The Weekend Murders (1970)

The Weekend Murders (1970) movie poster

director Michele Lupo
viewed: 10/19/2018

The Weekend Murders brings together two terms that don’t usually collide, giallo and comedy.

Gastone Moschin’s Sgt. Aloisius Thorpeis is the kind of character that is usually really annoying but actually works rather well here. The bumbling policeman who turns out to have more on the ball than anyone thinks is quite charming and even funny.

It’s more an Agatha Christie style of mystery than your typical black-gloved killer slasher Italian crime flick. Because though it does technically meet the qualifications of the giallo genre, it’s much more a comedy and maybe better taken as such.

Quite enjoyable.

Leonard Part 6 (1987)

Leonard Part 6 (1987) movie poster

director  Paul Weiland
viewed: 10/17/2018

As it’s October, I’ve been on a long run of horror movies. I thought to shake it up with a “horrible” movie.

There may never have been a good time to watch Bill Cosby in Leonard Part 6, but in 2018, any Bill Cosby product reeks more than ever before.  Leonard Part 6, an awful movie starring someone who turned out to be a horrible monster person, is tremendously unfunny.

The world of Leonard Part 6 is an original concoction of Cosby’s, in which he’s a world class spy, retired to running a restaurant, brought back to fight a woman who controls animals’ minds. Tidbits of this might have had possibility, but Leonard’s is a fully undeveloped world and he’s a fully undeveloped character.

That said, it’s annoying and awful but not grade-A junk cinema. It was a notorious bomb and now with his legacy forever hued by his horrible crimes, a definite miasma of gross permeates it.

Still, I might still consider it a garbage must. A horrible movie bucket list item that I’m glad to have crossed off and will never have to revisit.

Chopping Mall (1986)

Chopping Mall (1986) movie poster

director Jim Wynorski
viewed: 10/06/2018

Chopping Mall is a perfect imperfect movie.

“We have a lost child in lingerie answering to the name of Steve.”

“Hey, babe. It is ‘babe,’ isn’t it?”

“What’s that?”
“Robot blood.”

Licorice Pizza. Licorice Pizza. Licorice Pizza. 

The House with a Clock in Its Walls (2018)

The House with a Clock in Its Walls (2018) movie poster

director Eli Roth
viewed: 09/29/2018 at AMC Metreon 16, SF, CA

I hadn’t any plan to see Eli Roth’s The House with a Clock in Its Walls. But this weekend both my teenagers (14 & 17) voiced rare interest in a sojourn downtown to watch a movie. Days of taking children to movies are rapidly elapsing, so I jumped at the opportunity.

Years back, I’d actually bought a copy of John Bellairs’s 1973 children’s novel, The House with a Clock in Its Walls, which I had discovered since the cover illustration was by Edward Gorey. Another great children’s author, who we enjoyed a good deal was Joan Aiken, who also had Edward Gorey art on all her books. A sign of quality I assumed.

Interestingly, I never got to read the book to the kids, though my son did read it. Another fun parental practice lost to me is reading to my kids.

So, the movie: Jack Black is somewhat restrained. I’ll take Cate Blanchett in anything. It’s even got a little Kyle MacLachlan for you.

It seems the most fun went into designing the sets and the house and possibly cramming as much darkness and scary stuff into a PG package as possible. I guess as long as you don’t say fuck or shit, almost anything flies.

A decent time was had by all.

 

Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988)

Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988) movie poster

director David DeCocteau
viewed: 09/21/2018

“Sadomasochism just doesn’t appeal to me.”

Oddly enough, I concur with this sentiment. However, the more cheese than sleaze horror-comedy Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama does appeal.

Big time voyeurism and hackneyed comedy abound in this David DeCocteau mess of puppets, sexuality, nonsense, and limited logic of genre conventions. It’s the earliest of DeCocteau’s films I’ve seen (and most enjoyable), but already many template elements are in play, echoes of which I’ve caught in his later work.

“What about that punk dyke?”
“I can handle her!”

Linnea Quigley outclasses the whole here. Easy to see why she’s everyone’s favorite scream queen and fantasy friend.

Unmasked Part 25 (1989)

 Unmasked Part 25 (1989) movie poster

director Anders Palm
viewed; 09/03/2018

A world weary Jason Vorhees, here named “Jackson” and played by Gregory Cox, suffers from slasher ennui in 1989’s Unmasked Part 25. The film plays as not arch parody, but parody all the same. It’s comic, but with sincerity and heart (and gore).

“Really cathartic, man.”

Being not a little meta and no doubt ahead of its time probably helped lead it direct-to-video in its day and relinquished to relative obscurity until recently.

Jackson, hockey-masked, is a prototypical slasher killer until he stumbles upon Shelly (Fiona Adams), a blind girl who sees behind his masks at the sensitive and erudite person with the badly deformed face and a penchant for killing.

