Categories
Film Reviews

April 2021 Film Roundup

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.

Recommendation Region

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.

Bikini Business

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.“

Documentary Division

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.

Categories
Film Reviews

Movies for March

21st March 2021

Bugsy Malone

Not my usual thing. I generally despise child actors, so having a film full of them was a bold move.  For the most part, I didn’t actually hate it.  Some of the singing gets twee and goes on a bit, but there’s very little actually irritating. The plot is a simple enough gangster caper, and the use of cream instead of bullets is funny. It’s not a film that’s going to turn me around on musicals though.

***

A Fool And His Money

I only watched this because I like lead actor Jonathan Penner, but only on the gameshow Survivor. I’d never seen him act before, outside of a small role on Seinfeld, and this was 81 minutes of pure, unfiltered Penner. He’s in almost every scene, but you wouldn’t know it from the cover art – there’s a huge picture of Sandra Bullock, while Penner is hidden away unrecognisably.  This is pre-fame Bullock, so she’s in the film for like five minutes at most.

The premise is interesting enough – a New York advertising douchebag forms a religion based around selfishness, greed, and contempt for thy neighbour.  Very 1980s.  Things escalate largely off-screen, and the consequences mostly ignored.  There’s a horrible “what have I become?” self-realisation at the end, but it’s way past the point of me still caring.

The sound quality is painful. Music drowns out some of the dialogue. It’s not always easy to follow what’s going on, but it doesn’t really matter.

*

Long Weekend

Australian exploitation film of the late 1970s. It featured in the documentary Not Quite Hollywood, and I picked it up because of that.  As an atmospheric experience, it does phenomenally. There’s a creeping sense of dread and things that can’t quite be explained.

A married couple with deep relationship issues go camping in the jungle for a long weekend. They are callously indifferent to nature.  Running over a kangaroo. Chopping down a tree for a laugh. Chucking bottles into the ocean and shooting at them. Nature is the good guy here. It fights back, using the depths of the ocean, the confusing nature of the jungle, and the range of animals inside as its weapons.

Awesome film, exactly the sort of thing I love. The atmosphere is dark and the characters are unlikable. You never quite know where it’s going, and that’s a positive.

****

Kipling’s Women

I hate Rudyard Kipling. The tedious poet of the British Empire wrote a lot of dross.  This film is (very loosely) based on his rubbish Women, in which a man recalls his adventures with women across the Empire. The repetitive and presumably royalty free poetry is repeated at length throughout this one hour film.

It’s a “nudie-cutie” film, and one of the first mainstream titles in the genre. The literary connection perhaps giving it the thinnest veil of respectability.  The idea is to be respectfully horny, so women are shown nude, but not in a sex way. They’re getting in the bath, or sunbathing.

All the sex that the poem mentions is only implied, leaving a couple of minutes of bums and boobs mixed in with Rudyard’s absolutely abysmal, racist, misogynistic verse. I hate you, Rudyard.

**

22nd March 2021

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

I liked this! Good quality action film that’s different enough to the original. Not gonna get hung up on remakes or reboots or whatever, as a standalone film it’s a lot of fun. The Rock and Jack Black actually do some acting, playing awkward teenagers but in their own bodies. It makes sense though, and it’s easy enough to roll with the silliness.

****

Shoplifting from American Apparel

Weird, weird film. It’s a fake documentary about the making of a film adaptation of the biographical story of the same name. There’s no actual film, just this making of. There’s no real plot, and they just sort of meander ineptly around talking about inconsequential shit and lamenting the poorness of the film.

****

Four star Monday!

23rd March

Good Burger

I found this a lot of fun. It’s a silly comedy for not very old people, that’s fine to relax with. The plot is simple, and the bad guys are great as 2d characters. Just evil for the sake of evil, and it’s very funny.

*** ½

Caged Heat

Normally, I’m not really a fan of Women in Prison films. They get repetitive and nihilistic, with women getting the shitty end of the stick for the entire run. I was pleased and surprised with Caged Heat. The director went on to do Silence of the Lambs, so it’s cool to see a skilled filmmaker attempt a genre that usually falls short.

A lot of the horrors were implied rather than wallowed in, leaving your imagination to conjure worse images than the ones normally shown with distracting poor effects. There are a handful of bad looking blood effects, but you can’t have everything.

It’s nothing I’d rush back to watch again, and there doesn’t feel like a lot of subtext that went over my head. Still, I think I’d recommend it to any cowards who want to dip their toe into the weaker, rather than bleaker, end of the genre.

***

Snakes on a Plane

I feel like Snakes on a Plane has been part of internet folklore forever. “So bad it’s good!” say people who haven’t seen enough films. There’s around 20 minutes of premise establishing at the start, a murder, a witness etc. None of it matters though, because even with the film running for an astounding 105 minutes, it doesn’t bother resolving that plot.

