That's what typin' up all my movie reviews is gonna be. Someday I'm gonna have to play around with the digital camera and scanner and show ya'll my notebooks. Remember the psycho in Se7en? Boyo's got nothin' on me when it comes to reams of tiny writin'. Some people who visit my house go, "Hey, show me the notebook again!" I impress (or, in moments of clarity, horrify) myself with my obsessive craziness.
Oi, what a fuckin' week. 'Twas an endless cavalcade of little humiliations and frustrations and futile exercises in grinding my muleheaded stubbornness against pisswit attempts to make me conform to pointless and abusive foolishness. Who will win this war of attrition? No one but my ulcer. And, possibly, people who like to hear me use too many adjectives when I kvetch. The mighty monumental marathon o' miserable was interrupted only by seeing a way-badass-cool band Friday night (finding out my sometimes-skangy little town actually has great (albeit too-well-hidden) love for songs like "Ace of Spades," "Seek And Destroy," and almost anything by Black Sabbath, is always gratifying and gives me a happy case of the fuck-yeah's, no matter how eeeeeyarrgh the rest of the week went. I'm not the only person here who gets it! So, fuck yooooou people-who-don't-get-it! So there!), and re-reading "Bartleby The Scrivener." (I'm weird, but I actually love that friggin' story and re-read it every year or so. It's dangerous to read when I'm ticked off at my workplace, though, because I get the perverse urge to just go in on Monday and start saying "I would prefer not to" while staring at a wall, 'n' see what happens. As opposed to saying "yes, right away" while staring at a wall, which is pretty much what I'm doing these days. Interesting tile grout, we have. If that Bodhidharma-staring-a-hole-in-the-wall story is true, I should have a window soon!
Anyway, did we come here to listen to my vexations, or read movie reviews? I see no reason why a semi-talented sumbitch like me can't pull off both at once, so here's reviews of movies, a couple of which vexed me somewhat. :)
Fists, The Kicks, and the Evils (C, 1979) aka He Quan, Stork Fist. Bolo Yeung and some other bad guys beat up the teacher of a kung fu school (Lee Tso Nam) and take it over. Bruce Liang is very upset with the thugs and wants to fight them, and when they murder his father he vows revenge. The beaten teacher tries to train him in the crane fist style that Bolo‘s trying to wipe out, but the beating he took left him permanently damaged and he can’t do much. Bruce learns a little, gets overconfident, and takes them on too early. They kill his teacher and friend, so now he has even more reason to seek revenge, but has no teacher to train him to get it. An old vegetable salesman and his daughter realize Bruce isn’t going to give up and will surely be killed if he doesn’t know what he’s doing, so they start training him in secret crane fist styles. Finally Bruce is good enough to take on his enemies one by one. Bolo amazingly never takes his shirt off, and uses a strange tiger style that involves never looking directly at his opponent. The other main bad guy (Phillip Kao Fei) uses an opium pipe as a weapon. Strong kung fu movie with lots of well-done fights and a plot obviously influenced by Jackie Chan’s Drunken Master.
Get Thrashed (C, 2006) aka Get Thrashed: The Story of Thrash Metal. Documentary on the birth, rise, decline, and rebirth of thrash metal is kind of like the metal version of American Hardcore, including lots of interview footage with major and minor players. Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax, and Exodus all get in-depth coverage, with special segments on German bands like Kreator, Destruction, and Sodom, plus coverage of crossover bands like Suicidal Tendencies and D.R.I. If you’re a fan of this music you probably won’t learn much you didn’t already know, but you’ll still be glued to the screen to hear it all again from the people who created the whole scene. Well done, with plenty of access (the fact that Rat Skates from Overkill was an associate producer probably opened a lot of doors), and the extra feature on the DVD, talking about different bands from different areas, is as valuable as the feature itself, covering a lot of the lesser-known bands and celebrating them. It’s pretty thorough (‘cept no Blessed Death?). This is essential for metalheads.
