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! 086-090 : Don’t

A blurb on the news just now showed a 30 year old cat. 30 years old. It was a cat, not a puddle of cat fur, but a live cat. I thought my old cat Dickie did good getting to 18-19. 30? I can’t get my head around it. Wouldn’t that be like living to 200? Who wants to live that long? I’m going to have nightmares.


086 03-08 Broken Oath (1977) 3.5/5
It’s international women’s day, so what better film to watch than one starring Angela Mao kicking the shit out of a bunch of guys? This one starts off pretty grim, with a woman having her husband killed, then sent to prison for his murder after she takes the eye out of one of the murderers while he tries to rape her. She ends up giving birth to a baby daughter while in jail, and that daughter grows up to vengeance obsessed Mao who learns martial arts and befriends scorpions as pets to poison those who get in her way. It’s a gonzo kung-fu flick, but a good one. My only complaint is they seem to lessen Mao’s role as it gets later in the picture when they don’t need to, she’s awesome.


087 03-09 Strangers May Kiss (1931) 3/5
Another Pre-Code classic, this one stars Norma Shearer as a forward thinking woman of the jazz age looking for love. It’s a melodrama, and soapy as hell, but delicious all the same. Not much else to say since plot wise, it’s pretty typical; woman throws away everything for a swaggering playboy, suffers for it. Shearer does a great job in the lead, showing both strength and vulnerability as the woman who can’t seem to get a break. It’s worth checking out if you like these kind of things.


088 03-12 Hi, Nellie! (1934) 4/5
This one is the third film in the latest pre-code set from Warner Archive, but it’s not much of a pre-code film. That said, it’s a hell of a newsroom type detective story. Paul Muni plays the managing editor of a newspaper who get’s busted down to writing the Heartthrob column (writing under the pseudonym “Nellie”) after miss-calling a story in which it appeared that a bank founder ran off with $500,000. It’s part daffy comedy, part investigative detective story, and one hell of a whirlwind. Paul Muni was one of the greatest actors to grace the screen, and there is nothing old fashioned about his performance here. Muni is easily ground zero for the type of performance that would be carried on by Marlon Brando, James Dean, Robert De Niro, and others. Really great stuff, this one gets a solid recommend.

Creature from the Black Lagoon
089 03-13 The Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954) 4/5
Monster movies were out by the fifties, replaced by Sci-fi terror for the atomic age. Giant bugs, alien invaders, and the king of them all Godzilla would debut the year that Creature came out. The Creature was the last of the Universal Monsters, the last iconic character to get it’s own series of films. Archaeologists find a weird fossil of a claw sticking out of a rock, and go in search of the skeleton. This leads them to the black lagoon off the amazon, and they discover that the creature behind that claw is actually kicking around. For a rubber suit, the Creature is amazing! Tons of under water action, and the actor/stuntman playing the creature do a great job giving him character. Lots of great set pieces, goofy scientific explanations, and a pair of leads trying to outdo each other, one pulling an odd Chuck Heston vibe, the other a ruthless not quite Kirk Douglas. Well worth watching, just like all the other monster movies from Universal.

 
090 03-14 Don’t Go In The Woods… Alone (1981) 3/5
This one won’t be for everyone, or possibly anyone reading this blog. A super cheap slasher about a group of kids getting killed by a maniac in the woods. That’s the whole plot too, 4 youg people, wandering around in the woods, getting attacked. Other people, also wandering around in the woods, get attacked as well. There’s no character development, mystery, nothing, just people getting killed. The kill scenes are more ambitious than they could handle, so they throw fake blood all over the place to compensate. Hence this one became an official “Video Nasty” back in the 80’s, despite being pretty terrible. That said, if you’re a fan of the genre, this one is so completely shit that it manages to be oddly dreamlike and “good” to watch. It’s not good, it’s not so bad it’s good, it’s mostly just bad. Bad on all levels, from acting, to the effects, to pacing, to flare from the film being loaded into the camera wrong. So I don’t know why I “liked” it. The Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray is as good as this film is likely to ever look.

