Monday, June 30, 2008

More Movies for June

Monday June 23, 2008
D'Wild Weng Weng (1982)*** - If you don't know who Weng Weng is then you really shouldn't be reading this blog. Weng Weng is a god among men, or at least he was when the little guy was alive. He was barely 3 feet of caged karate fury with a bowl haircut who would whoop an ass without breaking a sweat. The ladies loved him, he wore leisure suits, had rocket jet packs and tons of other gadgets. He was cool as ice before the motherfucker Vanilla hijacked the phrase. This killa from Manilla was the toast of the Philipino movie industry in the early 80's and made a crap load of movies all based around the fact that he stood no higher than your thigh. But he was a screen presence to be reckoned with as all of us who sumbled upon For Y'ur Height Only in the bargain bins way back in the 90's will attest. Weng Weng changed lives man. So that brings me to this adventure, one of his more obscure flicks or it was until this print started making the rounds. Here the weng stars as a secret service agent along with his friend Mr. Gordon who are sent to Santa Monica(!) because the Mayor has been ruthlessly murdered by a bandito named Mr. Sbastian (everyone is Mr. someone in this movie). From there the dynamic duo basically just keep kicking the asses of Sabastian's men until the incredible climax. Along the way they make friends with a dude with his tongue cut out (his annoying screaching will give you a headache), a couple of babes, and a pigmy midget Indian Chief (played by the dude who played Mr. Giant in For Y'ur Height Only). Sights you will see include Weng practicing his karate shirtless, him in his mariachi outfit saradading outside a babe's window, Weng thrown like an Olyumpic football into the second story of a bad guy's lair, Weng stuffed into the monk robes of Mr. Gordon and carried around like a fetus, and Weng strung up like a turkey to bake in the sun. But the keeper are two action scenes; one about 45 minutes in and then the climax. The middle scene is simply just Weng Weng strolling along and every time he sees a group of bad guys he whips out his gun and kills them dead. Cold blooded Charles Bronson style! He's done fuckin around! He kills at least two dozen people in a ten minute period! For the climax I swear Sylvester Stallone had to have seen this movie before he wrote the latest Rambo film because the similarities in the climaxes as odd to say the least. Both films have the heroes surround on all sides by the bad guys, and both films have the hero manning a huge machine gun and mowing down the invading armies. Both films then have a native people rush in and help by fighting along side, in this case the Pygmy Indians (where did they find so many midgets?). Oh shit I forgot to talk about all the ninja's in this thing! Mr. Sabastian employs not only traditional "Mexican" banditos but a small army of ninja's too! While this movie is undeniably entertinaing it lacks the loopy, goof-ass charm of The Impossible Kid and For Y'ur height Only where things were clearly not being taken totally seriously. Here director Eddie Nicart seems to be wanting to blend the cheapjack Fillipino action film to something akin to a Peckinpah movie. Plus the dubbing is far too serious unlike the uprourious For Y'ur height Only. But still, this is a worth while cult addition and for Weng Weng completists it is a must have. First time seeing this.

