TROUBLE MAN, How's this for a still?
Amazingly, it's our 10th Anniversary. I can scarcely believe it. In this calendar we'll have some old favorites as well as some super-strong movies you've likely never seen before. Also, my long dream of showing THE ROAD TO SALINA is about to come true.
SNAKES aka FANGS aka HOLY WEDNESDAY
Mar 2, Ritz, Dir. Art Names, 1974, R, 83 min, 35mm
To celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Weird Wednesday, we are bringing back the ultimate Weird Wednesday movie. In the words of Snakey Bender, "Nobody messes with my Wednesdays!"
Total madness! This is an exceedingly odd rural snake-revenge movie that's oh so much more. A seemingly harmless old kook named Snakey (Les Tremayne) operates a reptile farm on the outskirts of a small town. As usual in movies of this type, he is pushed over the edge by a series of outrages and he kills off half the town with his snakes. Sounds commonplace, but it’s not. What makes SNAKES extra special is all the perverse little sick touches. For example, the prim local schoolmarm uses Snakey as a reptile pimp for her sick sex thrills, the brother and sister grocers seem to have an incestuous relationship, Snakey likes to strip his victims down to their underwear and best of all, John Philip Sousa marches blare throughout the movie like some sort of demented leitmotif. But the thing that pushes this into heaven territory is Snakey's habit of ranting about Wednesday. It seems that Snakey's favorite day is Wednesday and if you mess with Snakey, it had better be on one of the other six days of the week. See it for yourself if you don't believe me. It's incredible! (Lars)
Mar 9, Ritz, Dir. Ivan Dixon, 1972, R, 99 min, 35mm
This is a superlative blaxploitation film. Most of the black action films of this era were either low-budget wonders with a lot of heart or bloodless studio efforts dressed up with a little velour and chrome. TROUBLE MAN combines the professional polish of the latter with the solid legitimacy of the former. The brilliant stage actor Robert Hooks plays Mr. T, a sort of black godfather who holds court in his pool hall as a combination President, Pope and Chief Fixer. Though blessed with looks, intelligence and tremendous wealth, his most notable feature is his supernatural coolness. When something needs to get done--say, a slumlord needs to be chastened, or a sum of money recovered, or a double-crossing chump slaughtered in his penthouse--T gets it done without raising an eyebrow. Director Ivan Dixon, like Hooks, had been a color-line breaking pioneer in the theater, film and television, and his style is as sharp and clean as the crease in T’s slacks. With Paul Winfield, Julius Harris and Ralph Waite. The soundtrack by Marvin Gaye is a work of absolute, undeniable genius. (Lars)
Mar 23, Ritz, Dir. Brian Trenchard-Smith, 1983, PG, 88 min, 35mm
Director Brian Trenchard-Smith has been turning out low budget films for a lot longer than most Weird Wednesday attendees have been alive. He has worked in nearly every genre, created a few genres of his own and always managed to put forth at least a solid product. In fact, the mantle of professional competence rests so easily on his brow that he usually has time to give us a little something more than we expect. So this PG-rated kids film featuring Nicole Kidman in her first role is somehow more than the sum of its parts. Bike chases that would normally be done in paint-by-numbers style by bored hacks emerge as pure cinema as Trenchard-Smith applies the techniques and experience he’d honed to perfection in such ragers as THE MAN FROM HONG KONG and STUNT ROCK. Of course it’s silly--it’s about three kids who find a case of stolen walkie talkies and enlist the aid of Sydney’s BMX community to fight the mob--but it has a kind of tough sweetness too. The material with the young heroes is never condescending (Kidman in particular is excellent) and the action sequences have the ramshackle chaotic energy of the silent cinema. That’s a compliment. (Lars) Special thanks to Severin Films for making this screening possible. We'll be giving away copies of their new Blu-Ray/DVD edition of BMX Bandits to a few lucky audience members.