Some good movies in this batch. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve seen Creature at this point. It always entertains. Beautifully filmed. I finished Patton Oswalt’s new book, SILVER SCREEN FIEND a couple days ago. It’s a memoir detailing a 4-5 year period where he was hooked, bad, going to the movies. Racking up my kind of numbers. It’s a cautionary tale. I wanted to check off the films he lists in the back. I’m in deep, the movies will be the death of me.

Movie A Day! : 194-203 “Catching Up”

Right, time to get caught up with the movies! Despite the mood of the past couple weeks, I’ve kept up the movie watching. I’ll keep this introduction short since we have 10 titles to get through. Let’s do it!

194 08-07 Zatoichi’s Vengeance (1966) 3.5/5
Another Zatoichi film, another amazing time. This one finds Zatoichi once again trying to fulfill a dying mans wish and getting mixed up with Yakuza intrigue. This one was a little different in that on his travels he meets a blind monk that acts as his conscience and makes Zatoichi question his use of the sword. It helps add yet another nuance to the character, and draws out even more tension. It’s hard to believe, but Katsu continues to get even better as the lead character, becoming both badass and terrifying in the final moments of this one. So another recommend.

195 08-09 Rushmore (1998) 4.5/5
Revisited this one. I think this is my third viewing, and I continue to like it more each time. You would think that Wes Anderson’s style would make for a cold film, but the humanity and emotion on display in this is pretty much perfect, with performances to match. Has Bill Murray ever been better?

196 08-09 Hot Lunch (1978) 2/5
This is the second half of the double feature PEEKARAMA disc that featured BABY ROSEMARY. It’s by the same director, and is an attempt to be a goofy comedy that doesn’t really work as a comedy or a porno. Jon Martin does what he can as the lead, in a part that’s kind of like a reverse on the Candide model that is so common in this era of Porno Chic. He plays a bit of a doof who gets mixed up in all sorts of carnal situations. It just never works well enough to elevate it over the usual sex films.

197 08-10 Silicone Valley Season 1 (2014) 4/5
A new TV series by Mike Judge is always something I’ll check out. It’s only one season in, but I would say this might be his strongest work. He’s perfectly nailing start-up culture while also having strong characters that you end up caring about. It helps that a couple of my favourite stand-up comedians are doing some strong acting as well. The eight episode season ended perfectly with an epic dick joke. Can’t wait for season 2.

198 08-10 Patterns (1955) 3.5/5
Written by Rod Serling, and performed live on TV via the “Kraft Theater” program, this is a tough look at the corporate world. Basic plot is that of a young executive brought in solely to replace an aging vice president. Pitch perfect performances, including a masterful one by Orson Welles player Everett Sloan and a no holds barred look at American greed make this one a hell of a treat.

199 08-11 The Association (1975) 4/5
This is easily the sleaziest Kung-Fu film from the seventies I’ve seen. Basic plot is, a female detective is executed after killing a doctor who rape/murdered a patients wife when the patient could no longer pay for treatment. The executed detective’s squad go on the hunt to uncover the plot behind the murder, and holy hell is it sleazy! A female cult is giving illegal abortions (with a whole topless dancing ritual) that is accidentally murdering girls in a secret prostitution ring that is backed by high members of the government. With near constant nudity and a lead that looks like Bruce Lee with a perm kicking the shit out of everyone, this one was constantly entertaining and I’m guessing the best film in the 4-pack I bought for $10.

200 08-15 The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) 4/5
After Rushmore I decided to re-watch all the Anderson films I have since I’ve been slowly upgrading them to Blu-Ray via the Criterion Collection. This is the first of his to completely lock in the near dollhouse like style that he is known for. It’s starts off a little cold, but once you get use to the cast of characters, you get in deep.

201 08-15 The Erotic Adventures of Candy (1978) 2.5/5
As you can guess, this is yet another take on the Candide films! Hooray! This one follows college girl Candy on her quest to learn about sex and features her getting taken advantage of by every guy in sight. It’s not as good as the PRETTY PEACHES films I reviewed previously, mainly due to tone. It’s pretty straightforward stuff with the main draw being the cast of superstars like John Holmes. It’s not enough to keep the film interesting though.

