Sunday, July 31, 2022

Viewings: July 2022

It's a good thing July's heatwave didn't last too long, since it became unbearable watching films during the hot nights.

Shinichi Fukazawa's ultra low budget Evil Dead and Evil Dead II rip-off Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell is this month's favourite discovery. Way too entertaining to get all mad over its ubiquitous biting. The cartoonish splatter violence, the crude stop-motion animation scenes, and the nonsensical use of a generic nineties club soundtrack all contribute to oodles of fun throughout its ridiculous short run time of just sixty-two minutes.

Also enjoyed a wave of unseen Spaghetti Westerns; particularly, Carlo Lizzani's Requiescant and Sergio Corbucci's The Specialists

No new releases bowled me over in the same way like previous months, but Alex Garland's Men and Yûgo Sakamoto's Baby Assassins were the closest alternatives.

 

Film

Sting of Death (William Grefé, 1966)*

Professionals for a Massacre (Nando Cicero, 1967)*

Requiescant (Carlo Lizzani, 1967)*

Trusting is Good… Shooting is Better (Osvaldo Civirani, 1968)*

The Specialists (Sergio Corbucci, 1969)*

Hey Amigo… Rest in Peace! (Paolo Bianchini, 1970)*

La casa de las muertas vivientes (Alfonzo Balcázar, 1972)*

Theatre of Blood (Douglas Hickox, 1973)

Bucktown (Arthur Marks, 1975)*

Turkey Shoot (Brian Trenchard-Smith, 1982)

Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell (Shinichi Fukazawa, 1995 / 2012)*

Uncle Sam (William Lustig, 1996)*

Night Vision (Gill Bettman, 1997)*

CQ (Roman Coppola, 2001)*

State Property (Abdul Malik Abbott, 2002)*

State Property 2 (Damon Dash, 2005)*

Silent Hill (Christophe Gans, 2006)

Black Dynamite (Scott Sanders, 2009)

Verotika (Glenn Danzig, 2019)*

Baby Assassins (Yûgo Sakamoto, 2022)*

The Black Phone (Scott Derrickson, 2022)*

Death Hunt (Neil Mackay, 2022)*

Frank & Penelope (Sean Patrick Flanery, 2022)*

The Gray Man (Anthony Russo & Joe Russo, 2022)*

Men (Alex Garland, 2022)*

Moloch (Nico van den Brink, 2022)*

 

Televison

Hip-Hop's Open Secret: Tim Westwood (Ruth Evans & Chi Chi Izundu, 2022)*

The Boys - Season 3 (Eric Kripke, 2022)*

Neighbours - Episode 18903 (Reg Watson, 2022)*

 

First time viewings*

 

Dada Debaser Notes

  • We lost some titans this month. Rest in peace James Caan, Tony Sirico, Paul Sorvino, David Warner, Bernard Cribbins and Nichelle Nichols.
  • In theory, a bloke in a wet suit with a bin bag for a head terrorising teens should be a slam dunk for my tastes, but the only notable element regarding Sting of Death is that ska song sung by Neil Sedaka.
  • The Black Phone doesn't really hold up the longer I think about it. Way too much seventies nostalgia propping up what's essentially a very basic and mediocre film.
  • In a just world, Michael Jai White should have been a big time Hollywood superstar after Black Dynamite.
  • Although it's still pretty wild, Bucktown isn't as outlandish as some of Fred Williamson's other movies, but I loved the plot for this film the most. Too bad it took close to thirty years since the titular rap song in finally checking it out.
  • Took around fifteen minutes before my brain zoned out while watching The Gray Man. Creatively bankrupt in every way.
  • Dame Dash's feet fetish was bizarrely the most consistent character trait in both State Property movies. Cool seeing all those Rocafella artist on screen during their hay day.
  • Prediction: After seeing her in Frank & Penelope, Caylee Cowan will be the next Ana de Armas. She deserves a spot in the daisy dukes hall of fame.
  • Glenn Danzig's Verotika is the worst horror anthology since Cradle of Fear (2001), which is a phenomenal feat as I've seen some truly awful ones since then. Should have read this review of it on IMDb first.
  • Didn't mind the focus on drama over action in Baby Assassins since it managed to blend its Odd Couple meets Nikita concept effectively. Just wish it didn't feel like it was produced for the Japanese equivalent of E4, or something.

