Monday, January 31, 2022

Viewings: January 2022

We finally hit the same year as Soylent Green. Prophetic in some ways with its prediction on climate change, over-population and the wearing of face masks. Still have eleven months for the green stuff to come correct, however. Not even referring to Edward G. Robinson munching on some lettuce, either.

The trifecta of Gerald Kargl's Angst, Joseph Losey's The Servant and Stephanie Rothman's Terminal Island were my fave films that I happened to discover over January. Lewis Gilbert's Cosh Boy was also a nice find and deserves a future spot in the Juvenile Hell series.

Perhaps I should have done one of these posts for last December, but this blog was already well into the month and I can barely remember what I watched last night, let alone a week or two.


Brute Force (Jules Dassin, 1947)

Cosh Boy (Lewis Gilbert, 1953)*

Town on Trial (John Guillermin, 1957)* 

Beat Girl (Edmond T. Gréville, 1959)

The Servant (Joseph Losey, 1963)*

The Train (John Frankenheimer, 1964)

The Great Silence (Sergio Corbucci, 1968)

Performance (Donald Cammell & Nicolas Roeg, 1970)

Straight on Till Morning (Peter Collinson, 1972)

Terminal Island (Stephanie Rothman, 1973)*

Soylent Green (Richard Fleischer, 1973)

Coffy (Jack Hill, 1973)

Foxy Brown (Jack Hill, 1974)

Almost Human (Umberto Lenzi, 1974)

Summer of Fear (Wes Craven, 1978)*

Jubilee (Derek Jarman, 1978)* 

The Stud (Quentin Masters, 1978)

Porridge (Dick Clement, 1979)

Maniac (William Lustig, 1980)

The House on the Edge of the Park (Ruggero Deodato, 1980)

The Soldier (James Glickenhaus, 1982)*

Britannia Hospital (Lindsay Anderson, 1982)

The New York Ripper (Lucio Fulci, 1982) 

Breathless (Jim McBride, 1983)

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Amy Heckerling, 1983)

Angst (Gerald Kargl, 1983)* 

Sleepwalker (Saxon Logan, 1984)*

Creature (William Malone, 1985)*

Armour of God (Jackie Chan & Edward Tsang (uncredited), 1986)

Nekromantik (Jörg Buttgereit, 1987)

The Blob (Chuck Russell, 1988)

Steel and Lace (Ernest Farino, 1991)*

The Addiction (Abel Ferrara, 1995)

Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick, 1999)

Excision (Richard Bates Jr, 2012)

The Beta Test (Jim Cummings & PJ McCabe, 2021)*

Ghostbusters: Afterlife (Jason Reitman, 2021)*

The French Dispatch (Wes Anderson, 2021)*

The Scary of Sixty-First (Dasha Nekrasova, 2021)* 

The Last Thing Mary Saw (Edoardo Vitaletti, 2022)*


 Mastermind - Episodes 17-20 (Bill Wright, 2021/2022)*

Cobra Kai - Season 4 (Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg, 2021)*

Toast of Tinseltown - Season 1 (Matt Berry & Arthur Matthews, 2022)*


* First time viewings.


Dada Debaser Notes:

  • Stephanie Rothman's Terminal Island really was ahead of its time and had quite a few things in common with John Carpenter's Escape From... movies. I also really liked the Jack Hill vibe it had going on throughout. Big surprise seeing both Tom Selleck and Roger E. Mosley many years before Magnum P.I. fame. 
  • Outside of the supernatural time travel stuff, Edgar Wright really took a lot more elements from Straight on Till Morning than I originally thought for his film Last Night in Soho. Still think it's superb and one of the best films from last year, regardless.
  • Derek Jarman's Jubilee is a shamelessly indulgent film. A young Toyah Wilcox resembling Po from the Teletubbies and a pre-new romantic Adam Ant are the only memorable things about it.
  • Question: What does last year's Titane have in common with the Brit cult film Performance? Answer: Both feature characters who inject a drug into their arse, who just so happen to signify the film's turn for the worst upon their introduction. Don't get the love for either of these movies and find them vastly overrated.
  • Speaking of putting things into your wazoo, Richard Gere played a far more watchable outlaw than Jean Paul Belmondo in the superior version of Breathless.
  • Chuck Russell's The Blob remake is also another example of a film being better than the original, that doesn't get much love.
  • Wes Anderson's fetishistic obsession for visual detail always seems to come at the expense of a good screenplay. His latest effort is another eye-candy laced snoozefest catering to Criterion cultists and Tumblr gifmakers.
  • Back in the day, Abel Ferrara looked like a bizarre hybrid of Matt Dillon and Carlos Tevez.
  • The one thing I find even more annoying than Tom Cruise, is that horribly repetitious piano composition in Kubrick's lacklustre Eye Wide Shut.
  • Not to come off like a fashion snob, but the appropriate attire standards when appearing on Mastermind has been slippin' over the last few years. Most of these contestants are dressed like psychiatric hospital patients on a day excursion.
"The game he plays he plays for keeps
Hustlin' times and ghetto streets

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Hey Young World

The Scary of Sixty-First (Dasha Nekrasova, 2021)

Where do you begin when describing this movie? Based on its trailer, it comes across as your typical dead-on-arrival shovelware you would expect to find greeting you on either Netflix and Shudder. You would be right too, but Dasha Nekrasova has one ace up its sleeve that the other still born tat don't: pure comedy. Intentional or not, this film had me laughing out loud like the first time I caught James Wan's Malignant (2021) and that's a rare achievment to accomplish when it come to a cynical curmudgeon like me.

"Princes, princes who adore you
Just go ahead now"

Nekrasova's film feels like Roman Polanski's The Tenant (1976) meets QAnon conspiracy theory, and the obvious link is not lost on me. Ironically, Nekrasova is a popular "bohemian layabout' podcaster, but I bounced listening to whatever she and her medicated political buddies wanted to talk about within seconds of hearing their synchronised nauseating slurring, for the sake of my very sanity. Ain't nobody got time for the zoomer equivalent of Loose Women type natter. Would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when the film's writers, Dasha Nekrasova and Madeline Quinn, came up with the script for this film, however. I would imagine it would have read like a 4chan illuminati post, written by some tinfoil hat wearing loony forgetting their xanax.

