Wednesday 5 May 2021

Movies Part 40

Streetwalkin' (1985)
A brother and sister are runaways from upstate left to fend for themselves on the mean streets of NYC in the mid 80s. Cookie (Melissa Leo) soon becomes a prostitute after being charmed by Duke (Dale Midkiff) a psycho pimp (are there any other kind?). Soon enough she and her brother Tim (Randall Batinkoff) have an apartment they share with fellow prostitute Heather (Deborah Offner). Heather is being beaten to a pulp by Duke so a pimp intervention is in order. It's got all the sleaze, nudity, drug use, violence and depraved fuckers from back when New York seemed like a whole lottla scary lawless fun. Look out for TV's Cat Woman from Julie Newmar as the wise ole hooker Queen Bee. Do a double bill with Angel (1984) which is like the LA equivalent. 

Dragonwyck (1946)
Gene Tierney once again stars with Vincent Price in this compelling dark melodrama. It might be one of Price's best performances. It's better when he plays slightly unhinged, flawed or spooky characters. I find him a bit off when he's trying to play a relatively normal man. One suspects PTA would be a fan of this film, perhaps it was an influence on Phantom Thread (2017). This is notably produced by Ernst Lubitsch as well as being the auspicious directing debut flick for Oscar winning director/writer Joseph L Mankiewicz who would go on to direct the much more famous A Letter To Three Wives (1949), All About Eve (1950), Suddenly Last Summer (1959) and Cleopatra (1963)

Yield To The Night (1956)
This brilliant British film puts things like French New Wave into perspective. This is so stylish at the start you might be forgiven for thinking that perhaps you'd stumbled across a lost Melville or Antonioni film. This is basically Dead Man Walking (199?) 40 years early except it's awesome. Mary (Diana Dors) is convicted of cold blooded murder and we watch  her play out the rest of her days reminiscing in her gaol cell before her hanging or her reprieve from the governor. All the acting here is in a superior class as is the script and direction from J Lee Thompson. The Best!

Shot (1973)
Bizarre low budget but highly ambitious 70s crime film. Did this film make any sense? I'm not so sure. I think I'll need to watch it again. It was worth it though for the 70s clothes, cars, buildings and stuff. It's all about the violence, car chases and nihilism. The helicopter cinematography is splendid, it captures snowy regional outskirts of wherever-ville USA gloriously. A film in search of a cult audience or is it already a cult film? Who decides these daft things? I'm guessing if you get a blu-ray release from the fabulous Vinegar Syndrome label you instantly become a cult film.

Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
I'd never seen this film. It was not what I was expecting one bit. As soon as I saw Tennessee Williams' name hit the screen I got concerned though, thinking isn't he the most pompous middlebrow writer of the worst kind? For the first hour I just wanted to turn it off as a wall of non-stop words hit me in my head. This may has well been a radio-play as far as I was concerned. Elizabeth Taylor finally appearing kept me in and the story was pretty compelling in the end if totally bloated. It only really become cinematic in the last twenty minutes when Catherine (Liz Taylor) describes how and why her male cousin Sebastian died. This was s shown in flashback sequence. I wonder if films such as these gave melodrama a bad name and eventually made them unfashionable? Liz's famous bathing suit only makes a brief appearance. It's hard to imagine how it became so iconic! Still this overblown mysterious tale of deplorable behaviour is very sickening. 

From a cinematic point of view I would have just told the crime story in the Spanish seaside town straight. Cutting out all the self important time wasting monologues (particularly those of Katherine Hepburn) and all the stupid psychiatry but leaving in the transgressive taboo horror. That would have been a lean and mean nasty flick though, making it perhaps unpalatable for the time. Then again many noir films and Budd Boetticher Westerns did this previous to 59. Anyway It is worth watching for Taylor's performance alone which is as per usual pretty spectacular. In a word TURGID.

RaBID DOGS (1974)
One of the most fun and definitely the most compelling Mario Bava movies ever made! You cannot look away or lose interest during this entire 96 minutes. It been categorised as many things but I reckon it's just the ultimate depraved black comedy road movie ever. If an insane criminal threatens to chop off your kidnapped sons balls and make them into earrings for you, then offers to make you a broach from his winkle you know you're on a deranged movie trip of a lifetime!