 
EDIT: Added Nichelle Nichols to the RIP list. FFS, July won't quit!

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

My Name is Pearl

Pearl (Trailer)
(Ti West, 2022)
 

Ti West's X was a welcome return to horror earlier this year. It didn't just mark his comeback to the genre that made him, but it signalled the first great movie of 2022 for this blog.
 
Had mixed feelings over the announcement of a second West film Pearl, the prequel to X, coming out later this September: on one hand, prequels don't exactly have a good track record; while on the other, even a lesser West film, such as his Jonestown flick, The Sacrament (2013), was still entertaining.

The latest trailer, for Mia Goth's character Pearl, who happens to be the creepiest geriatric since The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014), has me feeling way more confindent about the film. Genuinely want to find out about how that big old crocodile got there.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Don't Fear the Sleeper

Army of Darkness (Original Ending)
(Sam Raimi, 1992)
 

There's nothing out right now that I'm really in a rush to see (except, maybe Baz Luhrmann's Elvis), so it's a good time to take a breather and go over a few films I managed to watch for the first time this year that really impressed me. I slept on these movies too long like Ash Williams in the original Army of Darkness (1992) ending. Therefore, it's time to make amends. Ideally, they deserve a more in-depth look, but that's way too time consuming, so here is a brief run down with my thoughts on them:

Things to Come (William Caemeron Menzies, 1936)


Adapted from H.G. Wells' novel The Shape of Things to Come, this gem of British science fiction was startling accurate with the prediction of another world war at the time. The decades which follow show a catastrophic scale of human destruction.

This Gun for Hire (Frank Tuttle, 1942)


Along with Humphrey Bogart, Alain Delon and Peter Falk, Alan Ladd joins the list of trenchcoat cool. This film noir triumph has Ladd playing a hitman with enough repressed anger in him, you would think he would explode like Yaphet Kotto in Live and Let Die (1973). Amazing chemistry between Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake that it's little wonder they were paired together in a further three films.

Riot in Cell Block 11 (Don Siegel, 1954)


This might be one of the most anti-prison movies I've watched. Siegel blends documentary style footage with fever-pitch tension which results in a gritty prison riot tale. The argument for better conditions seems to be just as relevant today as it was back then. I'm a sucker for prison flicks and it makes me feel even more of a sucker for only just discovering this hard-boiled movie this late.

Passport to Shame (Alvin Rakoff, 1958)


This sordid tale of exploitation and manipulation must have been considered very shocking upon its release. Eddie Constantine and Odile Versois are the latest couple to be caught into the web of deceit by gangster pimp Herbert Lom. Somewhat baffled by how much Lom is drawn to Versois while not giving a damn about a stone cold fox like Diana Dors. Tame by today's standards, it's still a fascinating look at the sleazy side of London in the fifties. Look out for an uncredited Michael Caine cameo.

The Servant (Joseph Losey, 1963)


A deeply, subversive pschological drama which goes beyond the typical social class commentary at the start of the film and derails into a halucinatory conclusion of power and dependancy. Dirk Bogarde and James Fox are superb in this. Kicking myself for discovering this film so late and would probably have ignrored it even longer if not for randomly stumbling upon an article on Edgar Wright's list of films which inspired his film Last Night in Soho (2021).

Malpertuis (Harry Kümel, 1971)


Realistically, a film this hard to find (for me at least), really shouldn't qualify here since I have actively sought it out in the past. Directed by Harry Kümel, the same director who gave us the stylish Daughters of Darkness (1971), this horror fantasy is like a feverish dream, where you're never totally sure what on earth is going on. That might deter some individuals, but it's an intriguing film with enough mesmerising scenes, including Orson Welles barking orders on his death bed to his fam, which keeps a film head like me enthralled throughout.

