Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Poor Bastards of Cinema: The Barbarians

I've really missed doing this segment...so why not do another one?  Makes sense to me.

In The Barbarians, our two heroes are set up to fight each other.  They do so in front of a crowd of slaves/peasants that are probably enjoying a few moments of not being tortured.

That is, of course, until the fight comes to the wall and this guy gets his hand cut off by one of our heroes.
It takes him a moment, but he eventually feels it (it's the Carnosaur effect)!  So much for your career in Slavery!
So yeah, this guy gets his hand cut off and we never find out what happens to him.  Your body was horribly and irreversibly-mutilated for a sight gag.

Does my Insurance cover those?  I should probably check...

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Human Buffet: Cut & Run

It's time for the...oddly-different finale!  Today's film is Cut & Run, which is the final part of the Cannibal Trilogy from Ruggero Deodato.  In the time since Cannibal Holocaust, Ruggero has faced critical scrutiny, backlash from the U.K. and actual murder charges.  To help the 'viral marketing' of the film, he made the leads sign waiver saying that they would stay out of the public eye for a full year.  Gee, why does this sound familiar?  When pressed on it, he had to finally make them come forth and he also had to show in Court how the 'impaling' effect was done.  Wouldn't you just love to see that reenactment?  After that gap, he finally got this film made.  The film is practically a 'Who's who?' of Italian Cinema too.  The Director of Cannibal Holocaust, the lead man behind the Suspiria soundtrack, the Co-Writer of Demons, the Co-Writer of Slave of the Cannibal God, Jafar from Sinbad of the Seven Seas & Kadar and Dirtmaster from The Barbarians.  Granted- there's a quality drop near the end, but you get my point.  The bottom line: you've got Richard Lynch, Michael Berryman, Karen Black and John Steiner in one film.  Do I need to say any more?  Well, just in case, here's the review...
In a great opening, a group of Natives and Michael Berryman go all Splinter Cell and take out a bunch of drug producers in the Jungle.  This leads to an interesting issue with the U.S. DVD...
There are apparently two versions of this film: an R-Rated version (for the U.S. and U.K.) and an Unrated one (for the rest of Europe and Japan).

Following this scene, we see our intrepid Reporter leads set up a drug bust...only to find all of the people killed.  Guess which version of the scene is on the U.S. DVD...
Naturally, all of this relates to...Jim Jones?  Yeah, they go looking for a Lieutenant of his that is somehow alive in Central America.  I just love the way they mix the real and Stock Footage.
As a bonus, the man standing next to the man (Lynch) is the Director.  Holy Hitchcock Cameo, Batman!
Speaking of weird cameos, the Reporters get a lead on how to find the man courtesy of a Pimp...played by Eriq LaSalle.  You're a long way from E.R. still, I see.
Anyhow, they are also looking for the son of some rich guy- on the right- who is being held captive by 'Jafar' here.  He's not holding him for ransom- he's just using him to help pack the drugs.

The plots collide as Lynch's men- which includes Berryman- attacks the site and our heroes end up in his hand.
Things take a turn for the weirder when an attack on Lynch's camp is thwarted, but the man is injured.  The next day, he makes the pair film him...as he orders his lead man to decapitate him on the air.  Cue freak out!
In a tonal shift, the man and his son are reunited happily.  I don't think the blood has dried yet, guys.
In a bit right out of Live and Let Die (great film), Berryman sneaks on board the plane (not train) to try and steal the kill.  He fails.  The End.
It's a weird finale, to say the least.  The plot of this movie is good, but a bit scattershot.  It tells the tale of the young man and a woman trying to escape the dealers, the Reporters trying to find Lynch, the Reporters also trying to find the young man and Lynch's strange, master plan.  Is that enough story for you?  Getting past that, the movie has some good action, good Acting (overall) and sounds great.  I can't hate on Claudio Simonetti- sorry.  The best part is that everyone here is used in the best way possible.  Willie Aames (as the young man) is not that great of an Actor per se, but he looks naive, innocent and scared here.  Of course, it could be that Deodato really just dumped him out in the Jungle- he'd do it.  I love Steiner, Lynch, Berryman and the rest here.  Hell, I even kind of like Karen Black, something I almost never do.  It's an interesting film and stands out on its own.  It's not as great as Holocaust, but does some different stuff.  You should really give it a try, this silly shirt aside...
Next up, it's taken me over two years, but I'm finally going to do House III.  Will I regret leaving it in my Queue for all this time or will my hesitance be well-founded?  Stay tuned...

