This week sees the release of one of British television’s most beloved and heftiest series, a labor of love for its star. Along with that, we have a movie that took forever to come out, a couple of double features in which animals become giant, and other TV shows and whatnots for those whatnot lovers out there.
Some movies have troubled productions or other hang-ups that delay their release for quite a while. Originally, Sergei Bodrov’s film Seventh Son, an adaptation of Joseph Delaney’s novel The Spook’s Apprentice (given the much less potentially offensive title of The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch here in the United States), was meant to be released all the way back in February of 2013. It was moved to October of that year for post-production purposes, then it was moved to January of 2014 when Legendary Pictures* and Warner Bros. parted ways, and then was moved AGAIN to February of 2015 once Legendary’s new partner Universal agreed to distribute the film. I mean, that’s a lot of movement.
The movie takes place in a mystical medieval land and follows Brother Gregory (Jeff Bridges), a Spook, or a member of the order that polices and defeats supernatural threats, who is dispatched to stop and evil witch when she turns into a dragon and escapes her imprisonment. His apprentice dies and Gregory must find a new one, and does so in the form of Tom (Ben Barnes), the seventh son of a seventh son, a tradition that dates back to particularly fertile families of the olden days. Tom is special because he has visions but lacks any knowledge and training on what to do about them. He sees the witch (played by Julianne Moore, incidentally) killing Gregory in a vision and wants to be able to stop it. But it’s going to be a lot harder than it looks. The awesome Alicia Vikander co-stars.
The Blu-ray contains several making-of features as well as interviews and deleted scenes.
Editor’s note: Nerdist Industries is a subsidiary of Legendary Digital Networks.
The Saint: The Complete Series
There was nothing cooler, to my way of thinking, than Britain in the ’60s. Yes, a lot of that had to do with James Bond, but “Swinging London” and all of its charms was something that gave the world a whole lot of culture and swagger, from music to fashion to art.
But, it is indeed the spy movies and TV series that really made the mark on popular culture, at least onscreen, thanks to James Bond. ITV was Britain’s first commercial network; whereas the BBC was publicly funded, ITV got money from selling advertising, like American networks, and as such they had a lot more money to play with and hence their shows looked a lot “better.” Something like The Avengers, for example (the John Steed/Emma Peel show, not the comic book characters), could never have been made on a BBC budget. It was the same for The Saint, which ran on the network from 1962 until 1969, made up of six series, four in black and white and two in color, and comprising a total of 118 episodes.
Created by Leslie Charteris based on the literary character of Simon Templar he created back in the ’20s, The Saint starred future James Bond Roger Moore, who’d been trying to get the rights to the character himself before he was cast (and happily accepted the role) in the ITC (the company that produced it) series. For the first series, the show was just a mystery like so many of the day. Templar was a well-to-do, globetrotting playboy who solved crimes and would disguise himself as necessary, though most people already knew who he was. As the series progressed, and the popularity of the Bond films went up, the show became more of a secret agent series with a lot more fantasy and sci-fi elements added in, not unlike what happened with later Avengers series.
While Moore has never been my favorite Bond, he’s all but perfect for Simon Templar, the dashing, twinkly-eyed rogue who uses his brains to outwit people far more often than he uses his brawn, though he can certainly do that as well. Throughout the series, Templar embodied the impish humor and “gotcha” mentality that one would hope to have in a show such as this.
ITV and Shout Factory have put out the entire show in a big ol’ box set. Extras include commentary on 9 key episodes, many of those featuring Roger Moore himself. An excellent buy for fans of British television.
Scream Factory has put out two double-features of giant/killer animal movies for you to peruse. One features The Food of the Gods and Frogs, the second has Empire of the Ants and Jaws of Satan (that last one’s about snakes).
In lieu of reviewing all four, I’m just going to talk about The Food of the Gods, mostly because it makes me laugh:
What if there was something that could turn animals giant? A thing bubbling right up from the ground that could take the common beasts, bugs, and fowl and make them enormous and, inexplicably, thirsty for human blood. It’d probably be the most horrific thing you’ve ever seen. Rats! Wasps! Chickens? Unsuspecting people are stuck fighting all of these in the nature-fights-back movie The Food of the Gods from 1976, a film based on a novel by sci-fi maestro H.G. Wells and directed by animals-climbing-on-models maestro Bert I. Gordon. This is a film in which its scares are equaled only by its silliness.
Bert I. Gordon made a whole career of making giant animal movies, and a fair amount of them were featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000, so they’re pretty much amazing. The effects in the ones I’d seen up to this point consisted of bad rear-projection and grasshoppers climbing on photographs of buildings. The Food of the Gods goes a step further and has some fairly impressive animatronic giant beasts to go with the bad rear-projection and climbing on pictures of buildings.
The film stars Marjoe Gortner of StarCrash, a sentence no one including myself thought I’d ever type. He plays Morgan, a pro football player who must also have a degree in chemistry, physics, mechanics, and skeet shooting, who goes to an island in the Pacific Northwest with some friends from the team. One of his friends is stung to death by giant wasps. When Morgan goes for help, he finds a farm, owned by Mrs. Skinner (Ida Lupino), and her barn full of man-sized angry chickens, which promptly attack him. She, of course, is far more worried about the rats that have gotten into her house and eaten some of the chicken’s special food.
Enter Mr. Bensington (Ralph Meeker) and his assistant Lorna (Pamela Franklin), who want to buy the God Food to sell to food-farmers everywhere. Mrs. Skinner says she wants to wait to sell anything until her husband gets home, only she’ll have to wait a long time, seeing as how he was eaten by giant rats the night before. Oh, didn’t I mention that? When the animals get enormous, they also become carnivorous. Now, all these characters, plus a random guy and the woman he knocked up, must try to stay alive as hundreds of rats lay siege to the little farm house.
The Food of the Gods is an ambitious film. It tries to make good on H.G. Wells’ cautionary tale of nature finally fighting back against man, but it’s just so lame. Bert I. Gordon’s penchant for using and showing lots of real animals is to the detriment of the story. Remember the old Jaws trick of not showing the shark very much? If Gordon had followed suit (Jaws came out the summer before The Food of the Gods) and only shown glimpses of the rats, using his awesome puppets sparingly, he might have made a thrilling, scary film. But he’s Bert I. Gordon; he don’t go in for subtle, and he don’t do understated.
Ray Donovan Season 2 – Jonah Ray’s favorite TV show.
Sons of Liberty – The History Channel produced this miniseries about the founding of the United States and the men who’ve become legends. Breaking Bad‘s Dean Norris plays Benjamin Franklin, the womanizing booze-hound who one day got to be on the $100 bill. Dreams do come true, kids.
The Nanny: The Complete Series – Oh good, now all those millions of fans of The Nanny out there won’t have to buy individual seasons anymore.
Island of Death – A gory, Green exploitation movie from 1976 that was once on the UK’s famed “Video Nasties” list.