Tag Archives: Movies

Actor’s Spotlight: Nate’s Top Ten Ian Holm Performances

Ian Holm was one of those impossibly talented, incredibly adaptable, classically Shakespearean trained thespians who stood out and rocked any role given to him with wit, grace, nobility and utmost class. He had a comprehensive command over dialogue and never *ever* just repeated what the script said flatly or histrionically but always gave it flair, flourish, deep meaning and always gave the viewer the impression that what he’s saying is organic, urgent and full of life. He has passed away now at age 88 but he had a legendary run in Hollywood across many genres, working with countless prolific directors on very very special films where he was always a ray of light and talent each time. Here are my personal top ten of his performances!

10. Napoleon Bonaparte in Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits

Ian played Napoleon multiple times in his career but the loopy, verbosely Gallic take on the legendary conquerer here has to be my top pick. He’s off the wall, a little crazy and power drunk from just winning a war, and spends most of his appearance bellowing loudly, swilling wine and abruptly falling asleep, it’s a tongue in cheek sendup of history that he has a lot of fun with.

9. Mr. Kurtzman in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil

It’s a small role as the main character’s boss but he nails the manic satire of bureaucratic institutions perfectly. Kurtzman is the kind of under qualified, good natured nitwit who has not a clue what his role or responsibilities are really about and skips his way through the workday with cheerful indifference.

8. Terry Rapson in Roland Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow

The obligatory ‘disaster movie scientist who no one listens to but of course is correct in his calculations,’ Ian makes Terry a convincing meteorological guru who gravely (but not without humour) heralds the incoming weather cataclysm with gravity and believable sincerity.

7. Skinner in Disney/Pixar’s Ratatouille

I can picture Ian jumping, hopping and running amok in the voiceover recording booth for this insanely exuberant villain role as the nasty, pretentious hack head chef of a prestigious Paris restaurant who makes trouble for everybody. His French accent is a beauteous, stylistically bonkers creation and the sheer verve and piss-ant tenacity he puts forth into the performance is commendable.

6. Pod Clock in BBC’s The Borrowers

This lovely television adaptation of Mary Norton’s beloved book series will always have a special place in my heart. Holm gives wonderful work playing the patriarch of the pint sized Clock family, tiny humans who live secretly amongst us and scavenge our everyday objects to survive. One particular moment stands out as he gives a heartfelt monologue to his daughter Arietty (Rebecca Callard) about a pet beetle he once had when he was young to console her during a sad time.

5. Liam Casey in Sydney Lumet’s Night Falls On Manhattan

Ian isn’t the obvious choice to play an NYC police detective but Lumet’s supremely underrated crime saga sees him spectacularly portray a very conflicted officer and father who finds himself deep in a morally complex web of corruption. You get the sense that this really is a man who set out with the best intentions, for himself, his son (Andy Garcia) and his longtime partner (James Gandolfini) and you can really feel the hurt, deep regret and profound conflict resonating from his performance. Plus he rocks the Brooklyn accent like nobody’s business.

4. Sir William Gull in The Hughes Brothers’ From Hell

I can’t really nail this blurb without wading into spoilers so be warned past this point! Ian brings a deliciously delicate, elegantly malevolent energy to Gull, an aristocratic medical practitioner who, yes, is in fact infamous serial killer Jack The Ripper himself as well. When the final act rolls in his eyes literally go all black like a shark’s and he proclaims with deadly soft spoken maliciousness: “One day men will look back and say that I gave birth to the Twentieth Century.” It’s enough to get us shaking in our boots and a terrifyingly intense villainous turn.

3. Ash in Ridley Scott’s Alien

The ultimate android with an ulterior motive, Ash is a quiet, observant and ruthlessly pragmatic creature by design. He holds the company’s interests above all and when his treachery leads to his end he ironically wishes his crew mates good luck before checking out. It’s perhaps his most iconic role and certainly one of his best.

