Saturday, August 30, 2008

I Luv Video Pick Shelf 8/30

I changed out my pick shelf after too many weeks at both I Luv Video locations yesterday. By the way, I hope some of you have started checking out I Luv Video since it became the WW sponsor. Their website has also gone from being (very nearly) the worst site on the internet to a valuable resource:

My picks:


All the great black actors who weren't in FRIDAY FOSTER are in this. Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby are great as two working class buddies who get robbed in a stickup at an underground casino, then have to retrieve a winning lottery ticket from the gangsters who stuck the place up. These two Joe-Sixpacks are totally out of their league but they con their way into the world of the gangsters. Not a perfect movie - in particular the tone gets pretty goofy by the ending - but a lot of fun.

Some of you may remember CONVENTION GIRLS, and maybe also - though it wasn't as good - REVENGE IS MY DESTINY. The man who made those was Florida's Joseph Adler and this is probably his best movie. It's a psychedelic horror film made for a tiny budget but with a lot of cool shocks and such a fun sixties feel (and a really sexy heroine). It's the old "mad artist keeps a dungeon full of mutants that he paints and becomes well known as an abstract artist" plot but it rocks like a peninsula full of alligators.

A satisfying kung-fu film made and set in the crazy Hong Kong seventies. I don't remember much about it other than I loved it - as much for its ambient qualities (great clothes, the soundtrack cleverly constructed of a bar or two of various American funk instrumentals) as for anything else. Paul L. Smith, who played chainsaw man in PIECES and Bluto in POPEYE is the main American bad guy and he's supposed to be a kung fu master, which is pretty hilarious.

By far the best Hammer Frankenstein movie. CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN is pretty good and FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN has its moments but this is the scariest one. Peter Cushing is incredible as the doctor/monster. He's a really bad guy and his performance is surgically precise. Of course Terence Fisher's direction is great. Like Fritz Lang he tells the story visually first and lets the words fill in the spaces - but you could watch this without sound and get the whole story.


Early Joe Sarno masterpiece starring Swedish sex kitten Marie Lilljedahl. Sarno has always had a lot to say, even though the market was pretty non-demanding. Look at the amount of human interest and storytelling he fits into this film. And as always, it is an erotic film, that is to say the subject matter is that crossing place of human beings that is sex. An brilliant and original filmmaker.

This giallo is some sort of experiment in reducing human actors and actresses into a series of lines and planes. The whole style of the film is mechanical and fascinatingly detached. After a while I was expecting the whole thing to be revealed as a dream but the movie never let me off the hook. It's weird as fuck and I don't understand what Umberto Lenzi was going for at all but I'll take it. With Robert Hoffman, Suzy Kendall (!) and weird-looking Ivan Rassimov.

Most of the AIP sixties horror movies were candy-colored concoctions of swirling mist, tacky looking castles and Vincent Price going nuts. They're great. I love them. After a few years of these AIP took the show on the road to England and surprisingly gave the 24 year old Don Siegel freak Michael Reeves a chance to direct. Reeves instantly alienated Vincent Price by criticizing his acting and making him tone down his performance. Reeves and Price hated each other throughout, but it's the best work either did. This movie is dark, muted and doom-suffused. It's not fun per se but it's undeniably major. If you haven't seen it. Now's the time.

Just watch it. And learn how to curse like a pro.

Catherine And Co.

This French sex comedy (in a classical mode) may have seemed like an odd choice for WW. It was, actually. It's a truly elegant, extremely European comedy of manners and mores. It seemed oddly highbrow, even though it was a sex movie all the way.

I enjoyed the hell out of it and the audience seemed to as well, despite the almost-total lack of bad taste. Credit screenwriter Catherine Breillaut with feminizing and humanizing what could have been a pretty silly film.

