Thursday, January 12, 2017

Terrible Tots!

Rug rats, ankle biters, backyard baboons, and a few other terms that now have a double meaning that could label me as culturally insensitive. But we know what I’m talking about: kids. Children. Those little money- and life-sucking poop factories the take up residence in your life or bewilder and horrify you from a distance. You can’t avoid them unless you live in a sealed bunker and never connect with the outside world again.


Still, I’d bet the little bastards would find a way into your bunker. Once that happens, it’s all over for you. Why? Because they are the picture of innocence masking beings of pure evil. You don’t believe me? Well, let me show my evidence.


Evil children have a long history in film. Most people should be familiar with the first major film that dealt with a child of pure and remorseless evil, The Bad Seed. Of course, since it was made during the era of the Hayes Office Motion Picture Production Code, the original ending from both the novel and the play had to be changed so that “crime does not pay”.


Then you have the original Village of the Damned in which an entire town’s female population find they are all pregnant and ultimately give birth to unearthly children who can kill with the power of their minds.


A more recent title would be The Good Son with Macaulay Culkin.


But this now clichéd idea has been explored many times in films. Many of the titles I’ll cover may be utterly new to you. Be warned. If you indulge in watching these films, don’t blame me for the chill that runs down your spine the next time you turn to find a child staring through you as if you don’t exist.

The Godsend (1980)
Directed by Gabrielle Beaumont

Not to be confused with the Robert De Niro film with a similar title, The Godsend is the story of a happy family of six (Mom, Dad, and their four children) who decide to be friendly with a very pregnant woman they meet one day during one of their family outings. She repays their kindness by giving birth in their home and then skipping out without so much as a "Thank you", as well as leaving the newborn behind.

The loving parents decide to raise the sweet baby girl. Then their youngest dies while in a playpen with their little foundling, Bonnie. As time goes by, the other children begin dying by way of unusual accidents, and Bonnie becomes more and more possessive of the mother's love.

This is one of those films that would probably pass way under the radar for many modern horror film fans. It has little in the way of scares or blood. Instead, it plays upon parental fears concerning the mortality of their children. The story takes place over a number of years, but the evil nature of Bonnie proves to be a constant threat to the peace and stability of this lovingly family. In a particularly creepy scene, Bonnie finds a way to make sure the father becomes sterile to prevent more children in the family.

To be honest, the family should have realized something was wrong when the pregnant woman, played by Angela Pleasence, set off bad vibes in the household and overstayed her welcome. I guess some people have a higher tolerance for rudeness than I do.



Bloody Birthday (1981)
Directed by Ed Hunt


What could be better than one killer kid? Why, THREE of them, of course! And not just any three kids, but three born at roughly the same time in the same hospital during the same unusual alignment of planets.

They appear to be normal, but they see no harm in killing people, for fun or to hide their deadly after-school activities. Grown ups, other kids, and even their parents make for nice entries in their scrapbook of death. Yup, and these are the kids who will be caring for us when we get older. Comforting, isn't it?

Definitely worth taking a look since it got a decent release on Blu-Ray a couple of years ago. You even get to see Julie Brown, who did "The Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun", strip down and shake her perky bundles...while her sister collects quarters from the other kids so they can peek through a peephole at the sexy older sister. See? There is just no end to the evil of children.

Oh, and those of you who recognize Jose Ferrer's name in the cast list, don't get too excited. The man has basically two scenes in the entire film. He was just collecting a quick paycheck, or he owed someone a BIG favor.


The Children (1980)
Directed by Max Kalmanowicz
We've gone through 1 kid to three kids, so let's jump to a busload of killer kids. Okay, when you see the movie, you'll realize that the busload consists of roughly 8 kids, at most. Still, more bang for your buck.


The Children tells the story of two bored workers at a nuclear facility who just can't be bothered to complete the proper safety inspections when there's beer to be had at the local bar. Next thing you know, there's a weird yellow cloud floating around and the busload of kids drives through it. Lo and behold, the tykes suddenly have black fingernails and melt anyone they hug, and all the kids want hugs. Lots of them.


Don't get too hopped up. While you get to see a few people get roasted, the movie spends most of its time following around people who are where the kids ain't. Our main characters are the sheriff, some guy whose car keeps breaking down and his pregnant wife, the annoying deputy, and a chatty old lady who runs the local store. In fact, you see way too little of the kids, even as they lay siege to the house of the guy with the crappy car.


The film does include one killing that you don't really expect, lots of hands being lopped off, and a twist that you could have probably guessed less than ten minutes into the movie. Oh, and look for Gail Garnett as the pregnant wife. She had a hit song back in 1964 called "We'll Sing in the Sunshine". This movie is a far cry from winning a Grammy.



Demon Witch Child (1975) (aka The Possessed)
Directed by Amando de Ossorio  
Yes, the director of the classic (depending on with whom you speak) Blind Dead films brings us a rather peculiar rip off of The Exorcist. The leader of a band of Gypsies defiles a Catholic church to steal items for the sacrifice of a baby her group has kidnapped. When the cops catch up to her, she commits suicide during an interrogation. Her followers help transport the old hag's evil soul into the body of the police commissioner's young daughter.