2. Vito Cornelius in Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element

He brings a wonderful, theatrical physicality and exuberance to the role here, a priest of an ancient order tasked with literally helping to save the world. There’s a realistic familial dynamic between him, his twitchy assistant (Charlie Creed Miles), Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovich that makes for one of the most engaging, winning troupe of protagonists in film.

1. Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit

This is the treasured, cherished favourite for me. He brings such warmth, haunting complexity and kindhearted humour to Bilbo that I couldn’t imagine any other actor in the role, and even Martin Freeman, although terrific, didn’t hold a candle to the essence Ian brought to this classic Tolkien character. I can quote every line verbatim, picture every mannerism in my head and often find myself walking or biking somewhere and I’ll softly sing “The Road Goes Ever On” in my head and imagine Ian’s Bilbo joining in with me. The road does go ever on and Ian has taken it over the hill and past the horizon into his next great adventure. Thank you for Bilbo and Godspeed on your journey Sir.

-Nate Hill

Exploring the Nic Cage B Grade Cinematic Universe with Nate: Arsenal aka Southern Fury

Colour me very pleasantly surprised with Arsenal, a spectacularly gory, engrossing and quite effective rural New Orleans crime saga that delivers the goods and then some. Nic Cage plays the bad guy here and I really mean a fucking *BAD* guy. The frantic, heavily character based and supremely entertaining story shows fierce momentum and follows construction entrepreneur JP (always nice to see Vinnie Chase get some decent work) as his fuckup criminal brother Mikey (Jonathan Schaech, always great) is kidnapped and held for ransom by the local crime boss, a twitchy, psychotic piece of work named Eddie King, played by Cage in a delightfully offbeat piece of character work that is the kind of funny/scary antagonist who makes a lasting impression. JP and Mikey grew up poor and rough and while their lives were never easy they always had each other, there’s a fierce love and bond of brotherhood that is written quite well, acted believably by the two and stands as the emotional core of the film. JP enlists the help of several underworld buddies to go up against Eddie including plainclothes vice cop Sal, played by a low key and terrific John Cusack who stands as moral conscious, sidekick and badass when he needs to be. This is a gruesomely violent film, the carnage filmed in broad sunny daylight and often in scrutinizing, Zach Snyder-esque slow motion, with multiple bloody gunfights, vicious bone splintering beatdowns and brutal fights, all shot competently and enthusiastically by director Steven C. Miller, and despite being cheekily gratuitous in areas it somehow just gets away with being that over the top by making the violence a lot of fun, the way Walter Hill or Sam Peckinpah cheekily pull off. Cage is a mad dog off the leash as Eddie King, this guy is a monster and just in case he wasn’t scary enough already the makeup department decided to slap a terrifying, knobby prosthetic nose on his face, an unsettling Pinocchio schnoz that makes him look like something Jim Henson dreamed up. He makes Eddie nuts but not in the “oh look Nic Cage is being nuts again” type way but legit puts work into the character until I believed I was watching ‘rural crime boss Eddie King freaking’ out and not ‘cash strapped Nic Cage monkey dancing for a paycheque freaking out.’ The brotherhood between our two leads is excellent and affecting, the action exciting and well staged, the setting specific and visually stimulating and the story well told. Oh and I might add that in some areas this is called ‘Southern Fury’ instead of ‘Arsenal’ which is another case of them taking a fucking amazing, perfect title and rebranding it with something way less impactful.. what the hell is up with that? Four Cages out of Five.

