Posts Tagged ‘70’s

30
Jul
16

Eaten Alive (1976):A Slice of Deep Fried Southern Sleaze

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a Primal Root written review

I’ve spent a lifetime tracking down and viewing the strangest, nastiest, weirdest films that have ever been made. Years I’ve spend renting, sitting in theaters and even buying movies for my collection before ever having viewed them in the hope of tracking down a little nugget of dirty trash cinema gold.  And in all those years, few have reached the levels of sick, disturbing, nasty southern fried exploitation sleaze and depravity as Tobe Hooper’s 1976 bargain basement horror flick, Eaten Alive (aka: Legend of the Bayou aka: Death Trap aka: Horror Hotel aka: Murder on the Bayou aka: Starlight Slaughter). This flick is about as seedy, filthy and low brow as horror cinema gets. It’s garish, lurid, ultra cheap and is missing so much of the artistic flourishes which made Tobe Hooper 1974 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre not only a massive success with audiences but critics too, so much so that it is considered an American classic and even has it’s original negatives housed at The American Film Archive.

You will never find Eaten Alive being lauded over and put in a film preservation vault. Not, this is the kind of movie main stream critics use to wipe the turd crusted asses with. This is the ultimate deglamorization of the horror genre. The colors are thick and heavy, the sets rudimentary, ramshackle, and worn down, totally caked in dust, dirt and filth.  And the first lines we ever hear are during a close up shot of a huge belt buckle coming undone as a young Robert (don’t call me Freddy) Englund exclaims, is a raspy southern accent “My name’s Buck and I’m rarin’ to FUCK!” He makes this exclamation as he bends a young prostitute over and attempts to ass fuck her, which she is less than willing to do. Eaten Alive begins…with a man trying to stick his cock up a woman’s ass… Sophie’s Choice, this is not.

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It all gets even more dark and mean spirited from there, as the madame of this particular Pussy Shack, Miss Hattie (Morticia herself, Carolyn Jones) boots the young prostitute , Clara (Roberta Collins), out on the street for refusing to let young Buck savage her inexperienced poop chute with his throbbing, eager, member. She ends up heading deep into the bayou to stay at the run down, once thriving, now absolutely disgusting and grotesque Starlight Hotel. It’s a shanty out in the middle of the swamp and houses not only the disturbed, one legged, bespectacled, murderous proprietor… Judd (Neville Brand), but also is the domain of Judd’s behemoth per crocodile, a crocodile he claims he got directly from The Nile, which stays in a fenced in portion of the swamp right beside the front porch of The Starlight Hotel.

Clara is chopped to pieces and tossed to the crocodile within minutes of arriving when Judd realizes she used to sling leg for cold hard cash back in town. He flips his shit, tucks his scythe into her young, lovely flesh several good times and tosses her still breathing body off the porch, into the swamp to spend her last gasping breaths chocking on her own blood as she is torn to pieces by the resident devourer of anything made of meat. It’s a pretty nasty, unapologetic and fucking cruel way for this character to meat her end. It’s like Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho…only set in Florida Man’s South. Where these sorts of things are still shocking, but not necessarily surprising and everything is much more gruesome.

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Eaten Alive is a horror movie with no exits, no easy way out from the grueling, unrelentingly malicious story and it’s schlocky tone. From the get go, the audience knows that their emotions, their nerves, will not be spared and, as my close, personal friend, Joe Bob Briggs once said, the key to a good Drive-In movie is that anyone can die at any moment. Tobe Hooper keeps this rule close to his heart in Eaten Alive, as many kind hearted, well meaning characters are introduced and then have scythes rammed through their skulls and an enormous gator tugs at their flailing legs and pulls them in half. It’s that kind of ride. Innocent family pets are shown being bitten into and dragged to their watery deaths while their adolescent owner screams in horror. So, be warned, this movie is for the sicker of us who respect films that can show just how unlikable and horrifying the human condition can be.

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There’s an outstanding sequence where a little nuclear family stops by The Starlight Hotel to stay the night and collect bed bugs. The married couple, Faye and Roy are played by none other than two of my favorite character actors, Marilyn Burns (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and William Finley (Phantom of the Paradise). Their marriage is obviously a slow burn downward spiral into permanent psychosis and Roy apologizes constantly, fantasies about his wife using his eyeball as an ash tray and barks all night. It’s a tense, wholly bizarre marriage filled with passive aggressive behavior and absolute batshit crazy behavior. I’m not sure what the fuck is exactly going on here with these two when they’re alone together, but I do feel for their little daughter Angie (Kyle Richards) who spends her time screaming in despair with her hands clasped over her ears as her parents act like complete nutty bars. It’s one of those scenes that I;m so happy exists, because it’s so much fun to watch these two actors go tow to tow and go crazy on one another, but the implications are disheartening to say the least.

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Soon, Clara’s sick and slowly dying Father, Harvey (Mel Ferrer), and his blonde, well stacked daughter, Libby show up in town looking for Clara. Harvey knows he will be gone soon and wants to find her so he can make good with her before his imminent demise. Things ended on a sour note and he wants to be the bigger man and is desperate to track her down. Where do they end up staying? You guessed it! The Starlight Hotel! The two begin to investigate her disappearance which gets the local Sheriff Martin (Stuart Whitman). All the while, Buck (Robert Englund) takes his curvy young girlfriend, Lynette (Janus Blythe) up to The Starlight Hotel for a little consensual sodomy which all leads to a collision course with absolute horror at the dank, gross and inexplicably popular hellhole of a hotel. There’s gotta be a Motel 6 nearby, right?

