Hello, you. April 2021 marks the second of these monthly film reviews, and the first one I’ve put effort into. Maybe it’ll also be the last, making it a collector’s edition! I watch so many films, mostly staying away from anything mainstream. I’m not a film snob, and I’ll happily watch and enjoy a good quality, well-made film, and enjoy the hell out of it. But there’s not a lot of fun in discussing where things went right, or where a bunch of talented people have created something of cultural or pleasurable value.
The real fun for me is in bad films. Films that are hampered from the start by a lack of budget, talent or expertise. Where quite clearly, Mistakes Were Made. I can get over any number of shortcomings in a film, as long as it’s not boring. Being boring is the worst crime that a film can commit. Not everything needs to be layered with subtext and subtle acting, but sometimes I just realise that I’ve been watching essentially nothing happen for almost half an hour.
So let’s dip into this month’s bag. I wasn’t intending for there to be a theme, and there’s definitely a wide range of weirdness to come, but films with “bikini” in the title are definitely over-represented.
I watched The Warriors (1979). It’s set in future New York, which has been taken over by gangs. A rival gang shoots a man trying to broker peace, and blame the titular Warriors gang. The Warriors must cross New York City and get home, while being chased by the Police and thousands of gangsters.
It runs at 100mph, as the group fight (but mostly run) their way out of conflict with upset gangs. It’s daft and super enjoyable.
Even though there are 9 lads in the gang, they all get featured, and it doesn’t feel difficult to follow who is where, even when they are split up.
The style of the movie is beautiful, in a dark and futuristic way. It’s definitely a unique feeling film.
I watched Gummo (1997). It’s very dark and funny. There’s a horrible bleak feel all over it, which I really like. It felt like a collection of skits rather than a coherent whole, but that makes sense within the film. Life isn’t coherent. A very sad but brilliant viewpoint of the world, as seen through the eyes of a group of Ohio teenagers.
The degenerate behaviour is relentless, but the characters feel real and you feel like you’re living their life with them. There are many unforgettable, but grim, moments.
I watched Ken Park (2002). There’s a simplistic message at the heart of the film – your parents screw you right up. This is taken to extremes, and shown through a sexual and violent lens. I think there’s a lot of discussion to be had about the realism, as some people will find some scenes more on the nose than others.
I like it more than Gummo, which just has its teenage characters in a malaise for no obvious individual reasons.
The relationships in Ken Park are dysfunctional, disgusting, and depraved. The realisation that parents aren’t gods. They they are capable of tremendous horrors. This will stay with me.
I watched Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key, because who could reject a title like that? It’s loosely based on Poe’s The Black Cat. Edwige Fenech stars, and I truly believe she’s the most beautiful human that’s ever existed.
The story is lovely and dark, an abusive husband appears to be a killer. His wife is the actual killer, and is close to getting away with it, but her vendetta against the cat ultimately costs her. Wonderful film with beautiful scenery, Edwige, and a fantastic old mansion location
I watched The St. Bernard Syndicate (2018), a Danish comedy. The director usually makes documentaries, and that influence is all over this absolute gem of a film. Two buffoons go to China, looking for investors in their new business breeding St. Bernards. There’s low key cringe throughout, and some laugh out loud gaffes and idiocy. It’s like an episode of The Thick of It, but based around international commerce. Big recommending.
I watched Dial: Help (1988), an Italian horror(I think, but unintentionally a comedy). Evil energy is released through the phone line, causing everyone who comes in contact with the lead character to die.
But they die in silly ways, like Final Destination. One man has coins thrown at his head by the change drawer on a payphone. Well made for the most part, but it’s trying to be a sincere film about killer phones. Who couldn’t have fun with that?
I watched Tammy and the T Rex (1994). An American B movie with its tongue ridiculously deep in its cheek. Every step of this story is ridiculous, but in a satisfying, funny, surreal way.
