Friday, June 19, 2020

Fool's Views (5/23 – 5/31)

"Your motivation skills are very persuasive, Fraulein..."

Howdy, folks!

Apologies for the delay. I’ll be honest, I was having a hard time finding motivation casting my mind toward cinematic criticism in light of current events. I hope you are all doing okay. I know it’s been stressful on multiple levels and it’s not like we had a lot in the tank to begin with.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reading numerous statements from organizations, as I’m sure you have, stating their positions on the state of the world and their place in it. For my part, I have been doing my best to show up, shut up, and listen up, because it is not necessarily my voice that needs to be heard at this time but rather my presence as an empathetic and supportive citizen of the world.

When the #metoo movement gained national attention a few years back, I felt confident that I was already on the “right” side. I identified as feminist. Previous October Scare-a-Thons had donated to Planned Parenthood, Resilience, American Women’s Self Defense Organization, and Chicago’s Greenhouse Shelter. I was even a member of an anti-sexual harassment organization, Not In Our House (Chicago). But, to be an effective ally, there was still more I could do. So I did more.

I feel the same way regarding Black Lives Matter. There is absolutely more I can do, more voices to be heard, more lessons to be learned, more action items to be taken, and I am dedicated to being a better ally. As in all things, it’s about gathering information, exploring options, and making choices, decisions, and commitments. I invite all of us to do the same. We can all do better – key word “DO.” Action is everything.

And that’s enough out of me about that.

We have a lot to get to, including the first-ever online version of Turkey Day in May, the first installment of Kicking the Seat’s "Accademia Giallo," another pair of rock docs, and stand-up people doing stand-up, so let’s just dive right in, shall we?

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



Blood and Black Lace (1964) d. Bava, Mario (Italy) (4th viewing)

After plowing through a half-dozen Dario Argento movies together over the past couple years, Kicking the Seat’s Ian Simmons decided to move down the Italian Horror Cinema Menu and dive into some other directors’ work, specifically those who have tried their hands at that particular brand of horror/thriller known as the Giallo. And what better place to start than with Argento’s mentor, the supremely underrated (by mainstream film fans, at least) Mario Bava, who essentially created the subgenre with his 1963 black-and-white effort, The Girl Who Knew Too Much (aka The Evil Eye), and then perfected it the following year with this startling and flamboyant body-count flick.

Someone is killing off the top models of a fashion house in a variety of grisly crimes, with an ever-shortening (due to, oh, death) list of suspects with motives. Bava’s dazzling and inventive use of color (with cinematographer Ubaldo Terzano) makes every frame a gorgeous delight, offset by the brutality of the murders (faces burned, throats slashed, and so on), with an appealing cast that includes Eva Bartok, Cameron Mitchell, Mary Arden (who helped with the script), and character actress extraordinaire Harriet Medin.

Listen to AC, Ian, and Bryan Martinez of The Giallo Room on the Kicking the Seat podcast HERE:

Dear Dead Delilah (1972) d. Farris, John (USA) (1st viewing)

When matriarch Delilah (Agnes Moorehead) gathers her kin together for the weekend to tell them they’ve been disinherited (boo!) there is a cache of cash hidden somewhere on the property (yay!), it prompts a literal blood feud that whittles down the family tree to a nub. Adding spice to the mix is new servant Luddy (Patricia Carmichael), recently released from the booby hatch for ax-murdering her mother 20 years prior. With an enjoyable cast of familiar faces (Will Geer, Michael Ansara, Dennis Patrick) and a fair amount of the red stuff splattered, the result is a quirky independent effort that passes the time easily enough.

Dreamland (2019) d. McDonald, Bruce (Canada/Luxembourg/Belgium) (1st viewing)


WolfCop (2014) d. Dean, Lowell (Canada) (1st viewing)

Winner of the 2013 CineCoup Film Accelerator, which awarded the film $1 million in financing and a guaranteed release through Canada's Cineplex chain based on its concept and screenplay, this is a likable effort about an alcoholic law enforcement officer Lou Garou (get it?) transformed into a supercharged hairy crimebuster thanks to a mysterious blood ceremony in a backwoods Canadian burg. With solid performances and Emerson Ziffle’s excellent makeup design, it’s as silly as its title would lead you to believe and just as entertaining. Not sure what to think of the gratuitous nudity, especially since actress Sarah Lind is so obviously body-doubled – it’s like being taken out of the same film twice!


During these crazy COVID times, a lot of traditions (graduation ceremonies, weddings, funerals) had to be modified to accommodate the circumstances and our semi-annual celebration of all things lowbrow and low-budget was no exception. Undaunted, we banded together online to enjoy a quintet of Kitley-hosted Gobblers (via the streaming platform Kast) and a good time was had by all.

The Head (1959) d. Trivas, Victor (West Germany) (1st viewing)

Pre-dating The Brain That Wouldn’t Die by three years, this loony Teutonic mad scientist flick doubles the pleasure by having one dastardly doc lop off the noggin of his partner and keep it alive sitting atop a glass case of bubbling liquid and electrodes. He then sets his eye on plunking the head of a kindly hunchbacked woman atop the bodacious body of a sour-pussed and frequently soused dance-hall girl. Lively to say the least.

