Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Humping trash could give you an infection...

Day twenty of the September Exploitation Challenge (yes I have fallen WAY behind) is when I took out the trash...

D. Harmony Korine
Alcove Entertainment
Shot on VHS!!!

I will freely admit I went into this wanting to hate it. Figuring I would hate it. The trailer doesn’t try to sell it for anything it is not. The movie is basically just Harmony Korine and a couple of other people dressed in cheap joke store old people mask, running around acting stupid and literally humping trash cans. To make matters worse it is shot on old school sub-standard VHS equipment, edited between two VCR’s (the play, pause and rewind on screen displays have as much screen time as some of the characters) complete with tape drop out and fucked up color balance. The whole thing is designed to look cheap, immature, and like it was done by people with no skills or talent. I suppose the argument here is that the movie is designed to be “anti-art” or “anti-filmmaking” since Korine was part of Lars Von-Trier’s whole DOGMA 95 deal back in the day, and Korine’s best film came out of his time working within those constraints (I am immensely fond of JULIAN DONKEY BOY, but generally detest the dude’s other work).  So maybe that is his point. Or maybe he was just screwing around. Who knows. 

 "One critic called this JACKASS for the Psuedo-intellectual set. I can see that being accurate."

Which ever, he managed what would have been completely impossible had any other person made this exact same movie. He got it released, put into major festivals, it played art house theaters and now is seeing the light of day not only on DVD but in some rather cool special edition packaging.  Had any other underground filmmaker made this exact same movie they would have been laughed out of town, called an idiot, and had their equipment smashed. Their career would be effectively over. But oddly enough Korine has seen some of the better reviews he has gotten in a long time. Which I think goes to show that a cult of personality can certainly get you a long long way in ths business. 

 "Trash collection for the 21st century."

But what is most important is the actual work itself. Irregardless of my wanting to hate it because of everything I state above, I actually did not. TRASH HUMPERS is far from a good movie, hell you almost cannot even call it a movie, but there is a certain quality about it that becomes mesmerizing after a while. While most of it is inane, stupid, puerile and without a purpose, once in a while there are images that stumble across the screen to grab hold of the mind’s eye and stay there. Sometimes those will be humorous such as the little bespectacled kid in the three piece suite explaining the proper way to bash a baby doll's head in. Sometimes it is just a flash of beautiful scenery or landscape. By the half hour mark I found myself wondering if Korine knew, or even cared what he was putting on screen at all, or if this was just complete randomness. Then suddenly there is a jarring shot of a nude dead body, laying in a field, just like a piece of trash the movie has been obsessing over. This feels like the filmmakers just found this dead man and shot it for the movie (though clearly they did not). At this point I became aware that the cameraman is supposed to be a character in the movie too as he is singing a little nursery rhyme about “three little devils who jumped over a wall” as he surveys this corpse. The moment is supremely haunting. Maybe because so much of the half hour leading up was so deadening, I don’t know? But it got my attention. From this point on a tiniest thread of a plot had started to emerge in which the four characters we have been watching fuck around, break shit and hump trash are also traveling around killing people. There seems to be an obsession with baby dolls going on throughout the proceedings (one of the “characters” is female it is important to note) which eventually ties in to a haunting and surprisingly, in its own twisted way, tender finale. 

 "I think she was one of my high school teachers."

The movie is still more of an art piece/ endurance test than an actual film, but in the second half it at least starts to resemble a narrative. With more of the startling and haunting moments seeming to be on purpose as opposed to things that just happened to be in front of the camera at the right time.

TRASH HUMPERS might be best described as a movie to watch once. It might be fun to see in an art theater with a crowd though. To see who it pisses off and who over pontificates it to the point of great art. Because at the end of the day I still get the feeling Harmony Korine is having a laugh at the art scene that has embraced him as much as he was just tooling around fucking off while making the movie. But to my shock and surprise his end product has something there to offer when I seriously thought it would not at all. 

Review © Andy Copp

Friday, September 24, 2010

You can't remember who you want to be...

Day 19 of the September Exploitation Challenge goes REALLY sideways with this amazing short animated nightmare:

D. Screamerclaus
Chainsaw Kiss Productions
Animated HD 16X9

The film REALITY BLEED THROUGH made my top ten list for 2008, now this short animated production from the same director tops even that impressive movie for quality. LIQUID MEMORIES is without question one of the most impressive movies I’ve seen this year.

