Monday, July 31, 2017

Short Film: I Live in the Woods (USA. 2008)

God is Dead! Long live the New God!
Were this short not already nine years old, we would be tempted to say this is some obscure, symbolic reflection of the current state of the American presidential office. But  nope. It's just a quick and violent, mostly stop-motion short full of surreal violence. Sort of like the current state of the American presidential office.
Over at Daily Film Dose, they hit the nail on the head with their description: "[Max] Winston's stop motion/live action quickie about a wildly violent hillbilly punk is told with the energetic momentum of a Road Runner cartoon, and a fresh Henry Selick meets Terry Gilliam meets Sam Raimi style. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be any throughline whatsoever other than the random bombardment of manic energy, pace and bloodsplattering gore. [...] Proceed with caution."
We see a throughline. It's a symbolic reflection of American politics.
As for caution: Fuck that — throw caution to the wind. (But always use condoms.)

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Dinocroc vs. Supergator (USA, 2010)

"I'm telling you. It's aliens! First they go for our animals, then they go for our women."
Roy (Jim Wynorski)
"I've seen your wife. Trust me, Roy; she's safe."
Charlie Swanson (John Callahan)
"I know."

Way back in the day of Poverty Row, say the 1920 to the mid-1950s, a multitude of low-tier studios (the most famous probably being Monogram Pictures, Republic Pictures, and Producers Releasing Corporation) produced a continuous supply of low-budget and quickly made B-films and second features populated by unknowns, B and C personalities, and stars on the slide, out of favor, simply slumming it or on the rise.
Among the directors of Poverty Row, some like Douglas Sirk (26 Apr 1897 – 14 Jan 1987) went on to respectable fame and fortune; others like Edgar G. Ulmer (17 Sept 1904 – 30 Sept 1972) and to a lesser extent Arthur Dreifuss (25 Mar 1908 – 31 Dec 1993) gained later cult repute as under-appreciated masters; most, like the western specialist Robert N. Bradbury (23 Mar 1886 – 24 Nov 1949) or William Whitney (5 May 1915 – 17 Mar 2002), simply disappeared into obscurity; and others, like the highly productive William "One Shot" Beaudine (15 Jan 1892 – 18 Mar 1970), with around 180 movies to his credit,  and Sam Newfield (6 Dec 1899 – 10 Nov 1964), with over 250 movies to his name, attained eternal infamy as "bad movie" directors.
Poverty Row is long gone, needless to say, crumbling like dust once the chain-theater distribution system was broken, television appeared, and the major studios began making A-budget B films. For a long time, the almost cookie-cutter, scrappy product of the studios and directors like Sam Newfield was simply no longer needed.
Today, however, thanks to advent of DVD releases and the plethora of channels populating contemporary cable TV, "poverty row" has almost been reborn; perhaps not as a location — most of the studios of the past were all located on Gower Street in Hollywood — but definitely in regard to cheap, cookie-cutter product (admittedly with a bit more knowing irony than in the old days) from a "house" and some truly productive director(s).
The Asylum, of course, is a prime example of a highly productive "house", as is SyFy Films, nee Sci Fi Pictures, of the SyFy Channel, while Charles Band’s Full Moon, though almost venerable in age by now, is somewhat less fecund. (Roger Corman stands in the heavens above them all, of course, the Holy Deity of contemporary non-major production houses.)
Among the current directors vying for the sobriquet "One Shot" are David DeCoteau (of Creepozoids [1987], Blonde Heaven  [1991] and Retro-Puppet Master [1999], among many) and Jim Wynorski, the director of Dinocroc vs. Supergator (and, among other stuff, Vampirella [1996]), and whom Paste Magazine, on their list of "The Best of the Bad", already refer to as "the 'sleaziest' director on this list". (An oddly placed appellation, seeing that DeCoteau, who is likewise on that list, actually made hardcore porn movies, whereas Wynorski has yet to go further than soft-core.)
Much like the horror films of Sam Newfield — The Monster Maker (1944) being a prime example — invariably featured a stupid story, a "name" actor, a bad man & minions, a monster, an ape, cheap special effects, and a girl & guy, movies from SyFy Films invariably feature a stupid story, a "name" actor, a bad man & his minions, cheap special effects, a girl & guy, and one or more monster animals (or, quite often, mutated monster animals).
And Dinocroc vs. Supergator is no exception, though it does feature a larger bodycount and intentional humor, if not irony. (The latter reflected, for example, in such truly subtle touches as the casting of two people, MILFy Dane Delia Sheppard, seen somewhere further below from some nude pictorial, and the plump Jeff Rector, both with accents from different countries, as sibling scientists.) The "name" actor of Dinocroc vs. Supergator  is a whisky-swilling David Carradine, in one of his last roles (supposedly a one-day job) before proving, like Michael Hutchence, Albert Dekker,* and Vaughn Bodé before him, that erotic auto-asphyxiation is a dangerous way to blow a load.
