Movie A Day!: Imitation of Jacks

Another mixed bag of a week. Sort of. I decided to watch some un-watched Criterion Collection discs this month, which lead me to watching all my David Lynch titles that are not in boxes in prep for re-watching Twin Peeks before the new series. Despite only two of those Lynch titles where from Criterion. Mix that up with some oldies and a cheeky Vinegar Syndrome title and it’s not a bad week at all.


136 05/07 The Incredibly Strange Film Show: Russ Meyer (1988) 3/5   A very well done biography on Meyer hosted by Jonathan Ross that manages to hit all points of his career included his start as a combat photographer in WWII. It also shows a clip of a possibly 8 hour documentary that Meyer was working on his own life that would of been amazing but was apparently never finished. A real shame. I would love to see a proper feature length doc on this man.


137 05/07 Imitation of Life (1959) 4/5   Lana Turner stars in this soapy melodrama from Douglas Sirk about a struggling, mature actress in New York who befriends a black housekeeper, Alice (played by Juanita Moore, and she is fantastic) and together they find success. Well, sort of, they stay in their roles based on race and that’s really what this movie is about. Alice has a real struggle with her rebellious, white passing daughter that is far more interesting than the trials that Turner has that leave her in a near constant state of helpless hysteria. You can clearly see a through-line from these style of Sirk pictures to John Waters since his characters are always in the same state hysteria. Anyway, this was pretty great since you don’t think of these sort of topics in 50’s films. Also, Sirk really is great at this stuff. He has a workmanlike sense of direction, but it’s pretty perfect.


138 05/07 Blue Velvet (1986) 4/5   After Dune floundered, David Lynch somehow got the chance to make a film closer to his sensibilities first explored in Eraserhead. It was interesting watching this one on the back of Imitation of Life since they have a pretty similar world of 1950’s like innocence, only Lynch’s small midwest town is a perverted nightmare. Jeffrey, played by Kyle MacLachlan, finds and ear in a field and becomes obsessed with solving it’s mysteries that leads him to a world of pain. Dennis Hopper is absolutely brilliant as the force of nature Frank, Isabella Rossellini is fantastic as the damage nightclub singer Dorothy and Laura Dern manages to hold her own as the symbol of everything good, the girl next door. It’s aged very well, and still holds all it’s power to remain one of Lynch’s best films.


139 05/09 Wild At Heart (1990) 4/5   David Lynch does the Wizard of Oz as a bonkers Elvis inspired road movie with Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern starring as Sailor and Lula who spend most of the film either ruminating or fucking. It has no business being as good as it is. Lynch went genuinely weird with this one and it completely works. Willem Dafoe is unforgettable in his small role and it’s fun to see legends Harry Dean Stanton and Diane Ladd go a bit bonkers. Crispen Glover, man, priceless. I’m too much of a Lynch fanboy to call this one my favourite, but it just might be.


140 05/11 Champion (1949) 4/5   Kirk Douglas takes the lead in this boxing noir about a guy and his handicap brother who is on the skids so Kirk gets into the fight game for the money. It starts off pretty standard, but soon Douglas’s mercilous ambition creeps through and the emotional bloodletting eclipses what’s in the ring. I don’t think I have seen Douglas more unlikable in a movie. This one was a real treat, and recommended.


141 05/11 Mulholland Dr. (2001) 3.5/5   David Lynch’s Neo-Noir about an actress caught up in a mystery is considered a classic, but I just can’t get into it. It’s gorgeous, everyone is on point, it’s delightfully “Lynch-ian” and I can’t knock a thing about it. I have just never warmed to it. Maybe I’ll “get it” the next time I watch it.


142 05/12 Funny Face (1957) 4/5   I really enjoyed this one. Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire star in this musical about a frumpy beatnik girl that gets whipped up into the world of high fashion. Hepburn is far too adorable to be frumpy, but she’s surprisingly good in this musical and manages to steal the film with her avant-garde beatnik ballet sequence in a cafe that’s supposed to be played for laughs. Astaire more than holds his own and it’s all looking spectacular under the direction of the legendary Stanley Donen, who also directed one of my all time favourite films, Singing in the Rain. It’s crazy that it’s taken me this long to watch this one.


143 05/12 Her Wicked Ways (1983) 3/5 Jesie St. James stars as a gold digging heiress who has just inherited a billion dollars and Joanna Storm is the daughter trying to get the money back in this adult romp directed by The Lewis Brothers. It’s not the greatest adult film you’ll ever see but it’s just so well done compared to the regular fare in the period that it it ends up being pretty fun. Storm is a real scene-stealer and definitely helps to keep the film moving. The Peekarama DVD from Vinegar Syndrome is a real winner.