The movie deals with a young man (Brandon Slagle) who has discovered the secret to capturing memories in a tangible form. In this case a liquid he can extract from himself, or even other people. When we meet him he is in a church, distraught, almost a junkie from injecting himself with other people’s memories. What he has discovered is that he can edit his own memories by taking other peoples, or even find his way into theirs. When we meet him he is about to kill himself, in memory only. Consequently we meet a street prostitute played by Ruby LaRocca who is courting a client who has two peg legs. She is badly assaulted by the man resulting is losing an eye. She crawls her way to the church, bleeding to death. Our hero cradles her while she is dying and decides that a death memory might be useful and hastens her death by slitting her throat and steals her memories while she dies. And injects them into himself. This is where the REAL nightmare begins as we go inside his head, or her head to meet the demonic memories that built both of them to become the damaged humans they are today. We experience his attempts to edit her memories so her death is not experienced at the point of reliving all of the horrors of her past. There is a lot of deranged material pertaining to her awful family life, a brother who was clearly on his way to becoming a serial killer and a drunken mother (Linnea Quiggley) with incestuous tenancies. All of this overlorded by a demoic presence that at times takes the form of the family dog. 

To discuss this further not only gets more complex (in fact I may not be getting it all right as the movie is so layered with details, as it becomes very abstract) but it is really worth your time to watch it. Choosing to use computer animation with actual actors as models was a smart choice for this material as it allows for a total immersion into a dreamworld that would not have been possible in live action without a billion dollar budget. Here Screamerclaus creativity is allowed to run wild, with backgrounds, characters and whole scenes morphing and changing at will. The soundtrack, also by Screamerclaus is a nightmare dream-scape of audio that is layered thorough. Hopefully a soundtrack is on the way.

What is best about this movie? The fact you can actually watch it below! So check it out and go let the director know what you think! But for warned this NOT safe for work at all! Or for the children but you knew that…

Review © Andy Copp

Real action for the Men of the house!

Day 18 of the September Exploitation challenge rocks us down under:

D. Brian Trenchard Smith

This is a man’s film. A movie that real men can appreciate because it is about STUNTS and ROCK MUSIC. The ladies might like it because of the rock music (the wommins love the rock music) but admit it, us guys love to see dudes putting their lives at risk. Australian director Brian Trenchard Smith has the brilliant idea to have the countries  greatest stuntman Grant Page accompany him on this cinematic journy into mayhem. 

The movie has no plot, just watch as Grant Page risks his life showing us how he makes his day to day living jumping off cliffs, smashing through car windows, shooting over canyons, getting set on fire etc. But wait! Grant’s nephew is in the American rock band SORCERY! What we now call Dragon Metal, Sorcery was a Zepplinesque L.A. rock outfit that went for the full on LORD OF THE RINGS stage show in which Merlin battles Satan with all kinds of pyrotechnics and an on stage onslaught of rock and roll savagery. So the film cuts back and forth between Grant doing his stunts, and Sorcery rocking the shit out of the world to great effect. 
"Action at 100 Decibels per hour!"

There is a VERY slight story about a reporter doing a story on Grant while he is on the job doing stunts for a local TV show. A minor subplot has that show’s lead actress becoming friends with them, going to the Sorcery rock shows and parties and eventually getting to do a couple of dangerous stunts herself. But the meat of the movie is Page and Sorcery doing their colorful thing.
"Who let the old guy on stage? No wait it is Merlin from the band SORCERY!"

One really horrifying stunt has Page diving down a rope at free fall, which in and off itself is a pretty harrowing stunt, but he takes it to the edge by doing it with a full burn.  He calmly explains to us how the forty second delay he has worked out will keep the fire from burning throgh the ropes he is using keeping him from plummeting to the rock cliff below. But as you watch it in 400 frame per second slow motion it looks like he is going to burn alive and free fall to his death at any moment. Naturally he pulls it off without a hitch. But it is a sight to behold.
 "All in a day's work for Grant Page. Or was it the Taco Bell he ate?"

Trenchard-Smith chooses to capture all of this is true seventies style with tons of split screens and super slow motion. The stunts seem like the are still in time they are so slow, so you get to see every piece of glass or lick of the flame, and the split screens feel like you are getting every angle, though sometimes it is just the same camera angle just flipped over. But it all makes for some visually dynamic stuff.

"Even the dog is a manly rocker in STUNT ROCK!"

In a lot of ways this is MTV several years before the was MTV. Or think of it as LED ZEPPLIN’S THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME without the fantasy sequences and replaced with lots of bone crunching stunt work. 
"The babes of STUNT ROCK try out the Blue Man Group thing."

