Formerly "Dave's Blog About Movies and Such"

Monday, November 30, 2009

Mantis in Lace (aka Lila) (1968)

dir. William Rotsler


"Not my law, baby. My law says groove, baby. So stay up and don't come down."
-Lila

Halfway through the sexploitation pic Mantis in Lace, director William indulges in a delicious non-sequitur. An aspiring stripper (henceforth referred to as boobies) approaches a titty bar owner and asks for a job (both characters were previously unseen in the film, incidentally). The owner then informs boobies that she will have to audition at his apartment. Boobies only too eagerly obliges him, treating him, and us the viewers, to ten minutes of sweet, sweet sexing. Although it may appear at first that a reason exists for the introduction of this plot strand (maybe boobies is a partner in crime with Lila, the serial killer main character), it is soon apparent that Rotsler was only looking for an excuse to squeeze more t & a into a film already bursting at the so-tenuously-held-together-seams with lady nudity. Indeed, after this scene, neither of these characters are to be seen again in the film.

Such shenanigans are par for the course in Mantis in Lace's sleazy sub-genre.When trash directors realized in the sixties that they could portray sex and nudity on screen without fear of imprisonment, their priorities became set in stone.

"Hey, should we write a script?"

"We got titties."

"What are these titties gonna do?"

"Jiggle?"

"Jiggling titties. Who'd a thunk it? You're a fuckin' genius."

Sex is the not sole interest of Mantis in Lace, however. With all the nuance and subtlety of a Dragnet episode, Rotsler's film also examines the LSD laced hippie culture. LSD, in fact, provides the motive behind the aforementioned stripper Lila's serial killings. After being introduced to this groovy drug while sexing on a hippie, Lila has a bad trip and dismembers the hippie. Logically, Lila soon becomes addicted to taking LSD and murdering fuck partners.

Although Mantis in Lace dips its toes into drugs, mostly it is concerned with tits. For every minute of plot we are greeted with five minutes of stripping scenes, such as this one (Is it NSFW? You bet your ass it is.). Not that I'm complaining.

As with so many of his exploitation peers, William Rotsler also laced his sex flick with a pinch of social commentary. Hot on the trail of the killer, two detectives discover Lila's trippin'/sexin'/murderin' warehouse and hide there until Lila returns with another of her potential victims. Never suspecting that a woman could be responsible for such horrific acts, the fuzz opens fire on the man whom Lila has lured over. Johnny Law is so convinced of Lila's innocence, in fact, that when she attacks the cops with a butcher knife, they don't see anything suspicious in such an act. They simply subdue her and bring her home. "Probably just a case of the mensies. Time to take this loopy broad home." This is the glass ceiling at work. Female serial killers have to kill twice as many people just to get the same recognition as their male serial killing counterparts.

For all its sexploitation conventions, Mantis in Lace does contain its own unique charms. Although most likely the result of incompetence, Rotsler's almost surreal abandonment of logic and conventional plotting results one helluva hypnotic movie. Of course, those not inclined to watch jiggling titties for long stretches of time might disagree.

Dave's Rating:

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving

What better way to celebrate the holiday than with my favorite fake trailer from Grindhouse.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My Continued Pussification

I've come to learn in recent years that increased wussiness is an inevitable part of the aging process. Although this change has manifested itself in many ways, the most noticeable one has come in my movie watching. Films now affect me in ways I never thought imaginable (i.e., I'm more prone to cry like a little girl who's skinned her knee). Although I used to be stone-faced through even the most emotionally gut-wrenching scenes, I have now gone so far in the opposite direction that my eyes will tear up while watching seemingly event-less scenes from movies that I had already seen many times before and not reacted to. "No, I'm not crying. It's just...well, look I got something in my...look, he's stuck late at work. Don't you find that sad?" [Incidentally, I'm glad I was alone while re-watching the last few episodes of Season 4 of The Wire. I was such a pathetic mess that the crying Indian would have pimp-slapped me.]

Who knows why this is happening? Maybe I'm going through menopause. A female friend of mine recently told me that as men age, our bodies produce more estrogen—thus the increased movie crying. Seeing as I'm too lazy to research this, I'll take her word for it and claim it as being true.

