Posts Tagged ‘love

07
Jan
20

(NSFW) Emanuelle in America (1977): Fuck the Rich

Emanuelle America

a Primal Root written review

Man, 60’s and 70’s sexploitation cinema produced some of the most trailblazing, creative, no holds barred and completely underrated films of their era. One series of films that has always struck hard with the sexual content and even harder with it’s bizarre social commentary, is the Spanish-Italian Black Emanuelle film series, especially once the elder statesman of Italian schlock, Joe D’Amato (Porno Holocaust, Erotic Nights of The Living Dead) tackled the series. First, a little history of the Black Emanuelle film franchise.
The History Lesson:

The original French erotic softcore pornographic film from 1975, Emmanuelle, starring the late, sensational Sylvia Kristel and based on the novel by the same name, was a critical flop, but a blockbuster sensation in France, and is still among the highest grossing French films ever produced and ended up creating a film series all it’s own that’s 7 movies deep (hehehe) and includes such titles as Emmanuelle: The Joys of a Woman (1975) and Goodbye Emmanuelle (1977). Not only that, but the title alone has been picked up and used for late night Skin-A-Max style softcore porn films far into this century to the delight of teenage boys and old perverts like myself who are just about over the hill.

But, for my money, the greatest thing to come out of these soft focus French skin flicks, were the grimy, gorgeous, down and dirty sexually deviant series of films Emmanuelle inspired, namely, the Black Emanuelle series, which wasted no time debuting on the scene in 1975, riding the coattails of the original film’s success, with, YOU GUESSED IT! Black Emanuelle! Black Emanuelle introduces us to our leading lady played by Laura Gemser, a truly awe inspiring beauty with dark eyes, long, raven black hair down to her waist and hails from Indonesia. Laura plays a hard boiled, sexually liberated American reporter living in New York and is about as distant from the casual, almost sweet sexuality of the original Kristel led Emmanuelle series. The franchise maintained it’s softcore porn trappings up until Italian sleaze maestro Joe D’Amato took the reigns in 1976 with Emanuelle in Bangkok, where series started it’s descent into utter depravity featuring gang rape, depictions of cockfighting and a Mongoose vs. Snakesbattle.

And that leads us to…
Emanuelle in America!

The fourth film in the Black Emanuelle film series and, without a doubt, the series most notorious entry, 1977’s Emanuelle in America once again features the truly captivating Laura Gemser as Emanuelle, nude photographer and photo journalist, who goes on a world wide adventure that leads us into some pretty dark corridors of late 1970’s human sexuality. Sure, some of the stuff is fun, but man…this mother fucker isn’t afraid to take the audience to some brutal, Hellish places. Now that I think about it, the very first sequence in the films sets the town pretty damn well. We are reintroduced to Emanuelle during the opening credits as she has a photo shoot with a handful of stark nekkid models with plenty of invasive camera shots pushing in on various nude parts of these lovely ladies before Emanuelle calls it a wrap, heads to her car, and is surprised to find a gun totting, acne scarred asshole in the back of her car and orders her to pull of the road at gun point. “I just want to murder you, that’s all!” Huh, well, who can argue with that. Once he gets her pulled over, he climbs into the passenger seat besides her and begins giving he the run down of why he wants her dead and it basically sounds like a Trump supporter talking about why they hate”Feminazis.” You’re sinful! You take naked photos of people and that’s evil!” “A woman should never take her clothes off unless it;s in the bedroom!” Emanuelle keeps her cool, figures out this guy has girlfriends who has modeled nude for her and that he is still a virgin. What does Emanuelle do to deescalate the situation? Tells the confused, psychotic, violent incel of the 70’s that sex is neither dirty or wrong and can be a natural wonderful thing, then proceeds to unzip the young man’s pants and suck his cock for the split second it takes to get him off. It’s fucking adorable, especially when the guy runs out of the car holding on to his wiener for dear life as Emanuelle wipes her mouth, laughs, and goes about her day. It’s a perfect little moment of light and dark, good and evil and laughing in the face of those with the lamest of sexual hangups. Maybe don’t fill your heart with hate and you’ll actually find some love on this planet. Trust me, if this movie was made today, she would have bitten his dick off, made him eat it and then fired the gun up his asshole. Trust me on this.

So, with this scene in place we are off to the races with Emanuelle in America, which is kind of a weird title when you consider she lives there and works out of New York, but I digress. Emanuelle heads to Europe to investigate a tycoon named Eric Van Darren (Lars Bloch) who reportedly has a harem filled with willingly purchased women (aka: sex slaves) one woman to represent each zodiac sign. Emanuelle joins this modern day harem, which looks to be a pretty sweet set up. You get your own room, free meals, a pool, sauna, AND you get paid! Of course, you also have to fuck this petulant bearded man child who nearly cries when Emanuelle starts kicking his ass in Poker Dice during a fucking adorable scene where Emanuelle mops the floor with this infantile bafoon in about five shakes of the dice while all his guests and harem girls watch on in delighted silence. There’s plenty of nekkid ladies just chilling and hanging out and fingering one another in the pool as well as a really sweet girl on girl scene with Emanuelle and a fellow harem girl named Gemini in the sauna who feels unloved by her Tycoon pay-to-play fuck buddy man child and Emanuelle is the kind of sexual dynamo to show her just what love is with a properly placed tongue to the lower lady lips. What am I forgetting to mention? Hrrm…Oh yeah!

You also get to see a naked woman stroke a horses erect penis. Yes. Right out of the gate, in her very first journalist adventure in Emanuelle in America, you see a disrobed woman stroked a fully engorged horse cock. Not going to lie, I was genuinely shocked. I saw the woman getting naked in the horse stable and thought nothing of it and this it hit me like a ton of bricks. “Holy shit! She’s going to jerk off that horse!” I yelled out loud to myself. And, sure enough, she grabbed that hefty, shiny pony fucker and stroked it like a champ. No money shot, thankfully. But still, what a wonderful moment of nasty utter depravity to really jolt the audience and make you wonder just what the fuck are we in for during the rest of this goddamn sleazefest.

