Die Screaming, Marianne (1971)

Die Screaming, Marianne (1971) DVD cover

director Pete Walker
viewed: 05/24/2017

Oh, Wikipedia, your anonymous authors do sometimes get catty:

Die Screaming, Marianne (also Die, Beautiful Marianne) is a 1971 British low-budget film by minor cult director Pete Walker. Although Walker’s films were mostly in the horror or sexploitation genres, this is a straight thriller, with mild horror undertones.

I’m still working through Pete Walker’s movies to see just how “minor” a cult director he is or deserves to be. To be fair, Die Screaming, Marianne, despite its title is most assuredly NOT a horror film at all. It is a “straight thriller” and “low-budget” at that.

Any real disappointment would be going into this film and expecting something different.

Susan George stars as the go-go dancing Marianne, who is on the run from things that eventually turn out to be a corrupt family living in Portugal who would like to kill her and get her inheritance currently ensconced in a Swiss bank somewhere.

While it’s a far cry from Hitchcock or any other major thriller, its earnest and gritty tale isn’t utterly lacking in interest. I was more than once brought to mind of Sexy Beast (2000), though maybe it’s a stretch to imagine that this film influenced anybody.

Hard Breed to Kill (1967)

Hard Breed to Kill (1967) image

director Rafael Portillo
viewed: 05/22/2017

Hard Breed to Kill (Un tipo dificil de matar) is a Mexican Western from 1967 whose biggest named star is Slim Pickens. It seems to be a most obscure picture. It’s also a pretty good one.

The film opens on action as a gang of bandits robs a farmer of horses, wounds him when he tries to fight, kills his friend and kidnaps his pretty blonde wife. When the title rolls, you might even think you’re in for some seriously intensive action.

There you would be wrong. Instead, what ensues is a slow journey towards the Mexican border with the husband in pursuit. What is interesting is how humanized the bandits become, with only young tyro (Paul Heslin) as the eager, trigger-happy youth with a chip on his shoulder. Other members of the crew are friendly men, hoping to settle down a set up a farm of their own. Even the lusty bandit who tries to put some moves on the blonde knows that no means no and only cajoles her.

In the end, the rather taciturn hero hunts down and kills the bandits, one by one, and ultimately almost seems the film’s real villain. I also found it interesting how director Rafael Portillo uses moments by watering holes for reflective flashbacks of the kidnapped woman to earlier, happier moments with her husband.

Hard Breed to Kill is ultimately almost meditative in pace and plot. And features some really decent cinematography on the cheap as well.


Slaughter High (1986)

Slaughter High (1986) movie poster

directors  Mark Ezra, Peter Litten, George Dugdale
viewed: 05/21/2017

Slaughter High takes place in an alternative universe. In England, “public school” means the exact opposite of what it means in America. Maybe that’s why this not quite gothic mansion of a school stands in for an American high school circa the 1980’s.

But really, logic and reality are shirked at every turn, so much so, you stop really caring, even when really outlandish things happen (outlandish by even genre standards).

The kills in the movie range from benign to bizarre, and the latter ones are also done with quite cool practical FX.

I too was brought to mind of Terror Train (1980) in which the promise of sex turned to cruel prank leads to psychosis and slaughter. Only in Slaughter High, that prank is just the start. It only gets worse and for a slasher, there is quite a lot of story behind what turns poor Marty (Simon Scudamore RIP) into a vengeful, scarred jester. The ending takes a turn quite unusual for the genre, adding further character to the whole shebang.

It’s weird. And I kinda liked it.

The Ice Pirates (1984)

The Ice Pirates (1984) movie poster

director  Stewart Raffill
viewed: 05/19/2017

It’s hard to know how intentionally stupid/comic this space comedy is supposed to be. Such as the entire premise, worked into the title, that somewhere in the universe, interplanetary ice is a scarce commodity. Honestly, I didn’t do all that well in Chemistry, but this seems kind of ridiculous. But then so is so much else of it, too.

The Ice Pirates is cheap and hammy and seems perfectly at home with itself about the exact amount of “quality” stuck in here. It’s not quite a parody as Mel Brooks’ later Spaceballs (1987) would be, but at times seems like its cousin of sorts.

And yet, it’s kind of entertaining as well, never stopping to ponder its shortcomings or strive too hard.


Bacchanales sexuelles (1974)

Bacchanales sexuelles (1974) movie poster

director Jean Rollin
viewed: 05/17/2017

I don’t know if Jean Rollin’s Bacchanales sexuelles was ever a hardcore porn film or what this version was softcore but in spades. I’ve read that Rollin did make some hardcore porn films as well. I don’t know if those were as unusual and fit as well into his auteur motifs as this.

Because Bacchanales sexuelles is a comedy (of sorts) and a series of sex scenes connected together by a running narrative about a sex cult who kidnaps and blackmails. And it’s not that there is so much to this sex cult but it rings of other weird cults that Rollin has depicted in films like The Nude Vampire (1970) and others.

