Thursday, March 31, 2022

Viewings: March 2022


Harry Kümel's fantasy horror, Malpertuis was my favourite discovery this month. Crazy seeing the same actor from the utterly disturbing Born For Hell (1976) in the same film as Orson Welles. Here's the obligatory part where I would be wishing for one of the boutique film labels to release the film with a lavish remastering and top quality extras, but considering the prices they're charging lately, I would probably have to sell a kidney just to cop one. Only other Kümel film I've seen is Daughters of Darkness (1971), so he's two for two for me before diving into the rest of his filmography.
 
Also really enjoyed Kwon Oh-seung's cat and mouse style thriller Midnight and Jesse V. Johnson's WWII actioner Hell Hath No Fury from last year. Both somewhat ludicrous, but found them highly entertaining nonetheless. 
 
Surprising amount of vintage horror smut this month.

Film

Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958)

I Start Counting (David Greene, 1969)*

The Devil's Nightmare (Jean Brismée, 1971)*

Malpertuis (Harry Kümel, 1971)*

Wake in Fright (Ted Kotcheff, 1971)

French Connection II (John Frankenheimer, 1975)

Draguse or the Infernal Mansion (Patrice Rhomm, 1976)*

Le bijou d'amour (Patrice Rhomm, 1978)*

Dracula Sucks (Philip Marshak, 1978)*

Deadly Games (Scott Mansfield, 1982)*

Corruption (Roger Watkins as Richard Mahler, 1983)*

After Hours (Martin Scorsese, 1985)

The Believers (John Schlesinger, 1987)

Tales From the Hood (Rusty Cundieff, 1995)

Shadow of the Vampire (E. Elias Merhige, 2000)

Trouble Every Day (Claire Denis, 2001)*

Drag Me To Hell (Sam Raimi, 2009)

Hell Hath No Fury (Jesse V. Johnson, 2021)*

Madam Claude (Sylvie Verheyde, 2021)*

Midnight (Kwon Oh-seung, 2021)*

Spider-Man: No Way Home (Tom Watts, 2021)*

All My Friends Hate Me (Andrew Gaynord, 2022)*

The Seed (Sam Walker, 2022)* 

Fresh (Mimi Cave, 2022)*

Studio 666 (B.J. McDonnell, 2022)*


Television

 Mastermind - Episodes 25-29 (Bill Wright, 2021/2022)*

Peaky Blinders - Episodes 1-5; Season 6 (Steven Knight, 2022)*


* First time viewings.

 

Dada Debaser Notes:

  • Found Fresh to be a completely derivative and tonally incosistent horror comedy. Could have been great if this was helmed by someone more capable. Solely focused on subversion for the sake of it.
  • Surreal seeing Reggie Nalder (albeit credited under a pseudonym) in Dracula Sucks with recognisable golden era pornstars. Turns out some of them have some real acting chops. Not surprised Brian De Palma initially cast Annette Haven for his film, Body Double (1984), before having to give the part to Melanie Griffith.
  • Did not expect to hear a rip-off version of Morricone's theme to The Thing in a vintage pornographic film like Roger Watkins' Corruption
  • Think I've mined every worthwhile slasher from the golden era, as all I've found have been duds like Deadly Games ever since. Still hoping in vain for some long lost classic to be unearthed.
  • Best thing about Foo Fighters' splatter comedy, Studio 666, was John Carpenter's opening theme and the Lionel Richie cameo.
  • Embarrasingly watched the wrong Madame Claude film (meant to watch Just Jaeckin's version). This recent version makes the same mistakes many biopics and period dramas have been making all too often, as they're heavily reliant on the hair, make-up and wardrobe department - f**k everything else! Tired of directors shoving their entire Spotify playlist in their movies, too.
  • Wasn't won over by Spider-Man: No Way Home, but then again I'm not a zoomer who gets giddy over a meme reference shoved in a movie. Did enjoy seeing Willem Dafoe again and those cool end credits, though.
  • Woeful as it was, The Seed gets a point for fooling me into thinking it was an American film. All three actresses fared better with their fake American accents than Ewan McGregor ever did.
  • Can't believe both of my favourites from this season of Mastermind got knocked out in the very same episode. Farewell, Paul Risebury-Crisp 🤓 and Patrick Wilson
  • Already have a one and done dedicated post about The Oscars this month, but it was hard to escape from the big shock this year:
 

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Viva Las Vargas

Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958)

 
Like a rubberball, Dada Debaser likes to bounce from one film genre to the next. Restricting one's self to just one area feels somewhat crippling in this day and age, especially whenever movie heads' appreciation for film (except musicals and French New Wave - that lot can burn!) comes at the expense of tunnelvision. Cue Dada Debaser's first classic film-noir, Orson Welles' Touch of Evil; a film that appeals to your humble host and moronic film critics alike.
 