 

One of the more disturbing aspects of Eaten Alive is the film’s distinct lack of anyone to really root for, it’s lack of humanity and likable characters. There’s not much to distinguish the villain of the piece, Judd, from the rest of the stories inhabitants. We can;t root for Buck, he’s a rapist, a drug dealer and a fucking bully. Sheriff Martin is totally incompetent and impotent as a lawman or any kind of hero. Roy is a failure, a whimpering loser on the verge of a psychotic break down…even Clara’s Dad is so obsessed beyond reason with finding her and comes off as a total jerk. Still, you see these poor sacks of flesh getting filleted by Judd and then ripped to pieces by the voracious crocodile and you genuinely feel bad for these poor, fucked fuckers.  It’s like a treatise against having faith in humanity. Possibly even life itself. Did I mention this movie is dark?

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Some of the women fair a little bit better and are able to save themselves most of the time and work together to overcome the blood thirsty men who happen to be coming after them intent of sinking as much blade into their young soft bodies as possible. But, possibly the only totally sane character in the whole film is Roy and Faye’s young daughter, who is certain to be scarred for life after her long weekend witnessing horror after horror and narrowly escaping being stabbed to death and Eaten Alive… Yeah, I foresee many hefty therapy bills for the rest of this poor child’s life…

 

There’s a lot of joy to be had, also, in watching a young pre A Nightmare on Elm Street Robert Englund playing a pretty nasty piece of white trash dirtbag named Buck in Eaten Alive. He gives his all in what could have been a pretty forgettable character, but that Englund personae pulls through and makes Buck a pretty memorable piece of shit. You can’t help but see the shadow of Freddy in so many of this characters posses and mannerisms. I often like to imagine that Buck is possibly Freddy Krueger’s cousin.

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All this being said, Eaten Alive is a kind of harrowing masterpiece of deep Southern sleaze cinema. The gore is gnarly, the kills palpably unpleasant, the effects all bargain basement which, in it’s own way, adds to the sticky, morbidity of the piece AND there is a plentiful helping of gratuitous tits and ass, which is kind of the sugar that helps this dirty little pill go down. The sleaze on display here is authentic. One walks away from a viewing of Eaten alive feeling dirty and in need of a shower. There’s no deeper meaning to be found in this head first dive into depravity, murder and insanity. It’s a film totally preoccupied in the grimy, the dirty and the disturbing and offers no apologies. There is no light at the end of this tunnel. Only blood, chaos, death and darkness. And what could be more terrifying than that?

I award Eaten Alive 4 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets!

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

 

 

 

 

26
Jul
16

The Cheerleaders (1972): Smells Like Teen Spirit!

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“Norm, you’ve got pies in your Levis.” – Stephanie Fondue as Jeannie in The Cheerleaders

a Primal Root written review

This is the film that started it all. The film that bridged the gap between the cinematic beach blanket bingo goofiness era of the 1960’s and the no tits uncovered teensploitation bushapalooza of the 1970’s. That’s right, we’re talking about my favorite Trash Cinema sex comedy of all time, 1972’s The Cheerleaders. A film that pulls of the trick of combining both rosy cheeked innocence and balls deep raunchiness at the exact same time which, in short order, became the go-to magic formula for the genre. In my filthy opinion, no teen tits and ass movie ever treaded the terrain as well, either genuinely hilariously or penis swelling sexily as The Cheerleaders managed to pull it off. Not only that, but teen sex comedies for the next 40 years all owe an enormous debt of gratitude to this game changing slice of Trash Cinema sleaze.

Legend has it that after the success of the enormously bankable 3-D softcore skin flick, The Stewardesses, The Cheerleaders director Paul Glickler decided another sexploitation picture featuring ladies in and out of uniform would make a chunk of change at the box office. After witnessing a troupe of sexy early 1970’s all natural high school majorettes strut their stuff in a small town parade, Glickler knew he had a winner. When he pitched his initial idea was met with plenty of skepticism, after all, we are talking about the sex lives of teenagers which was a tiny bit taboo at the time. But once Glicker crossed paths with Jerry “I Drink Your Blood/ I Eat Your Skin” Gross, Glickler’s sleazy, perverted idea become an glorious reality. The Cheerleaders was released regionally in the budding spring of 1972 , and by the fall of that same year, The Cheerleaders had become the #1 movie in The Land of the Free, The United states of America, doing our grand, old nation proud. The proved at long last that we should never, ever, underestimate the overwhelming power of nubile, bouncy cheerleaders to draw a crowd happy to pay their hard earn cash to ogle their lovely young bodies.

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The Cheerleaders commences at Amorosa High School as their football team is in the middle of their biggest winning streak in many a moon. What is their secret? Their horny cheerleading squads voracious sexual appetite and their mission to ball every opposing team in it’s entirety the night before each game. These young ladies’ immense school spirit is matched only by the fathomless rage of their teenage libidos. The Cheerleading squad is so damn popular they have their own corner in the girls locker room where the pervy janitor has placed his peep hole. The other girls peep around their lockers to watch these lovely young ladies dress and undress. However, one girl seems more enamored by the mysterious sexual allure of this band of sexually aggressive females.  It is the cherubic face, young, naive Jeannie (Stephanie Fondue) and she decides she will do ANYTHING to become a part of the team.

