Saturday, July 19, 2008

I Luv Video Pick shelf for 7/19

Brigitte Lahaie in NIGHT OF THE HUNTED

I changed out my pick shelf the other day at both I Luv Video locations. I Luv Video is the phenomenal video store chain that sponsors Weird Wednesday. Stop in and see them and tell them I sent you.

At the Airport location:

GETTING STRAIGHT

Richard Rush (THE STUNT MAN, FREEBIE AND THE BEAN, PSYCH OUT) is one of my top favorite filmmakers of all time. This was his first big studio movies after making the AIP motorcycle, race car and drug movies that honed his craft to a fine edge. It's a campus story made more or less contemporaneously with the great wave of campus unrest of the late '60s. Elliot Gould plays the hard-working dirt poor grad student trying to hustle his way through while being called a sellout by all his fellow students and a revolutionary by all his profs and administrator. In truth he's the truly sane one in the mix, even as he progressively appears to go crazier - most notably at his tour-de-force oral exam. I don't know much about academia (I could never stand classrooms) but this rings true for me. With one of the best action sequences I've ever seen in a film - the campus riot looks just like documentary footage and a raft of good performers. The only downside for me is Candice Bergen, whose supposedly a great beauty but whose acting leaves me flat (though this is the best I've ever seen her.) When Rush was here I asked him about that and while he said nothing but good things about Bergen he actually wanted a then unknown actress named Lesley Ann Warren who was incontestably beautiful and could act but he had to compromise on it. It's still a fantastic movie. Photographed by the great Laszlo Kovacs, whose amazing rack focus technique, meticulously worked out with Rush, can be seen in this clip as can Harrison Ford as a young 'un.

O.C. AND STIGGS

Speaking of compromises, this movie is nuts. Robert Altman directed this weird teen comedy about two total bastard nihilist kids who disrupt a suburban community with their vendetta against one particular family that they see as a blight on humanity, the Schwabs. This movie doesn't quite work, unfortunately, but it's fascinatingly strange. In addition to living a kind of dayglo dada provocateur lifestyle O.C. and Stiggs (the O.C. stands for "out of control") are obsessed with King Sunny Ade, who appears in the film. Those are the good parts. The bad parts are the broad mugging of people like Martin Mull and Jane Curtin. Still highly recommended.

ROGER CORMAN, HOLLYWOOD'S WILD ANGEL

This is one of my favorite documentaries about a filmmaker. The interviews are all from the mid to late '70s when the shit was really going down. Corman glows like a holy man as he talks about his formulas and philosophies. His collaborators and alumni like Joe Dante and Alan Arkush (shown editing trailers for New World!!!), Jonathan Demme - who runs down Corman's famous "lunch" that he has with all directors, where he has them bring a notebook and he explains everything about film directing from camera placement to foreground action to dealing with actors. I've heard about this lunch quite a lot and someone should document it with all the filmmakers who heard it while they remember it. I talked to Jim Wynorski about it and he said most of the same things Demme says. If you care about Corman's work at all you have to see this.

NIGHT OF THE HUNTED

Jean Rollin updates his gothic surrealism to a Cronenbergian '80s. It's a sexploitation movie, so the demands of the genre occasionally derail the plot (maybe plot's not the word). The whole thing moves and flows like a nightmare - but with tits. And what tits! The beautiful porn and horror star Brigitte Lahaie has never been more striking. Her eyes are very far apart and she looks like an alien seductress. Trailer.

And over at the Guadalupe store:

TNT JACKSON

I don't make any bones about it, a lot of the appeal of movies for me is the beauty of certain actresses. I think I am in the mainstream of movie-going culture at large when I say this but a lot of intellectual types act like it's not a factor. The joy of watching beautiful women on screen has led me into some great movies. I have also chased the likes of Helga Line or Rosemary Dexter or Rosalba Neri down some pretty crooked and dusty roads simply because I love watching them on screen. Occasionally I've dragged a few of you along and if you regretted taking the trip I'm sorry. TNT JACKSON isn't very good at all, but Jeanne Bell is for fucking goddamn sure a beautiful woman. And if you take this short to the Philippines you probably won't regret it. Everything she does is adorable, from trying to act tough to delivering terrible lines in a sweetly country accent that she tries to hide. See if you can spot her male stunt double! Disorienting trailer with tons of dropped frames here.

100 RIFLES

This understandably has a big picture of Raquel Welch on the cover but the real star of this Spaghetti Western in all but name is Jim Brown as an American sherriff on the hunt for a fugitive in the familiar movie Mexico of generalissimos and banditos. Director Tom Gries (Jon Gries' father) has a great feel for big, bombastic action. It's all bubblegum but it's fine on those terms. Burt Reynolds shows up as a halfbreed bandit with a me-first attitude and Raquel Welch is good as an avenging daughter, covered in dust but with perfect makeup. Watch for Soledad Miranda in the small role as the prostitute Burt slaps around. Fernando Lamas is very entertaining as the Mexican bad guy general. Trailer.

TOUCH OF EVIL (Unrestored Version)


In '98 a lot of well-meaning folks tried to put Orson Welles' classic pulp masterpiece back together according to his presumed intentions, as inferred from his correspondence. The problem is, Welles often asked for more than he knew he could get. He'd been through the Hollywood wringer before and was a genius and knew how to play the game. Maybe he really wanted all the changes, maybe not. We'll never know. And we never will - which irks me about the restoration being considered definitive and the admittedly adulterated and modified release cut being eased into obscurity and unavailability. Neither cut is perfect but at least the release cut looks sharp and clear and not all digital and grey and soft and shit like the restoration. Hey if you guys want to fix something - fix the score of LADY FROM SHANGHAI. That shit sucks and I've got memos from Welles on how to fix it. Either way, if you haven't seen this get ready for the best the art of film can give you. Everybody's great - Marlene Dietrich in particular kicks it into the stratosphere and it's as unsavory and dirty as a border town should be. Orson Welles' reputation is forever untarnishable. Like Shakespeare his work belongs to everyone and young people will always rediscover it and claim it as their own. Trailer.

A TOUCH OF ZEN

This is a different kind of touch but the touch of genius is here too, courtesy of King Hu (COME DRINK WITH ME, DRAGON GATE INN)). I was knocked completely out by this mystical swordplay epic. It looks like it must have cost $400 million dollars but I know it must have been made for much less than an American epic of the time. The plot starts fairly routinely but skillfully with a fascinating and unusual perspective character and the intrigue builds until the whole egg cracks into a vast cosmic metaphysical conflict with swords. It's totally serious, with no comic relief but you'll bust out laughing at what complete hammerhead bad-ass enforcers the Buddhist monks are. I'm talking all around this movie without really telling you much but trust me every once in awhile. See this. Here's a clip that doesn't give much away.

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