Opted to go the same route as I did for Bob Clarke's Black Christmas (1974), since listing an assortment of what I like about the movie, rather than regurgitating the walls of sycophantic text of by the big wigs.

Touch of Evil (Opening Sequence)
(Orson Welles, 1958)

Crane Technique
Whenever Touch of Evil is ever brought up in any film discussion, without fail the long crane shot from the opening sequence will get an obligatory mention; deservedly so, I would add. Huge fan of this immersive opening sequence as it lets all the on screen action do the story telling. A logistical and technical headache made all the more difficult by the border guard actor's repeated bumbling of words. In the end he just silently moved his mouth while his dialogue was dubbed in post-production. Doesn't get mentioned as much, but I'm particularly fond of the infamous driving sequence from the film, too.
 
Shorty Wanna Be a Shutterbug
Other than the aformentioned infamous crane shot, there aren't that many actual overhead shots featured in the film. The majority of it is comprised of dutch angles, extreme close-ups and low shots; one could almost imagine that the film was shot by a crew of munchkins. Along with the highly contrasting black and white lighting, it gives the film a claustrophobic and slighly disorientating feel to it. It's perhaps the biggest reason why the film's somewhat convoluted plot feels completely secondary to me, in comparison to all the amazing visuals that unfold on the screen. An almost Faustian style bargain that would become evident in many of the Italian gialli a few years later down the line.
 

Big Bad Hank
Captain Hank Quinlan, a repugnantly obese, all-star lawman played by the larger than life, Orson Welles is the film's antagonist. As the film moves along, it becomes abundantly clear that the focus isn't really on Mike Vargas (Charlton Heston) and his wife, Sue Vargas (Janet Leigh) being caught up in a border town murder investigation, but about Quinlan's corruption and fall from grace. What's noteworthy about our antogonist, is his corrupt motive isn't financially driven, but his ignoble perversion in the pursuit of justice. This results in innocent individuals framed for crimes they did not commit and cold blooded murder. The line where he reveals his bitterness and ultimately gives his own prejudices away, can't be stressed enough how absolute power corrupts absolutely,"30 years of pounding beats and riding cars, 30 years of dirt and crummy pay. For 30 years, I gave my life to this department. And you allow this foreigner to accuse me! Answer, answer, why do I have to answer him? No sir! I won't take back that badge until the people of this county want me back!" Doubt Quinlan is the first bent lawman portrayed in film, but Welles' character certainly appears as an archetypal template in popular culture in depicting one, for sure. 

Chuck Calling Orson
While completely problematic by today's standards, white actors playing other cultures and races was the norm back then, believe it or not. A major tarnish purported against Touch of Evil in our present era is Charlton Heston playing the film's Mexican protagonist, Miguel/Mike Vargas. Perhaps the biggest criticism is Heston adopting an obvious dark skin complexion, which is hard to defend, but Quinlan's old flame, Tanya, played by Marlene Dietrich, seems remarkably exempt from criticism for pulling the same stunt in the very same picture. Adapted from Whit Masterson's (a pseudonym for the partnership duo of authors, Robert Allison Wade and H. Bill Miller) novel Badge of Evil (1956), Heston's character was originally white and swapped to latino by Welles' screenplay adaptation. Additionally, Susie Vargas was originally latina in Masterson's novel. Kind of opens a can of worms since Akim Tamiroff was Armenian, so where do we go from here? Despite the controversy, Heston, Leigh, Tamiroff and Dietrich delivered great performances, regardless.
 
 
Motel Hell
Goes without saying that Janet Leigh has a poor track record with motels. In this particular instance, being trapped in a remote motel room while being terrorised by a gang of juveniles might be a damn sight better than how she wound up in Hitchcock's Pyscho (1960). However, there's the constant threat of her possibly being drugged and gang raped by juvies, which makes her ordeal seem incredibly distressing. One of those rare moments where I find myself shouting at Janet to get the hell out of there. What I found notably shocking was the female gang leader (Mercedes McCambridge) uttering the chilling line, "I wanna watch". Might be completely alone here, but it's a quote that I believe might have been referenced by Patsy in Mark L. Lester's Class of 1984 (1982). However, the real star at the Miramar Hotel is its mentally impeded night manager, as played by Dennis Weaver. The scene where he freaks out finding a used roach is laugh out loud hilarious.
 

 
Bugeye Boo!
The hotel scene where Quinlan kills Uncle Joe Grandi (Akim Tamiroff) while Susie Vargas is lying drugged and unconscious is perhaps my favourite sequence from the film. The music sounds from the club below and the tight kinetic edited framework of Quinlan murdering Grandi while Mrs Vargas is lying in a bed, drugged and unconscious, is cinematic gold to me. All the better once Susie wakes from her slumber and is greeted by the sight of Joe Grandi's dead bulging eyes above her. Kind of commiting cinematic blasphemy since I'm bringing up The Devil with the ping pong eyeballs from Jesús Franco's ridiculously trashy Devil Hunter (1980), but that's what Grandi's corpse reminds me of from that scene.
 
