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This almost feels like a subversive, sexualized version of one of those old cautionary juvenile deliquent pictures. Except that this is a helluva lot higher in quality and has more going on brains-wise behind the camera than those old things probably did. I may speak unfairly, given that I have only old trailers as my source of information. At any rate, this is a tale of innocence lost and the descent into the maelstrom of wickedness. A journey into the tenebrous, the gritty underbelly. And such. Where’s Nicholas Cage? Skinny Dipping is harmless enough but lashing out violently against a teacher is not. The middle piece between (A) skinny dipping and (C) teacher assault is the important fact that a boy is accused of an ugly assault against a fellow classmate. And so the boy leaves school and haunts the seedier side of things. One can’t blame him for feeling rejected. Regarding his guilt or innocence, I’m not into spoilers. Moving on. While our boy is busy discovering the dark side, the teacher is hiding away, recovering – and killing time until her lover, a married man, comes to entangle himself in her arms. This schocker layers atmosphere, stylishness, artful erotica and violence into the tradiational Nikkatsu formula. I say formula, but the only thing forumlaic, really, is the fact that Nikkatsu keeps brains behind the camera – as well as a good eye – thus turning out some seriously cinematic erotic thrillers back in the day. This, part of the studio’s FEMALE TEACHER franchise, is one of them.
1982, not rated, color, 16:9 (1.85:1), Japanese with English subtitles, 66 min.
Another installment in Impulse Picture’s commendable Nikkatsu Erotic Films Collection, a line which is busily releasing some mind-staggering stuff from the 1970s and 1980s. Nikkatsu did their porn and they did their really really really sexy stuff. But enough, I’ve said all this before. This one’s a wowzer even for Nikkatsu, boasting a spectrum of eye-popping material from lesbians in the shower (relevant to the plot, for those keeping score) and a big time gunfight at the finale. The plot exhibits more complexity than some other Nikkatsu films, which isn’t to say Nikkatsu cranked out dumb spank movies. Nikkatsu distinguished itself by creating sexual movies that had heft to them, not just paper thin context for fucking to happen in. But SHE CAT feels a little like a mix between J crime cinema – which, technically, this is partially comprised of – and the Italian giallo, just in terms of the twisty plot full of unpredictable turns. Maybe a tad touch of Bond. And certainly more than a hint of gun fu. Of course, it’s also an accomplished erotic feature, with the eroticism having a place in the overall story context rather than being banging that shuts the story down for wank time. Nikkatsu had class. These movies have class – even though they’re naughty as hell. Plot quickies: “Cat” has a past and wants to keep it that way but an assassination attempt’s failure is not going to stop the gun-toting bad guys out to get Cat. Enmeshed in this brouhaha is a woman with a secret that could kick the legs out from under an entire company. There’s plenty going on in the story here and Nikkatsu brings its usual sense of style to the proceedings. This one even stands out a bit from the crowd.
1983, not rated, color, 16:9 (1.85:1), Japanese with English subtitles
The Stooges were several things, several important things. Important if you think music is important and if you think art is important then you think music is important or else you don’t know what art is. At any rate, The Stooges straddled some fences but you couldn’t tell it from their tunes. They were punk before punk was. They were psychedelic rock. They were hard rock. But it was all The Stooges, a band who helped pave the way for punk and a whole lot else. No Frankenstein stitches here. And the individual member name most associated with The Stooges is Iggy Pop, of course. But Mr. Pop could hardly have pulled off his socio-musical rebellion without the help of the distinctive guitar work of one Ron Asheton. And that’s what this DVD is about. I mean, it’s a live concert (April 19, 2011, Michigan Theater, Ann Arbor), not a documentary in the interview, behind-the-scenes sort of thing. That’s not its focus. But this live concert, which featured not only The Stooges (OF COURSE), but also the likes of punk slash rock slash spoken-word extraordinaire Henry Rollins, not to mention Radio Birdman guitarist Dentz Tek. Besides all that, this rock n roll tribute boasts string quartet backing on several tracks, making for an even more transcendent experience. And maybe that’s fitting, given that this is all in honor of the moved-on-beyond guitarist of one of rock’s most iconic AND iconoclastic bands. And, profits from this DVD go to the Ron Asheton Foundation. (114 min., www.mvdvisual.com)
