Sunday, July 31, 2011

Abel Ferrara’s Driller Killer (1979)

The Original Ultra Violent 70's Slasher

The late 70’s especially 1979 saw an explosion in insanely violent movies, judging from the release of the classic “Dawn of the Dead” and the utterly deranged “Cannibal Holocaust” that year. Another entry in this category was “Driller Killer”, Abel Ferrara’s (Bad Lieutenant, Ms. .45) first major film effort and another in a long procession of late 70s horror and exploitation films to argue that everyone at Manhattan was losing their mind. In fact, Driller Killer was banned in the UK for the unadulterated scale of violence in it and was officially re-released only in 1999.

The premise is fairly straight forward though. A seedy artist (played with aplomb by Ferrara himself), who’s gone several weeks without a shower, has holed up in a Manhattan apartment with two equally seedy, dope addicted lesbian lovers. He’s trying to complete a large masterpiece painting of a buffalo and sell it to an art gallery so that he can pay the rent. He discovers the wonders of the "Porto Pak," a strange device selling for $19.95 that allows you to run any AC-powered appliance no matter where you are. This is handy. Since the horrors of Manhattan’s seamy side have led him to start hallucinating and flying into psychotic fits of rage, he decides to pick up a Porto Pak and start killing derelicts with a power drill. Hence, the name Driller Killer.

This one made me feel out of sorts for the rest of the day. Any fool can make a movie that’s just frankly obscene, but it takes an edge of intellect to make a film that crosses the line into the unspeakably repulsive. “Driller Killer” is such a film, and Abel Ferrara is just the man to make it.

I feel like I have got a pretty good stomach for these sorts of things, but two scenes made me flinch - a street person throwing up on himself and a highly nasty bit of business involving a skinned rabbit. There are also long sequences, recording the rehearsal of a talentless no wave band called "The Roosters," which are almost as hard to take. The vomit, the dead rabbit and the garage band are all real, by the way - used in favor of more edible pea green soup, latex and actual musical talent in a convenient intersection of budget economy and cinéma_vérité.

And yet the movie has got just enough intelligence to get you through the unwatchable parts: there’s a overt menace in the apparently purposeless, atmospheric shots of the painter drinking in Manhattan’s horrid squalor, there’s a fascinating bit after his psychotic break in which he appears to split into two people simultaneously, and the ending is quite nice, eerie and stylized.

If there's a point to be taken from this perplexing but not totally insipid film, it concerns a sort of artistic Judgment Day. The painter decries the Roosters’ ability to forge a group of followers despite their appalling and plagiaristic music. Frantic for money, the painter later agrees to do a portrait for the Roosters that will end up on the cover of their next album and this is when he splits in two - the lead singer is prancing around his apartment playing abysmal guitar and the painter is trying to work on the portrait despite the lead singer’s constant, pretentious entreaties that he "communicate" - "what part of me are you putting there?" he demands, pointing at the canvas.

The film’s culminating moment comes when the gallery owner mocks and rejects the painter’s magnum opus, proclaiming it "worthless" and calling it proof that "the worst thing that could happen to a painter has happened to you; you’ve become merely a technician." Economic and class anxiety saturates the film - the painter loathes the homeless but is only a step away from homelessness himself but aesthetic anxiety, a perceived death of art, culture and music, is what really makes this movie tick.

Free Streaming/Download Avi Link : StageVu or VeeHD (Uncut Version)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Saturday Matinee - The Game (1997)

David Fincher’s Outstanding Neo-Noir thriller

"The Game" is proof and more evidence that Michael Douglas always picks his films with a curious agenda in mind. Like Basic Instinct, The Game is preoccupied with situations in which nothing can be confirmed, in which what is true depends on who you're talking to.

