Friday, December 2, 2022

Juvenile Hell: Part 4

Girl Gang (Robert C. Dertano, 1954)

Tooting on the old devil's lettuce has long been associated as the gateway to hard drugs, and in the case of Robert C. Dertano's Girl Gang (1954), it supports this sentiment to the fullest. Like many exploitation films from the fifties, Girl Gang purports to serve as a cautionary moral tale, but its true purpose is to titilate and sensationalise. The film follows the three basic fundamentals of vintage juvenile delinquency films: sex, drugs and rock & roll (that's four, innit?).

Girl Gang's selling point is in its title, which is about as faithful as its sincerity in social commentary. The film chiefly focuses on Joe the Big Boss, played by Timothy Farrell; a drug peddler who turns young teens into drug addicted slaves, with them resorting to crime inorder to fund their next fix. June and Jack appear as junkie lieutenants in Joe's criminal empire. They're versitile figures: from floggin' stolen cars, blackmail scams, to recruiting new blood, they help create drug addled slaves while being addicts themselves. There's also Doc Bradford, played by Buster Keaton's younger brother Harry; a struck-off doctor who oddly appears ashamed of his actions at times, yet that still doesn't stop him from being a sleazy lowlife and taking advantage of the girls.

Of course, being an unrealistic film, the things young jezebels would do for some wacky baccy is hilarious to see on screen. Any route causes for drug addiction such as poverty, trauma or mental disorder, are wholly ignored and simply conveyed by our juvenile junkies being nothing but complete morons. Take youngsters Wanda and Bill embarking on their first steps into becoming chronic weed heads, by getting caned on Joe's flea ridden sofa and press ganged into a petrol station robbery (it's always a petrol station); on a Sunday, of all days. Requiem for a Dream this ain't, but it's these unrealistic examples of youngsters being led astray which makes Girl Gang so much fun and charming. However, what Girl Gang does offer are surprisingly graphic instances of heroin use, which must have struck audiences back then as very transgressive.

Stand out scenes include a the dingy, shindig, where the teens are caned and a Jerry Lee Lewis wannabe is hammering on the piano in some dank looking garage. Hilariously, they start bustin' moves until they're  knackered and want to spark up again. A couple of them wind-up making out on some old piss-stained looking mattress; how ghetto is that? One of the girls forces one poor sod to a back room so she can get "initiated". Once in the room, an occupied light starts flashing.

As one would expect with most films involving a robbery, the heist doesn't exactly go smoothly, and our poor ruffians become fatal casualties in Joe's bumbling endeavour. The final moments of the film consist of a hilarious chase sequence where two armed cops shoot a fleeing and completely unarmed Doc Bradford in the back. Oddly reminiscent of Gene Hackman's shot in The French Connection (1971), but with a fraction of the budget and none of William Friedkin's expert direction.

Seen a few of Dertano's films and other than some recurring cast members (e.g. Farrell and Keaton), they tend to follow a familiar template: the awkward ogling over women scenes; a seedy boss pulling the strings from his den; the inevitable double-cross, a heist that goes wrong, and a righteous monologue via an authoritarian / elder to justify its intentions. These are far from honest social commentaries, but then again, neither are some of today's offerrings like Bodies, Bodies, Bodies (2022), which portrays today's youths in a similarly pathetic and dishonest manner as of those from seventy years ago, but all the more insufferably annoying due to social media culture. Girl Gang is a favourite for being Dertano's most enjoyable film watched so far in his catalogue, which marks this as another notable entry in the canon of juvenile delinquency movies.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Viewings: November 2022

Mensis horribilis. Poor internet service and Mastermind rescheduled due to the rugby forced me to cotch with a film rather than spend time writing bloviated reviews.

Edward Berger's update of All Quiet on the Western Front was my favourite fresh viewing in November.

 

Film

Thunder in the City (Marion Gering, 1937)*

Black Friday (Arthur Lubin, 1940)*

Girl Gang (Robert C. Dertano, 1954)

Mr. Sardonicus (William Castle, 1961)

Station Six Sahara (Seth Holt, 1963)*

First Men in the Moon (Nathan Juran, 1964)

The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!? (Ray Dennis Steckler, 1964)*

The Ballad of Tam Lin (Roddy McDowall, 1970)*

Fragment of Fear (Richard C. Sarafian, 1970)*

Torture Dungeon (Andy Milligan, 1970)*

Endless Night (Sidney Gilliat, 1972)*

Deadly Weapons (Doris Wishman, 1973)*

Double Agent 73 (Doris Wishman, 1974)*

Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)

Snapshot AKA The Day After Halloween (Simon Wincer, 1979)*

The Prey (Edwin Brown, 1983)

Zeder (Pupi Avati, 1983)*

Invitation to Hell (Wes Craven, 1984)

Satan's Blade (L. Scott Castillo Jr, 1984)*

Deadbeat at Dawn (Jim VanBebber, 1988)

Hell High AKA Raging Fury (Douglas Grossman, 1989)*

Red Spirit Lake (Charles Pinion, 1993)*

We Await (Charles Pinion, 1996)*

Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed (Brett Sullivan, 2004)*

Urban Legends: Bloody Mary (Mary Lambert, 2005)*

Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Child (Bob Smeaton, 2010)*

Crystal Eyes (Ezequiel Endelman & Leandro Montejano, 2017)*

Trauma (Lucio A. Rojas, 2017)*

Bliss (Joe Begos, 2019)*

All Quiet on the Western Front (Edward Berger, 2022)*

Barbarian (Zach Cregger, 2022)*

Flux Gourmet (Peter Strickland, 2022)*

The Lair (Neil Marshall, 2022)*

Smile (Parker Finn, 2022)*

Weird: The Al Yankovic Story (Eric Appel, 2022)*


Television

Red Dwarf - Season 1 - 10 (Rob Grant & Doug Naylor, 1988 - 2012)*

FIFA World Cup 2022 (2022)*

 

* First time viewings.

