Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Jan Feb 2011 Weird Wednesday Titles and Writeups

DIR. LEE FROST, 1975, 35MM, 88 MIN, R

Two of the greatest names in the history of exploitation cinema are Lee Frost and Wes Bishop. Although they made sleazy actioners on minimal budgets, their taste, wit and discretion really shine through in the final product. Always a barrel of laughs but never (ugh) “campy”, they really deliver in the sex and violence department too. Movies like THE THING WITH TWO HEADS, POLICE WOMEN, RACE WITH THE DEVIL, and DIXIE DYNAMITE will never be taught in film school, but they thrill and delight moviegoers whenever they're shown. THE BLACK GESTAPO is about the fictional Black Peoples Party of Watts, formed to drive white gangsters out of the community, which makes for a lot of violence and great dialogue. But in an unexpected Hegelian twist, the commandante of the Party (played by easygoing Charles Robinson aka “Mac” of NIGHT COURT fame,) becomes power-mad and wreaks even more havoc until the powerful, politically incorrect ending scorches all traces of reason from your skull. (Lars)


As the spaghetti western cycle reached its inevitable end in the 70's, the genre started getting weirder. Producers sought to prolong the formula by juicing it up with outside elements so audiences ended up with kung-fu westerns, sex westerns, many (bad) comedy westerns and this movie, about an American gunslinger who ends up fighting Vikings and Moors while trying to transport a Spanish Princess back to her rightful throne. The anachronisms are never explained or even alluded to. It's just a Spaghetti Western where the cigarillo-chomping man with no name wanders around medieval Europe fighting fur-clad barbarians with broadswords. Producer and star Tony Anthony was the last real Spaghetti Western star of the era. His other gimmick westerns included BLINDMAN, with Ringo Starr and COMIN' AT YA! in 3D. (Lars)


Of all the well-known “cult auteurs”, Andy Milligan is possibly the most problematic. His films lack any production polish whatsoever; the camera moves and shakes wildly, the sound is bad and the music is just cuts from his record collection, haphazardly mixed. But the most commercially difficult aspect of Milligan’s films is their unrelenting misanthropy. Each film is like a hate poem to some aspect of human nature. FLESHPOT ON 42nd STREET is his final sexploitation feature and with it he completes his lifelong argument that sex is horrifying and degrading. As in all of his films, his grossly manipulative characters bicker endlessly and insult each other with special vehemence. Milligan himself was a walking colossus of hatred and bitterness, disliked and avoided by most of his peers but able to build a stock company of masochists who debased and degraded themselves onscreen for him. This is not for everyone but if you have a place in your shrunken heart for the blackest, darkest, most evil comedy in the world, this will move right in - and steal your TV set. (Lars)

DIR. DON SIEGEL, 1973, 35MM, 111 MIN, PG

Ever since we widened the scope of Weird Wednesday to include manly action and pulp films, we have presented such titans of testosterone as Charles Bronson, Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood. Now add Walter Matthau to the list. CHARLEY VARRICK is another of the great outlaw classics of the ‘70s and it’s impossible to imagine anyone better for the role of the titular bank robber than the pooch-faced, slouchy Matthau. Billing himself “The Last Of The Independents,” Charley Varrick robs rural banks for a living and keeps moving, until one heist goes wrong and Varrick accidentally ends up with the mob’s money. The syndicate dispatches tough guy Joe Don Baker to recover the loot and the chase is on. A lot of people die, but the crafty Varrick always manages to stay a step ahead. Director Don Siegel was the absolute master at this sort of thing and he keeps the tempo high, the characters real and the action popping. Not to be missed. (Lars)

DIR. JAMAA FANAKA, 1979, 35MM, 99 MIN, R

The story of boxer "Too Sweet" (Leon Isaac Kennedy), whose only way out of lockdown is by winning the big fight. Highly plausible scenario? Of course not. Entertaining? Oh hell yeah. Director Jamaa Fanaka specializes in the smuggler's approach to socially relevant film-making. He'll sneak some serious shit past you like a jailhouse shiv while you're looking the other way. And this film, enjoyable though it may be, scores some heavy points even as it entertains. He presents a nightmarish microcosm of American society where prison is an omnipresent threat in the lives of African American males, and where sports and entertainment are viewed as the only means of escape. A gritty, highly entertaining movie, with tons of great dialogue you'll be quoting for weeks. (Lars)

with Director William Lustig Live!

Unfairly dismissed as a DEATH WISH ripoff by people who never got past the title and poster, VIGILANTE is a tremendous, gritty masterpiece of revenge cinema. When factory worker Robert Forster’s family is victimized by street criminals, he pursues the legal route through the justice system. But when a corrupt court turns the perpetrators loose he teams up with Fred Williamson’s de facto clean-up crew to drive the scum from the streets. Far more than just a button-pushing exercise in payback, VIGILANTE addresses the real issues, both social and personal, involved in taking the law in our own hands and Forster and Williamson give outstanding performances under the direction of William Lustig. Balance, pacing, action are all perfect here. If the climax of this movie doesn’t have you pumping your fist in excitement, you should see a fist doctor right away. (Lars)


Just in time for two days after Valentine’s Day! Finally a film that takes a sympathetic view of necrophilia. This film examines California blonde Mary Wilcox’s little corpse-fucking “problem”, as if it were an afterschool special about a teenager who takes too many diet pills or something. In this movie, she’s driven to join a cult of devil-worshipping necrophiliacs by the intolerance of a few bluenoses. And really, why can’t we have more compassion for those who break into mortuaries and hump our recently deceased loved ones? Maybe if we all get together and watch LOVE ME DEADLY we can get over our silly Victorian hangups about sex with the dead! (Lars)