CODE RED’s DVD is extremely bad ass. A two disc set packed to the gills with interviews, commentarys, an older documentary Brian Trenchard Smith did called THE STUNT MEN, and tons of other CODE RED trailers. The 2.35 scope frame is the way the movie was always meant to be seen and after years of the badly cropped VHS this is a wonder to behold.
A note about CODE RED. Bill who runs that joint has announced publicly that in 2011 he plans to shut the doors. Thanks to a lot of internet bitching, and fan backlash, combined with really poor sales on amazing discs like this one, he is throwing in the towel. It is a complete fucking shame that a company that put their heart and soul into releasing great little gems is having to shut their doors and even worse because THE FANS didn’t support them. But when sales for a title are barely cracking 300 something is majorly wrong.  This disc is amazing, I’m glad I own it any self respecting cult movie fan should. 

Review © Andy Copp

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Once we were warrirors...

 Day 17 of the September exploitation challenge made me a warrior...

D. Lawrence D. Foldes
Full Frame


For some reason I don’t quite understand this movie gets shit on. A lot. The first review on the IMDB gives it one star and goes on to say the only way you can classify it as a crime film is that it is a crime that it was even made. I’ve heard plenty of people put it on their worst ever lists. But I have to wonder if people even watched it past the forty five minute mark. Because I found it to be one of the best, most refreshing action movies from that era. It is like the anti-DEATH WISH. A vigilante movie that dares to ask the questions that most of the other films of that type would never ask. Putting a very human face on the misery and pain that killing people actually requires. But maybe that is just it. Most viewers of exploitation movies, really are not looking for anything deeper than those visceral kicks the base elements deliver. Which is fine and good. But it doesn't make a movie that DOES give you more a bad film.

YOUNG WARRIORS starts off really odd as it is an ANIMAL HOUSE styled college frat comedy for the first twenty minutes or so. We hang out with a group of young men who are basically enjoying life. Rushing their fraternity, hanging out with girls, getting laid, being silly and living it up. The movie may spend a little too much time with this, but it is all pretty harmless stuff. We mostly get to know Kevin Carrigan (James Van Patton) who is sort of the leader of his group of friends. A frustrated animation artist and jocular good fella. He butts heads with his policeman father played by veteran Ernest Borgnine over the bet way to handle crime and whether he should follow in his dad’s footsteps. He is very protective of his little sister who is in her last year of High school.

On her prom night on the way home a mysterious black van runs his sister and her date off the road. They drag her from the wreck and brutally gang rape her. The car explodes killing her date, and she dies from her wounds in the hospital later. Their Father manages to put together from the meager clues that it was a black van but not much else. But something in Kevin changes. He stops being the young guy into having fun he was, and needs to find revenge. Or at least do SOMETHING to change what happened. After an aborted attempt to go to a bar they have pieced together the killers might hang out at, Kevin and his friends decide to become a kind of citizens activist group. They begin to hunt the night looking from both his sisters killers and criminals in general in an attempt to take positive action.

Almost immediate things go wrong. One of their friends is murdered. Things become more and more complicated, as they amass more weapons and more chances to find their way into the criminal world.

What sets this movie apart is that it takes a great amount of time to study the aftermath of the violence. Kevin’s state of mind is really the whole focus of the movie was we watch him melt down from regular guy to, mental mess, to killing machine at the finale. We watch him become confused, alienated, cold, and mentally destroyed. We also observe how vigilante justice really has a lot of dirty loose ends, such when the gang kill a couple of kidnappers they have seen snatch a women, only to have her be just as horrified at the level of mayhem they have just caused. To an armed robbery they stop that is nothing like what they thought it was. All of it leading to the fact these kids have become cold hearted murders not unlike the men they have been hunting. 

For a small little drive in movie it is really heavy stuff. The climax is really powerful and well handled, closing it all off really well. If the movie has any real problems it is in the casting. The young cast is not seasoned enough to pull off the emotional weight the piece requires. VanPatton is okay and tried really hard, but is never quite as strong as the part needs. His buddy played by Mike Norris (son of Chuck) is equally lost at sea. The females fair a bit better with the ignored girlfriend played by Anne Lockheart actually fairly well done. Borgnine seems kind of miscast and probably was their for name recognition only. Though Richard Rountree is good as the partner. 

This movie got caught in a shit storm of legal battles when it was finished as Cannon films basically tried to totally rip off the filmmakers and in an unprecedented move the filmmakers sued. This held up the movie’s release for three years, eventually they won but the victory was small at that.

Why this movie has not gotten the attention it deserve I do not know. It is not on DVD, and is rarely screened. With the recent releases of Folds other movies MALIBU HIGH and DON’T GO IN THE PARK you would think somehow this one would get its due. It really deserves it. 

Review © Andy Copp

Erik Estrada teaches us life lessons

Day sixteen of the September Exploitation Challenge saw my buddy Nick and I really taking the plunge with an Erik Estrada Double Feature! Hell Yeah!

