Nukie (1987)

Nukie (1987) movie poster

directors Sias Odendaal, Michael Pakleppa
viewed: 03/07/2017

A couple years ago, I called Mac and Me (1988) “Probably the greatest, most terrible E.T.  knock-off ever made”. I believe I stand corrected.

Nukie at the very least is its equal.

Glibly, you might consider it almost Mac and Me through the prism of The Gods Must Be Crazy. Because like that ludicrous film, Nukie is an Apartheid-era South African film about not just one but two extraterrestrials, Nukie and Miko, landed to Earth, Miko in the U.S., Nukie in S.A.

You might have to pinch yourself to ask if you are dreaming. Or wonder if you are having an acid flashback while watching it. It’s so insanely bad, it’s brutal, absurd, and intensely hilarious.

Much as Mac and MeNukie deserves placement on the list of Worst Films Ever Made. Really and truly. I’ve given some credence to Wikipedia’s list, but more and more it’s a little too easy for most of the films from the last three decades. But as I often note, no list is a perfect lift.

Other than that, I can only fail to do it justice. Nukie is a marvel, one that must be seen.

Bloodsuckers from Outer Space (1984)

Bloodsuckers from Outer Space (1984) movie poster

director  Glen Coburn
viewed: 03/06/2017

Perhaps Glen Coburn should have heeded the famous saying: “dying is easy; comedy is hard.”

But he didn’t. And maybe for the best.

Bloodsuckers from Outer Space is low-budget regional horror-comedy that winds up being more charming that it seemingly has a right to be. Though the comedy angle is the film’s weakest point, there is something still appealing is its gleeful attempts.

Well, maybe not all of them.

And that theme song! Now, that is quality.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) movie poster

director Robert Aldrich
viewed: 03/05/2017

“Psycho-biddy! Psycho-biddy! Psycho-biddy!”
– sing to the tune of the Ramones’ “Psychotherapy”

Psycho-biddy? Grande Dame Guignol? Hagsploitation? Hag horror?

As a kid, I had all these movies mixed up in my head. “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte, I’m trying to find out What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” Probably didn’t help that both starred Bette Davis and were directed by Robert Aldrich (though I would have been unaware of the latter fact, it probably is a tell in stylistics). I always liked Bette Davis. I always had issues with Joan Crawford.

Bette Davis is ON FIRE throughout the film. And Victor Buono! So good.

I had totally forgotten the opening part of the film, showing the grand dames as children. Baby Jane is like Rhoda from The Bad Seed (1956) with the shrill and saccharine amped up to 11.

Great stuff.

Logan (2017)

Logan (2017) movie poster

director James Mangold
viewed: 03/05/2017 at CineArts @ the Empire Theater, SF, CA

My daughter was very excited to see that Logan was to be released on her 13th birthday. And for her birthday, I took her and a couple of her friends to see Logan. It’s a small sample size, but based on my experience, 13 year old girls LOVE Logan. It even brought tears to their eyes.

Surprisingly violent and successfully gritty, Logan takes the Wolverine character as played by Hugh Jackman into the future, the year 2029, where Logan is ailing from blood poisoning, alcoholism, and the bitter, brutal events that led up to the elimination of all mutants. It’s only him and Caliban (Stephan Merchant) left, caring for the very ill Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart).

That is until his clone daughter, Laura (Dafne Keen) shows up. She’s like him, with those claws, and when she’s unleashed, she’s a killing machine.

The story then turns to a run for the Canadian border, to some safe haven for Laura and her test tube mutant brethren. There is an amazing poignancy in this, with the current state of affairs and the plight of immigrants in the United States at the moment.

The film has some political commentary, but really it’s a character-driven film, with a lot of brutal dismemberment, slicing and dicing. And for my money, not just the 13 year olds in our party, it works well. Jackman and Stewart and Keen derive their pathos.

It’s a superhero film stripped of costumes and magic, humanized, or at least de-superhero-ized. Easily the best film in the series.

