The Trip (1967)
Peter Fonda died. My first thought was to watch The Trip followed by Race With The Devil (1975) and then if I was still awake watch either Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (1974), The Hired Hand (1971) or Wild Angels (1966). Funny thing is I watched The Trip a couple of years ago and I hated it after loving it when I was in my twenties and it was always in my best movies of all time list. Tonight I fucking loved it again. You just have to realise it is what it is and go with it man. Everywhere Paul (Peter Fonda) goes - the houses, beaches, clubs, cafes, cars and streets are all so so groovy. Los Angeles looks so fucking cool here. The weird thing is Paul is the most normal person in the entire flick but he's the one tripping out on LSD. He wears really normal clothes like a v-neck jumper over a collared shirt while everyone else around him is in freaky garb. The kaleidoscopic sequences paired with the soundtrack are perfectly psychedelic. It made me want to dig out all my psychedelic records, which I haven't listened to in ages. Roger Corman often gets recognition as an amazing producer and business man but this is a stunning piece of directing work as opposed to his previous and very inferior effort Wild Angels (1966). If only Mr Nicholson wrote another twenty movies instead of just the six. Oh, I nearly forgot Bruce Dern with a great beard stars as John who is Paul's spirit guide for his first acid trip. Look out for Dennis Hopper and Susan Strasberg in supporting roles. Thank you for the actoring Peter Fonda.
Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (1974)
My Fonda Fest continues but I couldn't locate my Race With The Devil (1975) dvd so this was the next best thing I could find. In fact it might be even better than that flick. You're either going think the main trio of outlaws Larry (Peter Fonda), Mary (Susan George) and Deke (Adam Roarke) are just crass and obnoxious or a little bit funny, rather frank and risqué. I think it depends on your mood. There is no doubt though that this is one hell of a high octane car chase road movie, quite possibly the best of its ilk from the 70s. Special mention must go to Mike Margulies, the cinematographer, the way he captures the action and what surrounds it is totally exquisite and peerless for its time. Pete and Deke are involved in a supermarket heist with kidnapping, car swaps, car chases, many near captures, more car chases, helicopter stunts and many car crashes. This one is for the rev heads but it has across the board appeal as the suspense builds every time they are nearly caught. Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry just doesn't let up with the thrilling action. Fine performances all round. Americana pop culture at its finest.
They Came To Rob Las Vegas (1968)
This starts out so promising. You think it's going to be a great lost mob heist movie but before it gets halfway it starts to sag and ends up being a bloated action crime film that literally loses the plot. They Came... is not without its merits though. The footage of the streets of Las Vegas, San Fransisco and Los Angeles in the late 60s is out fucking standing. The night scenes of Vegas are particularly appealing. All the trappings of the high rolling mid to late 60s lifestyle are captured in fine detail. Gary Lockwood puts in an interesting performance along with his partner in crime Elke Sommer. I'm guessing this was filmed after 2001: A Space Odyssey (?). Most of the rest of the cast start out promising but end up being pretty tedious and quite awful, kinda like they got fed up with the film halfway through too. By the end there have been so many double crosses and dull stretches of film you just don't care what happens. This is one hell of a mess of a motion picture but some of it is a beautiful historical document.
Getting Straight (1970)
Despite it's heavy handed ideological proselytising and melodrama this somehow remains a pretty good film, many consider it a classic. Elliot Gould is in full throttle Gould mode here and he gets some incredibly sharp, scathing and sometimes pretentious dialogue. Harry (Gould) goes back to uni to get his masters degree as last time he was there to study he got sucked into the radical student politics of the time. Now he is determined to study hard despite the distractions of politics, parties, poverty & pussy. I think Getting Straight is a love story disguised as a campus radical film. That love story is a fiery one between Harry and Jan (Candice Bergen). I wouldn't say Harry treats Jan particularly well throughout the film but Jan mystifyingly seems to love him anyway. This is an incredibly well put together film that's visceral and sometimes feels like it's about to veer off the rails but manages to just stay on track, which is a testament to the directing skills of Richard Rush. Other significant movies Rush directed include Thunder Alley (1967), Psych-Out (1968), Freebie & The Bean (1974) and The Stunt Man (1980). Let's not forget the excellent supporting cast of Max Julien, Harrison Ford, Jeff Corey, Robert F Lyons etc.
