As far as I can tell the rest of the cast is of little note – hardly surprising when you look at the acting on show – with the exception of Maureen McCormick, whose turn as a cop that becomes alarmingly aroused by dismembered body parts proves to be all the more bizarre when you discover she played Marcia Brady on The Brady Bunch. Now I’ve never seen that show for two reasons: a, I’ve always lived in the UK, where I’m fairly sure it’s never been aired, and b, I’m under the age of 35, but I’m fairly sure Marcia never came on to her superior officer after discovering a severed arm, or clawed seductively at her blood-splattered breasts whilst she retold her exploits involving sliding down a gruesome hallway.
My main problem with the film was the plot, especially the last ten minutes, which features not one but two of the worst twists I’ve ever seen. The first, involving a Mission Impossible-style removable face mask, is ridiculous enough, but the second is of such sweeping idiocy that it beggars belief, and doesn’t withstand even a second’s worth of examination. Up until that point I had forgiven most of the film’s other flaws – of which there are many – on the basis of the director’s lack of experience (this is his only film credit) and budgetary reasons (although great films have been made for far less than this film cost), but the film’s ending is just so ridiculously inane that it turned me off the rest of the film completely.
So what else is wrong with it? Well, it uses the age old filming-a-scene-but-not-telling-us-they’re-filming-a-scene schtick at least three times, and the it’s-all-a-dream thing once, there’s a sex scene illuminated by someone welding something quite far away from the first floor window of the room in which the coitus is occurring, no-one actually finds the bodies mounting up, yet people are clearly scared of a suspected killer they have no reason to suspect, and there’s one of the worst uses of a Schwarzanegger-esque one-liner I’ve ever seen (“Class dismissed.”)
On the plus side, the script the script does have some gems, including a conversation about explosive breasts (“There will be no exploding tit shot!”) and possibly the greatest worst special efect I’ve ever seen in a shot of an axe beheading someone in silhouette through a frosted glass door, with the axe swinging down, followed wiftly by a clearly fake head being thrown far too enthusiastically up in the air. Needless to say, my friend and I were in stitches at this, and it received a good few rewinds before we were done. If I knew how to embed mpegs you’d be watching this for the rest of the day.
So, all in, this is one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. At times it wanders into so-bad-its-good territory, but for the most part it’s just terrible. I will not be returning to Horror High any time soon.
Choose life 2/10
Carl Brisson is Jack ‘One Round’ Sander, who makes his living by challenging regular schmoes to a boxing match at a carnival. His fiance (Lillian Hall-Davis) chews gums as she works the ticket counter, and his friends are his assistants and announcer. One night, after dispatching the usual rag-tag band of hopefuls fairly promptly – one of whom defeats himself as he enters the ring – Jack meets his match against Bob Corby (Ian Hunter), who unbeknownst to Jack is an Australian heavyweight champion, and has already been making moves on his girl. After the fight, Bob claims his reward (a grand total of £2.00), and tells Jack he plans to give him his chance with the professionals. Bob and Jack’s fiance, and eventually his wife, become much closer as Jack becomes more successful, which leads to a love triangle developing between the three, coming to a head when Jack and Bob fight on another at the end of the film.
Had I not known this was a Hitchcock film, I would have been very surprised to discover the fact. Other than themes of deception and suspicion, this does not seem to fit within the rest of his work. Even the leading female is a brunette! Now I’m sure that Hitchcock obviously didn’t start out as a master film-maker – truly brilliant debut films are few and far between – but I had hoped for more than this, as this film is at best just mediocre. The plot is nothing special, and feels dragged out even at less than 90 minutes, and when you consider that the last 10+ minutes of this are a boxing match that feels like it lasts at least an hour, then the pacing is really quite a problem.
Hitchcock’s infamous mysogany and sexism is evident in places. Though she is essentially the third lead, Hall-Davis’ character is only ever referred to as ‘The Girl,’ even though her character has is called Millie. In both the opening credits and her introductory title card she is given that fairly vague, nondescript title. There is some interesting camerawork, especially early on in the initial fight, with the camera remaining stationery, pointed at Jack’s opponent’s corner of the ring, as the would-be fighter heads off screen to fight, only to be thrown back a second later, dishevelled and clearly defeated. However other than this and some occasional semi-dream sequences and video distortion to emulate rage, drunkeness and being knocked out, there isn’t much to take note of.
