Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Very Serbian Holiday

So, over the recent holiday break, in an attempt to break out of the annual cycle of It's a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story, I watched two films that I have heard a lot about, 2010's A Serbian Film and 2009's The Life and Death of a Porno Gang. To say that these films are the polar opposites of my standard holiday fare would be an epic understatement.
Where to begin...
If you read anything about either of these dark Serbian visions, then you may know what you're in store for. If you haven't heard of them, that might be for the best, since these are some of the most bleak and nihilistic movies I have experienced. Both were very slickly produced and extremely well acted, maybe a little TOO well acted in spots.
Porno Gang focuses on a young wannabe filmmaker who ends up working in the adult film industry in Serbia and finds freedom in the sexual liberation of that environment. However, he has a larger dream, he wants to create art and not just simply a marketable product. He gathers a motley group of acquaintances and they form a troupe, a Porno Gang, that travels the Serbian countryside in a van, covered with hand-drawn genitalia, putting on a live sex show for the folks in the hinterlands. The local farmers come to see the show but the leaders of each little township do not want such a corrupting force to stick around, and so the porno gang is chased out of town after town. The leader of the troupe, Marko, is approached at one point by a German who is living in Serbia, and he is offered a lot of money to help make snuff films, which the German has an apparently large market for. The setup is that, as they go to each community, the German will find people there who willingly ( sometimes eagerly ) offer themselves up to be filmed as they kill themselves ( or are killed ). Each of these people has a story about why it would be better for them to die than to continue living, so Marko and his cohorts agree and the viewer is treated to several brutal scenes. I know what you're thinking, this sounds like ideal Christmas fare, but wait, it's at this point that things turn from bad to worse, eventually slipping all the way over into totally f-ed up.
The Life and Death of a Porno Gang was not simply an exploitation film, I think there was truly something being said about the state of life in Serbia. These hopeful miscreants were truly trying to do something different and beautiful, to spread a sexual enlightenment through the backwards countryside. It was as though they wanted to instigate a 60's-style sexual revolution through their presentations. At each turn though, their dreams were stifled by the repressive religious and cultural forces in each township. It is during this moment of seeming defeat that "big business" steps in, waving money around and promising to make everything ok. What ends up happening is that these idealistic upstarts sacrifice themselves and their countrymen for the prurient desires of the rest of the decadent world, until, at the end, there is only one, final, ultimate way out.
I felt like there was only one way to follow up on Porno Gang, so I finally watched the copy of "A Serbian Film" that I had been keeping at arms length for at least a month. There has been much written of the scenes of depravity and violence that are on display in this film. I, and maybe you do too, already knew what I was going to be shown, and it really was worse in my mind than it ended up being in the actual film itself. I am not going to try to act tough here though, even knowing what was coming, I was shocked, even sickened by what was shown. There were certain moments, little revelations, that I am likely to remember forever. The production values are really top-notch, the acting and writing all ring true, the music set the perfect tone throughout, and the special effects were far too believable at times.
The story, which has been recounted several times online, is of Milos, a legendary, semi-retired porn actor in Serbia who is married and the father of precious little boy. He is trying to get by on his savings from his days as an "Artist of F--k". Much like the characters in Porno Gang, he is approached by a wealthy filmmaker who offers a huge amount of money to Milos to make "just one more film", promising him that he and his family will have enough money to take care of his son through his old age. Milos, being a devoted family man, reluctantly agrees and the film begins it's spiraling descent into darkness. Again similarly to Porno Gang, this film that is being made is a sexually violent snuff film with artistic trappings. Milos resists at first, not comfortable with some of the scenarios he is forced into. It is at this point that the unsavory filmmaker subjects Milos to injections of a horse aphrodisiac which turns him into a slavering, unthinking beast who wants only to fulfill his sexual cravings. During this phase of the movie, Milos awakens in a daze, with several days missing in his mind. He returns home to find his wife and young son missing, and he returns to the locations where the snuff film was being shot, in search of them and of answers to the missing time. This is the most "movie" moment in the film, with Milos discovering tapes of what had transpired and seeing the depths he had sunk to in his drug-induced haze.
If you've read as much as I have about this movie, then you know several of the key scenes, and yes they do happen, and yes they are shocking, but the visuals aren't as graphic or shocking as they could've been ( thankfully! ). It is the ideas of these situations that are truly horrifying and soul-crushing. Once again, though, this is not just pure exploitation. Some have argued that the filmmakers have tried to assign meaning to the events portrayed in the film after-the-fact, but I would disagree with this assertion. Director Srdjan Spasojevic clearly had a vision of what he wanted this movie to say, and it is far to beautifully constructed for me to think that his goal was simply to throw sex and violence on the screen. Is it a moral statement on the porn industry, saying that it leads to only violence and the destruction of lives on every level? Is it an allegorical tale about Serbia as a country, and how it tried to climb out of a dark period, lured by promises of wealth, only to have the truth of the situation bring everything crashing down. There is much to chew on here, but there will not be many people who can make it all the way through "A Serbian Film" much less ruminate about its true meaning after the fact.
Of the two films, A Serbian Film was for more slick and shiny, with an obviously higher budget. I had heard so much about this movie that I think it served to diminish its impact significantly. I was prepared for much worse than I was given. Porno Gang, on the other hand, was something I was much less familiar with, and I expected much less emotional impact from it, and it was the emotional aspects which really delivered the most vicious blows and left me shaking at the end. Perhaps this is what happens when you come into a film with so many preloaded expectations. If you are someone who, like me, tends towards the transgressive, these are two films that must be seen, if for nothing else than to put a couple more notches in your belt. Christmas 2010 will be my Serbian Christmas I suppose, and it left me with more than visions of sugarplums dancing in my head.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Episode 8 - Cornbread or Communion Wafers

