Monday, June 30, 2008

Snoop Dogg, Professor Emeritus of Jamaa Fanaka studies

Too Sweet hopped up on aggression serum

You better believe that Snoop Dogg knows Jamaa Fanaka's films up and down and left and right.

Any doubts? Watch this:

Somebody give him a test. That's incredible.

Join us Wednesday for PENITENTIARY III and EMMA MAE!

Jamaa Fanaka this week! EMMA MAE! PENITENTIARY 3!

Are you seriously going to miss this?!

We are as excited as we know how to be this week. Director-producer-writer Jamaa Fanaka will be here presenting PENITENTIARY 3 and EMMA MAE.

There has never been a better double feature in movie-going history. I'm not exaggerating. PENITENTIARY 3 is berserk, gonzo, out-of-control. Have you ever seen a flying midget rapist? Ever wanted to? Get on it! Tickets are on sale NOW - HERE. And the good thing about buying tickets is, you don't have to wait in line and hustle for a seat to EMMA MAE at midnight, because you're already there and we have the seat saved for you. And seriously, how many great movies do you see all year long for free? You should plop down that $8.50 with a smile on your face and a song in your heart.

Both of these films are mind-blasters, full of shredding dialogue and outrageous situations. Jamaa Fanaka strikes back at black stereotypes and delivers more street than even Google maps knows how to deal with.

Miss this and you are a sad excuse for a hominid!!!!

For all the filmmakers or aspiring filmmakers out there - Jamaa will be conducting a directors workshop on Thursday with fellow pro Maxie Collier. It's the best possible use of those extra twenties you still have in your pocket from George Bush's fraudulent incentive check program. Jamaa Fanaka learned his trade both at UCLA film school and later under the lowest budget conditions possible, so he can enrich your game with his lifetime of filmmaking knowledge. Seriously, once in a lifetime opportunity here.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


We'd like to ask you a few questions

In addition to being a fast moving crime comedy, COTTON has some fairly deep political and cultural content. Author Chester Himes has constructed a story and characters that are built on classically African and pan-African modes of storytelling. It's a community story, with the instruction subtly woven into the fabric of entertainment. By the way, when we discuss African narratives, words like fabric, weaving and thread continually emerge but this takes us more deeply into the fractal and polyrhythmic underpinning of the African story than I am qualified to go into - hopefully someone smarter and darker complected than me will take up the subject.

Cotton is by nature raw and unprocessed, as is the thrust of my argument but isn't that what blogs are for? It is apparent when you see such scenes as Coffin Ed and O'Malley's fight backstage at the Apollo, amid the giant blown up photos of Stevie Wonder, Duke Ellington and other luminaries that this is film has more than meets the eye. Add to that the fact that a bale of cotton filled with currency is central to the story about racial exploitation from within. I particularly love the way the cotton narrative is cleaned, combed and refined into the stage act also called "Cotton Comes To Harlem" complete with the mob enforcer intruding in blackface and minstrel show garb.

As director, Ossie Davis does a fantastic job with the performers. The tone is all over the place from absurd comedy to serious social commentary, but that is very faithful to the fictional source. It's so unfortunate that Godfrey Cambridge (who always seems to be sharing a joke with the audience) and Raymond St. Jacques (who makes a great tough guy) both died young. Calvin Lockhart has never been better or better-cast as the crooked but undeniably charismatic preacher and it was great that Red Foxx' character got such a cool coda. I am really eager to see the sequel COME BACK CHARLESTON BLUE and read the Chester Himes novels I haven't gotten to yet.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A dream I had last night

Raymond St. Jacques, Tough Guy

I dreamed that I stood in front of an audience and gave them three choices:

INVASION USA, featuring Amerikkka's favorite scrabble-bearded tough guy and a whole lot of explosions.

COTTON COMES TO HARLEM, the Chester Himes adaptation by Ossie Davis with Raymond St. Jacques and Godfrey Cambridge as Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones.

and KINKY COACHES AND THE POM POM PUSSYCATS starring Robert Forster and John Vernon as dueling football coaches with odd sexual proclivities.

In this dream the audience didn't give INVASION USA much love at all so it went to a runoff between COTTON and POM POM PUSSYCATS.

COTTON won, and then the audience won. I'm busy right now but I will write more about COTTON soon.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I Luv Video Pick shelf for 6/25

I just ran through both I Luv Video locations, grabbing titles for my pick shelves.

Here's how it shakes out:
At Guadalupe:

Catchy fuckin' title on this one. 90% of all horror movies are "based on Poe" usually in tacky, superficial ways. This nightmarish thriller captures a lot of the anxious doom-laden loathing of Poe, even as the colors are bright and saturated and the ladies (Edwige Fenech and Anita Strindberg) are in effect. Sergio Martino directed Ernesto Gastaldi's (and others') script. Music by lil' ol' Bruno Nicolai.

Claudia Jennings was a great working class heroine. She downplays her sex appeal here and while she's never convincingly tough as the rags to riches rollerderby star, she is tremendously likable. Pretty much all formula here, but it's a good formula and the movie's way better than KANSAS CITY BOMBER.