All of this is not to say that I used to be a completely un-feeling robot. When I was younger, the occasional film still had the power to turn on the waterworks. The biggest culprit was It's a Wonderful Life, but it's Thanksgiving time right now and not Christmas time, so fuck that movie. I'll talk about it at some other more appropriate time. No, my teary-eyed Thanksgiving movie has always been Planes, Trains, & Automobiles. [I would recount the plot of this movie here, but I'm going to assume you've seen it. If you haven't seen it, of course, you're probably just some un-'Merican pinko and thus don't deserve to have me bring you up to speed on this movie.]

This movie has two scenes that still affect me. The first is the one in which John Candy stands up for himself after being berated to hilarious effect by Steve Martin. Candy gives such a heartfelt, convincing performance that it's hard not to get caught up in it.


The final scene is what really does it to me, however. On his way home, Martin remembers his adventures with Candy and realizes that the man has no family to go home to. He then goes back to the train station and invites Candy to his home for dinner. These sorts of musical montages are generally the worst, most pandering, sort of movie dreck imaginable, and this scene is no exception. I know this, and yet I can't help myself.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bloodmoon (1990)

dir. Alec Mills


"You've done it again."
-Virginia Sheffield

Patton Oswalt has stated that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is the most perfect movie title ever created. This title creates a mental image of the movie in one's head before even seeing it. It is also an apt and succinct description of the film. A good example of a bad movie name is Alec Mills' Bloodmoon, an Australian slasher pic whose somewhat vague title has nothing to do with the actual film.

One might go into Bloodmoon expecting an NYU film major's pretentious avant-garde treatise on the menstrual cycle. Absolutely no explanation is given as to why the fucking name of this fucking movie is motherfucking Bloodmoon. The only possible reason could be that the film's scorer Brian May (no, not that Brian May) composed the theme song first and then forced director Alec Mills to change the name of his movie from The Sexually Repressed Professor Strangles His Nude Students to the present one. [Hmm, theme song. Something tells me a certain blog might post this song on Wednesday.] Such a shame that Mills snatched/wasted this name, as Bloodmoon would have been the perfect title for the legitimately awesome lycanthropy-as-metaphor-for-menstruation horror of 2000's Ginger Snaps.

And wasted this title most certainly is. Bloodmoon is strictly, depressingly by-the-numbers. After a rote introductory murder scene, random story-lines are introduced and quickly forgotten (these being of the teen comedy variety). None of these tangents are interesting or crazy enough to sustain any interest, of course. They are merely introduced in an effort to use new teen movie cliches. As soon as these stories are pushed to the boring breaking point, the serial killer is brought back to the film to off some more teens.

Although I generally enjoy a shitty horror movie, I have my limits. It is a thin line that poop films walk between unintentional humor and "why am I watching this piece of shit atrocity." Intention plays a large role in this. I have infinitely much more respect for a movie that aims for the stars only to plunge face first into a pile of dog-shit than a movie that doesn't even aim for dog-shit. Director Alec Mills' contempt for the audience oozes from the screen like so much thick, hate-filled syrup. This film exists solely as a means to soullessly cash in on two teen-centric genres: the slasher film and the snobs vs. slobs comedy.

When making a routine horror pic, one has to distinguish it with either inventive visuals/camera work (The Evil Dead), a sly, knowing sense of humor (Alligator), laughably inept film-making (Slaughter High), mindfucking bizareness (The Manitou), a completely wackadoo premise (Bloody Birthday), or a completely wackadoo twist (Sleepaway Camp). Bloodmoon offers none of these things. Even the murders are rather bloodless. Mills' film does nothing except barely exist on/steal the life support that other more deserving screenplays could be using.

When a movie has as much contempt for its audience as this one, I tune out completely. If it weren't for all the boobies on display, Bloodmoon would have been completely without value.

[The trailer:]


Dave's Rating:

Monday, November 16, 2009

A*P*E (1976)

dir. Paul Leder


"If you should bump into him, ask him if his name is King Kong."
-Col. Davis

A*P*E escapes Disneyland-bound ship. A*P*E destroys Korean city. A*P*E flees to mountains. A*P*E kidnaps actress. A*P*E gets chased by military. A*P*E releases actress. A*P*E goes to new Korean city. A*P*E kidnaps same actress again. A*P*E gets chased by military again. A*P*E releases actress again. A*P*E gets killed by military.

