Mozart Is a Murderer (1999)

You can say that Argento is all things giallo, but in my mind, there’s just as strong of an argument to include Sergio Martino in his company. Starting with 1971’s The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, Martino had a run of several classic films in just a few years, such as Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key, All the Colors of the Dark, Torso, The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail and The Suspicious Death of a Minor.

And while this is just a TV movie made years after the glorious decade of giallo, Mozart is a Murderer reminds us that Martino is an expert filmmaker.

It all starts years ago when one bad note ruins a concert. This innocuous event will spiral to claim the lives of many. Starting with a girl named Chiara, those connected to the event are found stabbed and have a circle and a cross cut into their bodies.

Commissioner Antonio Maccari has been trying to rebuild his life after his wife’s death at the hands of a serial killer he was hunting for. He’s been dating a therapist, Dr. Marta Melli, who is treating one of the students who was in the recital. It turns out that their teacher, Professor Baraldi, may have a sweet tooth for his male students and that Chiara and her boyfriend had been blackmailing their old music professor. But there are so many red herrings to swim through before we learn who the killer is.

Martino had some success in the 90s with TV movies and miniseries, including Private Crimes, which feature the queen of all things giallo Edwige Fenech and the always doomed Ray Lovelock.

This looks pretty 90s instead of being filled with the visual flourishes that Martino showed in his past work. But hey — even a low budget Martino is another joy to find, right? And it’s filled with little nods to past films, such as a headline that proclaims “The police are fumbling in the dark,” which is a line used in many giallo and also the title of a 1975 film with that very name, The Police Are Blundering In the Dark.

Totem (1999)

Six people are trapped in a cabin surrounded by an invisible barrier that traps them. As they explore a nearby graveyard, they find a stone totem pole and then discover that the three demons trapped within are set to be released by their deaths.

The people in this cabin in the woods are Alma Groves (Marissa Tait, Witchouse), Paul Maglia (Jason Faunt, who was Red Power Ranger Wes Collins), Leonard McKinney (Eric W. Edwards, not the adult actor Eric Edwards), Tina Gray (Alicia Lagano), Roz (Sacha Spencer) and Robert Cole (Tyler Anderson) and they’ve all been given a mental message to seek out this cabin and all knew that they would find one another.

Once they find that cemetery with the totem, they also find tombstones that say that tonight will be the last night of all their lives, as their death dates are now carved in stone. Or marble. Or probably styrofoam with this budget.

That’s when Robert bursts in the room carrying a blood-soaked Tina, who speaks in another voice, giving us all the exposition we need: They are all part of a ritual in which three people will be killed and three people to kill them. With each death, one of the statues from the totem pole will come to life and at the close of the ceremony, the new age of blood and fire will begin.

There was also a family — we see their old book and photos early in the movie — who somehow survived this, but these twentysomething teenagers are way too ridiculous to live and must deal with statues and each other.

Written by Neal Marshall Stevens and Charles Band, Totem was directed by David DeCoteau to fulfill a contract. He was given the resources to make Voodoo Academy, but only if he made this film first. It’s really the first of his films where the elements of his current style are apparent. And by that I mean shirtless dudes in danger and sexual tension that you can cut with the stone claws of a totemic demon.

You can also see this as “Master of Death” on the Full Moon remix movie Horrific.

You can watch this on Tubi.

The Killer Eye (1999)

Richard Chasen? More like David DeCoteau, who goes all Bruno Mattei recycles the Linnea Quigley shower scene of Creepazoids in the laziest way ever: it’s playing on the TV in a scene.

But hey, you know, why would I complain about a Linnea Quigley shower scene?

Dr. Jordan Grady is hiring male prostitutes to take special eyedrops so that they can see into the eighth dimension, which is totally a fetish I guess, all while his wife sneaks across the street to have a little aardvark sandwich with the neighbors. One of the creatures from the eighth dimension murders one of the rent boys and his eyeball grows horrifically large and starts to assault women, remembering that it is in a Full Moon movie after all.

I mean, how many movies are there where a giant eyeball impregnates women? Maybe its sequel Killer Eye: Halloween Haunt?

This also shows up as “Terror of Vision” in the Horrific anthology.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century (1999)

While this was originally going to be a series, this is the first Disney Channel original movie to get a sequel. It has a great pedigree, as it was directed by Kenneth Johnson, who created The Bionic Woman and V*.

Stardate 2049: Zenon Kar is a 13-year-old girl who has been in so much trouble on a space station that her parents send her to Earth, where she has trouble fitting in with the kids that have no idea what pop culture is, all while discovering a conspiracy to upload a computer virus top the space station, crash it to Earth and collect the insurance money.

