Tuesday, November 25, 2008
"Mr. Vampire" is arguably the Gold Standard of hopping vampire films and, to my eye anyway, one of the most entertaining entries in the impressive body of Hong Kong genre flicks. It's an incredibly satisfying way to spend ninety minutes escaping from what ails the world, crammed full of monsters, kung fu, and comedy. The film follows the One-Eyebrow Priest (a character who would be featured in several other films, mainly due to his KICKASSITUDE), a rural cleric who specializes in combating supernatural forces, and his two bumbling assistants Chou (a handsome yet foolish young man) and Man Choi (a buffoon cut in the classic "Three Stooges" mold) as they track down a powerful vampire who is terrorizing the village. Set in what I'm guessing is the 1920s, there are period costumes and sets to add an extra level of interest.
The comedy doesn't only work on a visual level. There are several scenes in which dialogue is used to enhance the hilarity of a particular encounter. A scene in which the priest and Man Choi attempt to behave properly during an English Tea with potential clients yields embarrassing results that span the language gap. Who knew that a comedy of errors sequence revolving around the proper way to drink coffee could have me in stitches? Upon watching it twice in a row and breaking up with laughter both times, I can only believe that this is the product of directorial genius.
For sheer bang-for-the-buck entertainment, it's hard to beat "Mr. Vampire." Cozy up with a bottle or three of your favorite beer and settle in for a lovely evening with this Hong Kong delight. Psst--you can find it serialized on YouTube right here if you crave instant gratification.
Check out the Flickr stills gallery from "Mr. Vampire" for maximum glee.
Monday, November 24, 2008
The structure of the film parallels that of "Salon Kitty:" a high-ranking SS officer is tasked with running a brothel where the hookers will collect secrets from the clients that will lead to a weeding out of undesirables from the ranks of the Nazi party. The officer becomes drunk with his own power and eventually falls victim to his egomania.
It's hardly necessary to devote much time to a frame by frame comparison of the two films, but my snarkiness compels me to point out a couple of examples. Remember that bit in "SK" when Wallenberg is going around REJECTING and APPROVING girls for service? It looks like this:
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Internet, I know what you're thinking--"Kate, we've accepted your love of third-rate films featuring face-stealing surgeons, your unquenchable lust for banana-flavored coffee*, and the joy you derive from painting tiny watercolor boobs, but this is just too much. Your passion for 'Flesh Gordon' is more than we can accept." I'm going to set forth a case for this 1974 softcore porno sci-fi comedy that will beg you to reconsider this film based not only upon its sheer batshittery, but upon all the great stuff it gives you in addition to insanity and copious nudity.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this particular nugget of Americana, "Flesh Gordon" was the brainchild of Graffiti Productions, a company that had previously churned out hardcore porn reels. Graced with a budget of $100,000, the minds behind the production company devised a plan to merge their passion for porn with a love of Golden Age Science Fiction. The hilariously hokey end product is the result of various misadventures brought on by a combination of zeal and naivete that infuse the end product with a manic glee that never fails to bring a smile to the Tenebrous Lips.
If you're not won over to the AWESOMENESS that is "Flesh Gordon" yet, check out the Flickr gallery of stills for further evidence of the visual madness and excellence of this movie.
*Firstly, this is not a euphemism. Secondly, don't knock it till you've tried it--it's awesome.
Monday, November 17, 2008
"Doctor Z" hits all the right exploitation cinema notes. We're treated to mad science, revenge, far-out go-go dancing, ghoulish surgery, and settings steeped in gothic goodness. Add in a smattering of sexiness and a killer robot as well as a plot that moves along at a refreshing clip and you're in for a very fine eighty-three minutes.
Enjoy a Flickr gallery of stills from "the Diabolical Dr. Z" here.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
To put this in context, 1975 was the year that gave us both Dario Argento's sublime "Profondo Rosso" (marking a deliberate break from his earlier "Animal Trilogy) and the absurd "Strip Nude for Your Killer." The giallo had been milked almost dry and filmmakers were trying to extract as much from the genre as possible. The golden years of the giallo had past, and the intricate elements of these stories (perverse sexuality, the cruelties of modern life, dark psychology) began to get eclipsed by an emphasis on profuse nudity and gore. NOT that there's no love for nudity and gore in the Empire, mind you--but this viewer finds herself pining for the complex character studies of some of the earlier entries while watching most post-1972 gialli.
