Sunday, July 31, 2011

THINGS (1989) - oh Canada, oh Canada, what hath ye wrought?



"The blood is just dripping like maple syrup!"
-Heck ya it is ya goof!

Most "sane" people dismiss shot-on-video (SOV) horror movies as fuzzy looking, incompetent versions of bigger budgeted 35mm horror films. However, it's best to view them on their own demented terms, separate from the slick fantasy of Hollywood. Betamax is not the medium for realism, storytelling, and logic, just as you wouldn't shoot Lawrence of Arabia on super 8. Perhaps unintentionally, Things embraces an appropriate SOV aesthetic, with the harsh red lighting and gore crud visuals and disjointed marriage of image and sound. The only thing missing is an overused fog machine. Vast amounts of fake fog can look ridiculous in a Hollywood movie, but seems to work like gangbusters for your SOV horror films (or 80's hair metal videos).



Personally, I prefer this approach to a SOV horror movie that tries to replicate a "real" horror film of the time. The best example of this is probably Blood Cult, which competently goes the straight slasher route, yet never feels much like a slasher movie (to me anyways) because of the 80's soap opera video look. I welcome the experimentation, the insanity, the low rent 80's hair metal video vibe, and the grotty fuzz that hangs over everything like moss on a rotting corpse. There's a special kind of sleaze that only SOV horror can provide, sleaze that transcends what actually happens on screen.



Anyway, as far as the actual movie is concerned, a hoser wearing glasses has a wife that is about to give birth after undergoing an experimental form of "artificial impregnation" 9 months prior. Instead of a healthy miniature hoser, out plops some termite looking rubber monster that looks like this:


Normally child birth is a cause for celebration, but this is probably the exception that proves the rule. If that wasn't enough, it sets off a random series of Evil Dead-esque horror what-have-you's that take place within the house. Along for the ride are daddy hoser's brother (mustachioed hoser) and a friend (bearded hoser), who show up to steal beer out of his fridge, but get more than they bargained for.

here's mustachioed hoser uttering one of his many humorous slices of canuck-speak

Before the actual monster birthing takes place, there are several ominous developments. The film opens with a nightmare sequence where the father-to-be happens upon a hot devil lady that gets naked and shows him his new monster baby. This is probably one of those foreshadowing deals.



When the two freeloading hosers open the fridge, they find, to their puzzlement, a book titled "Horror of a Thousand Ugly Brutal Cuts" (?!?), as well as a tape recorder. They play the tape recorder and, of course, there's a song with that gravely Satan voice that Slayer uses to open their albums, married to a variation on the Things Casio score. "Score" might not be the right word here. Perhaps "aural brain sodomy" is more appropriate. The music is by "Stryk-9", which I'd like to think is an electronic side project of Firstryke from The Last Slumber Party. A boy can dream.



There's also a Salvador Dali painting on the wall that is apparently cursed. I'm no expert on art, but this doesn't appear to be one of his major works. Maybe if it wasn't cursed it would have been more popular.


Periodically, the movie cuts away to Amber Lynn, porn star and newscaster extraordinare, as she relays the news of the day...traffic accidents, political happenings, and whatever happens to be printed on the cue cards to the left of the camera.

Busted!

During one segment, she even does a piece on George Romero's copyright troubles with Night of the Living Dead. Newscasts about movies that are in the public domain are convenient since you don't have to pay for the footage. Genius.




At its heart, Things is a story (to the extent that it has a story) about these three hosers and their desire to hangout, drink beer, bust each others balls, and watch horror trash on television. This suburban Toronto ideal is continually interrupted by giant asshole termites with fangs and a general sense of satanic unease. They could seemingly just run out of the house at any time and head for the safety of the nearest Tim Hortons, but they are apparently determined to "live the good life", self preservation be damned. While this hang out factor may be boring to some, it's probably my favorite aspect of the movie. It's sort of a gutter trash version of Bob and Doug McKenzie.



I haven't adequately described the utter insanity of Things, simply because attempting to do so in an exercise in futility. If I had to sum it up in one sentence, it would be thus: "if you got drunk on tainted Moosehead and passed out on top of a pig carcass, this is the nightmare you might have". It's the best I can do ya goofballs.

Well...that's one way to put it.


P.S. The movie has been released as a packed special edition DVD. Buy it here, ya goof.
P.P.S. Things was technically shot on super 8 and edited on video, but I still categorize it as being "shot on video". I make the rules eh.
P.P.P.S. Hey goofball, if you want to learn more about SOV horror, check out the website Bleeding Skull. They have a lot of reviews of that type of stuff, as well as some articles. Goofer.

P.P.P.P.S They thank Black Sabbath in the end credits. Why not eh.


Saturday, July 30, 2011

THE GIANT CLAW (1957) - it's a bird...it's a plane...it's a bird as big as a plane...wait...WTF is going on here?



Whatta turkey!”
-typical hack review of The Giant Claw

When a movie stars a giant turkey on strings, it’s easy to dismiss it with a turkey pun. The key word here is “easy”. Hacks aren’t inept, they just repeatedly go for the obvious and the cheap. Personally, I like to see some god damn effort. Some may blame the pun itself, that it’s a substandard form of comedy. Yeah, tell that shit to Groucho Marx.



I don’t think the pun itself is necessarily the problem, but rather, the execution, and more specifically in this case, both the inspiration and the imagination involved. Just because a hack comic will fall back on “why did the chicken cross the road” doesn’t mean that chickens can’t be funny. Take, for example, a chicken wearing a toga, laughing maniacally after he orders the execution of a pineapple via firing squad. The charges, you may ask? Ruffling feathers. Well, I thought it was funny.



