Monday, June 23, 2008

Movies so far in June

Tues June 3rd 2008
The Devils (1971) **** - Ken Russell's masterpiece based on the book The Devils of Loudon by Aldous Huxley is a terrifying and thrilling piece of cinema that is still shocking today. Hence why it is still not on legit DVD and censored in all existing prints. The story of a priest, who cannot help himself to the pleasures of the flesh because as he puts it, he has a thirst to get to God quicker, finds himself forced into a position of defence as Loudon comes under attack from the crown. Meanwhile a nun that is infatuated with him is used being against him to topple his authority. This causes the entire convent to be accused of being possessed resulting in mass hysteria and a trial for witchcraft and heresy. The film is rife with imagery that is blasphemous and horrifying such as the purification of the nuns through enema's, the scene where the nun imagines the priest as Christ coming off the cross as she licks his wounds and fellates him as well as the only reinstated in the bootleg cuts, infamous "Rape of Christ" scene where the insane nuns pull a huge statue of Jesus down and literally fuck it. But the movie is about so much more than ballistic theatrics. It is about a man who finds God when he least expects to. About a time when corruption reigns supreme both in church and state and about when those two things intertwine to the point of pure strangulation. It is about how of love and sexuality should not excluded from loving the lord, and how those things can be perverted for political ends. Truly it is an amazing work for audiences that can take the risk.I have seen this many times before.

Saturday June 7th 2008
Werewolf In A Womans Prison (2007) ** - This shot on Hi Def video splatter/ Women in Prison/ Monster mash certainly tries very hard to please, and truthfully if drive-ins and grindhouses still existed to show exploitation movies this is the kind of thing they would show. So on that level it succeeds. A woman is bit by a werewolf while camping with her boyfriend in Mexico. Her boyfriend dies and she is imprisoned for his death in a brutal woman's prison where they use the prison's population for soft core porno. Soon she is seeing her dead boyfriend's ghost who warns her that under the ful moon she will change into the werewolf herself. After a prison yard dust up where she breaks arms and busts heads, she finds herself turning beastly and wrecking extremely bloody havoc. There is tons of boobs bared (some very impressive), gallons of blood and creative gore and a real attempt to throwback to the days of yore. The problem is that the acting is from acceptable to bad, the effects are only okay (with really poor digital work), and the story line lifts way too much from An American Werewolf in London for comfort. So it all just levels out as just an okay time waster at best. If your looking for gore and boobs this will fit your bill, but it could have easily gave us much more. First time seeing this.

The Sinful Dwarf (1973) **1/2 - This is one grimy little movie! I guess this was supposed to be a sex movie but what it ends up being is a twisted, grotesque little peep into a perverse world that is so fucked up you almost have to appreciate it just for the sheer repellent factor. The story is about a dwarf named Olaf and his Mother (a former actress) who own a boarding house. But in the attic they keep a room full of chained naked women that are hooked on heroin that they pimp out to particularly disgusting men looking for a lay. When a down on their luck newly wed couple rent a room Olaf and Mommy set their sights on the new voluptuous gal to add spice to the midnight playpen. Olaf is played by a dwarf actor named Torben who apparently was a children's show host in Denmark. He's a frickin force of nature with his gravel voice, insane laugh and penchant for playing with toys. Whenever he is on screen the movie is locked in for the kill. You can't take your filthy eyes off of it. Mommy has a penchant for reliving her glory days by doing sad renditions of Carmen Miranda numbers complete with full on costumes and smeared liptick. These are some of the most frightening moments in the film and are sure to send chills up your spine. The whole movie is dark, brooding and looks like it was dipped in piss, right down to the set design and props. Nothing is clean in this movie and you will feel dirty for watching it. But for some reason I find that to be a reason to recommend it. Seen this before. BTW the DVD that is floating around from over seas is NOT remastered. Severin DVD is planning a new release. Check out this bit from You Tube about that upcoming release. Its hilarious!

Wed June 11, 2008
Dream Deceivers:The Story behind The Judas Priest Trial (1992)***
- Very engrossing hour long documentary about the whole backmasking hootanany that almost took down the band Judas Priest in the mid 80's because a couple of Midwestern teens decided to blow their brains out. One of them lived after shotgunning off his face and claimed that it was the music of Judas Priest that led him to do it. His Christian conservative parents sued the band claiming that the song "Better By You, Better Than Me" contained subliminal messages and hidden phrases including the words "do it". This documentary includes a lot of interview footage with the band, James Vance the boy who blew his face off (now severely deformed) and his family. Much of the trial is shown as well. Many experts are brought in to analyze the music in which they find lots of little messages, many of which "could" be something. Yet it seems more likely the power of suggestion is at play. More important is the discourse of Vance himself who openly admits to doing drugs and seems intent on hanging his misery on the music instead of his home life. He's a sad figure who was clearly depressed and probably mentally ill. His abusive stepfather who admits to beating him in the documentary but lies about in the trial probably didn't help matters. All in all its clear that the band is totally innocent of any wrong doing and that the family is at fault but totally running from their demons. Ironically enough, a theme in much of Judas Priests music. First time seeing this. Watched it on Google video.