 

Dada Debaser Notes:

  • Top Billin' Black Friday with Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi's names was really misleading. They were nothing but supporting roles and they didn' even share any scenes together. Still an enjoyable horror / noir mash-up, though.
  • First Men in the Moon is possibly the perfect rainy day film. Victorians and Selenites are a fanstastic concoction from the mind of H.G. Wells. It's absolutely imperial!
  • Arrow Films proves once again why they're villains in the boutique blu-ray game by not including the three different versions of Edwin Brown's Prey on the standard edition blu-ray.
  • Found the French colonial plantation scenes added by Coppola were an unnecessary diversion in whatever new cut of Apocalypse Now I watched. Another example where directors need to quit tinkering with their past classics.
  • Had high hopes for Zeder. Heard so much about it, but it was merely okay. Can definitely see why some folks make the Pet Sematary comparisons, though.
  • Completely loathe the alternative title for Snapshot, it's the reason why I've avoided watching it this long. My loss, as it's a decent Aussie thriller. Also dug Brian May's theme for it.
  • Peter Strickland tapping into his hellenic routes since Flux Gourmet is nothing more than a Greek Weird Wave film which mostly lost me. Other than a fart joke, it's a big let down, in my opinion.
  • Despite the controversy, Trauma didn't have the same shock value for me like A Serbian Film (2010) initially did. Not quite ready to revoke my extreme cinema pass quite just yet.
  • Who would have thought that the epicentre of the neo-Giallo would be in Argentina? Crystal Eyes is all style over substance (then again, so were many gialli in its heyday), but despite it having the production value of a Happy Meal, it earns some respect for trying.
  • Red Dwarf attained its sweet spot around the third season and went downhill after its sixth season. Found it even more painful watching the cast looking older and fatter on the Dave channel episodes and gave up around the tenth season.
  • The Lair is objectively an inferior pastiche of Neil Marshall's earlier B-movies. It's still more enjoyable than all the recent mainstream horror films I listed above, which the critics gushed over. Also, props to Marshall for getting engaged with his fit lead actress; which makes him one of life's winners, even if only about five people (including myself) watched his latest film:

Monday, November 28, 2022

Take Me to the Mardi Gras Massacre

Scanning Severin's site for any Black Friday deals and I noticed that Jack Weis' Mardi Gras Massacre (1978) was finally available to order again after it being mysteriously withdrawn earlier this year. Also noticed UK label 88 Films had the film back in its forthocoming releases section, too.  Guessing it might have been music rights issues since it featured uncredited use of songs by both Dennis Coffey and The Mike Theodore Orchestra.

The film itself achieved notoriety with its inclusion in the hallowed video nasty list. That was about the best advertising the film could receive, since despite it being a hilariously bad rehash of H.G. Lewis' splatterfest Blood Feast (1963), it would arouse the curiousity of inquisitive horror fans over the years. Times change and Mardis Gras Massacre was finally granted an 18 certificate by the British Board of Film Classifation (BBFC) in 2022. 

If only the film lived up to all the glorious expectations I pictured of folks in fancy dress costumes being graphically butchered by some masked maniac in a back street off a New Orleans boulevard, like the film's eye-grabbing poster art suggested. Instead we got scenes like this:

Mardi Gras Massacre (Bar scene)
(Jack Weis, 1978)
 

Instant cop.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Do You Like Hitchcock?

Few film makers get to have a descriptive term named after them, but for the portly Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock spawned a wave of spiritual imitators and successors whose works would end up being monikered as homages and throwbacks to Hitchcock's reign of terror.

Ranging from maniacs, phobias, to conspiratorial networks, this particular style of thriller goes back several decades; to the point where I once assumed Stanley Donen's Charade (1963) was actually directed by Hitchcock himself. Fast forward to today and Chloe Okuno's Watcher (2022) is the latest example of what qualifies as a Hitchcockian thriller, as it owes its entire existence to Rear Window (1954). It will hardly be the last film in this criteria, that's for certain.

There's a long list of great Hitchcockian thrillers not helmed by Leytonstone's finest son. Below is a very small selection of personal favourites or slept-on gems which fall under the great director's descriptive label.

Les Diaboliques (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1955): Pipping Hitchcock to the post for the film rights to She Who Was No More, Clouzot's film adaptation details a perfect murder alibi thriller. However it all goes awry once the body goes missing. It culminates with an unforgettable bath tub scene. This has Hitchcock written all over it in everything but name.

Bunny Lake is Missing (Otto Preminger, 1965): Already covered this film in some depth, but it's worth adding that Preminger's classic is what one might have expected from Hitchcock had he returned back to England before making Frenzy (1970). Both the escape from the hospital and doll shop scenes are incredible moments in the film.

Twisted Nerve (Roy Boulting, 1968): A real shame that its controversy usurped Boulting's British masterpiece. Hywel Bennett and Hayley Mills display incredible chemistry together, and it's this aspect that elevates it aloft amongst other similar concepts in this mould. One of those rare films where I find myself wishing the antagonist's psychopathy would be cured.

And Soon the Darkness (Robert Fuest, 1970): Before Taken (2009) came along, this was the perfect film for any concerned parent with a naive daughter planning to go to France with her dumb friend. What makes this a perfect old school thriller is its impeccable atmosphere. The sense of being a stranger in a strange land is perfectly realised in this film. The brooding senses of terror and suspense are sadly lost in the inferior 2010 remake.

The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (Dario Argento, 1970): Originally considered Argento's debut somewhat overrated in comparison to some of his other films. Grew to appreciate it over the years, largely because I became far more aware of other films since I first watched it. Much like De Palma, Hitchcock's DNA is all over this film. Its everyman protagonist is hardly much different from James Stewart in a number of Hitchcock's films. But what makes this my pick amongst Argento's other films are some of the visual tricks and techniques involved which harken to Hitchcock's style. Argento also plays with shadows and silhouettes during some scenes which also give it a rich film noir quality in those instances. Wouldn't be my pick for Argento's best film, nor his best giallo for that matter, but it's certainly his most Hitchcockian film before perfecting his own unique style with Deep Red (1975).