Anyway, the science fiction genre is noted for using pulp material to explore important issues dealing with humanity and science. Right off the bat, the filmmakers want to make it clear that this giant turkey monster movie is actually a conduit for ideas. We see a paper mache globe spinning while the voice over guy explains that “science has made man's lives bigger, and the world is getting smaller”. I guess man’s science is taking over the world, and it’s about time for the world to fight back (paraphrasing, of course). Why "the world" would seek revenge on the human race in the form of a turkey monster is a bit puzzling. Either way, it’s nice to see the filmmakers employing subtext.

Later on, the heroes discover that the monster is attacking humanity in a specific spiral pattern. While this seems like an odd point to dwell on, I view it as another form of social commentary. The spiral reminds me of the Fibonacci Circle, a graph of numbers that is used by Wall Street brokers (among other uses) to bilk more money out of the system while never actually contributing anything. Could this “giant turkey Fibonacci death spiral” be a prescient metaphor for the damaging consequences of free market deregulation coming home to roost? Probably not, but it’s certainly an excuse to play a song by Suzy Putterman's favorite band, The Fibonaccis:



The heroes in the film are “people doing a job well, efficiently, serious, having fun doing a job”, but are forced into extraordinary circumstances when they are forced to deal with the reality of a rampaging scourge of the skies. The monster is repeatedly glimpsed as a blur by several pilots, but cannot be detected by radar. Much of the movie consists of conversations about the monster between various officials (military, scientists, technicians), what it is and how to attack it, Along the way a relationship develops between our two main heroes, a studly electronics engineer pilot and a hot stuff radar engineer. Their oddball sexual innuendo culminates in a scene on an airplane where they flirt using baseball metaphors, like Bull Durham distilled to its essence.



Our two heroes and another dude experience mysterious turbulence and are forced to crash land near the home of a friendly French-Canadian who happily takes them in (thank god yet again for the friendliness of Canadians). The faux-Frenchy sees the bird and relays that French-Canadians have a legend about a giant turkey that will curse you to die if you happen to gaze upon it. This is supposed to portend the ominous, just like Crazy Ralph does in Friday the 13th, and also shows how Canadians are more attuned to danger than their American counterparts (or more attune to the obvious).



Well, the shit finally hits the fan, and the monster becomes clearly visible, attacking a plane full of parachutists. The parachutists are forced to jump out of the plane, but luckily they are equipped with parachutes (figures). Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you enjoy senseless carnage), the turkey just flies by and eats them. So, is the bird merely hungry after all? If so, scouring the skies for humans to eat is a fairly inefficient way to fill your stomach, as you’ll only happen upon a person by blind luck (maybe a hang glider if you’re lucky). It’s sort of like a vegan looking for something to eat in a Fatburger.





The American military tries to blow the turkey out of the sky, since that’s how they roll, but the bird appears impervious to damage. As a scientist explains, the bird has a forcefield made out of anti-matter, making it invincible and also undetectable by radar. Well there ya go. The scientist tries to find out the bird’s origins, testing a feather left behind by the monster. The feather, despite looking, well, like a feather, contains “no elements known to man”, and “finding that out was expensive”. I bet it was. The scientist deduces that the bird comes from an “anti-matter galaxy”, and that “no other explanation is possible”. I guess that makes sense. If you want an anti-matter shield, you probably want to head out to the anti-matter galaxy. After all, that’s where the anti-matter is. It’s sorta like someone wanting to be a movie star and moving out to Hollywood.




I've heard of taking the train, but this is ridiculous. Sorry, that's horrible.

We learn that the monster isn’t simply hungry, prowling the skies for human food, but rather that it aims to destroy things in any capacity, as it gains energy from destruction through “molecular osmosis”. I guess it’s sort of like if you used entropy to fuel your Prius. Keep in mind my knowledge of science is strictly tied to having seen Real Genius like 17 times.



I won’t give away any more of the plot, except to say that the bird is not defeated through further scienciness, but rather, through some astute women’s intuition of a sort. This speaks to the classic American form of problem solving, where fancy science talk is nice and all, but common sense and hometown values really get the job done. Also, there is a rad cameo from a group of hot rodding kids, seemingly straight out of Hot Rods to Hell, released 10 years later. This proves my point that Hot Rods to Hell is curiously old fashioned. Not that it’s any less awesome, of course.



Speaking of hacks, another hack move film reviewers will sometimes whip out is the proclamation that a movie is “Ed Wood-esque” or “Ed Woodian”. This is really just a fancy way of saying that they think the movie is inept, not that it actually contains any of the specific artistic aspects that distinguish Wood’s oeuvre (note to self: look up what the word "oeuvre" means). Speaking of turkeys, it was the Medved’s book The Golden Turkey Awards that started all of this when they proclaimed Plan 9 From Outer Space to be the worst film ever made. It established a sort of baseline for the critically lazy, an extreme synonym for the word “crap” that people repeatedly abuse in order to seem more clever than if they had just called the movie “inept garbage”. I believe it was the great philosopher Mortimer Coup de Souffle IV that said “the road to reality is paved with distinctions”. Evoking Ed wood as a descriptor is useless if you just want to point out that a movie sucks. Just say it sucks and move on with your life. Asshole.



So, I would indeed place The Giant Claw in the ball park of Plan 9 From Outer Space (meaning both movies play baseball, if you follow), what with the strange sci-fi threat and the amusingly stylized dialogue and the B-movie sciency talk pushed to brain melting extremes. At the heart of The Giant Claw is a monster that fails to meet the demands of modern blockbuster realism (CGI robots, I guess), but nevertheless disturbs in its own way. Let me put it this way - if you were sitting on a park bench, feeding pigeons bread crumbs, and a Hindenburg sized Turkey with
evil eyes and a mohawk came swooping by whilst held up by strings reaching up to infinity, you’d be more than merely afraid. Rather than a rational threat, here is an utterly irrational monster that defies both science and modern aesthetics. The scariest monsters are the ones that don't play by the rules; that is, perpetrators of anarchic horror. Maybe that explains the mohawk. You know, if any punk rockers get together to celebrate Thanksgiving, this monster would make a pretty sweet mascot. Too bad punks don't believe in Thanksgiving.


