Film Blitz

Dennis Hopper shows us ‘The American Way’

A couple of points arising from last time. “Blood Bath”, the Mario Bava film, turns out to be one of the many names for a film he shot in 1971, so he thus gets bonus points for making ‘Friday the 13th’ a decade before the Americans did. “Edge of Sanity” was reviewed last time – the director, Gerard Kikoine, is now strongly rumoured to be Jesus Franco. This is a bit of a surprise, since his other films i.e. ‘Virgin Among The Living Dead”, are naff. Still, anyone can make ONE good movie if they churn out enough of them – I’m now less hopeful his next will be as fun.

Alice (Jan Svankmaer) – Very strange animated/live version of Lewis Carroll’s story, with just Alice ‘live’, and even her only for some of the time. Takes a bit of time for your brain to adjust to it, though when it does, the effect is perhaps a little like a Sam “Evil Dead” Raimi version of the Magic Roundabout – steak and socks come to life, Alice attacks the White Rabbit etc. It was partly produced by Channel 4, so keep an eye out for it. 7/10

Amazon Women on the Moon (Joe Dante, John Landis & others) – Based around a spoof 50’s Sci-fi film, that keeps getting interrupted by commercials & other programs. Like all ‘compilation movies’, highly variable – most of it is hysterically funny (an “Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World” style program called “Bullshit or Not?”) while other bits have one inspired idea and drag it out too long. Stars ‘lots of actors’ – Russ Meyer, Sybil Danning, Carrie Fisher & Steve Guttenberg among others. Definitely worth a look. 8/10

The American Way (Maurice Phillips) – Dennis Hopper and his group of weird Vietnam vets, who run a pirate TV station from an old bomber, do battle against an ‘Iron Lady’ presidential candidate in a media war. Black humour, reminiscent of “Repo Man” in parts, that superbly piss-takes TV evangelism, politics and life in general. Great characters, even if I did spot the twist in the tail very early – only other complaint is a badly mixed soundtrack which is sometimes hard to decipher. 8/10

Angel (Robert O’Neill) – Child prostitutes being stalked by psycho killers? Yes, it’s Roger Corman and New World Pictures time! Thoroughly moral tale (Angel isn’t allowed to ENJOY her work) with some nice characterizations, decent acting and gratuitous shower scenes, as you’d expect from the company who made “Reform School Girls”. It never sinks beyond the bounds of good taste, yet retains a tacky sleaziness which makes it almost plausible, except perhaps when the killer shoots his way out of an identity parade! Recommended. 8/10

Avenging Angel (Robert O’Neill) – Less of the same, in this sequel to “Angel”. The cop who helped her in the original is killed, so Angel returns to the streets to try and find the killer. After a barn-storming first 15 minutes, which surpass anything in the first film, it calms down into something dangerously near a TV movie , with little of the grittiness of it’s predecessor. Most of the cast are back, but seem sadly out of place and Donna Wilkes is too all-American to believe in. 4/10

Big Meat Eater (Chris Windsor) – Spoof sci-fi pic with a hint of Rocky Horror which throws everything but the kitchen sink (psychopathic Turkish butcher’s assistant, aliens, corrupt mayor, psychic Middle Europeans, etc) at the viewer. This scatter-gun approach has some hits, notably the BAD effects (the aliens are really battery toy robots) but overall the result is too blatantly “let’s go and make a cult movie” to work. 5/10

Cannibal Ferox (Umberto Lenzi) – Sums up all that’s worst about Italian ‘horror’ films. Totally pedestrian direction, diabolical plotline and rotten effects almost make this a candidate for the Incredibly Bad section, with the highlight being two women captured by the cannibals indulging in a spot of community singing to raise their spirits. Purporting to be social comment about whether we are more civilised than the savages, the only question it raised in my mind was ‘Why do cannibals in Italian pictures only ever eat intestines or brains?” Unfortunately, there are some totally pointless scenes involving cruelty to animals which mean it probably does deserve to be banned. Someone tell these people there’s more to the genre than being unpleasant to furry things. 2/10

City of the Living Dead (Umberto Lenzi) – A priest kills himself, opening the gates to hell and causing the dead to rise (cue spooky music). Christopher George and company mst put a stop to this before All Souls’ Day – alonmg the way there are a few brains being eaten and a girl is forced to puke up her internal organs. Yum, yum.