D. Bill Milling

Now there are two movies with this title. One is from the early 80’s and was a shot in Manilla women in prison flick. This was made later and is also a WIP movie but is filled with B-movie actors, then current scream queens and low level porn stars and a skimming the surface level of scumminess that is satisfying, but never truly ugly.  Call it WIP light for the fans just discovering the sub-genre.

Roxxanne Michaels stars as Katie Collins a young and fairly stupid woman who wants to go to Los Angels to be an actress. Naturally against the wishes of her tight assed Father played by Michael Parks. But her world wise sister Tracy (Elenda Sahagen) convinces Pops to let her go. 

Now in the opening scene we have already seen a really nasty all girl prison in which the women are all forced to live in their skimpy (and sexy) lingerie. We have seen one try to escape and she is hunted down and done in by big bad Paul Smith. So we just know that it is only a matter of time before these two worlds are going to collide. 

 "Seriously, when you are done taking out my trash I want you to help me get INTO prison!"

Katie meets up with a streetwise hoebag named Rhonda who in turn introduces her to her boyfriend who is an amateur photographer. He claims he has gotten the girls “auditions” with a big time movie producer. But as it turns out that big time producer is a low life nudie movie scum bag that makes those in the old H.G. Lewis movies look sedate. The girls try to do auditions where they are put through some mild seduction scenes, but balk at getting nekkid. They are roughed up a bit and the cops get called. But it is the girls who are hauled away, taken to court and then to prison for propositioning the old dudes! Doh! They are off to the prison in the beginning!

Oh yeah I forgot to mention that Katie also met a former cop played by, wait for it, Erik motherfuckin Estrada! And his muscle bound Hulk like side kick. These guys kick and entire bar’s ass when they try to dip some skin into Katie’s love pond. And when I say kick the bar’s ass, I mean every person, stick of furniture, wall, brick and bottle of booze in the place. Nothing is left standing when muscles boy is done. And naturally old Erik is the one who gets the bonus love for the hard work. 

 "Someone told me I could find eager babes with low self esteem in here for my new movies..."

So naturally these two guys aren’t happy that their new squeeze has disappeared. But at the prison they are clever. Yes sir. They force Katie to call home and tell pops that she is away in Mexico filming a blockbuster for the next two months. But no one believes that shit. Soon Traci has gotten herself thrown in the pokey too trying to find her sister. Before long they have been given prison requisition white  negligees and are taking looooong hot showers with the other inmates. Naturally the warden is a hot horny lesbian (played by super hot Ty Randolph and the character’s name is Sybil Thorne if that tells you a thing or two about where the filmmakers are coming from) who prefers nice baths with the new inmates. Then there is the guard named Spyder played by porn actor Scott Cummins who loves nothing more than to torment the girls and take them to the “quiet room”. 

It all leads to Muscle guy literally tearing his way into the place while the girls are being auctioned off to the highest bidder and doing his thing. His thing being literally beating the holy shit out of every atom of physical matter on screen.  This includes Ron Jeremy in a cameo appearance. If you blink you might miss then super hot porno babe Janine Lindamoulder as a dancing bar babe too. 

This is pretty much typical late 80’s prime sleaze. It doesn’t make a lick of sense, and never tires too. It is filled to the overflowing point with nekkid babes, implanted boobs, incredible aerobacized butts and poofy 80’s teased hair. Almost every scene has a blue filter on all the lights. When ever things threaten to get really nasty in a sexually violent way, something happens to stop it, so none of the women are ever really abused. So while it is typical misogynist WIP stuff, it is never as nasty as say, some of the Italian import ones. Plus it has Erik Estrada in pink shirts trying to be a tough guy. That takes it up a notch right there.  

D. Joseph Merhi
Universal Home Video/ PM Entertainment
Full Screen

This was the second feature in our Erik Estrada Double feature on Saturday night. (Oh yeah we WENT THERE!) As produced and directed by Joseph Merhi and Richard Peppin I expected this to be a much more action packed and sleazy ride into street wise dementia. Turns out it was that duo's attempt at doing a “straight” courtroom thriller. But it still has a very sleazy, nasty, opening act, and a ridiculous finale. 