The level of tedium isn’t as profound as in Schoolgirl Hitchhikers (1973), another movie that was to my understanding also a bit of a porn film stripped back to a “regular” movie.

I would say that this would only be for Rollin completist or someone who yearns for the days of Skinamax.

The Astounding She-Monster (1957)

The Astounding She Monster (1957) movie poster

director  Ronald V. Ashcroft
viewed: 05/16/2017

To be fair, The Astounding She Monster has an astounding movie poster. This one is another by artist Albert Kallis, who drafted many great 1950’s horror and science fiction images for Roger Corman’s AIP and others. I love his work so much.

The movie The Astounding She Monster is another thing altogether. The “She Monster” of the title is just a blonde in a body suit with some funny eye make-up. She kills by touch and falls into a rural kidnapping plot that isn’t probably worth describing. True or not, that Ed Wood, Jr. worked on this picture as a consultant, isn’t really all that surprising.

I have a serious soft spot for 1950’s horror and science fiction and even I will tell you that this is not as much fun as many others. But at 62 minutes, you won’t have to sacrifice much of your life to check this one off your list.

Terminal USA (1993)

Terminal USA (1993) movie poster

director Jon Moritsugu
viewed: 05/15/2017

Endowed with financing from PBS and the NEA, Jon Moritsugu crafted a film about the Japanese-American experience. Even at the time, Moritsugu and crew wondered if the grantees had seen any of his movies before, because when he delivered Terminal USA, it was a bit of a shock to the Public Broadcasting System and the National Endowment for the Arts.

For Moritsugu, this was by far the biggest budget he’d contended with, and so even though a lo of the film remains lo-fi, you can see the production values in the cinematography, set design, and casting.

It’s a Japanese-American nuclear family going nuclear. Think the Ramones’ “We’re a Happy Family” and you’ve got this TV-esque clan in which mom is a drug addict, dad has delusions of the apocalypse, one son is repressed and closeted, the other (played by Moritsugu himself) is a drug-addled punk with a stylin’ girlfriend (Amy Davis), and the sister, a knocked-up teen who is sex crazed.

There is blood and piss and other bodily fluids in this demented comedy/satire. The punk rockness was in producing this for television in the early 1990’s. It’s pretty awesome.

Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972)

Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972) movie poster

director Sergio Martino
viewed: 05/14/2017

I think I have a new bar pick-up line in Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key.

Sergio Martino’s giallo riff on Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Black Cat” is an intriguing if at times distasteful (racist and sexist) affair. It stars the amazingly lovely Edwige Fenech and Anita Strindberg. And for a giallo, though I don’t know you can necessarily see the plot twists coming, they seem a little more grounded and not so far out of left field as they often are.

A nasty writer is implicated in a series of murders of women he’s slept with,…only who is the real killer? A classic giallo trope if there ever was one.

Lots of nudity and a black cat named Satan who gets his eye gouged out. Pretty good stuff.

South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)

South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999) movie poster

director Trey Parker
viewed: 05/13/2017

Saturday night, combing through my queue at Amazon Prime, the kids spot South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut and respond “A South Park movie? Is that a real thing?” We’ve spent part of the past 6 months working our way through the series from the beginning and we’re almost caught up with the present. At 13 and 15, I think they’re mature enough to appreciate and consider South Park.

It’s actually been an interesting thing, time traveling through the show, which at best is wickedly funny, spot-on, and clever and interesting. At its weakest, it’s rather tone-deaf on gender issue and transsexuality, climate science, and a couple other things. Still, valuable as starting talking points.

The movie is, like the show, at its best, quite hilarious. The “Uncle Fucka” song and Cartman’s V-chip in his skull are classic ideas from Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and company, and very funny. Taking on the issue of swearing seems very appropriate for a show of foul-mouthed kids suddenly unleashed on an R-rated platform, and that they get their cursing from a movie they like, apropos.

But the satan/Saddam Hussein thing, and the whole apocalypse brought about by killing Terrance and Phillip is a bloated, and a lot less funny. Really, the movie could easily be pared down into on totally great episode of the show, and maybe should have been.

Who knows? Just my opinion.

The Road to Ruin (1934)

The Road to Ruin (1934) movie poster

directors Dorothy Davenport, Melville Shyer
viewed: 05/12/2017

The Road to Ruin is a “talkie” re-make of a more controversial 1928 silent exploitation flick also directed by Dorothy Davenport and starring Helen Foster (who was notably closer in age to the teen she portrays in these pictures.) Though it has a great movie poster, the safe money is on the 1928 movie.

Per Wikipedia “The reviewer for Variety found the film “restrained” in comparison to the more “hotly sexed” silent version”.

Outside of a skinny-dipping scene, this doesn’t have a lot going for it in the more exploitative or even pre-code veins. This story of a teen turned on to sex and drink and drugs who dies after a botched abortion is almost boilerplate stuff. The film does tend to a more sympathetic portrayal of the teen’s psyche, not as judgmental as some of these flicks.

Gotta find me the 1928 version.