DNDF: Reptiles

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Saturday, December 7, 2013

DNDF: Reptiles

Reptiles, the class Reptilia, are an evolutionary grade of animals, comprising today's turtles, crocodilians, snakes, lizards, and tuatara, as well as many extinct groups.  A reptile is any amniote (a tetrapod whose egg has an additional membrane, originally to allow them to lay eggs on land) that is neither a mammal nor a bird.  Unlike mammals, birds, and certain extinct reptiles, living reptiles have scales or scutes (rather than fur or feathers) and are cold-blooded.  Advocates of phylogenetic nomenclature regard the traditional category 'Reptilia' to be invalid, as not all descendants of a common ancestor are included.  However, in practice, these non-cladistic classifications, such as reptile, fish, and amphibian, remain in use by some biologists, especially in popular books written for a general audience.  The historically combined study of reptiles and amphibians is called herpetology.

The historically combined study of reptiles and amphibians as the subject of movies is called Crap-Cinema-tology.

The Haunted Sea (1997)

  • Genre: Action – Horror
  • Directed:
    • Dan Golden 
    • Daniel Patrick
  • Produced:
    • Roger Corman 
    • Marta M. Mobley
  • Written: Thomas McKelvey Cleaver
  • Starring: Krista Allen, Don Stroud, Duane Whitaker, Jeff Phillips, James Brolin, Joanna Pacula, Ronald William Lawrence, Eb Lottimer, Leonard Donato, Horacio Le Don, Cole S. McKay, Brendon Crigler
  • Music:
    • Nigel Holton 
    • David Wurst 
    • Eric Wurst
  • Cinematography: John B. Aronson
  • Editing: Robert Berman
  • Studio:
    • Concorde Pictures 
    • Concorde-New Horizons 
    • The Pacific Trust
  • Distributed:
    • Concorde Pictures  
    • SBP
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: 17 November 1997
  • Running Time: 73 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

A terrible knock-off of Alien (1979) by way of Larry Cohen's vastly superior Q (1982).  A group of sailors (including, improbably, Joanna Pacula and Krista Allen) are trapped on a mysterious derelict in mid-ocean which promptly vanishes from sight as the crew are picked off by a laughable monster which Allen's character (an unlikely expert in such things it seems) suggests is Aztec deity Quetzalcoatl.  Somehow Allen has a connection with this ratty looking god, suffering never-explained flashbacks to herself as a sacrifial offering rescued by conquistadores. Quetzalcoatl is described in Mesoamerican legend as a feathered serpent while the thing seen here looks like a very bad attempt to gene-splice H.R. Giger's monstrosity from Alien with the velociraptors of Jurassic Park (1993). Inevitably, it looks dreadful.

The whole enterprise, in fact, shows its lack of budget.  The interior of the mystery vessel is represented by anonymous locations in some sort of industrial plant while the exteriors seem to have wandered in from a stock footage library.  When guns are fired, the sounds never quite match the muzzle flashes and the transformation scenes use the cheapest possible bladder effects.  But cheapness is no crime.  Many a fine film has been made with fewer resources than director Dan Golden had here.  What really scuppers The Haunted Sea is that it's so relentlessly dull.  Even at a meager 74 minutes it manages to outstay its welcome, resorting to Allen exposing her breasts at regular intervals in a desperate bid to keep viewers from nodding off.  Characters skulk about cramped corridors for an eternity, Golden mistaking this for suspense, and the flashbacks seem to have been thrown in purely to bulk up the slender plot - certainly they serve no other purpose than to up the running time and to provide one more excuse for Allen to take her clothes off.

The flashbacks are just one of many plot strands that are crying out for explanations that never come and to be honest it's hard to imagine that the film would be any more interesting if they did.  It's a tedious mess from beginning to end, though there's some dubious pleasure in seeing decent actors like James Brolin slumming it as the boozy ship's captain (in scenes that were probably shot in a day so brief are they) and Joanna Pacula visibly wondering what the hell happened to her career.

The final shot hints at a possible sequel. It'll come as no surprise to anyone that it never happened though curiously John Bruno spend a lot more money making something very similar in Virus (1999).  It wasn't any good either.


Hisss (2010)

  • Genre: Comedy – Drama – Horror
  • Directed: Jennifer Chambers Lynch
  • Produced:
    • Govind Menon 
    • Vikram Singh 
    • Ratan Jain 
    • William Sees Keenan 
    • Rakesh Rathod
  • Written:
    • Jennifer Chambers Lynch 
    • Gulfam Khan
  • Starring: Mallika Sherawat, Irrfan Khan, Jeff Doucette, Divya Dutta, Raman Trikha, Mahmoud Babai
  • Music:
    • Anu Malik 
    • Julian Lennon 
    • Panjabi MC 
    • DKFP
  • Cinematography: Madhu Ambat
  • Editing: Tony Ciccone
  • Studio:
    • Split Image Pictures 
    • Venus Records & Tapes
  • Distributed:
    • Bollywood Films Ltd.  
    • Family Films  
    • Media Distribution Partners  
    • Millennium Entertainment  
    • Venus Records & Tapes  
    • Viva Pictures 
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date: 22 October 2010
  • Running Time: 98 minutes
  • Country:
    • United States 
    • India
  • Language:
    • Hindi 
    • English 
    • Tamil 
    • Telugu 
    • Malayalam

George States is suffering from the last stage of brain cancer and has only six months to live.  In order to prevent death and gain immortality, he decides to extract the 'Nagmani' from a shape-shifting snake who can take human form, Nagin.  He captures the nag [the male snake] so that the nagin [the female] comes after the capturer to free her lover, thus allowing him to obtain the nagmani by force.  He keeps the nag in a glass box where he electrocutes and tortures him.  His plan works and the nagin starts following him.  On her way, she is helped by a police inspector and his wife, who is infertile, causing a strain in their relationship.  The nagin also helps a few women who are helpless: One who is beaten mercilessly by her husband; one being raped by a man and so on. She brutally murders those men who were involved in the capture of her mate as well as men who torture women.

The police inspector who is trying to help her find her mate investigates the murders.  Finally, she reaches George's hideout where she reclaims her mate and they engage both in sexual intimacy.  George attempts to capture the nagin during intercourse since this will be when she will be at her most vulnerable.  Wearing a suit that hides his heat signature, he lures her by using her dying mate as bait to a trap.  He captures her and tries taking the nagmani but at that moment, the police inspector arrives and helps her.  Angered by the death of her mate by the hands of George, she takes on a huge form: half snake, half woman, and throws him in the same glass box where her mate was kept and electrocutes him.

The film was shot simultaneously in English and Hindi.  Famed special effects designer Robert Kurtzman was responsible for developing the look of the Snake Woman in the film.  The film was shot in the jungle of Kerala, India.  The film was also shot in Mumbai, Chennai, Madh Island, and in the studios of Filmistan.

The film is edited by American film editor Tony Ciccone, who is also credited with additional sound design.  His film editing credit is misrepresented on preliminary on-line posters as "Anthony Ciccone."  Mooppan Raghavan, tribal leader of Thalikakal settlement in Kerala, and over a dozen members of his tribe were recruited as extras for the film.  A documentary, titled “Despite the Gods”, about director Jennifer Lynch's struggle to make the film was released in 2012.


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