Hitcher, The (C, 2007) I may be in the minority on this, but I consider the 1986 original a classic, so any remake is doomed to inferiority. But I had to see it anyway, just to see if it actually earned the inferiority that would be thrust upon it. Yep, but not abysmally so. A guy and his girlfriend (an addition to the first film) who’s characterized mostly by the frequency of her urination take off for spring break. The lame alterna-pop song they leave to in the morning must be really long because it’s still coming out of the radio late that night. They get stuck picking up a hitchhiker who proves to be a sadistic psycho, and even though they escape from him, he decides he wants to play games with them and stalks them around the highway. He murders a family and frames boy-and-girl for it. When the police catch them, the hitcher kills all of the cops, too, deepening their trouble. The remake follows the original pretty faithfully except for a gender reversal, making the girl the main focus of the hitcher’s mayhem (which is cool because I like badass girls), and also removing a lot of the “is this some weird sadomasochistic game between these two?” weird vibe that made the original disturbing and elevated it above just being a highway-bound slasher movie. Basically, the took the plot and scrubbed it of anything challenging or uncomfortable, leaving you with a much-more-vanilla, less intense “product” that was easier to sell. Still, if you’ve already seen the original this is okay as an action (more than horror) film with a likeable cast and some great stunt work. One weakness that cheapens the whole thing is playing horrible pop songs over all the action scenes, which takes you out of the story and drops you into a music video for a bad song, and also reminds you that this movie is a unit-shifter; they’re also hoping to sell a soundtrack CD and doing a clumsy goddamn job of it.
Horrible Sexy Vampire, The (C, 1970) aka El Vampiro de la Autopista, The Vampire of the Highway. Make up your mind! It can’t be both. Highly obscure Spanish horror film known more for the title than for anyone actually having seen it, but now that it’s been released on cheap DVD (Mill Creek’s Undead Vampire Collection of 20 movies) all can witness the horrible sexiness. A vampire (who can turn invisible) preys on couples, usually after they’ve had sex or gotten nude to shower. Even though he strangles most of his victims, a professor (based on a reading of Dracula, which made him an expert) feels certain the killer is a vampire, and specifically a guy named Baron Vinegar! (It’s spelled more Germanically, but that’s the gist). Suddenly a Count Oblensky -- an albino-blond aristocrat whose hobby is taxidermy -- shows up, claiming to be a descendent of Baron Vinegar. Oblensky is played by the wonderfully-named Waldemar Wohlfart. His real name’s Val Davis, but for some reason he decided that (a) “Waldemar Wohlfart” was a really cool pseudonym, and (b) he needed to use a pseudonym for this film even though he’d apparently been doing some softcore porn work. The fact that he used his real name for all his other movies, and starred in such films as Virgin Among The Living Dead, Lustful Amazons and Love Camp should tell you something about how he regarded this film. He spends a lot of time wandering the crumbling old castle he’s inherited, reading the diaries of Baron Vinegar and looking for whoever’s making the evil laugh he keeps hearing. He meets the vampire (or strangler or whatever -- the title makes it clear that the filmmakers don’t know what to make of their monster, either), who pleads with him to drive a stake through his heart… then carries on with his killing spree while Oblensky romances a girl who’s towheaded enough to be his sister. Most of the victims are people we never saw before, who drop peacefully dead as soon as the Baron gets his hands on their neck. There’s no blood but there’s an uncomfortable suggestion of necrophilia. When it’s not boring it’s silly, with lots of actors throwing themselves around the set as they pretend they’re fighting an invisible man, and an attack predictably happens any time a woman takes a bath. But, it’s likeably junky somehow, and it’s nice to finally be able to see the beautifully wretched thing.
Last Man On Earth, The (B&W, 1964) aka L’Ultimo Uomo Della Terror) Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend gets its first and maybe best film version in this Italian production starring Vincent Price as the last man alive in a world overtaken by vampire. He spends his days turning stakes on a lathe, hunting for protective garlic and mirrors, killing any vampires he finds sleeping, and clearing away corpses in a silent, empty city. At night he stays barricaded in his cluttered apartment, playing records to try to drown out the calling dead who stiffly batter at his doors and windows (you can tell that Night of the Living Dead was heavily influenced by this). It’s a lonely hell, coupled with guilt since he used to be a scientist working on a cure for the bacillus that caused the vampirism, and of course he failed, losing his wife and daughter (and the rest of the world) to the plague. Then he discovers that other people are alive, but they view him as a monster… Atmospheric and well-done, and much better than the more widely-seen The Omega Man. Widely available on cheap DVDs of varying quality.