Rabid Dogs (Mario Bava, 1974): Often described as the Italian Hitchcock, Bava spent much of his career under the Master of Suspense's shadow. It didn't help matters calling one of his films The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963), I guess. Bava laid the template for the Italian giallo, but Rabid Dogs is a different pedigree of film to what he's largely associated with; as it is closer to the poliziotteschi in style. A tense and claustrophobic crime thriller that does away with Bava's traditional gothic visuals and replaces it with gritty contemporary realism. There's also one hell of an unforgettable climax. Composer Stelvio Cipriani finishes things off with a killer soundtrack.

Road Games (Richard Franklin, 1981): Franklin's classic Ozploitation film shares the same trend as many personal favourites of mine: classic films associated with its nation, with foreign actors in their leading roles. Road Games is no different, with both Americans Stacy Keach and Jamie Lee Curtis in the lead roles. This cat and mouse thriller set in the vast Australian Outback is laden with suspenseful set pieces which ought to be taught in film school for any aspiring film maker. It's little wonder that Franklin's next film would wind up being the underrated Psycho II (1983).

Body Double (Brian De Palma, 1984): Considering De Palma was essentially the spiritual successor to Alfred Hitchcock's legacy, you can pretty much take your pick when it comes to a favourite thriller from B.D.P's filmography. Body Double resonates with Dada Debaser's very ethos as it treads the tight rope which seperates serious cinema and sleazy exploitation; to the point that De Palma had originally considered Annette Haven for Melanie Griffith's part;  Taking cues from both Rear Window (1954) and Vertigo (1958), De Palma's film is criminally neglected over other films in his repertoire, unless you're Patrick Bateman.

Basic Instinct (Paul Verhoeven, 1992): Kind of ironic how Hitchcock was one of the innovators who kickstarted the slasher genre, and by the late eighties and early nineties, it would germinate with the erotic thriller as one its off-shoots. Basic Instinct carries many of Hitchcock's slasher and film noir sensibilites with Verhoeven's trademark love of sensational sex and violence. Sharon Stone's Catherine Tramell would become an iconic femme fatale with one scene in particular that made most of us forget Michael Douglas' flabby naked arse.

Vacancy (Nimród Antal, 2007): If the Hitch had been around in the twenty-first century then Vacancy would have been the type of concept thriller he would have made. Coming from the era of "torture porn", Vacancy ditches visceral gore for suspense and dread while pitting its couple against snuff film makers. Sadly, Vacancy feels largely forgotten today which is a crying shame as it was a far worthier Hitchcockian style thriller than Phone Booth (2002) ever was. 

Alfred Hitchcock Presents (Title Sequence)
(Alfred Hitchcock, 1955 - 1965) 

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Dada Debaser's Fave Films Directed by Women

Following on from the recent Doris Wishman post, I figured it was high time to share some fave films helmed by the ladies. 

Excluded any films which were co-directed (knowingly, or otherwise) with a man; which ruled out bonafide classics like Humanoids from the Deep (1980). Kept it to one film per director, otherwise Kathryn Bigelow would dominate this list. 

Fave Films Directed by Women:

Bad Girls Go to Hell (Doris Wishman, 1965)

Terminal Island (Stephanie Rothman, 1973)

The Night Porter (Liliana Cavani, 1974)

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Amy Heckerling, 1982)

Slumber Party Massacre (Amy Holden Jones, 1982)

Desperately Seeking Susan (Susan Seidelman, 1985)

The Boys Next Door (Penelope Spheeris, 1985)

Streetwalkin' (Joan Freeman, 1985)

Stripped to Kill (Kat Shea, 1987)

Big (Penny Marshall, 1988)

Celia (Ann Turner, 1989)

Pet Sematary (Mary Lambert, 1989)

Slumber Party Massacre III (Sally Mattison, 1990)

Point Break (Kathryn Bigelow, 1991)

Ravenous (Antonia Bird, 1999)

American Psycho (Mary Harron, 2000)

Punisher: War Zone (Lexi Alexander, 2008)

We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay, 2011)

American Mary (Jenn Soska & Sylvia Soska, 2012)

Kiss of the Damned (Xen Cassavetes, 2013)

The Babadook (Jennifer Kent, 2014)

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Ana Lily Amirpour, 2014)

The Invitation (Karyn Kusama, 2015)

Revenge (Coralie Fargeat, 2017)

Censor (Prano Bailey-Bond, 2021)

Hatching (Hannah Bergholm, 2022)

If you're wondering why your favourite Jane Campion or Julia Ducournau film isn't listed here, then Toto, I have a feeling you're not on MUBI anymore.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Chesty Pains

Mike Lease w/ The Studio G's Beat Group - Hard Selling Woman
(Deadly Weapons soundtrack, 1973)

Spent much of the week with dodgy internet service which propelled me into an even greater movie binge than usual (for me at least). This turned out to rectify two films which were always absent from my viewing, Deadly Weapons (1973) and Double Agent 73 (1974). Knew about them ever since Jonathan Ross schooled me on shite exploitation director repackaged as feminist film pioneer Doris Wishman back in the late eighties for the television series The Incredibly Strange Film Show (1988 - 1989). 

Both films are indeed terrible like I presumed they would be. Inept in almost every way; the latter film has one of the worst car chases I've probably ever seen. Not sure how any sane person could find burlesque dancer built like a sack of spuds turned "actress" Zsa Zsa, AKA Chesty Morgan appealling, but different strokes for different folks, I guess. She oddly reminded me of Madame Cholet from The Wombles the way she shuffled around on screen in that ridiculous wig.  

However, there is a silver lining and a point to this post and that's Deadly Weapons has a cool soundtrack that I dig. Largely consisiting of KPM library music, the highlights from it include a nasty slice of electric guitar that's almost Morriconne-esque in style, courstesy of Alan Parker (not that one) on the track Hippy. The film's main theme is an uncredited track by Mike Lease and The Studio G's Beat Group called Hard-Selling Woman which instantly transports me away to some underground nighclub from a bygone era and makes it the best thing about Wishman's film, in my humble opinion.

