Thursday, July 21, 2011
This past Sunday I was in attendance at the Alamo Drafthouse's showing of Albert Pyun's CAPTAIN AMERICA director's cut. I'd never seen the original cut but I'm a big fan of Pyun, especially DOWN TWISTED. DOWN TWISTED is one of the most criminally underrated films of the 1980's. I got to tell him how much I loved it. That made my year.
Some call Albert Pyun a hack and I guess to a certain degree, he is. However, years ago, we called these filmmakers journeymen, people with actual talent who can jump seamlessly from genre to genre. Not many of those people around today. Pyun always seems to get stuck holding the bag as well. And there's usually not enough money in it to finish the film.
It's true that some of his later work is hampered by awful scripts and aforementioned lack of finance but if you really watch his movies, there's a lot of visual artistry at work. You may think he's a hack due to budget, but you can't call him untalented. His work from the 80's will attest to that.
On this night, those in attendance got a sneak peak at the Director's Cut Pyun made and even though it's cheap, it's not bad at all. Quite honestly, I don't like superheroes or comics but his take on the whole CAPTAIN AMERICA thing was way more entertaining than most mainstream films I've seen in the past few years. It isn't bombastic, jarring or expensively fake-looking. For christ sake, it's even thoughtful.
And that's the beauty of Albert Pyun. A vast majority of his films are entertaining as hell even if they are compromised. I sure hope one day he gets the funding and final cut to produce a balls-out action pic that allows him to unleash the style he possesses. And then if it's bad, let the naysayers nay. But I don't think that'd happen. Not by a longshot.
Albert Pyun Website
Pyun @ IMDB
Pyun @ Wikipedia
Saturday, July 16, 2011
I was 12 in 1986. Still feeling the effects of Italian post-nuclear apocalypse brought on by 1982 Australian post-apocalypse. Maybe my parents wouldn't take me to see the cheapjack Italian ripoffs but soon they would play on The Movie Channel, when Joe Bob Briggs still mattered and BRIMSTONE AND TREACLE gave you quality time with your college-going, Police-obsessed sister over the summer yet still was boring as shit and you realized that family doesn't mean quality. According to this video, 1989 was the year of the apocalyptic skate punk but unfortunately the closest we got in that year of our Lord was CYBORG. It'd take another year with PRAYER OF THE ROLLERBOYS to even get close and that was a far cry from what BOC was doing 4 years earlier, That's okay. Turn and turn and turn we must.
Sunday, July 10, 2011
In 1999, I got the best job I will ever have. And at a video store. The best video store in Atlanta. The de facto go-to, fight the man, I can't believe they're stocking this shit, this is why I moved from Jacksonville, Florida video store. It was all VHS back then. And it was beautiful.
I got the job because of Shawn Murphy. Shawn was working for Anne and Jerry Rubenstein, the visionaries of Movies Worth Seeing (MWS) (he put in a good word for me). They might not think they're visionaries but that's only because it's their style. Actually, most of their motavation in retrospect was probably like "Look, we'll stock the hits but for fuck's sake, you can't possibly want to watch that new shit constantly. We'll stock the classics, the weird and the wonderful and when FIREWALKER is checked out, we'll turn you onto DOWN BY LAW." And not in a pretentious way.
Anne and Jerry Rubenstein were successful, well-informed, down to earth entrepreneurs (hence, the store's longetivity) and equally as important, loved film. For them, it was commodity but they never treated the medium like widgets. And by that I mean, they knew they had to buy crap but they knew exactly how much crap to buy and be able to get the real unheralded treasures.
A lot of people opened up video rental stores during those Golden Days Of VHS. And a lot of them didn't get past the format wars of Beta vs. VHS much less the advent of DVD. By the time I moved to Atlanta, Mom and Pop stores were a thing of the past. For you kids today, next time you walk past some weird unlicensed-looking kiosk selling cellphones that has some remote tie to a major carrier, that was video rental in the 80's and for a few moments in the 90's. There was money to be made, but no soul. Those without soul perished to the Wal-Mart mentality of Blockbuster. Those that made it through that upheaval A) lived and did business in an area that was probably a large metropolitan city with a liberal, go-local mentality that embraced an alternative to the in-stock 400 copies of EXTREME MEASURES at corporate competitors or B) lived in a town so small that Blockbuster didn't even know they existed and therefore, had an open market. And you were lucky if if one of the two copies of EXTREME MEASURES was in.
Jesus H. Christ, I'm drunk.
But that's okay. Because last night in the city of Atlanta, there was a farewell/reunion that celebrated the legacy/closing of the oldest video store in Atlanta. Former employees and customers came together to pine, lament and be thankful they ever had such an opportunity to be a part of something so pure in spirit and heart yet payed the rent of a load of us who had the good fortune to be hired by the best bosses ever.
