Formerly "Dave's Blog About Movies and Such"

Monday, June 29, 2009

Gorilla at Large (1954)

dir. Harmon Jones

"That costume does look quite real on you."
-Laverne Miller

Cameron Mitchell, Anne Bancroft, Lee J. Cobb, Raymond Burr, Lee Marvin--were these five actors to have performed together the resultant movie would have been such a monumental, blisteringly powerful achievement, it would have burned right through the celluloid. It'd be that fucking good. No film stock yet produced could have contained the energy. Alas, such a grouping of actors could exist only in my wildest imagination...or so I had previously thought. Apparently, someone learned of my desire for such a movie, went back in time to the fifties and produced the 3d thriller extravaganza Gorilla at Large under the auspices of a below the radar film company. Wow, this movie has the previously mentioned actors and a killer gorilla? Oh happy day.

Perry Mason star Burr plays the carnival's seemingly nefarious owner Cy Miller. Conflicts up the wazoo are established right from the get go, as Miller is in the middle of a sordid relationship with trapeze artist Mrs. Robins- er, I mean, Laverne (Anne Bancroft). Just how sordid is this relationship? Well, it would seem that these two lovebirds hooked up immediately after her previous hubby, trapeze artist Kewpie Adams, just so conveniently fell to his death when performing an act with Miller and Laverne (yes, Kewpie was the motherfucker's name [Side note: a person unfortunate enough to be cursed with the name Kewpie has only two possible career options: One is working in a carnival and the other involves swallowing copious amounts of cum (In case you didn't understand this witty bit of innuendo, I'm talking about prostitution. The person would be a prostitute.)]). Incidentally, Laverne had gotten mixed up with Kewpie, only after ending her relationship with Faulknerian Idiot Man-child Gorilla trainer Kovacs (Peter Whitney). That's just a whole big bag full o' tawdry right there. That's what that is.

Perry Mason soon grows suspicious when Mrs. Robinson decides to start a new act with young carny Joey Matthews (Cameron Mitchell). Perry Mason feels that he could be pushed out of the picture after he surreptitiously witnesses Mrs. Robinson and Matthews gettin' they dalliance on. Why would Perry Mason be worried? It seems that in addition to losing his lover, he would lose his life. You see, as we will find out in the film's thrilling, surprising conclusion, Mrs. Robinson is a black widowish type, only too happy to dress up in a gorilla costume and bump off old lovers, thereby pinning the blame on the giant gorilla Goliath. [SPOILER ALERT: YOU JUST READ A MAJOR FUCKING SPOILER!] You would think that dressing up in a bargain basement gorilla suit in an attempt at framing a supposedly murderous ape would be a monumentally stupid way to commit murders. Fortunately, Goliath, the "actual" gorilla in this film, is just as hokey looking. Steven Spielberg, in Jaws, had the good sense to mercifully limit his fake shark's screen time. With Gorilla at Large, however, the filmmakers proudly showcase their cheapo gorilla suit clad stuntman.

The extent to which this film paints Perry Mason as the killer, only to pull the rug out from under us, is quite comical. In an early scene Perry Mason goes and fires ne'er do well carny Morse (John Kellogg) for apparently non-existent reasons. This scene is layered with the sort of intrigue, subtext and pointed barbs generally reserved for movies about institutions of infinitely more importance than carnival life. Adding to the intrigue, Morse is offed in the following scene, his body being discovered in Goliath's cage. Although most of the characters are revealed to have motives, all of the obvious signs point to Perry Mason. Specifically, Morse had been black-mailing the carnival owner for his earlier involvement in Kewpie's death (or so we would think). Apparently, director Harmon Jones was attempting to show that the world of carnyin' was just as ripe for intense, high powered thrillers as was the political/corporate world. This was the only theme that I took from this movie. Carnival life is no different from corporate life.

Indeed, everything about the carny world, as presented here, is hilariously incongruent. Perry Mason is a dapper dresser, whose well appointed office is stocked with a liquor cabinet full of only the finest imported spirits. If this movie were set at a real carnival, the only murders taking place would be those of patrons falling from the rides--rides shoddily maintained by AA members and ex-cons more interested in getting sleeve tattoos sufficient enough to mask track marks than in keeping all of the equipment up to code.