Welcome to the Party, Pal!
Being an unapologetic genre movie fan, the border town location appeals to me greatly: the neon lights; the clubs and bars; loose women and general sleazy vibe, tug at my heart strings like a Jane Austen novel does to hopeless romantics. 
 
 
The Conversation
Finally, there's the tense finale where Vargas is following Quinlan's bugged accomplice into incriminating the dishonourable captain. All the more suspenseful seeing Vargas hauling a big archaic recorder receiver with him under a bridge and stumbling around oil fields to stay in range of the wire tap.
 
Signing off, amongst Welles' directorial pictures that I've seen, I find myself torn between this and the more celebrated Citizen Kane (1941). There's plenty that Touch of Evil has that appeals to me greatly that Citizen Kane does not, since it caters far more to my tastes and sensibilites than any of his other films. It's great to see this film treated far more kindly in retrospect than upon its initial release, although that's far more to do with Universal's meddling with the finished product than any of Welles' doing. Just glad that Welles' original vision for the picture was finally realised decades later.

Dada Debaser Bonus:
Although taking liberties with historical authenticity like the BBC's Peaky Blinders series, one of my favourite scenes from Tim Burton's Ed Wood (1994), is the chance meeting at a bar of Hollywood's "worst director" with its best. The scene where Ed Wood (Johnny Depp) while dressed in drag and Orson Welles (Vincent D’Onofrio) start talking about film making, the pitfalls of the studio system and the reluctance in casting Charlton Heston in Touch of Evil is pure comedy to me. In truth, it was Heston who advised Universal to have Welles direct the film. Nevertheless, no matter how fictitious this scene is, it's still a wonderful moment from one of Burton's better films:
 
Ed Wood (Ed Wood meets Orson Welles Scene)
(Tim Burton, 1994)
 

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Bringing Out the Undead

It only took thirty years from one Coppola to another in delivering another unique incarnation of Count Dracula. Sure, Nicolas Cage isn't a stranger to blood sucking, but playing the son of Dracul is a way more flamboyant venture - and Cage has plenty of that to offer. Aside from being dressed like a gameshow host from the seventies, the obvious inspiration from Bela Lugosi's hair and make-up are more than apparent. There's also the quintassential pendant, which harkens back to the original prop and compliments the whole ensemble remarkably well.

Turns out the exclusive scoop photo is from Chris McKay's film Renfield, due to hit the theatres sometime next year. Red flags aplenty after discovering that this is meant to be a comedy and that annoying sidekick from Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) is in it. Will check it out for Cage eventually, though.

It's a good time to point out we're long overdue on a worthy adaptation of Count Dracula. Admittedly, to the annoyance of most discerning vampire fans, I quite enjoyed Universal's superhero stylings of Dracula Untold (2014) from its failed Monsterverse endeavour and found it far more entertaining than some of the other contemporary fare that was out there; such as Dario Argento's ridiculous, Dracula 3D (2012), or that atrocious Dracula (2020) miniseries from BBC/Netflix, which made the count a wisecracking cockney.

Since we're on the subject of the wildly unpredictable Nicolas Cage, his performance was really stellar in last year's Pig. Unfortunately, I found the pacing for the film a little too slow for my liking, but hats off for poking fun at all the Masterchefs in this world. The restaurant scene was a genuine chef's kiss moment:

Pig (Restaurant Scene)
(Michael Sarnoski, 2021)

Saturday, March 19, 2022

I'm a Convict... Get Me Out of Here!

Terminal Island (Stephanie Rothman, 1973)

Three months into the year and there still hasn't been a 2022 film to have me geeked for (did quite enjoy Hellbender, though). However, an oldie but goodie which I happened to discover this year is Stephanie Rothman's Terminal Island (1973), aka Knuckle-Men. The only other Rothman film I had seen prior to this was The Velvet Vampire (1971); a desert set vampire tale for New World Pictures. Rothman was a talented film maker and much like some of New Hollywood's notable directors, caught her break under the umbrella of producer Roger Corman. Disillusioned with the trappings of working on exploitation film, she went to Dimension Productions, Inc. with the assumption she would get the opportunity to make more intellectual films; turned out she was wrong, but we did get Terminal Island in the process.

