Bob Clark


“Ghost in the Shell” is one of the premier anime films of the world, not only because it’s one of the most influential and popular, but because it’s one of the few outside of “Akira” and a handful of Miyazaki movies that most self-respecting art-house patrons are liable to admit to seeing. I personally don’t rate it either as the best work of its director, Mamoru Oshii, or even the best work of the GITS franchise, which has spawned several fantastic animated works for television and OVA alongside Oshii’s films, but the original 1996 movie has a power that can’t be denied, even as it’s dissected. That’s what Checkerphil and I set out to do on CinemaVille again, with a supplemental essay on Wim Wender’s “Until the End of the World” as an aside.



Screen cap from 1962 Kon Ichikawa masterpiece “The Outcast”


by Sam Juliano

Last week’s family tragedy has not abated and won’t for a long time for members of my family and myself, but I have found at least one way to cope – to immerse myself in long-elusive works of the cinema.  The past several weeks my friend and long time site colleague Allan Fish and I have engaged in some fantastic film discussions/back and forth commentary everyday via FB message on the major parcel of harder-to-find cinematic gems, many of them Japanese, but a good number European as well sent to me a few weeks back.  Over the years Allan and I have shared our revelations and opinions on many films he has recommended, and the past weeks have seen that practice gloriously accelerated.  I received Allan’s latest parcel two weeks ago and have attacked it with singularity of purpose, reporting back to the sender all times during day and night to report my final rating and numerous other observations during various pauses while watching.  It has been quite an experience (and as always from Allan an education) and will continue well into the future.  Over the past seven days that have followed our tragedy I have watched twenty (20) feature length films from the “stacked deck” and have come away infinitely richer is expanding my cinematic boundaries.  I greatly lament that many of these films have not yet received legitimate DVD/blu ray releases, though in large measure the copies Allan has sent on have been superlative in quality.  One of the 20 was actually from an Eclipse set I acquired this week at Barnes & Noble as part of the July 50% off sale.  But the other 19 were sent on from Allan.

The Science Fiction countdown has been moving forward most impressively, especially in terms of the extraordinary scholarship being penned by the writers on board.  Comments and page views as well have been uniformly excellent.  Lucille, the three boys and I saw the new film in the Star Trel franchise Saturday afternoon.  I had mixed feelings on it, enjoying some aspects of the character interactions, but growing weary of the bombastic fireworks display of endless pyrotechnics.  For the record I am a lifelong passionate Trekkie. Continue Reading »

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Note:  A few captures are provided for this unreviewed title in the countdown.  Though such an instance will occur hardly at all during this project, this unfortunately is one time it has happened.  I am not myself a big Wenders fan (my colleague Allan isn’t really one either) but I respect him and know there are some big time fans out there for his work.  Obviously, some liked this film strongly as evidenced by its finish at Number 81.


by Anuk Bavkist

The very first words heard in On the Silver Globe come from none other than the film’s director, narrating over his own opening footage to help guild his viewers through the ruins of a film that was never meant to see light of day:

“You will see a film made ten years ago; a shred of a film; a two-and-a-half-hour story, one-fifth of which is missing. That one-fifth dating back to 1977 when the film was annihilated, will never be recreated. In place of the missing scenes you will hear a voice which will briefly explain what was to be. We are bringing On the Silver Globe to an end in the year 1987.”

Partially adapted from The Lunar Trilogy /Trylogia Księżycowa (1901-11) written by his great uncle Jerzy Żuławski, Andrzej Żuławski’s science fiction epic is a handful. Divided in two acts, the first of which chronicles last surviving astronauts (2 men and 1 woman) whose spaceship crash on an “Earth-like” planet. Their story, captured by one of the survivors and presented as a video diary and filmed like highly stylized found footage, recalls a kind of perverse retelling of Adam and Eve as two of the astronauts continuously mate and give birth to the planet’s first society. Due to constant inbreeding and the fact that the “Earth-like” planet’s maturation rate is double that of normal human rate, the society grows, evolving into a primitive culture that worship fire and mythologize stories of Earth. Years pass and the last living of the three astronaut sends out his video diary to earth, prompting the arrival of a new astronaut, Marek, to the planet years later. The second act follows that same society, who are now under attack by telekinetic bird-like mutants known as Shern, as they lean on Marek to fulfill a religious prophecy. Continue Reading »

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by Sam Juliano

Another word for Mars is death.            

Edward Cahn’s It! The Terror from Beyond Space remains a prime example of a modestly budgeted 50’s science fiction film that was gloriously resurrected on television after a theatrical run fueled by the drive-ins.  In the New York City market it remained a staple on WPIX’s Chiller Theater, where it was rightly perceived as a horror/sci-fi hybrid, and aimed squarely at the baby bommer generation.  The original title, The Vampire from Beyond Space is a better appraisal of the movie’s central conflict, which is variation of sorts on another 1958 genre classic The Blob, but the film is now mainly celebrated as the inspiration for Alien,  a mighty acknowledgement, especially for a standard programmer in an era inundated with this brand.  Mario Bava’s Planet of the Vampires (inexplicably missing from this countdown) even with the decisive lean towards horror, is another film with striking similarities to It!)  The future as depicted in the film is scarely fifteen years away -1973- which is only four years after man first stepped foot on the moon.  But the Jerome Bixby (Twilight Zone’s “It’s A Good Life”; Star Trek’s “Mirror, Mirror”) penned script relied on what appeared to be rapidly advancing technology, bolstered in part by the success of Sputnik the previous year, and the Cold War space competition that could very well see the U.S. negotiated not one but two missions back-to-back amidst the tensions associated with trying to exceed the other.