With the winnings from her killer streak in Poker Dice, Emanuelle buys her freedom and heads off to Venice with Alfredo Elvize, Duke of Mount Elba (Gabriele Tinti) where she shacks up with both The Duke and his wife and they get into a threesome right after he discovers his wife with banging a chunky member of the wait staff whom The Duke sends him off through the massive corridors of his gigantic magnificent gold encrusted mansion, hairy butt cheeks flapping all the way down the hall as Emanuelle giggles. During the following night’s gala for several dozen senators, their wives and other assorted stuffy aristocrats, Emanuele, decked out in this fucking gorgeous oynx gown with a plunging neckline and a slit all the way up to Valhalla that just hangs off of her and leaves little to the imagination and is my favorite of her outfits in the movie, stumbled upon The Duke’s art forgery studio. It’s a plot thread that goes nowhere, but what REALLY interests Emanuelle is a this body builder dude with a helmet of blonde haid and a five pound moustache and golden color around his neck with the number 34 printed on it. Emanuelle approaches the man, hardly says a word, and already has the stud seduced. But, damn, wouldn’t you know it? He is literally OWNED by a super wealthy older white woman who, trying to be kind here, isn;t quite on the same level as Emanuelle in the…any department. The Stud’s owner mentions a private island for single rich women where male sex slaves are auctioned off to the highest bidder and they must bring all of their masters sexual fantasies to life. NOW THAT’S THE MOTHER FUCKING SCOOP OF THE CENTURY! Or, at least it will lead to more sexcapades? I’m betting on sexcapades.

Well, the stuffy, dull as dirt gala turns into an unbridled orgy after a senator finds a golden peanut inside of a slice of cake, is rewarded with a nude young woman covered in icing he proceeds to lick from head to toe, and everyone quits their grinnin; and drops their linen for the stuffiest rich people orgy since Eyes Wide Shut! Only this time you get to see a woman give REALLY bad oral sex to some poor schmuck who is just WISHING it was the sultry Emanuel smearing her lipstick on his dipstick. Seriously, this woman uses all teeth and keeps flicking his peehole with her tongue. Thankfully we don;t ever see the guys face, or his expressions of boredom and, or, terror/suspense would have turned the film into a screwball comedy.

Before Emanuelle heads off to the private island to see how the old, rich, single ladies get frisky, she meets up with her boyfriend from back in New York, Bill (Riccardo Salvino), who is also a journalist and happens to be on a layover. The only have about an hour so, in one o the films sweetest sequences, the two run around Venice trying to find a place to have a quickie. The run all over the place and finally decide to go at it right outside the doorway of a room where a full orchestra is rehearsing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (Spring). It’s light, sweet and a welcome bit of one on one fun. But, like so many joys in this world, it is cut short as they jump cut to Emanuelle arriving at Rich Woman’s Pleasure Island, which has very strict privacy rules set in place to protect their wealthy clientele.

While at the resort Emanuele witnesses some actual hardcore tender porn moments as one rich woman orders her sex slave to fuck her Tarzan style and we are treated to some extreme closeups of his wangdoodle doing the slip n’slop to her love shanty. We also see fellows stripping as Zorro, some casual cock sucking, a multi-racial threesome, but what really captures Emanuelle’s attention is one room in particular where a woman is getting her tits sucked and her bacon strip sizzled while watching a film…to Emanuelle’s very subdued shock, a distinctly brutal snuff film.

Snuff Film

Noun

Slang. pornographic film that shows an actual murder of one of the performers, as at the end of a sadistic act.

Someone on the island reports that they’ve seen Emanuelle sneaking around taking photos with her super secret necklace camera and she is held captive by the woman who runs the island. Emanuelle quickly seduces her by appealing to her repressed lesbian tendencies, making her take a bite from a cock and balls shaped aphrodisiac cookie, getting her drunk, stripping her naked and pouncing on her like a lynx! They begin to go at it before Emanuelle steals her clothes and jumps in the back of the private island to airport courtesy car and makes her escape! She repays the driver by getting naked, yanking his knob out of his trousers and gobbling it like mad, causing him to wreck his car…but he still gets it on with her in the front seat of his totaled courtesy car. I’m certain it was totally worth the price of the repairs.

 

Emanuelle, now determined to find the source of these snuff films heads to Washington D.C. where she seduces a U.S. Senator who is reportedly a large supported of the snuff film market. He has a wife, kids…and a pleasure condo where takes Emanuelle to get down and dirty as only the rich and powerful can. When Emanuelle requests something truly hardcore and forbidden, he is qucik to pull down a screen and project a horrifyingly bloody and brutal snuff porn loop featuring women getting pile-driven impaled through their vaginas onto massive spikes, nipples being sliced of of screaming women and women getting sodomized with hooks ripping through their cheeks. Emanuelle watches in horror and it is edited together with a sequence of her and the senator flying in a private place to an undisclosed location in South America where she witnesses for herself the studio where these dehumanizing, savage rapes and murders are occurring and being filmed for the delight and hardons of the white, rich and powerful back in The States. Turns out women from all over the world are kidnapped and sold to these filmmakers to create these sick, disgusting, horrible murder spank films. Jump cut to Emanuelle sitting straight up in the senator’s fuck bungalow bed (“What was it? A Dream? A Nightmare? I saw something horrible!”) where the senator tells her they took LSD and she was just hallucinating everything. Sure, that sounds reasonable. Emanuelle buys this really lame explanation and heads back to New York.

However, back in New York, while discussing this turn of events with her editor, he reveals to her that they had the pictures she took with her hidden camera while she was “hallucinating” on the senator’s bed, and there they are…a dozen or more images of the film she supposedly dreamed up in clear focus and absolutely horrifying. Unfortunately, her editor must follow the orders of those from the top, and he cannot publish her article or the photos, instead, burying them in the archives. It’s a devastating turn of events (“Other girls are going to get dragged into it, and we’ll become accomplices in this whole filthy business!) that has Emanuelle considering hanging up her camera for good.

Emanuelle in America is simultaneously dark and beautiful, containing some genuinely sweet, erotic moments shuffled in with some deeply twisted, perverted content. For sleaze film connoisseurs, Emanuelle in America is a goldmine, containing every single element you could ever possibly hope a greasy, grimy, sexploitation film could deliver. It’s such a strange juxtaposition, these light soft porn elements, next to hardcore pornography, brutal fake snuff scenes and real animal husbandry.  It’s not a great work of art, it;s not particularly well crafted or staged, but in it’s refusal to mold itself to expectations and Joe D’Amato’s willingness to go to the steamy, grotesque depths of carnal human desires and lusts, and actress Laura Gemser’s strength and willingness to go along for the ride and D’Amato’s vision to life, make this a truly remarkable and harrowing piece of Trash Cinema.

What I also find alluring about Emanuelle in America is it’s theme of contemporary slavery, people using other people as a means to an end. Each adventure that Emanuelle goes on, every scoop she investigates, has to do with people selling themselves for the pleasures of others all leading up to folks being stolen, raped and murdered for profit. It’s just another form of the rich fucking the poor. There’s no love in any of these scenarios. WE have a scene where a woman NEEDS love and Emanuelle must show her tenderness. The young blonde stud wants Emanuelle, but he is a kept slave. Truly, the only moments of genuine love we witness in the film are between Emanuelle and Bill, her New York lover. The genuinely care for one another and feel joy when in one another’s presence. These fleeting moments are the happiest in the film The wealthy are simply taking life from the poor, the nameless, and unknown just as they have since the beginning of time. And when these crimes are finally brought to light, at the end of the day, these people are still the ones calling the shot and will deny their story be told. And folks, that makes me want to puke more than any artificial snuff footage, horse hand-job or uncoordinated toothy blowjob. It’s a scathing indictment against the the rich and wealthy elitists which has given Emanuelle in America a lasting power and far more relevant than I’m sure it’s makers ever anticipated. Beyond the film’s shock factors, we are given plenty to ponder over by the time the credits roll.

