Posts Tagged ‘brawl

27
May
14

The Big Bird Cage (1972): Hell Hath No Fury like a Woman Scorned and Horny

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a Primal Root written review

Folks in the late 60’s and early 70’s must’ve loved to imagine somewhere out there in the Philippines there are prison/labor camps filled with gorgeous, violently horny American women wearing nothing but the tiniest of shorts and shirts that hang open so their ample, sweaty bosoms simply pour out of them as they sweat and work in the baking hot sun.  How did I come to this conclusion, you ask? Because Corman and Co. were pumping these flicks out like chicken nuggets. One thing’s for sure, they tapped into some strange, dark fantasy of the time that proved profitable and a wonderful showcase for gonzo politics, dark satire, even darker attempts at comedy, and bizarre perversions of all kinds.

Among the grandest touchstones to come from these scantly clad and brutalized women in exotic prison movies was the steady appearances by the sassy, energetic,  Ms. Pam Grier, who would go on to become a legend in her own right. In 1972’s “The Big Bird Cage” Pam Grier and Sig Haig play two revolutionaries, Blossom and Django (in possibly my favorite pairing of the two in their long history of working together), who end up dragging a gorgeous social climber by the name of Terry ( the lovely Anitra Ford of TV’s The Price is Right and the forgotten and highly underrated “Messiah of Evil” from 1972) into their crime wave as a hostage. It’s a short lived affair that end with Blossom and Django getting away and Terry going to a brutal concentration camp run by a sadistic warden and his army of burly, homosexual guards. Terry and the rest of the girls are put to work in the sweltering Philippine heat harvesting the sugar cane crop in the fields and within a giant wooden contraption of the prison warden’s own nefarious design known as…THE BIG BIRD CAGE.  His device crushes, maims, and kills the perky, naked women just as efficiently as it brings sugar to market. Hell, most of the prisoners would rather commit suicide than work within…THE BIG BARD CAGE.

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When the ladies aren’t working nearly completely nude they’re showering, making sexual advances towards their gay captors and each other or plotting to escape.  These women are all perpetually horny and lusting for hard cock and much of the film’s lighter moments are derived from their attempts to seduce the guards who have no interest in them whatsoever.  It;s a strange mishmash of politically incorrect humor (back when that was the acceptable norm. Ah, the good old days…) and brutal revolt, punishment and death. You’ll be laughing your ass off as a tall, skinny blonde covers herself head to toe in Crisco and runs after her nemesis and fellow inmate stark nekkid so no one can stop her, and the next second you’ll be staring in disbelief as a woman is gang raped by a horde of sweaty, butterfly knife toting Filipino men before a gay prison guard can make a bizarre joke about how he never gets that kind of action. This is the kind of filthy, off the wall tone shifty comedy Jack Hill (Spider Baby, Coffy, Switchblade Sisters) seems to really go for in his film, and frankly, I love him for it. It’s sick, it’s sleazy, and it sure as shit is like nothing else you will ever see in cinema. It’s so vulgar and eye wideningly weird that you cannot help but laugh even though what’s left of your heart which is not black tells you that you’re going to Hell for finding this humorous.

During a botched act of revolution where Blossom attempts to explode a gathering of politicians at some kind of public art Chautauqua with a grenade her lover and fellow revolutionary Django gave her. The grenade lets out a sizzling spark fart rather than exploding and Blossom is sent to the same sugar cane Hell hole Terry was imprisoned in.  As you might expect, Blossom establishes herself quickly as the Queen B of the women’s concentration camp as she kicks ass, tears off clothes and generally shows everyone who’s boss. But soon the Evil Warden is suspicious that Blossom is one of the jungle’s revolutionaries and begins beating and torturing the head strong and drop dead gorgeous Blossom to try and get her to talk.

