RANDOM NONSENSE: JUST BEFORE DAWN ARRIVES ON BLU-RAY!

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JUST BEFORE DAWN ARRIVES ON BLU-RAY!

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The cult classic slasher Just Before Dawn came out on a new edition blu-ray on 1/12/21 and mine arrived from Amazon today! It’s currently only $19.95 and comes with a nice selection of extras. Not only does it have the original uncut version, but an extended international cut that is about 10 minutes longer. It has interviews from 2019 with cast members Gregg Henry, Chris Lemmon and Jamie Rose, along with Producer David Sheldon. It also features a vintage featurette with actors Chris Lemmon, Jamie Rose and John Hunsaker, along with co-writer Mark Arywitz and producer David Sheldon. Last but not least, it includes the original trailer. There will be a full review for the disc once I get to check it out, but it already sounds like a bargain!
Check out MonsterZero NJ’s review for this flick here

MonsterZero NJ

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: EARTHQUAKE (1974)

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EARTHQUAKE (1974)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Been in the mood to revisit some of the classic 70s disaster films that I saw in a theater as a kid and Earthquake is a prime example. It has the classic formula of having an all-star cast of characters engaged in some soap opera level drama until some disaster hits and everyone has to survive it. This flick has Charlton Heston’s ex-pro football player, juggling a shrew of a wife (Ava Gardner) and a young mistress (Geneviève Bujold) while rebellious cop Slade (George Kennedy) is in trouble once more. Mix in Richard Roundtree as a motorcycle daredevil, Victoria Principal as his hot assistant and Marjoe Gortner as a crazed National Guardsman and you have a cast ripe for…disaster! Soon, a mega-quake hits L.A. and all our characters are torn out of their melodrama and forced into a fight for survival. Add in a last act dam burst and it’s a cheesy fun time.

Despite being very fond of this flick due to it’s nostalgic personal importance, I’ll be the first to admit it hasn’t aged all that well. Written by George Fox and Mario Puzo, there is some really bad dialogue and some awfully cheesy subplots going on in this flick. The drama between Heston and Gardner is as overblown as his relationship with Bujold, who is young enough to be his daughter, is silly. Kennedy’s cop is too much of a loose cannon to have lasted on the force this long and Gortner is so obviously a psycho, one wonders how loose the National Guard’s qualifications are. We also get the classic bureaucratic stall as the suits decide whether the scientist’s scary data is worth telling the public. It’s all directed very by-the-numbers by Mark Robson, a prolific director since the 40s. As for the quake itself, it lasts for about ten minutes and we get all sorts of chaos and destruction represented by miniatures that range from well-done to cheesy. The FX were praised in the day, but haven’t really aged all that well after over four decades, though the matte paintings still look good. The carnage is still fun to watch, as is the cornball melodrama of our cast being rescued or rescuing others. Apparently L.A.’s emergency response team in the 70s consisted of Charlton Heston and George Kennedy as they seem to be the only ones actually saving lives. There are daring rescues and heroic derring-do, all the while the National Guard just seems to be in town to shoot people and not actually help. Adding dramatic impact is a score by the great John Williams and if you had seen it in a theater, it was all presented in the cheesy glory of Sensurround! (Click on the link HERE to learn more about that!)

It’s too large a cast to give everyone props, but they all perform with corny, melodramatic intensity. Heston is Heston, as he is in every film he’s in. Ava Gardner is very over-the-top and you can see why hubby Heston is shacking up with the young honey. Also hilarious is that Lorne Greene plays Gardner’s father while only being seven years older. Roundtree’s cocky character is an Evel Kinevel wannabe, who oddly disappears from the action in the third act. Marjoe Gortner is in Shatner territory with his looney weekend warrior and Victoria Principal is really cute, but not quite convincing as a street-smart chick with an afro that’s almost as impressive as her bustline. Kennedy is solid as the cop with anger issues and is probably the most grounded performer in the cast aside from Lorne Greene.

Earthquake may not live up to the memories of a nine year old MonsterZero NJ sitting in the Park Lane Theater in Palisades Park, N.J. back in 1974, but it is still cheesy fun. We get a quintessential 70s disaster flick with cornball melodrama, a classic all-star cast and the destruction of a L.A. in the form of a model Godzilla would have loved to romp in. It brings back memories of going to the movies with my grandfather and my folks and even if it hasn’t aged well, there is heavy personal nostalgia. Not a great movie, but still a classic.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 heroic Hestons.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: JUST BEFORE DAWN (1981)

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JUST BEFORE DAWN (1981)

“Keep breeding in the same family and something’s bound to snap.”

