Posts Tagged ‘primal

24
Sep
14

George Romero’s Martin (1976) Reality Bites

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a Primal Root written review

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"It's only a costume."

“It’s only a costume.”

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

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

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

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

10
Aug
14

(NSFW) Sex and Fury (1973) Brutal Beauty or Vengeance is a Dish Best Served Nude

artwork by Andrew Peters

artwork by Andrew Peters

a Primal Root written review

I gotta say, there are few things in this realm of existence more exciting and beautiful than a badass nekkid woman brandishing a kitana and lopping various body parts off goons and heavies in the heat of battle. Watching the blood fly and the breasts bounce is truly a remarkable experience and a sight to behold.  I had always assumed these scene could only play out in my imagination, a daydream of a man obsessed with filth and the female form. To my astonishment, to my pure delight, the 1973 pinky violence epic, Sex and Fury, managed to commit this dream like boner inducing bloody massacre to a vivid, mind blowing reality.  Friends and Collective members, I may have just fallen in love with a movie.

Sex and Fury, directed by Noribumi Suzuki is the story of  one young woman’s quest for vengeance after witnessing, as a child the brutal, gore drenched murder of her detective father by the Yakuza gang. His final gift to her, the only witness of the assassination, are three hanafuda cards, the deer, the boar, and the butterfly, which will serve as clues to the identity of his killer. 20 years later, this little girl has grown up to be the stunningly gorgeous and deadly Reiko Ike, who gives herself the identity Inoshika Ocho, coded based upon her quarry (ino = boar, shika = deer, ocho = butterfly).  All the while, gang ringleader Kurokawa (Seizaburo Kawazu) and his flunky Iwakura (Hiroshi Nawa) consolidate the power of their Seishinkai Group, securing the carving of their turf in an ever changing and modern Japan.

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Ocho has become a well known and highly renowned gambler and thief and ends up having a beef with the Seishinkai after a dying Yakuza gambler begs Ocho to save his daughter from the rapey clutches of Iwakura, a mission she relishes tackling. Along the way she crosses paths with two other characters, the son of a murdered Seishinkai rival, Shunosuke (Masataka Maruse), who has some excellent emo hair and, like Ocho, a similar lust for vengeance. Ocho also runs across the scrumptious Christina (Christina Lindberg) a sexy and mysterious young woman from out west who has a legendary rep for being unbeatable at gambling and is also extensively talented with a firearm. Believe it or not, these characters and events all come together and lay the path for Ocho’s brutal quest for payback.

Reiko Ike (Battles Without Honor or Humanity) throws herself into the role with full bore ferocity that’s a pleasure to witness. She’s an lovely screen presence with striking features and a body that’s a knock out. for me, the movie doesn’t get much better than during Reiko’s extensive and lengthy nude sword fight with about a dozen Yakuza henchmen that starts in a bathtub and ends in a snow covered courtyard that soon turns shades of pink and red and the body parts fly and blood sprays by the bucket full. The fight is well staged and beautifully choreographed and shot and is truly a spectacle to behold. I can honestly say I’ve never seen another nude fight scene comes close to this sequence. Honestly, it is a thing of beauty.

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Also, I must mention Christine Lindberg (Thriller: A Cruel Picture aka:They Call Her One Eye), the cult star of some now notorious sex flicks and exploitation classics, has never really had much range, but does the best she can while trying to speak in stilted and awkward phonetically learned Japanese. Whatever\issues do arise from her presence in the film are more than made up for by her character’s ridiculously melodramatic story line, show stopping outfits and some very sexy scenes later in the film. Really, it’s just cool seeing Christine in just about anything.  My only gripe about Sex & Fury is that is often tries to depict sexual assault in a titillating manner, which has always been uncomfortable for me to watch but seems to be a staple of Japanese and Hong Kong films of the period. Thankfully, these scenes make up a very small portion of the film which is otherwise a none stop flowage of awesome sauce.

Bottom line, Sex and Fury is supreme Trash Cinema entertainment. There’s just about everything you cold possibly one from a genre picture of it’s ilk, sword play, gun play, graphic violence, martial arts, sexy women, copious amounts of nudity,  and many of these elements crossing paths at the exact same time lovingly and painstakingly realized.  Sex and Fury is truly remarkable piece of Trash.

