The Fred Killings (1971)

You've gotta see this one to believe it. The Todd Killings (1971) has Robert F. Lyons playing Skippy Todd, a 20-something Svengali living in some small California town who murders several local girls in an effort to avoid dealing with his latent homosexuality. The whole film is a time-capsule of 1970-era youth culture wrapped up in a grindhouse psycho-killer original. The best part (and there are many) is the whole thing almost perfectly mirrors an evil live-action Scooby-Doo episode, right down to a groovy green dune buggy (but without the Great Dane). Shaggy is played by Richard Thomas (of John-Boy Walton fame and looking scarily like Leonardo DiCaprio in his younger days) and it seems that Fred (or Skippy as they call him here), has become, like, smitten with the Shagster, man! “Like, hey dude! He wants to shag Shaggy!” Obviously this spells doom for Velma and Daphne and tragedy ensues.

If you can get through the opening 10 minutes, it becomes almost impossible to stop watching. I kept having to shake myself loose from it's creepy grip every few minutes. The only other comparison that comes to mind is the Archies. Imagine Reggie falling hard for Jughead and feeling the uncontrollable urge to thrill-kill Betty and Veronica and bury them in shallow graves in the desert as a result. I shit you not. That is that plot in a nutshell.

The other thing that must be said about The Todd Killings is just how on earth they got real actors like Ed Asner, Barbara Bel Geddes, Michael Conrad and Gloria Grahame(!) to appear in this whacked-out teen revolt picture. It's like crazy, man!

A must see and possible candidate for Coleslaw's increasingly-inaccurate top ten film list which at last count stood at 407 movies. Ignore the fact that TV Times gave it one measley star and it's IMBd rating is 4.3. None of these people know what they're talking about. This is a unqualified masterpiece.


Lemora: A Child's Tale of the Supernatural (1973)

I just finished watching this for the second time and thoroughly enjoyed it. The plot centres around young Lila Lee (the wonderful and tragic Cheryl "Rainbeaux" Smith) and her journey from small town choir girl innocence to find her supposedly dying father among a nest of witches, vampirism, boogeymen and bad vibes. The entire film has a nightmarish quality to it and it displays both thematically and stylistically (rare) the horror and awkwardness of pubescence or "the supernatural". There are also harsh critiques of the church throughout, some not-so-subtle.

The score is very effective, mixing gospel hymns (sung by Lila Lee) and weird, pulsing synth rhythms to create a haunting and paranoid aural tapestry. Lemora herself is very creepy, but the way she delivers her lines is immensely horrible - I'm talking porn movie bad. If they had have overdubbed her, or had a different actress in the role, I think the film would have benefited greatly, and become much eerier. In fact, the most frightening character was an old hag who cares for/menaces Lile Lee while keeping her captive in an old stone hut. The scene where the crone sings to Lila Lee in the shed is truly chilling and gives me shivers whenever i think about it.

The makeup effects were good (if somewhat basic), and there are a few "shock" moments (one in particular where Lila Lee thinks she is calling to her father in her room at Lemora's house and he comes out from behind the clock completely transformed into one of the "wood-things" - you'll understand when you see it - with a simultaneous jolting soundtrack) that actually made me jump (a tiny bit).

My overall impression of the film is that it is the bastard spawn of the Wizard of Oz and Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, with more than a dash of the supernatural (hence, the title) thrown in, and if you enjoyed either of these, you'll probably like this. I also have to wonder whether Dario Argento was influenced at all by this film when he made his masterpiece, Suspiria, four years later; or perhaps even Guillermo del Toro took a few cues from this for his justly celebrated Pan's Labyrinth, 33 years later....

Cheryl Smith's own story is similarly haunted - the star of many B-movies of the 70's, she soon fell under the spell of heroin (while performing in The Runaways!?) and contracted a fatal case of Hep-C. Harsh tokes.

Lemora: A Child's Tale of the Supernatural still stands as a testament to her talent, though. This is a fever dream of nightmarish, surreal imagery, a piece of cinematic brilliance that will haunt you for days. The Synapse DVD has an excellent remastered anamorphic widescreen transfer and does the film's dark tones and jarring soundtrack justice. Highly recommended.


Then and Now...

Inspired by the comments in the previous post, I'm posting two very different "versions" of what is (arguably) Lawrence Gowan's masterpiece, "A Criminal Mind" - both the original (with its radical comic book-inspired visuals and excellent use of mid-80s computer graphics technology), and the 2005 Maestro version feat. Larry on the bridge. Fashion victim or fashion slave? You be the judge:


Nocturnal Emissions During Daylight Hours

I apologize in advance about this post, but it's my first day off in about 3 weeks and I've spent most of the last 500 hours of my life trying to navigate the difficult terrain of deciding the level of mockery that should be applied to fully functioning adults that I'm too nervous to simply label "retarded" because, when considering their level of inbreeding, they may actually be mentally deranged. Anyway, this really has nothing to do with film, other than that I am currently "intoxicated" and this is simply a fantastic video. Trust me, coming from someone who has illegally downloaded the main theme from Fletch and listens to it at least once a day for inspiration, this is high praise.
If I ever get married (don't worry, won't happen), I've claimed this as my first song. Back off, homophobes. And is that the same owl from the cover of Rush's Fly By Night? Wow, even wild animals get union gigs these days. McComb's in good company. I'm starting to see where Darren Aronofsky got his inspiration from while making The Fountain....