What follows is a bit of a laugh fest, but it does have a very dark opinion of religion and contains a couple of scenes of violence that may leave the audience cringing due to the nature of the acts, not because of the bloodiness. You get the typical scenes of possession with the young girl speaking in the old hag's voice, floating in the air, being tossed around in her bed by unseen forces, a plushy attack, and a nice bit of upside-down wall crawling that would make Spiderman envious.


One of the interesting elements surrounding this movie is the fact that seems to be somewhat openly critical of religion. This being a Spanish film and coming out just as Generalissimo Francisco Franco, president and dictator who ruled Spain for nearly 40 years, was loosening his stranglehold on his country. With the old regime coming to an end, films from Spain began including more nudity and social commentary. This political situation may explain the hostility towards religion, which, in the past, had been a State-mandated obligation.


Politics aside, probably the creepiest thing about this whole movie is the young girl's eyes. They are set so far apart that you almost expect them to move independently of each other, like a lizard's eyes.

The Pit (1981)
Directed by Lew Lehman

Poor little Jamie. He's always being picked on. All of his neighbors think he's crazy. Mom and Dad can't understand why all the women they hire to watch after Jamie tend to leave their employment quickly. After all, Jamie isn't THAT weird, unless you consider having a teddy bear that encourages acts of an anti-social nature and sexual stalking of the town librarian to be weird.

Yes, it's Jamie and Teddy against the world, until the beautiful new babysitter arrives. Both Teddy and Jamie love her, and Jamie even wants to share with her his most prized secret: He knows of a pit where some sub-human creatures live, and he is concerned that they are getting sick because they have nothing to eat.

In-between attempts to express his love/lust for the new babysitter, Jamie tries to feed his furry friends in the pit. He tries buying and stealing meat to take to the creatures, but soon realizes those plans won't work in the long term. What's a troubled young lad to do? Why, Teddy has a great idea: Lure the people who make his life miserable out to the pit and feed THEM to the critters.

The film is a hoot to watch. Jamie is a little creep, yet you somehow end up sympathizing with him most of the time. His adventures in the neighborhood and navigating the rocky path of young love result in many awkward situations that are balanced out some genuinely perverted behavior as well as a rather humorous montage of his leading various people to become pet food.

I will admit that his interest in his babysitter, played by a stunningly attractive Jeannie Elias, is understandable. However, his aggressive sexual fascination with the town librarian does tend to make you less inclined to take Jamie's side. And then we have Teddy, his teddy bear, and its rather dark influence on a boy who is clearly having issues. Is Teddy all in Jamie's head, or does it possess some power of its own? No matter how you slice it, Jamie is not a kid you want to get too close to.


A rather misleading poster for the film

  
Devil Times Five (1974)
Directed by Sean Macgregor & David Sheldon

Our final stop this posting is essentially The Last House on the Left with kids. If none of the others have convinced you that kids can be pure evil, this one should.

We have three adult couples who drive up to a snow-bound remote location for a weekend of both relaxation and business while a rather nice, but simple-minded, workman does all the basic chores for them. Next, we see a horrific accident in which a van goes off the road and rolls down a hill. From the wreckage crawl 5 young children who then set off to find shelter. I think you can guess where they end up.

But, wait. It turns out that the van was from a mental institution, and all five of the children are deeply disturbed sociopaths. Some time later, we see a sixth survivor of the wreck, a mental health worker, who tries to track the kids down before any trouble arises. Unfortunately, he is the first to feel the wrath of the savage little tykes.

The film was originally meant to be titled Peopletoys, which is fitting as kids are prone to break their toys when they play too rough, and these kids are rough with the adults. Hangings, immolation, hatchet attacks, and beatings are just some of the games the kids like to play. The attacks are mostly sudden and cold-blooded. After a killing, the little bastards act like it's a snow day and enjoy themselves pretty much like any other children.

As added attractions, you get a catfight between two very lovely ladies, bunnies, poor attempts at humor, piranhas, and a young Leif Garrett in drag (he makes a rather pretty girl, to be honest). Ultimately, you are left with a very dark, brutal, and bleak film that takes a little bit to get rolling, but once it does, it doesn't ease up. These kids are truly evil.

Some quick trivia: Leif Garrett, who plays David, and Dawn Lyn, who plays Moe, are related as they have the same mother, Carolyn Steller, who happens to play the role of Lovely, one of the adults who face the terror of the tykes. Not many kids are paid to terrorize their parent; it usually happens for free.

Ahh, aren't they just the cutest little mass murders you've met?
To be fair, I have only scratched the surface of films dealing with creepy, evil kids. But this will support my theory that kids are not the kind of people you want to turn your back on. Since I do tend to enjoy movies with evil children, I don't think it is out of the question to return to this topic again in the future. Heck, I could easily do three or more postings on this topic.

Until next time, remember to keep your eyes on any kids. If they form a group and start heading in your direction, for heaven's sake, RUN!!!
 

Friday, January 06, 2017

Momma's Boys and Daddy's Girls -- Grindhouse-style!

The all-time winner when it comes to dysfunctional children in cinema would have to be Norman Bates. The main character in the classic and iconic Psycho, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, displays all types of poor coping skills and an inclination to act out which results in hurt feelings and dead people. A poster child for the "This is why I don't want children!" crowd, you might say.

What could have brought poor Norman Bates to such a lowly state? Why, his obsession with his dear, sweet mother, of course! Something about a mother figure that has been messing with boys and their minds since before the days of Oedipus.