While it directly plays with the slasher film, the story reckons significantly more of Frankenstein, with clear allusions to Shelley (Shelly) and Byron (who is recited by Jackson. Most specifically, it recalls the blind man scene from Bride of Frankenstein and to some extent the parody of that scene played out in Young Frankenstein.

Great makeup, gore effects, and performances highlight this unusual and highly interesting horror comedy.

Smokey and the Bandit (1977)

Smokey and the Bandit (1977) movie poster

director Hal Needham
viewed: 09/01/2018

Growing up in the South (Gainesville, FL), I hated all things I considered Southern, from Confederate flags to Country music to chewing tobacco and even blue jeans. So, I had some disdain for Smokey and the Bandit in its heyday. Of course, I was young and naive and grouping things together that were not all of the same.

But even pretty far back in the day, I saw Smokey and the Bandit on TV and had to admit that it was pretty darn fun.

“Redneck Heaven.”

Smokey and the Bandit was a huge hit, grossing millions, second only to Star Wars in 1977. Interestingly, like Star WarsSmokey and the Bandit is a B-picture type of movie, pushed up into the A list blockbuster with star Burt Reynolds, but fitting into that paradigm in which genre fare elevated in status and popularity.

It’s also quite iconic in its way.

Hal Needham caught his lightning in a bottle with Reynolds and a very fun Sally Field, as well as a prime performance by Jackie Gleason. Apparently, the script was terrible and almost the entire movie was ad libbed, giving us sublime lines like:

“There is no way, no way, that you come from my loins. When I get home I’m gonna punch your mother in the mouth.”

The joyous fun is staked on a beer run from Texas to Georgia, coveting Coors for its apparent (at the time) lack of preservatives, though couldn’t be legally  brought East of Texas.

For all its embrace of “Southernness”, it feels a bit like a Hollywood appropriation of the Southern (though it was apparently extremely popular in the South.) All redneck things considered, there is a lot of trucker diversity on display in the secret society of the CB radio.

Jerry Reed is also a lot of fun as Snowman, wingman to the Bandit, who contributed as well the number that would be his biggest hit, another stroke of magical luck in the movie, the so apropos “Eastbound and Down.”

Lastly, the Paul Williams “Mini me”, Little Enos to Pat McCormick’s Big Enos could have had a whole movie to themselves.

Sorry to Bother You (2018)

Sorry to Bother You (2018) movie poster

director Boots Riley
viewed: 08/18/2018 at Landmark Embarcadero Center Cinema, SF, CA

Inventive and funny, Sorry to Bother You is a born cult film.  It echoes of a variety of things but also feels like an unique amalgam of them. The most significant echo for me was of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985), though there is much, much more at play than that.

Dense and complex, while at the same time, surprising and hilarious, there is a ton going on in and throughout Boots Riley’s debut feature film.

Among its many qualities, Sorry to Bother You paints an interesting and affectionate portrait of Oakland, both literal and figurative. 

Blonde Crazy (1931)

Blonde Crazy (1931) movie poster

director  Roy Del Ruth
viewed: 08/01/2018

James Cagney is the sliest bellhop and Joan Blondell is his wise and game partner in grift in Roy Del Ruth’s Blonde Crazy.

This pre-code “romantic comedy-drama” is slaphappy and a total hoot. Like a lot of early “talkies”, Blonde Crazy spits patter miles and miles a minute, with deft gags peppering scenes with risqué business.

Cagney and Blondell are a plum pairing, tons of charisma and sparks. It’s unsurprising they shared the screen several times in their early years. Cagney just radiates energy.

These grifters set their sights on higher game in bigger cities, working their scams and earning their dough. Only sometimes the scammers get scammed, and somebody ends up in a jam.

Hollywood Vice Squad (1986)

Hollywood Vice Squad (1986) movie poster

director Penelope Spheeris
viewed: 07/28/2018

I’ve got nothing but (ever increasing) respect and appreciation for Penelope Spheeris. Her 1980s movies reflect her keen interest in Los Angeles, its characters, its denizen. Hollywood Vice Squad perhaps comes off more anomalously, but still presents a picture of street culture in line with her other work.

Hollywood Vice Squad plays a like a little bit of old school exploitation. The crimes depicted purportedly were “based on true events” and Ronny Cox’s Captain Jensen lectures the mother of a runaway on the dark truths of the asphalt jungle.

The episodic drama/comedy doesn’t have much tension but it’s relatively fun. Carrie Fisher has a decent role as a young cop trying to break the glass ceiling in the vice squad. Frank Gorshin makes for a wonderful baddie, and he lights his cigarettes with stylish flips.

“Chile con carne to you too.”