30 January 2008


United States - 1984
Director- William Tannen
Thorn EMI Video, 1984, VHS

Director Tannen hasn't done ass in the way of film since this, his debut. Probably 90% of his films are ass, but admittedly I've only seen two of the other films he directed, both of them among Chuck Norris's worst films. In that context anyway, Flashpoint should seem pretty good, and I think William Tannen would agree.
Ernie (Treat Williams) and Bobby (Kris Kristofferson) kick it off as two unruly Texas Border Patrol agents, a thankless job just made thankless-er by the announcement that the department is making some personnel cutbacks. And to add insult to injury, they themselves have to install the geo-sensors that will monitor the border instead of them. The first half of this movie is all pretty straightforward, at least when compared to the second half, but now it definitely warrants a second viewing, when I'm actually paying close attention. Let's just hope this convoluted political conspiracy trick doesn't rub thin too fast.
In the bush, Bobby accidentally discovers a jeep buried in the sand, and after digging it out finds among the contents a sketeton, a scoped rifle and 80,000 bucks. Seeing it as his and his buddy Ernie's chance to get lost, he lets him in on the find. Despite his fiery temper, Ernie is scared of getting caught and hems and haws, dragging his feet along the way. Their jerk boss assigns them to stake out a remote airstrip where drug shipments are arriving from Mexico, but they must cooperate with some super shady federal agents led by the icy Agent Carson. When the plane lands it's clear that the Feds have something up their sleeves when the bust is foiled by aberrant gunfire. All this business is a little weird, but it's set to get weirder as soon as Ernie and Bobby start to trace the info in the skeletons wallet. Some disconnected phone numbers in Washington DC, and a license plate. The Fed exceeds the friendly groping demarcation line and gets altogether too friendly. E & B's plan starts to unravel.
Once all the serious "conspiratorial cover-up" starts flying, I'm still not sure where the "flash-point" is, but everybody gets distinctly more hostile towards each other. The interaction between the characters throughout the entire film has almost been a wonderful dream, but the final resolution, despite the setting, is historically abrupt. In the final dial up, the ultimate reveal concedes at least one of two unfortunate facts, either:
a.) you have a working knowledge of JFK conspiracy theories, and figured this movie out in the first 5 minutes.
b.) you didn't pick up on that connection in the first hour and 20 minutes but will, in the last 5 minutes, accept and be convinced by a flashing crosscut shot of a JFK death newspaper article, and a desperate morality monologue.

This movie doesn't rock, but it tries hard, and it's worth sticking around through the stellar dialogue even if the payoff is barely worth the money.

27 January 2008


United States - 1974
Director – Oliver Stone
Prism Entertainment/Cinerama Releasing, 1988, VHS

A very early film from Oliver Stone, in fact his second coming, according to IMDB only after the student film he made after he returned from Vietnam. Seizure is second to very few in my mind as far as pointless boredom go, and I found the deteriorated quality of this VHS tape and requisite tracking button struggle to be a welcome distraction from the affront to my aesthetic senses.

A bunch of rich, not really so good looking assholes show up at their buddy Blackstone's mansion for a weekend of rich people behaviors. Their women all wear small or large things and orbit subserviently within their mens domineering shadows.

Having a horrible dream, Edmund Blackstone induces a pall of intolerably monotonous yammering and criminally cheap minimalist soundtrack over the remaining film. During a discussion at the dinner table, he suddenly sees a dwarf (Hervé Villechaize, a.k.a. Tattoo) at the window and leaves the table to tuck his son into bed and terrify him by telling him about his inner demons.
I found some comfort in knowing that with each death and each vacant utterance to issue from the mouths of these detestable philistines, I was closer to the end, and having sat through this, I know what eyescratching ugliness is. The forthcoming seizure is undoubtedly symptomatic of alcohol poisoning.
Nonsensical dreaming insanity, the dwarf smashes through the dining room window, and imposes a cruel, terrifying footrace ending in the front lawn. The whole thing is observed by the son Jason, whom Blackstone and his wife then lock in a steamer trunk. Soon a Queen of Evil, and an Executioner character show up and the houseguests are each randomly disposed of in various forgettably undramatic and tame ways.