Released in the very same year as Franklin J. Schaffner's Papillon, the prison island movie was hardly a new concept, but a draw to movie going crowds, nonetheless. Aside from a bunch of buxom women in daisy dukes, what appealed to me the most about Terminal Island were the two communities vying for power: one large camp ruled by Bobby, a tyranical despot, played by the actor who happened to be the disfigured Christopher Pike from the O.G. Star Trek (1965-1969), while the other camp consists of a nomadic handful of hippie blokes. In terms of writing, Terminal Island does have some notable similarites with the likes of John Carpenter's Escape From New York (1981) and Escape From L.A. (1996), even more so with Martin Campbell's underrated No Escape (1994). It's concept of a not too distant future where capital punishment no longer exists and thus murderers are sent to spend their rest of their lives to survive in the bush on a remote island, piques my interest greatly.

The film's cast is mostly composed of past and future cult TV actors: Don Marshal from Land of the Giants (1968-1970); Marta Kristen from Lost in Space (1965-1968); and Ena Hartman from Don August (1970-1971). There's also Elvis' sidepiece, Barbara Leigh, fresh from Sam Peckinpah's Junior Bonner (1972) and no stranger to prison films, Sweet Sugar (1972) herself, Phyllis Davis. Biggest name of all however is the moustachioed private dick Tom Selleck from Magnum, P. I. (1980-1988), who also happens to have his hench chopper pilot mate, T.C. (Roger E. Mosley) in tow. Kind of ironic how Tom Selleck's character, a junkie doctor wrongfully sentenced to the prison island, also happened to play another innocent man framed by crooked cops and sent to jail in the imaginatively titled An Innocent Man (1989), although not so innocent anymore after the shank scene, innit? A baptism of fire significantly reflected afterwards with Selleck's slicked back hairstyle. The rest of the cast of Terminal Island are your hirsute looking bunch of extras you would expect to see from the seventies; looking like their hair grooming took inspiration from either Tommy Iommi or Peter Sutcliffe as the de facto styles of choice.

Part survival drama, part actioner, this film has plenty to hold me down. With the insurmountable amount of denim on a par with Stezo's Crazy Noise levels on screen and modern day pots and pans, you could be forgiven for thinking it's a post-apocalyptic movie and these are the last vestiges of mankind. Also, prison island movies tend to feel less claustrophobic in comparison to their big slammer counterparts, so they tend to exude a different viewing experience altogether to a degree. It sets itself apart from similar movies that Jack Hill was delivering for Corman's New World Pictures, too. Not that I'm adverse to Hill's prison jungle films, it's just that Rothman's film has a different perspective altogether, despite the obvious visual and contextual similarities between them.

After a violent battle between the two warring factions, which results in a surprisingly high bodycount and a storage hut being blown up, peace finally descends upon Terminal Island. The survivors are now a friendlier bunch and working together. The closing scene of Milford's (Selleck) discovery that he has been acquitted for the crime he was wrongfully sentenced for and his choice to stay on the island, is a similar level of social commentary posed by Carpenter's Escape from L.A; freedom was there all along, or what have you. In the end damnation has become salvation for our motley crew of murderers. Good, innit?

I feel Terminal Island gets wrongfully boxed in with one of the more controversial subgenres in exploitation cinema - the W.i.P. film (aka Women in Prison). They were a popular style of film which usually abided to the formula: new girl is sent to a penetentiary; an alpha female runs the inmates; torture and murder; explicit nudity; possible lesbian romance; a sadistic warden; and of course, the inevitable prison breakout. They may be problematic in today's times, but if Dada Debaser is ever forced to choose a hill to die on, then it might as well go all out with Chained Heat (1983); part of the almost back-to-back Linda Blair classics trifecta from the eighties. Although Rothman's film does contain some nudity, it's rarely for salacious reasons, it's more so to highlight how the female characters are objectified and repugnantly forced into a life of sexual slavery by Bobby to keep his camp running. They're effectively treated as a commodity in his hippie commune. It's worth noting, once they're rescued from the nomadic rival group, the women are placed on an even pedestal to their male brethren - the daisy dukes are no more and bellbottom jeans become the legwear of choice. In any case, I heartily recommend Terminal Island, since it's one of those surprise films that delivered on many levels for me.

Terminal Island (Vinegar Syndrome Trailer)
(Stephanie Rothman, 1973)


Dada Debaser Bonus: 
While various film and entertainment sites might bore you to tears with the quintessential item wholly ingrained into popular fashion, e.g. Audrey Hepburn's black dress from Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), this blog is having none of that faux sophisticated nonsense. Denim shorts are so synonimous with Daisy Duke from The Dukes of Hazard that they're referred to by her name. Beat that, Audrey! Dada Debaser is a big fan of Bach (both Catherine and Barbara), and it's only right to include Catherine Bach here in this poorly conceived chronological history of the daisy dukes, sandwiched between Phyllis Davis' Sugar and our simpin' for Friday the 13th part 2's Terry McCarthy. Lemmy included for the sake of fairness and any of you out there lurking who might be so inclined. Honourable mentions to that charming lady from the Still D.R.E. video and the former Canuck hockey goalie with an OnlyFans account.
 