Cave of the Living Dead (aka Night of the Vampires) (1964) d. Rathonyi, Akos (West Germany) (1st viewing)

This wildly meandering tale introduces a multitude of plots and subplots, some of which are even addressed before the final credits. A detective is assigned to a case out in the boonies where a number of strange deaths have occurred, all of which have been written off as “heart failure” by the local sawbones. We are also introduced to a scientist experimenting with resurrection, an astoundingly token black manservant, a jovial innkeeper, a cackling soothsayer, and a deaf-mute who is a chronic pugilist. Yes, there is also a cave (accessed through secret bedroom passages) and vampires, but you gotta be patient.

Graveyard of Horror (aka The Butcher of Binbrook) (1971) d. Madrid, Miguel (Spain) (1st viewing)

Of all the movies we watched that fateful Saturday, this is the one that defies all succinct explanation, in the moment or after the fact! The “plot” involves a young man returning to his home after a long business trip to discover that his wife has died in childbirth and his mother-in-law and three sisters-in-law (all of whom have a thing for him) aren’t giving him any details, including being able to see his beloved’s grave. So far, so good, you say? Well, that’s about the time everything flies off the rails courtesy of a dizzying array of flashbacks (and flashbacks within flashbacks) and a cavalcade of bizarre characters ranging from duplicitous doctors, mushy monsters, and gravediggers dressed in fright masks. None of it even tries to make a lick of sense, but writer/director Madrid keeps us occupied and off-balance with crazy crash-zoom cinematography, random music cues, and every slice of weather.

Curse of the Blue Lights (1988) d. Johnson, John Henry (USA) (1st viewing)

Colorado documentarian Johnson decides to take things in the opposite direction with this fanciful B-movie about aliens setting up camp in a supposedly haunted area just outside of town. In the midst of a rather nonspecific ritual involving an ancient amulet, said aliens are interrupted by a group of fun-loving locals and things just get messier from there. Clearly inspired by the splattery hijinks of The Evil Dead and its gooey cohorts, the film’s raison d’etre are the admittedly impressive monster make-ups and gore effects, most of which unfortunately make the verbose villains impossible to understand! Note to indie filmmakers everywhere: If you’re going to give your antagonists reams of dialogue, maybe don’t also shove extensive fake dental appliances in their mouths or encase them in rigid latex. Just a thought.



Free Fire (2016) d. Wheatley, Ben (UK) (2nd viewing)

After sagging a bit with his first taste of high profile name actors in High Rise, Wheatley (Kill List, Sightseers) bounces back big time with this cheerfully violent exercise in “minimalistic excess.” In a 1970s Boston warehouse, an arms purchase goes horribly, horribly wrong and the next 80 minutes are nothing but profanity-laden one-liners amid a neverending shower of bullets. That’s it. What makes it more than than the sum of its parts is how much fun all of the players (Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer, Brie Larson, Sharlto Copley, Noah Taylor, Michael Smiley, and a completely unrecognizable Jack Reynor [Midsommar]) seem to be having playing shoot-em-up with one another. I first discovered this at BIFFF 2017 and loved it; not sure why it didn’t land with viewers during its theatrical release.

The Lobster (2015) d. Lanthimos, Yorgos (Greece/Ireland) (2nd viewing)

Colin Farrell stars alongside Rachel Weisz in this curious and quirky yarn about a futuristic society where the uncoupled are assigned to a countryside retreat to attempt to find a suitable mate within an allotted period of time. If a successful partnership is not achieved, the unlucky-in-love individual is transformed into an animal of his/her choosing. There are a multitude of rigid guidelines under which all of this courtship must occur, with daily “hunts” that play out like massive paintball tournaments armed with tranquilizer guns. Impressive in both imaginative and emotional scope, and while its bizarre and sometimes cruel commentary may not jive with everyone’s tastes, fans of Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) will likely find a new weirdee voice to embrace.

Pretty in Pink (1986) d. Deutch, Howard (USA) (1st viewing)

Yes, you read that correctly. This was my first instance watching the final leg of the Molly Ringwald Triple Crown, prompted by our John Hughes festival back in March. I can understand its appeal, but it definitely falls a few notches short of The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles. Jon Cryer’s “Duckie” – clearly a stand-in for Anthony Michael Hall’s resident dweeb – is so annoying and pervy that even though he’s granted his requisite moment of redemption in the final reel, it was too little too late for me.

Ronin (1998) d. Schlesinger, John (UK/USA) (2nd viewing)

I first saw this in the cinema and 22 years later, I couldn’t remember much except that it was a perfectly acceptable crime thriller punctuated by breathtaking car chases through various French locales. Turns out that’s exactly what it is. The performances and script (which pushes Hitchcock’s “McGuffin” concept to the limit) are all rock-solid without being notable and the car chases – especially in this age of overblown Fast and Furious CG-fests – are truly stunning.

xXx (2002) d. Cohen, Rob (USA) (1st viewing)

Speaking of Fast and Furious, I was pretty much over Vin Diesel by the time this landed in theaters; as a result, I missed out on seeing one of the best James Bond tributes ever to hit the big screen. So much fun, with stunt work that is off the proverbial chain. To think that this came out the same year as the anemic Die Another Day is just insult to injury: Diesel outsurfing a fantastic CG avalanche > Brosnan outsurfing a horrible CG tidal wave.


