Thursday, July 18, 2024

Peak Era #2

Kenneth Johnson's alien invasion mini-series V (1983) may have been an allegory for fascism and the rise of the Third Reich, but to any young lad back then, it was the rise of the third leg thanks to its villainess Diana, as played by Jane Badler. (Brits wouldn't see the show until just before V: The Final Battle (1984) premiered the following year.)

Jane Badler

The smouldering brunette was like one of Boris Vallejo's beautiful women come to life. Not even the infamous guinea pig scene could put a youngun off when she looked that fine.

Big fan of Jane Badler adopting the heavy metal, vixen big hair and tight fitting catsuits on the ongoing series of V (1984-1985). With Kenneth Johnson no longer writing, the show became a failure and was cancelled before the final episode was even filmed. It may have been awful, but it was peak era Jane Badler, in my opinion.

Badler would eventually reside and work in Australia; appearing in the completely forgotten The Highwayman (1987-1988) and the reboot of Mission: Impossible (1988-1990). Still a smokeshow on those shows.

Fast forward several decades, and she would wind up playing another Diana in the Aussie soap Neighbours (1985- ). 

Can't say I care for any of the Tubi level horror films or her singing career, in all honesty. But she can rest easy with the knowledge she was one of the sexiest woman on TV during the eighties.

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

In the Doghouse

The Appointment (Lindsey C. Vickers, 1981)

Imagine if the same dreamlike and ominous atmosphere which permeated Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) manifested itself with Edward Woodward driving a Ford Granada. That's the best way to describe Lindsey C. Vickers’s lesser seen, The Appointment (1981). 

Apart from the short film The Lake (1978) (which shares many elements with this film) and a host of second/third unit directing spots for various Hammer films, this was Vickers’s one and only feature film as a director. One and done like Herk Harvey. A real shame, as this unseen chiller is a bonafide gem.

The Appointment manages to convey a tremendous sense of foreboding dread throughout its run time. Even scenes that involve inanimate still life objects, like a flower vase, Vickers manages to turn it into prophetic doom, with fallen flower petals being a sign of what’s to come. This scene, along with an abundance of other moments, make for a compelling build up. Fortunately, the climax of the film manages to be equally as satisfying.

A pre-credits sequence involving a young school girl walking home is when the film's first major, and most unforgettable, shocker occurs. Whilst taking a shortcut through the nearby woods, she's shockingly grabbed and whisked into the dense undergrowth, never to be seen again. The only trace is her violin being crushed by an unseen entity. It's a disturbing scene; one which completely earns the rest of the film all undivided attention. 

Thankfully, the rest of The Appointment is equally as captivating. Edward Woodward plays Ian, the beige sweater wearing suburban dad, tasked with having to break the news to his bratty daughter Joanne (Samantha Weysom) that he won't be able to attend her violin recital, due to a work commitment. When she pleads for him to make it to her performance, it all gets uncomfortable. It’s a power struggle between the two. Not being able to attend his daughter's concert is perceieved as a betrayal, and seals Ian's fate. This is the crux of the story.

A restless night follows. Dad gets the worst of it with vivid bad dreams; one of which involves his wife Dianna disturbingly turning into Joanna. Another is where both Ian and Dianna experience the same nightmare, where Ian is involved in a very serious car accident. Meanwhile, a pack of mysterious rottweillers manage to stalk around the family's home and Ian's place of work. Not only are the canines the same breed as the demonic one from The Omen films, but they also behave the same way.

While the stealthy dogs are doing who knows what to Ian's car in the garage, the most disturbing part occurs when Ian is tempted to go into his daughter's bedroom. Joanne is awake and stares at the door handle. Wasn't until another viewing when I realised the supernatural source. 

Early in the morning, a tired and groggy Ian drives off to attend his long distance appointment. 

Really great how the sound of screeching tyres, which were featured in a nightmare, persist while Ian is resting at a motorway service station. It's a minor detail that lends to the impressive vibe of the film.

Ultimately, the significance of the mysterious dogs and Ian's upcoming doom become very apparent during the final act of the film, of which there's really no need to divulge any further plot details.

Considering The Appointment was released during the hayday of the video nasty, it's a virtually a bloodless affair. Foreboding, atmospheric dread is its main objective. Edward Woodward is great at playing authoritarian figures who’ve bitten off more than they can chew in horror films. For fans of British horror, it's a winner. Effective as a slow burn chiller that doesn't abuse one's patience with a long arse run time; and rewarding to the observant who can spot hidden clues and symbolism within the film.

The Appointment is one of the better films I've seen released via BFI''s Flipside imprint. Tragic how it's spent forty years in relative obscurity and doesn't even have an official trailer. Worst of all, is it spending another two years sitting in my unwatched pile until I got round to watching it.

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Judy Geeson's Greatest Parts

What's with English cult actresses posing with boy scouts back in the day?