Such is the plot of A*P*E, one of the many films made in the wake of news that Dino De Laurentiis would be producing a remake of King Kong in 1976. Although plenty of bad killer ape movies were made at this time (such as The Mighty Peking Man), the Korean produced A*P*E has been renowned as the king of the trash heap.

Indeed, A*P*E is frequently mind-bogglingly bad (Really? Flaming-arrow-shooting Kung Fu folks? Wow, just wow.) Witness A*P*E's opening, one of the most stiffly acted, poorly scripted, awkwardly staged opening scenes to grace the silver screen.

This scene plays like the kind of thing that I would have written at the age of ten. Without any build-up and scant explanation, a killer fucking A*P*E rips through a boat and destroys shit. It is as if the writers (Paul Leder and Reuben Leder [Side note: good God, it took two people to write this thing. Wow, just wow.]) started writing the expository scene right before their LSD kicked in. They then forgot where they were in the script and so decided to just toss in the horribly costumed A*P*E. [This isn't meant to imply, however, that greatness isn't possible when under the influence of LSD.]

Although most directors of movies with shitty looking creatures will tend to hide these beings in shadows, Leder proudly showcases his abomination unto production value. Not only is this costume second-rate, it appears that it had been around the block a few times before Leder got a hold of it. No attempt is made to connect the A*P*E gloves to the A*P*E arms of the costume—the actor's arms frequently showing through the gaps. The zipper line on the back of the A*P*E costume is frequently visible. The pit-stained shirt of the A*P*E actor is also visible through the armpit holes in the A*P*E costume. [Seriously, there are 3 Stooges shorts with more convincing A*P*E costumes.]

Cheapo effects do not begin and end with the A*P*E costume, of course. A*P*E abounds with scenes full of what I am coining "toy destruction porn." [Side note: I just googled toy destruction porn to make sure that I had indeed invented the phrase. [Second side note: Do not google toy destruction porn.]] The cheapest looking factory reject toys (trucks, helicopters, etc...) were gathered for destruction in this movie.

This justly famous scene is one such example of the beautiful toy breaking mayhem contained in A*P*E:

Not content with having the A*P*E destroy only toys, Leder also had second-rate-Godzilla-city-miniatures constructed so that the A*P*E could lackadaisically roam through and tear buildings down.

["Huh, a city. I guess I'll break it. Such is my cruel nature."]


Leder knew that to fully showcase the eat-your-heart-out-Rick-Baker effects he would have to shoot this shit in 3D. As can be guessed, Leder proudly and shamelessly reminds viewers throughout A*P*E that they are watching a 3D film (without explanation, objects are frequently hurled at the screen). The most fantastical of the 3D exploitation moments occurs in the military attack climax. Using different actors, Leder repeats this same image ad nauseam: soldier with gun drawn walks toward the camera, pauses to shoot at the camera, and then walks directly toward the camera, stopping at the last minute so as not to hit the camera. Why the editor of this film did not know enough to cut before these men stopped at the camera is truly baffling. As with most scenes in A*P*E, this proves an almost Avant Garde exercise in crap.

Tonally, A*P*E is all over the map. Are we supposed to sympathize with the beast? Should he be feared? Is he intended to be a comical creature? Why the fuck doesn't he make any noises? Why is the movie titled A*P*E? What is this an acronym for? And why isn't there an asterisk after E? Like one of them thar European thinkin' art pictures, A*P*E is an ambiguous film that asks many questions without providing easy answers. Most importantly, the titular A*P*E wrestles a motherfucking shark.

[Suck it, zombie-fights-shark scene from Lucio Fulci's Zombie.]


For those who fail to admire the awesomeness that is A*P*E, a certain someone has a message for you.

Dave's Rating:

Monday, November 9, 2009

Roadgames (1981)

dir. Richard Franklin


"You know, that's the trouble with you Australians, you take your games too seriously."
-Pat Quid

Although I prefer to write about flawed pictures (so as to ridicule them from atop my elitist pedestal), occasionally, I accidentally pick a legitimately good movie and then have to struggle with the task of writing a kind review. This is about as hard a thing for me to do as it is for Uwe Boll to not box one of his critics. As you all know, the sole purpose of my blog is to toss about witty one-liners at the expense of the hard work of those not fortunate enough to be able to make quality movies. Where am I without my snark? I'll tell you where—nowhere, that's where.

