How to defend yourself against a man armed with a Pekinese
In these violent times, it is important for each citizen to be prepared for an encounter with some psycho thug wielding a baseball bat. So, we at “Trash City” are pleased to present a few hints on how to turn everyday household objects as weapons, taken from “Black Medicine, Volume II – Weapons at Hand” by N. Mashiro Ph.D (Paladin Press).
“ALARM CLOCK – Any small. appliance like an electric alarm clock can be swung by its power cord in imitation of a medieval mace—and—chain. Strike at the head and face, or let the cord wrap itself around the opponent’s defending arm like a South American bola, then pull him off balance and follow through with a fist or foot attack.”
“CAT – Have you ever had some inconsiderate person throw a frightened cat at your face? [Well, now you come to mention it, no.] Twenty needle-sharp claws all try to fasten themselves in your skin at once. Even the most battle-hardened warrior is put off his stride by this attack.” And just to show you we’re not biased:”DOG – A loyal dog can be a surprising help in a fight. Even if not attack trained, your quiet little shephard may bare her teeth and charge if someone strikes you… Of course, if you have a toy poodle, it might just be best to grab it by the hind legs and use it as a club.” Is this man serious? Here’s one close to all film—fans hearts:
“CHAINSAW – A running chainsaw is a weapon no one can stand up to without a gun. Even the noise has an intimidating effect. A chainsaw isn’t quite as effective when it is turned off, but in desperate hands it can still inflct some very ugly wounds. The chainsaw is the modern broad-sword.” Now, should you be stuck down an alley:
“GARBAGE CAN LID – A garbage can lid is the frisbee of street combat. Obviously useful as a shield, a garbage can lid can also be held by the edge for battering, or thrown like a frisbee into a pursuer’s shins.” There is some humour in the book. Here is an example:
“LETTER OPENER – Suppose you come home early and find your wife in the arms of another man? This handy item will help you open her male.” Ha, ha, ha. Witty, huh? Want some more? — “One of the more colorful episodes of my karate training occurred when an instructor became confused one day, and finished an explanation with this remarkable statement; “Then you finish him off by slamming your groin into his knee!” Poor advice.” ‘
Hysterical. There was one weapon he forgot to mention though…
Whenever the history of horror/splatter movies comes under discussion, the name of Herschell Gordon Lewis is certain to come up, as one of the early exponents of gore, and a founding father of the video nasty. His films are hardly ever seen nowadays, however, which made the recent showing of four of his epics, at the Scala Cinema here in London, all the more welcome. For the benefit of those who haven’t had the good fortune [?] to see any of his movies we present the following descriptions:
SCUM OF THE EARTH (1961)
H.G.Lewis started work in the field of sex rather than violence, trying to sneak as much as he could past the censors all-seeing eye. This is an example of the ‘nudie cutie‘, where the plot is nothing more than an excuse to see pretty girls with few clothes on. It all seems terribly harmless now, with nothing that would be out of place in an average evening’s TV viewing – I think there is one nipple, and if you blink you miss it. No doubt in its day it was considered pretty hot stuff.
The plot, such as it is, concerns a girl who starts modelling to earn enough money to go to college – at first the assignments are totally harmless, but they gradually become ‘swimwear adverts‘ and before she knows where she is, they have become bad enough for her to be blackmailed by the photographers into doing ‘just one more photo session‘. In the end the photographer realises how evil he is being and kills the thug who is terrorising the girl — the ‘Mr Big‘ commits suicide when faced with capture by the police.
According to the voice-over at the end of the film, the ‘Scum of the Earth‘ in the title are those who prey upon young girls to get them to take part in such things. This seems a bit hypocritical, given the large number of camera shots in the film which languidly cruise up an actress from head to toe, or occasionally toe to head. The acting itself is fairly dire – well down to the usual standard…
2000 MANIACS (1964)
Eventually the censor got wise and started to crack down on nudity in films, but this didn’t bother Herschell; he just switched to violence and went right on making movies. His first such film, “Blood Feast”, is still on the banned list today, thanks to (among other things) a tongue being ripped out — “2000 Maniacs” was the follow up. As far as I know, it’s the only one of his films still commercially available in this country, albeit in a heavily out version.
