Monday, January 29, 2007

Comics: Dream a little scream of me.

Back in the day - "the day" here being defined as the late 1960s and early 1970s - fans of the DC horror antho title House of Mystery could find the work of legendary cartoonist Sergio Aragonés on page 13. First, he drew single splash-page gags cooked up by series editor Joe Orlando. These page 13 gags included such things a game board for a game players couldn't win and a cut-and-post "do not disturb" sign, perfect for the sort of lonely, moody, malcontent that would read House of Mystery. Later Aragonés was given greater freedom to write and illustrate his own stuff. This lead to the on-going "Cain's Game Room" feature: a page with a couple of goofy, gallows humor strips.

For me, "Cain's Game Room" is a standout feature of the series. Aragonés knobby, quirky style was a joy and, with his funny grim punchlines, he comes off like the rowdy relation of Chas Addams, master of the comic macabre.

For the curious, several of these pieces are collected in DC's excellent Showcase Presents House of Mystery collection.

I bring this up because, these days, you can find Aragonés working the splash-page gag format again, though in a showcase a bit removed from the comics mainstream. Sergio is now doing splash-page style "Weird Picture Search" in that venerable gray dame of journalism: The Weekly World News. This week's picture find, featured above, is worthy of his most twisted House of Mystery work – a sleeping girl about to be attacked by nightmare versions of her own escaped dreams!


Friday, January 26, 2007

Stuff: Is this picture worth 500 from each angle or a collective 2,000 words?

Haunted Memories is an outfit specializing in portraits that go all spooky on you when viewed from the proper angle. They can do modern shots, though I personally prefer the Victorian style shown above. The picture will run you $500 to $800 bucks depending on what you ask for.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Comics: Of course you realize this means war.

There's a fine line between wanting to deliver the goods to your reader and pandering. War of the Undead, a new mini-series from IDW, avoids lapsing into pandering elevating the practice of pandering to a manic art. The first issue of this thing is packed to the point of absurdity with horror tropes, clichés, and classic moments barely reworked that it flies by in a crazed whoosh, laughing hysterically it all its own bizarre and wonderfully surreal excess.

I'm going to try to summarize the action of the first issue. It's the last moments of World War II and the Nazi war machine is on the brink of total collapse. Hitler has just committed suicide in his bunker and a confused Nazi officer is dispatched on a strange mission: collect Hitler's one testicle. (I'm not kidding.) Apparently it is want by the head of cabal of Nazi black magicians and mad scientists. As a last ditch effort to save the "master race" this scientist and his mummy man Friday have raised an army of zombies. To lead this coalition of the rotting, his revives Dracula and Frankenstein's monster. Though this only happens after we get a gory battle royal between Nazi zombies and the Dracula's protective harem of vampire wives (a battle the ends when somebody rams everybody with a plane). Along the way we get a cameo by Robbie the Robot, some Satan worship, and an allusion to the famous WWII era photo of Russian troops raising the hammer and sickle flag in the rubble that was Berlin.

All this comic is missing is Godzilla and, maybe, a musical number.

As far as plots go, this is about as thin as a plot can get and still deserve the name. The story rolls from go from Berlin to Transylvania to wherever else it wants to with all the care and finesse of a speeding 18-wheeler whose driver had a heart attack and died while trying to negotiate a particularly treacherous ice-covered mountain road. In fact, it is really less of a plot than it is an excuse to just do neato things. The development of characters is strictly functional: this guy is a Nazi; there's our mad scientist, that guy is a zombie; that is an ape with a human brain implanted in its head; and so on. Everything seems aimed towards or sacrificed to the goal of giving the horror fan maximum entertainment.

I know this sounds like I'm putting the book down. I'm not. This one-track approach is the book's strength and the best reason to give it a look-see. There's something great about War of the Undead's complete dedication to giving the reader everything they can thing of. It isn't some cynical, half-assed, tired effort snag our comic buying dollar with more of the same old, same old. Instead, it takes joy in pulling out all the stops. It flirts with becoming an utter and total mess, but achieves a sort of anarchic wildness you don't often see in comics. For all their anti-heroes and violence and fan service, comics want a seat at the big media table. As such, even their scandals now come in $50 slipcase editions. War of the Undead is like a great rock single. It is short, fun, and doesn't sweat the fact that its pleasures are disposable.