202 08-16 Elvis : Aloha From Hawaii (1973) 4/5
Seeing as it was the anniversary of Elvis’s death this weekend, we gave this one a view. I’ve seen it dozens of times. It’s not Elvis’s greatest performance, but his last great one. He whipped himself into shape for this, which was broadcast via satellite all over the world, a truly epic event. He looks and sounds great. Seeing how the mention of his name these days is basically a punchline, it’s easy to forget how devastatingly good he was at interpreting a song. It’s all on display here, and well worth a look.

203 08-16 The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981) 3/5
This one is a remake of a film noir from the forties that I watched last year (and gave 4 out of 5). Featuring Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange in the lead roles of lovers with murderous intentions, it captures the grime and tone of the era it depicts, it just never fully works. There’s nothing wrong with it, it just never held my interest like the original did. It also seems to go on too long. It’s from 1981, but it feels like a seventies auteur film (which makes sense seeing as it was directed by Bob Rafelson, who directed Nicholson in FIVE EASY PIECES, a superior film) and it’s energy peters out will before it ends. So watch the original (with the stunning Lana Turner).

Not a bad week of movie watching, with some pretty great titles and a couple of fun revisits! I hit the two hundred film mark by accidentally re-watching THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS which might mark the first time I’ve hit a milestone type number with a good movie. Keep your eye’s peeled for a second post later this week to catch us right up!

The End

Movie a Day! : 104-111- “Get Up Off Your Ass and Show Yourself!”

Right, time for a round up. Here are all the things I watched last week. It was a short week blog wise since I tend to start a new week with Monday, but I watched a whole bunch of films over the weekend seeing as to how a video game I’m trying to complete has gotten boring and I’m dragging my heels on it.

Here we go!

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104 05-02 The Making of Nashville (2014) 3.5/5
This is the feature length documentary found on the blu-ray of the previously mentioned “Nashville”. It’s good, with lots of neat stories though no real behind the scenes footage. Anyway, between, the film and the additional extras (the Robert Altman interviews are must see), I give this disc a 5/5. Criterion really know how to put out a movie.

105 05-02 Sadie (1980) 2.5/5
Back in February I watched a Rita Hayworth film called “Miss Sadie Thompson” in which she plays a former dance hall girl (prostitute) who gets mixed up with a missionary while stuck on an island on her way to Australia to start a new life. This is a porn version of the same story. Directed by porn legend, “Johnny Wadd” director Bob Chinn, who you will know as the basis of Burt Reynolds character in “Boogie Nights”. Anyway, the story actually works as a porn, and he cleverly updates the villain from being a missionary to being a ultra right wing senator bent on censorship and what not. Surprisingly, the film seems more intent on telling the story instead of the sex scenes, which are all over quickly and seem per functionary to meet distributor guidelines instead of driving the film. The problem of course is the shit porn acting and the incredibly cheap island set that is used that ends up making this look like a dirty high school production that doesn’t really work as a non-sex film or a “proper” porno that has a story as an excuse for the sex scenes. It’s probably this weird thing that makes it kind of interesting.

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106 05-03 The Great Gatsby (2013) 3/5
I am not a Baz Luhrmann devotee. While I liked his “Romeo + Juliet” , “Moulin Rouge!” was lost on me and I couldn’t bring myself to watch “Australia” (Mad Max is all the Australian history I need). All that said, this one was pretty good. The performances are all fine, and the story, I‘m guessing, is well told. I never read the novel. My only problem is in the execution. While “Rouge!” left me flat, it was a lush, colourful picture. This one is too, but it’s all CGI, and the type of CGI that screams “I AM CGI! LOOK AT ME! CGI!” and when films rely on digital effects like this in such an obvious way it draws me out of the picture. Much more than hearing Jay-Z on the soundtrack of a movie that takes place in the twenties. So it’s “The Pretty Good But Not All That Great Gatsby” in the end. The blu-ray has a trailer for the 1926 version, I want to see that one.

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107 05-03 The Seductress (1981) 3/5
This is the second film on the double feature PeekARama disc from Vinegar Syndrome that featured “Sadie”. Also directed by Bob Chinn, this is a more traditional porn. Basic plot is that of a woman who works with a guy in seducing men and filming them so that their wives can blackmail them for divorce. Ends up she’s a junkie (which means she’s unreliable), and figures out she can get even more money by blackmailing the wives into sleeping with other men for additional blackmailing. It’s all very convoluted. Way more convoluted than it should be. Still a cheap production, but it works better than “Sadie” did since it doesn’t rely on sophisticated staging that can’t be provided on a cheap set and the plot better serves the necessary inclusion of sex scenes.