Shot in 16mm, the contemporary New York setting felt strangely anachronistic in this movie as it gave it an aged exploitation film vibe. The acting was generally poor, but faux-grindhouse movies like this aren't exactly striving for Daniel Day-Lewis, are they? I'll give it props for its commitment, though; seeing Quinn masturbate to various paraphernalia of Prince Andrew and of all places, Jeffrey Epstein's front doorstep, is both equally bold and hilarious. Try doing that, O Danny boy!

Make no mistake, The Scary of Sixty-First is essentially a complete train wreck, but it's an entertaining one and that gives it a begrudging nod from me, even if it's made by a bunch of wastegal hipsters, living in the Twitter bubble. Whether or not I'll feel the same way about it after repeated viewings will be the real test, however.

The Scary of Sixty-First (Trailer)
(Dasha Nekrasova, 2021)

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Duck Seazon

The New York Ripper (Lucio Fulci, 1982)

Got to hand it to director Lucio Fulci in finding a new lease of life in what was certainly looking like the tail end of his film making career. It all stemmed from his success with his ultra gory 1979 horror movie Zombi 2 (AKA Zombie Flesh Eaters), a film shamelessly sold as a sequel to George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead (1978). He also seemed to have inherited Herschell Gordon Lewis' moniker as The Godfather of Gore with his Gates of Hell trilogy: City of the Living Dead (1980), The Beyond (1981) and The House by the Cemetery (1981). Ironically, the troubled production history and negative reception of his next film, with the working title of The Beauty Killer would also happen to be a personal favourite of mine in his entire filmography. Fulci took a leave of absence from his fantastical lovecraftian horror that had marked his renaissance and returned to familiar giallo territory. Being an early eighties giallo, this entry exhibited strong influences of its American offspring - the slasher, which was in its golden era. Being a fan of both genres, the mix of the two is what makes The New York Ripper so damn appealing to me. 

"Welcome to the cheap seats
Welcome to the cheap seats"

The film revolves around a sadistic serial killer with a penchant for slashing and slaying beautiful women all around New York City. Our killer is a cocky fella, since he toys with the NYPD, particularly the man on the case Lt. Fred Williams (Jack Hedley), by phoning and taunting him with his bizarre duck voice. The rest of the cast are mostly recognisable from either other Fulci flicks or some other Italian genre movie: Howard Ross from Mario Bava's stylishly sardonic giallo Five Dolls for an August Moon (1970); Zora Kerova from Umberto Lenzi's utterly depraved, late-game jungle horror Cannibal Ferox (1981); Paolo Malco from The House by the Cemetery (1981); Cosimo Cinieri from Fulci's Fame inspired giallo Murder-Rock (1984); Andrea Occhippinti from Fulci's vaseline lensed fantasy movie, Conquest (1983); Barbara Cupisti from my favourite bork slasher Stagefright (1987); and, last but not least Alexandra Delli Colli from the unforgettably trashy Zombie Holocaust (1980). Ironically, the odd one out is Jack Hedley himself, a veteran British actor dubbed with a weary American accent, who I recognised from an old episode of classic sitcom Only Fools And Horses above any of his other film work.

What's particularly fascinating about this film is there really are no good guys in it - with the exception of an innocent young girl featured towards the end of the film. That's one of the reasons why the film receives such a bad rep by critics and viewers alike, as some kind of terribly misogynistic film. That also happened to be the reason why Fulci regular Catriona MacColl turned down the prominent role of Fay and why it was offered to a complete unknown like Almanta Suska (credited as Keller in the film). The film's antagonist most certainly is a misogynist, but I don't personally see the actual film itself as being one. The rest of the characters appear to be corrupt and amoral people, regardless of gender. In some cases, some of the characters even become secondary villains; intentionally disrupting or delaying the pursuit of the duck-voiced killer, for their own selfish reasons. As for Fulci's motives, much of the people who worked with him, were nothing but incredibly positive about him. He also addressed and mocked this criticism of him with his quasi-greatest hits meta film Cat in the Brain (1990), AKA Nightmare Concert.

"I hope that someone gets my
Message in a bottle, yeah

Fulci makes effective use of filming in New York City - especially the sleazy neon lit locations of Times Square and The Deuce in the early eighties; a stark contrast as to how they look now. The city could almost be considered a character in itself in some respect, with how it leaves a negative impression upon all characters in the film. Screenplay writer Dardano Sacchetti revealed film permits were already issued prior to the script being completed, so he effectively wrote a bunch of gruesome graphic murder scenes to both fulfil Fulci's instruction to go in an extreme direction and to fit in with the various locations they had permission to film in. We're even blessed by an internal point of view shot from within a neck being sliced open. That's rather unique, to say the least.

Gorehounds tend to get excited over all the visceral blood on offer in this film, but I'm equally appreciative of how Fulci paves the way for these scenes which range from tense buildups and well executed jump scares. Take the plight of Jane, an aristocratic house wife who gets her sexual kicks by throwing herself in potentially dangerous situations. She masturbates at live sex shows, receives toe-jobs in Puerto Rican bars and pays for sex with a three-fingered "42nd Street gigolo" in some seedy hotel room. The thrill of danger is taken to the next level once she hears a deejay on the radio describe the very same bloke she is with, while she's tied to a bed, is the prime suspect of the Ripper slayings.

"Got on the train we're car from car but not too far I started scopin'"

Dialogue and sound are also notable highlights in The New York Ripper, my favourite line has to be Rosie cycling to catch the Staten Island ferry and hilariously crashing into a stationary V.W. Beetle, with the excuse, "I'm sorry, I was thinking of Boston." WTF? The Ripper's switchblade slashing through air making an intense whooshing sound effect or the ding it makes when hitting a brick wall, is truly sublime. That would have been a characteristic from a Shaw Brothers movie, but not something expected in a giallo.

Frequent soundtrack collaborator Fabio Frizzi was absent on this film, instead the reins were handed over to Francesco De Masi. The result, one of the funkier and uptempo themes you'll ever hear in the majority of gialli out there. One major gripe I have however is the new wave song I love that is featured during Zora Kerova's sex show has never been available on any releases of the film's sountrack. It's also impossible to identify even with the aid of Shazaam, probably because of all the sexual moaning in the background.

