Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

October Trashfest

The IMDB Classic Film Board people are having their annual October challenge, seeing and reviewing the obscurer-the-better horror films for the Halloween season. I’ve rustled up my own October Trashfest, with some choice doozies:
Paul Schrader in 1982
CAT PEOPLE. The glossy 1982 remake from Paul Schrader (of DeWitt Bodeen’s story as filmed by Jacques Tourneur in 1942, a '40s classic) after his AMERICAN GIGOLO (which defined the early '80s), where he continues exploring his Calvinist background (he couldn't see any films until he was 18) and attitudes to sex and violence (as in his terrific script for TAXI DRIVER and early films HARDCORE and BLUE COLLAR, and his later LIGHT SLEEPER). Schrader certainly liked getting his attractive leads out of their clothes – as in GIGOLO and here, where leading lady Nastassja Kinski is starkers for the closing scenes …. I can’t imagine it being shown on TV uncut!

SPOILERS AHEAD:First thing, it looks terrific of course, shot by John Bailey (who lensed GIGOLO), and again Ferdinando Scarfiotti (1941-1994) is “visual consultant” (presumably like Hoyningen–Heune used to be for Cukor), the score is again by Giorgio Moroder, and David Bowie contributes that dynamic song “Putting Out Fire with Gasoline” – which leads us to the subject matter. Brother and long lost sister re-unite in suitably spooky New Orleans (OBSESSION, ANGEL HEART) – Irina (Kinski) though turns into a black panther when erotically aroused – brother Malcolm McDowell, who also transforms, wants her to sleep with him so they can protect each other, but she falls for a zoo director (John Heard). The copious amounts of nudity and the erotically charged story and the stunning visuals keep one watching, but the ending is problematic. We get a man tying a naked woman with rope to the four corners of a bed (which will be a turn-on for some people) before having sex with her – to save himself when she transforms into the panther! – and then the last scene has her as the panther in her cage at the zoo, as he looks at her wistfully and pets her and gives her treats, his pet captive. 
It seems it is her choice to be captured and sacrifice her freedom and he goes along with it, but will she turn back into human form again? There are gruesome scenes along the way, as well as Annette O’Toole’s topless swim in the pool, and some terrific special effects. Kinski (TESS), McDowell, Heard and Ruby Dee all do as their director requires and the Bowie song rounds it off nicely. Its certainly a fascinating, offbeat, cult movie that bears a rewatch. Interesting features on the dvd have interviews with Schrader (now married to Mary Beth Hurt) on set discussing Scarfiotti and the cast. Bowie of course went on to THE HUNGER with Deneuve, the next year in 1983, another stylish horror movie (as per my review Deneuve label).

THE KILLER NUN.  This is the real eurotrash treat, from 1979.
A demented nun sliding through morphine addiction into madness, whilst presiding over a regime of lesbianism, torture and death. Sister Gertrude is the head nurse/nun in a general hospital, whose increasingly psychotic behavior endangers the staff and patients around her.Or as the blurb says:
Legendary Swedish sex bomb Anita Ekberg (LA DOLCE VITA) stars as Sister Gertrude, a cruel nun who discovers depraved pleasure in a frenzy of drug addiction, sexual degradation and sadistic murder. Warhol superstar Joe Dallesandro (ANDY WARHOL’S FRANKENSTEIN), Alida Valli as the mother superior, Lou Castel, Massimo Serato co-star in this notorious “Nunsploitation’ branded as obscene around the world and banned outright in Britain, but now available in a new restored transfer …
Well, yes, it’s a lot of fun, Trash Heaven in fact. Anita still has that Ekberg magnetism here (see label for my other reviews on her classics like SCREAMING MIMI or ZARAK), hilarious moments include her stamping on false teeth and having some hot girl on girl action. Directed by one Giulio Berruti.

THE NUN OF MONZA, 1969. “The Nun of Monza” by Mario Mazzuccheli was a respected Penguin paperback in the ‘60s which I remember enjoying reading. The film, by Epirando Visconti (a nephew of Luchino), finally turns up, a 1969 romp from that era of nun exploitation cinema. The story is based on real events emphasizing on the hypocrisy and abuse of power of the Catholic Church in 17th Century Italy
It all looks great of course, the buildings and the costumes. Anne Heywood is the Mother Superior who against her will has to give shelter to handsome Antonio Sabato who soon has those nuns all aflutter. Hardy Kruger is the priest who wants him protected. Soon though Sabato and Anne have a passionate affair resulting in a baby. Then they have to go on the run due to various plot twists and turns. It all ends with her being walled up alive for 10 years …. A fate worse than death, probably. Not as lurid as THE DEVILS it still packs a punch and looks great. Good score too by Ennio Morricone. 

RED RIDING HOOD, 2011. The classic fairly tale re-imagined for the TWILIGHT generation, as its director Catherine Hardwicke fashions a marvellous village and forest setting for more werewolf mischief … This time, Amanda Seyfried is Valerie (and she seems as vapid as she was in MAMMA MIA!) the girl torn between two men, the man she loves and the one her parents want her to marry. Gary Oldman on autopilot is Solomon, the werewolf hunter brought in to aid the villagers as it seems the wolf who prowls the forest is actually one of them in daylight hours … Julie Christie (right) is the grandma with her cottage in the woods who gives Valerie her scarlet cloak. I would not really bother with this, apart from Christie, who has some good moments. The ending though is rather a mystery as Riding Hood kills the werewolf (her own father!) but does not mind that the man she loves will also become one, as she takes grandma's place and waits for him. It has moments of campy fun but left a lot to be desired, some of it looks so murky one can hardly see what is going on – I was wishing I was back at Neil Jordan’s THE COMPANY OF WOLVES in 1984. 