The joke wears thin after about 45 minutes, but the plane plods along for another hour. The snakes don’t have much variety in what they do, so by the time Samuel L Jackson says that line – the one that all they all cheer at – you too are sick of the motherfucking snakes.

It’s not so bad it’s good, it’s just one drawn out disaster. There’s a million characters with miniscule arcs, most of whom could be cut without the film losing anything.

Both bloated and thin, it’s like a malnourished child, and as much fun to stare at for nearly two hours.

**

24th March

Ali G in dahouse

Depressingly weak. I was expecting something good from the Borat man, but it fell really short. Not even as good as one of the sketches where Ali is interviewing a real person. There were a couple of laughs, but it didn’t do anything for me. The plot was actively a negative, a convoluted mess of Ali becoming an MP. 

 Rambo: First Blood Part 2

Before I’d seen the first Rambo film, I assumed it was a lot like this. While the first was a sensitive character portrait disguised as an action film, 2 is super action packed and silly, and full of explosions, helicopters, and grenade launchers.  

The plot is glossed over in a couple of minutes at the start, which is great, because we can get straight to Rambo vs the World in a fight to the death. Once you’re in, the action never stops and it just gets wilder and wilder. Just what I needed!

****

Primitive London

Mondo style documentary, and the sequel to London in the Raw, which I saw recently. Combines authentic footage of weird London subcultures with staged reconstructions, and lots of strippers. The makers interview different groups, the Mods, Rockers, and Beatniks, using an amazingly patronising tone to belittle their entire way of life.

It drags a lot though, with the slow and hiding-the-good-bits stripping taking up way more than it needs to. The most memorable bit is an excruciatingly detailed look inside a battery farm abattoir, where a parade of chickens are stunned, have their throats slit, and are left dangling and thrashing from a hook. There’s even a “cor, you can’t win with technology, eh?” laugh at the expense of one chicken whose neck has come off, so is just a gormless head sitting on its hook.

**½

25th March

Cruel Intentions 3

Basically what you’d expect from a Cruel Intentions sequel.  An imitation of the original that’s not as clever, funny, or sexy. But it’s also not terrible. I wasn’t bored, and the plot moves along with enough twists and turns to keep it flowing. The acting is pretty bad, and the dialogue is laughable – the two things sort of combine to keep it entertaining. Really it’s one for fans of the original, because I don’t know why you’d watch this over that.

** ½

26th March

Into the Blue 2: The Reef

Apparently, this isn’t as good as Into the Blue, which itself isn’t as good as 1977’s The Deep. I’ve not seen either of them yet, so it seems good that I started with the worst and most derivative. Beautiful people with beautiful bodies in beautiful locations.

A not very fun story about buried treasure in the sea goes all dark, weird, and with dark, weird detours into international nuclear warfare, and indiscriminate bombing. This is barely the point of the film though, you’re supposed to just ooh and aah at the pretty things. Also, they definitely ran out of money at the end, as events – largely off-screen – fly to a climax.

***

The Kinky Coaches and the Pom Pom Pussycats

What a name, eh? A very tame effort, really. There are two bold choices made (beyond picking that title).

The first is dedicating the last thirty minutes of the film to an almost real-time showing of a high school football game. Second is having a sports movie where there’s no clear good guys or bad guys. Some characters on either side of the inter-school football rivalry are jerks, but both the coaches are decent enough people.

Despite the lurid claims on the box, the Coaches deliver very little. A prank war escalates in a series of unfunny sketches where almost everyone keeps their clothes on.

Characters become interchangeable, because there are more extras than Ben Hur. Tedious to try and follow along, and awful once the extended highlights begin.

* ½

27th March

Mutiny on the Buses

I’m not sure about the trend of 1970s TV shows being made into films. I’ve not seen a good one yet, and Mutiny on the Buses is far from the best. The film unwraps like a sketch comedy, with only a couple of threads running the whole way. It doesn’t even really feel like a bigger deal than a television episode, but just a really, really long one.

The characters laugh uproariously at their own jokes, which range from dad level to standard 1970s laughter at anyone different. Even the title (which apparently came from a newspaper competition) has nothing to do with the events.

**

My Awkward Sexual Adventure

I really wasn’t big on this one. On one level, it was trying to be a coming of age drama about a guy who overcomes his insecurities and inexperience to get together with the girl of his dreams. On another, it’s about a 36 year old man who breaks up with his girlfriend after nearly 20 years, and hooks up with a stripper.

Neither of the lead couple are even slightly likable, which removes all the tension from the “will they / won’t they” that you’re battered over the head with. I was bored a lot of the time during this, and cringed a lot at the oral sex practice. Nothing else really caused a big reaction other than general annoyance.