DIR. JOE D’AMATO, 1976, 35MM, 98 MIN, R

Every night before I lie down to sleep, I say my prayers. I thank God for the birds and the flowers and the morning dew and puppy dogs... But mostly I thank God -- at length -- for Laura Gemser, star of BLACK COBRA. Miss Gemser was positively heaven-sent for the sex-film explosion of the ‘70s: lithe, dark-skinned, with doe-eyes and movements as graceful as a lily in the breeze. She may well have been the most beautiful actress of the ‘70s -- period. But her career track led her to star in some of the most perverse films ever made. Her Black Emanuelle knockoff movies more than made up for in kink what they lacked in glossy production values. The director she collaborated with most fruitfully was Joe D’Amato, a filmmaker of sporadic brilliance whose talent really came to life with the addition of Gemser. BLACK COBRA is one of their best collaborations, and my personal favorite. Gemser plays a stripper with a python act who has a very strange effect on two brothers -- sleazy charmer (and her real life husband) Gabriele Tinti and the late, great Jack Palance, as a bizarre, ranting snake fetishist. With an ending that will leave you speechless. Music by Piero Umiliani. (Lars)

Friday, October 22, 2010

November December WW Titles here

NOV 3, $1, DIR. BILL CASTLEMAN, 1973, 35MM, 90 MIN, NR
Anyone who's spent any time at all around rock music knows one thing: bass players are the scum of the earth. Here's a movie with the courage to come out and say it. A small-time rock band with aspirations towards the big time is derailed by their psychotic four-stringer's crime spree. The electric bass may provide the bridge between the melody and the rhythm but if we have to put up with this sort of behavior we're better off without it! And this bassist is even worse than most. He's raping and killing all the groupies. A band this bad should be down on their knees thanking God every night for even having groupies at all, let alone groupies this hot. Fortunately Carol (ABBY: THE BLACK EXORCIST) Speed is on hand to take care of business in the explosive, double-barreled ending. Fuck Bass Players! (Lars)

NOV 10, $1, DIR. JOSEPH W. SARNO, 1974, 35MM, 105 MIN, NR
Nobody made adult movies like the late, great Joe Sarno. Starting in the mid-60’s, Sarno created his own unmistakable style of stylish, ultra-imaginative psychodramas. Regular Weird Wednesday viewers have seen some pretty over-the-top sex movies but there aren’t many sex movies that work on you like this one. Sarno, master of the kinky situation, concocts a whopper: a pair of swinging couples, neighbors; are dreading the arrival of their new houseguest, the attractive mother of one of the wild wives. They’ll all have to stay dressed and stop their round-the-clock boneathon... or will they? The attention Sarno pays to characterization and context really pays off. It’s an amazing experience that should not be missed. Bring a date, a raincoat, or both. (Lars)

IMPULSE with Director William Grefe Live!
NOV 17, $1, DIR WILLIAM GREFE, 1974, 35MM, 84 MIN, R
Director William Grefe will join us to tell us all about this all-time classic of Shatnersploitation. Certain stars loom so large in our personal mythology that we know them by one name. Think GARBO, BOGART, CAGNEY, and yes: SHATNER. A lot of people put down Shatner's acting but he's never boring to watch. Here he puts on an acting clinic, playing a murderous psychopath constantly on the verge of exploding. Shatner demonstrates fear, pain, dementia, demon rage -- the whole gamut of unsavory emotions, in his own inimitable Shatner way. It's always fun, when watching Shatner emote, to imagine that Captain Kirk has beamed into some sort of alternate reality. Here Kirk is transported into a metaphysical '70s South Florida, decked out in the finest polyester psycho-gear, and required to deal with a pulsing walnut-sized tumor throbbing against the aggression center of his brain. As you would expect, Shatner carries it off with all the wit and aplomb we expect from Our Greatest Living Actor. (Lars)

NOV 24, $1, DIR. MICHAEL CIMINO, 1974, 35MM, 114 MIN, R
At a time when he was the undisputed king of the silver screen, a box office draw beyond compare; Clint Eastwood began to strike off on his own and use his box-office clout to get some pretty daring and personal films made. But no one could have expected this bizarre buddy film featuring Eastwood as an expert in military armament who teams up with a wild young fuck-up (Jeff Bridges) to commit crimes and settle old scores in the modern west. Writer-director Michael Cimino's conception of these characters is strange to say the least and this movie must have been a staggering blind-side to anyone who paid to see what they thought would be a standard-issue Eastwood action film. Loaded with quotable lines and weird visual setpieces, it's one of the outlaw classics of the seventies. With George Kennedy and Geoffrey Lewis as Eastwood's vengeful and greedy former partners. If you liked FREEBIE AND THE BEAN, this is the next dose of your medicine. (Lars)

DEC 1, $1, DIR. DUCCIO TESSARI, 1973, 35MM, 90 MIN, R
When we think of Europe in films we probably think of smooth-lined sophistication, an appealing mixture of old-world charm and modern taste. That's precisely what we get in the crime films of Duccio Tessari. Like protaganist Alain Delon, this movie is all coolness and style on the surface with a raging torrent of violence just below the skin. Delon plays the undisputed number one, class-A hitman in the world. When he decides to retire his employers decide to make it permanent. Needless to say it doesn't take and he gets really angry at them. He kills some people and looks really sharp doing it. This is one of the very best European crime films ever made, visually stunning and spiritually devastating. See it with someone you're secretly planning to kill! (Lars)

DEC 8, $1, DIR. SEE YUEN-NG, 1977, 35MM, 90 MIN, R
One of the most purely satisfying old school kung fu movies ever. INVINCIBLE ARMOR looks like it was made for about 10 bucks but the kung fu is unreal. The young fight choreographers Yuen Biao and Corey Yuen push the action into the stratosphere and stars John Liu and Hwang Jang Lee put on a demonstration of precision face-kicking that will have you spitting out teeth. The title refers to a form of kung fu that is invincible except for one vulnerable point. I won't spoil it for you but when you see the final reckoning you will probably lose your shit. This movie has a lot going for it but my favorite part of the film is Hwang Jang Lee’s perfect embodiment of the no-good, shit-starting, white-haired old man with the (almost) unbeatable kung-fu technique.(Lars)

