Just more movie reviews this time, and a little less than usual. I started reading The Count of Monte Cristo and that's not a book, that's a relationship, almost 1000 pages. So far (about 100 pages in) it's kicking ass, though. The reviews are going to look a little screwy, because for some reason this goddamn website ain't givin' me my bold-and-italics-and-links options, and I don't know how to do 'em manually, so, fuckit, we'll do it live, we'll do it live!
At least YouTube provides me the inbed coding. Yay YouTube, fuck GoogleBlogger!
Also, before I start, in film news, Roman Polanski finally got nabbed for child molestation! Excellent, even if it's decades too late. Here's my most-admired-human, Andrew Vachss, on Polanski:
If I could do links I'd link you to Vachss's website so you could read up and find why I like him so much, but instead I'll just let you paste this in for yourself: www.vachss.com Buy his books, support his mission.
Asylum Erotica (C, 1971) aka La Bestia Uccide a Sangue Freddo, Slaughter Hotel, The Beast Kills in Cold Blood, Cold-Blooded Beast. Tedium holds sway throughout this pointless and plot-free Italian softcore horror flick. Klaus Kinski runs a rest home for women with mental problems (mostly nymphomania). Much of the screen time is spent on showing naked women bathe or writhe around in bed or have very mild sexual encounters, with the occasional deviation of a killer in a black mask and cape showing up to kill them with a knife or axe. The gore is very minimal and you've probably made better effects yourself while trick-or-treating. Even the nudity is limited mostly to titty, at least in the DVD I saw, which is admittedly cut. I'd hope the longer version at least had something worth sitting through. There's lots of the kind of music you used to hear in grocery stores in the 60's. Nobody (especially Kinski) really has much to do, so they stand around looking unemotional a lot. One person gets shoved into an iron maiden, which isn't exactly a smart piece of furniture to have around a clinic for the insane in the first place, but then the joint also has displays of medieval weapons, too, so they're not exactly famous for forethought. Characters are so poorly established that when the killer is revealed you won't remember who he is. Bottom of the barrel giallo that meanders along until it peters out and wastes a good title.
Day After, The (C, 1983) Fun little souvenir of the Reagan era in which global nuclear war goes off, just like everybody thought it would throughout the 80’s (some - including Ronnie - hopefully!). The film - manipulative but well-made - gives us a realistic portrait of how such a war would look from the outskirts of Lawrence, Kansas (just to show us nowhere‘s safe). An uprising in Germany sparks Russian aggression which quickly gets out of hand and soon everybody’s launching ICBM’s at everybody else. Panic erupts as people try to escape populated areas, and then the bombs hit and vaporize large portions of the population. Some survivors take shelter in cellars and hospitals, and others wander the roads, growing sick from radioactive fallout and diseases caused by lack of sanitary conditions. Others are shot as society breaks down and people become desperate scavengers. The country tries to work on rebuilding but no one knows what to do and diseases keep killing people off. Very grim made-for-TV movie upset many who’d been thinking nuclear war would probably be some fun survivalist thing with guns as cars (as depicted in the adventure-series novels that also thrived around the same time). ABC had to set up a 1-800 line to counsel upset viewers, and Karl Sagan and William F. Buckley had a debate right afterward, in which Buckley got his ass pwned. Reagan watched it and sent in lots of suggestions for re-editing. Advertisers wouldn’t buy ad time for the second hour so it aired with no commercial interruptions. Scary in the first half and slow and sad in the second.
Watch the whole thing on YouTube starting here:
Great Gabbo, The (B&W, 1929) Eric Von Stroheim is a maniacally-irritable, superstitious, narcissistic ventriloquist whose abusive behavior finally runs off his long-suffering assistant, Mary, even though she patiently tried to find some good in him (and decided his only nice side is what he expresses through his dummy, Otto). Von Stroheim talks to Otto like he's alive, and gets in violent arguments with it. After he becomes a big Broadway hit, Von Stroheim and Otto have dinner in a restaurant every night, carrying on public conversations. Otto occasionally sings songs while Von Stroheim eats, including an easy-to-make fun of tune about making icky with his lollipop! The only thing worse than Otto's songs are his truly embarrassing jokes, and Von Stroheim's "feats of ventriloquism" (eating, drinking water, smoking, stuffing handkerchiefs in his mouth) aren't impressive because Otto is an obvious voice-over. Since this is an early talkie, I don't know if audiences were supposed to be fooled into thinking it was legit or not, but you have to remember that people used to tune in to listen to Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy on the freaking radio, so they may not have been too picky about actual displays of skill. They meet Mary again and try to mend fences, but when Von Stroheim learns that Mary is already married to someone else, he really loses his mind. The film's also heavily padded with musical numbers, presumably to take advantage of the sound technology. They're all pretty bad, but one of them -- in which people dressed as flies dance in a giant spider web while a guy in the funniest spider outfit ever sings -- is pants-peeing hilarious. This is the granddaddy of the lucrative ventriloquists-are-crazy genre, and an odd viewing experience in that you end up feeling pretty embarrassed for Stroheim, who had made masterpieces like Greed and then had his talkie debut in such a humiliating role.