After the show, one longtime WW-goer said that the movie had ruined Jane Birkin for him because it showed too much of her. It's true that she has kind of an ungainly, clumsy body, her profile isn't classical and her teeth are huge and irregularly spaced. All the more proof that there's nothing more boring on the screen than perfection. In the '50s when the Hollywood film industry had finally assembled a stable of perfect Natalie Woods and Grace Kellys, whose faces had the sort of perfect symmetry that could be measured and standardized, Europe invaded with a whole assault force of thoroughly imperfect "sex goddesses." Silvana Mangano, Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida, Jeanne Moreau, Monica Vitti, Anita Ekberg and of course Brigitte Bardot made American arthouses much more inviting for audiences of males starved for sensuality and "earthiness". Most of the above actresses could never have gotten a screen test in Hollywood, except as a casting-couch stratagem. The European beauties had something much more thrilling than aesthetic "perfection" (whatever that means) and I feel the same way about Jane Birkin. When she's onscreen it's hard to look at anything else and her style of dressing and undressing and slouching around elegant parties is so insolent it's gorgeous.

By the way, Weird Wednesday/Terror Thursday super-regular Chris Popkoff has written up C&C in his excellent blog, Who Put The Pop in Popkoff? Check it out. Here are some clip and save photos of Jane Birkin, and sometimes Serge Gainsbourg - who's also pretty kickass - and will get even more kickass once the hipsters get over him.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

My hometown, uh grindhouse

As much as I hate using the overexposed word grindhouse (which was overused even before the movie came out), I don't know how else to describe the Booker T in my hometown of Rocky Mount N.C. I never went there (I'd be shocked if any white person did, considering the old-south segregated mentality that persisted even into the '80s) and it was always mysterious to me as a child, I remember the movies on the marquee always had the word "Black" or "Dragon" in them. It closed down in '82 or so. The Booker T didn't list showtimes in the paper and they always ran double features.

I found this photo on Flickr while feeling nostalgic for the old hometown.


Rare surveillance photo of Nancy Kwan hiding out in Mexico after WONDER WOMEN'S release


By the way, I hope to be back as a more regular correspondent and a more regular person. We finally got the Alamo Sept/Oct calendar and the Fantastic Fest guide done so my time will hopefully be a little freer and I can do things like post blogs, sleep with both eyes closed etc.

WONDER WOMEN is pretty awesome. I hope some people came to WW for the first time this week because I think that movie encapsulates a lot of the really great things about these kinds of films. It has a sort of '60s comic book craziness and improbability while never (well, rarely) becoming overtly comic.

I really love Ross Hagen as the gravel-voiced hero. He plays that kind of macho superman with just the right amount of humorous observation. The brain-sex scene is flat out hilarious, particularly played against Nancy Kwan's cold veneer. Kwan herself doesn't fare so well in low-budget movies generally, her acting effects are limited largely to being beautiful, and in the hands of a quickie camera-crew she isn't lit for glamour and she comes across as stiff. Still, the role calls for a woman who stands a little apart from her flock, so it works fine.

The army of female assassins is notable for two actresses, Maria de Aragon, who seduces and (almost destroys) Hagen, and beautiful blonde Roberta Collins as Aragon's antagonist. De Aragon was in director Robert V. O'Neill's BLOOD MANIA, which I like too but the part she's been able to capitalize on most was the role of Greedo in STAR WARS! Collins was a dependable fixture in all the best exploitation films - her taste in role selection was impeccable. She played prisoners in Jack Hill's BIG DOLL HOUSE and Jonathan Demme's CAGED HEAT. She was Claudia Jennings' sex-mad roommate in UNHOLY ROLLERS, Matilda the Hun in DEATH RACE 2000, and she lit up EATEN ALIVE, THE ROOMMATES and THE WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA in small roles. A pretty impressive variety of films.

One element about Filipino-shot exploitation I neglected to mention is one of my favorite: bug-eyed, perpetually stoned-looking character actor Vic Diaz, who plays the cab driver. Diaz was so funny and reliable that he ended up getting cast in 90% of all American/Fili productions. Every time I see him it's like seeing an old friend.