Let me stop this review right here and take a moment to discuss my unending love for actress Stephanie Fondue. Like Jill Lansing in Malibu High (1979), this was Stephanie’s only roll and there’s not much information to be found about her or what became of her. All we know for sure is that her real name is Enid and that she did some nude modeling for magazines. Also, according to Glickler, she was incredibly open and free with her body to the extent that she even offered to actually fuck her fellow actors for the sex scenes. For whatever reason, she wondered off from an exceedingly promising cult actress career and vanished into Trash Cinema oblivion. She is absolutely phenomenal in this film. Her awesome punk rock chop top hairdo, to her goofy, awkward teenage line delivery, her fantastic comedic instincts and tomboy sexual appeal coupled with her generous amounts of total nudity, she gives a screen performance that is unforgettable and makes the whole film a joy to watch. Her willingness to do anything for a laugh, from wrestling nekkid int he shower with the entire football team, to exploding forth from a bedroom totally nekkid and spread eagle after a waterbed explodes, insured that Ms. Fondue’s performance is among the most inspiring of all sexploitation. I will forever admire Stephanie Fondue and wonder where she is…and if she’s thinking of The Primal Root, too.

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Okay, back to the review!When it becomes common knowledge that one of the cheerleaders has had to quit the squad due to an unscheduled pregnancy, Jeannie grabs her pom-poms and joins the try out! Beforehand, she gets some advice from Bonnie and Debbie on how to be embody the spirit of the cheerleading squad. First, the get Jeannie to ditch the bra and then get her to put on the clothes her teddy bear typically wears before they totally lose focus and go off to seduce the men of the house, Jeannie’s chronically masturbating brother, Bonnie offers a lovely alternative,  and Jeannie’s incredibly lecherous and wondrously dorky Father. Debbie attempts to seduce the bespectacled golf fanatic.

“Gee, Mr. Davis,” Debbie says, picking up one of Dad’s golfballs,” I like your balls.”

Dad, being a wile old fox, of course, gives her an impromptu golf lesson.

When Dad gets a look at Jeannie’s nipples pocking through her super tight and tiny shirt, he loses his boner quick and flips his shit, going off on poor Jeannie. Outside, as she consoled by Debbie and Bonnie, it comes to light that Jeannie is in fact…still a virgin.

“Norman thinks I’m a piece of toast,” Jeannie strangely asserts. “Buttered.”

Zod, I love the dialog in this movie. ❤

Jeannie tries out and she is horrible, however, she is a virgin and according the wisdom of the 1970’s, less likely to get knocked up, so they decide to give her a chance. First stop, initiation. They tell her she must shower int he boy’s locker room, convincing her by lying that football practice won;t be over for another hour. Of course, as Jeannie stands nekkid, wet and alone in the shower, the entire football team comes running in nekkid, filthy and as is the case with most teenage boys, horny as fuck. Not the best strategy if you don;t want your new cheerleader getting pregnant, but for sheer visual impact, this is among the finest scenes in annals of teensploitation. No other woman in trash cinema history has ever pulled off fully nude pratfalls with such lovely timing and grace.

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And then Debbie fucks the guy at the hamburger stand. And Claudia fucks the coach, And Patty fucks the lesbian gym teacher of a crotch thrusting piece of gym equipment. As you may ascertain, there’s a fuck ton of fucking in The Cheerleaders and if it’s not actually kind of sexy it is bafflingly over the top and awkwardly funny. On the way home from school Jeannie mentions to fellow cheerleader, the red headed Suzy, that she has no idea how to seduce a boy. Suzy shows her how it’s done by hoping over to fellow bus rider, grabs his dick and starts going to town. As we all know, this is pretty much a spot on representation of all a woman need do to seduce a man.  Suzy then goes on to fuck the bus driver as he continues his route.

Soon, an actual plot begins forming as Jeannie invites the Squad over for a slumber party before the big final football game of the season that will determine the championship. The entire football team crashes the party and the Cheerleaders can;t help themselves, like a filthy version of Pokemon go, these ladies gotta fuck ’em all! And they do, with relish. Only thing is, now it is their own team that has been fucked into a near comatose state which will end int heir loss of the championship. It is now up to The Cheerleaders to pull an all night, county wide fuck fest to pound the other team’s pud until every single one of their pinkies is all stinky and the odds are matched. The girls ambush and have sex with their team’s opponent, no one is safe as they attack them at the gym posing as weights, at the drive in, at the garage, in various bedrooms, and in my favorite bit, bursting forth through a table and a pepperoni pizza at an Italian restaurant.

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However, the next day there is one player that didn’t get laid last night. The 4th string QB was somehow missed during the all night cum raid. But whose pussy is pure enough to take down this final swinging dick that stands hard against Amorosa High and their championship victory? Could it be…Jeannie the virgin?

The Cheerleaders is by far and away one of the most bizarre, sexy and funny sexploitation teen sex comedies I’ve ever seen and one I hold very close to my filthy heart. It was quickly followed by an onslaught of cheerleader sex pictures giving way to the term Cheersploitation, and is a genre that has stuck around to this very day. As long as you have enthusiastic, energetic, chicks in skimpy outfits and as long as folks continue to enjoy baring witness to their cinematic antics, it’s genre that will be with us until humanity finally dies out.

Still, The Cheerleaders was the first and will always be, by this purveyor of filths humble opinion, the finest example of the genre.