* Maybe Dekker was actually murdered, if only accidentally.
Carradine's minions in Dinocroc vs. Supergator include Victoria (Lisa Clapperton), initially presented as an ass-kicker but, ultimately, totally incompetent, and a crew of mercenaries that quickly become dinocroc or supergator food. Some lean, hunky dude named "The Cajun" (Rib Hills, whom we wouldn't mind seeing naked) is originally introduced as a minion, but he quickly if inexplicitly turns good guy.
The monsters are of course the titular ones, created by science, which both escape at the same time and have insatiable appetites. They are the prime example of the cheap special effects that populate the movie:  unconvincing CGI that ensures that the monsters can never be taken seriously and every death, no matter how "bloody", is funny. Still, whenever one or the other chomps down on somebody, our eyes go all misty due to happy memories of such mid-century, non-Poverty Row, cheesy, stop-motion classics like The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953 / trailer).
And though a lot people who you think will die, don't — the two guys who run into the deserted hotel and hide behind the counter, for example, though their survival looks more like something was cut from the DVD release than anything else — a lot of people do: aside from those previously mentioned, other deaths include dozens of people at the science complex, a honeymooning couple, two running blondes in bathing suits,** a photographer, a bus driver, diverse tourists, the lead heroine's father, and more.
** A scene that would have been so much funnier had it been two naked running blondes.
Basically, almost anyone introduced as a character agitating outside the core nucleus of three heroes — a nucleus that includes, aside from the Cajun, the girl & guy, Cassidy Swanson (Amy Holt, seen further below in her itsy bitsy teenie weenie non-yellow polka dot bikini, and in Sharkansas Women's Prison Massacre [2015 / trailer]) and Paul Beaumont (Corey Landis of Camel Spiders [2011]), who of course become a couple — die. The most extraneous of all victims are probably the filmmaker Chaz (Michael Bernardi) and his two bikini brunettes, Bimbo 1 (Aurelia Scheppers) & Bimbo 2 (Brandi Williams), whose entire introduction and presence is only the lead up to the punchline of a joke.*** 
*** A scene and joke that would have been so much funnier had they all been naked.
For all the funnily unconvincing CGI deaths, Dinocroc vs. Supergator plays out pretty much just like the typical second feature movie of yesteryear. The equally insipid story, full of illogical developments and coincidences and filler, barrels along to a specific time length as quickly as possible, injecting an event or laugh anytime the goings threaten to get slow. Many of the stupidities are nicely ironed out by ironic dialog (a prime example is the verbal exchange between Paul and the Cajun when it comes to blowing up tunnels). The acting is generally OK, and even where it is truly abysmal — the Concierge (Jerry Hess) is particularly noteworthy — it remains painlessly funny enough to be passable for a movie of this caliber, and some of the actors (the heroic trio, for example) actually project a level of appeal that makes them likable and the movie a tad more fun than to be expected.
On the whole, nothing about Dinocroc vs. Supergator is particularly memorable or "good", but then it is probably a bit unrealistic to expect anything "good" from a movie entitled Dinocroc vs. Supergator. But it does offer some nice scenery, some good laughs, and it flies by quickly enough. It is basically a kiddy film, perfect for the pre-teen, for whom one assumes, hopes, it was made. Non pre-teens can enjoy it when in the right state of mind.
Perhaps it should be mentioned that Dinocroc vs. Supergator is a sequel of sorts of two previous Roger Corman productions, Kevin O'Neill's Dinocroc (2004 / German trailer), with Charles Napier, and Brian Clyde's Supergator (2007 / trailer), but as neither of those movies really has anything to do with this movie other than the respective titular monsters, the fact is immaterial. Another immaterial fact is that an extended sequence of Dinocroc vs. Supergator is set at a deserted resort on the Hawai'ian of Kaua'I, which, supposedly, according to the tour guide (Tamie Sheffield), was used as the location for Roger Corman's She Gods of Shark Reef (1958 / full movie).
As some reptiles are known to be able reproduce asexually, the last scene leaves open the possibility of a sequel — one hopes with nudity.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Shameless Self-Promotion