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In the meantime, Django begins posing as a fellow homosexual in order to seduce the prison guards and land himself a job within the women’s penitentiary so that he can rescue Blossom and get his revolution going.  It isn’t long before the entire prison camp is in flames, women are gunned down, guards are stabbed and hacked into pieces and much time is spent on a gang rape scene where about a dozen women tie down one of the gay guards, force him to get his cock hard and then ride it like the proverbial pony. It’s an odd, uncomfortable scene that’s trying to play itself for laughs. Again, the laughs are of the “what the fuck is this? Am I meant to laugh?” variety.  It plays as retribution for this guard making lite of a gang rape that happened earlier, but it’s still pretty fucking uncomfortable listening to this fellow struggle and whimper as a group of sexy, sweaty, naked women suck on his wang and start straddling.  I did laugh out loud when one women has to think fast and muffles the guard’s screams by placing her pussy squarly on his mouth before letting out a “WOAH!” of surprised ecstasy. Now THAT’S funny. Jack Hill is one of the last true rape joke artists.  See what I meant when I told you this thing is politically incorrect and deeply inappropriate? This ain’t no Shawshank Redemption, Gang.

The women who survive the initial riot make their way into the jungle as they are tracked by vicious dogs, and guards packing all kinds of heat and out for blood. Many are killed, few are spared, and the only folks to survive are saved by gentlemen revolutionaries who send the survivors off into the sun set on a little schooner sure to capsize and kill them all before they ever make it to dry land. THE END.

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“The Big Bird Cage” is one fantastically off the wall film filled with gratuitous nudity, torture, blood shed, and ruthlessly mean spirited, dark, offensive comedy. I say offensive because the sensitive rubes out there would certainly find this film to be vile and despicable with little to no socially redeeming qualities. To those rubes, I say sit and spin. These are the exactly reasons I enjoy “The Big Bird Cage” so much!  It feels like a satire of the entire women in prison genre and has it’s sleazy little tongue planted firmly it’s slimy cheek.  The Big Bird Cage is a wild mother fucking ride and one Trash Cinema Connoisseurs will lovingly embrace.

What lesson did I take away from “The Big Bird Cage?” Never keep a woman horny and sugar cane is an excellent cash crop.

I’m giving this slice of sleaze FOUR AND A HALF Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

25
Aug
13

Maximum Overdrive (1986) or How to Embrace a “Moron Movie”

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a Primal Root written review

Ever had a really stupid idea for a story? I mean, a cool idea, but one that makes no logical sense at all? I mean, that’s kind of why story telling is so much fun. you can make up whatever you want to justify just what Hell is occurring on the page, on the screen or in your spoken word.  I know, the law of the land says everything’s gotta make sense, that things have to be believable, but sometimes that stupid, amateur, childish, imaginative idea is just too good to restrain. Enter Stephen King’s one and only directorial effort, his self proclaimed “moron movie”, 1986’s critically bashed “Maximum Overdrive.”

“Maximum Overdrive” tells the story of worldwide horror primarily through the microcosm of one filthy, small, interstate truck stop. What’s the global crisis at hand? I’m thrilled you asked! See, the entire world is caught in the tail of some kind of comet that apparently has the power to bring every single machine to vicious, murderous life! Well, with the exception of any piece of equipment required for the main character’s survival…But still, most;y every single damned machine on God’s green Earth is suddenly out for blood! Everything from steam roller crushing Little Leaguers to electric carving knives ripping up hapless waitresses arms! It’s survival of the fittest as the patrons and staff of The Dixie-Boy Truck Stop are besieged by an onslaught of malicious semi-trucks. What do these trucks want? Why are they here? Home many people are going to end up being crunched into human hamburger? All these questions are asked as the blood and bodies fly to a fucking badass AC/DC soundtrack.

James Franco is going to play me in Spider-Man 3? Okay, time to wipe out the human race.

James Franco is going to play me in Spider-Man 3? Okay, time to wipe out the human race.

Stephen King helmed his directorial debut in 1986, right the the peak of his 1980’s popularity, and the critics were chomping at the bit to rip the much beloved horror writer a new asshole. “Maximum Overdrive” provided the perfect opportunity. It’s ridiculous, over the top, gratuitous and deeply, unapologetically dumb. It’s a movie where lawnmowers come to life and chase little kids and soda machines pummel people into bloody pulps, we’re not talking about sophisticated cinema here. One thing I think the critics failed to understand is just how much fun 97 minutes of unabashed mayhem, dopey characters and brain dead dialog can be.

