If You Don’t Stop It… You’ll Go Blind

If You Don’t Stop It You’ll Go Blind!!! (1975) movie poster

directors  Keefe Brasselle, I. Robert Levy
viewed: 03/06/2018

Wikipedia summarized the plot of If You Don’t Stop It…You’ll Go Blind!!! thusly: “A 1970s sketch-style comedy featuring profane old ladies, gay cowboys, and sex contests.”

A study of the history of comedy, sexual mores, and political correctness might find an interesting way to view this film in a useful context. Outside cheap, punchy cornball and occasional rape jokes.

Myra Breckinridge (1970)

Myra Breckinridge (1970) movie poster

director Michael Sarne
viewed: 03/04/2018

Myra Breckinridge is a hot mess, maybe the original hot mess.  Hot, however,  like an unevenly microwaved potash might be.

In its day, it was a spectacular car wreck of a movie, a big budget adaptation of a touted novel by Gore Vidal, called at the time a novel that could never be filmed. This no doubt had more to do with its story about a man who undergoes a sex change operation and then comes back to Hollywood to upend the traditional male identity in as many ways possible.

In the film, Rex Reed becomes Raquel Welch (a scenario that if medicine to actually perform, a lot more folks would be up for sex changes). It plays out as knowing modernist comedy, arch, though not really camp, or maybe it’s more of an imitation of camp?

More than anything, it’s a mess. I don’t know how the novel plays out but in the film, Myra’s politicized and erudite criticism of the movie industry, patriarchy, sexism, a whole spectrum of topics, culminates in her raping a bland, good-looking actor with a strap-on. That scene is pretty horrific and played for laughs?

Most people wound up blaming director/co-writer Michael Sarne for the box office bomb. Sarne was thrown into the deep end on the picture, a cavalcade of drama and craziness on set. But he manages some interesting stuff as well, using classic movie images and sequences to comment comically on the story.

To my mind, Myra Breckinridge is indeed a mess, but an interesting one. For one, I thought Raquel Welch was great. Mae West’s rendition of “Hard to Handle” might be second place in the nadir race next to the rape scene.

An interesting spectacle and a hot mess.

Sextette (1978)

Sextette (1978) movie poster

director Ken Hughes
viewed: 02/16/2018

Sextette is a bizarre artifact, I’ll give you that. It was a film project for a then living legend, Mae West, aged 85, a final musical movie celebrating her and her most notorious one-liners. Adapted from a play she’d written almost two decades before, Sextette is a modernized musical-comedy not inherently different from She Done Him Wrong (1933) or I’m No Angel (1933). The big difference is about 45 years.

And Sextette treats Mae West as if she is the exact same Mae West, age 40 (quite old even in the 1930’s for a movie starlet), the same character she played in life or at least in the light of the media. But she is 85, apparently having undergone some plastic surgery (though thankfully un-Botoxed as yet). And it’s this inherent dissociation that connotes itself throughout her every scene.

A cavalcade of old and new faces support the picture, from George Raft and Walter Pidgeon to Ringo Starr and Alice Cooper. None more especially so that Timothy Dalton, who plays her jealous new husband having to contend with her many ex-lovers, all who still adore and desire her.

To be honest, the film is really derided in an extremely ageist fashion, from the day it was released through now in its cult cinema existence. I actually thought she looked pretty good for 85, and though she was no doubt edited into more coherence and pluck, she delivers her lines like she had through the years, with that unique and personal Mae West patter, a classic Hollywood caricature extraordinaire.

The real groan-inducing moment was her duet with Dalton of the Captain and Teninlle’s “Love Will Keep Us Together” for which Dalton earns a full fifty percent. I would argue that though she had a singing career and it was certainly part of her whole shtick and persona, her pipes were never her selling point. Her later version of “Baby Face” is equally rough to sit through.

Maybe someone should have talked them all out of this, but clearly a lot of people were on board to make a go of giving the living legend her due, a final film as a tribute to her whole persona and being.

A Talking Cat!?! (2013)

A Talking Cat!?! (2013) movie poster

director David DeCoteau
viewed: 02/16/2018

“Cheese puffs wafting across a pool deck. Two families enjoying each other’s gifts. Yes, things are working out much much better.”

I made my teenage daughter sit through this one with me. I’m sure that is a violation of the Geneva Convention.

I think Eric Roberts had a stroke during readings.

Former child actor Johnny Whitaker and former Playboy cover model Kristine DeBell head up this wonder of awfulness.

Strangely, the cat doesn’t talk all that much. Though A Talking Cat!?! is most entertaining when he is. Or getting magically resurrected.

So weird.

Kin-dza-dza! (1986)

Kin-dza-dza! (1986) movie poster

director  Georgiy Daneliya
viewed: 02/04/2018

I can’t recall how Kin-dza-dza! got on my radar, but I’m glad that it did. I’ve been interested in Russian/Soviet genre film, the kind that hasn’t really been exported as World Cinema.

This Soviet Era science fiction comedy is a strange and interesting picture. Absurdist humor abounds throughout Kin-dza-dza!, clearly satirizing aspects of Soviet life, though also transcendentally, society and humanity in general.

The story takes two strangers, Stanislav Lyubshin, a Russian construction foreman, and Levan Gabriadze, a Georgian student, who get accidentally transported off the Moscow streets to a desert planet of Pluke in the Kin-dza-dza galaxy. Here they find a derelict world where water is scarce (and used as fuel), with complicated social structure endowing some people with heightened status who must be paid tribute, where all words can be said as “koo” or sometimes have different words that mean different things, and in which a box of matches is their most enriching possession. People of Pluke are conniving and silly, and can read the thoughts of the Earthmen.