26 January 2008

Ethnic Notions

Ethnic Notions
United States - 1986
Director – Marlon Riggs
California Newsreel, 1987, VHS

This isn’t even a documentary. I’ve seen several California Newsreel pieces now, and I believe they live in a netherworld between documentary and education. They show how cultural edifice exists, and analyze the fallacy of its construction in a very tangible, direct way.

Ethnic Notions doesn’t stray from that line, rather it confronts the manufactured image of Blackness as perceived or more precisely imagined, by white culture full force. The film begins with an explanation of the development of Black stereotypes; the Mammy, Sambo, Coon, Pickaninny and Uncle Tom, which have been promoted and used since the advent of American slavery to the American Civil War, into modern pop culture.

An interesting problem that the film and the persons interviewed, both black and white, convey, is the idea of contradiction. The best way I can describe this is that in order to move beyond basic subservience, Black Americans have had to reinforce the very stereotypes which reduce them to a state of subject, and servitude. Throughout the film, from the original minstrel character of Jim Crow, to Eddie Murphy’s Axel Foley, multiple and clear examples of servile self-mockery are detailed and analyzed, and it is not difficult for the viewer to see, even 22 years after this film was made. the poignant relevance of the diagram.

From beginning to end, the persistent racist iconography of United States media of all types are laid bare…for a very few interested people. It is no surprise that this film was already lost by the time it was made, it’s too alive, too cutting to be allowed.

California Newsreel still publishes entertaining and socially concious films:

23 January 2008

Black Snake Moan

Black Snake Moan
United States - 2007
Director - Craig Brewer

I know this isn't a lost video, but I watched it and was inspired to write a tirade of sorts.

I watched Black Snake Moan tonight while folding laundry and drinking. It's a poorly made movie in basically all ways. It's sincere and well intentioned overall, but in a bad way. It had all the trappings of an exploitation movie, but delivered only feel-good knee slapping yukkery.

I love traditional blues music, so I was interested in this, but frankly Sam Jackson is not a good singer. The use of historical Son House interview footage was ill-concieved and stuck out like a sore thumb. The professional actors were tasked with filling in the empty boring bits that plagued the remainder, and it showed. Perhaps even to the point of revealing the actors own lack of skill. Sam Jackson does not belong behind a microphone, and his most genuine try at (reproducing Muddy Waters and others) delta blues does not make me even slightly less than rigid in the knees.

While I respect the intent of the film, a somewhat inspiring tale of po', damaged south'n folk of multiple colors, it doesn't suceed on any level beyond saccharine. I was embarassed to watch many of the dramatic, sappy scenes, and fast>>forwarded to the ones that were equally predictable, but less insipid.

This makes me think of a lousy remake of Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned, a damn good HBO original movie starring Lawrence Fishburne. Did I mention Black Snake Moan is way crappier?

The poster art gives the impression of corrupt morality and good old fashined exploitation, I mean c'mon, a girl in chains and a sweaty, dirty glowering guy? Classic! But no, the innefectual appearance of Christina Ricci's chest glands utterly fails to validate the wastage of the unused explosive potential of southern, whiskey, blues, and exploitation. Damn shame.