Hey — Stuart Pankin! Not only Bob Charles, the anchor of HBOs Not Necessarily the News and Earl Sinclair on Dinosaurs, Stuart shows up in all manner of movies, a dependable character actor that I love. He’s Commander Edward Plank, the boss of the big space station.

They made two more of these movies about the plucky space girl — and Disney+ has them — so if this is your jam, get on it.

*He also directed Short Circuit 2 and Steel, but we don’t talk of those movies.

Inspector Gadget (1999)

If you’re from Pittsburgh, you know that Dr. Claw’s intimidating glass castle is just PPG Place.

Otherwise, this is a movie with perfect cartoon to real-life casting. You have Matthew Broderick as the Gadget, Rupert Everett as Dr. Claw, Michelle Trachtenberg as Penny and Dabney Coleman — the most perfect of these casting decisions — as Chief Quimby.

It then ruins all that good will by showing us Dr. Claw’s face, a fact that never ever happened across every season of the cartoon.

Perhaps the best part of this movie is the minions anonymous scene, in which a variety of henchmen appear, including henchmen include Mr. T and “Famous Bad Guy with Silver Teeth” (Richard Kiel as Jaws), “Famous Villain with Deadly Hat” (Richard Lee-Sung as Oddjob), “Famous Identifier of Sea Planes” (Bobby Bell as Tattoo from Fantasy Island), “Famous Native American Sidekick” (Hank Barrera as Tonto), “Bane of the Bumbling, Idiotic Yet Curiously Successful French Detective’s Existence” (Jesse Yoshimura as Cato Fong from The Pink Panther), “Son Before Second Son” (John Kim as Lee Chan, number one son of Charlie Chan) and “Famous Assistant to Dr. Frankensomething” (Keith Morrison as Igor).

After disastrous test screenings, the film was cut down from 110 minutes to 78 minutes. I have no idea just what was so upsetting in those 32 minutes, nor do I understand why this movie had to be any longer than 75 minutes.

Disney still made money from this movie, despite scorched earth reviews, as there weren’t a lot of kid-friendly films out in the summer of 1999. Throw in a bunch of cheaper direct to DVD sequels and a McDonald’s promotion to make your own Inspector Gadget that had parents traveling hundreds of miles to complete and even the worst of films can be a success.

Y2K (1999) and Y2K (1999)

No. That’s not a B&S About Movies site bug: there’s two movies with the same title released in the same year jumping on the “Year 2000/Millennium Bug” bugwagon that was going to, well, descend the Earth into global chaos.

The first one, also known as Y2K: The Movie, aka Countdown to Chaos in the overseas theatrical markets, was crafted by the great Dick Lowry, the producer and/or director behind Angel Dusted, In the Line of Duty: The F.B.I Murders, and Miracle Landing (one of the TV movie airline disaster flicks we didn’t get to in our week-long tribute).

The second one is an even dopier — Canadian-made, natch — direct-to-video time waster, which is also known as Terminal Countdown in the overseas theatrical markets. Direct-to-video sausage king Richard Pepin, through his PM Entertainment Group, who ground out the likes of the sci-fi actioner and disaster romps such as Cyber Tracker, T-Force, and Epicenter across his 120-plus credits, made the other one (Steel Frontier and Skyscraper; no, the Anna Nicole one, are two others).

And neither production thought of using the no-brainer title of The Millennium Bug for their oh-so-got-it-wrong “ancient future” hysteria boondoggles.

So “controversial” was the first Y2K, it almost didn’t air on the NBC-TV network on November 21, 1999, as some of the major utility, banking, and trading institutions feared it would cause a “War of the Worlds” type panic, inadvertently caused by Orson Welles’s radio drama broadcast on Oct. 30, 1938.

Well, it did air . . . NBC executives just chuckled at the silliness of it all. People losing their nut because of a TV movie?

Imagine if the A-List disaster flicks Armageddon and Deep Impact had to run with a disclaimer to appease the chicken little and falling skies buffoonery of the energy and banking worlds. Well, this flick, did:

This program does not suggest or imply that any of these events could actually occur.”

And guess what? The critics hated it and nobody it watched anyway.

The always likable Ken Olin is an MIT-trained systems analyst employed at a nuclear power plant in Seattle. While in Washington D.C. bickering over the Y2K issue, he learns that a Swedish plant — as the clocks turned over to 2000 — suffered a catastrophic meltdown. And like all disaster flicks before and after it, our hero faces an adversity rush to home before his family goes “nuclear” — and not even the presence of the always on-the-spot Joe Morton (Terminator 2) and Ronny Cox (of the aforementioned In the Line of Duty: The F.B.I Murders), can save them . . . or this movie. For there’s no thrills. There’s no action. There’s no nothing. Yeah, we ballyhoo the “Big Three” network TV movies around the B&S About Movies cubicle farm all the time, but not this one. Ugh. When it comes to “ancient future” flicks, this one gets it wrong and is the worst of them all — both in the ancient future and TV movie categories.