Capitalism makes strange bedfellows!
Imagine: an author from A Wasted Life — actually, A Wasted Life's only author, seeing that this blog is a one-person undertaking — is now also writing for some other website, a place called Hermann's, which has absolutely nothing to do with films. Usually. Food is more their thing.
One article there, however, does deal with movies: Ten Food Movies We Like.
OK, none but one of the movies listed are of the type we would usually feature at A Wasted Life — and that one has also been reviewed here years ago — but we have seen them all and do like them. (Our taste is broader than A Wasted Life might lead one to believe.) Check it out...
Maybe, just maybe, they might eventually publish my Trolls 2 (1990 / trailer) review. That movie is a food film, too.

And whence comes the GIF above? From the classic music video to Peter Gabriel's song Sledgehammer, directed by Stephen R. Johnson (12 July 1952 – 26 Jan 2015. May he R.I.P.) Lots of food in that video.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Misc. Film Fun — Faux Trailer: Mad Feet (2015)


Fabulously WTF in a fun way. Nico Bellamy took the audio to the trailer of Mad Max: Fury Road (2015 / trailer), George Miller's masterful reboot-cum-sequel of Miller's own earlier Ozploitation classic Mad Max (1979 / trailer),  and synced it to scenes from Miller's animated kiddie flick Happy Feet (2006 / trailer) to create a perfect faux trailer. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Password - Das Rätsel / L'Ultimo Codice (Italy, 2005)


Way back in 2015, among the movies we here at A Wasted Life screened that made our list "Ten Best of 2015" is an disasterpiece entitled Frozen Scream (1975), a cinematic experience "almost Dali-esque in its surreal lack of skill" and "so bad, so incompetent, so unbelievably what-the-fuck that it makes most Ed Wood films look professional in comparison. One is tempted to simply write it off as 'what-were-they-thinking, oh-they-needed-a-tax-deduction' trash, but, in truth, although an unbelievably inept film, Frozen Scream displays an earnestness shared by all those involved that, regardless of the respective lack of talent, makes the viewer realize that the people involved in the project were probably truly serious about it."

All of the above could almost well be said of Password, an Italian no-budget "thriller" that manages to make Frozen Scream seem almost Kubrickian, if not big-budget, in comparison. Password is truly an unbelievable, incompetently made piece of cinematic shit that truly deserves its obscurity – were it not for its total WTF ending that invigorates the by then almost comatosely bored viewer to uncontrollable, rolling-on-the-floor laughter. But, regrettably, as left field and wonderfully out there as the ending is, the rest of the movie never achieves any lasting level of the Dali-esque and, instead, wallows deeply within its cesspool of poorly constructed, filmed, acted, told, directed, edited, made crime-thriller clichés.

It is doubtful that this flick has ever been released in an English-speaking nation. (Indeed, one wonders: How did it come to be released anywhere, even if only on DVD?) The only language options on the 20o6 German DVD Password - Das Rätsel as well as on the 2008 DVD re-release as Das Geheimnis ["The Secret"] are Italian and German. This could logically explain why the only English-language site that has yet bothered to write about this piece of filmic excrement is (Re)search My Trash: Mike Haberfelner, aka Michael Haberfelner, who runs the site, is German-speaking. (An assumption made not because of his name, but because his book, Bauliche Angelegenheiten, is available only in German.) In any event, Password is so incompetently written and plotted, and the dialogue so inane, and everything so poorly directed and acted, that it probably doesn't matter if you understand what's being said or not.