Malatesta's Carnival of Blood (Christopher Speeth, 1973)


File this under "films I would have discovered earlier if I didn't have to dedicate years of my life trawling through Stephen Thrower's breezeblock of a coffee table tome, 'Nightmare USA' just to find out about it." We're here now anyway. Malatesta's Carnival of Blood is a wonderful film which feels like something George A. Romero would have helmed had he peeped Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck's sleeper classic, Messiah of Evil (1973) while on acid. Been burnt one too many times by z-grade horror from that era, but Christopher Speeth's one and only feature film is a veritable diamond in the rough.

Terminal Island (Stephanie Rothman, 1973)


Covered Terminal Island already, but it's worth repeating just how ahead of its time it was. A real shame it's lumped in with the W.i.P films from that era; since it's a subgenre with a very negative reputation. Few film makers are ever given complete carte blanche in realising what they want and Stephanie Rothman was sadly not one of them, but at least this film feels like an amicable comprimise, in my opinion. On a positive note, at least her films are seen in a more positive light, with a renewed retrospective today.

Black Caesar (Larry Cohen, 1973)


Three reasons why Black Caesar rocks so hard for me: it equally sets the template and formula for the onset of rapsploitation flicks that would come along later like Scarface (1983) did; it's blessed with a classic soundtrack by the legendary James Brown; and last, but not least, Fred Williamson exudes the very definition of cool in this film, but carrying a Mauser pistol like da gawd Silence is ice cold badassery.

The Tough Ones (Umberto Lenzi, 1976)

Lenzi's films are usually very hit and miss for me, but the poliziotteschi subgenre appears to be his true calling. Even a desensitised individual like myself has to give The Tough Ones the Dada Debaser seal of approval for ultra violence. It's already an ultimate selling point with Tomas Milian as a hunchback psycho in A.C. Milan colours with a bodycount like Prince, but then you've got Poundland Franco Nero, Maurizio Merli handing out instant justice like he's simultaneously possessed by John Wayne, Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood. The best poliziotteschi I've seen since Almost Human (1974), and glad I finally caught it.

Angst (Gerald Kargl, 1983)


Shout out to the brother from a Danish mother, CQ for putting me onto this movie back in the day. Regretabbly, it took about ten or so years before I finally got off my arse and watched it. This Austrian serial killer drama is an uncomprimising and difficult film to watch. The audience is given a ringside seat as the film's lead, the serial killer K, is released from prison and wreaks sadistic horror upon a poor unsuspecting family. Angst is up there with John McNaughton's Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986), and I wouldn't be surprised if it inspired the infamous home invasion sequence. A very tough film to watch, but a superb one, nonetheless.

No doubt there will be further discoveries to come along, so I'll probably do a follow-up post near the end of the year.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Escape to the C*nty

Men (Alex Garland, 2022)

Delayed checking out Alex Garland's recent offering since his previous film, Annihilation (2018), was an overrated pile of tripe in the wake of his Black Mirror-esque directorial debut, Ex Machina (2014). The synopsis of Men, his latest effort, isn't exactly a rush out and see kind of movie since it sounds like another cash in on the trend to bash men. The backfire generated by it earned some good will here at Dada Debaser. So, here we are. In truth, some of  the criticism is fairly valid, and for reasons addressed further on, it's worth mansplaining why it's a deeply flawed, yet  thoroughly entertaining work. Rather than devote the typical line or two in a monthly 'Viewings' post, it's worth going over it in a dedicated review, as it's the strangest new film this blog has watched so far this year; taking into account Cronenberg's recent Crimes of the Future.

Jessie Buckley plays Harper, a widow renting an idyllic house in the country to spend time recovering from the suicide of her abusive partner, James (Paapa Essiedu). This tranquil place of solitude is populated and interrupted by male locals all played by Rory Kinnear. The fact that all of these characters with Kinnear's face are either traumatic projections in Harper's mind, or actual villagers, is largely ambiguous.What isn't open to interpretation however, is that these characters treat Harper in a variety of misogynistic ways; ranging from passively aggresive to physically violent. Perhaps the most on point character, is Kinnear's local vicar, a predatory and judgemental character with more than a passing resemblance to Angus Scrimm's The Tall Man from Phantasm (1979).