In the Civil War, the Southern town of Pleasant Valley was attacked by a group of renegade Union soldiers, who slaughtered many of the inhabitants. Now, 100 years later, the town is out for revenge, and hi-jack two groups of Yankees, by pretending it is a nicer celebration. One is dismembered with an axe and barbecued, one is torn apart by horses, one is rolled down a hill in a spiked barrel and one is crushed under a boulder. The other two escape only to find out that the town ceased to exist a long time ago.
This is a gory film, again for the time. The effects are not bad, and there is a certain nasty air about the whole thing that is disturbing. Most of the actors playing the ‘maniacs’ are suitably O.T.T. and the entire film is pretty surreal, with some truly weird dialogue. However, there are only four gore scenes in it, which isn’t enough if you are used to the semi-continuous splatter we get now. No matter. It remains a charming period piece, although it isn’t frightening at all, and the hyper acting will keep you interested between the bloody bits. Be warned that very little of the gore is visible on the video version, with the axe murder and the ‘horse race’ being particularly heavily butchered.
SOMETHING WEIRD (1967)
Eventually, Lewis moved away from pure gore, though he still returned to it occasionally (see below). This is one of his excursions into non-sex ‘n’ violence film-making.
A man is nearly killed by an electric shock – when he recovers he gets some good news and some bad news. The good news is that he now has second sight and can foretell the future. The bad news is that he is horribly scarred, so he turns to making a living as a masked fortune teller. One day an old hag arrives and promises to cure his scarring if he will become her lover. He agrees — it turns out she is capable of looking quite pleasant if she wants to. The police then invite him in to use his psychic powers to help them solve a murder which has baffled them.
This is a DULL film. There is very little in it of interest to anyone, especially if they are looking for trash. It is just too BAD to qualify. The acting is dire, without the ham quality that made “2000 Maniacs” a far more memorable film, with the honourable exception of the hag (played by some actress whose name I forget, and can’t be bothered to look up, because as far as I know, she has never appeared in any other film) who deserves some sort of award for the worst impersonation of an old woman I think I have ever seen. There is no drama, tension or excitement in it whatsoever. It was recently back at the Scala on a double bill with “The Gruesome Twosome” (coming soon, patience my pretties), but I left before it came on, even though I’d already paid my three quid. Avoid.
THE GRUESOME TWOSOME (1967)
Ah, this is MUCH better. This is what they want! Made the same year as “Something Weird”, but while that was just a bad film, this one is sooo bad it becomes entertaining.
A little old lady, Mrs Pringle, and her mentally deficient son run a wig shop, which specializes in ‘lOO% real hair wigs‘. The also rent out rooms to female students. Especially ones with long hair. The film revolves around the gore set-pieces, three girls being slaughtered and the son having an eye gouged out, with the rest of the story being the attempt of a student to find her roommate, who vanished after going to rent a room from Mrs Pringle.
It initially came in at well under feature length, so extra scenes had to be bolted on to bring it up to the mark – half the fun is in trying to spot these scenes. There is a prologue involving two talking polystyrene heads, a beach party, and scenes at a stock-car meet and a drive-in which add absolutely nothing to the plot. There is one long section where the heroine is following a suspect, in which her attempts to conceal herself turn what was presumably supposed to be a masterpiece of tension into a classic of comedy. Overacting honours this time go to Gretchen Wells as Mrs. Pringle who acts the complete psycho, down to talking to a stuffed wildcat. Another wonderful moment is where she gives her son, Rodney, a lovely present of an electric carving knife…
The blood is copious. One killing is especially noteworthy — Rodney spends what seems like hours with his hands in a dismembered body, rooting about for some liver (for the stuffed wild-cat!). It just never seems to end. Overall, this is comfortably the best film of Lewis’s that I’ve seen, with the acting, plot and effects combining to produce a classic of its type that deserves as least as big a place in movie history as his earlier ones. Movie trivia — the house inhabited by the wig-makers is on Elm Street. Has Wes Craven seen this film?