Dangerous Liaisons (Stephen Frears) – Trash City reviewing an Oscar winner? After last time, with ‘The Accused’, this might be a surprise, so to retain street-cred, I’ll claim I only went because Uma Thurmann was in it. However, it is a damn good film – ‘Dynasty’ in pre-revolution France (Stephen Malkovich’s accent being more Brooklyn than Bordeaux), with lots of intrigue, an approach which is occasionally surprisingly trashy (helped by Peter ‘Lair of the White Worm’ Capaldi) and Uma Thurmann IS very cute! 8/10.

Demons 2 (Dario Arge.. No, make that Lamberto Bava) – That rare beast, a sequel that’s BETTER than the original! Admittedly, not difficult since ‘Demons’ was BAAAAAD and anything would be an improvement. This has a slightly less ridiculous plot and the set-pieces are OK; the censor seems to have been a little more tolerant too. Still not good, atrociously dubbed and tedious long before the end. 4/10

The Devils (Ken Russell) – Faintly reminiscent in parts of “Name of the Rose”; Oliver Reed is the priest who is framed on witchcraft charges for getting involved with Cardinal Richelieu’s political machinations. Some HEAVY religious imagery means it occasionally looks like a Christian Death video though it’s salvaged by excellent performances by Reed (to my surprise) and Michael Gothard as the obsessive witch- hunter; watch out for Brian Murphy (“George & Mildred”) as a torturer! The sets, designed by Derek Jarman, are also breathtaking and, overall, it’s a pity that it’s been suppressed due to it’s ‘blasphemous’ imagery. 9/10

Dogs in Space (Richard Lowenstein) – Winner of the TC3 prize for making a little plot go a long way is this film about life in a Melbourne squat during the halcyon days of punk (remember them? I don’t.). The inhabitants have wild parties, sleep around, go to concerts and take drugs, with the expected tragic consequences. Michael Hutchence (pause for at least one reader to take a cold shower!), late of INXS, does well when he doesn’t have to act, though he fails to gain our sympathy when he should do. Overall, a successful film that knows it’s limits and works well within them. 6/10

Les Eaux printanières (Jerzy Skolimowski) – Nastassja’s latest pic, shown in competition at Cannes, is a variation on the eternal triangle story, set in Germany around 100 years ago. NK plays the rich wife of an Army officer – her idea of fun is watching duels, which she has provoked. Timothy Hutton is the man who becomes infatuated with her (and no wonder – she’s looking as good as she has in quite a while), though it all comes to a Bad End [Apologies for any errors in the above; the version I saw was in French!]. Lushly photographed, reminiscent of ‘Tess’ in style, this is a lot better than I feared with a decent amount of Kinski, even if she is clothed! After a couple of bad films, even by her standards, hopefully this points the way forwards – if she’s not going to appear in trash films, at least she can appear in GOOD art-house movies.


The Exorcist II – The Heretic (John Boorman) – This weak sequel to the excellent original has Father Lamont (Richard Burton) discovering that some of the evil is still alive in Regan (Linda Blair). The storyline gets a bit mixed up and Burton’s performance is like he’s been put in a trance by one of the hypnotic devices seen in the film. Max von Sydow puts in an appearance in flashbacks and new footage.