I’m giving Sex and Fury FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

27
Apr
14

Trash Cinema Nights presents “The Lost Boys” & “From Dusk Till Dawn” double Feature

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DOUBLE FEATURE!
The Lost Boys (1987) and From Dusk till Dawn (1996)
Saturday, May 3rd starting at 8pm
at Bird’s Aphrodisiac Oyster Shack
as always, NO COVER!

Hey Gang, The Primal Root here and I remember a time, not so long ago I might add, when vampires were awesome. Back when they had wonderful bleach blonde mullets, lived on the beach or in bars just over the border into Mexico and danced half nekkid while adorned with a very large snake before ripping some grizzled bikers head off and chucking through the air. Yep, those were the days all right.

WELL THOSE DAYS ARE BACK for one glorious night of vampiric Trash Cinema excellence at Bird’s Aphrodisiac Oyster Shack as The Trash cinema Collective presents The Lost Boys (1987) and From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) back to back for a reminder of the down and dirty carnage this blood suckers are capable of!

The Lost Boys (1987) directed by Joel Schumacher: Sam and Mike (Corey Haim and Jason Patric) just moved to Santa Carla with their Mom and have a fine time adjusting and fitting in to the beach side community. That is, Mike is initiated into a hair metal group of vampires led by a charismatic, Chinese food terrorist, David (Kiefer Sutherland) and Sam ends up getting befriending a couple teenage comic book store owners and part time vampire hunters, The Frog Brothers. It’s a whacky and horrifying time as these two boys learn the meaning of family while skinheads get their scalps savagely ripped off, body builders viciously play the saxophone while clad in purple spandex hot pants, and Corey Haim sings int he bathtub.

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) directed by Robert Rodriguez: Seth and Richard Gecko (Goerge Clooney & Quentin Tarantino) are violent criminals on the run from Johnny Law. Their goal? Make it to Mexico where they will meet their connection and start a new life for themselves living on the beach, sipping margaritas and swimming with dolphins. However, it’s a long road to Mexico, and the two volunteer a family of three by taking them hostage so they have a decent cover over the border. Once there, they must spend an evening at a cantina known as The Titty-Twister which happens to be run by vampire scum. rag-tag group of criminals, low lives and bible thumpers must band together in order to survive this dark night of slaughter. Who will survive? What will be left of them? Who will pay the tab? Featuring performances from Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis, Tom Savini, Fred Williamson, Selma Hayek in a bikini, Danny Trejo and Cheech Marin, John Saxon and Michael Parks!

So come on out and see what happens when two sets of brothers go head to head with some legendary blood suckers! This is a damn fine double feature of incredible cult vampire films you certainly don”t want to miss! See you at Bird’s Aphrodisiac Oyster Shack Saturday, May 3rd for burgers, beer and blood spattered mayhem!

See you there!

Stay Trashy!
-Root

17
Feb
14

(NSFW) Cindy & Donna (1970): House of Sexual Deviants

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a Primal Root written review

“You know, it’s just a big kick. A trip, you know? Look, don’t be so serious. I mean, you know, it’s a groove.” – Cindy’s best friend Karen explains sexual intercourse

Growing up sure can be hard, especially when you’re a disturbingly sexy yet trashy teenage girl from a divorced family, your Dad’s a lecherous creep who’s always staring at your step sister while she’s in her underwear, your stepmother’s a constantly bitching alcoholic and your step sister is forever getting laid and trading pussy for pot while you’re still wearing your hair in pigtails and are just too scared to spread those thighs for some pimply faced classmate at the local high school or one of those college jerks still looking to score teeny-bopper poon.

This is the very basic premise of “Cindy & Donna” a very strange brand of coming-of-age flick, exploitation film and soft-core porn. Cindy and Donna are step sisters, Cindy’s the baby of the two and Donna is the older, more sexually experienced. Cindy’s Pop is a boozer and a perv while Donna’s Mom is kind of a booze hound killjoy that I’m sure her husband blames for his tendency to spend all night at bars after work, bang prostitutes and get boners of his stepdaughter. It’s suburban dysfunction at it’s very finest and not really played for laughs, if anything, it all comes of as shockingly depressing…which makes it really funny…Huh? Stay with me.