The New York Ripper was banned outright in the UK and didn't even make it on the hallowed DPP 39 video nasties list, however that all but cemented its legacy in notoriety, making it a must-see curiosity. Over the years, thanks to the uncut Dutch VHS, it made its round in under-the-counter film fair circuits, until it became more readily available during the DVD era. The film managed to get an official national release, albeit a censored version in 2002. Hardly worth bothering - that's like showing off your vegeterian pet piranha to your mates. It's much easier to find uncut now, thanks to the internet; even blessed with a glorious 4K UHD release by Blue Underground. Probably the one film I've copped more times than the O.G. Star Wars trilogy and Robocop (1987) over the decades. 

In summary, I don't really consider The New York Ripper as Fulci's best film; it's not even his best giallo, but I do consider it his most misjudged movie. That partially explains why I often feel the need to defend it whenever negative criticism is directed towards it. The subject matter itself is both dark and ugly, therefore the film shouldn't be denounced for executing it in such an uncomprimising manner. It stands toe to toe against the slashers of the same era, yet still maintains its giallo principles and that's the biggest reason why I love it so much. A personal favourite, for sure.

The New York Ripper (Trailer)
(Lucio Fulci, 1982)

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Greatest Blaxploitation Soundtrack Songs

"Ain't nobody dope as me, I'm dressed so fresh, so clean
So fresh and so clean, clean"
Was enjoying a nice double helping of Pam Grier movies recently, when it got me thinking again at just how insanely good the soundtracks of blaxploitation movies really were. With all honesty, the genre came and went before my time, so they only ever really made it on my radar via the various rap songs that sampled them. I suppose that's how many others from my generartion had also discovered them.
Below is a list of fifty choons I feel are the best from the genre. Found keeping it diverse with one track per artist wouldn't really work for me here. The likes of Curtis Mayfield, James Brown and Isaac Hayes must have made a faustian bargain at the crossroads simply based on the high quality of music they produced. It's some of their greatest ever work, in this humble blogger's opinion. 

Some of these soundtracks that I've stumbled upon over the years are from films I still have not seen to this day, since they're still relatively obscure for the most part. Worth noting, bongo obsessive Michael Viner produced the soundtrack for The Thing With Two Heads, which is one of those "music inspired by..." compilations. Can't confirm whether the songs are featured in the film or not, but I do know that the songs are indeed from the soundtrack album, however.

Greatest Blaxploitation Soundtrack Songs

Children Don't Get Weary - Booker T & The M.G.'s (Up Tight, 1969)

 Harlem Medley - Galt MacDermot (Cotton Comes To Harlem, 1970)

Call Me Mister Tibbs - Quincy Jones (They Call Me Mr. Tibbs, 1970)

Hoppin' John - Melvin Van Peebles (Sweet Sweetback's Badass Song, 1971)

Theme From Shaft (Vocal) - Isaac Hayes (Shaft, 1971) 

Freddie's Dead - Curtis Mayfield (Superfly, 1972)

Give Me Your Love - Curtis Mayfield (Superfly, 1972)

Superfly - Curtis Mayfield (Superfly, 1972)

Battle Scene - Grant Green (The Final Comedown, 1972)

 Cool Breeze - Solomon Burke (Cool Breeze, 1972)  

"T" Plays It Cool - Marvin Gaye (Trouble Man, 1972)

Across 110th Street - Bobby Womack and Peace (Across 110th Street, 1972)

Little Ghetto Boy - Donny Hathaway (Come Back Charleston Blue, 1972) 

Blacula Strikes! - Gene Page (Blacula, 1972)

Theme From Slaughter - Billy Preston (Slaughter, 1972)

Bongolia - Incredible Bongo Band (The Thing With Two Heads, 1972)

Fool's Paradise - The Sylvers (The Thing With Two Heads, 1972)  

The Payback - James Brown (The Payback, 1973) 

People Get Up And Drive Your Funky Soul - James Brown (Slaughter's Big Rip-Off, 1973)

King George - Roy Ayers (Coffy, 1973) 

Hot Wheels (The Chase) - Badder Than Evil (Gordon's War, 1973)

Can You Dig It? (Working Music) - Don Costa (The Soul Of Ni**er Charley, 1973)

Shaft In Africa (Addis) - Johnny Pate (Shaft In Africa, 1973)

Lay It On Your Head- Don Julian (Savage, 1973)

Theme From Cleopatra Jones - Joe Simon (Cleopatra Jones, 1973)

Mama Feelgood - Lyn Collins and The J.B.'s (Black Caesar, 1973)

The Boss -James Brown (Black Caesar, 1973)

Brothers Gonna Work It Out - Willie Hutch (The Mack, 1973)

Give Me Some Of That Good Old Love - Willie Hutch (Foxy Brown, 1974)

Lialeh - Bernard Pretty Purdie (Lialeh, 1974) 

Theme From Together Brothers - The Love Unlimited Orchestra (Together Brothers, 1974)

Hung Up On My Baby - Isaac Hayes (Tough Guys, 1974)

Run Fay Run - Isaac Hayes (Tough Guys, 1974)

Flashbulbs - Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson (The Education Of Sonny Carson, 1974)

Easin' In - Edwin Starr (Hell Up In Harlem, 1974)

Keep On Movin' On - Martha Reeves (Willie Dynamite, 1974)

Parade Strut (Instrumental) - J. J. Johnson (Willie Dynamite, 1974)

Main Theme - Dennis Coffey and Luchi De Jesus (Black Belt Jones, 1974)

Mister Keyes - The Impressions (Three The Hard Way, 1974)

Boss Ni**er - Terrible Tom (Boss Ni**er, 1974)

Main Theme - Johnny Pate (Bucktown, 1975)

Sheba Baby (Vocal) - Monk Higgins & Alex Brown (Sheba Baby, 1975)

Mayor's Get Away - Rudy Ray Moore (Rudy Ray Moore Is "Dolemite", 1975)

Let's Do It Again - The Staple Singers (Let's Do It Again, 1975)

I'm Going Down - Rose Royce (Car Wash, 1976)

Car Wash - Rose Royce (Car Wash, 1976)

Mr. Jonathan - Gerald Lee (Black Shampoo, 1976)

Shake Down - Vic Ceaser (Bare Kuckles, 1977)

Theme From Big Time - Smoky Robinson (Big Time, 1977)

Youngblood (Livin' In The Streets) - War (Youngblood, 1978)


For many years, I mistakenly thought the songs below had originated from blaxploitation soundtracks. Would have felt about as comfortable as Bond up in Harlem if I had included them, but they're worth featuring here to see my error and a shameless excuse to say they're dope as hell, regardless:

Quincy Jones With The Don Elliott Voices - Money Runner
($, AKA The Heist soundtrack, 1972)

Michael Masser - My Hero Is A Gun
(Mahogany soundtrack, 1975)
Pam Grier - Long Time Woman
(The Big Doll House soundtrack, 1971)
Started with Pam and ended with Pam. Nice!