We showed this on the opening night of the Ritz. It's pretty austere and technically proficient, which you probably wouldn't expect from a movie entitled ATTACK OF THE MUSHROOM PEOPLE in its US release. But sure enough Ishiro Honda works it and makes you believe.

Also known as THE FAMILY, this is one beautiful, violent elegy for sociopathic killers. Charles Bronson convincingly portrays a hired gun who doesn't want to play ball with Telly Savalas' syndicate. There's some of that good old OUT OF THE PAST plotline in here too. The violent city of the title is New Orleans by the way!

At I Luv on Airport:

Antonio Margheriti was one of the better genre hacks who worked with equal facility in Westerns, Spaghetti Sci-Fi, Giallo, War and Dumb Comedy. This movie is kind of insane. A cat seems to be causing the deaths of a bunch of troubled Euros in a castle. Jane Birkin (yowch!) is the damsel in distress, and Serge Gainsbourg turns up in a nothing role as a cop. Mainly though, the zoom lens is the star. Practically every shot has a zoom in it, which, along with the wild sets and crazy makeup puts this movie on it's own planet of visual style. More than anything it looks like a cover from one of those Gothic novels that women read in the '70s with all the fearful virgins standing in the shadow of priapic castles as the ocean batters the rocky shore.

Speaking of berserk! Don't go into this movie looking for a whole lot of loup garous on Harleys, because there's not a lot of it. This is more like a Godard biker film. Characters talk in circles endlessly as vaguely menacing black magic shit happens. Meanwhile the freak-folk/fuzz music of the late Don Gere swirls around them. With some of the best "man on fire" scenes ever - rigged by our friend Gary Kent!

This is not what you'd call an exploitation film. More like a politically overshadowed epic classic. Gillo Pontecorvo, who would be better known as one of the world's greatest filmmakers if he had been less of a commie anarchist, made this after BATTLE OF ALGIERS, hoping that it would end up in regular old movie houses as a swashbuckling adventure movie, but it wasn't to be. United Artists got cold feet and barely released the film, and then only after cuts were made to make Portugal the bad guy instead of Spain. What Ever. This movie is about Uncle Sam all the way, even though it takes place during colonial times. In fact, it may be the best film about U.S. foreign policy period. But it's not a big schematic pain in the ass, it's good moviemaking too. Marlon Brando puts the hammer down as a repulsive yet heroic Englishman, sent to foment a revolution for Britain's economic ends. He acts like the wind, even with a tricky upper-class English accent, that's never less than convincing. Violent, beautiful, uplifting, infuriating, this is a good night at the movies.


A few months before he died Boris Karloff filmed some scenes with Jack Hill to be cut into some cheapjack Mexican productions so they could boast "starring Boris Karloff." The Uncanny One was really old, but always a pro and his scenes come off fine. And surprise, the resulting movies are pretty OK. This one is the best, just for sheer weirdness. Karloff keeps a fear chamber to make women crazy scared and collect some kind of serum from their brains or something. Anyhow, they basically set up haunted houses complete with monsters and sinister midgets and make hot chicks walk through them over and over again. The End. Beautifully Mexiambient.

Tonight: Choose Your Own Weird Wednesday!

All the films are in the booth.

When you find out the three films you'll have to choose from you'll shit an eagle!

Here are three hints:

Movie one stars a Baby Armadillo.

Movie two is almost certainly "black enough for you."

Movie three stars Robert Forster.

YOU MUST CHOOSE! Since its inception, the Weird Wednesday Choose Your Own Adventure Night has been a virtual guarantor of cinematic strangeness far beyond even our own Wildest Dreams. Here’s how it works: we pull three movies from the vaults, I’ll fill you in a bit on the details, then you, the audience, will choose the movie by applauding. As always, we have some awesome movies set aside for just such an occasion. Choose Your Own Weird Wednesday is one of the great, though irregularly scheduled, traditions of this series. Some of the best, wrongest and just plain awkward moments in my life (Anybody remember COUNTRY HOOKER?) have been at Choose Your Own Adventure nights. This year make your voice heard! And don’t email me looking for hints about which movies will be in the mix ‘cause I won’t tell you.

Join us tonight at midnight. Ritz! 302 E. 6th.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Zack has created a Terror Thursday blog - good news for humanity!

I salute my colleague Zack who now has a Terror Thursday blog. As many of you know, Zack is a very funny writer and introductioneer and I'm looking forward to reading his blog seven times a day.

We created Terror Thursdays before Zack moved to Austin, since it seemed like Thursday nights had become an honorary weekend night and we wanted to put an entertainment option out there for the largely college crowd that hits the streets on Thursday. And quite honestly, the series never got the attention it deserved from us, since we had our own fish to fry elsewhere.

But when Zack came to town, he wrestled it to the ground and made a baby with it. It is now my second favorite film series. It's really hard for me to attend two midnights in a row but Zack's programming is so strong that I often find myself in a coma of exhaustion on Friday morning, looking curiously at the rogueish trucker stimulants at Sunrise Mini-mart, for the last dash of energy I need to get me through the week.