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

 After revisiting Jeff Lieberman’s Squirm I decided to check out his 1981 slasher Just Before Dawn. I honestly don’t remember if I have ever seen it before and as I watched it, nothing rang a bell, so this may be the first time watching this flick for me. The film follows the late 70s’ early 80s slasher formula and adds a hint of Chainsaw Massacre, as it tells the story of five youths who travel up to some recently inherited property deep in the remote Oregon mountains. Despite the ominous warnings of old park ranger, Mr. McLean (George Kennedy) and the appearance of a drunk and quite frightened hunter (Mike Kellin), they enter the woods to enjoy the great outdoors. Obviously there are some local inhabitants who are not exactly thrilled at the intrusion and have a violent way of showing it…of course had the warnings these kids received been less vague…

Co-written… with Mark Arywitz and Jonas Middleton…and directed by Lieberman, this backwoods slasher is moderately paced much like his Squirm and generally most of the horrors of this era. The body count is fairly small and despite a gruesome opening scene kill, a lot of the carnage occurs off-screen. But the film does have a nice atmosphere and there is something just a little off about the flick to make it interesting, despite being fairly routine on the surface. I wouldn’t say it’s a strange movie outright, but there is something a bit odd about it that I can’t quite put my finger on and this slightly unsettling aspect did give it some extra points. The film is well shot by Dean and Joel King and the music by Brad Fiedel is creepy and adds some atmosphere to it as well. Throw in some 80s nostalgia and this was a decent enough 80s horror flick to pass the time.

The cast are a bit livelier than Lieberman’s Squirm. George Kennedy is solid as always. Gregg (Slither) Henry is our lead male and he is fine as the cocky Warren who actually surprises us a bit by losing some of that swagger when things start to go wrong. Cutie Deborah Benson is Warren’s girlfriend Connie, who also surprises us when this fish out of water rises to the occasion against the serrated machete wielding mountain folk. Rounding out our young vacationers are Jaime Rose as the promiscuous Megan, Chris Lemmon as Jonathan and Ralph (Pee Wee’s Big Adventure) Seymour as Jonathan’s photographer brother, Daniel. They are all suitable in their roles as potential mountain folk fodder and are an attractive cast, as is the custom with these flicks. The rest of the supporting cast are appropriately creepy playing various mountain locals including pretty Katie Powell as Merry and big John Hunsaker as the deranged blade carrying killer. Hunsacker also gives his loony a bit of an off-putting sense of humor to add to his imposing size and inbred looks.

I liked this flick. On the outside it is a routine backwoods slasher, but there was enough atmosphere and odd touches throughout to keep me entertained despite the low body count and lengthy stretches between kills. There wasn’t much suspense, but the film had enough of the traditional elements to keep my attention and a few off-kilter moments, too. Not a bad flick to throw in with the more renown classics, especially when watching some 80s slashers during the Halloween season, or with a summer slasher marathon!

Rated 3 (out of 4) serrated machetes.

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BARE BONES: NON-STOP and LOCKE

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NON-STOP (2014)

The presence of Liam Neeson can elevate most films to another level, but even he can’t salvage this thriller which starts out ridiculous and switches gears to ludicrous in it’s last act. Neeson plays alcoholic and paranoid US Air Marshall, Bill Marks (how did he get this job?) who is framed for the hi-jacking of the very flight he is on. Jaume Collet-Serra (House Of Wax) does a good job of directing this silly film, from a script by three people no less, but can’t save it from the fact that it just gets more outlandish and unbelievable as it goes on. There is some tension and suspense, and certainly a lot to chuckle about, but all it really succeeds in doing is evoking memories of those silly, over the top Airport movies from the 70s, but without Shelly Winters and George Kennedy. Also stars Julianne Moore whose character’s purpose in the film still eludes me.

2 and 1-2 star rating

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LOCKE (2014)

Probably the best movie you will ever see about a guy driving from one place to another talking on the phone in his car. What could have been a real snooze fest is brought to intense life by a riveting tour de force performance by Tom Hardy and skilled direction from Steven Knight, who also wrote the script. The film takes place over just a few hours as Ivan Locke leaves his construction site job to join a woman who he impregnated during a one night stand. The entire film is he communicating with various individuals as his choice to be with this practical stranger, as she gives birth, causes his idyllic and successful life to come crashing down around him. It takes a lot of skill to make a flick like this work and work it does.

three and one half stars rating

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