Episode 8 of the podcast features two wonderful films ( this time we aren't putting that word in quotes ). The first film we cover is 1975's Poor Pretty Eddie, starring Shelley Winters, Leslie Uggams, Slim Pickens and Ted Cassidy. It is an amazingly twisty and twisted story of backwood, hayseed, intrigue that gets into some very surreal and uncomfortable areas. The second movie is 1976's Alice Sweet Alice which features Brooke Shields in her first film role. It is a striking film that deals with the murder of a child, and the turmoil that would arise from such a nightmarish situation, and the attempt to find out who was responsible. In a bit of a departure from the norm, both of these movies are great and we totally recommend them both to all of you. We hope you enjoy the conversation and please keep writing to us, perhaps with ideas for other undiscovered gems.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Episode 7 - Fist Full of Fulci

Episode 7 is a full-on Fulci-fest. We talk about two of Lucio Fulci's "classic" films. Zombie from 1979 and Gates of Hell from 1980. You will ask yourself why we subject ourselves to such inhumane situations, but I am afraid that we can not provide a sensible answer. Make sure your clothes have been scotchguarded, or else you might get some on you.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Trick Baby

Last night I watched the 1972 film Trick Baby from director Larry Yust. The film is set in Philadelphia and focuses on two main characters. Blue Howard played by Mel Stewart and White Folks played by Kiel Martin. Martin's character ( who is only referred to as "Folks" in the film ) is the child of a black mother and white father. Despite his mixed heritage, Folks looks totally white and this is the key plot device that is exploited in the film. Folks and Blue are con-men and their cons are impressive bits of deceit. You get the feeling, while watching the movie, that they have kept their sights on smaller fish for the most part. A confluence of events, though, conspire to bring these two small-time hustlers into contact with a very dangerous group of individuals including corrupt cops and members of the mob. The plot is well laid-out and developed but it is fairly cut and dried. Director Yust manages to shoe-horn a good bit of character development into the proceedings and this is what really raises Trick Baby above other films of its ilk. Blue thinks of Folks as a black man, and it seems that Folks also feels the same. All the people around them though, both white and black, don't trust Folks and make no bones about saying so. Folks is a character who uses his apparent whiteness as a key component of the cons that he and Blue pull. It is an ultimate disguise and it raises questions of what really constitutes "race". At certain key moments we are shown contrasting views of white and black culture and the viewer is left to draw their own conclusions. We will see footage of a fancy dinner party attended solely by wealthy white people and interspersed throughout will be scenes from a bar with only black patrons. This sort of juxtaposition is not subtle, but it did not seem to be intended to illustrate any single specific idea. There was no "This is good" and "This is bad" statement applied in these comparisons, just the presentation of two very separate worlds. I think it forces the question of just how different are these worlds really, and if we were able to choose which world we wanted to live in ( which the Folks character could do ), which one would we choose. The bottom line on Trick Baby is that it is a well-told story of two charming con-men. There is also a lot in there to make you think about race in a broader context. Like the best blaxploitation films, there is more than meets the eye if you want to open yourself to it.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Messiah of Evil

