Friday, November 15, 2013

September's Heap of Filmic Tripe


  1. Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens (1979) - Russ Meyer's last film. A frenetic sexplotation comedy centred around the everyday story of a husband with an IQ of 36 and 'an inability to look a good fuck in the face' and his wife who suffers from 'enthusiasm'. It's cartoon stuff, Warner Bros' Loony Tunes capering - with tits. And it's pretty funny for great chunks of its running time, though for the life of me I couldn't really tell you why. Most of the funnies come from the strange mock earnestness of the on-screen, direct to camera narrator who hustles the narrative from one bonkers set piece sex scene to another. His monologues are a weird mixture of Dylan Thomas-like relentlessly mellifluous free-flowing poetry, and straight, plain-speaking American newsreel commentary. Strange stuff. And it's not just the narrator - at one point two characters converse in rhyming couplets while having sex, and one of the many bouts of furniture-rattling humping is cut to the Anvil Chorus from Il Trovatore. It's almost free-form film making, chaotic, jazzy, uncontrolled. Bebop softcore porn. I like it. And not just for the boobs.
  2. How to Kill Your Neighbor's Dog (2000) - A curmudgeonly writer, happily childless, is changed by meeting a neighbour's little girl who suffers from cerebral palsy. Actually, written down like that it sounds like a real piece of over-sentimental crap but it's a mildly amusing tale and mildly heart warming in an unsentimental and remarkably non-gushy manner.
  3. Dorian Gray (2009) - The Oscar Wilde story with, as usual for National Lottery funded projects, a shitload of money thrown at the art department and not enough thrown at the script. It could have been worse.
  4. Rollerball (2002) - pointless ADHD remake. The best bit of the whole sorry mess was the rather good music by Fifth Element composer Eric Serra. I may have to find the original sound track. I play the Fifth Element OST often enough.
  5. Bugsy Malone (1976) - for the gods-knows-how-many-timesth time but the first time on the big screen since I saw it in on its first run in the cinema 37(!) or so years ago. It is now Number One Daughter's 'favourite film' - replacing Labyrinth in her affections.
  6. Forbidden Planet - for the gods-knows-how-many-timesth. I dearly love Forbidden Planet and, now I own a decent DVD copy, I got to watch it projected for the first time in 27(ish) years. (Last time was in Hull library theatre.) It's a film of its time; contemporary magazine SF made flesh and gorgeous to look at.
  7. Dolls (2002) - my second Takeshi Kitano film (the first was the multi award winning Hana-Bi) I'm still not convinced. Slow, elegiac (it says so on the cover), and emotionally engaging - I'll admit to having a real lump in my throat when the girl shows the boy she remembers the necklace - but in the end it didn't just work for me. I kept getting thrown out of the film. Some of the editorial decisions bordered on the patronising. It was almost as if the director wasn't confident that the audience would remember who characters were without him reminding them from time to time. 'Look it's HIM!' - the fade in of the traffic warden / obsessed fan's character as his blood was being washed from the street was the most obvious. We knew whose blood it was. It had been clearly established it was the traffic warden / obsessed fan's. He was the only character wearing a white suit and carrying a white blind person's walking stick. We had seen him walking down the road. We had just seen a shot of his blood splattered body lying on the road. Why did we then need the fade in to remind us who he was as his blood is washed off the road? We didn't. It might have been useful to know how he had gone from walking down the road to lying dead on it - did he get run over? did he kill himself? THAT wasn't clear, but there we go. He's an award winning director and I'm just some poor chump who doesn't know my arse from my elbow or if ALL Japanese women are insanely beautiful - or just the ones that appear in movies.
  8. Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter (1974) a vastly disappointing piece of late Hammer nonsense that I had never got round to seeing before. Brilliant title though and proof (if proof be needed) that I would watch any old shit if it had Caroline Munro's cleavage in it.
  9. Crash of the Moons (1954) - an early TV movie nailed together from episodes of the Rocky Jones: Space Ranger TV series. It's pretty awful stuff; it's only really redeeming moment was the one when our hero dons a space suit to deal with a red hot meteorite (in interstellar space?) that has become attached to his ship's tail planes. He deals with it by taking a fire hose out the airlock and squirting the thing with water - then shooting it with a hand gun till it falls off. I nearly hurt myself laughing.
  10. Reptilicus (1961) - which was a vast disappointment. I didn't really have high hopes for it. It's a Danish Godzilla with a winged prehistoric lizard thingie stomping the landmarks Copenhagen flat while the combined might of the Danish armed forces futilely fire everything they have at its general direction. (But not the Air Force. Did the Danes not have an Air Force in 1963 or did they get a preview of the script and decline to take part?) But I was expecting better from Ib Melchior the writer of Deathrace 2000, the rather good Robinson Crusoe of Mars, the very odd Angry Red Planet, and the oddly good The Time Travelers. It was directed by Sidney Pink (ditto some of the above). Not one of their better efforts.
  11. Ikarie XB1 (1963) - a rewatch of one of my favourite pieces of Soviet Block SF but this time it's a brand spanking new DVD with subtitles (in English!) without spelling mistakes from the newly discovered Second Run label. Happy birthday, me.

