Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Soylent Green (1973)

I'll be honest here for a moment. I've never had much of an appreciation for Charlton Heston. Oh sure, the original Planet of the Apes remains one of my most treasured films, but it's certainly not due to Heston's hammy portrayal of stranded astronaut George Taylor (although, it was some pretty good ham, I must admit). It has much more to do with the "apes"; Cornelius, Dr. Zaius, and most especially Zira (played by Kim Hunter, who provides the films heart). Oh, and Linda Harrison had some fucking great legs too. Anyway, up until this point, I had only seen Heston as a Jew (Ben-Hur & The Ten Commandments), a Mexican (Touch of Evil), a gas station attendant (Wayne's World II), and a sympathetic victim (Bowling for Columbine). Speaking of Bowling for Columbine, let me just say to Michael Moore: Shove it up your ass you fat fucking twat.

So, anyway, I was actually excited to watch a little 70s picture called Soylent Green. In the year 2022, the earth is dying. Each day, it's getting warmer and warmer. The popluation of New York City has just passed 40 million. The infrastructure is crumbling. You're either rich or living on the street. Food is rationed off and served in the form of little bland squares, a service provided by the Soylent corporation (as far as I can tell, the only corporation left). There's soylent red, soylent yellow, soylent crumbs, and, just introduced soylent green! Yummy.

Unfortunately, there was no fucking way I was going into this thing fresh. The ending has been spoiled countless times. I already knew Heston's big line ("they blew it up, didn't they!? Oh wait, wrong movie), although I find it hard to believe the ending was even that shocking back in it's time. This thing is telegraphed a mile a way. Where the fuck did you think those bucket loaders were taking all those people? Anyway, I still enjoyed it despite knowing the ending. Richard Fleischer and his crew did a tremendous job in portraying an over crowded, smog ridden, destitute New York City. While the ending didn't shock me one thing that did was Heston's performance as Detective Robert Thorn. He's damned good, in fact. He doesn't even ham it up until the very last frame, and even then, he's done better ham. He's sullen and brow beaten, for the most part. All he knows of life is living in his crummy one room apartment with his roommate Sol (the great Edward G. Robinson), eating tasteless Soylent food bars, and climbing over thousands of slumbering poor folk just to get home. There are moments in this picture where he finally hears music, sees an actual animal, or tastes real food and all he can do is laugh as if he's a child experiencing them for the first time.

Actually, all the performances here are quite good. Robinson is terrific, in his final performance, as the elder Sol, Thorn's best friend. He's a tragic character whose old enough to have lived in a time where people ate real food and enjoyed real freedom. All he wants to do is die. His choice towards the end is both heartbreaking and strangely uplifting. Joseph Cotton has a brief appearence as murder victim William Simonson, who knows a little too much about the new soylent green. I especially liked Chuck "the rifleman" Connors as soylent soldier/Simonson bodyguard/badass Tab Fielding. Why the fuck didn't my parents name me Tab?? Leigh Taylor-Young played Shirl, the whore with a heart of gold. Speaking of whores, the future is not a good place for women apparently. The women in this thing get beat up or whored out. Those are their options. As soon as society begins to crumble women's lib gets tossed in the gutter and we revert back to the days of clubbing them on the head and pulling them by the hair. Heston has a great line when he refers to Shirl as "a piece of furniture". He even slaps himself a couple broads. Oh well, when in Rome as they say.

The movie begins in a bit of noir-ish fashion with a murder (of Simonson) that seems to be, on the surface, a simple burglarly. Except as Heston notes, before robbing the luxury apartment of it's scotch and steak, "they didn't take anything." Of course, further investigation only leads him closer to the truth, a truth his own police department doesn't even want him to learn. This is future-noir almost a decade before Blade Runner.