The Damned (1962)
I only knew this was one of Joseph Losey's British era flicks. That's all you need to know. Just drop everything and go watch this immediately. I gotta say I dunno how this got past me for so many years because surely this is one of the ultimate batshit crazy cult movies. Just look at the two posters above...yes they are THE SAME MOVIE! 

Border Incident (1949)
It's got quicksand seriously what more do I need to say! They could remake this today and they wouldn't have to change one thing. No director would have the guts though. This subject matter couldn't be more relevant as the Mexican/USA border humanitarian crisis has deepened with Creepy Joe in power. This is an unbelievably brutal tale of people smuggling. The American and Mexican feds are in cahoots to try and capture some of these rotten people smugglers. John Alton and Anthony Mann once again collaborate and along with great actoring create create a unique piece of cinema. Border Incident's captures all the claustrophobia that noir westerns have and way way more malevolence.   

The Gunfighter (1950)
Gregory Peck is Ringo a bad arse gunslinger. Based on a story by legendary director/screenwriter Andre De Toth but directed by Henry King. Due to the ageing Ringo's reputation as the fastest gun in the west all the young upstarts wanna have a crack at him. Ringo's looking to settle down and make up with his estranged wife though. 

SPOILER ALERT! I mean this film is 71 years old so whatever... I find it hilarious that some experts have read Peck's character as morally upstanding. Some movie writers are dumb as fuck! The fact of the matter is by not retaliating to his killer Ringo gets supreme vengeance upon him before he croaks by bestowing a life sentence of anxiety, looking over your shoulder and never having a moments inner peace as you never know where your next potential killer is coming from. Ringo tried to redeem himself, it didn't happen so he bitterly handed out this bleak vengeance. He died in vane and left an inhumane legacy upon his killer. This is the ultimate in vengeance! This could have been the plot-line for an episode of Deadwood so if you're a fan of that spectacular tv show this is right up your street. Top Western.

La polizia ha le mani legate aka Killer Cop (1974)
Excellent Poliziotteschi film directed by Luciano Ercoli who directed a trio of distinctive gialli The Forbidden Photos Of A Lady Above Suspicion (1970), Death Walks On High Heels (1971) & Death Walks At Midnight (1972). A terrorist bombs a hotel lobby in Milan. It's up to Commissioner (Claudio Cassinelli) a NARC who inadvertently became embroiled in the saga and the DA (Arthur Kennedy) to figure out who the bomber is as there seems to be corruption somewhere along the chain of command in the Milanese police squad. La polizia ha le mani legate, while not as OTT as most Italian action crime movies of the time is a compelling and tense cop drama.

Victim (1961)
A grim bit of social commentary right here folks. I like my films to be as morally reprehensible as possible so I usually don't go for movies with social consciences but this one is so brilliantly executed you cannot deny it. Victim tells horrific tales of gay men being blackmailed out of their hard earned cash otherwise they'll be dobbed into the coppers for being homosexual which was illegal at the time. In fact it wouldn't be until 1967 that homosexual men were granted some freedom in England & Wales. Basil Dearden piles on the mystery and suspense until we wind up with the callous extortionists being revealed but not before sad collateral damage has occurred. Dearden as per usual assembles a cast of master actors including Dirk Bogarde, Sylvia Sims, Denis Price, Nigel Stock, Peter McEnery, Donald Churchill etc. 

Interestingly several of the most famous actors of the time who had appeared in other Dearden films turned down the role of Melville Farr. Farr is a gay barrister living in a traditional marriage to Laura (Sylvia Simms) but has to come out so that the blackmailers can be punished for their fiendish deeds. Bogarde a gay man himself took on this role fearlessly but saw it as a no brainer because a large part of British society was already permissive and accepting of homosexuality. Perhaps he was being modest as his character was not only the film's hero but he became a real life hero too. Bogarde was commended for his bravery for portraying such a character with great sympathy and dignity. 