CARNIVAL MAGIC with Special Surprises!
DEC 15, $1, DIR. AL ADAMSON, 1981, 35MM, 80 MIN, NR
If you’ve ever checked out our Weird Wednesdays, you’ve seen some pretty strange things. But unless you’ve sparked up the sherm with Bigfoot on the moon you’ve never seen anything quite as awe-inspiringly demented as this “inspirational” kids’ movie from the director of SATAN’S SADISTS and BLACK SAMURAI. Why anyone thought this was appropriate for kids we’ll never understand. Although it might be educational to see the lion tamer gratuitously slapping his girlfriend around or a woman apparently giving an ape hand-relief (we didn’t believe it at first either), we don’t know if we’d be prepared to field Junior’s many questions about the unsavory goings-on in the cheapest, most depraved carnival this side of Tod Browning’s FREAKS. It’s a sick world and this Wednesday we’re going to help spread the disease. Oh, and if you bring your kids to this you’re on your own. (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)

I don't know what the sixties were really like but I'm pretty sure they weren't anything at all like this movie. Amid a backdrop of student protests the Dean's wife, played by the bodacious redhead Christine Murray, generously donates her time and affections to bettering the state of student/faculty relations. After several lively and spiritually uplifting scenes of the act of physical love, the action settles down to a party at the house of the Dean, where the depraved Professor Clove demonstrates his spanking technique for the benefit of the assembled guests and everybody (but the Dean) gets down and dirty. Pretty soon a bunch of radical students show up with their LSD and giant boobs, and the whole last reel is the Dean's big-breast-laden bad LSD trip. Should be shown to every college administrator in the country and the sooner the better. (Lars)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sept Oct Weird Wednesday Calendar

Can we even print that title? It must have been a really tough choice for exhibitors back in the day to decide whether or not to include the verbal equivalent of a thousand sticks of dynamite in their newspaper ads and on their marquees. But here you go. It's blaxploitation icon Fred Williamson in the old west. And you better believe The Hammer rights a few wrongs while he’s there. Williamson and his comic-relief sidekick D’Urville Martin play bounty hunters who become sheriff and deputy of a small racist town. It’s kind of like an ass-kicking, more serious version of BLAZING SADDLES. As a special bonus the bad guy is played by muscular reptile William Smith, who always charges into a role with maximum intensity. You'll have nightmares about him. Oh, and if you think the title is offensive, that's just an appetizer. This movie drops more bombs than the Screaming Eagles. Wait until you hear the theme song, it’s got like twenty or thirty in there. You won’t believe it. (Lars)

In the early 60s a lot of sleepy arthouse theaters suddenly started turning a profit. Instead of the 20 or 30 people who would trickle in to see GRAND ILLUSION and sip espresso, there were lines around the block to see Brigitte Bardot or Harriet Andersson show a little skin in subtitled European imports. As hard as it is to believe now, when we can watch donkey shows on our cellphones, this was the only way to see skin on screen in those days. So Joe Sixpack and Sal the plumber would sit and watch some of the most obtuse films ever made just to see the side of a boob. Pretty soon distributors and filmmakers were scrambling to meet the demands of exhibitors and audiences. SEXUS is a fake art film. It has all the handheld camera work and bongo playing you’d expect from a real art film but it exists for the sole reason of providing titillating scenes of sex and violence. The thing is, director José Bénazéraf draws strength from vulgarity and makes a film that, on balance, constitutes better art than a lot of the “real” art films it displaced. SEXUS is undeniably cheap and the siege/kidnap plot won’t win any awards for originality but it has a great visual vitality, almost every frame could stand alone as a work of art, and the score by Chet Baker is cooler than a polar bear. Almost by accident it is one of the best Beat Generation films. A rare treat for enthusiasts of cinema history, jazz music, naked women and wraparound sunglasses. (Lars)

As the world seemingly began falling apart in the '70s, a new kind of movie spectacle appeared to help audiences focus their anxiety and freak the fuck out together as a culture. These "disaster movies" as they became known depicted frightening scenarios ranging from the sinking of a luxury liner to a catastrophic high rise fire. And they were box office boomers for most of the decade. It shouldn't come as any surprise that low-budget filmmakers were waiting in the wings to foist inferior product onto unsuspected audiences whipped into a disaster frenzy. THE BEES is one of those cheap knock-offs but we wouldn't trade it for a dozen of the bloodless big-ticket spectaculars that spawned it. John Saxon brings his distinctive brand of macho confidence to the role of John Norman, the undisputed champion of bee experts on Planet Earth. He puts his superior bee knowledge to the test when a rare strain of killer bees escapes from an experimental killer bee facility. Fortunately he's able to develop a "gay bee serum" that turns bees gay. Ludicrous, wildly incompetent, wholly entertaining; this is a legendary classic of fun. With elderly John Carradine, who passed away shortly before his scenes were filmed but did them anyway. (Lars)

Nobody made adult movies like the late, great Joe Sarno. Starting in the mid-60’s, Sarno created his own unmistakable style of stylish, ultra-imaginative psychodramas. Regular Weird Wednesday viewers have seen some pretty over-the-top sex movies but there aren’t many sex movies that work on you like this one. Sarno, master of the kinky situation, concocts a whopper: a pair of swinging couples, neighbors; are dreading the arrival of their new houseguest, the attractive mother of one of the wild wives. They’ll all have to stay dressed and stop their round-the-clock boneathon... or will they? The attention Sarno pays to characterization and context really pays off. It’s an amazing experience that should not be missed. Bring a date, a raincoat, or both. (Lars)