The Super Inframan

The Super Inframan
China - 1975
Director - Shan Hua
Red Sun, ?, DVD

Great calamities on earth have got the science squad scratching their heads, but when their HQ is menaced they realize that the source of the problem is Princess Dragon Mom, who has built a castle out of giant skulls manned by an army of skeleton men and scaly bestial mutants.
She demands control of all mankind, and the science squad has only one option, modernization! They turn their best man, Rayma into a superhero (China's first!), a cyborg superhero named Super Inframan. When the humans refuse her demands, Dragon Mom sends her mutants out one at a time to cause some environmental damage and get her message across, but each time Inframan shows up in his slick plastic spaceman outfit and handily defeat them. No matter how many of her lackeys are defeated, Dragon Mom merely reiterates her demands, eventually abducting a member of the innocent younger generation. A last-ditch desperate move by a simplistic, outdated social (system) monster in dire straights. I think you know what's going to happen next.
This whole movie looks so silly it's kind of hard to believe that it was ever taken seriously, but that's exactly the point. This entire film is a metaphor for a very serious subject, the rapid modernization of China's economy and society taking place at the time. Superstition and traditional religion/Veneration are superceded by the miracles of scientific rigor and the market economy. And what about the fact that the entire science squad is men, who save not only vulnerable women, but a country threatened by the backward primitivism of Dragon Mom and her spooky mutants of myth and traditionalism?
The mutants can never evolve, they're stuck with what they've got, they can only hope to slow the progress of the future with the few clumsy outdated tools they have.
Inframan on the other hand, is a modern fellow, ostensibly capable of infinite upgrades, and always looking forward to the next. Such is China, a huge nation struggling to free itself from perceived (at home and abroad) primitivism, and pull itself into the forefront of the global market. The Super Inframan is China's future, a pragmatic, rigorous, dynamic, and exciting (not to mention bright Red!) future. I'm all for it.

Some alternate DVD covers/poster art:

22 January 2008

Goin' All The Way

Goin' All the Way
United States - 1982
Director - Robert Freedman
Monterey Home Video, 1982 (Four Rivers and Clark Film), VHS (oversize box cut down to fit a clamshell case)

In retrospect, I wanted this to be terrible, I wanted a crude fumbling autistic parable of teen life. I needed to know that stupid weak people really exist, and the future of America is a vapid backslapping circle jerk of "cave-bros". On second thought, I don't think there can even be that much hidden meaning underneath such shamefully sincere waste.

There lies beneath all the mess of subgenerical diffusion, a sort of strange corner of deviation called the Teen Sex Comedy. Or maybe the Highschool Sex Comedy or some other such combination of similar words. These movies enjoyed a brief heyday in the 80's with such memorable hits as Porky's, Screwballs and the somewhat tamer skid mark of a Bill Murray movie, Meatballs. Balls. The genre has persisted into modern times, a strange, always awkward throwback to increasingly fictitious days when public highschool was goofy and awkward, but ultimately fun. Among the members of this genre exist varying degrees of sexual explicitness. Strangely, though Goin' All the Way sounds like it's among the more graphic and in the end eventually delivers, it seems perpetually unsure.

Monica, like the film itself, is driven by desires beyond her comprehension to give it up, but too scared or perhaps too romantically delusioned to do so. Artie is Monica's boyfriend, the class goof, along with his pal Vinnie (I made this name up, I can't remember and I don't like Vinnies). Vinnie sleeps with anything that moves, Artie wishes he could sleep with anything. He's dating Monica though, and she's got her legs crossed like a bouncer's arms. All her friends encourage her to fuck, and Vinnie makes fun of Artie to the extent that he and Monica break up. Artie hooks up with the school slut, who's also the girlfriend of the school fat jerk. Monica hooks up with creepy rapist college dude, also toucher of little kids. Newly free, the two boys go on a quest to get laid, goofy antics ensue, and, there's a few brief, somewhat cold scenes of boobs and heavy petting, some "bro" homophobic humor and then sex talk at school.

Through all this one gets the feeling of dirtyness. When the big shower scene is a full body solo-feature of the big fat goon scrubbing his armpits, you know there's going to be hell to pay. Minutes later, he gets friction with the ugliest girl in the movie, in the sweatiest most graphic sex scene in the movie, in the front seat of a sportscar, immediately followed by a prolonged shot of him pissing in the bushes, belching and drinking a beer. Homecoming is a "straw hat, bib-overalls type affair".