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Human Buffet: Cannibal Holocaust

Are you ready to face down the 'worst' film ever (save for Faces of Death)?  Today's film is Cannibal Holocaust.  Shall we get the important stuff out of the way first?  Since I can't actually hear you, I'll just assume that you said 'yes.'  Cannibal Holocaust is controversial because it features graphic violence, realistic enough effects to convince the Italian Police that it's Director killed his Actors and features real footage of animals being killed on-screen.  All of these factors- mostly the first and third ones- landed the film on the infamous Video Nasty List from the BBFC.  Did we get all of that?  Okay, good.  Now let's get to the more interesting stuff: the actual film.  While I admit that the film is rough and I've only watched it twice- about four years apart-, I do still like it a lot.  While I won't compare it quality-wise, it's like reading a really dense, tough-to-read book like, say, 'Ulysses.'  The film is a rough one, I won't lie.  That said, it's an experience that I think people should have, even if it is only once.  Even if you don't necessarily like films like this, it's important to see stuff outside your comfort zone every once in a while.  Oh and 'don't judge a book by its cover' or whatever cliche about open-mindedness you prefer.  To find out what happens in this rough, but unique film, read on...
In New York, a Reporter talks about a film crew that went missing out in the Jungle.  It's a dark, unexplored place, yet it exists so close to our modern society.  Symbolism?
After some more set-up, an Anthropologist (mostly-Porn Star Robert Kerman) goes to the Jungle to find them.  They have a guide- who's only there since he's been wounded- who guides them into the 'Green Inferno.'
The group follow the trail- including foreshadowing of scenes we'll see later- and eventually help out one Tribe in defending themselves against the other.  They pay the Tribe with a Tape Recorder in exchange for the film cans belonging to the missing Crew.

Oh and they're totally dead.  Like 'skeletons on a pike' dead.
Back in New York, Kerman gets a look at the Crew's previous film.  It's about Rebels in Africa- originally to be something else in the first Script- getting killed by the General.  As it turns out, they gave the Rebels up, in exchange for the right to film their murders.  Joy.

Oh and this is real footage of actual murder- another reason it is a Video Nasty-, so I'm very selective here.
The most infamous scene- besides the finale- is probably this one.  It's a lengthy scene where a Turtle is caught and cruelly-killed.  I skipped this scene on my second viewing, but it is important for the characters.

Would I rather it not have been shot?  Yeah.  So would Ruggero Deodato, in fact.  What can you do?
As the footage shot by the Crew is seen, we learn that they are real, real assholes.  They burn down a Village and attack the people, just so they can film the aftermath of a 'rival Tribe's attack.'
In one of the film's creepiest moments, Alan (the leader of the Crew) is caught smiling as they examine the body of a Tribal Girl put on a pike 'by the Villagers.'  When reprimanded, he immediately does a 180 and starts a 'heart-felt' speech about the cruelty on display.

Seriously, if that doesn't give you chills, then nothing will!
The crew are finally chased down and killed in very graphic fashion.  It's a rough, rough scene.

The crazy part is that they keep staying behind to film.  The Crew will watch their friend be mutilated or the poor girl in the crew be raped...but won't break the shot.  It's all of the Commentary that was supposedly in Cloverfield, but isn't.
In The End, the Corporate Executives decide to burn the footage, rather than to air it for the Ratings.  It takes all of the deaths to do this, which says a lot.  Kerman muses in a way that we would see many times later- including in Diary of the Dead- and the film ends.
It's a rough trip, but one you should definitely take.  Don't get me wrong- the film is not perfect.  There are many gaffes here and there, the Pacing is a bit odd at times and there are some unnecessary parts to it.  It's also got quite a bit of male nudity, which does bother many people.  The reason why I stand by this film is simple: the message.  Is the message of violence in society unique?  No.  It is just done so well here.  What makes it work for me is how unflinching the film is about showing you everything.  It's one thing for me to say that 'violence is bad,' but it's another to show you the stuff that the film shows you.  Not counting the animal footage- which is rough for all of the right and wrong reasons-, there are many scenes that force you to watch them.  I would cite the scene where they rape and attack the Villager- who later ends up on the pike- as one.  The people are so quickly covered in mud that you can tell that not much really happens, but you really feel the drama.  It's especially rough as the Crew's one lady tries to stop them, only to be held down.  It's one thing to rape someone- no matter who they are-, but it's a step above (or below) to do it in front of your girlfriend like it's nothing!  The film doesn't just tell you what's wrong and why it's wrong- it shows you.  On the animal scenes, they can be completely avoided if you just choose the 'Animal Cruelty Free' Cut offered on the Grindhouse Releasing release.  In the end, Holocaust is something that, again, I think that you need to see.  If you hate it, that's fine.  All I ask is that you give it a chance to make you decide one way or another.  Just try to ignore this Space Mutiny-style Continuity Error...
Next up, we finish the Trilogy with an oft-forgotten Deodato film.  It's got many familiar names, but a very different story.  Stay tuned...