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Fell From Top Ten To Not Mentioned At All

Following on from Mark Kermode's appraisal of Jim McBride's Breathless (1983), perhaps the most rebellious contribution I can think of is that one time a movie critic voted for Carry On Up The Kyber in the B.F.I's Top 100 British Films list. It's the British equivalent of that time in Apocalypse Now (1979) Col. Kurtz came to the bonkers understanding when he was processing how the Vietcong hacking off the arms off inoculated children, was not only an act of defiance, but also a level of genius. I don't know about any mutilations, but any professional critic nominating a Carry On film and it making it on to a best British Films list, deserves a salute from me.

Scanning through the aforementioned list, along with other versions produced last year, by both Empire and Time Out, there's a bunch of utter shite any non-poncey movie lover could do without. However, what's interesting about these more recent lists, is they open the floodgates for more genre movies. They might be somewhat tokenistic to a degree, since they appear to be ranked very low and are there for the sake of filler. Meanwhile, the usual rogue's gallery of luvvy directors dominate these lists with multiple movies from their respective filmographies. Props to whoever voted for Theatre Of Blood (1973), though. Coincidentally, it's a film that pokes fun at the poetic demise of critics. Personally consider that as Vincent Price's greatest ever film.

This got me thinking, perhaps it's worth the time to make a Dada Debaser list of the 100 Best British Films. Examining the other lists, the criteria to qualify seemed to muddy the waters with a number of irregularities, e.g. co-production by a non-British studio. Googling took me to some government web document of guildlines, but here's the gist of what I got out of it (search notes, you're a life saviour):

  • A setting in the UK or a focus on British people abroad. 
  • A predominantly British cast. 
  • A storyline about some aspect of British life — past, present or future — or notably by, or based on a work by, a British author.  
  • The nationalities of scriptwriter, producer, director and, perhaps especially, the ‘investment’ seem less obviously significant.

That sounds like a fair guide to follow when coming up with worthy nominations.

From the three lists, I managed to tick through around 20-25 films I would agree with - at least at this very early stage. That might make the creation of a monumental list like this daunting to some, but it's certainly a worthy challenge. Get to put my money where my mouth is, and all that. Will keep working on this and get it finished and posted later this year. Word to Sidney Ruff-Diamond.

"Diamond in the back, sunroof top
Diggin the scene
With a gangsta lean, wooh"

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Hot Pants

Breathless (Jim McBride, 1983) 

Breathless vs. Breathless
(Kermode Uncut, 2010)

One of my favourite ever recurring put-downs, is the use of the 'Allo, 'Allo theme being played whenever a pompous contestant serves up a gallic platter on gastronomic gameshow Come Dine With Me. It's equally relevant here whenever Jean-Luc Godard is brought up in any kind of film discussion. I find Godard boring and utterly pretentious. His films are not for me. The only take aways I got were Anna Karina was mighty tasty back then, and a talking computer with throat cancer will have me reaching for the remote. That's it. Nothing more. Opted to revisit Jim McBride's remake of Breathless since it's a personal go to pick whenever superior remakes find their way in any movie discussion. 

Generally find the changes made over the original work a lot better for me; namely the leads' origins and the location are vice versa to Godard's film. Don't know about you, but eighties America looks way more appealing to me than sixties era France. Our remake's couple also happen to be far more stimulating than the other two dossers. I find Valérie Kaprisky's character, Monica far more endearing compared to Jean Seberg's Debbie Downer beatnik; also helps that she's smoking hot. Richard Gere's rock 'n' roll outlaw Jesse is what ultimately makes the movie such a joy to watch. How he can pull off wearing Rodney Dangerfield's tablecloth checkered trousers and still look cool doing it, defies all belief. It's also a remarkable achievment playing such a larger than life character, who might possibly be on the spectrum, infinitely less annoying than Jean-Paul Belmondo's wannabe American gangster from the original. Also, it helps matters that Richard Gere doesn't resemble a smoking chimp when taking puffs from a cigarette, either.

One of my favourite scenes between the two love birds is Jesse's explanation of the tragic plight of The Silver Surfer to Monica. It's one of the most intimate scenes between the couple and foreshadows events that occur later on. Jesse identifies with Mavel's Herald of Galactus because he sees himself as equally misunderstood. An example of which is displayed in a newstand scene early on in the film.

McBride's film makes excellent use of music, which really compliments Jesse's erratic persona. No real surprise that he would eventually direct the Jerry Lee Lewis biopic a few years later, since his music features so prominently. The biggest musical highlight for me however, is the incredible use of Link Wray & The Wraymen's Jack The Ripper incorporated to perfection in a car theft scene. 

This film deserves way more love, in my humble opinion. Glad that a respected critic like Mark Kermode was brave enough to put his neck on the chopping block back in the day and claim it was better than Godard's original. Only people who still feel outraged today by this statement are so far up Godard's arse that it puts Richard Gere's gerbil to shame. McBride's film is the superior version and will always be.

"My heart goes 'round and 'round
My love comes a-tumblin' down
You leave me
Ahhhhh, breathless-ah"

Sunday, January 16, 2022

My Philosophy

The Addiction (Abel Ferrara, 1995)

One of life's little mysteries (to me at least), is how some film makers are pushed to the forefront by various critics and media alike, while the rest of their peers are like crabs in the barrel. Talent, would undoubtedly be the answer one might say, but in the case of New York directors, the answer appears to be a little more complicated. I would go as far to say that some of them are placed on a considerably higher pedestal when compared to their contemporaries outside of the state. Take Abel Ferrara, a N.Y. film maker who started out via the exploitation film route: from notorious video nasty, Driller Killer (1979); to rape-revenge vigilante thriller Ms .45 (1981); and then to Fear City (1984), one of the zaniest entries in the cop sleaze trend of that era. Ferrara gets a free pass by critics with these scuzzier entries from the earliest period in his work. His transition from that phase to the next is perhaps where his most interesting body of work lies. One particular film I really want to discuss is his 1995 philosophical vampire tale, The Addiction.  

