Toasted cheese - 70's style!
Mark Shanks | Portland, OR | 09/23/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Well, first of all, forget the lurid cover. The movies is based on Julain May's 1951 heavily-anthologized short story "Dune Roller". And you know, someone in the movie actually SAYS "dune roller". That's about the closest the story and film resemble each other, though. The disc starts with a "drive-in" theme, but don't expect the full "Something Weird" treatment. All you'll get here is some half-nekkid gals swarming over a car collecting "admission", and then some pointless commentary (complete with really bad jokes) before the film actually begins. That's it (thank goodness!) Taking his cue from Ed Wood, anti-auteur Harry Essex has a super-somber narrator voice-over, "There were two witnesses to the fall of the meteor". The first, a generic "Indian", is incinerated into powder. "The second was a fish", more specifically, a hammerhead shark, who seems to have picked the wrong time to wander into Lake Michigan. Yes, that's right - this is SUPPOSED to be on the shores of Lake Michigan. How can you tell? Besides the fact that's where the original story is set, the characters keep making ridiculous references to things like "busy as Main Street in Muskegon". Apparently Mr. Essex (whose previous movie was "Octaman", if you wanted to know) had never been to my home state. The characters all talk as if they are from either the Deep South or from Maine. The shores of the lake vary from 300-foot cliffs to vast, level, sandy beaches, usually within the same scene. The setting itself is sort of left up to the viewer - no one actually comes out and SAYS "here on the shores of Lake Michigan", but oh, well, why bother?Our protagonist is sporting the longish hair and black turtleneck that were de rigueur for the early 70's intellectual, especially one who is devoted to getting the word "ecology" into the common vocabulary. He finds an unusual-looking rock in a pool (PLEASE tell me that isn't a "tide pool"....) and decides to send it off to Ann Arbor (see, told ya so) for analysis. As it turns out, the unusual-looking rocks are part of the giant ball of fire we saw toasting the "Indian". And for whatever reason, that ball is now on the rampage, looking for it's scattered remains and burning up who- or what-ever gets between it and it's....offspring? That's not enough - apparently it has a personality - it can get angry or remain apathetic. (Great - a giant ball of fire with mood swings....) As you can readily predict, there's going to be more than a couple of folks turned into the equivalent of a full ashtray before the....momma-ball? daddy-ball? is satisfied. The film's composer shows an unusual amount of exposure to classical music - about halfway through, he begins ripping off Shostakovich shamelessly, and for the last two minutes of the movie, he just plain settles for Holst's "Mars". The leading lady is played by Maria de Aragon, who gets a 10-minute interview after the movie. Why her, and not "star" Marvin Howard? Probably because Howard wanted to crawl under a rock and never be seen again. Ms. de Aragon, on the other hand, was actually in the original "Star Wars"! Huh? you say? Where? Why, she was.......Greedo! (Boy, and she'll let you know it, too - she even has a web site selling autographed pics of "Greedo" and autograped copies of this classic.)Overall impression - pretty dull stuff, considering the plot. Ms. Aragon says the entire flick cost $50,000. I'm surprised it was THAT much. Nowhere NEAR as fun as most of Ed Wood's stuff, but NOT as painful as, say, Francis Coleman or one of the Dr. Orloff euro-trash flicks. Save this one for when you want to chase away relatives who've hung around after Christmas too long."
I was run over by a burning ball of fire...
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 06/24/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Man (or woman, as the case may be), I'll tell you what, the artwork on the DVD case for the film The Cremators (1972) aka Dune Rollers is what hooked me...sadly, the burning cityscape image depicted is nowhere to be seen in this film...in fact, in terms of excitement, you're better off looking at the case than you are watching this film. Produced, adapted, and directed by Harry Essex, who, a year previously gave us the traumatizing Octaman (1971)...don't judge him too harshly as he did provide the screenplay for the original 1954 creature feature Creature from the Black Lagoon. The film stars Marvin Howard in his big screen debut (it was also his last), along with Maria De Aragon (Blood Mania), and Eric Allison (Blood Mania, Schlock). Also appearing is Barney Bossick (The Golden Box), R.N. Bullard (The Reivers), and Jax Jason Carroll (Wild Riders, Octaman).