So read the blog, live the life, fight the fight. All that shit. Hail Zack!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Choose Your Own Weird Wednesday this week

Join us this week for a tradition around these parts. I will climb up on the stage and give you a choice of three films. Some you may have heard of, some you will not. I will attempt to sketch a clear picture of each option and then you the audience will vote with your applause. I hope there will be a lot of rancor and partisanship. It's always nice to turn brother against brother and parent against child. I think this week the three selections are so excellent that some of you might actually injure yourselves trying to applaud as loudly as you can. The selections are top secret. But I can guarantee you won't want to miss it.

I don't have any photos to post in conjunction with this event but here are some of the beauties of the upcoming WW calendar. Print them out and tack them to the wall of your shack!

Senta Berger, PUZZLE July 30

Nancy Kwan, WONDER WOMEN August 20

Jane Birkin, CATHERINE AND CO. August 27

Thursday, June 19, 2008

99 WOMEN Wrapup

Thanks to Blake over at Twitchfilm for posting my intro from last night. It is characteristically rambly and I think less funny than usual. Seeing myself onscreen is not exactly a tonic for my ego, particularly as the 16:9 frame is horizontally compressed so I appear even taller and thinner than I actually am. But I'm glad that someone is apparently interested in my ramblings.

One thing I didn't mention was just what an insatiable scenery chewer Mercedes McCambridge is here. I think it totally works but I understand the laughter. Several people noted with surprise how technically assured Franco's direction is. Those people are possibly more acquainted with his zoom lens years, in which most of Franco's movements were accomplished by panning and zooming around a set full of people. Those films are technically amazing too in my opinion - and the zoom technique is worthy of a critical reassessment, but what do I know? I have no objectivity here. I'm sold on Franco. I would get a tattoo if... maybe I'll get a tattoo.

There are some less polished actors in the cast but it all comes together. I think this is a really solid movie. Care to weigh in?

Join us tonight where I'll be guest hosting the Terror Thursday presentation of EATEN ALIVE, which I love.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

New I Luv Video Pick Shelf for 6/18


I changed out my I Luv Video pick shelf, which I now do weekly. It's a welcome ritual that lets me wander the aisles for a few minutes and get excited about movies I haven't seen in a while.

At the Guadalupe store we have:

BONE: The oddball little comedy of manners directed by Larry Cohen and starring the great Yaphet Kotto as a home-invading philosophical thug. There's a lot of talking and pretension but it's all very entertaining.

SSSSSSS: This snake horror movie has the cheap, cost-cutting look of a lot of Universal films but it also has a lot of the strange vitality of the classic horrors. At times it feels like a TV movie-of-the-week directed by David Cronenberg.

DANCE WITH THE DEVIL: Here's a movie that gets no respect, and it's hard to blame anyone considering that the cover image is Rosie Perez' tits and a shotgun. But it's a really strong '90s exploitation movie. Javier Bardem is a brujo on the Mexican border who is assisted in his human sacrifice and drug smuggling efforts by Perez and Screaming Jay Hawkins. James Gandolfini plays Gene Hackman more or less as the DEA cop who pursues them. Pretty extreme and tasteless.

JUSTINE : Jess Franco's Sade adaptation is pretty faithful to the book. It's not very witty, as Sade is, but it's very pretty to look at. With Klaus Kinski, freaking out as Sade in a framing segment and Jack Palance, who looks like he snorted a family of small bears before the cameras started rolling. He's out of control like the Pentagon's checkbook. He is pure light.

Meanwhile over at Airport:

ELECTRA GLIDE IN BLUE: Talk about pretentious. This is nothing but. But that's a far less severe sin than playing it safe and being boring in my mind. Tons of tricky camera work, an amazing chase, lots of hippie philosophizing and at the core of it, Robert Blake - who puts a dress on it and takes it downtown. He's the man in this. The MAN.

THE PSYCHO LOVER: Ultra cheap sex/rape thriller produced by the Isley Brothers and directed by Robert V. O'Neill of WONDER WOMEN fame. This has some real crazy acid trip/dream scenes and phenomenal music. Whatever speed freak edited this thing deserves a medal.

GARGOYLES : This is one of those TV movies that a lot of us say when we were kids and that stuck with us forever. I remember channel 5 in Washington DC used to show this a lot and it's become part of my dreams. Credit the recently departed Stan Winston who designed and built the super-great gargoyle suits.

VENUS IN FURS : Another Franco. This one is very strange. Franco said it came from a conversation with Chet Baker about the wild places a jazz musician's mind goes when he takes a solo. Trumpeter James Darren's mind sure goes to some wild places in this. A purely cinematic phantasmagoria of '60s places and attitudes. Maybe my favorite Franco film.

Tonight: 99 WOMEN - Don't miss!

If you don't like seeing women kept in a savage jungle hell and forced to fight for their lives against the forces of depersonalization and objectivization, then maybe you should stay home, make some Jello and kick it with some Jim Croce records.