The Wild Angels (1966)
Back to my Fonda Fest.You can have icons like Peter Fonda, Bruce Dern, Nancy Sinatra, Dianne Ladd etc. You can have a cool fuzzed up and bongo driven soundtrack. You can have that famous snatch of dialogue from Blues (Peter Fonda) that ended up in the classic Primal Scream hit tune Loaded*. You can have a rebellious doomed criminal who goes by the name of Loser (Dern). You can chuck in general violent thuggery, rape, silly dancing, booze, drugs and nihilistic hedonism. There's even a wild anarchistic funeral party where a church gets trashed and the preacher is bashed but The Wild Angels still doesn't quite cut it. On paper it sounds so fucking great so why isn't it? It had all the right ingredients but something about the way it was made was off including a poor script. I wonder if bikers of the time dug it? I guess a lot of them probably did as it was one of the top twenty films of the year at the box office. Anyway it still leaves me cold and just plain bored as it did twenty years ago when I first saw it (Is that the grumpy giving up smoking me talking though?). Maybe you need to be off your head to enjoy it. Perhaps I'll re-watch it one day under the influence and see if my opinion changes. I'd rather watch She Devil's On Wheels (1968) to be quite honest. However Wild Angels is a historical counter-cultural artefact that youngsters will need to study. Others will watch it as some kind of degenerate right of passage however it's nowhere near as fun as say a Ramones or Dictators song. Southern California is captured wonderfully on film though. Plus there is footage of a ye olde gas station in a bucolic setting which is eye candy for Space Debris.
*Is it a coincidence that some of that snatch of dialogue that was used in Primal Scream's Loaded was also used on In n Out Of Grace a Mudhoney tune from the early grunge milestone Superfuzz Bigmuff EP released two years earlier in 1988? I kinda get the feeling Andy Weatherall sampled the sample...and does it matter? and who cares?
The Hired Hand (1971)
Was every film made in 1971 a classic? The Fonda Fest continues. This time Peter Fonda trades in his motorbike for a horse and grows a beard as he stars alongside Warren Oates and Verna Bloom. All three performers are outstanding here. Fonda directs this beautifully subtle yet complex Western. The first thing you will notice is the wonderful lackadaisical and impressionistic cinematography from Vilmos Zsigmond coupled with the brilliant and incredibly complimentary languid soundtrack which mainly consists of fiddle, banjo, guitar and Appalachian dulcimer composed by Mr Tamborine Man Bruce Langhorne. A special mention must also go to Frank Mazzola the film's editor. While The Hired Hand doesn't have the biff, bang, pow of a Wild Bunch (1969) it's still a western with the usual tropes of vengeance, brotherhood, boozing and gunslinging violence. A box office flop with a lukewarm response from critics at its time of release The Hired Hand could easily have disappeared off the movie map for good but like Vertigo (1958) it has since had a reputation rehabilitation. Some now rightfully consider this a classic of the genre. This was quite possibly Peter Fonda's finest artistic achievement. The Hired Hand now enters the Space Debris Hall Of Fame (What an honour that must be to inducted into).
Killer Force aka The Diamond Mercenaries aka Killer Commando (1976)
The Fonda Fest starts to get weird here. Peter Fonda trades in his horse for a jeep and helicopter. He keeps the beard and once again has very fucking cool sunglasses but here's the weird part he perms his usually awesome straight hair to end up looking like a fucking awful version of Mike Brady. I mean Mike Brady's hair was pretty spectacular but Fonda's pubic looking perm just does not hold a candle to it. If I was the director Val Guest I would have demanded he go back to his usual great hair. Peter Fonda was a tricky bastard to work with though so I doubt he'd have listened. Anyway not only do we get one pop culture icon in Fonda we get several others such as Telly Savalas, OJ Fucking Simpson, Christopher Lee and two time Bond girl Maud Adams. This is a pretty good el-cheapo B-movie heist thriller with some crazy action mainly of the explosive variety including cars that crash then blow up, helicopters that blow up, planes that blow up, buildings that blow up and a whole lotta machine gun violence and death. The symphonic funk score from Georges Garvarentz is pure 70s gold. Bradley (Fonda) is the security manager for a diamond mine somewhere in the deserts of South Africa and Clare (Maud Adams) is his gorgeous international model girlfriend. Harry Webb (Savalas) is the sleazy and unhinged head of security for the international diamond syndicate and he arrives at the isolated mine to tighten up security as it is suspected a heist is about to be attempted by a group of mercenaries along with a kingpin called Father Christmas. A pretty good story unfolds from there. One scene is particularly satisfying (if only it were real) when Alexander (OJ), one of the mercenaries, is gunned down and killed. Special mention must go to Vincci Of London for supplying Savalas's threads which are outstanding and impeccable. I'd probably have never come across this forgotten film if it wasn't for the magnificent Kino Lorber label who released the blu-ray in 2016.