Smithereens (1982)

Smithereens (1982) movie poster

director Susan Seidelman
viewed: 03/04/2017

I’m pretty sure I first caught wind of Smithereens via the old USA Network’s great weekend show Night Flight. It’s another film on Rolling Stone‘s 25 Greatest Punk Rock Movies of All Time.

Directed and co-written by Susan Seidelman (who would go on to direct Desperately Seeking Susan a couple years later), offers views of early 1980’s NYC through the prism of a narcissistic hanger-on. Wren (Susan Berman) isn’t at all the nicest of girls. We first see her stealing a pair of sunglasses from an unsuspecting hand in the subway where she goes to paste her photocopies of self-promotion all over the place.

When newcomer Paul (Brad Rijn) spots her and tries to make friends with her, little does he realize what a bottomless hole of a person she is. Her eventual comeuppance takes the form of rocker Eric (Richard Hell), someone slightly above her in coolness and street cred (he’s got an album out), but who proves to be as much of a user and manipulator as Wren herself.

The portrait of Wren is interesting. As shallow and selfish as she is, striving for something of fame or notoriety, it’s not entirely unsympathetic. She finds herself at the end aimless and alone,  but perhaps her story still goes on somewhere.

Berman was a nonactor before the film and she gives a great performance as Wren. Seidelman populates the film with a lot of interesting small performances from characters like Wren’s friend or the prostitute who propositions Paul to even the cheap floozy that Eric has just tossed aside even after marrying her. These women are interesting in their own ways, even in their small roles.

Richard Hell is very good in the movie too. Which is interesting because only a couple years earlier he was pretty bad in Blank Generation.

My Degeneration (1990)

My Degeneration (1990) VHS cover

director Jon Moritsugu
viewed: 03/03/2017

Heralded last year in Rolling Stone’s “25 Greatest Punk Rock Movies of All Time” at #15, Jon Moritsugu’s 1990 My Degeneration is legit. The list, like any list, has its points, and it also has its failings. But My Degeneration is served well and has true punk cred.

It’s a rise and fall story of a band, not unlike Desperate Teenage Lovedolls (1984) or Lovedolls Superstar (1986) before it. But Moritsugu’s aims and aesthetics are far grungier, perhaps with a particular affront to art school, and featuring outre weirdness of a rotting pig’s head as a potential romantic lead/demon.

It’s got music by Government Issue, Halo of Flies, Vomit Launch and Poison Idea, too.

The gals of Bunny-Love, the band at the center of things, make a deal with the beef industry to promote and shill beef. So is selling out selling out if you did it from the get-go?

I have very few claims to fame of having known any filmmakers, but I did know Jon Moritsugu and even interviewed him for a class I had as an undergrad in the early 1990’s. He’s a cool guy and already in My Degeneration Amy Davis, his longtime love and muse and partner appears as the drummer of the group.

Low-fi punk rockness.


Man-Thing (2005)

Man-Thing (2005) movie poster

director Brett Leonard
viewed: 03/02/2017

In researching some other Marvel Comics movie thing, I stumbled on the fact that there was a Man-Thing movie, made in 2005. I follow along pretty well and have kept tabs on how Marvel has evolved its own productions, but I really hadn’t heard at all about this movie. Reading up now on it, it’s not surprising.

Produced by Artisan Entertainment, who had also made that era’s The Punisher (2004), and worked out a deal to license some of Marvel’s more minor characters (before Marvel realized that running the quality control was the key to success), Man-Thing was an Australian production, not keenly over-seen by the parent company, and was not released theatrically in the US.

For me, Man-Thing always held a point of fascination, possibly because it started as a comic book in 1974, when I was 5 and growing up in Florida, land of swamps. I always loved monsters. Especially sympathetic things that looked cool.

It might surprise you to know that the cinematic Man-Thing is a horror film, not at all a superhero movie. But it probably wouldn’t surprise you just how bad this movie is.

Australians may be good at a lot of things, but sounding like Cajuns and Creoles is not one of them. Throw in a lot of cheap camera effects that make this look like a SciFi Channel original of the era (it was released as such eventually), and you’ve got a big hunk of junk.