*

Big Trouble in Little China

Oh I loved this! Kung Fu meets spooky spooky! The film flew past, and I really want to watch it again because I think there’s more to understand. Just a good, fun, goofy action film. Big fan.

*** ½

My Tale is Hot

Another early nudie cutie. The Devil tries to corrupt a man who is the most faithful in the world. He tempts the man, Mr. Ben-Hur Ova, with lots of previously recorded footage of women with their boobs and bums out. The jokes are as hack as you like, and the plot is a little bit repetitive, but there’s a great twist that I found genuinely pleasing.

** ½

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Uncategorized

ODDLY COUPLED (1970)

On IMDB, the plot for Oddly Coupled opens with the line “Nerdy Hobart Moore is kidnapped by three women, and brought to a house occupied by Gertie, a morbidly obese nymphomaniac.”  I think that most people will be turned off by that, and wouldn’t want to watch. I sort of feel happy that I was desperate to watch the film after reading it, but I’m not proud that I was happy. 

IMDB’s description is at least accurate.  The cover art claims, “There was one last chance …and she had to take it”, and “She had to prove that she could destroy any man …destroy him with her unyielding passion!” None of this is true.  At all. It’s not even a bit like the film.

If it had claimed “Chuckle Vision, but with nipples and bums”, then maybe they’d be onto something.  While this is ostensibly the story of Hobart “Ho-Ho” Moore, it’s really a 30 minute short padded out with 40 minutes of 100% unrelated softcore porn.

A representative scene has Ho-Ho taking a walk on the beach one morning.  We see him step onto the beach for one second.  We see him leave the beach, again for one second.  In between, a couple on the beach have sex with each other.  We don’t learn their names, or why they’re at it.  They don’t interact with Ho-Ho, talk to him, look at him, acknowledge him – almost as though it were filmed on an entirely different day.  A large chunk of the film is like this (sex in a traffic jam, sex on a hidden camera, etc etc), and it doesn’t make the film more fun.

If you like nudity, there’s plenty of it, albeit in the mould of a late night TV movie; all gentle innocence with sweat and boobs.  It harks back to a gentler age, where you couldn’t find all this and more in seconds on the internet.  There’s just way too much of it, and it goes on and on without going anywhere. Running on the spot with its bum out.

Underneath it all is a silly slapstick film that’s quite a bit of fun.  Or it would be fun, if it were just half an hour long and didn’t have any of the unrelated sex.  It almost makes me want to learn video editing so I can show the shortened version to people. There is a charm to the film.  It isn’t malicious or anything, it’s just misguidedly padded out and hideously unsexy.  I want to like it, and I want you to like it, but argh, it’s going to have to be a pass.  Even if you have to miss Gertie, the morbidly obese nymphomaniac.

Categories
Film Reviews

Man Bites Dog (1992)

The ideal way, I think, to watch Man Bites Dog is to know absolutely nothing about it before you start.  I am telling you now to close this review then go and watch it.  Come back in 90 minutes when it’s finished.

All watched?  Of course not, you filthy liar.  But that’s okay.  I understand that you have no reason to trust me yet.

Here is a longer explanation of why you should have watched it, during which I will spoil many aspects of the film.  Which is your fault for not trusting me in the first paragraph, then telling lies in the second.

Man Bites Dog is a pseudo-documentary following Ben, a Belgian pianist, polemicist, poetry fanatic, and serial killer.  We see Ben – short for Benoit, which as a pro-wrestling fan, is even more problematic – living his life, meet his grandparents, and casually discussing how to weigh down a corpse correctly when you throw it in a river.

The tone is initially deliberately light-hearted.  Ben is likeable, witty, and charismatic.  He rants to the documentary crew about gentrification, and explains to them how to save on bullets when killing the elderly.  He achieves this by shouting “snuff!” at a pensioner, and letting her weak, old heart do the rest.

The documentary team capture some murders on camera, deliberately following Ben as he takes out his monthly postman – always starting the month by killing a postman.  The violence is where the film excels, with Ben’s jovial nature offset by the simultaneous graphic horror of his actions. 

As the film progresses, the jokes and light-heartedness seem more and more out of place as Ben’s actions become increasingly disturbing.  You’re meant to find the “boo” scene funny, and it is.  But then the murders are actually quite horrible, and the jokes fewer and farther between. 

The film is daring you to continue liking Ben, and by extension, the film itself.  Because you chose to sit down and watch a light-hearted pseudo-documentary about a serial killer.  Doesn’t that make you a bit fucked up and wrong too?  Ben justifies his killings where he can, but he’s trying to convince both himself and you that it’s alright to pop out the odd murder.  As long as you can pretend that they deserve it in some way, what does it matter to anyone if the odd postman or cash-hoarding grannie departs this earth?