As for the second one? The critics hated it and nobody rented it.

The always spot-on Louis Gossett, Jr. (Jaws 3D) is pulling a paycheck, as well as the always welcomed Malcolm McDowell (Moon 44). This time, instead of a nuclear power plant, we have a top-secret (in the deep jungles), long-range missile site — connected to Richard M. Nixon’s administration (!) — that will launch its nuclear stockpile when the clocks clicks over to January 2000. And like all disaster flicks before and after it, our hero (Gossett) needs to stop the launch. Which leaves Mal as the evil general.

Sorry, no there’s no trailer for it, but you can stream Y2K: The Movie from NBC-TV for free on You Tube. You can also stream Y2K: Terminal Countdown on the Russian version of You Tube, OK.ru — which makes it all the more of a sweeter watch, courtesy of the Russian explanation-dubbing over it.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook.

eXistenZ (1999)

While the rest of the world was losing their mind over The Matrix, David Cronenberg quitely released this movie, a tale of alternate realities that is a way bigger idea inside a way smaller movie.

Sometime in the future, Antenna Research and Cortical Systematics are in a war with one another to make the latest and greatest games for their biotech virtual reality game consoles. These game pods are living and breathing creatures that have UmbyCords that directly connect into anus-appearing bio-ports on the users’ spines.

If you read that paragraph and don’t say, “What?” then this is the movie for you.

The cold war between these two companies is only increasing, where a religious group called the Realists fights for people to stop deforming the nature of reality.

Antenna Research’s game designer Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is showing off her latest game called eXistenZ when one of those Realists tries to murder her with an organic gun. Her security guard and publicist Ted Pikul (Jude Law) rescues her and together, they go from fixing the broken pod to inserting it into Law’s body to continually going deeper and deeper into the game.

Exactly when the game starts and ends is up to the viewer, but along the way you’ll be treated to more twists, turns and red herrings than several giallo, as well as an astounding setpiece where a disgusting living Chinese appetizer is transformed into a biomechanical weapon.

Inspired by an interview he did with Salman Rushdie, Cronenberg worked with Christopher Priest — who wrote* the novel that The Prestige is based on — to come up with this story. And if you’re wondering, “Is the title just wacky 90’s spelling of things?” The answer is yes and no. The truth is that in Hungarian, the word isten means God, so it’s a play on words. This was also Cronenberg’s first original script since Videodrome, a movie that this has plenty in common with.

And yes, this is totally a cyberpunk film despite not having Ministry on the soundtrack or rock stars in the cast. That’s because the fast food that the main characters eat comes from a restaurant called Perky Pat, a direct reference to Phillip K. Dick’s The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch.

*Priest also wrote the novelizations for Short Circuit and Mona Lisa.

KAIJU DAY MARATHON: Godzilla 2000 (1999)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Upton is an American (non-werewolf) writer/editor in London. She currently works as a ghostwriter of personal memoirs for Story Terrace London and writes for several blogs on topics as diverse as film history, punk rock, women’s issues, and international politics. For links to her work, please visit https://www.jennuptonwriter.com or send her a Tweet @Jennxldn

Godzilla 2000 was the first attempt to re-boot the beloved film series for a new audience since 1995’s Godzilla vs. Destroyah. It abandons the storyline of all of its predecessors save for the original 1954 film. Shinoda (Takehiro Murata) and his daughter Io (Mayu Suzuki) run a “G” network of Scientists who feel it is necessary to learn all they can about Godzilla and his enormous regenerative abilities. A newspaper reporter named Yuki (Naomi Nishida) accompanies them although she is given very little to do in the story other than screaming and complaining.

Katagiri (played by a glowering Hiroshi Abe) works for the government and believes that Godzilla should be killed for the protection of humanity.

At the same time Shinoda’s group is gathering information on the big G, Katagiri’s group accidentally awakens an alien called Orga who has slumbered beneath the sea since first crash landing on earth during prehistoric times. Orga wakes up when it after being inadvertently exposed to sunlight during an exploratory undersea expedition meant to search for new energy resources for Japan.

 Once it has gained enough strength, Orga rises from the sea, first as a shiny UFO. After soaking up some power from the sun, it later emerges from its vessel taking on several interesting forms, one of which resembles a Manta Ray. Orga attempts to permanently adapt to earth’s atmosphere by sampling Godzilla’s “Regenerator G-1” healing cells called and attempting to clone him. This naturally upsets Godzilla and predictably, the flames fly.