The film is funny and unusual, and right away I wanted to know more about it. It’s apparently very popular and well-known in Russia (an animated re-make was done by director Georgiy Daneliya only a couple years ago).  John A. Riley at Electric Sheep delves into more of the intricacies of the word play and cultural significance.

It’s definitely a little over-long, but otherwise, I really liked it.

Spaceman (1997)

Spaceman (1997) DVD cover

director Scott Dikkers
viewed: 01/29/2018

I first heard of Spaceman from Ira Brooker in his “Spaceman: The Onion Co-Founder’s Cult Classic That Never Was” on Crooked Marquee. Always hungering for the obscure in cinema, this was an oddity that must be seen.

Spaceman is indeed a strange film. Strange because its strangeness is such a different stripe than most. It’s a comedy about a guy who was abducted by aliens as a child and raised to be a devoted follower and master fighter, who finds himself back on Earth, working in a grocery store.

What’s most odd about it is that it’s low budget doesn’t show in the most obvious ways. It has polish in parts and awkwardness all over. I was struck that it’s the kind of script that probably could have gotten perked up in the hands of a more experienced Hollywood outing, made funnier perhaps. But ultimately Spaceman‘s charms lie in its weird DIY aesthetics, acting, editing, and everything.

Technically, it’s not quite like anything else I can think of.

Heathers (1988)

Heathers (1989) movie poster

director  Michael Lehmann
viewed: 01/27/2018

This viewing of Heathers was for my teenage daughter. This was to give some context of Winona Ryder for my little millennial, who was primarily familiar with her from Netflix’s Stranger Things. We’d watched Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorshands, but that was some time back. It seemed that watching Heathers would explain a lot more about Winona Ryder than anything I could come up with.

Of course, my daughter told me that though she had never “seen” Heathers, that she was very familiar with it. After watching the 1988 movie, I was treated to  a variety of Heathers the Musical animatic YouTube videos.

Apparently the levels of meta-Heathers at which we’ve arrived is a little mind-boggling to those of us who didn’t come of age in this current century. There is a re-boot coming. There is also apparently a TV show coming?

Before you roll your eyes too hard at this inescapable modernity crisis, keep in mind that we all still have Heathers, the original and Winona Ryder, too. And that was always a wonderful thing in the first place, here 30 years out.

I also noted to my daughter that I once attended a lecture by Timothy Leary, who was Winona’s godfather, with half the goal to see if I could get her phone number.

I was also friends with the band The Wynona Riders. I wish I still had that t-shirt.

My daughter liked the movie a lot. Still really digs the animatic videos too.

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) movie poster

director Wes Anderson
viewed: 01/20/2018

I think you either like Wes Anderson movies or you don’t. No judgment either way. I fall into the former boat, and interestingly The Royal Tenenbaums was one of the first movies I logged on my movie site in 2002, when I started tracking all the movies I watch.

Thousands of movies later, I come back to it, to watch it with my teenage children, the first who was born the year it came out, the second who was yet to be a sparkle in her father’s eye, so to speak.

For all that, I think I feel much the same as I did sixteen years ago when I first saw this. I’ve come to have seen all of Anderson’s movies since and have much more of a spectrum upon which to measure it.

That said: Gene Hackman. All day. Every day. Especially in scenes with Pagoda
(Kumar Pallana, RIP). Other Anderson alums like Angelica Huston and Bill Murray, always appreciated as well.

The kids both liked it.

The Love Witch (2016)

The Love Witch (2016) movie poster

director Anna Biller
viewed: 12/24/2017

A lot of people loved The Love Witch.

Anna Biller’s critique of wiles of femininity is gorgeous for sure, as is star Samantha Robinson. Steeped in style lifted from the late 1960’s / early 1970’s Euro art horror films, every shot is meticulously constructed, every idea intensely intentional.

And funny. A very off-beat funny, setting an awkward tone throughout. Again, intensely intentional.

Robinson is the “love witch” of the title, a super-gorgeous gal who has come to town (Arcata, CA for the win) in search of love. If her looks weren’t enchanting enough, she’s got potions, spells, and other tricks to capture hapless men in her dealings. But she also has a deep well of need that she herself does not understand, and all her natural and unnatural powers can’t give her what she wants.

Biller’s comedy is quite arch in its way, which usually leads to characters who represent particular ideas or concepts. But Biller’s attitude towards the metaphorical magic of female allure is double-edged. The witch as metaphor for feminine power and/or the fear of it is for Biller both true and empowering as well as cliché and a trap of over-simplification.

The film is two hours long and would probably be more effective if trimmed by a quarter. For all the beauty of the thing, and the humor and also the depth of concept throughout, The Love Witch did not entrance me as it did others. I liked it and am certainly curious of Biller’s other work.

Blithe Spirit (1945)

Blithe Spirit (1945) movie poster

director David Lean
viewed: 12/22/2017


I love falling into a world of “blushing Technicolor,” and David Lean’s 1945 adaptation of Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit is just the ticket. It’s a very British form of Screwball comedy, with wry and suggestive witticisms for which Coward was so well-known.

Rex Harrison and Constance Cummings are a happily married pair, both on their second marriages via widowhood. Happy, that is, until they toy with the supernatural through the help of Madame Arcati (the sublimely scene-stealing Margaret Rutherford). This brings back Harrison’s first wife, in blushing Technicolor green, the playful Kay Hammond, whose haunting at first only Harrison can see.

Maybe it’s not as perfect as Coward’s original theatrical version, in which both Hammond and Rutherford both appeared as here. But for my money, it’s a dark and coy frolic. Lustrous in color, charming all around.