I wish I could've been there tonight. I wish I could've been there on the last night of operation. I wished it never closed at all.
When I found out about the closing of MWS, I wrote a note to Anne and Jerry for publication on their MWS Facebook page. Didn't post it. Dont know why. Didn't seem like the time or place. Today, it seems relevant for publication. So here goes:
Dear Anne and Jerry,
While the closure of Movies leaves everybody saddened and we all lament its demise, what many people don’t hear about is how well you treated your employees. Since leaving in 2004, I’ve been ruined by the concern, generosity and trust you showed me during the 5 years I was with you. You let me get away with shit most people in their right mind would’ve fired me for. But you weren’t crazy. I now believe you saw more worth in me than I saw in myself at the time and as I’ve gotten my stuff together (sort of) since I left, I’ve come to realize how incredible you two were and how damn lucky I was to be a part of your journey. Every employer I’ve worked for since I’ve compared you to and nobody, and I mean NOBODY, comes close. Hell, I now work for a corporate entity that basically treats me better than some “indie” business folk I’ve worked for since my days after MWS. But that’s the thing. Movies Worth Seeing was a different animal all the way around. The more I think about it, your success had nothing to do with the customers or employees. It was all you. You did everything right from the beginning. And the bunch of us nerdy cinematic malcontents love you more than you’ll ever know. I know I do.
Look, I’m not the guy who’s going to be carrying around your videos for you. But if you ever need me for something, I’ll be there.
Walter Hill told me to say that.
Your biggest fan,
Eric Matthew Harvey
Friday, June 18, 2010
It's been a rough month here at SEx. For good reasons. Top 10 albums of the 90's resumes this weekend. Until then:
When I was 16, I loved Dice. What 16 year old shit-talking kid wouldn't: talkin' 'bout pussy, dirty nursery rhymes, a general fuck-you attitude, talkin' 'bout pussy. That first album, "Dice", doesn't age well. It's bad dirty mainstream comedy. If you're a 15 or 16 year old kid now, it may still be a hoot. Then again, kids today suck and find really shit things funny.
Anyway, here comes 1990 and I pick up "The Day The Laughter Died" at the Orange Park, FL Coconuts and I'm blown away by it. It becomes very influential to my life with it's vulgarity and absurdity. It's dirty and foul and incredibly politically incorrect but throughout has a stream-of-conciousness that raises it to a level of avant-garde art. And this is at the ascension of his career. When I finally saw Dice in an arena setting, it was fun but incredibly predictable. Over the years, the only thing that has stuck with me about that show at Bob Carr in Orlando was the ride down from Jacksonville with my friends Mike (who worked at the same Coconuts I bought the album from) and Brian in Mike's old-ass Toyota wagon and how far away from the stage we were. That shit was nosebleed.
That said, this album I can put on and listen to it from beginning to end like music. Whatever you think about Dice or even Rick Rubin, who signed Dice to Def American and saw something past the charade he became, you have to admit that if you take the plunge and listen to the whole thing (as well as the incredibly existential 1993 sequel, "The Day The Laughter Died, Part II" which chronicles a wounded Dice on his way down), there's something more going on that wasn't followed through on.
Such is the price of fame.
I still have vivid memories of my parents house circa 1990 laying in front of my stereo with headphones on listening to this album in the middle of night and trying to stifle my laughter. And while the whole album slayed me, it was mostly on this bit. I must have played this a zillion times over and over. And if you meet anyone who used to listen to his albums, they always remember this bit as being the pinnacle of Dice's comedic achievements. It pretty much sums up why Dice should've been more important than he is today (his own fault) and why maybe we saw something in him to begin with.
And since we're on the subject of comics, Doug Stanhope is still the king but charges too much for his shows and David Cross's bits annoy the piss out of me. If he hadn't chose comedy to exorcise his demons, I could easily see him becoming a cop to get even.
And on a completely random note, here's my go to video when I'm loaded. I don't know why but I feel the ned to share it.
DIE HARD 2: DIE HARDER is on FXM now. I saw that at the U.A. of Orange Park 20 years ago this summer with my much-missed grandmother. I gots to go.
The end of "The Day The Laughter Died, Part II". Fucking brutal.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Sam Raimi and Ghost House will be doing a film based on the This Man creepiness with STRANGERS director Bryan Bertino.
THIS MAN-NIKKI FINKE
Information about the This Man phenomenon can be found here.
We here at Serious Exploitation have solved the mystery.
... is Dean Stockwell.
THIS MAN-NIKKI FINKE
Information about the This Man phenomenon can be found here.
We here at Serious Exploitation have solved the mystery.