Throughout the course of my recent Australian exploitation phase, I've been blessed with the opportunity of viewing such bat-shit flicks as Turkey Shoot and Dead-End Drive In. Not to denigrate the thoroughly entertaining work of Brian Trenchard-Smith, but the appeal of these movies lies mainly in their camp value. This week I have met my match in Richard Franklin's genuinely decent Australian outback flavored Hitchcock homage Roadgames. Although I will try to keep this review on the respectful side, I can't guarantee my old habits will die.


Stacy Keach is Pat Quid, a poetry spouting American expatriate (and former soldier in the Persian Gulf and gun-runner in Africa) who is now working as a trucker in the outback. Just don't tell him that. As Quid says, "just because I drive a truck does not make me a truck driver." For him, this job is an opportunity to explore Australia and become acquainted with the backward locals. He is a world traveler, never happy to stay in one place. He is also an avid people watcher (i.e., peeping tom (hey that's the name of another movie)). Sitting atop the throne in his rig, he gets all Jimmy-Stewart-in-Rear-Window-voyeur, spying on the passengers in the cars he passes. Talking to his pet dingo Boswell, he constructs elaborate back-stories for all the people he spies on.

Although a fun time-passing activity at first, Quid's spy games (hey, that's the name of another movie) soon take a dark turn when they lead him to realize that a mysterious man in a green van may actually be a notorious serial killer stalking and killing girls in the outback. Seeing as this is Australia and he aint a local, Quid's wild-eyed theories are met with scorn from those he attempts to convince—not to mention outright ridicule from the authorities. In fact, Quid soon becomes person of interest numero uno after the real killer plays some games of his own. That's right, the green-van-man, aware that Quid is on his tail, soon plants evidence linking Quid to the crimes. Oh snap!

Quid is unable to find a sympathetic ear until he picks up American hitcher/heiress Pamela Rushworth (Jamie Lee Curtis). Young and looking for adventure, she happily and unquestioningly aids Quid in his quest to capture the Outback killer—that is, until their shenanigans accidentally gets her captured by the madman. Oops. Quid is now in a race against time to not only save Pamela, but also to expose the green-van-man, thus proving his own innocence.


Coming on the heels of the numerous Australian exploitation films I have seen recently, not to mention the documentary Not Quite Hollywood, Roadgames was something of a shock. Not only did this film not contain nudity, but it also lacked some of the more graphic depictions of violence present in so many of its genre's peers. One might call this suspense/thriller tasteful or even, gasp, artistic (despite what the disturbing poster might suggest).

This was no accident, of course. As with his previous feature Patrick, Richard Franklin made no attempt to hide his Hitchcock influence (with a little bit of Duel thrown in for good measure). Yes Franklin wanted to appeal to the drive-in crowd, but he also wanted to show he was capable of something more. Indeed, Roadgames is one of the best non-De Palma attempts at making a Hitchcock film.

Roadgames, of course, is not completely devoid of camp value. The ridiculously over-the-top staging of the climax is almost laughable (and yet somehow less outlandish than what Franklin had originally planned). The fact that this finale remains suspenseful and plausible (within the world Franklin has constructed, at least), is a testament to Franklin's film savvy. What is essentially an exercise in homage film-making, manages to be far better and more original than it needs to be.

[The trailer:]


Dave's Rating:

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Awesomeness

Two years ago my old computer, after living on life support for far too long, had finally had enough and given in to the sweet, sweet release of suicide. I was crushed because, in addition to the fact that I had to pay for a new computer I couldn't afford, I also lost everything that was in the old computer. Everything that I had written up to that point had vanished. As could be expected I went through all the stages of grief, until finally landing at acceptance. "This is a good thing", I told myself. "Gotta let go of the past. It'll only encourage me to write more." To be honest, I was kinda glad to start from scratch. Thinking back on some of the stuff I had written before, I realized that most of it was shit. I didn't really wanna be reminded of it.

The only thing that I had continued to be upset about losing, however, was the first season outline (which my friend Matt helped me conceive) and first two episodes I had written (with my writing partner Roger) of a TV series that I thunk up.

On an unrelated note, today, after a long period of laziness, I decided to clean my room (not that the room is terribly dirty, I've just got lots o' shelves and shit cluttered with clutter). Sure enough, while rifling through a bunch of old sketches I thought were gone for good, I also found hard copies of all the TV show stuff that I thought I had lost. Reading through it all, I've realized that it's far more flawed than I remember. The core, however, is pretty decent. A few rewrites and I think this is definitely worth salvaging. I'm definitely not gonna take as long between room cleanings in the future.