Monstrosity (C, 1989) Infamously bad gore-flick director Andy Milligan kept his career going in the 80’s with slightly-improved quality (it’s still awful but at least you can usually hear what people are saying, and he seems to have the camera on a tripod now and then), but with most of his usual quirks (hateful bickering characters, sadistic violence, and graphic gore). His effects work improved a little, as an early disembowelment scene will attest. The plot’s about a gang beating and raping and killing until -- after a 30-second discussion about it -- three friends of one of the victims decide to build a golem out of body parts from the morgue and a few limbs from a gorilla that got run over by a lawnmower (it was at this point that I decided Milligan must be trying to be intentionally funny). He ends up a bucktoothed stitched-together goon wearing a red afro wig… he looks like a “John 3:16” sign guy jackass who’d finally gotten the beating he deserved. The goofuses manage to fumble their way to resurrection and try to train him to kill by showing him posters from Schwarzenegger movies, but “Frankie” would rather hear about the Three Bears. That doesn’t stop him from using a meat cleaver on some ridiculous bad-guy punks, then bringing home a punk girl with a big dragonfly on her head and a personality apparently borrowed from Laverne DiFazio. She becomes his girlfriend after a few chaste kisses that cause him to leak blood. He goes on to tear out throats, drive nails into skulls, chop off a hand and a head, and other lame gore effects. Probably the worst effect is Frankie’s bugged-out eye; after a while the paper it’s made of starts to curl up and you can see the tape holding it on. This horror comedy looks like an attempt at a Troma-type movie and is somewhat funny just because it’s so stupid… but this time you get the feeling that Andy was in on the joke, at least. This was Milligan’s last movie, and he was dying of AIDS as he made it (although some sources claim he actually made this before his movie, Weirdo). The end credits promise (or maybe “threaten” is a better word) the return of Frankie in Monstrosity II. It sucks that Andy Milligan died and all, but not having more of this movie isn’t exactly tragic….
Tuff Turf (C, 1985) Possibly the most 1985 movie of 1985. James Spader (before becoming a medium-sized big thing, and who’s now a “oh, yeaaaaah, I remember that guy!”) is the new smartass in town, and he’s a “rebel” -- he wears sunglasses and rides a ten speed and gangs don’t intimidate him. That comes in handy since he has to stand up to a pack of hoodlums when he gets attracted to bad-girl, damnit-she-wasn’t-in-enough-movies-and-that’s-one-reason-life-SUCKS Kim Richards, who sports waist-length crimped hair (and a headband that almost ruins it). She tries not to like him but his extroverted-yet-sensitive ways get through to her, and this really gets the Tuffs on his case, ‘cuz she’s their leader’s chick. It’s all the 80’s teenmoviestuff -- fast cars, clothes that were cool then but are hilarious now, nonstop new-wave-pop (with lotsa music-video-like scenes), wise guy comedy, clean and unrealistic violence, be-a-good-guy-even-if-you’re-a-misunderstood-rebel message, but, most importantly, it’s got Kim Richards, who was so ‘80’s that she disappeared off the radar before the decade was even done. A big shame, that. Definite Moped-movie; lots of fun until somebody catches you with it. It’ll probably entertain you in some way or other, and I think everybody over 35’s seen it on video but you’d be hard pressed to find anybody who saw it in a theater.
Werewolf Vs. The Vampire Woman, The (C, 1970) aka Werewolf Shadow, Shadow of the Werewolf, The Black Harvest of Countess Dracula, La Noche de Walpurgis. Classic Paul Naschy Eurotrash horror that set off a small industry in Spanish horror pictures and was one of many featuring Naschy’s Waldemar the Werewolf character. Before the credits he’s brought by from the dead by doctors who, in the course of an autopsy, remove the silver bullets from him. In his human form he helps two girls look for the tomb of a blood-drinking witch (based on Countess Bathory). O’ course they find her and bring her back to life (she makes for a pretty creepy figure, all veiled in black like some funeral nun) and she vampirizes one of the girls. Naschy warns that the reign of terror will only get worse. The remaining girl gets a ride to town with a very weird guy, while Naschy disposes of her contaminated friend (crude but effective gore here). But the vampire woman and a new girlfriend go around doing more blood rituals; they’re ghostly and fade away while dancing and laughing, and it’s pretty spooky. After more mayhem, there’s the promised climactic battle. Not as bad as the silly title would lead you to believe, and includes some pretty eerie scenes. Omnipresent on cheap DVD, but most of those copies are really dark and you’ll miss a lot. It’s worth searching for the Anchor Bay “Werewolf Shadow” version if you’re a Naschy fan.