You become complacent and emotionless towards the killing.  While some are protracted affairs, some killings are summarised on screen by a single gunshot, or a bagged-up corpse being thrown into a quarry.  How many people does Ben kill during the film?  I have no idea.  You lose count.  It is impossible to keep count.  Which I think is a point they’re trying to make.  The victims of murders get lost in the retelling of their own life stories.  A victim becomes just a victim.  The media portrays them as a victim first, and loses a lot of the detail of their actual lives.  They become defined by their final moments, their interaction with the killer.  This holds true even now, as semi-sympathetic documentaries continue to be made and evil fuckers like Manson or Bundy are romanticised in the retelling of their lives.

The documentary crew represent you the viewer.  They are at first passively involved in Ben’s murders, idly standing by and not bothering to intervene.  As things progress, their role becomes more active – disposing of corpses, murder, and participating in a harrowing gang rape. 

I think the biggest questions the film raises are based around how much blame you should take for Ben.  When do you stop being passively responsible for the horrible actions of another person?  Is there a line between observer and participant?  Can inaction be as bad as action?

Man Bites Dog is unlike anything I have seen before.  The documentary style is unflinchingly realistic.  The tonal change throughout is incredible.  The film dares you to like Ben, and then pulls the rug out from under your feet in a number of distressing scenes.  The first act is your observance, the second is your participation, and the third is the true, grim horror of what you’ve just done.

This film does not fuck about. 

Categories
Film Reviews

BLOOD FEAST (1963)

Blood Feast made me question what a good or bad movie really is.  Ineptitude enters every scene and makes a big show of this amateur approach to filmmaking.  But it’s not a hateful film.  The 67 minute duration is ideal, and there’s no unnecessary padding to bulk it out further than it needs.

The plot is straightforward enough.  A killer is roaming the streets of Miami.  He murders women and then removes a different body part.  One might lose their brain, another has their tongue cut out, while a third gets an eye popped out.  The gore is fantastic, using animal parts to replicate their human equivalents.  The tongue removal in particular looks super gross, as the victim coughs up blood while the killer holds his disgusting, blood-dripping trophy aloft.

While this is going on, a caterer called Fuad Ramses is commissioned to cook a feast for a party.  Ramses hypnotises the host, convincing her to allow him to cook an ancient Egyptian feast, last served 5000 years ago.  By coincidence, the host’s daughter and her cop boyfriend are both hugely into Egyptian mythology, and attend regular lectures on the subject.  Which is somewhat handy.

The film doesn’t fuck about with a who-dunnit mystery.  It’s Ramses.  You see his face during the opening scene murder (eye removal in the bath), and there’s no pretence like “ooh, what’s his feast about?”, when he’s clearly serving up the bits of body he’s borrowed in order to bring an Egyptian goddess back to life.

The acting is dreadful throughout.  Amateurish behaviour.  Wikipedia says that one of the two main cops wasn’t an actor, and was just drafted in when the actual actor didn’t turn up.  But he tries really hard.  It’s not like a Hollyoaks situation where every line is delivered with the flat tedium of someone asking whether the post has been brought in.  He really tries.  There’s emoting, shouting, and the non-actor, Scott H Hall, is really giving it his all.  It’s super endearing.

The amateur approach continues throughout.  The Police station is absolutely just a desk stuck next to a fake wall with a vaguely policey seeming notice board glued on.  But it’s fine!  You can tell it’s a Police station, the men talking are cops talking about cop things.  We don’t need an over-elaborate introduction to the idea of the Police.

One murder scene takes place at night on a beach.  A young couple are “canoodling”, as they’d have said in the 60s, when Ramses turns up to remove her brains.  This takes place at night when it’s pitch black outside.  This would normally make it hard to see, but the intrepid crew just stuck an enormous spotlight on the beach, trained directly on the couple.  It has an almost play-like effect.  A Broadway play, I mean, but a not very good one.

When you point out all these shitty things, it makes the film seem bad.  And on a technical level, it is absolutely terrible.  Yet somehow the film escapes from this unscathed.  It made me have lots of reactions as I watched.  I laughed at things that weren’t meant to be funny, I enjoyed the attention to detail in the gore, and the all-round poor acting doesn’t matter because they try.  I was never bored.  The plot was simplistic but kept moving at a good pace, with plenty of murders to break up the lectures about ancient Egyptian culture and the blood feast.

So should I give this a terrible rating?  Maybe I could give it a 3/10, citing all the low-budget behaviour.  Or do I ignore all that, because I’d be more than happy to watch this film again and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  I think the second option is the right one.  A boring film is a bad film, and this was far from boring.  And how can you hate anything which features a book with the amazing title “Ancient Weird Religious Rites”?

-7/10