Der Todesking (1990)

Der Todesking (1990) movie poster

director Jörg Buttgereit
viewed: 08/11/2017

I recall when I first saw Jörg Buttgereit’s Der Todesking in the 1990’s, I found it tremendously depressing. It is, after all, a film about suicide(s).

Unlike NekromantikDer Todesking is a much more moody affair. The vignettes vary in tone and mode of death, broken up between the images of a rotting corpse (was this a real corpse? how was this effect created?) Perhaps it’s not mirthless but it’s bleak.

Considering Buttgereit’s career, which took a significant break after his 1993 serial killer film Schramm, it seems he shifted from such dark provocation and contemplation. I was reminded of an interview I saw with one of the guys from Tears for Fears when asked about the gloomy/gothiness of their first album versus the rest of their output. He said something like “We made enough money on The Hurting to afford therapy!”

Who knows?

Nekromantik (1987)

Nekromantik (1987) movie poster

director  Jörg Buttgereit
viewed: 08/11/2017

Back in the mid-to-late 1980’s transgression was all the rage (in certain circles), and there was still a lot of material yet to transgress. It was in these days and in publications like Film Threat that stuff like Jörg Buttgereit’s Nekromantik became the stuff of outré curiosity and urban legend.

When I finally got to see Nekromantik in the early 1990’s from a San Francisco video store with tons of bootleg VHS, it was still pretty fringe, though it had already begat a sequel.

It’s interesting, re-watching it so many years later. I don’t recall how comedic its tone was, maybe because that really pushed back on expectation? But this story of boy and girl and their sexual love for corpses, until boy loses job, then girl, then corpse, isn’t played completely straight-faced. Because the Nekro is the necro but the Romantik is played romantic like in soft-core porn or a shampoo commercial. Clearly intended for laughs.

And the finale, with sperm and blood ejaculating like an over-the-top geyser from a Saturday Night Live skit? That too is quite humorous.

It’s interesting, though, the playing backward of the skinning and killing of a rabbit does have some uncanny effect, as if violence can be undone and what is dead can be brought back somehow. The real gore, such as it is, like it or not, does have that aspect of reality that pushes the rest of the material a little further. The last scene is oddly affecting.

Gozu (2003)

Gozu (2003) movie poster

director Takashi Miike
viewed: 08/09/2017

It’s gotta be said, Takashi Miike is outré there. Or at least he was at one point, for quite a while.

The iconolclasts of contemporary cinema are rather few and far between. Or otherwise maybe too obscure?

Gozu comes from Miike’s ripest period and seems to rank for many among his best movies. And that seems a fair assessment.

Absurd and comic, Gozu is the spiritual journey of a young yakuza flunky, Minami (Hideki Sone), and his crazy (really, really crazy) boss and best friend, Ozaki (Show Aikawa), who winds up dead and then disappears.  Minami finds himself adrift in a very David Lynchian world, trying to figure out where his “brother” got off to. The journey is a prolonged and surreal, punctuated with strange and awkward humor.

If you think you know where this film is going,…well, let’s just say that the last half hour features twists that aren’t just unforeseen but gruesome and vivid.

Of all of Miike’s films I’ve seen, Gozu feels the most Lynchian. I’m not sure I’ve thought of David Lynch in his other works, but this one takes that vibe, runs with it, and then smacks down with some of Miike’s most intense stuff.

Brain of Blood (1971)

Brain of Blood (1971) movie poster

director Al Adamson
viewed: 08/07/2017

Al Adamson’s cinematic output is actually widely variant in qualities and constructs. One thing that they don’t vary in is that they are all sublimely BAD.

Levels of badness do vary though.

Brain of Blood is by some measures a more cohesive picture, one that Adamson shot in one go and doesn’t re-use a bunch of old elements. Production values look vaguely higher. But don’t worry, it’s bizarre and bad.

There’s quite a bit more gore in the way of a brain transplant, the movie’s raison d’être, is titular element.

Some mad scientists have a bit more intelligence and capability than others. With a surgical assistant (Angelo Rossitto) who can’t see over the edge of the operating table, you’ve got to imagine that staffing isn’t one of his strong points either. He’s not to worried about the quality of the bodies he’s willing to work with either.

It’s junk. I like it.

In the Folds of the Flesh (1970)

In the Folds of the Flesh (1970) title screen

director  Sergio Bergonzelli
viewed: 08/04/2017

Sergio Bergonzelli quotes Sigmund Freud, suggesting that the title, In the Folds of the Flesh, is straight-up Freud. And if you’re going to name drop Freud, you better be prepared to go full-on-gonzo Freud.

And Bergonzelli does not disappoint.

The film jumps out from the get-go with a decapitated head. It’s the result of incestuous rape and a handy sword hanging on the wall. And when mom helps bury dad and sends his boat off to make it look like a drowning, a local criminal catches on. Years later, blackmail will ensue on the traumatized clan, but of course, they are crazier and far more dangerous than any old criminals.

