Sunday, October 18, 2009

November December WW Titles and Writeups

Supposedly, audiences who watched Dali and Bunuel’s 1929 film UN CHIEN ANDALOU actually rioted in the aisles. If that’s true, I wonder what happened in theaters that played this incredibly inflammatory masterpiece of race revenge. The crowds, black and white, must have torn the screens out and flipped over the popcorn machines like Detroit police cars. Even now the film is infuriating - three escaped convicts - a Latin, an Asian and a white supremacist (played by William Sanderson with intense energy) invade the middle class home of a black doctor and his family. As the siege wears on, the audience is given no relief. Sanderson and his cohorts do bad (REALLY bad) things and the hateful language and attitudes cross all limits of acceptability. And then the tables turn. The third act of the film is one of the most satisfying and morally ambivalent displays of pure payback ever devised. It’s primal. You’ll find it impossible not to cheer as the head of the family gets revenge on the racist scumbag and his cohorts. As uncomfortable a viewing experience as the first hour of FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE is - and oh boy, is it ever - the excitement and audience solidarity of the final half hour makes it all worthwhile. You may forget to breathe. A legendary film that cannot - must not - be missed. (Lars)

NOV 11, MIDNIGHT, $1, DIR. JOSEPH ADLER, 1978, 35MM, 80 MIN, R
On the surface this is one of those ‘70s ”group of girls” movies, inspired by the success of New World Pictures’ nursesploitation movies. There were tons of films that followed the day to day problems and concerns of a group of shapely nurses, cheerleaders, student teachers etc. Finally the interesting and talented Florida exploitation director Joseph Adler (SCREAM BABY SCREAM) got around to making one about the hookers who populate trade shows and industry functions. That’s the starting point, anyway. On a deeper level it’s about integrity and the pride of doing a good job. Rather than simply serving as a backdrop for sexploitative highjinks, the toy convention is at the core of the film. The hero of the piece is a dollmaker who refuses to sell out to a dark toy conglomerate, and it’s not hard to make the case that he’s like a film maker who does the best he can under every circumstance - like Adler himself. The story arcs that illustrate the central conflict of the film are tied together by the prostitutes who attend the convention and weave in and out of the various relationships. It’s a really good film, with more similarities to Altman than to the usual flesh pageants of the era. (Lars)

NOV 18, MIDNIGHT, $1, DIR. SAM PECKINPAH, 1974, 35MM, 112 MIN, R
“You two guys are definitely on my shit list” - Warren Oates. Sometime around the time this film was made, director Sam Peckinpah went completely insane, making this one of the few examples of that fleeting and wonderful thing - a truly psychotic work of art. The great Warren Oates stars as an American pianist wasting away in a Mexican whorehouse bar. When two leisure-suited bounty killers approach him looking for a pimp named Alfredo Garcia who has impregnated the teenage daughter of a powerful man, Benny asks around, finds out that Garcia is already dead and concocts a plan to dig up the corpse, remove the head and collect the reward. Along with his prostitute girlfriend, he hits the road on his doom-laden journey. As you might guess, all hopes are shattered and Oates ends up alone, carrying the rotting head of Alfredo Garcia in a bag across the desert as the killers pursue him. But like Peckinpah, he delivers. The reaction of El Jefe to Oates’ delivery of the head is pretty much exactly what the reaction at studio headquarters must have been when Peckinpah delivered this film. ‘70s existential malaise at its best! (Lars)

NOV 25, MIDNIGHT, $1, DIR. EDDIE SAETA, 1973, 35MM, 87 MIN, R
This dark, sick black comedy is almost totally unknown but it’s a classic waiting to be discovered. A man whose wife has died in a car accident broods over her death without relief. Finally he approaches a shady charlatan who dresses flamboyantly, calls himself Doctor Death and claims he has the power to bring the dead back to life. The grieving widower makes a deal with the “doctor” that he soon comes to regret. Things go from bad to worse to hopeless to brutal and it gets more ridiculous as it gets more awful. The excellent actor John Considine plays the velour-clad “mortality pimp” Doctor Death with real conviction. It’s a broad performance, but not exactly tongue-in-cheek. His full-blooded approach to the character turns what could be a pretty silly melodrama into something better. Most of the other performers go about their work with the lassitude of soap opera actors, which only sets off Considine’s fine work to better advantage. If your heart is as black and shrunken as mine, you won’t want to miss this. (Lars)

