The Asian Rock’nRoll, UFO, zombie film that never fails to entertain me, took on a new light when I watched it this time. Having learned that the film was made for television, the abrupt, unexplained cuts to black made a lot more sense. They must be where the commercials went. Now, I have to imagine how crazy it would have been to see Wild Zero on television.
Kris also known by its translated title Crisis is a solid directorial debut, but it’s not a ‘Bergman film’. If there are elements of Bergman’s later work that exist in this film it’s in the story of female relationships. The tale of a young country woman exposed to the corruption of city life is part mother, daughter drama and part noir. It is both curious and enlightening to see a director you know working outside of their style, especially when they do so early in their career. The film reminds me That Nights Wife, 1930′s silent film by Ozu, shot in a very European style that looks markedly different from his very Japanese films. While neither film is flawed, they are not assured. They both exhibit young artists seeking their voice.
Sometimes, when I’m programming films for Basement Cinema, I don’t realize how great the pairing is until I sit down and watch the films with an audience. Call it double features by intuition. The double feature of The Food of the Gods and The Wild Beasts, was originally conceived because both films features crazed animals who either grew to great proportions or went on rampages because of something they ingested. Still, theres a menagerie of films that could meet this criteria, I just happened to pick these two for one reason or another.
Getting to see the last few moments of The Food of the Gods before sinking into all of The Wild Beasts, I quickly remembered that both films had something else, other than wild animals. They both end on a real twisted note that is strikingly similar, almost uncanny. I’m not going to spoil the ending here. Instead, you should track down the films and find out for yourself.
Hets (aka Torment) is a scolding critique of formal schooling that also serves as a comment on fascism and the abuse of power. A senior finds himself coming of age while trapped in a bizarre love triangle between a tobacco girl of ill repute and his sadistic Latin instructor. Cruel and uncaring, the instructor runs his classroom like a torture chamber, putting the screws to each students and smirking as they sweat and labor through their translations. It is astonishing to see a man so over-joyed by the power of fear that he strikes in his students, but at the same time his lacking of a soul reduces him to a brute caricature, more so than a troubled man.
Noted for being Ingmar Bergman’s first effort as a filmmaker – here as a screenwriter who ended up directing the final scenes. Distinct camera angles, shadowy imagery, and a domineering musical score add great tension to a simple story, one that could have easily been performed on stage, but finds great life in cinema through these flourishes.
However, the film is too demonstrative in its negative attitudes towards rigid schooling. The demonic Latin instruct is less than human, almost pure evil while the young man he torments is given too much pity. The film is youthful in its perspective, as its author was young when he scripted it, but compared to more recent coming of age films Torment is a vastly more mature effort than one could even hope to find in today’s film market.
On a personal note, I find it so curious how methods of education have changed. By today’s standards, the rigors of the school presented in this film are cruel, even hurtful. How dare and instructor treat education as work or something to labor through for the sake of one’s own betterment! Yet, I wonder if the pendulum has not swung too far in the opposite direction and if many teachers today are more concerned with students liking them or having a fun time in class and not about teaching or heaven forbid scolding a student when they are slacking off in their work and not living up to their potential.
There has been a long tradition of sci-fi films dealing with a fear of astronauts returning to Earth and turning into monsters. The Incredible Melting Man may just be the worst directed film in this sub-genre, but it has some great, gory effects, making it an odd mixture of coolness and hilarious perfect for a night of movies with friends and beer. The domestic squabble about crackers is wonderfully memorable. So is the sequence with the over-zealous scumbag photographer, but most of all it’s just wild to watch the search team pick up piece after piece of The Incredible Melting Man. The gross exclamation when they find his ear will ring in yours for days. Very fun, very melty!
Oh and how cool is this old poster…not that the new DVD release ain’t too shabby.
More sci-fi scares about returned astronauts bring alien lifeforms back with them. Since it was made before the space race its some what excusable. The fears of the unknown make for rip terror. However, there is little to tremble at. As with many films of this era, there is a lot of talking and the alien stays just off frame until the end. Night of the Blood Beast is comical in both its dated, bogus technological jargon and its serious, but unconvincing drama that ends with horribly cheesy alien creature.
This sort of movie either entertains or bores and the difference depends on the viewer. For me, the sci-fi, horror films of the 50′s have a wonder innocence, meaning that they lack in sex and violence, but at the same time there is always something backwards about their logic and their attitude. While not as crazy and carefree as films of the 70′s, these 50′s films possess a very politically incorrect vibe, that is veiled behind their innocence and at the same time it does not gel with our modern politically correct attitudes.
Hamburger‘s plot revolves around Russell, a young Lothario who has been kicked out of every college he’s attended for his sexual shenanigans. His last hope for a degree lies in Busterburger University a corporate campus for an extremely capitalistic burger chain.
Russell teams up with a wacky ensemble of rejects all working towards earning their diplomas. Standing in their way is the drill serergant like instructor known as Drootin, played by ex-football star Dick Butkus. Can Russell keep his meat in his pants and earn his degree?
The film is stacked high with lame jokes about sex, obesity, bodily functions, even race and gender. Everything is overly proceeded, predictable, and stale. The lude and crude humor like fast food is cheap to produce, provides instantaneous satisfaction, often with an aftertaste of regret, but ultimately it is forgettable. It’s no surprise that someone connected the two and created this tasteless film. Still, there are some odd pokes at the over-indulgent nature of fast food consumerism and the gung-ho capitalist spirit of those who run these sort of operations. The film’s theme song demotes a strange timbre of sarcasm about America’s love for burgers, that nearly redeems the fact that it’s highly annoying and catchy – like a bad fast food jingle.