Tuesday June 24, 2008
Dream No Evil (1972) **1/2 - Extremely low key and unusual horror drama was written about highly in the excellent and must have tome Nightmare USA: The Rise of the Exploitation Independents by Stephen Thrower. This movie is also the co-feature on the DVD set with Delinquent School Girls as part of the Psychotronica box set. The two films couldn't be more different and a worse double feature if you tried. Dream No Evil is really not even an exploitation movie at all, it is a quiet, slow moving treatise on loneliness and isolation driving one to madness. A little girl in an orphanage cries out for her daddy but is told, rather heartlessly, that her Daddy is dead. Cue years later and she is working with a preacher who has integrated her into his roadshow as a highfall artist to demonstrate how one can fall "straight to hell" from sins of the flesh! But she is still obsessed with finding her long lost father and has convinced herself that he is in the current town they are visiting. She finds him with the help of a sleazy pimp (who pimps obese old women to the elderly men in the old folks home) who doubles as the coroner. Seems her Father has died and is still on the morgue slab. Suddenly rises from the slab and kills the pimp and Father and Daughter are reunited. They move into a house that sometimes is a beautiful ranch home and sometimes a dilapidated, boarded up nightmare depending on where her mind is at. Then more people start dying. It doesn't take a genius to see what is going on in the movie, but it must of boggled the producer's mind at some point because there is this bogus narration that keeps popping up that just simply tells you that the lead gal is crazy, thus spoiling it for you. This happens about ten minutes into the movie and keeps coming back throughout and really hurts the poetic flow of the film. It clearly is not part of the original flick, or so it seems. But even without the narration it still isn't a big surprise when the climax arrives. To appreciate this movie you have to get into its bizarre groove of oddball characters, and weird situations. There aren't very many movies like Dream No Evil, its mostly melodrama, with a heavy dose of southern charm and slight psyechedelia, with a few drops of blood. Something like this would never be made now. The pace is too off, characters too weird and payoff too lopsided. While it is no great movie by a long shot, it is still to be appreciated for being different, and I do wish filmmakers would take these kinds of chances these days. The print is letterboxed and worn all to hell, clearly not remastered at all. And the one instance of nudity is censored! I have no idea if the old VHS is like that or not, and it looks like I've misplaced my old DVD-r of this for comparison. First time seeing this.

Autopsy 1 & 2 ***1/2 - Excellent HBO Series about Forensic pathologists and how they are integral to solving crimes. The first show is all about the Coroner from the New York area and the various things he's done over the years including investigating the deaths in the Attica riots, a husband who strangled his wife and put her in the trunk of their care for 10 ten days and most horrifyingly a mother who killed nine of her babies before someone figured out she was doing this. The second show opens up to several different pathologists and includes stories of a lower torso found in the Mississippi river that was dismembered with a chainsaw, a little boy that was beaten to death and how the mother who gave him up for adoption as a baby discovered his case fourteen years after the fact and still managed to get his case tried and a conviction, and a corpse found in a carnival funhouse as part of the attraction! This is a great show but only for those with strong constitution as it is pretty graphic stuff. First time seeing this.

Thursday June 26th, 2008
Exorcism (1975) *1/2 - Pretty weak Paul Naschy possession flick really suffers from coming out after The Exorcist. Apparently this was conceived prior to that hit, based on some real possession cases, but not okayed for production until the Warner's film was a huge success all over the world. Problem is that Friedkin's film clearly is an influence on this one to the point that it eclipses what ever nuances this may have. The story starts out very different with a college age girl at a witches sabbet. They are partying down, dancing naked, drinking blood and worshiping Satan as well as smoking drugs. On her way back from that shindig there is a car accident which causes her to be bedridden at her families estate. The local priest is called in (played by Naschy) because she is cursing the family and claiming she is"evil". Soon people are bing found dead with their heads twisted all the way around (sound familiar?). Before too long she's a mess; drooling, forming scars with nasty contact lenses and soon the priest has to do that old hocus pocus to run the devil out. The largest problem with this film is the pacing. It is languidly paced, taking its sweet ass time to get anywhere and when the climax finally arrives it is too short to really satisfy. Everything is overly familiar, though if it had really punched it home that could be forgiven. But instead it it relatively tame except for a lot of nudity during the couple of Satan worshiping scenes (which have great music by the way). The film is lensed quite well, and the acting is fine, but it just doesn't go anywhere, or do it in any kind of a hurry. Probably the weakest of the Naschy efforts I have seen so far. First time seeing this.

