Friday, September 29, 2017

Short Film: Seduction of the Innocent (USA, 1961)

"This is America in the second-half of the twentieth century and Jeanette is a slave. Not a slave by circumstance of birth or force, but by choice. A choice she made herself not so very long ago, a choice that at the time probably seemed no bigger than, 'Should I belong or shouldn't I?' The pace of modern teenage society is often fast. The beat is sometimes frantic. Cultures and backgrounds have been mixed. The need to belong is ever present."

The quote beneath the screenshot above is from the opening speech to this bat-shit "educational" anti-drug film, a speech which, when read, leaves us wondering what the fact that "cultures and backgrounds have been mixed" has to do with drugs — especially when the swimming pool crowd shown is a lily-white. One can only assume he meant economic classes have been mixed, though none at the pool party look as if they were not of the same financial background, as "people of color" — as one is [was?] wont to say — are generally seldom part of Davis's world. In any event, the quote is but an excerpt of the oft-questionable verbal bombast that the film delivers nonstop for its entire running time. 
Seduction of the Innocent is indeed "another Sid Davis (1 April 1916 – 16 Oct 2006) classic about a [white] teen-age boy and girl, who through a need to belong and to go along with the group, start first with barbiturates and end up as heroin addicts." 
One thing is sure about Sid "San Jac" Davis's shorts: if you start watching them, you can easily get addicted. We started today with The Dangerous Stranger (1949 / full damaged film), and one short promptly led to the next, and the next, and the next, with each one getting better and better — or worse and worse, depending on how you look at it. Hours later, we've decided this one here is a hoot worth sharing. 
Sid Davis, you might remember, was a former film double for John Wayne who, thanks to Wayne's initial financial support, built an "educational" scare-film emporium on cheap, poorly made and by now (usually) extremely campy "horror" films narrating the terrible things that will happen to you should you, well, ever do anything but go to school and to church, get a job, get married, make babies, be a Republican. In Davis's films, where you end up — married, dead, or as a drug addict — is due alone to you and your wrong moral choice: there is no forgiveness, there is no way back, there is no second chance. To use the punch line of a many a joke: "You gonna die!" (Much like Davis died due to his cigarette addiction — lung cancer killed him — if only a lot earlier than his 90 years.)
We already took a look at his amazing anti-homosexual hate short, Boy's Beware (1961), way back in 2013, but today we want to introduce you to his equally outrageous, but far more campy, if oddly well made, anti-drug horror short, Seduction of the Innocent (USA, 1961). Wow. What a movie.
And, we must add, not really true. Despite our active youthful past, one which involved everything from alcohol to speed to marijuana to mushrooms to acid to St. Bartholomew's trumpet (yech!) to downers to X to accidentally smoking heroin (it wasn't fun) and probably other stuff tried once but since forgotten, we've managed to pay/work our way our entire life long and now, the desire to experiment long gone, are even eyeing eventual retirement in a house of our own. Some people are prone to addiction, others not, and as they say in German, "Two beers are also a breakfast."
Why the German saying? So as to construct a sloppy link to what The New York Times long-ago wrote in the obituary of Sid Davis: "The movies are squarely in the tradition of cautionary literature for children, whose best-known example is probably Struwwelpeter, the German tale of the dreadful fate of a dreadful child, which has been traumatizing young miscreants since the mid-19th-century. Mr. Davis's films, most live-action, some animated, are 16-millimeter equivalents. […] The Sid Davis universe is fraught with peril. Every transgression — a swig from a bottle, a drag on a cigarette — leads to swift and certain doom, usually in under a half-hour. Among the series of unfortunate events to which Mr. Davis's young protagonists fall victim are these: abduction, murder, rape, stabbing, robbery at gunpoint, falling off a cliff, suffocating in an abandoned refrigerator, being burned to a crisp, being stuffed into the trunk of a car, being run over, pregnancy, venereal disease, unemployment, time in pool halls, time in prison, myriad auto accidents, heroin addiction (a direct result of smoking marijuana), prostitution (ditto) and bad hair (ditto)."
A downfall well exemplified in
October's Short Film of the Month,
Seduction of the Innocent:
None of the "actors" involved seem to have ever done anything else — but then again, for years we failed to recognize Jim Kelly as the star of that other great but not very campy anti-drug short, A Day in the Death of Donny B.(1969), so perhaps we also simply don't recognize "Jeanette" and her fellow lost souls. Do you?

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Misc. Film Fun: Happy Birthday to Us!