Double Agent 73 (Promo trailer)
(Doris Wishman, 1974)

Aside from the surprisingly decent Bad Girls Go to Hell (1965), I haven't enjoyed anything else from the director who I personally dubbed the Thora Hird of Exploitation Cinema. These two infamous entries haven't dissuaded me one bit in changing my opinion, but Deadly Weapons' soundtrack is definitely a winner, in my book.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Worst Movie Accents

Villain ("I'm Vic Dakin!")
Michael Tuchner, 1971

Managed to find a nice rip on YouTube of Endless Night (1972), which is very significant to your humble host as it features both Hayley Mills and Hywel Bennett, the main stars (not to mention Bernard Herrmann composing again) from the underrated classic Twisted Nerve (1968); one of my favourite British psychological thrillers ever. Imagine my shock then when Hayley Mills started speaking in a horrendous American accent in the film. Enter a possible new feature here at Dada Debaser - Worst Movie Accents.

More pleasing than any mega rich Twitch streamer’s ASMR stream, Richard Burton's dulcet voice elicits a commanding yet soothing presence to many ears. A voice so unique that it's instantaneously recognisable even as an offscreen narrator in the ultimate seige movie Zulu (1964) or Jeff Wayne's musical adaptation of War of the Worlds, but what the Bloody Nora was going on with Burton's Cockney accent as sadistic mob boss Vic Dakin in the film Villain (1971)?

Adapted from James Barlow's novel The Burden of Proof, the film's larger than life mobster shares a couple of common attributes with actual East End gangster Ronnie Kray. Sadly, Burton being born within the sound of the Bow Bells isn't one of them. Although blessed with a strong and recognisable cast like Ian McShane and Nigel Davenport, the film is rather unremarkable, save for Burton's accent. It will never cease to crease me up, especially in Benny's torture scene where he orders his lads to "Peek 'im ap! Peek 'im ap!".

Villain (Benny's torture scene)
Michael Tuchner, 1971
 

Villain was released in the same year as another British gangster thriller, Mike Hodges' seminal Get Carter (1971), starring Michael Caine, which left it virtually forgotten in its wake. Half a century later, Villain does serve as an interesting curiosity in British cinema; especially as it exemplified Mockney well before posh sounding actors were cast in Eastenders and Guy Ritchie tainted British gangster films forever.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Tanz Macabre

Suspiria (Olga's Dance scene)
(Luca Guadagino, 2018)

There's a special place in Hell reserved for anyone who prefers Luca Guadagino's washed out remake of Suspiria over Dario Argento's 1977 colourful original. In a perfect world all those involved in the remake's production ought to have been ridiculed and flogged for this blasphemy. I mean, who's idea was it to have Tilda Swinton play three roles; including as an old codger, or replace Goblin's iconic score with a thoroughly depressed Thom Yorke on the piano? To add insult to injury, make the film run about an hour longer than the original.

On a positive tip, Guadagino's film does have one redeeming scene about it which stops me from throwing a complete wobbly like Madame Blanc. That scene is when Dakota Johnson's Susie Bannion does her performative dance while inflicting her witch powers upon poor old Olga; leaving her like a broken ragdoll. Perhaps the most disturbing scene and the only real notable highlight from this celluloid travesty.

Suspira (Olga's "Snakes!" scene)
(Dario Argento, 1977)

Since I'm posting about Suspiria, albeit if it's only about the one redeeming feature from the remake, can we at least show some love for the O.G Olga, played by Barbara Magnolfi from the ultra sleazefest giallo, The Sister of Ursula (1978)? Argento originally wanted children as his Tanz Dance students, but, incredibly, even the Italians back then thought it was unwise to feature kids as victims in his technicolour splatter. Hence the adults acting like children at times and none more apparent than the scene between Olga and Sara having a childish spat in this classic scene from the perfecto original.

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Children of the Grave

All Quiet on the Western Front (Edward Berger, 2022)

Stumbling upon something worth watching on Netflix is a rare treat, since the streaming site tends be the bastion of all things shite in my world. Lo and behold then that Edward Berger's German language adapation of Erich Remarque's anti-war novel All Quiet on the Western Front is a harrowing and compelling film worthy of praise.

From the wide-eyed naivety of Paul Bäumer and his patriotic school mates; gleefully enlisting as grunts in the war to end all wars, to the corpses of young men strewn across the muddy battlefield, All Quiet on the Western Front is a descent into hell that left a sobering impression upon me well after the final credits. Ultimately, it's a distressing tale which loses none of its poignancy even nearing a century on. It might not be as faithfull as Lewis Milestone's film from 1930, but Berger's update is still a very respectable effort.

Two stories are conveyed in All Quiet on the Western Front: the main one being the daily horrors faced by Bäumer in the trenches; while the other is about the Armistice agreement. What's darkly disturbing is how a few men situated in a railway carriage can be bickering over the terms for peace while the butchering continues en masse. What's even more sickening is a blood thirsty general ordering his soldiers to storm the trenches one final time just before the eleventh hour. Gut-wrenching.

As much as I admire Sam Mendes' 1917 (2019), I much prefer Berger's more focused anti-war message rather than gimmicky one-shots; it's still shot superbly, regardless. Bizarrely, All Quiet on the Western Front reminded me of Phil Tippett's animated fantasy horror Mad God (2022) since they both share similar themes of perpetual insanity. Both released this year and both apocalyptic in scope.The catastrophic carnage of seeing soldiers who are barely even men suffer and die is both mortifying and relentless, that it even leaves someone like me sickened by it. A horrifying film, but an effectively important one.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Picks of 1972


Along with an almighty comedown from the loved-up sixties, cinema was reflecting turbulent times in the world. The symptoms were increasingly bleak narratives and generally negative outlook on mankind. Many of 1972's cinema shone a dark light upon ourselves as a destructive force; whether they were critically acclaimed films like The Godfather and Deliverance, to nasties like Cut-Throats Nine and The Last House on the Left, mankind was depicted as a malevolent and exploitative entity. On the bright side, at least we got some amazing films.

