Classic Horror: Bowery At Midnight (1942)

“Keep that cat from desecrating my graves!”

Bowery At Midnight has everything that it needs to be a great horror film. It stars Bela Lugosi, Count Dracula himself, features a creepy mad doctor, and even has a few reanimated undead victims. The problem though, is that the undead folks don’t show up until the final minutes of the movie. The 1942 feature plays out more like a crime thriller than a horror film and in all honesty, the “horror” feels jammed into the film at the end.

In the film, Lugosi plays Professor Brenner, a psychology professor at the local university, who spends his nights living a double life as Karl Wagner, a crime boss who uses a soup kitchen as a front for his crime ring. He uses the shelter to recruit potential members for his schemes. When the film begins, he has a right hand man named Stratton who helps recruit lackeys for Wagner. Wagner is extremely paranoid, so he has Stratton kill the new recruits when the job is done. Wagner also has Doc Brooks, a drug-addicted doctor who disposes of the lackeys that Stratton kills for him. To top it all off, Brenner/Wagner has a wife who is clueless to his criminal activity and he hides his work from the shelter’s nurse as well. It’s all a tad bit crazy but it’s not a terribly bad film.

I won’t give away the ending of the film, but Wagner’s scheme collapses around him once the shelter nurse’s boyfriend (who also happens to be a student of Brenner) starts poking around the shelter because he believes that his girlfriend is fooling around with Wagner (who he has never seen in person). Toss in the fact that Doc Brooks has a few sinister plans of his own that add the horror elements to the film and you get a crime thriller that ends in a somewhat bizarre way involving the undead. It’s not a terrible film. It just feels like the undead were tossed in at the last minute to satisfy the Lugosi fans that expect him to only appear in horror films.

The film stars Lugosi, who turns in a fine performance, and a ton of character actors and horror genre regulars such as Lew Kelly (Doc Brooks), J. Farrell McDonald (Captain Mitchell), Anna Hope (Mrs. Brenner), Wheeler Oakman (Stratton), and John Berkes (Fingers). The nurse, Judy, is portrayed by Wanda McKay. Her boyfriend, Richard Dennison, is portrayed by John Archer. Wallace Fox directed the film.

Thanks for checking out my review. This isn’t a terrible film, it just feels a bit conflicted about whether it’s a crime film or a horror flick. Had the plot just picked a genre and stuck with it, the film might have been a lot better. Let me know what you think about the film in the comments.

The Year Of KISS: Destroyer (1976)

“All Of The Fame And The Masquerade…..”

KISS released their legendary live album, Alive!, in September of 1975. The album was a risky move for both the band and Casablanca records. Another lackluster release would most likely shutter the record label’s doors and with it, possibly KISS’ future. Luckily, the album proved to be a massive hit and on the strength of one single, a live version of “Rock And Roll All Nite,” and a brilliant packaging scheme that included a tour book and letters from the band, KISS found themselves on top of the world. Of course, being on top meant that their next studio album would have to blow listeners away as well, or the band could find itself back at the bottom of the barrel.

With producer Bob Ezrin at the helm, KISS’ fourth studio album, 1976’s Destroyer, would become the band’s signature release. The album was released on March 15th and by November it was certified platinum. It was the first KISS studio album to achieve platinum status. It was also the first KISS record to receive backlash from fans. Many older fans of the band’s raw, rowdy sound were taken aback by the strings, a ballad, and all of the bells and whistles that Ezrin added to the recording. Despite this, the album found new fans with the November release of the single “Beth,” a ballad sung by drummer Peter Criss that featured a piano and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. It was out of character for the band but new listeners embraced Criss’ raspy vocals and they turned out to purchase the album. Most of the group’s older fans would eventually fall in love with the album and to this day it is considered to be their greatest release.

Everything about the album, from it’s amazing cover created by Ken Kelly to its use of an orchestra, a calliope, a children’s choir, and more, would firmly cement the album on future lists of iconic records. It had nine tracks and a tenth “hidden” instrumental track. There were five singles released from the album: “Shout It Out Loud,” “God Of Thunder,” “Flaming Youth,” “Beth,” and “Detroit Rock City.” The album would top out at #11 on the Billboard 200 chart and “Beth” would become the band’s biggest hit, peaking at #7 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart.

Track Listing:

  1. Detroit Rock City
  2. King Of The Night Time World
  3. God Of Thunder
  4. Great Expectations
  5. Flaming Youth
  6. Sweet Pain
  7. Shout It Out Loud
  8. Beth
  9. Do You Love Me?
  10. Rock And Roll Party (hidden track)

Personnel: Paul Stanley (lead vocals, backing vocals, rhythm guitar), Peter Criss (lead vocals, backing vocals, drums), Gene Simmons (bass, lead vocals, backing vocals), Ace Frehley (lead guitar, backing vocals).