Don't make me nerdy, you wouldn't like me when i'm nerdy- Dropkicks Hulk review

The summer film season train keeps rolling, and I keep finding myself tied to the tracks. This time I was hit smack in the face by the green menace himself The Incredible Hulk.

I was very skeptical about this one. The casting seemed off, well besides Billy Hurt, Timmy Roth, and our very own film buff alumni Shauny Mccomb. The timing seemed off with an overlong, over the top Ang Lee film that came out only 5 years ago or so. The excitement for this one was so subdued compared to the excitement I felt for Lee’s Hulk. Still I somehow, without planning it (I swear) attended a 12:01am screening of this sucker before anyone else in the city could see it.

I went in, (somewhat intoxicated as I said I wasn’t planning on going to this) and the mood felt with all the other audience members in the theatre was very much like my own, intoxicated somewhat. So there was a guy dressed as the Hulk running through the theatre before the lights dimmed yelling and punching people, other comic book characters running amuck, and many people yelling at one another. Basically it was fanboy anarchism to the highest degree. I squirmed in my seat yelling at people too and whispered to myself “this is how the world ends”. Yes, it was all very… cerebral.

Anyways, Ang Lee’s Hulk was criticized for being too long and too smart for it’s own good. I am one of those rare people who is actually a fan of Lee’s Hulk. I even liked how the Hulk fought Nick Nolte who was somehow a rainstorm by the end of the film. So, I felt a need to reinvent the Hulk so soon was premature and Edward Norton looked like he had nothing on Eric Bana as the green guy.

The theatre lights went down and everyone got quiet but not before someone jumped up and yelled “HULK SMASH!!!” promptly there afterwards the film began.

The Incredible Hulk is basically the anti-thesis of Lee’s version. It’s short and to the point and the action is nothing short of awesome. It picks up somewhat where Lee’s left it, with our hero Bruce Banner in South America but it’s not necessarily a sequel. The opening credits show us in a quick montage Bruce Banner becoming the Hulk and it’s very different from Lee’s ideas. This one is more like the comic in the way that Bruce Banner is helping the military develop biological weapons, but unlike Lee’s and the comic it’s not an accident.

If anything this is Iron Man with a different hero. It’s to the point and the dialogue sounds like a comic in that it’s very direct and it constantly makes fun of itself, if it gets too serious. One scene in particular where Bruce and his true love are about to engage in a PG rated love scene had me rolling my eyes until they made fun of themselves and cracked me up. It’s also covered with inside jokes and comic book connections that only nerds can really get going about. With Iron Man we got to see Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. To feel like our comic book movies can actually connect to one another in this other universe brings out so much happiness in my inner geek. This is most likely due to the fact that Marvel, the comic book company these properties belong to, have actually created a division for creating movie adaptations. All of our Marvel films from here on in are made in house with real comic book writers and people who care about the universe. Can you tell I’m getting a little moist over this?

But I digest, with the Hulk S.H.I.E.L.D. is talked about constantly, dialogue over serums developed in World War 2 is a nod to a Captain America film, Stan Lee makes his usual Marvel film cameo. Lou Ferrigno also makes a terrific cameo and provides the voice of the big green lug himself. The best cameo I think for any film ever is in this film but I’ll let you see that one for yourselves.

Fans of the comic will eat this up. Abomination is given a great screen adaptation and it also sets up The Brain as another villain. Fans of the show will rejoice over the overall theme of the film and the score that was ripped straight from the series.

Pure popcorn and a rush for sure and hey, if you don’t like it you can just play spot the landmark as this whole bad boy was filmed in our hometown or you can play spot the Film Buffians, as I spotted at least one frequent customer in the picture as well as our very own Shaun “McFly” Mccomb.

I’m going to head to the gym and hulk out myself right now.

P.S. – keep in mind I was a little intoxicated not to mention in a theatre filled with comic book nerds who kept screaming and howling the whole time. So that might have made the film better than it really was.

P.P.S. – I promise my next post will be about something substantial and that you can rent at the Buff. Maybe a comparison on Touch of Zen to The Fountain, or my thoughts on Once Upon a Time in the West. For now let me nerd out.

Dropkick out…. HULK SMASH!!!!!!!!!