Based on the “Wilding” scare of 1989/90 where teens went crazy in New York and Sacramento going on violence and rape sprees just for the kicks and fun of it. This was one of the topical scare movies so popular on home video in that era. Erik Estrada plays a sleazebag lawyer who typically gets the worst of the worst criminals off on technicalities. When the movie opens he has just gotten a mob hit man off on a murder charge the whole world knows he actually committed.  That same night three rich kids try to kill a security guard at a local small town grocery store and follow the cashier home. She is having a small birthday party, so they easy convince her sister to let them in claiming to be friends from work. Once inside the beat up the sister’s boyfriend with ball bats, gang-rape the sister And eventually rape (off screen) the girl. The girl never hears any of the mayhem because she is in the shower. the whole scene is played for the ultimate in skeeziness as it should be nasty and shocking, but keeps cutting back to the teen girl in the shower soaping up her breasts, over and over, clearly trying to wedge in as much skin as possible. Knowing full well there will be no other opportunities for nudity in the rest of the flick. 

The boys are arrested inside the house and the rest of the movie is a court battle between Estrada and his former wife turned Sates attorney who is fighting against him. It is fairly standard stuff, except we get to see some dirty tricks Lawyers do like making the accused get community volunteer jobs to look like better people. Eventually the little dregs snap and decide they gotta start killing witnesses, and eventually each other, leading to a foot chase, out of no where, spectacular car crash, and twist ending. 

 "The hot Kathryn Lautner plays Estrada's long suffering ex wife."

Over all it is okay. The acting is never that bad, except for Joey Travolta who is over acting his way out of his sibling’s shadow. But once the nasty first act is over it settles into TV movie of the week stuff without much need to go beyond it. The Merhi/ Peppin combo usually went for loud, brash and hyper violent exploitation movies straight to the tape market, but this appears to have been their attempt to go legit. They were better off when they were being outlaws.

Review © Andy Copp

This is not a trailer for the movie NIGHT OF THE WILDING but another flick that came out around the same time with a similar plot that was also exploiting the whole WILDING craze. I'd LOVE to get my hands on this one!!!

In the future George Eastman loves Cornhole...

 Day fifteen of the September Exploitation challenge takes us into the distant FUTURE!

D. Enzo Castellari
Media Blasters

In the future Nuclear war will ravage and scorch the Earth leaving nothing in the wake but roving packs of marauders who want nothing more than to continue killing each other. Oddly enough these gangs will have mastered the ability to make vacuformed plastic into everything they need from space age costumes to gigantic bubbles for their neato vehicles. They will also have worked out how to turn everyday guns into laser shooting death rays and explosive devices that blow people’s chest cavities out upon impact. In this chaos is a group who have christined themselves The Templar's, but really have no inkling of anything to do with that historic Christian sect of Knights. This group of villains are run by one George Eastman who calls himself “One” and really all they want to do is kill everyone. 

"Come to me and touch my stylish hair..."

But one man stands in their way. One man who drives a souped up muscle car (with a giant plastic dome on top) outfitted with missiles and machine guns. This man’s name is Scorpion (Giancarlo Prete), and he looks like he just stepped out of a East side beauty shop from getting his hair done. Seems he and One have some bad blood when he beat One at a duel some odd years ago and this has effected One’s ego and leadership abilities ever since. Scorpion stops these bad boys from roughing up a poofy haired babe in leather leggings named Alma (Anna Kanakis). He shows her his sensitive side by not raping her and she falls for the big lug. So they do it in a blow up tent on the side of the road. Even in the wasteland her make up stays perfect. 

"Well, as long as you are not going to rape me, I guess you are an alright guy..."

Eventually One’s men decide they are tired of Scorpion banging the only chick left in the world, thus taking One’s attention away from them. So they set out to kick Scorpion's ass and take over the group. Enter Fred Williamson as Nadir. Don’t ask me why the only black dude in the Future, (hell the whole world in this film) is named Nadir, seems a bit racist, but hey its the Hammer and he can take care of himself. He basically puts futuristic foot to ass on these guys by saving Scorpion's butt. He has a bow and arrow with super explosive tips that when they hit the target blow their heads clean off. Naturally Scorpion tells him he could have handled it all on his own. I guess AFTER he got his ass kicked. They find a camp of, get this, Christians, who help them out and I was afraid this whole thing was going to turn into some sort of bible thumbing bullshit parable. Instead The Hammer beds down a hot ass sister, and then he and Scorpion leave so the bad guys can just come in and start wiping people out!

"Anna, I am really not so sure about this Hammer guy. He keeps upstaging my manliness at every turn..."

Naturally, cause Scorpion is a poofy haired wimp, and his buddy isn’t there to protect him, he gets captured. His punishment by the almighty One is to become a Templar before he is killed. But I guess old One is harboring some latent feelings for our hero because his initiation to the tribe involves something that took me entirely by surprise. It is a rare movie where the bad guy butt-fucks the hero when he has captured him. Some action films just hint at the whole homosexual subtext, but here they just went, “oh the hell with it. Just have big mean ol’ George Eastman ramrod that pretty boy and get it over with!”.  And who saves our hero? That’s right. Nadir, or The Hammer or however you want to call Fred Williamson

"Yes, it is Bob from HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY. Be afraid..."