This is one for the devotees, those who are willing to go there. This is not for the mainstream or those who like their films lite, easy and aimed to please. No, Emanuelle in America is quite possibly one of the most daring, uncompromising and gnarly sexploitation films of it’s era. And for those with the fortitude for such a film, such a reprehensible and perverse Trash Cinema offering, Emmanuelle in America is a must watch.

For ultra sleazy Trash Cinema fans ONLY! Notorious for the right reasons, Joe D’Amato’s Emanuelle in America is Sexploitation cinema at it’s most experimental, gnarly and bizarre. A must see for those who can take it.

I am awarding Emanuelle in America FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

30
Dec
19

Tammy And The T-Rex: Welcome to Jurassic Pork

 

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a Primal Root written review

Who doesn’t love a tragic, tear jerking love story? The classic tale of star crossed lovers longing to be with one another, only to have those desires cut short by the selfish, senseless demands of those around them.  From Romero and Juliet, to Antony and Cleopatra to Return of the Living Dead part III and Bride of Re-Animator, it’s a tale as old as time that caters to universally identifiable feelings of love, longing and loss. And then there are those heartbreaking tales of lost love so unreal, so unapologetically bat shit insane, audiences can’t hardly believe it was conceived, let alone seen to completion. Enter Stewart  Raffill’s 1994 teen romance horror comedy fever dream… Tammy and the T-Rex

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Denise Richards (Left) and Paul Walker (Right)

 Tammy and the T-Rex begins conventionally enough with a burgeoning romance forming between well endowed, vivacious, twenty something high school cheerleader, Tammy (Denise Richards in her first ever starring role) and her hunky football player beau, Michael (Paul Walker, once again, in his first ever feature length film role). Also shoe horned into the opening is Tammy’s best friend, the flamboyant and over the top early 90’s gay stereotype, Byron (Theo Forsett), who is true blue and the most likable character in the film. The chemistry between Tammy and Michael is awkward and goofy, but it does come across like they genuinely want to utilize one another’s genitals for their intended purpose. Only thing is, Tammy has a psychotic, bloodthirsty ex-boyfriend, Billy (George Pilgrim), who initiates a knock down, drag out beat down with Michael within the first five minutes of the film which ends in a brutal, school yard, “testicular stand-off” squeeze-a-thon to prove his undying love for Tammy. It’s a ball squeezing battle unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed in cinema and even takes the presence of  armed police officers (one of which is played by Trash Cinema legend George ‘Buck’ Flower) to intervene. Keep in mind, this is within the film’s first few minutes that all this takes place. The teenage romance, and the risks inherent of their forbidden love, are set and leading to a collision course of violent retribution for even looking at some dipshit’s ex-girlfriend.

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We are also introduced to the story’s mad scientist, Dr. Wachenstein (Terry Kiser, Bernie of Weekend at Bernie’s AND Dr. “Bad News” Crews from Friday the 13th part VII: The New Blood) who longs to achieve immortality by transplanting brains into robots, which is why he has built a giant animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex run by a computer…Huh? He aspires to give the T-Rex life, but is missing one crucial ingredient, a fresh human brain. This could be a generic kind of villainous roll, but Terry Kiser chews the scenery and make Dr. Wachenstein a lively, fun and memorable scientific madman.

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Leave it to Billy to chase Michael down, throw him in the trunk of his care and abandon him in a nature preserve for filled with ferocious, hungry lions and panthers where Michael is mauled nearly to death by the aforementioned lion. This is creativity under the gun at it’s finest. What a fucking bizarre an unexpected turn of events and a truly dastardly brilliant maneuver by Billy. Leaving some poor guy in a deadly giant feline nature preserve and not tell him where he is? As the song goes, “Welcome to the jungle, baby! You’re gonna DDDDIIIIAAAAYYY!” It’s a stroke of mad unconventional genius and I, for one, was thoroughly impressed by this directorial choice.

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Michael, amazingly, survives being savaged by the lion only to be falsely declared dead by visiting physician Dr. Wachenstein, who then kidnaps Michael, takes him to his laboratory, sprays blood all over his puking assistants as he haphazardly saws Michael’s skull open to demonstrate how if he pokes just the right spot he can make Michael’s dying body get a gigantic boner which he can manipulate and make dance around before he slips Michael’s brain out of his skull cavity and slips it into his robotic T-Rex. What could possibly go wrong?

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You guessed it, everything. While Dr. Wachenstein’s away banging his lady assistant, he leaves his two other goons in charge and as soon a the pizza guy arrives, Michael goes fucking nuts after realizing he is not a robot T-Rex and starts chomping heads off and stomping people to death. Once he breaks loose, Michael makes a B-Line straight for a party where Billy and his posse of maniacal laughers happen to be at. Michael crashes the party, disemboweling and decapitating all those who have wronged him in gloriously bloody, goopy, gratuitously creative fashion.  It’s fun and brutal but also felt a little off kilter for the narrative. Shouldn’t Michael be stalking these goons for the rest of the film and eating them one by one leading up to a final confrontation with Billy? In a more generic film I feel that would be the case, But Tammy and T-Rex is anything but your typical tale of love and revenge. He actually eats everyone responsible for the attack in one blood spattered sequence. Michael even runs into Byron at the party, who is understandably horrified by the situation. When Byron trips and falls to the ground trying to escape the massacre, Michael-Rex actually picks him up, sets Byron on his feet, dusts of his shoulders and walks  away. There’s a genuine moment of suspense here, because you’re not sure right off the bat if Michael is just going to go about killing people indiscriminately, or if he will just be devouring enemies. Much to my relief, he lets the lovable Byron go.