There's so much doin's a transpirin' here that an expert has to be called in to make sense of it all. Enter Lee J. Cobb as the crusty but benign Detective Sgt. Garrison, a man intent on cracking this case wide open. This son of a bitch is tough as nails, but damned if he don't get his man (or gorilla, or woman as the case may be. In case you didn't already read the spoiler above, it's a woman in this case). A man as gruff as Garrison sure would need a comic relief foil to counteract his orneriness. Thankfully he has Lee Marvin as incompetent sidekick Shaughnessy. [Side note: To prepare for his role as an Irishman, Marvin spent his entire life being an alcoholic (wow, what a cheap, easy joke. I'm getting lazy.).] Although Garrison initially suspects Matthews is the killer, Matthews soon helps the detective find the real killer, and in his free time, love on said killer.

The almost love story between Matthews and Mrs. Robinson is one of the more confusing/interesting plot threads in the movie. Matthews is a young kid who took up with the carnival alongside his girlfriend Audrey (Charlotte Austin) in order to grow a nest egg and save some money for law school. One would think that a monkey wrench would have been thrown into the works of this young young relationship after Matthews took up with Mrs. Robinson. Although the relationship started off innocent enough, Matthews and Mrs. Robinson would eventually, in one scene, share a deep, passionate kiss. This may not seem like much by today's movie standards, but if we use the "filmic representations of sex inflation calculator," we will see that Matthews, in effect, has cornholed Mrs. Robinson. This was a pretty big deal. Interestingly, no conflict between Matthews and Audrey ever arises as a result. Indeed, no moral questions are ever raised in regards to his involvement with Mrs. Robinson. Matthews and Mrs. Robinson become briefly involved and then the potential problem is solved when Mrs. Robinson is arrested for murder. Matthews and Audrey go off and live happily ever after. Could this be a Mad Men-esque attempt to portray Matthews as a complex character who, although he may love his girlfriend can not squelch his desire to spread his seed, a man with battling loyalties? Maybe, it is just a sign of the chauvinistic times in that the men-folk can go about bein' all philanderin' and such, while the women-folk would have to be punished for such actions. In this world, although it's natural and indeed welcomed for a man to cheat, a woman who would cheat would be seen as so nefarious that she would also have no problems with cold-blooded murder. Or maybe all of this is just due to sloppy writing? Or could I just be reading too much into a shitty movie? [Side note: My Robert Evans-esque tendency in this piece to ask myself questions is starting to annoy even me. I will stop it.]

I would be a liar were I to say that I didn't get caught up in the whole murder mysteriness of this movie. The film's eventual surprise was something of a shock. Admittedly, I have never been adept at deducing the identities of the killers in movies of this sort, but I was still surprised that I couldn't figure this one out. Mostly, this ending surprised me insomuch as I expected the reveal to be little dumber than it actually was. I had actually expected that this movie would go with the extremely obvious choice of Perry Mason as the killer. I had assumed that the finger pointed at him the entire time because the writers were inept at creating suspense. Then they changed that shit. I see what you did there, movie. I thought you were gonna zig, and then you went and zagged on me. How sneaky of you. The film's surprise twist manged to surpass my exceedingly low expectations. By these standards, Gorilla at Large is an accidental success.

[The trailer:]

Dave's Rating:

Monday, June 22, 2009

Fair Game (1985)

dir. Mario Andreacchio

"Look, the boys were just having a bit of a game. No one meant you any harm."

After putting it off for many years, I finally sat down and read Jared Diamond's insightful book Guns, Germs, and Steel. I know very little of this sort of science stuff, so it's always fun to read such writin's in the hopes of edumacating myself. To paraphrase (and probably fuck up) one of his main points, availability of natural resources and domesticable wild plants is one of the most important factors in the ability of a people to produce an advanced society. Australia, because it lacked these important resources, never advanced far beyond the hunter-gatherer stage until it was colonized by the dregs of British society. For many years the people had to make do with what was available and only when foreign crops were introduced were they able to produce an indutrialized society.