About my only complaint is the art. The cover gives us a wonderful painting of a Nazi zombie, gore dripping from its mouth. The innards, however, don't live up to the expectations the cover sets. The art is somewhat clumsy, made more so by heavy-handed coloring that undermines the gore and mood.

The pleasures of War of the Undead are slender and specific, but it delivers on them in full.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Movies: Are other countries so enamored of their own names that they think sticking it in front of any noun makes for a good film title?

Seriously, do they have United Kingdom Psycho and French Graffiti? Brazilian Pie?

I bring this up because trailers for An American Crime, the film based on the Baniszewski "Torture Mother" murder case (itself the inspiration for Ketchum's horrific The Girl Next Door) can be seen on YouTube. Here it is:

I've expressed my doubts about just how filmable the story of poor Sylvia Likens is, but I reckon the question will be settled in the court of public opinion later this year.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Movies: God willin' and the creek don't rise.

Wolf Creek, the much praised Oz import horror flick, had some serious hype to live up to. I did not catch the movie when it was in theaters, but I heard nothing but raves for the picture. That said, I was always a little hesitant to pick it up. The flick is often compared to both The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Hostel. This is a blessing and a curse, as far as I'm concerned. I'm a huge fan of the former, but comparisons to the latter flick almost always put a damper on my desire to check out a film. Now that I've finally given in and watched the film, I feel that Wolf Creek, while it did not live up to the hype, is still an excellent horror flick.

The plot is not particularly original. At this point, any horror film plot that hinges on a car breakdown stranding our protagonists in a bad place cannot truly said to be original. In this case, our "bad place" is played by Wolf Creek Park, a particularly isolated chunk of rural Australia that is home to a 1) a large meteor crater and 2) a psycho that is equal parts Steve Irwin and Ed Gein. A group of twenty-somethings hit the park while on holiday. After some essentially useless characterization, they find their car has crapped out and, instead of immediately assuming that this is the start of a particularly brutal horror flick and running for the hills, they accept the aid of Mick, a friendly, scene-stealing outback dweller who brings to mind the works of A.B. Banjo Peterson or Paul Hogan, depending whether you like your Aussie stereotypes classic formula or Hollywood-ized. Fortunately for horror fans, Mick turns out to be one genuinely sick puppy and, instead of fixing up the stranded tourists' ride and sending them on their way, he proceeds to heap gory outrages upon them.

In many ways, the comparisons mentioned above do a disservice to the film. While the film lacks the surreal horror that makes TCM one of those classics you can visit again and again, the tension in WC is in some ways richer for breaking the slasher stereotype (created in large part by TCM) and focusing the on the genuine
conflict between the victims and their attacker. (Well, two of them anyway – but more on that later.) And the Hostel comparison is superficial at best. Both films involve vacationing youths in the clutches of sick torturers, but the tension in Wolf Creek is a product of dramatic narrative devices rather than a result of a sort of endurance test in which the only question is how much gore will an audience sit through. Certainly there is gore in Wolf Creek, but it isn't the point of the film. Instead, the real draw is the cat and mouse game played-out between the killer and the victims.

I also think that writer/director Greg McLean is more visually talented and clever than either Hopper or Roth. Hopper nailed the perfect look for the first TCM; but that sun-drenched, faded masterpiece seems to have been his only significant aesthetic statement. McLean gives the viewer lush, lavish images. He uses the rural Australian landscape to wonderful effect, but is also adept at giving use the meticulous squalor that, ever since Se7en, is contemporary horror's visual shorthand for "the guy who lives here is crazy." Apparently becoming homicidal also triggers a hording impulse and diminishes the drive to keep your home tidy: "Maybe I should dust off my collection of headless mannequins. Naw. Think I'll just go find someone to kill instead." In the special features, McLean mentions that he was a painter before becoming a filmmaker. One look at one of his wonderful panoramic shots of the outback and you can see the painterly influence. Roth has a similar keen sense of textures and detail. Think about how powerfully dread-inspiring the empty torture chambers were in Hostel. One imagines Roth carefully placing each patch of dried blood to achieve maximum effect. But, Roth's skill is limited by his own shallow imagination. His visual borrowings are little more than in-jokes for other cinephiles. Roth's allusions to Pulp Fiction and Blood Sucking Freaks are Easter eggs for film fans, but they don't particularly build meaning into his works. McLean, on the other hand, borrows from famed cinematic representations of Australia – most notably Walkabout, Mad Max, and Crocodile Dundee - in an effort to make a statement about stereotypes and clichés. McLean's killer isn't a product of the outback or Aussie class conflict so much as he is a nightmare stitched together from patches of a celluloid dream of Australian masculinity. This isn't a somewhat sterile trivia game; it is constitutes the central the DNA of the film.