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So, about half way through the film all the bullies are devoured, including Billy, who has his head torn off and somehow partially hollowed out. I imagine an off screen moment where Michael bites Billy’s head off and then cracks Billy’s skull open like a pistachio so Michael-Rex can then scoop the insides out with his dino tongue before hacking the husk out to splatter all over the concrete backyard patio. Anyway, with that conflict over with at the midway point, where is there to go from here? Actually, there’s plenty to do! Michael-Rex terrifies Tammy by showing up at her house, breaking in through her bedroom window and whisking her away to barn in broad daylight where this nubile young woman and a T-Rex play a game of charades until Tammy finally guesses Michael’s brain is alive and living in the body of this robotic T-Rex. Before long Tammy falls in love all over again with Michael as a robotic dinosaur and the hunt is on the find Michael’s brain a new body and thwart Dr. Wachenstein and his remaining minions evil plans! One major question left hanging, at least in my mind, is whether or not Tammy and Michael have sex while he is in his robotic T-Rex form or not. There is a scene in the barn where they are laying together and it is mildly implied something frisky might have been going on during the cutaway. Because when Byron shows up to bring them food and drink, which friends do for friends all the time post coitus, he asks “Is everyone decent?” before entering. I know, I know, I;m probably reading into this way too much, but as a man who has been in audiences for live readings of Dinosaur Erotica, my mind cannot help but wonder to that most forbidden of places…Jurassic Pork. Anyhoo, maybe we can finally get a sequel where this is all made clear. Because, honestly, if they aren’t making the sign of the double backed Pterodactyl by films end, poor Michael must have the worst case of disembodied blue balls in the history of this fictional universe.

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Tammy and The T-Rex is far better than it has any right to be. Honestly, the story is a blast of imagination and utter batshit insanity where any and every concept seems to be throw against the wall to see what sticks, and to my amazement, just about all of it does. Tammy and The T-Rex succeeds in being none stop entertaining in much the same way writer/director Stewart Raffill’s 1988 McDonald’s sponsored E.T. knock off Mac & ME and his misguided Mannequin Two: On The Move turned out to be. They are chock full of bizarre ideas that function on a sort of caffeinated dream logic, just as soon as one mind blowingly surreal moment happens you’re on to another! Sure, this isn’t a recipe for mainstream appeal like your run of the mill Disney output, but for those who thrive on cinema that buck formalities and storytelling conventions, those misfits that the rest of the movie going public reject for being “bad movies,” these are the ones that give us a breath of fresh air as they deliver us something totally outside the expected, something rancid and weird and not fully thought out or planned.

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Tammy and the T-Rex is a perfect example of such a film. It might be considered terrible by those who deem they know better, but the charm of Tammy and The T-Rex IS the flaws and imperfections. It’s Grade A Trash Cinema, and everyone in front of and behind the camera really seem to be giving it their all to make this loony concept work, and that is one of the films saving graces. In all seriousness, these are possibly the best performances I’ve ever seen out of Denise Richards and Paul Walker. When Tammy screams in anguish it is genuine and believable, when she calls Michael on the phone to apologize for her behavior, it doesn’t feel phony, and when she hops around the bedroom doing strip tease in a white teddy, it doesn’t feel forced. It’s cornball, and cheesy, but it never has that feel of a disingenuous trash. No, this is the real deal where it’s obvious the folks making it were having fun and trying to deliver something entertaining and as good as they could make it. Tammy and The T-Rex is an absolutely charming and lovable piece of Trash Cinema and one I am thrilled has finally found the light of day fully restored on Blu-Ray, uncut and uncensored, by the good folks at Vinegar Syndrome. 

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Tammy and The T-Rex is a MUST WATCH for fans of Trash Cinema. It’s like Beverly Hills 90210 meets Jurassic Park by way of Robocop and Ghost‘s illegitimate love child and it is good, trashy, mindless fun from start to finish.  

I award Tammy and the T-Rex FOUR AND A HALF out of FIVE DUMPSTER NUGGETS. 

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

28
Dec
18

Mandy (2018)Crazy Evil and The Depths of an Exquisite Hell

 

MANDY

a Primal Root written review

“I’m your God now.” – Red Miller, Mandy

The stars so rarely align to deliver a piece of art so pure in form and so glorious in it’s delivery as filmmaker Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy. Now, the setup is nothing new. Two souls love one another, find comfort in one another’s presence and deep bond beyond story book love evolves between them, a deep er connection more profound, peaceful and meaningful that most are lucky to find in a lifetime. That love is torn asunder and one of the two must seek revenge in order to find any kind of peace ever again. It’s a nightmare scenario, and one all of us can identify with in one way or another. To imagine the person we love and hold closest being taken away, never to be returned…in our heart of hearts, we would all want bloody revenge on those responsible.

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What sets Mandy far apart and leagues ahead of it’s unifying trope is the means by which our tale is told. It has taken elements as familiar and comfortable to us horror fans as well worn pair of loafers and injects those elements with energy, a clean new take, unfettered originality creating a new kind of monster that lumbering, brutal, and ready to fuck your brain hole.

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Mandy takes place in the great Pacific Northwest’s Shadow Mountain in 1983.  Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) is a mild mannered, bearded, beefy, lumber jack who works in the mountains by night and comes home to his uniquely beautiful artist girlfriend, Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough). The two share a log cabin together and live a peaceful existence outside of society where they keep to themselves. That is until a fucking piece of shit christian cult drives through town, and their greasy, psychedelic, long haired, immensely insecure and bullying leader, Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache) gets single passing glance at Mandy and decides he MUST HAVE HER. But, in order to do so, Jeremiah and his cult decide they need some help from some horrifying motorcycle riding, spike faced creatures from beyond the edge of Hell to help pull of their seduction/abduction plans.

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That night, as Mandy and Red sit in front of their television watching the trash cinema epic, 1982’s Nightbeast, and chowing down on what looks like steak and taters to me, the cult organizes their Hell creatures and set their horrible plan into action just as Red and Mandy hit the sack. In a nightmarish, dreadful sequence shot with blue strobe lights, these biker Cenobite monstrosities subdue our two protagonists, tie Red up with barbed wire in the backyard and take Mandy to meet Jeremiah who force feeds her some form of hallucinogenic and attempts to seduce in a prolonged trip of scene set in bright, neon red and purples. Of course, Mandy refuses and laughs hysterically at their weak, piece of shit leader as he shows off his nekkid body after his pathetic “join our lame-ass-cult sales pitch, and it is decided that she must meet a truly heinous and cruel death for her disrespect. The excruciatingly painful murder is committed in front of Red, who must witness the love of his life’s death in all it’s agonizing brutality.  We are shown this moment of savagery reflected in the eyes of Red, who is bound and helpless to save her.

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Once the deed is done, the cult packs it up and heads off into the rising sun, leaving Red for dead, still tied up in barbed wire and suffering from a brutal stab wound. Of course, Red manages to get free of the barb wire, has a final, soul crushing moment with his love’s remains, and decides over chugs of vodka and screams of abject horror, agony and rage, that this cult’s time is up and he is bringing them Hell they’ve never even imagined.  What follows is a film that straddles a place between the mystic and the psychotic and it a goddamn wonder to behold. You feel Red’s rage as he sifts through what’s left of a life that he and Mandy built together, a love so pure and care free, it breaks your heart, and to see that light they had together so fucking senselessly snubbed out because of the whims of a fucking ego maniacal fuck face, you, as an audience, just wish you could help him get that revenge he so desperately seeks.