“Cindy & Donna” tells the story of the red headed, teenage pixie virgin, Cindy (played by Debbie Osborne of “Country Cousins” and “Tobacco Roody” fame, I also happen to have a bit of crush on this chick who vanished off the face of the earth in 1972.) as she begins to blossom and become increasingly curious about what it is to be a sexually active young woman in 1970’s America. A voyeur by nature, she is constantly peeping in on her family members and being exposed to the truly depraved and disturbing sex lives of her Father and stepsister. We’re going to leave Mom out of this because she’s just an alcoholic who spends the majority of the film either drunkenly shouting out insults or passed out in bed watching what sound like bizarre Indian massacre movies.

Cindy witnesses her older stepsister, Donna (the ever foxy Nancy Ison) sneak out of the house at night and ride her boyfriend Greg’s flesh pole of freedom in order to obtain some grass. Cindy is also aware of her Father’s other vice besides alcoholism and ignoring his family, hookers. Ladies of the night. Prostitutes. We are given a front row seat to this doughy, middle aged man’s sexcapades with the lovely and incredibly well built Alice (Alice Friedland, looking like an American version of Swedish sex goddess Christina Lindberg) a professional stripper, spank magazine model and, yes, prostitute, who we’re introduced to in an extended sequence of Alice gyrating her crotch into the camera and bouncing her lovely, bountiful, natural boobs in artsy-fartsy low angle shots that make sure her tits and ass take up THE ENTIRE SCREEN. She invites Pops back to her place for a night of awkward genital grinding, fondling and utterances of the phrase, “You blow my mind!”

I can see the artistic intent here.

I can see the artistic intent here.

After Pops and Alice finish up it is revealed that Alice is only 17, the same age as his naive, peeper of a daughter, Cindy. You’d think this was primed to set up some kind of plot point where Pops would approach his daughter and talk openly with her about “the birds and the bees” and perhaps even cause the man to realize what a terrible Father and husband he’s been and get him on the straight and narrow to ensure his wife and children are provided for emotionally as well as financially and go on to live fulfilling lives together.  No such luck, Pops boozes it up the following night, can’t get an appointment to poke Alice and decides to go home and fuck his stepdaughter, Donna. AND HE DOES! He stumbles into her bedroom completely wasted, disrobes and goes to town on her young, naked, nubile self AND SHE OPENLY ENJOYS IT! She pulls him in closer, smooches his whiskey drenched gob with tongue and allows the patriarch of their family to grope her chesticological region and finger her little Donna.  It’s disturbing and totally unbelievable. Of course, it’s revealed that Cindy is watching this whole incestual shindig go down from the doorway of their adjoining bedrooms before throwing herself upon her bed and weeping. Strangely, the incident is never mentioned again, not once, for the rest of the film. And this a bit more horrifying than the incident where Cindy watched Donna get banged by her boyfriend Greg in the back of his sports car as payment for weed, which Cindy then went back to her bedroom and masturbated over. I started wondering if possibly Cindy is imagining all these sexual hijinks she witnesses as part of her own repressive sexual desires and fantasies, but I might be giving “Cindy & Donna” too much credit. But then again, who know, perhaps director Robert Anderson saw something in this material beyond just the TnA and deep, dark, sexual depravity. One thing’s for sure, looking at the film this way opens up a whole new perspective.

BUT I’M GETTING OFF TOPIC!

Hey, the closer the, the deeper in...

Hey, the closer the, the deeper in…

That morning Mom and Pops head to Vegas for the weekend and are never relevant to the “plot” again. Cindy confides all this, minus the Daddy/Stepdaughter action earlier, to her BFF Karen (sexy, confident, Cheryl Powell) who has recently made the transition from naive young girl to slutty, cock starved teenage hellion. Karen’s advice to Cindy? Get laid, basically. They end up going to the beach where they meet two dorky guys in tiny bathing suits. They hardly even introduce themselves before the gentlemen whisk these ladies off to their casual sex shack on the beach and start putting on the moves.  The moment the scene begins Cindy starts shouting about how she just wants to go home as Karen drops her bikini quicker than you get food poisoning from a McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish sandwich and starts riding her dork pick of the litter as if he were Seabiscuit. “Don’t be a drag, Cindy!” Karen commands as she humps dork boy’s baby batter baton.  The scene goes on for way longer than it should as Karen gets fucked on one bed and Cindy continuously cries “Stop it!” and “No!” on the nearby stained sofa as her zit faced, teen date rapist drools all over her neck and licks her face. This is all taking place in the same room so the camera just sits in medium shot and documents this uncomfortable moment in time for what feels like forever. As soon as Karen gets her rocks off they both head for home where they smoke some weed, put on a record and enjoy some experimental lesbianism so Karen can demonstrate for Cindy “what it feels like.” My, my, it’s been a big day for these two.