The album featured a lot of new things that older fans weren’t accustomed to from the band. Cackling children on “God Of Thunder,” one of Gene’s signature songs, was downright creepy. The punchy calliope on “Flaming Youth” gave a youthful sound to the track and, at least in my opinion, made it a better song as a whole. The orchestra on “Beth” was excellent and the many ambient sounds on “Detroit Rock City,” from the diner noise to the revving car engine and Alive! playing on the radio and especially the car crash that flies right into the opening for “King Of The Night Time World,” this album definitely pushed the envelope.

I love this album. It’s one of my favorites by the band. I love how unique it sounds compared to other studio releases by the group and it features many of my favorite songs. My favorite songs on this album include “Flaming Youth,” “King Of The Night Time World,” “Do You Love Me,” and “Shout It Out Loud.” I could probably list all of the tracks as favorites, but these four really stick out in my mind. I love Ace’s solo on “Shout It Out Loud” and on “Detroit Rock City.” Everything about “King Of The Night Time World” is amazing, but I especially love the rhythm guitar work. This album is truly a work of art.

The album has been re-released a few times. A remastered version of the original album was released in the 1990’s along with all of the band’s other releases up to and including Crazy Nights (originally 1987). In 2012, Destroyer Resurrected was released featuring the album’s original artwork, another remaster by Bob Ezrin, and the inclusion of Ace Frehley’s original solo on “Sweet Pain” and the original album version featuring a solo by Dick Wagner of Alice Cooper’s band. 2021 saw the release of the 45th Anniversary Super Deluxe edition with four discs and a Blu-ray.

Thanks for checking out my review. This album was slickly produced by still retained the edge that KISS established with their previous albums. If you want the original lineup of KISS in top form, Destroyer is one of the best albums to experience them.

Throwback Thursday: Stand By Me (1986)

“I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”

Based upon Stephen King’s novella The Body, 1986’s Stand By Me may not look like a typical horror story from King but it definitely has horror elements. I’m not talking about vampires or demons or werewolves or even teenage girls with telekinetic powers. Nope, the horror in Stand By Me is much deeper, scarier, and real. It’s about growing up, dealing with family issues, and finding one’s way in life. That’s a lot scarier than a vampire in my book.

The story is about four young boys about to enter junior high who decide to go looking for the body of a recently deceased young man. One of the boys, Vern, overhears his brother talking about finding the body and not wanting to mention it to anyone because it would tie him to a car theft. Vern decides to tell his friends and they set out to discover the body for themselves, turn it into the authorities, and become heroes. As they follow the train tracks to the site where the body was found, viewers learn things about each of the boys. Gordie wants to be a writer and is struggling with the loss of his older brother, Denny. Chris, Gordie’s best friend and protector, battles with the fact that his family’s reputation hinders his own dreams. Vern isn’t as mature as the other boys and comes off as dimwitted at times. He fights to fit in with the rest of the group. Teddy has to deal with an abusive and alcoholic father who physically beats him and even tried to burn off his ear. All four of them are uncertain about entering junior high.

As the boys hike, Vern’s older brother, Billy, and his gang of friends headed up by the sinister Ace Merrill, are also on the trail to find the body. The two groups square off with one another. I won’t reveal what happens, but just know that in the end, we find out what happens to each of the four boys. It’s an amazing coming of age tale that gives people a glimpse into the minds, hearts, and fears of youngsters about to become men.

The story is narrated by an adult Gordie. He has become a successful writer and he tells the story of himself and his friends as they search for the body. I see him as a representation of Stephen King and King has said as much in interviews over the years. King also claims that this is one of his favorite films based upon his work.

The film was directed by Rob Reiner. It was one of his earliest directorial efforts and it is definitely one of his best. That’s saying a lot considering how many wonderful films that Reiner has directed over the years. The film’s soundtrack features some great music from the 1950’s and 60’s and the boys sing along with many of the songs as they walk the rails. The cinematography is amazing as well.

Stand By Me (1986) | Pers: Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell.

The film’s cast is loaded with future stars of film and television. Young Gordie is portrayed by Wil Wheaton. Wheaton would go on to portray Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation as well as guest star as himself on multiple episodes of The Big Bang Theory. Wheaton continues to work today having done voice work, web series, and a number of other projects. Speaking of The Big Bang Theory, another guest star on that series was Jerry O’Connell. O’Connell portrayed Vern in Stand By Me and he played Sheldon Cooper’s older brother on TBBT. O’Connell has had a very successful career as a voice over artist, star of film’s such as Joe’s Apartment, and appeared on a number of notable television shows including Sliders. Corey Feldman portrayed Teddy. Feldman already had quite the pedigree as an actor and his star would soon rise even higher when he teamed up with Corey Haim in a long string of successful films. Chris was portrayed by the late River Phoenix. Phoenix was well on his way to a massive film career after appearing in movies like My Own Private Idaho and Running On Empty. He tragically passed away at the age of twenty three due to drug use. Richard Dreyfuss portrayed the adult version of Gordie. Stand By Me was just one more in a long line of successful films for the star. John Cusack, another major star in film, had a small role as Gordie’s deceased brother Denny who appears in flashbacks.