On the positive side, it’s R-rated so an a-typical flash of boobs tells you early on that this isn’t your run-of-the-mill Marvel outing. But even as a horror film it’s pretty terrible. And the creature itself, originally meant to be a physical costume enhanced by CGi, winds up being cheap CGi circa 2005, which is a sad fate for any character and far from interesting or terrifying.

But is it bad enough to be good? I’d say it’s close, but I don’t think it achieves even this rather low point of success. Perhaps it deserves its relative obscurity.

Viy (1967)

Viy (1967) movie poster

directors Konstantin Yershov, Georgi Kropachyov
viewed: 03/01/2017

Whether it’s considered horror or just dark fantasy, the 1967 Soviet picture Viy is pretty awesome. Since being turned on to Russian fantastika cinema, I’ve become a still very wet behind the ears devotee.

But up until this point, I’d only seen the films of Aleksandr Rou. One of the other key names that comes up is Aleksandr Ptushko. Ptushko worked on the effects of Viy and the neither of the film’s two directors Konstantin Yershov nor Georgi Kropachyov have many other credits to their names. I’m not attributing anything, just saying what little I can here. Viy is adapted from Ukrainian the folk tales that Nikolai Gogol wrote, for one more key name.

Compared to Rou’s films, it’s quite a bit much more dark, though still very much steeped in the fantasy worlds of Russian storytelling. Other viewers have compared it to Sam Raimi, noting the somewhat comic aspects of the story of a young wastrel of a would-be priest sitting up three nights with the body of a witch that he killed. But oddly I was reminded of aspects of Japanese horror films about the work, a flavor of that, perhaps.

Viy is not nonstop insanity, but it eventually gets there. The visual effects and designs are surprising and strange, building up to a total phantasmagoria at the end, as good as anything I’ve seen. It’s not the kind of horror that will scare you, but Viy is visually wonderful.

I watched this on YouTube, which isn’t something I do often. So worth it, though.

The Earth Dies Screaming (1964)

The Earth Dies Screaming (1964) movie poster

director Terence Fisher
viewed: 03/01/2017

Interestingly, when The Earth Dies Screaming, it does it somewhat silently. It takes 6-8 minutes before a word is spoken.

Actually, the opening sequence of the film is by far its most impressive. With no real explanation, planes and trains and cars crash, people topple over, and no reasoning is given. It’s a very evocative and chilling opening to what becomes a concise and though-provoking end of the world science fiction flick from director Terence Fisher.

As survivors begin to meet up in a little English village, the best they can figure is that some gas attack has come but they know not from where or by whom. In fact, even as the end of the film arrives, it’s never fully explained who is behind this killing.

There are some kind of interesting if slow-moving robots and even some white-eyed revived dead, suggesting perhaps an alien intelligence behind it, but as this comes as well from the height of the Cold War, more terrestrial agents could have been at it too.

The film can’t live up to its opening, but it’s still quite a good little thriller.

Doctor Butcher, M.D. (1980)

Doctor Butcher, M.D. (1980) movie poster

director Marino Girolami
viewed: 02/27/2017

Cannibals and zombies and mad doctors, oh my!

This Zombie Holocaust came to me by way of Doctor Bucther, M.D., both good movie names in my book. Apparently nonsequiturs occur more in the original version, but the film’s madcap pace keeps you from really pondering how all this stuff fits together.

What starts out in a New York hospital as weird cannibalism apparently by immigrants from the Molucca islands (which throughout the film I heard as “Mulatto Islands”) then heads to said islands to investigate. Somehow an anthropology expert who grew up in the Molucca islands (Alexandra Delli Colli) never heard of such things and alongside head doctor (Ian McCulloch) find themselves investigating this biz instead of say, the cops.

This is where the cannibals and zombies and mad doctor are. The zombies turn out to not exactly be zombies but lobotomized people who’ve endured major surgical shenanigans by the local mad doctor of the title.

It’s gory and silly and racist and peppy. And hard to not enjoy.