A man has his brain transplanted into an animatronic dinosaur, but he doesn’t lose the love of his human girlfriend. Either you are on board with it, or you’re not. If you can make that leap of acceptance, you’re in for a massive treat. Trash gold! The sort of thing that makes digging through the other films worthwhile.
Apparently the makers had access to a giant T Rex, and made the film around that. We are all lucky that this weird turn of events happened.
I watched Dolemite (1975), a Blaxploitation film. Technically inept, but intensely watchable. Super funny all the way. Glorious terrible choreography on the fight scenes. An insane plot. Just wonderful entertainment. Proof that filmmakers can get everything technically “wrong”, but still make a fascinating, exciting piece of entertainment.
I watched The Last House on the Left (1972). I can see both why it’s highly regarded and why it upset a lot of people. It wasn’t quite what I expected, and I was genuinely shocked when the two women were killed in the middle.
Understated and grizzly, it’s relentless in its horrors and depraved characters.
It features a weird comedic performance from Kreese from the Karate Kid as a wacky cop, which was a bit of light relief in an otherwise very raw, angry film. Excellent stuff.
I watched Cecil B Demented (2000). John Waters’ satire of turn of this century’s filmmaking. An auteur kidnaps an A List star and forces her to act in his film at gunpoint.
It’s clear that Waters is aiming his attention at auteurs, who he regards as insane and single-minded, but also the studio system is shown to be flat and safe. Waters is on nobody’s side here.
Very funny, one of the best of the few John Waters films I’ve seen.
I watched The Toxic Avenger (1984), another from the insane Troma studio. A superhero film that I actually enjoyed! The absolute definition of so bad it’s good. The acting stinks. Special effects swing between grotesque and ridiculous. The Avenger himself is hilarious – despite his horrific looks, he is well spoken and polite. Great piece of B Movie fun, and I can’t wait to see the character return. Luckily, there’s three or so sequels. Wonderful.
Coming of Age Corner
I watched I Saw What You Did (1988). A made for TV horror remake of the 1965 Joan Crawford film of the same name. Despite some limitations in the acting, and a fairly dumbed down for the telly plot, it was actually surprisingly good.
Two teenagers prank call a stranger and say “I saw what you did…” The thing he just did was killing his wife and burying her in a shallow grave. It’s an exploration of teenage stupidity and how the teens keep making the situation worse.
Playing with fire, but if they also didn’t know what fire was. It’s a Larry Davidesque worst case scenario escalation, but heavy on the murder and horror.
I watched Little Darlings (1980). Two teenage girls at summer camp believe they are the last virgins, and enter a bet to score first. Goes into some universal human nature – sex and lies, teenagers showing off, the realisation that everyone is an inexperienced idiot.
Made on a budget, but that doesn’t hold it back at all. I wish I’d seen it when I was 15, as it shows the reality of how vulnerable sex can make you – both with a partner, and afterwards, amongst friends.
I watched The Last American Virgin (1982). A mostly very good teenage coming of age drama. It loses its way towards the end, with a rushed abortion story. Up until then it was standard sexy teenage japes and embarrassment. Seems like it’s a remake of an Israeli film by the same writer/director, so maybe that’s better.
I watched Bikini Model Academy (2015). Now this was an experience. I feel like the film was gaslighting me. Like it was telling me this unbelievable story with a completely straight face. Like, there’s no way to tell you what happened without sounding like a lunatic. After almost every sentence, you should add “for some reason”.
Two guys have a bad weed harvest, and their green-digging girlfriends dump them. Heartbroken, the boys decide to start up a Bikini Model Academy, which they pay women to attend. Meanwhile, a rival Bikini Model Academy owner challenges the main Bikini Model Academy to a modelling competition. The prize is a convoluted set of demands, but if (big if) the rival Bikini Model Academy wins, then the Bikini Model Academy must close down.
And the reason it’s a big if is that the first thing we see in the film is a flash-forward to Bikini Model Academy Graduation, an event that can’t happen if they lose. So there’s no real tension or jeopardy.