... is Dean Stockwell.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
You’d think after hitting the big-time (and not getting paid for it), Tobe Hooper would have had carte blanche to tackle whatever subject he’d like. After all, director William Friedkin (THE EXORCIST) and producer Dino De Laurentiis (DEATH WISH, KING KONG) were photographed walking out of a screening of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974) together, which I personally think lends credibility to a film reviled by critics and audiences at the time of its release. But no, Hooper found himself helming another horror picture, and lucky for us, it was EATEN ALIVE.
Decorated WWII vet-turned-actor Neville Brand (STALAG 17) stars as Judd, owner of the Texas-based Starlight Hotel, which has the distinct honor of housing a hungry crocodile in a pond right in front of its porch. It doesn’t take long to see that Judd’s a bit crazy and prefers to kill the folks who show up at his hotel rather than give them a room. On this particular evening, Judd has an assembly line of victims (and croc treats): a failed runaway hooker (Roberta Collins, CAGED HEAT!), her father (Mel Ferrer, HANDS OF ORLAC) and sister (Crystin Sinclaire, HUSTLER SQUAD) who’ve come from Houston to find her, a completely dysfunctional husband and wife (played by TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE’s Marilyn Burns and William Finley of PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE) and their child (Kyle Richards, little Lindsey Wallace from HALLOWEEN), as well as local bad boy Buck (who’s “rarin’ to fuck”), a role perfectly realized by Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund.
That simple storyline is essentially the plot and does it ever show. The script by producer Mardi Rustam (EVILS OF THE NIGHT) and Alvin Fast (writer of many a Greydon Clark film) was obviously poor to begin with, but between a talented cast and the personal nuances given the characters by Kim Henkel (writer of LAST NIGHT AT THE ALAMO and the original CHAINSAW, given an ‘adapted for the screen’ credit here) and the inclusion of Hooper’s lighting schemes and CHAINSAW-esque direction, a terrible night at the drive-in became a strange and interesting failure that keeps you watching. With more thought and time, EATEN ALIVE could’ve been a modern day horror classic.
All in all, Neville Brand is the real winner here (uncannily resembling Grant Hart from the influential post-punk/hardcore band Husker Du). The personally troubled actor gives a tour-de-force performance as the psychopathic Judd; his offbeat, gravel voice sells his character’s insanity, as does the child-like mannerisms he affects during kill scenes.
Unfortunately, one of my main problems with EATEN ALIVE has always been why Judd kills people. I’ve always been left to wonder if he’s been killing guests for years or if this is the first night he’s gone off the deep end and into murder. At first, the script sets up collusion between local madame Miss Hattie (Carolyn Jones) and the Sheriff (Stuart Whitman of GUYANA CULT OF THE DAMNED, and doing a damn fine Christopher George impersonation here, I might add). This development leads the viewer to think maybe the town knows about Judd’s handiwork but chooses not to deal with it, or actually endorses it to deal with nosy interlopers. Without giving away too much, they don’t, and once again this illustrates the failure of the script in regards to Brand’s character’s motivation and back-story, as well as that of the town’s.
EATEN ALIVE has always had a claustrophobic, shot-on-a-studio look that adds a touch of the surreal to the proceedings. As mentioned before, Hooper’s lighting and direction (especially in the adrenaline pumping finale), Henkel’s nuanced characterizations, and the altogether sleazy tone throughout make EATEN ALIVE a must watch 70’s horror film. More important, however, is to witness the undoing of a talented director and cast by a flimsy set-up and rushed production. You can really sense the movie trying to escape its exploitation roots, which makes it succeed despite its overall failure.
Recently re-released in a 2-Disc Special Edition by Dark Sky Films and available in Wal-Marts everywhere, EATEN ALIVE gets a total makeover that’s heads above the previous edition released by Elite Entertainment. Major kudos to Dark Sky for doing a bang-up job with EATEN ALIVE, from feature presentation to extras.
Disc 1 contains a remastered, 1:85 Anamorphic Widescreen transfer presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, with a choice of English, Spanish and French language tracks and an option of English subtitles. The film itself is rather low-lit at times and grainy, but in this instance it adds to the cheapjack, drive-in ambiance that endears it to many and, therefore, the transfer presented here is just fine. Extras on this disc include a feature-length commentary that provides an informative overview of the production with producer Rustam, drive-in queen Collins, Finley, Richards and make-up artist Craig Reardon. The inclusion of a still gallery closes out the first disc.
Disc 2 contains a load of extras, including the Red Shirt Productions featurettes THE GATOR CREATOR and MY NAME IS BUCK. The 20 minute GATOR CREATOR is an informative sit-down about EATEN ALIVE with director Hooper, while MY NAME IS BUCK, clocking in at about 15 minutes, does a great job introducing us to Robert Englund’s acting career and his thoughts on what was his first horror film.