Interestingly, some parallels exist in modern Australia's film industry. Although this country has produced some important works over the years (The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, the films of Peter Weir), it is associated in America primarily with the Mad Max and Crocodile Dundee movies. As we all know, if a movie isn't successful in 'Merica, then it doesn't count. Subsequently, a fair share of Australian movies have aimed for overseas success in the only way they know how, by aping the aforementioned flicks. Of course, this phenomenon exists in the film industries of all nations, but the window of acceptably exportable box office friendly fare in Oz is quite smaller. So exists Mario Andreacchio's Mad Max inspired outback thriller Fair Game. [Rereading this, I realize that my Guns, Germs, and Steel parallels are tenuous at best. I'll leave that shit in, however, because why the hell not? It makes me look all well-rounded and shit for referencing something non-movie related.]

Australian beauty Cassandra Delaney stars as Jessica, an animal lover in charge of a large nature preserve. Things go swimmingly for her until she comes across three poachers who have trespassed onto the preserve and offed some of Australia's cuddly critters. She attempts to thwart them and they in turn spend the rest of the movie terrorizing her. Although these sadistic bloodthirsty folks have many opportunities to kill Jessica, they usually let her escape. And although she has frequent opportunities to similarly dispose of them, she never does.

Stupidity is not isolated to these folks, however. In Jessica's first encounter with the ruffians, she is run off the road and nearly killed as the goons use their two vehicles two sandwich her truck and fuck with her. When she reports the encounter to local lawman Frank, the incredulous Aussie quickly dismisses her wild claims. Them boys were probably just having a spot of fun. Nothing to get worked up over. More than anything, Frank is annoyed that Jessica would waste his precious time by coming to him for help.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, this is what happens when you live in a country colonized by convicts.

[Side note: It has always been a pet peeve of mine when, in movies of this sort, the protagonists arrive bloodied and shaken at the police station to complain about murderous individuals, only to be laughed out of the place by skeptical cops.

"So let me get this straight. Two years ago, you went on a camping trip with your schizophrenic girlfriend Karen and two other couples. Things were going swell until you told your girlfriend that you had no intentions of ever getting married or having kids. What began as a lover's squabble soon erupted into a nakedly brutal, raw, venomous war of words. Your girlfriend unleashed a mighty frenzy attacking both you...and her voices. You told her you wanted to call it off and she stormed off into grizzly bear alley. Because you were mad at her, you let her go--knowing full well, of course, that her chances of survival were slim to nil. The next day, overcome by pangs of guilt, you informed the two other couples and the authorities of the events of the night previous. A massive manhunt was soon underway. After a month with no luck, it was only natural that you assumed her dead. Despite the absence of a body, a funeral service was still held. Her parents blamed you, of course, and nothing you said or did could change that. Perhaps it was because, deep down, you also blamed yourself. To assuage your feelings of guilt, you paid for the funeral service. Paradoxically, this only served to cement your guilt in the eyes of her parents. During long, sleepless, sweat-soaked nights you have lain on your empty bed cursing yourself, your stubborn girlfriend and those woods, those godforsaken woods. And now, two years later you have been receiving mysterious phone calls, texts, emails, and letters with strange allusions to the events of two years prior. Why someone would still write letters in this electronic age is a mystery. Deep down, of course, knowing of your girlfriend's propensity for retro cultural artifacts (be they clothes, music, film or modes of communication), it was only natural that you assumed her the party behind these cryptic letters. And now, now you're saying that a knife wielding hooded person broke into your home and attacked you before you narrowly escaped. Could Karen still be alive and wreaking her revenge? Maybe one of her parents is responsible. Or perhaps, just perhaps a heretofore tertiary party, a person that has only played a minor part in your life story has come out to attack you for some as yet to be revealed, but ultimately insightful reason? A reason that would tie in the events of two years prior as well as other seemingly unrelated bits of your life."

"Yes. I don't know why you just repeated everything I told you, but that's exactly what happened."

"Like I'm gonna believe that."

"But what about these wounds. I've got knife wounds all over my face."

"Probably cut yourself shaving."

"Yeah, but-"

"No, you yeah but you. Listen, goddamnit, if I helped every wild-eyed loon who came in here with crackpot 'I'm being attacked' stories, then I wouldn't be doing my job, I'd be working. Now get the hell out of here before I really give you something to cry about."

Of course, none of this happens in Fair Game, but you get the gist.]