Tell me that's not Shia LeBeouf back there.

Tell me that’s not Shia LeBeouf back there.

What’s Donna up to while her parents are out of town? Just hanging out with her boyfriend Greg…and allowing several creepers to take nude photos of her as a way to pay back the money she owes Greg for the weed he purchased her the other day. Rather quickly, the photo shoot devolves (or evolves, depending on your view) into a mild mannered gang bang in Greg’s rumpus room. Donna really gets off on this “groovy” action, despite the men never having to remove their underwear in order to penetrate her baby factory, and the scenes goes on without ever showing the end of the gang bang when they, I assume, smoke a  little reefer, play air guitar and eat Doritos.

The very next morning, after Cindy and Karen spend a night of playing bumper clits together, Karen assures Cindy that she was “marvelous” in the sack and that she should try the ultimate trip and have sex with an actual man.  This gets the wheels turning and Cindy puts her plan into action. She invites Donna’s boyfriend Greg over and they start going at it on the family sofa, which seems like a daring place to lose one’s virginity. I mean, how will Cindy explain that stain to her folks? Anyhoo, Cindy begins taking off her awesome 70’s dress and asks Gregg “Can you dig it?” His reply? “I can dig it.” and she is soon nekkid and rubbing her petite, teeny-bopper body all over Gregg, the Scott Stapp of the 1970’s.  But wouldn’t you know it, just as Cindy’s about to go cock spelunking, Donna comes home and stumbles upon this scene and exclaims “DON’T MESS WITH MY SISTER!” Gregg responds the only reasonable way any man would after being interrupted while about to have his man utter suckled by a young woman, and picks Donna up and throws her out the front door onto her AstroTurf lawn. Donna, confused and mortified (despite the fact she fucked her stepdad a night or two ago) wonders aimlessly into the road and is run over by a car. Cindy watches this happen through the screen door of her Cabrini Green model suburban home and screams. The picture freezes on her shocked and horrified face. We then cut to a brief sequence of her swinging at a jungle gym where we can see her red panties.

The End

 I am speechless. I mean, after the build up of this film I totally expected Donna’s discovery of Cindy boning her boyfriend to end in a threesome, not vehicular manslaughter! This is one Hell of a way to end your sex picture!  I can’t even begin to imagine what poor little Cindy’s therapy bills are going to look like. Acquiring knowledge from afar, as Cindy did, proved only to corrupt her young, curious mind, not enlighten it. Sad, really.”Cindy & Donna” is a bewildering and entertaining exploitation sex picture. Straightforward and shameless to the point of absurdity,” Cindy & Donna” is an ode to teenage indiscretion and skeezy old man perversity that will have you questioning the sanity of those who made it and yourself as you pitch a tent in your corduroy trousers. Filled with copious, unapologetic nudity, drug use, casual incest and experimental lesbianism…the mission statement is blunt. “Cindy & Donna” is a one of a kind, filthy, perverse, sleazy coming of age exploitation film. Yes, I enjoyed it thoroughly.

If you don't talk to your kids about sex, who will?

If you don’t talk to your kids about sex, who will?

I’m giving Cindy & Donna FIVE OUT OF FIVE Dumpster Nuggets. This puppy’s a must see.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

09
Feb
14

(NSFW) The Naked Cage (1986): Women on the Verge of a Nervous Shanking

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a Primal Root written review

What is the appeal of a women in prison movie? Could it be the hardened women struggling for power and survival behind bars? The depiction of corrupt officials and politics behind prison walls and how it mirrors our own government? Or is it simply the fact we are almost guaranteed some gratuitous female shower scenes? I ask you, why can’t it be all of the above?

“The Naked Cage”, directed by Paul Nicholas and produced by Cannon, marks what many consider to be among the last truly great women in prison flicks, a genre that became popular and peaked in the mid to late 1970’s.  “The Naked Cage” tells the story of a young, blonde, nubile bank teller and bareback horse rider, Michelle (Shari Shattuck) who ends up getting sentenced to three years in a vicious women’s prison after her bonehead, coke head ex-husband decides to pull a stocking over his head and rob the bank where Michelle works. Of course, none of this would have happened if Michelle’s ex hadn’t recently gotten mixed up with the sexy, murderous, psychotic escaped convict, Rita (Christina Whitaker) who likes killing cops and having cocaine snorted off of her nipples (true story). Michelle ends up unwittingly getting pulled into the heist, which ends in a bizarre getaway that consists of driving around the bank parking lot several times and then in blood, and is thrown in jail after Rita testifies that Michelle was the ringleader of the heist. Me thinks Michelle should get herself a better lawyer.