Managed to finally check out Jim O'Connolly's circus-themed, proto-slasher, Berserk (1967) over the weekend. Overall conclusion was that Joan Crawford wearing a leotard was far more horrifiic than any of the gruesome deaths that occurred. However, it was worth enduring just to tick it off the list of ‘Judy Geeson films I have not seen’.

With a career stemming back to her childhood, Geeson really came to prominence when she starred alongside Sidney Poitier's teacher as the besotten student Pamela Dare, in the hit drama To Sir, With Love (1967). Her subsequent roles had her appearing in numerous genres which were popular at the time; ranging from spy adventures, sex comedies and horror thrillers. The latter category was where she really got to shine as an actress, as she got to flex some acting chops rather than appear as eye candy.

Thus, here are Dada Debaser's favourite Judy Geeson films:

10 Rillington Place (Richard Fleischer, 1971)

Richard Attenborough's weird shaped bald cap isn't enough to distract from this deeply disturbing and dark thriller based on real life, serial killer John Christie. Judy Geeson is the sympathetic young mother Beryl Evans, while a young John Hurt delivers one of his underappreciated performances as her simple-minded, hypochondriac husband. One of the G.O.A.T Britisih films, in my humble opinion.

On the lighter side, 10 Rillington Place might inadvertedly serve as a prequel to the politically incorrect British sitcom Love Thy Neighbour (1972 - 1976) as Rudolph Walker is the nameless new occupant moving into the house of horrors during the film's ending.

Fear in the Night (Jimmy Sangster, 1972)

Taking obvious inspiration from Henri-Georges Clouzot's Les Diaboliques (1955), along with Sangster the script gangster's earlier stories - Taste of Fear (1961) and Nightmare (1964), this is a pleasant throwback to the psychological thrillers Hammer had produced before they went all in on horror. Six months after an assault, Geeson is left traumatised and seeing a psychiatrist. She's attacked again aftter marrying her teacher hubby, Ralph Bates. The attacks continue even after moving in a house on school grounds in the remote countryside. Are the attacks mere figments of her imagination? The unreliable narrator is hardly a fresh concept, but Geeson's performance is a major highlight in keeping you guessing. Various twists and turns, along with the dread filled paranoia class Fear in the Night as a Hammer giallo. To round out the cast, the legendary Peter Cushing plays the creepy headmaster and Joan Collins in pre-Alexis mode as his shotgun wielding wife. 

Both Judy Geeson and Joan Collins previously were in the spy thriller The Executioner (1970), which is a snoozefest despite George Peppard pretending to be a Brit in it.

A Candle for the Devil (Eugenio Martin, 1973)

Helmed by Spanish director Eugenio Martin, the film maker responsible for the classic Peter Cushing & Christipher Lee chiller Horror Express (1972), A Candle for the Devil is another high quality effort in Spain's horror canon. The clashing of liberal and conservative attitudes lead to numerous deaths and full bodied rioja inside a village hotel run by two puritanical and murderous sisters; Fawlty Towers it's not! Geeson is the heroine investigating the disappearance of her sister who might have lived to go on another summer holiday if she bothered keeping her kit on while sun-bathing.

Judy's actual sister, Sally Geeson, was in Carry On Abroad (1972), which makes for an interesting double bill with A Candle for the Devil on account of both film's reflecting the popularity of package holidays for Brits at the time. Both films, however, are radically different.

Other Notable Judy Geeson Films:

Brannigan (Douglas Hickcox, 1975)
Film historians would probably label Brannigan as part of the popular Eurocrime movies which would often star recognisable Hollywood actors; middle-aged Brits like myself would call it a forerunner to eighties cop show Dempsey and Makepeace (1985 - 1986). The legendary John Wayne plays the hardboiled Yank cop in London; Judy Geeson is the English blonde assigned to him. All about John Wayne, first and foremost. Worth peeping just for the Duke leaping over Tower Bridge in a Ford Capri.

The Eagle Has Landed (John Sturgess, 1976)
An all-star WWII, action thriller revolving around a Nazi plot to kidnap or kill Winston Churchill. This would end up being the final film by the celebrated director Jim Sturgess. Sadly, Geeson's role is relatively minor in comparison to the screen time given to the likes of Michael Caine, Donald Sutherland and Robert Duvall. Overall, a superb film which remarkably turns its villains into being sympathetic.

The Lords of Salem (Rob Zombie, 2012)
Please believe admitting to liking any Rob Zombie film is not an easy task. The Lords of Salem is essentially the only decent film by the talentless hack with a penchant for remaking past films with a white trash spin. Therefore, it's a surprise that the dreamlike The Lords of Salem comes acrosss as a grungier Peter Strickland film than Zombie's other overrated shite. After decades of television work, Judy Geeson returned to film as one of three Salem witches aiming to impregnate Zombie's trustafarian-looking wife with the seed of Old Nick. Trippy and surreal, with more replay value than anything else Zombie ever made.