Did I mention that little obnoxious brat from HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY is in this too. He plays basically the Murdock character from A-TEAM but as a little kid and has a slingshot that can kill people. Actually he is not nearly as obnoxious here as he usually is in Fulci’s movies, which leads me to believe Fulci either hated him, or kids in general. It all climaxes in a big crazy shootout, car crash, blow em up real good fight in an old oil refinery that is highlighted by our hero ripping off his clothes to reveal his nifty new suit of bullet proof armor. Made out of clear vacuform plastic that make shim look like one of the Village people on plastic and leather night at The Hellfire Club. Violence and hilarity ensue. 

"Yeah, it is EXACTLY what you think it is."

As goofy and funny as this often is, most of the action scenes are well done. Castellari really knew his shit when it came to handling action. It is just the wrongheaded production design that makes this movie such a hoot. Well that and some weirdo turns of the story, with a lead that would be more at home in gay porn. But these 80’s post apocalyptic ROAD WARRIOR rip offs are all a shit ton of fun and this is no exception. 

"George Eastman bids you all a farewell."

Review © Andy Copp

Friday, September 17, 2010

Just how funky can one man be?


Once upon a time there was these awesome little tomes of information called zines. Some called them fanzines. There are still a handful of enterprising people who are not afraid to embrace the published word as their source of power. But in the information rich times of the late 80's and 90's underground and counter culture was poppin and alive with fanzines. Especially film fanzines. While up market mags like PREMIERE and ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY kept the masses abreast of the big Hollywood floatsom, it was the holy duty of the zine world to keep alive the indie movie, especially things like B-films, cult movies, genre works and micro-budget. Rags like DEEP RED, SLEAZOID EXPRESS, SHOCK CINEMA (still around thank God), BRUTARIAN, FILM THREAT VIDEO GUIDE, VIDEO WATCHDOG, SHOCKING IMAGES and hosts of others all did an incredible job of keeping us informed and very entertained. 

Mike White published a fantastic zine called CASHIERS DU CINEMART, the title a play on the famous French New Wave magazine founded by Francois Truffaut and the gang CASHIERS DU CINEMA. White's mag, like all zines, was an opinionated, sometimes rant oriented blast of fresh air whenever an issue hit the streets. Unlike many other zines his tended to cover many different types of films, not one particular genre. The man had his passions though; Hard Boiled crime fiction, the movie BLACK SHAMPOO, the varying cuts and permutations of the original STAR WARS over the years and how Lucas screwed with it. Every issue was bursting with personalized writing covering everything from microcinema to Hollywood big budget scripts that had leaked out. CDC was easily among the best of the zine bunch and stuck around well into the 2000's. 

For those of you who missed the zine revolution, or for whatever reason maybe missed some of the old CDC issues Mike White has compiled some of the best material from the vaults into one tantalizing best of volume called IMPOSSIBLY FUNKY. Inside you will find some of the stuff that made CDC such a joy to read. Plus there is a bunch of new material too. But what makes the book so awesome is that it isn't a whitewash of the era, there were some controversies going on (nothing that would end the world) and Mike treats them with a nice world weary eye in which he lets the matters be looked at through the lens of time.
The biggest one of course being the whole Tarrantino "Who Do You Think Your Fooling" dealio. If you are not familiar you need to buy the book to read all about it. What I found most fascinating wasn't the whole Mike White VS Tarrantino BS that somehow got whipped up by fans and media, but the shit treatment White got by the organizers of the NEW YORK UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL. The correspondences printed here between White and then curator of the festival (and now Hollywood Bigshot director) Todd Phillips are pretty unfortunate. I also was interested to see that former FILM THREAT honcho Chris Gore put a forward in the book detailing the boning he gave White on the game show he used to host (once again get the book for the details). I would have never in a million years given Gore credit enough that he would even admit to being in the wrong on something like that.

But the book is lots more than fandom controversy. White is at his best when researching and discussing his favorite genre of FILM NOIR and hard boiled crime fiction and where the two intersect. A whole section of the book devoted to the subject explores the works of James Elroy, Richard Stark and David Goodis and the films made from their works. It comes as no surprise that L.A. CONFIDENTIAL and MIAMI BLUES ends up ranking near the top. 