    Untitled by dpsantos, on Flickr
  12. Sucker Punch (2011) - what my mate Nou says: "unbelievable garbage from start to finish, not even all the [scantily-clad symmetrical women flashing their knickers while firing machine-guns] could save it." (How can anyone make scantily-clad symmetrical women flashing their knickers while firing machine-guns boring?)
  13. Buffalo '66 ( 1998 ) - odd.
  14. Robin Hood Prince of Thieves (1991) - the Alan Rickman one. A lot longer than I remember.
  15. House of Usher (1960)
  16. The Legend of Hell House (1973) - the second film in a row to feature four characters stuck in a house written by Richard Matheson. Some genuine chills here but ultimately it all fell a bit flat. Nice score though. Some genuinely weird stuff on the soundtrack thanks in part to the great Delia Derbyshire.
  17. Quatermass 2 (1957) - meh.
  18. Elektra (2005) - comic book guff which I abandoned a couple of years ago at about the twenty minute mark. Occasionally I go back and look at films I didn't like first time round just in case I was wrong. Sometimes I am (cf The Stuff above). This time I wasn't.
  19. The Phantom Planet (1961) - clunking piece of not very good SF watched with Number One Daughter. We giggled a lot.
  20. Crypt of the Living Dead aka Hannah, Queen of the Vampires(1973) - another fine DVD product on the defunct cheapo (and questionably legal) 23rd Century label. Most of their discs appear to have been hand-mastered from battered ex-rental VHS copies and often have tape roll and other undigital blemishes but this was the first one I have watched that changed aspect ratio from scene to scene. Some scenes full frame, some matted off top and bottom. I have no idea why. It was almost as if the DVD had been mastered from two different sources. The film itself was pretty run-of-the-mill American abroad / superstitious locals vampire nonsense but with the odd moment of interest: like the moment when the metal conduits for the lighting in the tourist site location look slightly out of place in the recently excavated archaeological dig the site is pretending to represent. Makes you wonder why all the characters are wandering around in the dark holding up piddling little paraffin lanterns when there's a whole son et lumière waiting at the flick of a switch.
  21. The Sleepwalker Project (1997 - or 2003) - an accidental rewatch of two 60 minute episodes of a short lived TV series chopped into a 84 minute TV movie. The TV series aired (and was cancelled) in 1997 and the movie seems to have appeared in 2003. I accidentally rewatched it because I thought I was watching two different episodes chopped together than the episodes I watched chopped together last time. The show had potential and was passingly interesting - researchers can enter other people's dreams and poke about and solve crimes, right wrongs, etc. etc. Mission Impossible with reality bending (years before Inception). It had potential. Somewhere along the line the 'film' had been released under two different titles. Sleepwalker Project and or Sleepwalker/Sleepwalkers (depending whether you believed the disc or the case). By the time I had realised the cause of my growing sense of deja vu tonight I was too knackered to change the disc and get something else to watch. And Naomi Watts is hot....
  22. Specimen (1996) - low budget SF constructed from bits of garbled retellings of several other (much better) movies: Terminator, Starman, Firestarter and Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe (sic - Abraxas, Guardian of the Galaxy was better) and very flatly done. For most of its time it looked like a tatty pilot for an unambitious 'man alone wandering America helping strangers while looking for his destiny' type series - complete with fade to black commercial break points - but with nudity. (Thinking about it, the nudity footage could easily have been edited out if the they'd sold it to TV but was obviously shot to spice up the trailers if the film got a release.) It sucked; even with the nudity - it's a measure of the film's suckiness that the script doesn't even nod at the essential creepiness of our hero imagining his dead mother stripping naked and getting impregnated by aliens. (The fact he accidentally burned her to death when he was a child makes it even creepier.)
  23. Trancers (1985) - a Rule Seven movie ( 'Rule #7: Any and all time travel devices [in low budget SF films] will only transport you to Los Angeles the year the film was made; no matter how hard you try to make it take you somewhere more interesting.'*) Part of a minor group of post Blade Runner low-budget movies that mash-up the hard boiled detective and SF Genres. Some work, some don't. This one teeters on the edge by not taking itself too seriously but not desperately striving for the yoks. By not taking itself too seriously it allows the audience to sit back and ignore the gaping plot holes. By not scrabbling to milk every laugh it avoids the sad, mind-numbing desert wasteland that is the unfunny comedy. Best line: "Dry hair is for squids." There were four sequels.

    *I wish I could remember what the other rules were.


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