director Tom McLaughlin
“Let’s book up!”
Yeah, Meg Tilly. Totally cute. And yay Elizabeth (E.G.) Daily, who I think of from Valley Girl more so than Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. Here as one of the less convincing girl gangs on film who do however sport nice purple satin jackets. And yes, an underutilized Adam West, but Adam West no less.
One Dark Night is pretty entertaining stuff, despite not quite achieving heights of horror or kitsch. The shots of the Santa Monica pier’s sweet arcade is also pretty cool.
I’m going to end this write-up simply with a list of hyperlinked keywords in the Wikipedia plot description. Russian. Occultist. Psychic. Vampire. Telekinesis. Bioenergy. Audiotape. Mausoleum. Chapel. Cadavers. Compact.
director Sam Newfield
She Shoulda Said No! but I guess it’s good she didn’t because otherwise we wouldn’t have this movie.
I kid, I kid, but in reality, star Lila Leeds was busted for MJ with Bob Mitchum in September 1948. The 20 year old starlet’s career was strangled by the scandal, while Mitchum managed to shrug it off and carry on being a big time star. Leeds hadn’t maybe had her breakout role yet, but outside of this Exploitation penance flick, she also never got a chance. And it’s a shame. She’s definitely got that certain something that could have made a star.
She Shoulda Said No! is a more polished and professional morality tale Exploitation than others of its ilk, maybe because of the notoriety of Leeds. It also features notable actors like Lyle Talbot and a young Jack Elam.
Not as sleazy or silly as some other marijuana scare flicks, I did like the kinda 21 Jump Street of its day thing, when a cop going undercover at a soda joint notes in voiceover: “I went home and dig out my old schoolbooks, loaded up my pockets with nickels for the jukebox and brushed up on my jive talk.”
The best sequence is Leeds in jail, initially unrepentant, eventually crumbling under those 60 days behind bars, and the guilt of her brother’s suicide. It’s a testament to the shame how something so petty ruined Leeds’ career, though such drug busts have been much worse for such petty shit on many other people by comparison.
director Jackie Kong
The Being is the first flick from director and burgeoning legend, Jackie Kong. Her all too brief career highlights have been getting more attention lately, especially, Blood Diner (1987), now higher than ever on my watchlist. But I give Kong an even further point of appreciation as hailing from Hanford, CA, a Central Valley town where my mom used to teach high school.
Kong wrote and directed The Being starring her producer Bill Osco and an interesting motley crew of name actors and obscure characters ranging from Martin Landau (giving his B-picture all), José Ferrer, Dorothy Malone, and Ruth Buzzi (Ruth Buzzi! When is the last time I saw her!!? Did you know she is still alive?). But that’s not all. There is also Kinky Friedman and Murray Langston (better known ironically as “The Unknown Comic”).
Kong’s The Being is the mutant monster result of nuclear chemical pollution, and no conventional rules apply to this monster or this movie. He can leap through the air, ooze through a vent, claw your head off. And there are almost as many fake-out scares (it’s a cat!) as there are actual scares. And half the time the movie seems to want to be a straight-out comedy (Kong’s next film, Night Patrol, apparently moves rather unsuccessfully in this direction).
More than anything, it’s a throw everything and the kitchen sink approach to horror and it’s endlessly entertaining. I don’t know why people complain about the monster, I thought he was pretty cute. I also loved the scene with the toddler seeking Easter eggs in the hole where The Being was hiding out. Cute and toddling on the edge or horror…and comedy.
Hey, this stuff is not for everybody, but for those of us for whom it is, it’s a gas.
director Dominic Sena
“If you looked in the dictionary under poor White Trash, a picture of Early and Adele would have been there. But I knew if I was gonna be a good writer , I’d have to ignore the cliches and look at life through my own eyes.”
Kalifornia is such a screenwriter’s film that the main character is of course a writer. And that writer is David Duchovny, perched on the cusp of The X-Files here in 1993, not yet big time famous.
Actually, Kalifornia features a cast that was pretty red hot in 1993. Namely, Brad Pitt and Juliette Lewis, Early and Adele, as mentioned above. Also, Duchovny’s photographer girlfriend, played by Michelle Forbes, who would also go on to lots of notability on the small screen.
Conceptually, Kalifornia has a pretty good set-up, with Duchovny and Forbes having picked up Pitt and Lewis as road trip help, driving across the country researching horrible murder scenes. Only, they’ve not just picked up cartoons of White Trash, but their own genuine serial killer.
For my money, only Lewis is able to infuse her character with elan and esprit de corps, eclipsing the script’s shortcomings. Pitt runs into a bit of a wall with Early, hocking snot rockets, having to be vicious and cruel, and also be a decent bloke.
Is it me or is it funny that this only came one year before Natural Born Killers?
director Harry Rasky
Being Different is a quasi-Exploitation documentary about “human oddities” or “freaks.” Director Harry Rasky mixes titillation with a more humanistic approach, interviewing his cast of characters, allowing them to tell their own stories of lives of difference.
By 1981 a lot of the classic freak shows had stopped touring, and yet, many notable stars of the scene were still available to interview. As cultural mores were changing, and as the freak show was falling away into the past, the beginnings of interest in this disappearing world were stirring. Perhaps this started with Daniel P. Mannix’s 1976 book Freaks: We Who Are Not As Others, but Being Different also winds up being a nice document.