3 Women (1977)

Robert Altman's foray into the wild and woolly aspects of the human psyche and the complexities and simplicities of relationships is one of the more fascinating, if overlooked, entries in '70s cinema.
Sissy Spacek (love) and Shelly Duvall (love), and, to a lesser extent (but strangely, the author of the most compelling. mysterious and touching character in the film), Janice Rule, star in this completely singular and baffling film. The plot centres around Duvall's character, Milly Lamoureaux, and her ultimately sad (in the truest sense of the word) existence. Pinky (Spacek) tumbles into her life and, without so much as a ripple, insinuates herself into both Milly's life and her character. And then something happens. And things start to get really weird. And there are pretty colours and strange music (amazing, disturbing soundtrack by Gerald Busby) and odd, frightening, beautiful frescoes (courtesy by Bodhi Wind). And then a bunch of trippy, surreal and nightmarish, sleep-depriving dream sequences that culminate in a bizarre and haunting finale. It's been weeks since I watched this, and it still creeps and twists around in my mind. I'm still wrapping my head around this one, and for a more concise and articulate summary, you should check out Ebert's take on this absolutely essential film. And don't miss Altman's commentary on the Criterion release - superb. I've only just seen it, but (as is common with me) it's become one of my favourite films, and I could safely say that it fits nicely into my top 25 of all time. Highly, highly recommended.


Hex on the Shitty

I’m going to do a review of Sex and the City without actually seeing it. Hell, countless reviewers write film reviews about movies they’ve never seen, so why can’t I? I’ve seen a few episodes from the series and sort of get its chic-chick-bravado appeal. I love that almost everyone who rents it (98% of whom are professional middle-aged woman) seems to feel the need to qualify her decision by explaining that it’s about the writing. “It’s really well written” is the standard response as if that somehow explains away the shallow, bling-obsessed banality of whole series.

Sex and the City is the urban female’s Nascar. The series was mostly hollow and artificial and yet managed to sell itself as being about “real women”. You would have to surmise that one or both of those thoughts must be a fabrication or the equation equals…ah… well, you do the math. At the risk of waking up with a Manolo Blahnik stiletto stuck in my temple, I’m going to suggest that both statements are probably true. I’ll have to qualify the latter (the show being about “real women”) by saying that it obviously captures something of the fantasy life that some real women want as opposed actually being about their (or for that matter any other women’s) real lives. The desire to spend each waking moment in some gloriously fabulous fantasy life where the biggest question you ever face is the number of orgasms inferred by the term “multiple” is understandable. Somewhere in this obvious conundrum is a plain truism that can’t be avoided. As “well written” as the Sex and the City series may have been, it was not about anything real. It was about fantasy, just like Nascar is for Joe Six-pack.

Rick Groen wrote a stinging review of the film in Friday’s Globe, saying among other things;

"After all, bad summer films, full of furious hype and signifying nothing, are hardly exceptional these days, nor is the sound they typically make: the dull scrape of culture hitting rock bottom. Yet this one seems uniquely bad; this one is a threshold-breaker with a different sound, the crack of rock bottom giving way to a whole deeper layer of magma.”

Wow… Jeez Rick, why do you climb off that fence and tell us what you really think instead of beating around the bush? As sad and conceivably true as Groen’s review may be, Sex and the City will probably end up one of the higher grossing films of the year. We live in a society where it doesn’t matter whether something has merit in any real sense. What is eminently more important is its marketability. I’d be shocked if studio executives don’t sit around shaking their heads at their great fortune, the direct result of just how gullible and brain dead the average film fan is.

The response to movies like Sex and the City, the endless stream of Marvel comic book adaptations, romantic comedies and direct-to-video Dolph Lundgren action flicks would almost make you think that they really have something good to sell us. That is the great mystery of the modern film industry. If any other industry made endlessly crappy products and unleashed them year after year on their customers, they’d go bankrupt in a heartbeat. Not Hollywood. They just get bigger. Who decided that we have to weather countless shitty movies every summer? Well, we did… because we keep going. Perhaps we do because the average woman really does just want to sit around having multiple orgasms masturbating with a $625 Louis Vuitton Neverfull MM handbag while Chris Noth massages her feet and murmurs “Mr. Big… Mr. Big…Mr. Big…”. Men fantasize about having so much money that they can afford to build invincible iron leisure suits and fly around kicking ass. Jesus Christ, it’s enough to make you want to build a fortress in some dark corner of the city and only venture out occasionally to grab some food and toilet paper avoiding all contact with the humans wherever possible.

I suppose the lifestyles of the rich and famous have been the source of envy and fantasy as far back as we can remember, but at least in the past we had the wherewithal to rebel and kill the wealthy every few decades. Now we just drool like lobotomy patients, scan People Magazine and lurch like zombies at a brain picnic toward movies seemingly scripted by Dr. Seuss by way of that creepy Karl Lagerfeld. How the hell did this happen? How did we end up so bereft of intellect, taste and standards? Maybe we’re so lazy and preoccupied with the vapour nothingness of modern me-life that all we can handle is vapid Sex and the City and Iron Man movies. The Vuitton signature handbag is aptly named the “Neverfull” and maybe that tells us everything we need to know about our society and ourselves. It seems to be enough for the Sex and the City women and after all, they’re like, real women. Who are we to argue with them?