Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Viewings: August 2022

Did not expect to see Harry H. Corbett playing a serial killer with a bad toupee and pebble glasses in Cover Girl Killer, and neither did I predict liking a Baz Luhrmann film. Elvis is this month's favourite first time viewing and a great example of Industry Rule #4080. Also liked Ann Walker's twisted childhood drama, Celia and Barry J. Gillis' compeletely strange, Wicked World; the latter for all the wrong reasons.

Other than the news and weather, no noteworthy TV this month. Winner!

 

Film

The Violent Years (William Morgan, 1956)

The Bride and the Beast (Adrian Weiss, 1958)*

Tread Softly Stranger (Gordon Parry, 1958)*

Cover Girl Killer (Terry Bishop, 1959)*

The Manster (aka The Split) (George P. Breakston & Kenneth G. Crane, 1959)*

The House That Dripped Blood (Peter Duffell, 1971)

Godmonster of Indian Flats (Fredric Hobbs, 1973)*

Theatre of Blood (Douglas Hickox, 1973)

Death Brings Roses (Jack Weis, 1975)*

Elvis (John Carpenter, 1979)*  

Stigma (José Ramón Larraz, 1980)*

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (George Miller & George Ogilvie, 1985)

Faceless (Jesús Franco, 1987)

Slaughterhouse Rock (Dimitri Logothetis, 1987)*

Celia (Ann Walker, 1989)*

Wicked World (Barry J. Gillis, 1991)*

Romper Stomper (Geoffrey Wright, 1992)

Elvis (Baz Luhrmann, 2022)*

Poser (Noah Dixon & Ori Segev, 2022)*

Prey (Dan Trachtenberg, 2022)*

She Will (Charlotte Colbert, 2022)*

 

* First time viewings.

 

Dada Debaser Notes:

  • Completely engrossed with Charlotte Austin developing feelings for her husband's pet gorilla, Spanky, in the Ed Wood Jr. penned, The Bride and the Beast. Shame there was so much stock safari footage serving as filler for much of the film.
  • Enjoyed Diana Dors' performance in the British crime thriller, Tread Softly Stranger.
  • Other than Luhrmann's Elvis, I also watched John Carpenter's biopic on the "King of Rock & Roll". Found it largely dull in all honesty, despite Kurt Russell's performance being good. The only other takeaway from the film was the creepy relationship between his mother, which I interpreted as possibly oedipal.
  • Should have included Faceless as one of Caroline Munro's best films.
  • Larraz's Stigma feels like two completely different films crudely spliced together. A real shame as they would have had far greater potential as individual pictures.
  • The mental gymnastics used by some folk into believing a tacked on Comanche dub for Prey would improve it is completely ridiculous to me. I left my thoughts on it along with musings on recency bias towards new films in a dedicated post.
  • Who would have envisioned Toni Basil from Mickey one-hit wonder fame as an Obi-Wan Kenobi style ghostly apparition in the demonic themed slasher, Slaughterhouse Rock? Nobody, that's who.
  • Barry J. Gillis' Wicked World displays such an incredible degree of ineptitude and stupidity that it ends up crossing over into surreal art house territory for me. Loathe the term "so bad, it's good", however, it's more than applicable here.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Dada Debaser's Underrated Movie Psychopaths

The Collector (Modern Art Scene)
William Wyler, 1965 

It's all fun and games whenever you're rooting for the film's resident psycho, but it all gets worrying once you start agreeing with their opinions.

Regardless of realism and authenticity, the portrayal of the psychopath in film is perhaps the safest and accessible way any of us would ever get close to these monsters. Thus, here's a work in progress list of my personal favourites in the slept-on movie maniacs canon - aka, "Movie Psychos WhatCulture and every other trash clickbait site would never include".

 

Dada Debaser's Underrated Pychopaths

Cody Jarrett / White Heat (Raoul Walsh, 1949)

Freddie Clegg / The Collector (William Wyler, 1965)

Martin Durnley, aka Georgie Clifford / Twisted Nerve (Roy Boulting, 1968)

Scorpio / Dirty Harry (Don Siegel, 1971)

Evelyn Draper / Play Misty For Me (Clint Eastwood, 1971)

Robert Rusk / Frenzy (Alfred Hitchcock, 1972)

Krug Stillo / The Last House on the Left (Wes Craven, 1972)

Edward Lionheart / Theatre of Blood (Douglas Hickox, 1973)

Giulio Sacchi / Almost Human (Umberto Lenzi, 1974)

Ezra Cobb / Deranged (Jeff Gillen & Alan Ormsby, 1974)

Dorothy Yates / Frightmare (Pete Walker, 1974)

