Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Coming to Weird Wednesday in May and June!

In Lycanthroscope! MAY 18!

Dirs. Donald M. Jones & Mikel Angel, 1975, 85 min, R, 35mm
RZ 5/4
“I am Lester! And I am ALIVE!” Uncut, pure insanity. A totally unknown actor named Erik Stern gives the performance of a lifetime as Caleb, a nearsighted, hunchbacked gardener who silently absorbs the abuse of his female clients by day, then returns at night as his handsome “brother” Lester to seduce and kill them. Without Stern’s go-for-the-throat magnificence in the dual role, this would be a fairly tired exercise in misogyny and warmed-over Hitchcock, but Stern totally redeems the material. For whatever reason, this was his Moment. The great spotlight of destiny shone on him just this one time and he rose to the occasion like a champion. You won’t believe your eyes and ears as Stern/Lester puts on different disguises, with corresponding accents, to get close to his prey. Witness Lester as a Puerto Rican door-to-door record salesman (he describes one LP as “a real gasolino”), a Texas cowboy, and a naughty British plumber. Stern does it all except pop the popcorn. (Lars)

DIR. WALTER CICHY, 1973, 93 min, R, 35MM
RZ 5/11
Nihilist whitesploitation from the makers of FLESH GORDON. This movie was apparently intended to be a Peckinpah-esque existential ballet of bullets and bloodshed and while it doesn’t succeed exactly, it creates its own world of pain and psychosis. The plot concerns a pair of drug middlemen who won’t let anyone stand in their way as they move a shipment of cocaine through the desert. Not only do they kill many cops, they also badly mistreat an ice cream vendor. Along the way they abduct an innocent girl, rant, destroy a bunch of stuff and even provide a quick and instructive tutorial on how to snort coke. This one’s pretty special. A little sunbaked slice of hell, just for you. (Lars)

Dir. Michel Levesque, 1971, 85 min, R, 35mm
RZ 5/18
In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, filmmakers could pretty much assume that their audiences were just as ripped out of their minds on dangerous drugs as they themselves were. This accounted for some pretty strange movies. But nothing you've seen can prepare you for the classic WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS. It’s equal parts Antonioni and Famous Monsters Of Filmland. And not only does this movie have werewolves and bikers (the motorcycle gang is called The Devil's Advocates!), it also has satanic monks, a snake dance, tons of improvised dialogue, some of the craziest, greatest music ever and, best of all, some incredible, death-defying stunts. In fact, one really gets the impression that the stunt-men took over the production midway to stage some sort of drugged-out festival of danger. I don't know what was going on in these stuntmen's lives but they seem totally indifferent to death. There are a couple of scenes where a burning stuntman runs around for like three or four minutes, being consumed by ten foot flames. Now that's commitment to the arts! (Lars)

Dir. Jonathan Lucas, 1970, 84 min, X, 35mm
RZ 5/25
The late, great producer/writer David F. Friedman, who died earlier this year, was a true legend of showmanship. He was the standard bearer and keeper of the torch of classic exploitation films. Though he ground out cheap films designed to play for one week and vanish from town in a haze of disrepute, he was always mindful of the need to have fun. TRADER HORNEE (the E’s are silent, by the way), is a skin-flick, of course, but it’s also a very funny, juvenile comedy in the mold of classic Mad Magazine. It’s a parody of jungle films, the once-popular sub-genre of adventure films that brought us the likes of Tarzan and Jungle Jim. Customarily in these imperialist fables, a white child is lost in the wilds of deepest Africa and grows up to become the ruler of the superstitious natives. Here the casual racism of these movies is lampooned by jive talking, watermelon-eating natives who do song and dance routines. You won’t believe it. Terrible jokes fly at you relentlessly until you have no defense against them and are forced to laugh, just to keep from crying. (Lars)