Messiah of Evil, aka Dead People is a 1973 film from director Willard Huyck who is probably more notable for his writing credits than his directing work. Don't let the fact that he directed Best Defense or Howard the Duck discourage you from checking out this atmospheric little known shocker. The story concerns a young woman traveling alone to a remote sea side California community to reconnect with her father from whom she's become estranged. She had been in communication with him via letters he would send to update her on his progress in regards to his work as a painter. His character being an artist allows for some really interesting set design when she finally arrives at his home. As his letters begin to take on a dark and somewhat sinister tone she feels compelled to go investigate the situation for her self. Along the way she begins to have strange encounters with an increasingly curious assortment of townsfolk. The film's sense of oddness within the confines of a seemingly average small town, put me in mind of David Lynch, but the overwhelming influence in my opinion is clearly H.P. Lovecraft. To reveal much more about the plot would be a disservice to you, as the way the story slowly reveals its self is what I found to be such a pleasure about this movie. There are some wonderfully creepy set pieces and the supporting cast all do a good job carrying things along. The film, although clearly a low budget effort, manages to have more of the creeping sense of dread and foreboding, the hallmark of Lovecraft's writing, than almost any film I've seen based on his writing directly. Clearly John Carpenter should have sat down and watched this before wading into Lovecraftian territory with In the Mouth of Madness, a mysteriously overrated film in my opinion. The gore in minimal, but effective and it is much more about the atmosphere and the feel of the film than pure shock value at any rate. I would highly recommend that any fan of 70's genre movies seek this little jewel out.


Friday, September 24, 2010


Although Marty and I are currently in the process of developing some seriously insidious, CIA level market research information gathering technology, we have as yet been unsuccessful so we have no real way to determine what the exact demographic make up of our listeners might be. This being the case, I'm not sure how many of you folks are familiar with the original syndicated run of Elvira's Movie Macabre. This wonderful nugget of early to mid eighties cheese was, for me at least, an integral part of my development film wise and well...let's just say that there was alot of things for a teenage boy to enjoy about Movie Macabre. The reason for this post is to happily announce Elvira's triumphant return to the syndicated airwaves. The first episode of the new series even featured Night of The Living Dead as the feature film. It's unclear at this point if she intends to feature more quality films, NOTLD in my opinion is a classic, or if she will return to her more B movie roots, we can only hope. Long pre-dating MST3K, the lovely Mistress of the Dark's commentary about the films was almost always as entertaining as the films themselves. I would encourage you all to give Elvira a shot, I'm sure you'll find something to enjoy about Movie Macabre. Whether it's nostalgia for the days when horror hosts were a fixture of local Saturday night programming or a chance for some of our younger listeners to glimpse the good old days, I'll spare you the "back in my day" speech, I think we can all agree that Elvira's return is a welcome one for genre and B movie fans everywhere. Follow this link, Elvira on HULU, to get a little taste of the original series. Check your local listings for show times.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Episode 6 Posted!

In Episode 6, Mike and Marty discuss two "classics" from the 80s that tried to cash in on the success of Ridley Scott's blockbuster 1979 film Alien. The films covered are 1980's Contamination from italian maestro Luigi Cozzi, and 1985's Creature from William Malone and featuring the inimitable Klaus Kinski. These are both low-budget, earnest efforts from guys who really really love to make movies, and though neither can be considered a total success, they are both worth your time if you can find enough patience to ignore some of the more glaring problems they each have. Enjoy the podcast and let us know what you think at "".