As of today, we've wasted ten years of our life on this blog, the first review of which — for an amazingly fun and badly made and bloody Thai movie entitled Devil Species (2004), trailer below — we uploaded on Thursday, September 20, 2007. A decade later, we're still wasting our life. And you?

"A mistake of experiment may transform human into devil species."
Trailer to
Devil Species (2004):

And in honor of our tenth birthday, we thought we might take a look at some birthday horrors, thrillers, fun stuff — but only those that actually have the word "Birthday" in their titles. Know of any we missed?

The Birthday Party
(1968, dir. William Friedkin)

William Friedkin's next project after Good Times (1967), moving forward from Sonny & Cher and "comedy" to playwright Harold Pinter and mysterious drama. "The movie, like the play, forces us to accept a horror story that has no reasonable antecedents: Stanley (Robert Shaw) is the only guest at a rundown, seaside boarding house owned by Meg (Dandy Nichols) and Petey (Moultrie Kelsall). Into their lives of placid desperation come two strangers, Goldberg (Sydney Tafler), tackily urbane and garrulous, and McCann (Pattrick Magee), a faithful goon. They have been sent by someone named Monty and "the organization" to retrieve Stanley." (DVD Beaver)

Alison's Birthday
(Australia, 1981, writ & dir. Ian Coughlan [1946 – 29 Aug 2001])

"A young woman (Joanne Samuel) is called home for a special party for her nineteenth birthday, an event which she'd been thinking of avoiding due to a message from a séance she'd received years earlier. She heads home with her boyfriend (Lou Brown), but finds that something sinister is going on…." (Fantastic Movie Musings) 
Trivia: Joanne Samuel played Max's wife in Mad Max (1979 / trailer): it's her death and that of their baby that makes him mad.
Full movie:

Bloody Birthday
(USA, 1981, dir. Ed Hunt)

Ed Hunt is a rather under-appreciated trash filmmaker of the past whose limited output is both fun and unjustly overlooked. He is best known for the cheesy science fiction non-classic Starship Invasions (1977 / trailer), featuring Christopher Lee [27 May 1922 – 7 June 2015] and Robert Vaughn [22 Nov 1932 – 11 Nov 2016]. This film is one of his best, and is of the killer-kids sub-genre.
"In a 1970's Midwest suburban neighborhood three infants are born during a spectacular total eclipse. During the event the sun and the moon are blocking the planet Saturn which is said to control human emotions. This apparent lack of remorse and compassion manifests itself shortly before the children's 10th birthday when the trio of pint-sized terrors Debbie (Elizabeth Hoy), Curtis (Billy Jacoby), and Steven (Andy Freeman) unleash a string of murders in their suburban neighborhood underneath the noses of the adults." (McBastard's Mausoleum)

Happy Birthday to Me!
(Canadian, 1981, dir. J. Lee Thompson [1 Aug 1914 – 30 Aug 2002])

The classic of the list, from the director of the original version of Cape Fear (1962 / trailer), What A Way to Go (1964 / trailer), The White Buffalo (1977 / trailer) and many fun flicks of varying respectability. This is not his only horror movie, but it is his only slasher. 
"At the Crawford Academy, Virginia Wainwright (Melissa Sue Anderson) belongs to the social clique known as The Top Ten. The members of the Top Ten then start being killed off in bizarre ways. As Virginia's birthday approaches, she comes to believe that the identity of the killer may be linked with her own shadowy past, something to do with the accident that killed her mother on a previous birthday and left Virginia with brain damage and memory lapses about what happened." (The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review)

Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood
(USA, 1988, dir. John Carl Buechler)

OK, there is no "Birthday" in the title… But: "The film's original working title was Birthday Bash, chosen to conceal its identity as a Friday the 13th film. The entire production of this film was scheduled, completed, and released within six months; shooting took place from October to November 1987 in rural southern Alabama near Bay Minette." (Wikipedia)
Over at Collider, in their ranking of "best to worst", they ranked it 8th out of 12, saying "The New Blood came out in the time of Scanners (1981 / trailer), which may explain why anybody (anybody!) felt the need to match Jason up against a young telepath (Lar Park-Lincoln). In this case, the telepath also happens to be a curious and damaged blonde, who accidentally brings Jason (Kane Hodder) back from the dead when she begins to remember how she killed her father (John Otrin) with her powers on the very same stretch of Crystal Lake property. Yes, it's convoluted, and the fact that the telepath storyline is given a bogus sense of self-seriousness bogs The New Blood down hugely. The deaths are not particularly memorable, and the characters, even for Friday the 13th, are written with little in the way of focus or even marginal resonance."

