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
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
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)
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
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)
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)
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.

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