Got coke?

Got coke?

Starring at the time up-and-comer Emilio Estevez, as Bill, a recent parolee employed at The Dixie-Boy Truck Stop and trying to make good all while putting up with his asshole boss/slave driver, Bubba (Pat Hingle) and making love like a hero.  Bill’s situation is pretty shitty…and then machines all of a sudden inherit the Earth, giving the young man the chance to take charge and show just what he’s capable of. Not only that, but he ends up getting stuck in The Dixie-Boy with the lovely Brett (Laura Harrington), an enigmatic tough girl hitch hiker who ends up bedding the sun kissed, perpetually sweaty and over worked Bill and espousing some of the most laughably awkward pillow talk ever heard in cinema all while skull crushing semi-trucks encircle their truck stop hide out and the threat of eminent flattening hangs over everyone’s head.

It’s the ultimate blue collar, underdog, greasy low life action/horror movie as e are asked to root for a batch of characters who would typically be banished to the sidelines in bigger budget apocalypse films. These are not scientists or well worn marines, these are just a bunch of dumb, greasy, rednecks trying to get out of a perilously tough situation and survive.  This, of course, is not your typical end of the world movie scenario. But you know what, it’s about time we got to see a story like this told through the eyes of the average grease monkey. It’s I really love about this flick,

Looks like you were right, that zit was ready to pop.

Looks like you were right, that zit was ready to pop.

In the end, “Maximum Overdrive” is a fuck-all, go for broke, mean as Hell, shit kicker of a film.  Like the goblin faces semi-truck villainous star of the film, it’s completely mindless but dead set on rocking your world.  Stephen King has apologized repeatedly for this tremendous piece of Trash Cinema, and even admitted to the whole film being made in a cocaine fueled haze, but if you ask me it’s really a shame the guy hasn’t gotten back behind the camera. I sure would be curious to see what King would follow this flick up with…  “Maximum Overdrive” is a damn fine and fun piece of B-Movie entertainment. If you don’t take yourself or the premise too seriously, I defy you not to enjoy yourself laughing with or at the movie as it unfolds it’s one of a kind sci-fi/horror/ action yarn about a goofy batch of truckers and yokels duking it  out and fighting for their lives against a world gone mad as machines try to rip their insides out.

“Maximum Overdrive” might not be a classic by the standards of most, but here at The Trash Cinema Collective, it sure as Hell is. Be sure to check this one out, preferably with a cooler full of beer and a handful of pals to share the magic with.

3 1/2 Dumpster nuggets out of 5!

Maximum Overdrive Heavy

See you at The Dixie-Boy SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 7th for Trash Cinema Nights at Bird’s Aphrodisiac Oyster Shack as we will be screening both “Maximum Overdrive” and “Heavy Metal Parking Lot” back to back starting at 8pm!  Hope to see you there, Gang!  Bird’s Aphrodisiac Oyster shack is located at 325 N Bronough St  Tallahassee, FL 32301

Stay Trashy!

-Root

11
Apr
13

Werewolf on the Moon: The Howl Story

Werewolf on the Moon

Created by Perry Gilbert

a Dirty Thought with The Primal Root…

edited by Bootsie Kidd

By now,  I’m sure most of our Trash Cinema Collective regulars are well aware of The Collective’s most recent project, “Werewolf on the Moon’.” A mock 1950’s style Roger Corman-esque trailer to be entered into a competition held at a 24 hour film festival in Chicago on Saturday, March 9th, 2013.  The competition was going to be judged by audience applause,  so as out-of-towners our chances of “winning” this thing were pretty nil from the get-go.  Still, the idea of The Collective coming together and creating something outside the realms of our usual “The Primal Root’s Rotten Review” and, instead, making a short film of sorts to be shown on the big screen in front of hundreds of people as part of a friendly competition between other amateur filmmakers? I began scribbling down ideas…