Garland overloads the film with a heavy handed use of symbolism associated with rebirth; from a beautifully shot scene where a dandelion seed gracefully falls into the rotten carcass of a deers's eye socket, to the overtly biblical reference of Harper eating an apple. There's a folk horror element which marries the film's gender politics, with an ancient oxymoron; the Green Man, a pagan symbol of rebirth. Kinnear plays this character stark bollock naked with twigs and leaves on his face. The Green Man is also referenced in one scene as a stone carving on a church font. The character plays an integral part in the closing chapters of the film. The grotesque scenes of Kinnear's various incarnations reborn are best described as a Cronenbergian Matryoska doll. The film's jumping of the shark point, for many.

Call it an intelligence test, but if Men isn't a black comedy than Dada Debaser doesn't know what to tell the film's way-too-serious detractors. It's impossible not to realise this rationale. Not a spoiler, but the scene where James falls to his death while staring at Harper is very reminisant of classic Wile E. Coyote. There's also the aforementioned multiple roles played by Kinnear, which feel like a twisted amalgamation of Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) with The League of Gentlemen (1999-2002). The failure to grasp this tone says more about the typical IMDb flotsam and Letterboxd jetsam. However, to a certain extent, these largely illiterate brainlets do have a valid reason to criticise Garland's misguided pretensions, since his film masquarades a simple tale and burdens it with grandiose art house sensibilities. Much like Kinnear's love handles, there's a lot of unnecessary fat in this film. Thus, Men rewards any serious audience investment with a bewildering grossfest for its finale, which might come across as an insulting waste of time to the viewer. Hence the disdain.

In summary, Men is not a great film, but still a good one, regardless. With the current spate of British folk-horror which seems to have become the vogue since the pandemic, Garland's effort is undoubtely one of the most entertaining offerings. Sadly, it could have been even better if it wasn't so much up its own arse like the rest of its peers.

Props to Messrs Kim Newman and Peter Bradshaw for spotting the Kind Hearts and Coronets connection as well. Bradshaw gets extra credit for the Rory Kinnear with Dick Emery comparison.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Dada Debaser's G.O.A.T Giallo Cuts

Goblin - Profondo Rosso
Profondo Rosso, aka Deep Red soundtrack (Italian TV appearance)
 

Pour yourself a glass of J&B and celebrate, 'cause Dada Debaser managed to compile a list of the best giallo tracks out there. With the knowledge of certain composers appearing more than once or twice, it just wouldn't feel right passing up what I consider the best tracks just for the sake of including other themes that aren't as good.

Bunch of classic Stelvio Cipriani themes mistakenly get thrown in whenever I see giallo soundtrack compiliations, like La Polizia Sta A Guardare and La Polizia Ha Le Mani Legate. They really belong under the politzioteschi umbrella or something altogether different, like Femina Ridens shouldn't be considered either of them.

Also, if you're wondering why nothing from Suspiria is on the list, then shame on you!

 

 Carlo Rustichelli - Main Theme (Blood and Black Lace, 1964)

 Ennio Morricone - L'uccello dalle Piume di Cristallo (The Bird With the Crystal Plumage, 1970)

Sante Maria Romitelli - Hatchet Shake (Hatchet for the Honeymoon, 1970)

Pierro Umilliani - Cinque Bambole Versione Coro (5 Dolls for an August Moon, 1970)

Stelvio Cipriani - Due Amanti (A Bay of Blood, 1971)

Stelvio Cipriani - Sensualmente (Death Walks on High Heels, 1971)

Ennio Morricone - Come Un Madrigale (Four Flies on Grey Velvet, 1971)

Ennio Morricone - Notte di Giorno (A Lizard in a Woman's Skin, 1971)

Bruno Nicolai - Seq. 1 (The Case of the Scorpion's Tail, 1971)

Nora Orlandi - Dies Irae (The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, 1971)

Fiorenzo Carpi - Marialé (A White Dress for Marialé)

Stelvio Cipriani - La Morte Accarezza a Mezzanotte (Valentina) (Death Walks at Midnight, 1972)

Giorgio Gaslini - Cio' Che E' Scritto Nel Vento (So Sweet, So Dead, 1972) 

Ennio Morricone - Canto Della Campana Stonata (Who Saw Her Die? 1972)