Monday, August 23, 2010

Italian Cinemeh

In Episode 5 of the podcast, Marty and Mike talk about two "epics" of Italian sci-fi, 1979's The Humanoid and 1978's Starcrash. These two are wonderfully bad with some recognizable faces littered amongst the cast. If you were a reader of Starlog magazine in the Star Wars era, you are probably familiar with at least Starcrash, and ,if you are like me, all it took was knowing that Richard Kiel stars in it to make me desperate to watch The Humanoid. These are far from good films, but they both are so utterly charming that, each time I would wake up from being bored to sleep, I found myself really enjoying them in all their ineffable badness. Enjoy the show and let us know what you think! Oh, and if you're concerned about whether your hog is on meth, here is a PSA that will give you all the information you need.

Monday, August 16, 2010

European Horrors

This weekend I settled in for a back-to-back European horror-fest. The films I watched were 2004's Calvaire ( The Ordeal ) and 2008's Linkeroever ( Left Bank ). Both were good but in very different ways.
Left Bank reminded me very much in story and tone of Polanski's classic Rosemary's Baby. Subtle performances and striking cinematography combined to give the film a very somber mood with a constant sense of dread as the mysteries in the story were revealed. The story centers on Marie, a 22 year old girl who is training to be a world champion runner. During a period of forced inactivity, she meets Bobby who is the dean of the local Archer's Guild ( it is set in current time but apparently in Belgium there are still Archer's Guilds ). The two begin a relationship and Marie moves in with Bobby during her convalescence. Bobby's grandmother is the landlord of a large block of flats called Left Bank and she has managed to get Bobby an apartment there. Marie finds out that the apartment they are in was occupied by a woman who disappeared and that it was this woman's disappearance that left the apartment open and available for Bobby. She decides to investigate into the woman's disappearance and this forms the driving element of the plot. It is, at its core, a supernatural thriller, but it is couched firmly in the real world which lends weight to the festivities when things inevitably begin to get strange.
The Ordeal was even more impressive and much less fun to watch. It is a very dark ride indeed. I could not help but think of the work of David Lynch as I watched the film. The story follows along the familiar "fish out of water" storyline. The main character is a traveling performer/singer and at the beginning of the film is finishing up a stint at an old-folks home. He leaves the home a few days before christmas to head to his next show "to the north". The scenes at the old-folks home are weird, very weird, so I was disconcerted from the very beginning. Things become progressively weirder as car-trouble leaves our hero with the peculiar character of Mr. Bartel, who runs a defunct inn out in the absolute middle of nowhere. The Ordeal had me recalling scenes from things as diverse as Hostel, Last House on the Left, Deliverance, Martyrs and Blue Velvet. The performances are all utterly off-kilter and confounding. As things become increasingly heavy and dark, the goofy little idiosyncracies of the characters almost made me laugh in the midst of all the truly disturbing scenarios that the main character found himself in. As with Left Bank, the cinematography in The Ordeal was truly beautiful, with verdant landscapes full of dark, loamy soil and primeval forests. The world of the film is not the world we all live in, but a nightmare which I would want to quickly awake from.
Both films are highly recommended, with a strong warning about The Ordeal, the name is, in many ways, very appropriate.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Dixie Dynamite

Over the past weekend I watched the 1976 movie Dixie Dynamite with my father and my 13 year old son. It tells the story of two sisters and their father who makes moonshine in a little shack behind their home as his primary way of making money to support the family. The girls are either in their late teens or very early twenties and both are super-hot in that "Daisy Duke" sort of way. Early in the film, their father dies during a police chase and the girls find themselves struggling to get by without him. There is an evil man in town who is trying to force the residents into foreclosure so that he can buy up their property. Christopher George is the local sheriff who had worked with the evil man in the past, but who now is having trouble accepting this property scam. The girls' uncle is played by the great Warren Oates and it is he who teaches the girls to ride motorcycles, which comes in handy later in the film. The titular "dynamite" is on display a lot as the girls begin to exact revenge on the evil man. They go totally "Robin Hood" on his ass as they rob his businesses and distribute the money to the locals to help them keep their homes. I should also mention that R.G. Armstrong does a fine job as the president of the local bank.
The story really clips along, there is some totally entertaining motorcycle races, the girls wear some impossibly tight shorts, there is gunplay and explosives galore...what is not to like? It was a total crowd-pleaser too, we all agreed when the final credits rolled, that Dixie Dynamite was a good way to spend 90 minutes on warm summer night.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Episode 4: My Podcast with Andre

Episode 4 has been posted! In this show, Mike and I talk about the 1981 film My Dinner with Andre which stars Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory. If you haven't seen this film, or you saw it years ago, I think we'd both urge you to watch it now. The film drips with wonderful bits of philosophy and is a multi-level experience that reveals itself slowly with each subsequent viewing. We hope our conversation convinces you to give it a shot. Let us know what you think.