I award The Cheerleaders FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

 

 

 

10
Feb
16

Phantom of the Paradise (1974): Salutations from the Other Side

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a Primal Root written review

I’ve long held that the golden age of American horror cinema stretched from the late 1960’s to the end of the 1970’s. It was an age when turmoil, violence and change was in the air. Filmmakers of the day were shaken and inspired by the horrifying, nightmarish world around them, internalized this terror and in the end brought it out of the darkness as some of the most devastatingly influential horror films the world will ever witness.  There is one other genre that happened to thrive in the 1970’s, one I know far less about, and that is the Rock Opera.

Flicks like Tommy, Jesus Christ Superstar, Grease, The Wiz not to mention, The Rocky Horror Picture Show would either garner rave reviews and great success or go on to become beloved cult films the world over. However, some fell by the wayside and are just now starting the reemerge and find recognition as beautiful cinematic oddities they are. And there is none I am more proud to see finally garnering the praise it has long deserved, Brian de Palma’s 1974 film, Phantom of the Paradise.

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Phantom of the Paradise blends the horror trappings of The Phantom of the Opera and Faust together and give it a glam rock makeover serving as a dark comic satire of the entertainment industry. Phantom tells the tale of Winslow Leech (William Finley in an awesome performance) a young and naive composer looking to make it big with his life long work, a cantata based on the legend of Faust. No sooner does the the owner of Death Records, an utterly charming, smooth talking, calm, collected and utterly malevolent man who has sold his soul to The Devil and goes by the name of Swan (Paul Williams) hear Winslow’s music does he find a way to steal it, exploit it and turn it into pop music garbage to open his long delayed rock palace, The Paradise, with. Swan frames Winslow and has him sent to jail where he is volunteered for an experiment which requires him to have all his teeth removed and replaced with new metallic chompers.  It isn’t long before Winslow hears his own composition on the radio, recreated as a turd of a pop song, and flees from prison. In a psychotic rage Winslow breaks into Death Records, ends up getting disfigured in a vinyl record press, vanishes into the night and is presumed dead…But soon after his disappearance a masked phantom begins stalking the darks hallways and backstage at The Paradise, determined to rain murderous vengeance upon all of those who have hurt and betrayed him.

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Along the way, The Phantom ends up becoming infatuated and falling in love with a young, inexperienced but quite talented singer named Phoenix (Jessica Harper), the only person The Phantom permits to sing his work. Anyone else who tries, he promises, will be killed. Of course, Swan makes the decision to have The Phantom’s music performed by what he considers to be the future of music, a glam rock monster who goes by the name of Beef (Gerrit Graham, who is funny as shit in the role). Despite mid shower plunger to the gob warning from The Phantom, Beef is convinced to perform as scheduled…

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Phantom of the Paradise functions as great piece of anti-establishment satire against the soulless corporatization of art and artists alike. Not only this, but Phantom is also a full on musical, complete with song and dance routines, with every song written and composed by Paul Williams. These elements together do nothing but accentuate the strangeness of the film, it’s so bizarre, so daring and so breathlessly creative, it leaves the viewer’s mind reeling. All this quirky genre blending and tonal shifts leaves us with an unexpectedly heart wrenching musical tragicomedy. I can think of few other films that achieve this level of absurdity and poignancy.

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Still with me? I know the description above may sound a bit overwhelming, and indeed, there is a whole lot to take in with Phantom of the Paradise. It is sensory overload, but in the best possible way you can imagine. Despite the film’s litany of references to other cinematic greats, (Touch of Evil and Psycho, to mention just the tip of the iceberg) Phantom of the Paradise is among the most singular and unique films ever made. Any attempt at synopsis can only do Phantom so much justice, because the heart of the film lies in the experience of watching it. It is very often compared to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, released a year after Phantom of the Paradise, and if I am being honest, the two couldn’t be more different. I suppose it is more inviting to spend time with a group of people basking in their own carnal desires than with a group of tortured artists who sold their soul for rock and roll. It’s just a damn shame Phantom of the Paradise never quite caught on in the states. Of course, I’ve heard the film is fucking HUGE in Canada. And, in face, the two fellows from Daft Punk, according to Paul Williams, met at a screening of Phantom of the Paradise! But that has nothing to with anything…just a cool bit of trivia.

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However, in a way, I kind of hope it remains a hidden gem that exists just below the radar. This way it will never be over exposed to the point of nausea or run into the ground to the point of tedium. Phantom of the Paradise is much beloved by those drawn to it’s peculiar story, dark, comedic, enchanting characters, beautiful songs and unchained artistry. Phantom is a film every bit as much for the misfits as Rocky Horror, but with a much more tragic and lyrical fantasy narrative. You cannot help but feel pity and sympathy for Winslow and righteous indignation once he is transformed from sweet Winslow to the pained and murderous Phantom and finds his revenge. One cannot find something darkly funny about Swans form of easy going, suave, laid back evil as he knowingly manipulates those around him to his bidding, feel sadness as Phoenix is corrupted by fame and absolute astonishment at the the radical comedic performance of Gerrit Graham as Beef.