Night Of The Comet (1984)
Haven't seen this unclassifiable movie since the mid 80s and I'm rarely one for nostalgia but I fucking loved it. I don't even really know why. I'm guessing I would have kinda liked it when I first saw it in 1984 but the ending probably would have perplexed me so it didn't become a much replayed 84/85 classic of my early teens like Back To The Future, The Temple Of Doom, Repo Man, Better Off Dead, Bachelor Party or The Sure Thing. Now the ending feels just right. A comet is coming at 2AM so everyone in Los Angeles is having a party waiting for a spectacular light show. Almost everyone evaporates except people who were protected by being somewhere with steel walls including Regina (Katherine Mary Stewart) who spent the night in a projection booth, Sam (Keli Maroney) who slept in a shed in the backyard and Hector (Robert Beltran) who slept in the cabin of his truck. In the morning they wake to find the streets eerily deserted. All that remains of the population is their clothes and red dust. Some research scientists have survived too as they suspected something cataclysmic was going to happen. They were hiding out in a bunker and amongst them was Audrey (Mary Woronov). The scientists go out in search of any survivors for their own selfish and sinister needs. Find out what happens by watching this classic piece of unique visionary cinema. Directed by Thom Everhardt. The all encompassing vibe of the desolate empty streets and the sky with its weird hazy orange hue is totally intoxicating. Somehow this isn't a bleak film. There is much goodness to be found on the very 80s soundtrack. Perhaps I'll give Everhadt's directorial debut Sole Survivor (1983) another shot. Night Of The Comet is my favourite film rediscovery of the year.
Electra Glide In Blue (1973)
Wow! I think I just watched my new favourite film. I've been meaning to watch this flick since I first saw the dvd in video shops sometime in the 00s. It only took me 15+ years to finally experience this magnificent 70s masterpiece. This film is note perfect, instinctual film making, incredible story telling on a grand scale and absolute sound & vision synergy. Electra Glide In Blue is an existential road movie that is up there with the great Two Lane Black Top (1971) and Vanishing Point (1971). The acting is turned up, but not in a bad way, in a believable humans are ridiculous creatures kinda way. John Wintergreen (Robert Blake) and partner Zipper Davis (Billy Green Bush) are highway patrol motorbike cops in the wonderfully scenic Arizona. Wintergreen has dreams of moving up the ranks to become a homicide officer. His wish is granted but he starts to see the hypocrisy and brutality of the homicide unit as no different from any other department in the law force. Will he become part of the problem with crushed dreams or remain true to his fair humanistic ideals? Look out for Elisha Cook Jr. who you may remember as Charlie, Point Dume's resident old man nutcase who doesn't mind a tipple, from Messiah of Evil (1973). This time he's a mentally challenged desert dwelling recluse called Willie. The fabulous soundtrack from William Guercio is a rare example of the director doing the score too. Guercio had an incredible gift for film making but this is the only feature he directed. He was better known in the music world where he was a composer, arranger, record producer and winner of several Grammys. If you've never seen this I highly recommend it with a money back guarantee.
Gone With The Pope aka Kiss The Ring (2009)
I finally lay my hands on this movie. If you love Duke Mitchell's Massacre Mafia Style (1974) you might dig Gone With The Pope (1975/2009) but don't count your chickens. This is a grimy exploitation comedy shakedown flick with a real DIY kinetic energy like no other. Italian-Americans Paul (Duke Mitchell) and his gangster crew have just been released from prison and plan to kidnap the pope, asking for a ransom of one dollar for every catholic in the world. That's just the main premise which then allows Mitchell to display some cinematic batshit crazy shenanigans. We get a whole lot of Las Vegas and some of their musical and comedy performers of the time or are these people just Mitchell's showbiz friends from Palm Springs? There's cheesy romance, operatic violence, bizarre sex scenes, anti catholic rants, miracles and a whole lotta wrong. Look out for the total What The Fuck? moment of Paul picking up a morbidly obese lady who was walking her dog in the park. He then takes her back to his hotel where he undresses her and puts her into the bed of his passed out drunk gangster colleague. While Gone With The Pope was filmed in 1975 it remained unfinished, lost and unreleased. Duke Mitchell the barmy auteur, producer, singer and lead actor died in 1981. Lucky for us, or perhaps unlucky depending how you look at it, Academy award winning editor Bob Murawski rescued the film which eventually got its first cinema screening in 2010. Get a look inside a confusing outsider's mind here.