The German dub further supports the thesis that Italian films are always poorly dubbed. Here, as normal, not only do the words seldom match the mouth movements, but the characters often seem to be holding separate conversations and any given statement is often inappropriate to the situation in which it is expressed. A bit worse than normal, however, is the occasional total disappearance of any sound at all (sometime mid-sentence) and the fact that some of the one-to-three-scene characters were obviously dubbed by the same person, who attempts vocal differentiation by using almost cartoonish voices. At one point, in a scene which looks to be a cult ritual, the voices are electronically altered to such excess as to be almost incomprehensible. (Funnily enough, at our screening it was the two Americans that ended up clarifying to the three German what was actually being said during this scene: resident foreigners can often understand mutilated mother tongues better than native speakers because the former are relatively used to hearing the language being slaughtered by other foreigners.)

The detailed plot description given at (Re)search My Trash is fully on the mark, unlike the DVD's back cover description, which almost seems for a different movie (the cop coming out of retirement for one lest case in the film we saw, for example, becomes in the DVD description a private detective hired by a mother of one of the missing girls). In all likelihood, certain aspects of the "real" plot of the Italian original version simply got lost in the translation of the dubbed text.

Viewed alone, as in "by yourself", Password is surely not very entertaining, for it never displays any cinematic aspects that in any way transcend film-school or no-budget TV level. A film as poorly made as this one, and as populated with unattractive non-actors as this one, and with as many idiotic plot developments as this one – really: you and your girlfriend get kidnapped, you escape, and instead of going to the police you first shower and then look for her yourself? – is not the type of movie you watch alone. It is only enjoyable when viewed as a beer-swilling group, with each individual tossing out comments to the non-stop barrage of inability with which one is confronted. Only a masochist would spend time on a flick like Password alone and/or sober; for that reason, even the fan of bad film is forewarned to only watch Password, if at all, only as a group. And even then, we would say that the tertiary Ed Wood film noir Jailbait (1954 / trailer), not one of our favorite Wood movies, is a much more entertaining "thriller", if only due to the patina that 60-years have bestowed upon it – and, of course, because Steve Reeves takes off his shirt for a scene. Yummy yum yum.

Password was poorly scripted and incompetently directed by the unknown Gianni Petrizzo, whose only other credit seems to be as a co-scriptwriter of an equally obscure Italian horror movie, Hell's Fever (2006 / trailer), directed by the Italian blink-and-you-miss-him character actor, film editor, porn-film maker [as 'Alex Perry' and 'Alex Williams' and many other names], and director Alessandro Perrella. Literally any film within which Perrella flits by, often without dialogue – including, among others, Lover of the Monster / Le amanti del mostro (1974 / trailer), Alberto De Martino's Scenes from a Murder / L'assassino... è al telefono (1972 / trailer), The Hand that Feeds the Dead / La mano che nutre la morte (1974 / trailer), Leopoldo Savona's Byleth (1972 / full movie), The French Sex Murders / Casa d'appuntamento (1972 / trailer), José Luis Merino's The Hanging Woman / La orgía de los muertos (1972 / trailer), Dick Randall's Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks / Terror! Il castello delle donne maledette (1974 / trailer), Viva! Django (1971 / German trailer), Colt in the Hand of the Devil / Una colt in mano al diavolo (1973 / trailer), William Rose's The Girl in Room 2A / La casa della paura  (1974 / trailer), Seven Dead in the Cat's Eye (1973), Luciano Ercoli's Death Walks at Midnight / La morte accarezza a mezzanotte (1972 / trailer),  God Is My Colt .45 / La colt era il suo Dio (1972 / music), The Last Traitor / Il tredicesimo è sempre Giuda (1971 / Italian trailer), Four Gunmen of the Holy Trinity / I quattro pistoleri di Santa Trinità (1971 / music), His Colt, Himself, His Revenge / Allegri becchini... arriva Trinità (1972 / music), My Name Is Mallory... M Means Death / Il mio nome è Mallory... M come morte (1971 / German trailer), Coffin Full of Dollars / Per una bara piena di dollari (1971 / trailer), The Flower with the Deadly Sting / Il fiore dai petali d'acciai o (1973 / full movie), Death Falls Lightly / La morte scende leggera (1972 / extract), to name but a few – is surely better and more entertaining than Password.

In any event: we watched Password, so you don't have to.