Deathstalker (1983)

Deathstalker (1983) movie poster

director James Sbardellati
viewed: 06/29/2018

The best thing about Deathstalker is the poster by artist Boris Vallejo. I’ve always thought it was cool.

Light in tone and occasionally comic, the world of Desthstalker is pretty rapey. But there’s also creatures and magic, mud wrestling, and lots of 80s T&A.

Roger Corman wound up producing nine flicks in Argentina, of which Deathstalker led the way. It was followed by other sword and sorcery stuff, the flooding wake of Conan the Barbarian (1982).

“Deathstalker” himself, Rick Hill, doesn’t exude a lot of charisma. Not like Kaira (Lana Clarkson, who would find her brief heyday in this spate of B-movie fantasy junk). Deathstalker also features Barbi Benton, a name that hasn’t crossed my mind in many a moon.

At first I was going to make it a double feature with Deathstalker 2, but I decided I had enough.

The Curious Dr. Humpp (1969)

The Curious Dr. Humpp (1969)  movie poster

director Emilio Vieyra
viewed: 10/22/2014

Wow.  What a lulu!

Since I’ve been in San Francisco (the early 1990’s), I started my ventures in cult cinema through the Inner Sunset’s legendary Le Video store.  And from that cult section I became of the plethora of materials that they had from Something Weird video, a company that I didn’t know much about at the time other than Le Video seemed to carry their entire spate of old porn loops, Betty Page movies, and a variety of exploitation movies.  I didn’t come to know until at least a decadFirze later that it was the work and cultivation of Mike Vraney and Frank Henenlotter.

But some, maybe many, of the movies and covers sank into my brain as I pored over the video shelves every night that I lingered long in the shelves of the video store (truly a lost art in this day and age).  And from there and perhaps from other places as well, the image of The Curious Dr. Humpp stared out at me.

I’ll give you a synopsis, but I recommend reading Henenlotter’s own liner notes on the film at SomethingWeird.com.  It is a testament to Something Weird in the role it has played in aspects of film preservation that the sleaze market just probably would not have otherwise received.

It’s a story about a doctor with a degenerative disease that requires him to develop a serum that keeps him young and healthy.  This serum is derived from outrageous sexual ecstasies of the highly libidinous.  So not only does he kidnap nymphomaniacs and the like, but he gives them copious aphrodisiacs to keep the stuff coming.  One problem is that most men expire in the work.  Or he turns them into weirdo zombies.

It’s the late 1960’s, so these are hippies and drugs and lots of copious nudity, all in a rather glorious black-and-white.  And then these weird zombies with strange papier-mache heads that are so very very strange themselves.

It’s a unique level of perversity.  And an Argentine one by origin.  And you have to know that if Henenlotter says, “Brace yourselves, folks, this one’s a jaw dropper!” that you better believe him.

The Aura

The Aura (2005) movie poster

(2005) dir. Fabián Bielinsky
viewed: 05/10/07

In doing my meager web research that I do to verify any facts that I try to site or background information about the films of which I write, I discovered a sad, poignant fact, that writer/director Fabián Bielinsky died of a heart attack while promoting this film in Brazil and so, this film is the last one that he ever made.  I had seen an earlier film of his, Nine Queens (2000), which was a clever and interesting film about con-men on the streets of Buenos Aires.  It has stuck in my mind these years, and they adapted it in Hollywood in 2004 as Criminal which I hadn’t seen, but gave some credence to the possibility of him growing in recognition.

And as it turns out, The Aura, is an equally, if not more, interesting film.  I actually tried to tell someone the storyline and realized that it’s pretty complicated to explain and I won’t go into it too deeply for that reason and also because of the surprising plots twists or events that have more power because they are unexpected.

The film starts out with the protagonist, an epileptic taxidermist who fantasizes about leading efficient large scale robberies, is talked into going on a hunting trip in Patagonia, despite the fact that he does not want to kill anything.  His wife has left him and he moves into this space of acting and speaking upon his impulses.  That said, the movie is slow and paced, so his actions though impulsive, have a measured step to them nonetheless, showing a commitment to the actions and the choices though they are clearly outside of his normal sphere.

There is a sense of metaphysical or existential experience, yet one that strikes back into reality.  It’s hard to say how much of this is signified by the gorgeous forests and hills of Patagonia.  As a taxidermist, his relationship to nature and animals is detached yet intimate.  They are skeletons and frames, coats of fur, neatly sewn and made to look alive.  As he ventures into the world where life and death are taken, closing in to experiences with living animals, the opportunity to live his fantasies, his world is transformed.  How much this is an analysis of Argentinian life or how unspecific that is, I cannot say, but it is does register and resonate.

It’s a true tragedy that such a fine writer/director passed away with so little a body of work that shows such promise and such a sensitive eye.  Such is life, and somehow, this film might have some appropriate context for Bielinsky’s sense of life, death, and experience.

Nine Queens

 

Nine Queens (2000) movie poster

(2000) dir. Fabián Bielinsky
viewed: 11/02/02

Slick, clever film about two con artists who meet up and make a pact to work together for exactly 24 hours. Scheming and shysting ensue. Probably the first Agentine film that I have ever seen. I have not been able to come up with a lot to say about this film despite the fact that it was probably the best dvd film that I have watched in a month or two. I am still stymied on this point.

This movie is really very good. I recommend it to all.