Well, Norman isn't the only person who is obsessed with one parent or the other. You have them working beside you. They ride the same bus as you. Sadly, you may have dated/married one of these adult children types. We tend to refer to them by the school ground slurs of momma's boys and daddy's girls as that tends to be the general distribution. Boys willing to do anything to please Mommy, and girls who idolize their Daddy to distorted lengths.

As we aren't on a first-name basis with every human on the planet nor are we intending to do an exhaustive dissertation on dysfunctional children in cinema, let's limit ourselves to a few odd films that may not readily pop up in conversations about momma's boys like the Friday the 13th films. Hopefully these selections will bring greater understanding to you while you puzzle over why your significant other keeps telling you that you aren't half the man/woman that Dad/Mom was.

The Baby 
(1973)
Directed by Ted Post





The Baby is possibly one of the most twisted and under-appreciated films from the 70s sleazy cinema. 

Anjanette Comer plays Ann Gentry who shows up at the home of Mrs. Wadsworth (Ruth Roman) stating that she is the new social worker assigned to Mrs. Wadworth's child simply called Baby. The special situation with Baby is that he is a full-grown man who has never "grown up". Baby is played by David Mooney (using the name of "David Manzy").

We find that Baby had been kept in an infantile state by his mother, with the help of her two daughters, Germaine (Marianna Hill) and Alba (Susanne Zenor aka Suzanne Zenor), as well as psychological/emotional torture and a cattle prod. Ann fights for Baby's freedom from torture.

Ruth Roman is a great actress, and she looks like she could win a bar brawl without smearing her lipstick. Having this woman running my life would reduce me to tears and messing in my pants, so Baby is just doing what comes natural. Still, he is a pawn in a strange game being played in this film, and his dear mother is fully in charge of the hometown team.

But why is Ann so obsessed with this family and...The Baby?

Sins of Rachel
(1972)
Directed by Richard Fontaine   



Directed by a man who had previously directed gay-oriented shorts and the film I Am Curious Gay, Sins of Rachel is an odd grab-bag of a film. You have a murder mystery. You have something like a love story. You have another sub-textual theme along the lines of Brokeback Mountain, just without the mountain, cowboys, and bankable star power. You have a sort of coming-of-age story. 

Ooh, and let's not forget lots and lots of ugly clothes and bad acting.

Rachel Waring (Ann Noble) dies right around the beginning of the film. The rest of the film is flashbacks and lots of inept police work. We find that Rachel is rather routinely disliked in her California community. She bedded many men and not all of them were single. Her craving for men extends to her own son, who she attempts to seduce.

Of course, the son, Jimmy (played by Bruce Campbell, but not that Bruce Campbell), is a prime suspect, but can he deal with incest, the death of his mother, AND his growing attraction to his good buddy who always has a place for Jimmy to sleep over?

Yes, they seem to be saying that Rachel's emasculating presence and trashy sexual behavior may have prompted Jimmy to be gay. Just wait until you find out all the answers in this tempest in a tiny tea cup.

Schoolgirls In Chains (aka Girls In Chains, Abducted, Come Play With Us, Let's Play Dead)
(1973)
Directed by Don Jones



You can't go wrong with a title like this. That is, if you're looking for sleazy films about boys still wrapped up in Mom's apron strings and the girls they invite over for play time.

Frank (Gary Kent) and Johnny (John Stoglin) are brothers of the same mother. Johnny likes playing games, and Frank is there to watch out for and help his not-all-there brother. He's so helpful that he picks up playmates for his brother. He even makes sure the playmates stay locked up in the basement, and he patiently tracks down the ones Johnny misplaced or allowed to run away.

Johnny likes to play doctor with his new friends. Oh, there are other games, but playing doctor is the best because the patients have to take their shirts off. All the patients are young women, but it's okay because Momma says so. Just don't break them.

Yup, this one is sleazy and creepy. The highlight of the film is the great flashback scene of Frank attempting to introduce his fiance to dear Mother. You'll laugh: you'll cringe; you'll be glad you didn't grow up in that house.

This one borrows a few tricks from Psycho with a slight sprinkling of Last House On The Left. Yup, sons only a mother could love. Often.

Baby Rosemary
(1976)
Directed by John Hayes (as Howard Perkins)



Just to make it clear, Baby Rosemary is a porn title. 70s porn. Like that excuses everything. Actually, it kinda does. 70s porn films were full of hairy people and hairy crotches, but unlike a lot of recent porn, stuff from the 70s actually tried to have a story. Rosemary has a story full of weirdness and violence and a little girl trying to please her father. 

Remember that description for later. 

Rosemary (Sharon Thorpe) has a steady boyfriend that she allows enough sexual contact to get him going, but then she turns the emotional and sexual ice water on him. She is wanting to live a life that would make her daddy proud of his little princess.

The bulk of the rest of the film is a toss up whether it really happens or if it is a deranged dream. Rosemary ends up in a three-way relationship in which she is raped and beaten. She naturally finds this to be the perfect thing for her. Pleasure and pain in equal measures allow her to enjoy sex and then be punished for enjoying it. I think.

The whole shooting match ends up with an orgy during the funeral for Rosemary's father, and Rosemary plays the cookie all the boys are aiming for in a circle jerk.

Yeah, I don't get it either, but at least it wasn't the same boring pattern of suck-lick-bang this way-bang that way-money shot that we have these days.