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After gaining advice and weapons from some old friends, his crossbow “The Reaper,” and crafts a badass battle axe, Red sets out on his odyssey alone, to settle the score with the men, women and monsters who tore his life apart. Once by one, Red visits these murderers and viciously attacks and delivers his vengeance. Obviously, Red had some previous training in survivalism, but there is a learning curve for Red, which is pretty refreshing for this kind of film. Red gets his ass kicked a couple times and even finds himself captured, but he tends to get better as he goes along. Especially once he snorts some coke and does some tainted acid in the mobile home of the monstrous creatures we learn go by he name,”Black Skulls,” which turns the world into a new kind of technicolor nightmare. A neon blood bath we will spend the rest of the film in.

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A horror film where The Devil is the good guy, the far right Christian cultists are the fucking hive if perverse villainy and Nicolas Cage, who gives a career best performance as a mild mannered guy who has it all taken away battling the forces of evil among Shadow Mountain? Gang, that’s nothing not to love about this poetic acid head, black hearted, beautiful bitch a fucking masterpiece. This is Trash Cinema at it must unrefined and reaching it’s greatest heights. I know a lot has been said about Nic Cage’s performance in Mandy, how it’s just another “freak out” performance from this most beleaguered of Hollywood actors. To me, this is one of the most naturalistic and honest performances of the man’s entire career. When Red is chugging vodka in his tighty whities in the bathroom while screaming in absolute rage and grief, you cannot tell me this is not exactly how your would react and feel if you just witnessed the love of your life burned alive right in front of you. To have held the ashes of that one person that meant everything to you in your hands, who died only because she refused to give in to a madman.  Gang, this is a performance that deserves all the recognition in the world. Also, that Cheddar Goblin commercial is a thing of Trashy beauty, too. 😉

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Mandy is a powerhouse of a film and my pick for 2018’s Golden Nugget Award, for Best Trash Cinema Film of the Year.

Five Dumpster Nuggets out of Five.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

15
Jul
18

Tearing the Heart Out of Saturday Night: Happy Trails, Joe Bob Briggs

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by The Primal Root

I was in middle school and staying over at my Grandparents house for the Christmas holiday. My parents were recently divorced, puberty was kicking in full throttle, we were moving into new places, my parents were always upset and I was, to put it bluntly, a wreck. I had no siblings to talk to, no one to confide in, it was the beginning of the realization that I, for the most part in life, would always be pretty much alone. I was staying up late in my Grandparent’s den and flipping through the channels, no doubt devouring their bag of Cap Cod Potato chips and slurping down cans of Coke. It was the typical mid 90’s hodgepodge of reruns, sports highlight reels, and laundry lists of current political strife scandal and tragedy. TV was a terrible way to cheer up a teenage boy going through deeply troubling changes in his life and coping with the knowledge that everything you thought you knew was about to change forever and you were now becoming a pawn for two people who mean the world to you to hurt one another.

But then I stopped flipping channels when I came across this smiling joker in Western wear sitting in a lawn chair outside a trailer. He was listing Drive-In Totals, speaking of Blood, Breasts and Beasts, laughing, telling incredibly interesting stories about movies he was about to show, and get this, the movies were always cheesy, weird B-Movies and stuff that was normally completely outside the mainstream, stuff mocked and shoved aside and left in the dust pan of history the majority of cinema goers. I immediately knew I had found a kindred spirit and a cool, funny, surrogate brother who I could rely on to be there every Saturday and remind me that I wasn’t totally alone in my passions, my interests or, maybe, in life.

I certainly know I’m not alone in this sentiment. I am now 36 years old and owner of my own video rental store and one screen micro cinema where for a recent 24 hour period I watched Joe Bob Brigg’s Last Drive-In surrounded by a group of the same folks, also now in their 30’s, who made a habit out of watching TNT’s MonsterVision with Joe Bob Brig’s every Saturday night. And as he hosted 13 remarkable sleazy exploitation horror movies, cult and arthouse films, telling jokes, stories and ranting on about the current state of affairs in the world, he would also read letters from the Mail Girl, just like in the glory days. The majority of these letter consisted of middle aged adults, just like myself, pouring over how much Joe Bob meant to them growing up by reenforcing that it was okay to be different and find the joy in what you are into. He taught us to not take it all so dog gone seriously and that our thoughts on how absurd life was, how unfair and ruthless life could be, we all had the ability to find the humor, joy and beauty in our lives, just like we do in those cheesy, outcast movies I grew up to fondly refer to as Trash Cinema.

The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Brigg’s was a remarkable experience. The lineup was a smorgasbord of wonderful horror and cult cinema, interspersed with Joe Bob’s one of a kind witty banter, rants and loving remembrances of the movies he was showing and all the folks who took a part in making them, it was once again a glorious celebration of the underdog and the shared community all of us underdogs live in.

THE LINEUP from 9pm Friday July the 13th to Whenever it actually ended Saturday July the 14th :

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Tourist Trap: This is one that Joe Bob and I have always seen eye to eye on as one of those gems of a horror movie that is so eerie, batshit crazy and unusual that it keeps you on your toes throughout wondering just what the Hell is gonna happens next. Chuck Conners is a whole lot of fun to watch and the movie contains one of the most brutal and bloodless kills I’ve ever seen. Borrowing heavily from Psycho, Carrie and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and creating it’s own unique blend of horror with these elements, it blazed it’s own trail that I think deserves more appreciation.

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Sleepaway Camp: Psycho Sexual Summer Camp Overload! Sleepaway Camp is by far and away my favorite summer time slasher due in no small part to the very natural, very believable performances of the central kids in the story, all in service to one remarkably strange plot for a horror movie based at a summer camp. When most of this ilk are happy to settle for typical Cropsy stuff, Sleepaway Camp gives us something so much freakier and disturbing than we ever expected. There were folks in the audience at Cap City Video Lounge who had never seen this one before and they were shaken long into the next feature after Sleepaway Camp’s conclusion. Plus, that song Angela’s Theme (You’re Just What I’ve Been Looking For) is one groovy track, but during the end credits, is made really creepy. One of the finest from the 80’s and a fine choice.

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RABID: Cronenberg’s sophomore effort, Rabid starring Ivory Sop Girl turned porn star, Marilyn Chambers, is a weird sicky of a film featuring a typhoid mary central character who somehow gets an armpit anus vagina that spurts forth a parasitic gonzo blood sucking penis that thrives on that blood to stay alive. Some folks have claimed it’s all a metaphor for addiction while others compare to the AIDS epidemic. For me, it’s simply a great contagion movie with green goo spewing mutants barfing and biting everywhere. One of Cronenberg’s sleazier ones before he eventually started making Oscar stuff.