Judy Geeson Films I Wish I Liked:

Goodbye Gemini (Alan Gibson, 1970)
Controversial, psychological drama starring Judy Geeson and Martin Potter as a pair of disturbed aryan looking twins. The allure of the bright lights and the big city turn into a nightmare as the incestuous couple cross paths with Alexis Kanner's crazy pimp. Unfortunatley, the film is nowhere near as captivating as its disturbing premise; in fact, with the exception of a memorable ritual scene, it's lethargically paced to the point of curing insomnia.

Doomwatch (Peter Sasdy, 1972)
Film adaptation of the BBC science fiction series. Sasdy's film is initially set up as a folk horror on a Cornish island. Turns out this is really a tragic, ecological thriller with Ian Bannen's scientific investigator discovering growth hormone pollutants have wound up in the food chain, deforming the locals. As poignant as its environemental message is, Doomwatch drags far too much to maintain any interest. Geeson gives a solid performance as the friendly school teacher, but she's not given much development, regrettably.

Inseminoid (Norman J. Warren, 1981)
The only good things about this cheap as chips Alien rip off are Judy Geeson and Stephanie Beacham being in it. Essentially a slasher, and one that makes some of Roger Corman's Alien knock off films look like Ridley Scott's influential masterpiece. With all the gore and nudity in the film, perhaps the most unflattering are the close-ups of Geeson's fillings whilst she's giving birth to a hiliariously looking alien homunculus. A career low for Geeson, and possibly the reason why she focused on televison work after being in this cinematic abortion.
 
 
That’s about all that's worth covering here; at least what's relevant to the tastes of this blog. The Plague Dogs (1982) will probably remain a blindspot as it's an animated feature film about a pair of escapee canines from an animal research laboratory. It's by the team responsible for Watership Down (1978), and supposedly even more depressing. Thus, your host has no idea how significant Judy Geeson's vocal role is in the film. Not worth the risk of being reduced to tears just to find out.

The Plague Dogs (Trailer)
Martin Rosen, 1982

Monday, July 8, 2024

LAX

MaXXXine (Ti West, 2024)

In recent years, Mia Goth has turned into a Hollywood star. A status that her characters Maxine Miller/Minx and Pearl Douglas have craved. Together with director Ti West, the first two instalments of their film trilogy X (2022) and Pearl (2022) has netted them critical praise and fans in the franchise. Therefore, the third entry, MaXXXine (2024) was always going to be eagerly anticipated, especially when it's set in Hollywood during the mid-eighties.

MaXXXine never relents in its mission of showcasing the overly familar eighties aesthetic which has been pastiched for decades now. Cue an abundance of neon lights, video filtering and the retro sound of cold synths and sleazy saxophones. It's a remarkable achievement in MaXXXine; a nostalgic trip to a world defined by films from a given era rather than adhere historical authenticity. Both The House of the Devil (2009) and the previously mentioned X were testament to West's expertise in recreating past decades, thus, it's hardly a surprise MaXXXine's cinematic world is easily its strongest asset.

Ironically, West's devotion to visual aesthetics, film references and various homages have come at the expense of a focused plot, character developments and a worthy final act. Worst of all, the levels of suspense and terror, which were part and parcel in the very films which inspire MaXXXine, are largely absent. These egrious errors result in the weakest entry in the X trilogy.

As talented as Mia Goth is, Maxine has regressed to a two dimensional character. Aspiring to transition from a porn star to a Hollywood starlet is not only her ultimate goal, but her entire personality. Her ruthlessness is largely on the back burner and only appears in a few scenes; one of which involves an unfortunate Buster Keaton impersonator. For the most part, she's either being harassed and stalked by Kevin Bacon's slimy P.I, or taking career advice from Elizabeth Debicki’s snooty horror director. Meanwhile, Michelle Monaghan and Bobby Cannavale have little to work with as cops on the hunt for L.A's serial killer, the Night Stalker, other than light relief. Similarly, Giancarlo Esposito as Maxine's agent hardly offers little in the film with the exception of look amusing wearing a wig on his head. The rest of the cast are even less fortunate. Maxine's close circle merely exist for the bodycount. Throw in the obligatory Satanic Panic hysteria from the era, and you have loads of elements that come across as scatterbrained. They all lead to an unsatisfying conclusion, unfortunately. The big reveal was no different to the nonsensically, eye-rolling ones featured in the Scream sequels.

Still, fans of genre films, especially lovers of the slasher and the giallo, might get more mileage out of the film than normies. Notable setpieces include a beautifully filmed Argento style kill à la Tenebrae (1982) inside a seedy video store. Tyler Bates supplies a fantastic score for it; which sounds like a mashup of vintage Goblin and Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key's soundtracks. Fans of eighties Friedkin and De Palma won't go hungry, either. Biggest surprise of all is the severed head on a bed homage from the video nasty Nightmare in a Damaged Brain (1981). There are of course less obscure references like the parallels between Pearl and Norma Bates; made all the more obvious with the former peering out of the iconic house adjacent to the notorious Bates Motel. Maxxxine is loaded with many movie references and easter eggs for easily pleased cinephiles. All distractions from the film's aforementioned flaws.