Bruno Nicolai - Servizio Fotographico (The Red Queen Kills Seven Times, 1972)

Bruno Nicolai - Pursuited / Jennifer's Recall (The Case of the Bloody Iris, 1972)

Bruno Nicolai - Sabba Sequence 2 (All the Colours of the Dark, 1972)

Bruno Nicolai - Deadly Race (Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key, 1972)

Riz Ortolani - Main Titles (Seven Blood-Stained Orchids, 1972)

Giafranco Plenzio - Voce D'Amore (The Cat in Heat, 1972)

Gianfranco Reverberi - End Montage (Delirium, 1972)

Teo Usuelli - Piacere Sequence, M36 (Amuck, 1972)

Guido & Maurizio De Angelis - Il Primo Omicidio (Torso, 1973)

Bert Pisano - Greta (Version 2) (Death Smiles on a Murderer, 1973)

Ennio Morricone - Bambole (Spasmo, 1974)

Goblin - Profondo Rosso (Deep Red, 1975)

Goblin - Death Dies (Deep Red, 1975)

Bruno Nicolai - Nell'assolata Alhambra (Eyeball, 1975)

Bert Pisano - Main Title (Strip Nude for Your Killer, 1975)

Riz Ortolani - Il Corpo di Linda (The Pyjama Girl Case, 1977)

Trans Europa Express - Seq. 1 (Watch Me When I Kill, 1977)

Franco Bixio, Fabio Frizzi & Vince Tempera - Sette Note in Nero (The Pyschic, 1977)

Alessandro Alessandroni - Seq. 4 (Killer Nun, 1979)

Claudio Simonetti, Massimo Morante & Fabio Pignatelle  - Main Titles (Tenebre, 1982)

Francesco De Masi - New York One More Day (The New York Ripper, 1982)


Dada Debaser Notes:

  • Big up Bruno Nicolai for not only owning this particular slice of soundtrack heaven, but dominated 1972 with four separate stellar soundtracks. You can bet your life it was a tough time having to pick one tune in the Year by Ear challenge since Blaxploitation also ruled the roost, too.
  • Il Maestro, Ennio Morricone will always be my numero uno soundtrack composer, since he's dabbled in so many diverse styles and still been able to deliver some top notch heat in the process.
  • Trans Europa Express might very well be a Goblin rip-off, but mio Dio do all the tracks from the Watch Me When I Kill soundtrack slap like Franco Nero.

Monday, July 18, 2022

Thatcher the Life Snatcher

Turkey Shoot (Brian Trenchard-Smith, 1982)

Certain films are criminally consigned to the trash pile while exhibiting high doses of entertainment that far out reach their arthouse cousins. Brian Trenchard-Smiths ozploitation classic, Turkey Shoot is one such film. The beauty of this antipodean masterpiece rests solely on its brazenly unashamed attitude to immerse the viewer in a melting pot of various film subgenres and hope for the best. Remarkably, it succeeds, because after forty years, there really hasn't been an exploitation film of this calibre to cover so many bases. Chin-stroking kino heads would probably be thankful, I would imagine.

The film's plot revolves around a not too distant future where an oppressive totalian regime controls its people and places its undesirables in brutal reform camps. One such camp, run by a sadistic warden, hilariously named Thatcher, takes the initiative of running a death hunt with his elitist friends in pursuing and executing prisoners with a three hour headstart. It's Down By Law (1986) meets The Most Dangerous Game (1932) on paper. However, being an ozploitation movie in its DNA, prepare for some spectacularly surprising moments like Alph, a werewolf looking cannibal employed as muscle by one of the hunting party members.