Being the overly excitable and eager fellow that I am, I came up with about a dozen ideas and contemplated creating all of them for the competition. Keep in mind, we only had about a month to get ONE trailer finished let alone six… So, when I brought these ideas to veteran filmmaker and The Trash Cinema Collective’s go to collaborator, John Thursby,  he thankfully managed to talk me down and into shooting just one trailer.  Out of all the concepts, ‘Werewolf on the Moon’ struck me as the most doable project of them all. It presented its own distinct challenges, including a rocket trip to the moon, creating uranium rods, and convincing a woman to get naked in the shower and be gawked at by a menacing, blood-thirsty werewolf. We had our work cut out for us. At least I thought. Then I realized  we had The Trash Cinema Collective’s unrivaled pool of talent supporting us every step of the way.

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Our unparalleled cast of actors including whom I am hesitant to name, seeing as they are all very respectable, contributing members of society who just so happen to also be incredibly creative and willing to go all-out for such projects over and over again, giving of themselves and their time in order to bring these ideas to life. I am forever grateful for their contributions and reliable eagerness to be a part of these projects.  Thank you for the support, inspiration and friendship.

Also, our behind the scenes crew were amazing, as well. Laura Henry was remarkable as ever as our hair and makeup designer.  Perry Gilbert, who created our computer generated-effects and made his acting debut as “The Man” in the trailer has become a valuable player and an excellent addition to The Collective’s production crew.  Having cast myself as The Werewolf I wasn’t able to be behind the camera as often which meant it relied mostly on the talents of John Thursby and Bootsie Kidd as cinematographers and both did an astounding job with this project and making it look as wonderfully cheesy as possible.

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Also, we must give special mention to Steven Torres, who responded to a total strangers cry for props inviting us over to his home, and lending us an entire garage full of cool, strange, unique pieces and original art to be used in our trailer.  This was a HUGE help on Werewolf on the Moon.

We shot the trailer in 3 days on weekdays, once people were available after work. Our biggest day was our first as we gathered a large group of our cast to shoot the scenes involving our initial werewolf attack scene, the Moon Marines battling the werewolf, our scientist explaining the perils of battling a werewolf on the moon,  and the harrowing werewolf shower attack sequence. It was a fairly nice-sized shot list, but through concentration, professionalism and plenty of beer and vegan pizza, we managed to conquer it. John Thursby, always a fun performer, knocked the character of our 50’s chain smoking, oddly aggressive scientist, out of the part.  Carpenter as the head of the Moon Marines was pitch perfect in his aggravated, manic, blood thirsty portrayal of a man who cannot comprehend of a situation where he can;t just kill his enemy instantly.  His Moon Marines, played by A.D. and Bailey, were both hysterical onscreen, bringing to life their characters in ways I hadn’t even comprehended.  Bailey performed his own stunts when the Werewolf rips his face open, and A.D. gave his character that great Dudley Do-Right vocal quality that, at first, seemed goofy but quickly felt pretty damn perfect. Keep in mind, most of these scenes were shot against a white wall in a two car garage.  I cannot forget to mention L.A. whose willingness to strip down to a tiny pink bikini and, in the case of a shot or two, stripping totally naked in order to make her werewolf attack seem more sever and legit. Oh yes, the nudity was ABSOLUTELY crucial to the trailer.