To conclude, MaXXXine is an enjoyable, but significant step down from its predecessors; plenty to appease horror fans and eighties nostalgia heads, but lacking in offering anything truly meaningful. Which is a genuine shame, since Ti West and Mia Goth were a winning combination over the last couple of years.

Monday, July 1, 2024

Los Angeles Jams

American Gigolo - Openining Titles (Call Me)
Paul Schrader, 1980

Kind of funny that, despite being a band from New York City, Blondie would record a song which is forever associated with the sunny vibe of Los Angeles, thanks to it appearing on the opening titles to Paul Schraeder's thriller American Gigolo (1980). Blondie's official video for Call Me features footage of an overcast N.Y.C. Thus, it doesn't compliment the song as effectively as Richard Gere cruising in his black Mercedes convertible while on his way to satisfy some rich cuckhold's wife.

L.A. home of the body bag... and also a bunch of soundtrack choons which sum up the city that I've never been. Since I already did one of these compiliations for its east cost twin, here's the City of Angels' equivalent:

The Carrie Nations - Find It (1970)

John Carpenter - Assault On Precinct 13 'Main Title' (1976)

Rose Royce - Car Wash (1976)

Vangelis - 'Blade Runner' End Titles (1982)

Jimmy Page - A Shadow in the City (1982) 

Wings Hauser - Neon Slime (1982)

Brad Fiedel - The Terminator 'Main Title' (1984)

Tahnee Cain & The Tryanglz - Burnin' in the Third Degree (1984)

Harold Faltermeyer - Axel F. (1984)

Glenn Frey - The Heat is On (1984)

Ollie & Jerry - Breakin'... There's No Stoppin' Us (1984)

Pino Donaggio - Telescope (1984)

Wang Chung - City of the Angels (1985)

Ice T - Colors (1988)

Tangerine Dream - Truck Scene (1989)

Guns 'N' Roses - You Could Be Mine (1991)

Ice Cube - How to Survive in South Central (1991)

Dr. Dre introducing Snoop Doggy Dogg - Deep Cover (1992)

MC Eiht - Streiht Up Menace (1993)

Dr. Dre - Keep Their Heads Ringin' (1995) 

John Carpenter & Shirley Walker - History of Los Angeles (1996)

Cliff Martinez - Bride of Deluxe (2011)

Rob - Doll (2012)

James Newton Howard - If It Bleeds It Leads (2014)

Jonathan Snipes - Starry Eyes 'End Titles' Film Edit (2014)

Sweet Tempest - Mine (2016) 

A real shame that Josie Cotton's problematic Johnny Are You Queer? predates its soundtrack appearance in Martha Coolidge's teen comedy Valley Girl (1983), as it's my fave choon off the soundtrack.

Sunday, June 30, 2024

Viewings: June 2024

Two wildly different dystopian futures were the major bright spots for me this month. George Miller's post-apocalyptic prequel Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga and Jérémie Périn's animated cyberpunk thriller Mars Express were easily my fave titles.

I also listed my highest rated 21st century films on Letterboxd this month, before a software update briefly turned the app into an adpocalypse

 

Film:

The Flying Deuces (A. Edward Sutherland, 1939)

Planet of the Vampires (Mario Bava, 1965)*

The Flesh and Blood Show (Pete Walker, 1972)

House of Whipcord (Pete Walker, 1974)

Dominique (Michael Anderson, 1979)*

Nightkill (Ted Post, 1980)*

The Isle (Kim Ki-duk, 2000)*

The First Purge (Gerard McMurray, 2018)*

Challengers (Luca Guadagnino, 2024)*

The Fall Guy (David Leitch, 2024)*

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (George Miller, 2024)*

In a Violent Nature (Chris Nash, 2024)*

I Saw the TV Glow (Jane Schoenbrun, 2024)*

Mars Express (Jérémie Périn, 2023/2024)*

Under Paris (Xavier Gens, 2024)*

 

Television:

The Avengers - ‘Return of the Cybernauts’ (Sydney Newman, 1961 - 1969)*

Years and Years (Simon Cellan Jones & Lisa Mulcahy, 2019)*

Doctor Who - New Episodes (Sydney Newman, 1963 - 2024)*

UEFA Euro 2024*


*First time viewings.


