Disco sex guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh moves from India to Oregon and with the help of his devoted followers, he is nearly able to take over the town of Antelope. Demonstratively, the man is painted to something of a cross between Jim Jones and Hitler. A growing fear of law enforcement leads the cult to arm themselves for protection. While the promise of a tragic, death-filled conclusion is continually hinted at no such ending is ever reached. Fear is the Master turns out to be more Christian propoganda than professional journalism. The film is buttressed with proselytizing messages of Jesus’ power and the brainwashing effect of cult leaders like Rajneesh. I am left to question the validity of everything told to me the opening and closing sermons, certainly the filmmakers have shown their bias without concern. On the same videotape, the video company that produced this work also promote other religious videos. Most of them designed are to warn Christians about other religions. There were at least three videos about the secret evils of Mormonism.
You can find a low-res copy of the film online, though I notice the person opted to snip off the pro-Jesus, anti-cult message that truly pervert the intentions of this film.
Seeing this in the theaters when it was first released, I dismissed it as a modern day, pumped up, tribute to The Conversation. In light of modern news stories about wiretaps and government spying on American citizens I am forced to rethinking this thriller. I hate to admit this, but Enemy of the State was fortuitous at depicting where we are today. Someone at the FBI please look into Dick Cheney’s Blockbuster Video rental records.
I’m not going to spin a wild conspiracy yarn, now. Though the film provides ample fodder. I will say that Will Smith, Jack, Black, and Jake Busey still make this film more annoying than it need be. Seth Green is on the border. Gene Hackman gets a pass. I’m still marveling at how Jon Voight looks a lot like Donald Rumsfiled. Doesn’t he?
In making an anti-drug film you can go one of two ways. You can depict drug addiction as a tedious cycle of dependence (The Connection, Christine) or a hellish pit of despair (Story of a Junkie, Christine F.). Go Ask Alice does neither. This ABC Movie of the Week is heavy with melodrama and moralism where it should be heavy with exploitation. The infamous, fictional diary of a nameless teenage girl who spirals downward into a world of sex and drugs is softened by the restrictions of the small screen. Meant to horrify, the film is incapable of producing anything more than unconvincing narration that summarizes the more debauched scenes. I remember reading the book as a teenager, one who eschewed drugs on his own accord, and being mesmerized by the vivid scenes of depravity.
I know I was asking too much of this film. With William Shatner, Andy Griffin, and Julie Adams acting I expected, at least, some wild over acting. That John Korty directed this dud depresses me. He showed such great promise with The Crazy Quilt. I expected something with more flair and sensitivity. Here, he feels like a hired man; a captain forced to go down with the ship. At least the psychedelic soundtrack was interesting.
The opposite of a music documentary. The Road Becomes What You Leave is the best thing I’ve seen in ages. I’ll go so far to say it is the best shot documentary about music that I have yet to witness. Weeks back when others were going gaga for Heima and I was only slightly impressed, I could not have foreseen that I would have the same sort of transcendent experience with a film one-sixth of the duration. As I have written on my other blog, Ineffable Media, I’m in love with the music of Jason Molina (aka Magnolia Electric Co.) Thus, I am naturally inclined to embrace this DVD, at the same time short duration of this DVD is the biggest disappointment I’ve had in ages.
The band is barely visible throughout. Fans are shot starry-eyed in tight close-ups. There is scant dialog and that which is audible is superfulous. Mostly, this is a landscape film lovingly composed of images of the Canadian prairie and small desolate towns. Snippets of Magnolia Electric Co. songs play over top theses images of isolation and loneliness. never is a full song heard. I find great beauty and courage in that decision, just as I find it highly admirable that filmmakers Todd Chandler and Tim Sutton have foregone the need for interviews or insight into the band. The images, like the songs themselves, are windows into the mind man behind the band. Highest praise must go to cinematographer Ava Berkofsky.
Even if you have not seen Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn you probably have seen it all before. It’s Mad Max meets Star Wars meets a hundred other sci-fi/action films. The desert provides a bleak, alien backdrop, post-apocalyptic dunebugs are outfitted with scrap metal armor, futuristic weapons shoot ultra-fake laser beams, leather mixed with rags are all the fashion rage, and the dialog is as equally corny as it is stilted. Not a scene goes by without some made-up technological jargon or pseudo-mystical bullshit being spouted. Sometimes, I swear, they are directly quoting other films.
If you saw this in the theaters you saw it in 3-D. That is one more dimension of awfulness than what you get when you watch it at home. No amount of three dimensional effects can make up for the pitiful nature of this picture. That doesn’t stop the film from throwing, launching, thrusting and jabbing anything within arm’s reach at the camera lens.
