Saturday, February 27, 2021

Short Film: Let's Go Potty! (Japan, 2006)

The title says it all. Enjoy! 
"Shimajiro: Toilet Training is a three-part episode from a cartoon in a correspondence education materials aimed at teaching preschoolers about various social manners, etiquette and life skills. In this particular episode on potty training, the kiddie tiger learns how to properly use the toilet all by himself ... with a little bit of help from the talking toilet. [Know Your Meme]"

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Time Trap (USA, 2017)

It is perhaps close to impossible to make a movie set in a cave featuring a group of non-adults that doesn't end up having, at least for a few seconds here and there, an almost Goonies (1985 / trailer)-like feel. And so it is with Time Trap, if only for a second or two now and then, an independent sci-fi movie that should appeal to younger folks looking for something that doesn't scream "kiddy film" (most of the kids are post-pubescent) but also doesn't fixate on adult themes or aspects that might turn the narrative too far in an unpleasantly serious direction. Luckily, however, as adolescently safe as Time Trap is, it never becomes as annoying as the puzzlingly-labeled "classic" of the last century — which isn't to say, however, that the movie overcomes all its flaws well enough to truly be recommendable, or that it truly offers a satisfying resolution. 
Trailer to
Time Trap:

For the first ten minutes or so of Time Trap, the focus of the narrative indicates to be on an archaeologist named Hopper (stud-muffin Andrew Wilson, the forgotten and better-looking brother of the more-famous Luke Wilson and Owen Wilson) and his dog, who are out searching for some hippies that went lost some decades earlier.
Wait! They aren't just any hippies: they're his parents and younger sister, who disappeared when he was a wee lad. He finds their van, and a cowboy seemingly frozen in position inside a cave, and before you can say "Let's go spelunking," he goes and does just that — followed a few days later, after no one hears from him again, by his faithful students Taylor (Reiley McClendon of The Mine  [2012 / trailer]) and Jackie (Brianne Howey of Viral [2016 / trailer]), inexplicably augmented by the ragtag trio of Cara (Cassidy Gifford of The Gallows [2015 / trailer] and Ten: Murder Isalnd [2017 / trailer]), her younger sis Veeves (Olivia Draguicevich), and an annoying pubescent chub named Furby (Max Wright). Of course they lie to their parents about where they are off to, and in no time flat do the stupidest thing in the world: rappel down deep into the cave they think Hopper entered. And thus the adventure starts...
Okay, now the big spoiler: the interior of the cave system is a time trap, a nether-region that exists outside of the time continuum of the rest of the earth, populated by Neanderthals and Conquistadors and cowboys and the whole Hopper family and more (basically: anyone who ever entered the cave), where a mere moment is the equivalent of years outside — a fact that the spelunking quartet needs more than an hour to figure out. In other words: everything they ever knew above on the surface of Earth (parents, friends, hometown and country) is long dead, buried, turned to dust, evolved into almost a new life form.
A rather shattering concept, if you think about it, that gets brushed aside with one teary hug between Cara and Veeves and, in the final scene, glossed over even more with a few choice lines of laughable dialogue, including "Well, it's not quite home, but at least were all together" and "A lot's changed, but... we're kind of a big deal around here." (Dunno if most people would be as unaffected as the kids in this film by the concepts of never seeing anyone they knew ever again and spending the rest of their lives amidst a future form of humanity that neither looks nor speaks like they do and, if a reference made earlier in the film is true, breathes a different atmosphere than they — and that in all likelihood sees them as an earlier and inferior step in the human evolution. Human zoo time.)
Okay, don't think and the film is enjoyable enough for what it is. Time Trap is much more a young-adult-cum-kiddy sci-fi adventure flick than it is a serious movie, science fiction or otherwise. As such, it is also a surprisingly well-shot and good-looking for a low budget, independent feature, and is far from boring. The narrative also follows a certain logic that (assuming you can even accept the concept of a "time trap" on Earth and in a Texan cave instead of in Ted Cruz's brain) verges on believable for a while, although, in all honesty, the quickness with which the kids are willing to rappel down into the cave (the first four and, later, Furby alone) makes them all viable candidates for the Darwin Awards. The special effects are in general pretty good, tension is there on occasion, and a few people even die — at least for a time.
But the film also reveals an inability on the part of the filmmakers to follow their concept to the logical and tragic outcome that the plot actually demands. Instead, as might be expected of a kiddy flick, they wimp out and offer a flawed deus ex machine that doesn't hold any water. The sudden appearance of the save-the-day futuristic technology of what can only be called "magic wires", for example, renders the whole interlude with the appearance of the "future man" (Sabin Smith [?] of Bigfoot Wars [2014 / trailer]) illogical, as the wires could have been sent down into the cave from the start instead of the future man. Indeed, one can only wonder why those who control the wires choose to save all our characters but not their own man...