What initially started out on page as a lavish historical prison drama, Turkey Shoot fatefully ended up in the hands of writer and director, Brian Trenchard-Smith; the man who gave us BMX Bandits (1983) and Leprachaun 4: In Space (1994). Trenchard-Smith took the original script and turned it into an Orwellian sci-fi treatment. Of course, Turkey Shoot happened to be a troubled production where pages of the script were ripped due to pre-production having being drastically shortened due to renewed budget constraints. Its cast, were none the wiser that this would turn from a dystopian science fiction film and result into an outlandish extravaganza from exploitation cinema. Cast members Steve Railsback, Olivia Hussey and Lynda Stoner were none too happy with the constant changes while working on the film; in Hussey's case, she became traumatised having to work in the bush under such horrible conditions. Foreign actors given lead roles in Australian films wasn't anything new; the classic Hitchcockian thriller, Road Games (1981) also performed a similar casting decison with Stacey Keach and Jamie Lee Curtis. This trend really parrallels what was going on in UK and European territories, too.

Turkey Shoot (Trailer)
(Brian Trenchard-Smith, 1982) 

Despite the dystopian setting, Turkey Shoot doesn't dwell too much on any poignant social commentary, instead it borrows elements from a veritable trove of exploitative sub-genres. Some scenes are reminiscant of Jack Hill's 'Women in Prison' movies, while others evoke the Italian 'Jungle Horror' era, ala Cannibal Holocaust (1980). It's a bizarre concoction which makes it a unique yet thrilling over-the-top viewing experience with never a dull moment. For those reasons alone, all the various gripes cast members had says more about them, in my opinion; in fact, some of them ought to be grateful they have Turkey Shoot in their otherwise forgettable resumes.

Can't say I've ever had the time nor the inclination to sit through all of Trenchard-Smith's films, but of those I have seen, Turkey Shoot is undoubtedly my favourite. Producer, Anthony I. Ginnane submitted the film to the A.F.I (Australian Film Institute) as a defiant fuck you for their pretentiousness towards Australian film; an attitude that failed to keep the hey day of ozploitation cinema at bay. Overseas, Roger Corman bought the U.S. film rights and released it in 1983 under the name Escape 2000. Still think the alternative U.K title, Blood Camp Thatcher, is the best of the lot, and should be its official name. Avoided it like the plague, but Ginnane produced a 2014 remake, with the big Aussie veteran, Roger Ward, the only actor from the original film appearing in it. 

Dada Debaser wholeheartedly recommends the original to the uninitiated simply for the pleasure of witnessing a film spiralling into such a ludicrously entertaining spectacle, that it's impossible not to admire the sheer audacity of it. Classic ozploitation!

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Movie-Ception

CQ (Dragonfly scene)
(Roman Coppola, 2001)

 

Outside of Francis and Sophia, I didn't even know there was another member of the Coppola famiglia directing movies. Roman Coppola's CQ (2001) is a love letter to European Cinema from the sixties. The film hardly set the world abalze upon it's release since it's never mentioned today. It's worth noting that the the best thing about it are the obvious homages to various movies from that era; even the Godard rip of Breathless (1960) is somewhat palatable, thanks largely to a full frontal nudity shot of Élodie Bouchez. However, what really caught my interest were the sequences for the movie the film's lead actor, Jeremy Davis, has to complete - Dragonfly; a sci-fi caper film which undeniably takes inspiration from Mario Bava's Danger: Diabolik (1968) and Roger Vadim's Barbarella (1968). 

This got me thinking about other fictional movies featured in movies, so here are a few personal favourites:

Coed Frenzy / Blow Out (Brian DePalma, 1981)


How apt that Alfred Hitchcock, who grandfathered the slasher, would spawn a spiritual successor in the form of Brian DePalma, and that his opening scene from Blow Out would feature a few minutes from a  fictional slasher called Coed Frenzy. Best thing about this wildly exploitative short film is it ticks all the checkmarks for many a teen slasher from the golden era. Can't help but wonder what it would have been like if DePalma did deliver a full feature film in a similar vein to Coed Frenzy, probably something along the line of The House on Sorority Row (1982) while being blessed with flourishes of idiosyncratic flamboyance you would expect from the man.

Vera / Nekromantrik (Jörg Buttgereit, 1988)

Poor old Rob. Not only does he lose his "streetcleaning" job, but his girlfriend, Betty, dumps him and takes off with their ménage à trois rotten cadaver. What better way to find some healing than joining the rest of the goons at the local cinema and watching a thoroughly scuzzy, DIY slasher called Vera. It's equally as micro-budget as Nekromantik, itself. Much of it looks like it was shot in someone's back garden, but those precious few minutes remind me of  Norbert Moutier's hilariously bizarre Ogroff aka Mad Mutilator (1983); another film with the production cost of an old episode of Get Stuffed. Buttgereit also followed up Vera with a mockful arthouse short film called My Breakfast With Vera, which really outstayed its welcome in Nekromantik 2 (1991) and is nowhere near as entertaining as its predecessor.