The Prowler (1951)
Unpredictable Joseph Losey directed creepy crime flick. Webb (Van Heflin) a cop is called out to a house to investigate a prowler. He discovers Susan (Evelyn Keyes) is all alone at night as her husband is doing the late shift on the local radio station. Soon enough Webb has coerced Susan into a diabolical relationship. What's the word for a femme fatale in masculine form? Anyway that's essentially what Webb is. Nefarious plans go awry of course and this film ends up in a most peculiar and unexpected place. Great stuff of the high recommendation merit!   

Quicksand (1950)
Unfortunately there is no actual quicksand here but this is a notch crime story anyway. Quicksand starts with Dan (Mickey Rooney) taking 20 bucks out of the work cash register so he can take the glamorous Vera (Jeanne Cagney) on a date. A downward spiral then ensues with atrocious consequences. Peter Lorre steals the show as the dodgy blackmailing arcade owner Nick. This script doesn't miss a beat with its enthralling & absurd plot that'll have you glued to the screen for the duration. This is entertainment of the high order.

Lolly-Madonna xxx (1973)
A pitch black crazy Hillbilly feud flick. A turf war between two neighbouring rural families up a mountain in Tennessee, America escalates to insane nihilistic levels. We get violence, gang rape, grannies with shotguns, clapped out pick up trucks, mucho denim, bootlegging, kidnapping, love, demented macho men, animal cruelty and general lawlessness. They call this kind of film hillbilly-sploitation these days. This one is aiming somewhat higher than typical fare in this sub-genre though. Lolly-Madonna xxx is based on a Sue Grafton novel, has high calibre actors, fine film-making execution and was even produced by MGM. We get young Gazza Busey, Randy Quaid & Jeff Daniels plus ragged veteran actors Rod Steiger & Robert Ryan

The titular character is played by Season Hubley who is a curious figure on the peripheries of cult cinema. She also appeared in Hardcore (1979), Elvis (1979), Escape From New York (1981), Vice Squad (1982) and that's about it apart from a bit of telly. This flick is for exploitation completists, 70s Americana fiends and "New Hollywood" fanatics. Oh, the best thing here is the brilliant score from Fred Myrow of Soylent Green (1973) and Phantasm (1979) fame. 

Poor Pretty Eddie (1975)
We're still in Hillbilly exploitation territory here. This film is pretty deranged so it's not going to be for everybody. In fact it's hardly going to be for anybody except for the most die hard of exploitation fans. How much disturbia can you handle? This is an el-cheapo Southern Gothic Horror Film innit? Almost every scene is designed to make you uncomfortable à la Lars Von Trier. The tonal shifts here are bizarre and rapid adding to the overall queasy vibe. 

Liz Wetherly (Leslie Uggams) is a beautiful famous black jazz singer who runs into trouble when her car breaks down in a remote hillbilly town. Everybody she meets seems to be a lecherous creep. Liz's car is deliberately not being fixed which basically makes her a hostage at Bertha's Oasis, a skanky rundown bar/motel run by Bertha: A Norma Desmond (Sunset Boulevard) type of faded showbiz character, flawlessly depicted by the magnificent Shelley Winters. Look out for Slim Pickens as the sleazy sheriff, Dub Taylor as the mental justice of the peace and Ted Cassidy as the scarfaced oddball Keno

Oh... I almost forgot then there's smiley Eddie (Michael Christian) the psycho but handsome Elvis wannabe who is being kept by the much older Bertha. Since Liz's arrival in town though Eddie's got one thing on his rapey mind and nothing is gonna stop him. Just how the hell is Liz going to get out of this horrific nightmare? The Horror!

Les Diaboliques (1955)
I've been waiting 30 years to get around to watching this famous French Horror/Thriller directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot. So I was totally enthused to break out the blu-ray as the time was right. I was so excited! However it turns out waiting that long ruined the whole thing for me. I was thinking "Geez some of this has been ripped off!" Then by the time of the hamper scene scene I'd put two and two together. I'd seen this exact film before in the guise of a bloody American ABC tv movie of the week from the 70s. I knew it had Tuesday Weld and Sam Waterston from Law & Order but I had to look it up right here on my own blog. It's called Reflections Of A Murder from 1974. 