Thanks again to I Luv Video for being super awesome and sponsoring Weird Wednesday. Check out Robert V. O'Neill's first feature THE PSYCHO LOVER (produced by the Isley Brothers!!!!???) in the Something Weird section of the Airport location.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Sept/Oct WW titles and writeups

With free typos. Gimme little holler if you like.

One of the superprime made-in-the-Philippines movies. As East Eddie, a scuzzy pimp who contrives to steal a massive stash of sacred pearls from primitive islanders, Sid Haig has never been cooler or balder. This movie also scores major '70s exotica points with its wild analog synthesizer-flavored score, amazing underwater mating dances, jaw-dropping tropical locations, and of course the mind-altering textiles we've come to expect from Filipino movies. For some reason the goddess/princess of the island tribe is a stone fox Amazon Barbie-doll blonde while everyone else is brown-skinned with giant ping-pong ball eyes! Whoa! Why can't all movies be this fun? With John Ashley, Vic Diaz, and Patrick (son of John) Wayne, who can't act but has his dad's cool walk. (Lars)

In the ‘70s, Times Square was a seedy open-air sex and drugs marketplace. And the real hot-spots were the 24-hour movie theaters where double features of kung fu, horror, and sex films unreeled 24 hours a day for audiences composed primarily of bitter, sociopathic males. Think Travis Bickle from TAXI DRIVER and you’re on the right track. It was an audience for which no extreme was too extreme. The audience of “popeyes” would sit through showing after showing of gory horror, amputee porn and worse, sniffing glue and smoking dirt weed. There was enough existential nausea in any given foot of Times Square to make Jean Paul Sartre toss his crepes in the nearest clogged and overflowing urinal. So KIDNAPPED COED must have hit Times Square like an artillery shell. You can imagine the smell of record cleaner in the theater; you can almost hear the sound of the butterfly knives clacking shut as the crowd watches in rapt admiration. Not since the films of Jean-Pierre Melville had there been an antihero quite like Jack Cannon, a self-loathing kidnapper whose victim is stolen away from him by the mob, leading to a bloody showdown. This is tough stuff, rough around the edges but gooily primal. If it had been made in France it probably would have been acclaimed a masterpiece of postwar alienation. Thank God it wasn’t made in France but in the number one country on Earth - USA America. (Lars)

Part Of the Fantastic Fest "Not Quite Hollywood" Ozsploitation Retrospective. Seriously, Australia seems like a cool place to live. Everybody seems pretty cool. There are beautiful beaches. Outlaw culture is honored and respected. There's one huge downside though, everything that walks, swims or crawls can kill you within 8 seconds. The ocean is full of Great White Sharks, the venomous snake population is tops in the world, there are all kinds of creatures that taxonomists have never been able to get close enough to to even slap a latin name on. Most disturbingly, there are giant crocodiles the size of eighteen-wheelers roaming the marshlands. Or so the makers of DARK AGE would have you believe. Fortunately, the film is so boomingly well directed, acted and shot you'll be willing to believe just about anything. Not only is the giant crocodile at the center of this film hundreds of years old, he is venerated by the Aboriginal Australians as a sacred spirit. Enter the great Aussie actor John Jarratt (WOLF CREEK) as a ranger assigned to kill the croc after it ingests some poachers. Instead of killing the beast, he makes plans to capture and relocate it - but the whole plan is jeopardized by the most incredibly scuzzy outback reptile hunters imaginable. Their one-armed leader lost an arm to the crocodile and takes it all pretty personally. With David Gulpilil and Burnam Burnam as the Aborigines who join up with the ranger and his lady against the bad guys. Fantastic, highly recommended. (Lars)

