Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Short Film: X-Ray Film (USA, 1968)

We stumbled upon this intriguing little exercise in arty filmmaking while preparing this month's Babes of Yesteryear feature, Marilyn Joi, Part II: 1974, which goes online next week. (For Part I: 1972-73, follow the link.) Joi has a teenie-weenie appearance in Chris Munger's feature-film directorial debut, Black Starlet (1974), so we take a look at that film there in Part II. But this little exercise in short filmmaking we've decided to present alone...
Director Chris Munger, like so many people in the film industry, mainstream or not, appeared more or less from nowhere (the little we found we supply further below) and disappeared into nowhere. This long-gone Munger should not be confused with the currently active music-minded Chris Munger, the composer of the music to the D-2-DVD flick Aliens vs. Zombie (2017 / trailer). Unlike so many "filmmakers", Munger the First at least left behind two intriguing projects: the Blaxploitation sleaze fest that is Black Starlet, and the Georgia-shot cult creepy-crawly chiller Kiss of the Tarantula (1976 / trailer), the latter "a Willard (1971 / trailer) inspired movie with spiders in place of rats, a female protagonist, and a much lower budget". The end of his known directorial career seems possibly to have been an episode of Grizzly Adams in 1978, after which one can only say, "Oh Munger, Munger, wherefore art thou Munger?"
While we don't know where the Chris Munger the First went, we were able to find out a little about whence he came: as per the Los Angeles Free Press, Vol. 6, Issue 244 (3/21/1969), Chris Munger was one of six UCLA student filmmakers — the other five being John Gufiderson, Bill Haugse, Jim Martin, Kent Smith and future bad-movie auteur Jim Bryan — who, as a self-help cooperative called "the Venice Film Group", hosted a program at the Los Angeles Cinematheque to earn money to finance their own projects. Considering the year, it might be feasible that the screening included Munger's not-but-almost forgotten experimental short X-Ray Movie (filmed 1968, released 1971, according to the Library of Congress Catalog: Motion Pictures and Filmstrips), which "makes a cynical comment on our romantic naiveties of our bodies, particularly in terms of lovemaking. [alternative projects]" The music is from the Dutch composer Hank Badings. "In Chris Munger's X-Ray Film (1970, 4:20 mins, 16mm), the entire arc of life, from birth to death, is played out with medical footage. [bampfa]"
Chris Munger's 1968 short,
X-Ray Film:
Speaking of Munger's fellow UCLA film studies classmate, the bad-film auteur Jim Bryan, Chris Munger — or, rather, "C. E. Munger" — was an associate producer of Bryan's "low-budget crime film with a lot of soft sex thrown in", Escape to Passion (1971 / full film), featuring the Babes of Yesteryear Kathy Hilton ("Oh Kathy, Kathy, wherefore art thou Kathy?"), Barbara Mills (23 Feb 1951 – 15 Dec 2010) and Bambi Allen (2 May 1938 – 21 Jan 1973, billed as Holly Woodstar). Three years earlier, in 1968, Munger was the cinematographer on Bryan's equally sleazy The Dirtiest Game — Bryan: "My budget was well under $20,000. [love it loud]" — which didn't get released until 1971 (full film) and is  "all near-hardcore exploitation until the wife goes berserk, leading to a bloody, violent ending with razor blades and a gun". Bryan's most notorious film is probably the disasterpiece that is Don't Go in the Woods (1981 / trailer), but his last directorial effort was Jungle Trap [2016 / trailer], starring the infamously untalented Renee Harmon (see: Frozen Scream [1975]), with whom he collaborated regularly. Unlike Munger, Bryan managed to carve himself a niche as a jack-of-all-trades in no-talent independent filmmaking....

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