The Lollipop song:
The hilarious spider-web number:
House of the Yellow Carpet (C, 1983) aka La Casa Del Tappeto Giallo. A young couple put an ad in the paper, trying to sell a huge, ugly yellow rug. While the husband's off dealing with some people who are towing away his car, a creepy guy with a crippled arm shows up to look at the carpet. He acts very strange, helping himself to coffee and accusing the wife of telling lies and saying that her husband is in cahoots with him to kill her. He says he killed his wife on a rug just like the one they have, and makes all kinds of accusations, getting increasingly threatening and keeping the wife prisoner. Eventually the wife stabs him to death on the carpet, and then a strange woman shows up, looking for her husband, who she claims is an unbalanced ex-actor who talks his way into people's houses and then improvises weird theatrical scenarios. Then the wife wakes up with her husband, wondering if any of it actually happened. She's sure it did, but the husband says she just dreamed it all. Is she right, or is she crazy, or is it all some twisted conspiracy? Odd, stylish late-entry Italian giallo with some real intensity and strangeness and an intriguing plot. It's got some blood but is fairly light in the gore department, although a scene of a guy injecting drugs under his eyelid may make you cringe. Bizarre obscurity I found on a used VHS tape at an old video store, this one doesn't show up in most books but it's good enough for someone to consider releasing it on DVD. The video box lies about the content of the movie, claiming supernatural stuff.
House With The Laughing Windows (C, 1976) aka La Casa Dalle Finestre Che Ridono, House With The Windows That Laugh, House of the Laughing Windows. Pupi Avati film that’s one of the ultimate classics of Italian horror, and of horror cinema, period. Stefano, a young artist, is hired to restore a fresco on a church wall, painted by a brilliant-but-mad artist, Legani, who was known as the “painter of agony” due to his realistic depictions of torture. Stefano is very intrigued by Legani’s work, but receives mysterious warnings to stop work on the painting. A man who’s also researching the painter promises to take him to a “house with laughing windows,” where he’ll learn more, and then calls him with urgent info about the painter’s methods, but is thrown off a tall building before he can relay the secret. Stefano also discovers that the village has more than its share of eccentrics, such as a young imbecile who likes to put live rats in coffins to keep corpses company. Stefano learns more secrets about the painting, and thinks that Legani’s sisters helped him paint by torturing models to death while Legani painted. He also learns that Legani set himself on fire and ran into the woods, but his body was never found. As Stefano gets closer to the truth about the painting, though, someone destroys it so he’ll have no reason to stay. By now he’s too intrigued, though, and continues his investigations... but the things he learns he may regret, and the secrets are darker and more morbid and horrific than he (or we) could possibly guess. This movie is brilliantly realized in that the viewer unravels this puzzle as Stefano does, and we’re as surprised as he is every step of the way. Even once you know what’s going on, it gets creepier with repeat viewings. One thing you really must do on your first viewing, though, is to watch it in one sitting, preferably alone, and give it your full concentration; failing to do that would cost you one of the greatest cinematic experiences of your life.
You're better off just going and getting the movie and not even watching this trailer, but, what the hell...
Maneater of Hydra (C, 1967) aka La Isla De La Muerte, Island of the Dead, Island of the Doomed, The Bloodsuckers, Death Island. A car full of travelers end up at the villa of eccentric botanist Cameron Mitchell, after running down one of his servants, a terrified man who Cameron claims was already dying from an incurable disease. At dinner Cameron serves mutated vegetables -- "it looks like a cucumber but it tastes just like meat!" After dinner he shows off hybrid vegetables he's developed, such as a huge, tentacled flytrap that eats mice. Then corpses start showing up, drained of blood, and everybody thinks a vampire is on the loose, but of course that's totally ridiculous -- it's a giant blood-sucking plant! When another botanist finds out, Mitchell kills him via a pretty absurd little blade hidden in a statue of Shiva. He blames his mute servant for the killing, but the servant tries to escape on a bicycle. Sorry, but no amount of dramatic chase music can make footage of an old man riding a bicycle look intense. The plant attacks some more of the guests, and yet they're still slow to catch on. Clumsy Spanish horror with hilariously bad dubbing (made even better by over-the-top acting from several of the performers... but oddly not Mitchell, who's more restrained than usual (at least until the end, where he gets pretty unhinged). Appropriately enough for a man-eating plant movie, this was directed by the guy who played Gravis Mushnik in Little Shop of Horrors. This was a rarely-seen (although not particularly sought-out) title until it came out on an Elvira DVD... and that was apparently mastered from a second-generation tape struck from a graining full-frame print, with some tracking issues. Has a fair amount of blood, at least, and a little atmosphere.