Friday, January 29, 2021

Short Fim: The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water (UK, 1973)

A.k.a. Lonely Water. This two-minute chiller is actually public information cum safety warning broadcast on TV in Great Britain. (PIF in British English, PSA in American English.) "It was commissioned by the government's Central Office of Information (COI) in response to an increase in child drowning accidents: written and produced by the COI official Christine Harmon and directed by Jeff Grant, who blogged about his experience. [The Guardian]" 
Lonely Waters "played on British television throughout the 1970s and terrified an entire generation of kids who not only steered clear of 'lonely water' but also stopped swimming. Some probably stopped bathing. [Coming Soon]" 
Within the 90 seconds of this masterful short, astute viewers can find reverberations of films ranging from  The Seventh Seal (1958 / trailer) to Don't Look Now (1973 / trailer). The wonderfully chilling voiceover is supplied by everyone's cult fav, the great Donald Pleasance (5 Oct 1919 – 2 Feb 1995) of way too many films to bother mentioning any. His final line — "I'll be back... back...back..." went on to become a lasting, instantly recognizably saying amongst British kids long before Arnie made "I'll be back" internationally popular with The Terminator (1984 / trailer). 
Interesting tidbit: amongst the kiddies of the short is the Afro-Brit Terence Anthony "Terry" Sue-Patt (19 September 1964 – circa May 2015); he's got a rather entertaining look on his face during the first accident. He went on to enjoy some success and renown on British TV. Nevertheless, it has been suggested by news sources that "whilst his body was found on May 22, 2015, it is possible that he had been dead for nearly a month before discovery".  
And how long do you think it'll take till your body is found? Fellow Brit Joyce Carol Vincent [15 Oct 1965 – 21 Dec 2003] puts him to shame, though: it is estimated she lay dead in her flat for two, possibly three, years before discovery. See the docudrama Dreams of Life [2011 / trailer].

Friday, January 22, 2021

Film Fun: Music from Movies – The Black Klansman (USA, 1966)

 
"Get control of myself?! Who the hell are you, white woman, to tell me to get control of myself?!"
Jerry Ellsworth (Richard Gilden)
 
Let's take a meandering, diffuse look at the title track to a movie a.k.a. Brutes and I Crossed the Line: the B&W exploiter The Black Klansman, which has relatively little to do with Spike Lee's "serious" film from 2018, BlacKKKlansman (trailer). About the only thing they share is a similar name. 
Trailer to
 The Black Klansman (1966):