MAN FROM HONG KONG with Brian Trenchard-Smith Live
Part Of the Fantastic Fest "Not Quite Hollywood" Ozsploitation Retrospective. From now on whenever anyone asks me what the most berserk orgy of action and violence ever placed on film is I'll be honor-bound to answer THE MAN FROM HONG KONG. If a car crashes and explodes in this film (and it will, don't worry) you'd better believe it will explode with 5,000 megatons of TNT power. When our special guest Brian Trenchard-Smith was filming this movie in Australia he got complaints from Soviet Cosmonauts in space who said it kept them awake at night. With 75 car chases, 17 throat-ripping death fights, 437 burning-man scenes and one dopey hang-glider this is truly a memorable exercise in pedal to the metal excitement. And director Brian Trenchard-Smith, who not only directed the film but plays a pornishly-bedecked henchman, will be here in person to explain how and why. Stars Jimmy Wang Yu as the "tough cop who learned every trick in the book and then threw the book away" and erstwhile James Bond seatwarmer George Lazenby as a dandyish crime boss with a bulletproof mustache. Stunts by the madman from dingo-land Grant Page, who appears desperate to end it all in a progressively greater and greater aggregation of death-defiance. (Lars)

ALL THE SINS OF SODOM with Joe Sarno Live
Presented by Retro-Seduction Cinema. Thought lost for many years, Joe Sarno's ALL THE SINS OF SODOM is back, and playing in front of an audience for the first time in over 30 years. Sarno's genius is that he builds realistic situations stealthily. The cheap sets may lull the viewer into thinking he's watching just another dodgy sex movie but as the narrative progresses, the situations become not only realistic but universal and mythological. Not only do you care about the characters. You are the characters. I know it sounds like I'm enthusing too much but seriously, be here. See it for yourself. (Lars)

In case you haven't heard, STAR WARS was a big, huge monster hit on an unprecedented scale. For years afterward cheap space operas swept through the multiplexes, promising so much on the poster and delivering so, so little. I'd like to say that this film is the exception but it's not. Fortunately it's an entertaining, though confusingly jumbled, mix of sexy space ladies, a wisecracking robot (ugh), special effects that look like they were filtered through a burlap sack full of ass and the great Jack Palance, looking stronger than a locomotive full of steroids at age 60, as the evil robot lord Omus. If you drink enough generic cough syrup before the movie, you'll swear you're really in space. That's our guarantee to you. (Lars)

Telly Savalas and Franco Nero play a pair of wisecracking screw-ups who botch a jewel robbery, kill some people and accidentally take a young boy hostage. Pretty soon they're tutoring the kid on the finer points of being a complete psychopath. Savalas, never noted for his actorly restraint, is like a runaway downhill ham-train as the ruthless killer Memphis while the nattily mustachio'd Nero is a bit more subdued as Mosquito, the (relatively) sympathetic one. Along the way there's a side-trip into what-the-fuck land with a bit of the old inappropriateness we've come to know and love so well. Hard-edged, violent, idiosyncratic... not your usual Italian crime movie. I'll be quaffing tumblers full of J&B Scotch at this one so stay out of my way and don't be grabbing on me! (Lars)

“If this film succeeds, killing women may become the greatest turn-on of the Eighties!” - Women Against Pornography leaflet, 1980. When DRESSED TO KILL came out it created a firestorm of controversy. Womens' groups marched on theaters, gay rights groups protested, reviewers savaged it as an unnecessarily violent rip-off of all of Hitchcock's best ideas. They were all wrong. DRESSED TO KILL is one of the funniest, cleverest essays on the art of the suspense film, and a superior example of the form. It's the only American giallo thriller and it stands with the best work of Argento, Bava, Lenzi and Sergio Martino. The film was a huge hit and shot its vile seed deep into the brains of millions of people in theaters throughout America and later as a late night staple on pay cable. Angie Dickinson, Michael Caine, Nancy Allen and especially Keith Gordon (even though he looks like Harry Potter) are all fantastic but the spotlight is on writer/director Brian De Palma. He was very busy throughout the '70s and by the time he made DRESSED TO KILL his reflexes and instincts were tuned up tighter than a drum. Like a kinky behaviorist, he runs the viewer through a sleazy maze of sex and death while constantly exploiting the audience's sophisticated cinema-consciousness. Think you're smart? De Palma's smarter. He virtuosically demonstrates 37 positions of mind-fucking before letting you have your cigarette. It's a true classic, and an unmissable big screen event. (Lars)