Everybody else, find a clean shirt, put your boots on and come on down to the Ritz.

Rated R; 86min; Director:Jess Franco (1969)

This was the first of the modern WIP (women-in-prison) movies and was a huge hit, especially on 42nd Street, where it probably recouped its entire production cost in a single grungy scumatorium. Controversial director Jess Franco (THE DEMONS, VAMPYROS LESBOS) created the prototype for the entire caged women genre here with such stock characters as the crippled, perverted warden (Herbert Lom), the sadistic head guard (Mercedes McCambridge), the new fish (Maria Rohm), the tough girl (the great Rosalba Neri who has an awesome flashback scene), and the liberal prison reformer (Maria Schell). Jess Franco movies tend to polarize audiences. Whatever you may think about the films, there’s no doubt he’s an original talent - and a productive one., sometimes making 12 or more movies in a year! For the 15 or so years following the release of this landmark film WIP movies were the exploitation equivalent of the western: cheap, easy to make, and guaranteed money-makers. Come see the one that got the whole ball rolling. (Lars)

Here's the trailer:

Special thanks to I Luv Video, crappy website, great stores.

Oh and check the ad mats on Reel Distraction here.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Jess Franco, Rosalba Neri and 99 Women

Seriously, who's cooler?

When I tell people I love, love, love Jess Franco's films a lot of them look at me like I'm trying to say something shocking like "The Archies were better than the Beatles". I'm serious though. I think Franco is (or was, his shot-on-video output awaits my review - and I'm in no hurry) one of the most civilized filmmakers around. His technique runs circles around vaunted camera-centric directors. You rarely see a bad performance in a Franco film, even though he's usually working with a mix of second or third tier pros and pretty ladies who are willing to get naked a lot.

Furthermore, they're personal films, the most personal expression a terminal cinephile can create is a film, and with Franco's great willpower and knowledge, he creates watchable movies nearly every time out, and occasionally a masterpiece. But Franco's not really in the masterpiece business. He always refers to himself as a professional for hire. But what an idiosyncratic professional for hire!

99 WOMEN is from one of his great, reputation making periods - the Harry Alan Towers period. Franco periods are defined by their money-men, so you've got the De Nesle period, the Eurocine period, the Erwin Dietrich period etc. The Harry Alan Towers period gave Franco (relatively) big budgets, and several name stars like Klaus Kinski, Christopher Lee, Jack Palance and, in 99 WOMEN, Herbert Lom, Mercedes McCambridge and Maria Schell. Plus he could fill out his casts with capable pros who weren't necessarily name stars and travel to exotic locations, usually Brazil. The Towers period gave us some of the Franco's best films including VENUS IN FURS, EUGENIE - THE STORY OF HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION and JUSTINE, all of which I recommend bigly.

Franco periods can also be designated by his muses: Lina Romay, Soledad Miranda, Janine Reynaud, Britt Nichols and others. With the Towers money came a Towers imposed muse - Maria Rohm (aka Mrs. Towers) - she's fine, a pale lovely blonde - but Franco smuggles his own muse into 99 WOMEN in the person of the Italian sex bomb Rosalba Neri. I'm happy that Neri, like Franco is becoming a recognized name now that so many films of the era have made it to home DVD. She has a unique and overwhelming kind of feral, erotic ravenousness that Franco, of all people, appreciates. She's not in a whole lot of the movie, largely due to location-based budget concerns, but whenever she's on screen (and she's photographed lovingly) the camera has a raging hard-on. At the end of the film, when the prisoners are shown assembled in the wind-swept yard, Franco gives her a close-up that emphasizes her cinematic importance to the film, even if the character was a minor player. When we first showed 99 WOMEN back in '02 or so, that closeup triggered a spontaneous round of applause, which was one of the happiest moments of my life.

The smuggled muse

I'm eager to find out what you guys think of 99 WOMEN this week. I hope the world will be a little more full of Jess Franco and Rosalba Neri fans very soon.

The theme song is here so you can start rocking it.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

New I Luv Video Pick Shelf for June 12

I changed out my video picks today at both I Luv Video locations. I love having pick shelves. It's like a whole movie series on its own. Thanks to everybody who rents from the shelves.

Here's what we got at the Guad store:

Seijun Suzuki's completely one-of-a-kind Nikkatsu crime film (that in fact got him fired from the venerable studio) is poetic and visually gorgeous. And it's so, so weird.

Most of the same cast of RIOT ON SUNSET STRIP. This time Mimsy is the bad girl and Laurie Mock is the good girl. A family drives across the desert to take over an isolated motel only to be beseiged by kicks-mad teens. Dated and a lot of fun.

William Sanderson of BLADE RUNNER and Larry, Darryl and Darryl fame plays the worst kind of racist scumbag who commits a home invasion against a black family. But they fight back, and you'll cheer loudly for them. You may see this one at the Alamo sometime soon, so don't ruin your appetite.

Russ Meyer's angry, nihilistic black comedy. A lot of people don't like this because it's not happy go lucky but I think it's great. Meyer is one of the major artists of twentieth century world cinema, period. And I'll put on a suit and say that if you want me to. Deal with it.