Birthday Girl
(Great Britain, 2001, dir. Jez Butterworth)

A thriller we missed, about which Rolling Stone says: "Birthday Girl [...] is merely serviceable — a sexy ride that doesn't dare enough dangerous curves. It's Nicole Kidman who brings heart and erotic heat to the role of Nadia, the Russian babe whom shy Brit bank teller John Buckingham, appealingly played by Ben Chaplin [of Lost Souls (2008)], orders on the Internet. John almost sends Nadia back because she can't speak English. He changes his mind when Nadia brings his centerfold fantasies to life in bed. The plot, such as it is, thickens when Nadia invites her cousin Yuri (Mathieu Kassovitz) and his pal Alexei (Vincent Cassel) to visit on her birthday. You're right to be suspicious, and it's not just that two French actors are playing Russians. British director Jez Butterworth hits more than a few bumps as the movie lurches from merry to menacing. But keep your eye on Kidman, whose kinky, kittenish performance turns unexpected emotional corners that pull you up short. […]. 

The Birthday
(Spain, 2004, dir. Eugenio Mira)

We actually have a DVD of this movie in our "To Watch" pile, but just haven't gotten to it yet. Gotta admit, tho, it does look interesting. The extremely choosy Worldwide Cinema Massacre, in any event, lists it as "Of Some Interest" in its list of "Borderline Extreme Movies": "Unique, cult, Spanish, Lynchian-horror movie with Corey Feldman as a very prominent lead, somehow carrying the movie in a strange, Jerry-Lewis-esque nasal performance. Most of the movie is quite normal, actually, but it builds up slowly for a very overwhelming ending. Norman is a weak loser in love with a rich girl who barely seems to be able to stand being with him. He joins her for her father's birthday party in a strange retro-hotel straight out of Barton Fink (1991 / trailer), and spends the evening trying to talk to her while trying to avoid embarrassing her. But strange things are afoot with the waiters, and people keep ending up dead, while some madman keeps giving him instructions on how to stop an apocalyptic cult-ritual. The climax blends ear-splitting sound, silence, complete chaos, and very strange and incomprehensible goings-on, as all hell breaks loose and Norman tries to stop it with increasingly desperate measures. Reminiscent of Miracle Mile (1988 / trailer) in how it starts as a regular movie gradually increases the chaos for an explosive ending, leaving you wondering when and how it turned surreal."

(Australia, 2009, dir. James Harkness [? – 31 Aug 2015])

"M (Natalie Eleftheriadis) is the highest paid of the sex worker girls at Scarlet's, but, even on her 25th birthday, it's business as usual. Instead of celebrating, her day is spent answering the silent prayers of Father Phillip (Travis McMahon), who has lost his faith and providing counsel to her colleagues, the vivacious Lily (Kestie Morassi of Darkness Falls [2003 / trailer] and Wolf Creek [2005 / trailer]) and troubled single mum Cindy (Ra Chapman). Amidst the demands of the no-nonsense Scarlet (Chantal Contouri of Thirst [1979 / trailer]), M's secret birthday wish goes unanswered, until Joey (Richard Wilson of The Loved Ones [2009 / trailer]) knocks on her door; a young man who has never learned to love, or even how to kiss. But Joey also has a secret, it's his birthday too." (Urban Cinefile) Looks arty. 

Happy Birthday
(USA, 2016, dir Casey Tebo)

"Happy Birthday stars Matt Bush as Brady Baxter, the titular birthday boy, who embarks on a trip to Mexicali with his best friend Tommy (Riley Litman) after he finds out that his girlfriend cheated on him. At first, both friends are entranced with the shadowy beauty of the Mexican night-life, but things take a turn for the weird when they accompany fellow Americans Katie and Lucia, played by Vanessa Lengies and Britne Oldford, back to their hotel room. This may sound like a standard plot for a thriller about two friends trapped in a shady corner of Mexico, but there are quite a few surprises in store for patient viewers. It would be a crime to spoil any more of the main story, so suffice to say that the movie feels like an insane amalgam of Eli Roth's Hostel (2005/ trailer), Rodriguez's Desperado (1995 / trailer), and even a certain David Fincher movie." (Bloody Disgusting) 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Mega Shark Vs Crocosaurus (USA, 2010)

