Friday, June 30, 2023

Viewings: June 2023

Rookie numbers! Lowest number of films viewed over the course of a month. Couldn't find the time to cotch and watch like I'm accumstomed to.

Still managed to discover a few gems, regardless: Kinji Fukasaku's Samurai Reincarnation was a sublime chanbara fantasy tale; William Cheung Kei's bonkers Calamity of Snakes is possibly the most extreme creature feature I've ever watched; and Dennis Hopper's steamy, southern noir The Hot Spot was one of those rare films which complimented the recent heatwave.



Test Tube Babies (W. Merle Connell, 1948)*

The Devil's Sleep ((W. Merle Connell, 1949)*

Plan 9 from Outer Space (Edward D. Wood Jr, 1957)

The Initiation of Sarah (Robert Day, 1978)*

Samurai Reincarnation (Kinji Fukasaku, 1981)*

Calamity of Snakes (William Cheung Kei, 1982)*

The Forest (Don Jones, 1982)*

Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989)

The Hot Spot (Dennis Hopper, 1990)*

Reality (Tina Satter, 2023)*



Mr Benn (David McKee, 1971 - 2005)

*First time viewings.

Dada Debaser Notes:

  • The Initiation of Sarah is made for TV Carrie rip-off set amongst two rival sororities. Way too slow and sanitised for my liking, but Shelly Winters as an evil house mother, along with an admittedly fun occult ritual finale, are legitimately fun highlights from an otherwise forgettable film.
  • Finally watched The Forest and it's nearly as bad as the other backwoods slasher it's often compared with - Don't Go in the Woods (1981.) LOL @ the repair guy fixing the antagonist's fridge after getting caught with the adulterous wife.
  • Thanks to Calamity of Snakes' shameless soundtrack robbing, Bill Conti's Runaway is the one positive highlight from my least favourite James Bond film starring Roger Moore.
  • Think Reality would have clicked better for me if I cared about American politics like Kermode does. Did appreciate the performaces, however.

Monday, June 26, 2023

Even Better Than the Real Thing

Never really understood the motive for remaking classic films. For studios; sure! It's a lower risk investment over creating an original property, but today's audiences seem to be bizarrely gleeful over their favourites being remade. It's as if a modern update will suddently make the original more relevant. A timeless classic is just that - timeless! It has the right to stand alone without some modern take sullying its name.

Most of them turn out to be terrible. There have been exceptions to the rule, where the remake has been good and even exceeded in quality over the original. Controversial or not, below is a list of remakes that I consider better than the original:

The Man Who Knew Too Much (Alfred Hitchcock, 1956)

The Omega Man (Boris Sagal, 1971)

Sorcerer (William Friedkin, 1977)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Philip Kauffman, 1978)

Nosferatu the Vampyre (Werner Herzog, 1979)

The Thing (John Carpenter, 1982)

Breathless (Jim McBride, 1983)

Scarface (Brian De Palma, 1983)

The Fly (David Cronenberg, 1986) 

Little Shop of Horrors (Frank Oz, 1986)

The Blob (Chuck Russell, 1988)

Cape Fear (Martin Scorsese, 1991)

Fist of Legend (Gordon Chan, 1994) 

12 Monkeys (Terry Gilliam, 1996)

Bedazzled (Harold Ramis, 2000)

The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006)

The Hills Have Eyes (Alexandre Aja, 2006)

13 Assassins (Takashi Miike, 2010)

The Crazies (Breck Eisner, 2010)

Maniac (Franck Khalfoun, 2012)

Other notable remakes which aren't better than the original, but range from good to great to classic in their own right, in some cases:

The Magnificent Seven (John Sturges, 1960)

A Fistful of Dollars (Sergio Leone, 1964)

Night of the Living Dead (Tom Savini, 1990)

The Vanishing (Georges Sluizer, 1993)

Village of the Damned (John Carpenter, 1995)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Marcus Nispel, 2003)

Dawn of the Dead (Zack Snyder, 2004)

House of Wax (Jaume Collet-Serra, 2005)

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)

Friday the 13th (Marcus Nispel, 2009)

Sorority Row (Stephen Hendler, 2009)

Let Me In (Matt Reeves, 2010)

Piranha 3D (Alexandre Aja, 2010)

The Town that Dreaded Sundown (Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, 2014)

This blog post was inspired by my recent discovery that the same tossers who wrote and directed the God awful Scream sequels are attached to helm Escape from New York. Hopefully it remains in pre-production limbo and doesn't progress further. 