This flick here, a product of the great, legendary "incredibly strange filmmaker" Ted V. Mikels, born Theodore Vincent Mikacevich (29 Apr 1929 – 16 Oct 2016), is a relatively straight exploitation movie, if with slightly more serious intent than the average Mikels film.
The fourth directorial project of Mikels and his last B&W film, The Black Klansman was preceded by Mikels's sexploitation titles One Shocking Moment (B&W / 1965 / full film) and Dr. Sex (color / 1964 / full film / French poster below), and his dull directorial debut, Strike Me Deadly (1963 / trailer).
When The Black Klansman was released as I Crossed the Line in NYC, it got paired rather oddly with the even older Japanese color film, Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman a.k.a. Zatoichi on the Road (1963 / trailer), the 5th of a series of 27 Japanese Zatoichi films starring Shintarô Katsu (29 Nov 1931 – 21 June 1997) as the titular blind, itinerant swordsman and masseuse.
As Talking Pulp puts it, "The Black Klansman isn't Blaxploitation, it's half a decade too early and it doesn't have the wisecrackin' street slang of those pictures or the sweet style. However, it does feel like a sort of proto-Blaxploitation film. At its core though, it is a Civil Rights era thriller in a similar vein to Roger Corman's The Intruder (1961). This falls more on the exploitation side though." Indeed, it is pretty much a full-blown entry of what Mondo Digital refers to as "racesploitation", which "became a movie mainstay in the '70s, [but] ... was too hot a topic in the volatile '60s to get much traction on the big screen.*"
* Other films of the time that pushed the buttons of "anti-miscegenation"-minded individuals and other Republicans include I Spit on Your Grave a.k.a. J'irai cracher sur vos tombes (1959 / trailer), Les tripes au soleil a.k.a. Checkerboard (1959 / scene), My Baby Is Black (1961 / trailer), I Passed for White  (1960 / trailer), Born Black a.k.a. Der verlogen Akt (1969) and the decidedly non-exploitive, Oscar-nominated message movie, One Potato Two Potato (1964 / scene). 
The Department of Afro-American Research Arts Culture has the plot to The Black Klansman: "This melodrama exploits racial tensions with the tale of a light-skinned African-American (Richard Gilden, of The Unknown Terror [1957 / trailer / full film]), as Jerry Ellsworth] who impersonates a Caucasian and joins the notorious Ku Klux Klan to get revenge on the bigots who bombed a church and killed his daughter. Soon after joining, the vengeful father begins having sex with the clan leader's daughter (Maureen Gaffney)." Harry Lovejoy, above, plays the KKK daddy.
Film trivia: Richard Gilden was "a white man playing a Black man playing a white man" [Grindhouse Database]. Maureen Gaffney (b. 1 July 1943), also found in the nudie-cuties Pardon My Brush [1964 / poster above] & Hawaiian Thigh [1965], the latter of which was distributed by Harry Novak, "is now the artist Maureen Gaffney Wolfson, and she now swings a paintbrush instead of her boobs". The image below is a print of one of her paintings, Celestial Concerto of Love, and can be purchased directly from the artist.
The Black Klansman was shot in 21 days near Bakersfield, CA – and NOT "in complete secrecy in the Deep South". "In addition to executive producer Joe Solomon, the approximately $80,000 budget was supplied by Richard Gordon and distributor Jerry Solway of Astral Films, Ltd. [...] The Black Klansman was an entry at the 1966 Cannes International Film Festival, and marked the screen debut of actor Max Julien [the co-scriptwriter & co-producer of Cleopatra Jones (1973)], and James McEachin. [AFI]"
The script of The Black Klansman was supplied by Arthur Andrew Names Jr. (25 July 1925 – 9 Aug 2015) and John T. Wilson, who later joined forces to write Mikels's Girl in Gold Boots (1968 / trailer) and Names's only known directorial credit, Snakes a.k.a. Fangs a.k.a. Holy Wednesday a.k.a. Snakelust (1974). Jerry's white girlfriend in La La Land, Andrea, whom he later saves from lynching in Alabama, is the only known film role of Rima Kutner* (photo below), a "queen of non-reaction".
* Rima Joy Kutner (14 Jan 1936 – 5 Oct 1988), the model/actress and 1958 Northwest University-graduate daughter of "Luis Kutner, lawyer, author, lecturer, artist, entrepreneur, poet, athlete, and musician, [who] was born in Chicago on June 9, 1908, the son of Paul Kutner, a house painter and decorator, and Ella Kutner. Kutner's religious background was Jewish, and he described his ancestry as 'mixed French, English, Spanish, German, and Russian.' An inveterate romantic, he liked to tell newspaper reporters that when his mother was a young Russian-Turkish girl she was kidnapped at the age of 11 and forced to become a dancing girl in the harem of a Turkish pasha. She was rescued from her captivity at age 15 by some Russian sailors who took her to the Crimea where she was protected by a young painter and opera student, Paul Kutner, whom she later married."