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108 05-04 TNT Jackson (1974) 3.5/5
Cheap-o “Pam Grier” type knockoff about a woman who travels to China (The Philippines) to find her brother, only to discover he’s been killed by a drug gang. so she has to use her Kung-Fu skills to kick the shit out of everyone. It’s pretty damned great, with laughably corny fights, hilarious dialogue and unnecessary nudity. Add in some ridiculous gore, and this one is a fun watch. It should be noted that to my memory, not a single thing on that poster is represented in the movie other than Jeanne Bell herself.

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109 05-04 Firecracker (1981) 3.5/5
This is the third film of the same set with “TNT Jackson”, and “Too Hot to Handle”, which I reviewed last blog. I had low expectations, but it ended up being a lot of fun. Another film where a woman goes to the Philippines (actual Philippines, not pretend China/Chinatown Philippines), this time to find a missing sister, and has to use her Kung-Fu skills to kick the shit out of everyone. This one is by the same director as TNT, and features Vic Diaz in a larger supporting role than he usually gets. I should have started a tribute page to Vic Diaz, taking pictures of him in all the films shot in the Philippines that he ends up in. Anyway, this one is as corny as the last one, with the difference being that the lead actress is actually a pretty good martial artist. On par with a Cynthia Rothrock anyway, so the fights are actually pretty good.

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110 05-04 Used Cars (1980) 3/5
This was one of the very first VHS tapes dad brought home when we got our first VCR around 1983. I wasn’t allowed to watch it, though I do remember watching it for some reason. I hadn’t seen it since. Prior to making the pop culture hits with “Back to the Future” and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”, Robert Zemeckis put out this raunch comedy. I’m guessing “National Lampoon’s Animal House” kicked off this trend of comedy, were guys are total guys and do wacky pranks while trying to get in girls pants. This one features Kurt Russell as a salesman for the titled Used Car lot, in battle with a rival car lot owner who’s trying to take over his land. As dated as it feels, it still offers some great laughs and the entire cast is pretty likeable as well. That said, it’s definitely a “Bro” type comedy. Still worth a watch for a chuckle. Plus it has Guy Caballero himself, Joe Flaherty in a supporting role.

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111 05-04 The Altar of Lust 2.5/5
I don’t even know where to begin with this one. The title makes it sound like a Satanic thing, but it’s not at all. The basic story is about a young woman (played by, no joke “Erotica Lantern”) who escapes from Sweden after being raped by her stepfather, and winds up in New York very sexually confused. This is all told via the device of her talking to her psychiatrist, so the sexual vignettes stream out from that. It’s absolutely dreadful production wise, in that no dialogue was recorded. It’s all dubbed and read in a monotone that has to be seen/heard to be believed. It’s so bad, that when the psychiatrist talks, they show the woman reacting, and vice versa so that you will never see a line of dialogue coming from a persons lips.

That said, it IS entertaining and interesting. The director is Roberta Findlay, who with her husband Michael made the notorious roughies known as “The Flesh Trilogy”. Here she wrote, filmed, produced and directed (and I think dubbed) the picture, so it’s interesting since it is from a woman’s point of view. Usually softcore stuff like this is very male centric. Also, this one is from the period where softcore would turn hardcore, and as the picture moves forward, the scenes get harder until eventually you see Harry Reems (a year before “Deep Throat” would make him a star) receive oral. So it’s a bizarre time capsule of the period, and of the filmmakers literally pushing the boundaries of censorship within the film, pre-porno chic. Which is why I’m giving it 2.5 out of 5 instead of a 1.5-2, since it really is laughably BAD bad.

 

So there it is, more movies than most watch in a month! It’s ridiculous that I have more to say on dumb movies like “The Altar of Lust” then most other things I enjoy. My pick of the week is “TNT Jackson.” I’m such a sucker for blacksploitation at this point that I’m probably considered racist. The movies are just so goofy, they’re irresistible damn it!