144 05/13 One-Eyed Jacks (1961) 4/5   The only film that Marlon Brando directed is this western. I think it’s just me but I think it’s weird that his only directed film is a western. Seems weird, right? Anyway, this is a typical vengeance tale with Brando’s Rio seeking out old partner Karl Malden’s “Dad” Longworth who ditched him during a bank robbery. It’s a gorgeous film and done with the naturalistic acting style Brando was known for and just completely works. There’s a feeling of distance and brooding that is tricky for films to nail, and the support cast featuring Ben Johnson, Slim Pickens and Katy Jurado are all perfect as well. Recommended.

One-Eyed Jacks also ended up being the last film shot in VistaVision so I managed to watch two VistaVision films over the weekend. You just never know what’s going to happen when you blindly watch stuff.  Isn’t the world marvellous?

Hold your loved ones tight.

Movie A Day!: Guilty Exposure!

Hey ho film fans! Did we all get in a bunch of movies this week? I had a real wham-bam of genres and even got in a new-ish one that some readers might of heard of! Boy oh boy, isn’t it great? Let’s get right to it.


103 04/17 Guilty Hands (1931) 3.5/5   Kicking off the 10th and final volume of the Forbidden Hollywood series with this pre-code gem starring Lionel Barrymore (Mr. Potter in It’s A Wonderful Life) as a district attorney who threatens to murder a colleague interested in marrying his daughter. Barrymore is great in the lead and the quick pace/short run time allows this one to be a lot of fun.


104 04/17 Herschell Gordon Lewis: The Godfather of Gore (2010) 4/5   The definitive documentary on the career of Lewis is pretty much all you can ask for. Great appearances by the likes of John Waters and Joe Bob Briggs, with HGL himself taking center stage to discuss his films and career. Tons of great clips and stories, it’s mandatory viewing for any film fan.

This one wraps up the massive Shock & Gore: The Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis set. I would give it a 5/5, a PERFECT FUCKING RATING! I know, many of the films are terrible but taken as a whole and presented this way? The set is a monster! HGL might have been a terrible director, but with writing, scoring, directing, producing, editing, special effect-ing and doing the ad campaigns for all these goofy movies, he is one of the true auteurs of film. I never would have dreamed a set like this would exist, and it’s only about half of his films. He has a whole other side or dreadful nudie cuties and children films. I hope we get a second set with those. A true original, The Blood Trilogy is an absolute must see and are flat out degenerate film classic. The man created the roughies and the gore films. We all owe him a huge debt.


105 04/19 The Mouthpiece (1932) 3.5/5   Pre-code sleaze Warren William plays a hot DA who prosecuted an innocent man to the electric chair, has a change of heart, grows his greasy moustache back and becomes a scumbag defence lawyer who’s only in it for the money. The courtroom scenes are bonkers and the rest is really good with Williams once again perfect as the morally defective lead. I’ve only recall ever seeing him play suave assholes, and here he is the perfect suave asshole. While not as scandalous as some pre-code films, this one was still a lot of fun.


106 04/19 Psycho Cop Returns (1993) 3/5   It’s the Vinegar Syndrome time of month! This one is a horror comedy about… A PSYCHO COP! It’s a sequel to a film I have never seen, but it doesn’t matter since it’s a stand alone film. Started off pretty painful with some hammy performances but once things get going it’s pretty near non-stop crazy gore effects and tits (cult legend Julie Strain!), so you can’t really complain. No risk of this one becoming anyone’s favourite film (guessing I’ll be proven wrong), but there are worse horror comedies to watch.


107 04/20 Secrets of the French Police (1932) 3/5   A burglar gets recruited by the police to help track his missing girlfriend who has been kidnapped by Russians in a ploy to get the riches of the missing Princess Anastasia. Throw in more than a touch of mad scientist and I don’t think you’ll get a more convoluted hour of film anywhere else. It’s not so much good as it’s so jam packed with different things going on that you can’t help but be enraptured by it.


108 04/21 Nighthawks (1981) 4/5   I hadn’t seen this one since the VHS days. I remembered it as one of my favourite Stallone films and it’s nice to see it holds up. Stallone and Billy Dee Williams are a pair of street cops that get recruited to a newly formed NYC terrorist squad to track terrorist Rutger Hauer. It’s a pretty typical action movie that pre-dates the jokey “Buddy Cop” formula that would take over the 80’s so it plays it pretty straight. It mostly just really works with Hauer putting in a great villain turn and the seedy NYC locations fitting the action. Worth checking out. (And for dirty film fans, porn legend Jamie Gillis has a bit part as a fashion designer!)

109 04/21 Hot Flashes (1984) 2/5   Pointless adult fair about a sexy news network doing sexy news stories. One of those quickies where you can periodically hear the director giving suggestions should tell you all you need to know. One of Vinegar Syndrome’s weaker efforts.