Monday, July 19, 2010


This weekend I saw Christopher Nolan's new film Inception. I was lucky enough to see at an IMAX theater which probably added to the overall power of what was already a VERY powerful film. My friends Leif and KMO sat on either side of me, with all three of us silent through the entire 148 minutes. The only sounds I made were frequent utterances of "wow". There is not much to say about the film that wouldn't spoil the brilliant way that the plot is revealed. Suffice it to say that if you're interested in the movie, avoid as many reviews as you can. My only exposure had been through the trailers and the astounding review score that is mounting on IMDB.
As far as, non-spoiler information goes, the performances are consistent and excellent. The effects shots are seamless and fantastic. I left the theater, once again, in awe of Christopher Nolan. He has yet to disappoint ( The Prestige was good but not great to me ) and consistently proves that he is a filmmaker to watch and an artist with a unique and important vision.
The themes in the film of dream-worlds, and the deliberate altering of what goes on within them, was very interesting in light of my own experiences with lucid dreaming. If you have never had a lucid dream, I urge you to read about them and the various recommended techniques for cultivating that skill. The feeling, when you are in the dream-world, and you decide that you want a thing to be, and summoning it physically into existence...that is a feeling that is hard to beat, and hard to imagine if you've never done it.
One thing we did speak of after the movie is the question of who we would recommend this movie to. It is challenging in a way that I don't think the typical film-goer would appreciate. It doesn't guide you into its world or its ideas. When the film starts, it is up to the audience to piece together the world, the characters, and the ideas. The script does this all brilliantly, but I wonder just how large of an audience the film will attract. I will be impressed if a sizable mass of humanity appreciates the film.
Would I recommend "Inception" to my grandmother? no...but to those three people reading this? I totally would urge you to see it, and see it soon, before some sucker spoils it for you.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Shadows on a Distant Wall

Yahoo linked me yesterday to a story on the New York Times website about a scientist who has challenged the traditional idea of gravity. In the article I found the following quote:

"Black holes, in effect, are holograms — like the 3-D images you see on bank cards. All the information about what has been lost inside them is encoded on their surfaces. Physicists have been wondering ever since how this “holographic principle” — that we are all maybe just shadows on a distant wall — applies to the universe and where it came from."

You can read the article at this link.

Just thinking of black holes makes me want to watch the old disney movie. Oh, and a word of caution...if you search for images on google using the phrase "black hole" make sure you have safe search on!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Larry Cohen's Bone, if you know what I mean

Today I watched Larry Cohen's 1972 film Bone. Yaphet Kotto is the eponymous character who quickly throws into turmoil the seemingly idyllic lives of a couple in Beverly Hills California, played by Andrew Duggan and Joyce Van Patten. This might be my favorite Larry Cohen film of all time, and that is really saying something. The performances were all solid, especially Kotto and Van Patten. The way the plot is revealed and teased out over the course of the very speedy 95 minute run-time is totally impressive. The characters are so complex and interesting. The dialogue isn't necessarily "realistic" but it's amazing in the way that the best Tarantino dialogue is. A lot is said about race, about class, and about power, both directly and indirectly though camera angles, and the nuanced performances of the actors. I am eager to rewatch the movie now that I have the bigger picture of the plot in my mind. Much like how The Sixth Sense is a vastly different experience the second time around, I feel confident that Bone will reveal even greater depth on subsequent viewings. Consider it VERY highly recommended.