P.S. This was written as part of the "50's Monster Mash" over at the Forgotten Classics of Yesteryear blog. There are a ton of other reviews, so check them out.Link

Friday, July 29, 2011

NIGHT SCHOOL (1981) - getting its giallo GED while getting Rachel Ward naked



It’s after hours at the "Jack ‘n Jill Daycare Center" (finally a kiddie center that gets it...break their crowns if they get out of line). A teacher is on the merry go round, probably letting off some steam after screaming at brats all day. A masked maniac gets off their motorcycle and starts spinning the merry go round to possibly dangerous levels, capping it off with a machete decapitation, rendering the danger of the out-of-control merry go round pretty moot. The scene fades to red and jump cuts to a close up of a red sweater on a roller skating girl. In the realm of the slasher film, this qualifies as a classy segue.



Our lead detective finds the girl’s head hanging out in a mop bucket, and someone mentions that there was a similar murder last week, where-in a woman’s head was found in a duck pond. The detective thinks that these two may be related, but his partner is not impressed with his mumbo jumbo factiness. Interestingly, this detective is straight out of an Italian giallo, always coming up with implausible scenarios and adding “Yes! I’m sure that’s it! I’m quite positive!”, rather than the usual forensic science approach.



These hunches lead him to an anthropology teacher and his assistant, played by Rachel Ward, of all people. The dead girl was an anthropology student, and Watson-lite senses some shenanigans involving these two. The retard bus boy at the diner begs to differ, and he creepily hits on Rachel whenever she comes in. However, this really just proves he has a penis. More importantly, the waitress suggests that the teacher likes to finagle and/or molest “horny coeds”. I can’t blame him, but that’s beside the point. It casts doubtful shadows upon his character, and this is necessary to the plot.



Someone appears to be stalking Rachel, so she hurriedly heads to her apartment. Once she thinks the coast is clear, she does the only sensible, lady-like thing, taking her clothes off and sticking her ass into the camera. Oh no, she’s just taking a shower to help relieve her nerves. It’s nice to see a slasher go out of its way to develop its characters, providing some psychological shading amidst the usual decapitated heads and beaver shots and what have you. Well, the mysterious stalker sneaks in, and we get an imaginative twist on the shower scene from Psycho. Instead of a mad slasher transvestite granny, we get the professor showing up for some shower nookie, and instead of blood pouring from butcher knife wounds, there is what looks like strawberry jam, which the professor rubs all over Rachel's body (especially her ass). Naturally, this blood red sex jelly swirls down the drain.

Meanwhile, at the local aquarium, one of those old ass snapping turtles (those things are awesome, by the way) is having lunch. The diver feeding the fish turns out to be a girl from earlier, a friend of one the decapitated lasses. Well, the killer shows up and starts slashing at her in the locker room, before throwing a fishing net on her and slashing some more. He tosses her decapitated head in the fish tank, much to the horror of the paying customers, and merely to the mild chagrin of the snapping turtle. He’s trying to enjoy some calamari, and some lady’s freshly decapitated head smacks him in the noggin. I guess if you live to be 300 years old, you’re gonna see all kinds of crazy shit.



The inspector eventually visits Rachel and the prof, but she doesn't want to let him in. He explains that, because he has a badge, he can disturb anyone, anytime he wants to (as I said, he was transplanted from an Italian giallo, and apparently, this is how the fuzz rolls in Milan). This is good enough for Rachel, as she's British and isn't totally informed about how search warrants work in the U.S.. The professor is not surprised to learn that there was another murder, as "man is the only animal that kills for pleasure", which is actually incorrect anyway (wolverines asshole).



The investigators find the head of one of the diner waitresses in the sink, so they head over to the bus boy’s apartment, which is in a neighborhood so shitty that "ghetto ghouls" is spray painted in the hallway of his building. Inside, they find nude photos on the walls, a hockey mask on the dresser, women's underwear, and the bus boy himself. They try to get a confession, but he isn't biting. The investigator immediately dismisses him as a suspect because he finds a pair of binoculars, and, despite the other alarming discoveries, concludes that he cannot possibly have committed the murders because peeping toms don't kill people (!?). I guess he’s never seen that Michael Powell movie where a peeping tom runs around killing people. I think it’s called…oh yeah, Peeping Tom. Dumbass.



The inspector heads back to the professor’s place and waltzes right in, finding books about New Guinea headshrinkers and photos of skulls and the like. Rachel pops in, and she has apparently since Googled the whole “search warrant” deal, as she asks him to leave, remarking "isn’t breaking and entering a crime, even for a police man?". He retorts, with the investigative acumen of a wily cat, "isn't headhunting a crime, even for an anthropologist?”. Rachel explains that headhunters chopped off people’s noggins to cleanse their spirits, which sounds like important plot minutia, albeit of the obtuse variety.



Well, the female principal finally fires the prof for screwing several students, so he naturally accuses her of being a lesbian. He then gets on his lame moped and peppily mopes away. The principal, no doubt upset over the rug munching allegations, blows off some steam by seducing a female student, and the bus boys peeps through the window at this hot lesbo action. This loving act between two consenting adults (assuming she’s 18) is cut short when the principal is impaled through a door. The camera pans down the door to a pool of blood forming underneath, a trick I never get tired of. The student wakes up to the sound of the faucet running, ultimately finding a lesbian principal head in the toilet before being hacked up herself.

(MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD MONKEYFACE)

The detective makes his way into the principal’s apartment, when suddenly, someone just off camera throws a dummy of the killer onto the cop, and they tumble down the stairs together. The killer escapes just as the second cop is arresting the bus boy, falling prey once again to the “red herring syndrome”. The killer shows up at the prof’s place and takes off his helmet, and...it’s a she! More to the point, it’s Rachel Ward, just like the detective insinuated, despite the lack of any kind of evidence. She admits to the professor that she murdered the girls to “protect” their relationship, killing off any women he lusted after. It’s safe to say their relationship is built on a house of cards.

Somehow, Rachel convinces the prof to don the killer motorcycle suit and lead the cops on a high speed motorcycle chase. Like an incompetent Evel Knievel, he slams into a cop car at 700 miles per hour, doing a complete black flip onto another car, promptly sending him to the poseur stunt ramp in the sky. Later, the detective, satisfied that justice was served, heads for his car in the garage. Just then, the headhunter shows up in his backseat, and grabs the cop by the throat...oh no, it's his partner. They giggle like schoolgirls, but the real killer (Rachel) is still walking the streets. I’m sure she doesn’t want another gigolo boyfriend, as that would lead her to decapitate more young females, but who is going to rub jam all over her buttock region? Me thinks it would take a ladies man to manage that kind of thing. Maybe Rachel should start learning to take the good with the bad.



Thursday, July 28, 2011

LET KERMODE DO THE WORK FOR YOU: Marley & Me (2008)



I don't care for dog pictures. It's not the dog's fault, it's just that I don't have much tolerance for Hollywood schmaltz, and dogs are an easy conduit for schmaltz. I also don't care for "yuppie author" pictures; you know, where the lead character is a highly successful white lame-o who writes for a living, yet when you hear their writing in voice over, it's something along the lines of "my Volvo died a thousand deaths...this is the world...this is life". You're supposed to believe they're great because they are successful, and they are successful because they somehow make a lot of money. Fucking yuppies.



Anyway, Marley & Me combines these two genres, tweaked with an obnoxious twist that goes for anti-schmaltz but only ends up piling on more schmaltz. Having said that, I thought Alan Arkin was funny, although he seemed like he was just improvising his lines. I guess I just don't have faith that a writer of dog pictures can formulate humor. So, other than that...fuck this movie. Yeah, I said it.



Wednesday, July 27, 2011

DON'T GO IN THE WOODS (1981) - the only sense to be had is in the title





Some warning signs can be awfully helpful. Surely you’ve been driving through the desert and seen one those signs saying “DON’T HAVE SEX ON A CACTUS. YOU MAY SUFFER AN UNFORTUNATE INJURY I’D RATHER NOT TRY TO DESCRIBE”. Maybe you’ve purchased a pogo stick and noticed the warning on the box: “DON’T HAVE SEX WHILE RIDING THIS POGO STICK. YOU MIGHT FALL OFF AND SKIN YOUR KNEES, OR GOD KNOWS WHAT ELSE.” The title of this movie tells you all you need to know; “DON’T GO IN THE WOODS”.



Because really, when you see a bunch of knuckleheads in a slasher movie take a trip into the woods, has there ever been any good to come of it? Do they connect with nature in a spiritual manner? Do they happen upon lost treasure, stashed there by bank robbing outlaws from the old west who were shot down in a blaze of glory before they could return for the treasure and flee to a tequila distillery in Mexico?

Of course not. They get fucking killed. Even if they do manage to escape the clutches of a psychopath, there are still hungry bears running around, not to mention snakes, poison ivy, and all the rest of nature’s pitfalls. You might even bump into Bigfoot, which would be pretty cool, but who’s to say Bigfoot hasn’t had a bad week and decides to rip your arms off?



All of this is lost on the lead camper in the film. He walks around, all knowledgeable and shit, talking about “the most important rule of camping is ‘don’t go in the woods…alone!’”. Motherfucker, try ever. Actually, "Don’t Go in the Woods…Alone!" is an alternate title to the film. While it may seem redundant, there is a difference. It’s irrelevant that the campers are travelling in a group. They get killed anyway. Viewing the film under the alternate title creates a further feeling of hopelessness. No matter what you do or who you’re with, you’re completely fucked.


In some tiny, scuzzy video store in Glendale, around age 8 or so, I tried to convince my mom to rent me a copy of DGITW. She refused, and I was crushed and dismayed. This was exactly the kind of movie I was looking for, what with a cover showing a woman’s severed head sitting on a big sign saying “Don’t Go in the Woods!”. Surely, this simple VHS cassette contained a vast gutter symphony of the raw, unrelenting dismemberment of backpackers. Now, one steadfast rule I have found when dealing with the “teens in the woods” slasher subgenre is that, regardless of quality, they are all pretty good. As it turns out, many years later, I managed to procure a VHS copy of DGITW. Let’s just say it tests this theory.

DGITW is squarely of the “grab some equipment we don’t know how to use, snag some idiots off the street, and let's head to the mountains of Utah and make some shit up” school of filmmaking. I’m assuming they hired a chimpanzee to direct the film. Brain damaged by syphilis, he waved his banana around to direct the cast and crew, occasionally tossing one at someone if they appeared confident in their approach.

One sequence kind of sums up the movie. Some schmuck in a wheelchair (accompanied by goofy keyboard noises) is hiking in the mountains (!) when he rolls his crippled ass up to a cliff. Suddenly, out of nowhere, somebody cuts his head off with a machete. His head rolls off the cliff, and this is captured in a quick, jaggedly edited succession of shots:

Shot#1 - The guy gets his head chopped off in broad daylight, in a shot poorly composed and improperly exposed.