Cain Adamson / Born For Hell (Denis Héroux, 1976)

David / Massacre at Central High (Rene Daalder, 1976)

Donny Kohler / Don't Go in the House (Joseph Ellison, 1979)

Bobbi / Dressed to Kill (Brian De Palma, 1980)

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

Wez / Max Max 2: The Road Warrior (George Miller, 1981)

Peter Stegman / Class of 1984 (Mark L. Lester, 1982)

Ramrod / Vice Squad (Gary Sherman, 1982)

K, the Psychopath / Angst (Gerald Kargl, 1983)

Warren Stacy / 10 to Midnight (J. Lee Thompson, 1983)

Bennett / Commando (Mark L. Lester, 1985)

John Ryder / The Hitcher (Robert Harman, 1986)

Clarence Boddicker / Robocop (Paul Verhoeven, 1987)

Jimmy Jump / King of New York (Abel Ferrara, 1990) 

Cain / Robocop 2 (Irvin Kershner, 1990)

O-Dog / Menace II Society (Albert Hughes & Allan Hughes, 1993)

Dennis Skinner / Skinner (Ivan Nagy, 1993)

John Martin / Roadkill: The Last Days of John Martin (Jim Van Bebber, 1994)

Kai / Ebola Syndrome (Herman Yau, 1996)

Captain Zhurov / Cargo 200 (Alexei Balabanov, 2007)

Lola / The Loved Ones (Sean Byrne, 2009)

Louis Bloom / Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy, 2014) 

Jack, aka Mr. Sophistication / The House That Jack Built (Lars Von Trier, 2018)


Dada Debaser Notes:

  • Left out real crime biopics. However, there are a number of fictional movies listed which were inspired by real events, e.g the Richard Speck student nurse murders.
  • Da gawds David Hess and Vernon Wells are the only two actors I could think of that have played made for film iconic psychopaths more than once that's worthy this my list. Thought about Anthony Wong's Wong Chi Hang from The Untold Story, but that's a true crime horror, imo.
  • Purposefully left out a massive chunk of slasher maniacs since I think they deserve their own damn list; along with them always taking precedence and hogging the limelight. Donny Kohler is pretty much the underground equivalent of Frank Zito, anyway.
  • Various insane killers from the giallo genre were also ommitted as the list would have been dominated by them. Best villains in gialli, along with their bonkers motives to kill, is definitely worth making a list for in forseeable future.
  • Films involving mad cult leaders and groups, or any kind of mass psychosis would belong in a separate category.
  • Given this is a list of what I consider underrated psychos in film, then Wings Hauser, aka Ramrod the crazy rhinestone cowboy pimp from Vice Squad singing the theme, Neon Slime, is the logical flip side to Michael Sembello's Maniac.
Wings Hauser - Neon Slime (Theme from Vice Squad)
Vice Squad Soundtrack, 1982
 

Thursday, August 25, 2022

The Moment I Feared: Part 3

Alligator (The Pool Scene)
Lewis Teague, 1980
 

Children in peril scenes are a dime a dozen in film, but kids getting killed? That's very much seen as taboo and ignites controversy even to this day. Disturbing scenes of child fatalities cropped up in mainstream cinema more often in the past, based on my recollections. Call it a symptom of the nihilistic seventies, New Hollywood out to shock, or to put it more bluntly, the film industry just not caring, but it seems like this was a decade where children were just as much fair game of a gruesome death as to their grown-up counterparts.

Steven Speilberg's blockbuster Jaws (1975) left a trail of knock-off creature features in its wake, one of my favourites being Lewis Teague's snappy B-movie gem, Alligator (1980). 

Seeing a couple of kids in pirate costumes by a back yard pool, and dragging a blindfolded youngster to his doom by making him walk the plank into the gaping jaws of a giant alligator, was enough to shock me as a kid: that poor child's terror before being pushed into the pool; the shot of the alligator when the lights are turned on; the blood. All of these elements lead to an unforgettably terrifying viewing experience. Over forty years later and that scene is instantly triggered whenever I hear about 'gators making their way into people's pools

Ironically, the film spawned a kids board game released by Ideal Toys in 1980, which my parents copped for me from Argos when I was a kid, because it was way cheaper than the Millennium Falcon.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Face/Off

Faceless (Jesús Franco, 1987)

This eighties take on Georges Franju's classic French horror film, Eyes Without a Face (1960) would hardly be the choice Jess Franco selection for any discerning "true film" blog, but I consider it amongst his most accomplished and entertaining films, in all honesty. Faceless isn't Franco's first attempt at redoing Franju's fiendish surgical nightmare either, as he helmed The Awful Dr. Orloff (1962) decades earlier. It's possibly because it's a film where Franco is actually provided with a decent budget for once, along with dropping all artistic pretentions, perhaps at the behest of his producers, one of which being Rene Chateau, who was also a co-writer for the film.