It’s bizarre and laugh out loud funny in its absurdity (and that could just be describing the outfits). Grown up brother and sister go at it like sex maniacs. Don’t even think about touching the daughter’s wig, or shooting the pet vultures. Or triggering mom’s memory of surviving a Nazi death camp(? – in the film’s most bizarre aside).

It’s lunacy. Sheer lunacy. And when the return of the repressed comes around (in plot twists that are mind-bendingly hard to fathom), well,…the film doesn’t finish as strongly as it starts.

Still, this is bizarre and fun stuff.

Day of Anger (1967)

Day of Anger (1967) movie poster

director Tonino Valerii
viewed: 08/02/2017

Scott Mary (Giuliano Gemma) is an untouchable in the Old West town of Clifton, AZ. He is a bastard child, born to a prostitute who died in labor, who schleps not just the town garbage but the town sewage and takes shit literally and figuratively from everyone.

When Frank Talby (Lee Van Cleef) rides into town and sticks up for him, even getting into a gunfight over him, Scott Mary thinks he’s found the key to his dreams. The tough and ruthless Talby teaches Scott Mary a series of harsh lessons of being a gunslinger and exposes the hypocrisy of the Clifton elite, who are all tainted by crime and dirty money.

As the moral ambiguities twist and double back on themselves, this tale of class, revenge, and morality leave the young man to come to terms with right and wrong in the settling days of outlaws as the Old West moved into legend and cities became more tame.

It’s a very worthwhile flick from Tonino Valerii, who also made the very good My Name Is Nobody (1973). Giuliano Gemma is a weak point, but Lee Van Cleef is tops.

Kuso (2017)

Kuso (2017) movie poster

director Steven Ellison
viewed: 08/01/2017

Comic psychedelic gross-out horror, Kuso is a somewhat unique entity.

I’ve seen comments comparing its style of humor, design, and aesthetics to some things on adult swim, and I can see that. It seems apt that George Clinton makes an appearance because there are perhaps antecedents to this surreal humor, comedy and craziness in the weirder ranges of popular culture.

The vignette-narratives are divided sometimes with broadcast snow which reckons a bit of Robot Chicken (or others) but doesn’t make as much contextual sense.

Some of the ideas and aesthetics are better than others. I’m not sure how intentional some of the cheesier CGI was.

Still, it’s not an uninteresting document.

The Velvet Vampire (1971)

The Velvet Vampire (1971) movie poster

director  Stephanie Rothman
viewed: 07/31/2017

Interesting and unusual, but still not quite remarkable, Stephanie Rothman’s The Velvet Vampire won’t probably change your life but is certainly worth seeing.

Celeste Yarnall is the titular (in more ways that one!) vampire, an ageless lady, mourning her long-dead love, who makes her home in the California desert. She invites a young couple to her home to spy on voyeuristically, to seduce, and eventually to feed upon.

Unfortunately, this couple are not just bad actors but quite annoying people. Which leaves our Velvet Vampire as the only interesting character in the film.

The desert setting, daylight excursions in a dune buggy, the dream sequences that could be Pink Floyd album covers all add flavor to this film.

I’ve always loved the poster.

Dream No Evil (1970)

Dream No Evil (1970) movie poster

director John Hayes
viewed: 07/30/2017

Not exactly all over the place, Dream No Evil doesn’t exactly stay in one place either.

The stunning redhead Brooke Mills stars as the adult version of an orphaned girl who never gave up thinking her father would come back for her. Adopted into a family who runs a touring church, for whom she does nightly high-dives, she scours the country for an old man that could be her old man. And when she has a traumatic encounter with a pimp for the elderly, she drops off into a fantasy world.

Edmond O’Brien shows up as her long-lost Pa, though whether he’s real or not, you’ll have to decide for yourself.

While it’s mostly sort of lackluster, it’s also kind of compelling. Kind of.

A few shades of Psycho or Repulsion on a budget.

David Lynch: The Art Life (2016)

David Lynch: The Art Life (2016) movie poster

directors Jon Nguyen, Rick Barnes, Olivia Neergaard-Holm
viewed: 07/30/2017

David Lynch is enjoying a moment again. This current moment is around the new season of Twin Peaks, a welcome respite in these fraught and psychotic times in America.

David Lynch: The Art Life isn’t really the documentary for this moment, necessarily. It does spend its time with the then 70 year old Renaissance man, as he works on paintings and other art pieces, entertaining his toddler daughter Lula. He recounts his childhood and relationship with his family and his concepts of art, through his school days and into Philadelphia, the onset of his interest in cinema. It culminates with the production of Eraserhead (1977).

Images of many of his artworks fill the screen, more often than not undescribed in title or time period. It’s just his own oral history. While it’s interesting, especially for someone who is interested in Lynch, it feels like an installment, not a whole. Maybe more interesting than Lynch (2007), maybe not.