Over at the Airport Blvd. location:

Speaking of major film artists, how about Billy Friedkin. You know how good THE EXORCIST is. Here's his second best movie - yes I know THE FRENCH CONNECTION is good. This movie deserves a tighter rep than it has. A remake of WAGES OF FEAR, this is Friedkin's pure genius at work. And turn it up, Tangerine Dream's soundtrack gives it so much.

Abel Ferrara's totally indulgent New York post punk slasher movie is nothing like you'd expect. In fact it's basically a nature documentary about Ferrara himself, slumping around various roach infested apartments talking constantly. It's pretty entertaining. But not as entertaining as his commentary track, which is all "this dudes about to get it.... Aaaahh!!! Hahaha!" and "I'm pretty sure I fucked her."

Pretty impressive Jess Franco film about a pair of strippers who go undercover to expose a white slave ring. At this point Franco was making like 15 features a year so he was pretty good at turning them out. This one has a labyrinthine plot that's pulp at it's chewiest.

Arthur Penn directs Thomas McGuane's script with Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando. Somebody else watch this and tell me what the fuck is up with Marlon Brando in this. It's genius, whatever it is, but whoo.

RIOT afterglow

Yes it was an afterglow I was feeling as I left the theater last night. Seeing RIOT ON SUNSET STRIP with a big crowd gave me such a great feeling I still feel euphoric this morning. True, the last 20 minutes are anticlimactic especially with all that heavy melodrama. After you've heard two Chocolate Watchband songs performed at high intensity and seen Mimsy Farmer do an amazing slo-mo freakout dance just about anything is bound to leave you wanting. That shit is the mountaintop.

Figure 1: That shit.

So I hope you were able to join us. If you weren't, then seek this out on DVD. I know The Video Beat carries it and I have asked I Luv Video to pick it up. If you want to relive some magic moments from the film, youtube has the songs and the Mimsy Farmer freakout. One guy's comment on the Mimsy dance is just: " DUDE!!!!", which sums it up nicely.

Attendees, did you enjoy the film? Any newly minted Chocolate Watchband or Mimsy Farmer fans?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Riot On Sunset Strip this week!

Tomorrow at the Ritz: Don't miss RIOT ON SUNSET STRIP:

I Luv Video Presents
Rated NR; 87min; Director:Arthur Dreifuss (1967) IMDB

Location: Alamo Ritz


“The most shocking film of our generation! Meet the teenyboppers with their too-tight capris... And the pot-partygoers - out for a new thrill - a new kick! ” Hilariously misguided and fun “expose” of the youth problem. This is definitely a bad movie but as bad movies go it’s sublime. Gorgeous Mimsy Farmer, a walking tornado of virginal innocence and sex appeal if there ever was one, plays the estranged daughter of police captain Aldo Ray. When she falls in with the wrong crowd of hot-rodding, pot smoking kids, there’s going to be trouble on the Sunset Strip. This movie is ludicrously old fashioned (producer Sam Katzman had been in the business since 1914) but it’s also strangely vital and exciting. A lot of the credit goes to Mimsy, whose LSD freakout dance sequence is a highlight of human history. If there was a drug that could make life exactly like this movie I would smoke it every day. Featuring The Chocolate Watchband, The Standells and The Enemies. Plus King Of Fuzz Davie Allan brings his guitar to the party. Miss this and you’re just stupid! (Lars)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Upcoming Weird Wednesday Titles and Writeups

Well, most of them anyhow. The typos are free:

EMMA MAE with Jamaa Fanaka Live!
JULY 2, MIDNIGHT, FREE, DIR.Jamaa Fanaka 1976, 35mm, 100 MIN, R

From the great Jamaa Fanaka, director of crowd favorites PENITENTIARY and WELCOME HOME BROTHER CHARLES, comes this underheralded blaxploitation classic. Emma Mae, straight off the farm, comes to live with her aunt and uncle in the projects of South Central LA when her mother dies. At first Emma Mae, with her Southern drawl, unfashionable Sunday clothes, and country ways, seems totally unequipped to deal with the big bad ghetto, but pretty soon she's at the top of the heap, mainly due to the fact that she can kick more ass than a donkey. It's not typical blaxploitation, so if you're looking for an excuse to dress like a pimp and drink Colt 45, you may be disappointed. But if you love black culture of the '70s get ready to have a new favorite movie. Fanaka really takes the time to create fleshed-out, memorable characters - and he lets them talk, hilariously and engagingly. So that when the time comes for Emma Mae to kick ass you may be surprised to find yourself standing up in your seat cheering her on. (Lars)