EDIT: Completely forgot to include Breathless. Cheers, The Martorialist!

Friday, June 16, 2023

Brooklyn's Finest

Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989)

2023 the number - another summer! Time to wash away this year's bitter film disappointments with a NYC fire hydrant. Not too many films out there are worth enduring the hot sticky evenings right about now. Thankfully, Spike Lee's classic social drama Do the Right Thing (1989) perfectly encapsulates the sweltering summer heat to its advantage.

Set in the hubbub of Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighbourhood on the hottest day of the year. Sal's Famous Pizzeria is the focal point for rising racial tension throughout the film when Buggin' Out (Giancarlo Esposito), one of the patrons of the restaurant, takes issue with Sal's Wall of Fame being exclusively adorned with pictures of Italian/Italian American celebrities. The film's central protagonist, Mookie (Spike Lee), a pizza delivery guy for Sal (Danny Aiello, AKA Madonna's dad in the Papa Don't Preach video) and friend of Buggin' Out, temporarily de-escalates the situation before it resurfaces during the remainder of the day.

Sadly, Do the Right Thing's social commentary is still relevant today. Amidst the blazing summer heat, the multi-cultural melting pot boils over it into violence following a horrific incident involving the police. What's truly remarkable about Spike Lee's film is its humanistic writing for its characters; including their strengths and weaknesses, sans the stereotypical Hollywood heavy-handedness. Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn), who appears larger than life as a towering figure, endlessly blaring Public Enemy's Fight the Power on his boombox, exemplifies the duality inherent in the rest of the characters with his LOVE and HATE rings; an obvious homage to Robert Mitchum's tatoos from The Night of the Hunter (1955).

The sitdown conversation between Sal and his son Pino (John Turturro) is a powerful moment in the film. Despite all his hard work and passion, Sal's realises the pizzeria won't continue for long in the incapable hands of his sons; particularly the racist Pino. At this point, it's where Sal realises his pride for the business might have come at the expense of others. This is the pride before the fall that forshadows the film's volatile climax.

Ernest Dickerson's cinematography is absolutely gorgeous in the film. Not only does he capture the diverse vibrancy to the neighbourhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant and the colourful eighties apparel worn by the cast, but the intense humidity emanating off the screen feels very authentic. Beads of sweat in glistening detail on the cast and the stuffy urban atmosphere has you craving for an ice bath when the end credits start to crawl.

The rest of the supporting cast are also great with a memorable appearance of Samuel L. Jackson as the radio DJ Mister Señor Love Daddy rockin' both a kufi and a safari hat on his head throughout the film. Do the Right Thing also heralded the film debuts for both Martin Lawrence and Rosie Perez.

There's also the additional heat of Rosie Perez's dance sequence for the film's opening credits, which follows in the vein of a bygone trend in cinema. Well done to Spike Lee for capturing that classic sequence on celluloid. The ever so hands-on director was also committed to playing Perez's boyfriend in the film, by having the enviable task of rubbing ice cubes on her breasts to keep her cool from all the heat. This charitable endeavour might be another reason why Do the Right Thing came 24th in Sight and Sound's The Greatest Films of All Time poll.

Haven't seen every single one of Spike Lee's films, but Do the Right Thing does feel the like his most well crafted effort in his oeuvre. Still relevant today as it was over thirty years ago, which marks it as equally tragic as it is remarkable, but a sincere piece of art, regardless. Would rank highly in any great films set in NYC list "and that's the double-truth, Ruth!"

Dada Debaser Bonus Feature:

It's 1989 and if your humble blogger was the teenaged owner/manager of a restaurant - Spartan's Famous Souvlakia (because pizza in the summer is way too stodgy for my liking), I'm probably putting this lot on my Wall of Fame:

 Ain't no buggin' out in my joint!

Monday, June 12, 2023

Network Off Air

Kim Newman is probably crying on his penny-farthing right about now. Seems like the rumour regarding Network going under has been confirmed. Both its website and its social media accounts ceased operating this month.

Network was both an underrated and invaluable physical media distributor, specialising in vintage British cinema and classic TV related releases. Occasionally, the company would dabble in content outside of Britain, like the obscure American horror oddity, Miss Leslie's Dolls (1972). 