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Our next day of shooting took place at Kleman Plaza in downtown Tallahassee where we primarily shot our Werewolf’s rampage sequence. The werewolf attacked a little girl playing hop-scotch by snatching her up, throwing her over his shoulder and making a break for it. Our little girl was played by the always game Tara B-M, who didn’t mind getting rammed into by a beefy guy with impaired vision about a dozen times till we got the right take. Also of note, Tara’s shoes would fly off on every take and in one instance nearly hit a homeless man directly in the face.  Rachel M. played the young girls hop scotch companion and took played the roll of an over enthusiastic youngster to the hilt. I kind of wish that shot lasted long so you can really take the time to admire her incredible performance. Seriously, next time you watch the Werewolf on the Moon trailer, pay attention to her.  Perry Gilbert then made his screen debut as The Man, He’s the gentleman holding up the ‘Werewolf on the Moon’ newspaper who is then brutally assaulted. It was the scene where we went full on goofy and it came out wonderfully. The kid’s a natural. We shot a few scenes with Jennie C. as a gypsy who has relocated to the Moon and speaks of a prophecy that said “the curse would follow us to the stars.” Sadly, this moment had to be cut from the competitive cut to fit the time limitations, (you can still see her getting attacked in a quick cut during the competitive cut) however, we restored it in the extended cut.  We then shot some scenes in the parking garage of myself climbing on board an elevator to the ship to the moon as I transform into a werewolf and a shot of me disembarking from the elevator as a full blown lycanthrope.  We did some impromptu shooting around Kleman Plaza that ended up on the cutting room floor but will make it’s way into the extended cut.

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Our very last day of the shoot took place in Panacea Florida, in a small aircraft provided by  aviator, scholar and gentleman, Steve Faultz This would have to pass as our shuttle to the moon where I transform into a werewolf as my attention is drawn to the approaching moon by Ms. Bootsie Kidd who is seated next to me.  Thanks to some creative photography and the ingenious idea of using black construction paper with holes punched in it to create the illusion of our aircraft flying through the vacuum of space, it all looks better than we ever could have expected.  We managed to shoot the remainder of the footage we needed in only a couple of hours, including some unscripted footage of the werewolf hijakcing the moon shuttle that will be added to the trailer’s extended cut.

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Last, and certainly not least, we featured twice past Devil Girl and recurring actress in The Primal Root’s Rotten Reviews as our 1950’s Devil Girl in our Trash Cinema Collective Pictures logo. 😉 When that logo popped up in Chicago in front of  about 800 sci-fi fans, you should have heard the wolf whistles and cat calls! I’m pretty sure it wasn’t for the font we used…

The editing process went remarkably smoothly and was an absolute joy to piece together. The performances and handy work of my friends and partners in crime were a blast to watch and piece together into what shaped up to be a very fun, very funny, ridiculously entertaining little trailer. I am incredibly proud of what we made over those few days and what we were able to accomplish with no budget and little time. It’s a testimony to the talent and creativity we have here at The Trash Cinema Collective as a collaborative force to be reckoned with.

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Our trailer was one of the last of fifteen trailers to be shown in Chicago during The Portage Theater’s Sci-Fi Spectacular Movie Marathon. The audience reaction spoke for itself as people laughed from start to finish and applauded raucously at its conclusion. The crowd loved it. However, when it came time to be judged, it was the local Chicago folks who took home top honors as it was judged by applause and they were able to get their entire casts, crews and extended family to show up and cheer them on. And rightfully so! It was apparent that every single filmmaker, performer, and crew member had poured their creative juices into making these oddball shorts, and in the end everyone supported the hell out of each other. From me to you, it was a damn fine sight to behold.  But honestly, I think we truly won that night. Werewolf on the Moon, this project we all worked so hard to create, played on the big screen and garnered a huge amount of laughs, applause and praise afterwards. We created something people enjoyed and appreciated. for those 90 seconds, us Tallahassee kids, The Trash Cinema Collective, filled a theater full of movie lovers with laughter, with light, with something that touched people. And if we can put all our talents together and create something  that brightens the lives of those who watch it, even for a short while, isn’t it worth it?  I certainly think so.

Thank you all for making this project possible. Without your love, friendship, and support none of this would see its way into our version of reality.

So, without any further a due, here are the fruits of our labors. Enjoy “Werewolf on the Moon!” A Trash cinema Collective Mock Trailer.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

02
Feb
13

Here’s Parker! He’s the best professional thief in hardboiled fiction, and he’s in a film under his real name for the first time. But is it really him?