The film does suffer from two major flaws. First, the pacing is off. The film runs a full 40 minutes or so before we get to the point. We follow our three vacationers through generic looking parties and watch them goof-off as they drive through endless stretches of rural highway. If the characters were more engaging, this wouldn't be such a problem, but there's really very little to hold the viewer's attention for this long and tedious stretch. Instead we get understated, realistic performances that, instead of drawing you into the world of the characters, makes the viewer feel like they've come across somebody's home videos. The second major flaw comes in the film's use, or lack thereof, of the male victim. It is always nice to see women taking active roles as something other than helpless victims in horror flicks, but this film simply forgets that we were introduced to three victims. As soon as the scares start coming, we leave the boy behind, giving him a single, short scene (which reveals nothing of what's happened to him) until, after nearly a half hour of solid tension and action, we jump to The Forgotten Man and wrap his story up in 5 quick minutes. This oversight is even stranger given that much of the early characterization of Mick is developed by playing this rough, unbalanced outback type against the urbanized, "new" Australian man. We get set up for a conflict between two models of Australian masculinity only to see the whole theme dropped.

Of these two faults, only the first is a serious one. It's the sort of imbalance one might expect, and therefore forgive in a first feature. But this drag in the beginning almost had me reaching for the fast forward button. Wolf Creek is very good, and thought flawed, it marks the intro of a potentially great horror director. Like High Tension, another breakthrough flick which was flawed but introduced the horror world to a serious newcomer, the film is worth seeing both on its own merits and as the beginning, I hope, of an long career in fright flicks. Using my recently revamped Members of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors Rating System, I'm giving this movie a Ryan P. McCue in recognition of everything it gets right, and in anticipation of good things still to come.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Music: Sometimes surf rock, like justice, must wear a mask.

To start off the short work week right, enjoy the retro surf rock sounds of the lucha-themed Los Straitjackets. Here's their "Rockula":

And, as an added treat, here's the masked legends performing the theme song to The Munsters.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Movies: Chupa-crap-a Terror.

So, shortly the evening after watching Chupacbra Terror, an '05 clunker that appears to have been made for the Sci-Fi channel, I had a dream about the titular creature.

My job involves a lot of client interaction. I've one particular client, we'll call them client X, who is particularly needy. I must have to haul ass across town three or four days a week just to given them some handholding and reassure them that they are, in fact, getting decent customer service. Client X is a big money deal. They must account for something like 50% of my employer's revenue. Consequently, whatever they want from us, they get.

In my dream, I dreamt Client X demanded that every time I show up for a review at their office, I come wearing the monster suit from Chupacabra Terror. As far as monster suits go, it's a nice one. It looks like a more insect-like version of an orc from the Lord of the Ring flicks. The body is slightly taller than your average Joe. It's dark green with exo-skeletal plates across the chest and back. There's something dog-like about the face. All and all, it's a perfectly serviceable monster. But, as I learned in the dream, it makes for crappy business-wear. It was uncomfortable and hot. I kept hitting the head on the top of the subway door. It was impossible to type with the hands of the animal on. The thing has these long, webbed claws, so I had to hold my hands high above the keyboard and hunt and peck.

It took several hours to get the suit on and off (in my dream, I have no idea how long it took the actor in the flick to suit up), so, even when I wasn't at Client X's, I tended to wear the suit in the office. I'd just take the head off so I could breathe. At one point in the dream, my boss caught me sitting at my desk, head-off the monster suit, hunting and pecking out some memo with my Chupa-claws. "What?" he asked. "Is it casual Friday? Put the head back on."

I bring all this up because the image of a chupacabra-suit wearing office employee is considerably more entertaining than anything you'll find in Chupacabra Terror. The flick is a weak, generic creature feature that, other than the design of the main monster, has little to recommend it.