In one of the film's most blatant examples of stupidity, an axe-wielding Jessica sneaks up to the sleeping poachers. She then breaks into their truck where she steals their guns and a blowtorch and moves off into the distance. Under the moonlight, she welds the guns together. What is happening here? Could she be constructing some sort of super weapon with which to fuck these men? Cut to the next morning. The men are still alive. They wake from their slumber. What's going on here? The men look up to see that she has welded the guns together to produce an avant art piece. Perhaps this sculpture is meant to attack their antiquated notions of hunting and militarism. Perhaps it is a nonsensical dadaist piece, neither inviting nor producing easy interpretations. Perhaps it is a purely abstract piece, meant to be admired on solely aesthetic grounds. One thing it doesn't do, of course, is kill the villains.

Fair Game as a whole is mish mash of similarly odd scenes in which both sides miss opportunities to do away with the other. It is a thriller of the stupendously stupid variety. Perhaps I have exaggerated this film's indebtedness to Mad Max. Truth be told, the car chases and the look of the villain Ringo are the most Mad Maxian aspects of this movie. Fair Game functions more or less as an American slasher/rape/revenge picture, except minus the slashing and raping. Although mostly by the numbers, Andreacchio's film does contain enough thrills, oddities and a sufficiently cathartic revenge sequence to recommend it.

Dave's Rating:

Sunday, June 21, 2009

I Can't Wait to See This Movie

Former Onion editor and writer of The Wrestler, Robert Siegel, has written and directed a new drama, Big Fan, in which Patton Oswalt plays an obsessive New York Giants fan. Seeing as The Wrestler is one of my five favorite movies of the decade (despite the presence of Evan Rachel Wood), and Patton Oswalt is my favorite comedian working today, I've got a huge anticipation boner for this flick. I haven't seen a trailer, but this can't not be good. Obviously, Patton Oswalt is not a dramatic actor, so it is not necessarily a sure thing that he will pull this off. I still think, however, that from what little I know of this flick, it should play to a lot of his strengths. A few other comedians have done some remarkable dramatic work, after all. Richard Pryor in Blue Collar comes to mind. I say all of this, of course, without having seen Big Fan.

As soon as a trailer is available, I will post it. In the meantime, here are a couple of my favorite Patton Oswalt bits.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror (1981)

dir. Andrea Bianchi

"Momma, this cloth smells of death."
-Creepy, unfortunate looking, man-like child

[This review is part of Stacie Ponder's film club over at her site Final Girl]

I really dig subtitles. I can't watch any movie or TV show (Foreign or English (i.e., normal) language) anymore without turning them on. Whenever I stumble upon an old-fashioned DVD that doesn't have a subtitle option, I feel horribly wronged/ripped off. No subtitles? What kind of ancient sorcery produced this disc? Did the UNIVAC that the alchemists used to transfer the movie to Betamax from its original nitrate source and then finally to dvd have an outdated tape drive? A disc without subtitles is a bit like a right wing politician without a loony tin-foil hat conspiracy theory on our country's move toward Communism and the New World Order. It's a DVD in name only.

I like foreign flicks just fine, but these films are not the basis for my subtitle love. Hard of hearing that I am, I started using subtitles on English language fare a few years back. It all started with British TV shows, specifically The Office. When I bought the entire series back in 2005, I lapped it up over the course of a weekend. [There's gotta be a better way to phrase that.] Although I certainly dug the show, I couldn't quite see what all the fuss was about. What with the combination of my old man ears and the actors' Limey accents, I realized that I may not have caught 100% of the dialogue and decided, after much deliberation, that I might try watching it again with the subtitles on. This was not an easy decision, of course. Realizing that, in my mid-twenties, I was not young and hip enough to both, hear things and to understand British accents/colloquialisms without the cheating use of aids, it was quite a grudging admission of defeat to accept my impending old age induced uselessness. After watching The Office with the subtitles on, and realizing that I had previously missed about 50% of the hilarious dialogue, of course, I happily threw in the towel and accepted defeat. I picked up an old man angry shakin' stick, bought a bowl of hard candy, and became a stalwart subtitle convert.