110 04/22 Double Exposure (1983) 2.5/5   More thriller than horror about a pin-up photographer who has nightmares of his models being killed, or are they memories? It mostly works, it’s interesting in that it’s a middle aged cast when most of these tend to skew younger. It has a TV vibe (despite being graphic) which hurts it more than helping it and it sadly just never seems to fully kick off properly.

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111 04/22 Sicario (2015) 4/5   Crime film dealing with American agents going after the Mexican drug cartels and is fantastic. A great backdrop of the blurry politics involved helps the dramatic aspects be as interesting as the intense action bits. Emily Blunt is perfect as the agent swept up into the investigation, and Benicio Del Toro once again steals the movie. Highly recommended.

See? Not a bad week with something for everyone! Or nothing for no one. Who knows who even reads this thing? I should check the metrics.

That’s it.

Movie A Day! 141-151: Sprout Wings Super Soul Brother!

So much for getting the blog under control. This one looks longer than it is, but it’s still pretty long. I watched some double feature stuff that hit around the five film marks and didn’t want to split them into two blogs. So you get a little extra and I’ll try to get this thing back to the fives next time.


141 04-27 Supersoul Brother (1978) 2.5/5
“Wild Man” Steve takes a page from Rudy Ray Moore’s DOLEMITE playbook and tries to make a his own blaxploitaton action comedy. He fails in almost every regard. Steve plays a wino who gets picked up by a couple of thieves to be injected with a super serum so he can be used to rob a jewel safe. It’s dirt cheap, the acting is atrocious, but it does have it’s charms as both a spoof on THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN (the original title, and the one on the print on Vinegar Syndrome’s DVD is THE SIX THOUSAND DOLLAR NIGGER) and for the gusto of Wildman himself who tries his darn-dist to spin straw into gold and fails pretty much completely. A hell of a time capsule, and as the first in Vinegar Syndromes collaboration with the American Genre Film Archive, it’s going to be fun to see what they bring out next.


142 4-28 A Life In Dirty Movies (2013) 3.5/5
A pretty good documentary on Joe Sarno, one of the first and best of the sexploitation filmmakers at the dawn of the genre. This one mostly deals with Sarno at the end of his life trying to get one last film financed. I would of preferred more of an overview since I can only imagine some of the stories he has, but what we do have in here is still interesting. Having people like John Waters, Jamie Gillis and Annie Sprinkle on hand to discuss Sarno and his work also helps to keep the film moving. Now we need someone to tackle restoring Sarno’s surviving films.


143 4-30 Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers (1980) 3/5
Les Blank skips the profiles of people and goes straight to food and music with this one. It’s a history of garlic, showing many of the ways it is prepared as well as the folklore. Some of the fanatics come off a bit hippie dippy and crackers, but it is a fun watch. Since it’s literally about the food, this one is missing the heart found in his other pictures.


144 05-01 When Taekwondo Strikes (1973) 3/5
A pretty good chop socky feature starring Angela Mao about Koreans revolting against Japanese rule. Lots of different styles of martial arts are in view, and it also features Jhoon Rhee, known as the father of American Taekwondo. So there’s lots of fun to be had in this one.


145 05-02 Little Miss Innocence (1973) 2.5/5
146 05-02 Teenage Seductress (1975) 2.5/5
This is a pair of softcore features from Chris Warfield that Vinegar Syndrome put out in their DRIVE-IN COLLECTION. The first features a pair of hippie girls who shack up and torture an older music executive when he picks them up hitchhiking in LA. It’s the most porn-y of the two since they emotionally abuse him with constant sex, and it’s as sleazy as it sounds. TEENAGE though downplays the sex to be more messed up dramatically as it features a woman who is out to find her father that skipped out when she was born, in order to sleep with him and try to ruin his life that way. Did I mention it was messed up? Anyway, the pair are actually pretty decent watches since they play more serious than the usual goofy that is sexploitation, and are looking great in these DVD restorations.


147 05-02 Escape From New York (1981) 3.5/5
John Carpenter’s cult classic features a breakout role for Kurt Russell who stars as Snake Plissken who in the future dystopia of 1997 has to retrieve the President of the United States who has crashed into the prison island of Manhattan. It makes zero sense, but Carpenter and Russell totally pull it off. I don’t love this one as much as others, but I have no knocks against it, it delivers and the cast featuring genre legends like Lee Van Cleef and Isaac Hayes doesn’t hurt either.


148 05-02 Champagne For Breakfast (1980) 3.5/5
Chris Warfield again, this time with a later porno chic effort that manages to work. The script, about a guy who plays gay in order to get a job as a chauffeur/bodyguard to a young woman who has recently become vice president of an ad agency, genuinely works on it’s own both dramatically and as a comedy. The actors, featuring stars like Leslie Bovee, John Leslie and Kay Parker all have the chops to pull it off, they could of cut the sex out and still had a decent late seventies comedy. A short comedy though since ther is a ton of sex in this one, which makes the story working aspect of it all the more unusual. Typical of everything they put out, the Vinegar Syndromes presentation is top notch.