Shot#2 - His head starts to roll off his body. It is now early evening. The sun is setting. Still shitty looking.

Shot #3 - The head rolls over the cliff in total darkness. It is now late evening. Can’t tell if it still looks like shit. No longer care.

Also, between the dying gasps of a Casio keyboard being smacked to death with a dead fish, and the dialogue being dubbed by lobotomized Mormons, DGITW maintains a level of aural stupidity unparalleled in the history of cinema (and I’m not even going to mention the fucking theme song).

The real glue that holds all of this together is the fat ass sheriff who, in prototypical fashion, doesn’t like to be bothered with actually doing his job, presumably because it leaves him more time to bath in a trough of gravy. Many victims are claimed, and therefore many people are reported missing, but he barely registers a modicum of concern. He just calls for his trusty helicopter, choppers his way out to the mountain surplus store, and tells the clerk that if any of these poor bastards happen to show up, “let them know they’re missing”. He then gets back in the chopper and heads home, presumably to cry himself to sleep after a feast of curly fries and self-loathing.

In the end, we are not left with a lesson about the dangers of the woods, or modern man’s inability to connect with the chaos of nature, but rather, the nature of filming in the woods with no rhyme, reason, or script. Each shot is not a story progression, but rather, a document of its own creation. If some films wish to make the process invisible, the process of DGITW is akin to a wannabe invisible man walking around, unaware his serum isn’t working. What we are left with is just another moron covered in bandages.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

THE GIRLS OF PLEASURE ISLAND (1953) - love in the south seas was never so adorably naive


Boy, life in the south seas must be pretty fantastic. Take, for example, the Halyard sisters, three teenaged brit chicks who are free to bath in the nude, bath in their swimming suits, frolic on the beach, and do whatever it is people do when they find themselves in an idyllic paradise. Since daddy is loaded, there’s no need for them to get jobs at the local smoothie hut, but this also means they are forced to put up with old fuddy duddy’s speeches about womanhood, proper etiquette, blah blah.

Well, this teenage girl paradise is about to be interrupted by an outside force. Maybe an island gorilla looking for his Fay Wray? Possibly the Samoan Amelia Earheart crashing into the island in her quest to hanglide around the world? Or maybe, just maybe, the cast of Gilligan’s Island crashing their ship into the island. Now, I know what you’re thinking; the cast of Gilligan’s Island didn’t crash into an island where three teenage girls were running around in their bathing suits. However, you’re missing my point. I'm suggesting that they crashed into the initial island after a three hour tour, built a new ship out of coconuts and hemp (for the record, “Coconuts and Hemp” is my favorite Jimmy Buffet song…and by “favorite”, I mean “least hated”), and tried to sail back to America, only to crash land into Paradise Island instead. I’m sure that seems like a pretty big coincidence, but remember, the Harlem Globetrotters also crashed into Gilligan’s island, so as far as I’m concerned, all bets are off.



Anyway, if you guessed any of the above choices, you’d be dead wrong. No, these three Innocent girls that have presumably never met another human being that wasn’t their dad or their housekeeper will soon find themselves joined on the island by…1500 AMERICAN MARINES! As the youngest says, “that’s 500 each!”, or, as she asks later, “will they make love to us?”. Now, I do realize perverts read my blog, so I know where your mind is probably headed. Personally, as a “glass half empty” kinda guy, I initially thought this was a set up for some unfortunate gang rape. However, this is really a quaint movie about love. These girls need suitable romantic partners, and they should be able to hit the ball out of the park under these current circumstances. It’s like one of those speed dating things amped up to 1000 (well, 1500). I bet even I could find one woman out of 1500 that didn’t think I was an annoying pig.

It’s basically an amazing softcore porn setup, something Jim Wynorski might’ve come up with, but inverted by proper British morals and an idyllic view of love from the perspective of several na├»ve young girls. Never has a movie so stupid and sexually crass on paper been so adorable and charming in reality. The results are positively tame, but somehow just as erotic (or almost erotic). The film might be described as Michael Powell directing an early 60’s sexploitation movie produced by David F. Friedman in glorious technicolor, or two disparate geniuses fused into one. I realize that calling Dave Friedman a genius is a bit of stretch, but keep in mind that he produced a movie called Goldilocks and the Three Bares. Maybe that isn’t genius, but it’s close enough.


Monday, July 25, 2011

LET KERMODE DO THE WORK FOR YOU: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

(This is the first in a new series of posts reveling in pure laziness)



I am a big fan of UK film critic Mark Kermode, who is well known for his horror film analysis, but is also a well rounded film critic that can analyze all kinds of movies and do it in his own rapid, inimitable way (he has an awesome podcast here). Since I find myself agreeing with him more often than not, and since I'd like to make a couple of points about certain films without having to write an entire essay, I thought I'd just let Kermode do the heavy lifting for me.

First up: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008). I quite like David Fincher as a director (Zodiac and The Social Network were both in my top 10s the years they came out), but I wasn't really excited to see this one from the trailer, since it looked like a variation on Forrest Gump (which it pretty much is).



So, I finally saw it, and pretty much agree with Mr. Kermode on this one, although I guess I liked it a bit more than he did, as I thought the cinematography and production design were pretty fantastic. Also, that baby version of an old man Brad Pitt looked pretty awesome. I wish I had one of those. I'd totally use it to scare my cat.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

KILLER WORKOUT (1986) - another reason not to get off the futon



Some chick wearing a Star Trek themed leotard (you know, that episode where Spock heads to the new wave fitness planet to work on his pecs…oh wait, I made that up) finally achieves her goal of becoming a cover model for Cosmo. While this may strike some as shallow, it’s all about getting your foot in the door in the waiting room of your dreams (so to speak). Admittedly, her forward momentum hits a snag when she lies down in a tanning bed and flames start shooting everywhere, leaving her a crispy pile of goo.