Now I sound like I watch a lot of porn. I don't. 90% of porn is boring. At least with the 70s porn films, I have plenty of opportunities to go get snacks while not missing any of the story.

Dream No Evil (aka Now I Lay Me Down To Die, The Faith Healer)
(1970)
Directed by John Hayes



If you are thinking the director of this film sounds familiar, you are correct. John Hayes also directed Baby Rosemary under a pseudonym. He even decided to borrow the basis of this film to create Baby Rosemary.

Remember I told you to remember the description of Baby Rosemary? Insert it here.

Grace McDonald (Brooke Mills) is an orphan who swears her daddy is gonna come for her. One day, Grace is adopted by a kindly lady. We then leap ahead 10 years or so.

Grace has a boyfriend who is studying to become a doctor. She works with his brother, a traveling faith healer (Michael Pataki), in a fire and brimstone sermon that ends with Grace falling into Hell from a 30 ft tower! When her boyfriend drives out to meet them, Grace can't be troubled to spend any time with him as she has a lead on where her daddy might be.

Again, we end up in a film that could be real or could be fantasy. Instead of sex, we get a few nasty killings as people attempt to violate Grace's long-held virginity and/or come between her and her loving daddy.

Gee, can you tell that most of these daddy's girl movies are written by men?

Toys Are Not For Children (aka Virgin Dolls)
(1972)
Directed by Stanley H. Brassloff 



This film is one of those that you see the ending coming not too far into the whole affair, yet, when you get there, you are still floored by what happens. I love a movie that kicks you in the teeth just when you think it's done with you.

Jamie Godard is a grown child. Throughout her real childhood, she listened to her parents attack each other and shout and scream. Her father would leave for weeks, but he always sent her toys to show his love. Her mother would rant about Jamie's father and how he loved his whores and that all men were worthless.

Content with snuggling her toys in inappropriate ways to feel her father's love, the grown-child Jamie works at a toy store where she meets and decides to marry a young co-worker. You guessed it; the relationship tanks due to Jamie's weirdness and zero sex output.

Jamie takes off with a customer who becomes Jamie's friend. The lady is also a call girl. Next thing you know, Jamie is turning tricks and loves it because all her clients treat her like her daddy, giving her gifts and expressing their love for her.

If you don't feel dirty at this point, you'll want to use a wire brush and Lava soap after the ending. Just--wow.

The Witch Who Came From The Sea
(1973)
Directed by Matt Cimber



In our last visit into the world of Daddy's Girls, we go one step darker and one step seedier, if that's possible, in the tale of a father's love that still sends boat-sinking ripples into the lives of two sisters.

Molly (Millie Perkins) lives with her sister and her two nephews. When she isn't working at a local bar, she is fascinated by TV and spends the rest of her time telling grand stories of her father, a great sailor who was lost at sea.

Molly's father loved her very much. He enjoyed playing games like hiding stark naked in the hall closet just so he could surprise little Molly. Then there were those games he liked to play with her under her bedsheets at night.

Molly drinks too much and keeps losing blocks of time. Men she has lusted after begin showing up dead and castrated. And she keeps having these bad memories of Daddy that can't be true because he was always so sweet and loved her so much....

Where did I leave that wire brush?

Blood Song (aka Dream Slayer)
(1984)
Directed by Alan J. Levi



We all remember Frankie Avalon, right? Him and Annette Funicello in all those Beach movies? Showing my age? Okay.

Just trust me, Frankie Avalon was a teen heartthrob back in the early 60s. Spit polished and squeaky clean. He has been married to the same woman since 1963, and they have 8 children.

It's only natural that he would take on the role of a daddy-obsessed psycho who hurts people when he gets cranky. He gets cranky a lot, especially when they get tired of hearing him play the only song he knows on his wooden flute. His daddy gave him that flute and taught him that song. Sadly, he didn't have time to teach him another song because he shot his wife, her lover, and then himself, all in front of poor, young Paul Foley.

Now Paul (Frankie Avalon) has forcibly checked himself out of the psycho ward and is cutting a path towards a young girl (Donna Wilkes)who can see through Paul's eyes when he kills because she received his blood when she was crippled in a accident caused her drunken father. Daddy issues all over the place.

Compared to other films in this posting, Blood Song is almost quaint. Not too sleazy, but you do get a nice shot of young Paul, with a face splattered with Daddy's brains and blood, playing that damned flute because he doesn't know what else to do. Still, it is a nice twist to see the son obsessed with a father who seemed to have actually been a decent person. Well, if you don't count shooting his wife and her lover.



There you go. A few slices of the exploitation pie to keep you off the streets while you ingest them. Be quiet, though. Baby is sleeping.

Remember, if you know a momma's boy or a daddy's girl, don't follow them into a basement, don't let them play with sharp objects, and never, ever, ask them to stop playing that same tune for the 200th time. 

Friday, December 30, 2016

Not So Super Superheroes

Most people, especially boys, enjoy a good ol' superhero movie. You have them everywhere now with DC and Marvel films battling it out in the theaters as well as infiltrating broadcast and cable TV in mostly equal numbers. Even non-geeky fans have come to enjoy seeing beefy hunks and sexy ladies in tight outfits clobber the snot out of bad guys, aliens, Nazis, and each other. Spectacular light shows of glittering CGI work pounds your brain into submission as octophonic sound batters your ears into believing you are Ground Zero for a 30-plus minute climatic battle.