-Nate Hill

Exploring the Nic Cage B Grade Cinematic Universe with Nate: Grand Isle

This was something else, and aside from a few well placed moments of black comedy and some decent atmospherics, kind of a WTF waste of time. Grand Isle refers to the swampy Louisiana island that kooky alcoholic war veteran Walter (Nic Cage) and his bizarre, manipulative wife Fancy (Kadee Strickland) are confined to during a hurricane sometime circa 1988. They hate each other, he’s a cantankerous, mean spirited drunk and she’s a slinky, untrustworthy wannabe femme fatale and the young man (Luke Benward) that he hired to fix the fence before the storm hit is now stuck in their house with them, a hapless pawn in their half crazed mind games with each other that ultimately end in murder. We know this because there are flash forwards to the future where Buddy, soaked in blood, is being periodically and lazily interrogated by a suspicious detective played by a sneering Kelsey Grammar. This thing tries to be a sultry, southern gothic potboiler and provide a decent mystery but it just can’t keep its story straight or its ducks in a row enough that we care nor comprehend what’s going on. Cage is kind of a hoot here though as the misanthropic asshole drunkard, swilling down an entire case of Pabst Blue Ribbon only to line the bottles up on the fence while Buddy is fixing it and go up to the roof to blast them with a scoped rifle just to shake the poor kid up, lol. Strickland hams it up a lot as the wife and you’ve gotta give her credit for such a crazy performance, whether she’s slowly serving mint juleps or taking a candlelit bath with Billie Holliday’s Strange Fruit warbling off a turntable in the background she’s like a weird southern belle Jessica Rabbit or something. Benward is unfortunately just bland and very not charismatic which is felt throughout, and Grammar does his best with his few scenes and is always some kind of presence but his efforts, although garnished with a hilariously over the top southern dandy accent, are kinda lost in the shuffle. I feel like this setting, idea and cast would have been great with a way better script but as it is there’s just nothing of substance there. Two cages out of five.

-Nate Hill

Exploring the Nic Cage B Grade Cinematic Universe with Nate: Tokarev aka Rage

Good god this one was depressing, like knowingly, on purpose, almost cheerfully fucking bleak, with no clear theme or message to wring out of it. It’s called Tokarev officially and was renamed Rage for North American distribution (don’t get me started) but it kinda works because the original title is only mentioned once in the film and so fleetingly I couldn’t even surmise who or what a Tokarev was and how it related to the story whatsoever. Nic plays reformed career criminal Paul Maguire here, an upstanding citizen forced to return to violent ways from the past when his teenage daughter is kidnapped and murdered. Assembling his two former buddies (Max Ryan and Michael McGrady, both badass and likeable) he launches a covert quest for revenge and justice that manages to somehow be both high octane and not very focused for… odd results. He’s hassled by a hotshot detective played by Danny Glover who literally is too old for this shit now and just seems disinterested, even in a monologue that’s meant to be introspective but comes across hilariously tone deaf and out of context to the conversation he and Cage are having. Peter Stormare shows up as a crime boss in a wheelchair and at first I didn’t want to admit to myself that any filmmaker would try and cast him as an Irish dude but the character’s name is Francis O’Connell and Peter’s usual brisk, eccentric Swedish twang is harried by a disastrous attempt at brogue and I just couldn’t with that casting decision man, and usually I’ll buy Peter in any role because the guy is an acting genius. Anyways I’ll give credit where it’s due: director Paco Cabezas has undeniable skill with action and there’s a few scenes that are impressively, kinetically staged with a sense of space and dynamics with the camera. The brotherly camaraderie between Cage, Ryan and McGrady feels quite authentic and is both well written and strongly acted by the three. But that’s about it man, this is a dour, punishingly violent film without the kind of impactful story to make any of it earned or worthwhile and a wannabe Mystic River twist ending that feels out of left field and very unconvincing. You’ll just feel shellshocked when all is said and done and get off the couch feeling like a truck hit you for no good reason. Two Cages out of five.