Douglas is an investment banker who's bored with his job until his brother (an amazingly young looking Sean Penn) turns him on to CRS, a recreational company that "brings the vacation to you". In need of a break, Douglas signs up without learning much about CRS, only to discover they've got more resources than he could have ever suspected - they break into his protected home, take over an entire hospital and they seem to have their cronies everywhere. The question throughout that's impossible to verify (at least until the very end) is, are all the obvious attempts on Douglas's life hoaxes, part of the "game," or are they real attempts to shut down his bank account and get him out of the way?

The Game has a dignified history in American film - it reminds me a lot to Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation (1974) starring Gene Hackman, Harrison Ford and Robert Duvall right down to the weird scene with the overflowing toilet. Like The Conversation, The Game's hero has trouble gaining allies or convincing anybody of the conspiracy being mounted against him, because the sadistic conspirators present evidence to him but withdraw it the instant anyone else comes into sight.

Like The Conversation (or innumerable other movies), The Game's protagonist has trouble even explaining what it is, exactly, that's happening, who his enemies are or what they want from him, and this lack of insight makes his story all the less convincing. But The Game puts an captivating, slightly skeptical twist on this age-old theme of paranoia. If you haven’t seen it yet, I can't tell you what it is but the film's wrapping up is truly astounding and worthy of the exceptional buildup that leads to it. It's a twist ending that works, and I hadn't seen one of those in a long time. Watch out for Armin Mueller-Stahl and Deborah Kara Unger!!

Free Streaming/Download Avi Link : VeeHD

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Fuzzy Occam's Razor

To Shave or Not to Shave!

Occam's razor must have been the real cut-throat type.... surely it never shaved a leg. This whole leg-shaving thing for women (and men) should really be uncomplicated, you do or you don't, but it's not.

I came across a snooty woman at a fashion show rehearsal a few days back (ok, she was about 20 which, in my opinion makes her still a "girl" and her attitude went along with it) who had the all-fired audacity to get on a naïve new fellow student about shaving her legs. Not that she ought to, but which I felt was a little over the top.

Bite me, itchy. She had terrific legs, at least from the knee down perhaps she’s still working on that thigh thing and she’ll be damned if she’s going to obscure the delicate sculpture of her ankles with fuzz so some people can feel secure in their own bullshit.

It seems, it is politically correct, at the moment, for women to free themselves from the male-dominated view of feminine beauty by refusing to shave their legs or underarms, eschew makeup and wear clothes that make them look like a sack of rags. I read in some stupid feministic magazine recently in which several (actually inane) women were being lauded to the skies for "breaking the mold" and thinking “out of the box”. One had quit her steady job to start her own business (in this recession), another had sold her house and bought a motorcycle (must be one hell of a motorcycle is all I can say), one had "given up shaving" her legs. Huh? Is this on a par with boldly taking on the male-establishment in business or pursuing a dream of momentum and independence? Heck, this just sounds like either an excuse for being lazy, or a way of apologizing for not playing the game.

I admit, that I'm as lazy as the next nut and I may decide that I don't want to be bothered with something like hairy legs for a while, but, I think a women’s legs look great fuzz-less and, being the self-aggrandizing, insecure, neurotic type that many of us are, any female of our species would want people to admire them. After all, if you've got something that makes you superior, exploit it, say I (and that's as un-PC as you can get).

Now, I'm hardly a fashion-victim, about as politically-correct as a white sheet at a university meeting and distinctly not interested in whether or not anything I do or say is socially relevant, but I think that deliberately playing coy about what you are and what you want is kind of twisted and selfish (sick, fetish or kinky we can get to later) and to cover it up with a brainless motive like being politically correct and start bowing to someone else's politically-sacred cows is stupid!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Death Sport (1978)

Roger Corman's bad sequel to Death Race 2000

The voice-over that opens this terrible follow-up to the cult hit Death Race 2000 (starring David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone) informs us that we are now in a future set 1000 years after the Neutron Wars, where what passes for civilization holes up in hip, psychedelic domed cities.