The label was the intersecting portion in a Venn diagram for nostalgia heads and film anoraks. The only thing it lacked was the pretence of prestige like some of its peers. That would probably explain why Network is no longer in business today, sadly.

With its absence in the niche world of boutique blu-rays, any hope I had for a bunch of classic sitcoms in high definition are less likely now. Also, my patience for a bunch of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson shows going on deep sale completely backfired, and it's now looking likely scalpers will scoop the lot and flogging them on eBay for extortionate prices.

Stingray: The Complete Series (Deluxe Edition Trailer)
Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, 1964 - 1965

Friday, June 9, 2023

Picks of 1993

Cinema Sewer's Robin Bougie claimed that 1993 was "the year it all went to shit" - claiming it signified a downward trend for many notable directors. Personally, I consider it a vintage year for cinema as it delivered some serious heat:

Bad Boy Bubby (Rolf de Heer)

Carlito's Way (Brian De Palma) 

City Hunter (Jing Wong)

Cronos (Guillermo del Toro)

Dark Waters (Mariano Baino)

Falling Down (Joel Schumacher)

The Fugitive (Andrew Davis)

Ground Hog Day (Harold Ramis)

Hard Target (John Woo)

In the Line of Fire (Wolfgang Petersen)

Iron Monkey (Yuen Woo Ping)

Menace II Society (The Hughes Brothers)

Return of the Living Dead III (Brian Yuzna)

Schindler's List (Steven Spielberg) 

Skinner (Ivan Nagy)

So I Married an Axe Murderer (Thomas Schlamme)

Tombstone (George P. Cosmatos & Kevin Jarre)

True Romance (Tony Scott)

The Untold Story (Herman Yau)

Films I liked from 1993, but not revisited in ages:

Alive; Batman: Mask of the Phantasm; Body Bags; Body Snatchers; A Bronx Tale; Cliffhanger; Coneheads; The Dark Half; Demolition Man; Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story; Hot Shots! Part Deux; In the Name of the Father; Judgement Night; Last Action Hero; Needful Things; The Nightmare Before Christmas; Red Rock West; Ticks; and Trauma.

Films from 1993 I shamelessly haven't seen: 

Boxing Helena; CB4; The Joshua Tree; Matinee: Robin Hoood: Men in Tights; A Perfect World; Sonatine; and Who's the Man?

Unpopular opinion: 

Phil Tippett described himself as extinct thanks to computer aided visual effects being employed on such a grand scale in Spielberg's dinosaur themed blockbuster, Jurassic Park. Neither cared much for the film nor its CGI wizardry back then - and still prefer stop motion animation and practical effects over it to this day.

Thursday, June 8, 2023

The Viper Rooms

Calamity of Snakes (William Chang Kee, 1982)

William Chang Kee's Cat. III nasty, Calamity of Snakes (1982), puts me in an awkward spot when it comes it an honest review, as I feel both love and revulsion for it.

Events kick off when a construction crew are building an apartment complex and discover a nest of snakes (we're talking thousands here). Rather than contact the relevant authorities and face delays, they cruelly kill the snakes off with the aid of an excavator smashing them (for real). This is the revenge motive for an even greater number of snakes, led by a giant python, to exact their vengeance on the humans moving into in the new apartment complex.

Calamity of Snakes employs Irwin Allen's tried and tested formula from his nature-gone-wild and disaster movies. Prominent film subgenres movies from the seventies and early eighties. Delving further, Calamity of Snakes shares much of the same DNA as the star-studded The Towering Inferno (1974); swapping fire for a serpent invasion. Thus, the clichéd introduction involving the apartment complex's occupant is ever present, before they're eventually killed off. This is where some unexpected Benny Hill style humour takes over and when a sadly small noticeable dip in pacing occurs. In a disco party scene, a snake crawls up a woman's leg and a guy predictably receives a slap because of it. Typical Saturday night for some.

If you're at all familiar with any of the Jungle horror films from the seventies and eighties; particularly of the Italian kind, then you'll be aware that real animal cruelty was very prominent in them. Calamity of Snakes is not only guilty of committing this taboo, but performs it on a mass scale. Numerous scenes show snakes being skinned alive, burnt, chopped and eaten. These scenes are both incrediby graphic and disturbing. Hard to recommend this film for this very reason, or at the very least, to advise anyone interested to tread with caution.