-Nate Hill

Exploring the Nic Cage B Grade Cinematic Universe with Nate: The Trust

Finally a solid Nic Cage B flick!! I needed one and The Trust provides a great time as Nic and Elijah Wood play two sad-sack Vegas cops who decide to rob a mob safe house that’s several zeros above their pay grade. This is such a quirky little recipe, super casually paced yet efficient when it needs to speed things along, darkly comic, dangerous, loopy and easy breezy where it counts despite fizzling out a teensy bit in the last act when it should have turned the dial up to full spicy but we can’t have it all. Cage is the cavalier veteran cop who somehow doesn’t see the impending danger in their plan and does a fairly effective job of luring super nervous Wood into it, and yes it all goes violently wrong at one point but probably not as spectacularly as you’re hoping. They bust into an adjacent apartment, hold a girl (Sky Ferreira, almost unrecognizable and doing a great job with little dialogue) hostage and begin to drill below into the mysterious safe, all the while cracking weird jokes, chomping fast food and bickering like sixth grade buddies. That’s basically it, and while the thing is a brisk ninety minutes it still manages to feel laidback and laconic, probably thanks to a hilarious Cage who seems not to have a care in the world in one of his freewheeling, casually weird turns. Wood is a good choice for a nervous guy but he always freaks me out a bit, he’s 39 now and still somehow just comes across as a teenager in physical appearance and essence but he does a fine job that aside. Ethan Suplee shows up as a bored, shady detective with a penchant for Russian roulette and, curiously, the late great comedian Jerry Lewis randomly makes his final film appearance in a quick cameo as Cage’s father. This isn’t anything explosive or super unique and like I said, much of the film is eccentric buildup to a less than earth shattering resolution but there’s tons of welcome sarcastic humour, a nice jazzy original score and Cage subtly hams it to effect playing Vegas’s laziest and craftiest beat cop. Good times.

-Nate Hill

Exploring the Nic Cage B Grade Cinematic Universe with Nate: Pay The Ghost

Today’s dose of Nic Cage is called Pay The Ghost and it’s not half bad, provided you have an affinity for moody low budget horror that doesn’t demand too much of its viewers and in turn isn’t expected to reinvent the genre wheel by those observing from their couches. It’s a neat title isn’t it, ‘Pay The Ghost’? My first thought is some scary loan shark nicknamed ‘Ghost’ that Nic has to do fork over his cheque’s to from movies like this. Jokes aside I can’t say it properly lives up to that name but it does it’s late 90’s SyFy Channel reminiscent best and works as a low key spooker with Cage in super relaxed concerned father/husband mode, a gear he always cruises well in. Nic plays a kindly college professor whose young son goes missing one halloween night at an NYC carnival. He and his wife (Sarah Wayne Callies, quite effective) are understandably devastated and while she mixes distraught with the desire to move on, he suspects some supernatural foul play and launches an investigation of his own. It turns out that many children have been going missing for years on Hallow’s Eve in this specific area and it isn’t just some coincidence, there’s a nasty pagan force dating back to colonial times that’s responsible. Now this is pretty standard horror stuff with a few decent jump scares, a cool esoteric showdown set in another realm that kinda reminded me of the “you shall not pass” Gandalf sequence and some nice stabs at mythology but I’ll also be honest and say that if I wasn’t working on this Cage treatise I probably never would have bothered. It’s ok though, I mean awesome character actor Stephen McHattie shows up as some bling homeless dude with dreadlocks and he’s always a plus. This is humdrum horror time killer but it’s not terrible, I’ll give it two Cages out of five.

-Nate Hill

Exploring the Nic Cage B Grade Cinematic Universe with Nate: Maria Pulera’s Between Worlds