The rubber-clad terror that has invariably reduced the Martian physiology to that of the title protagonist showcased in Creature from the Black Lagoon is a reptilian monster with a singular aim of killing all who come in its path.  There is nothing remotely sophisticated in both the plot and the character motivations exhibited in It! The Terror from Beyond Space, neither does the story arc veer into unexpected directions.  Yet, there can be no question that once the suspense begins to build, it has the macabre allure of something like Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, where the question isn’t “if” but “how” and “when.” Continue Reading »

By Dean Treadway

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I have to admit, I was certainly surprised when the first results of this poll were first revealed, mostly because one of my favorite genre entries was not in our top 75. Luckily, when the poll was finally expanded, there was the Hammer film classic Quatermass and the Pit, landing at a too-low #84. I struggled to figure out why and concluded that not a lot of our participants have seen it. It’s been out of print on DVD for many years, and was only released on Blu-Ray in 2011 (and has quickly gone out of print again). Also there could be some confusion lingering as it was (not badly) renamed Five Million Years to Earth upon its 1968 American release (since the estimable UK TV and movie hero Professor Bernard Quatermass was largely an unknown quantity on US shores). Anyway, if I’m right and many of you have missed this bonafide masterpiece (or somehow have forgotten its rather nightmarish power), I’m glad to remind you to see it. For those, it’s now available on You Tube in pristine shape.

The Quatermass series has a complex history. It originated on British TV in 1953, with actor-turned-writer Nigel Kneale’s serial The Quatermass Experiment dramatizing the aftermath of a failed mission to space, resulting in the return to Earth of a single astronaut (out of a three-man crew), upon which Quatermass is charged to figure out why the spaceman’s flesh is slowly deteriorating. Reginald Tate would be the first of many actors to assay the role, and the piece would be remade for cinemas in 1955 with Brian Donlevy in the lead (the film would be rather strangely retitled The Creeping Unknown in the US). Continue Reading »


By Roderick Heath

The success of Deliverance (1972) turned John Boorman into a major figure on the cinematic landscape, and gave him the opportunity to do almost anything he wanted. Almost. He first tried to realise an adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, and after the potential expense scuppered that project, Boorman remained excited by the idea of tackling an invented, fantastical world. An idea had come to him whilst working on Tolkien for a tale set in a distant future where extreme science fiction ideas could commingle with motifs and atmosphere out of mythology, the realm to which his thoughts were increasingly turning as he contemplated the unease of humanity with itself and the world it lived in. The result, Zardoz, has been extremely divisive work since it was released. There’s no doubting that if Boorman had set out to make a film that would dazzle and provoke some and strike others as bewildering and absurd, he could not have done better than what he managed with Zardoz. Aspects of the film have even retained a kind of fame though decontextualized, like the mantra “The gun is good, the penis is evil,” and the sight of Sean Connery in a red loincloth, still eternally provocative to the kind of adolescent mindset pervading the internet. From its very first moments, Zardoz announces its strangeness, its odd humour, and its sly understanding of itself as post-modern trip through the idea of myth-making. A man’s face hovers in the darkness, drifting closer to the screen, playing the chorus to the tale he himself is author of, protagonist in, and creation for. He is Arthur Frayn (Niall Buggy), made up like a Renaissance actor’s take on an alchemist or a pharaoh, confessing quickly that he too is just another made-up character for a tale before asking the audience, “And you, poor creature—who conjured you out of the clay? Is God in show business too?”


Frayn has many secrets to be unveiled in the course of Zardoz, not least of which is that he is the title character, or at least pretends to be. As in any good myth, the death of a god is the pivotal act. In the post-apocalyptic wastes of 2293, Zardoz floats high above the desolate Earth, a giant, floating carving, a fearsome godhead worshipped by the remnant human population known as Brutals. Zardoz preaches a grim testament, encouraging his followers to take up the creed as anointed holy warriors who call themselves Exterminators and wear masks based on Zardoz. These adherents have been charged to kill their fellow humans and wipe the infesting remnant of their species from the face of the world. Zardoz delivers them loads of guns for their purpose. But one of the loyal Exterminators, Zed (Connery), sneaks into the godhead when it lands by hiding in a load of grain, and discovers it’s actually a kind of hovering aircraft, loaded with goods and stores and people in suspended animation, and captained by Frayn. Zed shoots Frayn, who falls from the craft. The Zardoz head lands in an enclosed commune, one of several scattered about the countryside, called the Vortex. Shielded by invisible force-fields, the Vortex is an oasis of green and summery pleasantness in the otherwise forsaken land. Zed explores the Vortex and enters one of the houses, a seemingly ordinary old country house littered with keepsakes and relics from a forgotten world. He discovers a miraculous crystal on a ring that projects Frayn’s image and links to a supercomputer that answers all of Zed’s questions – except for the truly important ones. Zed is soon discovered and apprehended by the inhabitants of the Vortex dubbed the Eternals, a collective of humans who have, thanks to advanced science, achieved life stasis, effectively making them immortal. Even Frayn, dead at Zed’s hand, is already being regrown, his foetus suspended in plastic in the laboratories of the Vortex. Continue Reading »


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