Michelle takes her sentencing in stride, maintains a good attitude and makes friends quickly with her fellow inmates including her bunk mate and former junky Amy (Stacey Shaffer) and the badass,  muscular behemoth , Sheila (Faith Minton) who runs things on their cell block.  However, Michelle doesn’t quite see eye to eye with the prison’s warden, Diane (Angel Tompkins from one of my favorites, “The Teacher”) who conducts bizarre lesbian BDSM sex games with whichever inmates tickle her fancy. Also on the loose is a sadistic prison guard known as Smiley (Nick Benedict) who takes great pleasure in raping and then murdering female inmates before trying to pass it off as suicides. He justifies this to the warden by explaining “This job is shitty, I might as well do something I enjoy!” It’s not an exact quote, but something along those lines…

I wonder if the warden in "The Shawshank Redemption" ever had Andy dress like this and rub his shoulders?

I wonder if the warden in “The Shawshank Redemption” ever had Andy dress like this and rub his shoulders?

Life behind bars doesn’t treat Michelle that bad, at first. But soon, Rita is released from the hospital, where she was recovering from the bank robbery car chase, and is thrown into prison on the same cell block as Michelle. Rita and Warden Diane join forces and once Rita takes down Sheila, the Warden gives Rita the go ahead to enact her revenge on Michelle. Revenge for what, exactly? Not so sure, seeing as Michelle had little to nothing to do withe the bank robbery turning into a bullet riddled botched bloodbath.  I have this feeling Rita might be projecting her own feelings of inadequacy and failure as a bank robber on to Michelle. Listen, killing Michelle won’t change the fact that you robbed a bank after snorting a mountain of cocaine, let your getaway car get blocked in, and then drove a stolen car in circles around the bank’s parking lot while the police unloaded their weapons into it and you.  Honey, that’s nobody’s fault but yours.

Rita quickly turns the prisons order of power on it’s head, dispatching those who protect Michelle, and turning her closest friends against her.  But Michelle is far more cunning than Rita realizes. As the tables turn, Michelle learns to rely on herself and takes dead aim at Rita and during a violent, awesome prison riot, the two meet in one of the down and dirtiest female convict cat fights I’ve ever seen.

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“The Naked Cage” is a glorious, spitfire of a women in prison film. One of the very last of a dwindling, glorious Drive-In culture. What really sets it apart is that, despite the conventions and obligatory women in prison cliches, is that “The Naked Cage” takes the time to create so really interesting, believable characters. It pulls off one of those rarest of  exploitation tricks where the viewer ends up actually liking characters and are genuinely saddened when certain folks end up being killed off.  By this point in Trash Cinema history, the women in prison genre had become more satirized and played for laughs or simply to titillate an audience rather  than deliver genuine dramatic story telling. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with the formerly mentioned brand of women in prison flick, Hell, I love a good goofy romp through a prison filled with nekkid women. Sure, there’s some campy, goofy bits in “The Naked Cage” like the exceedingly awkward scenes with Angel Tompkins rotating her shoulders topless with random female inmates in her neon light clad secret love chamber as they seduce one another, but overall the film plays it pretty straight if not a little over the top. There is something to be admired about a movie of this breed that does all it can to tell a convincing crime story on an exceedingly low budget and not fall back on cheap laughs.  “The Naked Cage” is bold, goes for the your throat and doesn’t let up. Damn fine stuff and one Hell of a send off to a once proliferating genre.

Oh, and there are plenty of shower scenes and gratuitous full frontal nudity.