EDIT: Can't believe I had to rewrite this review after taking forever to get it done the first time. Blogger auto saved a small change I had made and suddenly the whole review disappeared. F**K!

Friday, March 18, 2022

Springtime for Debaser

The review game ain't like what it's cracked up to be, since it's been taking me forever to write what's essentially three poorly written short paragraphs so far for the next review. Early signs of Alzheimer's are more than likely; can barely remember anything I watched the night before. To make amends for this setback, here's me sharing the Dada Debaser playlist of random choons I've been bumpin' which got me through the winter duldrums and finally seeing those clear blue skies again.

Shout out to my two fave blogs: The Martorialist for putting me on to PinkPantheress and Ashton for the heads up on Tinashe's recent jam ('cause I hardly check Bloody Disgusting anymore).

 

Dada Debaser Winter Playlist 2021-22

Roger & The Gypsies - Pass The Hatchet (1966)

François de Roubaix - Les Dunes D'Ostende (1971, 2018)

Minnie Riperton - Reasons (1973)

Black Sabbath - Back Street Kids (1976)

Bruno Canfora - Dirty Gang (1976)

Pat Benatar - Heartbreaker (1979)

Sigue Sigue Sputnik - Love Missile F1-11 (1986)

Diana Brown & Barrie K. Sharpe - The Masterplan (12" American Mix) (1990)

Godfather Don - Homicide (1991)

Manic Street Preachers - Kevin Carter (1996)

Viktor Vaughn feat. Apani B. - Let Me Watch (2003)

Teedra Moses - Be Your Girl (2004)

Dizzee Rascal feat. U.G.K - Where's Da G's  (2007)

The Go! Team - Grip Like A Vice (2007)

Nneka - Heartbeat (Chase & Status We Just Bought A Guitar Mix) (2009)

F.O.O.L - SaharA (2012)

Roc Marciano - Rocky II (2012, 2019)

Geechi Suede feat. K Quick - Living It (Remix) (2012)

Prodigy X Alchemist - Curb Ya Dog (2013)

Carpenter Brut - Monday Hunt (2018)

Trish Toledo - Can't Wait To See You (2020)

2 Hungry Bros & Homeboy Sandman - Night Vision (2021)

Lukhash feat. Meredith Bull - Undying Breath (2021)

PinkPantheress - Pain (2021)

Yota - Blame Me (2021)

Tinashe - Naturally (2022)













Figured this would be way more productive than seeing all these other filmsites and critics having meltdowns over what's going on in the world. 

DL in the comments.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

But Robocop Last Year Was A Shock

60th Academy Awards (Pee-wee Herman, ED-209 & Robocop scene)
(1988)
 

It's about that time of the year where poor homeless people are kicked out of their make-shift shelters while insufferable celebrities roll in on the red carpet and give themselves a corporate reacharound. It's The Oscars, folks; the annual reminder that the Romans had it right with the treatment of their luvvies back then. The audacity of championing whatever cause is currently in vogue, while dressed to the nines in their obscenely expensive threads, is completely lost on these overpaid adult pretenders, but hey, I'm not here to talk about any of that malarkey; I'm here to share one great memory I have of the Academy Awards.

It's 1988 and The Oscars are an important time for this humble blogger since 1987 had a bumper crop of classic movies all deserving of an award by the industry: Predator, Evil Dead II, Hellraiser, Wall Street, Lost Boys, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, The Hidden, Opera, Stagefright, The Running Man, Lethal Weapon, Beverly Hills Cop II, Prince of Darkness, Bad Taste and Adventures in Baby Sitting. Unfortunately, none of those titles meant anything to poncey film snobs. One particular film, however, which undoubtedly left a cultural impact was Paul Verhoeven's sci-fi actioner, Robocop - part man, part machine, all classic. Lo and behold Pee-wee presenting an award for the best short film (live action) category and ED-209 gatecrashing the event. What ensues is a remarkably surreal scenario with Pee-wee flying off above the audience and Robocop firing laser bolts at his robotic foe. It was and still is a glorious moment from the Academy Awards. Perhaps the only positive memory when I'm reminded of this ridiculous shindig.

A pity Robocop, or any of the other movies I listed didn't win Best Picture, instead it was Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor; a film only remembered these days for being parodied that time on The Simpsons, when Homer was the prophecised chosen one by The Stonecutters. "Who rigs every Oscars night?" They do. They do.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Opinions Are Like...

