Another opportunity to find out how much we can stand

Here we are again, me with my damnable movie reviews, and you all with your... nipples, or whatever that business you have there is. I don't know, hell, all I do is watch TV! So, without further foreplay... fore!

Feed (C, 2005) Wow, this one’s twisted. An Australian Interpol agent/computer hacker who’s got some sexual dysfunctions of his own starts tracking down a perverse porno site where a guy broadcasts footages of the process of fattening women to beyond-morbid-obesity. The women are willing participants so I’m not certain why this is illegal, even though people are making bets on when they’ll die, and the feeder is slowly killing them by making them eat until the natural causes of that kind of weight do their thing. In any case, the cop is desperate to catch the pervert, who’s “lovingly” fed his current project, Diedre, until she’s over 600 pounds and can’t get out of bed. She keeps eating to please him and finds the whole thing romantic and sexy (eating‘s not all they do). The feeder has a fixation on his mother, who was also bed-bound obese, and he’s done with before with other women on his website, supposedly in the name of love. And the secret of what he’s feeding them is even nastier than the rest of the perversion. And yet he rationalizes the whole thing philosophically and tries to play a game with the cop. Disturbing, limit-pushing, and original horror isn’t particularly gory in a blood-and-guts kind of way, but the extreme corpulence, splattering food, and fat sex will put this one out of reach for most viewers. It’s a new kind of extreme, and it’s intelligently-made enough to not be easily dismissed as just a gross-out fest, especially since there are fat-fetish sites on the web not far removed from what’s shown in the film. It makes you question what can constitute love... and murder. Both can have strange motivations and take bizarre directions, especially in a society in which everything has become consumerism of some kind. Worth a look if you can handle it.

Gabriel Over The White House (B&W, 1933) Extremely weird political fantasy in which the problems of the Great Depression are solved by establishment of a theocratic dictatorship. Walter Huston is elected president and plans to be a puppet for his party and ignore the problems of the Depression. He dismisses an army of the unemployed as anarchists and ignores their message. Then, while driving like a jerk, he has a wreck and goes into a coma. When he comes out of it, he apparently hears messages from archangels, causing him to side with the American people and he decides that government is the problem, because it's too tangled up with bureaucracy and has too many checks and balances getting in the way. He turns the army of the unemployed into an actual army to rebuild America. Congress wants to impeach him for overstepping his bounds, but he declares a state of emergency, dissolves Congress, and puts the country under martial law. Without government red tape to deal with he deals with the country’s problems, repealing the 18th amendment and opening federal liquor stores to create revenue. He declares war on racketeers, forms a federal police force (unhampered by traditional law and order limitations) to combat them, and has them executed by firing squad at the foot of the Statue of Liberty. Then he brings about world peace by strong-arming the European countries, building up America’s Navy and Air Force and demanding foreign countries pay their debts by no longer funding their own militaries. Peace and prosperity accomplished under America’s iron thumb, he promptly drops dead and ascends to Heaven. This is crazy stuff (and it’s even crazier that it was a hit), but during the Depression many conservatives admired the way Mussolini and Hitler were doing business and became convinced that only a strong leader with no Congress to deal with would save America from disaster. With plots like The American Liberty League trying to form military coups against Roosevelt and right-wing fascists like Father Coughlin stirring up dissent with misinformation on the radio and approving of Hitler and Mussolini, I guess movies like this were inevitable. Oddly, it was partially backed by William Randolph Hearst, who was usually a liberal Democrat and was one of the few in the media at the time to speak out against what Hitler was doing in Germany... even though the actions Huston takes in the film follow many of Hitler’s, and is much closer to fascism than any kind of socialism. As scarily-misguided as history has shown this film to be, it wouldn’t surprise me much if some Glenn Beck fans thought this was still right on, what with the tea-party types influencing the president, the authoritarian approach to crime, the radical shrinking of the government, the dependence on supernatural religious forces for guidance, and the strong-arm military “diplomacy” towards Europe. This is an amazing artifact of a time of American fear-driven wrongheadedness, and even though it’s not that great as movie entertainment, it must be seen to be believed.

Click here for a clip.