Finders Keepers, Lovers Weepers (Russ Meyer) – Possibly the most uneven director in trash cinema, Meyer is capable of making superb films, combining wit, action and sex, while also turning out turgid melodramas like this clunker, which has ‘dated’ written all over it. A plot which combines brothels, robbers and frustrated housewives who want to be go-go dancers might sound promising – however, it takes so long to get going that you’ll have lost interest long before the end. The most interesting, and downright implausible, part has a man tied up with rope using a blow-torch to cut himself free… 3/10

Hairspray (John Waters) – A particularly unsubtle plot which shoe-horns a racial integration message into a TV dance show setting still leaves you a fair bit to enjoy in this mildly trashy (by John Water’s standards) film. The music is naff and the dances cringeingly awful; the acting is good, especially from Divine who plays both the heroine’s mother and the (male) owner of the TV station. Stylish and colourful – can’t see anyone doing a similar film about the 80’s! 6/10

Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheikhs (Don Edmonds) – Third in the ‘notorious’ Ilsa series, after ‘She-Wolf of the SS’ and ‘Tigress of Siberia’, and surprisingly mild, with little even the BBFC could object to. Bimbos galore, the odd chunk of imaginative nastiness and the pneumatic Dyanne Thorne make this a solid action/ adventure pic. Storyline? Yep; the sheikh is keeping the rightful heir to the throne in a dungeon but there’s revolution in the air… 8/10

The Immoral Mr. Teas (Russ Meyer) – One of his earlier films, nothing more than a chance to show pretty ladies in a state of undress by following the ‘hero’, a perpetual voyeur, around. Still, it operates with such a delightful sense of self- parody, aided by a commentary that veers wildly from the smutty (“Men have been fretting over G-strings ever since” – about guitars, of course), to the totally irrelevant. The final conclusion, that “some men just enjoy being sick”, is one that I feel sure we can all agree with… 7/10

The Kindred (Jeffrey Obrow / Stephen Carpenter) – Slow starter this one, perks up noticeably when Amanda Pays (soon to appear, wearing WET lingerie, in “Leviathan”) arrives. This genetic-experiment-on-the-loose pic rips off ‘Alien’ & ‘The Thing’ in equal measure, with bits from ‘Re-Animator’ and ‘The Evil Dead’. Plus points: lots of slime, a couple of nice effects + Amanda Pays. Minuses: Predictable, not enough annoying American teenagers get killed, Amanda Pays vanishes too early and the monster is laughable. 5/10

Lady Jane (Trevor Nunn) – ‘The Middle Ages – sanitized for your protection’ should be the motto of this historical drama, where grubby peasants are only glimpsed in long shot and disease is no more than a plot device. Apart from that, and a hideous tendency to sink into sickly Mills & Boon romance far too often, this is actually a pretty nifty movie. The cast are without exception excellent (including Michael Hordern & Jane “The Dark Angel” Lapotaire), Helena Bonham-Carter acts her socks off as usual (though unfortunately not the rest of her clothes) and there are some moments of completely absorbing drama. 7/10

The Legend of the Holy Drinker (Ermano Olmi) – Rutger Hauer should be well known to readers, for his performances as a psychopath in ‘The Hitcher’, a barely controlled psychopath in ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’ and a psychopath (medieval variety) in ‘Flesh and Blood’. Although always near-perfect, he never seemed to be out of second gear which made the prospect of him playing a down-and-out an intriguing one. Set in Paris, he is given 200 francs by a mysterious stranger (Anthony Quayle) with the request to pay it back to a church when he can. Unfortunately, he keeps meeting figures from his past who distract him from this goal and gradually tell us about his earlier life. With no ‘action’ and almost no plot, the film relies heavily on Hauer, with him rarely being off the screen, so it’s a good job he’s up to the task. He seems very aware of the risk of over-acting, especially in a character of few words as he has here – indeed, if anything he’s TOO subtle, making the viewer concentrate to avoid missing the gestures and looks without which some scenes are meaningless. Ermanno Olmi shows us a different side to Paris from that normally filmed, and overall, perhaps the best tribute is to say that from now on, when I see Rutger Hauer, I’ll no longer automatically expect him to pull out a shot-gun and start blasting! 8/10

Lorna (Russ Meyer) – Another Meyer tale of frustrated housewives, escaped convicts, religious maniacs, sex and death. A morality play in the same way that “Friday the 13th” is (have sex and die), this is bad, even by Russ’s standards – acting alternately completely OTT or non-existent, pantomime characters and not much nudity, since it’s about 30 years old. Brilliant, it isn’t; fun, it is. 6/10

Mountaintop Motel Massacre (Jim McCullough) – Fractionally above average slasher that rehashes “Psycho”, with the mother being the murderer. A couple of messyish murders and a sub-plot involving singing bimbos are the nice features, which just about compensate for the sheer predictability of it all. The best thing about it is the “Reform School Girls” trailer at the start. 5/10.