Dr. Moron, a doctor of crypto-zoology (from some place that issues doctorates in crypto-zoology, presumably), captures the infamous "goat sucker" and decides to transport it back to the US by smuggling it onto a cruise ship. Within minutes, the monster is free and eating its way through the films cast of 12th string nobodies. Eventually a team of the Navy's least effective SEAL team members and a tae-bow instructor (who subdues the creature temporarily with her fitness regimen – I wish I was kidding) face-off against the creature in a final showdown in the cruise ship's engine room. This thin plots runs from tedious to silly without ever rolling within sight of scary.

The acting and effects are equally unfortunate. The sole "name" in the flick is John Rhys-Davis, who plays the ship's beleaguered captain: Admiral Fire-My-Agent. Despite gamely attempting to add some actual interest to the film, Rhys-Davis's acting is wasted effort here. Aside from the beast, the effects are television-grade. There's one nice disemboweling that's handled with sufficient splattiness. Otherwise, the movie's more apt to induce indifference rather than terror.

Using the sadly underutilized Viscount of Arbuthnott rating scale, I can't give this eminently avoidable flick anything more than a Robert Arbuthnott the 4th. Emphasis on the "not."

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Movies: Bruce Jr.

This clip has been spread round these here blogs like athlete's foot in a high school locker room, but don't think that'll stop me from posting it. Let it never be said that CRwM didn't go for the low-hanging fruit!

In the summer of '78, a group of 12-year-olds made their own version of the '75 Spielberg blockbuster Jaws. Here it is, in all its 8mm glory . . .

Interestingly, the original Youtube poster claimed that the reason the shark appeared in full only once was that it fell apart after the first scene. I find it a charming coincidence that both Jaws and Shark suffered mechanical problems with their toothy stars.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

R.I.P.: Lily of the field.

Though I was always more of an Addam's Family kind of guy, news that Yvonne De Carlo passed away is still a sad, sad thing.

The painting above is by Isabel Samaras. Warning: not all Samaras's stuff is workplace-friendly.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Comics: It's di di mau or be zombie chow.

"Basically, I started thinking of the year in which the original Romero film was shot and started wondering what was going on in the rest of the world at the time. Were the dead rising all over the world? If so, what were the ramifications? It suddenly dawned on me…1968…Vietnam." - Mark Kidwell interviewed by Revenant

Despite the over-production of zombie-themed comics, novels, films, foodstuffs, and fonts, I must admit that the premise of '68, a zombie one-shot from Image comics, had me excited. In high-concept terms: the book is Night of the Living Dead meets Hamburger Hill.

The reason I was excited is I've got this soft spot for the horror subgenre of "military versus monster." There's something about throwing military hardware into a horror context that ups the excitement level for me. First, unlike the standard dumb and helpless teen in any number of horror flicks, the protagonists are armed, trained, and ready to battle. They aren't helpless and that elevates the level of the conflict. Second, horror creators get to steal another genre's stereotypes, getting the illusion of stronger character work while still avoiding any heavy lifting. Horror fans can see the over-sexed bimbo camp counselor coming (so to speak) a mile off, but, recontextualized, the chatty new guy, the silent vet, the ox, and Brooklyn all seem fresh and new.

So how does '68 stack up? A zombie fare, it's predictable. A group of recon types in the jungle come across a zombified VC caught in a pit of pongee sticks. They quickly figure out that something is amiss. This suspicion is reinforced when they find two disemboweled American troops, one of which is still lively enough to take a bit out of the unit's medic. A few short pages later, now fully aware that zombification is happening, the unit stumbles on a VC controlled village that is under zombie siege. Guns and guts aplenty as violent Marine versus man-eating undead action ensues. Standard stuff there. The violence is sufficiently gory (though, interestingly, the nastiest bit of work is what Charlie did to the two G.I.s and not the zombie-caused carnage). The body count, while modest, is high percentage-wise. Folks looking for their zombie thrills won't, I think, be disappointed.

For, me, however, the real pleasure of '68 was in the depiction of the troops. The dialogue snapped and the use of period correct slang was a treat. Though the characters do seem a bit thin, they benefit from the new context and feel more complete and better built than they probably should.