Mar 30, Ritz, Dir. Andy Milligan, 1970, R, 79 min, 35mm
Andy Milligan made films cheaper than anybody else before or since. He delivered 35mm feature films (blown up from 16mm) on budgets of under $10,000 apiece. At those prices a distributor didn't have to wait very long to start turning a profit. So Milligan got a chance to make some of the strangest, most personal exploitation films of all time. He produced, wrote, shot, edited, directed and even made the costumes for all his movies. His casts consisted largely of prostitutes, drug addicts and other street people. Whatever bad things might be said about Andy Milligan's films, they all come straight from the heart. And Andy Milligan's heart was a tiny, black, malformed thing that pumped hate instead of blood. His movies are venomous parcels of filth, made by a miserable person and depicting the continuing adventures of hateful people whose entire reason for living is to make others suffer. Milligan's characters can barely get through a simple expository scene without bickering and ranting. This relentlessly misanthropic outlook makes Milligan's films sublimely entertaining to people with a very dark and depraved sense of humor. BLOODTHIRSTY BUTCHERS is Milligan's version of the Sweeney Todd story - about a murderous barber who plies his trade with a straight razor. The blood and gore are plentiful but insignificant compared to the spiritual violence the characters inflict on one another. As Michael Weldon has famously written: "If you're an Andy Milligan fan, there's no hope for you." (Lars)
THE ROAD TO SALINA
Apr 6, Ritz, Dir. Georges Lautner, 1970, R, 96 min, 35mm
It’s a classic psycho-noir premise: drifter (Robert Walker Jr.) wanders into a rural Spanish cafe and finds himself mistaken for the prodigal son of a delusional widow (played by Rita Hayworth, no less.) While he can understand the mother’s will to believe, why does his “sister” (the unbearably luscious Mimsy Farmer) never bat an eye when her “brother” comes home. Most wanderers would pack their bags and move on when the true dementia of the little outpost became evident, but the home cooking and the (exceeding) closeness of the familial bonds conspire to water the seed of doom already lurking in our hero’s bosom. Unlike most noirs, which take place in a world of black and white and chiaroscuro, THE ROAD TO SALINA is bright and sunlit, full of brilliant organic life and bursting with sex. It treads the line between art and exploitation and finally makes the whole question of high and low seem frivolous. The brilliant freak-prog score by Clinic and Cristophe lends an air of desperate longing and madness to the film. One of my 3 or 4 favorite movies of all time. Period. (Lars)
THE SIX THOUSAND DOLLAR NIGGER
Apr 13, Ritz, Dir. Rene Martinez Jr., 1979, R, 80 min, 35mm
We can’t believe the title either. But that’s why they called him Wild Man Steve! We all love the late great Rudy Ray Moore but he wasn’t the only funny comedian working the black comedy circuit. Get ready to laugh your ass off at the equally great, equally late Wild Man Steve. The wi-i-i-ild man can say pretty much anything and make it funny. He has a slow, stoned delivery that makes even the stupidest dirty jokes gut-bustingly hilarious, like Bill Cosby after a head injury. Unbelievably, this is an actual WILD MAN STEVE STAR VEHICLE! It’s about a midget mad scientist (with a full-sized D-cup girlfriend) named Dr. Dippy who helps the mob develop a formula that makes users super-strong, bulletproof, and, after about two days, super-dead. Obviously it’s hard to get sensible people to sign up for this treatment, so the mobsters grab the nearest wino, played to perfection by our Mister Steve. Steve is beyond hilarious, ad-libbing like crazy, stepping all over his costars’ lines. He even gives a little speech in favor of legalizing pot that’s a small masterpiece of reason and logic. We’re still on the lookout for the sequel, AIN’T THAT JUST LIKE A HONKY? (Lars)
THE SAVAGE SEVEN
Apr 20, Ritz, Dir. Richard Rush, 1968, NR, 94 min, 35mm
When the biggest, baddest biker gang in the southwest moves into an Indian reservation, there’s going to be trouble. Director Richard Rush’s two biker movies, this one and HELLS ANGELS ON WHEELS, are the gold standard for biker gang movies. Rush’s working method seemed to be: work up a relatively simple plot, make sure the key scenes get covered, then turn the actors and stunt guys loose to improvise fights, motorcycle mayhem and character bits. Only the most judicious director could pull off such a strategy and not end up with a boring, chaotic mess. But Rush, with the help of his actors and stunt people, many of whom, in the time honored tradition of the western, were one and the same; gives us both dramatic tension and hell-raising good times. The hand-held camerawork by Laszlo Kovacs has the immediacy of documentary filmmaking, and many of the motorcycle stunts look like suicide attempts. With the true kings of biker movies, Adam Roarke, Robert Walker Jr., Penny Marshall, Max Julien, Larry Bishop, Chuck Bail, Duane Eddy, Bud Cardos and Austin’s own Gary Kent. (Lars)
GAME SHOW MODELS
Apr 27, Ritz, Dir. David N. Gottlieb, 1977, R, 88 min, 35mm
I suspect that we’ve all harbored the suspicion that beneath the plastic, phony exterior of the television game show there simmers a red-hot cauldron of S.E.X. Are we lucky enough to finally have a movie that takes us behind the glamour of a successful game show? Surely we’ll see the sexy casting process and find out what lurks under the toupee of that seemingly genial host (played by Roger Corman regular Dick Miller). Actually we won’t. GAME SHOW MODELS is a patch-job. It combines an unfinished American Film Institute funded movie called THE SEVENTH DWARF with nudity filled scenes of a raunchy fictional game show hosted by Miller. It’s plenty weird though. With soul singer Thelma Houston, film Critic Charles Champlin, Afro-Cuban jazz legend Willie Bobo, Cheryl Rainbeaux Smith and a lengthy mime interlude. Enjoy. (Lars)