Ace’s gang features a number of excellent character actors such as Casey Siemaszko and Bradley Gregg. Perhaps the biggest star of the film outside of Richard Dreyfuss is Kiefer Sutherland. He portrays Ace and the character is an excellent harbinger of what was to come with Sutherland’s portrayal of the equally wicked vampire named David in The Lost Boys. A string of hit films and a successful television show would follow. Just a few of his films include Young Guns, Flatliners, The Three Musketeers, and Dark City.

This is an amazing film. I hope that you take a look at it if you haven’t done so yet. It’s currently streaming on Netflix and runs about an hour and a half long.

Thanks for taking a look back with me. See you again soon.

The Year Of KISS: The Alive! Albums (1975-2006)

“You Wanted The Best…..”

I couldn’t do an entire year of KISS’ studio albums without at least mentioning the Alive live album releases. KISS is best known for their bombastic live performances and their first Alive album literally saved them and Casablanca Records from falling apart. While I won’t go into much detail about the albums, I do want to at least expose new listeners to them. I am only focusing on the official Alive albums and not other live albums and live compilations such as Unplugged and You Wanted The Best, You Got The Best. I will eventually talk about the Unplugged album later this year because it was a pivotal performance that reunited the original lineup and rekindled the fire of KISS’ popularity. For now, let’s take a glimpse at each of the Alive albums.

KISS Alive! (1975)

KISS Alive! is the granddaddy of them all. Without the success of this album, there probably wouldn’t be nearly fifty years of KISS to listen to and celebrate. This album, composed of tracks from KISS’ first three studio albums (all of which failed to spark music sales for the band), saved KISS and Casablanca records from financial destruction. The lone single from the album, Rock And Roll All Nite, hooked in new listeners and album sales began to heat up. My personal favorite track on the album is “Black Diamond.” The album managed to capture KISS’ energy in their live shows (with a little studio magic thrown in for good measure). It currently sits at over nine million sales and remains KISS’ best selling album of all time. The group followed up the album with their first huge studio album, Destroyer, in 1976 . That album also happens to be their best selling studio album of all time. The rest is KISStory.

KISS Alive II (1977)

Alive! saved KISS. The next three studio albums, Destroyer, Rock And Roll Over, and Love Gun solidified their place in rock and roll history. Alive II simply kept the KISS train rolling as the band was riding a wave of massive success. It featured live versions of tracks from the band’s three latest albums and five studio tracks. Of those tracks, “Rocket Ride” is perhaps the most notable, as it is the only studio track on the album to feature Ace Frehley playing lead and bass guitar. Bob Kulick provided guitars for the rest of the studio tracks except for “Any Way You Want It.” All of the guitars on that track were played by Paul Stanley. Of the live tracks on the album, my favorite is a very country-fied version of “Hard Luck Woman.” The album was very successful and was certified 2X Platinum. It’s also the band’s highest charting live album, reaching #7 on the US Charts.

KISS Alive III (1993)

The KISS Army would have to wait sixteen years before KISS would release a new Alive album. KISS Alive III was released in May of 1993 and by the time of its release, the band had gone through a number of changes. Ace Frehley and Peter Criss were long gone from the band and the group now featured founding members Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons and new members Eric Singer on drum and Bruce Kulick on lead guitar. Eric Carr, the band’s second drummer, passed away in 1991 and Singer was brought in as his replacement. Kulick was the latest lead guitarist. He was preceded by Vinnie Vincent and Mark St. John.

In my opinion this album sounds a lot more polished than the previous live releases. This might be due to production quality at the time, overdubbing, or the fact that Stanley and Simmons had perfected their live performances and both Singer and Kulick are arguably the two most talented players to ever grace the stage as members of KISS. My favorite song on the album is “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which showcases Kulick’s prowess on the guitar. A close second would be “Lick It Up.”