Episode 3.5 - The Rowdy Poddy Pipercast

I had the distinct pleasure of speaking with KMO of the C-Realm Podcast and Doug Lain of the Diet Soap Podcast recently about the 1988 John Carpenter film They Live. This special edition of the Flickers From the Cave podcast focuses on this one film and its allegorical presentation of an earth where humans are kept ignorant of their alien overlords and it takes a badass pair of raybans to reveal the truth.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Episode 3 - Into the Wayback Machine

Episode 3 is ready to be heard, or endured perhaps. Mike and I are joined by our good friends Jeannine and Steve as we look back into our distant past to recount the moments that made us into the sad excuses for human beings that we are today. There is much laughter, much nostalgia and lots of personal asides. I urge everyone to read more about one of our favorties, Mommie-D the Queen of All Media. Please keep the feedback coming in, we love to hear from you.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Mutant Salmon

Where was this story last week when we were recording our podcast about Humanoids from the Deep?
According to a news article that I read on yahoo (which you can find here), the basic setup for that movie is actually underway for reals!
Now that Doug McClure has passed away, who is going to save us when the inevitable fish-men start to rise from their watery homes?

Black Caesar from 1973

For a long time I have wanted to watch some of Larry Cohen's blaxploitation films and finally over the weekend I saw his second one, Black Caesar. Some of you may know Larry Cohen as the man behind such diverse titles as Q the Winged Serpent, It's Alive and the under-seen God Told Me To. One check of his filmography will reveal the vast array of films he has written, produced, and directed. The man has long been a legend to me. The first blaxploitation film that Cohen directed was Bone from 1972 but I have yet to find that one.
Black Caesar is the story of Tommy Gibbs, played very competently by Fred Williamson, whose life in Harlem is fraught with turmoil. The hardships he faces steer him into a life of crime as he first starts partnering with the mafia to become a sub-boss of the Harlem area. There is a non-stop, twisty game of political intrigue and blackmail that is always behind the scenes. There are betrayals, deceit, and pathos throughout. The character of Tommy Gibbs is not necessarily a likable guy, but he has been through so much that I really found myself pulling for his version of corruption over the various public officials who had turned bad. There is some amazingly grim moments as people frequently play more than just the "race card", they throw the entire deck of 52 "race cards" into the mix and the result is still impactful 37 years after the initial release.
The denouement was appropriate, and heavy and it sets up the sequel that came out later in the same year Hell Up In Harlem.
If you're a fan of movies like Shaft, Truck Turner and Super Fly, then I would say you should check out Black Caesar as it establishes many of the tenets that we have come to expect from the genre and has a more complicated storyline and better performances than most of the rest.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bay of Blood

Bay of Blood or Twitch of the Death Nerve is a 1971 film by the original maestro of Italian genre cinema Mario Bava. The plot concerns the titular bay, an unspoiled rural piece of property and the various factions who have designs on the future of this prime real estate. The Countess Donati, a strong willed matriarch who is determined to preserve the bay's remote charm, as well as Donati's illegitimate love child, Simon, who lives a secluded life in a cabin on the bay and fishes for his dinner and an eccentric entomologist, Paolo, represent the status quo I suppose. They want the bay to remain un-sullied by the encroachment of development. Donati's husband Filippo and lantern jawwed, swarthy architect Frank Ventura have different ideas. When the count's daughter, Renata, and her husband get involved, things get even more complicated. Stir in a group of libidinous teens and you have the perfect recipe for a nice darkly comic Giallo. One of the things that struck me the most about the film were just how kinetic the feel of it all is, due to some really interesting camera work, done on a shoestring budget from what I have read. Many of the tracking shots were accomplished using a child's toy wagon. Add in some far out angles and the film manages to have a slightly surreal off kilter atmosphere that really works. The other word I would use to describe the film is vibrant. Bava always had an artist's eye when it came to the use of color and design in his films, and this is on ample display here. Even having much of the action taking place outside, Bava acting as his own cinematographer, manages to bring a slightly unnatural vibrance to the shots. The sky at dusk looks just ever so slightly bluer than you would think it should. The performances too, reflect this vibrancy, everyone in the cast is just on the verge of over-playing their roles, yet it all works quite well in concert. This is what adds to the black comic undercurrent in the movie. I will say that, although all of the characters in the movie are somewhat cartoonish, Bava's female characters seem to all fall somewhere between trollop and harpy. There are some structural elements to the film that any one who has seen many stalker films will recognize as almost cliche, however, Bava did many of these things first. There are also many touches that became staple elements in Giallo cinema. If you are a fan of Giallo or slasher films, or just like a good gory black comedy on occasion, you could do much worse than giving Mr. Bava ninety minutes of your time.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Episode 2...Finally!