As can be guessed from my subtitle love, I am also quite a stickler for watching foreign films in their original languages with English subtitles. When a foreign film is dubbed into English, it then becomes a different movie. It is not the film as originally intended by the filmmakers. Dubbing foreign flicks is just as wrong as pan and scan and colorization (two other abominations that are thankfully fading away). My faithfulness to movies' original languages ends pretty quickly, however, when it comes to Kung Fu and Italian Gore pictures. It's not that I think these are lesser films and thus not worthy of being watched in their original form. Rather, I feel that horrible dubbing immeasurably adds to the viewing experience of such pictures. Of course, for quite some time Italian producers shot their movies MOS and then dubbed the dialogue (in Italian and other languages), anyways, so any argument for fidelity to the source material is quite dubious in this regard. With these pictures, English dubbing is not much of a sacrilege.

As with most red-blooded Americans, I was introduced to foreign films with such trash genres (I mean this in the most loving way possible) as Kung Fu and Italian Gore. And the videos of these flicks that I gorged on at a younger age, were almost invariably horribly dubbed into English. Nostalgia, perhaps more than anything, is the driving force in my preference for English language dubbing when it comes to these pictures. Besides, with genres as single-mindedly commercial and Americanized as these, it would seem wrong to watch them in any language other than English. When I popped Andrea Bianchi's Italian Gore flick Burial Ground into the ol' disc player, it didn't even occur to me to check whether the disc had an option for subtitles, let alone an Italian language soundtrack. Suffice it to say, because I hadn't seen one of these movies in quite some time, I was nostalgin' out like a motherfucker while watching Bianchi's movie.

[Dave Enkosky's Note: I apologize for the increasingly digressive/rambling nature of these movie review intros. Seeing as I am a busy man and do not have time to write these posts anymore, I have ceded reviewin' responsibilities to this man:]

As with most films of its ilk, the simple plot of Burial Ground acts as an excuse for a gratuitous amount of gore and zombies. A group of mostly young couples meets at a Professor's villa to get its chillaxin on and intermittently bang each other. What these vacationers are unaware of, however, is that the ol' Professor has been collecting treasures from surrounding Etruscan tombs, thus getting the corpses riled up but good and proper. [Why does grave robbing always get such a bad rap in horror films?] Before you know it, zombies of slightly above average intelligence terrorize the vacationers.

Adding a creepy twist to this otherwise standard, eat 'em up zombie flick, Bianchi introduces a gag inducing oedipal, mother-boy subplot involving a woman and her unfortunate looking son. Burial Ground is basically a variation of Murmur of the Heart. Unlike that pussy Louis Malle, however, Bianchi was unafraid to fill his story with lots o' tits, zombies, and gore. Ratcheting up the weirdness, the dubbers employed an odd sounding, faux-child-esque voice for the creepy son. [Incidentally, I'm mostly certain that the actor who played this part was an especially child-looking midget.]

[A face only a mother could love.]

Indeed, Burial Ground's dubbing, is truly where this movie shines--not only in terms of the voices of the dubbers but also the dialogue. Whether the dialogue was as moronic in the original Italian I cannot attest to, but the English translation is quite a thing to behold. After one of the characters goes and gets her foot caught in a bear trap outside the villa [Yes, this palatial estate is littered with bear traps, because, why the hell not?], another woman tends to her wound. After taking off the gimpy-woman's boot, the care-giving woman looks at gimpy's ankle and states, "No wonder it's killing you, it's very badly bruised." We all know, of course, that care-giving woman's more appropriate response to gimpy's ordeal should have been, "No wonder it's killing you, you got your foot caught in a motherfucking bear trap." [Side note: I was lazy about remembering the names of all the interchangeable characters in this film. Yes, I can look it all up on imdb, but then again, eh.]

In perhaps the best exchange of the movie, photographer-man snaps pictures of his girlfriend, model-lady. Quite impressed with his girlfriend's standing-before-a-camera ability, photographer-man initiates this exchange,

"You're turning into a great little model."

"Then I deserve a raise in pay."

"You're getting a great little raise from me but it has nothing to do with money."

Then they laugh. I don't know if you caught the witty double entendre there, so allow me to elaborate. He was talking about his penis.