When Film School Rejects announced Lana Wachowski's atrociously bad The Matrix Resurrections as their Movie of the Year 2021, you can bet it sparked plenty of ridicule. Not that I care about the obvious feedback over what was essentially a publicity stunt. Shameless sites reliant on rage clicks got to earn a bob or two to make a living, I guess. Dada Debaser is not adverse to putting its neck on the chopping block when it comes to contentious opinions. What's presented below is an assortment of twenty personal opinions which probably goes against the grain of the popular consesus:

1. Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980) is the only legitimate classic by the director. However, the film has one serious issue that rarely ever gets addressed: how are film connoisseurs going to pretend the "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" scene was not lifted from Henri-Georges Clouzot's Les Diaboliques (1955) and let it fly? At least Sergio Martino was honest enough to admit he pulled the same stunt in Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972), whilst Kubrick took it with him to the grave.
 
2. Daniel Craig's tenure as James Bond is the worst official portrayal of the British secret agent, surpassing George Lazenby's wooden performance, from his only outing in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969). Seeing Bond rebooted as an unrecognisable miserable wreck of a man over the course of five films has been disasterous in the long run and no doubt had Ian Flemming spinning in his grave.
 
3. The term 'feminist horror' is nothing more than a superflous division in the horror genre. Horror movies, regardless of merit, have always appealed to women, way before the buzzphrase was even coined. The term is nothing more than a marketing gimmick appeasing gullible pseudo-intellectuals who originally wrote off the genre due to their own ignorance.
 
4. Ken Loach's kitchen sink drama Kes (1969) has only one real highlight; the football match with Brian Glover's rough and tumble P.E. teacher. That's why it's the go to scene played whenever it's dragged into any discussion.

5. The only Paul Thomas Anderson film ever worth revisiting is Boogie Nights (1998).

6. John Carpenter's Escape From L.A. (1996) gets way too much undeserved hate. The fact that both critics and audiences weren't able to distinguish that it was equally a remix and sequel in a similar vein to Sam Raimi's Evil Dead II (1987), says more about them than it does for the film. It's also blessed with one of the most unequivocally cool endings ever.

7. The prayer scene from Enzo Milloni's largely inept and utterly sleazy, The Sister of Ursula (1978), is an unexpectedly powerful profound moment, thus granting it a greater level of appreciation from me than any of the overpraised Italian modernist scene, since it bodies anything I've witnessed by the likes of Antonioni or Fellini.

8. Still consider myself a fan, but Quentin Tarantino really should have retired way before his tenth film pledge. His films over the last two decades were in desperate need of an editor that didn't kiss his arse.

9. Both St. Trinian's (2007) and St. Trinian's 2: The Legend of Fritton's Gold (2009) are some of the best examples of modern reboots done right. They also happen to be the only movies other than Dellamorte Dellamore (1994) that redeem Rupert Everett's entire career.

10. With the exception of Raising Arizona (1987), all of the Coen Bros' movies feel massively overrated, cursed with abrupt and horrible endings.

11. The Terminator (1984), is still better than it's sequel, Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991). The reason why the sequel is embraced so highly over its predecessor, is the fact that it is the Year Zero movie for the millennial generation. They were around ten or eleven years of age at the time of its release, which made it all the more impressionable on them seeing Edward Furlong as one of their own (even though he's a Gen X'er and the film was set in 1995).

12. Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits (1981) is leagues better than his amusing take on Nineteen Eighty-Four with the film Brazil (1985) and has endless quotables.

13. Edgar Wright's Hot Fuzz (2007) is the best film in the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, as it's the only film where Simon Pegg does not act like a selfish and whiny manchild throughout the film. 

14. Christopher Nolan makes movies for dumb people that makes them feel intelligent. It's the reason why he is credited as an important auteur by reddit brainlets in r/movies and r/truefilm.

15. Matthew McConaughy received the right Oscar for the wrong film. It should have been for his performance as Vilmer in Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994).

16. Even if you combined the works of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton together, it still wouldn't be as good as Laurel & Hardy's films. Criterion not recognising this obvious fact, is the reason why the label and its army of clueless collectors will always be considered as a pretentious bunch of fools by me.

17. Franck Khalhoun's remake of Maniac (2012) is better than William Lustig's 1980 original version. A major reason why is Elijah Wood's Frank Zito. He is far more effective as a predator to women, since he oozes the vibe of a human cuttlefish without even trying. Spinell's Frank Zito being in a five block radius with Caroline Munro breaks all suspension of disbelief.

18. The only really worthwhile English language movies directed by Guillermo del Toro, are Mimic (1997) and Blade II (2002). 

19. Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira (1988), is a laboriously dull animated feature film and it's crazy finale feels too little too late to make amends. One of the most disappointing movie experiences I ever had.

20. The last decent Woody Allen film was nearly forty years ago with Zelig (1983). He has made nothing remotely entertaining since then.


EDIT - Genuinely surprised a real scholar not only uploaded onto YouTube a scene from The Sister of Ursula (1978), but the prayer scene, and in high definition. Automatically subbed.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

The Cold War, Daily Routine

The Iprcress File (Opening Credits Scene)
(Sidney J. Furie, 1965)

A superior example where the opening sequence of a film sets the whole tone and precedent for a film, can be witnessed in Sidney J. Furie's cerebral spy thriller, The Ipcress File (1965). 

