Thursday, May 19, 2011

Fool's Views (4/4 – 4/10)


Ye Gods. Where have Fools and time gone?

Over a month behind, but it’s been a weird and wild month. I’m going to try to catch up over the next few days, because the pressure is killing me. That said, thanks to those of you who dropped me a line to see where the FV’s had got off to – nice to know that a few folks missed them.

This week’s Views included an in-house triple feature of Stuart Gordon Full Moon features, complete with Mr. Gordon and Barbara Crampton live and in person at Chicago’s own Portage Theatre. Glorious guests they were. I almost had to include the godawful EVIL BONG III as one of this week’s movies, but thankfully, I passed out and can’t really claim to have seen it. That said, what I did see, even in 3D and Smell-O-Vision, was HORRIBLE. Charles Band, come on! You weren’t even trying on this one.

Also included are the last dregs of the blaxploitation horror movement, a Russ Meyer triple feature, and my first taste of Skinemax master, Andy Sidaris, as well as a bevy of varied civilian flicks. Hope you like.

As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.

Enjoy!



HORROR:
Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde (1976)
(1st viewing) d. Crain, William
This flubbed twist on Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel represents the last gasp in the ’70s blaxploitation horror cycle, and alongside the wretched Blackenstein, it remains one of the weakest entries. Bernie Casey gamely assays the dual role of kindly cancer research clinician and his nefarious alter ego…a white guy! Whoever decided that a pair of prosthetic eyebrows (courtesy of a young Stan Winston) and a fistful of flour to the face would serve the transformation turn deserves a serious beat-down.


SEEING DOUBLE #6: MATTER OF FACT, IT’S ALL DARK
And Soon the Darkness (1970)
(2nd viewing) d. Fuest, Robert
And Soon the Darkness (2010) (1st viewing) d. Efron, Marcos
Feeding on unwary tourists’ fears, both versions of this cautionary tale follow an attractive young pair of female travelers enjoying a bicycle trip through foreign terrain (France and Argentina, respectively). After a tiff, they split up, whereupon the more promiscuous one (Michele Dotrice/Odette Yustman) is subsequently kidnapped while her better-behaved companion (Pamela Franklin/Amber Heard) vainly seeks help from non-English speaking locals and law officials. The original British spin offers a simpler, more suspenseful – and as a result, more effective – approach, whereas the American remake clutters up the proceedings via a clichéd human trafficking ring to justify the abductions. (The update also turns our prim heroine into an action hero for the third act, an “improvement” possibly influenced by comely star Heard’s presence as co-producer.)


FULL MOON/STUART GORDON TRIPLE FEATURE:
Castle Freak (1995)
(2nd viewing) d. Gordon, Stuart
From Beyond (1986) (3rd viewing) d. Gordon, Stuart
Re-Animator (1985) (4th viewing) d. Gordon, Stuart
This trifecta of splatter flicks arguably represents the director’s strongest genre efforts, and the pleasure of seeing them on the big screen (as part of Charles Band’s Full Moon Road Show) is not to be understated. 25 years later, Re-Animator retains its stature as one of the shining examples of 80s horror hilarity, thanks to William Norris, Dennis Paoli and Gordon’s savvy black comic Lovecraft adaptation, gleefully gruesome gore f/x and a flawless cast that includes Bruce Abbott, David Gale, Robert Sampson, Barbara Crampton and Jeffrey Combs. Crampton and Combs headlined the following year’s From Beyond, which comes very close to matching its predecessor in joyously perverse imagery and spirited mayhem, then reunited a decade later as an embittered couple who inherit an Italian castle…along with its titular resident (an extraordinary performance by Jonathan Fuller). However, seeing these works presented in such close proximity, as well as recent viewings of Pit and the Pendulum and Dagon, one cannot help but note that few popular filmmakers (Dario Argento an obvious exception) revel in the violent, often sexual, mistreatment of the fairer sex with quite the same enthusiasm or frequency, and yet puzzlingly, Gordon somehow avoids being labeled a misogynist. Not that I think he is, but I do find it curious that his career has not drawn the same feminist ire that others have.

CIVILIAN:
Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987)
(1st viewing) d. Sidaris, Andy
Boobs, explosions, skateboard stunts, more boobs, more explosions, model airplaines, bad jokes, badder villains, and a vicious killer snake add up to cheesy ’80s action goodness, the very model of what would come to be known as a “Skinemax” flick. My first Sidaris viewing, but thanks to the enticement of Mill Creek and movie pal Jason Coffman, I doubt it will be my last.

I Served the King of England (2006) (1st viewing) d. Menzel, Jiri
A sumptuous visual feast combined with the adroit performances of Ivan Barnev and Oldrich Kaiser as the younger and older versions of an amoral social climbing Czech whose dream of becoming a millionaire leads him to all manners of employ and employers, from bordellos to restaurants, all set against the backdrop of the Nazi occupation. Barnev in particular, possesses an unflappable air of innocence and disarming physical grace, making his oft-questionable actions somehow palatable.

Malibu High (1979) (1st viewing) d. Berwick, Irvin
High schooler Jill Lansing decides that books and homework are a drag, opting for the life of prostitution and hired assassin in order to win back her materialistic goofball boyfriend. A decidedly sleazy, nihilistic and out-there fantasy that entertains by virtue of its own excesses.