Dave's Rating:

Thursday, November 5, 2009

JFK Blown Away...Something, Something


Mad Men has been fucking amazing this year. On the most recent episode [SPOILER ALERT!] the president on the show, this guy named JFK, got assassinated. I totally didn't see it coming. He was one of my favorite characters. [Sure he didn't have a lot of screen time, but he made his presence known. He was like Boba Fett and shit.] Then, like a couple days later, the guy who shot him (Lee Harvey something) got shot on live television by this titty bar owner named Jack Ruby. I was like, what? Shit was crazy. It was cool and all, but I think the show might have jumped the shark. I don't know how Matthew Weiner (ha, ha, weiner) is gonna top that, except maybe if the guy who replaces JFK starts a war in a small Southeast Asian country.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Turkey Shoot (aka Escape 2000) (1982)

dir. Brian Trenchard-Smith


"Freedom is obedience. Obedience is work. Work is life."
-Charles Thatcher

Judging by many of the dystopic sci-fi/action features released in the eighties, folks had a deep-seated fear back in the day that everything was about to come crashing down, with all nonconformists soon to be placed in prison camps. As we all know, of course, this was lunacy. Good ol' Ronnie Reagan was around to make sure humanity was safe from unchecked Government power. As the intrepid reporting from rightwing media outlets has recently shown us, it wasn't until comrade Obama came to power that FEMA would set up concentration camps and all children would be indoctrinated by the newly formed freedom-hatin' immigrant-homo-abortionist army. It would be this new Commie/Nazi/Maoist Government that, paradoxically, although too incompetent to be trusted with offering an alternative to Health Insurance, or to handle the delivery of mail, would nevertheless be skillful enough to open up secret anti-right-wing prison colonies/extermination camps and develop a swine-flu vaccine/gay conversion serum.

In 1982 Brian Trenchard-Smith, visionary that he was, looked deep into his crystal ball and birthed Turkey Shoot, an eerily accurate prediction of things to come. Sure, this is an Australian picture, but Trenchard-Smith's vision of the future has been proven universal. As with only the best futuristic prison colony movies, no explanation is given as to how or why the Government has developed an immense series of island colonies aimed at containing and eradicating all free thinkers. This is just the way it is. You want reasoned/insightful examinations of the process by which a fragile anarchic society can teeter ever so precariously on the edge of despotism before finally succumbing to the rule of a madman? Go watch some pansy-ass thinkin' movie. Turkey Shoot has too much ownage for your weak ass.

As far as prison colony executives go, Turkey Shoot's Charles Thatcher (Michael Craig) is second to none. Although all the other camps in this Australia of the future have become plagued with overcrowding, Thatcher's colony has an efficient way of keeping the numbers low. His solution: release a select group of inmates into the forest and invite rich fucks to the island to hunt said inmates for sport. As we all know from the lessons bestowed on us by First Blood, of course, you don't hunt man.

Of the five prisoners being chased, we have:

Paul Anders (Steve Railsback): The main character. A longtime leader of the underground resistance and escaper of numerous prison camps. Lots of screen time. Survives. Leads the other inmates in rebelling and destroying the camp.

Chris Walters (Olivia Hussey): Was thrown into prison colony after it was mistakenly assumed that she harbored rebels. Love interest of Paul. Lots of screen time. Survives. Helps Paul in staging the rebellion.

Griff (Bill Young): Another rebel. Significantly less screen time. Gets shot full of arrows and then runned over by a truck.


Rita Daniels (Lynda Stoner): Was thrown into prison after it was mistakenly assumed that she was a prostitute. Love interest of neither Paul nor Griff. Significantly less screen time. Gets mutilated by crossbow wielding lesbian.

Dodge (John Ley): Thick-bespectacled comic relief prisoner. Significantly less screen time. Gets toe eaten, then gets killed by this ape-man freak:


Consider yourselves warned, motherfuckers.

[The trailer:]


Dave's Rating:

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The House of the Devil Trailer

dir. Ti West


I just found out about The House of the Devil and already it has landed in the top spot of my must see list. This looks like a nice throwback to the slow-paced Satan themed horror flicks of the seventies and early eighties. I love the look of this trailer. I have high hopes.

[The trailer:]