The art is also a plus. That the soldiers at rest are rendered with as much detail as the gore is appreciated. The coloring is moody without distracting from naturalistic representation of the soldiers. This is a major point. Years ago, Marvel had this Vietnam War based series called The 'Nam. Despite the stylized art work and the degree of censorship then found at a mainstream giant like Marvel, I thought the series was excellent. Certainly the language and blood was cleaned up, but it felt authentic on some level. This was back in the '80s and, a couple years into 'Nam's run, Marvel started producing comics on this more glossy, supposedly more durable paper. The new paper also brightened all the colors. For most comics, this didn't make a big difference. Hulk being bright green or dull green didn't really matter. But 'Nam was completely crippled by the introduction the new day-glow regime. Suddenly the soldiers were marching through orange and baby blue jungles, their outfits were the color of Lucky Charms clovers. Every panel now worked to undermine the crucial sense of authenticity that, earlier in the series, allowed you to overlook the other obvious elisions. (Later, when the book was on its last legs, characters like Punisher and Captain America started showing up, putting the final nail in the series' coffin.) Here, the coloring is low-key and completely effective.

My only real complaint with the book (aside from my general lament regarding over-zombification) is that, as a one-shot, everything feels compressed and rushed. Tension never really gets a chance to build as the plot needs to resolve in the space of a single issue. The '68 crew had a good, meaty (again, no pun intended) concept and I wish they'd been given more space to explore it fully.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Stuff: It's like radio, only poddier.

Back in October, I dropped a link on you cats that lead to an archive of classic horror radio shows. If you dug that, then dig on this: a horror podcast magazine.

Pseudopod features bi-weekly podcasts of new horror short stories. In their own words:

"Pseudopod is the world’s first horror podcast magazine. Every two weeks we bring you chilling short stories from some of today’s best horror authors, in convenient audio format for your computer or MP3 player.

"We pay our authors, but we will always be 100% free. We are supported through listener donations, so if you like what you hear, please consider giving via our PayPal button!

"Our editors are Mur Lafferty and Ben Phillips. Pseudopod is a production of Escape Artists, Inc. Be sure to check out our other podcast, Escape Pod, for the best in science fiction and fantasy.

"WARNING: This is a podcast of horror fiction. The stories presented here are intended to disturb you. They are likely to contain death, graphic violence, explicit sex (including sexual violence), hate crimes, blasphemy, or other themes and images that hook deep into your psyche. We do not provide ratings or content warnings for specific stories. We assume by your listening that you wish to be disturbed for your entertainment. If there are any themes that you cannot deal with in fiction, that are too strongly personal to you, please do not listen.

"Pseudopod is for mature audiences only. No story on Pseudopod is suitable for children. We mean this very seriously."

I love that last paragraph.

Special thanks to toxicfur for hipping me to this site.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Stuff: You've seen the movies, read the novel, purchased the comic books, eaten the hot sauce, and posed for the portrait. Now, use the font!

Going out on a limb and serving that miniscule niche market that enjoys zombies and zombie-related merch, the folks at allow the tireless zombiphile the means to express his love for mindless brain-eaters orthographically.

These fine folks have produced a zombie-based font that renders your words in a series of zombies posed into lettering.

My standing dislike of all things relating to the overplayed zombie-phenom aside, this is actually pretty neat. Here's the whole alphabet, undead-style:

The zombies are designed by Cleveland-based podcaster Len Peralta.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Movies: Mexico faces its own illegal alien problem . . . and solves it with a flying elbow smash!

Aliens think we're idiots. I can see why, from a distance, they could think that. We divide into warring tribes and fight over delicate points of mythology. We burn through natural resources like we don't know they're finite. We dress funny. Several million of us listen to Coldplay. We require licenses for operating an automobile put we freely allow anybody to have children and raise them. Viewed from a distance, humanity isn't particularly inspiring.

This is why aliens have repeatedly come to Earth to save us from ourselves. The well-intended invasions are the interstellar-diplomacy equivalent of an intervention. From classics, like The Day the Earth Stood Still, to the profoundly crappy, Plan 9 from Outer Space, advanced and usually slightly gay aliens have repeatedly come to Earth in an effort to make us see the folly of our ways and, if we cannot be reasoned with, force us into pacifism.

