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.