I give “The Naked Cage” Three and a Half out of Five Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

26
Jan
14

Ms. 45 (1981): Vengeance be a Lady or Bullets Over Ballsack

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a Primal Root written review

In the late 70’s and early 80’s horror and exploitation cinema saw a rise in the popularity of the “rape/revenge” sub-genre. In a film of this nature, a woman or man is raped and violated followed by the person violated, or someone close to them, going on a roaring rampage of blood soaked revenge against those who have so violently attacked them or those they love.  Movies like “I Spit on your Grave”,  “Deliverance”, “Last House on the Left”, “Straw Dogs” and countless others were all part of this trend towards vigilante revenge fantasy films, where innocence is raped and the victim must seek their vengeance.  My own idea why this sort of sub-genre sprung up and became so popular were the crime statistics of the time and the general unease in society that the system, and those sworn to protect us, weren’t up to the task and that the only way for us to survive was to take matters into our own hands. The rape/revenge film taps into that deep, dark, fantasy where the victim gets the last laugh against the low lives who savaged them.  In most cases there is a clear line between good and evil and the vengeance is always righteous and well justified in the viewers eye. This evil redneck sodomized this young woman for an hour, so she cuts his dick off and lets him bleed to death in her lovely Airbnb log cabin rentals art deco bathroom. You get to cheer on these folks as they fight fire with fire and watch with glee as the wicked are punished.  It’s a very base, primal formula and story.

Enter Abel Ferrara’s 1981 “Ms. 45″ (aka: Angel of Vengeance”), the story of Thana, a young, mute seamstress working for an up and coming fashion designer and living in New York City where there just so happens to be a constant single file line of sleazeballs and scum bags garnishing the streets, ogling women, and serenading them with wolf whistles and cat calls as they walk by. We get to experience this uncomfortable, sexist deluge through the female POV came of those unlucky ladies having to ignore and endure this harassment and MAN is it effective.  As Thana makes her way home from work she is accosted and raped at gun point in broad daylight down an alleyway by a man in a Halloween mask. Before departing, the man threatens that he’ll be back before booking it off into the sunset and surely haunting Thana’s every waking moment for the rest of her life. And in one terrifying moment, actually does appear as a nightmarish phantom hallucination to Thana as she tries to undress and take a shower after the attack.

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Thana, in shock, makes her way back to her apartment only to find a burglar has broken in and is waiting for her. Again, she is raped at gunpoint…but this time she strikes back and bashes her assailant’s skull in with an iron. As she begins disposing of attackers dead body, which she has sawed into several pieces and begun depositing all over New York City wrapped in shopping bags, she’s chased on foot by a young man that has mistaken one of these bags as something she accidentally dropped and is trying to give back to her. For his trouble, Thana shoots this poor sucker in the face.

Before you know it, Thana is a woman on a mission. As she gains confidence and a thirst for vengeance she transforms from a mousy young woman to a deadly black widow. Dressing more provocatively, wearing makeup and pulling her hair back, Thana takes to the night time streets of New York to murder as many abusive, rapey, evil men as she can find. She ends up blowing away a pimp seen beating a hooker, a gang of would be rapists and a man in a limousine who tries to offer her cash for sex. It’s a blast watching Thana take out these sleazy, violent cocksmiths. One can clearly see how Thana perceives these men as threats  and you cannot help but cheer as she delivers hot, blood spattering, genital mutilating vengeance from the barrel of her gun. I must admit a certain feeling of satisfaction witnessing this carnage.

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But “Ms. 45”  is a more complex film than your typical black and white, Good vs. Evil rape/revenge film.  “Ms.45” exists in a more realistic world painted in varying shades of grey.  Thana pursues the advances of a creepy, aggressive photographer. The man comes on to her in a restaurant, follows her down the sidewalk yapping her ear off until she agrees to go to his studio. Once there, she guns this guy down in cold blood. The man was obviously a creeper, treated Thana as subhuman, another conquest to stick his teeny weenie in, but did the slimy bastard deserve to die? He never actually succeeded in harming Thana or actually proved he had any intention to.  He was gross, nasty and aggressive…but he never actually hurt anyone during his time on screen.  As a viewer, I sure as shit didn’t want to spend any time with this guy, but did he earn the bullet riddled dose of death he received?

For Thana, it steadily grows from a quest for vengeance to a gender specific killing spree as she begins targeting anyone with the offending genitals. she stalks down a young, Asian man who she eyed making out with his girlfriend. The man was just kissing the woman he is attracted to and it’s completely mutual! No force, no rape, but Thana no longer seems capable of  discerning what is right or wrong, healthy or unhealthy, and in her bloody quest for revenge has found herself becoming a monster herself.

