Monday, October 4, 2010

Movies Worth Googling: Strange Movie Reviews by Jenny Orosel

Do Not Taunt Happy Fun Hoff: a look at the work of David Hasselhoff

I have no idea why I decided to do David Hasselhoff movies for this month. But there I was, staring at the cover of the Witchery DVD, seeing it had the Hoff and Linda Blair, and it looked painfully bad. Something made me buy that. Then I came across Nick Fury: Agent of Shield and not long after that, Jekyll and Hyde: The Musical. It seemed wherever I turned there was The Hoff. Something in the cosmos was calling to The The Hoff...

I had certain expectations going into this and, to be honest, they were unfair expectations. I was never a "Knight Rider" fan and never saw an episode of "Baywatch". The most I'd seen of David Hasselhoff was on that "America's Got Talent" show and as The Man Who Can Has Cheezburger. And yet I was expecting him to be some wooden, stagnant actor with a voice only a German could love. Again, why this made me want to devote an entire month's column to him is beyond me. But damn it, the cosmos calls.

First came Witchery, aka La Casa 4, aka Evil Dead 4, aka Evil Encounters, aka Ghost House 2, aka Witchcraft, aka Witchcraft 4: Return of the Exorcist. That certainly is a lot of titles for an hour and a half long movie. Maybe it was so its reputation could never catch up with it. And while they were certainly applicable to the plot (except for the Evil Dead and Exorcist references, but those were probably for pure marketing reasons), there wasn't much else to it. Photographer and translator end up trapped in a house with a family (including pregnant teen Linda Blair) while the ghost of a persecuted witch is trying to kill them. What it lacked in plot it certainly made up for with the various kills-roasted people, exploding people. The death scenes were a splatterpunk fan's dream.

When I started Witchery, I was ready for some robotic acting from The Hoff. Oddly, he was the only one in this thing who seemed alive. Most of the actors seemed to be reading their lines for the first time, and from the cue cards. His girlfriend, the main character, the one who was supposed to be carrying the movie, looked and sounded so bored I was waiting to see an outtake where she fell asleep while filming. Even Linda Blair, an experienced actress by this time, looked like she wanted nothing more than to go home. At least The Hoff was having fun being there. He delivered his lines believably, reacted like you would expect somebody trapped in a house with a demon witch would. This movie would have been perfect done as an adaptation of I Am Legend-the last human left on Earth, surrounded by zombies.

Then came Star Crash, aka The Adventures of Stella Star, aka Female Space Invaders, aka Star Battle Encounters, aka...okay, you get the point. As a note for fans of The Hoff-you might be disappointed in this one. Not in him, but in the fact you have to sit through two thirds of this movie before you see his face. Even then, he gets very little to do and his voice is overdubbed, so it's hard to judge his performance. That said, this might be my favorite movie in the set. It's a space opera spoof made by someone who is obviously a science fiction fan. Yes, the props and effects were cheaper than my fifteen year old Honda. Yes, the dialogue was over the top. And yes, the thick black eyeliner caked onto The Hoff to make him look "exotic" was laughable. But the director approached it right-if you have so little money to make a space opera, why not embrace the cheapness of the production and have some fun with it. And the cast was fantastic as well: Christopher Plummer, Joe Spinell, and one of my personal favorites, Marjoe Gortner. What's the plot? Female superhero in leather bikini fighting off evil space people. That's all you need to know, since the plot itself isn't all that important. What is important is that they're having so much fun with the production that we, the audience, can't help but have fun also.

After that, I popped in Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., aka Agent Nick Fury, aka My Name Is Fury...Nick Fury, aka-you know what? I'm sensing a pattern here. Perhaps The Hoff's coolness factor is so much that a mere single title cannot contain it. Just saying.

For those of you wondering, yes, that is the same Nick Fury from the comic books. Before Sam Jackson took over the role in the Iron Man movies, Fury was played by The Hoff hisownself. He was great as the rogue agent of a covert government agency. Somehow he made the cartoonish uber-machismo work and, while it isn't the most realistic of characters, he made it work for what it was-a television adaptation of a comic book character.

Sadly, the movie as a whole doesn't work as well as The Hoff's performance. Being made for broadcast television, it shies away from any exciting bits of violence or gore, and is paced so predictably I found myself thinking, "Great reveal occurs in" and being spot on the money. The fade outs for commercial breaks was annoying as well.

To cap it all off came Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical, aka...wait, that's the only title. Give me a minute while I reorganize my thoughts...

Jekyll & Hyde was not a movie, but rather a filmed performance of the Broadway play, with The Hoff in the title role/s. As a stage show, it has to be watched differently than a film. The acting will be much broader, as the actors are playing so even the back row can catch it, rather than acting for close-ups. That said, as an adaptation of one of the most classical horror stories, it didn't work for me as a horror story. The broad performances were simply too cartoonish to be creepy. The music may work for Broadway, but the up-tempoed, perky songs don't scream "scary" to me. Neither do the overly choreographed jazz dance numbers. I couldn't get over the fact that this, one of the most frightening books of all time, could be so milquetoast.

However, The Hoff did the best with it he could. Having heard many times what a big singing star he Germany, I wasn't expecting much. But he does have a really good voice. And while his performances were so far to the extremes-Jekyll was almost sickeningly good while Hyde oozed evil-I chalk this up to the whole stage performance thing. Even if he wasn't realistic as a character, his excessive energy was sure fun to watch.

All in all, I think David Hasselhoff gets a bad rap. It's not that he's a bad actor; quite the opposite. He puts all his energy into a role, even the ones not worth the time. No, he's a good actor, but he tends to be in bad projects. I'd be curious to see what he could do with a well written role in a deftly directed movie. And this proves to me; do not rely on public opinion. Before berating an actor, or even a writer or singer, I'd be best served actually watching them at work. Or listening. Or reading. Oh hell, you get the idea.

Star Crash was just released as a 2 disc special edition. I haven't even made my way to the bonus features disc, but the two commentary tracks on the movie alone make it worth the price of purchase.

Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. is currently out of print (it was briefly released as a Best Buy Exclusive to coincide with the Iron Man DVD release) and rarely pops up on EBay. However, Amazon has a bunch of used copies starting for $25 bucks

Witchery appears to have recently gone out of print, but you should be able to purchase a used copy for under ten dollars.

Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical is also out of print, but another one that can be found on the secondary market for under ten bucks.

--Jenny Orosel