The Prisoner of Second Avenue Review


It’s time to look at a fairly old black comedy film. It’s one of those films that has a pretty solid premise and starts out good. Then the film unfortunately falls off the deep end and never quite managed to recover. You sort of know where the movie is going with this before it gets there and it’s not the direction it should have gone. The film just isn’t all that satisfying and at the end of the day the characters do end up being prisoners of second avenue.

The film starts off with Mel losing his job. It had been a steady job that he had for many years, but that is all over now. Adding to his woes is the fact that someone broke into his house and stole all the clothes, money, and items. His wife Edna is distraught as well, but she manages to keep herself together. She even gets a job to support them while Mel looks for one. The problem is that Mel can’t seem to find a job anywhere and so naturally he gets jealous of Edna’s success. Mel decides to guilt trip Edna about this every waking minute and quickly loses his mind entirely. Edna will have to do what she can to bring him back from insanity, but can she pull this off?

Mel is really what drags the film down here. A lot of unfortunate stuff happen to him for sure, but his reaction to all of it certainly isn’t all that good. I think him losing his mind goes a little too far. It gets to the point where he starts swinging a knife around and yelling about global conspiracies. It stops being funny pretty quickly and just goes into being very tedious/annoying. I couldn’t wait for him to finally get past this. It happens when he mugs someone on the street and steals his wallet.

That’s when the film decides to double down by having Edna lose her mind. It’s the film’s way of trying to say that anyone can and will snap once they lose their job. It really undermines how hard Edna worked to keep the family stable the whole time. Couldn’t she have at least gotten her win here? By the end the message is that Mel will once again support them, but Edna had been doing pretty good on her own. A better ending would have been for her to have kept her job with Mel just learning to accept this. As it stands, he didn’t learn to accept anything. Things just finally went his way and he decided to stop sulking. Edna cracking the way she did felt extremely forced and unnecessary.

This movie is at its best when it’s just poking fun at everyone and embracing its comedic elements. For example, Mel’s relatives were handled pretty well. They naturally want to see him get well, but aren’t about to throw their life’s savings at him. In their defense, paying 20,000 to start a summer camp where he would be the head sounds like a terrible idea. This guy’s insane, how can he be around kids? I don’t think it would do him a whole lot of good either. Then the psychologist they got him seems like a scammer who rushes out of the room as soon as the paid hour is up. He doesn’t care about Mel’s problems in the slightest.

Maybe Mel’s plot would have been better if we were ever given a reason to care about him, but he has a sour attitude from the start. He complains about literally everything and just never stops. Rather than seeing the silver lining in a situation he always seeks out the small rip in what’s good. Nothing ever works out for him because he doesn’t see the good in things. Take his vacation to his brother’s place. Mel spends the whole time complaining and trying to leave. He never gave them a chance.

It’s almost ironic that you will probably be rooting for the neighbors in all of their encounters during this film. Mel picks fights with the guys above him and the girls next door. In both cases I would argue that they’re in the right while he’s in the wrong. The girls are just trying to have a good time and they weren’t all that loud as evidenced by the fact that Edna couldn’t hear them. You have to make an effort to be annoyed. Then the neighbors upstairs have little kids who are trying to sleep so having Mel yelling at the top of his lungs late at night is naturally upsetting. They were just trying to cool him off by dunking him with the ice water. It may be a bit drastic, but Mel certainly started it.

The fast paced dialogue is definitely the film’s strength. We do get a lot of witty moments and as I mentioned the humor is quite good when it is trying. Just the sheer fact that the apartment is so run down is a great source for many jokes and such. It’s also good to see New York City from back in the day and how so much has changed and yet so much is the same. It always makes for a good backdrop for any film.

Overall, This movie was pretty fun at times. For the most part it’s a humorous adventure. It just begins to take itself too seriously once Mel goes crazy and never truly recovers from that. Those scenes are just painful to watch and Edna should have been able to have gotten a win at the end. Instead she goes down with Mel and by the end none of them really have their dignity left. I was also expecting them to get more of a win with the shovel once it started snowing, but then the film ends abruptly. In my head canon the neighbors basically won this round since they did blast Mel twice.

Overall 5/10

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Dr. Strangelove Review


It’s time to look at a critically acclaimed political film. This one takes a pretty interesting look at the good ole Cold War days and our tensions with Russia. Back then it was all about getting the bigger weapons, but we all know that such a build up can only have negative results. This film points that out with America’s half thought out attack protocols and it leads to a very tense atmosphere where all of the characters are wondering what to do about this. It is definitely a well made film.