Episode 2 is now available for download!
We ramble a bit in this one and, even with judicious editing, there is still a fair bit of aimless banter. We are still searching for our groove. I asked Stella how she got hers back, but so far she hasn't returned my calls.
In this episode we talk about two films from the 80s, Humanoids from the Deep and C.H.U.D. We discuss how the plotlines of the films coincide with the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the overall culture of corporate greed that leads our species closer and closer to oblivion...but other than that, it's a laugh-riot. We dedicate this episode to the small people.
Enjoy, and keep the emails coming in.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Psychedelic Crater

For any of you who happen to have listened to an episode of the podcast, you may have taken note of our theme music Psychedelic Crater composed by Kevin MacLeod. We found this great music, royalty free, on a site called Kevin is obviously an altruistic individual to make his talents freely available to his fellow denizens of the internet in such a fashion. I would encourage any of you reading this who are in need of some music for a project that you are working on to go and check out his website. Hell, just go and check it out purely for fun.

Getting Even aka Deadbeat aka Tomcats

For some reason, last night I watched the movie Getting Even from 1977. It stars an extremely young Chris Mulkey who has been in a lot of great movies but this might be the only one I have seen where he played the lead. It was a grim and nasty affair that waded hip-deep through a pit of misogyny from the first scene and through most of the rest of its runtime. One reviewer on IMDB commented specifically on the amount of rape that is in the movie, and I could not agree more. To the filmmakers credit, the rape and mistreatment is never presented as anything other than abhorrent. Clearly inspired by Death Wish which had come out 3 years prior, the story is of an older brother, played by Mulkey, who wants to "get even" with a group of four unrepentant scumbags who raped and killed his sister. He is forced into his vigilante role by a justice system that turns the confessed killers out onto the street due to a procedural error. The biggest problem for me was that when the time for revenge comes, it does so at a level that is far below what is deserved. Justice is served, but the same way that you might serve a lukewarm hot pocket, with embarrassment and a vague sense of culinary impotence.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Survival Run...aka Spree

Over the weekend I watched the movie Survival Run from 1979. It starred a Van Patten, of Dick fame, and a fabulous van ( not SuperVan fabulous, but fabulous nonetheless ). The story essentially is that a goup of high schoolers are heading out in the desert to camp and things go awry. They bring a guitar for making music, and a veritable crayola box of multicolored condoms for the making of whoopee.
Things start with standard high school stuff, the kids making plans, the boys talking about the girls and their intent to get busy, and then they are off and on their way while a really badly fantastic theme song plays. It is on their trip into the hinterlands that chaos ensues and down the side of a cliff tumbles the van and its occupants. Now, without transportation, the merry sextet decides to hike to civilization. It is on this hike where they encounter a man named Kandaris, played by Peter Graves, and his associates. One of his associates is a man who I think is only referred to as The Professor, played by X-The Man with the X-Ray Eyes ( Ray Milland ). Milland brings a real classiness to his role and a genuine, if understated, level of menace.
Initially the kids think they have been rescued, but the viewer is privy to the fact that the kids are, in fact, in grave danger. Nastiness occurs and it is at this point where the title "Survival Run" kicks in as the kids flee from their "rescuers". It is also at this point that the film implodes into a fairly stupid and standard "action" movie. It reminded me, in it's setup, of the movie Wolf Creek from 2005, but much more pedestrian. I had read some reviews of Survival Run that had me prepared for much more edginess but it never materialized for me. There were moments that were impressive, and uncomfortable, but nothing that will stick with me for long.
Thanks to Wrong Side of the Art for the poster, which might be the best thing about the movie.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Character Analysis