Well, if you like aerobics performed to bouncy synth pop, supplemented with neon wrist warmers, this is the movie for you. In charge of the jiggle parade is Rhonda, who is also writing a fitness book on the side, which I hope is called "Spandexerity – The Art of Getting Limber Without Ruining a Perm". However, this dual career runs into some roadblocks when a psycho starts offing customers with a giant safety pin.



The aerobicising continues unabated as they drag off the body bags right in front of these fucks. I guess fitness is really important and shit, and you have songs like "Rockin’ Rock" to drown out your inner voice saying “GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE! THERE’S A KILLER RUNNING LOOSE YOU FUCKING MEATHEAD!!!”. Rhonda finally starts getting worried about her business, stating that "half of my customers are being killed, and the other half are cancelling their memberships". However, the place is full, so she must be getting new signees from all of the publicity with the safety pin homicides. Whatever gets the heart rate up, I guess.



Various characters splurge forth interesting bits of women hating rhetoric at different points. One guy suggests that one of the female murder victims should’ve been raped beforehand, as her body was wasted. Rhonda tells co-worker Jaimie to stop showing off her tits and tight little ass to the customers. Mulleted beefcake Ted Prior (of Deadly Prey fame, the greatest Rambo rip-off ever foisted upon a incredulous viewing public) gets into it with a douchebag in a Porsche, resulting in some poseur martial artiness. This showcase of alpha maleisms earns him the hand of a lovely lass in a pink leotard. She ascends to sex bomb trophy status while a synth song proclaims “she’s a knockout! let her rock out!”, which pretty much sums up the depth of the film’s female characters.



A group of unruly “teens” later spray paint "aerobicide, death spa" on the window of Rhonda’s establishment. Apparently, street ruffians have nothing better to do than point out the similarities between this film (originally titled "Aerobicide") and the film Death Spa, which is pretty much Killer Workout, but with the sweat hogs getting offed by the actual workout equipment instead of a safety pin. The ruffians are thereby guilty of sullying the artistic integrity of the very film they find themselves in, so of course they are immediately murdered for their transgressions. Genius.

(spoilers here on out)


In the shocking twist, we learn that Rhonda is the tanning bed burn victim from the prologue. A copper shows up and confronts her about being a toasty killer disguised in a leotard, wig, and complex latex makeup. She admits it, and says she killed people because they're beautiful, despite the fact that she herself is pretty hot when made up all proper like. She then flashes her burnt titties and gets arrested. Oh how the tragedy unfolds.



In the end, I guess Rhonda has a love/hate relationship with her customers. She likes killing them off to feel better about being a crispy mess but, on the other hand, this aerobics craze really lets her rake in the cash. Luckily, she gets the best of both worlds, since she can kill off her customer base, and they just get replaced with fresh new bodies; that is, Stairmaster addicted, baby-boomer asshole sheep.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Rare Westerns on Netflix Instant Watch Capsule Reviews, vol.7

Black Bart (1948)


If you thought the cinematic story of Lola Montes began with Max Ophuls 1955 film, you’d be wrong. Here, Lola (a tasty Yvonne DeCarlo, of all people, not even bothering to change her accent) crosses paths with Dan Duryea in California during a tour of America. Dan happens to moonlight as a smooth, mask wearing bandit that robs stagecoaches, and the possibility that he is indeed the bandit entices Lola, and so begins their relationship, despite the pawing hands of any and all men in her vicinity.



Some nice flirty moments between Dan and Yvonne, but this is altogether a bore, and even the Lola Montes dance numbers disappoint (although Yvonne looks splendid in the various costumes). It is, however, interesting as a cross reference to Ophuls masterpiece. Dan even tells her at one point “I think you’re the loneliest woman I’ve even seen in my life”, which would make a great tag line for the 1955 version.



Excellent color transfer, never released on home video.


Oklahoma Badlands (1948)

Rocky Lane goes undercover to try to catch the two scumbags (one of which is named “sharky”) who killed both his best friend and his best friend’s father. About as generic as is humanly possible, and even the one scene that might’ve generated some excitement (the final stagecoach battle) is marred by shoddy rear projection. Oh well.

Allan Lane made numerous B-Westerns as the Rocky Lane character, and a bunch of them are on Netflix instant:

Carson City Raiders (1948)
The Denver Kid (1948)
Marshal of Amarillo (1948)
Sundown in Santa Fe (1948)
Renegades of Sonora (1948)
Bandit King of Texas (1949)
Powder River Rustlers (1949)
The Wyoming Bandit (1949)
Sheriff of Wichita (1949)
Navajo Trail Raiders (1949)
Death Valley Gunfighter (1949)
Salt Lake Raiders (1950)
Rustlers on Horseback (1950)
Code of the Silver Sage (1950)
Gunmen of Abilene (1950)
Frisco Tornado (1950)
Covered Wagon Raid (1950)
Night Riders of Montana (1950)
Fort Dodge Stampede (1951)
Desperadoes’ Outpost (1952)
Black Hills Ambush (1952)
Leadville Gunslinger (1952)
Thundering Caravans (1952)
El Paso Stampede (1953)




Journey to Shiloh (1968)

So, a western about the battle of Shiloh, with the following cast: James Caan, Michael Sarrazin, Don Stroud, Jan-Michael Vincent, and Harrison Ford? Boy, that sounds sweet. Unfortunately, the Netflix instant transfer is panned and scanned from 2.35:1, making it unwatchable. Henceforth, I did not watch it. Sometimes you can get away with a cheap late 50’s western that is panned and scanned, as they might’ve not known what to really do with the extra space, but that definitely doesn’t apply here. It’s also never been released on VHS or DVD. Oh well…maybe TCM will show it one day minus the chopjob.