Gene Generation, The (C, 2007) If you are motivated to watch this film for any reason besides it starring Bai Ling in leather outfits, then you and I will never understand each other. A rapidfire prologue tries to toss off some ridiculous premise about people stealing DNA and hacking it to make people die weirdly, or some other scientific mumbojumbo I wasn’t interested enough to try to dope out, yeah yeah, horseshit sci-fi-geek nonsense. Bai Ling is an assassin who targets these DNA hackers and tries to keep her degenerate gambler brother under control. The temptations of their second-rate-CGI city prove too much for him (even though he gets beaten up and peed on - yes, peed on - by loan sharks) and he steals a weird cyber-glove device that some bad guys want back, even though nobody (including the filmmakers) seem to really know exactly what it does. It’s stolen from him, though, and he has to get it back. The situation gets messy and Bai Ling has to commit lots of mayhem while BaiLing him out (heh heh, get it? yeeeah). When her brother is nearly beat to death and she’s shot and almost dies, she gets healed by a DNA hacker and continues her quest. It’s the usual lame sci-fi bullshit with the usual hackneyed sci-fi situations and too much nerd-pleasing junk for my tolerance level, but some of the actions okay (even if it borrows from The Matrix... again), and it does deliver Bai Ling in leather, which is all I was really wanting from it -- eye candy. It’s a little too dark to see her (or anything else, if you care) very well, and she has goofy geometric shapes painted on her face (so we’ll know it’s the future, because in the future that won’t look stupid. Revisit the movie in 20 years and see if everybody’s not doing it!) Junky but okay for what it is, even if it doesn’t really end so much as just trail off. Plenty of not-too-good techno music.

This is pretty sad, but it's footage so what the hell...

What a flirt. She makes me like bangs... :) "I am from the moon!"

Midnight Movie (C, 2008) Back in the glory days of VHS rental, you'd quickly learn one rule (although it didn't always stop you): the video boxes that had some kind of gimmick (blinking lights, 3-D press-out forms, etc.) would always be really stupid movies. Well, this DVD has a changing hologram card for a front cover. Nice to see some things have remained constant throughout the years and format changes. A handful of teens (who look more like twenty-somes, but that could be the hormones they've been putting in the milk these days), a biker and his girlfriend, and a couple of cops go to a theater for a midnight showing of an old 70's horror film. It's in black and white; even though they were pretty much done with that by the 70's it's necessary to distinguish it from the rest of the movie. Little do they realize that it's a snuff film in progress and they're going to be starring in it. The director is a lunatic who's obsessed with scaring people, and through some supernatural agency that's readily dismissed-with, he's managed to put himself into the movie and drag viewers in with him, where he kills them with a weird corkscrew-knife thing he made. He also wears a skull mask and overalls; it's probably supposed to remind us of Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but I kept thinking of the Astro Zombies instead, which is much less flattering. The patrons get trapped in the theater (the supernatural elements conceal their presence from the outside world) and it becomes kind of a poor man's Demons as they try to escape the killer. It's stupid, but it's not completely terrible; it stays engaging enough, there's some not-bad gore, and the fart joke is pretty funny ("Damn scrumptious chocolate-covered rrrrrraisins!"), so there may be enough here to convince you to forgive some lunk-headedness. And, luckily, it's not a horror comedy; the killer's too preposterous to take very seriously, but since he's played straight, it's bearable.

Never Take Candy From A Stranger (B&W, 1960) aka Never Take Sweets From A Stranger. Unusual Hammer film dealing with a different kind of horror: child molesters. The nine-year-old daughter of the new school principal in a small Canadian town comes home with tales of funny games she and a friend played at the house of old Mr. Olderberry. He gave the two girls candy to take off all their clothes and dance for him. The parents are outraged but they find the local community -- and especially the Olderberrys -- are against their pressing charges. The Olderberrys are wealthy and powerful enough to control almost everything in the area and it seems like they may get away with the crime because the locals refuse to testify, but the case goes to trial anyway. The little girl testifies and Olderberry’s lawyer grills her aggressively and tries to make her look mentally ill, claming she’s making the whole thing up. But whatever the outcome of the trial, it won’t be the end of the family’s dealings with the creepy candyman. Even though the film has to handle the explosive subject matter with 1960 gloves, it’s still strong stuff and makes a hard impact, and manages to be lurid without getting graphic. Until the DVD came out (as part of the Hammer Films Icons of Suspense collection), it was one of the most difficult Hammer films to track down.

