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.