Paul (2011) (1st viewing) d. Mottola, Greg
Raucous and good natured tale of two sci-fi Brit nerds (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, impeccably cast as BFF’s) whose U.S. pilgrimage for a Comic-con-like event leads to an encounter with a real-life E.T. on their ensuing road trip. Pegg & Frost’s gigglesnort scripts careens between fart-joke humor and inventive character study with X-wing fighter ease, as director Mottola (Superbad, Adventureland) guides his stellar cast on target every step of the way. With Kristin Wiig (awesome), Bill Hader (awesome), Jason Bateman (so awesome), and Seth Rogen voicing the titular alien.

Recount (2008)
(1st viewing) d. Roach, Jay
Docudrama about the 2000 U.S. Presidential election utilizes its all-star cast to showcase how with enough lawyers and political connections, every vote doesn’t have to count. Austin Powers director Roach displays a nimble hand bouncing betwixt the Republican and Democratic camps as the clock ticks towards injustice. The tragedy isn’t as much that it happened as it is that we allowed it.

Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage (2010) (1st viewing) d. Dunn, Sam/McFadyen, Scot
Canadian rock’s best loved power trio celebrates 40 years of exemplary musicianship and elevated lyricism. Bassist/keyboardist/vocalist Geddy Lee, drummer non-pareill Neil Peart and lightning-fingered guitarist Alex Lifeson reminisce on their early days of opening for Kiss and their current status as elder statesmen in this fascinating documentary about a band that cared not for sex and drugs…only the rock n’ roll.

Trip with the Teacher (1975)
(1st viewing) d. Barton, Earl
Classic exploitation scenario: high school girls’ field trip crosses paths with nefarious biker gang, leading to an escalating cavalcade of murder, rape, and revenge, generously accented with doses of nudity and hot-rod two-wheeled action. Exactly what you’d expect, always sleazy and never boring.


RUSS MEYER TRIPLE FEATURE:
Fanny Hill (1964)
(1st viewing) d. Meyer, Russ
Though he had just turned out Lorna (the first of his “roughies”) earlier that year, Meyer probably seemed like an obvious choice to helm this bawdy telling of the classic erotic novel of an innocent young British female courtesan’s adventures. Despite the lack of any onscreen nudity, the nudie-cutie pioneer displays a deft light comic hand with his all-English cast, and nary a slide whistle to be heard.

Seven Minutes, The (1971) (1st viewing) d. Meyer, Russ
The second and last of Meyer’s 20th Century Fox features, following Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. One can understand how the concept of battling the notions of public morality (in this case, that of an obscene book) would have appealed to the director, but the film is seemingly shackled by its own sense of importance, lacking its fearless leader’s trademark freewheeling energy.

Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens (1979) (2nd viewing) d. Meyer, Russ
In his penultimate feature (with only 2000’s execrable Pandora Peaks to follow), Meyer pulls out all the stops in this aggressively stylized and kinetic narrative of a young man whose sexual proclivities lean toward the back door, if you catch my drift. Despite its goofy and good natured (in its cartoon violence way) tone, there’s the occasional sense that Meyer is deliberately trying to outdo himself, and the strain is felt.

2011 totals to date: 158 films, 89 1st time views, 74 horror, 12 cinema

BOOKS:

What They Don’t Teach You in Film School by Camille Landau and Tiare White

6 comments:

  1. Wish I could have been there for that Stuart Gordon triple feature. The only one of those I've seen on the big screen is From Beyond (which was on a double bill with Dagon when that was new). And I'm pretty sure Gordon's too far under the radar to raise the ire of feminist critics. Then again, he is an equal opportunity torturer. All I have to do is think of what he put his protagonists through in King of the Ants and Stuck and I shudder.

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  2. True, but you gotta admit, his abuse of males is not nearly as sexualized. And while he is decidedly under the radar in the grand scheme, his films are as well known as those of Argento's to the layperson, if not more so. I find it more puzzling than troubling, and I just hope no women's groups ever take an interest in him, because it's going to be a difficult defense.

    Even more enjoyable than the fest itself was Mr. Gordon agreeing to have breakfast with me the morning of in order to discuss things theatrical and horrific. Such a cool cat.

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  3. Okay, now I'm doubly jealous.

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  4. If you're interested in seeing more Sidaris wackiness, then Malibu Express is must see TV!!! Not only is the film littered with Playboy Playmates, it also features the lovely Sybil Danning. It's a ton of fun! The fully uncut Dutch all region PAL DVD is the version to see. If you can't find it then I can get you a copy....

    P.S. I saw Dead Heat on VHS back in the day and I remember it being a ton of fun. I do need to revisit that one sometime soon....

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  5. Craig - Sorry, didn't mean to put salt in the wound.

    Ryan: I have a feeling that I'm eventually going to dive headlong into the Sidaris madness, even though all logic and good sense is telling me to stay away. If you are indeed a fan, and it sounds like you are, my buddy Jason Coffman just did a huge write-up on all of Sidaris' work. Here's a link: http://fineprintmag.net/features/andysidaris/index3.html

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  6. Props to Jason on an excellent write-up. To be honest, I've still yet to dive headlong into Sidaris's work. Aside from Malibu Express, I've only seen bits and pieces of a few of his other films. But they look to be highly entertaining dumb fun just like ME is. The ME disc that I have has a cool 40 mins. of special features that include Sidaris and Julie Strain among others talking about his films. As I said before ME is definitely must see TV.... :)

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