The Equestrian Vortex / Berberian Sound Studio (Peter Strickland, 2012)

 
Outside of the opening credits sequence, the viewer doesn't get to see the rest of  The Equestrian Vortex featured in Peter Strickland's Berberian Sound Studio. As described by the fictional director, Giancarlo Santini, "it's not a horror film, it's a Santini film", and it's left to our own imagination in picturing the horrific audio scenes recorded by the continuously neurotic, Gilderoy (Toby Jones). 
 
Honourable Mentions: See You Next Wednesday featured throughout John Landis' filmography; the untitled "snuff movie" that Laura Gemser investigates in Emanuelle in America (1977); Joe Dante's sci-fi horror Mant! from Matinee (1993); and, Carson Clay's (Willem Defoe) hilariously pretentious, Playback Time from Mr. Bean's Holiday (2007).

Friday, July 8, 2022

This is Our Waterloo, Baby!

Vigilante (Opening Monologue)
(William Lustig, 1982)


According to Prime Video, Night Vision (1997) was listed as a recommendation for me. Googled it and assessed a film starring Fred Williamson, Cynthia Rothrock and Bushwick Bill was more than worthy of my time. Sadly, it was anything but great and left me feeling the need to erase the sight of a drunk Williamson in his Y-fronts from my memory. Now is a good time than any other to gush over William Lustig's film, Vigilante (1982). While Michael Winner's infamous Death Wish (1974) arguably set the precedent of common folk taking the law into their own hands, the wave of vigilante thrillers really reached its apex in the early eighties with films like The Exterminator (1980), Death Wish II (1982) and Sudden Impact (1983).

Fred Williamson's opening monologue is a classic stand-out scene in the vigilante subgenre. It also happens to be the film where I first discovered the cigar chompin' actor; way before his blaxploitation and Italian sci-fi films. That might explain my nostalgic bias for Vigilante over many of his other films. Even though he plays a supporting role to Robert Forster's everyman lead, that incredible monologue speaks volumes and still feels very poignant today. The rest of the film is equally on par with its classic intro and comes more credibly recommended from me than any internet based algorithm.

Really kicking myself for forgeting Jay Chattaway's Vigilante score in my faves Electronic Soundtracks list.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

MacDeath

Theatre of Blood (Douglas Hickox, 1973)

Professional criticism holds so much weight in its assessment of various formats of creative work that it occasionally results in stealing the thunder of whatever they are reviewing. This often results with critics being fallible to their egotistical pomposity. Thus, it all makes for a great premise of delicious revenge from a scorned thespian, Edward Lionheart. After being passed up for a Critics Circle award, it compels Lioneheart to exact gruesome re-enacments from Shakespearean plays on his detractors for ridiculing him.

If ever a film role was tailor made for an actor then genre legend Vincent Price as Lionheart would undoubtedly be a prime example. As great as they are, both Dr. Phibes films feel like rough draft precurssors to what the "Prince of Menace" would deliver in Theatre of Blood. Price relishes the opportunity to flex his acting prowess via providing a colourful array of characters; ranging from Shakespearean creations to other disguises in luring his gullible victims; a personal favourite is the distinctively camp, Bob Ross looking hairdresser, Butch. Always cracks me up seeing Price resorting to miscellaneous disguises and accents to exact his revenge over his enemies. One such example is him hiding in a large wooden chest for who knows how long with his accomplice daughter, Edwina (Diana Rigg), before performing a surgical decapitation on one of his sleeping foes, the hilariously named Horace Sprout (Arthur Lowe). It's a disturbing set-up, aided with a hilarious medical drama style soundtrack in the background, which exhibits the fine balance of getting a horror comedy right.

