Posts Tagged ‘mafia

10
Mar
14

Funland (1987) Dancing with the Angel of Death

funland

a Primal Root written review

As a lifelong Floridian, with The Magic Kingdom and Universal Studios close by,  you grow up having a special kind of understanding of the amusement park business.  I’m sure to those who travel hundreds or thousands of miles and spend entire fortunes to come visit our state’s economic clit ticklers still feel the magic when walking down main street while wearing your short Dad shorts and fanny pack  in the skull liquifying summer heat or  watching film legend Brendan Frasier mug for the camera as they are thrown around on the indoor roller coaster based on the contemporary cinematic classic, “The Mummy Returns”, but for those of us in Florida who take a stroll through these parks on an almost annual basis, we can tell you there’s some shady shit going on just beneath the fairy tale surface…

This just might be why 1987’s bizarre, skit heavy, amusement park centered comedy/psychological drama “Funland” holds a special place in my rotten, filthy, heart.  “Funland” is one very strange, very off kilter film filled with a dozen or so ideas of which only about a half of them ever take root and really make an impression.

Funland is preparing for another season of family friendly fun and attractions, with hundreds of new recruits just chomping at the bit to press the “START” button on the park’s rides,  clean brat puke off the sidewalks or sell concessions at the ridiculously racist “Fresh Watermelon” stand! Most excited of all is Bruce Burger (David L. Lander, Squiggy from Lavern and Shirley), the clown mascot of “Funland” who was once the head accountant before suffering a complete mental breakdown that left him believing he is the actual incarnation of the parks clown mascot, Bruce Burger. See, the park’s owner, Angus (William Windom) believes in loyalty over profits, and keeps this mentally unstable man on board as Bruce Burger.  It’s a sweet, home spun gesture, but Angus soon meets his end the way most decent men do,  found dead face down in a body of water under mysterious circumstances.  his wife soon after sells the entire business to the mob who are only concerned about the bottom line an begin filling the park with less family friendly attractions like the Celebrity Death and Disease exhibit and dismantling the musical showcase in order to replace it with strippers.. In all honesty, I might actually go to an amusment park with these kind of attractions.

fun1

The mob also decides to fire Bruce Burger and brings in the “National” Bruce Burger whose played by a  classically trained actor who constantly complains about his job and reminisces about his thespian history ad nauseam.  Bruce takes refuge in the recently closed down wax museum and finds solace in long conversations with a hallucination of Humphrey Bogart  (Robert Sacchi, who pulls off an excellent impression of bogie) and a sausage puppet. Bruce continues living at the park and dressing the part, but his hallucinations and psychosis continue to grow worse, culminating in a strange moment in the Funland cafeteria when the gentleman behind the lunch counter begin rapping, The Angel of Death appears briefly, never to be seen again, and the entire crowd drops what they’re doing and start moving and a groovin’. Once this hallucinatory episode comes an end  the ghost of Angus shows up to grab a bite to eat with Bruce and to divulge the horrible truth, he was murdered. So, it is decided over a game of poker between Bruce and his three most prominent hallucinations  to take action. Bruce steals a mafioso’s gun, heads to the top of the theme parks clock tower and opens fire over the strenuous objections of the talking sausage puppet.

“Funland” is among the most bizarre Trash Cinema videos I’ve ever watched.  David L. Lander as Bruce Burger does a damn fine job portraying the gradual mental collapse of Bruce Burger, a man already teetering ont he edge of total insanity. to the film’s credit, Bruce’s steady decline is hardly ever played for laughs. If the awkward, out of place gags featured in “Funland” were edited out you’d have a far darker film on your hands. but, in a way, all the attempts at levity give the movie an even more disturbing quality. One stand out sequence features the aforementioned “Fresh Watermelon” stand where a white junior manager is giving instructions to the four black men who will be working the stand.  The junior manager asks “Is anyone good with knives” and all the black men back away in fear. Can someone tell me just what the Hell this means? What are these guys afraid of? Was there a scene missing where the junior manager stabs a man to death?

Fresh-Watermelon1

When it’s all said and done, “Funland” is far from a  perfect film, but it is the kind of film that you want to watch to the bitter end simply because it’s so unpredictable, so looney and has so many goddamn plot elements you’ll be dying to see how it all gels together. Seldom do you come across a film that manages to undercut it’s amateur execution and redeem it by way of own it’s twisted, surreal  logic.  It’s constantly quirky and strange making all the logical sense of a fever dream.  To my own amazement, this works in the films favor and makes for an enjoyable, head scratcher of a flick.  For fans of unique, one of a kind, absolutely bonkers trash cinema, “Funland” is one you should really check out.

I give “Funland” Four and a Half out of Five Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

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

13
Sep
10

To The Limit: The Epitome of Trash Action

a Primal Root review

Whoever thought a person possessing a pretty face could be counted on to be a convincing actress was sorely mistaken. Never more so than with Anna Nicole Smith, the legendary Guess Jeans Girl and Playmate of the Year of 1993. The woman had a one of a kind look. Tall, striking facial features and a buxom body unlike most of her contemporaries at Playboy magazine. She was a fully stacked young woman, bred in the dirty south, and bringing that mentality into pop culture. A kind of trash glamour. There was a strange progression in the 90’s of models  making the leap from photographs to motion pictures. Cindy Crawford did it with Fair Game and never made that mistake again. Milla Jovavich took a stab at it and has been gainfully employed ever since. And then there was Anna Nicole…

Smith had an appearance in the Cohen Brother’s film The Hudsucker Proxy before going on to co-star with Leslie Neilson in the 3rd Naked Gun movie. She was pretty and spoke her lines…well, but these appearances did little to further her career. It wasn’t until 1995 that Anna Nicole landed her first starring role in the craptastic action extravaganza, TO THE LIMIT! It didn’t do anything to further her career either, but hey, she was the star. I’m pretty sure this thing went straight to video and late night Cinemax.