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Human Buffet: Jungle Holocaust

You are what they eat!  Ruggero Deodato is not a household name in America, but his name does bring up certain emotions in those who do know it.  For many people, it is disgust.  The man made Cannibal Holocaust- the next review- and killed quite a few Animals in the process.  The people that released that film- Grindhouse Releasing- even made statements saying that they don't condone his actions, but would not censor him.  Fair enough.  Before he did that, however, he made the first film in his Cannibal Trilogy- Jungle Holocaust.  While it's actually called The Last Cannibal World, it is often listed under the former title.  I'm sure that it's not a coincidence that it shares a similar name as the more famous film.  So what is World about?  It's the tale of two people who must try to survive the Jungle and all of its dangers.  It's a much simpler film than what would follow.  Does that make it worse or better?  To find out, read on...
In a DVD Exclusive, Deodato assures us that any animal footage was not shot by him, but was done by the Producers.  This is notable considering the film to follow.

The story sets up Cannibal Holocaust's themes well by focusing on how *real* this story is.  It's real- it's damn real!
Two men's plane crashes in the Jungle.  They run across some locals who are...well, not the kind of folks you want to meet in a dark Jungle.
The pair get separated and one of them ends up in the clutches of the Natives.  Unlike what would follow, these guys don't seem to have much in the way of nuance.  They make up for it with the body paint though.
The bulk of the movie that follows takes place in a Cave and features our hero being part of the group's rituals, plus being taunted by a bird.

I should note that this is a common thing in these films- i.e. Slave of the Cannibal God-, but are usually set pieces for the climax.  Here- it's most of the film.
Seriously though- that bird is a dick.  Damn bird.
Eventually, our hero manages to get away from the Cave and hook back up with his comrade.  He's brought Me Me Lai along for the ride.  She's 'that hot Jungle babe' from this film and Eaten Alive.  There's a reason why I bring this up actually...
Well, poor Me-Me dies in this film at the hands of her former comrades.  Since she also starred in Alive, her death scene was re-used verbatim in it.  You have to admire those thrifty Italians, don't you?
Things don't go well for our hero's friend, but he's not going to take death by Cannibals lying down!
In The End, he manages to escape in their plane.  I'm sure that would make for an awkward TSA Screening at home.
Every Holocaust has a beginning.  Wow, that's possibly the darkest sentence ever!  Let's dial this back a bit.  The film is pretty good, although it is a conditional recommendation.  The bulk of the film is all about one man trying to stay alive and sane amidst a group of crazy Cannibals.  These guys don't have any nuance, at least as far as we can tell.  Since the Natives never have their words translated, we can only guess what they're saying.  Maybe they are wondering what this man's feelings on the growing disparity in wealth between social classes are.  It could be that they wanted to know his thoughts on America's transformation into a politically-divided place.  As far as I can tell, they just wanted to torture the guy and see what the inside of his colon looked like.  The film is interesting since it has such a small cast of Actors.  There are really only three, maybe four, people who have major roles here.  Looking at so many films these days and their bloated casts of dozens of players, it stands out.  That said, it's a lot of stuff that would prove to be commonplace for the Genre, right or wrong.  The Trilogy doesn't start off with a bang, per se, but it does start off with these...
Next up, the most infamous ever made- besides Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo.  Does it stand up to modern scrutiny and PETA?  Stay tuned...