Two movies get chapters all to themselves and they are, as mentioned before White's obsessions. BLACK SHAMPOO and STAR WARS. Everything you really ever needed to know about either one is contained in this book. I was a huge fan of STAR WARS as a kid, but as I got older and found horror and exploitation films totally lost interest in the series. Yet reading White's detailed writing on all the changes and tinkering with the film, as well as all the other minutia definitely took me back to that time when I did love those silly droids.

Another great thing in this book is the discussion of films and script that were either changed or never came to be, such as all the versions of what is considered to be the worst sequel of all time, HIGHLANDER 2 (White did not write this article, but one Mike Thompson who wrote quite a few articles for CDC). The digression of how varying cuts took an already bad film and just kept making it worse is truly a fascinating case study. But the look at the varying script revisions on Hollywood blockbusters like the SUPERMAN reboot or the horrendous CATWOMAN film are just as ludicrous to see how too many hands in the pot spoil the meal.

To top it all off there are a boatload of great interviews with tons of cult icons like Crispin Glover, Bruce Campbell, Taylor Negron, Dr. Demento and many others. Including Keith Gordon who has gone on to be one of TV's great unsung directors working on things like DEXTER, but in the late 90's was one of the most promising indie directors around with work like A MIDNIGHT CLEAR and WAKING THE DEAD. Though most will always remember him as Rodney Dangerfield's son from BACK TO SCHOOL.
So do yourself a favor, take some time away from reading blogs for a few minutes. Even this one! And pick up IMPOSSIBLY FUNKY and see what it used to be like in the time before the net made everyone and expert.

Review © Andy Copp

Here is the trailer that shows more of what is in the book than my measly review can even tell you!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Not too much at the Top Of The Heap

Day Fourteen of the September Exploitation Challenge: 

D. Christopher St. John
Unicorn Video O.O. P.
Full Frame

This rather obscure blaxploitation has a few fans because of the delirious fantasy sequences peppered throughout such as our hero running through the jungle naked, smashing watermelons, or helping to fake the moon landing, or recreating the JFK assassination (which I am sure was NOT too cool in 1972!). All scenes that are just weird enough to be humorous and kitchy. But what most reviews don't reveal is just how damn depressing this movie is. What material I have found on it centers on the bizarre stuff, the overblown goofy things. But they seem to have missed the last half hour of the movie where it becomes a rather grinding tale of one man’s life spinning out of control because of his own self loathing and inability to come to terms with his own racial identity. While I wouldn’t call it a “good movie” it certainly is not a brainless one, and by the end really delivers a melancholy one-two punch to the heart. 

Christopher St. John (who most remember from being in SHAFT) wrote, produced, directed and starred in this nightmarish tale of an inner-city beat cop who is on the edge of a nervous break down. We meet him literally as he is having an argument with his wife who wants him to have a heart to heart with his fourteen year old daughter because she has been caught getting busy with a neighborhood boy. He doesn’t want to have the talk, and really isn’t all that concerned about her burgeoning sexuality either “She’s just trying to figure out what’s happening between her legs!” he tells his wife. At work he has been passed over for a promotion by a white cop and the reason is obvious. Though his pissy, angry attitude probably played into it as well. He is fond of telling his partner (and lots of other people as the movie carries on) that he is the law he can “do any Goddamn thing I want to”.

When he busts two black guys with some dope they hit him where it hurts. His racial pride. They want him to let them go, but he doesn’t so they begin to call him a nigger and an uncle tom. Claiming he is ineffectual as a Black Man because he is a cop. He sees that he gets very little respect from his own race on the streets. They look down on him for being “the man”, yet anytime he gets into a tense situation on the streets he gets racially abused by anyone who ISN’T black until they realize he is a cop. Then they backtrack out of whatever they were saying. 

He spends his days fantasizing about being an Astronaut and other big goals. He has a very active inner life. We also find out from other characters that his mother has died, something he never wants to talk about. yet it seems to be weighing heavily on him. At one point he tells his wife about going to the funeral “I don’t want to go and hear all that singing and praying to tell God thank you for all this fucking pain.” 

His only true friend is his former Captain who is now in a old folks home. He visits him and sneaks him in a bottle of hooch they proceed to get hammered on. The old man tells him of the horrors of getting old about “you get smaller and smaller until you are too goddamn small for your own body anymore. You get older and get to sick to even live like a human being anymore.” The old man gives him a loaded pistol as a present that he has kept hidden away from the orderlies. Which is good because he has discovered earlier when arresting a knife wielding madman that somehow his own gun had no bullets in it. 

