27 January 2009

New VHS and "Research"

Some recent VHS acquisitions for the Archive. Yor was a big dissapointment but bears a rewatching, we had expected some high-camp but found only low/middle-camp. Play Dead on the first viewing was a joke, the dog doesn't even maul anyone, preferring to do things like dropping curling irons into the tub while you're bathing. Saw Quiet Earth years and years ago and remember being surprised.
Also checked out the Universal Pictures MummyLegacy Collection DVD from the Seattle Public Library since I have virtually no exposure to Universal Monsters beyond The Creature (one of my favorite movies which got me started on all this back in 1989.) Anyway, the Legacy Collection has all 5 mummy movies from '39 to '44, so that will be educational if nothing else.
In addition, I got a Mae West movie, just to see what all the hype was about.

25 January 2009

Machine Gun Kelly

United States - 1958
Director – Roger Corman
RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video, 1991, VHS

With a repertoire as long as both your arms, it is impossible to stand outside of the shadow of the megalithic and unforgettable Charles Bronson (can you tell I’m a fan?). He’d been playing bit parts in TV shows and movies since 1951, many under his given name Charles Buchinski before Corman gave him his first starring role as superstitious 30’s bank robber Machine Gun Kelly. This was pulp film history in the making.

This flick starts off with a bank robbery in which Kelly and his gang, a bunch of heavies and whiners, just like you’d expect from an old gangster-era film, grab a bunch of loot and, with a complex series of simple tricks, evade a police dragnet and get away with a large amount of cash. In the process though, Kelly ruffles the feathers of some of his colleagues. This guy is really kindof a jerk, beating up on his boys and generally being an unattractive personage.

Kelly’s girl is something else entirely. Ok, she might not exactly be an angel, but I wasn’t looking at her wings, and Flo (Susan Cabot of Corman's The Wasp Woman) can talk shit to me anytime. She acts as Kelly's co-conspirator and sultry yes-woman, assuaging his damged ego when he starts to spiral into self pity, and as the friendly palatable liason between the coarse hostile Kelly and everyone else. Kelly himself is actually a whimpering superstitious coward who lashes out like a caged animal when threatened and, getting courage from his tommy-gun and Flo’s pep talks. It’s her manipulative charisma and sycophantic encouragement that make Kelly what he is, and hell, I’d turn to a life of crime too for a woman that could throw her weight around like that.

The job that does them in is a botched kidnapping, but the real cause is Kelly’s bad attitude, and their mimeographic adherence to the romanticized myth of Bonnie and Clyde which has to make the woman the evil corruptive force of mans ruin. Unless you count the swing of Flo’s hips, there’s not much action here, really it’s a picture about Machine Gun Kelly’s cowardice, and Bronson does a pretty good job of pulling it off, with a gun a grimace, and an armful of girl.

20 January 2009

Godmonster of Indian Flats

Godmonster of Indian Flats
1973 – United States
Director – Frederic Hobbs
Something Weird Video, 2001, DVD

Tracked this one down based on an encouraging review in an old issue of Cinema Sewer magazine, and if it’s released by Something Weird, it’s guaranteed to be either, creative, informative or sexy on some level. Godmonster promises a lot and my expectations are appropriately ratcheted up for the type of absurd z-grade monsterama I’ve come to love from the creative and DIY 1970’s.

At a casino in Reno Nevada, loudmouth cocksure jerk Elbow Johnson offers to take the whole gang of drunken strangers clustered around his generous wallet-hole up to a nearby historical old-west town called Silverdale for a night of drinkination and banjo mania. On the way they pass through the hills of crude early exposition and foreshadowing where some abandoned phosphorus mines lie waiting for their important upcoming role in the plot.

Elbow’s main drinking pal is Eddie a shitfaced shepherd who gets his face smashed in by Silverdale’s ignorant masses before even tasting the rim of his glass. Pitched bleeding out into the street, he is driven home by local Bourgeoisie Intellectual Anthropology Professor. In a sloppy drunken catatonia, Eddie goes into hallucinatory convulsive fits and the next morning Athroprof and his Assistant find him in his barn caressing a giant blood covered wooly meat-bolus which they whisk into the laboratory where Anthroprof fills Eddies simple peasant brain with crazy secret communistical ideas organized around his revolutionary mutant sheep creature.