I’m glad nobody told Filipino B-movie god Eddie Romero that he should really have a budget if he wanted to make a movie about an island full of monstrous half-human, half-animal beasts. Then we’d be deprived of the spectacle of the ghetto goat-boy, the badly-conceived bat man or the embarrassed-looking panther woman (played by Pam Grier!). Also, Romero probably would have done something foolish with that extra money like hiring somebody other than John Ashley for the lead role. Ashley had parlayed a semi-successful stateside career as a teen actor and rockabilly singer into what passed for super-stardom in the Philippines, where he produced and starred in countless action and monster films as “the white guy”. He’s generally pretty bad, but he will start growing on you after a while, like an exotic island fungus. The whole film exudes an ambiance of sleazy tropical languor that’s quite appealing in its humid way. (Lars)

Few actors have ever delivered as much lunacy on such a regular basis as Udo Kier. His performances as the lead fiends in BLOOD FOR DRACULA and FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN had made him one of the top maniacs on the scene long before he started making Lars Von Trier and Werner Herzog movies even stranger. Here he plays a misanthropic novelist who retreats to a rural farm to do a bit of writing and a lot of hetero sexing with his three beautiful women companions. Soon, he’s having vivid hallucinations and a bunch of people stop being alive! Promoted as a tour de force of Hitchcockian suspense, it’s not. But if you love watching that funny little man go berserk as much as I do, you’ll be here. (Lars)

This colorful, violent noir, made by one of the most skillful Italian genre directors has a lot going for it. It's made in a pop art, post-POINT BLANK style; the pacing is clean and tight; the music is by Ennio Morricone; how could it get any better than that? Well you could sprinkle some Charles Bronson on that bitch. When it comes to ice-cold killing machines, Charles Bronson is the man for the job. He looks like a rage in a track suit. The plot is in the mode of Jacques Tourneur's OUT OF THE PAST with Bronson seeking revenge, killing a lot of people and acting smoother than Jason Statham’s balls. Telly Savalas plays the effeminate mob boss Bronson has to join up with. One of the best scenes in the film features Savalas offering Bronson a flowery cocktail. Not surprisingly Bronson refuses, and the tiny, underplayed way he turns his nose up at the drink is one of the best acting flourishes you'll see in a long time. Vicious, brutal, essential. (Lars)

WONDER WOMEN with Director Robert Vincent O’Neill Live
As the weather cools off, we can warm ourselves with the tropical heat of this made-in-the-Phillipines drive-in exploitation classic. You can feel the warmth of the sun radiating from every island-lensed frame. Every cockfight, every weird hand-painted 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 oddest duck 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)

The druggy surrealist sex vampire movies of Jean Rollin are considered a bit excessive by more traditional horror movie fans. Screw those mama’s boys. Jean Rollin's movies are so great I would personally go to war for them if I had to. For years I've gotten weird looks every time I rave about Rollin's Man Ray inflected pulp art masterpieces like THE NUDE VAMPIRE, CAGED VIRGINS, SCHOOLGIRL HITCHIKERS and this. Rollin's films are virtual encyclopedias of fetishistic sex and horror movie imagery, lashed together under the flimsiest dime novel pretexts of plot. But they garnered an enthusiastic following among students in Paris, who watched these bizarre films alongside the skid row popeyes in Pigalle nudie theaters. In this regard they form a continuity across generations with the silent serials of Louis Feuillade, which also had tiny budgets and played in flea-bitten theaters for enthusiastic audiences of pickpockets and Bolsheviks in the '20s. Featuring the gorgeous French sex star Sandra Julian (I AM A NYMPHOMANIAC) and a beautiful vampire who sleeps in a grandfather clock. Music by high school prog rock band Acanthus. An essential movie experience. (Lars)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

July August Weird Wednesday Titles and Writeups

Bad news for Michigan Phil. Freebie & The Bean.

July 7, Dir. Y.K. Kim and Woo-sang Park, 1986, 35mm, Ritz
Earlier this year at Weird Wednesday we presented a pretty astonishing film, NINJA TURF, a film that contains no ninjas at all but nevertheless thrilled the crowd with its depiction of immigrant street gangs and 35-year old high school students. The crowd was confused, many were angry, a few had blood streaming from their eyes. But we all knew we'd witnessed something. Now for those same people and also for those who missed NINJA TURF because they had to work or were pussies, we present the director's followup THE MIAMI CONNECTION. It also takes place among superannuated high schoolers and there's a lot of talk (and even a song) about ninjas but it remains to be seen whether any ninjas were actually persuaded to appear in this film. Part of us hopes not. After all, it's not ninjas themselves that excite us, it's the anticipation that ninjas might appear. (Lars)

July 14, Dir. Duke Mitchell, 2010, 35mm, Ritz
In what was believed for years to be his only movie as writer-director, MASSACRE MAFIA STYLE (aka THE EXECUTIONER), Duke Mitchell (aka Dominic Micelli) created a film about the mafia that crackled with vular authenticity. It's kind of an underground classic, showing small-time underworld hoods in much the same light as THE SOPRANOS did so many years later. Mundane details of criminal life were given the same weight as the machinations of a major racket. MASSACRE MAFIA STYLE, while not perfect, leaves the audience wanting more of Mitchell's odd world view. We're happy to report that Duke Mitchell's lost film GONE WITH THE POPE has surfaced. It's further proof that Mitchell is the cinematic poet of vinyl sofas, mustache wax and overloaded bullet squibs. The premise is brilliant, a hustling crook gets the bright idea to kidnap the pope and demand $1 ransom from every Catholic on the planet! Our knuckles are sweating with anticipation! (Lars)