It pains me to kick off this Nic Cage thing with an absolute hunk of coal in the stocking but I gotta call ‘em like I see ‘em and Between Worlds (2019) is an unrepentant fucking knob of a film and a scourging blight on everyone’s career involved. If you can imagine a sort of wonky, low budget swirling mix of Lolita, a daytime soap, a Eurotrash X Files episode, soft core porno, really badly done David Lynch homage and indie horror you might approximate this ill advised supernatural wannabe gothic pseudo erotic melodrama mess but it has to be seen to be believed. I read a review the other day stating that Nic Cage is in one of two modes these days, work and play. In work mode he’s a restrained, world weary hero and in play mode we get to see those famous bug eyed manic meltdowns. Well he’s here to play and then some in this one, playing dishevelled, homeless looking trucker Joe, a mess of a dude with a tragic past, a shabby baseball cap and a mullet that looks like it’s been through a microwave. He meets single mom Julie (Franka Potente) whose daughter (Penelope Mitchell) is inches away from death after a motorbike accident, so she needs his help (I won’t say how because it’s too ridiculous) in bringing her back from the spirit world. The plot kinda stops dead in its tracks here and meanders around as Cage and Potente get it on, then Cage and the daughter get it on, then they all just shuffle around mumbling, smoking weed and squabbling about nothing in particular. There’s an original score that is so ripped off from Twin Peaks that the filmmakers (hopefully out of guilt) decided to somehow convince Angelo Badalamenti to perform it, it’s neatly atmospheric and kind of hovers in the background but never feels like it belongs to this film. I can’t forgive this thing because as much as there’s a a solid idea behind it, first time director Maria Pulera squanders any quality on needless, gratuitous, trashy and completely unnecessary sex scenes that come one after another at a Caligula level of relentlessness and absolutely stifle any chance the film has at even being a serviceable thriller. Franka Potente is one of my favourite actresses and I’ve always felt she deserves bigger roles but if she’s going to be demeaned in bullshit like this then I’d say don’t even bother. It sucks because Cage and her actually have some half decent chemistry in the first act before it all turns to shit. Nic himself spends the first two thirds wandering about in a daze looking like he just crawled out of a dumpster and then the last third going completely mental, stammering like an invalid and making an embarrassment out of himself. I can’t even berate this thing enough because I could see it on everyone’s faces and feel it in the treacherous, sleazy direction that they all knew better and could have made this at least halfway interesting but they decided to knowingly crank out a gross, sexist, incomprehensible, worthless, unpleasant, excessively sordid waste of celluloid. Half a Cage out of five Cages and that’s being generous.

-Nate Hill

Exploring the Nic Cage B-Grade Cinematic Universe with Nate: Seeking Justice aka Hungry Rabbit Jumps

Here’s a fun idea for a running project I’ll do in the next few weeks: Lord knows I pay attention to B movies and that whole low budget world but when Nicolas Cage does them I sit up straight for some reason and am totally present. It’s funny because these days you have formerly high pedigree actors like Bruce Willis, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino all doing these second tier flicks simply because of the narrowing gap between what’s released theatrically and what goes directly to VOD or streaming (also they probably have grandchildren to shunt through Yale). That provides galaxies of weird, off the wall content for big league, once A List tough guys to sandbox in and I think it’s wonderful and always have a laugh when people wail and gnash their teeth and go “what happened to my boy’s career” well guess what bubs, they adapted and evolved to the ever shifting landscape of media entertainment and it’s natural. But for some reason Cage fits this B world like a glove and I was aghast to find that looking at his IMDb I’m woefully behind on the recent output, which I plan to fix in these coming weeks and do a series on the wild and wacky stuff he’s been up to, which I’ll dub the “Nic Cage B-Grade Cinematic Universe.”