Giallo had perhaps its greatest year, in my opinion. Is it any surprise that a couple featured weird cults in the wake of the Tate-LaBianca murders? How about going really controversial? Three gialli from this year featured killer priests.

Film historians can point at Psycho (1960) and Peeping Tom (1960) as the proto-slashers that paved the way to the modern day equivalent; however, based upon my own personal discovery, 1972 was the year where the first contemporary slasher blueprint came into existance with the criminally overlooked Tower of Evil. Way before all the up-their-own-arses film heads incessantly claimed it was Black Christmas (1974).

Here are my film picks for 1972:

Aguirre, the Wrath of God (Werner Herzog)

All the Colours of the Dark (Sergio Martino)

The Asphyx (Peter Newbrook)

Asylum (Roy Ward Baker)

The Big Bird Cage (Jack Hill)

Blacula (William Crane)

Bonnie’s Kids (Arthur Marks)

Carry On Abroad (Gerald Thomas)

The Case of the Bloody Iris (Giuliano Carnimeo)

Cut-Throats Nine (Joaquin Louis Romero Marchent)

Death Walks at Midnight (Luciano Ercoli)

Deliverance (John Boorman)

Don't Torture a Duckling (Lucio Fulci)

Dracula A.D. 1972 (Alan Gibson)

Fear in the Night (Jimmy Sangster)

Female Prisoner Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 (Shunya Itō)

The Flesh and Blood Show (Pete Walker)

Frenzy (Alfred Hitchcock)

The Getaway (Sam Peckinpah)

The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola)

Horror Express (Eugenio Martin)

Hunchback of the Morgue (Javier Aguirre)

The Last House on the Left (Wes Craven)

The Legend of Boggy Creek (Charles B. Pierce)

The Mechanic (Michael Winner)

The Night Stalker (John Llewellyn Moxey)

The Poseidon Adventure (Irwin Allen)

The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (Emilio Miraglia)

Silent Running (Douglas Trumbull)

Straight on Till Morning (Peter Collinson)

Sweet Sugar (Michael Levesque)

Tales from the Crypt (Freddie Francis)

Tombs of the Blind Dead (Amando de Ossorio)

Tower of Evil (Jim O'Connolly)

Vampire Circus (Robert Young)

Un Flic (Jean-Pierre Melville)

What Have You Done to Solange? (Massimo Dallamano)

A White Dress for Marialé (Romano Scavolini) 

Who Saw Her Die? (Aldo Lado)

Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (Sergio Martino)

Ought to add that 1972 was a killer year for classic film songs and soundtracks; some of which I embarassingly still haven't seen yet. Here are a few personal favourites:

Curtis Mayfield - Freddie's Dead (Theme from Superfly)
(Superfly soundtrack, 1972)
 
 
David Hess - Intro & Opening Credits
(The Last House on the Left soundtrack, 1972)
 
 
Bobby Womack & Peace - Across 110th Street 
(Across 110 Street soundtrack, 1972)
 
 
Bruno Nicolai - Pursuited / Jennifer's Recall
(The Case of the Bloody Iris soundtrack, 1972)

 

Dada Debaser Bonus:

You can find a whole bunch of other tracks from 1972 in the following lists: Greatest Blaxploitation Soundtrack songs, Fakin' the Funk: Non US Funk Soundtrack songs and Dada Debaser's G.O.A.T Giallo Cuts.

Picks of 1982, 1992, 2002 and 2012.

Monday, October 31, 2022

Viewings: October 2022

During the very twilight of the noughties, me and a fellow movie geek got into an epic nerd debate over our fave sci-fi film of 2009; he was all for that rancid Star Trek reboot, while your humble host was championing District 9. Thirteen years later and it turns out there was a far better contender out there. Pandorum is a neglected gem which I foolishly glossed over simply for its made-for-SYFY vibe and Dennis Quaid being in it. Well, it turned out to be a fantastic blend of mystery and sci-fi horror.

Another great film I appreciated this month was Brian and Charles. The latest example of Brits successfully pulling off awkward, offbeat and endearing comedies better than Wes Anderson's aloof efforts ever could.

Other fresh first viewings were: The Boys Next Door, Deadstream, Doppelgänger, Pearl, Some Like It Rare, Terrifier 2 and Vesper.

Also dug that Emmerdale 50th Birthday promo trailer. Had no time for any of the episodes, though.

 

Film

Le Samouraï (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1967)

Doppelgänger AKA Journey to the Far Side of the Sun (Robert Parrish, 1969)*

Colossus: The Forbin Project (Joseph Sargent, 1970)

Horror Express (Eugenio Martin, 1972)

The Mutations (Jack Cardiff, 1974)*

House of Mortal Sin (Pete Walker, 1976)

Out of the Blue (Dennis Hopper, 1980)*

The Boys Next Door (Penelope Spheeris, 1985)*

Krush Groove (Michael Schultz, 1985)

Ghostwatch (Lesley Manning, 1992)

Ghosts of Mars (John Carpenter, 2001)

Dog Soldiers (Neil Marshall, 2002)

The Aviator (Martin Scorsese, 2004)

Pandorum (Christian Alvart, 2009)*

Victor Crowley AKA Hatchet 4 (Adam Green, 2017)*

Brian and Charles (Jim Archer, 2022)*

Bullet Train (David Leitch, 2022)*

Dark Glasses (Dario Argento, 2022)*

Deadstream (Joseph Winter & Vanessa Winter, 2022)*

Don’t Worry Darling (Olivia Wilde, 2022)*

Halloween Ends (David Gordon Green, 2022)*

Hellraiser (David Bruckner, 2022)*

Mutant Ghost War Girl (Liu Beige, 2022)*

Pearl (Ti West, 2022)*

Piggy (Carlota Pereda, 2022)*

Some Like It Rare (Fabrice Eboué, 2022)*

Terrifier 2 (Damien Leone, 2022)*

Two Witches (Pierre Tsigaridis, 2022)*

Vesper (Kristina Buozyte & Bruno Samper, 2022)*

V/H/S/99 (Flying Lotus, Maggie Levin, Tyler MacIntyre, Johannes Roberts, Joseph Winter & Vanessa Winter, 2022)*


Television

Mastermind - Episodes 1-7 (Bill Wright, 2022/2023)*

Doctor Who - The Power of the Doctor (Chris Chibnall & Jamie Magnus Stone, 2022)*

 

*First time viewings.