It is not easy to produce a good, “true” horror film. Too many directors nowadays rely on killing an endless series of teenagers (no matter however imaginatively it may be done) or lightening the tone of the film with humour as in ‘Reanimator” – not that this means the film is necessarily bad, of course, but it’s difficult to be truly scared when you’re laughing or playing “Spot the Next Victim”.
“Hellraiser” was a rare exception, so not surprisingly the news that a sequel was planned was both good and bad news – given that the original was a huge leap ahead of anything else in the field, woukld they be able to maintain the standard, or even improve? Unfortunately, the answer is ‘No’. In some ways, it is better than the original, but overall, it is less frightening and is not a truly worthy successor.
The plot concerns Kirsty, the survivor of the first ilm. She wakes up in a psychiatric hospital, to find, not surprisingly, that no-one believes her story about pin-heads, peeled men and her step-mother cLaw—hammering people to death. No-one, that is, except for Dr. Channard, who runs the hospital. He has a nice collection of Lament Configuration puzzle boxes so when he hears about the matters that Julia died on, he has \it brought round to his house and ‘borrows’ an inmate from the hospital. This poor person is given a razor blade to play with, and the predictable result follows. Julia returns, minus her skin, and a few more residents of the asylum are slaughtered to provide her with a new one.
Channard then gets Tiffany, a girl obsesses with puzzles, es to solve one of his Lament Configurations, and the gateway to Hell is opened. Meanwhile, Kirsty has seen an apparition of her father pleading for help; along with Dr. Channard, she also makes the descent into Hell, but to seek him…
Nice story, so what went wrong between the idea and the screen? It’s the dialogue that’s mostly responsible — it varies from sounding ridiculous and banal, causing the audience at the showing I saw to giggle now & then. The acting didn’t help either. Ashley Lawrence never struck me in the first film as being a great actress, and she hasn’t improved much gince then. She isn’t the worst on view – that honour goes to Dr. Channard’s assistant ( let’s not mention his name, it’d only embarrass him), who succeeds in being totally unconvincing. Fortunately, he is killed mid—Way through the film, sparing us further agony. The only person to come out with any credit is Imogen Bopﬁmaiﬁ who plays Tiffany, but she has the benefitnof being nearly mute, and so avoids the worst excesses of the dialogue.
What rescues the film is the stunning visual side. Hell looks like a huge painting by M.C. Escher, full of endless corridors, archways and bottomless pits. The special effects are absolutely superb – Bob Keen and his team have produced an endless series of magical creations, the most remarkable of which is a new addition to the Cenobite ranks. Nowhere are the effects anywhere less than perfect, from the smallest trickle of blood to the giant Lament Configuration, Leviathan. There are many images to treasure and scenes that will stick in the mind, though how many will escape the censor is yet to be seen — the film has been submitted four times in the States and has been given an ‘X’ certificate, normally reserved for hard-core pornography, four times. How it will fare in Britain, where violence is frowned upon even more, doesn’t bear thinking about.
On balance, the set design, effects and make up just about save the film, and make it into something worth going to see. I hope that the film IS a success, if only so that Clive Barker can be asked to return for “Hell on Earth – Hellraiser III” and we can see what his dark imagination can produce when given the opportunity and the budget. Mind you, I wasn’t THAT impressed with “Hellraiser” the first time I saw it, so I’m more than willing to suspend judgement for a little while!
A few other films to look out for in the coming months
The Lady in White (Frank la Loggia). A traditional ghost story, set in the l96O’s (tho‘ it’s difficult to tell) about a boy who just escapes death at the hands of a notorious local murderer, and then starts seeing the ghost of one of the murderer’s earlier victims. For the most part, this is a lovely film, with some nice performances (the boy is played by Lukas Haas, who was in ‘Witness’) and a few pieces of humour tnrown in too. Unfortunately, the special effects are laughably inept, especially the flying scenes, which distract severely from the generally pleasing nature of the film.