Friday June 27 2008
Psychos In Love (1986) *** - A real rarity, a horror comedy that works. I remember watching this as a teenager and thinking it was hilarious. What a surprise to revisit it as an adult and find that it still holds up as a clever and sweet natured splatter comedy that is both witty and gross, never sacrificing either element. The leads played by Carmine Capobianco and the very cute Debi Thibeault are a pair of murderous psychopaths who kill people who annoy them, mainly folks who cross them over their hatred of grapes. They bond over their murderous behaviors and fall in love. Meanwhile a local plumber is also a killer, but he is doing it simply to satiate his cannibalistic urges. The movie is filled with tons of in jokes to other movies such as the Hitchcock inspired gag where a victim refuses to die and the couple's decision to stop killing and only watch splatter movies. Also the director choses to break the fourth wall from the very opening scene and unlike other more pretentious movies like say , Funny Games, this ends up becoming rather charming and never comes off as cloying or grating. The leads are incredibly likable and there are some great supporting players too such as the Chinese karate guy who hangs out at the strip club, or the senile priest who marries them. The movie isn't a ground-breaker or anything, but it is just a well made and fun flick that is really worth the time. Seen this before obviously.

Frat House (1998) ** - Todd Phillips the director of the acclaimed documentary Hated about GG Allin made this HBO documentary about the pledging process and hazing rituals that plague college campuses all over the United States. The problem was that HBO discovered that Phillips faked a large portion of the footage and therefore shelved it. He still got his large payday and laughed his ass all the way to huge Hollywood directing gigs doing lame ass comedies. This doc starts off strong with Phillips and his partner Andrew Gurland finding a Frat run by a certified psycho who calls himself "blossom". This dude likes to do things for fun like beat up wooden skids with his bare hands. They get to watch a group of pledges start their ten week hazing, but after a few nights of relatively harmless stuff, Blossom and the boys get nervous about the cameras catching the truly horrible stuff they are about to do and run Phillips and his boys out of town. This stuff feels real and is probably the legit stuff they shot. Then Phillips and Gurland find an unnamed Frat at an unnamed school and decide to pledge themselves and run the gauntlet of torture, physical pain and humiliation. I'm pretty sure from this point on it is bullshit. These guys don't look like typical frat guys, though they do act like it. And frankly I don't believe Phillips would put himself through it without some sort of safety net. The stuff they show is grueling, but they never get under the skin of why anyone would WANT to do this. So its almost like a mondo movie in some ways. Its faked, its shock value, and its puddle deep. Don't get me wrong, it is compelling viewing, Phillips knows how to lead you in and keep your attention. But at the end you've not learned much of anything, unless you are shocked easily. The only thing I learned is that I'm glad I would never, ever want to be part of a Frat in the first place. Seen this before.

Saturday June 27th 2008
The Brown Bunny (2003) ***1/2 - Vincent Gallo's second directorial effort was torn apart when it premiered at Cannes in a much longer apparently more self indulgent cut where Roger Ebert called it completely unwatchable. Gallo went in and cut it down to 93 minutes, yet still people refused to talk about the actual movie. Instead focusing on the climactic hard core blow job sequence performed between him and Cloe Sevigny. What audiences missed is the fact that this is a heart wrenching, challenging, and yes self indulgent, existential head first dive into the heart of darkness. The movie is one long trip into one man's pain and torture of loneliness and refusal to forgive himself for his past.What trips people up is that much of the first hour of the movie is languid, but beautifully photographed, sequences of Vincent Gallo's character driving across country. The scenes are clearly meant to put us directly in his shoes as he isolates himself further and further. Throughout the movie he makes attempts to reach out to the opposite sex, usually at first with ease. But as soon as it requires him to give, even an tiny bit, of himself he abandons the effort and returns to the isolation of the road. By the time he finally reaches a L.A. hotel room and is reunited with his lost love the torture of his past is almost unbearable. The scenes between Sevigny and Gallo and painful and fraught with honest emotions and pain. Once the infamous blow job happens it could be argued that it is shock value, but the fact there is important dialogue going on that relates to what is happening plays out that it is not so. The final reveal of the movie is a bit on the heavy handed side and maybe is more than this otherwise beautifully crafted tone poem needed. But it is undeniably affecting. It hits you like a ton of bricks weather it is needed or not. Anyone who has ever felt abandoned, alone, or ashamed should be able to relate to this movie in some way. But then few will have the patience it requires to tune in to its unique and offbeat rhythms. By the way, once the 93 minute cut was released Roger Ebert came around and gave it three stars. First time seeing this.

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