Every zombie fan and every horror fan period should watch this movie. They should buy this movie. They should give it a special place in their collection and hug it sometimes. OK, that last bit isn’t required. But the rest is. While, from the title, one can be forgiven for expecting just another lo-fi, shoestring budget camp zombie film. There are plenty of those in the zombie craze that’s been going for a while and shows no signs of waning. At any rate, Bath Salt Zombies is so much fun and displays so much creativity and takes such an unexpected turn on the zombie standard that it’s impossible not to totally dig this flick. It uses that creativity to not only get around budgetary restraints but, at the very same time and with the very same methods it uses to get around its limited resources, to add gobs of production value, zest and style. The major zombie rampages are executed with each its own visual splendor, artfully dodging what might otherwise have been undoable without Hollywood backing (or at least a lot more money) and making the scenes even more exciting. Read the rest of this entry “
This is a really good movie, not just some sleazy Eurotrash. Not that there’s anything at all wrong with sleazy Eurotrash. I’ve enjoyed my share. But THE GIRL IN ROOM 2A is primo stuff. Quality. It’s bizarre but understated, a weird combination with which ROOM 2A acquits itself in style. Synopsis: A halfway house – for parolees from the area’s women’s jail – run by a strong-willed middle age woman with help from her grown son has a secret. It’s like “The Sinful Dwarf” only there’s no dwarf, no leering sexual excess, no fucking weird toys, no mien of sadism from the film, and the secret is totally different. Ahem. As for sadism, it is present in ROOM 2A but it feels more localized to within the story, with its characters. It didn’t feel as though the film itself was enjoying the punishment. I should clarify: I like “The Sinful Dwarf” and have no problem with sadism in cinema. Read the rest of this entry “
When Mondo Macabro declares that it trucks in “the wild side of world cinema,” they’re not exaggerating. That’s more than marketing. Here’s a release to prove it (you can add it to the list that includes “Queen of Black Magic” and “Mystics in Bali”). Capitalizing on the thankfully short-lived 80s sword and sorcery boom whose best film, arguably, is the still not very good “Conan the Barbarian”, Indonesia turned out one of its takes on the genre in 1983. I’m happy to report that THE DEVIL’S SWORD is more entertaining by far than the American stuff hitting the screens at the time. Might not have been as “serious” a film but it’s a lot more entertaining. THE DEVIL’S SWORD has as much to do with martial arts cinema as the fantasy genre, though the latter is far from ignored. There are tons of crazy fight scenes with improbably feats, decapitations and amputations, jumping around, sword-swinging – there’s even a warrior crone who gets cut in half and decapitated and still manages to keep things together. But the villain of the piece is the Crocodile Queen whose cave domain is underwater apparently (though it suffers from none of the effects you’d expect being underwater and all), complete with a bed that, rather than being four poster, instead is nestled in the giant stone maw of a croc’s mouth. There’s also a croc statue slash killing mechanism over near the fire pool. This doesn’t even begin to describe the wacky that wanders amok throughout the movie. THE DEVIL’S SWORD keeps sailing right along at a nice clip – no worries on pacing here – and throws weirdness after weirdness at you. If you’ve seen heavily fantasy laden martial arts movies from China circa the 70s/80s and you suffered through any interminable 80s Western sword and sorcery epics, then you begin to get an idea of the insanity being channeled quite deliberately it seems by the filmmakers. Our hero, played by Barry Prima, who got some recognition outside his homeland, runs up not only against the croc queen in his quest for the titular sword – fashioned from meteorite metal by a wizard, so it’s pretty bad-ass (I guess, since the film doesn’t actually put it to much use, preferring to use it as a MacGuffin) – but also other warriors hellbent on getting their hands on the weapon. Everything here is over the top, which is pretty much what I’ve come to expect from Indonesian genre cinema, but that’s exactly why it works. Example: Prima’s character kicks a giant rock, sending it flying through the air, then JUMPS ON IT TO USE IT AS A RIDE. (Very Remo Williams, if you ask me.) Yeah. Example: The most ridiculous crocodile men soldiers ever, even if there never were any other such things in other films. Goofy special effects. Gore. And bizarre ideas whose conceptualization in a script meeting somewhere I can’t for the life of me visualize. “Hey, how about this completely random thing nobody’s thought of happens?” Well, it works. I’m pleased. And that’s what counts.
