Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)

Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)

director Shinya Tsukamoto
viewed: 12/06/2017

They don’t make ’em like they used to.

Shinya Tsukamoto’s bombast bomb blast of body horror surrealist industrial phantasmagoria, Tetsuo: The Iron Man not only holds up almost 30 years later, but in my viewing, is even better.

The last time I saw Tetsuo was in film school back in the Nineties. Though visual images, ideas, and impressions were deeply emblazoned on my brain, I had really forgotten what a radical visual effects, editing, and pacing of the film. Also, how little explication is given to the narrative.

I love moviemaking that incorporates so much such tactile techniques. This is totally 16mm film and from the stop-motion animations and other pre-digital effects, you can almost feel the crew making this with their hands on the actual film. When editing was editing actual celluloid strips of photo-exposed images.


Dark Passage (1947)

Dark Passage (1947) movie poster

director Delmer Daves
viewed: 12/04/2017

Dark Passage is one of the great San Francisco noirs. Directed by Delmer Daves, a native of the city, the movie features a litany of shots around both San Francisco and Marin, capturing the City by the Bay in its state of being in the late 1940’s.

But that’s just one angle on the film.

It’s Bogey and Bacall in their third screen pairing. It’s also the great Agnes Moorehead in a nasty, venomous role.

It’s also the big breakthrough for pulp crime novelist David Goodis, an adaptation of his novel of the same name that had been serialized in the Saturday Evening Post and would wind up his most well-known work for years beyond his death.

I think that the last time I watched Dark Passage, I had just recently read the novel, and I had more of an issue with the film’s notable first-person camera perspective that hides Humphrey Bogart from the camera through the first entire hour. This time through it, I enjoyed that gimmicky approach, enjoyed the approach of the whole film, flecked with great character performances throughout. (The best sequence is the plastic surgery one, with the disgraced artist surgeon and the sly cab driver).

“Ever see a botched plastic job?”

Dark Passage isn’t Goodis’s best novel, but it’s a great film noir, worth taking in for a number of reasons or angles.

The Undertaker (1988)

The Undertaker (1988) movie poster

director Franco Steffanino
viewed: 12/03/2017

In a world full of morons…

The Undertaker is not quite London After Midnight but this never released lost film was Frankensteined together for release with public domain flicks and who knows what else. Joe Spinell also isn’t exactly Lon Chaney, nor is director Franco Staffanino anyone’s idea of Tod Browning.

This sutured, re-edited flick is a little hard to fully estimate. I suppose the padding and attempts at continuity were well-intended, but ultimately, they end up changing whatever vision was originally there.

The Joe Spinell scenes are a lot of fun. Still can only imagine what they might have been in a completed context.

Attraction (1969)

Attraction (1969) movie poster

director Tinto Brass
viewed: 12/03/2017

The 1960’s and early 1970’s were radical times, in the world, and in the cinema. “Avant-garde” may have been a recycled term to describe a lot of what was coming out influenced by the French New Wave and further radicalization, but challenging times made for challenging films, and particularly, films that challenged cinema, meaning, and all things status quo.

Though Tinto Brass is often described as avant-garde, as is his 1969 film Attraction, I found myself questioning its rigor.

Anita Sanders is a young woman about town (the town being London), and the film is arguably all her perspective, her looking (voyeurism and desire) and interior images from her mind and impressions. It’s about sex and sexuality, sure, but also Vietnam, advertising, art, race, violence, all to the decidedly psychedelic groove of Freedom (the band).

For my money, the success level of Attraction‘s avant-garde-ness is moderate. I’m thinking of other films of the era that I’ve seen that were more radical and challengeing. Take a lot of Godard, but more specifically Věra Chytilová’s Daisies (1966), Jaromil Jireš’s Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970), Dušan Makavejev’s W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism (1971), and to some extent as well, Marco Ferreri’s Dillinger Is Dead (1969).

I don’t know. I’ll see how it sits. It’s cool but not too cool.

Jack the Giant Killer (1962)

Jack the Giant Killer (1962) movie poster

director Nathan H. Juran
viewed: 12/02/2017

Nathan H. Juran is not a major name in horror and science fiction cinema, but it isn’t for lack of work or even lack of notable works. From The Deadly Mantis (1957), 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957), The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958),  The Brain from Planet Arous (1958), Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958), to First Men in the Moon (1964), he made a lot of pictures with a lot of special effects. Though he’s probably best known for the films in which Ray Harryhausen provided the stop-motion action, Juran rose from the art department and worked with a number of creative teams.

Jack the Giant Killer is almost a knock-off of his more classic The 7th Voyage of Sinbad with Harryhausen. They brought back hero Kerwin Mathews and villain Torin Thatcher and straight-up ripped off Harryhausen’s Cyclops from the earlier film. The monster designs and execution of the action are by no means up to Harryhausen’s level, but there’s actually quite a bit of action and creatures here.

“Captain! More witches on the quarterdeck!”