Parasite (Charles Band) – Bob Glaudini has a monster (designed by Stan Winston, who went on to create the ‘Aliens’ amongst others) in a thermos flask, and another in his stomach. When a gang of punks steal the thermos, old Stan has a GREAT time steering said monster through people’s heads… 6/10

Pink Flamingoes (John Waters) – What can you say about a film where the most memorable moment is a female impersonator eating a freshly dropped dog turd?? Blegh! Difficult to believe this is directed by the same man as ‘Hairspray’, since it’s a very amateur film yet not without style. It doesn’t quite gel as a whole; unlike Russ Meyer’s best pics, where the sex does seem to fit in, here we have a chunk of plot, then a totally irrelevant bit, and now a scene to SHOCK you! 5/10

Pretty Baby (Louis Malle) – The good news is this has Brooke Shields ‘getting her kit off’. The bad news is, er, she was eleven when she made it. Distinctly unnerving experience, seeing an undoubtedly beautiful (I stress, in an AESTHETIC sense) pre- teenager playing a New Orleans hooker, whose virginity is auctioned off for $400. Fortunately, it’s shot unleeringly (though that didn’t prevent problems with the censor) and a good supporting cast (Susan Sarandon, Antonio Fargas and Barbara Steele) make it a film that is both worthy and justifiable. 7/10

River’s Edge (Tim Hunter) – Group of delinquent American teenagers discover one of their number is a murderer and agonise about what to do. I briefly fell asleep in the opening credits and, on the whole, would have preferred the shut-eye. A couple of far more interesting sub-plots are never fully developed, and the movie doesn’t really gets going. 3/10 Salome’s Last Dance (Ken Russell) – Rampant camp version of Oscar Wilde’s banned play, set in a London brothel on Guy Faukes’ night. Never been much of a fan of Mr Wilde (too witty by half), fortunately we don’t see much of him. Instead we get Stratford Johns as Herod and Glenda Jackson as his wife mixing it with midget Jews, page 3 models for guards and a highly-impressive Imogen Millais Scott as a lollipop- licking, high-heeled Salome who resembles Bonnie Langford on cocaine. Very, very odd, definitely trashy and strong evidence for Ken Russell’s insanity! 8/10

SS Experiment Camp – Another ‘banned’ film & surprise, surprise, it is quite one of the worst, most tedious ‘horror’ films ever. It’s sole raison d’etre it to show remarkably well-fed ‘Jewish’ women in the nude (at least the actress in ‘Love Camp 7’ LOOKED Jewish). Very little ‘so bad it’s funny’ potential either. Reread the first sentence so it sinks in. More enjoyable than falling under a train. Just. 1/10

Superstar (Todd Haynes) – Tells the story of the death of Karen Carpenter (of The Carpenters, noted squeaky-clean duo of the early 70’s) from anorexia, using (wait for it) Barbie dolls instead of actors. A well-intentioned idea, symbolising as it does commercial packaging of women, etc – unfortunately it’s just too ridiculous to work and when I saw it the audience giggled throughout. A shame, too, since the non-Barbie bits, a mix of found footage and hand-held video, are well thought-out and do perhaps give something of an insight into the world of the anorexic. 5/10

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (Jaromil Jires) – In our perpetual quest for the odd, here’s a 1970 Czech vampire film, full of beautiful imagery & subtle symbolism. The bad news is that I fell asleep in the middle. What I saw, I enjoyed, even if the complexities of the plot, involving a girl who discovers her grandfather is really her father (or is he?), went over my (nodding) head. I’ll make an effort to see it again, if I remember to take the black coffee with me. 6/10