Monday, May 17, 2010

The Unseen - Comic Book Movies

Hey Cinewisers - we've got another new sereies debut for you today, this one coming from freshly minted Cinewise contributer Andrew.  It's called The Unseen, and with it Andrew will be focusing on below-the-radar or forgotten genre films you may want to check out, again or for the first time.  Here's his first Cinewise piece:

Seeing as how Iron Man 2 launched the 2010 summer movie season last weekend, I thought it’d be fitting to kick off my column on underrated and overlooked genre films the same way, with some comic book superheroes. So if you’re still in need of a superhero fix after Iron Man 2, here are three alternative comic book adaptations to throw onto your Netflix queue. Though these films are all CGI-free, don’t require 3D glasses and have yet to be remade/rebooted, they are all worth checking out...

Danger: Diabolik (1968)

You’ve probably never heard of Danger: Diabolik or the European comic it’s based on, but you are sure to recognize its influence, from the Beastie Boys’ “Body Movin” video to countless Austin Powers jokes. Unlike most comic book films, Danger: Diabolik focuses on a supervillain: black leather clad thief Diabolik (John Phillip Law). Diabolik is not concerned with world domination or stirring up chaos.  He simply wants to pamper his bombshell girlfriend/sidekick Eva (Marisa Mell), and embarrass the police in the process. The cops become so fed up they’re willing to enlist Europe’s criminals to catch Diabolik.

What it lacks in the script department, Danger: Diabolik makes up for in Bond-esque cool and (PG-13 rated) sex. And though it’s decidedly less silly than many of James Bond’s adventures, Danger: Diabolik has its share of goofy gadgets (“Exhilarating Gas!”) and camp. Not to mention, Danger: Diabolik is a fine example of 60s psychedelic cinema complete with trippy, Technicolor visuals courtesy of Italian horror maestro Mario Bava, as well as a memorable score by Ennio Morricone. Danger: Diabolik may be a strong case of style over substance, but it’s one that works.

The Rocketeer (1991)

Don’t let the Disney logo fool you - The Rocketeer was made during the 1990s, a time when the studio didn’t solely cater to pre-teen girls. Back then, Disney still made family movies (meaning movies for everyone in the family), and The Rocketeer is one for the dads and older brothers. Inspired by many of the same adventure serials that influenced the Indiana Jones series, The Rocketeer is lean and fun. It is 100% a popcorn movie, and one that manages to get its high-flying hero off the ground without the aid of computer FX.

Set in 1938 Los Angeles, it is the story of a stunt pilot (Bill Campbell) who runs afoul of a Nazi spy/swashbuckling movie star (played by the then-James Bond, Timothy Dalton), Hollywood gangsters and the FBI after he stumbles upon a jetpack and uses it to become the Rocketeer. The cast is packed with recognizable faces including Oscar winners Jennifer Connelly and Alan Arkin, character actors like Paul Sorvino and Jon Polito, and a pre-Lost Terry O’Quinn. With its kid unfriendly cast and story elements, The Rocketeer definitely feels more Amblin than Disney. You’ve probably forgotten about The Rocketeer since its release twenty years ago, but I assure you it is worth revisiting. I only hope director Joe Johnston is able to recreate The Rocketeer’s sense of pulpy fun when he takes on Captain America next year.

The Crow (1994)

Before Twilight was the poster movie for Goth kids, the Hot Topic crowd worshipped The Crow, a dark and gritty adaptation of James O’Barr’s graphic novel. And with its brooding, black clad hero, a rain soaked urban setting and stylish, gothic direction from Alex Proyas (who would go on to helm the similarly gloom Dark City), it’s easy to see why. A hit soundtrack, featuring alt-rockers Nine Inch Nails and The Cure, didn’t hurt either.

There are no sparkling vampires in The Crow, just resurrected rock star Eric Draven (Brandon Lee, son of Bruce) seeking revenge on the thugs who murdered him and his fiancée.

We’ve seen some gloomy superheroes as of late (mostly thanks to Christopher Nolan) but not like this; Draven wastes no time in viciously tearing through Detroit’s criminal underworld. But like Nolan’s Dark Knight, The Crow is notorious for the pre-release death of its white paint-faced lead – Lee was killed by an accidental gunshot during filming. And while it is hard to watch The Crow without considering this grim fact (especially considering the film’s already bleak subject matter and visual style), it has nevertheless added an important layer to The Crow’s already heavy themes.

1 comment:

James Nesten said...

Dan Zukovic's "DARK ARC", a bizarre modern noir dark comedy called "Absolutely brilliant...truly and completely different..." in Film Threat, was recently released on DVD and Netflix through Vanguard Cinema (, and is currently debuting on Cable Video On Demand, including Fandor and snagfilms. The film had it's World Premiere at the Montreal World Film Festival, and it's US Premiere at the Cinequest Film Festival. Featuring Sarah Strange ("White Noise"), Kurt Max Runte ("X-Men", "Battlestar Gallactica",) and Dan Zukovic (director and star of the cult comedy "The Last Big Thing"). Featuring the Glam/Punk songs "Dark Fruition", "Ire and Angst", "F.ByronFitzBaudelaire" and a dark orchestral score by Neil Burnett.


***** (Five stars) "Absolutely brilliant...truly and completely different...something you've never tasted
before..." Film Threat
"A black comedy about a very strange love triangle" Seattle Times
stunning images...a bizarre blend of art, sex, and opium, "Dark Arc" plays like a candy-coloured
version of David Lynch. " IFC News
"Sarah Strange is as decadent as Angelina Jolie thinks she is...Don't see this movie sober!" Metroactive Movies
"Equal parts film noir intrigue, pop culture send-up, brain teaser and visual feast. " American Cinematheque


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