“Ms. 45” reaches it’s climax at her fashion designer bosses’ Halloween party. Thana dresses up as a nun, attends the party as her bosses’ date, and packs some heat below her garter. In a chilling, horrifying, slow motion finale Thana opens fire on every man at the Halloween party. The crowd screams, begins panicking and trying to escape the barrage of gun fire.  This woman we were once rooting for has blurred the line so completely between good and evil that she is willing to kill any man at all because she sees every man as a threat. It isn’t until a friend of Thana’s,  one of her female co-workers, grabs a butcher knife, sneaks up behind Thana holding the blade at crotch level, making the phallic symbolism unmistakable, and then plunges it into Thana’s back, that the killing finally stops. Thana turns, her eyes widen in shock as she realizes it was a fellow woman who has killed her, sliding the phallic knife into her. The mute Thana then whispers her one and only line, her dying word, “sister” and falls to the ground dead.

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Abel Farrara created one of the most unique, disturbing and thought provoking films in this sub-genre of horror, and incidentally, one of the more interesting of the 1980’s. The film seeks to bring the idea of blind vengeance into the discussion of rape and revenge. When does  revenge simply start becoming mindless killing? Is it ever justified? When does the hero become the villain? These are questions few films within this sub-genre take the time to ask . In “Ms. 45” we are given plenty of time and opportunity to meditate on just what has happened to Thana, where Thana finds herself at the end of the movie, and the mechanics of our own reaction to the steps in her journey from victim, to vigilante to victimizer.  This very well might be why “Ms. 45” is so effective, so chilling and so infinitely open for debate and discussion.

Thana is a voiceless woman in a city overrun with outspoken, sexually aggressive men. Once irrevocably turned into a victim she finds an artificial voice in violence, in the firing of her gun and the killing of others. She cannot scream for anyone to stop, but her gun has the power to scream and stop her tormentors.  It isn’t until the end, when she is stabbed to death by another woman, that she finds her true voice, and in my opinion, opens her eyes to the horror of what she has begun. She is no longer an angel of vengeance but a demon of destruction. By the evil of others, she herself, has become an evil doer.

Of course, this is just The Primal Root’s take on the movie. I would love for you to check it out sometime and share your thoughts on the “Ms. 45” and just what you took away from this flick.

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Also, let me just say Zoë Tamerlis Lund, who played Thana, is remarkable. with only one line of dialogue in the course of the film, Zoë manages to make Thana into a fully fleshed out,  believable, human character.  Zoë was one remarkable, creative talent and a natural beauty with screen presence to spare. She even went on to co-write Abel Ferrara’s notorious “Bad Lieutenant” starring Harvey Keitel.   Sadly, Zoë was a long time heroin addict and died of drug related heart failure in 1999. she was 37 years old.  For more on Zoë I highly recommend http://www.zoelund.com/ which is run by Robert Lund.

I forgot to mention, there is also a subplot featuring Thana’s obnoxious landlady and her yapping mutt. At one point Thana takes her land ladies’ dog for a walk intent on killing it. She ties the dog to a pole, and draws her gun ofn the cornered mutt. We never see Thana kill the pooch but it’s assumed that she did only to have the poor little guy return home right before the credits roll. It’s an interesting note to end the movie on, that Thana so easily can kill a man, ANY man, before she could kill a dog.

Certainly not a feel good movie, and surely as shit, it ain’t for everyone, “Ms. 45” is an excellent piece of exploitation, horror, Trash Cinema. It’s well worth checking out and deserving of it’s Cult Classic status.  I’m giving “Ms. 45” FIVE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

12
Jan
14

Mars Attacks (1996): Carnage Candy

 

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a Primal Root written review

Adapting a notoriously gruesome and controversial trading card series from the 60’s into a PG-13 holiday release for the 1990’s cannot be an easy task.  “MARS ATTACKS!” in it’s original form was a blood soaked Topp’s trading card series created in 1962. Of course, there was parental and societal uproar over the gory, frequently sexual card series which led to the series’ original run first being censored and then being halted entirely. Yes, tell the public they cannot have something because they cannot “handle it” and remove it from the market entirely.  Ladies and Gents, this is how you create a cult following.

In the early 1980’s, “MARS ATTACKS!” began it’s resurgence gaining a whole new generation of young fans while banking on the nostalgia of those who once had this gloriously sick and subversive creation snatched from their grasps by the moral watchdogs that know what is best for us all. Bunch of dick holes, I tells ya! This resurgence culminated in a film adaptation featuring and all star cast and directed by, at that point, creative dynamo, Tim Burton fresh of his biographical film “Ed Wood”, everyone’s favorite cross dressing Trash Cinema film director!