The jokes are weak, and the characters interchangeable. Gary Busey’s performance is the single most phoned-in effort I’ve ever seen. I have absolute respect for him caring so little about his craft. He pretty clearly turned up on set, wore his own clothes and had the words held up for him on massive cards. He’s reading those words with the intonation of someone who has no idea how the sentence is going to end.
I watched All American Bikini Car Wash (2015). Very bad. Implausible plot to set up the premise. Unlikable characters, drawn out slow motion bikini scenes, and a lack of any real jeopardy all sabotage the film. Can a film be so shallow that it has negative depth? I thought less of the world after watching it. The jokes fall flat. The budget is tiny and there’s only a small cast, so the same bikini shots are repeated over and over to pad things out. Nobody deserves any credit for this disaster.
I watched The Malibu Bikini Shop (1986). A fairly by the numbers teen comedy – two men run a bikini shop, need to make some quick money, and one of them has a horrible fiancée. I had to check how many Es in fiancée, I really don’t think I’ll ever learn it properly.
The film asks you to accept a lot of silly, contrived plot points, but the characters aren’t likeable or fleshed out enough to make me want to try. There are lots of issues around consent, particularly seeing women naked without them even knowing about it. The film laughs it off, but the characters come across as seedy rather them loveable rogues.
I watched the first ten minutes of Bikini House Calls (1996). It was too incoherent to follow. FlickAttack’s review is consistent with what I saw particularly the idea that “Occasionally, the movies cut to old stock footage of medical whatnot, sometimes in the middle of a line, for no discernible reason.“
I watched Women of the World (1963), a sequel to the original Mondo film, Mondo Cane. Narrated by Peter Ustinov, of all people! The stories of women’s lives across the world is horrendously dated in its accepting of gender roles. The stories range from verifiable facts that they have sensationalised, up to absolute unremitting horse shit. I’d love to watch a documentary about this documentary, and find out the actual truth. As a vaguely sexist and racist piece, it has a bit of historical interest, but not much.
I watched Gimme Shelter (1970), a Rolling Stones documentary that set out to show their American tour, but ultimately is a document of a fan’s tragic stabbing during an open air concert.
Filmed entirely at the time, the footage alone is a beautiful look around the end of the 1960s and the 1969 Summer of Love.
However, seeing the way their San Fransisco concert breaks down in a mess of disorganisation, violence, and death is horrendous and still feels relevant now.
The best rock and roll documentary I’ve ever seen, for both good and tragic reasons.
I watched Talked to Death (1997), a HBO documentary exposing Jerry Springeresque talk shows. The lurid ones with wacky titles and a baying crowd. It’s very cleverly edited, using juxtaposed clips to out hosts like Maury Povich as being full of it. Really well made.
It covers fake guests, guests given a drinks tab before the show, people humiliated by the things they learned while on the show. I’d love to see an update to it, since it ends on a Jenny Jones guest killing another guest days after recording.
Time hasn’t been kind to those shows, and yet Jeremy Kyle was still able to operate until very recently. Awesome doc. I thought the editing was fantastic. It’s so difficult without a narrator, but those hosts just hung themselves out to dry. Maury came across particularly bad, as did another host who “no comments” his way painfully through a press conference. Pretending to care about the guests. Unreal.
I watched Censorship USA (1971), a documentary about the rise of hardcore pornography. It’s a series of interviews with strippers, actors, adult store owners, and consumers. Interesting look at the morals of the time. I’d love to learn more of the context, because the law was still evolving at that point around what was acceptable to show or do. Bestiality is mentioned as casually as “insertion”, possibly the worst word for penetration ever. Good doc, and only 40 minutes.