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The Prowler: Oddly enough, probably the dullest film to make the marathon. With countless suspenseless scenes of folks walking around white walled dark hallways looking mildly scared and other scenes that take us down narrative dead ins with no pay off,  The Prowler aka: Rosemary’s Killer, isn’t exactly a recipe for excitement. However, with a little help from Tom Savini in the effects department, the film is littered with great moments of outstanding gore effects that wake you up as you try to stay awake during the 24 hour marathon. Plus an absolutely stunning pare of breasts on one of first victims and Joe Bob Brigg’s constant interruptions, it was still a damn fine time.

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Sorority Babes in the Slime Ball Bowl-A-Rama: Holy shit, I love this movie. One of those bargain basement Scream Queen cheapies with plenty of bare breasts and a story so ludicrous, with performances so unfathomably bad, it’s an absolute delight. Played during about the 4am shift of the 24 hour marathon, this was the hot cup of trash cinema coffee I needed to keep me going after the prowler. Featuring some great full frontal and behind nudity from Brinke Stevens and Michelle Bauer, Linnea Quigley as a badass cat burglar that can’t afford a bra or a full tank top, a malicious little Imp who stuffed in a bowling trophy who awakens with the promise of granting wishes only to try and fucking kill you AND a great recurring cameo by the late, great, George “Buck” Flowers , this was EXACTLY what the marathon needed and payed homage to a handful of Trash Cinema Legends while delivering the sleaze.

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Daughters of Darkness: Now, for probably the most artsy of the films Joe Bob Briggs selected for the 24 hour marathon. Daughter’s of Darkness is an absolutely gorgeous film with some truly inspired performances bringing to life what I would consider to be the best of the female (or lesbian) vampire films. Featuring a strong feminist message, some great nudity, a fantastic score and some downright jarring moments of violence leading up to a :Wha the Fuck did I just witness” climax,  Daughters of Darkness is a ilm that lives up to it’s reputation. A fan actually got a letter read by Joe Bob Briggs read on air where the viewer complained that Daughters of Darkness was”Slow” to which Joe Bob responded, “Yeah, so what? It was MEANT to be slow!” Joe Bob, sir, you are a treasure.

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Blood Feast: I knew he had to show Blood Feast. The movie which created the splatter film genre and a Drive-In Classic directed by the late, great, Herschell Gordon Lewis with the help of the late David F. Friedman in my home state of Florida. Anoyher film that was bittersweet hearing Joe Bob talk about as the man has forever championed this film and became a friend of H.G. Lewis when releasing some of his weird and rare stuff on VHS for the “Sleaziest Movies In the History of the World” collection. Blood Feast is a terrible film by just about everyone’s standards. The script is garbage, the concept is goofy and the performance range from way out there over the top, to I am reading my lines off of the lamp shade. But as a highly entertaining piece of Trash Cinema and a true Drive-In classic, it is hysterical, bloody fun that’s hard to top. Well deserving of it’s place of notoriety in the annals of cinematic history and one of the finest exploitation films ever made. During the marathon Joe Bob Tweeted “Blood Feast is trending nationally? Hershell, are you listening?”  Proving yet again that The Drive-In will NEver Die so long as we keep these legends alive. IT was an honor watching this one with Joe Bob during The Last Drive-In.

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Basket Case: Okay, now we’re cooking with fire! Joe Bob picks out Frank Henenlotter’s debut feature, one of the last of the to Drive-In, Grindhouse greats, the sleazy, filthy, profoundly disgusting BASKET CASE! Another of my all time favorite slices of Trash Cinema, Joe Bob was crucial in making Basket Case a hit. As I recall, he either saw this at a screening as either Cannes or Sundance, and was the only other critic in there besides Rex Reed, who write up the film ended up being it’s selling point and was used in all it’s marketing, “This is the sickest movie ever made.” Joe Bob told that little story during the screening but, otherwise, this was one of the flicks I missed the most of as I was grilling burgers and dogs for the Gang at Cap City Video Lounge during our screening. But, Basket Case was one of those films that needed to be seen. And, again, everyone in our theater during this screening has never seen Basket Case before. So, I was happy to get them fed during the screening of this remarkable, legendary, groundbreaking piece of absolute cinematic filth. What really makes it stand out is the amount of heart and true emotional resonance that exists between the body mutilation, panty sniffing, and stop motion deformed creature tantrums. Henenlotter went on to make Brain Damage and Frankenhooker, but neither really surpasses the mix that Basket Case delivers. One of a kind and true gem of Trash Cinema.

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Re-Animator: Oh, Re-Animator, Stuart Gordon’s gonzo filmic interpretation of H.P. Lovecraft’s classic about life and the lengths some in the field of medicine and advanced science will go to in order to preserve it.  This came out in 1985 alone with Dan ‘OBannon’s Return of the Living Dead and George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead, three of the finest and most game changing zombie flicks ever made. Re-Animator is a a great ride littered with some really fun, cheap gore gags and gross outs, some FANTASTIC gratuitous nudity from the limitlessly attractive and talented Barbara Crampton, but the true saving grace of Re-Animator is the zany, sharp, and gleefully malicious performance of Jeffrey Combs as the unhinged Dr. Herbert West, the man who has created the Re-Animation agent and causes an undead holocaust at Miskatonic University. Featuring some of the most perverse murders, makeup effects and molestations in the history of cinema, Re-Animator was a golden selection for The Last Drive-In. A sure fire crowd pleaser for the Drive-In Mutants.

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Honestly, it was a lineup to die for and one Joe Bob obviously took good care in covering all the bases while selecting from SHUDDER’s catalog of titles. It was ab absolute joy hanging out with great friends, knocking back brews, and eventually, strong black coffee, as we soldiered through with glee to this 24 hour marathon of the macabre hosted with laughs and vulgarity by the man who brought us here, Joe Bob Briggs.

But there was always a little sting in my heart every time a 28 years older Job Bob would mention a talent whom we had lost in the years since the cancellation of MonsterVision. We hold on to our pasts and those things that made us who were are and we cherish these things. They become a part of us, they define us. But time pushes forward and takes what it wants and as we get older and wiser to these facts the pain doesn’t exactly subside, but we do grow to accept it. There was that shared hope that Joe Bob was going to announce he had made a deal to start up a new show on the streaming service, SHUDDER, where he hosted his 24 hour horror movie marathon, but that announcement never came. Instead, he said his goodbyes, the lights turned off on the set of The Last Drive-In and the credits rolled as Joe Bob sat in his recliner, hunched forward, fiddling with his hat with a look of reflection on his face. As if he will always be there.