Roman (C, 2006) Roman is a lonely, introverted welder who has no life. He has no friends and can’t even really get along with the guys at work, because all they know to talk about is what they saw on TV, and Roman doesn’t have a television (besides one he drew on the wall). He sits around slowly drinking beer and smoking cigarettes and hoping to catch a glimpse of the girl who lives in an apartment a few doors down, who he fantasizes about marrying. One day she talks to him and likes him despite his crippling awkwardness, so they start a relationship. But Roman doesn’t deal well with encouragement and accidentally kills her while trying to stop her from going home. He’s wracked with guilt and hides her body in his apartment, keeping her in the bathtub, buried in ice. It doesn’t do a great job of keeping her fresh, and his walls is soon tiled with stick-up room deodorizers. One day another girl (a weirdo with plants in her hair) knocks on his door to get help when she locks herself out of her apartment (she doesn’t want to bother the landlord because he’s constantly watching loud porn), and Roman starts a new fixation. He tries to avoid her but she interprets his reluctance as playing hard to get, and she pursues him. So, they end up dating while Roman’s still trying to keep the dead girl in his bathtub iced down. He eventually starts disposing of her piece by piece (after having sad picnics with the pieces). His new (live) girlfriend turns out to be death-obsessed, which Roman finds crazy, and they break up... and Roman’s almost out of pieces of the other girl. Soon he’s back to measuring out his life in empty beer bottles and pork-and-beans cans and room deodorizers... until he gets a second chance. Weird, existential indie film is slowly paced but engaging. Despite the morbid subject matter it’s not really presented as a horror film; Roman’s twisted but not menacing, just sad, passive, and (overly-aggressive moments aside) even kind-hearted. He just doesn’t really know what to do with the situations he’s been handed. And even with decaying body parts around, it’s more of a low-key black comedy than a scarefest. Not badly done and an interesting experiment for the patient. Roman is played by Lucky McKee, who wrote and directed a somewhat-similar film called May, which you may have seen, ha ha. (Hey, that kinda shit was funny when Forrest J. Ackerman used to do it, cut me some slack!)

Sheba, Baby (C, 1975) Pam Grier is private detective Sheba Shayne (a dickless dick, if you will, but you really shouldn't), who goes home to Louisville, KY when her father starts getting knocked around by thugs who are trying to squeeze out his financial aid business so they can replace it with a loan shark enterprise. When Pam borrows her dad's car and almost gets blown up, she's pissed and determined not to let the scumbags get away with it. Then hit men murder her father and she goes on the rampage, blowing hoodlums away with a magnum and making one pimp-lookin' loan shark drive his fancy car through a car wash with the windows rolled down. Her new boyfriend wants her to lay off, afraid that her reckless pursuit of revenge will get her killed, but there's no stopping Pam. She puts on a wet suit and swims out to assault a boat loaded with slimy gangsters, and they capture her and try to intimidate her by dragging a guy behind a boat, but she doesn't scare -- or give up -- so easily. This isn't bad (hey, it's got Pam Grier in it, how bad can it be?) but director William Girdler has a tough act to follow, trying to match Jack Hill's work with Pam. Despite some good action scenes, this feels watered down when you stack it up to Coffy or Foxy Brown. Still, if you've already seen both of those, it's more Pam!

Shrooms (C, 2007) . Note to filmmakers, and pay attention because this is really, really important: cameras are for recording images, and they need light to do their thing. When you film in the dark with a blue filter, all I can really say is thanks for the fucking radio show. College-kid idiots vacation to Ireland with the purpose of doing some magic mushrooms. While they’re brewing them their Irish guide tells them a horror story about ghostly masked slashers that supposedly haunt the woods they’re going to trip in. Some of them sneak a dose ahead of time and spend the night hallucinating. A guy encounters a talking cow, then fucks something (apparently the filming-in-the-darkness-loving filmmakers decided that much of their movie was none of our business) through a car window and gets his cock torn off. Or not. Or maybe he’s attacked by vines. Or possibly nothing happens to him, because he’s fine after a while. Having a girl who ate mushrooms that allow her to (maybe) see the future doesn’t exactly help maintain a narrative structure, especially when the director lacks the skill to build one in the first place. When dawn comes you think you’re getting a reprieve from all the blue-filter shit, but suddenly it’s dark again. The tripping people wander around the woods trying to find some missing asshole, and they run into inbred primitives who like sex with animals. Then they wander around some more, and a guy in a hood stalks them (or not; anytime something starts happening the movie goes somewhere else, or someone has a vision, and it’s back to wandering around again). If the movie had been lit it might have convinced me to try to work with it, but since so much of it looks like glimpses of a basement, straining to make anything out of it is just tedious. Too bad, because an impaired-people-on-’shrooms-getting-terrorized-in-the-middle-of-nowhere scenario would have a lot of potential... IF the filmmakers had decided to actually do something with it. Instead, this is basically a radio play about people calling out each other’s names, while blue-tint Rorschach patterns play on a black background. Is that a girl running through the woods... or a vase, or a cat? I guess it all depends on how much you hate your mother. Me, I hate the motherfuckers who wasted a good premise with a for-shit execution.

