The Allure of a Bargain Bin

I know I’m not alone when I say that when I see a bargain bin full of books, music or movies, I almost hyperventilate in excitement.

Yesterday was a lovely summer day here in town so I insisted my son Sam join me on a therapeutic bike ride.  But the notion of biking about with no destination in mind held no appeal for either one of us.  I suggested we pedal over to our community’s one remaining movie store and see if they had any used stuff for sale (video stores are closing or dumping their contents at huge discount thanks to the growing predominance of NetFlix and similar entities).

Sam and I were in luck.  There were three bins of used VHS tapes (remember them?) and a few racks of used DVDs for sale.  When I spotted the prices I almost swooned:  the VHS tapes were going for ten for $11.00.  Surely I could find ten halfway decent films for that ridiculously low price…

And here’s what I ended up with:

“The Hidden”—Saw it with Sherron when it first came out and remember finding it a rather cute science fiction thriller.  A cut above the usual nonsense.  Kyle McLachlan’s strange government agent is a role he would reprise in David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks”.

“Gorgo”—I can’t resist monster movies, no matter how bad they are.  I hadn’t seen this one…and now I know why (see my review, below)

“Secret of Roan Inish”—Picked this one up for Sherron. One of her favorites.

“Clockers”—My oldest son Liam is currently finishing the Richard Price novel and I thought he’d like to see Spike Lee’s (so-so) adaptation.

“Cabin Fever”—Haven’t seen this one yet.  A good flick for my sons and I when Sherron’s away, a gross out horror film that she’d never make it through.  Yet she can eat popcorn while watching films of actual childbirths. Go figure…

“Shadow  of the Vampire”—Not a great movie but I’m fascinated by all things Murnau-related.

“Medium Cool”—Another one I’ve never seen, a movie that caused quite a splash when it first came out (in the late 1960’s). Uber-cinematographer Haskell Wexler writes and directs.  Looking forward to it.

“Suburbia”—Saw it a few years back.  Again, not great, not even as good as “Dazed and Confused”, but Linklater’s always entertaining and the soundtrack is outta this world.

“Black Christmas”—Haven’t viewed this one in at least 20 years and remember it as being very creepy. Not much of a “Ho ho ho” quotient.

“Downhill Racer”—Again, long time no see.  I recall its downbeat mood and that it features an unlikable central character (played by Robert Redford).  Michael Ritchie directs and he usually delivers the goods.

…and I also came across a copy of Werner Herzog’s “Invincible” on DVD for $5.99.  How could I pass that up?  It received lukewarm reviews but, as always, Roger Ebert gives it a glowing, quotable blurb.  I find their (Ebert/Herzog) mutual admiration society quite revolting; an artist and his/her critics should never be on speaking terms, certainly not on a first name basis. I’ve never been a fan of Ebert’s work, to tell you the truth, and find his readings of films facile; Leonard Maltin, with a slightly larger vocabulary.  I empathize with his health woes but when I’m looking for critical reaction to a particular movie, he’s one of the last people I consult.  He’s a fanboy and an insider and I have little use for either. So a big “Thumbs Down” to Rog.

I digress.

All of those films to choose from and which one did I select for viewing last night?

How did you guess?  “Gorgo”.

My review:

Gorgo is only 71 minutes long and desperately in need of massive cutting.  The final third of the film defies the recognized tenets of space and time, going on and on, an extended rampage by the title character, the utter devastation of a balsa wood and cardboard London, the model around five feet tall and about as convincing as a two hundred dollar set can be.

Dreadful, interminable mishmash of King Kong, Godzilla and just about any other creature feature you care to name. I almost hooted with laughter when I saw William Sylvester’s name on this turkey.  Clearly, Kubrick didn’t screen his work in Gorgo before casting Sylvester as ‘Heywood Floyd’ in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Or maybe he did; ol’ Stanley had a perverse streak.

Lots of stock footage, the shots often repeated.  Cheap, lowdown entertainment, unredeemed by belly laughs. Deserving of the bargain bin, over-priced if they aren’t giving it away free.”

1961; MGM

Director:  Eugene Lourie

Writers:  John Loring and Daniel Hyatt

Cast:  Bill Travers, William Sylvester, Vincent Winter, Bruce Seaton, Joseph O’Connor

About Cliff Burns

I'm a literary writer, specializing in slipstream/ alternative/surreal/science fiction. My influences include Philip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison, Samuel Beckett, Jorge Luis Borges, David Cronenberg, Rene Magritte, any artist who defies convention and busts open genres, attacking the status quo.
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