The stupidity does not end with the dialogue, of course. Even before meeting their ends at the hands of zombies, the humans frequently exhibit qualities of the disembrained. When the vacationers become aware of the zombies and decide to flee, they run to the parking lot where they encounter three ennui stricken zombies lackadaisically loitering by their vehicles. Shooing away the zombies, a task that even a depressed half sober mall cop could achieve on his worst day, is beyond the mental capacity of these folks. They instead run back to the villa and lock themselves inside. Given the fact that the zombies in this film are able to organize and use tools, it is difficult to figure out which group, the zombies or the vacationers, would most likely be able to earn their GEDs.

Filled with more cheesy effects than you can shake a stick at, Bianchi's movie is a fun little trash picture. Indeed, it is choc-full o' innumerably diverse but equally inept qualities that, although detestful in many pictures, are a positive boon in this sort of flick.

[The trailer:]

Dave's Rating:

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Friendly Reminder

that a certain piece of perfection with this title
was already released to theaters 35 years ago. To anyone who thinks that the remake could be good, let me ask you one question. Where in the remake is Robert Motherfucking Shaw? Nowhere. That's where.

[The trailer:]

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Sinful Dwarf (1973)

dir. Vidal Raski

"We gotta find some new girls. Betty's using too much heroin. Not much profit in Betty anymore."
-Lila Lash

As is evident by now, I am notoriously easy to please when it comes to movies. I'll give good ratings to almost anything. My relationship with movies is the equivalent of the used and abused, emotionally fragile, low self-esteem having gal who becomes involved in loveless, hate-filled, emotionally abusive relationships but stays in them because the man will occasionally make her laugh or make the most half-heartedly lazy romantic gesture affirming his love for her. I can forgive any kind of movie so long as it makes me giggle or gives me even fleeting moments of enjoyment.

Friends have frequently questioned my tendency to give good ratings to movies that I eviscerated in the review, and then, in the closing paragraph, mentioned a few aspects that I found enjoyable. These folks have asked what it would take for me to dole out a bad rating. A whole fucking lot. The movie would have to be so devoid of entertainment, so repulsive, so bankrupt on an intellectual, moral, social, and filmic level that it left me questioning the purpose and viability of movies as a whole. The movie would have to turn me against movies. With the Danish produced The Sinful Dwarf, I have met my match. I have discovered an abyss that I have not been able to enter.

Danish children TV star Torben Bille stars as the titular dwarf, Olaf. Using mechanical toys to lure young women to his mother's English flat, he then knocks them unconscious, gets them addicted to heroin and keeps them locked in an attic where he and his mother use their captives as unwilling prostitutes, so that they can pull in some extra money. Not much more needs to be said about the plot.

[This is the least creepy screenshot I could cull from this movie]

Nauseating on a multitude of levels, much of The Sinful Dwarf's just plain wrongness, is due to Torben's creepily effective performance. He brings such a believable, demented sense of glee to his evil actions that one wonders whether the fact that he also starred in a children's show speaks to his range as an actor, or to the sick, twisted, demented nature of the Danish psyche. Seeing as I know next to nothing about Denmark, I'll have to go with the latter.

The decision to use apparently non-simulated sex scenes (much as in the following year's Swedish rape revenge picture, Thriller) also ratchets up the creepiness. [Side note: Chrisity fuck christ, what the fuck is wrong with Scandinavia? Sure, they've got us beat when it comes to systems of government, health care, education and just about everything else, but fucking christ.] Compounding it all is the heroic action movie music playing on the soundtrack whenever a john rapes one of the drugged girls. Of course, I also find A Clockwork Orange morally questionable for similar reasons, but at least that movie is semi-redeemed by expert filmmaking. [Despite what some people may say, as far as I'm concerned, A Clockwork Orange is nothing more than an expertly filmed exploitation movie.] Although the dwarf and his mother eventually get their comeuppances, it seems too often that the filmmakers took glee in the degradation of the female victims in the movie.

As with many of the films I review here, I decided to watch The Sinful Dwarf based on the title alone. I knew next to nothing about this flick before going in. What I assumed would be a delightfully low budget, shoddily made, politically incorrect picture about a mischievous dwarf and his crazy shenanigans ended up being a movie that shook me to my core. Naively, I assumed that watching Amelie right after, would wash away the putrid taste of the dwarf movie. Such was not the case. Few movies have made me feel as icky as this one did. The only other ones that come to mind are: Bloodsucking Freaks; Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS; and The Baby. Speaking of which, while watching The Sinful Dwarf I was reminded of something Lloyd Kaufman said in regards to Bloodsucking Freaks (I'm paraphrasing here), "I've reserved my place in hell just by watching this movie."