Friday, April 26, 2013

Holiday Because I Watched It: Treevenge

While it may be a Christmas film, this Short also seems appropriate for Arbor Day.  Besides, I live in Florida.  It hasn't snowed here in over forty-years, so Christmas films always look out of place to me.

Here it be...
Watch this and remember that the Trees are watching.  The Trees are waiting...
Happy Arbor Day- Try not to cut down any excess Trees, at least for 24 hours.

Lost in Translation: Alien

Alien is a great film.  Prometheus...is a bit up for debate.

This film poster, as it turns out, is kind of a mix of the two...even though the latter wouldn't be made for over 20 years.
So...what is this based on?  It seems more like some sort of crazy Sentai show or Anime Film.

Why actually market one of the most iconic films of the last forty years when you can just do this?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Review in Pictures: John Dies At The End

Let me just get the obvious out of the way: you need to see this movie.  Whether you're the audience or not, you need to see it.  Even if you don't like it, you'll remember the crazy visuals for a long time to come.  If you're the audience for it, then you'll absolutely love it.  Now, let's get all of the official stuff done.  This is John Dies At The End, the film adaptation of the Book of the same name.  Before anyone asks, I haven't read it, although I do intend to now.  In addition, the sequel is called 'This Book Is Full of Spiders'- what's not to love?  This is also a Don Coscarelli film, so I was already sold.  He made Bubba Ho-Tep, a very under-appreciated film.  John is a very hard film to explain, which makes it a tricky sell sometimes.  When you see the film, it really works in its favor though.  I wouldn't dare SPOIL what happens, even if my telling you the plot would still not give it all away.  It's that kind of movie.  To see a glimpse at this film's craziness, read on...
Dave here has a story to tell.  It involves ghosts, meat Zombies and Abe Sapien (or the Actor that played him).  It's odd.
 ****
 ****
Dave has seen some crazy shit and even gotten a glimpse into the Universe itself.  This film is so weird that even Parking is wacky.
 ****
 ****
Without saying too much more, I will reveal that they meet this group of Bioshock-looking people, get help from a dog named Bark Lee and meet up with guys who I *swear* are wearing the suits from Galaxy Quest.

To say any more might SPOIL some surprises, so we'll leave it there.  See the movie!  The End.
 ****
 ****
In summary, it's really weird.  In full, it's really, really, really weird.  I love it though.  Seriously, while this film is not for everyone, it really *demands* to at least be seen by everyone.  Whether you don't like it, think it's too silly or would even say 'read the book instead,' you should still see this movie.  I talk a lot in my private life about how creativity seems to be a dying art.  This often feels especially true when it comes to film.  This review comes on the same day that I read about a Scream TV Show finally being green-lit.  So we're going to have Hannibal, Bates Motel and Scream?  What's next, a show about...actually, scratch that.  Whatever stupid idea I have will probably be real at some point in the future.  Let's not give Hollywood any ideas, shall we.  Anyhow, every argument about a lack of creativity brings up films that stand out, whether they be Trollhunter, Rubber or John Dies At The End.  Granted, adapting a book into a film isn't the most creative thing in the world, but Coscarelli does play with the stories and presentation a bit.  The film is full of constant visual delight and quirkiness.  When the final reveals start coming, I'd be amazed how many of you (who didn't read the book) saw them coming.  Seriously, if you guess this shit, you're either crazy or cheating.  The only hint I will drop for neophytes is this one word: Liger.  That's all you're getting from me, folks.  Do yourself a favor and give this one a chance.  Don't be a judgmental jerk like this guy...
Up next, we get a bit dark here.  It's time to look at the most infamous film trilogy of all-time that begins with some lovely holocaust.  Stay tuned...