Thursday, July 21, 2011

HUMONGOUS (1982) - stop your snickering, it's a movie about survival


Here is the Humongous trailer again. I guess I'm doing a tribute to Janet Julian, since no one else will.

Sometime in the forties, a woman named Ida resists the drunken advances of some asshole at an island party, so naturally he rapes her in the woods. Her pet dogs take umbrage with this rather unenlightened behavior and rip his ass to shreds, canine style. Over the opening credits, some sultry sax accompanies what looks to be colorized B&W photos of Ida, hanging out with family and friends (especially her trusty, rapist stomping dogs).

In the modern age (1982), some “teens” decide to head out on an island trip, trying to broaden their horizons and maybe horizon their broads. This group includes the nerd girl in glasses, the slutty redhead, and the blonde hero jock. They would seem to be modeled after Velma, Daphne, and Freddy, respectively (from Scooby Doo fame), but Shaggy is nowhere to be found. I guess by this point he was probably serving time for possession of marijuana with intent to sell. Instead, we get the uber cute Ali MacGraw look alike (but hotter) played by Janet Julian. At one point, her boyfriend shows her ass to the camera, declaring it “the 7th wonder of the world”. I thought Andre the Giant was the 7th wonder of the world, but has since died, so maybe her ass slid into his spot. Either way, I'm not going to argue. Oh yeah, there's also some gun toting asshole with a mullet tagging along.



Their boating trip is interrupted by some guy stranded at sea with a non-functioning boat, and some asshole running a fog machine off shore doesn’t help matters. In his super Canadian accent, he tells them about that Ida chick, who lives on the island with a bunch of dogs (I presume relatives of the original canines). All of a sudden, the shotgun mullet fuck goes off his rocker for no reason, deciding to take over the boat, despite not knowing how it works. The resulting tussle leaves the boat in fiery ruins, with the crew having to abandon ship and head for the creepy island (brilliantly creating a Scooby Doo/Gilligan’s Island double homage). The nerd ends up falling overboard, and the Canadian boater breaks his leg. Say what you want about Shaggy and his lack of job prospects and personal drive; at least he doesn’t destroy vacations with violent, nonsensical rage.



The mulleted rat face runs off on his own, getting stalked through the woods and into a boat house by some mongoloid retard. He screams loudly, in aural range of the others, and is presumably ripped several additional assholes (literally speaking, that is). The next morning, the group decides to split up and explore the island for their better-off-dead compadre. They find the nerd girl in good health, and notice that the boat house is probably the lair of the mongoloid, what with the dead animal carcasses littered about. Meanwhile, the redhead hunts for fresh blueberries while being stalked, carrying them in her tits and returning them to the useless sixth wheel (the Canadian with the busted spoke) before finally washing her milk cans off. The guy appears to be getting sick, so she straddles him and rubs her tits on his chest as some sort of rudimentary slut therapy. This doesn’t impress the no doubt impotent mongoloid, who very quickly chucks her off like a rag doll and snaps the guy’s neck.

(spoilers here on out)

The other group of three happens upon the house in prime Texas Chainsaw Massacre style. They try the phone to no avail, and happen upon a creepy nursery with broken toys and what not. Rummaging through some photo albums, they notice that the last picture, dated 1949, shows Ida holding her new baby with a disturbed look on her face. This might have been an effective reveal had it not already been telegraphed several times over. Janet later reads Ida’s diary out loud, spelling everything out for the dumbasses in the audience. She also apparently absorbs some psychological insights from the diary (as well as from watching Friday the 13th Part 2), and, when confronted, pretends to be the mongoloid’s mother, commanding him to leave her the fuck alone. It works (surprisingly, this strategy always seems to works), but once she drops the act and goes into escape mode, the mongoloid follows suit. She heads to the boat house, only to bump into the nerd girl, who promptly gets her head squeezed like someone was juicing a giant tomato (a tomato wearing glasses that is).



Janet eventually stabs the mongoloid with a “no trespassing” sign, which could feasibly be construed as irony. She cries a bit, but it is unclear as to whether she feels sympathy for the beast or is just sad about her vacation going to shit. The sax and piano ballad kicks in, and we see her temptingly lounging on the pier, bruised and bloody, moping about being all alone on an island with no way to get home. I guess the lesson here is that no amount of trauma that results from a mongoloidal rampage can keep a girl like her from looking super hot.

image courtesy of Psychostasy of the Film

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

GHOST WARRIOR (1986) - no ghosts here, but rather, a quaint, samurai version of Encino Man thankfully minus the Wheeze

If Kiss wants to bang strippers and set things on fire, with the occasional ballad thrown in (for the ladies), W.A.S.P. only wants to bang strippers and set things on fire. While leaving out ballads might not seem like much of an innovation, within the realm of exploding cock rock, this was cutting edge. By the way, “exploding cock rock” is not a crass metaphor; lead singer Blackie Lawless actually wore an exploding codpiece on stage. An exploding codpiece (or “crotch rocket”) was a codpiece with a small cannon attached that would shoot sparks at the audience. Essentially, it created the illusion that his cock was shooting fireworks. Why someone would want to shoot fireworks out of their cock and onto a group of strangers is a bit of a mystery. I’ll leave it to the Freudians.



Other film critics simply don’t have the exploding balls to explore W.A.S.P.’s rather limited place within cinema history. I lack any such restrictions, so here it goes. Of course, the most famous document of W.A.S.P. is in Decline of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years. Guitarist Chris Holmes is interviewed while drinking gallons of vodka, lounging in a pool while his mom looks on with suppressed horror. It may be the greatest interview of all time, and certainly the greatest drunk interview of all time. Of course, if you haven’t seen Decline II, you must see at once. It will fill your heart with joy and possibly help you get laid and maybe make you smarter (a big maybe, for the record).