Paperhouse (Bernard Rose). British horror film—makers seem to be very interested in the relationship between dreams and reality — this is another example, but it deserves praise for trying a slightly different approach, even though it is not 100% successful. The story concerns a young girl, suffering from a glandular fever type illness, who discovers that her hallucinations are affected, and can be controlled, by a sketch she is drawing. For a while this is great fun – then the visions start to take on a life of her own, and suddenly it isn’t quite as nice anymore. For the first hour, this is an excellent film, far sharper than the muddled and confused ‘Dream Demon‘, and almost up to the level of the great and god-like ‘Hellraiser’. The dream sequences are handled with a lot of style and imagination — the scenes where she is being chased by her dream father are especially impressive. Unfortunately, the pace in the last third slackens severely, and the ending is not brilliant. Nonetheless this remains an impressive film, and it is good to see the British horror film is still alive and well.
Jack’s Back (Rowdy Herrington). Someone is commemorating the 100th anniversary of Jack the Ripper by killing prostitutes on the same days he did. A doctor sees one of his colleagues in circumstances best described as rather suspicious, but before he can report this to the cops, he is murdered. Now, this doctor had a twin brother, who dreamt the whole thing, and he goes to the police – having given them all the fine details of what happened, they do the obvious thing and suspect him. He has to prove that he didn’t do it by catching the real killer. I didn’t find this American thriller especially effective because even I could spot the red-herrings with my negligible detective skill. The plot is reasonable, the acting is nothing special and the direction is pedestrian. In fact, there is very little to mark this out from any one of a hundred similar films. It is entertaining enough, but failed to excite anything more than mild interest in me. Perhaps I’ve overdosed on Jack the Ripper films lately. Avoid, and watch ‘Hands of the Ripper‘ instead.
The Dinner Party Game 12 people (six men, six women) for dinner.
Men Christopher Lee Salvador Dali Sir John Millais (painter) Tony Benn Phil Oakey (Human League) Myself!
Women Elizabeth Bathory (Countess Dracula) Lady Jane Grey Nastassja Kinski Ilona Staller (Italian MP) Germaine Greer Kate Bush
Think it would be an interesting evening. Any alternative suggestions?
It’s impossible to say what it is about trash that appeals to me, but I’d still like to have a go. Trash is not even really definable, it’s more of a feeling than a physical thing; the churning in your stomach when the music in a horror film changes to ‘Here comes a gory bit!’, the guilty pleasure you feel when you read a book that you know will never win the Booker Prize, the itching in your groin when your favourite actress appears and you KNOW she’s gonna take her clothes off SOMETIME in this movie — all this, and more is the nature of Trash. To help the beginner to recognise it, here are some simple guidelines that you may care to bear in mind when you are looking for a bit of low—life.
Trash is where you find it. One man’s trash is another man’s garbage. The rules are, there are no rules. And other such cliches, all of which mean that it’s all up to YOU — don’t expect me to give you a nice box marked ‘Trash’! Some people wouldn’t consider Nastassja Kinski a trash actress. To each their own…
Trash is fun. The one thing that links all aspects of trash together is that their main goal is to entertain. Of course, it may well be a rather strange definition of ‘entertainment’, covering death by chainsaw as well as more normal areas like excitement, adventure, and romance. If it ain’t fun, it ain’t trash.
Trash is cheap. The odds of something being trash are roughly in proportion to how little money is spent on it. High-budget trash is possible (the James Bond films are a good example), but people will tend to expect more of a thing that’s noticeably had money put into it.
Trash is popular. It appeals to the lowest common denominator, to peoples’ baser instincts, to the Neanderthal in all of us. Trash can’t hope to survive on ‘artistic merit‘ alone — it has to rely on sales. Trash can not, however, be too popular or it gets sucked into the main-stream inhabited by “Terry & June” and nothing deserves THAT fate.
Trash is escapist. Trash is not concerned with the problems of life, such as earning a living, buying a home or having 2.3 kids. It’s a chance to escape from the humdrum routine to a world inhabited by fantasy creatures — a strange mix of handsome secret agents, beautiful nymphomaniac school-girls, demons from hell and aliens from Mars. Quite a Nice Place really!
Trash is ‘decadent’. Probably due to its escapist nature, there does seem to be quite a lot of sex in trash. Of course, sex is also pretty cheap if you compare it with other ways of filling the screen, no costumes or props being necessary. Sex is still pretty popular, too.