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Phantom of the Paradise is a marvel of a film. Brian de Palma, Paul Williams and company have crafted something so different, so daring that mainstream audiences had no idea what to make of it. A film so beautiful, poetic, energetic and well played is obviously becoming relic. A thing of the not too distant past, when artistry, creativity and taking chances we heralded above ticket sales and domestic box office grosses. I suppose it’s no big surprise at this point for me to reveal Phantom of the Paradise would rank as one of my top 5 favorite movies of all time. It’s a story of love, passion, betrayal, revenge and possibly redemption set to some of the grooviest goddamn songs to ever be featured in a motion picture. A story of how monsters are created and the good guys and bad guys we all have the potential to be. For those who have never seen it, I recommend highly recommend checking it out, but keep in mind it is not everyone’s cup of glitter. For those of us who adore the film, it;s always worth heading over the The Paradise from time to time and witnessing one of the funniest, most lyrical, most enjoyable tragic love stories ever told.

I’m awarding Phantom of the Paradise 5 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy, Gang!

-Root

03
May
15

Master of the Flying Guillotine (1977)

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A John (Whiskey Sour) Carpenter written review

Hey Gang! Normally here at the Collective, we tend to stay more in the trashy, horror(y?), sexy, lovingly yet poorly made schlock world of celluloid. On occasion though, straying from the beaten path is necessary. Even more, sometimes it reeeeeeeeeeally pays off. Enter Master of the Flying Guillotine!

This film truly deserves a wider audience than it has. Considered by critics and aficionados as a paragon of the wu-xia (woo-shaw) genre, which you probably know as kung-fu movies, this film is a gods-damned blast. Light on plot, but heavy on incredible action sequences, imaginative fight choreography, bizarre kung-fu powers, and enough birds flying through fights to make John Wu blow a load, this is a film worth your time. Let’s dive in.

The film opens with a very old, blind kung-fu master practicing at his mountain home, with a narrator explaining that said master works for the ruling government as an assassin. A bird flies to him with a message taped to it, informing him (and you, the viewer) that his two disciples have been killed by another legendary kung-fu master known as the One-Armed Boxer. The master vows to avenge their deaths, and whips out his flying guillotine, which is something you do NOT want to put your dick in. Essentially a hat with the edge lined with blades on the outside and inside attached to a chain, he shows us exactly why you, again, do NOT want to put your dick in it. He practices on some dummies by swinging the guillotine around, throwing it over their heads, and instantly and completely decapitating them. Feeling ready, he throws a tiny bomb at his house, burns the place up, and goes on his journey, vowing to kill the One-Armed Boxer. Unfortunately for him, it seems that ancient China has enough one-armed men to keep Tommy Lee Jones busy for decades.

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Cut to a kung-fu school, we learn that the One-Armed Boxer runs his own kung-fu school, and is actually a pretty nice guy. He’s not overly fond of the ruling government, which seems rather oppressive. He gets wind of a kung-fu tournament held by another kung-fu school. He has correctly assumed that Mr. Guillotine is out to pull his head off, and wants to stay low. However, his students convince him to allow them to, if not participate in the tournament, watch it to learn something. They go, and we are witness to some of the most fun sequences of fighting I’ve ever witnessed.

We get match after match of gruesome, silly kung-fu fighting, where everyone has a great name and skill to match. We also get introduced to some memorable side characters, including a Mongol fighter, an Indian yoga master who is basically Dhalsim from Street Fighter, and a Japanese fighter who I assume is some kind of policeman type figure. A Thai kickboxer is introduced earlier in the film as well, who also participates. We get to see some fantastic fighting, wonderful cinematography, and some laughably silly powers. In the middle of our fun unfortunately, Mr. Guillotine shows up and starts fucking shit up and ripping heads off people. It’s at this point that the film spirals into true awesomeness. The Thai boxer, Indian yogi, and Japanese guy team up with Mr. Guillotine, because reasons, and One-Armed Boxer has to use his wits and skills to take them out one by one.

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I’m sure you can figure out how the film goes from this point. It’s rather predictable in all honesty, but it doesn’t matter one bit. The final four fight sequences are incredible, extremely well shot, and very imaginative. The final fight with Mr. Boxer and Mr. Guillotine is a combination of John Wu just jerking off birds into the shot everywhere, but with an actual reason for it, Home Alone-style booby traps, and flat out bad ass fighting. It’s also fascinating to see the treatment of other ethnic groups in the film. Finally, it’s a FANTASTIC introduction to the legendary Jimmy Wang Yu’s work. If you don’t know the name, learn it. He is one of the most important figures in Chinese film history, and therefore film history, and highly influential in the martial arts film genre. Without him, we might not have films like (whether you like ‘em or hate ‘em) Flying Tiger Hidden Dragon, The Matrix, and other films heavy on acrobatic fighting with bizarre powers. He also in part set the stage for the rising star of Bruce Lee. He has a HUGE body of work that is worth watching. In short, watch the fuckin’ movie. You can find it on Youtube, or get it from Netflix DVD, or probably Torrent it or something. I advise getting a version with subtitles, as apparently the dubbed versions aren’t that great. I give the film 4 out of 5 head-ripping offing, flying kicks to the facing, all out fun as hell dumpster nuggets. Definitely worth your time!

16
Oct
14

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) 40 Years with a Whole Family of Draculas

 

Patric Reynolds

Patric Reynolds

 

In Loving Memory of Marilyn Burns 

A Primal Root Written Review

Our experience begins in the void of darkness, we are blind to the world around us, yet we can hear the nearby sound of a shovel burrowing into the soil. The sounds of heavy breathing, exertion. Our senses are heightened alright as our minds race with the possibilities, as we are made to feel uncomfortable, trapped, anxious…And then our very first image. The visage of a thoroughly rotten, glistening, corpse that eerily resembles a batch of General Tso’s chicken, illuminated by a camera’s flashbulb, accentuated by the startling sound on the film;s soundtrack rumored to be anything from a cello to Tobe Hooper running a pitchfork down a piece of metal. Either way, in the span of mere seconds, the audience viewing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is experiencing one thing above all else, fear.