The uncut cover in low resolution.

A terrible poster from Cinema du Meep.

16 January 2008

Born of Fire

Born of Fire
United Kingdom - 1983
Director – Jamil Dehlavi
Vidmark Entertainment, 1987, VHS

Some lady is looking into a giant observatory telescope, apparently at the sun, hears some weird music that compells her to attend a flute recital. In the drawing room, the mere sight of her induces nausea in Paul, the flute soloist.
I’ve become wary of films involving flutes, and this sounds like it’s gonna be weird.
Driving back to his dieing mothers house with this strange unexplained woman, they arrive just in time for a few final raspy words before she gives up the ghost. Taking a bath after the funeral, the woman reveals to Paul the nature of his fathers mysterious death in Turkey many years ago. Paul decides to go to Turkey and confront his fathers archrival-flautist, the Master Musician, a netherworldly Islamic djinn which breathes fire, and can shoot fire out of it’s eyes.

In Turkey Paul meets an Islamic vision guide to walk him through the rest of this bizarre supernatural flautist movie. The woman suddenly shows up in Turkey, which doesn’t seem to phase Paul. Shacking up with him in his carved rock temple she tames his half savage, mute and deformed half-brother, then becomes possessed by the Master Musician and rapes Paul. Meanwhile, like a Gollum with his skin-flute flopping around on screen, the Music Master stalks around his fiery cave playing flute melodies to taunt Paul. Later the woman wades into a giant mineral hot springs and disgorges a massive deluge of menstrual blood filled with large amphibian eggs. Returning later she retrieves a giant moth cocoon that she buries in the Master Musicians cave. When the moth emerges, she dies in agony in the arms of the savage who suddenly learns to scream.

Now Paul and his raving fanatical brother perform an incredible flute and baritone duet which makes the hotsprings overflow into the Music Masters cave, drowning him and his flutes.
I thought this was going to be a little bit like Exorcist 2 for a few minutes, while it has some similarities it got better, and it’s certainly one of the only movies I’ve seen to use Islamic theology in such a positive and interesting way. Unfortunately all the bizarrity is delivered with such deadpan sincerity and so little explanation that nothing seems out of the ordinary, even the actors seem to take it all in stride. It’s really only in retrospect that I’d realized what I had witnessed, and by that time it was too late, I didn’t want to watch any more flutes of either kind.

Searching for images online I came across a series of web pages, including a Born of Fire page maintained by Nabil Shaban, the actor who played the savage half-brother, check 'em out, they're pretty interesting.

15 January 2008

Panther Squad

Panther Squad
France, Belgium - 1984
Director – Pierre Chevalier
Lightning Video, 1986, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 27 min.

This looks good so far, I can already tell that it is edited from several different movies, or unfinished ones anyway, and is headed red-line, straight down the what-the-'eff-obahn.
The opening scenes concern the launch of a "Space Jeep" the first step in a program to colonize space(?). Cheap 20-year-old sci-fi spaceship footage is intercut with a guy in an office shot in south-western Europe (Italy, France, Spain?), and a third reel of a droopy old man stuck in a closet. He's the president of N.O.O.N., New Organization Of Nations, addressing the world live to announce the successful start to their space program. The broadcast is abrupty jammed by Clean Space, a world terrorist organization bent on preventing the pollution of space. They've developed a magnetic wave beam of some sort to control the "Space Jeep" which they intend to hold hostage indefinitely. When N.O.O.N. plans to launch a second "Space Jeep", Clean Space abducts their new pilot and issues an ultimatum.
At this point, N.O.O.N. is fed up, and calls in their best rogue agent (mercenary, hitman?) Ilona (Sybil Danning) and her considerable assets to solve the problem. She arrives somewhere in Spain I think(?), and meets up with super-agent Frank, a total hangdog lush who slurs her in the general direction of some badguys. Ilona calls in her super secret agent-esses, the Panther Squad, whom we have witnessed in a previous scene must pass a rigorous screening test before receiving the stamp of approval on their bulging curvaceous files.