Trash is in ‘poor taste’. Hype and publicity are the life-blood of trash – there’s nothing like a good-going controversy, or an MP saying “this book/film/song is the sickest thing I’ve ever read/seen/heard”. Trash is very good at galloping rough-shod over peoples‘ sensibilities, and breaking taboos, if for no other reason than it makes good commercial sense.
Trash is not to be taken seriously. Always remember that the purpose is to entertain; if you go to see “The Rocky Horror Show” expecting to see some sophisticated wit and political satire, you may well end up being disappointed.
Trash is unpretentious. Not only should it not be taken seriously, it should never give the impression that it should be. Trash just presents itself and says “Here I am, enjoy me”, with no great statements about how artistic it is.
It’d be nice to have another one, to give us a “Ten Commandments of Trash” but I’m afraid I can’t think of a tenth one!
Time to quit talkin’ and start chalkin’, by getting down to some examples. Let’s begin in the world of films, possibly the most fertile area for trash. Certain areas are almost Total Trash, with many horror movies being prime examples, serving up ninety minutes of gratuitous violence, special effects and occasionally nudity too, to take the audience on a flight into the dark realms of their minds (provide your own sick bags).
“When in doubt, gross ‘em out” seems to be the motto of many of the directors, some of whom have gone on to achieve fame, at least in certain circles (Stuart Gordon, Sam Raimi) and a few are now recognised as masters in their own right (Jacques Tourneur, Terence Fisher). The same is true of their creations — everyone knows Christopher Lee as Dracula, and Freddie Krueger is rapidly becoming as much a part of America as Mom & apple pie. Some actors and actresses do very little else but Trash films, Linnea Quigley probably being the leading lady: she even played a character called Trash.
The sexploitation film, where the plot is little more than an excuse to see pretty girls with minimal clothing, is less popular than it was, no doubt partly due to AIDS. Films like the Lemon Popsicle series and Porky’s, aimed at those not quite old enough to get in to see them, always seemed to promise more than they actually delivered! Films like “9 1/2 Weeks” still attract an audience; they will no doubt be made for as long as there are people willing to go and see them.
As a general rule, avoid any film that gets an Oscar nomination (unless it’s for special effects) — this means they have been taken SERIOUSLY, and you’re likely to be in for a dull evening.
There are a huge number of trash books published each year – if anything, they are even more popular than trash films. Romances, westerns, spy books, Science Fiction & Horror are all gold-mines of Trash; since I’d guess that over 75% of books read in this country are purely for pleasure, the success of trash becomes quite understandable. As in all areas, a variety of trash to suit all tastes is on offer, ranging from the soft(ish)-porn of Jackie Collins to the splatter of Shaun Hutson, via the literate trash of Fredrick Forsyth.
As ever though, the establishment refuses to recognise any popular authors the odds of Robert Heinlein getting the Nobel prize for literature are not a lot worse now he’s dead than they were when he was alive. Rather than go on listing trash, it’ll be quicker to give the areas that are trash deserts, normally because people take them a bit too seriously. Politics and religion are almost trash-free, probably because they are so dull – however, occasionally a politician will slip a little bit beyond the limits of good taste. Ilona Staller, the Italian porn star turned MP, has made herself an international reputation out of this sort of thing — if you saw her appearance on “The Last Resort”, you’ll know what I mean.
Another example, not so much of slipping beyond the limits as leaping over them with the agility of a startled gazelle, was the recent speech by the Speaker of the German Parliament. He said Hitler’s early years were “a triumphal procession” and “glorious” for many Germans, as well as that Hitler had restored German pride and that many Germans had thought the Jews deserved to be put in their place. It was supposed to be in inverted commas but such bad taste could not go unpunished and, not surprisingly, he had to resign…
As a handy, cut-out—and-keep guide, here’s a table giving some examples of trash and non—trash, in a variety of categories. The non—trash fails to qualify either because it’s too “good” to be trash, or because it is too “bad” to be trash; the technical term for the latter is “garbage”.