The premise is simple. Throw a pack of kids in their late teens and early twenties into the heart of darkness, watch them die and then cheer on that one young woman who remains as she struggles for survival. We would call it cliched if it weren’t for the fact that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was the very first. To call Texas Chainsaw Massacre a milestone in horror cinema is justified. Like absolutely nothing that came before it in the film’s attempt to truly obliterate the sanity of anyone who views it, Texas Chainsaw Massacre inspired a generation of horror filmmakers and decades worth of copy cats who could never dream of coming close to Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s raw, uncompromising, power. Though many sequels and cash-in’s follows in Chainsaw’s wake, there is no other horror film like it.

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Tobe Hooper, a young filmmaker out of Texas,  was inspired by, as legend has it,  tales of serial killer Ed Gein and his penitent for digging up corpses to steal their skin and wear it as well as the man’s hobby of turning the remnants of the dead into furniture and serving dishes. Another inspiration came in the form of a holiday shopping trip to Sears. As hooper stood in the hardware aisle int he midst of the holiday shopping madness, his eyes fell upon a rack of chainsaws when the thought came to him, “I know of a way to get out of this place in a hurry!” According to Hooper, within second, the premise for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was born.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre might be the most innovative and enduring piece of cinema to come out of the hippie movement, it has become a touchstone for the end of the movement an highlighting the sick, subversive nature or our American culture and society itself. In the wake of JFK, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. assassinations, the failed war in Vietnam, the brutality of The Civil Rights movement and The Tate-Labianca murders, it was no wonder such a ferocious, merciless, hopeless piece of cinema was the product. Many other horror films of the era, like Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left and Bob Clark’s Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things and Deathdream, all dealt with the frustrations, horror and disheartening of a generation of idealists, who struck out to change things, and watching as that struggle got buried, and never actually took hold. By the late 60’s and early 70’s we had become a nation haunted by that period in time when so many believed in a dream, only to watch it fall apart, like a person being chopped to pieces under a whirring chainsaw. None matched the unbridled fury, the primal scream of disgust and anger that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre delivered. All at once, the young people of a generation are painted as idiots, ego-centric assholes willing to mock one another and leave those less fortunate behind as they seek their own personal pleasures. And by films end, we are reminded, that it’s all just business as usual as an ancient old man in a suit and tie sucks the blood from the tip of the new generation’s finger tip. The message is clear, welcome to the American Nightmare, don’t expect to ever wake up.

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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a true work of absolute terror. A story pitch perfectly told, well acted, beautifully shot and fantastically edited. I could go on all day about Texas Chainsaw Massacre being one of the premiere achievements in outlaw independent filmmaking, but the results speak for themselves.  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is now, 40 years later, considered a film classic and a masterpiece of the horror genre. All these decades later and it has not lost an ounce of it’s power to drive it’s audience to the brink of their sanity. To this day, as Leatherface dances with his chainsaw and the sun rises over rural America, just as the film cuts to black, dead silence, I still have to catch my breath every time.  40 years on, and we’re still feeling the the influence of that idyllic summer afternoon drive that became a nightmare. The most bizarre crime in the annals of American history. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

I’m giving The Texas Chainsaw Massacre LEGENDARY status aka: Infinite Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

05
Oct
14

Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (1972)

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a Primal Root written review

Before the man ended up tackling truly awful films like Baby Geniuses and Karate Dog, late filmmaker Bob Clark made some well loved and enduring films. Hell, they play his film A Christmas Story at least 700 times on every cable station from November to New Year’s Day, and his horror film Black Christmas is held up beside John Carpenter’s Halloween as one of the most suspenseful and horrifying slasher films ever made. The deeply unsettling Vietnam era horror film, Deathdream He even created the legendary Trash Cinema Classic, Porky’s back in 1982! The man proved he could do it all and with pizazz. For my money, one of the man’s finest and most under appreciated works is one of his very first. the 1973 horror/comedy Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things.

Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things is the tale of a troupe of hippie thespians who travel out to a secluded burial island off the coast of Florida for an adventure at the witching hour.  Their leader and owner of the theater company is Alan (Alan Ormsby) a complete megalomaniac who take much pleasure in putting his friends down, sexual harassment and has a penchant for loud clothing. He leads his troupe to this island with the promise that he will raise the dead. The gang catches on quick and thinks it’s all a ruse to scare the shit out of them, which proves to be the case as they are attacked by two ghouls that turn out to be fellow actors in pancake makeup. However, soon after this bit of fun, Alan ends up ordering his thespian clan to dig up an actual corpse, that of a deceased fellow named Orville, before actually promising to call up a curse from Satan himself and bring the dead back to life.

After several false starts, the magic incantation actually does work and the undead residents of the island cemetery rise from their graves to devour the usual rag tag group of acid casualties, witchy women and squares in bell bottoms, but this doesn’t happen till nearly the end of the movie. In fact, the majority of the film is spent highlighting the petty power struggles and squabbling that takes place between this group comprised of hand picked members of the Flower Power/Free Love community. Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things peels back the facade and takes a long, hard look at the hippie dream of peace, love and community and how this counterculture failed on delivering it’s idealistic vision of a better, new society. Power games, sexism, and sadistic threats are what dominate this unpleasant and corrupt group of young people. In short, this is no longer a utopian world of change, but an exact replica of the society they we seeking to be an alternative to.