Not all superhero films are made equal. Many were filmed way before the innovations in special effects allowed the blockbuster action films we see today. They had to rely on character, costume, music, and a massive amount of willing suspension of disbelief to bring you their tales of heroes and adventure.

Today, we want to take a fond look back at some of the more interesting, yet little-known, superhero movies that you might want to add to your collection.

The Black Ninja
(2003)
Directed by Clayton Prince



Ever watch a movie that hit you like a hammer between the eyes and left your brain so scrabbled that you didn't know whether to laugh or seek medical attention? That you just kept shaking your head and muttering, "Wow!" because there are no coherent words to summarize the experience you have just survived?

Have another one.

The Black Ninja tells us the story of Maliq Ali (Clayton Prince), an obscenely successful defense attorney who routinely saves the worst scum in the city from conviction. In his spare time, he dresses up and becomes the Black Ninja, who tracks down the scum he helped free and beats the living shit out of them. Kind of a conflict of interest, don't you think? Or is that job security?

You want a plot? Batman -- sorry, the Black Ninja finds his lady love is suddenly threatened by some scum he helped free. He has to protect her while hiding his secret identity. Yup, that covers it.

There are occasional flashes of what might of been humor if handled by a decent director. Everything else, just avoid. Having said that, I have to add that if seen in the right frame of mind, The Black Ninja can be quite a hoot.
If you happen to get the legal DVD version, there is a documentary on the making of the film. The documentary is definitely worth watching as it is inspiring, and you can't help but respect the loyalty the crew projects.

Honestly, the documentary is way better than the movie.

Flesh Gordon
(1974)
Directed by Michael Benveniste and Howard Ziehm



You are probably wondering if it is possible for me to make a list without adding a porn title into the mix. The answer is: Yes, but not today.

Before Star Wars, kids thrilled to adventures of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. These were superheroes with ray guns! Those same children grew up still loving those space adventures, but found them lacking. The space rangers took themselves way too serious. Enter Flesh Gordon.

It's the same old story of the All-American Boy saving the world from evil aliens, but it is told through the eyes of a perverted 14-year-old boy. Flesh Gordon, Dale Ardor, Dr. Flexi Jerkoff, and Emperor Wang are our cast of characters. The ray guns look like dildos. The spaceship looks like a penis. You get it, I'm sure.

As goofy as it sounds, Flesh Gordon is rather entertaining. The sex basically gets little more than eye rolls as it is mostly suggested and over the top. If you watch some of the orgy scenes with an eagle eye, you will see some actual sex, but it's far from being the focus of the shot.

Not everyone's cup of tea, but how many porn flicks have you seen that featured a stop-motion animation monster voiced by Craig T. Nelson? That's what I thought. Now go watch it.

Abar: Black Superman (aka Abar, the First Black Superman, In Your Face)
(1977)
Directed by Frank Packard




Abar is an odd film. It passes itself off as a superhero movie, but it is more of a social message film that has a superhero in it.

Dr. Kincade (J. Walter Smith) and his family move into a new neighborhood. At first, the neighbors think they must be the hired help, but slowly they realize that their block now has a black family living on it. This results in one woman flipping out, which leads to a small crowd of white folks tossing slurs and insults along with trash at the black family's new home.

Eventually, a black community group steps in to protect Dr. Kincade, his family, and their home. After a couple of politically-minded conversations, Dr. Kincade offers Abar (Tobar Mayo) the chance to become a superhero with a formula the good doctor has whipped up.

Don't get too hopped up about action. You don't get it. This superhero is kind of like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Charles Xavier (the guy Patrick Stewart plays in the X-Men movies) were blended together. I won't say anything more as I want you to be as surprised as I was at how Abar deals with crime, hatred, and injustice.

Made on a low budget, Abar has iffy acting, stiff dialogue, and a pace that could bore a sloth. Sounds like gold to me.

Supersonic Man
(1979)
Directed by Juan Piquer Simon




A straight-up Superman ripoff, but with one exception: This movie isn't nearly as smug as the American versions of Superman. In fact, this film seems to accept the fact it is silly and runs with it. Some say it is meant as a spoof of superhero films. I don't know if I agree completely, but when Supersonic turns a gun into a banana, you have to wonder what the filmmakers were trying to say.

Supersonic (José Luis Ayestarán as Richard Yesteran) is sent to Earth to foil a master criminal. On Earth, Supersonic assumes the mundane identity of Paul (Antonio Cantafora as Michael Coby), a private investigator who helps the daughter (Diana Polakov as Diana Polakow) of a famous scientist. The scientist has been kidnapped by the master criminal Dr. Gulik (Cameron Mitchell as Cameron Mitchell) so his formula can help Gulik take over the world.

The prize-winning moment of this joyfully bad movie is when Supersonic lifts a steamroller that is shot close enough that you can see the machine is made out of what appears to be wood of some sort. Hell, the front "roller" almost pops loose when Supersonic sets the vehicle down.

From the crappy "flying" effects to the models of a helicopter and Supersonic being twirled around miniature sets, this movie has enough entertainment for you and all your friends. Of course, you might not have any left after watching this.

Super
(2010)
Directed by James Gunn




In this world, you have either superhero movies, or you have movies about superheroes. Superhero movies have superheroes dashing about saving the world, and the film focuses on the details of the adventure. Movies about superheroes give you insight into the person inside the suit, which is often a richer story, and whatever plot the superhero is attempting to thwart becomes secondary to the story raging inside our main character.