He tries to reach out to the women in his life for connection, but there isn’t any. His wife is tired of his anger and distance. His mistress is young and wants to live a fulfilling life which he cannot give, and his daughter his clearly using sec and drugs to escape. He blames being a cop for his lack of respect. He blames being black for his lack of respect. Both play their parts, but it is his insolent and unresolved anger that is the biggest motivating problem. His fantasies clearly show he would rather be someone else, doing something else. That he would rather be changing the world, not cleaning up after it. The last half hour is a series of poor decision making for him that clearly are leading him down a path of his own choosing with a brick wall as a dead end. 

The film’s biggest drawback is Christopher St. John himself. the lead character is such an angry, loveless prick that it is hard to like him, or muster up much care for a character that is so bitter and touchy. His plight is worthy, and intriguing. But he garners so little sympathy that the film has a hard time making you feel for him. The fantasy sequences are a little too much too. A few work fine, but for the most part the feel like the left overs from a different movie. Though the JFK finale is strikingly appropriate. 

Overall TOP OF THE HEAP is such a bizarre relic of the era that I couldn’t help but appreciate it. But it also was a pretty big downer. Obviously it was supposed to be and did it’s job. 

Review © Andy Copp 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Camp For Girls you probably do not want to visit!

Day thirteen of the September Exploitation Challenge:

D. Sergio Garrone
Media Blasters/ Exploitation Digital

This late entry in the Nazisploitation sub-genre is fairly tame when compared to some of it’s brethren like THE BEAST IN HEAT or even the first ILSA film. In fact the first hour or so of SS CAMP 5: WOMEN’S HELL is actually kind of dull despite the fact it is chocked full of shower scenes and naked ladies. The pacing is just kind of lackluster and languid, never really bothering to grab a forward motion. All the elements are there, the Lesbian warden, the shower scenes, the Nazi experimentation. But the film just is too staid and lush to really have the nerve it needs to be truly aggressive.

"Apparently it was all dancing on the table and fun during WWII."

This in spite of the fact that it opens with a really tasteless succession of photos of real holocaust images with the credits super imposed. So the first images we see are piles of human bodies being pushed into pits or ovens reminding us this is a reality based thing. then next we meet a group of women played by actresses all way to healthy to actually be prisoners of war in an actual concentration camp. These gals are being hauled it to be trained to be prostitutes for the Third Reich including a feisty black gal who will become the hero of the story. We also meet a trio of scientists, including one Aryan soldier/doctor who will take a shine to the Black gal, one die hard German scientist and a Jew who is there as a prisoner with his beautiful Daughter (who looks a lot like Anna Paquin). The typical stuff happens. several girls plot an escape attempt that you just know is going to go wrong when they mention the escape route is through one of the ovens that has a crack on the other side. 

"This gal made for an impressive hero by the end of the movie. Even if she did do a seductive dance with a banana."

The Black gal seduces said Aryan Scientist with a Booga Booga Jungle dance with a banana tied to her nude waist and he is instantly in love (no I am not making this shit up!). They talk racial politics before and after they have sex, explaining how he feels his Aryan pride because he feels like he is owning her until he will have to kill her  on “Victory Day”! Eventually the really angry Soldier (who looks like a cross between Kojack and Vic Diaz from those Filipino movies) tortures a bunch of girls who he thinks helped mastermind the escape attempt. This scene is especially nasty and brutal and really turns the movie around from what was basically a slow going and silly sexploitation movie to a really crunchy, ugly exploitation flick. Heads are crushed, a gal is gutted with ninja claws, fingernails are pulled out and the last girl has her tongue pulled clean out of her head after being whipped! Suddenly we are in the land of no return as This dude starts tearing through the cast, raping/impregnating the Jewish daughter, and causing general mischief. 

"This guy is not going to make it very long for crossing this boundary! You can kill thousands
of Jews, and commit genocide, but perform Abortions and your days are numbered!"

Then suddenly the movie takes a shard right turn into Right To Life land as the daughter wants an abortion and her Daddy tries to talk her out of it with a speech about spreading the blood of the righteous to everyone in the world (that doesn’t sound all that different than the propaganda the Nazi’s were selling pops!). When he walks in on her getting an abortion he goes apeshit and tries to kill the doctor! Whoa, I think I know where he goes to church at!

 "Suddenly Max Hardcore takes over the directing of the movie."

It all boils to a head with a revolution and the Russians invading, and we get a bit of a history lesson AND a big gunfight too. 

 "I think this is actually a shot from my friend's basement..."

So all in all, though it starts off rocky, SS CAMP 5: WOMEN’S HELL gains it’s footing in the second half and is worth taking a look at for the fans of this low on the totem pole sub-genre. It is not the best of the bunch by any stretch, but one could do worse too. The disc from Media Blasters certainly looks nice, and has an fun interview and some other Nazisploitation trailers. 

Review © Andy Copp