 

Dada Debaser Notes:

  • Why is Blair Underwood playing Russell Simmons in Krush Groove while Russell Simmons is playing someone else in it?
  • Gerry & Sylvia Anderson's production of Doppelgänger is both surprisingly mature and dark considering it's essentially a film geared towards a young audience. Definitely feel sci-fi has regressed a lot since then.
  • Once scene from Dennis Hopper's Out of the Blue appears like a dress rehearsal for that scene from Blue Velvet (1986).
  • Adam Green's career went completely nowhere after all these years.
  • There's an entertaining yet very skewered retrospective on Y.A Dystopia by the BFI. Possibly the effect of recency bias, but Vesper might be one of the better entries in this dead genre.
  • One to mull over: there are now more awful Halloween films starring Jamie Lee Curtis than awful Halloween films without her.
  • Letterboxd will always be a trash playground for film hipsters. Reading pseudo-intellectual babble over what's at best, a mediocre film by Argento, is comically pretentious.
  • Can't believe Collider shared similar sentiments with me over the recent Hellraiser film.
  • Quietly predicting Piggy being this year's Titane by all the poncey critics.
  • John Carpenter had a particularly fashioned antihero in mind back when he made films.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Sunglasses at Night

Dark Glasses (Dario Argento, 2022)

Had the naive hope that whenever a Dario Argento film would make its eventual debut on this blog, then it would have been one of his classics; such as Deep Red (1975), Suspiria (1978) or Tenebrae (1982). However, considering Argento is now in his eighties and hasn't made a film since the thoroughly detested Dracula 3D (2012), his latest film, Dark Glasses would be worth the effort just to check up on him; the sort of thing you would do whenever you're worried about an elderly neighbour.

Kicking off with a solar eclipse darkening the city of Rome, the film's high class escort heroine, Diana (Illenia Pastorelli), experiences some not so subtle forshadowing by being temporary blinded by the celestial phenomenon. After a graphic, quintessentially giallo style kill of another sex worker, the film reverts back to Diana as she flees from a physically abusive client and into a car chase with the said serial killer. Out of the frying pan and into the fire. The chase results in an impressive car crash scene, where the driver of another vehicle is left dead and his wife in a coma. The couple's son, Chin (Xinyu Zhang), sat in the back seat, winds up remarkably unscathed. Diana is left blind by the ordeal. It's from here where the film focuses on the adjustments Diana is forced to make in her life, and the guilt she feels over Chin's tragic predicament. Meanwhile, the killer is still out there and has his eyes on her.

Adapted from a script which was languishing on the back burner for at least twenty years, Argento's film feels surprisingly underdeveloped. Reliant on recycling elements from his past works for some essential substance; the most notable attempt is the rehash of Franco and Lori from The Cat O' Nine Tails (1971). However, that's an already established relationship and here it's the formation of one, and so there's an uncomfortable awkwardness while trying to find common ground. One of which results in an unintentionally comedic scene where a guilt ridden Diana visits an orphanage and gives Chin a bootleg game console to cheer him up. How wrong is that? Another obvious throwback is the dog scene from Suspiria; which lacks any real intensity here and only exists just to up the gore factor by a notch.

Worth pointing out that despite some visual flourishes here and there, harkening back to Argento's glory days, Dark Glasses is a very low budget film. It has the whiff of TV crime drama all over it. The kind that's on a Sunday night, where you're already grabbing your coat and leaving the house. Hardly a bad thing for fresh-faced film makers cutting their teeth, but Argento is a veteran and his old masterpieces have been cinematic in scope. Arguably, budgets got much lesser, hence the transition from film to television for many of Argento's peers. Ultimately, the reason why Italian horror and giallo fizzled out during the nineties and what little has been made since then resembles cheap looking tat like Argento's The Card Player (2003)

Despite its faults, there are genuine positives I like about Dark Glasses: the film has a breezy fast pace to it, which feels refreshing after all the unnecessarily long movies released nowadays; Diana is an unexpectably likeable protagonist; Asia Argento delivers a fine performance for her supporting role as Diana's carer. There's also the fact that the killer's face is revealed relatively early in the film; subverting most people's, including my own, preconceptions of the rules in gialli. Arnaud Rebotini's synthwave soundtrack is most of the time atmospherically effective whenever it doesn't stray into Euro-Techno territory. Also, the typically Argento WTF? setpieces like the water snakes scene is very well executed and one for any Argento highlights reel.

All in all, it's a decent time waster. Objectively, an average film that I would have probably forgotten about already if it wasn't for the fact that Argento has been churning out shite for decades, and this is begrudgingly his best offering since The Stendhal Syndrome (1996). Fellow octogenarian film maker, Paul Verhoeven, gave us the spectacular Benedetta (2021) last year, and Dark Glasses is nowhere near the technical nor artistic level of proficiency. Still, I would rather Argento make a back to basics giallo like this in 2022 than sully his name even further by attaching it to pretentious shite like She Will, or acting in some depressing Gaspar Noé film about Alzheimer's Disease this year.

Dark Glasses (Trailer)
(Dario Argento, 2022)
 

Friday, October 28, 2022

We Need to Talk About Kevin Tripp

Ghostwatch (Lesley Manning, 1992)

Considering how there's practically sweet F.A. worth watching on the BBC these days (other than Mastermind, of course), this is a good opportunity to revist a nineties gem from "Auntie" on its 30th anniversary. Ghostwatch was a reality TV mockumentary featuring familiar TV presenters, cast as themselves. This included: famous chat show interviewer, Michael "Parky" Parkinson as the condescending and cynical studio host; Sarah Greene as the on the spot presenter at the haunted North London home (obviously inspired by the notorious Enfield Poltergeist); her actual hubby, Mike Smith, back at the studio as the phone line presenter, while Craig Charles, of Red Dwarf fame, dilly dallying about outside the spooky house talking to a gathering crowd.