Helmut Berger plays a debonair plastic surgeon with a secretive sinister side. Along with his accomplice lover, Brigitte Lahaie, they fiendishly attempt to reconstruct Berger's disfigured sister, after she becomes an unfortunate victim in an acid attack. Their efforts result in a series of decapitated women being found all over Paris. Further spicing up the plot, Telly Savalas hires Chris Mitchum's private dick to track down his spoilt, fashion model daughter, played by Caroline Munro, after being abducted while being high as a kite during her fashion shoot. It all sounds fairly formulaic, doesn't it? But, what really makes this such an unusual film is that it's mostly focused on the villains. Both Mitcham and Munro have very minimal screen time in comparison to Berger and Lahaie and that weird looking bloke who plays Gordon, the mute psychopath without any eyebrows. It becomes even more apparent later on with the introduction of Anton Diffring, aka that German actor who was always typecasted as a nazi in his films. Incidentally, Diffring adds a touch of class to what's otherwise an incredibly gruesome and sleazy effort - even by eighties movie standards. It's bad enough having faceless women on the operating table, but it's even worse seeing them getting decapitated with a chainsaw in graphic bloody detail. Other supporting cast members worth mentioning are Claude Chabrol's ex, Stéphane Audran, getting the old eye injection treatment a la Dead & Buried (1981), and the rather fit Florence Guérin playing herself (either that, or her character is also called Florence Guérin). Franco regulars Lina Romay and Howard Vernon also have bit parts. Both Munro and Guérin would later appear together in Luigi Cozzi's utterly dull unofficial third film to Dario Argento's The Three Mothers trilogy, The Black Cat (1990).

Given that Faceless is very much an amalgamation of various subgenres; includuding various tropes and cliches synonymous with the slasher, detective mystery and erotic thriller, you would expect the film to feel unbalanced or fall apart in places. This is not the case, fortunately. As already mentioned, this might be because Franco's directorial debut, The Awful Dr. Orloff is a spiritual precursor to this film, and it might also be because Franco was a film maker with an obscene amount of films under his belt which usually blended horror with erotica. You could say the diminutive Spanish film maker had been experienced enough after churning out multiple flicks per year. In any case, the film feels way more professional incomparison to some of his more popular earlier efforts, in my humble opinion. There are none of the indulgent zoom shots, nor the annoying lingering shots which were more jarringly awkward rather than utilised for atmospheric and emotional emphasis.

Considering the eighties was the decade of the yuppie era, Faceless is blessed with a european vantage point of the cultural zeitgeist. You've got a sharp suited Berger and Lahaie in a luxurious mink coat as his escort, hitting up the trendy Parisian bars and clubs, ordering champagne, picking up hot broads and luring them to their lair. It's all very decadent and wouldn't go amiss in an episode of Dynasty if it wasn't for all the gore and hints of incest. Putting it simply, I enjoy the eighties style, and if this didn't low key inspire Brett Easton Ellis when he was writing American Psycho at the time, along with the obvious De Palma movies, then I would be shaking my head in disbelief

This might be considered a spoiler to those who haven't seen the film, but considering it's a thirty-five year old film, it's worth discussing its finale. The point of contention is whether Mitchum and Munro made it out alive? Considering they were locked in a padded cell, which was walled up as well for a period of a week until Savalas gets to hear Mitchum's all important voice message, there is no way they survived, since they would have run out of air. A shocker of a downbeat ending, but a great one, I believe. One of those film endings that has me feeling some kind of way like Sergio Corbucci's The Great Silence (1968). Obviously, Faceless is nowhere the calibre of Corbucci's spaghetti western masterpiece, but for a horror fan like myself, familiar with the cliched downer horror movie climaxes this is definitely one of those great ones, which was also changed like Corbucci's film.

In summary, this is not only one of Jess Franco's best films, but a bonafide great horror movie thriller, in my opinion. It might not be on par with the class of '87, but it's certainly worthy of an honourable mention at the very least.

Faceless getting the 4K UHD treatment in 2022. What a time to be alive.