Ultimately, this forgotten film, passed over in the age of DVD resurrection is not that different from today’s gross-out comedies and it is certainly far more forgivable, if not less offensive than anything Larry the Cable guy has ever cooked up.
More and more I have come to find that the most pleasurable cinematic experiences are those that come with a small amount of work. Whether I’m tracking down a rare video, traveling some distance to see a film, or suffering through a sickness simply because I don’t know when I’ll get another chance to see a particular piece, I often feel that a little bit of sacrifice makes for a splendid experience.
To see Picture of Light, I had to suffer through horrible allergies, which I tried to suppress with an unrecommended dose of antihestamines. Perhaps, my altered state helped me take in the downtempo pace of this thoughtful and wonderful personal documentary.
Canadian filmmaker, Petter Mettler, travels to the a Northern border town on the edge of civilization in the hopes of capturing the Northern Lights on film. Long, pregnant periods of traveling and waiting give Mettler ample time to ruminate on film, nature, and human existence. Suddenly, the skies explode with a dazzling light snow that no words could ever hope to describe or explain. Then, it’s back to waiting and wondering.
This combination or film essay, nature film, and sociological study through way of cinema is growing to be a most rewarding form of filmmaking. I greatly cherish, even envy, filmmakers who choose to use movies as a form of meditation and I am quick to consider Mettler to be a master of the genre. It’s a small genre, but the folks who inhabit the genre are, in my opinion, some of our greatest filmmakers. Herzog, Benning, Dorsky, Jennings, Marker et al.
On a side note, there was a strange moment of time slippage that occurred for me during this film. While stuck in a hotel Mettler has the television on and the news anchor is talking about how the ground troops may soon enter Iraq. It took me a moment to remember that this film was made in 1991 during the first Iraq conflict – Desert Storm.
I was planning on staying to see one other Mettler documentary – Gambling, Gods, and LSD, but sadly, I knew that I would not make it through this 3 hour epic on transcendence. Plus, I was still thinking through Picture of Light and I will be for some time.
Poor Larry Drake, how sad it must be to get type-casted as a retard. More known for his role as the mentally challenged office worker in L.A. Law, Drake first played a mentally handicapped person in the early 80′s made-for-television movie Dark Knight of the Scarecrow.
Bubba (Drake) gets accused of assaulting a small girl. Already the ire of psychotic postal deliveryman Otis Hazlerigg, Bubba quickly becomes the target of an angry mob of backwoods bigots who decide to take the law into their own hand. When they find Bubba hiding in a scarecrow costume in an empty field the good old boys shoot some sense into the slow-witted man. Moments after his death, word comes across the CB that Bubba didn’t hurt the little girl, in fact he saved her from a vicious dog attack.
A kangaroo court clears the angry mob of any wrong doing, but not before Bubba’s mom reminds them that justice has an eerie way of prevailing. A scarecrow identical to the one Bubba hid in reappears in the field and one by one the men who killed Bubba meet a grizzly demise. Hazelrigg redirects his terror towards Bubba and the little girl whomhe saved. But, even Hazelrigg cannot escape the Dark Knight of the Scarecrow.
Charles Durning, who plays Hazelrigg, turns in an amazingly crazed performance as the obsessive and slimy mail carrier. His execution of Bubba stands as one of the more cold-hearted scenes you’ll probably ever come across in a television film. Still, being a made-for-TV movie, Dark Knight of the Scarecrow suffers some rather laughable moments of ineptitude. However, an original story, with some nice shocks make it a mixed bag of good and bad that make it an enjoyable pleasure despite its dramatic faults.
On an interesting side note – Larry Drake got his start in film playing another character named Bubba in H.G. Lewis’ This Stuff” Kill Ya. Though down at Basement Cinema he’ll be forever known as Dr. Giggles.
An experimental narrative by Brent Coughenour. As the director himself puts it:
“As a city dismantles itself, clues to its past resurface. Collections of scraps sifted from rubble – an archeology of unanswered questions – combine to tell a surrogate narrative filled with missing pieces and forgotten motives, old letters, photographs, and home movies.”
Shot on super 8 in and around Detroit I Pity The Fool has a strange hypnotic quality that both pulls me and at the same time it pushes me away. Atmospheric and loosely linked together each portion of this disjointed film spools out with no explanation or motive. There is little hope for predicting or guessing what is to come next, other than a relative distance from understanding and personal intimacy with any character.
Often overexposed and out of focus, sometimes magical and illuminating the images shift between splendid and dreadful. Images of decay and destruction fill the frame while human figures are removed or reduced to shapes navigating their way through these dilapidated landscapes.
A majority of the film is comprised of ambient recordings with rare snippets of uninformative dialog. Over long stretches of black an overly processed and disagreeable narrator (the director) describes scenes we will never be shown. The concept of describing rather than showing is of some interest, but poor elocution hampers this from being of interest. Most striking of all, in regards to sound, are the odd burst of death metal heard at the beginning and end of the picture.
Perhaps, if it were not for these strange musical bookends I would never have thought to compare this film to the far superior Gummo. Now, I cannot think of I Pity The Fool without recalling Gummo. I Pity The Fool being a more removed, less experimental story of a destroyed town. In Coughenour’s film there is little interest in the people who inhabit spaces and more interest in the artifacts they leave behind, but even this interest is hindered by the director’s refusal to express care or concern for all this is being dismantled.
While I am impressed by anyone who can make a feature and especially for those who dare to make one different from the the standard narrative. However, detachment and aloofness make it hard to embrace this film, even if it is engrossing like a rambling dream.