This is the talking cow scene, which is all anyone really seems to have liked about this movie...

Telephone Operator (B&W, 1937) Here's an artifact for you movie archaeologists to dig up, a disaster movie (and romantic comedy) centered on the role that actual human beings used to play in telecommunications, and the importance of telephones in dealing with emergency situations. A couple of switchboard girls initially have nothing more dangerous to deal with than a couple of corny guys flirting with them. The movie wants us to see these two as a couple of happy-go-lucky lovable wiseguy types, but they really act like jerks; not only do they persist in unwanted flirting that goes past obnoxiousness into harassment (at one point one of the girls tells them something that sounds like "You two should go hire some whores!" - I don't know what she's actually saying, but that would definitely be an appropriate response to their behavior), they also adopt Southern accents when they talk to black people, and they goad little boys into fistfights so they can watch. They get jobs as linemen, stringing phone wire, and use testing the lines as an excuse to annoy the girls some more. It bothers one of them so much that she traps one of them on the roof of a house during a thunderstorm, in hopes he'll catch pneumonia. Then one of the operators sees her boss's wife sneaking off to a mountain cabin with a boyfriend, and she steps in to stop her from ruining her marriage, even though it costs her her job. Then all that intrigue gives way to another kind in the last ten minutes, when a huge storm causes a dam to break and flood the valley (real footage of a San Fernando Valley flood is used effectively). Even though she's been fired, our brave heroine breaks into the phone office to keep the lines of communication open, risking her life to make calls and warn everyone even as the office is about to be washed away. Fast-moving, hour-long little B-movie oddity that's way outdated but still worth a look.

Here's a music video for some ancient folk song somebody made out of flood footage he lifted from Telephone Operator... it's as close as I can get.

Wild Panther (C, 1984) aka Ye Bao. Confusing but action-packed kung fu movie set in modern times and leaving no plot point unmuddled as the criminal underworld tries to find a missing list. A dying man passes a paper (not a list but a map) to our remarkably non-handsome hero, who used to be part of a special commando squad called The Wild Panthers. One of the chief bad guys lost a hand to him (and had it replaced with the ever-popular metal one) during the war and wants revenge for that, as well as the list. The Wild Panther guy has a cute girlfriend who's also a great fighter, and who spouts some of the most incredibly awkward dubbed dialogue imaginable. Things don't go very well for our hero, whose wife and child are kidnapped and murdered by the criminals, and then his girlfriend is raped, beaten, and injected with truth serum. He puts on his old military uniform (which disappears in some subsequent scenes) and goes on a vengeance hunt, but he also ends up beaten and shot full of truth serum. Lucky for him the bad guys are the type who never kill the heroes when they have the chance. Even with all the underworld to deal with, he still takes the time to fight one of the good guy cops just to have another fight in the film. The bad guys (most notably a guy with long hair and the top of his head shaved -- I guess they think the "Ben Franklin" is a cool look in Asia) are sometimes pretty effective, and other times are Keystone Kops clowns. With weird jungle traps, an obvious dummy thrown off of a building (when falling to your death, always stand at attention!), music from The Amityville Horror and an instrumental disco version of Rod Stewart's "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy," and lots of gunfire and explosions mixed in with the kung fu. The dubbing is worse than usual, and the intricacies of the plot are incomprehensible. Has good talent (including Wong Tao and Eagle Han), and was directed by Lee Tso Nam, so it should be better than it is. Too bad the movie wouldn't let us know what it's about, because it looks kinda interesting...

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