The beauty of Ghostwatch was its gradual escalation from supernatural folly to full blown paranormal absurdity. The program was and still is absolutely hilarious. From the creepy house's basement nicknamed "The Gloryhole", to Ken and Joyce Shrivener from Telford, reporting their radio died and the microwave wouldn't stop pinging, or Sarah Greene finding a mysterious wet patch on the carpet - pure comedy. Pick of the bunch was a caller named Kevin Tripp being spooked while having a sandwich. Parky was not amused and dismissed him as a crank caller.

"I had this sandwich; cheese and pickle sandwich it was, and well, it frightened me to buggery it did. I was minding my own business and this dirty, great plate sitting on the arm of my chair just dived off." - Kevin Tripp, Ghostwatch, 1992.

Aside from the over acting from both the distressed mother and the para-psychologist expert, I found the rest of the performances fairly convincing. The two young girls terrorised by Pipes (I shit you not), the resident ghost, were the best performers, in my opinion. They really do help sell the premise of this mockumentary. There's an air of Alan Patridge awkwardness about the film, but they do an awful lot to convey their fear in a believable manner.

Ghostwatch left a much talked about legacy in its wake. Many viewers hadn't tuned in at the start to see the opening credits, which revealed it was all fake. The BBC were inundated with complaints by proto-Karens after it aired. Cosidering the show was upfront, it was hardly on the same level of spectacular trolling like Orson Welles' War of the Worlds radio play had been in the 1930s. Still, it's funny knowing so many people out there fell for this admittedly well conceived prank. To be a fly on the wall of some poor pill head's crib that Halloween night and watching them freak out. Off your face and having Parky's demonic voice coming out of the TV would have been f**king priceless to witness.

It's worth noting Ghostwatch predates the likes of Orell Peli's Paranormal Activity franchise. That entire series of films owes its entire existence to this show. I also wouldn't be at all surprised if The Blair Witch Project (1999) and The Conjuring 2 (2016) took notes from the BBC one-off; especially the latter.

Definitely considered Ghostwatch while compiling my G.O.A.T Brit Flicks, but I hadn't seen it since it originally aired and didn't feel comfortable including it as it wasn't fresh in my mind at the time. Kind of wish I did after revisiting it, since despite being much older and even more cynical now, Ghostwatch was a definite gem from back in the day, and it still holds up. Classic television, right here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Art is Long, Life is Short


Terrifier 2 (Damien Leone, 2022)

Like any fad, Horror trends eventually outstay their welcome at some point, and this is definitely the case with the dominant wave of folk horror. Damien Leone's mean-spirited Terrifier (2016) was an ultra gory return to the slashers of yore. It was a Marmite film in the horror film community; a crowdfunded slasher throwback with a grindhouse aesthetic that garnered many fans, while its detractors turned their noses and dismissed it as nothing more than a demo reel for Leone's make-up and special effects talents. Personally, I loved Terrifier and it was one of the few Gen-Z slashers worth raving about.

The return of Art the Clown, the demented clown mime, is something that I had almost lost hope on ever since the pandemic hit. He was the main highlight from the otherwise bad portmanteau All Hallow's Eve (2013) and thankfully got his own film eventually. However, it's finally here; the sequel that even trumps The Sadness and Mad God for grossest film of year. Not only that, it conveniently arrives at the same time as the thoroughly dreadful Halloween Ends; saving some lucky folks from another subversive Hollywood shit take. Evidently, based on its box office success, Terrifier 2 has stolen the mantle from Michael Myers' latest outing as this year's Halloween film of choice.

From Damien Leone to Sergio Leone, Dada Debaser can't honestly proceed without a disclaimer regarding Terrifier 2's running time. Clocking in at a whopping two hours and eighteen minutes, this will not bode well for many weak bladdered people. Personally, it goes against my belief that today's films should stick to a lean and trim ninety minutes to maintain interest. Obviously, there have been few exceptions like the recent RRR which have proven me wrong, but as a general observation, pacing issues and filler scenes tend to be more prevalent the longer the film time. In the case of Terrifier 2, the big showdown doesn't really set into motion until after around the ninety minute mark. There's also Art's origin and his connection with Sienna, the final girl of the film, being revealed in the most vaguest way possible. To its credit, I found it way better paced in comparison to the utterly awful Everything, Everywhere All at Once, another film from this year with virtually the same running time and felt three times as long.

Leone took note of all the fan love for the extreme gore featured in the first film and devised the sequel to go even further into depravity. Being a self-taught make-up and special effects artist, Leone did not leave much for the imagination. One scene in particular, inspired by that infamous photograph of Mary Kelly's butchering at the hands of Jack the Ripper will no doubt be discussed by gorehounds for years to come. Marketing gimmick or not, reports of people throwing up from seeing the movie harkens back to good ol' H.G Lewis' movies.

It's not all blood and gore that Terrifier 2 has going for it. David Howard Thornton is genuinely fantastic as Art the Clown and cements his postion as a new horror movie icon. The demonic Marcel Marceau switches from silent action comedy to sadistic brutality in a blink of an eye, which makes him a compelling character to watch on screen. The film's maniacal antagonist is counterbalanced by Lauren LaVera, who resembles a young Annabella Sciora, as the valiant final girl, Sienna. Liking the fact that LaVera's Halloween costume is based around a warrior angel, thus the film's two main characters are symbolic of Heaven and Hell. This is further reinforced by the constant dichotomy of red and blue lighting in the spectacular final act of the film. I also like that Sienna is a real fighter and gives as well as she gets; it's cool seeing her get up after such a beatdown and strike back with such ferocity. The fact that she goes against the current template of final girls possessed of annoying traits with unwarranted accomplishments, makes her a true winner in my book.

