- Queen of Black Magic (Mondo Macabro)
- Living Corpse (Mondo Macabro)
- Your American Teen (CTG Films)
- Electric Button (Moon & Cherry – MVD Visual)
- Keith Lowell Jensen – Elf Orgy (MVD)
- Original Adventures: Gumby’s Best Episodes (Legend Films)
- Elizabeth Taylor: An Unauthorized Biography (Legend Films)
- Classic All-star Commercials (Legend Films)
- Liberace: The World’s Greatest Showman (Legend Films)
- Action Heroes of the Cliffhanger Serials
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This one might have been a goner if not for the insane effects, gross-out kills and outrageous violence. Sequence-wise, there are some real eye-poppers here. And they come as gushy surprises, oases in the desert, because the pacing is so gutwrenchingly slow between FX set pieces. But, those times when the movie does get going, it gets going gonzo! You’ll see some things here that could only remotely be called predictable if you’d already wallowed in big bucket of Indonesian horror films. At the same time, it bears resemblance in places, through both tone and content, to some Chinese horror-fu I’ve witnessed. Both countries are in Asia, duh!, you might tell me. I’d respond: Yes, but Asia is huge, a piece of geography cradling a multiplicity of cultures. But anyhoo, QUEEN OF BLACK MAGIC is worth a glance thanks to the trippy gore and zowie low budget FX, not to mention the kickass asskicking sequence at the end, a little horror foo, y’all?
Indonesia, 1978, 90 minutes, Eastmancolor, 2.35:1 (16×9), English language
Drac goes Pak! THE LIVING CORPSE, the Pakistani film industry’s foray into adapting Bram Stoker, is not the cheese shop you might expect. While it’s definitely a B film and some of the fisticuffs had me thinking of the old serials, the movie acquits itself with a seriousness and a brimful of mood. It’s not strictly faithful to Stoker’s novel. It touches on some landmark events in the book but finds interesting other ways of getting there. One of the most startling innovations is the film’s prologue, in which the viewer discovers that this take on the stake story may wrap up in occult territory but its monster man’s origins are anything but. In fact, you may feel more like you’re watching a version of Jekyll & Hyde or Frankenstein, what with all the mad science-ing going on. Thing is, Professor Please-Don’t-Ask-Me-To-Remember-The-Spelling-Of-His-Name is at work on THE ELIXIR OF LIFE! Which turns out to be the elixir of death, followed upon by life, if by life you mean undeath. There. Then come the opening titles and from there it’s a little more traditional Dracula territory, with the caveat of above-mentioned innovations. And that’s no biggie, every Dracula movie I’ve ever seen has been as much an interpretation of the novel as straight adaptation. The Frank Langella Drac in the 70s was based on the play based on the book and said play made some changes I always found headscratchers. Coppolla’s brilliant 90s rendition, “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”, is a masterpiece of cinema but it finds the germ of Stoker’s novel it wants to explore, and that colors the unfolding of that master director’s vision of the world’s most famous Undead. Consider Werner Herzog’s amazing arthouse rendition of the tale in his 70s remake of F.W. Murnau’s “Nosferatu”. Go all the way back to the Bela Lugosi one; it takes plenty of liberties. The way LIVING CORPSE’s plot flow of the story is different than the novel is in part hard to put into words and in part something that would take minute dissection of the film’s plot to discuss. Suffice it to say that it’s a bit different, but not without being unrecognizable. Read the rest of this entry “
YOUR AMERICAN TEEN focuses in on the northwestern United States. What about the NW U.S.? Sexual exploitation. Of teens. That’s what. The minds of some may go to statutory rape. For others, porn. But there are subtler forms. And forms with extensive networks globally. It might sound like I’m talking about “Taken” but this is no Liam Neeson movie. This is a movie about the real thing, teen sexual exploitation in all its forms. Now that most of the obvious ones are out, what else is there? There’s another one, also with great networks. But it’s not the sex slave trade. It’s the sex sells trade. The kinds of images thrown up as the visual definition of desirable and sexy nudge girls toward “sexier” dress and the unleashing of feminine powers they don’t even fully understand. YOUR AMERICAN TEEN probes these kinds of issues, and while its geographic focus is the northwest U.S., I think the sheer human element at work here is universal. Note: There is an appearance by Daryl Hannah.
ELECTRIC BUTTON (MOON & CHERRY) proffers a distinctive take on sexuality in cinema. I’ve seen plenty of erotica in my time – most of it horror, granted – and I’ve never run across this scenario before. To make it even more interesting, the subject matter is being handled with a woman’s touch. Written and directed by Yuki Tanada, ELECTRIC BUTTON (MOON & CHERRY) trope dodges and flings our two romantic interests together by way of an erotic writer’s club. When virginal Tadokoro, the new guy in the club, makes his appearance on the scene, it’s just as Mayama is having a wretched case of writer’s block. Needless to say, she unleashes her lusty mind upon the (physically) innocent newcomer in an effort to break her writer’s block and, of course, have some fun. Naturally more ensues. This is a clever film with great strokes of originality and has already been hailed by critics. Its distinctive approach to sexuality – this is not a dirty film no matter how “adult” the scenario(s) may be – makes this one worth watching for fans of sexy cinema and aficionados of foreign films.