TV Sitcoms Cop Series, American Cop Series, British Soap Opera, American Soap Opera, British Singers, Female Singers, Male Groups Actors Actresses Directors Painters Holiday resorts
‘Allo, ‘Allo The Equalizer Dempsey & Makepeace Dynasty Crossroads (RIP) Tiffany Prince Transvision Vamp Rutger Hauer Pia Zadora John Carpenter Salvador Dali Amsterdam
Hi-de-Hi Hill Street Blues The Bill Dallas Coronation Street Kylie Minogue Michael Jackson Dire Straits Jack Nicholson Meryl Streep Richard Attenborough Pablo Picasso Paris
This is a fun party game, that can provoke hours of argument over who is, and who is not, trash — I’m sure you may well disagree with some of the names above. The border between trash/non—trash can be a very thin one – what makes Tiffany trash, but not Kylie? Perhaps it’s the former‘s quite endearingly original habit of singing in shopping malls, or maybe I’m just a sucker for a seventeen year old…
This is the trash universe. Have fun.
Ten Possible Titles for that Film you Never Made.
Night of the Nympho Nymphettes
Zombie Dinner Party
Invasion of the Icky Monsters
The Texas ‘My Little Pony‘ Massacre
Anything with the word ‘Chainsaw’ in it
It came from Beneath the Duvet
Wild Sorority Girls of Planet Playtex (with thanks to Bloom County!)
I was talking to our Italian correspondent (OK, a girl I used to know who is now working over near Florence as a student teacher) about Italian TV — in the current debate over de-regulation, it’s often held up as a warning about what might happen here. However, she told me that among the films she’s seen on TV over there are “The Fly”, “Hellraiser” and “Dawn of the Dead”, all uncut and on at about 8 p.m. Don’t know about you, but I’d be quite willing to suffer quite a few hours of soap operas and games shows if we got a few films like THOSE on!
Ok, she may not be the greatest actress in the universe (though she’s certainly not the worst either) and she does have an unhappy knack of acting in films that get savaged by the critics and/or the paying audience but has there ever been a more gorgeous, attractive creature seen on the silver screen? [N.B. This is a rhetorical question…]
Aside from her beauty, even though she’ll never win any Oscars, it has to be admitted that she has the guts to take on a far wider range of roles than Meryl Streep has ever attempted. While Ms. Streep plays pretty much the same persona in all her films, however effectively, Ms. Kinski has played a were—panther, an American revolutionary, a schoolgirl prostitute, a Dorset farm girl from the turn of the century and a yuppie stock—broker (not that there are any like her where I’m working), with an effectiveness ranging from acceptable to excellent.
This article will be slightly different from the usual film/biography. As well as the usual historical details, list of films, etc, you’ll also find information on how much Nastassja Kinski appears in the film, and how much of her is seen (these two are NOT the same if you think about it!) — the phrase “starring Nastassja Kinski” covers a multitude of sins. –
Let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start, as Julie Andrews remarked, but since Julie Andrews is not really a trash actress perhaps it’s not the best of quotes — however, since most trash actresses are unable to speak and take their clothes off simultaneously, and are therefore a poor source of quotes, it’ll have to do. I digress.) with her birthday. Isn’t research a wonderful thing? Having looked up several film reference books, I can confidently state that when it comes to her date of birth, I haven’t a clue. Some books say she was born in 1959, while others disagree, giving dates as late as the 29th of January 1961. Frankly, who cares? It’s not that important, except that the thought of a 15-year old appearing nude in a film is usually though of as rather more ‘depraved’ than if she is 17!
Daughter of Brigitte and Klaus Kinski, her teenage years seems to have been real ‘wild—child’ ones, parties, staying out all night and doing all the usual things teenagers do, with the interesting addition of posing for some ‘artistic’ photographs.
Again, my research turned up different stories about where/by whom she was discovered (don’t know why I didn’t just plagiarise things like normal!). One tale has it that the director Wim Wenders (with whom she was to work again later on “Paris, Texas”) saw her at a rock concert, while another says that it was Wenders‘ wife who found her, dancing in a disco. Whatever the story, the net result was:
Wilhelm leaves his mother and his native village in North Germany to try and become a writer. On his journey, he meets an old Nazi, with a mute teenager (NK). In Cologne, he falls in love with Therese, an actress, and meets Bernard, an Austrian poet. These five people arrive, by chance, at the mansion of a rich industrialist on the point of suicide.