Prior to the actual start of the film there's a 3-minute intro piece titled Fred Olin Ray's Drive-In Theater, a name familiar to any aficionado of schlock cinema, which features some nekkidness, so be warned. After this the film begins proper with pictures of interstellar vistas and a voice over relating how, some 300 years ago a meteor crashed on Earth and from it was born a giant ball of fire which chases a Native American down a hill until it caught him and he was reduced to ash...fast forward to the present...after some shots of a hippy cavorting on the beach (?!), we meet our hero, named Dr. Iane Thorne (Howard), and learn he's a scientist studying ecology or some such thing (the film is rife with vagaries). Anyway, during his field research he finds some strange looking rock samples and decides to send them to a colleague named Dr. Willy Seppel (Allison), who we later are told is a bio-physicist (whatever). Thus begins the *yawn* terror as the local mailman who accepts the package with the samples later is burned to a crisp by a giant ball of fire, nothing left of him but ashes in the shape of a human, which are blown away in the wind... `Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow, nor dark of night, nor giant, flaming, alien fireball shall stay this courier from his appointed rounds.'...okay, I guess the last one is no longer applicable...after this a woman named Jeanne (De Aragon) arrives into town, the comely niece of one of Iane's older friends and we see the buds of the impending romantic angle of the pic (they actually get it on fairly quickly, proving the theory that Earth girls are easy)...followed by Iane performing an autopsy on a deceased kitty, one brought to him by the local hippy. Turns out the cat ate some of the rocks...see the theme here? Anyone in possession of the rocks, later referred to as `Devils Eyes', ends up dead. After the flaming death of a wandering longshoreman (who used one of the rocks to strike a match), the local authorities chalk the accidents to everyday phenomena (bad driving, lighting, etc.), but Iane is skeptical. Around this time Seppel makes the scene and both men start investigating and throwing around theories. Will they be able to solve the mystery of the rocks, or are they destined to all become crispy critters as the alien fire ball(s) consume all?
Given the title of the film I was anticipating a lurid tale involving deranged crematorium workers or some such thing, but all I got was a tepid sci-fi flick with a confusing story and incredibly low body count (I think there were all of about 3 victims, not counting the cat). I did get the sense there was spark of potential here, but it was quickly extinguished by extremely poor direction, rancid acting, uninteresting characters, and a meandering, choppy plot. The film was padded out with meaningless shots (how many times do we have to see the hippy gallivanting on the beach?) I don't know who actually shot this film, but they appeared to lack even the most rudimentary skills in working a camera as many of the scenes consist of shaky, off center, poorly lit shots. There was also a lot of pointless zooming in and out, all done very awkwardly as to bring attention to itself, and draw the viewer out of the film. And speaking of awkward, what was up with the musical scoring? It would often get all dramatic like, indicating something dire was about to happen, and then...nothing. The plot slogs along at an excruciating and uneven pace, fostering a sense of an extremely long film, but in reality the run time is barely an hour and fifteen minutes. There were some positive aspects about the movie. I did really like the special effects, especially the scenes with the fireball (which varied in size, but tended to be as big as a house). We never actually get to see anyone being burned alive, as what would usually happen is the fireball would pursue someone, they would trip clumsily, and the flaming mass would roll over them, leaving behind ashes in the form of a human figure, kind of like a reverse chalk outline. There were also some really odd, yet interesting psuedo psychedelic effects, particularly when the flaming ball would rise from the water and during a nightmare sequence experienced by Iane (Inane would have been a more appropriate name). One effect that got really annoying after awhile was the rocks...when active, they would glow, and also produce a `ting ting' sound. None of the `actors' fared well in this film, but I did sense a level of adequacy in Eric Allison, who played Inane's friend, the bio-physicist Dr. Willy Seppel. By the way, if you were a bit vague as to the when the film was produced, check out the pajamas Willy was sporting as he was staying with Inane...it was some sort of orange/plaid polyester nightmare certainly more frightening that the giant, alien fireball. There was one really unintentionally funny scene involving screeching Jeanne in a boat being pursued by the fireball. You know, prior to operating a motorized watercraft, one should really be familiar with the proper operation, including the existence of the throttle, and its purpose (it makes the boat go).
The picture quality, presented in full screen format, on this Retromedia Entertainment DVD release is about average, with much of the poorness probably inherent due to the lack of quality during production. The audio ranges from decent to muddled, but given the script, we're probably not missing anything in that area. There is one special feature of that of a short interview (under ten minutes) with actress Maria De Aragon shot on video at what appears to have been some sort of sci-fi convention. She relates some interesting information, including how she got the job of playing the ill-fated Greedo in the original Star Wars movie.
By the way, the title I used is meant to be sung to the tune of the Johnny Cash song Ring of Fire...