Dada Debaser Notes:

  • We might onlyt be halfway through the year, but Christmas came early (or really late, the more I dwell on it) with the Pete Walker box set finally being released after such a long delay.
  • Furiosa and Mars Express weren't the only dystopian futures watched over this period. Russell T. Davies's neurotic writing for the highly praised mini-series Years and Years, turned out to be an unintentional comedy for me. Best things about it were his clairvoyant predictions and Emma Thompson's Nigel Farage-like villain.
  • Was enjoying Kim Ki-duk's psychodrama The Isle until it went into Pain Olympics territory with multiple fish hooks winding up in orifices. Like Roger Murtaugh, I'm too old for this shit.
  • Don't get the love for David Leitch's films, but all of my issues (of which there are many) are irrelevant compared to the tragic sight of Emily Blunt's botched face in The Fall Guy.
  • Wasn't feeling Challengers. Might be me still harbouring a grudge over Luca Guadagnino's pointless Suspiria (2018) remake, to be honest.
  • Both Dominique and Nightkill were solid Hitchcockian style murder plot thrillers, but done better elsewhere. Decent timewasters, regardless.
  • Not being available in my region, Mario Bava's Planet of the Vampires was a major blindspot. Sadly, despite its gorgeous cinematography and production design, I found it quite underwhelming. I can see the similarities with Alien (1979), though.
  • I Saw the TV Glow is a strong contender for most pretentious film of the year, while Under Paris might deserve an award for being the most idiotic.
  • Biggest disappointment this month was Chris Nash's In a Violent Nature. Such a low effort and horribly acted film. It continuously breaks the very concept which sold it to peeps like me. Expect the yoga kill to forever live on as a gory gif as it's the most memorable scene from it.
  • Overall, the episodes from the recent series of Doctor Who ranged from poor to mediocre, but I’ll admit the cliffhanger from the penultimate episode had me hooked and eagerly awaiting the finale. Shouldn't have bothered as it was a huge anticlimax.
  • RIP Donald Sutherland! A star of so many classic films and the face (and sound) of one of the most horrifying movie endings ever:
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Ending)
Philip Kaufman, 1978

Saturday, June 29, 2024

Once Upon a Time in the Wasteland

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (2024)

Considering George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) is arguably be the greatest film of the 2010s, it would be safe to assume his return to a franchise (and genre) he spawned with the spinoff prequel Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (2024), might be a tough act to follow. That thought rings true after seeing it. There's plenty to like about Miller's latest work; in fact, it's a highly impressive film, but it does fall short of its predecessor.

Cutting to the chase, the most obvious fault with the film is its run time. Quoting Chris Hemsworth's film-stealing villain, Dementus, "the question is, do you have it in you to make it epic?" Clocking in at a whopping two and a half hours, I'd say yes, but indulgently so. Pacing issues make it a downgrade to Fury Road's actions speak louder than words mantra. Structurely, Furiosa... is split into several chapters set over many years, with Anya Taylor Joy only making her appearance around the one hour mark as the titular heroine. Granted, Alyla Browne as child Furiosa is very good, and the continuous world building and lore of Miller's dystopian vision will never cease to be fascinating, but it's a stark contrast to the kinetic flow and narrative which Mad Max: Fury Road employed, which made it a masterpiece. Furiosa... is a distinct change.

Anya Taylor Joy does a sterling effort as an earlier incarnation of Charlize Theron's vengeful Vuvalini. In this current era of film making, it's a pleasant relief she wasn't turned into another boring girlboss. Her path of revenge isn't an easy road in the least. Her victories are earned. However, as previously noted, the real star is Chris Hemsworth relishing the opportunity as the villainous antagonist. Going completely against typecasting, it's fun to watch him being so charmingly over the top. Tasting Furiosa's tears and uttering "Sorrow is more piquant, zesty," as she's forced to watch her crucified mother being tortured, is so cartoonishly evil, it’s entertaining.

Much like its predecessor, it's a stunning looking film. The world of Mad Max is probably the most beautiful post-apocalyptic hellscape I've witnessed. The arid and desolate horizons are like twisted John Constable paintings. Of course, it wouldn't be Mad Max related without the freakishly insane looking vehicles. Dementus's chariot pulled by three choppers is another memorable entry that's on par with the Gigahorse and the iconic V8 Interceptor. Last, but not least, you really can't avoid how surreal the various tribal factions and folk look in these films. A minor complaint, but it's a real shame some visual FX shots look a bit shoddy. Composites, particularly near the beginning of the film, look very noticeable and are jarring at times. Flaws which were nowhere as immersion breaking as its predecessor.

The climax really exemplifies George Miller's steadfast portrayal of his road warriors over the decades. The final scenes between Furiosa and Dementus are reminiscent of vintage spaghetti westerns. The hunter stalking the prey amongst the sand dunes from afar. Picking off the pack until the big showdown, It's highly stylish and lends to an outcome which fuels the legends of the Wasteland.

In summary, Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is a great film. Prolonged, but great. One of the best motion pictures released so far this year. Too bad the film flopped as we'll probably never get Miller's next planned Mad Max film. Maybe if he helmed that first instead of a spinoff, then both projects would have stood a greater chance. Regardless of this, Miller's auteur actioners have been far superior to the usual blockbuster dross we're constantly bombarded with, and for that I'm grateful.

