oregano in your pantry was actually something else. The great John Waters is a huge fan of this movie — God bless that man — and Shout Factory got Waters to come in and record a commentary track for the film. If you’ve ever heard Waters talking about movies, then you know what a joy it is to listen to him speak on any the topic, having him do a play by play for the film is worth the price of admission alone.
I had the great pleasure of discovering a real gem of a movie that had been sitting on my shelf for months, waiting for me to take it for a spin last night. The movie was the 1980’s “Hopscotch” starring Watler Matthau and Glenda Jackson, a lighthearted send-up of paranoid spy thrillers of the era. Matthau plays a CIA agent who has become disillusioned with the agency after the new head of his department chides him over a mission. He quits, then decides to write his memoir showing how full of it all the secret agencies of the world are, which causes everyone from the CIA to the KGB to track him down before they’re all embarrassed in print.
The film is a joy to watch from start to finish. Fun, funny, and honestly anything with Matthau in the lead is going to be a good time. The role he plays is perfect for him, and if you need any more convincing that this movie is worth your time, there’s a sequence where he phones an agent pretending to be Elenore Rosevelt. The movie was not at all what I was expecting, and will easily go down as one of my favorite film discoveries this year.
I hope you and your loved ones are staying safe, and to all our medical workers, thank you for your tireless hard work during a very unusual time. Take time to check in on those you love, and to watch some movies. See you next month.