The supporting cast are a recognisable troupe of British stage and screen and lend plentiful entertainment value even whenever Price isn't sharing a scene with them. Worth adding that Theatre of Blood was where Vince had a real life affair with the actress Coral Browne which resulted in the pair getting hitched the following year. With the exception of Price's Lionheart, Ian Hendry's Peregrin Devlin and Diana Rigg's Edwina Lionheart, most of the characters are portrayed as completely cartoonish imbeciles. This makes it all incredibly delightful viewing for folks like myself who watched this at a young age and seeing such notable actors having fun with their roles. There's also Lionheart's oddly terrifying mob of meths drinkers who succour with his plans. Can't overstate enough just how moronic these critics are when they fail to notice the dishevelled appearances of a drunken collective disguised as distinguished wine connoisseurs, or a professional film crew, along with Lionheart's ridiculous concealments until it's far too late. Special mention to both Diana Dors, Eric Sykes and Meredith Merridew's pooches George and Georgina for being caught in the crossfire of Lionheart's killing spree.

Hickox manages to deliver a plethora of fantastic scenes executed with such comedic perfection from his cast, that you can't help but laugh at even some of the most gruesome moments in the film. The level of thought and wit involved which range from: the intricate enticement and kill scenes which refer to various scenes from the bard, while exploiting the various flaws and quirks of the prospective victim (obvious inspiration for the Saw franchise, in my humble opinion); the forshadowing of various events, e.g, Horace Sprout scratching his neck at George Maxwell's funeral; and the call signs Horatio, Fortinbras and Hamlet, exchanged between Devlin and the police. These details all add up to a ridiculously entertaining viewing experience.

Worth considering that the film was released in the same year as some heavy hitters in horror cinema such as The Wicker Man, Don't Look Now and The Exorcist, which ironically has mostly left it ignored in a similar vein to Edward Lionheart. That's changed somewhat in recent years, since the film recently filled a slot in Time Out's 100 Best British Movies list - albeit a ridiculously low rank, but it's there nonetheless. Will it ever be placed on the same pedestal as those other '73 classics by today's critics? It's doubtful, but that just goes to show you that Edward Lionheart's oeuvre was still a  a work in progress.

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Slashdance

"He's a maniac, he just moved next door

He'll kill your cat and nail it to the floor

He'll rape your mother and screw your wife

He's a maniac" 

 

Dennis Matkosky & Michael Sembello - Maniac (Original Lyrics)

(Maniac Men featurette from Maniac blu-ray, 2010)

What a feeling when one of the greatest film legends that has always intrigued me, the rumour surrounding the origin of Michael Sembello's eighties pop classic, Maniac, has finally been answered. Although forever remembered as the song from Flashdance that many young lads back then took note of thanks to Jennifer Beals in lycra and legwarmers, it was supposedly meant for William Lustig's scuzzy slasher classic, Maniac (1980); that's what the rumour was, anyway.

Colour me surprised then that a featurette produced for the blu-ray release of the film featuring both Lustig and the song's creators, Dennis Matkosky and Michael Sembello, answer all the questions about this eighties banger and lay all the rumours surrounding it to rest. Was it written for Lustig's film? No, but it was definitely inspired by it, along with John Wayne Gacy's murder spree. That's a good enough answer for me. Peep the video above for the full breakdown by the trio, which includes Sembello channeling "a mongoloid playing Chopsticks" for the song's break on Matkosky's tuneless piano in a rendition of the song.

Why am I writing all this if it was all explained in a blu-ray featurette? Because it costs a small fortune to buy and import every movie I want to own, and I don't have it, innit? Anyway, some kind samaritan uploaded the featurette on YouTube and put us skinflints out of our misery and settled the score once and for all.

Dada Debaser Bonus

From Frank Zito to Franck Hueso, I can't sign off and end this post without including the best cover version of the song to grace my ears. Originally heard as an encore track in 2016 during his live sets, the global lockdowns of 2020 finally got Franck Hueso, aka Carpenter Brut, off his arse and record a studio version of the classic anthem. One of the few musical highlights of that year for your host and the last great tune by the French man, in my opinion.

Carpenter Brut feat. Yann Ligner - MANIAC

(Digital Single, 2020)