Okay, I'm officially calling NaNoWriMo off on account of pain. I mean, my novel... you should all carry on with yours. (Like anybody was doing it besides me. Slaggards, thou! Slugabeds! Cookies!) It's pretty hopeless, because I've been spending hours and hours sitting in front of the computer, unable to make myself actually write. My life's been like the first half of Barton Fink, sans John Goodman, and plus prostate problems. I have a world's champeen bad prostate, apparently, and probably no tact since I discuss it in public. Had surgery on it a few years back but it still gives me the miseries on a regular basis; bladder infections, weird pains, you name it. I'm not seeing the doctor (for a while anyway) because he never does anything except say "There's nothing wrong that I can tell. Don't care how terrible it feels, there's no infection. That'll be $300." And I've got a few antibiotics I pilfered from my dad's endless supply (he's the poor guy I inherited the goddamn thing from, y'see) that I'm takin' just in case it actually is a bladder infection, so I can prevent damage. Anyway, it's a pain in the ass. The front part of the ass. Y'know, the wiener. And suburbs thereof. The part where you're not supposed to let bad mans touch you, basically.
Anyhow, I'm certain that sitting on it for hours and hours at the computer doing nothing isn't helping, so I'm just calling my NaNoWriMo novel (called Daisyland, I think I decided) a wash for now. I have lots of ideas for it but can't make myself write 'em down. I may try to hand-write some of it later, but as far as 50,0000 words in a month, fahgeddaboudit, not happin', Slappy. It's already the 11th and I'm just over 10,000 words. Finishing it on spec would require a Herculean effort, and I'm not Hercules. In fact, I'm sick as a dog, other shit besides just my beloved prostate (him name Herman! I put a hat on him! Mmmm-wah!) and just being alive is struggle enough right now.
Anyway, despite that, I'm providing you with new movie reviews, anyway, just 'cuz I love yaz. And because I feel bad about back there where I called you "cookies." That was terribly mean. Today's offerings will include a trailer for Machine Girl, though, and that's the greatest thing you've ever seen in ya goddamn life and will more than make up for any hurt feelings. In fact, I should take advantage of that and call everybody "cunts" instead, but, I won't. I've somehow worked up enough bad karma somewhere already. Fucking prostate. Damn you, Herman.
I Saw What You Did (B&W, 1965) Teens Libby and Kit (and pesky little sister Tess) are home alone, making prank calls for fun. On one ill-fated call they reach John Ireland and tell him "I saw what you did and I know who you are," not suspecting that he's a homicidal maniac who's just stabbed his wife to death in the shower. They're intrigued by his reaction and go to his house to try to get a look at him, but his mistress Joan Crawford catches them and steals their vehicle registration. Ireland kills her and then goes after the girls. Fun William Castle Psycho-variant with a good mix of intensity and sitcom-like goofiness; the murder's actually pretty surprising, because up to that point the movie's played like an episode of Father Knows Best or something. The Castle gimmick for this movie was a "Shock Section" in theaters, where the chairs were equipped with seat belts for people who might get jolted out of their seats. It's not that scary, but it's good... good enough to have been remade as a TV movie in 1988. Stick with the original.
If that intrigues you, you can watch the whole movie here. You'll have to provide your own seat belt.
Killer From Above (C, 1977) aka Dao Jian Ba Wang Quan. Lo Lieh vs. Carter Wong! Lo Lieh is a killer who’s travelling around, using Phoenix Eye fists to kill people, apparently indiscriminately... but he says all the people he’s killing are evil. He spares a couple of bumbling idiots because they’re innocent, and they help him out when he gets captured. Carter Wong is an evil leader who’s sent to deal with him, but Carter’s been one of his main targets all along. Lo Lieh also has to deal with a guy who impersonates him, a guy named Smiling Killer (who, oddly enough, doesn’t smile much), and a treacherous woman named Widow Spider. Carter locks him in a “water dungeon” full of traps, but he escapes and they square off, Phoenix Eye against mantis fist. Solid kung fu, with a rare good-guy role for the late great Lo Lieh.
Machine Girl (C, 2008) aka Kataude Mashin Garu, The One-Armed Machine Girl. Usually when a movie trailer is really, really good, the movie itself ends up being a disappointment. Well, here’s one that lives up to the hype. The just-enough-plot-to-be-an-excuse-for-lots-of-crazy-action-scenes story is your standard revenge dealie; a gang of bullies kill a schoolboy they’ve been extorting, so his really cute sister sets out to avenge him. His killer is the son of a yakuza boss, and while going after them she’s captured, and they chop off her left arm while torturing her. Undeterred, she replaces her missing hand with a multi-barreled machine gun and uses it to take on her enemies, including some Power Ranger-like ninjas known as... The Junior High Shuriken Gang! The result of it all is crazy, insane gore! Blood sprays like garden sprinklers, bodies are sliced into sections, people are blown to tiny bits (sometimes the flesh is blown off their skeleton before they die), a guy gets nails driven into his face, there’s chainsaw mayhem, a flying guillotine, a drill bra, and other means of hyper-graphic bloodletting that’s cool as hell but can’t even remotely be taken seriously (although to the film’s credit, they play it straight no matter how wacky and over the top it gets, which elevates it above the Toxic Avenger level that it could fall to). Cartoonish but never lets up and assails you with one crazed splatter scenario after another. There’s no way not to fall in love with this Japanese actionfest, which more than delivers on all its trailers’ promises.