So, the long and short of it is that one of America’s generals is fed up with the whole thing. He wants to wipe Russia off the map and nobody’s going to stop him. He orders his men to execute the order where they are to fire a nuke at Russia. The command was given as if it was a critical red scenario meaning that the homeland was taken over so this was a last act of retaliation to ensure that Russia died alongside the U.S. Naturally, this was not the case at all, but the pilots had no way of knowing that since they were already in the air and set about to complete their mission. This was a suicide mission so they would not be able to return to see its effects anyway. The President finds out about this and gathers all of the top ranking officials to decide what to do about it.

The problem? There is nothing they can do about it. The order cannot be taken back due to radio silence and there is no way to override it. The President can tell Russia about it, but that will demand retaliation so the U.S. would also blow up. That means there are two ways this can go down. 1. The U.S. alerts Russia to their impending demise so they fire their own nuke and we both die. 2. U.S. keeps silent and Russia dies before they can retaliate, but then we will be known as villains around the world. It’s a tough call.

The cast of characters is of a reasonable size. We’ve got the President as a main character which is always cool. The flaw with this guy is that he’s very timid and I can’t imagine someone like that winning the oval office. He has a hard time talking with Russia since they end up being more aggressive and his whiny disposition makes it hard to sympathize with him. I’m sure this president did a pretty good job during the term, but he wasn’t cutting it. He’s a decently humorous character if you keep in mind that this is a parody though. Turgidson is a pretty charismatic character and one of those guys who gets a lot of witty lines, but is actually a bad character if you think about it enough. He is a little too enthusiastic about implementing a terribly selfish plan at the end of the film to save himself and he doesn’t mind shirking his duty for no real reason. What helps to combat these negative traits is how devoted he is to stopping the Russians. He is willing to lie or do just about anything else to convince people that they are behind all of this. Naturally, he opts to just stay silent and let Russia grow up. While the rest of the council made sure to ignore him during the decision making, you couldn’t ignore him because of how loud the guy was.

Ripper was really the main antagonist of the film and the guy who got the ball rolling. He’s definitely pretty crazy so there is no reasoning with him. It was surreal to see him start firing on his own soldiers just so he could stay alive and once he had stalled enough, he just shot himself. Shooting himself definitely hurt his credibility since he took the cop-out way in the end. The crazyness may have added to the film’s overall atmosphere, but I wouldn’t have minded if this character was cut out. Poor Mandrake was caught in the middle of this breakdown and he did a good job of trying to make the best of the situation. He did come close to stopping the catastrophe, but it was too little too late. Guano is a random general who showed up to take command of the situation over there and I’ll give him a little shout out for being fairly tough. Considering everything that had just happened, he took the situation in stride.

Finally, we have Dr. Strangelove. He is certainly quite the character and that’s to be expected since the film is named after him. The concept of an ex Nazi working for the U.S. and getting a seat on the council is pretty ludicrous but we’ll let it slide for now. His main gimmick was that he kept trying to salute by mistake and telling treasonous things like “My Fuhrer” and hoping that nobody noticed. He is pretty well educated about weapons of mass destruction and nuclear deterrents so he is consulted quite a lot in this film. It’s always interesting to have a traitor in your midst as well and he added some tension to the film. He was without a doubt, one of the best characters in the film.

There is really only one scene here that holds the film back a little and that is Turgidson’s debut. It’s just a really drawn out scene of his secretary answering a call for him while not fully dressed and the scene just stays here for a while. It felt like obvious fanservice and while it wasn’t anything drastic, it is enough to make you shake your head at the whole thing. The deluded general Ripper’s fixation on bodily fluids was also mildly alarming and the final desperate plan that the U.S. considers was also rather twisted. You’re liable to have some iffy plots in a black comedy since it’s part of the humor, but at least it was kept to a minimum. If you consider that this was really the only negative in the film, then that’s actually a pretty good sign. The film may not be amazing or as good as it could have been, but I’d call it a solid film in the end. It’s a movie that I could actually re-watch right now since it’s been a while and it does have a good amount of replay value.

I have to give a brief shout-out to the ending. It was handled beautifully and I was not expecting it in the slightest. It’s an ending that I can’t imagine a modern film getting away with. Not because of content as there is nothing violent about it at all, but just because it’s not a mainstream ending that people would probably approve of. That’s why it was so shocking when the film just suddenly ended with a quick song and a slow montage. I can’t say what the montage was about since that would definitely be a spoiler, but it was classic nonetheless.