"Don't matter, just don't bite it" 

On one level, I find The Addiction borderline inaccessible, largely because a film that heavily references lauded philosophers like Jean-Paul Sartre, Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche is way beyond my personal comprehension; on another, I'm drawn to the film, because I find it an immensely stylish take on vampirism in cinema.  The film also exemplifies an era in horror movies which I largely considered was either dead, or at the very least, had gone underground. It's this sort of dichotomy that further extends to Ferrara's body of work. He's an artist that flirts between the blurred lines of genre movie and highbrow film. If anything, I would cheekily label him the Michael Crawford of New York filmakers - started out as popular slapstick entertainment like Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, and then went on to critical acclaim with a poncey Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. The Addiction is hardly a unique film, since film makers like Jean Rollin and Jesus Franco had been doing existential horror for a couple of decades before The Addiction. Themes like love, death and immortality aren't exactly anything new in horror  movies either, but I do find it interesting that this and both Shooter McCrae's Shatter Dead and Michele Soavi's Dellamorte Dellamore (AKA, Cemetery Man), all contain similar themes and were released between the years '94 and '95. The subject of philosophy isn't the only theme running in this film either. Drug addiction is obviously apparent, with some scenes of vampirism resembling a shooting-up session - syringes et all. Strangely enjoyed those scenes the most, probably because it was less of a headache to process than the psycho-babble.

Beautifully shot in high contrasting black and white, I find it reflects the juxtaposition of different cultures and classes in New York City's social melting pot. An observation not uncommon in Ferrara's earlier films, either. It's especially evident when he has our film's protagonist, Kathleen Conklin, a philosophy student, played by Lili Taylor, who mixes it up between her scholary bourgeois social circle and with common street corner urchins like Fredro Starr, or homeless junkies. The two worlds aesthetic is developed even further when Kathleen gets bitten by a vampire and she transitions into the undead - rockin' shades like Eazy E. Speaking of which, I usually don't like contemporary music in serious horror films, but given the context and location of this film, it genuinely works here. 

"I taught you how to blood suck, and ultimately self destruct"

Supporting cast is provided by a recognisable bunch of actors from The Sopranos, along with a scene stealing performance by Christopher Walken, as a sagely vampire. As mentioned earlier, Fredro Starr is also in this. The scene where he holds hands in the street with Kathleen is particularly hilarious to me; simply because he looks like a little kid in his oversized clothes and the scene resembles a child and its mother walking to school, rather than him being a blac vagina finda. With the very short hair, Annabella Sciorra looks way less attractive as the vampire Casanova compared to anything before and after this film. I suppose it works within the context of the film, considering she's no longer supposed to be human, but it's always bothered me when a beautiful woman intentionally opts for the emaciated look.

Perhaps it was because of pre-millennium jitters, but The Addiction came out at an interesting time in creative media; distortion and decay were prevailing themes. From music, film, art and graphic design, Ferrara's The Addiction follows this trend remarkably well, as mid-nineties New York City looks positively dickensian compared to shots of it today. This is largely why I selected this movie out for a revisit above any of his other works. It was also a way to cleanse my palate after Ferrara's horrificly bad Zeros And Ones topped my list of Worst Films I Watched in 2021

The Addiction (Peina scene)
(Abel Ferrara, 1995)

Perhaps I'm commiting a cardinal sin for liking this film for all the wrong reasons. Reading and watching more credular reviews of The Addiction has me feeling like Kaspar Hauser for not accepting it the correct way. Still, it doesn't dissuade my appreciation of it, if anything I think it's one of Ferrara's better films (but no my favourite, though), from the ones I have seen at least. It's the comprimise that caters to both a trash movie aficionado like myself and the snooty Criterion crowd. Shame he catered to the latter category later on.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Quiet On Tha Set

The Great Silence (Sergio Corbucci, 1968)

It's fair to say the swingin' sixties was entering a seismic comedown in 1968, as represented by a wave of downbeat films like, Rosemary's Baby, Night of the Living Dead and Planet of the Apes. Across the continent, the spaghetti western genre was already in full stride, approaching critical peak with a string of personal faves, If You Meet Sartana Pray For Death, Kill Them All And Come Back Alone and of course, Sergio Leone's epic cinemagasm Once Upon A Time In The West. The genre itself had breathed new life into a tired old format by deconstructing familiar archetypal figures and values into much grayer areas. It was the era of the antihero. Amongst those antiheroes was Sergio Corbucci's mute protagonist Silence, featured in his snow-swept, doomer classic The Great Silence.


 Casting prolific French actor Jean-Louis Trintignant as the titular antihero, appeared to be an intentional masterstroke, since his lack of knowing the native lingo forced him to play out the role as a mute. This let Tritignant show off his acting prowess with some superb facial acting. Visually speaking, of all the most recognisable characters from the spaghetti western genre, Silence is definitely up there, since his dark winter clobber are in stark contrast to the lighter clothing of his peers. No idea what that hairy monstrosity which is sprouting from beneath his heavy black coat is, but it looks like it's the same material as Pete Burns' gorilla fur coat, making him appear all the more stiking. What's easily the most identifiable item related to Silence, is his ultra cool Mauser C96, replete with its innovative gun holster, that also serves as a shoulder rest. Love the design of this semi-automatic pistol, and it actually dates itself correctly with the film's 1898 setting.

Corbucci didn't drop the ball with his supporting cast of actors, either; hiring an enviable league of spaghetti western veterans, ranging from Frank Wolff, Luigi Pistilli, Mario Brega, and of course arthouse and trash madman Klaus Kinski; as the film's major villain Tigrero (Loco, to the English dub headz). Venetta McGee also appears in one of her earliest roles, before even Blacula (1972), as Pauline the wronged woman, who hires Silence to exact her revenge.