Thursday June 12, 2008
Sylvia (1976) **1/2 - Entertaining and goofy porno that is enlivened by surprisingly high production values and an energetic performance one time performer Joanne Bell. The movie is a take off on the popular (and recently remade) 70's mental illness drama SYBIL in which a woman who has multiple personality disorder from some sexual experience in her past starts fragmenting in her adult life. In this movie Sylvia acts out sexually and dons several personalities such as Mona who ravishes a vacuum cleaner salesman (played by Marc "10 1/2" Stevens) or a bullish lesbian. Frankly all her personalities seem the same though as they all shed their clothes, are aggressive, leer hysterically and perform analingus on the surprised dudes she is shagging. The most hilarious scene has her defrocking a pastor after terrorizing him with a giant crucifix she has torn off the wall. There is an impromtu exorcism scene too that is a riot. Directed by one Peter Savage aka Armand Peters who was a "made man" in the New York film scene and friends with the boxing legend Jake LeMotta. He basically helped write the book that Raging Bull was based on. The movie is kookily directed with lots of off kilter cutaways and loving melodrama that makes it feel like you have tuned into a a hardcore soap opera from another planet. But it is impressively shot with slick camera work, nice music and decent production values making it a unique movie both for its genre and vintage. But the real reason to buy this disc is the outstanding, must listen, commentary from assistant director and genre legend Bill Lustig (director of Maniac and Blue Underground head honcho, like you needed to know that). He is a great story teller and filled with dozens from the era, not just of the hardcore industry. He's hilarious, but so informative making the track outstanding. This is seriously one of the best commentary tracks ever. His tales of dealing with Joanne Bell, (though his hatred of her is a bit much), are enough for the price alone! A decent movie made a must for the commentary. First time seeing this.

The Zodiac Rapist (1971) *1/2 - Ultra no budget xxx that sought to capitalize on then hot news topic of the Zodiac Killer. Uh, yeah when I want to get hot and bothered the first thing I want to think of is the current serial killer on the loose! This has got to be one of the most wrong headed ideas for a porno ever. John Holmes stars as the title dude but don't take it too literally as the women he goes after are hardly what you would call victims. This is pure goofiness and while there is nonstop sex, no one is ever really "assaulted" as they see Holmes and his huge member and immediately want him to do his stuff. Only in the porno world... Immediately we know we are in no budget lunacy from the get go as we watch a girl planting flowers with no pants or underwear. In a tasteless close up we see that she has the hairiest, dirties butt in porno history. But John Holmes just happens to be hiding in the bushes and turned on by this nasty brown eye. He's Naked and masturbating. When she sticks the rake handle into her nether regions he decides he'd be better suited and they go to town. All the sound is post dubbed and doesn't match. I mean at all. Mouths are closed but moans are loud and furious. Later we meet Sam Dobbs the hero of the story, a clean cut, kinda chubby, perpetually naked detective on the case of the Zodiac Rapist. If only because the rapist keeps calling and pestering him. Dobbs is doing his secretary who is wearing this intensely scary nursing bra in which her nipples stick out of like horrifiying flesh torpedoes. Dobbs tells her in a dubbed over voice " I don't mind being sucked by you, but I hate being fucked by the Zodiac!" He's interrupted by an applicant for another secretary whom he proceeds to screw as a test to see if she could lure the Zodiac out of hiding. Later when she goes home the Zodiac climbs a tree to see her in her room and masturbates while in the tree. It's kind of impressive. He breaks into the house where her and another girl are sleeping on the bed together and announces "I'm the Zodiac Rapist" and a huge blast of guitar feedback shoots through the soundtrack as his theme. They both let him ravish them until Dobbs shows up. Holmes jumps off the balcony, doing his own impressive stunts. Later we see Holmes driving around looking for new victims and he is masturbating even while driving! Finally Dobbs gets help from a dominatrix Police woman who will help him catch the Zodiac but for some reason Dobbs has a real hard time getting it up for her (even though shes the cutest girl in the movie). This thing is nuts. Its terrible, the sex is unappealing for the most part (one girl's vagina looks like uncooked pot roast) but there is enough hilarity, especially the dubbed over dialogue to make it worth it at times. Holmes is clearly having a blast doing stunts and whacking off in public. This is way before the coke starting ravaging him. Too goofy to ignore. There is another Sam Dobbs adventure in this DVD package I have yet to watch. First time seeing this.