Surrounding these cities is the "range," a kind of urbane wasteland. When the narrator finally shuts up we see a loin-clothed David Carradine jumping around and muttering things like "sand in the wind, keep moving" to himself until he's pummeled unconscious by a bunch of extras wearing motorcycle helmets.

Carradine is Kaz Oshay, a notorious "range guide," and the guys in the helmets are the henchmen of Lord Zirpola (David McLean), a terminally ill, repressive ruler who wants to capture Oshay because he is a brave and popular opponent of Zirpola's regime. While in the clink Oshay trades "I love you's (which, in this more sensible society, is expressed as "our union is limited") with Deneer (Playboy Playmate Claudia Jennings), who looks as though she might have wandered off the set of "Charlie's Angels." Oshay and Deneer escape from the clink and go off in search of Deneer's daughter - who was abducted by mutants - while dodging, and getting in frequent skirmishes with, Zirpola's right-hand man Ankar Moor (Richard Lynch).

B-movie king Roger Corman produced this movie and bears his characteristic “I-could-care-less” signatures: a soundtrack (featuring guitar riff’s by Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia) produced entirely on a single cheap synthesizer, props that look like they just happened to be lying around the set, performances by actors who don't seem to be quite sure whether the camera is rolling.

Still, there are a few things to like. Whenever one of the henchman's motorcycles goes through a tunnel, for instance, it makes a noise indistinguishable to a tie-fighter's in Star Wars - seeing as Death Sport came out only a year after Star Wars, and seeing as how the earlier movie made a bit of a splash, one has to admire Corman's rather impudent bit of thievery. There's also a bold (and doomed) attempt to pass off a splice in a scene in which everything is on fire. It appears the fire stubbornly ignored the stage direction to hold still between takes.

Finally, this movie rips through extras wholesale. At one point Oshay is fighting in the "Death Sport", a Rollerballesque spectator combat sport using destructocycles in which only one contestant can emerge alive. Extras pour out of a tunnel and Oshay knocks them down like tennis balls from a service machine. Sometimes they explode spontaneously, in the absence of any immediate threat. It's suggestive of the satirical scene in Peter Jackson’s Bad Taste in which the good guys simply cannot be shot, no matter how many bullets rain down on them or how far from cover they might be. If Corman had intended to lampoon the expendability of the extra in your average action film, it would have been merely funny. Because he expects us to take it seriously, it's uproarious. If you are a fan of 70’s style futuristic B or C grade action movies, you’ll probably love it!

Free Streaming/Download Avi Link : VeeHD

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Playing the Good Samaritan!

Help Somebody Today!

Do you believe in good Samaritans and Angels? I do. I recently rammed my car on to a lamp post during a rainwashed trip in the suburbs and an unknown angel who happened to own a house on the street corner, helped me out. He took me in and even made me a hot cuppa of fresh coffee until the tow truck came in a full 2 hours late. I wasn’t injured really but he made sure I was alright!

I haven't had occasion to need a Good Samaritan many times, but I distinctly remember playing the good angel near heaven once. Ok, I mean aboard an airborne 747.

Well, I was seated next to a big man whose knees were right up against the seat ahead of him. He didn't complain until that seat's occupant insisted on leaning her seat back 'til she was practically in my seatmate's lap! The man explained his predicament politely, but that lady would not return her seat to an upright position. Instead, she acted like his request was totally out of line.

Nor being able to see the poor man’s plight, I traded seats with him and my comparatively smaller frame fit right in under the rude lady's seat. That big man turned out to be the vice president of a big bank in San Diego, and he gave me his card in case he could do me a good turn. Though I never called on him ever, I still have his business card somewhere, and the good memory of how it feels to be kind to a total stranger.

I have been repaid for that small act numerous times. People are often nice to me, but I imagine that that mean lady has had repayment of a different sort for her nastiness. After 5 years, I'm still surprised at the needless inconsiderate behavior she displayed.

You will probably have the opportunity to be an angel for someone, maybe even today. Don't be too hasty to let it slip by, go ahead, be the Good Samaritan!
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