Just how in the world do you take a popular cult TRADING CARD series and transform it into a profitable commercial venture? Well, with the restraints of the imposed PG-13 rating, the best path was to tone down the horror elements and amp up the darkly comical elements which the screenplay by Jonathan Gems delivers in spades. Not only is it a damn funny movie from start to finish, it also manages to be highly intelligent, wickedly mean, and  greatly entertaining. Here, let me lay it out for you…

Martians know never to underestimate the power of the human male's libido.

Martians know never to underestimate the power of the human male’s libido.

It is brought to the attention of The President of the United States of America, that flying saucers have been spotted surrounding planning Earth originating from our neighboring planet, Mars. To the best we can translate, the Martians come in peace, but as soon as they land, they being disintegrating every living thing they come across with their awesome Martian hand cannons.  The remainder of the movie is a series of sight gags, action set pieces and nasty comedy as humanity fights for survival through a full  on Martian apocalypse.

“MARS ATTACKS!” is a blazingly dark, subversive, wacky sci-fi flick. Sure, it has it’s flaws, like a sluggish pace and a feeling that Tim Burton had a tough time juggling his impressive ensemble cast, but at the end of the day the movie comes off  just as anarchic as the Martians themselves. The film extends it’s middle finger towards societal conventions, and then has fun laughing maniacally as it exposes the shaky pillars that they all stand upon.  MARS ATTACKS! sets it’s sights on lampooning just about everyone.  Conservative military leaders and Wal-Mart families to liberal scientists and new agers, MARS ATTACKS! takes delight in taking them down a peg or two.

For the most part, every character is played as a buffoon,  a cartoon version of stock characters from B-movies past, contemporary leaders and everyday civilians.  The only folks not played for laughs are the handful of societal outcasts and misfits who are played as entirely human like the president’s daughter Taffy (Natalie Portman, channeling Winona Ryder’s Lydia Deetz from Beetlejuice), mild mannered New Mexican donut peddler, Richie (Lukas Haas) and, most impressively, Byron and Louise Williams (Jim Brown and the incomparable Ms. Pam Grier) as a blue collar, seperated African American couple trying to make ends meet and raise two young boys.  Louise drives a bus in Washington D.C. while Byron, once a Heavy weight Boxing Champion, now works in Vegas. They are by far the most honorable, loving and genuine characters in the movie and the ones you end up rooting for in the end. When everything else in the film is a lark, you want nothing more than a happy ending for this family.

But it’s not all touchy feely stuff,  let us not forget the fantastically depicted carnage. Holy shit, is this fun stuff to watch! Martians bowl through Easter Island statues, crush mobile homes with their colossal Martian manned robots,  and in my personal favorite gag, crush a troupe of cub scouts with the Washington Monument. See, you don’t get this kind of flesh pulping fun in crap like “Independence Day”. One of the aspects I admire about “MARS ATTACKS!” is how the Martians use the phrase “We Come in Peace” and “We are your friends” to gain our trust several times over in order to implement surprise attacks. Once, killing off several military leaders and countless innocent spectators and the second time killing off Congress. It worked so well int he past that later in the film we see Martians roaming a burning landscape, guns drawn still claiming that they come in peace and blasting anything living they come across while exclaiming “Do Not Run! We Are Your Friends!”   It’s a great joke, but it’s a goddamn chilling one as well.

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By film’s end, Earth is saved by a decent young man who went out of his way to save his Grandmother from her rest home which was under siege and, unbeknownst to them, unlock the secret weapon that will destroy the Martian threat and save what remains of planet Earth and it’s inhabitants.  It’s one of the most absurd deus ex machina’s I have ever witnessed in cinema, but in a campy, B-Movie send up such as this, it feels perfectly fitting.

Finally, when Earth is reduced to a smoldering husk of it’s former self, it’s the underdogs who survive. The blue collar workers, those who risk life and limb to save the helpless, and Tom Jones. And in this I see hope. Early in the film, before the Martians reveal their true intentions, Annette Bening’s character states to at her AA meeting that she thinks the Martians have come to save us. And in a way, by destroying the institutions that have always held us back from truly progressing, leaves us with a clean slate to start from. In a way, they’ve given us a second chance and left our world int he hands of the misfits. The survivors.

“MARS ATTACKS!” is one Hell of a flick.  Sharply intelligent, subversive and damn funny.  This is one film well deserving of it’s cult status. highly recommended!

Four and a Half out of Five Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root




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