Super is a movie about a superhero.

Frank D'Arbo (Rainn Wilson) is a basic guy who gets through each day by just trying to live life by the rules. His wife, a recovering addict, is the glue that holds all the loose bits together in his life.

When his wife Sarah (Liv Tyler) leaves and takes up with a local drug dealer (Kevin Bacon), Frank's world no longer holds together, and the rules he had always lived by no longer apply. He has a vision that he believes is telling him to fight crime and uphold the basic rules of being a decent human. He ultimately becomes the Crimson Bolt and takes to the streets to learn how to fight crime and save Sarah.

You see Rainn Wilson is the star of this movie. Couple that with a trailer which plays up the comedic elements of the film, and you might think you are wandering into a giggle-fest. You aren't. Yes, Super is funny, but it is far from being a comedy. Keep that in mind if you choose to watch. I think you might be pleasantly surprised by this under-promoted film.

Superargo (aka Superargo and the Faceless Giants, Superargo the Giant, The King of Criminals)
Directed by Paolo Bianchini as Paul Maxwell




I have opted to bypass the Mexican wrestler films starring such heroes as Santo and The Blue Demon because they deserve their own article.

That being said, I have chosen to include Superargo simply because an Italian/Spanish film with a wrestler superhero just seems a bit weird.

Superargo is called in to help with a series of kidnappings of various athletes. These kidnappings are performed by automated men. Who is behind these faceless robots?

Don't expect to be wowed. Superargo stays in his costume constantly, and he tends to want to use a car to fight the robots instead of his fists. Actually, he looks a bit like The Phantom, but not as exciting.

On the upside, the whole film is played fairly straight, and it is a superhero film, so sit back and let Superargo kick some robot butt and don't worry about subtext.

The Incredible Paris Incident (aka Fantastic Argoman, Argoman, Argoman the Fantastic Superman)
(1967)
Directed by Sergio Grieco as Terence Hathaway




Every now and then, you just have to respect a movie when it realizes it is so whack-a-doodle that, instead of trying to act edgy or ironic, it swaggers across the screen dripping sweat off 'nads so big that the mind boggles. That's why I dearly love Machete.


Argoman isn't quite as testosterone-laden, but it still swaggers onward while ignoring reality, common sense, and respect for women.


Argoman (Roger Browne) is a superhuman who can control minds, kick ass, and sport a lovely cape like nobody's business. When fighting crime, he wears a bright yellow outfit with a black hood that has Geordi LeForge eye wear. 

In his off time, he is Sir Reginald Hoover, noted scientist, who happens to be on a friendly basis with Argoman. Sir Reggie is also apparently quite the stud as he keeps a video file for all of his "harem" of available women and has all of them on speed-dial for live video calls.

The Crown of St. Edward is stolen. Scotland Yard's representative instantly assumes Argoman is a likely suspect. In a twist of events, Scotland Yard learns it was not Argoman but the evil Jenabell (Dominique Boschero) who returns the crown with a demand that a rare crystal of immense power be delivered to her in a matter of hours.

Argoman races to clear his name and save the world while barely keeping his loincloth attached. This guy is a major horndog.

It's the standard male fantasy of the 60's. Men are clearly in charge, and strong women are equated with evil. If you choose to watch, check your PC-mindset along with your brain at the door.

There seems to be two versions of this film out there. One version is labelled The Incredible Paris Incident. It starts with the opening credits. The version I have is called Fantastic Argoman, released on VideoAsia's Kick Ass Heroes collection. This version has a pre-opening credits sequence showing Argoman foiling an execution attempt and working with the Russians. Maybe this was considered in poor taste during the Cold War and was snipped from some versions. Who knows?


If you see the full version of this movie, I DARE you to get Argoman's chant of "Kill each other! Kill each other! Kill each other!" out of your head after watching it.

The Super Inframan (aka Inframan, Infra-Man)
(1975)
Directed by Hua Shan




This movie is one of my favorites. I remember walking out of the theater back when I was 13 or so, and my brain was still awash in the blindingly colorful world of Inframan. I had a sequel worked out in my head.

I was like a kid who had overdosed on cotton candy.

Princess Dragon Mom (Terry Liu) decides it is time to strike from her underground lair and take over the world. She sends her monster minions out to stop all who oppose her plans while she spreads fear and destruction. A scientist in a nearby science-type facility full of guys in shiny suits turns one of these young men into a superhero called Inframan (Danny Lee).

The rest of the film is a running series of battles as Inframan and his shiny suited friends fight their way to Princess Dragon Mom's hideout.

The whole thing is like a carnival ride running at double speed. You just keep waiting for the whole thing to fly apart. It slaps you silly with the insanely bright colors of the costumes. It inhibits your ability to think as you attempt to make sense of the silly dialogue and scientific gibberish. 

The Super Inframan is just plain stupid fun. It's like an amped up Power Rangers episode about their black sheep cousin. The whole movie is great alone or with friends who also enjoy a bit a weirdness.





Of course, this isn't an exhaustive list. Don't be shocked if this topic should happen to surface again as there are plenty more oddball superhero movies out there.

Remember, if you're gonna go out on those mean streets and fight crime, don't forget your jacket. You wanna catch a criminal, not a cold. 

 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Catch THAT and paint it green!

