Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Matthew Blackheart Monster Smasher – review

Director: Erik Canuel

Release date: 2002

Contains spoilers

This was a strange one. Created (in part) by Robert Engels who was responsible for writing several episodes of Twin Peaks, the film actually bit off much more than its budget would allow it to comfortably chew.

As such it fell back on a camp level that, whilst the film was never going to be spectacular, actually made the entire thing an enjoyable experience – its tongue wedged firmly in its cheek.

my life as a comic
It begins in New York City and a man walks down the street packing weapons – pistols holstered and a sword across his back. He is Matthew Blackheart (Robert Brogue) and no one seems to bat an eyelid as he passes by. He enters a book store where Jimmy Fleming (Jay Baruchel) is doing a book signing. Blackheart notices that the book is a graphic novel about him – and he isn’t happy. However Fleming persuades him to read it before reacting. The film then is the book…

Mortas' zombie creation
Blackheart was a created man – a Frankenstinean creation, made by Dr Franken (Kenneth Welsh), and pieced together out of the body parts of American heroes. His function was to attack anything created from plasma – a yellow goo like substance that was being used by Dr Mortas (Christopher Heyerdahl) to create monsters for the Nazis. It is president Roosevelt (Vlasta Vrana) who gives him his first mission.

another monster
Whilst America prepared for its role in the liberation of Europe, Blackheart was to go to Patagonia and destroy Mortas and his secret lair. He managed to get inside but was soon captured. Mortas pumped him full of plasma to try and turn him to his side – and there was an aspect of trying to retrieve the memories of his various composite parts that was interesting but little expanded upon.

a bogie
Eventually Blackheart broke free of his bonds and smashed up much of Mortas’ operation. However, to save himself, as the base went kaplooey, he put himself into a monster cryo-tube and was frozen. Some 50 or so years later and he escapes – how, we are not sure – and gets back to New York. At first he suffers from amnesia but soon he wants to get on with his mission; destroy all bogies (as he calls monsters).

faux vampire
He finds his way to Franken’s lab – but it is now a fetish club with the Mortas’ symbol on display. His first near brush with monsters are a couple of vampires hassling the (rather too young to be in the club) Jimmy. It quickly transpires, however, that these are not real vampires but a couple of guys dressed up with fake fangs. Jimmy gets him out of there. It is clear that Jimmy and a homeless man, Blind Sid (Ardon Bess), know more about Blackheart than they should.

boss vampire
Eventually he does come across his first bogies and discovers that they now hide in plain sight by taking human form and their monster form only shows during anxiety moments. There are vampires that Mortas has created and we see the boss vampire (Gregoire Dunlevy) in a monster meeting that feels (purposefully) somewhat like a mob meeting. However there is another vampire that features prominently.

burning in the sun
Helen Goldsworthy (Una Kay) is a major player in the Rebublican Club and she is also one of Mortas’ original vampires. Through her we discover that they have fangs, their eyes burn red and that sunlight is as destructive to these vampires as it is to the more traditional type. A stake through the heart also seems to be an effective manner of vampire despatch. As well as vampires we get zombies, werelions and lizard people. In the finale it appears that Mortas has become a vampire.

comic book moment
The film does try to keep a graphic novel mentality and is so camp it lifts itself to being fun, where really it should only have been tolerable. The dialogue highlights a man out of time but it was Bogue’s delivery that carried it rather than anything special in the writing. The idea behind the film was fun generally even if the effects were a bit rubbish.

Better than the sum of its parts. 4.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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