KISS Symphony: Alive IV

Ten years after the release of Alive III, KISS blew the minds of critics and fans alike with KISS Symphony: Alive IV. It is easily my favorite live album by the band and the one that I listen to on a regular basis. In true KISS fashion, they took things to an entirely different level with this release. If featured Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Peter Criss, and Tommy Thayer. The album was broken into three acts. Each act was different from the others. The first act featured the band playing six tracks on their own. My personal favorite track from that act is “Strutter.” For the second act, the Melbourne Symphony Ensemble was brought in to play an acoustic set with the band. This act featured five tracks, all of which were ballads by the band. My favorite of this act is “Shandi,” but I also appreciate the addition of the creepy “Goin’ Blind” from the band’s Hotter Than Hell studio album. The final act featured the sixty piece Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, all of whom wore face paint to match members of KISS. The songs in this portion of the show are simply amazing. “Detroit Rock City” and “Black Diamond” are my two favorite tracks from this act.

This album is simply wonderful. KISS have spent their entire career being looked down upon by critics for their lack of playing skills, artistry, and overall sound. This album proves that their music is amazing. Hearing cellos, violins, flutes, and numerous other “high end” instruments crank out tracks like “Rock And Roll All Nite” shows that KISS was and is much better than they are given credit for by their naysayers. If I had to recommend any live album by KISS, this would be the one.

KISS Alive! The Millennium Concert (2006)

Technically this particular album was the fourth Alive album recorded by KISS. It was originally recorded in on December 31, 1999, almost four years prior to KISS Symphony: Alive IV. It featured all four original members of the band, Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, Peter Criss, and Paul Stanley. Label merger issues prevented the album from initially being released. It was then shelved by Mercury/Universal with no particular release date in place. Finally, nearly seven years after being recorded, the album was released as part of the excellent KISS Alive! 1975-2000 Box Set in November of 2006.

The box set itself featured remastered versions of KISS’ first three Alive releases and KISS Alive! The Millennium Concert. It included bonus tracks and a booklet. I personally have this box set and I really love it. It’s a great way to showcase the first three live albums and the Millennium Concert is a nice addition.

The Millennium Concert album is pretty good but it’s probably my least favorite live release from the band. It features three tracks from the band that were never recorded with Ace and/or Peter. My favorite track would probably have to be “Shout It Out Loud” or “100,000 Years.” Overall, it’s great to have in my collection but it has never been a go-to album for me.

Seeing a live show by KISS is an experience that I highly recommend. I’ve seen the band live on three occasions myself and truly want to see them again before they call it quits. While the live albums miss out on the visuals of KISS’ live shows, they do a very good job of capturing the sheer power of the band’s sound. Grab the box set if you can and I highly recommend purchasing KISS Symphony as well. If nothing else, purchase the original Alive! album for your collection as it is the one that started it all.

Thanks for reading my review. I’ll release my review of Destroyer on Friday. Let me know in the comments what you think about any or all of KISS live albums.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022)

The Gentrification Of Slasher Films

2022’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a sequel to the original 1974 Texas Chain Saw Massacre, has quite a few things going for it. It takes a number of Texas stereotypes, social issues, and specific Austin, TX stereotypes and drops them in the middle of Leatherface’s latest killing spree. The funny thing is that these issues and stereotypes are at odds with one another but are forced to join forces to battle the chainsaw wielding wild man.

The film opens with a pair of somewhat arrogant social media influencers, Melody and Dante, on the road with Melody’s sister, Lila, and Dante’s fiance, Ruth. The group is headed for the ghost town of Harlow, where Melody and Dante plan to gentrify the heck out of the deserted locale. Hot on their heels is a bus full of potential investors, all of whom are nothing more than chainsaw fodder for the film. While heading to Harlow, the foursome manage to offend a local named Richter, a big truck drivin’, gun totin’ stereotypical Texas redneck. When they arrive in Harlow, they realize that Richter is the contractor that they hired to spruce up the town a bit ahead of the arrival of the bus of investors. Melody and Dante also discover an elderly woman who is still living in the local orphanage. Dante and Melody confront the woman, telling her that she must leave the property, and the old woman, upset, has a heart attack. She dies on the way to the hospital, setting off a “chain” of revenge killings by Leatherface. Bodies begin to pile up and the influencers are forced to set aside their personal biases and ideals in order to end Leatherface’s terror tour throughout the town.

When she hears that Leatherface has returned, Sally Hardesty, the only survivor from the original film, decides to finish off her adversary and heads for Harlow. She joins up with the remaining survivors in order to kill Leatherface. Her presence in the film feels a tad unnecessary but I’m assuming that it was meant to serve as a direct link to the original film. It also reminds me of every instance where Laurie Strode pops up in the Halloween franchise.

The film is pretty good. If you are familiar at all with the state of Texas, you know that its capital, Austin, is a polar opposite of the rest of the state. It’s a highly liberal city in a primarily conservative state, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre manages to force both of them to work together. It does a great job of showing the best and worst of both stereotypes without becoming political or heavy handed. In fact, there are quite a few humorous moments (possibly unintentional) in the film such as when a self-driving car rolls away while a victim is being massacred and when a young woman decides to use a gun only to find that it’s not loaded.