Just in time for Halloween, an Italian sexy vampire lady movie starring the smoketacular Rosalba Neri. The dusky, olive-skinned Neri ran off with nearly every movie she appeared in, no matter how insignificant her part. She has a way of melting your eyeballs with just her tiniest nostril-flaring glance. She's basically sex personified. And this is one of her best roles. She plays a Countess Bathory type who bathes in the blood of virgins to stay beautiful. But when vampire hunting twin brothers show up, will some other stuff happen? Looks like you'll have to show up to find out because all we remember is the sight of Rosalba Neri rising naked from a silver bathtub covered in the blood of virgins. Oh, and there's an awesome Dracula ring. And a bald guy. (Lars)

Also of note:

OCT 1, 10PM, DIR. JOE SARNO, 1975, 35MM, 96 MIN, R
Presented by Retro-Seduction Cinema.
Wow. That's all we can say about Joe Sarno's mind-blowing erotic masterpiece ABIGAIL LESLEY IS BACK IN TOWN. It's the story of a quietly desperate suburb, the kind of staid, puritanical, thoroughly unhappy town full of attractive but aimless couples that provides so much kindling for the flames of lust in Sarno's films. This time the torch is lit by the titular town tramp Abigail Lesley, who was hounded out of town two years earlier after being caught with a married man. When she comes home again, all those unresolved erotic demons rise, stretch and begin their frolics anew. This movie is chock full of sex but Sarno is careful to provide an emotional framework so that when the pieces start to fit together (literally) the viewer is carried away into the bacchanale. Even though the film was shot cheaply and quickly, the Sarno magic is all over it. (Lars)

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Can't wait to hear everybody's thoughts about NINJA ANNIHILATION WAR which we ganked from the Thrifty Scotsman Flea Market in Oxnard last summer.

Lars & Zack Present

Rated R; 90min; Director:Fung Brothers (1987)

Location: Alamo Downtown

God knows the '80s weren't perfect. It was the decade of rising budget deficits, illegal U.S. intervention in Central America, widespread failings of the infrastructure and social safety net and Duran Duran.

But it was also the Decade of the Ninja. While the black-garbed messengers of death have appeared in films for a long time, they were usually hiding behind ornamental potted palm trees or clinging to the took a sharp eye to spot them.

But thanks to martial art moviemaking mavericks like The Fung (pronounced 'fang') Brothers, they shimmied their way into the video stores and late night cable TV stations of America. These multi-thousand dollar spectacles usually starred whatever Caucasian actor happened to be in Hong Kong at the time (generally as an Interpol agent masquerading as a ninja). They were relentless cut-and-paste jobs that combined scenes from unrelated films into a dense fabric of digressions, flashbacks, minor-character subplots that go on at baffling length and - of course - demonstrations of pole-spinning, star-hurling prowess. They are head-scratching meta-constructions of the Global Mind circa 1985 and we love them.

So when we found an obscure 3/4" video master at an Oxnard California flea market labeled "NINJA ANNIHILATION WAR" we clearly had to have it. After exhaustive research, we've learned that it has never before been released on video or even theatrically. When the blood-red Ninja tide rolled back out to sea this was the one left flopping on the beach - and it's a goddamn masterpiece.

Now, through the miracles of modern technology, we've had it transferred to digital video and are going to share it with you. It's difficult to synopsize the off-the-wall, maniacal plot so we won't even try. But trust us - if you're a fan of the brand of cruel and unusual films we offer at our weekly Weird Wednesday and Terror Thursday screenings, you don't want to miss NAW!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Coming in October

I'm gonna do it. I've been thinking about it for a long time and now I'm gonna show it.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Dying over here

Sorry about the paucity of posts here. I haven't lost interest, just buried in a huge amount of theater and fantastic fest work so - keep checking in.