Overall, Dr. Strangelove is a very clever film and most of the humor is actually rock solid. It’s a film that will breeze by in no time at all. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and just has a lot of fun along the way. The characters are all very crazy and charismatic. While some of them may not be all that likable on their own, they do make the film more enjoyable. It’s a very crazy film and while that can sometimes work against it, the uniqueness helps the film more than it hurts. If like me, you enjoy watching films that deal with politics and even poke fun at it in the process, then this is a film that you can definitely get behind. The film has a much larger title which will make a lot of sense once you watch the movie. I’d love to see a remake of this film someday as the concept is something that could easily be used again.

Overall 6/10

X: The Man with the X Ray Eyes Review


Wait a minute, this film has almost a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes? Mind blown! Anyway, this is a Roger Corman film, so you can probably guess that it is basically rubbish. It’s the kind of film that forces you to take a step back and think about how this guy has somehow had a steady film career. Surely there are better writers somewhere…right? Ah well, at least the concept here is fairly interesting, even if it cannot ultimately save the film.

We have a guy named Xavier. He wants to use eye drops to improve sight and ultimately make the world a better place. Unfortunately, he decides to test it out on animals and they don’t last very long as a result. Not realizing just how deplorable this is, Xavier decides to do it to himself next. The problem is that the drops work too well and have many side effects. They make him more violent and unreasonable and have an addicting effect as well. Throw in the fact that he can see through people and is likely blasting them with radiation and you have a very confused main character. His only hope now is to become a mystical doctor, but can he really pull this off or is he toast?

Whenever a character is roasted and toasted, you know that it’s going to be a long day. Unfortunately, I can’t even give the film that much credit because there is no witty dialogue to be found here. The film opens up with a very long scene of an eyeball in a jar of blood. It’s a very gross and disturbing way to start the film, but it helped set the stage for the rest of the film. While it may be old, The Man with the X Ray Eyes still tries to be violent for extra edge. The other big moment that is guilty of this is the very ending. I don’t think anyone cares about spoilers, but skip this paragraph if you don’t want to know the ending. Well, it turns out that Xavier gets so desperate that he rips his eyes out. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that it had any real effect and things will just get even worse for him. He began to see cosmic energy and the beginning of time so maybe he was just too far gone by that point.

It was definitely intriguing to have Xavier run into a church for that moment though. To his credit, the Pastor took it all in stride, but he seemed rather unhinged. He had already been yelling quite passionately and told Xavier that what he was seeing was the Devil. It’s a fairly bold claim since this pastor had absolutely no way to know anything that was going on, but he was on a role I suppose and Xavier took the words to heart. “If Thine Eye offends thee, Pluck it out!” While that quote can certainly be used literally, it’s definitely more of a figurative thing. Whatever is causing you to sin is something that you have to remove from your life. Whether it be a hobby, action, or an influence. I suppose that getting rid of a part of your body is a rather extreme way to solve that problem, but given that your body is special a created just for you, I would highly advise against taking Xavier’s route. At least it worked for the shock value I guess….

Either way, Xavier wasn’t likable from the start. He went crazy rather quickly and very quickly began to abuse his powers once he found that he could see through people. Xavier even murdered his partner because the he had a mild disagreement with the guy. The situation just kept getting more and more unsympathetic for the main lead. I suppose the gig that he got for being a mystic was a constructive way to use his powers, but it definitely seems rather limited. Sure, he can see what is wrong with a patient, but that can only help so much. I liked his business partner though as the guy figured Xavier’s past out and was very quick to bring out the blackmail card. I wasn’t expecting anything less from such a shady fellow. It does make the cops look rather bad though since they had no idea where to even begin looking for Xavier.

It’s a short film so there is not a whole lot of other content to discuss here. The film doesn’t really have a soundtrack and I can’t say much for the visuals. I suppose that they were almost okay for its time, but as it is, Corman is not exactly known for his high budget in these films. There were a few supporting characters like the business partner, the original partner, and the main heroine. Their roles are very small though with the heroine’s biggest moment being when she found the main character. Beyond that, they were all just bystanders who couldn’t do much to stop or help Xavier. The guy was on his own.

Overall, You should watch this film as a cautionary tale on why you shouldn’t overdose. The problems here would not have happened if Xavier hadn’t put a whole bottle into his eyes instead of the prescribed 2-4 drops. He just got super greedy and it led to his downfall. That being said, don’t think for a second that I actually recommend this film. You should stay far away from this title and I could recommend a few dozen other films that are much better than this one. The whole film is just rather depressing and dull. Nothing really happens and nothing good happens either. You’re essentially watching a film that lacks purpose and motivation. The characters are certainly not likable and the sketchy beginning and ending don’t help matters either. This film beats the Bucket of Blood, but loses to the Pet Shop of Horrors. Well, at least this film didn’t obtain the really elusive 0.

Overall 1/10