DEC 2, MIDNIGHT, $1, DIR. MENG HUA HO, 1977, 35MM, 90 MIN, PG
Holy mackerel! This cheap Hong Kong rip-off of KING KONG is totally out of control. If an all-star team of the best comedy writers of all time got together and wrote a script about a prehistoric ape man and a beautiful blonde jungle woman, it would be just like this movie - only not as funny. It’s hard to describe exactly what makes this such a joy - I think it’s partially the cultural disconnect between the Chinese filmmakers’ worldview and the end product, which is clearly designed for export to western markets. The parts just don’t snap together correctly. Scenes that would be mild cliches in an American film become towering comic set-pieces here. Witness the scene in which Chinese tough guy Danny Lee and wild-girl Evelyn Kraft frolic together with her pet leopard. I think I see what they were going for, but the result is so, so much more. I’ve never been so close to throwing up from laughter as when I first saw this film. You should totally watch it! From the director of OILY MANIAC and THE RAPE AFTER. (Lars)

Some of the best, most vigorous and intelligent films of the drive-in era came from writer/producer/director Arthur Marks. Unlike some of his contemporaries, Marks was careful not to insult his audience. He probably could have gotten away with much less and still scored at the box office. But he gilded his action thrillers, sexy melodramas and blaxploitation movies with little grace notes and winks at the discriminating film-goer. We’ll always be grateful to him for BONNIE’S KIDS, THE ROOMMATES, J.D.’s REVENGE, FRIDAY FOSTER and others. This rarity stars the great Keenan Wynn as a rich patriarch who returns from Las Vegas to his family home with a glamorous new wife in tow. Not surprisingly, she’s a ho - and Wynn’s two sons (Andrew Robinson and Peter Hooten) are soon involved in a pitched contest with each other and with their pop over the sexy trophy wife. Made during Marks’ busiest period, we’re eager to see how down and dirty it gets. (Lars)

DEC 16, MIDNIGHT, $1, DIR. DARYL DUKE, 1978, 35MM, 106 MIN, R
Movie production and distribution is a shady netherworld. The money for films has come from every quarter, from international prostitution and blackmail to Nazi gold. But the most frequently used extra-revenue stream was and is, government subsidies and tax shelters. In the ‘70s, Canada had a whopper of a shell game going. Producers were able to make films in Canada and, through a system of write-offs and reporting irregularities, they could turn a profit even on unsuccessful product. The resulting films, international coproductions mostly, are now known fondly as Canuxploitation movies. Not all Canuxploitation films were tax dodges, but many were. I’m not 100% sure about THE SILENT PARTNER, and I don’t much care, because whatever the circumstances of its creation, it is one of the best movies of the ‘70s. Elliott Gould stars as a bank teller who spies a way to steal a lot of money from his till and get away with it. The problem with his plan is that he antagonizes a real bank robber, who’s also a real mean dude (played brilliantly by Christopher Plummer). Plummer, who has cased and robbed the bank in the guise of a department store Santa, puts the pieces together fairly quickly and starts to make Gould’s life a living hell. But Gould, a chess enthusiast with a mind for strategy, counters every move. Soon the two man are involved in a real life game with their lives and freedom at stake. The tension ratchets up to an unbearable intensity before the sublime conclusion. Written by Curtis Hanson and directed by Daryl Duke (PAYDAY). With large Canadian funnyman John Candy in a small role. (Lars)

Special seasonal reprise of the Christmas-killing hit! Here it is: the evil holiday movie we’ve all secretly been waiting for. It made its producers wealthy men and turned a generation of children into santaphobic sociopaths. We are still paying the cost. It’s a very strange film and we’re not sure why anyone would make it, but two words come to mind: Malicious Intent. Why else would the young hero be abducted by a witch and forced to uh, plant Satan’s magic seed in his backyard? The seed grows into a tree that gives him three wishes. Then the kid abducts Santa Claus, straps him to a chair and abuses him until he gets all the toys in the world. Plus there’s a long race between a lawnmower and a turtle and more tomfoolery presided over by the powers of Darkness, including the appearance of a giant who says inappropriate things. We cannot be held responsible for any lasting trauma. (Lars)

DEC 30, MIDNIGHT, $1, DIR. JIM WEST, 1977, 35MM, 90 MIN, PG
Special “High For The Holidays” edition of Weird Wednesday. How hard could it be to make a movie? That’s what a bunch of state legislators from Polk County, Georgia thought. So they cracked open their piggy banks and made this mind-numbingly inept “action” movie based on a true occurrence in the legendary annals of Polk County history. Not only are the real dope traffickers, Oosh and Doosh (really!), making their screen debuts, unable to convincingly portray hardboiled drug smugglers (they seem like big kids with porn ‘staches), they seem genuinely unable to convincingly portray human beings at all. No matter. If this movie was one-tenth as much fun to make as it is to watch then they all had a blast. Featuring some truly harrowing stunts and the slowly encroaching charm of Oosh and Doosh, which becomes irresistible by film’s end. A legendary motion picture you’ll remember forever. (Lars)

1 comment:

Dr. Strangemonde said...

Three Stooges fans may wish to note that "Dr. Death, Seeker of Souls" includes the final filmed performance by Moe Howard...