The most famous fellow detailed here is doubtlessly Billy Barty, who was leading the way with his Little People of America at the time. But we also have Johann Petursson (the world’s tallest man), Dolly Reagan (the human doll), Siamese twins Ronnie and Donnie Galyon, Sandra Elaine Allen (the world’s tallest woman), and the “World’s Strangest Couple,” Percilla “The Monkey Girl” and Emmett “The Alligator Skin Boy” Bejano. Rasky even employs a classic barker to introduce some of the folks in the lively patter that drew the curious into the tents.
This was a timely re-watch for me, having just finished re-reading Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love. I’m kind of in the mental milieu.
director David Lynch
Back in 1980, when The Elephant Man was released, I was 11 years old. And I don’t know exactly how much I knew about it, I certainly didn’t know who David Lynch was yet, but I wanted to see it. And I remember a friend’s mother wouldn’t let us go see it, instead making us go see The Private Eyes (1980) starring Tim Conway and Don Knotts. Oddly enough, both films were rated PG. I obviously bore a grudge over this as I’m recounting it nearly 40 years later.
I did eventually see The Elephant Man, probably on HBO at some point. I’m still trying to figure out if it was my first David Lynch movie or whether Dune (1984) was. Not that it matters to anyone but me.
The Elephant Man is an interesting counterpoint to Eraserhead. Shot in a similar gritty black-and-white, featuring shadows and industrial imagery with occasional moments of stark surrealism, it’s a much more typical biographical narrative film, and in many ways as conventional as Lynch ever got, until his much later The Straight Story in 1999. It’s also Lynch’s most conventionally acknowledged and appreciated by the Academy, garnering 8 nominations in its day.
David Lynch is a national treasure, whether the nation treasures him or not. And The Elephant Man is an excellent oddity of his oeuvre.
director Lucio Fulci
Fulci’s first Western has requisite grit, perversity, and blood, the stuff that set the Spaghetti Western apart from the Hollywood ones and revitalized the genre. Also Massacre Time is a pretty badass title and that poster is killer too.
Massacre Time itself is not all meat, but it is pretty toothsome featuring Franco Nero and George Hilton as brothers, reunited to inflict some vengeance on a clan of nogoodniks who have taken over their small town.
There is a similar, if less effective, half-brother twist as in Adios, Texas (also 1966 — released in the same month, no less). There is also a foppish Sadist archetype (played here by Nino Castelnuovo – how old is this archetype, I wonder).
Fulci pulls off some stylish shots and sequences, but it’s the violence that elevates the film, from the more pointed cruelty of the whipping scene to the somewhat elegant shootout towards the end.
I also liked the scene with the kid playing the diegetic harmonica.
director Amando de Ossorio
“What the devil’s going on?”
In the Seventies, we were taught not to take candy from strangers and that there might be razor blades in apples and all but not to beware of gypsies bearing gifts, like demonic totems and necklaces. It’s pretty funny how right after accepting this totem, little Anne (Lone Fleming) instantly turns into The Bad Seed with a foul mouth.
Amando de Ossorio‘s witchy take on The Exorcist, Demon Witch Child, is a gnarly and loopy knock-off. Which I definitely enjoyed.
Its charms are a mixture of things, like the super clunky dub, the rather good makeup when Anne becomes the witch, the weird subplot about the priest and the prostitute, and literal emasculation by a possessed little girl.
directors Sergei Goncharoff, Ron Nicholas
The Blue Hour is sort of like the sexploitation Stranger Than Paradise. Not that it’s Jarmuschian but that it’s a sort of immigrant’s tale with arthouse vibe.
Of course, sexploitation means there’s always more “ploitation” than “sex”, and that is very much the case here.
Tania is new to America and experiencing the open sexual mores of the time, which trigger memories of her coming of age on an isolated Greek island. The Blue Hour is strange and inconsistent, but winds up being sort of evocative, feeling somehow very personal.
Not sure I know what to do with it, but it was not uninteresting.
director Curt Siodmak
“White people should not like be too long on the jungle.”
Curt Siodmak’s 1951 B-picture Bride of the Gorilla is pretty preposterous, pretty racist, and at the same time, pretty interesting. Possibly I would receive the most dissent over that final adjective.
Curt Siodmak might not be a major name in classic American horror films, but he certainly deserves a spot somewhere in the next tier. Best known for his original script for The Wolf Man (1941) and Donovan’s Brain (1953), he wrote numerous horror and science fiction scripts, mostly of the B-picture variety, and even got around to directing one or two. Bride of the Gorilla is his first.
It stars heavy Raymond Burr as an upstart on a rubber plantation, who sort of kills his boss and marries his boss’s wife, Barbara Payton, toot sweet. Only he’s got an even heavier Lon Chaney, Jr. as the local cop on his tail. And more worrisome, the local native gypsy who throws a curse on him.
What ensues is a psychological horror, in which Burr goes more than native. In fact, he goes full on ape. In his head, at least.
Siodmak churns out a poor man’s Val Lewton type of picture, and not the best of Val Lewton, but still interesting.
I also found it interesting to finally see a Barbara Payton picture. An interesting read on her here at Sunset Gun.