Archive for March, 2009
I present to you, THE CHOWDOWN, the first non-horror moviethon. 17 Stephen Chow movies in 3 days. Enjoy.
AKA Quella sporca storia nel west
Directed by Enzo G. Castellari
Starring Andrea Giordana, Gilbert Roland, Horst Frank
Running Time: 91 minutes
Region 2 PAL
DVD Studio: Koch Media (Germany)
Holy crap. I’ve watched a few spaghetti westerns in my time but few of them were as strange as Johnny Hamlet. This is Shakespeare’s classic play (with a scaled down plot) given the Old West treatment as only the Italians can do with rollicking fistfights and lightning fast shootouts. Johnny Hamlet is a cinematic oddity that isn’t just an interesting idea but an entertaining film as well.
The cast features Andrea Giordana as the title character and the always awesome Horst Frank (of The Grand Duel) as Claudio Hamilton, Johnny’s evil uncle. The suave Gilbert Roland plays Johnny’s friend Dazio who gets him out of more than a few close calls. Ennio Girolami of Night of the Devils and Ignazio Spalla of Adios, Sabata play two bloodthirsty thugs working for Claudio.
Director Enzo G. Castellari (The Big Racket, Keoma) brings us a film that is both surreal and beautiful. The cinematography by Angelo Filippini is colorful and sharp and the soundtrack by Alessandro Alessandroni, Francesco De Masi, and Audrey Nohra is grandiose and melodramatic. I can’t help but recommend this one for spaghetti western enthusiasts. While Johnny Hamlet was marketed as another Django sequel (with Andrea Giordana done up in Franco Nero-like makeup), this is a very unique flick and worth a look.
I saw the remake of Last House on the Left today and now that I’m back in the relative safety of my own home, I feel comfortable enough to talk about it. My usual method for watching horror movies in theaters is thus: 1. Never go to opening night or sneak previews. 2. Attend the earliest possible showing. I do not feed off the energy of a packed house and I sure as hell don’t like listening to other people talking or heckling unless the film is embarrassingly awful. Catching a piece of shit on the big screen is rare for me nowadays as I rarely ever crawl out from under my rock. Anyway…
First of all, fans of the original: do not rejoice. I like the 1972 classic (itself a remake of The Virgin Spring) but I am by no means a fan. Wes Craven’s original is a powerful film; a visceral and unique experience but holy shit, it is flawed. Last House on the Left has crippling shifts in tone, the worst of which is the “comedy relief” provided by two bumbling police officers. I don’t know what those two knucklehead hippies, Sean Cunningham (producer and co-writer) and Craven, were thinking when they put that unfunny crap in their movie but it is really fucking terrible. These cops even get their own goofy little theme music.
This spoiler I’m about to drop is pretty minor but it gives me so much pleasure that I cannot help but blab about it. In the new Last House on the Left, Greek director Dennis Iliadis takes the funny cops out of the picture first thing, having Krug and company kill them horribly and sadistically. There you go. The police presence and all potential unfunny funniness are eliminated. Now we can get down to business.
The first things I noticed about the remake are the haunting soundtrack and the gorgeous camerawork. Cinematographer Sharone Meir is very versatile and the new Last House on the Left is both beautiful when it needs to be and frightfully claustrophobic when the shit hits the fan. The shadows and all the grimy details are all there, captured quite elegantly.
Though the remake tones down some of the gore, it still packs quite a punch. In the 2009 version, the rape and murder of the two girls is a grotesque and harrowing scene and it makes the graphic deaths of the evildoers all the more satisfying. Seeing the new Mr. Collingwood trade in a chainsaw (so effective in the original) for a microwave and I just about danced in the aisle.
By the way, the message of Wes Craven’s original film, revenge is bad and all that, has been totally wiped out. The demoralizing effect that the family has in exacting their brutal vengeance upon Krug (played brilliantly in 1972 by David Hess) and company is nowhere to be found here. This new film, produced by the creators of the original, subverts the theme of the hopelessness of revenge and gives the audience a pointless cathartic exercise.
I’m supposed to be criticizing but I’m not. Mainly because showing the parents feeling all squirmy inside about killing Krug, Sadie, and Weasel doesn’t necessarily mean that the audience will feel that way too. Despite what Craven’s original message was, I still felt totally satisfied, joyful even, when Mr. and Mrs. Collingwood dispatched those fucking scumbags in such a grandiose manner.