Monday, June 24, 2024

The Moment I Feared: Part 9

Watching a bootleg copy back in the day of James Glickenhaus's classic vigilante thriller The Exterminator (1980) at a mate's house might have been the first X rated film for your host. Didn't get to see the whole film the first time as my friend's older sister turned off the VHS player so she could watch Little House on the Prairie (1974 - 1983) on TV — the Philistine! It was too late, The Exterminator poured enough nightmare fuel into my mental tank to leave a fearful impression for decades.

The pre-credits PoW camp sequence featuring a gruesome decapitation was frightening enough, but it was mafioso boss Gino Pontivini being lowered into an industrial meat grinder and ending up as potential spag bol that brought pure terror to a young Sparty. The screams are still haunting.

It was also the sequence where Robert Ginty uttered the line "If you're lying, I'll be back!". Heads like myself have often pondered whether Arnold Schwarzenegger's famous quote might have been lifted from The Exterminator. The infamous line would also appear as text on some of the film's promotional posters. What is an absolute certainty is Robert Ginty never looked anywhere near like the Mad Max style biker on the posters. Regardless, The Exterminator will always be a B-movie classic and deserves its spot in the vigilante movie hall of fame

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Inspectors from Mars

Mars Express (Jérémie Périn, 2023/2024)

Might as well copy and paste my Godzilla Minus One (2023) review for Jérémie Périn's directorial debut. It echoes a lot of my sentiments on an alternative industry delivering what Hollywood can't or will no longer deliver. Mars Express (2023) is a French, animated, science fiction film proudly wearing its inspirations - notably Blade Runner (1982) and Ghost in the Shell (1995) on its sleeve. It forgoes the popular, Marvel standard which has infected other sci-fi properties over the years, opting for the type of philosophical themes you would expect from an Isaac Assimov novel.

Set in the year 2200, Périn manages to construct an incredible amount of world building in his debut. Undoubtedly the film's major strength. Throughout its lean running time Mars Express impresses in marrying future tech in a human society; opening the books on various moral and ethical quandaries. Prime example is the topically relevant subject matter artificial intelligence.

Mars Express transitions from a conventional film noir/detective story to a conspiracy/espionage thriller. Its two main leads: Mars based private investigator Aline Ruby (Léa Drucker) and her robotic partner Carlos Rivera (Daniel Njo Lobé). Aline is very much reminscent of the traditional private dick with personal demons; notably her drink problem. Carlos is an interesting contrast; a dead human brought to life as a robotic back-up, replete with a hologram head. A chase sequence early in the film involving the two leads apprehending a jailbroken robot and a shady tech engineer really highlight the dynamic between the two leads and the amazing world(s) which they inhabit.

Artistically speaking, Mars Express looks distinctively European in style. Obviously inspired from Moebius and sci-fi themed bande dessinée books, it stands out in comparison to its American and Japanese peers. The entire reason the film even earned any time from me.

Périn's Mars Express is hardly a game changer, but it does handle its themes and topics superbly well for what's essentially a ninety minute feature. That's commendable, especially in the wake of the soporific and forgettable The Creator (2023)  a cyberpunk title that's already wreaked amnesia on everyone less than a year later.

File Mars Express as another surprising gem from 2023 which has eventually made its way onto the Dada Debaser telly box much later on. Still calling it a 2024 film in the end of year lists, though.

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Nasty Habit

Killer Nun (Trailer)
Giulio Berruti, 1979

Swedish bombshell Anita Ekberg frolicking in the Trevi fountain in Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita (1960) might be peak cinema to snobbish cinephiles, but she'll be remembered as a drug addicted, dentures-stomping, horny nun in Giulio Berruti's nunsploitation/giallo and one time video nasty, Killer Nun (1979) by film degenerates like myself. At the risk of offending both sides of the kino taste spectrum, I can't say I'm a fan of either of those films. However, one particular track featured on Killer Nun by composer Alessandro Alessandroni has been a fave of mine for many years; which at least makes it somewhat redeemable.

Alessandro Alessandroni - Suor Omicidi, Seq. 4
 Killer Nun/The Strangler of Vienna/Lady Frankenstein compilation, 1999
 

Something about Suor Omicidi, Seq. 4's jangly acoustic guitar strumming away while the sounds of an ominous choral build in the background, concluding with a manic church organ, really does it for me. Little wonder it’s amongst my favourite giallo tracks of all time.

Killer Nun's soundtrack didn't get a vinyl release until twenty years later. The tracks finally appeared in an Alessandroni compilation containing two other scores of his: Lady Frankenstein (1971) and The Strangler of Vienna (1971). The latter, I have yet to see.

