Sunday, July 11, 2010

Assorted Bits & Pieces: Michael Pataki RIP


I read last night on the fearwerx forum that popular character actor, Michael Pataki passed away on April 15th, 2010 after a long battle with cancer. He was 72 years old. Pataki was a familiar face to genre fans having featured in dozens of television shows including such favorites as THE TWILIGHT ZONE, BATMAN and STAR TREK.

Pataki is to the far right of the elevator. From LOVE AT FIRST BITE (1979)

Rarely did he ever get a lead role, he most often appeared in supporting roles, or cameo appearances. His various exploitation and horror credits include a brief role as a senator in the average blaxploitation film, SWEET JESUS, PREACHERMAN (1973), a suspicious policeman in THE BAT PEOPLE (1974), a rare lead role in GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE (1974) co-starring the great William Smith and another leading part in the silly, but nifty schlocker, DRACULA'S DOG (1977; ZOLTAN, HOUND OF DRACULA).

Pataki (right) with James Fiorentino in DEAD & BURIED (1981)

More roles followed for Pataki on both the big and small screen. He played more bad guys in movies like AIRPORT '77 (1977) and also the modest exploitation adventure, THE GLOVE (1979) starring John Saxon (QUEEN OF BLOOD) and Rosey Grier (THE THING WITH TWO HEADS). He also played a gravedigger in the underrated sleeper, DEAD & BURIED (1981). Pataki also had a comic cameo role in the deliciously funny and delightful, LOVE AT FIRST BITE (1979).

His role as a Klingon on the classic season two episode of STAR TREK, 'The Trouble With Tribbles' sees Pataki giving an analytical comparison between Kirk and both a Regulan Bloodworm and a Denibian Slime Devil (whatever those are supposed to be).

Roger Perry (left), Mariette Hartley (middle), Michael Pataki (right) from RETURN OF COUNT YORGA (1972)

In 1972, Pataki had a brief role as Joe in THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA. Dressed in a caveman outfit at a masquerade party, Joe is looking for his girlfriend and ultimately becomes the quarry of Quarry's undead Count.

Pataki battles William Smith during the closing moments of GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE (1974)

1974 was a good year to the reliable actor. He got to play a vampire himself in the unsavory and tasteless exploitation favorite, GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE. In it, Pataki plays Caleb Croft who is resurrected and immediately proceeds to kill a couple wandering in a graveyard. He rapes the girl who later gives birth to a child who isn't quite normal. The kid grows up to be major screen tough guy, William Smith and he seeks out his father for a final showdown. Pataki got to partake in another vampire film mentioned below.

DRACULA'S DOG (1977) is probably Pataki's "best" role mainly because he gets to play both a good guy and a bad guy. He plays Dracula in a flashback sequence and the Lord of the Undead's descendant. The title is self explanatory in one of the weirdest vampire movies ever made. Pataki also directed the still unavailable on DVD trash obscurity, MANSION OF THE DOOMED (1976). Taking a cue from EYES WITHOUT A FACE (1959), Pataki's movie deals with a mad doctor kidnapping people and removing their eyes in an effort to save his own blind daughter who lost her eyes in a car accident.

Michael Pataki was quite a presence onscreen and it always brought a smile to my face to see him on television, or in a movie regardless of how long he was up there on the screen. He will be missed.

Rec 2 (2009) review

REC 2 (2009)

Jonathan Mellor (Dr. Owen), Manuela Velasco (Angela Vidal), Oscar Zafra (Jefe), Ariel Casas (Larra), Alejandro Casaseca (Martos)

Directed by Jaume Balaguero & Paco Plaza

The Short Version: Action oriented sequel treads very similar ground from the first film, but makes some choice alterations to what little was established prior. Regardless of 'the same old thing', there's some grand scares, surprises and nicely done suspenseful moments. A worthy second chapter in this increasingly interesting series.

A SWAT team and a doctor enter the Barcelona apartment complex to assess the situation inside. Once they've entered the hellish building, they uncover shocking secrets and the truth behind the deadly contagion that has turned the occupants into ravenous zombie like creatures.