Les Diaboliques is still brilliant though. So many characteristics of film suspense started here. This murder mystery horror has a plot so perfectly watertight (haha) it's astounding! Most of you have already seen it but if you haven't you gotta watch it because it's THE BEST. Just steer clear of all the remakes and rip offs beforehand.

Dirty Weekend (1992)
This feels more like a 1989 film than a grunge era flick. Michael Winner is a fine director of some awesome (The Mechanic) and some outrageously controversial but bloody entertaining movies (The Mechanic, Death Wish 1, 2 & 3, Scream For Help). Dirty Weekend is in the latter category with its joyous depiction of sex, violence & revenge based on the 1991 best selling novel by Helen Zahavi. It's pretty hard not to enjoy this illicit piece of cinema. We get sleaze, more sleaze, sleazy peeping toms, obscene sleazy phone calls, a sleazy psycho Persian clairvoyant, shit friends, sleazy bad cops, sleazy fat psychologists, sleazy amoral gun dealers, picturesque Brighton Beach, sleazy rape, a sleazy rapey dentist, an assortment of murder methods, not one but two serial killers and a whole lotta stupid vengeful fun! 

Bella (Lia Williams) is a boring unnoticeable plain girl who's been fucked over one too many times by men. She transforms into a depraved sexy murderous avenging angel. The scene with the psychologist fat man (Michael Cule) is the pièce de résistance of Dirty Weekend. It has to be seen to be believed especially when he strips naked and slaps his flabby man boobs in what he thinks is a sexy time come on move. Your life will not be complete without witnessing this historic moment of cinema! This is 100% The Lia Williams Show with terrific dialogue. The script was written by Winner and Helen Zahavi. Lia Williams should have won awards for this depiction of a character who totally transforms from beginning to end. Oh... nearly forgot: Mike from The Young Ones plays a cameo role as a homicidal maniac named Small One. If gleeful rape revenge depicted on celluloid is your idea of fun then this is for you.

Gator Bait (1974)
Keeping with the American country bumpkins but this time we're not up a mountain in Tennessee we're in the muddy alligator territory of Louisiana swampland. This time it's male cops & crims in cahoots against a cajun woman Desiree the gator poacher. She's played by Playboy playmate Claudia Jennings (Truck Stop Women 1974) so she is exceptional eye candy. The best thing about the movie is the music which is harmonica and banjo led folk. Gator Bait is another exploitation flick that is also beautifully photographed but maybe that's not that hard in such spectacular wilderness. The other great thing is the boat chase sequence which I was totally digging and had me thinking we need more boat chase action set pieces in movies. We also get manslaughter, attempted rape, the hunters becoming the hunted, liberal use of racial slurs, implied incest and general daft dumb-arse country macho bullshit. Despite this assortment of ingredients for a backdrop and a plot there's not really a good story here...well there sort of coulda been but the interesting part isn't developed. They just throw a major dramatic arc away like litter, perhaps because they were in a rush to just cash in. The atmosphere and location on their own just aren't quite enough to hold this film together, a missed opportunity. Although if you are from the area or have visited, it's probably worth a nostalgic look.    


Final Exam (1981)
A hybrid of of almost sex comedy & slasher film. Likeable characters always push a slasher to a much better place. Even the numskulls are bearable in this college set movie. I love how they to try to make a good looking actress the plain one by just not making her hair cool, using less make up and giving her personality common sense. Look out for terrorist scene that would not get okayed today. Includes terrific arbitrary Carpenter-esque score. Better than most. 

Just Before Dawn (1981)
One of the few slashers that transcends its sub-genre and gets to be considered a very good film by some. This just gets better and better each time I watch it. It stands apart because it's not just a slasher, it also has Deliverance vibes and some pretty spectacular set pieces. The filmmakers somehow make a bunch of College kids going camping in the woods and getting harassed by in-bred maniacs not just interestingly tense but fresh and er... strangely touching. Just Before Dawn's got beautiful cinematography, a great Brad Fiedel score and a transformed fist pumping final girl in very small shorts! Tops.