There's a lot I love about Terrifier 2, but that running time is going to be a problem for many and it's the main reason why I still prefer its predecessor over it. Still, Leone's achievement is unprecedented. A sequel slasher film with an epic two hours and eighteen minutes is unheard of; but it being an unrated film and breaking into the box office charts with no studio backing, is bloody phenomenal. I do wish it was leaner, there were scenes that could have been left on the cutting room floor, but I still enjoyed this a lot, and I really do admire Leone's unapologetic and loving respect towards a critically maligned film subgenre like the slasher.

Terrifier 2 (Trailer)
(Damien Leone, 2022)

Saturday, October 22, 2022

The Farmer's Daughter

Pearl (Ti West, 2022)

When director Ti West went the Joe D'Amato route by starting another film while already working on one, and decided to release them both in the same year, this blogger was a little concerned. Thankfully, Pearl isn't the Vincent to X's Julius, but it certainly does suffer from some very apparent faults which I can only attribute to the film being released way too soon.

Set in a much earlier period of the twentieth century, Pearl serves as an origin story to its predecessor's elderly and insane, titular antogonist. Numerous historical references are used to illustrate its 1918 setting: from the Spanish Influenza pandemic, which mirror more recent times; to the horrendous events in Europe with The Great War; and of course, the illuminating appeal of silent cinema. All of these play a profound part in Pearl's life; above all, though, is her desire for stardom. Her escapist fantasy to be famous becomes so important that woe betide anyone or anything that brings reality crashing down upon her.

Ti West mostly avoids the slasher path like he did with X, and instead focuses on Pearl having the  psychodrama treatment.This might irk some fans who expected more in a similar vein to its predecessor. Personally, I found the character study into Pearl's mental state the strongest aspect of the film. Pearl's origin elements are a little threadbare and contrived for my liking, but it's Goth's convincing performance that makes it so compelling. She puts so much into the film that she carries the weight of it on her back. Sharing co-writing credits with West, it's abundantly obvious how much Goth has invested into her character; replete with what appears to be an epic one-take monologue.

If only the rest of the film was on an equal par to Goth's performance. The supporting cast are a mixed bag, with only Tandi Wright, who served as an initimacy co-ordinator on X, delivering a credible performance as Pearl's oppressive and domineering German mother, Ruth. The chemistry between them is superb and you get some insight that Pearl's psychopathy is an inherited trait from her. Matthew Sunderland plays her infirmed father. Being severely disabled, there is little he can do other than offer reactionary eye acting and gasping. It's so morally disturbing seeing Pearl treat her invalid father like a beast of burden. That's the good actors out of the way, but what about the bad ones? Glad you asked, because the rest are a bunch of young actors who would be cringeworthy even on an episode of Hollyoaks. A Henry Cavill looking David Corenswet plays a local projectionist who introduces Pearl to both cinema and porn. He's a very two dimesional character who simply exists as a place marker between points A and B in Pearl's character arc; along with Emma Jenkins-Purro as Mitzy, Pearl's blank canvas of a sister-in-law, whose acting is nothing but a cartoonish do-gooder. These two characters feel very underwritten in the film.

Pearl has a general sparsness about it; which works to a certain degree with the isolation Pearl faces on a daily basis living and working on a remote rural farm, but the few scenes set in the local town and the crude special visual effects (particularly that one scene with the crocodile and the dance number) betray its very obvious low budget ($1M apparently). You could almost give it a free pass, but being a Ti West film, a director with a habit of capturing a historical periods effectively; examples of which, The House of the Devil (2009) and more recently with X, it feels a bit of a let down here. Couldn't help but get the sense that this was just one example of the film being a rushed production.

I partially get Martin Scorsese's appraisal for the film; certainly so for Mia Goth's performance, but I'm guessing it being the cause of his sleepless nights as pure hypebole, however. It's certainly a good film and better than a bunch of other horror films I've seen so far this year, but X offered more authenticity, variety and bottom line, didn't feel quite so one note. Also, for a prequel film, I walked away from it having more questions than its predecessor. Ironic that an origin film would pose more questions than answers. Based on the common consensus, my sentiments on Pearl come across as an unpopular opinion since it appears to have a more positive reception than X. Dada Debaser can only conclude that this is another example of recency bias in full effect. Hopefully, both West and Goth have had more time and effort afforded to them with the third outing, MaXXXine out next year. They're a good working team, with plenty of talent; hopefully they can manage their production time much better.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Chamber Music

Jerry Goldsmith - The Invaders
(The Twilight Zone soundtrack, 1959 - 1964)
 

Chances are you've already heard an extract from Jerry Goldsmith's The Invaders suite without even knowing as it's cropped up in various television shows and films since its creation. Different sections of the track have been mined like it was the stock musical equivalent of Bob James' Nautilus for shows like Rawhide (1959 - 1965) and The Fugitive (1963 - 1967).

Named after The Invaders, from The Twilight Zone episode where a mute Agnes Moorehead is besieged by tiny alien invaders in her cabin, Jerry Goldsmith's composition would make a recurring musical appearance throughout the show. A favourite example of this being for the episode, To Serve Man, where it can be heard as the musical motif to the big twist:

The Twilight Zone (To Serve Man - "It's a cook book!" scene) 
(Richard L. Bare, 1962)

The first time I recall hearing it was on Lewis Teague's awesome Jaws rip-off, Alligator (1980), where baby Ramón, the pet alligator, is flushed down the toilet in the pre-credits. What are the chances the Farrelly brothers watched the film and made the same musical association with a toilet as I still do? The reason being, the tinkling of the ivories portion from The Invaders can also be heard during the unforgettable toilet scene twist from the nineties classic Dumb and Dumber (1994):

Dumb and Dumber (Toilet scene)
(Bobby Farrelly & Peter Farrelly, 1994)

Guessing the Farrellys weren't content with having just one toilet escapade as The Invaders turned up in a deleted scene from the film. Kind of thankful it wasn't included in the theatrical cut of the film as it might have ruined the overall tone, in my opinion.