Later at the cemetery, Eddie seduces the innocent impressionable Assistant with a groping hand and tales of his idyllic agrarian life close to the earth, and extra close to his animals. She returns to the lab filled with romanticized visions of a simple worker run society which her mentor Anthroprof fosters with his revolutionary sheep experiment talk. Invigorated with thoughts of their utopia they head to the mines to conjure up some flimsy support for class struggle where they discover noxious Phosphorous fumes.

The godless red conspiracy (which makes you wonder why it's a "God"monster), with our comrade in it's holding tank.

During “Bonanza Days”, Silverdale’s annual celebration of capitalist progress, the normally tranquil white community is kept distracted from the looming threat of the Red Sheep by violent social upheaval caused by the appearance of a black person. In order to keep the facade of equal opportunity so important to Capitalist Imperialism, the white citizens of Silverdale stage a dog assassination for which the black man is framed and sent to jail. Just as he’s about to be executed, he escapes and the village lynch mob gives chase, following his flight to the laboratory where their hollering and gunfire awaken the Red Sheep Menace which smashes it’s stiff top-heavy way out of the lab and attacks them.

After fleeing persecution by an unreceptive middle class Red Sheep flees to the hills, where it meets our enthralled Assistant eager to shed the stuffy traditionalism of her parents generation. They dance together in a touching scene of solidarity, fickle corruptible youth embracing the leftist revolutionary Comrade Red Sheep. Just wait until she has to get a job and pay her own rent.

Showing up just in time with a far superior weapons stockpile, the Capitalist lynch mob wrangles the beast and places it in a rickety cage like a museum piece in the gallery of defunct ideologies (or will it rear it’s head again somewhere?). The mayor it turns out has sold the commonwealth out from under the village anyway and in a paroxysm of misguided rage the population of Silverdale showers the beast with stones, nevertheless leaving the exploiter in power and babbling more hollow rhetoric from his flimsy lectern.

The atmosphere of Godmonster reminded me a various times of Russ Meyer’s Wild Gals of the Naked West, without the copious chest flesh. In fact it does deliver -albeit with less vigor than I had hoped- the homemade monster action I was looking for, and the Cold War metaphor only heightens the level of z-grade enjoyment.

05 January 2009

Super Dragon's Dynamo

Super Dragon’s Dynamo
1974 – Hong Kong
Director – Joseph Chung
Alpha Video Distributors, Inc., 1991, VHS

Because this was released by IFD Films, the name Joseph Lai is featured fairly large on the box art (which looks like the poster), and I’ve learned that an inordinate amount of his films are directed by Godfrey Ho, assuming they’re not the same person.

In this case, a sinister black-gloved hand performs several murders, then later, the same hand leafs through a file of dossiers, crossing out and throwing several away. Some Asian guys gamble around a table to far too exciting, loud 80’s synth music, upping the stakes until one of them, named Champ, calls with a good hand. His Chinese mafia opponent cheats to win the game costing Champ a great deal of his business tycoon father’s money. His father dismisses him from the firm for gambling too much and incurring the wrath of the Syndicate. In his place, his father unknowingly appoints an undercover member of The Syndicate.

In another bar, some other Asians play pool and smoke a lot to a blaring, droning uber-disco beat while some guys beat each other up. In between all these smoky beatings a connection is made between The Syndicate, and the reluctant assassin Black Gloves whom The Syndicate blackmailing into killing their opponents. Gloves girlfriend is Champs pre-teen sister, the innocent female character around which this tragedy of indistinguishable proportions is about to unfold. It’s hard to tell through the cigarette haze of nameless chain-smoking Asian toughs and the kung-fu giallo plot, but this may actually all be the same movie. Spooky.

Champ does not want to wait for it, and wastes no time walking directly from muddily dubbed conspiratorial mutterings into a smoky casino, smashing it up and getting arrested and sent to prison. With Champ out of the way his fathers business empire is fair game and the Syndicate moves in, with guilt wracked Black-Gloves performing the necessary personnel cutbacks right on up to Daddy CEO.

When Champ emerges from the clink years later the mafia follows him to his sister and Black Gloves who are now living underground in domestic bliss. When Champ discovers the shitstorm his gambling problem brought this movie to, he takes it out on the most logical victims, his only surviving family. His sister, now pregnant with Black Gloves child, is his first victim, browbeaten into aborting her fetus. During the verbal assault, her husband gets home and Champ beats him silly driving the point home by inducing his sisters miscarriage on the spot before dropping a car on his brother in law’s chest.
So that's fun, right?

If you can find any information on this film, anywhere, please let me know. At this time as far as I know the video cassette in my possession is totally unique.