Okay, but enough about the movie and other tangents, let's get to the soundtrack – but not the film music by the great Bolivian-American composer Jaime Mendoza-Nava (1 Dec 1925 – 31 May 2005), who also scored such masterpieces as Orgy of the Dead (1965 / great trailer), The House Near the Prado (1969) & The Hanging of Jake Ellis (1969), both with Charles Napier, The Cut-Throats (1969) & The Midnight Graduate (1970), both with The Great Uschi, Grave of the Vampire (1972 / trailer), The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976 / trailer), Vampire Hookers (1978 / trailer) and so much more.
No, let's give a listen to and then look at the title track, entitled (Surprise!) The Black Klansman, by Tony Harris, which even had a one-sided 45-rpm release back when the film came out (somehow we doubt it got much airplay). You can't really dance to this one, which starts with the stanza: 
"The Ku Klux Klan killed my little Girl. 
Now I'm alone in this hostile world. 
My plan for vengeance may seem odd, 
but with the help of God, 
I will destroy them from within... 
disguise myself and be the Black Klansman!" 
Yeah, the lyrics are a hoot and basically explain the plot of the movie, a movie which tends to generate pure denegation and rare praise. ("Stark, violent and stuffed with upsetting imagery, The Black Klansman is just as distressing in 2018 as it was in 1966. [BirthMoviesDeath]") But the song is pretty good, particular if you're into classic garage rock like that found on the fabulous Nuggets compilation LPs of the 80s. In this case here, the song has an intriguing, almost proto-Californian country garage rock appeal – hardly a surprising tone for the song, once you hear some of the other music Tony Harris was doing around the time. 
Tony Harris's title track to 
The Black Klansman:
Tony Harris was an active man in the 60s and early 70s, as is revealed over at West Coast Fog, but then he disappeared. So we checked our attic, and found out that there is a guy out there named Anthony Harris who, just like Tony Harris, is the son of the American film producer and distributor Jack H. Harris (28 Nov 1918 – 14 Mar 2017), the man who brought us The Blob (1958), Master of Horror (1965 / trailer) a.k.a. Obras maestras del terror (1960), and his own and only directorial project, Unkissed Bride a.k.a Mother Goose a Go-Go (1966 / trailer). Dare we assume that Anthony and Tony are one and the same person? (Anthony, b.t.w., is married to an Alizon; if you look them up online you'll notice that some people seem to not like them or the recording studio, Power Studios Inc, that they run [ran?] from their pleasant-looking, 97-year-old home on Orlando Ave in West Hollywood.) Anthony, in any event, supposedly helped script Larry Hagman's Beware! The Blob! (1972 / trailer) and possibly produced some of the music, including the theme Son of Blob, by Mort Garson (20 July 1924 – 4 Jan 2008).
But years ago, way back in 1965, when Anthony was still only Tony, the young Harris released an interesting "psychedelic acoustic garage" single, Scorpio, backed with the even better psychedelic garage rock ditty, Honey. He followed them with a decidedly "raw and snotty folk-rock ode to the superhero in the vein of the Turtles best work", a novelty garage rock song entitled Super Man (below), backed by the far-better slice of psychedelia, How Much Do I Love You. The how and why he ended up doing the title track to The Black Klansman is unknown to us, but all of Tony Harris's early work (i.e., 60s to the 70s) is worth a listen. 
Tony Harris sings 
Super Man:
To connect the dots to a title track we recently covered here at a wasted life, and as evidence of how incestuous regional music scenes tend to be, one of Harris's earliest known songwriting credits is for the surf instrumental Carmen P., first recorded by the totally unknown LA group The Citations, a songwriting credit he shares with John Marascalco and Richard Delvy (20 Apr 1942 – 6 Feb 2010). Delvy "might be remembered by some as one of the founding forces of Surfer music: as a drummer, he began his career in music with The Bel-Airs (listen to 1961's Mr. Moto) and The Challengers (listen to 1962's Surfbeat)." He was also the arranger (and we presume the drummer) on the great title track to The Green Slime (1968), as we mentioned here at Film Fun: Music from Movies – The Green Slime (USA/Japan, 1968).
Last but not least, Tony Harris was, like Anthony Harris, extremely active as a music producer. The same year that he was playing in Pacific Ocean, a psychedelic band now remembered primarily as an early footnote in the career of its vocalist, actor Edward James Olmos, he also lent his talents as producer and arranger to... 
Milton Berle's "truly wretched" 
Yellow Submarine (1968):
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