July 21, Dir. Patrick M. Wright, 1976, 35mm, Ritz
70s teen sex comedies were never noted for high standards of writing, acting, editing or directing but HOLLYWOOD HIGH is a goddamn outrage. They say if you gave an infinite number of monkeys typewriters one of them would produce Hamlet. Well, if you gave three monkeys a camera, they could produce HOLLYWOOD HIGH and be done in time for lunch and a rubdown in the steam room. It's just uncommonly poor in every regard. But that doesn't mean it won't give you every bit as much entertainment as a movie made by people with IQs over 100. It's mainly about a group of teenagers who get high, drink a lot of beer and then look for a place to have sex. They made a whole movie about that. There's also a guy who's supposed to resemble the Fonz from HAPPY DAYS. He's called "the Fenz." Also, I have reason to suspect the guy playing the wacky retarded guy is actually retarded. Be warned. (Lars)

July 28, Dir. Matt Cimber, 1975, 35mm, Ritz
One of the all-time great blaxploitation classics. Though not as well known as the bigger-budget, studio-distributed hits like SHAFT and SUPERFLY, CANDY TANGERINE MAN was one of the most popular, widely seen independent movies of the '70s. It's a kind of Jekyll and Hyde story. The Baron is a middle-class suburban family man by day (he even mows the lawn), but when the sun goes down he's the king of pimps. His Rolls Royce even has flames painted on the sides. No other movie, not even THE MACK, has presented such a colorful, fun, nasty view of "the life". Anyone who shows up for this one expecting to see a slick polished Hollywood showroom model will be disappointed. On the other hand, those who expect to see a wall-to-wall velour fashion show with a thumping funk soundtrack and nasty, mean-spirited dialogue straight out of Iceberg Slim will find themselves aloft and afloat on a purple-velvet, Hai-Karate-scented cloud nine. With flames painted on the sides. From the director of THE WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA. (Lars)

Aug 4, Dir. William Grefe, 1976, 35mm, Ritz
Part of Alamo SHARK WEEK! August 2-8 at the Ritz! Ever since the colossal success of JAWS, there have been lots of movies made about the shark menace. The smell of money in the water drove producers into a rip-off frenzy, resulting in such immortal works as UP FROM THE DEPTHS, GREAT WHITE, MONSTER SHARK and their little homies BARRACUDA, ORCA and TENTACLES. MAKO: JAWS OF DEATH at least has an original angle on things. Richard Jaeckel plays a weird nature-loving guy in South Florida who has a psychic link with sharks. When he finds out they're being exploited by scumbag scientists who conduct illegal experiments on them, he decides to take a bite out of crime. More a portrait of Jaeckel's obsessive oddball than a shark movie at all, MAKO: JAWS OF DEATH has a lot of the steamy pulp energy that characterizes Florida movies. Everyone is covered with a thin layer of sweat and grime and most of the plot logic seems to have been boiled out of the mixture. With foxy Jennifer Bishop as one of those mermaids in a tank, Harold "Oddjob" Sakata and Milton "Butterball" Smith as "Butter". (Lars)

Aug 11, Dir. Richard Rush, 1974, 35mm, Ritz
A buddy movie about two fascist cops in San Francisco. They violate the civil rights of everyone within a 400 foot radius, steal, extort, destroy a lot of private and public property, shoot and run over innocent bystanders. they're total fucking dicks and they're great. James Caan plays Freebie, who uses his badge to get as many perks as he can, and Alan Arkin plays Bean, a Mexican American (!) cop with a serious anger management problem. The film follows them through a typical investigation as they ruthlessly beat confessions out of suspects, perform illegal searches, shoot a nurse, ridicule a dentist and worse. While it may sound grim - it's not. It's hilarious. Caan and Arkin are relentlessly charming and funny, even as they shred the constitution and wreck dozens of cars. Director Richard Rush (THE STUNT MAN, PSYCH OUT) was basically given carte blanche to use San Francisco as his canvas, and he creates a subversive masterpiece that leaves audiences exhausted from laughing and cheering. (Lars)

Aug 18, Dir. Bert I. Gordon, 1965, 35mm, Ritz
Bizarre mod fantasy about a group of juvenile delinquents who take a growth potion created by young Ron Howard and become giant hellraising teenagers. It's a pretty extreme cautionary parable about the inevitable youth revolt that was already germinating fast in the initial wave of baby boomer puberty. But sociology aside, it's a lot of fun, there's a kind of careening irresponsibility in it all, as the young people literally walk all over the adult establishment. It's also sexy in that inimitable mid-'60s way. When the teenagers grow, they naturally grow out of their clothes so we're treated to the spectacle of radiant, healthy young 60 foot-tall beauties wearing a scrap or two of improvised clothing. Very loosely based on the story "Food Of The Gods" by H.G. Wells. Starring Beau Bridges, Joy Harmon, Tisha Sterling, Johnny Crawford and a raging young Toni Basil. (Lars)

Aug 26
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 the chugging magenta meat of COUNTRY HOOKER?) have been at Choose Your Own Weird Wednesday nights. This year make your voice heard! And don't come sniffing around looking for hints about which movies will be in the mix 'cause I'll just make some shit up. (Lars)

Monday, April 5, 2010

May/June Weird Wednesday Calendar


Here's what's happening in May and June.