The film is remarkably bleak throughout its run time, with the exception of two scenes: Gideon (Wolff) and Silence's bonding over some friendly target shooting; and Silence and Pauline's love scene, before everything goes to hell. I'm particularly fond and appreciative of the former scene, largely due to seeing our two sharpshooters take a brief respite from Snow Hill's doom and gloom, and have some fun for a bit. I also consider it fairly important, since we're seeing these two men represent a mindset that's completely alien to the rest of the film's male characters - a code of honour. It's this absence of any moral decency that makes Kinski's Tigrero one of the most compelling villains he's played, and he's played a hell of a lot of memorable villains. Corbucci's film subverts familiar tropes and cliches, and one of them is having the film's bad guys - Trigreo and his clique of bounty hunters, on the right side of the law. Another, is its take on capitalism, and how the amoral prosper from it, while the less fortunate are completely expendable. 

"I'm fouler than gats that don't bust when they supposed to"

Much like Corbucci's classic Django (1966), location plays an integral part in his film. Here, he swaps out the mud clogged town for knee deep snow, where Tigrero keeps his corpse bounties buried to remain fresh. Allegedly, Corbucci opted for snow this time around as he fancied a ski vacation in the Italian Dolomites. True or not, the location worked wonders as it helped cement the overall tone of the film. Much like Silence's iconic look, the location is also in stark contrast to many of its peers. Aside from the stetsons, you could almost be forgiven for mistaking it as David Lean's Doctor Zhivago (1965) - even Pistilli's character Pollicut is rockin' a ushanka. Hardly a coincidence that Tarantino was inspired heavily by the snow swept scenery of The Great Silence, as its evident in both of his westerns - Django Unchained (2012) and The Hateful Eight (2015).

Soundtrack duties were put in safe capable hands with il maestro, Ennio Morricone handling the music. His compositions are way more nunanced than some of his other western soundtracks produced around the same time. This feels way more melancholic and subtle, but still of a high standard. Morricone even has flourishes of the avant-garde by incorporating more exotic sounds, like sitar strings. Big fan of both the angelic harmonies from the main theme and the rousing Barbara E Tagliente with its quintessential Morricone style guitar riff.

Ought to come clean and reveal I always find myself holding back the feels on this one, especially the film's sobering finale. Much like me watching The Great Escape (1963) and wishing for Steve McQueen's Hilts to make it over the barbwire fence on his motorbike, I find myself wishing Silence takes down Trigrero and his band of killers like a true badass, and then rides off into the sunset. Alas, there isn't a coffin containing a gatling gun here to save the day. It was never meant to be. Silence walks to the saloon with the knowledge of his impending fate. We're presented with the shockingly brutal demise of our film's protagonist; along with his love interest and a grip of townsfolk butchered in cold blood. Daybreak hits and Trigrero and the rest of his mob leave the town triumphant. Worth noting that Corbucci did have the forsight in predicting the possible flack he would receive for his downbeat ending and shot a happier alternative; which sadly does not work at all, and really undermines the film's original submersive intention. Poncey film critics might interpret the film's ending completely different to me, but I see the change from night to day as a metaphor for the oncoming twentieth century; honour, as represented by gunfighters like Gideon and Silence is a trait from a bygone time, while the early dawn rays of the sun represent a bountiful era for greedy and ruthless men like Tigrero.

Worth pointing out that The Great Silence, or as film maker and ex-Moviedrome presenter Alex Cox calls it (and approximately sixty million Italians), Il grande silenzio, could be seen as a predecessor and purveyor of the intense damage and destruction felt by various film protagonists evident in seventies and early eighties cinema - particularly, within the New Hollywood scene. Way too young to go into it with any real first hand knowledge, but I see The Great Silence and its pessimistic ilk as part of a symptomatic legacy attributed to all the social and political upheavel around the globe at that time; a mass existential crisis, if you will. Feel like I've rambled on about this film way too much, but it's worth it. All armchair analysis aside, The Great Silence is one of the greatest westerns ever made, in my honest opinion. 

The Great Silence (Masters of Cinema Trailer)
(Sergio Corbucci, 1968)

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

The Moment I Feared

The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water
(Central Office of Information Advertisement, 1973)
Had revered head-shrinks Freud and Jung been around today, there's a good chance they would have been working overtime with all the forty-somethings affected by the Central Office of Information's fear campaign. Masquerading as public information films, a liteny of short child safety videos were engineered by some of the most twisted minds ever to get behind a camera.

Perhaps the most notorious of these public information films is the The Spirit of Dark & Lonely Water, a cautionary tale of the perils of swimming in watey fly tips; featuring a ghostly robed figure and chillingly narrated by the late great Donald Pleasance. Worth noting there's an early appearance of class of '82, Grange Hill alumni Benny in that film.

These public information films would often be aired on TV during the school holidays for maximum traumatic effect on the kids. Everything from crossing a road, riding an escalator, holding a firework sparkler, to retrieving a frisbee by breaking into electrical substations was covered. 

A series of six crudely animated short films featuring a cat called Charley would have a major cultural influence on my generation in the nineties; as The Prodigy would incorporate vocal samples for their song Charly. This helped kickstart a wave of copycat rave songs which sampled kids shows of yesteryear to the self-medicating masses. If anything, people were far more likely to break into substations, or take a dip in raw sewage while trippin' off their nuts at that particular time, than they were as kids in the seventies and eighties.

Broken Glass
(Central Office of Information Advertisement, 1973)
The one that terrified me the most was Broken Glass. A short film about the potential dangers of running barefoot on the beach. Perfect ad, since it's much shorter than many of its peers, but gets its message across incredibly effectively; leaving the final scene to eternally play out in our minds. If Jaws had people scared of going into the sea, Broken Glass had me not wanting to go near any beach. This short film has remained stored in the old noggin ever since, but it still resurfaces everytime I'm at the beach.
When the Coalition government tookover the reins in 2010, the Central Office of Information was seen as an unnecessary marketing expense, and by the following year, it finally closed its doors. Seriously doubt my mind will ever close its doors on Broken Glass, however.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

101 Best Non-Rap Singles Of The 90s

When Rap guru and #1 Neighbours fan The Martorialist unveiled his 101 best non-Rap singles of the 1990s list, it had awoken stuff in the basement for me. The nineties was a pivotal decade for many a Gen X'er; going from school, to college, to university and then onto career - that would leave a mental imprint on anyone. The music of the era became a soundtrack to a particular time in my life; some songs I remember fondly, while other tunes make me cringe with regret.