THE MOST AWESOME TRAILER YOU HAVE EVER SEEN!!!!!
Another version in English, which is also... THE MOST AWESOME TRAILER YOU HAVE EVER SEEN!!!!
And the first five minutes... which is... THE MOST AWESOME FIRST FIVE MINUTES YOU HAVE EVER SEEEEEENNNNNNNN!!!!!
Nude For Satan (C, 1974) aka Nuda Per Satana. Absurdist, nonsensical Italian horror in which a doctor brings a woman who was injured in a car wreck to a castle full of crazy evil fiends, who are apparently their own evil halves. The evil selves engage in all sorts of lustful behavior, which includes naked dancing girls, a really badly-made giant spider that captures girl in a web, whipping, and orgies of weirdness. Some of it actually manages to be creepy, with ugly people laughing and leering at the camera, but there’s really not much in the way of a plot or story -- there are just a bunch of weird scenes thrown haphazardly together, creating a nightmarish feel. I think it’s aiming for a Castle of Blood thing, but packing in as much sleaze as they can without just being softcore porn (which it really isn’t; even though there’s plenty of nudity and some mild sex, an effort is made to emphasize the horror). There’s a lot of psychobabble thrown in to give it an air of respectability. A Eurotrash horror oddity that you’ll probably like if you’re not hung up on coherency. Does manage a lunatic atmosphere and some surreality.
One Damned Day At Dawn... Django Meets Sartana (C, 1971) aka Quel Maledetto Giorno D’Inverno... Django e Sartana All’ultimo Sangre. Marquee-filling Spaghetti Western with Fabio Testi (the man so virile he’s even got balls in his name!) as a meek new sheriff who’s got way too much on his plate when he arrives in the town where he’s been assigned. The dirty little town is being terrorized by a gang run by a thug named Bud Wheeler and his Mexican pal, Sanchez. (You can make your own “Dirty Sanchez” jokes here, I’m not going to go there, no sir). Vastly outnumbered, Testi doesn’t do much to oppose him. A grim stranger in town (supposedly Django, a bounty hunter) mostly sits around and watches Wheeler’s violence. Testi finally gets forced into a showdown with Wheeler at dawn (after an arm-wrestling contest over lit candles) and Django decides to help him out. Together they kill off Bud Wheeler’s gang, but then Sanchez and his men come in wanting revenge. Testi (who is secretly Sartana) quits his job as sheriff, bu then returns to face Sanchez. He and Django have a fist fight for no particular reason, then take on the bad guys. The direction is pretty clumsy and the story’s pretty average, but the dirty, windy locations, good music score, and Testi’s screen presence help elevate it. The climactic gunfight during a dust storm is atmospheric despite the director’s limitations.
Pirates on Horseback (B&W, 1941) An old prospector uncovers a lost gold mine, and a gang of thugs kill him while trying to make him reveal the location. The prospector was the cousin of Hopalong Cassidy's pal California, so Hoppy, California, and Lucky set out to find the gold mine and catch the killers. Needless to say, this involves some trouble, such as fist-fights and shoot-outs. It sometimes leans heavier in the direction of mystery (although it's a good one, so that's not a complaint) instead of action, but Hoppy makes up for that by getting mad and beating the snot out of a guy at the end.
Couldn't find a trailer for this one, but here's an ad for what I'm assured is Hoppy's favorite bread.
Psyched by the 4-D Witch (C, 1972) Extremely bizarre obscurity filmed entirely in obnoxious acid-trippy visuals. A girl named Cindy who wears a really terrible wig but usually no top goofs around with black magic rituals and the spirit of an astral witch named Abigail promises her orgasms when she hears the magic words "Let's fantasy-fuck now!" Mostly you get close-ups of red lights shining on things, but there are also unrelated bits of somebody's travel footage of fountains and beaches and stuff, close-ups of people's faces (it all looks like it was shot silent on an 8mm movie camera). There's a lot of voice-over narration -- all about sex -- but they don't really show you much of anything. You get people in weird costumes superimposed over traffic footage instead. There's a memorable "Beware of the 4-D Witch" theme song that pops up often, along with bits of "Night On Bald Mountain" (which is public domain, don'tchaknow). After having sex with a supposedly-gay guy and a lesbian encounter with her aunt, Cindy tries to stop witchcraft and devote her time to raking leaves (which is a much more entertaining passtime than watching this film, by the way), but then she has nightmares about astral eyes and such, and Abigail makes her watch a girl have sex with a snake (basically she just holds a rubber snake while naked), and then tries to make her have sex with her dead girlfriend, and Cindy learns that Abigail is trying to punish her for stealing her boyfriend in another life. Then Abigail targets Cindy's brother Mark, using an evil eye to turn him into a sex-vampire... which is every bit as tedious as Cindy's adventures. The main problem with the style of this junk is that it gives you nothing sensical to look at, and the disjointed images you get instead aren't even of anything interesting... and on top of that, there's a very limited collection of them (maybe ten loops of film to draw from) and they're endlessly repeated. One of the most stultifying film experiences you'll ever have; if anything in this review has made it sound interesting at all, then I've erred. The only charm of this thing is its rarity and obscurity; you'll be seeing something that few others had seen before DVD hawked it back up and spat it into the market. But that's akin to seeing your own intestines; few have seen that, either, and you getting the privilege just makes you unlucky and unfortunate. May be more entertaining to people who've taken drugs, but that's a real "fuck 'em" target audience to shoot for, and aren't the drugs supposed to be entertaining enough on their own? A film that truly makes the statement, "Got yer money!"