The film also utilizes contemporary issues such as school shootings, gun control, and gentrification to push its story forward. It manages to do so without getting preachy or even taking a side on any of the issues. It’s one of the best aspects of this film in my opinion.

There’s also plenty of gore. Leatherface uses hammers, knives, broken bones, and his token chainsaw to take out his victims. He’s also given a motive for his mutilation. You almost feel sorry for the guy, especially when it comes to one particularly arrogant young lady in the film.

The film’s cast does a great job. Elsie Fisher portrays Lila, the only truly likeable and sympathetic character in the film. Sarah Yarkin plays Lila’s gentrifying and arrogant sister who realizes her and Dante’s mistake and tries to fix things unsuccessfully. Jacob Latimore does a great job as Dante, who comes off more business minded and visionary than Melody. His fiance Ruth is played by Nell Hudson, who has a small role in the film but seems to be a pretty decent character. The film also stars Alice Krige in an almost unrecognizable performance as Mrs. Mc, Leatherface’s elderly caretaker. Jessica Allain stars as Catherine, a banker who brings bodies….um…..investors to the town of Harlow. Leatherface is portrayed by Mark Burnham and Moe Dunford portrays Richter, the Texas-as-Texas-can-be contractor.

Much like the original film, sound plays a massive part in the movie. Colin Stetson does an amazing job using music to build up tension in the film. Director David Blue Garcia keeps things moving at a frenetic pace as one would expect and there’s a lot about this film that reminds me of the original. It isn’t a watered down misfire like Halloween Kills, but I also don’t believe that it will have a lasting impression as the original film did way back in the seventies. It’s available to stream exclusively on Netflix at the moment and I do recommend it. It’s a gory callback to the original with plenty of unlikeable victims that you’ll enjoy watching Leatherface rip to shreds.

Thanks for reading my review. Leatherface isn’t one of my favorite film killers but I really did enjoy this film. Give it a chance and let me know what you think in the comments.

The Year of KISS: Dressed To Kill (1975)

“She’s a dancer, a romancer. I’m a Capricorn and she’s a Cancer.”

Still looking for a hit album, KISS returned to the studio in February of 1975, four short months after the release of Hotter Than Hell. By March, the band released their third studio album, Dressed To Kill. While it sold better than its predecessor, the album still didn’t generate much in the way of profits for KISS. Little did the band know that just a few months later, the live version of one of Dressed To Kill‘s singles, Rock And Roll All Nite, would help catapult the band to stardom.

The album featured a photo of the band on the cover. All four members of the group were dressed in suits. Three of the suits, the ill-fitting ones, were provided by manager Bill Aucoin from his own closet. Only Peter Criss had a suit of his own. The fact that the suits fit Paul, Ace, and Gene poorly only added to the appeal of the cover and it has since become a favorite cover of many fans. It’s so popular that the band revisited the look with designer John Varvatos in 2014…..with tailored suits.

KISS in 2014. L to R: Tommy Thayer, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, and Eric Singer.

The album featured ten tracks. Two singles were released. “Rock And Roll All Nite” peaked at #68 on the Billboard Hot 100. The second single, “C’mon And Love Me,” failed to chart. The album itself managed to reach #32 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart making it the highest charting album for KISS prior to the release of Alive! in September of 1975.

Track Listing:

  1. Room Service
  2. Two Timer
  3. Ladies In Waiting
  4. Getaway
  5. Rock Bottom
  6. C’mon And Love Me
  7. Anything For My Baby
  8. She
  9. Love Her All I Can
  10. Rock And Roll All Nite

Personnel: Peter Criss (vocals, backing vocals, drums), Gene Simmons (vocals, backing vocals, bass), Ace Frehley (lead guitar, backing vocals), Paul Stanley (vocals, backing vocals, rhythm guitar).

The album sounds more urgent than Hotter Than Hell in my opinion. I don’t know if that’s the best way to describe it, but there’s something about this album that sounds as if it’s out to prove something to the world but it slightly misses the mark. Maybe the band is weary from the road or maybe they are desperate to hit with a song, but this album feels rushed (but not in a bad way). Ace’s solos have more punch to them. Pete’s drums roll along with perfect boogie woogie timing. Gene’s bass sounds amazing and works perfectly with Pete’s skin pounding. Paul is Paul. Of all of the members of the band, he’s been the most consistent over the years. He delivers exactly what he needs to deliver and does it with attitude.