After I got back from the theater, there was a movie I’d set to record sitting on my DVR that seemed interesting. Turner Classic Movies had played something called Nightmare Honeymoon the night before and I couldn’t find a scrap of info about it in any of my horror movie references. What’s the connection? The original poster for Nightmare Honeymoon imitates that of the original Last House on the Left with the whole “It’s only a movie” bit. Very clever, TCM.
In it, Dack Rambo and Rebecca Dianna Smith play David and Jill, a newlywed couple who witness a murder on the night of their honeymoon. After his new wife is raped and he is nearly done in by the killers, David goes after the men responsible. Careful, I’m about to spoil this one. When he catches up with the psycho and his dumpy buddy, our hero kills the son of a bitch. The interesting thing is that Jill, who has been trying to stop her husband from taking revenge this whole time, sees how easily he dispatches their tormentor, she snaps. She begins kicking the dead body (of the man who raped and humiliated her) screaming, “It’s not enough!” over and over again. And by God, I agree with her.
The new Last House on the Left is totally irresponsible entertainment. It plumbs the depths of horrible human behavior and shows it being punished severely. The lack of a message will be sending critics and fans of the original right through the roof. But I paid to see this remake and I really enjoyed the film so I guess I’m part of the problem. Every review I read seems to say that the remake is devoid of heart. Oh no! How could Wes Craven have let this happened?
I can’t help but be reminded of Funny Games and how when I watched it, I could almost see the director of that film was wagging his finger and chastising me for “enjoying” his violent spectacle. Sorry Mr. Haneke, but at least Dennis Iliadis stays out of my dang face! Passing judgment on your audience by making a relentlessly depressing and sadistic film? The fuck is that about? Watching the Last House on the Left remake will not make me lose any sleep tonight, I promise. The fact is, I’d rather watch something with a cheesy séance sequence and a spooky atmosphere but here I am just the same.
Look, either one digs watching violent films or one doesn’t. Hiding behind a gory and bloody film’s message (if it even has one) doesn’t make a person a more responsible viewer than the next. The point of horror is to invoke revulsion and fear and the point (intentional or not) of these rape-revenge deals is to disturb us and then reward us at the end when evil is punished. Do you ever feel guilty after riding a roller coaster?
Boring afternoon? CURED! (Thanks Nafa.)
Hello. I’ve just noticed that I’ve reviewed quite a few films by French director Jean Rollin. And thanks to that Immoral Tales book, I am now painfully aware that I still have a few more titles I want to track down. One of the things I dig about Rollin is that even his films I don’t like are still great experiences to um… experience. These sensual and ethereal nightmares are unbelievably gorgeous thanks to this director’s insistence on atmosphere over all else.
Here’s what I’ve reviewed so far:
Scream Bloody Murder
AKA Claw of Terror, The Captive Female
Directed by Marc B. Ray
Starring Fred Holbert, Leigh Mitchell, Robert Knox
Running Time: 90 minutes
Matthew runs over his pappy with a tractor then accidentally runs over his own arm. After he grows up and is released from the nuthouse, Matthew (with a shiny claw where his hand used to be) comes home to find his mother remarried. After seeing his mom making out with her new husband, Matthew goes into a murderous rage and kills them both. He then skips town and kills anyone that reminds him of his mom and stepfather. Things go from bad to worse when Matthew falls in love with and kidnaps Vera, a hippie artist and prostitute.
Scream Bloody Murder is a completely entertaining cheesefest loaded with melodramatic music, trite psychology, and corny dialogue. The kill scenes are cheap but bloody and creatively staged. Both the camerawork and the lighting are professional but the shrill acting and rudimentary direction keep Scream Bloody Murder’s feet rooted firmly to the ground. The film tries to be menacing (and it definitely has a mean streak) but it’s so campy and contrived that most of it comes off like a comedy. Matthew’s wild hallucinations of his undead victims taunting him are especially awesome.
I have this vague memory of my older sister waking me up in the middle of the night to watch a movie with her. I was probably 7 years old and the movie was Fantastic Planet. It was a very strange experience (to say the least). Yeah, old school HBO was the bomb. Besides showing Popeye starring Robin Williams and Clash of the Titans about 900 times a day, they also ran things like Hardware Wars and Recorded Live, a short film about reels of film that come to life and eat people. Wait, what is this post about?
Four years ago today, Doomed Moviethon went on the air. Around this time every year, I am wracked with guilt for not having new content to show off and March 2009 is no different. But I assure you, faithful moviethoners, that there are good things on the way. Two moviethons, The Chowdown and Bavadoom, are nearly complete and there are loads of more reviews I’m waaay behind on. I’m even writing a book! So yeah, I hope you have your patience pants on. Anyway, thanks for sticking with the DM and I promise that there are more splendors to come.