Like the title? It's the punchline to a joke I heard numerous times while I was a youngster. If you don't know the joke, look it up. There are lots of variations on it.

The point of the joke is the image of attempting to take something insubstantial and render it...umm, substantial by painting it. Kinda what people try to do with remakes, reboots, re-imaginings, and all that other crap Hollywood seems to be so in love with. You take something that was popular at one point in time and you attempt to capture its lightning a second time.

This method does work from time to time. A lot of the time, these "re-whatevers" just leave you pining for the original. After a while, you start wondering what else will Hollywood attempt to clone in an effort to take your money. North By Northwest? Citizen Kane? Or, heaven forbid, Bio-Dome?!?!

We have but to look at the train wreck that is the Psycho remake to realize that some films possess a special quality that defy being remade, no matter how great your intentions may be. That special something, that indefinable element of uniqueness, that magic, if you will, exists in other films, though you might object to the use of the word "magic" once you see the list for today.

In this entry, we are going to take a quick look at a few films that possess a certain quality, or qualities, that would render remakes pointless. You could also use words like "tasteless" and "inappropriate"; we aren't bashful around here.

Deadly Weapons and Double Agent 73
(1974)
Directed by Doris Wishman





I shall attempt to discuss these films without resorting to jokes about breasts. Seriously.

Basically, everything Doris Wishman directed would be outside the reach of being remade. Other than the "who cares about her movies" mentality, her films embody her make-do attitude (which is a nice way of saying her movies had insanely low budgets) to such an extreme that you cannot really recapture what makes her films fun.

Let's face it, her films did not have great stories. Unique, yes, but not great. I can see someone trying to remake some of her films, but it would be in vain.

Two of her films incorporated a gimmick in the form of an actress. The actress went by the name Chesty Morgan. How is an actress a gimmick? you might ask. Simple. She had a natural bust measurement of 73 inches. That's 6 feet. Yes, they are massive. No, they really aren't that sexy. Actually, you just feel sorry for her, and that's before you realize she cannot act AND that her voice was dubbed because her Polish accent was too thick.

Both films are built around exposing Morgan's breasts as often as possible. In Deadly Weapons, she uses her massive chest to smother the mob guys who killed her man. Double Agent 73 has a camera implanted in one of her breasts which results in Chesty hoisting her boob around with the sound of a camera shutter snapping looped over the "action".

While it does work as a gimmick, you end up feeling like you are watching some twisted freak show with only Doris Wishman's insane camera work diverting your attention.

See? I did not crack one boob joke.

Don't Go in the House
(1979)
Directed by Joseph Ellison

There is a story that Joseph Ellison, director of Don't Go in the House, was checking out his film on its opening weekend. He stuck his head in where Friday the 13th was showing, and he noted how the audience was lively with screams and laughter. When he found the screen showing his movie, he noted that the audience was dead quiet and that the room had an air of despair about it. He then realized that his movie had stuck a completely different nerve than he intended.

Don't Go in the House is a dark and disturbing film that tells the story of Donny (Dan Grimaldi) whose mother abused him with fire to cleanse his sins. He's all grown up, but still under his mother's oppressive and controlling thumb even as she lingers on her deathbed. When she finally dies, the repressed child in Donny comes out, and he wants all the things his mother said were bad and sinful.

Even in death, his mother won't leave him alone, and now Donny must burn away the sin.

People find this film dark and repellent. Oddly enough, it really is. Child abuse, repressed anger, co-dependent relationships, and using a flamethrower on naked women are just a few of the things that can make viewing this film more than a bit of a bummer. Add to that the intense violence towards women who are seen as sinful by the voices in the main character's head, and you have a film that is not likely to be remade any time soon, unless you find a way to shift the gruesomeness like the remake of Maniac did.

This movie is recommended only for people who want to watch a serious and depressing film about a severely mentally and emotionally abused man acting out years of repression and pain.

Who has the cold beer and pretzels?

Koyaanisqatsi (aka Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance)
(1982)
Directed by Godfrey Reggio



Koyaanisqatsi is an utterly singular piece of work. I'd even venture so far as to call it a work of art. Even with the themes intentionally placed in the structure of the film, each viewer will experience a different film given their differing points of personal reference. That is the essence of art.

What is this work of art about? The title is from a Hopi term meaning "life out of balance". The film is a series of filmed images contrasting and comparing nature to the constructs of mankind. Layered over these images is the music of Philip Glass. The whole film becomes something greater than its individual parts.

Yes, I love this film.

Like any work of art, Koyaanisqatsi is what it is. You make of it what you wish. While this can be said of anything, this film intends for you to take in its images, sounds, and forms to create something personal by way of response. Friday the 13th just wanted your money so it could make your girlfriend scream loud enough to damage your hearing.

That's why we've had remakes and reboots of the Friday the 13th films, but Koyaanisqatsi keeps resurfacing to show that something truly unique will endure history.

Okay, lemme yank this stick out of my butt. Ahhh...much better.

Black Devil Doll From Hell
(1984)
Directed by Chester Novell Turner


Admittedly, Black Devil Doll From Hell (referred to hereafter as BDDFH) falls into that category of films that are so bad and ineptly created that it doesn't deserve a remake, except for one small factor: it is infamous.