Dada Debaser Bonus:

Vincent Thoma - Faceless 
(Les Prédateurs De La Nuit 7" Single, 1988)
 

"Destination: nowhere
A half a mile to paradise
Tell me what you find there
Beyond the sea of golden skies
Three dimensional rainbows right before your eyes
Draw the shades down and watch this world unwind
And see right through those confindential phone calls
A distant wine in Saint-Tropez"
- Vincent Thoma, Faceless

The greatest George Michael song George Michael never sang is Faceless, aka Les Prédateurs De La Nuit by its original French name. Other than sounding like it could have been the sombre B-side to Club Tropicana, it's also blessed with the most puzzling and nonsensical lyrics I've yet to hear in a song. There are avant-garde experi(mental) rappers and growling death metal singers who might make more sense than whatever Vincent Thoma might be singing about. Would happily play this perplexing musical gem repeatedly just like in the film on some poncey winebar's jukebox all day, everyday.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Watership Down Under

Celia (Ann Turner, 1989)

Films set in the fifties are like waiting for a bus around here, as this is the third film I've reviewed this month which is set in that decade. Ann Turner's Lord of the Flies style drama, Celia, is located in rural Australia, where the film's titualar heroine is experiencing some serious growing pains. These problems are of the mental variety and range from: the bereavment of her grandmother; a thoroughly viscious school rival; and being tormented by fictitious creatures knowns as Hobyahs.

The setting deals with two important historical occurrences prominent in 1950s Australia: the communist hysteria known as The Red Scare, and the rabbit invasion which had plagued Australia's agricultural industry. The latter of which was so probelmatic that the Australian government went to such an extent, that the myxoma virus was introduced to thwart them. Both subplots do play an integral part in Celia's deteriorating mental state and aren't just there for the sake of flimsy historical dressing. With it being set in the past and along with its rural location, it seems parents weren't too concerned about their kids burning effigies of them at a quarry during all hours of the night. Also, as as much my desensitised self enjoys on-screen violence, even I had to raise an eyebrow at how savage these cheeky little scamps were to one another and that poor pet rabbit. Goes without saying, if you're an animal lover, you might want to avoid this one, as it has about as much compassion for animal welfare as an Italian jungle horror flick.

The performances are competent; especially from Rebecca Smart in the lead title role, since everything rests on her making this film so watchable. Apart from playing the character Melanie Black from the Aussie teen TV series Heartbreak High back in the day, it's too bad she wasn't in anything remotely significant ever since (from what I can tell, at least), but then again, despite its critical appraisal, the film was a commercial flop upon its release.

Really should state that I went into this film under the allusion that this would be a bonafide horror movie, solely on its inclusion in Severin's All the Haunts Be Ours: A Compendium of Folk Horror deluxe box set, however, Celia is more of a dark drama. Already watched some other titles featured in the aforementioned box set: Otakar Vavra's Witchhammer (1970) and Ian Coughlan's Alison's Birthday (1981); where I shamelessly also used the 'down under' pun there, too. A very positive video on Celia came out recently by Marx Kermode for the BFI serves as another reason to check it out. Ultimately, it paid off, as it's another enjoyable entry in the killer kiddie canon.

Celia (Umbrella Entertainment Trailer)
(Ann Walker, 1989)

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Dream Home (No Josie Ho)

What with it being the summer holidays, here are a few real-life cribs, flung far and wide, featured in film and television which I wouldn't mind visiting for a cool getaway:

Xanadu, Calpe, Alicante, Spain

Designed by the Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill, this post-modernist building overlooking the mediterranean sea really left a wish you were here impression on me once I discovered it in Jesús Franco's She Killed in Ecstasy (1971). The scenes of cult siren Soledad Miranda descending down the stone stairs is like an iconic moment of euro cinema for me. Xanadu was featured in another Uncle Jess film, Countess Perverse (1974), considered a lost film until the last decade or so. It's also right next to another amazing Bofill creation, La Muralla Roja

Chemosphere, Los Angeles, California, USA

You might remember it as the reclusive Willard Whyte's house from Diamonds Are Forever (1971) where James Bond gets mullered by Bambi and Thumper, but for this film aficionado, it's forever embedded in my mind as that other wordly looking crib Craig Wasson was temporary shacked up in where he spied upon Deborah Shelton in Brian De Palma's Body Double (1984). If it wasn't partially stuck into the side of a mountain you could imagine it flying off into outer space. 

Casa Papanice, Rome, Italy

 

Also known as that funky residence from Sergio Martino's classic giallo, The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh (1971). Dada Debaser would loved to tell you, dear reader, that he's a big fan of this wacky abode because it encapsulates post-moderninity and the the creative spirit of the late sxities/early seventies, but, truthfully, it's because giallo queen Edwige Fenech gets her kit off in it. Casa Papanice was also featured in another giallo, Emilio Miraglia's The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (1972), which shouldn't be expanded upon, since Martin, the film's lothario, and house occupant, wears a skimpy dressing gown a la Del Boy, which barely covers his meat and two veg. This leaves a particularly depressing taint on an otherwise great film. There's a fascinating in-depth article by Rachael Nisbet over at her blog that's all about Casa Papanice which is highly recommended reading.