On a more positive note, what I totally adore about Calamity of Snakes is just how surreal it is from start to finish. There's an elderly snake master tasked with dispatching the giant python leader, which culminates in a bloody and savage martial arts battle between the pair. It's an amazing face-off and one you'll never quickly forget. Snakes gatecrashing the apartment's disco party is equal parts hilarious and down right brutal. Hundreds of snakes are thrown over the actors, and it all looks very dangerous (and possibly unsupervised). The camera doesn't shy away from the carnage that ensues - it's all very graphic detail.

Well done to the music department for borrowing a few recognisable horror film soundtracks. Goblin's Zombie makes a cameo, but Jay Chattaway's Subway Terror is used more liberally, and works effectively well in the background while snakes slither around various rooms and hallways; legitimately adding a another layer of intensity.

Calamity of Snakes is amongst the most outlandish and mean-spirited entry in the whole nature-gone-wild subgenre I've watched thus far. The animal cruelty alone stigmatises it. Definitely not a film for everyone, but the insanity of it all might be the jackpot that exploitation movie enthusiasts are craving for.

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Juke Box Fury

Dada Debaser hasn't compiled a Best Films of the 1960s list, but it's a safe bet it wouldn't be like the predictably boring ones by elitist cinephiles.

There's a one word answer why Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965) is on my shelf, and why my copy of La Dolce Vita (1960) is probably in some third world landfill site; soulful!

In the meantime, here's a furious compilation of vintage jams I'd put in the juke box if I ever ran a fleapit dive for all the beat girls, motor psychos and astro-zombies:

The Executioners - The Guillotine (1965)

The Night Beats - Night Beat (196?)

John & Jackie - Little Girl (1958)

The Genteels - Take it Off (1962)

Andrew Williams and His Orchestra - Sweet Little Pussycat (1966)

Roger & The Gypsies - Pass the Hatchet (Part 1) (1966)

The Majestics - Riding By (1962)

Jack Hammer - Wiggling Fool (1962)

Wiley Terry - Follow the Leader (Part 1) (1965)

The E Types - Put the Clock Back on the Wall (1967)

Steve King and The Echelons - Satan is Her Name (1962)

Bob Kayli - Tie Me Tight (1961)

Donna Dee - Nobody's Gonna Hurt You (1961)

The Go-Rillas - I Go (King Kong) (196?)

B.B. Cunningham Jr.  - Trip to Bandstand (1959)

The Hollywood Vines - When Johnny Comes Slidin' Home (1961)

The Surfmen - The Ghost Hop (1962)

The Frantics - The Whip (1960)

The Velaires - Sticks and Stones (1961)

Link Wray & The Wraymen - Jack the Ripper (1962)

Bob Landers with Willie Joe and His Unitar - Cherokee Dance (1956)

The Phantom - Love Me (1960)

Billy Mure's Super-Sonic Guitars - Supersonic (1957)

The Sonics - The Witch (1964)

Most of these songs were sourced from a bunch of old compilations, particularly from the Strip label. Regret not copping more of them back in the day as they go for a hefty price these days. In any case, I'm thankful for the ones I have.

DL in the comments.

Friday, June 2, 2023

Peter the Great

Unless there's a monumentable cock-up, The Flesh & Blood Show: The Horror Films of Pete Walker might be the most anticipated collection in what’s already been a stacked year for boutique releases, in my opinion.

Missed out on the old Anchor Bay set, which is why I'm as pleased as Punch that UK label 88 Films have stepped up to the task of releasing his films.

Pete Walker isn't ignored around these parts of the internet as he's considered something of a legend on this here blog. Three of his films made it onto the G.O.A.T Brit flicks list compiled by your host while celebrated directors Alfred Hitchcock and David Lean had one apiece.

For the uninitiated, two of Walker's films, House of Whipcord (1974) and House of Mortal Sin (1976) are currently available to stream for free over on Talking Pictures' site, and they're well worth checking out!

EDIT: How did I not realise until now that Ray Brooks, who starred in the Pete Walker films The Flesh and Blood Show (1972) and House of Whipcord (1974), and of course Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A. D. (1966) and Carry on Aboard (1972), was the narrator on the iconic animated children's series Mr Benn (1971 - 2005)? Only found out while randomly watching a documentary on the show via YouTube.