BDDFH is the story of Helen Black (Shirley L. Jones), a very moral and religious woman who is a bit lonely. One day she stops at a thrift store, and, while shopping, stumbles upon a black ventriloquist dummy. The clerk tells her that the doll is cursed and will give the owner her deepest desire. Helen buys the doll, takes it home, and props it up on the toilet while she takes a shower in front of it.

I think you can see where this is headed. You are treated to ample shots of the doll coming to life, tying her up, and sexually assaulting her while shouting insults. The woman becomes sex obsessed as she attempts to regain the levels of pleasure the doll gave to her.

The term "hot mess" comes to mind. This one hits all the marks: racism (even though made by African-Americans), sexual violence against women, somewhat questioning religion and faith, and just plain icky if you think about it too long. Even with a cult following, this title hits way too many sour notes these days to be considered worthy of a remake.

However, a sequel would be nice. Hello? Mr. Turner?

Poor Pretty Eddie (aka Black Vengeance, Heartbreak Motel, Redneck County)
(1975)
Directed by Richard Robinson and David Worth




A popular singer, Elizabeth Wetherley (Leslie Uggams), decides to take a break and drive herself to her next gig. She wants to see country life where she can be herself and get in touch with her inner being. Next thing you know, her car breaks down, and she finds herself dealing with some rather strange characters. 

You have faded star Bertha (Shelley Winters) who uses her distant connection to fame as a way to control the man who gives her the attention she craves. There is tall and mostly quiet Keno (Ted Cassidy) and his desire to be left alone to do his work and take care of his dog. The local Justice of the Peace Floyd (Dub Taylor) and Sheriff Orville (Slim Pickens) are just a couple of good ol' local boys keeping the community safe from itself and outsiders.

Then you have Eddie Collins (Michael Christian). He may be a small-town boy, but he wants to be a famous singer. He puts up with Bertha because she is the closest connection to the world of show business he has. Eddie intends to stop at nothing to make his dream come true. It doesn't matter who gets hurt, or killed, as he crawls, beats, rapes, and screams his way to fame.

Poor Pretty Eddie is one of those films that leaves you feeling like you've participated in something wrong and sleazy and require a long scalding hot shower to wash away the general ickiness of the movie. It is loaded with violence against women (well, mostly ONE woman who happens to be black in a Southern all-white community), racism, co-dependent issues, and brief dog porn as Eddie attempts to dominate the women in his world to achieve his goal and everyone else is along for the ride.

The subject matter is seedy and very dark. When I see a movie like this, I wonder what a star like Leslie Uggams saw in the script that made her think, "Oh, I get raped, molested, beaten, ignored, and called various ethnic slurs throughout the film. I can't wait to do this!" She does a very good job of portraying a woman who has had everything handed to her because of her fame but now she has to find a way to break free from the insanity around her. Still, I'd like to think she didn't take this role because she needed the money.

Poor Pretty Eddie is never a pretty film. With its message of control and dominance by using any method, including violence and race differences, this movie stands little chance to being remade. In 1975, coming out the turbulent racial conflicts of the 60s, this film most likely had a certain level of relevance. The same story now would be using current racial tensions as bait to draw in rubber-neckers to fill seats.

Oh, wait, that IS the nature of exploitation cinema! With that being said, this film is still too rough to have a valid place on modern movie screens. I'd love to see someone prove me wrong while still making the film relevant to modern concerns.

Good luck with that.

Fight for Your Life (aka Bloodbath at 1313 Fury Road, Getting Even, Held Hostage, I Hate Your Guts, The Hostage's Bloody Revenge, Hostage, Staying Alive)
(1977)
Directed by Robert A. Endelson


This wild and wooly 70s film is one of those movies that kept resurfacing throughout the era of VHS mania under various titles and various run times due to edits made in an attempt to get this certified for release in other countries. It has a history for being one of the most notorious of the "video nasty" tapes in England and has been denied release in many countries, even with various scenes removed.  

I guess the main question would be: Does the film deserve this level of reaction? The answer is a flat out yes. But I'm not slamming the film by saying that. The film is written to be confrontational. The goal is to PUSH YOUR BUTTONS!!!

It does. 

Liberals should probably avoid this movie. It contains so many racial slurs towards so many different races that even a racist would feel a touch embarrassed by the dialogue. Since so many of the slurs are mixed with violence, the effect of these terms do not lose their punch (no pun intended). Each one stings like a slap of a Bible across your face (which refers to a scene in the film, so pun intended here).

Yet this film is about much more than the racism of the main character, Jessie Lee Kane (William Sanderson in a very early role). This film looks at traditional roles that we all assume and asks how much pressure does it take to break that role and unleash the human animal inside. It also shows that no matter what our roles, we all carry a seed of racism inside of us; it's all just a case of how far do you need to be pushed before it comes out.

Basic story: group of convicts escape custody, invade the home of a preacher and his family, and proceed to assault, insult, abuse, and rape various members of the family. Add the whole racial layer with the convicts being white, Asian, and Hispanic and the family besieged being African-American, and we are off to exploitation realms with social questions about racism and breaking free of societal roles.

Not a film to be viewed lightly as it has something to piss off and offend just about everyone. Except PETA. I don't think animals entered into the mix. Watch it with an eye towards what it is saying, but expect a bumpy ride.


If you came here, say Hi and if you have a theme idea , let me know.



Parting Word of Advice: Never drop acid and watch A Serbian Film. I don't see anyone ever coming back from that trip.