Haus zum Wulfisch, Freiberg, Germany

Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that perhaps one of the most beautiful films of all time, Suspira (1977) was mostly shot on a studio lot in Rome. That doesn't deter my appreciation for the actual exterior location, Haus zum Wulfish (House of the Whale), that was lovingly recreated as the dance academy for Dario Argento's seminal masterpiece. It does however make me wish the building was as grand as that represented in the film. It's still worth a visit as it's one of those rare perfect picture moments where rolling up to the actual building in torrential rain might actually be worth reactivating my old Facebook account, or whatever it's called now, and showing it off with pure pride.

Oakley Court, Berkshire, England

One of the greatest filming locations ever, in my opinion. Oakley Court has played host to some classic British films, a small selection of which are: Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny & Girly (1970); And Now the Screaming Starts (1973); Theatre of Blood (1973); and Daughters of Darkness (1974). With a resumé like that it might be worth checking in at this luxury hotel that costs a whopping £275 for one night.

Honourable Mentions:

Chania Lighthouse in Chania, Crete, Greece - where Zorba the Greek (1964) was partly filmed. Timberline Lodge at Mt. Hood, Oregon, USA - which served as the external shots for The Overlook Hotel from The Shining (1980); Portmeirion in Gwynedd, Wales - which was used as the external location shoot for The Village in the television series, The Prisoner (1966-1967); and Juvet Landscape Hotel, Alstad, Validal, Norway which served as the ill looking crib in Ex Machina (2014).

Realistically speaking, it's doubtful I'll ever get to visit all of these places, and much like that one time I went looking for that porn theatre off Piccadilly Circus from An American Werewolf in London (1981), which became a Bureau de Change, they might turn out to be major disappointments. In any case, a man can dream, though.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Juvenile Hell: Part 3

The Violent Years (William Morgan, 1956)


With the return of the summer heatwave, I need to keep my movies short and sweet, and what could be better than William Morgan's crimewave classic, The Violent Years? A wildly entertaining morality tale that ticks all the right boxes for this blog. Penned by the legendary king of exploitation cinema, Ed Wood Jr, this quintessential slice of melodramatic juvenile deliquency boasts an all girl squad of uncouth tearaways. This has absolutely nothing to do with that Oscar Isaacs starring snoozefest, A Most Violent Year (2014), which is a win for everyone.

Our gang is led by a spoilt brat of an ungrateful daughter, Paula Parkins (Paul, to her girlfriends), earnestly played by Jean Moorhead. Paul(a) has a taste for conducting sticks-ups at gas stations and sexually assualting blokes on Lover's Lane for wild kicks. You see, she's a thrill seeker, and it makes her feel alive being a negative blight on society. Our eighteen-year old bad seed and her pointy bra clique (Dada Debaser is a fan of the mean muggin' Phyllis, or Phil to her goon gals, because she looks strikingly like Debi Mazar and could very well be her mum given the age of this film) are looking for the next step in the thug life, and according to their fence, Sheila, there's a big market for trashing American schools by certain foreign nations. This leads to our undisciplined foursome breaking into their school and knocking over a few chairs and smashing a window before the cops arrive. A shootout ensues, bodies are caught and Paula's cramps might be a sign she's up the duff.

As mentioned earlier, The Violent Years is very much a rich dollop of morality that puts the fear of God into anyone tempted to walk the pathway to Hell, very much in a similar vein to good ol' Cecil B. DeMille; replete with an Old Testament style closing segment by the googly eye glasses wearing, Judge Clara. Paula's rampage of destruction has not only left the local morgue working over-time, but it's also left her parents with broken hearts and an uncertain life for her new born baby. This pot-boiler noir might play the right notes on the church organ, but it was definitely made for purely exploitative reasons. The Violent Years is an excellent example of how juvenile deliquency in film has always been a source for entertainment purposes over the many decades. Paula's spoilt yet neglected upbringing bears a strinking similarity to Gillian Hills' Jennifer Linden from Beat Girl (1959), only separated by a double-murder rap.

Despite it being unintentional, I personally find that it taps into the fears of society on a young and unruly post-war generation, and poses the question of what kind of mark they would leave upon society? Ultimately, these woes would pass on from one generation to the next, but what's especially fascinating about this particular era, is that a pulp film like The Violent Years exemplifies a new breed of juveniles, in this case young women, who would eventually signify the shifting moral compass of protagonists in both homegrown and world cinema a decade later. It's one of the reasons why Dada Debaser makes a conscious effort to be way more accommodating towards exploitation cinema, regardless of its reputation, since you'll eventually find a diamond in the rough like The Violent Years.