I watched Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project (2019), a documentary about a reclusive American woman who recorded TV news for thirty years. It’s a bit in two parts, the first talks of her distancing herself from her family, which makes for a problem with the documentary – Marion and everyone else involved is either dead or estranged, so her motivations are mostly speculative. The rest shows clips from her tapes, but again, there’s a problem – how do you find anything in an archive that big, let alone any interesting gems? Instead, we get VHS quality footage of 9/11, Iran/Contra, Rodney King – all things that are available elsewhere and everywhere. The end touches on a digitisation project by the Internet Archive, so hopefully the material will be put to better use in future.
I watched Hated: GG Allin & the Murder Junkies (1993), a documentary about the notorious rocker. To open with a cliché and an understatement, Allin was a troubled character. His music was more intelligent than it seemed, and his desire to rebel understandable. He was enabled by his fans, paying to see him perform – nothing was out of bounds or too big a taboo to broach on stage. The more he was hated back, the more he hated society. He became an unwilling Messiah to a group of people he despised. An incredible documentary. But be warned – Allin has a painful willingness to poo on the ground, roll around in it, and even munch it down. Grotesque.
I watched Vernon, Florida (1981). Oh my, absolutely unbelievable. Such a piece of video gold. The premise is simply old people in the town of Vernon talking about whatever they want. The camera just rolls as these characters offer their thoughts.
One man talks us through the intricacies of turkey hunting. Two men have a conversation about a friend who took his shoes off before killing himself, which degenerates into an argument about whether he pulled the shotgun trigger with his finger or his toe.
I was crying laughing. Lovable old eccentrics hitting the sweetest note of comedy – the completely unexpected. The documentary is respectful of them, and never feels mean spirited. Highest recommendation.
There’s a small trivia note as well – the original documentary was to be called Nub City, the nickname of Vernon. A large proportion of the residents lost limbs in accidents, and were able to claim insurance money. A suspiciously large proportion, to the extent that it was widely believed that the “accidents” were more “sacrifices”. However, death threats from locals put paid to the original premise, and we got this gem instead.
The Movie Bin
I watched The Perverse Countess (1974), one of many adaptations of The Most Dangerous Game. It’s surely the version with the most pubic hair. The premise is of big game hunters who turn their attention to human prey.
It takes a little while to get going, is slow in the middle, and the end chase is somehow in less than real time. The big cannibal twist cannot possibly be a surprise for anyone. The scenery is beautiful and the soundtrack ranges from repetitive to rocking. Not a great film but not terrible. Actually, it is quite boring, and that’s the worst problem you can have with a film. Not for me.
I watched The Sex Adventures of the Three Musketeers (1971). I wish I hadn’t. The thinnest of inspiration from the original story, padded out with unsexy and unrealistic looking sex. A real chore to finish. Made by amateurs. No plot to speak of – it takes half an hour before the first bit of plot happens, and it’s D’Artagnan’s dad getting fed up with him shagging so much.
It’s slow from there to the end. The Musketeers make an appearance, but they’re drunken sex havers rather than sword fighters. D’Artagnon barely meets the trio. I’m not sure what the goal was – they cover like 10% of the plot of the original, while padding with repetitive sex scenes.
I watched Cyborg (1989). A very bad Jean Claude Van Damme material arts film with a ludicrous futuristic setting. Apparently a cut n shut of two other scripts, it fails at everything that isn’t overblown fight scenes. There are too many flashbacks, but they tell only a bit of the whole story. A thin premise pads out the non-fighting bits even more. A bit of a slog, even at 86 minutes.
I watched Just One of the Guys (1985). A teen comedy based off Twelfth Night. Not very good. A school girl thinks she’s being discriminated against in her journalism, because of her sex. She pretends to be a guy, goes to a new school, and falls in love. It’s all very blah blah – anything interesting is skipped over or happens off-screen, like she just registers for the new school and gets accepted without her parents knowing. Not very funny or likeable. BUT, there’s one of the greatest boob reveals I’ve ever seen. It marks a big moment in the plot, and they’re a fantastic pair. Not worth watching the rest of the film for.