My favorite song on the album is “Getaway.” It’s the only song on the album that features Peter Criss’ raspy voice on vocals and he really screeches out the lyrics on this rocker. “Room Service,” loaded with innuendo as any great KISS track should, is another favorite. My favorite lyric from any KISS track is also on this album. It’s “She’s a dancer, a romancer. I’m a Capricorn and she’s a cancer” from “C’mon And Love Me.” That song and pretty much all of the songs on this album, are some of my favorite tunes by the band. “She” and “Love Her All I Can” feature two of my favorite Ace Frehley solos. “Rock Bottom” has a great lead in that sets up Paul’s ripping lead vocals. I really like this album on the whole. There’s no filler, tons of amazing Ace solos, and great vocals by Peter, Paul, and Gene.

The album is simply fun to listen to at a high volume. The giant in the room is obviously “Rock And Roll All Nite” but it’s just one piece of the album. Hotter Than Hell was sludgy and wonderful. Dressed To Kill is more polished but still kicks you in the teeth. It’s a harbinger of the great things that are coming later in 1975. It’s KISS finally proving to the world that they are ready to hit it big.

Thanks for checking out my review. KISS’ next release, Alive!, isn’t a studio release so I won’t give it a full review. That doesn’t mean that I might throw in a few of my thoughts on the album next week. I’m just getting warmed up with my reviews of the KISS studio albums. This is going to be fun. I hope that you’re enjoying the ride!

McFarlane Toys DC Multiverse The Batman (2022)

“I’m vengeance!”

With The Batman due to hit theaters on March 4th and with me being such a huge fan of the character in pretty much all of his incarnations, I had to snap up the McFarlane Toys version of the Dark Knight as soon as I saw it. I can’t wait for the film and having this figure in hand makes me even that more excited for the movie.

The figure is pretty nice overall. The only included accessory is a grappling hook gun. This is par for the course with McFarlane and it doesn’t look like this will change any time soon. In my opinion, Batman is the one hero who is the poster child for multiple accessories. Oh, well, one can only dream. He does also come with the token trading card and DC figure stand, though, and I always appreciate those two things.

There’s a ton of attention to detail that McFarlane is known for for but a closer look at the figure reveals a few misfires. First of all, the shoulder pads on the figure are made of soft plastic. That’s not necessarily an issue, but if you lift Batman’s arms up at the shoulder, the pads either get caught under his cape or pop out in an unsightly manner. Also, the cape just doesn’t look attached at all. I’m assuming that it is tucked under the chest plate in the film, but on the figure it just lies on top of the plate in a gingerly fashion. My figure also features a few stiff joints.

My biggest gripe with this figure is the grappling gun and everything associated with it. There’s a peg in Batman’s right hand where you have to snap the gun into place. It looks like he’s using the Force to hold it there instead of actually holding it with his hand. The handle pokes out beneath which makes the whole thing look unnatural. Why couldn’t they have just closed Batman’s hand a little bit so that he can actually hold the grappling gun? If you try to extend Batman’s arm to fire the grappling hook into some railing above you risk popping out the shoulder pad and Batman’s head can’t turn upwards enough for a shot high into the rafters. If you look at the photos below, you’ll get a better idea of what I’m trying to say.

I will say that the figure looks great on display. As I mentioned, the attention to detail is great. You can see the stitching in Batman’s cowl and distinguish the different pieces of what appears to be plate armor. His boot laces also stand out and his utility belt is wonderful. The face is pretty close to what I have seen of Robert Pattinson in the cowl as well.

As a display figure, The Batman is a winner. As a figure that you might want to pose in battle against the Riddler or any other member of the Rogue’s Gallery, he just doesn’t work. Still, it’s a pretty good figure that’s definitely worthy of purchase.

Thanks for reading my post. I can’t wait to see the film and you know that I’ll be reviewing it once I do!

McFarlane Toys DC Multiverse Justice League 2021 Speed Force Flash

“Just gotta go faster than the speed of light…..far beyond the speed of light.”

Catching a McFarlane Toys DC Multiverse Flash figure from the Justice League 2021 line has been almost as impossible as catching the actual Flash. Thankfully McFarlane released a second version of the figure, Speed Force Flash, and I found a number of them on the shelf at my local Target. I’ve only seen the original Flash figure from this line once in the wild and, to be quite honest, I’m glad that I passed on it and picked up Speed Force Flash instead.

Speed Force Flash comes with the standard McFarlane list: generous points of articulation, a collector card, a display stand, and far too few accessories. Okay, in this case, SF Flash comes with four “speed force” trails that can be attached at different points on his body. I know that there aren’t many other accessories that you could add to this figure so I’m not too worried about the lack of accessories.

The figure has a pretty good likeness of Ezra Miller as Barry Allen/The Flash. I also really like the detailing on Flash’s suit/armor. I know that this particular design isn’t as popular with audiences and comic book fans but I really like it and think that it looks great. Barry’s hands feature fingers that are spread out as he’s accelerating his speed. The feet and legs can be easily manipulated into a number of running poses as well.