The Violent Years (AGFA Trailer)
(William Morgan, 1956)
 

Friday, August 12, 2022

Recency Bias and the Love for Mediocrity

Not to be a doomer, but we really are living in dour times when a mediocre film like Prey amasses an overwhelmingly positive buzz, with insincere hyperbolic statements like "the best Predator movie since the original" from today's so-called "critics". Let's be honest here, it's better than Shane Black's awful The Predator (2018), but it's nowhere near as good as Predator 2 (1991), or possibly even the lacklustre Predators (2010). Sure, all art is subjective and movies are no different, but objectivity also plays heavily into a film's overall assesment too. This seems to be forgotten these days. Once a critic intentionally overlooks a film's noticable faults, then they cease to be a credible commodity from earning any discerning film enthusiast's trust.

I don't completely hate Prey, but neither do I love it, either. It's simply a mediocre film. I'll give it props for its beautiful cinematography and a dog sidekick that is badass like Max Rockatansky's four-legged friend, but there are too many issues which hinder it. **SPOILERS AHEAD** Without divulging into an actual dedicated review, much of my grievances stemmed from: the historical setting felt largely redundant, thanks to a bunch of young actors with an acting range on a par with a typical CW teen show - Californian accents and awful dialogue, like "I'm smarter than a beaver", did no favours at all. There's the terrible writing where we're made to believe in magical flowers which turn your blood cold, thus conveniently making you invisible to the Predator. Speaking of which, I was convinced this latest extraterrestial big game hunter might have had learning difficulties, since it got fucked up by a snake, wolf, bear, French fur-trappers, Commanches, and a hilarious final fight with its protagonist (who suddenly possesses ninja-like reflexes and acrobatic skills) before it accidentally and comedically kills itself. It bizarrely didn't understand its own tech. **END SPOILERS** The best Predator movie since the original, innit?

Prey is just the latest example of the new buzz. The true underlying factor here is that it's a shiny new film which ticks all the relevant boxes to appease a maliable demographic weened on utter shite. That's enough to spread the usual hype-nosis from the media and generate the usual clickbait articles. Regardless of the film's overall quality, today's movie-goer is expected to not only watch it out of FOMO, but to also applaud it like clapping circus seals. Today's tentpole attractions tend to age like milk; anything that is remotely more than a few year's old is largely irrelevant in today's public consciousness. And if you do go against the grain in this current climate, then woe betide you.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Was a Hero to Most

Elvis (Baz Luhrmann, 2022)

Won't pretend that I've ever cared for Baz Luhrmann's films in the past, nor that I've ever understood their appeal, but I will concede that he's a film maker with a flamboyant and very unique style. It's this particular fashion and my curious interest for his latest film, Elvis, which has caused it to blip its way onto my radar. A twentieth century pop cultural icon with enough bloated folklore surrounding him to match his final resting state; marry it with Luhrmann's groteseque mix of hyperstylised visuals, and you have a junkfood banquet worthy of my consumption.

Kudos to Austin Butler for pulling off Elvis's quirks and mannerisms without making it seem like a cheesy cabaret act impression. He resembles Shakin' Stevens when really close up, but there are times when he's a dead ringer for the king. This becomes apparent when actual archival footage of the titular singer are blink-and-you-will-miss-it edited into the film, and you're left wondering who's who at times. So impressive is Butler in the role that I wouldn't be at all surprised if his name cropped up during Oscar season. Tom Hanks is demonically grotesque as the manipulative and exploitative faux-American manager, Colonel Tom Parker. Hanks' Porky prosthetics make-up and dodgy Dutch accent are stupendously bizarre, but in Luhrmann's film, the Mephistopheles like character seems to be a natural fit.

Having Hank's Col. Parker narrate the film doesn't change the negative impressions for the character from villain to anti-hero or anything, but it does provide some insight into some of his motivations. This relationship between him and Elvis is why the film continued to keep me invested throughout its epic running time. A familiar tale of raw talent being controlled and exploitated by a very manipulative individual isn't exactly anything new, but it's a wholly entertaining retelling of it. It's all the more fascinating given it's based on such a recognisable icon. Seeing the golden goose being pimped and exploited is gutwrenchingly depressing at times, yet it makes for compelling viewing. An impoverished Southern boy with the voice, moves and sex appeal to send women into a screaming and orgasmic frenzy, who's gradual manifestation into a paranoid, drug-riddled, pathetically bloated slave of a man, is like the perfect example of the American Dream metamorphosised into the American Nightmare.