Thanks to the success of the James Bond franchise in the sixties, it set into motion the trend for copycat spy adventure movies - Matt Helm, Derek Flint and Modesty Blaise, to name but a few. One standout from the pack was Len Deighton's anonymous working class protagonist, who first appeared in his debut novel, The Ipcress File

The film adaptation did away with the outlandish and ridiculous stylings of its peers, and focused on some of the mundane and beaurocratic nonsense its freshly christened hero, Harry Palmer, had to contend with amidst the dangerous realm of cold war espionage.

Michael Caine plays our hero and from the very onset, there's nothing glorious about it, as we the viewer are privvy to Palmer's mundane morning routine: waking up, prepping breakfast, browsing the airs and graces, and getting ready for work. What makes this scene steer from just good to great is John Barry's wonderful score. The laidback jazz theme has a novel complexity as the sound of a cymbalom instantly summons stereotypical images of beautiful Russian agents in mink fur coats, poison-tipped umbrellas and trips to Salisbury cathedral. It's complimented with a cheeky trumpet, which would not go amiss in a British Carry On... film. That is a combo that sums up the dichotic world of Harry Palmer to a tee; east meets west.

 

Dada Debaser Bonus:
Can't believe I watched Last Night in Soho (2021) more than a few times and I only just realised the opening notes from John Barry's Beat Girl was featured in the Jäger shots scene. Would have mentioned it in my Beat Girl (1959) review a while back, if I had:

John Barry - Beat Girl
(Beat Girl Soundtrack, 1960)

Sunday, March 6, 2022

A Trip To Transylvania

Peter Cushing - No White Peaks (Ravers Anthem)
(No White Peaks 12" Single, 1991)

You can call it a coincidence, but stumbling upon a rare oddity recorded by the G.O.A.T. Van Helsing, the very weekend which celebrates the centenary of the grand daddy of horror movies, feels like some preordained fate to me.

Originally penned by poet and lyricist, Peter Kayne, No White Peaks was inspired by his experience of seeing wounded servicemen from the Vietnam War, while touring at a military base in Suffolk. 

Peter Cushing recorded a sombre version of No White Peaks in 1991, which eventually wound up getting the remix treatment. Sounding pretty much like a discarded track on an old floppy disk left behind by Orbital, I can't say I'm a fan of the tune myself, but as far as novelties from yesteryear go, it's better than that techno song with bagpipes my mate Techno Terry would blast out while off his face.

Dada Debaser Bonus
Who rocked the BOY London cap better? The Cush or Elton John on T.O.T.P looking like one of the albino ghouls from The Omega Man?

Friday, March 4, 2022

Count to 100


Celebrating the one hundredth anniversary of one of the most influential films of all time, is worthy of a dedicated post here at Dada Debaser. F. W. Murnau's 1922 German Expressionist film Nosferatu – Eine Symphonie des Grauens, or to English language heads, Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (commonly abridged to just Nosferatu), cemented its legacy in the annals of cinema as one of the greatest horror films of all time. 

Won't even bother going into regurgiating details of its origin, production woes, or its legal problems with the Bram Stoker estate, but it's worth mentioning that its obvious deviation from the Dracula novel, made it a uniquely iconic entity in its own right. Also, the documented interest in occultism by its producer Albin Grau, was evident in many of the film's visual details, such as Hutter's contract papers. The ghoulish undead visage of Count Graf Orlok, played by Max Schreck has ingrained itself into popular culture since it first made its presence known exactly one hundred years ago this very day. You could travel into the deepest heart of the Amazonian Rain Forest, stumble upon the remotest tribe there, play a scene from the film on your phone, and they would probably successfully identify it as Nosferatu while tucking into some long pig. That's how recognisable it is.

On a personal tip, Nosferatu was perhaps the earliest film throughout the history of cinema that I actively sought out to watch from beyond my timeline and became my first foray into German Expressionism, without some pretentious film scholar demanding it. It wasn't just the grand daddy of vampiric horror, it was the very ancestor of an entire movie genre. It was the common element that bridged the gap between serious 'kino' *yawn* heads and horror fans like myself.

Happy Birthday, Nosferatu!

Dada Debaser Bonus:
The film received the remake treatment in 1979 by tougher than leather film maker Werner Herzog, who this time around managed to get permission from the Stoker estate to use the official character names. Herzog's Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (Nosferatu: Phantom of the Night), AKA Nosferatu the Vampyr miraculously emphasised the gloomy existance of Schreck's character, now called Count Dracula (Klaus Kinski) even further, by portraying him as an even more pathetic entity in comparison to the original. Isabelle Adjani being cast as Lucy Harker set into motion this lad's penchant for goth babes, which, in all honesty, is probably the reason why I slightly prefer the remake over the original to this day. Kinski returned to his role with Vampire in Venice (1988), which I never bothered with, since Herzog wasn't involved with it and I've been burnt by way too many of Kinski's movies, although the trailer does look pretty cool.
 