Those of you with bands will probably want to cover this theme song...
Requiem For A Dream (C, 2000) It's amazing that such dark material drew such a big-name cast, because this one shows up again and again on lists of most-disturbing films. It's an exploration of addictions and how easily they can get out of control and land you in a real-life hell. A young junkie (Jared Leto) and his friend (Marlon Wayans) come up with a way to make some money: they'll buy some uncut heroin, water it down, and re-sell it and used the money to buy more and repeat the process. Their new career as drug dealers works out well for a while, but then they, as well as Leto's girlfriend (Jennifer Connelly) start using too much of their own product. In the meantime Leto's mother (Ellen Burstyn, who really should have been up for an Oscar for this) gets some mail that tells her she could be a potential game-show contestant, and becomes so obsessed with the idea that she starts dieting to fit into a dress she wants to wear on the show. She has a food addiction, though, so she goes on diet pills and is soon addicted to those. Everyone's addictions get out of hand, leading to madness, prostitution, amputation, incarceration, and gernal Dante's Inferno material that will prove too much of a downer for many viewers, especially those who have some chemical dependencies of their own and may see their potential selves here. Based on a Hubert Selby Jr. novel, directed by Darren Aronofsky (Pi) with a great deal of surreal style and power (apparently too much for many, as this keeps showing up in lists of horror movies without really being part of the genre).
Ricco The Mean Machine (C, 1973) aka Cauldron of Death, Gangland, The Dirty Mob, Ricco, Some Guy With A Strange Face Is Looking For You To Kill You. This movie always stood out to me because it was the most annoying thing about Michael Weldon’s groundbreaking Psychotronic book (which, again, a friend of mine is re-creating, and you should check out his blog here - it's got my highest endorsement): he had a large reproduction of the newspaper ad and then a dismissive review that told absolutely nothing about the film, which I’m pretty sure he never actually saw. Now that movie’s finally available on DVD we can see that, great as Weldon is, his judgment is sometimes off. Even though this is an Italian crime drama and not a horror film as some unscrupulous marketing-monkeys tried to make you think, there’s enough gore and violence to make Italian horror fans take notice. Robert Mitchum’s son Chris stars as Ricco, an ex-con just released from prison and on the vengeance trail after Arthur Kennedy, a drug smuggler who blew Ricco’s dad’s head off and stole his girlfriend. Chris gets some help (and then some opposition) from a mobster who looks a lot like Paulie Walnuts on The Sopranos. Mitchum uses a lot of phony-looking kung fu to battle Kennedy’s minions, who do some pretty hideous things like dissolving people in acid (and making soap out of them, in which drugs or jewels are hidden) or cutting off a guy’s organs of engenderment and stuffing them in his mouth (very graphically). Nobody dies easily in gunfights, either; even bullets in the heart aren’t immediately fatal. In addition to all the violence there’s plenty of high-quality nudity, compliments of Barbara Bouchet and Malisa Longo. The Italian title of this translates to “Some Guy With A Strange Face Is Looking For You To Kill You.” Not exactly flattering to Mitchum. A must for fans of over-the-top Italian crime dramas.
Scream of the Butterfly (B&W, 1965) aka The Passion Kit. A disgruntled lover runs over his adulterous ladyfriend and lawyers see it as a dream case, and discuss it using some hilarious hard-boiled dialogue, triggering flashbacks to her marriage (to a guy who's managed a haircut that incorporates a flat-top and wings) and near-instantaneous infidelity with a guy she meets on the beach. She gets so wrapped up with her boyfriend that she even tries to kill her husband, even though she still kind of loves him, too. She thinks it's all a big messy love triangle, but it's actually a rectangle; the boyfriend has a boyfriend of his own! And it leads to a big twist ending. Well-made sleaze (there are some interesting directorial tricks for such a cheap little flick) with some good dialogue and plot twists, along with the torrid make-out scenes and some mild brief nudity. Bears no relation to the brilliantly-creepy Acid Bath song of the same name.
Here's the Acid Bath song, which is amazing. The lyrics are uber-creepy and the heck with Peter Murphy, Dax Riggs is the eeriest vocalist ever. Someone once described his singing as "the voice of the thing in the corner that made you cry when you were in your crib," and that's about perfect.