First up is a slick flick called Hungry Rabbit Jumps from back in 2011, and the American distribution system just has to dumb down innovative titles like that into patronizing nonsense like ‘Seeking Justice’ which they re-titled this as for stateside release and it doesn’t help its case. It’s a fairly straightforward revenge/conspiracy/crime thriller that benefits a lot from the presence of Guy Pearce as the mysterious pseudo-antagonist. Cage plays a regular dude whose wife (January Jones, way younger than Nic in a sneaky trend in people casted as his spouses) is assaulted, and soon after they are approached by Pearce and his fancy suit, who offers to find and kill the assailant for them in return for a small ‘favour,’ collected somewhere down the line one day. They accept but when it comes time for that favour things get sticky and Pearce expects Cage to murder a man who he tells him is a no-good pedophile but really might be someone else. This all leads to the uncovering of a vast secret organization of well placed vigilantes who use the coded phrase ‘hungry rabbit jumps’ to make themselves known and Cage finds himself now intrinsically linked to their operation whether he likes it or not. It’s an interesting premise given the fairly pedestrian treatment but Nic and Guy get some nice tense moments to spar in and there’s enough action to keep pulses above flatline. I still wish they kept that title ‘Hungry Rabbit Jumps’ instead of fucking lame ass ‘Seeking Justice’ though like… come on man, learn how to read a room and support original flourishes like that instead of slapping it with a latter day Seagal level moniker. Three Cages out of five for this one.

-Nate Hill

Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

The first time I saw Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (when it first came out) it was lost on me, I felt detached from it, unable to connect and, dare I say, bored. That’s what revisits are for though and the second time I found rich psychological detail, achingly beautiful character relationships, beautifully burnished cinematography and one tantalizing Rubik’s cube of a narrative that, yes, is still tough for me to comprehensively understand but is rich in treasures of emotional depth, poetic tragedy and minuscule splashes of darkest humour amongst the sardonic helpings of dry espionage. Gary Oldman is sly and terrific in a study of low key tenacity as George Smiley, a veteran MI6 bigwig tasked by twitchy Mission Control (John Hurt, brilliant as ever) to find a decades long Soviet mole amidst their ranks. It could be one of a few higher ups, played by the prolific likes of Ciaran Hinds, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, David Dencik and others. It proves to be quite the hurdle as this traitor has burrowed himself so deeply within their ranks that he himself is perhaps confused what side he belongs to anymore. Smiley uses a rookie field operative (Benedict Cumberbatch, excellent) to sniff around and is carefully watched by a regional honcho played by Simon McBurney, a very unsettling little fellow who can turn the simple act of buttering dry toast into a devilish interrogation tactic and is the last dude you want to be ‘carefully watched’ by. The great Mark Strong has a wonderful extended bit as a long burned out former operative with deep ties to MI6 and a haunted past, his arc is very special here. My favourite aspect of the film has to be Tom Hardy as a double agent who falls hard for a mysterious Russian girl (Svetlana Khodvhenkova) he’s surveilling. He’s the perfectly tragic example of a hopeless romantic who discovers he’s gravely in the wrong line of work and wants out before it’s too late. All of these characters move about greyest London and other parts of Europe like chess pieces, and indeed the metaphor becomes literal when Hurt’s Control uses an actual chessboard to illustrate to Smiley just who he’s dealing with and how formidable each potential opponent might just be. The film is grey, drab, washed out, lived in and wearily opaque to evoke a paranoid, sad postwar setting but despite the inherent gloom drenching everything I found the aesthetic to be quite strikingly beautiful. Same goes for the themes and emotional content: these opaque characters hold their emotions close to the chest and as such appear icy, ambiguous and heartless yet it’s beneath that the we see their humanity, not in dialogue or direct action but in glances, quiet moments, slow revelations and half noticed interactions between words. Oldman, Strong, Firth and Hardy are the four standouts in an impossibly well tailored cast of deep cut talents, they’re the four legs of the table to watch for in order to ascertain the strange elixir of this film’s essence and get the most of it. Just don’t expect to absorb everything the first time round, this is a deeply layered, multifaceted, strange beast of a film that likely takes many viewings (this was only my second) to fully settle in. See if you can catch references to everything from John Carpenter’s The Thing to 007 to the Coen Brothers to even the bible while also soaking up the pure class and originality it possesses all its own. Great film.