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a review by Joe Sheer in Omaha
I love Richard Stark’s work.  If you like dark, intelligent crime fiction and a raw, stripped-down storytelling style, you will too.  Donald E. Westlake was a master of the crime story and of multiple styles, and his alias varied with his characters and approach.  I’ve enjoyed every guise of his I’ve read and the characters they created, but Stark and his perfectly amoral creation, Parker, are my clear favorites.  I like a redeemable protagonist with decent motives as much as the next guy, maybe more so.  But the cold, clinical, brilliant and animalistic crime machine that is Parker fills a very specific niche for me.  He’s not a hero.  He’s not even an anti-hero.  He’s a pure non-hero, a bad man that you find yourself rooting for because he gets what he wants and brooks no fuckery.  Also, among the lesser thieves and cutthroats who fill out his stories, at least he’s honest.

To date, nobody’s hit the Parker nail quite on the head.  The Brian Helgeland director’s cut “Payback – Straight Up” is probably the closest in tone (see it if you haven’t.  It’s one lean, mean piece of cinema).  I think a perfect Parker film is unlikely, but to my mind a solid recipe would be either “The Seventh”, “Firebreak” or “Breakout”, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, starring Josh Brolin.  I always appreciated that Stark/Westlake allowed film adaptations, but never allowed any film to use the Parker name because nobody got the character right and didn’t intend to make a series.

So, when I saw that this new “Parker” picture was on its way, clearly based on “Flashfire”, my hackles went up right away.  How could the Westlake estate allow this?  The man’s not alive to approve it, so the Parker name should stay retired (except for Darwyn Cooke’s excellent graphic novellizations, which do Parker right and had the author’s blessing before he passed).  Even worse, Jason Statham says right in the trailer: “I don’t steal from people who can’t afford it, and I don’t hurt people who don’t deserve it.”  That’s not Parker.  Parker doesn’t care about people.  Okay, to be fair, he probably wouldn’t steal from people who can’t afford it, because they wouldn’t have enough money for it to be worth his time to steal.  And he was always careful to avoid killing during a heist if at all possible, but not because he had any respect for human life.  No, it was only because the law looks harder for a killer than for a thief.  So that one line in the trailer just smacked of a moralist streak so alien to the character that I was primed to cry foul.

 

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The casting of Jason Statham gave me pause as well, but only slightly.  I am a Statham fan, no question.  The man has charisma for days, and it is never, ever not fun to watch him kick the crap out of people.  I also think he’s a damn funny guy and his comic talents are woefully underused, but that’s neither here nor there, as that’s not the talent he should use as Parker.  My only hang-up with his involvement was the genuine skill as a martial artist he’s displayed in past action films.  I assumed that would be brought into play here, and that’s not Parker either.  Parker doesn’t win in a fight because he’s a trained martial artist — he wins because he is a strong man with a keen eye for weaknesses and absolutely no scruples.