[The trailer:]

Dave's Rating:

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Computer Beach Party (1988)

dir. Gary Troy

When my writing partner was still living in New York some years ago he often complained that the city rarely had the sort of special screenings of exploitation/drive-in movies that frequently occurred back in Austin. Sure, we have the retrospectives of films by such directors as Sidney Lumet, Woody Allen, Michelangelo Antonioni, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder, but what about the cinematic dog-poo? Who's showing that? As is evident in my blog, I am also quite the fan of such short bus riding movies. Suffice it to say, I try to seek out and attend venues for these lesser loved flicks whenever possible. Of course, what with the combination of the economy sitting in a warm bath and opening its veins and my wallet being in the middle of a crash diet of bennies and vomiting, I haven't gone to cool movie events of any kind for quite some time. It takes something really special to get me to shell out some of my hard earned cash. But where could I go to find an especially awesome shit movie? Last night the answer was 92Y Tribeca.

92Y Tribeca is a cool little venue which, much in the vein of BAM and other such places, has movie screenings, live music, live comedy, and other such events. [I sure like saying other such today.] Last night, incidentally, was the first time I had been to this place. When my roommate and I arrived, I was initially confused, as the area just outside of the screening room had a definite art gallery vibe, what with them elitist East-Coast intellectual types sipping wine and beer while surrounded by a sterile white environment full of art pieces. When I ordered a PBR, the plastic cup it was served in, seemed far classier a container than this Blue Ribbon winning beer has ever deserved. It didn't seem an appropriate environment for a shitty movie night. The place certainly has a much different vibe than my beloved UCB Theater, or even my hometown's independent movie theater the Railroad Square Cinema.

Another stark difference between such a New York venue as 92Y Tribeca and the ol' Railroad Square is the number of people who attend screenings. Back when I was in Maine one of my greatest joys was going to see whatever the hell was showing at the Railroad Square (I worried less about money back then), knowing full well that I would probably be the only person in the theater (because I'm cool like that). Although it is definitely a cool experience to have an entire theater to yourself, it certainly doesn't match the the joyous feeling of having an entire theater full of like-minded types soaking in the joys of cinematic dreck. [I am digressing like a motherfucker today.]

Such was the experience I had last night at 92Y Tribeca's Bad Movie Night. [How's that for a segue, motherfuckers.] Thanks to the folks at the Found Footage Festival, I was granted the ability to see the, probably released straight to video, shitty 80s non-classic Computer Beach Party. For those who are unfamiliar, the folks at the Found Footage Festival gather numerous videos they find at garage sales, flea markets and the like and screen them for audiences. The stuff they screen is usually of the old workout tape, instructional video, and just plain bizarre variety. Computer Beach Party marked the first event in which they screened an actual "movie". Although I have been aware of their work for some time, I hadn't previously been to one of the Found Footage Festival screenings. Dear God, what an event it was. A Found Footage Festival screening is basically a live version of "MST3K", as the two hosts comment on the movie as it unfolds. They even, at some points rewind certain awesomatastical scenes so that the audience can watch them again. Although my critique of this picture will not match the humor that they brought to it, I feel that I should write about it anyways, so as to educate the masses on the glories of Computer Beach Party.

Where to begin, oh where to begin? Computer Beach Party functions more or less as an extended ad for 80s glam metal band Panther. The film's badly dubbed dialogue is frequently drowned out by the totally rad sounds of this quintessentially inessential hair band. Treating the viewers to such tunes as "Hotpocket Beach party", "Drag-A-Racing", and "The Mirror on Marie's Ceiling", who would even care that a movie exists beneath the white noise of the Panther soundtrack.

Of course, the filmmakers did have to tack on some sort of story to fill out this band's promotional video. And tack on a story, they did. Although my description of Computer Beach Party will seem lazy and fractured, you will have to believe me when I say that I put more thought into it than the screenwriters did while doing tequila shots, listening to Jimmy Buffet and puking their words onto the page.