What really sets this figure apart from the rest of the pack is the “speed force” effect that is achieved by having many of the pieces of the figure either a blue translucent color or having the red fade into the translucent blue coloring. It looks amazing in my opinion and gives the illusion of movement of the figure. You can attach the “speed force” trails to the figure to add to the look or leave them off as well. In either case, the figure looks great. It should be noted that balancing Barry on one foot on the display stand can be a bit awkward. The ankle POA has a tendency to slip to one side or the other. After a few attempts at posing the figure I managed to find a sweet spot, though, and he hasn’t fallen over yet.

I’d also like to mention that whenever I was picking out which Speed Force Flash figure to purchase, I noticed that one figure had considerably more blue translucent pieces and effects than the other ones had. I decided to pick up that figure for two reasons: 1) He looked a lot cooler than the other figures and 2) I’m hoping that he’s a variant or some type of fluke. While I expect to see a few minor differences in paint applications across a line, the figure that I purchased was much more translucent than the other figures. Sadly, the comparison photo that I took above had poor lighting due to Target’s lights, but I hope that you can see the difference in the figures. Also, if you are aware of any variants or fluke versions of Speed Force Flash, let me know in the comments.

While he isn’t the original figure released in the Justice League 2021 line, I do believe that Speed Force Flash is the superior version of the figure. In fact, I would go as far as to say that Speed Force Flash is my favorite figure in this line as a whole. I just love the look of the figure. Great job, McFarlane Toys!

Thanks for checking out my post. There are more posts on the way!

Star Wars: Galaxy Of Adventures

“The Force is strong with this one.”

Star Wars has been a cash cow ever since the first film hit screens back in 1977. There have been countless books, TV shows, comics, and more that have been available for over four decades. Toys have always been a massive part of the brand and make up a huge chunk of profits for it, Disney, and George Lucas. The toys have sold well to children (and adult children like myself) from the beginning, so it puzzled me a bit whenever Disney, Star Wars, and Hasbro announced that a new line of toys and video shorts would be released that specifically targeted at younger audiences. This line, dubbed Star Wars: Galaxy of Adventures, began in 2018.

The series features short animated episodes with stylized animation that is blended with live action moments from the films. Each episode lasts between one and two minutes and includes narration that gives a brief summary of key characters and moments in the Star Wars saga. The first season was used to build up to The Rise Of Skywalker film. A second season, focusing on the sequel trilogy, was also released. The final episode, released on October 28, 2020 in the United States, was Obi-Wan Kenobi. It was the fifty-fourth episode in the series. No word has been given on a potential third season. Disney officially lists the series as “pending” according to a number of sources but nothing else has been mentioned about the series.

Part of the reason that the series is in limbo might be due to the lukewarm reception of the show itself and the coinciding toy line. While both were very popular, they weren’t “Star Wars” popular. The toys have moved slowly off of store shelves and many of the first figures in the line can still be found hanging on pegs at Walmart (which had exclusive rights to the initial toy line). Around Christmas last year, tons of the figures were found in stocking stuffer bargain bins for five bucks each. Seeing this reminded me of the time when Hasbro repacked underselling The Clone Wars toys in “Bonus Value” eight packs at Walmart at Christmas time. If I remember correctly, those packs started out at $19.99 and, at least in my area, they warmed the shelves until well after Christmas where I managed to pick many of them up for under ten bucks apiece.

I’ve seen the Galaxy Of Adventures figures in stores recently selling for $3.99. Just after Christmas they were going for $2.50 on clearance. Their initial price point was around nine dollars. I’ve picked up a few of them over the last couple of months and I have to admit that I rather like them. Each figure is surprisingly well articulated and comes with an action feature that differs from figure to figure. For example, the Han Solo figure features a “Sling and Blast” attack feature where Solo’s right arm flicks the blaster into a shooting position. Darth Maul comes with a “Dual Sith Strike” feature that has him twist his lightsaber which can be split into two pieces. Each figure comes with at least one accessory as well. Some, such as Kylo Ren, come with two accessories (removable cloak and lightsaber). All of the figures have highly stylized features that look similar to the characters on the animated series.

I don’t know if Hasbro will continue making these figures nor do I know if the series will ever have a third season. The series is pretty good but older fans may not care to watch as it’s simply a condensed version of stories from the films. The figures are definitely cool and deserve to get into the hands of little kids and adult collectors, but I believe that the original price point made a lot of parents and collectors shy away from the figures. Five dollars seems to be a more reasonable asking price for this line of five inch figures. Some of these figures have arrived on eBay at the standard bloated prices that scabbers sell them for in the hopes to cash in on desperate fans. I wouldn’t pay more than five to ten dollars for these figures, and I’d only pay ten bucks for a figure that I really want to own.