9 out of 10 black-gloved killers prefer the taste of J&B
"Strip Nude for Your Killer" is a shameless attempt to cash in on the Blood 'n' Boobs craze, and as such, you can't really hate it too much. It does, indeed, give us nudity and killing in plentiful doses. It also works in some really unwelcome comedy and has little of the visual flair that characterizes the best of the giallo breed. The plot is fairly straight-forward: the employees of a fashion photography firm are being stalked and killed by a black-leather-clad assassin. A horrible secret from the past unites them and has marked them for death. All is revealed at the end in typical WTF style--there's no priest to blame, so the scriptwriter had to go for the next best shocking thing.
Sweetie, I couldn't have said it better myself.Nino Castelnuovo, having Hit The Wall face-first at top speed sometime between playing the elegant male lead in 1969's "Camille 2000" and "SNfYK," plays Carlo Bianchi, a fashion photographer so oily and misogynistic that I found myself wondering if he was any relation to Hillside Strangler Kenneth Bianchi. Carlo is over-the-top even by giallo antihero standards, with his inclinations towards rapeyness, buttcheek-baring Speedos, and general air of hirsute dissipation. It's all the more perplexing that fellow fashion photographer Magda Cortis, played by Euro-Super-Babe Edwige Fenech, throws herself at Carlo in a darkroom seduction scene featuring a totally AWESOME garter belt that this viewer feels is entirely wasted on its intended target.
I won't mention the fact that the movie ends on a freeze-frame of Carlo and Magda after Carlo has threatened Magda with anal rape. Those wacky kids and their forced sodomy hijinx!
This apartment was designed by the folks who brought you "The Yellow Wallpaper"
The mise-en-scene in this film is absolutely apeshit as well. It's a wonderland of Levi's and J&B product placement devised, I can only imagine, by competing companies who wished to slander the good names of these companies. The interiors are made up of so many competing patterns it's like sombody put on three teevees playing three different episodes of "the Brady Bunch," peered through a prism, and slapped the results on-screen. I also like the fact that if you're running a successful ad agency, you'd find the need to decorate your apartment entirely in those advertising mirrors you'd win at playing flip-a-frog at a carnival. Astonishing stuff, and surely the product of a deranged mind.
Your film has SERIOUS issues when this dude's boobs get almost as much screen time as Edwige's boobs
"SNfYK" is a sleazy mess that borders on parody, playing like the twisted love child of a "Love Boat" entry and an antediluvian episode of "Silk Stalkings." For giallo completists and fans of Edwige's boobs, it's not unwatchable--all others should view at their own risk!
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
"The Found Footage Festival" is ninety minutes of sublimely simple and brilliantly hilarious fun. Comedians Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher have been collecting oddball videocasettes for almost two decades, nabbing every corporate training video, exercise tape, and public access television show that comes across their path. Their genius rests in their ability to sort through countless hours of dreck to pluck out the meaty morsels that wind up on-screen during the FFF. Most of us have seen sexual harassment training tapes at work--few of us would have the desire to watch dozens of them, and select all the clips in which the following Henny-Youngman-like couplet was uttered:
Worker: "Did you want anything, boss?"
Boss: "Sure I do--but we can talk about that later."
Who but Joe and Nick would realize that this exchange takes place in nearly EVERY sexual harassment training video? That's commitment to an artform, people.
The clips are organized into several segments--from the aforementioned sexual harassment montage to the "Hunks" footage (taken from such classics as "Playgirl's Hunkercize") to some truly staggering public access clips including the unforgettable MIKENASTICS, seen here in his training video:
The FFF guys seem to have a great deal of affection for their quirky subjects. Sure, they're poking fun at the various crazies featured in their film clips, but it doesn't really cross the line into mean-spiritedness. They celebrate the weirdness around them rather than taking an attitude of snarky superiority.
Enjoy a clip from the FFF here (and maybe learn a little something about how to seduce women through hypnosis at the same time):
Oh--related to the FFF, one of the programs featured is an AWESOMELY INSANE dance program out of Chicago titled "Chic-a-go-go". If anybody from the Windy City feels like being my hero, please go on the show, boogie like there's no tomorrow, and know that I envy and adore you.