This regional car chase movie from the St. Louis area doesn't skimp on automotive action, humor or surprising violence. Chris Mitchum and Les Lannom play a pair of boring pals who save up their money to buy a red '64 Corvette, only to find that some hoods have stashed heroin and cash under the seat. They're also wrongly accused of being cop-killers so not only are the crooks after them, but the police too. Fortunately, as dull as the heroes are, the bad guys are great. Their leader, sexy foul-mouthed Abigail Bratowski (Sherry Jackson) is a machine-gun wielding psychopath who makes her entrance dressed in a nun's habit. Abigail's main enforcer is big William Watson, who looks like a sinister cartoon cheetah and seems to ad lib every single line he speaks. One of the best things about this movie is its crazy split personality - one minute you're watching a wacky car chase scored to tinkling piano music, the next minute cops are getting riddled with bullet holes. The other great thing about this movie is its truly superior car action provided by such top professionals as the King of stunt drivers Carey Loftin and Austin's own Bobby Sargent, who will be in attendance to give you some background about STINGRAY. Be there! (Lars)

There are a number of important sexploitation auteurs, brave souls who carved out something special and wholly individual in the world of adult films. The best known of these are Russ Meyer, Radley Metzger, Doris Wishman and our dear friend Joe Sarno. Sarno's specialty is erotic psychodrama. Even when his budgets are limited to the point of absurdity, he manages to create situations that are complicated, kinky, exciting, vaguely absurd and often pretty hot. In many sexploitation movies the plot is a utility, a desultory device for moving the action from one set-piece to another. With Sarno, the plot serves to place each situation in a deeper stratum of intensity, until the final, usually taboo-shattering encounter provides the climax of the film. Such is the case with MOONLIGHTING WIVES, the story of a suburban prostitution ring that masquerades as a late-night secretary service. If you like Sarno, don't miss this rare screening. And if you don't know his work yet, it's time to start your education. (Lars)

MAY 19, MIDNIGHT, $1, DIR. ROBERT ALTMAN, 1973, 35MM, 112 MIN, R
Any 1973 theatergoer who bought a ticket for THE LONG GOODBYE expecting a leisurely rehash of private-eye movie cliches was certainly disappointed and, I expect, outraged. This is not so much an adaptation of Raymond Chandler's novel (itself a challenge to the commercially expected norm); it's also a gloss and critique on the whole myth of the sardonic but not quite cynical investigator who makes reluctant swoops from his perch on the margin of society into the corrupt milieu of the criminal classes high and low. The great director Robert Altman is assisted by screenwriter Leigh Brackett, who had written the definitive Raymond Chandler adaptation 27 years earlier: THE BIG SLEEP. This would be among her last screen credits and it's a classic. In choosing his leading man, Altman made a characteristically perverse selection: Elliott Gould, who as a Jewish New Yorker could not help but seem an outsider in the classically constrained world of Chandler's LA. The period was also shifted to the contemporary '70s, though some anachronisms remain, not least Marlowe himself. Together, Altman, Brackett and Gould deconstruct, distend, disentangle and re-entangle all the archetypal constructs of America's favorite detective. Like the very best adaptations, it dispenses with many of the events of the book but manages to retain the spirit. It's a savagely funny movie with support from Sterling Hayden, Henry Gibson, scandal figure Nina Van Pallandt and baseball player Jim Bouton. Years later THE BIG LEBOSWKI mined much of the same territory, and the two films are of a piece. Hugely, gigantically, unreservedly recommended. (Lars)

From the maker of WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS comes a Women In Prison movie like no other. This one takes place in the sugar cane fields of the Caribbean. The expected cargo of beautiful women arrives and is mistreated in the accepted way until a rebellion erupts more or less on schedule, as these things go. In these particulars, it is pretty much just another WIP movie. Where it goes off the rails is in the character of the island doctor. Dr. John, as he's known, conducts a bewildering assortment of experiments on the prisoners. In one he throws dozens of housecats, supposedly injected with an aggression serum, at them. The cat hurling scene is hilarious, as the unfortunate actresses try desperately to mimic terror and the even more unfortunate cats try to get away from the insane filmmakers. Star Phyllis Davis is much too beautiful and talented for this kind of movie but that's life in Hollywood, and I'm too amused to complain. Recent Alamo guest Stephanie Rothman was one of the writers of this film and her sense of humor shines right through. (Lars)

Italian crime films of the '70s are an acquired taste, and happily many more people seem to be acquiring it. This is one of the genre's classics, written and directed by the great Damiano Damiani whose other films A BULLET FOR THE GENERAL and HOW TO KILL A JUDGE are similarly political in nature. Here Martin Balsam plays a police captain nearing retirement who has been unable to bring the worst criminals in his jurisdiction to justice by legal means. He teams up with young district attorney Franco Nero in an attempt to wade through the morass of official corruption and institutional putrescence, but all the while Balsam has his own means of working and his own dark secrets. The system is so rigged and so broken that even the most honest men end up crushed in its wheels. A gripping, violent, brilliantly enacted film that will rip your fucking heart out and eat it. Incredible. (Lars)

The delectable Misty Rowe, known fondly to some of us as one of the stars of the '70s hillbilly variety show HEE HAW, stars as a ripe young thing who gets tangled up with a Manson-family style band of bait-and-switch highway robbers. Unlucky drivers are enticed to stop by an abundant roadside display of feminine pulchritude, then relieved of their belongings and sent packing. Seems risky but then so is the stock market. There are lots of hippie songs about freedom and even a token biker named Rebel. Thankfully, Arkansas exploitation legends Ferd and Beverly Sebastian (GATOR BAIT, ROCKTOBER BLOOD) are at the helm and their easygoing, character-rich style is printed on every frame of film. I wish we could take the roof off the theater and watch this one under the stars like the drive-in audiences of the day, but I asked and we can't do that. (Lars)

These European sexy horror movies of the '70s were sort of like a gift from God: an endless supply of beautiful actresses, healthy portions of surrealism and kitsch, all sewn up with an audacious sense of style and color. Logic went out the window (good riddance) and kinky cinephilia was the order of the day. THE LORELEI'S GRASP takes place in one of those ubiquitous "hot chicks only" boarding schools that seemed to pepper Europe in the '70s. Naked schoolgirls are being killed off at an alarming rate by a hideous beast with claws and green scales. The headmistress hires a greasy, polyester-clad macho man named Sigurd to track and kill the beast. Only the tiniest children and people with head injuries won't be able to figure out the identity of the monster. Could it be sexy Helga Line who wears a shiny green bikini and lives in an underground cave with her army of immortal bathing beauties? Yes. This movie has cheap gore, gratuitous nudity, great music, bad dubbing, and even a "fear flasher" to warn unusually sensitive audience members of impending unpleasantness. In other words: this movie is better than a crack milkshake. Don't miss! (Lars)