After a quick dip in the pool when they arrive, the Pantheresses gear up in their bikini's.

Oh, wait, they're already ready, um they go out and track down Clean Space, which as it turns out is led by barely understandable French mental patients.

Just as the insane Spanish general (probably the best character in the movie) who is exploiting Clean Space for his Fascist plot raves himself into a tyrannical triumph speech, the girls arrive and stumble their way to a narrow, ridiculous, and uninspiring victory.

The only two real connecting threads that weave their way through this disasterpiece of haphazard frankenfilm are Danning's usual broad rump, and Frank (Jack Taylor, I swear I recognize this guy from something!?) the barely-conscious drunk who provides an awkwardly inserted point of ironic metaphorical humor.

The director, writer, and editor must have been drunk when they made this, and you should be too to enjoy it. I was, and therefore did.

Watch the Panther Squad trailer at Cult Trailers.

The awesome still shot of Sybil Danning that became the cover art.

2007 Top Ten

Over at Genrebusters they've posted the top 10 lists for 2007. What this means to us is that we pick the top ten films we've seen for the first time this year, whether new or old. There's always some really interesting things people have seen, I reccomend you give em all, not just mine, a look see.

13 January 2008

Death Game

Death Game
United States - 1977
Director – Peter S. Traynor
United Entertainment, 1988, VHS (the cassette label says "VCI Entertainment Presents")
Run Time - 1 hour, 31 min.

I found this thing at the used book store for 3 bucks. I had already found a few VHS refugees, and wasn't sure if I really wanted to drop a big three bucks on something else that looked, well, boring. The box art is fairly uninspired and from the synopsis (most of which I skipped) it sounded like a sleeper and a half. The thing that actually hooked me was the name of co-star Sandra Locke, ex-wife of Sir Clint Eastwood and his shrill costar in Any Which Way You Can, Outlaw Josey Wales, and The Gauntlet, the latter made the same year as Death Game.

I never really thought she was that good looking myself, but hell, it made the concept of Death Game a little more intriguing.
I've seen most of the home-invasion-torture movies out there (I think) and they're all what they are more or less, but they're all the same general idea.

This almost falls in the genuinely shitty category in the first 5 minutes. George and his Karo sweet housewife almost make you puke in your mouth, but then she leaves town for some reason. Good, this is improving quickly. Man alone, thunderstorm, two rain-soaked young girls (Locke and co-star Coleen Camp of HOTS 2 and Apocalypse Now) knock at the door and George lets them in to use the phone and dry off.

With practiced slink, the two ladies quickly have George in the Jacuzzi, and in them. Although the scene is closely edited to reveal very little, it lasts for a lifetime and nearly made me go blind. Blackmail.

Next morning when even I was cringing with satisfied, but crippling adulterous guilt, the girls wake George with breakfast. His guilty recalcitrance doesn't faze them, in fact it seems to strengthen their resolve. No matter how rational or forceful his insistence, the girls won't back down and after tricking him repeatedly, tie him up and subject him to a severe topless beating.

At this point there is no question that these ladies are not so pretty on the inside as they seem outside. What is this, where did this shit come from?
More than physical torture really, is the psychological tragedy they subject this guy to, calling him daddy and telling him horrible child molestation stories then role playing a trial and condemning George to death for statutory rape, all with usually very little on and cloying saccharine innocence dripping from their doe-eyed faces.

With all the creepy sincerity of a deformed baby, moments of predictability are turned on their heads, almost never fulfilled, and followed repeatedly by greater bizarre grotesquery. I have a strong compulsion to watch it again and again and feel dirty for loving it every time.