JULY 9, MIDNIGHT, FREE, DIR.John Flynn 1976, 35mm, 95 MIN, R

Screenwriter Paul Schrader must have been going through some pretty dark shit in the '70s. First TAXI DRIVER, which we all know is a great film, then this, which is fairly well known thanks to Quentin Tarantino's enthusiastic proselytizing , including naming his production company after it. But how many people do you know who've actually seen it? It's the story of a Vietnam POW, Major Charles Rayne, played by William Devane, who comes home to San Antonio to find his marriage on the rocks and a son who doesn't remember him. When a gang of scumbags take away everything he has left - including his hand - he and his Army Buddy Tommy Lee Jones hit the road with enough rage and firepower to destroy a small nation. It sounds great, right? But can it possibly deliver? Can it be as good as it sounds? Yes it can - and it's even better. Devane, Jones and Linda Haynes, as the roadhouse waitress and beauty queen who's just as dead inside as the major, all give superlative performances under the tactful and powerful direction of the late, underrated John Flynn. Warning: if you want an orgy of revenge and violence, this is your movie, but you're going to feel it in your soul afterwards. (Lars)

JULY 16, MIDNIGHT, FREE, DIR. Al Adamson 1969, 35mm, 86 MIN, R

The late, lamented Al Adamson has provided some of the all-time greatest Weird Wednesday moments. CARNIVAL MAGIC, DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN, FREEZE BOMB - all were directed by the enigmatic Adamson. This is one of his girl-power westerns. Here, a team of beautiful women hide out in Death Valley, smuggle drugs and take their revenge on the male gender. This kind of stuff probably happens all the time, at least that's what I'd like to believe. Like all of Adamson's films, it has a pervasive grime that seems to coat the lens, the sets, the performers and even the story itself. Viewers are advised not to expect plausibility in any form. Just lean back and enjoy the kind of pleasant dream logic shared by the best exploitation films. It's not meant to be evaluated and measured by the waking mind - it's beyond that. Filmed on the Spahn Ranch at the same time the Manson Family was running wild. Features Lon Chaney Jr, Russ Tamblyn and Jennifer Bishop. (Lars)


(writeup pending)

JULY 30, MIDNIGHT, FREE, DIR.Duccio Tessari 1974, 35mm, 92 MIN, R

This rough-edged yet stylish Italian giallo thriller stars Luc Merenda as an amnesiac, newly returned to Italy and his wife (the incendiary Senta Berger), trying to put the pieces back together. Wherever he goes death follows - he's being blackmailed for reasons he doesn't understand - and with every piece of the puzzle he finds out something new and disturbing about himself and his past. The particular appeal of the Italian giallo thriller is the counterpoint between the often strangely beautiful visuals and the dark violence and psychological tension underneath. The best giallo film-makers externalize the characters' central conflicts in the atmospheric settings, sweeping the viewer into an often bizarre, nightmarish fantasy world that's oddly appealing. Director Duccio Tessari balances an eye for angles and locations with a great feel for suspense timing. Written by genre Grandmaster Ernesto Gastaldi. Recommended. (Lars)

AUGUST 6, MIDNIGHT, FREE, DIR. Manuel Cano 1973, 35mm, 88 MIN, R

Ubiquitous Spaghetti Western badass Aldo Sambrell (who is not black) plays a member of the ancient (black) Haitian Royal family who is killed for various bad deeds and mummified. During the course of a Caribbean pleasure cruise his sarcophagus is violated and he emerges to claim the woman he loves (also played by a white person in chocolatey black face makeup). There are a lot of things that are historically inaccurate, absurd and just plain Wrong with this movie, but who am I to criticize? If you walk through the doors of this theater, up the stairs and into an auditorium where you know a film called VOODOO BLACK EXORCIST is playing you deserve whatever the fates have in store for you. Accept your destiny. (Lars)

AUGUST 13, MIDNIGHT, FREE, DIR. Menahem Golan 1980, 35mm, 90 MIN, PG

Thoroughly rogueish futuristic disco musical/religious allegory from Cannon Films. There's never been a movie even remotely like this and I wouldn't bet on one being made in the future. A young couple, Bibi and Alphie from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan come to the big city to make it big in show business only to fall into the clutches of the satanic Mr. Boogolow, who runs a giant music conglomorate called Boogolow International Music (BIM) that's roughly as powerful as the United States government. Bibi becomes a star and takes Satan's drugs but eventually Alphie musters the forces of Jesus to defeat BIM and take all the good people and children to Heaven in a white Rolls Royce. With huge, shiny musical numbers that you won't believe you're seeing, including one in Hell, with dog-headed musclemen and vampires dancing around Satan's throne. Pretty much unmissable. (Lars)

AUGUST 20, MIDNIGHT, FREE, DIR. Robert V. O'Neill 1973, 35mm, 82 MIN, PG

It's summertime, and summertime is the season for made-in-the-Phillipines drive-in exploitation. You can feel the warmth of the sun radiating from every island-lensed frame. Every cockfight, every weird handpainted jeep, every purple, orange and green polyester shirt proclaims that the days are long, the UV rays are potentially deadly and that summer is roasting us with its awesomeness! This is possibly the weirdest of all Filipino movies, and there have been some real mind-bogglers. This one stars lovely Asian-American Nancy Kwan as a transplant doctor who does a brisk business grafting the sex organs of healthy young male athletes onto the bodies of over-the-hill millionaires. She's aided by a lightly clad army of sexy kung-fu amazons and Sid Haig as an effeminate penis salesman. Do I seriously need to keep typing? (Lars)