And then there’s the problem of the title.  As a general rule, I hate titles that are just the main character’s name.  “Parker”.  To a general audience, it means nothing.  To fans of the series, it’s a source of irritation because we’re going in assuming that the character should NOT carry this name.  Even if he earns it,  “Parker” is not a good title.     You know what’s a good title? “Flashfire.”  Why can’t they just leave a good thing alone?
So, obviously I made a number of assumptions, and as we all know, doing that can make an “ass” out of “u” and “mption,” so I was determined to keep an open mind.  After all, even an abysmal take on Parker can still render a good escapist crime film, especially if they stick with the novel’s basic plot.  So I went alone to the theater, downed a shot of Wild Turkey, and settled in to see if I’d been wrong in pre-judging.
Had I been?
Yes.  Almost completely.  We open on the heist of the day’s take at the Ohio state fair.  It’s a very nicely put together sequence showing the nuts and bolts of a well-planned strongarm heist.  It’s old-school all the way, with no hacker needed and no unduly complicated maneuvers.  Parker is cold and efficient and professional, and this is the only time in the film he mentions the two “rules” listed above.  He does it in the context of keeping hostages calm, which is something Parker was always pretty good at.  He would always give a simple, logical explanation of why everyone will be better off if they don’t try to resist, and would even try to avoid unduly challenging the manhood of anyone who looked like they wanted to fight back, just to reduce the likelihood that they’d do something stupid and make him kill them.  In this sequence I feel he went a little soft, was a little too kind in talking down a hysterical security guard, but on the other hand it was effective, so I can see the logic.  In any case, the whole “I don’t steal from people who can’t afford it, and I don’t hurt people who don’t deserve it” thing was delivered in such a context that there’s no reason to believe the man means it.
The opening heist is quite a bit fleshed out from the quick pass it gets in the novel, and its venue has changed, but from that point on we get a pretty faithful adaptation.  Parker is crossed by his crew after the job when he declines to contribute his share of the loot as seed money for a bigger, riskier job, is shot and left for dead, and has to claw his way back to health, steal some operating capital (and a new car every few hours, it seems), and track these back-stabbing bastards down so he can wait out their risky second job, kill them all and take their new loot as compensation for his trouble.
There are a few deviations from the source material, of course.  Parker’s woman Claire is now the daughter of an invented mentor character, which isn’t at all needed but Nick Nolte grizzles and rasps his way through the performance with enough style that I was happy to see it.  Parker displays the odd social nicety or bit of humanity here and there (telling a sick old man in a wheelchair, who he just used to escape a hospital, to “get better”, giving Jennifer Lopez a lingering, regretful look at one point that makes us think he may have given a shit about her), but none of it ever affects his actions.  He kills those who cross him, without hesitation.  He’s quick to wound an innocent guard who doesn’t follow instructions.  And my assumption about the martial arts prowess was without merit.  Parker doesn’t come off as a trained special forces man, but simply as a fast, mean bone-breaker with an incredibly high pain tolerance.  My favorite scene from the book, a hilarious bit wherein Parker escapes assassination at the hands of a couple of syndicate hit men because a band of south Florida swamp-dwelling white supremacist survivalist yahoos happen by and lend a hand, is gone for the sake of economy, but it’s been replaced by an impressively brutal hotel room brawl to the death, so all is well.
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Jennifer Lopez, for her part, turns in a very good performance as a woman who’s been dealt a bad hand, is at the end of her rope, and has an ethical code barely more substantial than Parker’s, though without all the experience.  She’s depressed, insecure, and desperate for a change, and is more than willing to help a stranger rip off some jewels if she can get a cut.  She’s far sexier than the character was written, which is not a surprising change, but she still plays the insecurity very well, and it’s good fun watching her try to be a femme fatale and just fall flat, not because she’s unappealing but because she’s trying to seduce a man who simply can’t be manipulated into doing anything he wasn’t already planning on.
The movie wins no particular points for style.  It was well made but without much visual flair.  Parker should always exist in a dark, shadowy neo-noir world, and the presentation here was solid, if under-stylized.  For that reason, I fear it may go down in the annals of film history as a relatively forgettable bit of genre fare, memorable only to the Parker completists like myself.  This, I think, would be a shame, because it’s a competent action film and a refreshingly simple throwback of a heist picture.  The cast does very well all the way around, the story was right, and Parker deviated from his strictly amoral roots little enough to keep me happy.
Almost.  The last thirty seconds or so of this film were the only major exception.  The final scene feels like a tacked-on apology for how badass the protagonist was, and it was terrible.  It’s the sort of scene that makes you want to hit a guy twice, then bury him in the hole he dug in his basement.  Next time I watch this film, I know where to hit STOP, to keep my genuine admiration for it intact.  I have a feeling Mr. Stark would agree with me.
30
May
11

The Wanderers: Teen Angst and Switch-Blades.

a Primal Root written review

There are certain perks one encounters when working at a video store. Free rentals, free coffee, cute girls asking about Friday the 13th movies, etc. But one of my favorite things is when a customer walks in and starts talking about some movie I’ve never even heard of.  Just last week a young guy by the name of Alex came in singing the praises of a 1979 period film called ‘The Wanderers’. Now, I was certain he meant ‘The Warriors’ until he began describing this flick to me.