Inspired by a photo in LIFE magazine of a garish Hell’s Angels funeral, Roger Corman set about revolutionizing American International Pictures with THE WILD ANGELS, which would go on to spawn the prolific biker genre of the 60’s & 70’s. Peter Fonda stars as brooding Angels chieftain Heavenly Blues. When his pal Loser (Bruce Dern) is shot by police, Blues attempts to bury him in a small town, but the locals resist, and a brawl ensues. Audiences and critics were alternately appalled and thrilled by the extensive drug use and violence, but beneath ANGELS’ leathery hide beats the heart of a Western, especially in its ruminations on personal freedom. The film helped boost the careers of co-writer Peter Bogdanovich, editor Monte Hellman, and gave Fonda the counterculture clout to later make EASY RIDER. Co-starring Nancy Sinatra (yes, that is an odd choice), the film is punctuated by the amazing fuzz-laden music of Davie Allan & The Arrows. (Lars & Kier-la Janisse)

JUNE 30, MIDNIGHT, $1, DIR. ALBERT T. VIOLA, 1971, 35MM, 87 MIN, R
One of the biggest regional drive-in hits ever, a movie that played the Carolinas and Georgia summer after summer for the better part of a decade. It’s a hicksploitation classic that deserves to be better known outside the stock-car circuit. Writer/Director Albert Viola plays Amos Huxley, a traveling preacher whose hankering for womenfolk, moonshine, and gambling (hereafter referred to as “the finer things in life”) keeps him on the move from one tiny dogwater hamlet to another, usually at the point of a double-barreled shotgun. This is pretty old-school stuff – Viola knows his Boccaccio, his Chaucer and especially his Moliere – but it works. It’s a very funny, very well made film, loaded with sex, sacrilege and good-natured depravity. (Lars)

Monday, February 8, 2010

March April 2010 Titles and Writeups

There are guests and then there are guests. GROUP MARRIAGE April 14, with writer/director Stephanie Rothman in person. You're welcome.

MAD DOG MORGAN with Filmmaker Phillipe Mora In Person!

One of the key movies in the birth of the Australian film industry, MAD DOG MORGAN is as wild, free and untamed as the pioneer Australian settler turned outlaw it celebrates. Dan Morgan was a real-life figure, a desperado who roamed the bush, committing robberies, drinking rum, killing people at the slightest provocation and generally behaving like a maniac. It should tell you a little about the Australian national character that he's regarded as a sort of folk hero. Obviously not just any actor could play the role, so director Phillipe Mora brought in the only actor who could embody Morgan's peculiar brand of apeshit craziness - Dennis Hopper. Hopper was dead-on perfect for Morgan but, unfortunately for the sanity of the cast and crew, he was also a committed method actor who insisted on getting into the role by drinking at least as much rum as the real Morgan and carrying loaded weapons everywhere. At one point during the shoot Hopper drunkenly took off in a car to visit the real Morgan's grave. He was picked up in the state of Victoria for drunken driving. When his blood alcohol content was measured he was declared legally dead. His producers got him out of jail but he was forbidden by the court to drive or even to be a passenger in a car in the territory! We are honored to welcome director Phillipe Mora to the Ritz to tell us more about this film and the bizarre circumstances surrounding its making. (Lars)


If the experience of watching exploitation movies is like taking drugs, and it certainly is, then watching this movie is the celluloid equivalent of having a polar bear-sized dose of PCP injected directly into your brainstem with an industrial strength compressed air gun. If this sounds like a bunch of exaggerated fanciful talk to you then you haven’t seen DR. TARR’S TORTURE DUNGEON. Based on Poe’s “The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether”, it’s an amazingly baroque, surreal Mexican exploitation film about a vast, isolated asylum that has been taken over by its inmates. The film glides from one absurd, outlandish tableau to another with the logic and pace of an opium dream. Though it was considered too exploitative for arthouses and too artsy for grindhouses at the time of its release, we are happy to give this film the audience it deserves. Note: if you don't like horrifying shrieking chicken women, do us all a favor - STAY HOME! (Lars)


MAR 24, MIDNIGHT, $1, DIR. ROGER VADIM, 1971, 35MM, 98 MIN, R

From director Roger Vadim (BARBARELLA) and writer Gene Roddenberry (creator of Star Trek) comes a surprisingly dark, funny, sweet film, saturated with the golden light, color and sexiness of '70s California. Plot-wise, it's a murder mystery - beautiful young girls are turning up dead, the cops (led by Telly Savalas) are investigating, the football coach (Rock Hudson, who's great here) is a suspect. Interwoven is the story of a sexually frustrated male student's dalliance with his hot teacher Angie Dickinson. The story is well structured, the actors are top notch, but what makes this film really special is the French director's merciless insight into American social mores. He also captures some of the poetry of sexual desire in a way that few, if any, American directors can. A real, undeservedly obscure classic. (Lars)


In the 60s and 70s a typical newsstand would feature rows of cheap, colorful paperback novels. There were tons of romances both contemporary and gothic for the women. And for the men there was "man-pulp," detective and adventure novels featuring lone-wolf alpha-dog heroes who typically travelled to exotic locations, engaging in fistfights, copulating freely with green-eyed lovelies and generally avoiding messy entanglements. Man-pulp was eventually usurped by espionage and military techno-thrillers for the few men who still read recreationally. DARKER THAN AMBER, based on a novel by John D. MacDonald, is one of the best man-pulp movies. The book is one of the long running and very popular Travis McGee series. McGee is a kind of proto-dropout "knight errant" who lives on a houseboat and could only be coerced into action by the death of a friend, a large sum of money or the pretty persuasion of a mini-skirted young lass in trouble. This movie captures the feel of man-pulp to a T. You can almost hear the pages turning. With Rod Taylor, Suzy Kendall and, most memorably, biker movie great William Smith who damn near rips Taylor's arm off in the climactic fight scene. This movie so impressed Bruce Lee that he insisted on director Clouse for his American debut ENTER THE DRAGON. (Lars)