The little tyke wearing the rubber suit in Fred Olen Ray's less than spectacular Biohazard (1985 / fan trailer),  Christopher Olen Ray, has grown up to follow his father's footsteps and now makes movies which, going by this Hershey-turkey produced by the lowest denominator of all contemporary low budget movie production firms, The Asylum, are even worse than anything his daddy ever vomitized.
Unbelievably enough, this piece of direct-to-DVD buttmud is not only a sequel to 2009's Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus (trailer), but seems to have been successful enough to warrant two already released further diarrheal infusions, Mega Shark vs. Mechatronic Shark (2014 / trailer) and Mega Shark vs. Kolossus (2015 / trailer), as well as an announced TV movie that probably doesn't feature Shane Diesel but does have Hermann Melville (1 Aug 1819 — 28 Sept 1891) doing summersaults in his grave, Mega Shark vs. Moby Dick. (Why flog a dead horse when you have mega shark?)
As is the case of most low budget filmic tax deductions and/or direct-to-DVD poopsicles like this, Mega Shark Vs Crocosaurus also has its requisite has-been and C-celebrities swallowing their thespian pride so as to pay the rent. Here, the faces that strike the "Don't-I-Know-That-Face" chord are first and foremost Jaleel White, known to everyone as the highwaters-wearing bespectacled nerd from Family Matters (1989-97 / "trailer"), and Robert Picardo, famous as The Doctor from Star Trek: Voyager (1995-2001 / trailer). Less familiar but known-to-some faces include the former boxer and male model Gary Stretch, and the actor Dylan Vox who, despite his oddly doughy face and un-toned body, also has had success in gay porn as "Brad Benton". (He's not our type, that's for sure: his thickness is in all the wrong places.)
One's first reaction when viewing a celluloid butt nugget of this caliber is to feel sorry for people like White and Picardo who, for whatever reason, have been reduced to turd burgers like this one. But truth be told, one should better feel regret for oneself: the has-beens at least earned money to waste their time on the poop project, whereas the given viewer has no real excuse for wasting their time on a DVD dingleberry that stinks as much as this one.
Two names are given as the guilty parties behind the non-plot and non-story, namely Naomi L. Selfman and Micho Rutare, and it would seem that it was two non-talents too many, as the episodic and dull narrative is neither in any way entertaining nor very funny. Most laughs are the result of pure desperation of the part of the viewer: a film this bad must be laughed at, or? Maybe when the bad movie is fun — see Dinocroc vs. Supergator (2010 / trailer) for a recent minor but enjoyable super-monster example — but not when it's a sewer missile like this one. Hard to believe that co-scripter Micho Rutare went on to work on one of The Asylum's most entertaining projects, their fun zombie series, Z-Nation (2014-201? / trailer), because he obviously brought nothing creative to this Hershey squirt.
Initially, one might think that Mega Shark Vs Crocosaurus at least has the commendable aspect of not just being another flick featuring nothing but white folks, but after the mega shark sinks the USS Gibson (an obvious nod to Debbie Gibson, the feature has-been of Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus), Jaleel White's Dr. Terry McCormick, despite his position as Hero #2, quickly becomes the token semi-hysterical Afro American in the sea of white faces populating this anus cake entitled Mega Shark Vs Crocosaurus.
Christopher Olen Ray should perhaps emulate the work of his father in one way other than just producing poop pizza. If nothing else, his dad usually at least flashed some boob in his low budget butt cookies — often the only true saving grace and respite of his lowly projects. Ray, Jr., however, leaves the two admittedly highly attractive women of his dookie pie fully clothed. (One might argue that there is no logical reason for the women in this piece of buttwood to flash skin, but one need only to see such grindhouse non-classics as Firecracker / Naked Fist [1981 / trailer] to realize that true masterfeces don't require logic to get their babes to get naked.)
True, Ray Jr does at least find a few seconds to allow babeliscious Sarah Lieving (as Agent Hutchinson), who has yet to a nude scene in any of her movies, to take off her jacket so that she can run around much of this celluloid ass-cake in a skin-tight top. (Why the bra, dude? Or do such decisions not fall under the power of the director?) But there is really no reason why the expendable character played by intriguingly attractive Hannah Cowley, who has gotten naked in a movie before (The Haunting of the Innocent [2014 / trailer]), didn't lose her digs before becoming crocosaurus fodder.
Whatever. Even with nudity, Mega Shark Vs Crocosaurus would've still been what it is: a ridiculous, incompetently made and unfunny piece of shite, with way too much Z-rate CGI, telling the tale of mega shark fighting the egg-laying crocosaurus, who's all pissed 'cause mega shark is eating her eggs, before both creatures finally die in the end… until the sequel, at least.
Mega Shark Vs Crocosaurus: a definite not-see.

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