Luhrmann mixes the historical past with the present, which gives it an anachronistic vibe throughout its run time. This treatment is largely successful in the visual department, but it's taken to an annoying extreme with some of the soundtrack songs.  That's not all right, mama! Other misfires are Luhrmann's handling of important politically historical events and the racial turmoil of the era being treated with little to know real analytical depth; they're just filling in the check boxes, ironically à la Forrest Gump (1994). Cultural appropriation is addressed in a lukewarm manner here, since Elvis is portrayed as the naive Prometheus than a blatant plagiarist. His relationship with a fourteen year old Priscilla and his adulterous past are also treated with a degree of triviality, too. Can't honestly say these setbacks ruin the film for me, but they are relegated to minor footnotes whilst focused on the relationship between its two main characters.

Overall, despite some of its obvious problems, this is perhaps one of the most entertaining biopics I've watched since perhaps Oliver Stone's overtly indulgent The Doors (1991). It also marks itself as that rare time where I willingly went out of my way to see a Baz Luhrmann film (f**king hell!) and liked it. Granted, it's probably about as historcally accurate as Straight Outta Compton (2015), but considering I know next to nothing about the king of rock and roll than I do about the most dangerous band in the world, this was notches above in quality. Definitely a movie highlight this year, regardless.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Robin's Rest

Breaks my heart in bidding goodbye to Robin Bougie's utterly depraved and thoroughly addictive comicbook style filmzine, Cinema Sewer. The lauded collected trade paperback (the comic books were harder to find) which covered a plethora of film genres and related subject matter in a similar way to Warren Oates with a Gatling Gun in The Wild Bunch (1969), had its its eighth and final volume published this summer.

With a hunger for exploitation films, it was only natural that I would eventually stumble upon these books at some point in time. Cinema Sewer was always presented in a crudely unorthodox and amateurish style; it consisted of hand written body text, low-res black and white photos, archival flyers and wildly pornographic drawings. The Marmite of film literature, if you will. This resonated with me more than any expensive, film-related, coffee-table book. Bougie's primitive scrawlings and rants wouldn't be amiss on the walls of a festering public urinal, but they also happened to drop some serious knowlege, and schooled me on a vast array of films.

Admittedly, Bougie's primary passion for pornographic film would often usurp his coverage of other content at times. However, his sleazy critiques would often prove invaluable. They would permeate into more traditional film reviews/coverage, resulting in some hilarious quotables. Here's an extract from Bougie's review on the film-noir, This Gun For Hire (1942):

"Ellen is smoothly played by the incomparable Veronica Lake, who looks fantastic in every single goddamn frame of this movie, and makes my dong wish that it could take a nice vacation fifty years in the past and go nestle itself between her perfect ass cheeks for a weekend." - Robin Bougie, Cinema Sewer Vol. 4, FAB Press, 2013.

Cinema Sewer was like a spiritual cousin to one of my favourite ever books, Ego Trip's Book of Rap Lists. I love lists and Cinema Sewer loved lists, so it was a match made in heaven reading through a bukkake load of unique movie themed compilations. As a tribute to Robin Bougie's irreverant ramblings, reviews and listmaking, here are my faves:

Top 25 Favourite Cinema Sewer Articles:

1. Defending De Palma

2. Cinema Sewer's 50 Must-See Golan-Globus Cannon Productions!

3. 25 Cinematic Cliches I Never Wanna See Again

4. Teenage Thunder: The Juvenile Delinquent Cinema of the 1950s and 1960s

5. I'll Kiss Anything that Moves: TV Just Castrated My Favourite Movie

6. The Top 5 Made-For T.V. Horror Movies

7. Action Slashers: The Rise and Fall of a Genre

8. Cocks@cker Blues: The 10 Best Dramas to Take Place in the Porn Industry

9. The Top 10 Head Explosions in Cinema History

10. The 10 Most F@ckable Moms in TV Sitcom History

11. Kill Yourself on Live TV: A Complete History of the Practice

12. Chicks in Chains: The Filipino W.I.P. Cinema of Roger Corman

13. Hollywood Urban Legends

14. The 100 Worst Porn Movie Titles

15. How I Became an Action Movie Star in Indonesia: The Awesome Story of Peter O'Brian

16. The 25 Best Movies Adapted From Comic Books

17. The 75 Most Entertaining Documentaries Ever Made

18. The Day Blaxploitation Died

19. They Kidnapped Chaplin's Corpse

20. Tinto Brass Molested My Ass

21. Cinema Sewer's 7 Favourite Helicopter Crashes

22. The Top Twenty Most Underrated American Films of the Eighties

23. Cinema Sewer's 50 Fave Films Made by Women

24. The 20 Most Underrated and Undiscovered Must-See Movies of the 1990s

25. Why is That Japanese Porn So F@ckin' Rapey? 


Cheers for all the schoolin', Robin! All the trivia! And most of all, thanks for all the laughs! Farewell Cinema Sewer!