For early 1970s dystopian science fiction, this is a brutal little film. Nothing like Logan's Run. I lost count of the amount of times people were shot in the head (including a priest in confession, and several women!). Luckily, there are guys called garbagemen who storm in to collect the bodies, place them in their garbage trucks and bring them to god knows where (here's a hint: "It's people!"). The police control riots by bucketloading people into trucks and then driving them off to, again, god knows where ("people!"). The sets in this picture are pretty well done. Some might say the film has dated itself by being set in the future, but a future that clearly uses 70s appliances. I'd disagree by telling them to stick it where the sun don't shine (i.e. anywhere on earth 2022)....and also, that this is a retro-future where a society in shambles has forced people to use whatever they can get their hands on. That's why there's a broken down 1970 pinto in the street and also why Heston watches television on an old black & white. Douches.

So, what we have here is a sweet little science fiction gem, featuring, quite possibly the best performance Heston has ever given. I'll close with Heston's final line, a poignant moment, when he quietly says,

It's People!!!!!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Zombie Lake (1980)

Nazi Zombies have never been as boring as they are here, in Jean Rollin's masterpiece of snoozy schlock. During the Second World War, the Nazi's occupied a small french town adjacent to a small putrid lake. The french resistance fought them off, killed them and disposed of the bodies in the lake. Years later, with no explanation, those Nazi sons of bitches rise from the depths of the lake to eat naked french beauties....and a dude or two. It sounds fucking amazing, right?

Wrong. Still, is it worth checking out? If you're a guy, absolutely. there's enough virginal bush in this thing (all of it stunningly shot from the bottom of the local YMCA pool, which stands in for the pond during these shots. fuck, you can even clearly see the walls at times) to keep you occupied for at least ten or fifteen minutes. If you're a girl, stay far away (unless you're a lesbian). This movie has none of the details that make a good zombie picture; make up, shocks, gore effects. I think there were five zombies in the entire movie! Each kill was precisely the same. Zombie bites neck, a little red wine seeps out, moves on to next victim. The victims, to the best of my recollections, stay dead. If you're making a zombie picture, shouldn't the zombies turn people into, know....zombies?

The best scenes of the picture were told in flashback as we're treated to the epic battle and, I suppose, the origin story of the Zombie Nazis. At this point, I realized that the entire movie (we're over halfway through) had about five lines of dialogue. I did love the battle scene enhanced by some lousy string music, meek explosions (I think they had prop guys throwing dirt in the air) and plenty of shooting from the hip (something I'm told you're not to do during war time). I actually thought these filmmakers took a time machine and shot a genuine WWII battle.

Cut back to present day and we're enthralled to learn that a naked women's volleyball team are now camping out at the lake. Time for a swim girls. I trust you left your razors at home? Probably the greatest scene in the movie as the camera moves back into the YMCA pool and we're treated to several shots of the Nazi Zombies just hanging out at the bottom as their green face paint washes away. You know, just hanging out and taking in the view of the pretty folliage floating on the surface above, as lake zombies are known to do from time to time. Then the zombies spring to life (these guys must have a severe case of priapism, by the way) and attack the team, before moving on to the town (and never increasing their numbers). At least we got to enjoy a few subtle nods to Frankenstein as the pretty-boy zombie decides he just wants some good, old fashioned, opposite sex companionship. Sorry boys. Unfortunately, he befriends a little girl and was later brought up on child pornography charges. Actually, the town formed a lynch mob instead as the mayor declared "we better face the facts, the zombies have declared war!"