Some things deserve shout-outs no matter what. Stellar comedian Keith Lowell Jensen has a new album out with an album that gets you giggling before the show’s even on the road. That it does with its moniker. ELF ORGY. I tell you what, I was chuckling and also waiting to find out what in the hell kind of context would give rise to such a phrase. I’m not going to tell you. For that you have to hear the disc, and I STRONGLY URGE you to do so. If you like progressive, intelligent, iconoclastic comedy, then Jensen is one to put on your list. I’ve added him to my short list that includes the likes of Bill Hicks and Doug Stanhope. See, the thing about stand-up is that, in the right hands, it’s more than just humor. It’s social commentary. And Jensen has got great comedic aim for that, hitting bull’s eyes one after another. His transgressive sense of humor keeps the listener off guard and gripping his abdomen, hoping the pain will pass soon. I’m talking about laughing too hard, of course. I’m not suggesting Jensen will induce pooping in you, though I guess he might make you shit your pants – metaphorically speaking, naturally. Jensen’s humor also goes for the offbeat, dragging you happily kicking and screaming into his world. And what a weird and wonderful world it is. Whether he’s simply delivering hilarious jokes or slicing away at society’s follies with his incisive, cutting wit, Jensen keeps you engaged, entertained, laughing AND thinking. His low-key delivery – not the monotone of Stephen Wright or anything – is perfect. It’s conversational cranial cramping – if you’re uptight, anyway. Some of us like stretching our envelopes and don’t mind having them stretched by others. Particularly if the other is someone as brilliant and brilliantly funny as Keith Lowell Jensen. Check him out. That’s not a suggestion.
Remember that walking talky stick of gum? Remember the claymation? And the horsey thing? I’m talking about Gumby and Pokey and I’m getting the shivers just doing it. Let’s face it. Like Boop, though in a different way, Gumby is some classic creepy kiddy programming. Rank it right up their with “Davey and Goliath.” Of course, that kind of morbid fascination is its own kind of entertainment. It’s kind of hard not to get sucked into the only in its own time cartoon – and these are episodes from the ORIGINAL episodes. Legend Films has culled and collected 16 of the best of this creep-the-kids cartoon. Or maybe it’s just adults who freak out on this stuff. I dunno. I’m certainly not knocking it, because Gumby is entertaining for the grown-ups, just for entirely different reasons than the kids. Then again, maybe I’m just weird.
Doesn’t the word “unauthorized” just give you shivers – at least if your a celebrity fan. If you read People Magazine and love old movies, then this could be your thing. The old stars had their fascinating episodes in life, just like today’s. And Elizabeth Taylor is one of the greats. I still remember her going head to head with James Dean in “Giant.” A powerful presence with an interesting film history, Taylor is a woman whose history is more than merely cinema. What about her personal life? And how it intertwined itself with her professional life? What do you know about her besides the movies and marriages? If your answer is not much, then the cure is right here. This feature-length documentary boldly digs into the darkness of Taylor’s charmed but also cursed life, giving you the bright side, and the not-so-bright. Taylor aficionados, take note.
Fans of TV of the golden era who have their favorite shows lined up on their DVD/Blu-Ray shelves need to make room for another DVD. You’ve got your shows and your favorite yesteryear stars, but to you have the commercials they did? If not, then you can now with this Legend Films release. Classic commercials are fun to watch anyway, but when you mix in some classic star power, it goes to a whole new level. Lots of stars today started out doing commercials. Who says it was any different then? For that matter, back in the day, stars were often seen hawking products on their shows. Here’s more than an hour of commercials covering everything from famous food to equally famous hygiene products. All brought to you by famous faces such as Lucille Ball, Bob Hope, John Wayne, Bogart and more …………….. So I suggest if you want to see old favorites in new contexts that you hustle yourself down to the DVD store or hustle yourself online and pick this up.
Liberace is the man. Was. Nah, still is. One of the most beloved pianists around, he was more than just an instrumentalist. It wasn’t a just a set of talented fingers dancing on those keys, it was a charming, charismatic persona at that piano, one who, in some sublime way, brought a special charm to the world of piano music. And then there’s the fact that he had a marvelous feel for the instrument, turning out some passionate renditions of a plethora of piano tunes. But beyond the concerts and costumes, there was the man. Those who always wanted to go backstage but have yet to have that opportunity, have something of a chance here with this biography of the great musician. Everybody knows he was a great piano player and wore gaudy outfits (that somehow worked for him). But what else do you know … ? Find out on this movie-length doc about LIBERACE.
One of my favorite forms of theater entertainment from days gone by is the classic serial. They came to be monikered “cliffhangers” due to the fact that each episode ended with the apparent death of a central good guy character (only to find out next week or whenever the new chapter hit the screen that they only apparently died, much to the wrath of Annie Wilkes). Strung together, the chapters make one big B movie. And they made them of all varieties, generally attuned to a children’s audience. This DVD is a fine sampler for lovers of the old cliffhangers, now long gone thanks to TV (no more reason for kids to go to the theater every Saturday morning) and other influences, no doubt. But they’re not gone from your TV screen. Here you’ll find great villains and even greater heroes. You’ll find very familiar faves such as Batman and sidekick Robin, Superman and Flash Gordon. The Green Hornet – way before Seth Rogan – puts in an appearance, as does the feisty Iron Claw. Rocket Man, one of the first serials I ever saw, also is represented here. Legend Films has put together prime sample chapters from a number of this finished but not forgotten realm of theatrical entertainment.