Dir. Harvey Hart, 1976, 99 min, R, 35mm
RZ 6/1
In the golden days of the ‘70s there was a whole film industry in Canada based around government incentives and tax shelters; we know it now as the Canucksploitation era. Through some difficult to understand financial mechanism, outside investors put funds into Canadian productions that were sure to lose money and they benefited from it somehow. I didn’t say I understood it, but there’s no doubt that some extremely obtuse and unmarketable films were made around that time, and this is one of the best. A bunch of 50-ish National Guardsmen and war veterans (among them Cliff Robertson, Henri Silva and Ernest Borgnine), all upstanding pillars of their small town community, go on a hunting trip together. They encounter another group of hunters in the forest and are fired upon unexpectedly. They shoot back and kill one of the rogue hunters. When they return home, their daily lives are turned asunder by paranoia, strife and the reawakened primeval bloodlust that lurks in all men’s souls. The only thing that will make their lives normal again is more killing. This movie is tremendously strange. It must have alienated every audience member who bought a ticket to see it, as it’s mainly just a bunch of brooding, intense scenes of macho middle aged men sweating, shooting guns and talking about killing. This is not for everyone, but it fits my tastes like Canada fits atop America - as its jaunty, perplexing hat. (Lars)

Dir. John A. Bushelman, 1976, 102 min, R, 35mm
RZ 6/8
A really gritty, nasty juvenile delinquency docudrama that cuts like a switchblade. A jarring film in a lot of ways, it’s also one of the most entertaining movies in the genre. It takes place in and around one of those southern California high schools that are so familiar from a million T&A comedies, and the soundtrack is reminiscent of yacht rock, but when the violence and brutality start - school’s out! There’s a hand-wringing veneer of social concern here but unlike a lot of other movies that address teenage crime there’s no pretense that these kids are merely misunderstood, tarnished little angels who need a spanking and/or hug. No - these teenagers are demons who have escaped from Hell and set up shop in Santa Monica. With great, letter-perfect dialogue and a killer twist ending. (Lars)

Dir. Edward Mann, 1977, 96 min, PG, 35mm
RZ 6/15
Here’s a regional North Carolina moonshine movie that, by all rights, shouldn’t be any good at all but amazingly it works. Gil Gerard, later famous as TV’s Buck Rogers, plays a good old boy who loves the high-life, or what passes for it in his backwoods town. When he begins distributing moonshine, it stirs up trouble with the local godfather, who brings in a trio of New York mob enforcers led by Danny Aiello to put Gil out of business. There’s your plot. It’s nothing special. But there’s a perverse sense of humor at the heart of this film. Writer/director Edward Mann was no dummy. He had a long background writing comic strips and directing theater. The gags he sets up are of a high quality and the film has a lighthearted charm that’s never insulting or treacly. It’s just pure hicksploitation goodness from beginning to end. (Lars)

DIR. HORACE JACKSON, 1977, 96 min, PG, 35MM
RZ 6/22
Part of the joy of Weird Wednesday is the thrill of uncovering little known exploitation auteurs. A good example of a director who developed his own unusual style in the golden age of the ‘70s is Horace Jackson, whose movies are bitter, declamatory social tracts about life in the ghetto. They’re all essential viewing for fans of yelling. This film has the guts to take a stand against the kind of dope-pushers who stand around outside elementary schools and hook 7-year-olds on dangerous drugs. The hero is a recovering psychotic who teams up with a committed teacher and a cute kid in a wheelchair to take on the neighborhood menace. It’s all played very seriously and earnestly but inevitably the ridiculousness seeps in around the edges and reaches critical mass before you know it. (Lars)

Dir. Ernst Hofbauer, 1971, 95 min, X, 35mm
RZ 6/29
What do you expect us to do, NOT play this? While it may sound particularly harrowing and clinical based on that title, this is another one of that endless “sex report” series from Germany, and like all of them it’s actually pretty tame. These films masqueraded as socially responsible exposes about the issues of the day, but were of course just excuses to show sex and nudity. Here the framing device is a gynecologist’s stories about his clients and their wacky vaginae. If you find sexism and rampant bad taste amusing - and we do - this ought to stirrup a few laughs. Sorry! (Lars)

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