The task of compiling a list of 101 singles was arduous to begin with: for one, Rap music was way more prominent to me than any other genre, so selecting other music was much tougher than I initially realised; secondly, a lot of songs which I may have liked back then, have either aged poorly, or have been played to death. Always loathed the term 'guilty pleasure', but I'm not sure whether that's hypocritical, or not with some of my picks. I do love the songs, regardless. Blame nostalgia, I guess.

Been tinkering with this list for a far too significant amount of time, to the point I'm dizzy. It hasn't changed too drastically from its earliest incarnation; a few new songs here or there, I did find myself swapping song, but keeping the same artist more than just a couple of times, however. Think it's more than about time to just let it go now.

 Julee Cruise - Falling (1990)

Adamski - Killer (1990)

The Family Stand - Ghetto Heaven (Soul II Soul Remix) (1990)

Young Disciples - Apparently Nothin' (Soul River Mix) (1990)

En Vogue - Hold On (1990)

DNA feat. Suzanne Vega - Tom's Diner (1990)

Saint Etienne - Only Love Can Break Your Heart (1990)

Beats International - Dub Be Good To Me (1990)

Bell Biv DeVoe - Poison (1990)

AC/DC - Thunderstruck (1990)

Prince & The New Power Generation - Gett Off (1990)

Danzig - Long Way Back From Hell (1990)

Jane's Addiction - Been Caught Stealing (1990)

INXS - Suicide Blonde (1990)

The Charlatans - The Only One I Know (1990)

Divinyls - I Touch Myself (1990)

Deee-Lite - Groove Is In The Heart (1990)

Primal Scream - Loaded (1990)

Happy Mondays - Step On (1990)

Guns N' Roses - You Could Be Mine (1991)

Metallica - Enter Sandman (1991)

R.E.M. - Losing My Religion (1991)

Red Hot Chilli Peppers - Give It Away (1991)

Bomb The Bass - Winter In July (1991)

The Future Sound Of London - Papua New Guinea (1991)

Massive Attack - Unfinished Sympathy (1991)

The Source & Candi Staton - You Got The Love (Original Bootleg Mix) (1991)

Audio Deluxe - 60 Seconds (George James Original Instrumental Mix) (1991)

Liquid - Sweet Harmony (1991)

Sonz Of A Loop Da Loop Era - Far Out (1991)

M.A.N.I.C. - I'm Comin' Hardcore (1991)

N.R.G. - I Need Your Lovin (N.R.G. Original Mix) (1992)

SL2 - On A Ragga Tip (1992)

The Cure - Friday I'm In Love (1992)

Motörhead - Hellraiser (1992)

Iron Maiden - Fear Of The Dark (1992)

Ragga Twins feat. Junior Reed - Shine Eye (1992)

The Criminal Minds - Baptised By Dub (1992)

Black Sabbath - TV Crimes (1992)

The Prodigy - Out Of Space (1992)

Baby D - Let Me Be Your Fanatasy (1992)

The Beloved - Sweet Harmony (1992)

Sade - No Ordinary Love (1992)

S.W.V. - Right Here (Remix) (1992)

Mary J. Blige - Real Love (1992)

Stereo MC's - Connected (1992)

The Brand New Heavies - Dream On Dreamer (1993)

Sting - Shape Of My Heart (1993)

Lenny Kravitz - Are You Gonna Go My Way (1993)

Therapy? - Screamager (1993)

Björk & David Arnold - Play Dead (1993)

Soundgarden - Black Hole Sun (1993)

Janet Jackson - That's The Way Love Goes (1993)

M-Beat feat. General Levy - Incredible (1994)

Ini Kamoze - Here Comes The Hotstepper (1994)

Leviticus - Burial (1994)

TLC - Creep (1994)

Portishead - Sour Times (1994)

Kylie Minogue - Confide In Me (1994)

Weezer - Buddy Holly (1994)

Oasis - Whatever (1994)

Elastica - Connection (1994)

Rocket From The Crypt - On A Rope (1994)

Adina Howard - Freak Like Me (1994)

Alex Reece - Pulp Fiction (1995)

Dubstar - Stars (1995)

Groove Theory - Tell Me (1995)

Adam F - Circles (1995)

PJ Harvey - Down By The Water (1995)

Garbage - Only Happy When It Rains (1995)

Rob Dougan - Clubbed To Death (Kurayamino Variation) (1995)

Radiohead - Street Spirit (Fade Out) (1996)

DJ Shadow - Midnight In A Perfect World (1996)

Oribital - The Box Part 2 (1996)

Sneaker Pimps - 6 Underground (1996)

Daft Punk - Around The World (1996)

Mark Morrison - Return Of The Mack (1996)

Mansun - Wide Open Space (1996) 

No Doubt - Don't Speak (1996)

Erykah Badu - On & On (1996) 

Blackstreet feat. Dr. Dre & Queen Pen - No Diggity (1996)

The Dandy Warhols - Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth (1996)

White Town - Your Woman (1997)

Lamb - Gorecki (1997)

Smoke City - Underwater Love (1997)

Love Corporation - Cathedrals Of Glitter (Monkey Mafia Mix) (1997)

The Chemical Brothers - Elektrobank (1997)

Roni Size Reprazent - Brown Paper Bag (1997)

Air - All I Need (1998)

Eagle-Eye Cherry - Save Tonight (1998)

The Cardigans - My Favourite Game (1998)

The Karminsky Experience Inc. - Exploration (1998)

Stardust - Music Sounds Better With You (1998)

Armand Van Helden feat. Duane Harden - You Don't Know Me (1998)

Moloko - Sing It Back (Boris Dlugosch Mix) (1998)

Artful Dodger & Romina Johnson - Movin' Too Fast (1998)

Jamiroquai - King For A Day (1999)

Leftfield - Phat Planet (1999)

Fatboy Slim - Right Here, Right Now (1999)

DJ Luck & MC Neat - A Little Bit Of Luck (1999)

Death In Vegas - Dirge (1999)

Nightmares On Wax - Les Nuits (1999)

Kind of broke the fundamental rule of 'singles' by including Iron Maiden's Fear of the Dark, since it was never released officially as a single, at least, not the studio version, but it is perhaps one of their best songs, IMO. They were always an album band, anyway. A last hurrah for traditional metal, by my reckoning.