Lady Frankenstein (Trailer)
Mel Welles & Aureliano Luppi, 1971
 

From Orson Welles to Mel Welles; you know Joseph Cotten's career hit an even greater decline than Anita Ekberg's when he went from Citizen Kane (1941), Shadow of a Doubt (1943) and The Third Man (1949) to Italian horror Lady Frankenstein; a far cry from his classic earlier body of work. Far more entertaining than Killer Nun and La Dolce Vita, though.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Highest Rated Films of the 21st Century

When it comes to film reviews, Letterboxd is a reprehensible social platform for hive-minded narcissists. Not even worth posting a review there. But it does happen to be a useful site for grading and logging films when compiling miscellaneous lists. Handy for anyone running a film blog.

Here's a list of your humble curator's highest scoring films from the 21st century (minimum of ★★★★½ out of ★★★★★) logged onto Letterboxd:

American Psycho (Mary Harron, 2000)
Battle Royale (Kinji Fukasaku, 2000)
Sexy Beast (Jonathan Glazer, 2000)
Shadow of the Vampire (E. Elias Merhige, 2000)
Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)
Training Day (Antoine Fuqua, 2001)
28 Days Later (Danny Boyle, 2002)
City of God (Fernando Meirelles, 2002)
Ju-on: The Grudge (Takashi Shimizu, 2002) 
Oldboy (Park Chan-wook, 2003)
Kill Bill: Volume 1 (Quentin Tarantino, 2003)
The Descent (Neil Marshall, 2005)
Apocalypto (Mel Gibson, 2006)
Children of Men (Alfonso Cuarón, 2006)
Pan's Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro, 2006)
[REC] (Jaume Balagueró & Paco Plaza, 2007)
Hot Fuzz (Edgar Wright, 2007)
Love Exposure (Sion Sono, 2008)
Bronson (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2008)
Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008)
Martyrs (Pascal Laugier, 2008)
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans (Werner Herzog, 2009)
The House of the Devil (Ti West, 2009)
Triangle (Christopher Smith, 2009) 
13 Assassins (Takashi Miike, 2010)
Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky, 2010)
I Saw the Devil (Kim Jee-woon, 2010)
Troll Hunter (André Øvredal, 2010)
Toy Story 3 (Lee Unrich, 2010)
Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2011)
The Raid (Gareth Evans, 2011)
The Skin I Live In (Pedro Almodóvar, 2011)
Berberian Sound Studio (Peter Strickland, 2012)
Dredd (Pete Travis & Alex Garland, 2012)
The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese, 2013)
Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2013)
It Follows (David Robert Green, 2014)
The Raid 2 (Gareth Evans, 2014)
The Babadook (Jennifer Kent, 2014)
Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015)
The Witch (Robert Eggers, 2015)
The Neon Demon (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2016)
Train to Busan (Yeon Sang-ho, 2016)
Brawl in Cell Block 99 (S. Craig Zahler, 2017)
The House That Jack Built (Lars Von Trier, 2018)
Hereditary (Ari Aster, 2018)
Mandy (Panos Cosmatos, 2018)
The Irishman (Martin Scorsese, 2019)
The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers, 2019)
Parasite (Bong Joon-ho, 2019)
Dinner in America (Adam Rehmeier, 2020)
Benedetta (Paul Verhoeven, 2021)
Mad God (Phil Tippett, 2021)
The Northman (Robert Eggers, 2022)
The Zone of Interest (Jonathan Glazer, 2023)

Dada Debaser Notes:

  • For the record, I couldn't be arsed to include the ★★★★ movies as originally intended since it would have been 246 entries rather than the 55 above. Ain't nobody got time for that!
  • Worked with release dates according to Letterboxd rather than when they came out in my region to avoid a massive headache.
  • Most of the entries were rated prior to a six year hiatus from Letterboxd (from 2016 to 2022). The cool part is how their ratings are largely unchanged.
  • Unapologetic about the overall horror bias. 
  • Some critically revered films that didn't make the cut were either rated lower than the minimum requirement, or were just shite. Make your own damned list if you don't see picks you expected!

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Walk With Me

In a Violent Nature (Trailer)
Chris Nash, 2024
 

After all these years, why do film release dates still differ depending on country? So much for globalisation. The latest example is In a Violent Nature (2024) not hitting my corner of the world until another month after the U.S.A..

It's as clear as Crystal Lake that slasher fans want another Friday the 13th film, but the film rights seem to be up in the air. Until that mess is sorted out, Chris Nash's In a Violent Nature serves as an adequate alternative.

Other than the obvious Friday the 13th vibes, the other draw of the film is it following in the point of view of its Jason Voorhees styled killer. The downright creepy clip of him observing two potential victims across the otherside of a lake and walking toweard them is what really sold me on the film:

In a Violent Nature (Lake Scene)
Chris Nash, 2024
 

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Picks of 2004

Greece winning the UEFA European Championship wasn't the only shocker of 2004. A number of films released that year genuinely surprised me. As a staunch opponent of films dear to me getting the remake treatment, who would have thought Zac Snyder's Dawn of the Dead would have been great. Don't get it twisted, anyone who prefers the remake over the original still deserves to be put in stocks and shamed.