Red Shirt also produced the 5 MINUTES WITH MARILYN interview included on the second disc, and other than getting to see what Marilyn Burns looks like now, I found it pretty much a letdown. Compared to the other two interviews, this one seemed rushed and lacking in information.
The featurettes are rounded out by the MPI produced THE BUTCHER OF ELMENDORF: THE LEGEND OF JOE BALL, an interesting 23 minute look at a vintage Texas true crime case that was an influence on EATEN ALIVE. At the start, I believed the mini-doc was going to be quite boring, but the more interviewee Richard “Bucky” Ball speaks about his titular uncle (the patented Texas ease with which Bucky explains his family history is interesting in itself), the more odd and fascinating this simple portrait of a madman becomes. Joe Ball was a “not quite right” returning WWI soldier/bootlegger who later turned tavern owner with six alligators in a pit behind his bar. Over the course of time (explained in a very succinct manner here), Ball murdered at least two women he had intimate relationships with.
Thanks to true crime magazines, his legend grew over the years, with the legacy embellished to 12 murders and the feeding of human remains to the alligators. Ball’s recollections of Elmendorf, TX and his Uncle Joe (his story of being a child and watching patrons bring stray dogs and cats to throw to the gators for entertainment is quite chilling) make for an intriguing documentary which paints a strange picture of the old rural Southwest.
Given that EATEN ALIVE had a host of theatrical re-releases with different titles, its most appreciated that we are provided with the alternate credits and title sequences for DEATH TRAP and STARLIGHT SLAUGHTER (but where’s LEGEND OF THE BAYOU?). Yet the real find included here are comment cards from original preview screenings of EATEN ALIVE that range from moderately humorous to laugh-out-loud funny. On them, filmgoers lucky (or for some, unlucky) enough to be involved with the process gave their uncensored personal opinions. After scrolling through these multiple times, I’ve come to the conclusion that these hilarious cards of uncensored, audience thought are worth the purchase price alone. TV and radio spots, theatrical trailers and a slideshow also make their way onto a well-researched extras disc.
As a whole, the 2-Disc Special Edition of EATEN ALIVE puts everything in place for its rediscovery. Oddly enough, that rediscovery may lead to the realization of how much a failure the finished film is. Seriously, the movie annoyed me like never before, sort of like a smart kid playing dumb. EATEN ALIVE is just one of those movies that could’ve been something given the proper time and money. If any movie was ready for a remake (which Hooper could direct), it’s the highly watchable, yet ultimately disappointing, EATEN ALIVE.
Neville Brand shot ripped from
Various EATEN ALIVE movie posters completely swiped from
STRAIGHT TO HELL
WRONG SIDE OF THE ART
For a horror-thriller that breaks no new ground, the Australian STORM WARNING is a passable DELIVERANCE meets TEXAS CHAINSAW hybrid that delivers the gore (briefly) but fails in the brutality department. This damn thing needs to be a lot more brutal than it is. And the brutality that’s there doesn’t have any conviction.
This Australian lawyer and his French artist wife get lost in the mangroves while boating and take refuge in a perfectly art-directed slob palace. You’ve seen them before: houses in a horror movie that are designed to let the audience know that, hey, the family that lives here are psycho rapists.
They also happen to be pot growers. And the lawyer ruins their pot. Which also makes the psycho rapists a little more psycho rapisty in the long run.
So the father and his two sons who psycho rape the place up on a regular basis lock our two protagonists in the barn for most of the movie and terrorize them. They also have to contend with a psycho rapist mutt named Honky. Of course, using their artist and lawyer cunning, they fight back. Actually the French artist fights back because the Australian lawyer is too pussy to fight and gets a broken leg due to his pussiness.
As far as acting goes, the pussy lawyer is pretty much a statue. The French artist is perfectly realized by Nadia Fares (CRIMSON RIVERS). She’s no Ripley, but she lends the character a nice blend of femininity and resilience. The psycho rapists aren’t a bad lot of actors either, providing the off-kilter menace scumbags like these need.
However, the film itself is so pedestrian, it’s hard to recommend it, even as a weekend time-waster. The film looks good overall, but we’ve seen this so many times that this exercise in commendable, competent filmmaking is a crushing bore (Jamie Blanks, director of URBAN LEGEND and VALENTINE helms the pic, which now makes me realize why STORM WARNING is so blah).
STORM WARNING’s biggest mistake is that it pulls back on its brutality on numerous occasions, as if the makers are almost too scared to push anything over the limit. It had such a good shot at being a total bastard of a movie. Released on the Dimension Extreme label but the only thing extreme about it is how extremely yawn-inducing the film as a whole ends up being.
This type of film is better handled by Canadians. Somebody should have slipped the script to Paul Lynch (who was born in the UK, but makes Canada a viable exploitation mecca).