After hearing a rave review of the first REC (2007) from a friend, I immediately picked up the Spanish DVD in anticipation of the proposed hair raising and goose bump inducing qualities found therein. Needless to say, it turned out to be the scariest movie I'd seen in a long, long time. The ending was truly terrifying and stunningly shot capturing the maximum amount of terror. An inferior American remake titled QUARANTINE, was quickly put into production and was virtually a shot for shot remake of the original Spanish shocker. Now, the original films deadly duo, Balaguero and Plaza return for the second round in this furiously fast, roller coaster of a sequel.

One thing that will become immediately obvious to those watching is the similarity to ALIENS (1986) what with the use of the armed SWAT team that enters the ominous apartment complex. They all have their own helmet mounted cameras and occasionally, the view switches to a picture in picture image. In a nice move that brought HALLOWEEN 2 (1981) to mind, the film picks up minutes after the first film has ended. It only takes about ten minutes before both the unsuspecting soldiers and the audience are suddenly thrown into the action.

Whereas the first film ended with that truly terrifying finale in the upstairs penthouse, the sequel takes our protagonists there right from the start. Even though a high quotient of the suspense has been drained due to the almost identical set up from the first time around, you can't help but wonder when, or if something will pop up. It's here in the penthouse that the first and most radical script alteration is seen. Depending on how you felt about the nature of the horror elements in the first film will play a major role in how you feel about what the filmmakers do with it in the second one.

Personally, I had no problem with it. Even after reading about the turn of events regarding the contagion, it was still a bit of a surprise, but didn't detract from my enjoyment. Still, people shouldn't complain too much considering the ending of REC (2007) hints at the plot device this film runs with. Furthermore, I couldn't help but be reminded of Lamberto Bava's DEMONS (1985) as REC 2 shares some similarities with that Italian favorite as well. Really, though, some kind of change had to be made to keep the film from being a note for note clone of the previous picture. There's also another shocking surprise that comes out of nowhere around the hour mark.

There are more than a few terrifyingly harrowing sequences found in REC 2. They include a brief scene inside an air vent, an irrefutably intense scene where Larra finds himself separated from the group with the infected monsters all around him and the taut, fright inducing finale when the last survivors confront Tristana Medeiros, the ghoulish monster seen during the conclusion of the first picture. This last segment also introduces a high level of the supernatural that adds even more to the creepy conclusion.

While I wouldn't say REC 2 is a better movie than the first film, it's at least on par with it. It loses a modicum of suspense because we're already familiar with the scenario and are somewhat prepared for the multitude of shocks. The new script additions aid in making sure the audience will become squirmy in their seats on at least a few occasions. The directors create some unsettling moments by having the monsters remain stationary momentarily before they attack, or appear out of nowhere, hidden in shadow at the end of a hallway.

Where the film trips up is there is virtually no characterization. Owen and Larra are about the only two that get any semblance of a personality. For a film like this where action and horror are the main focal points, the audience is already aware of what's going on, so there really is no need for a large amount of exposition in the first place. At the 40 minute mark, the film slows down momentarily (like 10 minutes) when we are introduced to a group of young interlopers who serve little purpose aside from becoming creature fodder. However, the fate of a couple of these characters is unknown after two of them are locked up inside a room. I presume they will feature in the third film, already being prepared.

At just 79 minutes (84 counting the end credits, it's a few minutes longer than the first movie), fat is one thing this film has very little of. The Spanish directors have fashioned that rare sequel that is equally enjoyable on its own terms and brings some new elements to the table to maintain viewer interest. Some may be disappointed, but I was pleasantly surprised and came away very much entertained by this venture and anxiously await the next installment. The ending of REC 2 hints at something far bigger than what we've seen so far. A really good, frequently scary, tight little horror movie that expands on the mythology started by the ingenious, but superior original.

This review is representative of the Musictronic Entertainment region 0 DVD. It contains Spanish language with optional English and Japanese subtitles.
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