I can’t really say very much about this film because I haven’t seen it, the above synopsis being translated from a French book. I don’t think it’s currently available in this country, but I’d be very interested if anyone out there DOES have a copy!
Her next film couldn’t have been much more different, as she appeared in the last Hammer Horror film ever made:
TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER – Peter Sykes, 1975
NK plays a young girl ‘sold’ at birth by her father to a coven of demon worshippers in exchange for material success — there intentions being to use her as an evil version of the Virgin Mary in order to bring their ‘Lord’, Astaroth, into the world. However, her father tries to get out of his side of the deal and leaves his daughter in the care of an expert in he occult. Unfortunately, the coven has a telepathic link with her…
A fairly effective adaptation of the book by Dennis Wheatley, even if the hand of the censor meant that it was a little less intelligible than it was supposed to be. All the acting is competent at worst and Nastassja gives a nice performance, with just enough hidden menace to be convincing.
NK isn’t the star here — her name is in- much smaller letters than the two established actors, Christopher Lee and Richard Widmark, and is even behind Honor (Kinky Boots) Blackman. She is on the screen for a good chunk of the movie. Even so — certainly more than Blackman (whom she kills with a knitting needle to the brain) or Lee. In terms of flesh, there lS a VERY brief nude scene at the end, a gift to those who own video—recorders…
Her next activity was a slight change of tack, as Nastassja returned to try her hand at TV, for an episode of a German police series:
TATORT, episode REIFEZEUGNIS (For Your Love Only) – Wolfgang Petersen, 1976.
NK is a schoolgirl who is having an affair with her teacher. Another pupil finds out about this, and tries to blackmail her into having sex with him. Meanwhile, another pupil is blackmailing the teacher. Oh, and the wife of the teacher knows as well (it seems to have been a pretty badly concealed affair). Then the guy blackmailing NK tries to rape her, and is killed by a friend of NK – this is where the police come in.
A well—made, solid piece of drama, which won several awards, including some for NK. In terms of UK series, it’d be more “Juliet Bravo” than “The Professionals”, with the police not playing much of a part, especially in the first half. This was released in the cinemas here, and was available on videotape for a while too (Guild Video).
Nastassja Kinski is one of the main stars, and is on screen for quite a lot of the film, probably more than anyone else, with the exception of the teacher, so it’s good value for money. Compared with the film that had gone immediately before, and the next one she was to do, it is remarkably restrained in terms of nudity, with just a topless scene or two.
It was now that she met up with Roman Polanski. who was to turn her from a moderately well-known actress into an international superstar, doubtlessly while bonking her brains out, given his predilection for the younger woman (which has made him persona non grata in the States). Before putting her in “Tess”, it was decided that a little more acting experience wouldn’t be amiss. The product of this training was:
HOTEL DER LEIDENSCHAFTLICHEN BLUMCHEN – Andre Farwagi, 1977
a.k.a. Passion Flower Hotel, a.k.a. Virgin Campus, a.k.a Boarding School, and that’s just the English titles!
A new girl (NK) arrives at a boarding-school on the shores of a lake. Along with the other girls in the dormitory, she sets up a brothel so that they can lose their virginity — most of the film is about the severe trouble they have doing so!
I don’t want to say too much about this film here, as a full article on it can be found later on in this issue, but I have to say this is her finest moment. The plot is totally ridiculous, but who cares? One thing to note is that the guy who plays Frank in “Hellbound: Hellraiser 2”, made his acting debut in this.
The whole film is just an excuse to show pretty girls in a state of undress. Of course, it’s all done with such a sense of humour that it’s nearly impossible to find offensive, but the sex scene at the end remains unsurpassed in the NK chronology, with the possible exception of “Cat People”.