Bruce’s Deadly Fingers (1976) d. Velasco, Joseph (Hong Kong) (1st viewing)

Thoroughly ridiculous effort to continue to capitalize on the late martial arts master’s legacy, with Bruce Le (his third effort following The Dragon Dies Hard and Fists of Fury 2) starring as a former student in search of Lee’s legendary “Kung Fu Finger Book.” The plot is almost impossible to follow, which makes sense considering Velasco basically took an unfinished Michael Chan film and stitched the KFFB storyline throughout. Is it good? Of course not. Is it fun to watch? Definitely. Available now on Blu-ray from MVD Visual!

Fist of Fear, Touch of Death (1980) d. Mallinson, Matthew (USA) (1st viewing)

Attempting to squeeze one last ounce from the fallen dragon, this miracle of moviemaking manages to shoehorn footage from an old black-and-white television episode featuring a very young (and very badly dubbed) Lee into a mockumentary about a martial arts exhibition at Madison Square Garden, as well as scenes from a 1971 samurai film, Invincible Super-Chan. (I mean, never mind that Lee is Chinese and the Japanese samurai is supposed to be his grandfather – it’s just the tip of the nonsensical iceberg.) We’ve got Adolph Caesar playing himself (apparently moonlighting as a TV anchorman) and blaxploitation superstar Fred Williamson playing himself and champion martial artists Ron Van Clief and Bill Louie playing themselves and martial arts promoter Aaron Banks playing himself and while it never resembles a real movie, it somehow has a beginning, middle, and end. (Yes, it does finally end.) Available now on Blu-ray from The Film Detective!


Hannah Gadsby: Douglas (2020) d. Parry, Madeleine (Australia) (1st viewing)

Following up her smash one-woman show Nanette, which made her an overnight international star, was always going to be a challenge, but Gadsby tackles a variety of themes with aplomb, including her newfound success, being diagnosed as autistic, and why the @%$@%#$ men got away with naming everything.

Henry Rollins: Keep Talking, Pal (2018) d. Volk-Weiss, Brian (USA) (1st viewing)

The former Black Flag front man expounds on various celebrity encounters (David Bowie, RuPaul), grossing out hardcore punk concertgoers by chomping on deer eyeballs, baiting online homophobes, and fighting back against the malaise following Trump’s election.


Can’t Stand Losing You: Surviving The Police (2012) d. Grieve, Andy / Lazin, Lauren (USA) (1st viewing)

Based on Andy Summers’ autobiography (and sounding very much like the video companion to the audiobook thereof), we get a peek behind the tempestuous curtains of the power trio’s humble beginnings as “not quite punk, not quite ska, not quite rock n’ roll” upstarts to their inexorable ascent to being the top pop act in the civilized world, whereupon they indelicately imploded at the height of popularity. Summers is somber in reflection, giving the impression that he really wasn’t having much fun at all, which is unfortunate if true. Nevertheless, it’s a candid and honest look back at the 10 years with which he will be forever identified.

Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out (2006) d. Copeland, Stewart (USA) (1st viewing)

In contrast to Summers’ moody recollections, here we get a glimpse through the 8mm lens of the ebullient American percussionist who anchored The Police with his whip-snap drumming. Easy and breezy, with a “you are there” feel and Copeland’s down-to-earth “yeah, you know, that happened” vibe.

2020 Totals to Date: 200 films, 144 first time views, 64 horror, 2 cinema


  1. Every time I see the Dear Dead Delilah title pop up somewhere, it makes me giggle. And the fact that you've now (finally) seen it too AND liked it, even makes me giggle twice. Saw it myself for the first time about 10 years ago, or so. And looks like it went down the same surprising way for me too. What I also remember, for an early '70s film with such distinctive exploitation matter in it, aesthetically speaking, it still weirdly looked as if it was made during the late '60s. But perhaps the obvious very low budget and limited means it was restricted with, just made it look that way. Regardless, it helped me appreciating it as a small obscure trashy little gem. Did this film ever receive a decent digital restoration already?

    Also, where / how can I watch Henry Rollin's Keep Talking, Man?

  2. This latest release of DDD is indeed available on DVD/BR (from Vinegar Syndrome), and I agree that it feels like it was shot for 1960s television (if television allowed for blood splatter and onscreen drug use). I just love how trashy (perfect word) and morally grimy everything feels within the sprawling estate.

    I found "Keep Talking, Man" on the Chicago Public Library's streaming service, but I'm guessing it has to be out there on the interwebs somewhere as well. He apparently also has his own podcast, so if you're looking for a Rollins fix, that's probably a good hookup!