AUGUST 27, MIDNIGHT, FREE, DIR. Michel Boisrond 1975, 35mm, 100 MIN, R

Lets talk about the French. There's a lot of animosity directed towards France from many Americans. Look closely at the reasons: they wouldn't let us fly over their country to bomb some brown people. They opposed the war on Iraq in the United Nations (a war that was clearly a kickass idea). They work 32 hours a week. They drink more wine and eat richer food than anyone on earth but stay thin by walking, bicycling and fucking constantly. They respect American jazz music and honor our greatest artists in a way that should make us feel ashamed. I don't know about you, but considering all the evidence I'd like to give France a trophy for awesomest nation on earth. They certainly make the best sex films. This one is described as one big excuse for having the willowy beauty (and Serge Gainsbourg inamorata) Jane Birkin take off her clothes again and again as she plays a woman so desirable that she actually legally incorporates her body and starts stacking francs. Excuse accepted. Bring it. (Lars)

Mimsy Farmer, Translucent Orchid of Higher Consciousness

In THE GREAT GATSBY, Fitzgerald refers to an actress at one of Gatsby's parties as a "translucent orchid." Watching Mimsy Farmer recently in THE MASTER AND MARGARET, the phrase kept echoing in my head. I don't know if I entirely recommend that particular film - it's a little heavy on the Communist Party infighting - but it shows another, highly stylized side of Mimsy's acting and I enjoyed it. In fact, if Mimsy Farmer is in it, I'm pretty much going to like it.

I think there's an important distinction between actor and star. There are lots of actors who are technically proficient, who can summon up whole landscapes of emotions and convey them, but we will never enjoy spending time with their giant projected images in the way that we enjoy spending time with the lucky few who have that luminosity and transparency of artifice that stars do.

Hollywood has often been good at identifying that star quality and bringing it to audiences, but occasionally one gets away. Mimsy Farmer got away, probably largely due to the fact that her ascendence corresponded with the death throes of Hollywood and the star system. But I think there's more to it than that. Her best qualities onscreen - the painful sensitivity, the curiosity and the sudden flashes of moral abandon - weren't traits that Hollywood could present to best advantage. Not that they didn't burn through anyway, even as she played an assortment of rape victims (Hollywood couldn't figure out anything else to do with her). Fortunately Europe had all kinds of plans for her but we'll get around to that.

In RIOT ON SUNSET STRIP her virginal mid-'60s square character takes LSD and emerges as a butterfly of ecstatic body-consciousness (at least until... well, you'll see). I think it's an important moment on the screen. You sort of watch Mimsy outgrow the old dead Hollywood and the Mimsy who emerges is the Mimsy of her European period, the kind of turned-on American who can teach even Europe a thing or two about being free, open and elegantly stoned. But first she had to get raped again, as a teenaged beauty queen in the film DEVIL'S ANGELS.

Then she was off to Europe, after costarring with Fabian in an AIP racing movie she jumped ship to appear in Barbet Schroeder's extremely appealing time-capsule MORE. Mimsy gets to play a much more complex character than she ever had before, an American heroin vampiress who uses up and discards a naive German. Though the film is painted in the colors of sun, sand and sea - it's a fully German story, straight out of Pabst and Sternberg. And Mimsy rips it the fuck up. She combines force, subtle shading and lots of sex appeal into one of the most overpowering star-making performances ever. Audiences loved it, critics were favorable (Roger Ebert's review is funny and cruel, but not to Mimsy), but most of all European filmmakers HAD TO HAVE HER. She personified her generation of exotic American females in the same way Louise Brooks had in her time.

Georges Lautner cast her in THE ROAD TO SALINA, which for me is the ultimate Mimsy role. It's hard to find but the soundtrack has become popular. Here's a youtube clip with scenes from the movie edited into a music video for the theme song. It's a magical film. Mimsy's chemistry with the haunted Robert Walker Jr. (who looks like a mod Poe) is great and Rita Hayworth plays Mimsy's mom! I liked Mimsy before I saw THE ROAD TO SALINA, but seeing it sealed the deal for me. I hope to show it as a Weird Wednesday someday but the only print I've ever been able to locate is 16mm.

Next she appeared in Argento's great FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET and from there on stayed very busy, mostly in Italian genre cinema. Most of these films were never released in the US, or ever dubbed into English. In 1981 she worked for Lucio Fulci in his thriller THE BLACK CAT. Her costar David Warbeck did not have great memories of her. He remembered her berating him after a scene, saying "you call that acting?!" She was probably right.

Friday, June 6, 2008

I Luv Video pick shelf

I changed out my video picks at both I Luv Video locations yesterday. Some perhaps more obvious titles here, but each is essential in some way.

At I Luv on Guadalupe:

THE HARDER THEY COME: I would hope that everyone has seen this. If you haven't you're about to understand why I always say, "DON'T. FUCK. WIT. ME!" whenever I stab someone. The scene where Jimmy Cliff sings the title song is one of the most uplifting scenes ever. Also where they watch DJANGO in Kingston.