Check out the FFF MySpace page for upcoming dates around the U.S. and in Canada.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Five words: "Gothic 'Trapped in the Closet.'"
You know what, Internets--he's right. "Repo" is an opera told entirely in recitative, pretty much entirely sans-aria, detailing a story that's full of plot holes and stupidry. Unlike R. Kelly's hip-hopera, there are no midgets or flights of fancy to elevate this effort to sublimely surreal status. The Baron is wrong that "Repo" is the Worst Movie Ever, but I'll be damned if it's not a contender. Director Darren "Yes, the 'Saw' Sequels Guy" Bousman manages to squander heaps of cash AND a talented cast on an Off-to-the-Nth-Power Broadway musical with a high-concept but ill-fleshed book and songs so cringe-worthy that I thought the Baron was going to try to melt into the floor out of sheer embarassment for everyone involved in the production.
So... why is the internet abuzz with praise for this mess? Stop drinking the Kool-Aid, fellow fans of bizarre cinema! "Different" does not equal "Good," and the painfully self-referential tone of the film (LOOK I CAN HAZ OGRE AND BILL MOSELEY!) plops it firmly in the category of Hipster Cash-In. Allow me to detail some more egregious issues I have with this movie, won't you? Of course you will!
- Forty years in the future, Lip Service outfits and cheap plastic shoes from Pleaser have finally dominated the clothing market. No, really--if I can tell you the prices, sizing and SKU numbers of every piece of clothing worn by a character on-screen, your wardrober deserves a Sound And Unsexy Thrashing.
- NEVER unleash the G-Bomb (G*th) in your film--just don't--unless you mean it to be funny. ESPECIALLY NEVER do it if the music in your film is more "Meat Loaf's Retarded Cousin" than "Nik Fiend."
- If you show a gun in Act I, it had BETTER go off in Act III. And in this case, substitute "drug made of dead people" for "gun"--make USE of something icky and cool like that in the Plot Proper.
Pee Ess: If you're not Russ Meyer, you're not allowed to use exclamation points in your film title.
Pee Pee Ess: Changed my email address over there since Comcast is friggin' HELLA-VEXING. You can find me at Gmail now (with the rest of the civilized world).
Friday, November 7, 2008
"Three Tough Guys" was a blind view from the Grindhouse Experience box, and damn near fulfilled its promise of blindness with the muddiness of the print. Still, there's enough in this Italo-French blaxploitationer to make it worth soldiering through. No new ground is covered as Isaac Hayes' former cop joins forces with venerable European character actor Lino Ventura's rough-and-tumble Catholic priest to combat the oily evil of Fred "Black Shatner" Williamson's career criminal Joe Snake. To go over the blaxploitation/Italo-crime checklist, we've got gritty dialogue, ridiculous clown suits, amusingly stilted fight sequences, and plentiful bitchslapping. There are some slow bits towards the middle, but just as my interest would begin to wane, something AWESOME would happen and I'd be right back in it. This movie reminds you of it's balls-out redackarousness at the correct moments. As you're dozing during the plot exposition--WHAMO! There's fisticuffs and wig-snatching and shirtless-beleathered Fred Williamson to wake you right the fuck up.
I'm kind of in awe of the COMPLETELY AMAZING pinball-themed film poster shown here. Sidebar: I LOVE scenes filmed in vintage videogame arcades, and this movie has several. Including a fight scene in which Fred Williamson gets pelted with a bowling ball and sent down the alley. Bestill my beating heart! You can see fully eighty percent of the Good Shit in this two-and-a-half-minute trailer:
Bonus points for the scene in which Isaac Hayes' character takes a leak on some vanquished baddies. Stay classy, "Three Tough Guys."
I'd be hella-remiss if I didn't make mention of this movie's theme song. It's a good 'un, written and performed by Mr. Hayes himself and containing some of the most fist-pumpingly, eye-crossingly, drool-inducingest badass lyrics OF ALL TIME. You'll be humming this bad boy all day long, right along with me.
Preacher man, police man, working together
They both can fight, black and white
and they're TOUGH GUYS!
NOTE: I ADORED director Duccio Tessari's "the Blood-Stained Butterfly" which starred my first choice for Tenebrous Emperor, Helmut Berger. It's kinda hard to believe he directed that film, a giallo of great beauty and sensitivity, and this wacky thrill-ride! I am most surely inspired to seek out more of his films now.