The title of ‘The Ring‘ most obviously refers to the boxing ring within which a fair amount of the film takes place, however it also refers to the wedding ring (this is possibly the first cinematic incarnation of a best man losing the ring), a bangle given to Millie by Bob, a forune-teller’s ring of cards and the circular nature of the plot, as the final scenes are very similar to the opening one, with Millie watching on as the two men fight it out. By the end, they are no longer just fighting for money and a title, but for honour, pride and the hand of the woman they both love.
I had one major gripe with the film. Throughout the story we are shown countless posters advertising boxing matches, upon which are the names of dozens of boxers. Yet of them all, Jack is the only one with a nickname. (Although at one point someone dates the movie a tad by referring to a boxer in a less than affectionate racial slur that I don’t care to repeat.) Surely at least one of the others would have a stage name, for the sake of realism? Also, look out for one of Bob’s assistants, who looks spot on like Jack Nance in Eraserhead.
Before watching this, I’d yet to see a Hitchcock film I hadn’t at least liked. I hope dearly that his learning curve was steep, and he got better very quickly.
Choose life 4/10
This kind of films lives or dies by the CGI, and I’ll be the first to admit that it’s damn impressive. There are some sequences that look absolutely bad-ass, most notably the opening Scorpiok attack, and a massive-scale battle between both sides at the end. Starscream, the Decepticon who is able to transform into a jet, has the coolest moments, especially when he transforms in mid-flight and swings on a bridge during a strike on the Hoover dam, so in those respects the film has some enjoyable moments. The problem is that in a film for which the entire draw is robots hitting each other, there’s just not enough of it. At one point, the robots are in the middle of a catastrophic fight, yet we are left watching Voight and the hackers searching for some microphones and using morse code.
There were a lot more attempts at juvenile comedy than I remembered from my earlier viewing, and very few of them were gratefully received. At one point, a diminutive robot capable of transforming into a machine attempts to walk nonchalantly passed some people looking for it, and it tries to cover it’s face whilst walking! This is not comedy, nor is it clever, it;s just stupid. There are many more scenes like this – an Autobot ‘lubricating’ (peeing) on John Turtorro’s government agent, Sam’s asinine chihuahua Mojo, everything LaBeouf does – and the only comedic scenes that really do the job are those involving Bernie Mac as a car salesman, and Kevin Dunn and Judy White as Sam’s all-too-familiar parents.
If the idea of giant metallic creatures from space beating each other up has you foaming at the mouth with excitement – and at times this is a category I’d class myself in – then you’ll probably like about half this film. If you’ve recently had a lobotomy or are a prepubescent male, then you’ll probably like the other half. If not, just leave it alone.
Choose life 5/10
Yep, the questionably necessary fourth Indiana Jones instalment is on the List. And if anyone has any problem with that (like me, for example) then the only place to point the finger of blame is at the public, as the List it appears on is the one voted for by Empire readers. Granted, the film came out in 2008, the year the poll was taken, so many readers who may have only ever seen 10 films would have been forced to put it in their top 10. This also explains the inclusion of Transformers and Juno on the same list, and it’s pretty much assured that if the poll were taken again, these films would be unlikely to retain their positions. But the important thing is that the film is on there, and I had to watch it.
The second problem, and this is a big one, is Shia LaBoeuf. The man is a scourge to cinema. Every film he touches becomes a travesty. Seriously, look down the guy’s resume and you’ll find some of the worst reviewed films of the past few years: the Transformers sequels, Charlie’s Angels 2, Dumb and Dumberer. If he’s the sidekick or plays only a small part in the film, he’s the worst character or in the worst part (I, Robot, Constantine, Bobby) and yet, he still makes movies. In fact, he’s soon to appear in Lawless, in which I can only imagine Tom Hardy will overshadow him in every way possible as the two play brothers. Honestly, the film is going to put LaBeouf up against Gary Oldman! Though I sincerely hope that Shia’s performance in Lawless blows me away, insomuch as he wins an academy award for it, I highly doubt this will be the case, and it may even ruin that film, that I’m otherwise looking forward to, for me. In Crystal Skull, LaBeouf plays Mutt Williams. If you’re a fan of the Indy franchise, it should come as no surprise that (SPOILER) Mutt is Indy’s son, mainly because Indiana is famously named after his own father’s dog, and Mutt is of course another term for a canine. From his costume, it’s clear LaBeouf is foolishly attempting to emulate Marlon Brando from The Wild One, which he pulls off to absolutely no effect, and if anything it’s a reminder of just how terrible LaBeouf is. The fact that there were rumours suggesting this film would see the handing over of the reigns from Ford to LaBeouf to continue the saga still give me nightmares to this day. I’m almost tempted to announce Mutt as being more annoying than Short Round. Almost.