Our heroes, Andy (Hank Amico) and Dennis (Andre Chimene), are two beach bums who fight the mayor and his plans to buy their beloved beach, bring in lifeguards and open the area to the general public. Wow, that mayor is one world class douche-nozzle. The mayor's henchman is Turk, a man who, aside from looking like the villain in The Karate Kid, exhibits no other evil characteristics than that he is Andy and Dennis' sail-buggy and car racing rival. How do our intrepid heroes beat the non-villain in their stakes-less races? Through lots o' cheating using Andy's superpowerful computer technology.

[Beach car race:]

Thrown into the mix is a deeply affecting, poignant love story. Using his anti-charisma, the emotionless Andy woos the Mayor's daughter, Allison (Stacey Nemour). To seal the deal, Andy uses his computer yet again to create beautiful computer animation of hearts to trick Allison into falling for him. Computers, is there anything they can't do? More than anything, this film is an ode to the computer's ability to help people cheat at whatever tasks life throws their way.

[Andy courts Allison:]

Once he has won her over, Andy must convince Allison to use her connection to her daddy mayor to get him to reverse his beach buying plan. Because he has fallen for her, Andy can't let it seem that he is using Allison simply for his own personal gain. The jaded Allison, meanwhile, must let down her guard and accept that Andy actually loves her and is not simply using her because of her all powerful Galveston, TX mayor connections as so many before him have. This love story adds important complex subtext to the already multi-layered film. Either that or it functions an excuse for inclusion of an ineptly staged, awkwardly filmed sex scene between the two low-rent leads.

Unrelated to anything in the movie, a comic relief cop frequently finds boning beach-goers and attempts to arrest them, only to be thrown off track by his arch-rival, a speeding chicken shaped vehicle. Yep, that happens. A backstory of sunken pirate treasure also exists here, as well as a visit to NASA to unearth information about said treasure. And, of course, lots and lots of beach party Panther performances.

Because, when it comes to this movie, seeing is believing I have included below another set of randomatastically awesome clips from this masterpiece.

I realize of course that many of you, though you would like to see this film, will not have access to it. Fear not, for IMDB has come to your rescue. Luckily, they have a group of suggestions for similar movies if you are unable to get your Computer Beach Party on: Little Miss Sunshine, The Woodsman, Mission: Impossible II, The Net, and Nim's Island. Wow, I couldn't think of a group of movies more similar to both Computer Beach Party and each other. Of course, these random-ass related movie suggestions make about as much sense as anything else in the beach party masterpiece. I couldn't think of any more appropriate counterparts to Computer Beach Party.

Dave's Rating:

Thursday, June 4, 2009

R.I.P. David Carradine

Like most movie lovers, I was deeply saddened by the news of David Carradine's death. I don't know what to say that hasn't already been said about his extraordinary career, but I sure will miss him. Sure he had his share of paycheck movies, but he was always a joy to watch. Here are some trailers to a few of my favorite Carradine roles.

[Bound for Glory trailer:]

[Death Race 2000 trailer:]

[The Long Riders trailer:]

Monday, June 1, 2009

Skeet Skeet Skeet

At the risk of offending a certain commenter on my previous post, I will make a second consecutive non-movie related post. I apologize for this inexcusable indiscretion but I was in Maine over the weekend to attend my brother's awesome wedding [They got that shit done in under a minute.], so I didn't have time to get my movie watchin'/reviewin' on. Seeing as I don't want to upset certain godless, commie, pinko, dog-hating, un-'merican readers, I will refrain from posting another unspeakably cute dog picture.

For people who aren't aware, google has a program called google analytics, which can be used to find out, among other things: how many people have visited my site, what sites have led people to my blog through links, and what google keyword searches have directed people to my blog. Looking through this list of keyword searches, has long been one of my favorite aspects of running the ol' blog. Although most keywords make sense (e.g., lots o' movie theme song searches), many more of them come from left field. Here are a few choice keyword searches that have led people to my blog.

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www.jungle book bollyood cartoon movie com

[Side note: The real reason I wrote this post is because I want my site to come up first when people do google searches of skeet skeet skeet. Let's make it happen people.]