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

The Wish List: Part 2

The return of a film junkie's first world problems. Here are another five films that need to be rescued from red tape limbo and into our loving blu-ray players:

Freaks (Tod Browning, 1932)

It boggles the mind that She-Freak, a 1967 semi-obscurity can get a beautiful blu-ray transfer from the American Genre Film Archive (AGFA), while the very film that inspired it, and a multitude of other carnival based horror for that matter, Freaks, languishes unwanted. Tod Browning's classic is still considered shocking to this day by some individuals, which makes it all the more remarkable considering it's now ninety years old. So why then, does a film of this historical significance seem cursed like Olga Baclanova's Cleopatra?

The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971)

If ever a film has fallen victim to censorship by its own studio, it's Ken Russell's The Devils, a progenitor to the wave of depraved nunsploitation films which ran rampant in the seventies. Prayers seemed to be answered in 2012, when the BFI announced a lavish release through Warner Bros. It turned out to be a case of the monkey's paw, however, since not only were fans of the film denied a high definition print, but it was still a censored cut version. Regarded amongst film critics as on of the greatest British films, it's tragic that the only way to watch a complete version of The Devils is via a bootleg copy. It's farcical how a film which is half a century old, still receives this much contempt from its studio owner.

From Beyond the Grave (Kevin Connor, 1974)

It really ought to be a punishable offence whenever From Beyond the Grave gets relegated by brainlets as one of the lesser Amicus portmanteaus. Not only is it factually incorrect, but it's probably one of the strongest entries from Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenberg's legendary production studio. Blessed by a killer wraparound with Peter Cushing as the creepy owner of Temptations Ltd, an antique shop where any rotten sort who tries to rob or con his way to obtain its wares gets their just desserts. These stories include: "The Gate Crasher", with the recently passed away David Warner, enslaved to a ghastly apparition in a mirror; "An Act of Kindness", where Ian Bannen befriends an ex-serviceman matchbox seller played by Donald Pleasence; "The Elemental", the weakest and tonally inconsistent story in the film; and, "The Door", which serves as a portal to mysterious blue room. The film is spellbinding throughout, and much like The Devils, it has fallen under a similar fate by Warner Bros. A bare bones release made its way under the Warner Archive umbrella. A film of this wonderful calibre really does deserve some beauty treatment akin to what the label Second Sight has done in recent years with other Amicus horror anthologies; namely The House that Dripped Blood (1971), and Asylum (1972).

Braindead (Peter Jackson, 1992)

Remember when Peter Jackson made great movies back in the day? This blogger does. The Antipodean yo-yo dieter helmed three fantastically grotesque films at the start of his directorial career, before he got too serious for my liking. Braindead, his third film is easily his magnum opus to splatterfest comedy. It's shameful how this film that celebrates its thirtieth anniversary this year hasn't received the beauty treatment it deserves by any of the boutique labels around. Obviously, it's not their fault, since the film has been caught up with licensing issues. Like Positive K, I'm not trying to hear that, see! Braindead was one of the shining lights during the decade that saw the horror film go largely underground, and it deserves some respectful appreciation today.

The Night Comes for Us (Timo Tjahjanto, 2018)

If history has taught us anything, it's that we're doomed to repeat the same mistakes again and again. Film normies unaware of the The Raid franchise, and its impact on gruesomely kinetic fight choreography echoed the West's tradition of blissfully ignoring the heroic bloodshed movies from yesteryear. To Netflix's credit, it managed to tap into the modern rise of Indonesian action films, with the savagely gory The Night Comes for Us. Alas, Netflix having a mostly shite library of films doesn't justify a monthly subscription, from yours truly. So why then, do films exclusive to the streaming site like Uncut Gems (2019), The Irishman (2019) and the highly overrated Roma (2018) get home format physical releases by a hipster label like Criterion, whilst this powerhouse of bonecrunching visceral entertainment remain ignored? 

Ought to add here that at the time of writing Freaks got a placeholder announcment via Warner Archive (gutted!), therefore a possible release might be on the cards this year. Also, my original fifth choice - Christos Nikou's Apples (2021) is getting a proper release today! Today! Unbelievable!