Hard to believe, but, E. Elias Merhige, the director of the completely bonkers Begotten (1989), helmed a fictional account of the making of Nosferatu, with the novel spin of Max Schreck being a genuine blood-sucker in the film Shadow of the Vampire (2000), causing all types of mayhem during the production. Featured in the film are acting luminaries John Malkovich, Udo Kier and Willem Dafoe in one of his most underrated performances, as the repugnantly creepy Max Schreck. A gothed-up Catherine McCormack, higher than graphics card prices, as Nosferatu's objet de désir, Greta Schröder, is another major hightlight from the film. The film is one of my favourite movies about movie making and well worth checking out.

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Yabba Dabba Roo!

"All the little devils are proud of hell."

Wake in Fright (Ted Kotcheff, 1971)

Kind of ironic how what's arguably the greatest Australian film ever happens to be directed by Ted Kotcheff, a Canadian film maker, while its main actors are a couple of English pommies - Gary Bond and Donald Pleasence. This dark psychological drama, revolves around the lost weekend of John Grant (Bond), a school teacher working in the sun-scorched Australian outback. Grant isn't too happy working in such a remote location, as he feels both physically and intellectually stifled by the region and its working class inhabitants. Matters get from bad to worse for him when he unfortuanately gambles away all his money, at a mining city known as Bundanyabba, AKA The Yabba, while on his journey to meet his girlfriend in Sydney. 

What's particularly great about Wake in Fright is how Grant's spiralling descent into hell plays out like a series of mini adventures, as he encounters a series of colourful characters and illuminating events along the way. This almost makes Grant's escapade seem somewhat whimsical. Especially fond of The Yabba's towering lawman, Jock, played by Chips Rafferty. There's a subliminal battle between the pair, as beneath the surface of aggresive social hospitality, Jock despises Grant's intellectual snobbery and relishes in Grant's declining mental and physical state, throughout their subsequent encounters. Kotcheff claims Rafferty refused to drink non-alcoholic beer like the rest of the cast, and drank the actual amber nectar for the sake of authenticity. Kotcheff claims that Rafferty was neckin' down around thirty pints a day. Strewth! 

 

The fictional Bundanyabba is actually Broken Hill, in New South Wales in real life. It's a region which was also used as a location for other Aussie film classics such as Mad Max 2 (1981) and Razorback (1984), not to mention the afternoon soap opera, The Flying Doctors (1986-1992). Much like Fulci's representation of New York City in The New York Ripper (1982), Kotcheff's realisation of daily life in The Yabba appears just as repressive and almost comes across like a character in itself. Water isn't fit for human consumption, hence alcohol is the main staple for its working class population. This booze culture is what alienates Grant at first, so it becomes fitting when he befriends the alcoholic Doc Tydon, a medical professional in exile from urban society. Drinking in The Yabba is the social norm, hence Doc can work and be the pillar of the community, while keeping his disease hidden.

The film is mired with some controversy as it shows the depiction of wild kangroos being sadistically hunted by Grant, Doc and a couple of rowdy lowts. It appears exploitative to some, but Kotcheff filmed a real culling he was privvy to and edited it in with his cast. That's way less reprehensible in comparison to the unsavoury practices going on with the burgeoning Italian jungle horror scene at the time. Credit to Anthony Buckley's editing for making one scene where Grant repeatedly stabs a poor kangaroo seem so disturbingly realistic. Even for an extreme movie veteran like myself, it's still remarkably unpleasant to watch. There's also the scene where Doc rapes Grant, which culminates in the latter's sanity going from bad to worse. Grant's nightmare becomes inescapable as he appears destined to wonder The Yabba broken and lost.

Kotcheff's Wake in Fright is one of those immersive films where you're immediately contemplating a hot shower after the end credits. You can almost feel the unpleasant taint of sweat and alcohol on your body. No matter how harrowing, for a film to deliver such an immersive experience, it's to be applauded. It's a major reason why this film is a personal favourite of mine from the seventies and the most Sam Peckinpah film Sam Peckinpah never made. The competency in capturing the male psyche with such aplomb, while simultaneously addressing both intellectual and class divisions is to be applauded. Fifty years later, it still delivers and doesn't feel dated at all. The film spawned a 2017 mini-series which I hardly even knew existed. Kotcheff went on to revisit the male psyche the following decade with the Sylvester Stallone blockbuster, First Blood (1982), a classic in its own right. 

Wake in Fright ( Grant Meets Doc Tydon scene)
(Ted Kotcheff, 1971)