Sunday June 15th 2008
The Forbidden Kingdom (2008) **1/2 - Decent enough Americanization of the Hong Kong fantasy/action films that characterized the Chinese output of the eighties. The plot is pure hokum and pretty disposable as an American kid finds a magic staff in a Chinese pawn shop and during a robbery by some young punks is whisked away into feudal China. There it turns out the staff belonged to the Monkey King, an always jovial, very hairy Kung Fu god who was turned to stone by an angry general 500 years before. Seems this kid is now the chosen sentry to take the staff back to the now concrete Monkey King so he can will be freed. But the General is still ruling since he is Immortal or magick or some shit, so it wont be an easy task. All of this information is related by Jackie Chan during one long flashback and dialogue sequence by the way. The kid befriends Jackie Chan who basically reprises his famous Drunken Master roll from the series he made famous. Along the way they pick up a vengeful and beautiful harp playing gal and a renegade monk played by Jet Li (who also plays the Monkey King). The movie moves at a brisk pace and the fight choreography is outstanding as to be expected. The big money fight between Jet Li and Jackie Chan in the middle of the movie is a ten minute long show stopping affair that is worth the price of admission alone. If you came to see those two titans battle it out with all the famous styles of Kung Fu, you will be satisfied. The fights are shot and edited like a Hong Kong flick too, so there is a noticable lack of fast editing and too close for comfort camera work to try and hide anything. The action is the reason to see the movie. Though it is also curiously un-exciting at times (save the Li/Chan fight) mainly because the movie is clearly aimed at families you never get the feeling there is real danger. Though there is some surprising violence now and again (the good guys kill a couple of people) it still feels kind of like going through the motions. Things are not helped by the lead character played by Michael Angaramo. I don't know if it was his performance, or the writing of the character, but the kid is a zero watt bulb. He's such a wuss that you want him to get his ass kicked throughout most of the movie just to teach him to man up a little bit. In fact, even though the plot hinges on him, you wish he'd just disappear and let the other character's lead, as they are out doing him charisma wise in every single shot. Another interesting thing about the movie is the amount of references to classic Hong Kong cinema. Numerous Bruce Lee nods abound, Jackie Chan doing the Drunken Master routine, Li playing the Monkey King from famous Monkey series, and there is a villainess who is clearly The Bride With White Hair (from part two though, after she became a man hating assassin). In fact they name check that movie just so you get it. The opening credits are a wonderful collage of poster images from classic Kung Fu movies. So over all its fun and diverting with one classic fight in the center. But it is the American elements (I.E. the kid, the flimsy script) that make it less than it could have been. First time seeing this.

The Machine Girl (2008) ** - Completely over the top Japanese splatter/Yakuza/comedy tries so hard to be hip that it almost hurts. While the movie at times is fun, and there is more than a few arresting images and moments, ultimately this has more in common with a video game than an actual movie. The plot is fairly simple, too simple actually. A college age girl's brother is killed by other similar age thugs, one of whom is part of a Yakuza/Ninja family. For reasons never explained, she has a lot of martial arts training and goes after these thugs and the Yakuza family. In the process she is caught, tortured and has her arm chopped off. She manages to escape and is taken in by the mechanic family of the other boy that was also killed. they create a gatlin gun replacement arm for her and she (as well as the mother of the boy) go and a killing spree of revenge. She also replaces her hand with a chainsaw at one point too just in case you weren't getting the Army Of Darkness reference. The movie is extremely over the top, with gallons of blood spilled in great geysers, even beyond the typical Japanese arterial spray found in the Baby Cart films. The gore in this movie has more in common with the early films of Peter Jackson than anything else. But while the gore is going over the top, the film itself tries to play everything completely straight, no matter how super-ludicrous it gets. Which SHOULD work, but most of the time doesn't. It takes a director with a special flare to pull this off. Takashi Miike has done it over and over such as in Ichi The Killer or Fudoh both of which this movie seems to want to be like (minus the sexuality, this movie is totally absent of sexuality). Yet director Noburo Iguchi doesn't seem to rise to the challenge. Instead the film feels forced and flat, only coming to life during the outrageous gore scenes and not even all of those work, hampered by some poor effects and situations that are so extreme you are taken out of the movie. In the Peter Jackson movies you were dealing with the supernatural so you could go overboard and make it work, here you are still sort of playing in the real world to an extent. So when a guy is having nails driving into his face over and over and doesn't die. You sort of are jsut left wondering why its happening. But what do I know? It is already becoming a huge cult hit and everyone seems to love it. I just felt like it was missing the mark and recycling stuff that other filmmakers have done better. First time seeing this.

Sunday June 22, 2008
Sole Survivor (1983) *** - Solid, atmospheric and fairly scary flick that has recently been released on DVD from Code Red is a little diamond in the rough waiting to be rediscovered. The plot is fairly similar to the Final Destination movies, so much so that the director of this movie tried to initiate legal proceedings at one point. A young woman mysteriously survives a plane crash only to start having creepy people following her everywhere. A washed up actress dreamed about her situation before it happened and is trying to warn her about the impending doom that is oncoming. Seems that these figures are something much more deadly. The plot devices here aren't that hard to figure out and owe a pretty big debt to Carnival of Souls (no she is not already dead though). But what makes this movie sing is that it takes it time to build up realistic characters and a real sense of dread. Beautiful camera work and a slow, careful direction really crawls under your skin so when the well timed scares happen they are immensely effective. There is a bit of jumble in the midsection where the movie tries to through in some exploitation elements to try and appease the grindhouse crowds (Brinke Stevens makes an appearance and takes off her shirt for no good reason at all), but the film gets on track pretty quickly for a rousing climax. Though I found the epilogue to be a bit unsatisfying. But otherwise this is highly recommended. First time seeing this.

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