One possible topic that Marty and I had discussed as a potential episode of the podcast was a tribute to veteran character actor R.G. Armstrong. As this episode did not, or at least has yet, come to fruition I felt compelled to give the man an honorable mention of sorts here on the blog page. The more I thought about what accolades to bestow upon R.G. the more I thought about how much I and probably most fans of genre films appreciate character actors on the whole. You know the actors I’m talking about, the ones who won’t ever be leading men (or women for that matter) but who always seem to be able to rise above the material they are given to work with. So bearing that in mind I will endeavor to bestow the aforementioned accolades on the the entire class of actors who never seem to be the ones who get the girl or get that final kill shot at the villain, but who invariably lend a level of authenticity to even some of the most low budget productions by bringing that earthy naturalistic style of acting to the party. Without question the list of actors who fall into this category is a long one and I could never, in the space available here, be able to give the much deserved kudos to every one of them, so I will try to narrow my focus by concentrating on a few of the actors who have always impressed themselves upon me through the years.

I am sure that Warren Oates would probably be considered a character actor by Hollywood standards, but he is an example of exactly what this post is meant to reflect. If you go back and watch some of the films that Oates was the lead in, the performances he gives are as complex and multi-layered as anything that Jack Nicholson or Robert DeNiro have done. In frequent collaborations with Sam Peckinpah he always invested his roles with the tough macho core that was the staple of Peckinpah's thematic universe, yet he also was able to allow the character he was playing to have a certain humanity, frailty even. For me the definitive Warren Oates performance is in "Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia" although his portrayal of G.T.O. in "Two Lane Blacktop" is pretty damned impressive too.

While we are on the subject of "Two Lane Blacktop" I would be remiss not mention Harry Dean Stanton, in which he plays the hitch hiker that apparently follows the book that George Carlin refers to in "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back". I can so clearly remember the first movie that I took real notice of this fine actor in, it was one of my all time favorites to this day "Escape From New York". Stanton plays Brain a.k.a. Harold Hellman, an ex-associate of Snake Plisken's who had bailed on Snake and Fresno Bob in the middle of a robbery to save his own skin. This is an example of how an actor can take what would have been a throw away part in other less capable hands and craft it into a character that you remember long after the movie is over.

In the realm of actors who have labored in the low budget trenches even further from mainstream success, a couple of names come immediately to mind. Sid Haig and Dick Miller both appeared in indie films from the likes of Roger Corman and Jack Hill and in episodic television appearances throughout the sixties and seventies. Although neither of them are really household names (well maybe in Marty's or my house they are) they have both turned in so many memorable performances through the years that they surely deserve more praise than either of them has ever received. Haig's turn as Ralph in Jack Hill's manic bizarre "Spider Baby" is hugely entertaining. I have very fond memories of "Galaxy of Terror" which also had Sid Haig although Marty has assured me that memory does not serve me correctly on that one. Dick Miller is such a staple player in the genre that Joe Dante, director of "The Howling" and "Gremlins", has said that when he receives a new script, the first thing he does is read through and figure out which role Miller will play. Starting in the mid to late fifties Miller fell in with fledgling director Roger Corman and it was indeed a fruitful collaboration. The pair worked on many films together including future classics "Little Shop of Horrors" and "Bucket of Blood" the film in which Miller acquired the character name that he would portray in at least four more films over the following years, Walter Paisley.

R.G. Armstrong started acting when he was attending the University of North Carolina, performing with the Carolina Playmakers. After graduation he moved to New York to pursue his career and was met with great success. His ability to use his physically imposing stature to convey a kind of quiet stoic strength, or alternately a menacing threatening presence quickly garnered him a string of roles in both film and television westerns. He, like Warren Oates, became a part of a group of actors that Sam Peckinpah respected and would use in many of his films. Armstrong's appearances in genre movies are almost too numerous to list. He played Sarge in 1981's "Evilspeak", a grossly underrated little movie I think. He was Doc Schoonmaker in "The Beast Within" which I revisited recently and feel that it totally held up after all these long years since seeing it in it's initial release. It has a wonderful sense of place, that small oppressive southern town environment, which lends the proceedings a real feeling of tension. As a side note, "The Beast Within" is filled with many other great character actors who absolutely belong on the long list mentioned previously.

As the list is so long, I am going to end here for now. If any of you who may read this have a favorite actor who you feel doesn't get the notoriety he or she deserves, shoot us an e-mail. Maybe we can compile a list of the 10 greatest character actors in cinema history. We would love to hear who your nominees would be.