Indonesia, 1983, widescreen 2.35:1/16×9, color
Watching DIABOLICAL DR. Z is some kind of revelation. With a director like Franco who is deals in both brilliance and excess, it’s strange to see one without the other. Furthermore, it is peculiar to see this aforementioned shock without there being present a diluting of the director’s powers. But such is not so with DR. Z. Franco’s signature touches and flourishes are present, but in black-and-white and exhibiting restraint. I should put on record before I go any further that I am not opposed to cinematic self-indulgence. It’s proven a useful mode of artistic expression many a time. Just examine my movie shelf. Or this site, preferably, since I’d rather not have you breaking in and whatnot. But Franco’s genius is not only at full luminescence in DR. Z, he is also innocent of too-long lingerings of the camera on very naked flesh. Also for the record, I’ve no problem with the site of female flesh. But let’s face it, Franco has padded a lot of films out with long stretches of sex, often but not always of the lesbian variety. For the record: Nothing against lesbians though, strangely, I’m not into girl-on-girl action. But I digress. Franco has baffled me. He has blown me away with his cinematic eye. He has broken boundaries. And he has bored the living shit out of me. I’ve seen some of his films that were fever dream/wet dream intersections and while they had oodles more style than a regular T&A flick, the man has, in all fairness, made some dull, listless films. But within his erratic and gargantuan canon, there are some true gems that none but Jess Franco could have made. Some of these even have their gazing tendencies (I won’t call it leering because Franco’s sincere love of women is too obvious), such as “Virgin of the Living Dead”, one of Franco’s finest but stricken with a couple of slow spots, though more interestingly composed and context-surrounded than a lot of his erotohorror. Read the rest of this entry “
Music Video Distributors is releasing a DVD all about love of the old brick and mortar music stores. In fact, the first of the two DVDs we’re talking about today is called BRICK AND MORTAR AND LOVE. You know those great little shops crammed with records and CDs and all the new hits – plus all the eclectic stuff you can’t find anywhere else. Except for looking it up on the Internet. Which is kinda nice since you can easily track down hard-to-find treasures, but the magic of poking through a store and finding a hidden jewel – well, that’s an irreplaceable experience. BRICK AND MORTAR AND LOVE takes a look at the brick and mortar record store and the struggles it faces against the new digital world by taking a look at a particular store, ear X-tacy, run by John Timmons, who figures heavily in the interviews of the DVD. The documentary also talks with other record store owners and even music industry peeps. It’s a love affair. MVD is also distributing another documentary along similar lines, LAST SHOP STANDING: THE RISE, FALL AND REBIRTH OF THE INDEPENDENT RECORD SHOP. The moniker of this disc is swiped from Graham Jones’ book on this fascinating subject. But this is more than about the disappearance of a couple thousand record stores. This is practically a modern history of music, its changing media and the sales of said music. The indie record shop, as you may or may not know, came into existence around the same time music went crazy in the 60s and continued to flourish with the music underground – 60s and 70s psyche and more, 80s punk and new wave. This isn’t just about stores but the people for whom they exist, the music lovers on both sides of the counter. Records, then cassettes, then CDs, music is a force in whatever medium, and LAST SHOP STANDING, covering the aforementioned history, can hardly ignore the shifts from analog to digital. Musicians and music store owners speak up as this documentary explores the question of WHY are record stores disappearing? You may know, but this is worth a look regardless. You might learn something.
Impulse and Severing release yet another shocking classic from Japan’s classic Nikkatsu Studios. This installment of the Nikkatsu Erotic Films collection is FAIRY IN A CAGE. Set against a backdrop of the second World War, we find our heroine in prisoned by a diabolical despot of a political official. While there, the captive and her equally captive cohort, a kabuki performer, endure grueling psychosexual abuse. Through rough bondage and other massive mistreatment, our poor victim endures both physical and psychological abuse. It is a dire, hopeless situation to say the least – until the possibility of unexpected help comes from the unlikeliest of places. Nikkatsu was brilliant at blending their sizzling variety of erotica with various genres from pic to pic. From giallo-like violent thriller’s to high school melodrama and more, Nikkatsu consistently produced quality, artful erotica embedded organically into whatever type of story any given film in particular was built on, and thesex becomes part of the story rather thanperiodic interruptions of the plot. FAIRY IN A CAGE is a proud new entry in this video franchise, which has and continues to bring vintage erotica from the Nikkatsu canon.
A professor in America decides to find out who he is by plunging into a discovery of his ethnic descent. Oddly, only a projectionist holds the key to the door the professor wants opened on his Romanian Jewish heritage. Sound quirky? PHANTOM FATHER is a journey film and its scope is epic in a personal kind of way. The story uses intrigue and suspense, as well as a rich cornocopia of symbolism. The film strays from traditional filmmaking in interesting ways. Anything can mean more than it seems. PHANTOM FATHER is both a deeply personal sort of story and it’s also an exercise in creative, original filmmaking. It’s not a typical film and therefore should draw viewers who dig drama and are seeking something a little different.