PRIME CUT: One of the weirdest art film/action film crossovers. America is depicted as a vast sausage factory turning out depersonalization and dread! With Lee Marvin and Gene Hackman as a character named Mary-Ann. Get ready to have a boner for Sissy Spacek. I'm serious. This is a really unusual piece of work.

REVOLVER: OK, Franco Nero was pretty angry in HIGH CRIME. That was nothing at all compared to the nostril-flaring man-bull Oliver Reed in REVOLVER. His wife gets kidnapped and he gets ENRAGED. The best parts are when he's trying to keep it all bottled up and steam starts coming out of his eyes.

THE DEVIL'S HAND: One of those weird, early '60s cheapo black and white movies that seems to come from another dimension. It's about a secret voodoo society operating underground in New York and it makes me want to take a vacation to 1962. An actress named Linda Christian is hellbound hot stuff.

Here's the trailer:

Over at I Luv on Airport:

POINT BLANK: More Lee Marvin. Also the most stylistically audacious Hollywood movie ever. It's practically an abstract action film. Lee Marvin is perfect. Angie Dickinson is there - a big plus. With John Vernon and his great voice and Keenan Wynn as a guy who may or may not be real (he might be Hamlet's father, actually). Scene after scene is played in rooms that are all green or yellow or blue or grey. Psychedelic modernism. If you haven't seen this, it's about time.

DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN: Al Adamson's biker/horror/hippie mashup is also his best film and an inadvertent classic. It's not good exactly, but it is immersive. It plunges you into an dream landscape that exists just below the surface of day-to-day reality. It's hard to explain the appeal of this film and Adamson's movies in general but - who feels it, knows it mon. By the way, even though this is released by Troma on DVD, it's not a Troma film. They release a lot of good movies that are forever after branded as Troma films even though they've just been licensed by Troma. This movie is great/bad in a way that Troma-produced films can never be.

AGONY OF LOVE: This is just straight-up sexploitation. Shot in beautiful black and white, made by one of the less-heralded guys, William Rotsler, and starring the amazing Venus of mid-'60s sex films Pat Barrington. She had some kind of early fake boobs that look incredible. The movie is like back-alley Bunuel as a frustrated housewife seeks happiness through degradation. Rotsler, who also drew sick-humor comic strips, milks this for all the satire it's worth, but there's no overt clowning. And again: Pat Barrington, ladies and gentlemen.

LEGEND OF EIGHT SAMURAI: Aside from the terrible music (which is actually so bad, it's nauseatingly funny) this is a crazy, kickass supernatural Samurai movie with Sonny Chiba and Sue Shiomi playing badass super-mystical heroes. From Kinji Fukasaku, who made all those great black-market gangster movies and THR GREEN SLIME and BATTLE ROYALE. It's very similar to his space opera MESSAGE FROM SPACE but it's better. Here's that trailer, warning - REALLY BAD music:

Thursday, June 5, 2008


The HIGH CRIME screening was a lot of fun. I forgot how much plot is packed into that movie. You've got cops vs. gangsters vs. other gangsters vs. industrialists vs. communists. It's pretty complex. I hope nobody gave up on the plot. Without Franco Nero holding it all together with a superpowered performance I think it would all crumble into a lot of plot fragments that ultimately nobody could follow interspersed with some dynamic action.

I should note that while the print was pretty gorgeous, considering its age, there were a couple of cuts made for the British certificate. (Spoiler alert)

In the US version, when Rico gets killed with the grappling hook, the scene is a lot more graphic, you see the impact of hook on chest. Also, when Nero's girlfriend is attacked, there's a lot more of the scene.

Castellari's direction of action is fantastic, as is the music. Nero is awesome. I also like James Whitmore as the chief commissioner when he uses Italian-style body english.

Next week's movie, RIOT ON SUNSET STRIP is a peach. Do not miss it. I will be obsessing about Mimsy Farmer on this page soon, and also posting the July August WW schedule.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Tarantino and Castellari on HIGH CRIME

This week's Weird Wednesday HIGH CRIME print is a pretty rare and sought after commodity. Last month it was used for Quentin Tarantino's Enzo Castellari tribute screening at the Silent Movie Theater in LA. Here's QT and EC talking about HIGH CRIME and how Castellari was to Franco Nero what Don Siegel had been to Eastwood. For those who don't know, Tarantino's work in progress, INGLORIOUS BASTARDS is a loose remake of Castellari's film of the same title, which I'll always think of as GI BRO, since that's what the Xenon VHS is called.

Castellari is undeniably a great master - even into the 1980's. Pick up any movie with his name on it and you'll be happy.

Check WW regular Blake's interview with Castellari here.

It must be noted for everyone whose really pumped up about this, that it will be in the smaller theater. I'm disappointed but SEX AND THE CITY is so damn long that we couldn't even get in to the big house until almost 1am. So blame SEX AND THE CITY.