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Just beyond the caustic satire of the counterculture is a dark sense of melancholy and despair which is fully embodied in the character of Alan. The villainous Alan does not believe in traditional Flower Power, but espouses on the pointlessness of our very existence, “The dead are losers. If anyone hasn’t earned the right for respect, it’s the dead…Man is a machine that manufactures manure.”  Alan takes great pride in devaluing those around him. Calling his leading man a “slab of meat” and mocking Satan himself in his incantations. Alan lives in a world without value or truth. He even states that he will take Orville home to feed to his dogs and then use his bones as Christmas ornaments. Sure, he might be saying this all for shock value, but from the reaction of those around him you get the impression this is not an act, but who Alan really is.  So, in the end, after Alan spends so much of the film waxing his nihilistic poetry, exposing the pointlessness of life and the non existence of God or Satan, it makes a kind of deeply sick sense that the dead should return to life. Rising like malfunctioning machines comprised of rotted flesh and old bones, moving about as a parody of the living’s pointless, expendable existence.

Instead of embracing these walking dead as the ultimate substantiation of his empty, nihilistic beliefs, Alan does everything in his power to save his own ass. In one of the film;s most memorable moments of absolutely shocking and comical pessimism, Alan and a female friend run up the stairs for safety, followed closely by the flesh hungry dead. Alan, in a moment of complete selfishness, pushes this woman down the stairs and into the arms of the flesh eaters coming for them. The actions stops for a moment as the woman and zombies alike stop in their tracks and stare at Alan, as if astonished at his loathsome cowardice, before taking this young woman off to be eaten.

This is where that vision peace and love got us. Not the most cheerful of thoughts to consider.

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Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things is one brutal in it’s sick, drastically dark satire, but it’s still a fantastic comedy. Filled with quirky performances, snappy dialog, and some fantastic one liners.  On a near non-existent budget, Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things manages to be both completely entertaining and utterly engrossing  while reminding you why you dread running into those kids you used to hang out with in drama club back in high school. The thespians are all very real, very human characters and the zombies, in cheap makeup and thrift store clothes, are vivid, nasty customers with facial expressions registering rage and hate rather than the typical benign indifference of a Romero zombie. After being rudely awaken,  these dead folks are back to settle a score.  The makers of this film use their limited budget to their advantage and deliver an intelligent, bleak look into a counterculture that never did take, died,  and simply rotted away like flesh from the bone.  In the end, it’s Death getting the last laugh.

I give Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things THREE AND A HALF Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

24
Sep
14

George Romero’s Martin (1976) Reality Bites

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a Primal Root written review

“Do you believe God’s whole world runs by the laws of the few sciences we have been able to discover? Oh, no, Christine, there is more. But people are satisfied. They know so much, they think they know all. And that makes it easy for Nosferatu. That makes it easy for all the devils.” -Cuda, Martin

 

George Romero’s name immediately conjures up images of his iconic shambling, flesh eating “shoot ’em in the head” zombies, and it’s no wonder. Hell, the man’s spent the better part of a career spanning over forty years devoted to these walking dead flesh eaters who changed the landscape of horror cinema forever with movies like Night of the Living Dead (!968), Dawn of the Dead (1978) Day of the Dead (1985) and Land of the Dead (2004) among many other “Of the Dead” films and follow ups spawning countless unofficial ineffective sequels and lukewarm, forgettable remakes and also saturated the market for the past decade influencing everything in pop culture to the point I wish someone would just put a bullet in my head and end the unimaginative, cash-in, living dead hysteria that won’t seem to ever fucking wind down and die.

But to concentrate on the man’s most popular and commercially successful ventures is to ignore the bold and creative films he is lesser known for. Films like The Crazies, Knightriders, Creepshow,The Dark Half, etc. The man has made some phenomenal films outside the living dead canon he’s most known for, and I’d like to focus on what I consider to be among his most intriguing and underrated works, the independent vampire flick, Martin. 

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Martin tells the tale of a shy, quiet, troubled teenage boy who believes himself to be a vampire, in fact, he comes from a lineage of his family that other relatives believe is cursed with hereditary vampirisim.  We’re introduced to Martin (John Amplas) as he stalks a fellow female passenger on an overnight train to Braddock, Pennsylvania. As he stalks this average young woman back to her overnight cabin aboard the train, we watch as Martin imagines her waiting for him behind the locked door in a revealing neglige, seduced by his vampire charms, lusting for him and embraces Martin with open arms, allowing him to feast on her warm red blood.  What Martin imagines is presented in grainy black and white, like the classic Universal monster movies of the 30’s and 40’s, like Dracula or Frankenstein, before cutting back to the bright, technicolor of reality where Martin attacks the young woman in her cramped cabin. The reality is far from Martin’s dream scenario. He walks in to the sound of her flushing the toilet before she steps out with her hair up in a towel, wearing a well loved bathrobe, her face caked in beauty cream as she blows a huge snot rocket into a wad of toilet paper. When Martin attacks her, intent on doping her up with a well placed prick of his syringe, she fights back with everything she has, hurling obscenities like “FREAK! RAPIST! ASSHOLE!”  athim while struggling against his clutches. Honestly, Martin is a shrimpy looking dude, and I have a feeling she would probably kick his ass normally, but the drugs take hold and she passes out, thus, allowing Martin to slice her arm open with a straight razor and dine on her blood. That’s right, Martin has no fangs.