‘The Wanderers’ takes place in New York City in 1963 and is the coming of age story centering on three twenty-something high school boys who happen to be in the Italian. golden jacket clad greaser gang, The Wanderers.  There’s Richie (Ken Wahl- ‘Fort Apache, The Bronx’.) who is kind of the unofficial leader of the gang and happens to be courting the young daughter of a prominent mafia kingpin. We get to to witness Richie giving her the wiggle stick before the credits roll! What a treat.

Our other lead is a wormy king named Joey ( John Friedrich – ‘The Final Terror’) who is secretly an incredible artist, lives with his alcoholic, physically abusive, gigantic Father and dreams o a better life while acting like Lenny and Squiggy’s missing brother. At first his shtick is a little annoying but by the end of the film I ended up really liking the character despite myself.

And then there’s Perry ( Tony Ganios – Meat from the ‘Porky’s’ Trilogy) whose the new kid in town, stands at least 6’7″, has shoulders broader than a barn door and plays the voice of reason as soon as he arrives and saves a select group of The Wanderers from being crushed into Wanderer Jelly Preserves by about a dozen members of The Baldies…

The Baldies are bat shit crazy.  They will kill you without thinking twice, will allow any race or gender to join as long as they shave their head and are up for crushing skulls at a moments notice. They are led by a monstrous psychopath who goes by the name of Terror ( The late, great, Erland van Lidth). Terror’s a complete asshole but he does have a great sense of humor and a flare for excellent penis-centric practical jokes. The Baldies also have a mascot in the form of Terror’s girlfriend, Peewee ( Linda Manz – ‘Gummo’) who is either remarkably short of is just dwarfed by all the members of The Baldies. She’s got greasy hair, a leather jacket and strikes like a cobra. But hidden underneath that tough exterior is the heart of a romantic. Quite a cool supporting character. I honestly wish there were more of her in the story.

The film itself is an adaptation of the novel by Richard Price which drew much of it’s inspiration from his life experience . ‘The Wanderers’ focuses on a rivalry that grows between The Wanderers and another gang called the Del Bombers who are all black. It’s feud they plan to settle and they do…on the football field. That’s right, the story leads us to a football game of glory that leads to a final confrontation that will either push these gangs apart even further or finally bring them together.

However, as the movie unfolds we are introduced to much more real life drama going on behind the scenes as each of these young men deal with family issues, troubles with women and even problems that develop in their friendships. Hell, even a pre-Raiders of the Lost Ark Karen Allen shows up as a character named Nina to add some fuel to afew fires in the film. And let me tell you, she plays one heck of a plot device. She shows up, causes havoc, and is only seen once more. Her part is small, but pivitoal and surprisingly memorable. Karen looks GORGEOUS in this flick, by the way…especially during that strip poker game.

But as much chaos as Nina and The Baldies cause they all look like Quakers when compares to Ducky’s Boys. Holy shit, I have no idea who these guys are but their numbers reach up to at least several hundred, they are creepy as hell, blood thirst as sharks and the only character study we get of them is the fact that they are devote Catholics ( As if that’s not scary enough!). We are never sure what their motivations are  or what their end game is. The never utter a single word. They simply smile at you like the Cheshire cat and the swiftly jam their switch blade into your loser neck. These guys are definitely the ultimate villains of the piece, and like any good bogeyman, they are made far more frightening by their lack of explanation.

‘The Wanderers’ certainly shows it’s age. Then again, I watched an old VHS copy in a giant turtle case…Either way, it’s a damned good, entertaining coming of age gang movie. One of the better ones I’ve seen and would make an excellent double feature with that other 1979 gang flick with the ridiculously similar title ‘The Warriors’. It plays like American Graffiti with switch blades, extreme profanity, violence and gang warfare.

This is some forgotten Trash Cinema well worth tracking down. ‘The Wanderers’ delivers the goods and then some. Sure, it’s got it’s technical flaws (oh man, don’t get me started on the editing) but overall, Phillip Kaufman’s (Quills, The Right Stuff) tale of growing up in a blood soaked, and insanely tense environment holds some very human moments that strike right to the heart of everyone whose tried to escape the hand life’s dealt them. Or those who have done battle with Catholics.

Stay Trashy,

-The Primal Root




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