149 05-03 Sprout Wings And Fly (1983) 4/5
150 05-03 Julie: Old Time Tales of the Blue Ridge (1991) 4/5
151 05-03 My Old Fiddle: A Visit with Tommy Jarrell in the Blue Ridge (1995) 4/5
Another trio of documentaries from Les Blank. SPROUT features fiddle player Tommy Jarrell, in his eighties when it was shot, telling stories of life in the Blue Ridge mountains (nearly all of them about whisky and death), and playing a ton of amazing fiddle songs. It’s a brilliant piece of work, and Jarrell is one hell of a storyteller. This Les Blank blu-ray set just never fails to please. JULIE was shot at the same time, and is a short film featuring Tommy’s older sister telling stories and singing a couple of songs, while MY OLD FIDDLE is more of Tommy playing and talking. As a whole, they are not only a entertaining films, but a record of a lost time.

See? It wasn’t so long and at least the movies were varied eh?

Movie A Day! 126-130 : Little Blank Safe

I ended up going to Record Store Day (Listen Records in Edmonton are wonderful hosts for such an event) and I got the four records I was hoping for, but I think this might be my last one. I can’t handle standing in line for over an hour anymore. It’s a young man’s game I guess, and at some point you should be beyond it right? How old do I need to get before I feel like a responsible adult?


126 04-17 God Respect’s Us When We Work, But Loves Us When We Dance (1968) 3/5
127 04-17 Spend It All (1972) 4/5
128 04-17A Well Spent Life (1972) 3.5/5 Another trio of documentaries from Les Blank, and all pretty amazing in their own way. GOD is a look at the first “Love-In” in San Francisco on Easter Sunday, 1967. If you have ever seen a documentary on the Summer Of Love, you have seen clips from this one. It is what it is, but mostly it’s hilarious as a time capsule. My only knock on this one is no live audio was recorded, it would have been neat to hear the music the bands that are shown were playing that was causing the crowd to freak out. SPEND captures the Cajun lifestyle in a small town in Louisiana with no comment, just shots of people doing what they do, fishing, eating, dancing, telling stories. It’s an amazing look at a lifestyle that was, I’m guessing, on the cusp of vanishing. You feel like you know more about life after watching it, which is some pretty brilliant film making. WELL SPENT LIFE catches up with Mance Lipscomb, a legendary folk blues guitarist who is seen briefly in the Lightnin’ Hopkins documentary. It’s mostly Mance, now more of a sharecrop farmer than a blues legend, talking about what he’s learned about life and how to live it. Some great stories, amazing songs, and leaves you thinking maybe the simple life is the better one. This Les Blank set is a hell of a document on America so far, in that it deals with people and their lives without comment,outside of politics and all the other stuff that tends to be part of documentaries these days. There’s no point being made, you are more of a witness, left to make up your own mind. I’m loving this Criterion Collection set, and still have two blu-rays to go.


129 04-18 SAFE (1995) 3.5/5
Julianne Moore is fantastic in this one as a woman dealing with “environmental illness” that is debilitating her. Director Todd Haynes plays the cards close to his chest, you’re never sure if it illness is real or a psychological block to her current, empty life. It loses a bit of steam in the second half, but not enough to kill the movie and Moore’s performance should keep you interested. The recent Criterion Collection blu-ray is a pretty much perfect presentation that features a cool chat between Moore and Haynes.


130 04-18 Little Sisters (1972) 3/5
Alex deRenzy’s second shot at a narrative film plays like a hardcore John Waters picture.  A protective mum living in the woods with her two daughters has to go on a search after the two are kidnapped by a pirate gang “The Dykes”. It plays more like an underground film than a porno, though it is explicit with nearly constant group rapes scenes that are done so over the top and gleefully shot that it really plays like the early John Waters (who shot hardcore in PINK FLAMINGOS) films like DESPERATE LIVING where it’s hard to be offended despite what you’re witnessing. For a second feature, deRenzy is already showing the chops that would seal his position as a leading porn auteur, and this one really shows the blurry lines of the era were it seemed like hardcore was going to break into the mainstream. The stolen soundtrack featuring Pink Floyd and Santana is fun too. Vinegar Syndrome presents this one uncut for the first time since it’s release, and though POWDER BURNS is a bit of a bust, this PEEKARAMA set presents a key piece of history in it’s own way.

Time to finish up laundry and maybe head outside for some yard clean-up after the never ending winter we get. I guess that’s being an adult. It sucks. I got music to listen too, books to read, movies to watch, games to play.