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):

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Shadow of Fear (USA, 2004)

(Sorta spoilers – but who cares?) We wasted our time so you don't have to. Shadow of Fear is one of those kind of movies that we're happy get made because they help underused and underappreciated or going-downhill actors pay the rent, buy new cars, or get that Brazilian. That said, if you're looking for a good thriller, this overly complicated and far-fetched (not to mention in parts badly acted and poorly shot) flick is not what you want. You might stay awake to catch everything that transpires in the hope that it all makes sense in the end, but staying awake will be a battle from the start. Shadow of Fear, for all its delusions of being a real movie (if only D2V and/or D2DVD), is TV-movie caliber in all respects – though the average TV movie usually has better cinematography, and probably more action.
Trailer to
Shadow of Fear:
The narrative takes place amidst a well-to-do McMansion-dwelling social sphere that makes many of the figures difficult to connect to or sympathize with, including the movie's rather bland young upwardly-mobile professional "hero", Harrison French (Matthew Davis of Below [2002], BloodRayne [2005 / trailer] and Wasting Away [2007 / trailer]). Having failed at a big (and needed) sale, he drives home on a rainy Spokane night and because he's a typical dick who can't keep his eyes on the road he ends up hitting and killing some dude standing in the middle of the deserted road.
Like any good contemporary person, McMansion-dwelling or not, Harrison hits and runs, but not before dragging the body into the woods and covering it with branches and leaves. Oh, wait! Could it be that he killed Chris (Andrew Harris), the junkie brother of his loving wife Wynn (the always intriguingly attractive Robin Tunney of The Craft [1996 / trailer], End of Days [1999 / trailer], Looking Glass [2018 / trailer], and Monster Party [2018 / trailer]), whom everyone assumes just robbed the local bank? (The bro, that is, not the wifey.)
Oh, no! Dt. Scofield (Aidan "Blue Eyes" Quinn of Haunted [1995 / trailer], In Dreams [1999 / trailer] and The Eclipse [2009 / trailer]) thinks Harrison did! Luckily, there's his father-in-law's fix-it-all lawyer William Ashbury (James "Somnambulant" Spader of The New Kids [1985 / trailer], Jack's Back [1988 / trailer], Supernova [2000 / trailer], and Alien Hunter [2003 / trailer]) on hand to turn to for assistance — if only the good lawyer wasn't so fixated on collecting men-with-secrets for his depressing Tuesday night get-togethers...
Shadow of Fear is more slow-going than it is confusing, but even if everything sort of ties into an implausible knot at the end, the narrative thread has major holes in it. Unluckily, the lead also doesn't have enough charisma for one to ever be able to root for him, while the bad-guy lawyer, as played by James Spader, is less threatening or scary (accepting when he walks onto the lawn and talks with the wifey Wynn) than he is a man angry for having major hemorrhoids. The big showdown also overlooks one major thing: all the photos that are in the lawyer's car would see our hero not pass go, and go directly to jail, instead of buying himself a cane and taking up (?!?) the lawyer's odd penchant for collecting men-with-secrets.
Again, films like Shadow of Fear are needed and appreciated for giving our favorite B-stars their needed rent money, but we really can't help but wonder how a movie can take a character actress of the caliber of Alice "Borg Queen" Krige (of Gretel & Hansel [2020 / trailer], Silent Hill [2006 / trailer], Stay Alive [2006 / trailer], Solomom Kane [2009 / trailer], Sleepwalkers [1992], Lonely Hearts [2006] and Habitat [1997 / trailer]) and basically do nothing with her. Sure, she seldom has big parts nowadays, but she's a great actor and is convincing as always in the few mini-scenes she shows up in — but she must have 3-4 minutes screen time at most, and that's bunk. Much like the film.

Friday, January 8, 2021

"Best of" 2020

Buy your Golden Dick here.Give one to a Rightwing Retard, Karen, or Frightened Angry White Man of your choice.
Here at a wasted life, we hear the sound of victory: it is time for our annual roundup of the "best" films we watched last year. Aren't we happy 2020 is over with?
Go shopping @ Redbubble
As normal, there is no order in the presentation: this is not a countdown of tenth best to "bestest best", because the vote is fixed, and is instead but a simple list presented in a backward countdown by month (i.e., Dec to Jan). There are also two "special mentions" to this presentation, but let's get to them when we get to them.
2020 was slim in its pickings: of the 69 blog entries in 2020, only 24 were reviews of a feature film – and while more than enough got positive reviews, not all which we liked when we watched them actually had enough of that special something to earn a place on this list. Also, one too many is a Netfux film, a byproduct of this year's reduced social life and lack of the former once-weekly "Bad Film" nights with friends, something we hope will change after we and the rest of the world get Bill Gate's nano-microchip implanted and all become George Soro's sex slaves. 
In any event, enjoy this year's quick selection... Click on the titles to go to the original, mostly verbose, reviews.