Actress Kelly Preston, who was not yet Mrs. John Travolta, provides fully clothed sex appeal. One might excuse her appearance in this film as youthful folly. However, this is a woman who later agreed to be in Battlefield Earth. Face it, she either doesn’t know how to pick them or she simply can’t say no. As for director Charles Band, Metalstorm is about average for his caliber of work. Of course Band has produced and directed more bad movies than even your most masochistic moviegoer has time to endure. That this film is not on DVD is no great loss since it would probably not be three-dimensional and without that appeal the film is twice as flat. Still, it would be nice to get a director’s commentary track or in this case perhaps a director’s confessional track as it would be far more interesting to hear Band (and all others involved in this film) explain just what they think they were doing and how they managed to keep a straight face.
For amusement than you’ll get from Metalstorm check out the3drevolution.com and their List of stuff chucked and poked at the audience in 3-D throughout the history of stereoscopic film
It should be noted that Metalstrom ends with a cliffhanger. It’s been 25 years. Where’s the sequel?
Like an adult Manga come to life, Sex & Fury provides graphic and novel fun while mixing art with atrocity. Norifumi Suzuki made this Japanese exploitation film at a time when television was taking a bite out of the Japanese film market and he uses the leeway of the big screen to push the boundaries of eroticism and violence. Shot like an advertisement, with meticulous attention to graphic design, composition, and color, the images astound the eye while the brutality depicted throughout shocks the mind. The film is particularly blood-soaked.
I found it hard to care about, something even follow, the film’s various plot lines. Reiko Ike and her various states of nakedness only help to distract one’s mind from the finer points of a rather comic story or revenge. Through sword play and seduction she gets her revenge, but often at a cost. The torture and humiliation of Reiko Ike is as much a selling feature of this film as he more triumphant moments like when she poisons a man with perversely placed perfume or when her naked body masterfully fends of countless attackers in a snow covered courtyard.
Images of torture and domination are nothing new to either Japanese or American adult entertainment. As horrifying as they many first appear, there is something almost comical about these scenes. Perhaps, it is the wild, pop-culture infused settings in which these scenes of torture takes place. Set against giant stained glass windows depicting the Crucifixion or wild psychedelic light shows, torture loses some of its reality. This is not the virgin tied to the railroad tracks while some villain twirls his mustache. Though, the villains in Sex & Fury are all just as much caricatures. Their costumes declare who they are and their dialog cuts right to what they want. Reading the subtitles of a film never felt so much like reading cartoon bubbles.
While I have never found graphic novels or torture to be of any particular interest to me I must admit that I was spellbound by the unpredictable nature of Sex & Fury. The film continually surprised me with one demented scene after another. The experience was akin to watching a William Klein film, only more subversive. I also could not help but think of Michael O’ Donoghue and Frank Springer’s The Adventures of Phoebe Zeit-Geist.
That moment. Ever good film should have one. In Brother’s Keeper it comes late in the film and it involves a juxtaposition between two scenes. In the first scene Dr. Cyril Wecht, Pittsburgh’s celebrity coroner describes the violent reactions of the body as a person is being choked to death. The image of a pig being shot, having its throat slit, and its hide removed follows. This one two punch provides first the audio account a violent death and then the visuals of a violent death. It matters little that the two deaths are not related. Together these scenes and this moment prove the power of both seeing and hearing, the differences and the necessity for both experiences.
A similar combination can be found in another documentary about life and death. Herzog, uses this audio/video two-step in Grizzly Man when he denies the audience the opportunity to hear the final screams of two humans being devoured by bears. Instead, he cuts to a visual showing the awesome power of a grizzly bear. The viewer’s mind does the addition and makes up a scene of their own.
War. What’s it good for?
It’s good for Sam Fuller. The theater of war suits Sam Fuller’s interests and The Steel Helmet is the first film where Fuller feels to be full in charge. The tense circumstances that force men of divergent background to band together creates a pressurized scenario in which Fuller can explore issues class and racism. Far ahead of his time, both in his coverage of war and of race issues, The Steel Helmet is the product of sound stage shooting, with forests and temples unable to hide their artificiality. The limited settings could easily have shifted this production to the stage. The theatricality of the story, of men bunkered down in a temple, on guard both from attacks outside and within, allows ample time for relationships to flourish and diminish. Here in the midst of battle there are no forced love stories to interfere with the story, don’t let the poster fool you. This problem, that plagued the motivations of characters in Fuller’s earlier film is gone, has no place in the theater of war.