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I am not going to lie to you, I had to hold back my tears. It was as if I had just hung out with a long lost relative for the past 24 hours and it was as if nothing had changed, and now that relative has gone away, again, and he’s told us he’s never coming back. But, that is exactly how it all works. We have no say in this, or what those around us decide is best for them. Joe Bob is a saint for coming back at all. For 24 hours it was like being that kid I once was all over again, but instead of being alone in a living room, I was surrounded by my friends this time, in a business I created, that may never have existed without the inspiration folks like Joe Bob Brigg’s provided by teaching me it was okay to be myself, believe in myself and to not turn my back on the things that make me happy. What a great lesson to learn. And those of us who took this lesson to heart, and those of us who carry the torch, we will insure that The Drive-In Will Never Die. That spirit, the spirit of the misfit, the outcast, the weird, the mutated, is something that will be in our hearts always.

Thank you, Joe Bob Briggs, for making me Trashy. We will not let you down.

-Root

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12
Dec
17

(NSFW) Symphony: December Devil Girl of the Month

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Merry Trashmas, Gang! The Primal Root here and I am thrilled, dare I say, honored to introduce to you, The Trash Cinema Collective, our bewitching, beguiling, gorgeous and deadly Devil Girl for December, Symphony! Talk about a Trashmas gift we will carry with us in our hearts all year round! Symphony took a time out from her nonstop touring schedule as one half of rockabilly badasses, honest to goodness party animals, and longtime good friends of The Trash Cinema Collective,  The Living Deads, to deliver a bloody, beautiful, breathtaking photo spread. Not only that, but today, December 12th, is our Devil Girl’s Birthday! So, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SYMPHONY! 

The Primal Root: Jiminy Trashmas, Symphony! What a spectacular debut Devil Girl spread and unexpected Trashmas gift! You look incredible as ever and I must admit, it is quite the honor to feature you as our December Devil Girl of the Month. What inspired this bloody, sultry, seductive and sinful photo spread?

Symphony: Why thank you, Primal Root, and a very Merry Trashmas to you and yours!  It is an extreme pleasure, and quite an honor to be featured as the December Devil Girl of the month- what a way to celebrate my birthday!  I have to admit I jumped at the chance to collaborate and create this spread with the delightful and talented Kayla King of Rewski Photography, all in the name of the Trash Cinema Collective! Originally I wanted to do a Barbarella spread, but it just wasn’t coming together on our trashily non existent budget.  Kayla kept telling me that she could see me as The Love Witch.   Hmmmm……..don a sultry black dress with sleeves a la Elvira, bright blue eyeshadow, and roll around with a dagger while gazing into Kayla’s camera lens chanting “Love me, love me!” Oh yeah- and there will be blood, and you can get kinda naked if you want……don’t threaten me with a good time!!

Root: As part of the legendary rockabilly outfit, The Living Deads, who as I see it, never cease in your quest to tour from coast to coast rocking the socks off your ever expanding legions of loyal followers and fans, I;m sure you have some pretty strange, trashy and unforgettable stories from the wide open road. Would you care to entertain The Trash Cinema Collective with a freakish tale from your years of touring? 

Symphony: Ah, yes- trashy tales from the road!  This one happened pretty soon after Randee and I moved into our (first) RV.  We were new to living in parking lots and were just starting our day in what we thought was a pretty decent one.  It was a lovely sunny Colorado afternoon.  I was in the bathroom putting on makeup when I heard a knock at the door.  Now, although we were new to parking lot life, we at least knew the basics-a knock at the door most always means GET OUT! But this knock was not aggresssive, in fact it was rather polite.  This raised an eyebrow.  I set down my eyeliner and listened.  I could hear Randee open the door slowly “Can I help you?”  The visitor spoke in a long drawl “Is Rainbow home?” 

Randee: “No, there’s no Rainbow here”. I was so tempted to go and see this mysterious parking lot dweller inquiring about one “Rainbow”, but my gut told me to STAY PUT.  So I did, with my ear against the cardboard thin rv wall.

Parking lot man: “You sure there ain’t no Rainbow in there? I’m ‘posed to be meetin’ Rainbow in a big white motorhome in this here parking lot at 1pm-you sure she ain’t in there??”
Randee: “There’s no Rainbow here!” (Door slams shut).
I slip out of the bathroom to peer through the blinds with Randee.  There he is- the stranger in his faded denim jacket, thick shining blond mullet gleaming in the sun. 
We had a moment of silence.  What in the hell just happened?!?  That’s when we learned an interesting fact about our new lifestyle- the ladies of the night sometimes work the day shift-in big white motorhomes that look JUST LIKE OURS…….

Root: I’ve always wanted to know, how did you and your partner in crime, Randee, get together and create The Living Deads? What’s the origin story? Was this always something you both dreamed of doing? 

Symphony:  How did Randee and I meet? Oh you know- boy meets girl at a show.  Boy leaves after show for the next town.  Boy and girl connect on MySpace (hey it was 2008!).  Boy and girl start to talk on the phone (a lot!) Next thing you know girl splits town in the name of love and adventure.  Boy gives girl drum lessons. Girl buys a bass and the rest is history!

Was this something we both have dreamed of? No! I never even knew this was a life option! (I am laughing right now because my life has always had a way of taking hairpin turns in directions I never would have expected!)
I was working in special effects make up for movies (trashy ones!), painting and drawing and kinda drifting around aimlessly-oh and playing roller derby.  I had always dreamed of traveling the world and living an artistic life while doing so.  I also knew i wanted an exciting life.  Well that wish came true at least 10 fold! Never a dull moment!
But I am living my dream now- I am traveling with the person I love most, we are creating together, it’s a beautiful life.  I mean, we get to go out into the desert, paint our bodies and run around naked taking photos with crazy installation art pieces-its part of our “job”! I love my life!

Root: Who the holidays clutching out shoulder like the clammy hand of death, are there any traditions you celebrate every year around this time? Any Trashy movies you like to bust out and watch to ring in this most magical time of year?

Symphony:  As a matter of fact, yes! We like to balance out this overwhelmingly sparkly and magical time of year by keeping it trashy with a visit down south to perform for the Trash Cinema Collective.  Oh and sometimes we kidnap Santa Claus……

Personally, nothing says trashy holiday season to me like a piece of John Waters cinematic gold.  You really can’t go wrong with Pink Flamingos on Christmas morning.

 

Root: John Waters is ALWAYS a solid choice. Any big plans for you in thefts approaching year 2018? Will you and Randee please stop by Cap City Video Lounge again and rock us till our faces melt off and we stomp our feet down to the bedrock? 

Symphony: Big plans for 2018? But of course! We go back overseas in October for another UK and European tour. 