It’s an enjoyable film on many levels. Visually, the film is uneven at best with many of the daylight shots exposing poor blue screen and ineffective CGI integration.

The night scenes in G2K are much more effective (mostly because they don’t use a lot of CGI) and the final showdown between the final form of the alien Orga and ‘Zilla utilizes both excellent miniatures and pyrotechnics. The finale is the best reason to watch the film.

The film’s kaiju designs are another of the film’s successes, with this manifestation of the big guy quickly becoming a fan favorite. He has a sleeker, more muscular torso, longer purple dorsal spines and pugnacious visage which more than adequately conveys his strength and personality. He is intelligent and tenacious. He is easily riled and loves to have the last roar, as evidenced by his gloating display following the defeat of Orga. For fans of the Big Guy, it is a very satisfying conclusion.

This was the first time a studio gave a Godzilla film wide U.S. theatrical release since Godzilla 1985 and it is probably the only case in history where the American version surpasses the Japanese version, benefiting from additional sound effects and Foley to fill in the dead air of the original’s soundtrack. It trims the sluggish plot and even handles the English language dubbing with more respect than its predecessors up to that time, despite the occasional addition of corny dialogue like, “Eeeh, Quit your bitching!” In this case, seeking out the American version is definitely the preferred choice.

Tomie: Another Face (1999)

The first sequel to Tomie was actually a three-episode TV series that was later released to video. It was originally called Tomie: Fearsome Beauty, but was renamed for the home video release.

This version of the Tomie story introduces her at different times in her life, beginning when her dead body is discovered amongst the garbage in the street. She comes back to life to break up her boyfriend and his former girlfriend, all while a mysterious man follows her, taking photos. Things end as they always do, with Tomie tossed from a roof and being taken to the woods to be buried, proving that these characters didn’t watch the first movie. As they walk to school the next day, hand in hand, our protagonists learn that Tomie cannot die.

Another photographer, who has lost his love for his art, finds Tomie and tells her that she reminds him of another girl, the one who taught him to love taking photos. However, when the photos are developed, he notices that Tomie has two faces, one beautiful and the other distorted. She tells him to in order to prove that she is not a ghost, he should kill her. He does, at which point she revives and the original girl — also Tomie — led him to his death before posing for selfies.

Finally, the eyepatch-wearing man is revealed as a cornoner who lost his job and family when Tomie left his examination table in the morgue. He attacks her, but she uses her new lover to fight him off, telling him if he loves her then he will kill the older trenchcoat-clad man. The coroner shows the boyfriend the truth, that Tomie has been responsible for so many deaths, but even when they try to burn her body, all of the ashes form in the sky in the shape of her face, with every bit of her forming new Tomies.

Nearly every review of this movie made mention of its low budget and general ineptitude. I kind of enjoyed it, but knew going in that this wasn’t going to be a perfect sequel. But for those looking for more Tomie, well, here it is.

Tomie (1999)

Manga creator Junji Ito grew up in a house where he was afraid to go to the bathroom, as it was at the end of a long underground tunnel filled with water crickets. While working as a dental technician, he was drawing at night and submitted a story to a magazine called Monthly Halloween that would become Tomie. The story was inspired by the death of a classmate, which Ito felt was odd that the boy just disappeared from the world. So he came up with the idea of a girl who died but just came back as if nothing has happened.

Director Ataru Oikawa didn’t want to make the movie version to be filled with gore, but more of a horrific youth drama. He still sought out Ito’s approval, taking parts from the original “Photograph” and “Kiss” stories and even had the creator’s approval for the casting of Miho Kanno as Tomie.

The police are looking into the murder of Tomie, a high school girl, which was followed over the next three years by the suicide or insanity of nine other students and a teacher. Soon, the detective assigned to the case learns that Tomie has been murdered and reborn in Gifu since the 1960’s, just as Japan joined the industrial era.

A classmate of Tomie, Tsukiko Izumisawa, can’t remember the three months around her friend’s murder. And oh yeah — her neighbor is nursing a strange baby that soon grows into another Tomie, which seduces Tsukiko’s boyfriend before attacking her at her therapist’s office by shoving cockroaches down her mouth. So our protagonist’s boyfriend does what any of us would do — he cuts the head off Tomie and takes Tsukiko to bury the body in the woods, which of course backfires. Tomie reappears and kisses Tsukiko full on the lips, who responds by setting her on fire.

That said, a few months later, Tsukiko begins to realize that she is becoming Tomie herself.

While not a horror movie, this certainly is a strange movie. For some reason, in the glut of Japanese horror that was badly remade in the U.S., this series never showed up. I would assume that’s because there’s no easy hook to grab on to.