Way too many blindspots in 2004 for your host, along with films which were enjoyable at the time, but scarcely remembered, hence left off.

The Aviator (Martin Scorsese)

Calvaire (Fabrice Du Welz)

Creep (Christopher Smith)

Dawn of the Dead (Zac Snyder)

Dead Man's Shoes (Shane Meadows)

The Incredibles (Brad Bird)

Kill Bill: Volume 2 (Quentin Tarantino)

Kung Fu Hustle (Stephen Chow)

Man on Fire (Tony Scott)

Mean Girls (Mark Waters)

Pusher II (Nicolas Winding Refn)

Shaun of the Dead (Edgar Wright)

Spartan (David Mamet)

Team America: World Police (Trey Parker)

Dumplings (Fruit Chan)

The Village (M. Night Shamalamadingdong)

Unpopular Opinions: 

Never fell under the spell of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Not sure how anyone could fall in love with Kate Winslet in the first place let alone be so heartbroken after breaking up with her you'd want your memories of the relationship erased from your mind.

Regarding the second chapter in Tarantino's Kill Bill saga, there's a lot that I like and a lot that I don't. It is a good film, but it's the turning point for me where his indulgences would really become irksome from this point onward.

Simon Pegg owes his entire success to Edgar Wright. Much prefer Hot Fuzz (2007) in the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, but won't front on Shaun of the Dead being a good film. Pegg is less of a whiny and annoying manchild in the second one.

Friday, May 31, 2024

Viewings: May 2024

Gutted I didn't manage to see George Miller's Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (2024) this month; glad I watched Love Lies Bleeding and Eyes of Fire, though. Both of those films were my fave first time viewings throughout May.

A far more erroneous act committed by your host was not having time to watch a single episode of any of the Gerry Anderson shows that have been streaming on YouTube recently.


Film:

The Black Cat (Edgar G. Ulmer, 1934)

The Raven (Lew Landers PKA Louis Friedlander, 1935)

The Quiet Man (John Ford, 1952)

Crypt of the Living Dead AKA Hannah, Queen of the Vampires (Julio Salvador & Ray Danton, 1973)

The Education of Sonny Carson (Michael Campus, 1974)*

The Decline of Western Civilisation (Penelope Spheeris, 1981)*

Eyes of Fire (Avery Crounse, 1983)*

The Decline of Western Civilisation Part II: The Metal Years (Penelope Spheeris, 1988)*

The Last Slumber Party (Stephen Tyler, 1988)*

The Decline of Western Civilisation Part III (Penelope Spheeris, 1998)*

28 Days Later (Danny Boyle, 2002)

Haute Tension AKA Switchblade Romance (Alexandre Aja, 2003)

Abigail (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett, 2024)*

Civil War (Alex Garland, 2024)*

Dune: Part Two (Denis Villeneuve, 2024)*

Infested (Sébastien Vaniček, 2023/2024)*

Love Lies Bleeding (Rose Glass, 2024)*


Television:

Dead Set - Series One (Yann Demange, 2008)

Doctor Who - New Episodes (Sydney Newman, 1963 - 2024)*

The Emirates FA Cup Final 2024*

Mastermind - Episode 31 (Bill Wright, 2023/2024)*


*First time viewings.


Dada Debaser Notes:

  • Thought Villeneuve's Dune: Part One (2021) was decent a few years back, but the new one is a snoozefest. Nodded off a couple of times while plodding through it.
  • Alex Garland's Civil War managed to piss off both sides of America's political divide, but much like his previous effort, I'm in the minority who didn't hate it. Most creative use of a De La Soul song since Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021).
  • French spider horror Infested ought to have been called ACABnophobia after its urban social commentary consumed so much time in the film.
  • Found out the guy who played Wolfe, leader of the Hawks (AKA Tomahawks), in The Education of Sonny Carson was the actual leader of the said NYC gang. His second-in-command is played by Roger Hill, better known for Cyrus from The Warriors (1979). Can you dig it?
  • Boris Karloff's swanky Art Deco crib in The Black Cat might have made it onto my dream homes if it wasn't built on a massive pile of dynamite.
  • Crazy how Spheeris's film trilogy has this unapologetically decadent and hedonistic feature on LA's Hair Metal scene sandwiched between two thoroughly depressing spotlights on Punk bands and its homeless young fans. Massive contrasts. Highlight of the entire trilogy for me was Ozzy Osboure cooking breakfast:
The Decline of Western Civilisation Part II: The Metal Years (Ozzy Scenes)
Penelope Spheeris, 1988

Other Media: Patience paid off and grabbed 40 Years of Scream! cheaper than its RRP. Loved reading a bunch of old strips like ‘Sea Beast’ and ‘Tales from the Grave’ again.