Anna Nicole plays ex-CIA Agent Colette Dubios who is tracking down the man who murdered her husband and also gunned down mobster Frank DaVinci’s (Joey Travolta)  wedding party with the aid of his trusty band of expert assassins who are willing to die for him. And have their tops ripped off and their breasts groped before being shot in the head by him. This militant Manson-esque psychopath, Arthur, is played with gusto by Jack Bannon. A couple years later Colette and DaVinci cross paths and reluctantly decide to join forces to take down the dick head who killed their respective spouses.

To The Limit is actually a pretty entertaining movie. Between the video game graphics passed off as actual footage, to te $200 dollar stunt work and passing off the dining room of a Shoney’s as a high scale Las Vegas Casino’s VIP room there’s a lot here for a Trash Cinema fan to love. Possibly my single favorite sequence is our dignified introduction to Colette, the CIA agent. The first time we ever see her she is stark naked in a warm bath masturbating. The sequences goes on for at least seven or eight minutes before her husband calls for her off screen and she utters her first line. “I’M COMING!”

Now that’s class.

Directly after this, Colette gets out of the bath and we are informed that she and her husband are late to DaVinci’s wedding. So they hurry, get dressed and head out…right? WRONG! No, they have an extended sex scene with Anna writhing and bouncing her massive chesticals all over the place. Hey, you cast Anna Nicole Smith in your movie, you damn well better get your moneys worth. Once they finish up, her hubby hops in the car and is blown to smithereens . The blast throws Colette back into the house where she coughs up blood upon hitting the ground (???) and lets out a couple yelps of sadness.

To the Limit is an excellent piece of garbage, and what makes it that much better, it doesn’t try to be anything else. There are hardly any breasts that go unrevealed, no ambush murder too obvious, no death too undignified. A perfect example of this comes in the form of the contract hit of womanizing mobster, Joey Bambino. The guy is holding auditions for dancers up in his hotel suite when he brings in this cute asian girl. She not only claims to be a dancer, but a masseuse. So, of course, the attractive, nubile young woman and the hairy, saggy, pock marked mafioso undress and get to the rubbing. The scene goes on longer than it should before she breaks out her special massage oil which, only after totally doused in it, does Joey realize smells an awful lot like gasoline. You can guess what happens next. That place starts smelling like charred hair and Italian sausage.

Along the way Colette and DaVinci end up bonding over the deaths of their spouses. They shed tears and then their clothes as they start banging the hell out of one another. It’s made all the more uncomfortable by the fact that DaVinci is a white haired fellow five years shy of being a senior citizen. But, hey, I guess there’s no better way of getting over your spouse’s horrific and haunting death than giving or receiving some deep dicking.  Soon after the two make the sign of the double backed wombat they are ambushed by Arthur’s gang of hard boiled professional assassins. All of which are killed in less than five minutes by a playboy playmate and an over the hill mobster.

It all leads up to a climactic face off at the top of a dam where DaVinci comes face to face with the man responsible for crashing his wedding and also must decide if he can truly trust Coletta, the woman he dunked his doughnut in the night before. Now, I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but the climax is one of the greatest moments of sheer action goofiness I’ve ever seen unfold. Remember CD Face from Hellraiser 3? Yeah, let’s just say someone expected us to take this kind of fatality seriously outside the horror fantasy genre.

To The Limit hits the bullseye of the “So Bad It’s Good” term. Really, it’s a terrible, terrible, film but I can’t help but enjoy everything it doesn’t have going for it. And you know what the best aspect of the film is?Anna Nicole Smith. The woman is one of the worst actresses of all time. But unlike Julia Roberts, Anna Nicole Smith knows she is terrible. And there’s a sincerity to everything she does on screen. She’s trying, man, but she just can’t do it. She has a serious face, a sultry face and a happy face and they all look completely clueless. The most endearing moment of Anna’s arrives somewhere in the half way point of the film where she realizes an important file has gone missing. She looks at DaVinci so sadly and exclaims, “It’s been STOLDID.” Yes…stoldid. I rewound and listened to this scene a dozen time and  she really does say “Stoldid.” Did director Ray Martino just not have time for a second take? For my money, I am glad he left this little treasure in the film. I mean, the dialog is pure nonsense anyway, you may as well let Anna Nicole spice it up and make it a little bit engaging with her mispronunciations. I still have no idea how she didn’t, at one point or another, show up in a John Waters film. It seems the two would make a natural fit.

Anna Nicole Smith is a Trash Cinema Legend for the ages. Her brief film career gave us some of the funniest and most outlandish action films ever made.  It really is a shame Anna Nicole didn’t have the opportunity to make more of these hilarious action films. It was a blast watching her kick the shit out of some hired goons, flubbing her lines and getting naked in every other scene. Anna Nicole Smith was the trashiest of stars. She brought a sense of  sweet, backwoods, naivety to everything she was a part of and it’s something I miss. I have a feeling it will be a long, long time before we ever have a sex symbol as trashy as Ms. Anna Nicole. Thank you for your contributions to down and dirty, low budget action. You may not have been the greatest actress but you sure were fun to watch.

Stay Trashy,

-The Primal Root




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