Hated Britpop with a passion back in the day, but I've certainly mellowed to it over the years. Elastica and Oasis wouldn't have even gotten a look-in by my younger self back then, but I genuinely feel some of the Britpop has aged better in comparison to some of the non-listed songs I used to bump back in the day. 

Soundgarden's Black Hole Sun is probably one of the few songs out of Seattle I like that isn't by Jimi Hendrix or Sir-Mix-Alot. Still loathe Grunge to the nth degree, though.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Juvenile Hell

Beat Girl (Edmond T. Gréville, 1959)

What we're gonna do right here is go back, way back, back into time. When the only people that existed were beatniks and squares. Edmond T. Gréville's British morality tale centred around spoilt, little, Kensington girl Jennifer (Gillian Hills) Linden, is a fascinating time capsule into the proto-hippies of the late fifties and early sixties. Jennifer's routine mostly consists of cotchin' in a greasy spoon with her dosser mates and listening to popstar teen idol Adam Faith strum his guitar in between rounds of milk. Jen isn't too happy with her father, since Daddy-O returned home after a long absence with his twenty-four year old, brand-spanking new French bride, Nichole. Described as "ancient", by Jen and her chums, she's livid that she now has a new stepmother and is determined to give her a tough time. She comes up trumps as she discovers mère dukes, was a "peeler" (stripper) back in the day. From there, the film switches up a gear as our right little tearaways go raving at her swanky crib and in subterranean caves. Remarkably, it's actually way cooler than that veritable crustyfest like in Matrix Reloaded (2003). Jen and chums also take time out to play "chicken the rail", by placing their noggins on a train track before an oncoming train. Splendid.

The supporting cast are a recognisable bunch of British actors from past and present. Shirley Anne Field and that bloke who was in The Mark of Satan; one of the better episodes of Hammer House of Horror, complete Jen's teen cypher. The legendary Oliver Reed has a very minor role as a rival beatnik. The always excellent, Nigel Green plays a marvellously entertaining master of ceremonies, and then you have the G.O.A.T, Christopher Lee as the sleazy club owner of Les Girls, with the most British sounding name ever - Kenny King. Edgar Wright's Last Night In Soho was amongst my favourite films from last year, so it's worth noting that the strip club featured in it took obvious inspiration from Les Girls, in both the exterior and interior scenes. 

"Wondering whether to have a burger or chips
Or what the shrapnel in my back pocket could afford"

Got to admit, I was a little uncomfortable seeing Christopher Lee playing a character trying it on with Jailbait Jennifer. The man was practically like a grandfather to me during my childhood, so it comes as a shock to the system seeing him perform a scene like that. Can't honestly say the same for his acting peers, with the notable exception of the gentleman of horror, Peter Cushing; the ying to Lee's yang. The Cush however, did stray from his moniker at times, like that time he offscreen raped Veronica Carlson in Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969), and then there was his out-of-turn lead role in the utterly depraved Eyes Without A Face (1960) rip-off, Corruption (1968). Edmond T. Gréville and Christopher Lee teamed up a year later with a remake of The Hands of Orlac. That's not the only occurrence of Beat Girl's cast and crew working in other film's, since Shirley Anne Field and Oliver Reed appeared together in Hammer's 1963 sci-fi chiller The Damned. It was a much smaller network back then.

The one character that rubs me the wrong way is Jennifer's dad. Poppa Linden should have taken a page from Tony Soprano's book when laying down the rules to his daughter, and he is the major reason Jennifer turned out to be such an annoying brat. Being a successful busy architect, he seems to be away a lot, so he's either chasing French women with tattooed-looking eyebrows, or trying to realise his life's work - a post-modern city that reminds me of the ghetto flats in Highbury & Islington from my youth. The 3D model of his passion project always gets the loudest laugh from me in this film, since Dad's ego is far too big to see through the urban shithole it would be by the seventies. Jennifer calling him out on this project might be her biggest saving grace in sympathy I have for her. She deserved better from him. Money can't buy love and all that.

"She young as shit, should I hit it?
Man fuck it, I'm horny (you dirty old man)"

Admittedly, Beat Girl was not a film that grabbed me initially, but I found it an interesting curiousity over the years and became a fan after repeated viewings. It serves as an amazing look into an era of Britain that's always appealed to me; since my earliest Gen X memories of London were never transferred accurately to screen until witnessing John Landis' classic An American Werewolf in London (1981) and Dio's Rainbow in the Dark music video. Beat Girl predates all that and that's its major draw; accurate, or not. The portrayal and representation of rebellious youth in film has always been a major interest to me, largely because they are prime visual examples of the generational divide in modern human history. Obviously, Beat Girl is an exploitative example, tapping into juvenile deliquency and titalation, but I still find it a fascinating introspective into the teen angst of the Post-War generation (before they veered off into insufferable hippies); a generation that tended to berate and look down on Gen X'ers, like myself. We get to see some of that Baby Boomer psyche, and even if they're jive-talkin' beatniks, that's still a worthy reason to dig this movie out.

Gillian Hills went on to have minor appearances in Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up (1966) and Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange (1971), but she eventually landed a major role in the Spanish giallo (should be called amarillo, am I right?) The Killer Wore Gloves (1974). Kind of kicking myself, since I used to have a bootleg DVD of it back in the day and lost it. Barely remember much of it, but I think it's the film where you hilariously see mountains in the backdrop for a film supposedly set in London. Here's hoping one of the boutique labels release a quality print of it, instead of it being only available via age-restricted blurry YouTube videos.

Finally, there seems to be a bit of confusion with Beat Girl's release date. The BFI state it as a 1959 film, while the likes of IMDb and every other resource site have it up as 1960. Based on the Gillian Hills supplemental interview on the BFI blu-ray, she states she was around fourtheen at the time of filming, which falls in line with the BFI date. From what I can gather, the film was submitted to the BBFC in 1959, but didn't gain a national release until 1960, without major cuts made to it. Opted to categorise it as a product of the fifties, otherwise I would have had to include Rocky IV: Rocky vs. Drago as a 2021 movie if I didn't stick to this same principle. Anyhow, who am I to argue with the British Film Institute over the release date of a Brit flick? Wouldn't be cool, Daddy-O.

Beat Girl (Chicken scene)
(Edmond T. Gréville, 1959)