And you bet your trashiness we will be back to perform at Cap City Video Lounge in 2018!!

Root: FUCK YES! Oh, that’s awesome news! Now, I must ask, might you have any words of wisdom to pass on to The Trash Cinema Collective and any possible future Devil Girls reading this as 2017 comes to a close? 

Symphony: To the Trash Cinema Collective- don’t change a thing-keep it trashy, you delightful bunch of miscreants-we love each and every one of you!

To future Devil Girls- don’t hold back-embrace all that you are, unapologetically.  Live out loud-even if some people wish you would turn it down.  Whatever it is that you love- do it fully-all the way-every time. 

Root: If you could pick one song to accompany your bewitching and beautiful Devil Girl spread, what would you like it to be? 

Symphony: “Like a Bad Girl Should” by The Cramps

 

Photography by Kayla King of Rewski Photography 

 

 

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

04
Oct
15

Pet Sematary (1989) Love and Agony or What Scares You?

artwork by Matt Ryan Tobin

artwork by Matt Ryan Tobin

a Primal Root review

“The soil of a man’s heart is stonier, Louis. A man grows what he can, and he tends it. ‘Cause what you buy, is what you own. And what you own… always comes home to you.” – Jud Crandall, Pet Sematary 

Recently a friend of mine proposed this question, “What horror film really scares you?” Of course, several gents responded with the standby response, “Horror movies don’t actually scare me,” but I took a moment to ponder this. The first film to come to mind was Mary Lambert’s film adaptation of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. It’s not the jump scares, or the grisly visages of death returning from the grave to haunt, taunt, and ghoulishly murder the living. Sure, that stuff is down right sickening and terrifying on a visceral level, but for me, the true horror is the idea of losing the ones we love. The moment that still breaks my heart and  has left the deepest scar is the presentation of the sequence where the cute as a button toddler, Gage (Miko Hughes) is run over by a speeding semi outside the family home in full view of his mortified parents and little sister. We hear the agonized screams of Gage’s Father, Louis (Dale Midkiff), as we images of Gage’s all too short life flash before our eyes. In all the horror films I have ever seen, this scares the ever loving shit out of me. This is pain, this is suffering, this is pure horror. It is not played for laughs, it does not rely on special effects, it relies on our empathy and the knowledge that we as viewers understand this grief and dread it everyday. It’s unthinkable, but we always know deep down, that the ones we love can be unceremoniously ripped out of our lives without a moment’s notice. This is primal terror. This is life. Life is horror.

Sorry to go off on a tangent there, but I used to not like Pet Sematary at all. Honestly, it just never appealed to me as a teenager. But one day I decided to give the film another shot and it was like a sucker punch to the gut. I was older now and suddenly Pet Sematary made absolute sense to me and chilled me to the core. Horror can be an exceedingly powerful genre, and at it’s very best, it crushes audience expectations and explores societal taboos. What Pet Sematary explores is the inevitability of death. The journey ends for all of us, sooner or later and we’ve created elaborate myths we call religion around death in order to make some sense out of it. That life goes on somewhere beyond our short time here on Earth that there is an eternity in Heaven or Hell, or that we are reincarnated, or turned into Star Childs, etc.  We will get the answers one day, and I sincerely doubt it is anything any of us will ever expect. I can’t wait to laugh my ass of when it all fades to black and there;s simply nothing just like there was before I was born. But, I won’t be able to. Because I am gone.

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Pet Sematary plays out like a Greek tragedy. The Creed family moves into their gorgeous new home out in the country or rural Maine. it’s miles from town, but is located near a very busy road where huge semi’s cannonball down it day and night. Also on their property down a wooded path is a Pet Sematary, they are show this by a long time resident and neighbor, Jud Crandall (played by the legendary Fred Gwynne). On Louis’s first day at work as the resident doctor on the local college campus, he treats a jogger, Pascow (Brad Greenquist) who was mowed down by a car and dies on Louise’s operating table. That night, Pascow returns to Louis as a spirit and warns him to not visit that Indian burial ground that lays beyond the Pet Semetary. He warns, “The barrier was not meant to be crossed. The ground is sour.”

When Louis and Rachel’s daughter Ellie’s cat, Chuch, is run over on the highway, Jud leads Louis out beyond the Pet Sematary to bury Church on the Indian land. The next day Church returns, but is now malicious and smells of death. It is not the cool cat the family knew before getting creamed out that means stretch of road.  Louis is given precious little time to ponder what has just happened when a far greater tragedy occurs. While flying a kite on a beautiful sunny day, their youngest child, Gage, wonders onto the highway and is crushed under the tires of a speeding truck.

Stricken with sorrow and regret that he could not save his son in time and Gage is gone forever, Louis considers unearthing his dead son’s body and entering it in the “sour” ground of the Indian burial mound. Over the objections of both Jud and Pascow’s spirit, Louis bury’s little Gage in the soul of the Indian burial ground and it isn’t long before Louis and Jud must face the reckoning of their decisions.

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In the horror genre death is a given. Characters are killed off all the time to the point we actually look forward to seeing how folks are going to meet their maker. Franchises like Friday the 13th, The Omen, Saw and the like revel in the graphic depictions of the splattery deaths of people we don’t know or really care about.  It has become the punchline to a joke for the majority of slasher horror cinema and it’s played for thrills, humor and entertainment. This is perfectly fine, horror can be a damn good time and a way for us to let loose, experience something visceral and know that no one actually got hurt or died. It was all for the nasty fun ride and then we get to go home safe in knowing this shit will probably never, ever, happen to us. Rarely do horror films so well conceived staged and vetted that they ask us to confront death head on. Pet Sematary is takes a meaningful, deep dark look into the nature of death, and in the very place we fear it the most, our immediate family and ask us what we will do on that day we lose someone we cherish.

So, yes, I would say Pet Sematary is the one horror film that truly, honestly fills my heart with dread and scares me like none other. Just like it’s source material, it is a story built upon the hardest, most horrible of human experiences and languishes in them. Grief, anguish, desperation, they’re all accounted for. The supernatural elements are intriguing and there, but at the end of the day, it’s the honesty in the human element of Pet Sematary that gives the film it’s power to disturb and to horrify. It is a film that has always stuck with me. It reminds us to cherish every moment with those we love. Every smile, every laugh each and every spine cracking bear hug, because we all know that one day, we will never touch these people, hear their voice, know their warmth, these souls  so close to us, so dear to our hearts, ever again.  It’s the inevitable tragedy of life. We must learn to except loss. We must grieve and move on. Like the wise, warm and lovable character Jud Crandall says, “May be she’ll learn something about what death really is, which is where the pain stops and the good memories begin. Not the end of life but the end of pain.”

I award Pet Sematary FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root




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