I do recommend snagging a few of these figures for your collection. As I’ve already mentioned, they stand roughly five inches tall but they are scaled somewhat as you can see the in the Han and Chewie photo above. Darth Maul is especially short, but he’s to scale compared with the other figures in the line. Keep an eye out on clearance shelves for these guys. You might just walk out of the store with a Boba Fett for under five dollars.

Thanks for checking out my review. Some of these figures look amazing and I definitely plan on grabbing a few more of them.

Classic Horror: The Exorcist (1973)

“What an excellent day for an exorcism.”

Even with its fiftieth anniversary approaching next year, The Exorcist (1973) is still one of the most impressive supernatural horror films to ever hit the big screen. To this day, many people refuse to watch the film due to its subject matter (demonic possession). It was banned in some countries, was fought over in order to receive an “R” rating, and was initially released on just thirty screens because Warner Bros. wasn’t sure if the film would really have that big of an impact. Boy, were they wrong!

For those of you who haven’t seen it yet, The Exorcist is the story of an actress named Chris MacNeil who notices that her precocious twelve year old daughter, Regan, is starting to act in a bizarre fashion. There are hints early on (noises in the attic that are written off as rats) that something is amiss but it isn’t until we find out that Regan has been playing with a Ouija board and talking to a spirit named Captain Howdy that things really go south. Regan complains about her bed shaking, objects fly across the room, and the young girl urinates in front of a small party of people hosted by her mother and proclaims that one of them, Burke, “will die up there.” Desperate for help, Chris has Regan examined by a number of doctors, all of whom cannot properly diagnose the girl’s issues. One doctor, almost in jest, suggests that Chris should seek out the help of the Catholic Church by having an exorcism performed on Regan. Chris befriends Father Damian Karras, a priest who is having doubts about his faith but also happens to be a psychiatrist. After a brief interview with Regan, Karras is convinced that an exorcism needs to be performed. He enlists the help of Father Lankester Merrin, who we are introduced to early in the film, to perform the exorcism.

I won’t spoil the conclusion to this film for you but I will say that this is a surprisingly intelligent horror film that doesn’t take its plot devices lightly. The exorcism itself is only a small part of the film. It’s the build up to the exorcism that makes this film truly frightening. Karras has a number of interactions with Regan and the demon inside of her. These are some of my favorite moments in the film. They range from casual threats to intense accusations by the demon. The priests and the Catholic Church are treated with respect but we also see the shortcomings of some of the clergy. We also get to see the priests bravely standing against the demon.

The special effects created by Dick Smith and his makeup work were simply amazing. From having Regan levitate over her bed to making the words “Help Me” rise out of her stomach, all of the effects were quite believable. Ron Nagle headed up the sound effects group who generated the agonizing sounds that came out of Regan while she was possessed. Mercedes McCambridge was brought in to provide the guttural voice of the demon. Actress Eileen Dietz handled many of Regan’s brutal scenes. She also portrayed the demon itself whenever it would flash across the screen.

Linda Blair portrayed Regan. She received an Academy Award Nomination for Best Supporting Actress and two Golden Globe nominations. She won Best Supporting Actress at the Golden Globes. Her mother, Chris, was portrayed by Ellen Burstyn. Max von Sydow, only forty four years old at the time, portrayed Father Merrin, a character that was in his early seventies. Jason Miller portrayed Father Karras, the young priest battling with his own faith and purpose in life. He’s probably my favorite character in the film. Kitty Winn portrayed Sharon, Chris’ assistant who witnesses many of the horrors displayed by Regan. Lee J. Cobb played Lt. Kinderman, who begins an investigation into the death of Burke (Jack MacGowran), who falls to his death from Regan’s window. This group made up the primary cast of the film but it should be noted that two actual Catholic priests appeared in the film. Father William O’Malley portrayed Father Dyer and Father Thomas Bermingham played Tom, the president of Georgetown University.

The film was based upon the book The Exorcist, released in 1971 and written by William Peter Blatty. Blatty also wrote the screenplay for the film. The movie would go on to become one of the highest grossing films of all time and when adjusted for inflation it is the highest grossing “R” rated film of all time. It received ten Academy Award nominations, winning in two categories: Best Screenplay Based Upon Material From Another Medium and Best Sound. It was also the first horror film to be nominated for Best Picture. It fared better at the Golden Globes, winning four out of seven of the categories it was nominated in including Best Motion Picture-Drama, and Best Director-Motion Picture.

This is a great film. It’s currently available to watch on Netflix in the United States It’s also available on many other streaming services including Amazon Prime, for a small fee. It has been released multiple times on VHS, DVD, and Blu-ray and has been released with previously deleted scenes as well. I highly recommend checking out this movie. It’s creepy, yes, but definitely worth getting spooked over for a couple of hours.

Thanks for reading my post. Let me know what you think about this film in the comments section.