The highlight of the movie is probably the Zombie knife fight or perhaps the eye penetrating scene reminscent of one done much better in Fulci's Zombi 2. Considering that this came out in 1980, the gore effects are extremely lousy. Especially when one considers what Tom Savini was doing at the same time (Dawn of the Dead, Friday the 13th, The Burning). There's a similarly themed movie that came out a few years earlier called Shock Waves that stars Peter Cushing and Brooke Adams. With a cast like that, how can it not be far superior to this piece of shit? Check out this tagline: Once they were almost human! Beneath the living....beyond the dead...from the depths of Hell's ocean! The deep end of horror! Almost human! Brilliant. This movie? It's a porno without the money shots. And, it nearly put me to sleep. Wasn't even that hammered, truth be told.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (1977)

Let me start by apologizing to my faithful readers (all 5 of you) for my lack of anything resembling consistent posting recently. Let the excuses begin; busy month, hard to write while hung over, it's hard to establish a balance between writing and sex with slutty women, busted knee playing paint ball, writer's retreat 2008, weddings, two jobs, etc. That's just the first half of May. Fyi, writer's retreat 2008 was a smashing success. Dan and I got together to watch a shitload of movies to "inspire" us to finally write this screenplay we've been kicking around for a while. When I say "smashing success" what I really mean to say is we got smashed and didn't write a god damned thing. Over the course of two consecutive days and nights, the only thing we got inspired to do was go out and purchase another bottle of Jim Beam before the liquor store closed at eleven. I'm putting it here in writing. We will have the screenplay finished by the end of June. The idea is simply too good to let wash away in a sea of whiskey and regret. In case you're wondering, we're calling it 'Head'.

Also, I didn't want to become like the guy I know who writes about comic books and is apparently on a sabbatical (i.e. he got a girlfriend). My advice to the guy over at The Latest Issue? Why settle for one girl when you can have a new one almost every night? Just kidding. You guys make a great couple.

Anyway, I'm back with a review of Death Bed: The Bed That Eats. What in the name of all that is holy? This movie is amazing. It's about a bed. That eats. It eats fried chicken, apples, and even people. This bed doesn't stop at eating, god no. It also drinks. Wine. Peptol Bismol. Blood. This is a fucking strange movie. This bed lives out in the countryside somewhere on the grounds of a former estate. The only part of the manor left standing is a room that contains said bed...and also a painting, behind which lives a ghost. The foppish entity behind the painting tells us in voice-over the story of the bed, which is possessed by a demon of sorts. We see, in flashback, snippets of the bed's history. Newspaper articles with headlines such as "Thousands Missing!" and "Crunching Sounds Heard at Night" merely hint at the atrocities committed by death bed. At one point, a young couple out for an afternoon picnic stumble upon death bed. They lay their spread upon the sheets and begin to fornicate. Their spread includes KFC, apples, wine, and apparently themselves because death bed eats them all. The bed curtains close and the opening title appears, followed by some crunching sounds. Death Bed!

You would think this movie is some sort of joke, but it's all played completely straight. Every character is given an inner monologue. We even heard death bed chuckling to himself. It's as if Terrence Malick decided to make a movie about a possessed bed that eats people. The main story focuses on three young women who camp out in the bed. One of them revealed her breasts and I think that was her bush. The ghost trapped behind the painting tries to warn them, but since he's a ghost and the "ghost hunters" were nowhere in sight, his attempts at communicating were in vain. In Tarantino fashion, each segment of the film has a different title; "Lunch" ("the three girls") and "The Just Dessert".

The actual visualization of the bed eating is what announced, for me anyway, George Barry as a filmmaker to watch if this were 1978 and he actually went on to make a movie after this (he didn't). As a young naked broad lies on the bed it begins to foam and suddenly she is slowly sucked into what appears to be a giant fryolator underneath the sheets. In no time, her skin is completely gone, but her hair still remains somehow. I also liked when the death bed ate a teddy bear that proceeded to bleed all over the fucking place. Even shoes bleed when consumed by death bed. Dear god, I haven't even gotten to the death bed orgy! You'll just have to see that for yourself since words can't do it justice. There was a nice scene (in flashback) where a couple of hoods use the death bed as a hideout post-bank robbery.

Did I mention this is all played straight? The voice overs in this thing are amazing with one broad standing over the bed and saying to herself "I hope there's not a maniac around". The best scene involves some poor chum reaching into death bed to save his girl only to pull out his hands to reveal, yes, skeleton hands. Thankfully, his girl was ok and helped the poor guy by breaking off his hands and throwing them into a dying fire. Bones make great kindling. What a girl.