Jack (Mathews) does slay a giant. He also fights another two-headed giant but that one is really slain by the octo-whatever-serpent. My personal favorites are the witches, which are not stop-motion but oddly-costumed ladies with different powers that attack in glowing color-tinted action, setting animated fire to the ship and blowing wind all around. They’re really almost like a cavalcade of television kaiju characters.

Fun stuff.

Coco (2017)

Coco (2017) movie poster

director Lee Unkrich
viewed: 12/02/2017 at the Balboa Theater, SF, CA

My kids are both teenagers now, so all Disney or Pixar movies are no longer mandatory screening. I was actually a little surprised when my daughter asked if we could go see Coco.

After the atrocious and annoying Frozen “short”, the double-branded Coco begins. Patting itself on the back for its innovations in CGI and its due diligence to Mexican culture, the film opens up on the story of a long-lost patriarch and the remembrances of the Day of the Dead.

My daughter said her Spanish teacher had encouraged seeing it. And she was pleased by how many words she recognized (though I frankly knew about as much of the  Español myself.

It’s vividly-realized. I mean, this is Pixar, after all. The land of the dead is gorgeously depicted with meticulous details abounding in shot after shot.

Still, I wasn’t enthralled in it. I’m still trying to weigh exactly why this was. My daughter did enjoy it.

And I enjoyed going with her. I don’t know how many more of these we’ve got.

How old were you the last animated film you saw with your parents as a child? What was it?

Death Metal Zombies (1995)

Death Metal Zombies (1995)

director Todd Jason Cook
viewed: 12/01/2017

How apropos that a movie titled Death Metal Zombies would feature a plot point of playing a song backwards to reverse the possession apocalypse.

“What? Do you think I’ve got some kind of machine that will play a tape backwards?”
“Don’t you?”
“No such thing.”

It’s the kind of concept a high schooler might have dreamed up: Houston-based metal fan wins a tape of his favorite metal band’s newest album, but when he plays it the band appears at turns him and all his friends into zombies. It’s not exactly what you call tightly scripted.

This shot-on-video affair will take you right back to 1995. Throw in a whole slew of Relapse Records death metal bands (writer/director/actor Todd Jason Cook’s coup), lots of regular folks roped into acting, occasionally getting nekkid, and some entertainingly gory effects, and you’ve got yourself some wonderfully fun amateur video.

If you’re into this kind of thing.



Slime City (1988)

Slime City (1988)

director Greg Lamberson
viewed: 11/29/2017

“Flesh Control”

Slime City clearly owes its body horror inspiration to Cronenberg’s The Fly, but it’s glorious effects  are straight up Street Trash colors. This Incredibly Melting Man is not quite Rick Baker level but some cool cheap gloopy gloop melting slime effects.

This low-budget, New York-shot horror film has some real character. The Frank Henenlotter connection is interesting, but highlights the fact that Slime City doesn’t quite have Henenlotter’s gleeful mordant humor.

Props to the prostitute, not with a heart of gold but a stomach of iron, to pull off his gluey bandages and still wanting to get it on with him.

But, yeah, that Black Knight-esque finale really seals the deal. When the head cracks open and the brain pops out and starts crawling around…that is the stuff of which dreams are made.

Oasis of the Zombies (1982)

Oasis of the Zombies (1982) movie poster

director  Jesús Franco
viewed: 11/27/2017

I sincerely prefer the living dead Nazis of cinema to actual living Nazis in the world today. But enough about me.

Oasis of the Zombies has a lot of actors, big props, and explosions in the battle sequence.  Jesús Franco must have had a decent budget on this.

Franco never seems too invested in FX or make-up design so it’s not surprising his zombie movies tend to phone that shit in.

Though slow and not a little dull, Oasis of the Zombies does get sporadically atmospheric once finally rolling.

And yes, it is probably four or five times better than Jean Rollin’s Zombie Lake (1981).

Blood Rage (1987)

Blood Rage (1987) VHS cover

director John Grissmer
viewed: 11/26/2017

While it’s hard to imagine Louise Lasser giving anyone an Oedipal complex, the “blood rage” in Blood Rage seems predicated over her fornication. It’s kind of hysterical how after his initial hatchet killings at the drive-in, how nonchalantly Terry implicates his twin Todd for the murders.

You know, Lasser is pretty much in her own movie here, one she apparently thinks is directed by John Cassavetes or something, not a low-budget Florida slasher due to languish on video until rediscovered years later by fans of obscure and off-beat bloody shenanigans. Her performance is so out of place in the film, it adds a strange flavor to the whole Thanksgiving smorgasbord.

Outside of Lasser’s virtually surreal performance, Mark Soper is actually pretty good in his dual role as Todd and Terry. I also kind of liked Lisa Randall as Andrea(?), the gal who just wants to party.

Beyond that, Blood Rage, does sport a seriously excellent gore game.

Forgoing the oft-quoted “cranberry sauce” line, I’ll up my personal favorite: “You’re going to hurt my kitty!”