Back From Vacation

I was visiting my old stomping grounds for the last week, hence the lack of posts.
I watched some quality crap while I was in Albuquerque and Silver City though, so I will either attempt to post some reviews of that stuff, or, barring that, new jusnk I have on the shelf here. Here's a list of last weeks New Mexico playlist:
Food of The Gods
God Told Me To
Shoot 'Em Up
The Toolbox Murders
The Mad Butcher
Nightmare House
Children of Men

That's a lot of movies for 7 days. I also must reccomend a little indie movie rental shop in Albuquerque for anyone visiting or living there; Burning paradise has a great selection of crap and gold. Check out http://www.burningparadise.net/

New posts are forthcoming.

02 January 2008

The Forest

The Forest
a.k.a. Terror In the Forest
United States - 1982
Director – Donald M. Jones
Prism Entertainment, 1983, VHS

I thought this was going to be a bad attempt at Deliverance, and it has a tenuous grasp of that, but The Forest is really kind of it’s own confused catatonic creature.

A couple hiking in the woods are menaced by some shadows and noises, the woman insists on walking in front, and soon the man is gutted by an anonymous hand wielding a giant silver Bowie knife. Shortly thereafter the woman gets the same treatment. Two buddies are driving home from somewhere to LA while bitching about the traffic and their damn feminist wives, with whom they later exchange taunts and insults around the dinner table. The end result is a dangerous plan to go camping. Foiled by car trouble and what appears to be a primitive attempt at hillbillyism, the men are delayed and arrive at the trailhead late. The ladies, far ahead, are prepared to set up camp just in time for one of them to get slashed by the old Bowie knife hand, now attached to a dirty trucker guy bent on eating some girl-meat.

The guys meanwhile, get lost in the dark and happen upon a well provisioned cave and some friendly children who turn out to be ghosts. What? Moments later the kids dad, trucker cannibal guy arrives and, after sharing some of his fresh “doe” meat with the guys, unleashes, much to my chagrin a stupid long origin story and exceedingly bland dialogue all of which elicits much groaning.

Searching for the ladies the next morning, the guys talk a lot more, walk around a bunch and talk some more and split up. And finally, the surviving woman uses the child ghost informants to find their father and mercifully, bring about the not even within the context of this garbage believable end of the movie.

The best part of this movie is definitely the cover art, which looks genuinely, and deceptively menacing. The contents are another story entirely. A hodgepodge of generic genre stereotypes cast haphazardly in the mold of a slasher film. The result is a string of essentially nonsensical location set pieces set to original evil forest themed rock songs and held stiffly together merely by the presence of several dull and despicable recurrent faces.

Hey look, somebody improved the cover art.

01 January 2008

Candy Stripe Nurses

Candy Stripe Nurses
United States - 1974
Director – Alan Holleb
New Horizons Home Video, 1997, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 26 min.

One of the gazillions of films written and directed by someone else, but produced by Roger Corman. It occurs to me now for the first time that Corman was an earlier version of a one man Troma. For my money though Cormanville is a much more appealing community.

With Candy Stripe Nurses, you definitely know what you’re getting into when you put a movie with a title like that on. When do the boobs start? How about right away?

Three high-school girls are volunteering at the local hospital for various reasons as Candy Stripers. The first is a school rebel, the second a party girl cheerleader type, and the third a nerdy scholastic type.
Now what is a Candy Striper? While each of the ladies I’ve just mentioned doesn’t seem to have any qualms about taking their clothes off, there seem to be little or no indications as to what the actual duties of a Candy striper are. They seem to have free range over the entire hospital, including the “sex clinic” operated therin. In crude uninspiring terms and within a few minutes each one manages to hook up with a predictable counterpoint male character reinforcing the cookie cutter plot.

Each of the three leads must solve a problem of sorts that relates more or less directly to, and reinforces the high-school social niche her character is supposed to represent. Each of the issues is resolved with sufficient bare breasts to keep the hetero-male viewer interested enough to stay in his seat, because lord knows, this film has little else that will.

A nice DVD cover that is nevertheless inferior to the original John Solie artwork.