The Martians in Santo versus the Martian Invasion fit into this tradition of "we know what's go for you" invaders.

The movie starts with these benevolently dictatorial Martians flying towards Earth in a high-tech spacecraft that looks somewhat like my old Smokey Joe grill. As the approach, they tune into our television broadcasts. After learning how to speak Mexican Spanish from television, they break into our airwaves and let the world know of their mission. They announce that they come from a civilization far more advanced than ours. Aliens always say that. It is important for establishing their credentials. Aliens from a culture less advanced than ours a really crap aliens, aren't they? Who would listen? Not me. Sure, they come from another planet, but if they're no smarter than us, who gives a crap?

After establishing their vast cultural and intellectual superiority, they announce that they want Earth's governments to completely disarm. If the governments of the world fail to do so, then Mars will invade and enforce a Pax Marsus.

Unfortunately, the humans watching their television sets believe that the Martians' speech about invasion is actually a new comedy show. (And a pretty bad comedy show at that. Although the pre-invasion speech was a wonderful ultimatum, it made for a lousy sit com.) The invaders, now safely parked in a wooded area outside Mexico City, need to do something to show they mean business.

To strike fear in the hearts of the natives, the aliens send one of their number to attack a large track and field event. Using a disintegrator beam mounted on his helmet, he begins indiscriminately vaporizing men, women, and children.

What the Martians didn't plan on was the presence of . . .

Santo! The Man in the Silver Mask! The hero of the multitudes!

Santo, wrestling legend and star of countless media tie-ins, is something like the Elvis of lucha. His charismatic persona and restless drive elevated the lucha game from a somewhat disreputable working class diversion into something like a national tradition.

Santo, hero that he is, will not stand idly by as some Martian disintegrates innocent sports fans. He leaps into action and starts putting the big beat down on the alien invader. Only the alien's teleportation belt allows him to escape Santo's righteous fury.

The Martians, on seeing what Santo laid on their compatriot, decide that they must capture Santo. If they can take him back to Mars, Martian scientists can study him and mechanically reproduce his superlative physical prowess. An evil – and by evil I mean wanting world peace - army of Martian Santos! The mind boggles.

Along the way, they also kidnap some minor politicos, a random middle-class family, a scientist, and a priest (which sounds like the start of some joke, but I can't think of one). What they want with these folks is unclear. Maybe Martian scientist can mechanically reproduce ineffective governing, middle-class tastes, smarts, and religious conviction. Who knows? It is never made clear. What is made fully clear is that Santo is going to have to kick some serious Martian ass if these random kidnap victims and the rest of the planet are to be saved.

And kick Martian ass he does. After setting a trap that allows him to secure one of the Martian teleportation devices, Santo finds the Martian ship and opens up a can of whoop-ass on the presumptuous interlopers. That will teach them to demand peace! The inevitable self-destruct device is triggered and the ship goes up in flames. The grateful captives watch as the ship burns itself out and the turn to see Santo, a god among mortals, walk off into the night, utterly triumphant and utterly alone.

As far as Santo flicks go, this is a mid-level entry to the series. It comes from the early black and white period, when Santo's star was on the rise and his flicks were, while hardly prestige pictures, respectfully funded and shot. Despite the noticeable budget, the action drags in several parts and the aliens are too bland to make us feel like Santo is going to have any real trouble with them. Furthermore, the film is plagued with continuity errors and inexplicable plot twist, most of which simply hang unresolved. None of this stops the flick from being enjoyable. We still get plenty of wrasslin', a scene with Santo's white Italian roadster, and a scene of Martian women go-go dancing (yeah, really!). But the film's flaws are distracting.

I recommend this flick mainly for the fan that has already checked out other Santo films and craves more of the Man in the Silver Mask. For those just getting into the wonderful world of Santo flicks, I would recommend starting with the superior Santo versus the Diabolical Axe or Santo in the Attack of the Witches, both available in excellent DVD presentations. Even though this film doesn't rank up there with the best Santo outings, I firmly believe that any Santo is better than no Santo and, using my fan-favorite Communes of the Aosta Valley Film Rating System, I'm giving Santo versus the Martian Invasion a respectable Valsavarenche. More, perhaps, than the film deserves strictly on merit, but the presence of Santo in any film instantly kicks everything up a notch.