When the train reaches it’s destination Martin meets his new caretaker, his elderly cousin Cuda (Lincoln Maazel). Cuda is a devoutly religious and highly superstitious  man,  and believes completely in the old family legend that some members are cursed with vampirisim. Cuda takes the boy in with the hopes of saving Martin’s eternal soul before destroying the creature of the night for all time. As you might guess, Cuda has nothing but contempt for young Martin, addressing him as Nosferatu and even threatening to put a stake through Martin’s heart, killing Martin without salvation, if Martin harms anyone in his city. But it’s not long before Martin ignores these warnings, and sneaks off into the night to hunt and feed.

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From the very first frame, Romero, with the help of a haunting, beautiful score from Don Rubinstein and utilizing the fading landscape of Braddock Pennsylvania, imbues his film with a sad, bleak, disturbing atmosphere, one where the American Dream has run dry and the world is left to rot and decay. The mills have alls hut down, the local economy has crumbled, and everyone left is struggling just to survive. The tone is one of desperation as a population holds on to the dying old ways of their lives and existing in denial.

As Martin stalks and ambushes his victims, it becomes apparent that sex is not his concern at all. In fact, when he is propositioned by a female shopper he befriends at Cuda’s grocery store, he has no idea how to respond. Turns out, Martin’s still a virgin after all these years and has no idea what to make of this. The lure of sex seems to hang all about Martin, and his response to it comes off as confused, sad and out of place. When he finally does give in to the seduction, he comes away unfulfilled. This is not your typical lustful vampire.

What Romero has sought out to do with Martin is, much like he did for zombies in his 1968 horror milestone Night of the Living Dead , is to deconstruct the vampire legend and all of the conventions we as an audience hold to be law. Martin is Romero’s treatise that examines the myth of the vampire, (featured in black and white, either as fantasy or long ago memories of how being a vampire once was, this point is left ambiguous) and reality (shot in bright, bold, 1970’s color) de-romanticizing the vampire legend. Also being tackled here is religion and superstitious belief.

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Martin cannot stomach the reality he exists in, and instead, creates intricate fantasies (presented in grainy black and white) where he visualizes himself sneaking into a grand castle rather than some  sleazy 70’s bachelor pad, or striding into the arms of an eager lover rather than holding down a shrieking victim who just took a huge dump in the adjoining bathroom. He imagines himself into the romantic Hollywood reality of the movie vampire, the one that is so alluring. which might be why he’s so quick to state “There’s no magic. There’s no real magic ever.” several times in the film. Crucifixes, garlic, holy water, sunlight, the classic rules do not apply in reality. Martin has no fangs, he uses a straight razor. He has no powers of seduction, he must use dope to keep his victims from breaking him in half. This is not a world of magic and super human power, this is stone cold, un-romantic reality.

Still, Martin believes he is actually a vampire and must feed on the blood of the living in order to survive, just as Christians believe utterly and completely in the resurrection, Heaven, Hell, and the power of the holy spirit. Martin still places an importance in the canned icons of his belief system, “The Hollywood Vampire” but is intelligent enough to know he is only humoring himself with these fantasies and delusions. After one startling moment in the film where Martin scares the living shit out of Cuda by stepping out the darkness  wearing a cape, bares fangs and has a pallid complexion only to finally laugh at the old man and reassure him, “It’s only a costume.” Martin has been told all his life what he is and has come to believe what’s been drilled into his head from birth.  Martin longs to be one thing, but he knows he is something else and this knowledge is the essence of the film.

Martin also takes dead aim at organized religion, portraying it in vapid, empty terms. Romero himself plays a hip priest who insults the shitty wine his church serves at communion, doesn’t believe in angels or demons and loves the movie The Exorcist. And when Cuda calls upon an old school priest to ambush Martin and perform an exorcism of their own, it comes off as an old useless ritual and Martin simply walks away as the priest blubbers on reading from the holy text. But more disheartening than any of this is Cuda himself, a man so blinded by his own faith that he believes it is his divine right to wield life or death over his own flesh and blood. Cuda believes the vampiric curse and that it is his duty to destroy the evil, to murder his own relative in the name of God. This is the same mentality in religious hysteria that leads followers to murder doctors who perform abortion and claim to be pro-life but support capital punishment, to commit atrocious acts of violence in the name of your own personal lord and savior. It’s sick, it’s twisted and it’s wrong.

"It's only a costume."

“It’s only a costume.”

In the end, Martin is a film about the lies we tell ourself and the delusions we live every day. Those that we have been taught by those closest to us and those we tell ourselves simply to get by. Martin wants so badly to be a vampire he is willing to kill others. Martin admires the lore and power of vampires. How they are loved, feared and lusted after, all things that the shy, timid misfit feels he can never obtain.

Martin is a singular, gorgeous, and poetic take on the vampire horror film and it’s Hollywood lore. To date, I have never seen a more thoroughly unique and sweetly sad vampire tale.  This is the rarest of horror movies, one not about a horrible other, or even about the creature next door. No, this is subtle, ambiguous look at what makes monsters of us all. A look into the heart of the horror in our everyday human existence and the evils we are capable of inflicting on one another. Not only through physical acts, but through the power of ideas, belief and control.

I give Martin FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets. If you ask me, this is Romero’s absolute masterpiece.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 




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