-Nate Hill

“I was just on my way out!” Remembering Voyage of the Rock Aliens with Michael Berryman by Kent Hill

Voyage of the Rock Aliens German DVD

For those who were there…we can all remember a time when cynicism was nowhere to be found regarding our cinematic adventuring. Even during the age which saw the birth of the event picture; there were still fertile grounds from which material, attempting to ride the coattails of popular genre could grow into something that was more an mere homage. Indeed, it may very well have been just another amalgam of concepts, already witnessed by inquisitive travelers on the beaten track; the low-budget, video store self-fillers that are now, in some cases lost to history. Still, these movies were crafted with charm, professionalism and good intentions. No one sets out to make a bad movie, and the giants of the industry, no matter their field of expertise, all played in the same sandbox at one time or another – a pit rich with invention, ripe with interpretation and deep with heart.

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So we come to the splendid curiosity which is: Voyage of the Rock Aliens – which is at once a musical, comedy, adventure, romance which doesn’t scrimp on the flavors you know and love when it blitzes together, forming a cocktail of joyous absurdity.

In brief: A group of music loving aliens are traveling through the galaxy, exploring and researching different forms of life and rock ‘n’ roll. After their on-board A.I. robot companion, 1359 (voiced by none other than Peter Cullin) chills out to a music video, featuring one of the film’s main theme songs featuring star Pia Zadora and a character named Rain, played by Jermaine Jackson, who take on a band of biker-nun looking cats, only to end with Zadora leaving Jackson in the dust as she takes off on the horse she rode in on. (This completely bizarre segue almost gives the entire plot of the film away, but, since you probably haven’t seen it…you’re safe.)

The aliens decide to focus their attention on the planet Earth. Soon after entering our world they meet Dee Dee (Zadora) and her boyfriend Frankie (Nightbreed’s Craig Sheffer) and his band, The Pack. These cats are gang-bangers from the eighties trapped stylistically in the fifties, and there is no shortage of that era’s nostalgia which seems to blend easily with the techno-pop styling of the Rock Aliens…?

Mysteriously it all turns out well. Frankie doesn’t want his band singing without him, so it is odd that we never get to see how devastating a musical talent Frankie actually is “with” the band. He does however manage to snag  himself a solo, show-stopping number which shows us how much Frankie identifies with big cats (specifically a panther) – but I won’t spoil that one.

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It is a wild old tale, with all the talent and experience you could want both in front and behind the camera. For a film buried so deep in the 80’s VHS jungle, VOTRA had some impressive people working on it, for instance Director James Fargo had directed everyone from Chuck Norris (Forced Vengeance) to Clint Eastwood (Every which way but Loose); Gilbert Taylor was the director of photography on Star Wars and the film’s editor Malcolm Campbell worked with John Landis at the height of his powers. Yes everyone from Oscar winners (Ruth Gordon)  to horror film icons. That’s right, horror icons. The film stars the man who knows that the hills have eyes, Michael Berryman, as an escaping inmate from the Speelburgh State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Simply known as Chainsaw, Berryman is an amazing screen presence with comedy, terror and a beautiful moment of tenderness at his command.

OKAY! So, if I haven’t tantalized your taste buds sufficiently to want to go and check this baby out, we have Chainsaw himself, Michael Berryman, who kindly offered me a fistful of remembrances of a movie I believe should be a cinematic audience sing-along spectacular of Rocky Horror proportions.

Some will look upon Rock Aliens as everything that was wrong with the eighties. But, instead of counting cinema sins why not, I challenge you, to embrace the warmth by the vintage hearth in which burns this vibrant flame, the quintessence of what our innocent youth saw as an excellent adventure…well before the music of Wyld Stallyns aligned the planets in universal harmony.

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KH: First allow me to thank you sir. It is gracious indeed for such an iconic performer of your calibre to grant us your time.

MB: A pleasure…

KH: So, you were once an inmate at the SPEELBERGH STATE HOSPITAL FOR THE CRIMINALLY INSANE?