(Brexitland, 2020)
The horror, the horror: they all come because they want to take what's ours. Or at least that's what a lot of old friends have begun to say, when they're not now slagging off on feminists and stupid liberals or explaining how "the Jews" started both World Wars. And how the gold standard should be brought back, and the world is flat. And... whatever.
To get to this flick: an excellently made, serious horror film featuring less-than-perfect heroes that are not white. Worse, they have nowhere to turn to look for help when the past comes to haunt them. Scary, touching, effective — probably one of the best Netfux-produced horror movies ever.
Trailer to

(USA, 2014)
The only thing worse than cooties: Trumpsteritus. But let's talk about the movie, and not mental deficiencies.  
Cooties is not very intelligent and definitely not groundbreaking, and suffers from a rather third-rate ending — nevertheless, this gory little zomcom delivers the guts and the laughs by the gutful. Perfect black comedy entertainment for this pandemic age, as well as for all those people out there who have always thought kids can't be trusted.
Trailer to

(Japan, 1972)
Why have we decided to add this relatively third-rate and misogynistic Japanese pink film to our list? Well, two reasons multiple times over, and they are found on the chests of most of the women featured in this movie. Badly acted, lousy plot, cringe-worthy sex scenes and nonsensical character motivation are liberally spiced with boobage and skin and blood. Piss your girlfriend off and watch this one with her — she won't thank you. (That said, the soundtrack is great.)
German trailer to

(USA, 2016)
In a Valley of Violence is one of two westerns Hawke made that year, 2016, the other being the rather unnecessary but nevertheless entertaining star-studded remake, The Magnificent Seven (2016 / trailer). Neither was a smash hit, but Valley, in all truth, was an unmitigated commercial flop. Nevertheless, Ti West's flick is definitely the better and more "different" of the two. Give it a go if you're a western-minded person, you might like — we sure did.
Trailer to

(USA, 2019)
This one was a surprise. We watched it primarily because we couldn't find anything better on Netfux that night, and because the film features the character actor Kelly Reilly, whom we find rather effective in a Patricia Clarkson / Alice Krige kind of way. It's not like the director's other film we watched, Sinister II (2015), was really all that great. But this one was — and for a change, we really didn't see the ending that came.   
Trailer to

(USA, 2009)
Never heard of the teen book series this flick is based on (the Vampire Blood trilogy), but it seems that no one who has read the books likes the movie. Well, that doesn't matter any to us: we haven't read any of the books and found the movie pretty good, despite some CGI overload. In fact, had the flick not flopped and more films followed, we would've watched them — something we didn't do for the Twilight flicks, the Hunger Games flicks or the Maze ones, even after we saw one or the other film of a given series.
That said, it seems that not very many people who hadn't read the books liked the film either... but then, why two-step with the masses? They liked the Twilight flicks, and they suck.
Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant is campy and twisted, but in mainstream teen-angst clothes. Would've made a great franchise... The trailer, by the way, lies: contrary to what it looks like in the trailer, the young privilaged white dude didn't want to become a vampire.
Trailer to

(Canada/Spain, 2016)
Great sci-fi black dramedy, and a box office flop. To simply repeat the first lines of our review: "Wow. Who would have thought it possible: an Anne Hathaway film that not only doesn't suck, but is amazingly non-mainstream and interesting. Too bad she doesn't make more movies like this one."
Plot: The monsters accidentally come out, which leads to an alcoholic loser privileged white girl having to square off against an alcoholic angry white man who feels, as they often do, that the world owes him more.
Or, as Ella Mae Nuyles said some three years ago at YouTube: "A surprisingly mature film about addiction, toxic friends, and giant monsters!"
Trailer to

(USA, 2017)
Written and directed by Eli Craig, son of actress Sally Field (of Beyond the Poseidon Adventure [1979 / trailer]) and man behind the far better horror comedy Tucker & Dale vs Evil (2010), which made our Best of 2011 list. But just because Tucker & Dale is better doesn't make this enjoyably fun farce any less worthy to be mentioned here. One wishes Craig were a bit more productive filmmaker...
Plot: Dude marries dream woman, woman mother of anti-Christ, Sally Field is a devil worshipper.
Trailer to

First Special Mention —
Our Short Film of the Month for July 2020:

Dementia / Daughter of Horror
(USA, 1955)
In general, we don't like to put a short film from our monthly presentation on this list simply because: alone the fact that the a given short was chosen to be presented here at a wasted life as a Short Film of the Month means that it is already, in our eyes, in possession of that "special something" that makes it worth watching.
But we also sort of cheated when we presented Dementia / Daughter of Horror as a short film. At 58 minutes in length, it might not be as long as people are now used to when it comes to a feature film, but in the day it was made, it was long enough to be considered one — if, basically, only in presentation with another film as part of a double feature.
Some people view Dementia (and its re-release form, Daughter of Darkness) as a bad joke, others see it as art — as does the BFI, which explains: "Stripped of dialogue and using only sound effects and an unnerving score by George Anthiel, in Dementia (director) John Parker combines horror, film noir and expressionist methods to depict a mind descending into madness. Shocking audiences upon its original release, the film was initially banned by the New York State Film Board, who deemed it 'inhuman, indecent, and the quintessence of gruesomeness'." 
The film, in any event, is definitely noteworthy enough to warrant a Special Mention.
Trailer to the BFI DVD:
Second Special Mention:
(USA, 1947)
Okay, we panned this flick — and rightfully so, cause it's pretty bad. But sometimes bad films get better in hindsight. Scared to Death is seriously a guilty pleasure at best, and hardly that. But it does have its historical significance to it, which is a plus — and face it, even lousy films, when they are as old as this one is, are a lot more fun than new or newer lousy films.
You could do worse on a rainy afternoon...
Trailer to 

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