Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fool's Views (9/2 – 9/16)

Howdy troops,

Greetings once again from the wild and wicked woods of the dark forest, where Fall and Summer actively battle for superiority, with the latter slowly losing ground. Kids are heading back to school, yellowing leaves are softly plummeting, the days are growing shorter and rehearsals for Greenbrier Valley Theatre's production of The Crucible are well underway. Meanwhile, in the Doc’s office, we’re loading up on civilian fare in preparation for the regularly scheduled October onslaught (our lone scare pic being an impromptu screening of the latest [Rec] film at HorrorHound Weekend Indianapolis after the Game of Werewolves Blu-Ray experienced technical difficulties).

Even though the chills weren’t as prominent over the past two weeks, we whacked out a septet of winners, including a trifecta featured in Danny Peary’s Cult Movies books. Over the past decade or so, I’ve been steadily whittling away at the 200 highlighted movies and, shameless completist that I am, the aim is to knock out another dozen or so before the month is out. (My pal Craig J. Clark has followed a similar trajectory over the years; visit his LiveJournal blog and type in the search word “cult movies” to sample his eminently readable musings. You won’t be sorry you did.)

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



[Rec]3: Genesis (2012) (1st viewing) d. Plaza, Paco (Spain)

The most refreshing thing about this third [Rec] installment is that co-creator Plaza seems to be as tired of the “found footage” trend as the rest of the horror crowd (this in spite of being partially responsible for two of the strongest handheld entries thus far). And so, after setting up a justifiable premise for recording the mayhem to come – the action takes place at a wedding, with a professional and an amateur cameraman on hand – he abandons the concept shortly after the proverbial excrement hits the fan. Thereby answering the one question that always plagues the milieu, “Why are they still shooting?” with the ballsy reply, “They wouldn’t. I’ll take it from here.” Plaza understands his audience, knows what they will accept, and this proves to be his secret weapon throughout.

Following this abrupt but welcome shift in POV, the writer/director delivers an enjoyable and suspenseful horde movie, with undead/infected wedding guests chasing down their fellow revelers with splattery results. The noble groom and plucky bride (Diego Martin, Letecia Dolera), separated during the initial confusion, spend the rest of the feature finding their way back to one another – it’s again to Plaza’s credit that when things start sliding into the realm of the fanciful, he simply embraces the silliness, knowing that there’s never a wrong time to introduce a chainsaw into the proceedings. All the performances are energetic without edging into camp, and Dolera makes for a lovely and spirited heroine. I’m unsure as to whether this is intended to be an origin story for the first two films – the title would seem to indicate so, but the onscreen action doesn’t exactly bear this out and my memory isn’t clear enough on its predecessors to pick up on potential references. But when you’re having this much fun, who cares? Three for three, boys!


Holy Mountain, The (1973) (1st viewing) d. Jodorowsky, Alejandro (Mexico)

In the spirit of full disclosure, I'm not feeling equipped to properly review this magisterial sensory cavalcade after only a single viewing. Any single jaw-dropping set piece would rightly be celebrated as any other feature’s production design highlight, except that Jodorowsky follows each with another more staggering in scope and ingenuity. As far as narrative, I’m still picking up my brain off the floor, but it seems that the provocateur is tackling every single BIG ISSUE at once – religion, politics, entertainment, love, lust, life, death, and so on, bringing them to light in a way never seen before or since. It’s breathtaking, exhilarating, exhausting, and one that I’ll definitely be champing at the bit to see again on the big screen. Wowsers.

Raid: Redemption, The (2011) (2nd viewing) d. Evans, Gareth (Indonesia)

An elite SWAT team becomes trapped in a tenement run by a ruthless mobster and his army of killers and thugs. Welsh born writer/director Evans marshals the forces of his fearless Indonesian cast, delivering one of the most jaw-dropping action films of the last decade, full stop. In spite of some needless CGI bullet splatter, the feverish pace and eye-popping stunts are unrivaled spectacles of wonder, with martial arts sequences that have left international audiences in states of spontaneous, breathless applause. By any means necessary, see this movie. Now.

Surrender Dorothy (1998) (1st viewing) d. Di Novis, Kevin (USA)

Filmed on a shoestring in Philadelphia during the waning days of the 90s indie movement, this black and white exploration of gender roles lands squarely in the “unpleasant but fascinating” quadrant of filmed entertainment. Sexually confused and frustrated dishwasher Peter Pryor allows his whining and wheedling junkie pal (played by writer/director/editor Di Novis) to stay with him, but their co-dependent relationship soon takes a very dark turn. There are really no characters to root for here, but the stark freakshow quality of both the performances and narrative prove undeniably hypnotic – you just can’t look away. I was clued into this flick years ago by the terrific underground magazine, Cashiers du Cinemart, run by Mike White and I’m sorry that it’s taken me this long to finally sit down with it. Elizabeth Banks makes her screen debut (under her one-off pseudonym Elizabeth Casey) as Di Novis’ covert f*ck buddy.


Girl Can't Help It, The (1956) (1st viewing) d. Tashlin, Frank (USA)

Jayne Mansfield’s breakout film knowingly showcases her great-tits, er, greatest ass-ets, um… Oh, heck, let’s start again. Tom Ewell, who had memorably co-starred in The Seven Year Itch opposite Marilyn Monroe the year before, plays a fading talent agent recruited by gangster Edmond O’Brien to make Mansfield’s tone-deaf moll a singing star. The stacked blonde bombshell’s physicality is the engine that drives the action, but it’s the live rock n’ roll sequences from some of the era’s hottest acts (Fats Domino, Little Richard, The Platters, Eddie Cochrane) that provides the fuel. Although she does exhibit an adept comic sensibility at times, Mansfield’s reputation as a cartoonier version of Marilyn proves all too warranted – she’s neither as sexy nor relatable – and I found myself wondering instead why Ewell isn’t better known beyond this and Itch. His is the career I’m more intrigued to follow up on.

Performance (1970) (1st viewing) d. Cammell, Donald / Roeg, Nicolas (UK)

Inspired editing and cinematography by Roeg enliven this trippy “mob lad meets rock star” whipdoodle, starring James Fox as the former and Mick Jagger (in his screen debut, although Ned Kelly beat it to the cinema, due to extensive post-production and re-editing after its disastrous unveiling before studio executives) as the latter. The first half is straightforward and engaging crime drama, but when Fox goes on the run from his former employees, holding up at Anita Pallenberg’s boarding house, things get wacky on every level. I was probably done with the film before it was done with me, but I’m glad to have taken the ride. Jagger performs “Memo from Turner” in the kinda sorta climax. Trivia: Pallenberg had romantic flings with three of the original Rolling Stones: Jagger, Keith Richards and Brian Jones.

That Hamilton Woman (1941) (1st viewing) d. Korda, Alexander (UK)

The scandalous affair between British Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson and Lady Emma Hamilton (married to the British Ambassador to the Court of Naples) became one of the best known stories of adultery in British history and is given the full treatment by two stars at the peak of their powers. Real-life husband and wife Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh are sublime together and their kiss-in-the-shadows romance is wonderfully offset by some impressive sea battles and art direction. Reportedly Winston Churchill’s favorite wartime film. 2012 Totals to date: 419 films, 362 1st time views, 222 horror, 156 cinema


  1. I must confess, I've been slower to knock out the classic Hollywood films Peary highlights in his books, which is why I haven't gotten around to The Girl Can't Help It or That Hamilton Woman yet. I should probably get over that.

    1. Agreed you should get over that. Shameless completism loves company.