MB: Yes, I was a patient at Speelbergh State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.  I had been a wood-cutter and chainsaw expert for many years before this film. Nobody knew this until I spoke up when I am to saw around one of the aliens. There was a 4×8 sheet of sheetrock between me and the other actor. He was to stand still while a real chainsaw cut around him.  I was asked to perform this feet. I refused. I told my director that if the actor moved, he could be fatally harmed. I asked that we use a green screen. The actor was ok with a chainsaw cutting around him through plasterboard. No way was I going to do this. So, they had a grip/prop manager do the sawing. Now I watched as he assembled a 4 cubic inch chainsaw and as he prepared to start the engine, I told him: ‘Do not pull the lanyard. If you do, the chain will jump from the bar, wrap around your wrist and sever your hand…you have put the chain on backwards!’ He then asked me to fix this mess. I secured the chain and wished him good luck as I walked over to the camera to witness an amazingly dangerous stunt. It was successful and we moved on.

KH: If you can recall, what did you think of Edward Gold’s script when you first read it?

MB: Edward Gold wrote a script that was, in my observation, a straight forward comedy/musical. I read it and found the references to E.T. and such to be ‘tongue-in-cheek’ humor. This film was designed to entertain, help you laugh, and the entire family could enjoy a great experience.

KH: You were just on your way out. I have had the privilege of having a former co-star of yours as a guest, Vernon Wells. When I spoke to Vernon, we talked about how (for a time) he hated the fact that he was type-cast. When Voyage of the Rock Aliens came along and you were tapped for the role of Chainsaw, were you content to play the part knowing you were perhaps cast as Vernon had been to be merely an incarnation of former characters?

MB: I was unaware of Vernon’s type casting…however, since I was in ‘Cuckoo’s Nest’, it seemed to fit that I play Chainsaw. I found it to be fun.

KH: You pass beneath the window of Academy Award winner Ruth Gordon after a Schwarzenegger Commando-style shopping spree for guns and grenades and such with Wallace Merck’s Breather, did you get to meet or chill out with Ms. Gordon or any other members of the eclectic cast?

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MB: I found Ruth Gordon to be an honest and total professional actor. She had the moxy that she was known for. It was sweet to watch her as our sheriff.

KH: Tell us about your battle with the Lake Creature?

MB: The battle with the Lake creature was simple, as I had to cut his tip off and then bubbles emerged…sweet and child-like.

KH: In the midst of the music and mayhem, you have a rather poignant and touching scene with Alison La Placa’s Diane in which she helps you fix your beloved chainsaw. It is capped with a moment of smouldering intensity on your behalf when you say, “For me,” allowing her to be the one to fire up the chainsaw following her service?

MB: Alison was a delight to work with during that scene…we had a sweet time with it. Chainsaw moved on and he leaves his ‘Excalibur’ behind! The passage through the portal expressed a positive exchange with her character and mine. We both made the decision to have her fire up the saw and discover a new beginning for us both. She was joy to work with.

KH: Do you think Diane and Chainsaw lived happily ever after, there relationship evolved after the two of you went for that walk?

MB: Of course, Chainsaw and Diane lived happily…forever!!       

KH: If you have any fond remembrances of tales from production, what would they be?

MB: One day we were at Stone Mountain. Pia’s husband arrived in a Bentley and had her try on 2 different mink stoles…some people mumbled about this but I saw her and him to be in an honest exchange…it was no one’s business but their’s. I found Pia to be a true professional and hard worker. She had no attitude or ego to complicate the day’s work. I was pleased to watch her performance. The shoot was a delight in every way.

KH: Thank you Mr. Berryman. From this fan of yours and the gloriously, toe-tapping, insane splendour that is Voyage of the Rock Aliens…I thank you again.

MB: Kent…Great memories! …Stay safe.

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Voyage of the Rock Aliens Patrick Byrnes Rhema Urinal