Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Viewings: November 2022

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

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



Thunder in the City (Marion Gering, 1937)*

Black Friday (Arthur Lubin, 1940)*

Girl Gang (Robert C. Dertano, 1954)

Mr. Sardonicus (William Castle, 1961)

Station Six Sahara (Seth Holt, 1963)*

First Men in the Moon (Nathan Juran, 1964)

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

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

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

Torture Dungeon (Andy Milligan, 1970)*

Endless Night (Sidney Gilliat, 1972)*

Deadly Weapons (Doris Wishman, 1973)*

Double Agent 73 (Doris Wishman, 1974)*

Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)

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

The Prey (Edwin Brown, 1983)

Zeder (Pupi Avati, 1983)*

Invitation to Hell (Wes Craven, 1984)

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

Deadbeat at Dawn (Jim VanBebber, 1988)

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

Red Spirit Lake (Charles Pinion, 1993)*

We Await (Charles Pinion, 1996)*

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

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

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

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

Trauma (Lucio A. Rojas, 2017)*

Bliss (Joe Begos, 2019)*

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

Barbarian (Zach Cregger, 2022)*

Flux Gourmet (Peter Strickland, 2022)*

The Lair (Neil Marshall, 2022)*

Smile (Parker Finn, 2022)*

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


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

FIFA World Cup 2022 (2022)*


* First time viewings.


Dada Debaser Notes:

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

Monday, November 28, 2022

Take Me to the Mardi Gras Massacre

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

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

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

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

Instant cop.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Do You Like Hitchcock?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Dada Debaser's Fave Films Directed by Women

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

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

Fave Films Directed by Women:

Bad Girls Go to Hell (Doris Wishman, 1965)

Terminal Island (Stephanie Rothman, 1973)

The Night Porter (Liliana Cavani, 1974)

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Amy Heckerling, 1982)

Slumber Party Massacre (Amy Holden Jones, 1982)

Desperately Seeking Susan (Susan Seidelman, 1985)

The Boys Next Door (Penelope Spheeris, 1985)

Streetwalkin' (Joan Freeman, 1985)

Stripped to Kill (Kat Shea, 1987)

Big (Penny Marshall, 1988)

Celia (Ann Turner, 1989)

Pet Sematary (Mary Lambert, 1989)

Slumber Party Massacre III (Sally Mattison, 1990)

Point Break (Kathryn Bigelow, 1991)

Ravenous (Antonia Bird, 1999)

American Psycho (Mary Harron, 2000)

Punisher: War Zone (Lexi Alexander, 2008)

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

American Mary (Jenn Soska & Sylvia Soska, 2012)

Kiss of the Damned (Xen Cassavetes, 2013)

The Babadook (Jennifer Kent, 2014)

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

The Invitation (Karyn Kusama, 2015)

Revenge (Coralie Fargeat, 2017)

Censor (Prano Bailey-Bond, 2021)

Hatching (Hannah Bergholm, 2022)

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

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Chesty Pains

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Worst Movie Accents

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Tanz Macabre

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Children of the Grave

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Picks of 1972

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

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

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

Here are my film picks for 1972:

Aguirre, the Wrath of God (Werner Herzog)

All the Colours of the Dark (Sergio Martino)

The Asphyx (Peter Newbrook)

Asylum (Roy Ward Baker)

The Big Bird Cage (Jack Hill)

Blacula (William Crane)

Bonnie’s Kids (Arthur Marks)

Carry On Abroad (Gerald Thomas)

The Case of the Bloody Iris (Giuliano Carnimeo)

Cut-Throats Nine (Joaquin Louis Romero Marchent)

Death Walks at Midnight (Luciano Ercoli)

Deliverance (John Boorman)

Don't Torture a Duckling (Lucio Fulci)

Dracula A.D. 1972 (Alan Gibson)

Fear in the Night (Jimmy Sangster)

Female Prisoner Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 (Shunya Itō)

The Flesh and Blood Show (Pete Walker)

Frenzy (Alfred Hitchcock)

The Getaway (Sam Peckinpah)

The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola)

Horror Express (Eugenio Martin)

Hunchback of the Morgue (Javier Aguirre)

The Last House on the Left (Wes Craven)

The Legend of Boggy Creek (Charles B. Pierce)

The Mechanic (Michael Winner)

The Night Stalker (John Llewellyn Moxey)

The Poseidon Adventure (Irwin Allen)

The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (Emilio Miraglia)

Silent Running (Douglas Trumbull)

Straight on Till Morning (Peter Collinson)

Sweet Sugar (Michael Levesque)

Tales from the Crypt (Freddie Francis)

Tombs of the Blind Dead (Amando de Ossorio)

Tower of Evil (Jim O'Connolly)

Vampire Circus (Robert Young)

Un Flic (Jean-Pierre Melville)

What Have You Done to Solange? (Massimo Dallamano)

A White Dress for Marialé (Romano Scavolini) 

Who Saw Her Die? (Aldo Lado)

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

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

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


Dada Debaser Bonus:

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

Picks of 1982, 1992, 2002 and 2012.