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Project Terrible 10: The Barbarians

Let's end with something Terribly awesome.  Actually, this film is just alright, but it should be awesome.  Where do I begin?  It stars The Barbarian Brothers aka those dorks from Double Trouble.  I guess this was Bob's revenge for that movie.  The result: The Barbarians.  This 1987 film is really hard to find, despite being made by a controversial Director.  The man: Ruggero Deodato.  Apparently the punishment for gutting that Turtle on-screen was making a film with The Barbarian Brothers.  Fun Fact: I'm actually watching Cannibal Holocaust as I write this.  So why is this a movie?  Because of Conan The Barbarian, of course.  Without that iconic film, we wouldn't have such classics as Beastmaster 2, The Cave Dwellers, Lucio Fulci's Conquest, Barbarian Queen 2 and Deathstalker III.  This was yet another film to join this bunch of film gems, coming out three years after Conan The Destroyer.  It tells the tale of two young men who offend and wound a conqueror, leading to him keeping them alive to later get revenge on him.  This does sound like a pluralized version of Conan, but you're...kind of right.  There are some notable differences in the tale, as it also steals from other films as well.  To see why this film is only available on YouTube with Romanian Subtitles burned into the print, read on...
Our heroes are orphans raised by a group of former Entertainers who happen upon an evil Warlord in the Desert.  It also looks like a lot like Gor, another film that came out in 1987.

Oh and that is not Emo Phillips in the middle.  I know- I thought that too.
The group is captured by the Warlord- Richard Lynch- and one of them bites two of his fingers off.  He agrees to let them live if their make-shift Mother stays with him...so he keeps them around for twenty-years in order for them to just kill each other.

Kudos for a long-reaching plan, Richard, but maybe you could be a bit less obtuse.
Lynch's two main henchman are The Dirtmaster (Michael Berryman) and a lady Wizard, who plans to get him a magic ruby to make him invincible.  You know you're in a low-budget film when you can't afford a diamond.
The pair- now played by the HGH Twins- fight each other in a fight set up to make them kill each other.  It fails when they realize who they are and flee...without their swords.  MENSA Members they are not.
Holy shit- George Eastman is in a trashy, Italian film.  Alert the press!

He plays Jacko, a man who eventually gives the pair weapons for the eventual- and underwhelming- uprising.
In a rather freaky scene, the pair sneak into the Warlord's Camp and find their 'mother.'  As they go to leave, one of the Brothers gets them pulled into a pile with Lynch's Harem, presumably-leading to an off-screen orgy.

Guys, she's not really your mother...but could you not do that in front of her?!?!?!?
At some point, this happens.  No context will help, so just enjoy this silliness.
A sort-of dragon is guarding the Ruby and our heroes manage to kill it.  All I can think of is just how silly it looks.

As it turns out, the feisty girl- who is presented a bit like Grace Jones from Destroyer at first- is the Princess, since the Ruby fit against her belly button.
In a bit of anti-climax, our heroes face Lynch is single-on-double combat.  They have a 'Mexican stand-off with Lynch, who's crossbow jams...somehow and they both throw their swords through him.  They ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after.

Well, until they made Twin Sitters.  It all went downhill after that.  The End.
Damn, is this film orange!  I blame most of the color issues on the source, which for all I know is a beat-up VHS tape from 1988.  Aside from that, I should probably judge the movie as a whole, not the shitty Transfer I got.  It's really, really dumb.  I love Ruggero, but not every film is Cannibal Holocaust.  He did, after all, make a knock-off of The Road Warrior called The Raiders of Atlantis.  Seriously, that's a film.  It is interesting to compare the film to all of the Barbarian films and see what's right and what's wrong.  The tone is all over the place here, including jokes, violent deaths and an implied orgy scene at one point.  What was the market here?  It's not as gory as Conan, so I guess it was going for a middle-of-the-road market.  The fact that we have no readily-available U.S. DVD of it should tell you how well that plan worked.  Is it better than the Ator films?  Well, it's less accidentally-silly- see the 'Ator makes a glider and lobs hand-grenades at a Castle' scene for proof of that.  Is it better than the Deathstalker/Barbarian Queen films?  Yes and no.  Nearly every film is better than Deathstalker IV, so that's kind of cheating.  I do enjoy Deathstalker II more, since it knew that it was utter shit and went with it.  Seriously, it's the best Audio Commentary Track ever!  The biggest flaw is, naturally, the leads.  They can't act and often do this weird grunt/laugh thing that I just don't get.  They suck- plain and simple.  You want to make this film better?  If so, then dub them over a la Lou Ferrigno and you've got a laughably-bad piece of Italian cheese.  As it is, it is about as deserving of a DVD release as my bootleg Shaolin Dolemite (Hi, Bob) DVD.  Sorry, Mr. Berryman...
Next up, let's take a look at something fun before we get dark.  It's a film about some guy name John dying in the End...or something.  Stay tuned...