Dan and I were throwing around sequel ideas after our viewing. He came up with one called 'Rape Chair: The Chair that Rapes". I was a bit peturbed to learn that Patton Oswalt has a bit where he talks about this picture and comes up with a sequel called 'Rape Stove: The Stove that Rapes." I'll give Dan the benefit of the doubt here. The best I could come up with (just this minute) is 'Torture Table: The Table that Tortures" which could take the possessed furniture idea into Saw territory and therefore make a killing at the box office. We could even make another sequel where all of these items are in the same room together and given jealousy tinged voice overs. Who wouldn't see that? Hell, I'll even write a part for fornicating fridge and strangling staircase just to keep things interesting.

This is the most ambitious movie I've ever seen about a bed that eats people. Still, it's fucking terrible. It must be seen to be enjoyed. So see it. The director had an amazing idea, but just lacked the talent to pull it off. The only picture I could even begin to compare this to is The Mangler, about the possessed washing machine. This is better. I haven't been able to lay on my bed since I watched this. Sex on the floor is more fun anyway.

postscript: I found Patton Oswalt's bit on youtube. Fuck, I didn't need to write this review.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Basket Case (1981)

Here's a short review of a picture I will be recommending until the day I return to dust (which sort of implys I'm recommending it beyond the grave. spooky). There's nothing quite like the love felt between two brothers, especially siamese twin brothers. Especially when one of those twins is a grotesque stinking blob of a creature that looks like Jabba the hut, except small enough to fit in a basket. Hence the title. What we have here is Frank Henenlotter's original masterpiece of filth (later surpassed by the unbelievably sublime Brain Damage). I don't know that I've ever seen a picture quite like this one and since I still haven't seen the two sequels I can truly say that this is the best film I've ever seen about a little blobbish man named Belial who lives in a basket, scarfs down hamburgers, murders with impunity, and repeatedly cock blocks his brother. If you want to see a movie where a blob with no sex organs somehow manages to rape a chick, well, this is the movie for you!

Duane (the other brother) is played by Kevin Van Hentynryck. He's the guy toting around Belial in the basket. Hentynryck certainly doesn't give what could be construed as a good performance, but it's still a fun one. Duane and Belial have come to New York City in search of the doctors who separated them. They lodge in one of those seedy Time Square hotels that used to exist at the same time as cheap hookers and peep shows. Before Giuliani stepped in and ruined it for us destitute perverts who can't afford the luxury services you might find online or in the yellow pages. Anyway, what will Duane and Belial do when they find the doctors? Duane does all the leg work such as casing the joints, etc. Belial, well, you'll just have to see for yourself. The actor who plays Belial gives a masterful performance. He's about one-foot-one and all skin and hands. Somehow, he's able to leap out of his basket and shred through skin, cartiledge, and crotch. Actually, he's not an actor at all. Belial was created through the magic of some crappy stop motion, the kind that's so crappy I couldn't help but love it.

The supporting cast in this thing is terrific as Henenlotter employed genuine New York derelicts; hookers, beatnicks, drunks, and dealers. I loved the effects of Belial on one of his rampages as he gouges, bisects, and gut rips his victims. In the oeuvre of New York City horror films, this one is at or near the top. Henenlotter is an innovative director who knows his way behind a camera and gets some truly memorable performances out of his actors, not one of which could be considered an accomplished thespian. Still, it's the relationship between the two brothers that make this a picture to cherish. When Duane tells Belial "don't worry, I'll never desert you" we believe him. Belial doesn't (he can read Duane's mind), however, and somehow manages to rape Duane's pretty new girlfriend (still not sure how). After such an egregious break in trust, how can the relationship between Duane and Belial possibly continue in the two sequels? I have no idea, but I can't wait to find out.