Slumber Party Massacre (1982)
Everybody's favourite feminist slasher. Jackie (Andree Honore) puts the pizza box from the slaughtered pizza delivery boy onto his chest then proceeds to eat a slice of said pizza. I assume she's got the munchies from smoking pot earlier on but I'm sure the anxiety of a seemingly random massacre happening around you would be enough to put you off your food at least until the killer is captured!

Mutilator (1984)
This is probably the worst of this batch but it's not the lowest you can go in the sub-genre. In fact in the right frame of mind and at the right time of night this is sufficiently entertaining. Some of the acting here is very ropey. Boobs, blood, beer and bad dads.

Intruder (1989)
Directed by Sam Raimi's mate Sam Spiegal this is an el cheapo slasher set in a supermarket with pretty inventive kills, good gore and an unusually likeable cast. I even like the killer. For slasher completists and those willing to go deep into the dodgy 80s VHS shelves. Includes appearances from Bruce Campbell, Sam & Ted Raimi. There is also dodgy pizza shenanigans here.

My Bloody Valentine (1981)
A huge cult favourite amongst slasher aficionados. I'm beginning to come around on this one. I hated this when I first saw it. For a start I'm loving the way the cars, streets and fashions of the time are filmed. It's sort of like a Stephen Shore or Langdon Clay photo come to life. Some real suspense is built up in the mine sequences making me realise why this particular slasher has such a rabid cult following. My Bloody Valentine actually seems have actual high production values and maybe even a reasonable budget to almost match Halloween (1978)

Nightmare Beach (1988)
An Umberto Lenzi directed Slasher/Biker/Electric Chair/Police Procedural/Spring Break hybrid made in Florida in the late 80s! Need I say more? If you understand and like the idea of that sentence this is for you and if you don't move along. Next.

Offerings (1989)
Prom Night meets Halloween 10 years too late in regional Oklahoma. Offerings is a demented yet sad love story with some black comedy chucked in, like a proper Greek tragedy. John Radley (Richard A Buswell) is the tragic figure trying to communicate his love to his childhood crush of ten years ago Gretchen (Loretta Leigh Bowman) the only way his damaged brain knows how. He offers her body parts, a bit like when your cat delivers you a dead birdy or puts something in your shoe because they love you. Offerings contains one of the great John Carpenter scores not actually by Carpenter. This is not too bad considering how late in the cycle it is. While the pizza delivery boy is murdered à la Slumber Party Massacre this pizza should definitely not be eaten!


Siege (1983)
Release Date: 20/7/21
I asked for this blu-ray in my last film post and violà here it is. Thanks to the blu-ray gods & Severin Films. Cult Canuxploitation that is awesome low budget goodness. Anarchy reigns supreme in Nova Scotia due to a police strike. A battle ensues between The fascist New Order gang and the tenants of a block of flats.

Years Of Lead Box Set (1973-1977)
Release Date: 21/6/21
I also asked for "a stack of Poliziotteschi movies" and violà here's five in one boxset! We are told these are five classic crime thrillers. I've only seen one from this set so how excitement. The Movies appearing in this new box set are No The Case Is Happily Resolved (73), Savage Three (75), Like Rabid Dogs (76), Colt 38 Special (76) and Highway Racer (76). 

Vengeance Trails: 4 Classic Westerns (1966-1970) 
Release Date: 26/7/21
I didn't ask for this one but what is better than two cult genres coming together at once. That's the Spaghetti Western and the Revenge Film. Let's face it westerns are only worth watching if they've got revenge so Hallelujah! We get Fulci's Massacre Time (1966), Lucidi's My Name Is Pecos (1966), Dallamano's Bandidos (1967) and Margheriti's And God Said To Cain (1970). What about that for a list of directors?! 

*I had a good strike rate in the last wish-list so let's see how we go this time. Still no California Split, After Hours, Cockfighter, Straight Time or Night Of The Juggler announcements. We also want Quicksand, Side Street, Blast Of Silence, I Walk The Line, Payday, Fear Is The Key, Minnie & Moskowitz, The Last Of Sheila, Going In Style (79), Stir, Pure Shit, Arrebato, Breaking In, Possible Worlds, Ladies & Gentleman The Fabulous Stains and more 40s/50s English & American crime movies I can't remember the names of right now because tired. 

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