The most obscure cinematic W.A.S.P. reference is in Alien Beach Party Massacre (1996). The stoner character in the film (named “glue”, whose hair covers his face like Slash from Guns n’ Roses) wears a W.A.S.P. shirt throughout. The reason why the reference is so obscure might he because it’s from a movie no one has ever seen. Then there’s the burnout metal guy from Ghoulies II (who might be the same dude in Alien Beach Party Massacre for all I know), who walks around a carnival blasting W.A.S.P. on his boom box, completely oblivious to the fact there are little slimy puppets running around. He finally notices their presence when one of the ghoulies destroys his boom box, no doubt crushing his soul in the process.


Probably the most important W.A.S.P. scene of all time is in Dungeonmaster (1984), where the hero crashes a W.A.S.P. concert to save his girlfriend, shooting lasers out of his watch at Blackie Lawless (don’t ask). Amusingly, Blackie doesn’t skip a beat during the performance, and just shoots lasers back at him during down time (guitar solos and what have you). Maybe Blackie assumes he has it coming, what with him being semi-famous for shooting fireworks out of his cock and right into the audience. I guess if it's good for the goose, et al. This footage shows up in two other films: Terrorvision (starring national treasure Suzy Putterman; click the bottom of the page) and today’s film, Ghost Warrior. It should be noted that Charles Band produced all three of these films, as well as Ghoulies II, and ends Ghost Warrior with the text “Special Thanks: W.A.S.P.” (and no one else). Usually a special thanks list in the end credits includes a dozen or so names, like maybe the local police department who helped to close off a street from pedestrians, or maybe the local park district where the filmmakers were allowed to shoot. Band must be the biggest W.A.S.P. fan in the world, or just thinks throwing W.A.S.P. references into his films will result in some bofo box office. Either way, he’s obviously a genius.


Essentially, Ghost Warrior is a samurai version of Encino Man. I know that sounds pretty hilarious (or at least tolerable through its stupidity), but the movie is actually a deadly serious tragedy. You see, when a 400-year-old samurai unfreezes and ends up in modern day Los Angeles (if the mid eighties qualifies as “modern”), things can only end in tears. People can’t understand him when he speaks, even those who understand Japanese (he speaks an ancient dialect apparently). So, his only form of communication with the human race is his samurai sword, and that shit just ain’t gonna fly in Reagan’s America.


You can probably figure out where this is headed. Janet Julian (the hot lead in Humongous) plays the kind hearted scientist that cares for the Samurai, while everyone else wants him dead. Janet treats him like a lost puppy, saying “he just needs a home!” at one point. They even start to bond by sharing a Cup of Noodles, as she wants to make him comfortable by reminding him of his homeland. Her performance is awkward but heartfelt, contributing a sort of inept pathos to the piece. She also rocks a couple of amazing outfits, including what looks to be a Star Trek uniform that was designed by Z Cavaricci.


The samurai is played by Hiroshi Fujioka (unknown to me), who plays it deadly seriously and effectively as a cinematic samurai who is discovering the modern world. Of course, you need the scene where the ice man is confused by technology, and here he happens upon a television playing the W.A.S.P. footage I mentioned earlier (following an amazing fashion commercial). Look! Blackie is cutting off a girls catsuit with a machete whilst engaged in a laser battle. THIS IS MODERN INNOVATION AND IT IS SCARY. He confusingly pokes the T.V. with his sword, as he can only interact with things by poking them with his sword (insert Peter North joke here). Stupidly, a male nurse decides he’s gonna try to steal the sword once Janet tells him “it’s worth more than what the average person makes in their lifetime!”. That’s at least a couple of million dollars, which is a hell of a lot to pay for a sword on the black market. However, it’s a moot point, as the nurse fails in his quest as you might imagine. The problem with trying to steal a sword from a samurai is that you have to steal it off of a samurai that is armed with a sword. It’s the same reason you don’t want to try to steal an uzi from John Rambo, regardless of how much the uzi is worth.


Of course, the samurai escapes and happens upon a gang messing with an old man for no reason. It’s part of the code of any gang to immediately start messing with old people when a vigilante hero enters the vicinity. Death Wish 3 is simply this premise for a full 90 minutes. Anyway, the samurai saves the old man, killing one of the gang members after hacking off his hand. Amusingly, Janet later happens upon the aftermath, where the chalk outline of the gang member includes a separate outline of the hand. It's these kind of touches that add richness to a story. Anyway, the old man appropriately takes the samurai out for some sushi as thanks. Amusingly, a lady sitting in the sushi restaurant says “oh my god, it’s Toshiro Mifune!”. I guess this was a time when Toshiro was the only Japanese person Americans could reference by name. This sushi lunch is interrupted by the gang, who want to kill the samurai as revenge for not letting them beat up an old man for no reason. This escalates into a battle across the street in an abandoned building, the SAME building that is featured in Xanadu. Rad.

See the auditorium in the background? If you watch Ghost Warrior, you'll see a samurai cut off a dude's arm in that very building. The world is one fucked up place.

If you’re afraid that this sounds rather rote, a story of a thawed fish out of water trying to enjoy some sushi and getting destroyed by society instead, let me point out a couple of facts. First of all, it says “computers provided by Radio Shack” in the end credits, which is a surefire sign that the filmmakers were not up on cutting edge technology. Also, the back of the VHS box proclaims “action thrills from the makers of TROLL!”. If that doesn’t sell you, you simply don’t want to be entertained. I gotta be honest...I now have "Magic" stuck in my head. I was trying to stay on point, but now I'm completely derailed. Oh well.