The shooting of “Tess” was delayed somewhat, due to a slight problem that Roman Polanski was having with the authorities in California, to be more specific, that he was guilty of “Furnishing a controlled substance to a minor; committing a lewd or lascivious act; having unlawful sexual intercourse; perversion, sodomy and rape by use of drugs” [Question : Who described Roman Polanski as “an evil, profligate dwarf”? Answer : Roman Polanski]. To fill in time, some more acting experience was acquired:
COSI COME SEI – Alberto Lattuada, 1977
a.k.a. Stay the Way You are, Just Stay as You Are
Giulo Merengo is in Florence to negotiate the purchase of a statue. He gets to know Francesca, a young botany student. he also meets an old friend of his, who tells him that Francesca is the daughter of Fosca, an old flame of Giulo’s, with whom he had an affair some twenty years ago. This is pretty close to the age of Francesca…
Again, this is one that I haven’t been able to lay my hands on. NK plays both Francesca and Fosca — judging by the stills that I’ve seen from it, she looks absolutely gorgeous.
Finally, the shooting of the film that made her famous all over the world. as well as disproving the earlier mentioned rule about Oscar nominations leading to dull evenings, got underway:
TESS — Roman Polanski, 1977-78
NK is a Wessex farmer’s daughter whose family are distantly related to the d’Urbevilles, a once great family. She is sent to the current owners of the title to ask for aid (even though they ‘bought’ the title ), and is given a job. She is raped by the lord of the manor, and returns to her village – the child dies soon after birth, and Tess moves away to become a dairy—maid. There, she meets and falls in love with Angel, a clergyman’s son : they get married, but he leaves her when she reveals her past. This lS a big mistake, as he eventually realises, but by then she has married the lord who violated her. As in most of Hardy’s novels, there is not a happy ending — Tess is hung for the murder of her husband.
It would take a far worse director than Roman Polanski to make a bad film of possibly the greatest novel in the English language (though I’m sure Richard Attenborough would have a good chance of ruining it [Meow!]). It is a long film, but it would have been difficult to cut very much out without losing the atmosphere of the novel. NK gives a superb performance, possibly her best ever, and the entire film is a classic. There is enough NK in this film to satisfy anyone, though she does keep her clothes on – even the rape scene is extremely decorous.
So what should she do next, out of all the offers of film scripts that came pouring in following ‘Tess’? After over a year of deliberation, she chose a film by Francis Ford Coppola which sounded a pretty safe bet — his track record was impressive, even discounting ‘Apocalypse Now‘. However, this was the first real case of Nastassja’s unerring nose for a turkey…
ONE FROM THE HEART – Francis Ford Coppola, 1981
Two lovers, Hank & Frannie, have an argument, and decide independently to go for a night on the town (‘the town‘ being Las Vegas). They each meet up and have a brief fling with a stranger, Hank’s lover being a circus girl called Leila (NK).
Really very little happens in this film – it is certainly a technically impressive achievement (you have to keep reminding yourself that it was entirely shot in a studio), but I kept thinking “What’s the point?”. Why bother constructing Las Vegas instead of using the real thing? There are a few pleasant musical interludes, including NK singing (or at least PRETENDING to sing), but it fails to do anything much to the emotions, beyond the usual vague feelings of lust for NK.
There’s not even much of that either – she doesn’t really appear in much of the film, although when she does she kicks the film out of it’s self-satisifed rut and into the realms of dream—land; dancing on a high tension wire, balancing on a ball and being the only thing that keeps this film from being consigned to the box marked ‘big, overblown, blunders‘.
Seven films in, nine to go. It’d be nice to cover the next one too, and get us to exactly half-way, but as it’s “Cat People”, any attempt to do it justice in 15 lines would be futile, so we’ll save it until next issue! So instead, here are a couple of random bits of interest on her, to keep you going till then…
If you have trouble spelling ‘Nastassja’, you should be grateful – on her first film she wasn’t billed as ‘Kinski’ but ‘Nakszynski’!!
She has a criminal record. 0n her return to Germany after filming ‘Stay the Way You Are‘, she was arrested for failing to pay fines resulting from evading her fare on public transport. She was sentenced to 14 days, but with time off for good behaviour, only spent 5 days in jail. Anyone for a remake of “Reform School Girls”?