Outrageously stupid dubbed Italian comedy about policeman David Speed, played by comedy spaghetti western icon Terence Hill, who stands a little too close to an exploding nuclear missile. Just as in real life, the exposure to devastating atomic shockwaves and high levels of radioactive plutonium gives him super powers. He has telepathy, telekinesis, he can catch bullets in his teeth, jump through walls, fall from great heights with no consequences, walk on water, stop time and pretty much do anything else that's convenient for the plot. But his powers don't always work, which leads to some wacky complications - you're going to LOVE those wacky complications. With Ernest Borgnine as his by-the-book partner, who just gets all steamed up when Officer Dave won't follow the rules. This movie is dumb, but are you really all that smart? I mean, come on. (Lars)

GROUP MARRIAGE with Filmmaker Stephanie Rothman in Person!

From the maker of THE VELVET VAMPIRE and TERMINAL ISLAND comes a story of the liberated love generation. If it sounds like BOB AND CAROL AND TED AND ALICE, it is - but only just a little. There's a more immediate street-level feel to the film. For the super-low budget New World Pictures, the time between idea and screen was pretty brief, so the social commentary contained in these movies was still piping hot by the time it reached audiences. And Rothman was a magnificent message-smuggler - it's fascinating to see how feminine the viewpoint of the film is - and it what surprising ways this pleasing difference makes itself known. Rothman's TERMINAL ISLAND was about male/female partnership under strain from the outside. In GROUP MARRIAGE the conflict comes from within. It's pretty amazing to look back at these movies with their anarcho-communal message and realize that they played for every Jim-Bob who went to the drive in to see some skin. It's a brilliant way to sugar coat an agit-prop message that most viewers would never have swallowed otherwise. Isn't it time to bring Stephanie Rothman back into films and make her a four-star general in the culture wars for the good guys (and gals)? Featuring Claudia Jennings and some of the best bumper stickers in the history of cinema. (Lars) Make it a double feature with Stephanie Rothman's THE STUDENT NURSES, screening earlier. See below for details.

APR 21, MIDNIGHT, $1, DIR. WOO-SANG PARK, 1985, 35MM, 85 MIN, R

As the trailer says: "From the orient comes the attacker! The ninja has come to the city of night, where dreams become nightmares... where violence rules... where hope becomes despair. This is... NINJA TURF! A killer's paradise, ripoffs, a double cross that boomerangs, $800,000 in stolen money. Don't cross the Ninja, against anyone, against all odds. To the man they call the avenger, mercy is a dirty word. The one movie that breaks all the rules, defies all the conventions. The movie that kicks you in the FACE! NINJA TURF! Cross him - you're finished. Step on him, he'll bury you. See it at your own risk. NINJA TURF - it ain't no music video!" All of the above words are 1,000,000% true. This movie does break all the rules, like that rule that said all high school students have to be under the age of 35: SHATTERED. The rule that states that characters in a film should act and speak like actual human beings: DEMOLISHED. You know that other dumb rule about how a movie with the word "ninja" in the title should contain at least one ninja: REVOKED. And while NINJA TURF "ain't no music video", it does have one thing in common with a music video: there's only one damn song in the whole movie, and you'll get to hear it over 300 times! Mercy is a dirty word! So is FUUUUUUUUUCCCCCKKKK! That's what you'll be saying after you get kicked in the face by NINJA TURF! (Lars)


Subversive sex comedy that depicts a surreal, absurd society in microcosm within a suburban California high school. The cheerleaders and football team are like an aristocracy withing the school. When one of the cheerleaders gets pregnant, the squad recruits an innocent new member (played by the lilting, sumptuous Stephanie Fondue) with only one provision: she must remain a virgin. The problem is, the comely new girl wants to become a cheerleader for the express purpose of getting laid. Something has got to give! Featuring that old stand-by of cheerleader movies, a plan to exhaust the opposing team by fucking them silly. Does that kind of stuff really happen? It's OK, you can tell me. (Lars)

Also, don't miss this very special presentation:
THE STUDENT NURSES with Filmmaker Stephanie Rothman in Person!
APR 14, 9:45pm, DIR. STEPHANIE ROTHMAN, 1970, 35MM, 89 MIN, R

This is a jaw-dropping social, cultural and political document about contemporary attitudes toward medical ethics. Oh, and there are sexy nurses too, you can't have one without the other. Like many films produced by Roger Corman's New World pictures it's kind of an ideological trojan horse. Men who were lured in by the sight of four doe-eyed young nurses on the poster ended up receiving a massive injection of social awareness courtesy of Dr. Stephanie Rothman, one of the few women working as a writer and director in the 1970's. While the novelty of a female working in what was perceived as a man's game has interest for us, her gender isn't even the most interesting aspect of Rothman's films - it's a sensitivity to all her characters, of both genders - her conflicts are always human, never schematic. This film is structured like a soap opera with several character arcs dramatically intersecting as we peek in on the day to day trials and tribulations of a group of student nurses. Rothman and company touch on themes that are still controversial today -- abortion, euthanasia, inequality of health care and more. The left-wing stance might seem strident if the film weren't so entertaining on its own terms. You'll enjoy it so much you won't even noticed you've been radicalized. (Lars) Buy your ticket for THE STUDENT NURSES and keep your seat for GROUP MARRIAGE at midnight at no extra charge.