This was the last film featured on The Swinging 60s series on the SBS World Movies channel. QT wasn't wrong when he said "Hang in there coz it has a crazy beginning." and yes it had a stupid prologue. The first 15 to 20 minutes were totally gruelling and pointless. When it got to the core of the western crime story though it really picked up and was fantastic. Audie Murphy is brilliant as Clint and Ben Cooper is good too as Willie his partner in crime. Arizona Raiders also stars the intriguing Gloria Talbot. Anyway Clint has a whole lotta of moral grey area and he keeps you guessing as to which side his true loyalties lie throughout the movie. We get some crazy violence including the unique and brutal Indian cactus torture which all takes place amongst amazingly picturesque landscapes.
Deadly Eyes aka Night Eyes (1982)
I think my expectations were way too high for this disappointing when animals attack flick. For some reason I was expecting this to be of the same high calibre as Alligator (1980) or Piranha (1978). It starts out pretty promising with a baby being the first victim of giant killer rats followed by an elderly man. It had me thinking this is going to be great, nobody is safe and the rat caused carnage with its low budget crappy 80s gore is going to be high. Then it starts to sag with too much time spent on sub plots and a slowing down of the rat attacks. The last fifteen minutes are pretty good though but that doesn't make up for the loss of interest that occurred in the middle of the film. I said to Emma after one of the first attacks that I think this is the rat movie where dogs are dressed up in rat costumes. She didn't believe me so being in the i-phone age she looked it up to not only find out it was true but that one pup had died due to suffocation. As septic tanks like to say that was a total "buzz kill" man. For the second half of the movie I couldn't get that cruelty out of my mind but it was a below average movie anyway.
Easy Rider (1969)
Peter Fonda as Wyatt and Dennis Hopper as Billy are the doomed hippie bikers in a film that's totally nihilistic man (It could be argued in a philosophical debate that it's pessimistic or perhaps cynical though). When I was introduced to Easy Rider as a teenager as part of that whole "anti establishment" right of passage thing that also included Rebel Without A Cause and books like On The Road, Catcher In The Rye blah blah blah. Easy Rider just didn't float my boat because our generation had its own fucked up and culturally significant films like Dogs in Space (1986) and Blue Velvet (1986). We didn't need hand me downs from an ancient and irrelevant era. Now I can see the film for what it is, a low budget but pretty crappy film that made a shitload of money. A cash in on the counter-culture made by Hollywood insiders not true outsiders or outlaws. Easy Rider is a significant cultural document though that was one of a handful of movies that were signposts that a new era in American film had arrived. I liked the rest of that handful ie. the good films like Bonnie & Clyde, The Trip, Psych-Out, Head, Midnight Cowboy etc.
A Decade Under The Influence: The 70s Films That Changed Everything (2003)
You know how the book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls is shit but what they're talking about isn't? Well here's a documentary that's not too bad about one of my favourite film subjects: New Hollywood motion pictures of the late 60s and 70s. A good half hour could have been spent on one man American film revolution John Cassavetes. I mean that's where they got the title of the film from. I would have liked to have seen Monte Hellman, Elaine May & Gena Rowlands (The world's greatest living actress) interviewed. About twenty five of the best pictures of this era aren't even mentioned but of course you can never cover everything in a short doc. I've only just realised this was actually produced as a three part telly series before it was abridged to this 108 minute version which i bought back when it was first issued. There are like three or four other versions of A Decade Under The Influence all with varying lengths so I'm guessing this isn't the definitive version or the most comprehensive.
Walking The Edge (1985?)
I think I've written about this before but I just wanted to watch it again after viewing The Wrecking Crew (1969) which featured Nancy Quan. Watching legends like Joe Spinell and Robert Forster is always a treat too. Walking The Edge is a strange tale of murder and revenge in scuzzy 80s LA, that's damn fine entertainment. Christine (Nancy Quan) hires a downbeat cab driver (Robert Forster) for her journey to seek vengeance on Brusstar (Joe Spinell) and his goons as they annihilated her family. Also featured is a punk club and band which really seems much earlier than 1985. This flick may have been released in 1985 but I think it was made much earlier. It may have sat on the shelf for a couple of years and I'm not the first human to speculate about this. I feel like Robert Forster should have been in a hundred cool films instead of just a few. This film is going into The Space Debris Hall of Fame.
The Last Detail (1973)
Due to watching the aforementioned documentary A Decade Under The Influence (2003) I finally bit the bullet and decided to watch this. I've always avoided The Last Detail for a few reasons. A: It's directed by Hal Ashby who's hardly my favourite director. B: I'm not really into military dude films. C: It just sounded like it was going to be dull. Guess what I was right, this was just fucking dull. One of the least compelling, kinda hokey and boring films I've seen and hey I like films made by Tarkovsky, Roeg and Kubrick so go figure. We also get one of Jack Nicholson's most tedious performances. Actually I can't believe I watched it to the very end. Don't waste your time here but you probably already have though because you're into Harold & Maude (1971).