I KILLED RASPUTIN. A rather tatty entry in the Rasputin stakes, this 1967 farrago is directed by actor Robert Hossein, who also appears. Hossein did some neat French thrillers I like a lot, but this one is not in those league. Peter McEnery is young Prince Yusupof , with Geraldine Chaplin as one of Rasputin’s devotees. Rasputin though is Gert Froebe – perfect as GOLDFINGER but all wrong here (Christopher Lee was a much more compelling Mad Monk for Hammer Films). Hossein’s father Andre did the music score. The real aged Prince Yusopov appears in person at the start, a few months before he died, which is the only fascinating thing here. We like Peter McEnery too, the first HAMLET I saw on stage about that time, in 1968, but wasted here. 

SERIAL MOM, 1994. Director John Waters puts a twist on the everyday mediocrity of suburban life in the hilarious satire SERIAL MOM. See Kathleen Turner like never before as Beverly Sutphin, the seemingly perfect homemaker who will stop at nothing to rid the neighbourhood of anyone failing to live up to her moral code. This is great fun but not quite in the same league as Waters’ HAIRSPRAY or indeed his earlier, wilder classics like FEMALE TROUBLE or PINK FLAMINGOS. Turner lets rip as people who do not recycle properly or who do not re-wind their rented video-cassettes get into a lot of trouble, as the body count piles up, even a leg of lamb can be a murder weapon! With Sam Waterston, and Waters regulars Ricki Lake, Mink Stole, Tracy Lords, Patricia Hearst and Suzanne Somers. Kitsch is the word! 

BEVERLY HILLS MADAM. I recorded this 1986 telemovie from a cable channel and foolished wiped it, I wish I had kept it now Its a kitschfest with all the requisite '80s glossy trappings and with those big hair and big shoulders, and Faye Dunaway cheerfully chomping the scenery as the Madam - hadn't she learned anything from MOMMIE DEAREST? - we are a long way from CHINATOWN here! A bordello catering to rich and wealthy clients, run by Lil Hutton (Faye) experiences a series of crises as one girl ends up pregnant, and another dead. As a subplot, a young woman, Julie Taylor, makes a trip to LA to surprise a friend, but never finds her. Julie is mugged, and seeks help from Lil. She sees how much the callgirls are making, and is tempted into the lifestyle. On her first "job" is hired by a rich father for his 18-year old virgin son as a birthday gift, and they fall in love. But the relationship comes to a quick end as soon as the son learns she is a "whore"; Julie breaks down and runs off after realizing prostitution is a cold and loveless occupation that cannot fulfill her emotional emptiness.This treat also features Louis Jourdan, Melody Anderson (those 80s names!), Donna Dixon, Terry Farrell and Robin Givens who sashay through this farrago, directed by Harvey Hart. 

LADY CHATTERLEY’S LOVER, 1981. Sylvia Kristel is the lonely young wife of a wealthy aristocrat in this tale of love, lust and forbidden fantasies as adapted from D.H. Lawrence’s famously erotic novel, featuring the tortuous conflict between duty and desire. Paralysed from the waist down due to a war injury, Sir Clifford Chatterley urges his wife Constance to take a lover to satisfy her physical needs, but when she begins an intense affair with a man of shockingly lower class – the virile and rugged gamekeeper Mellors – the unexpected stirring of passions will spell the end of their marriage ….. 
Shane Briant makes Chatterley a nasty bore, whereas Nicholas Clay is a perfect Mellors, totally at ease washing himself au natural. I suppose Kristel is adequate as Lady C, as directed by Just Jaeckin, and Ann Mitchell scores again as that devious nurse with it seems her own plans for the estate and Lord Chatterley. It’s a Golan/Globus production with better than usual production values. I wonder how it compares to the ’93 Ken Russell version? Can I be bothered to find out?

TOO HOT TO HANDLE, 1960. Sex bomb Midnight Franklin is the star at the Pink Flamingo nightclub in London’s wild Soho district. Midnight’s lover, club-owner Johnny Solo, carefully handpicks the exotic dancers from the scores of actresses, art students and young housewives that seek to join the well-paid Flamingo strippers. Johnny and the girls are not adverse to after-hours “deals” with the club’s wealthy clientele. The cash is rolling in and life is good. So good in fact that a rival club owner wants a piece of the pie and is prepared to use violence to get it. But Johnny is not one to back down from a fight, setting off a downward spiral of events that will explode in betrayal and murder! 
Delirious blurb – delirious movie. I had thought this was a cheapo effort not worth bothering with, but it proves a delicious cocktail of 1960 tropes among the Soho stripper set, tawdry but fun, like 1958's PASSPORT TO SHAME (revew at Diana Dors label) or EXPRESSO BONGO. It is directed by Terence Young (a few years before he moved on to James Bond and DR NO) and the cast all shine. Leo Genn is just right as Solo, while Jayne Mansfield is sweet and likeable as Midnight – this may have been the start of her slide from 20th Century Fox to cheapo movies, but she shines as the den mother to the strippers, and she has a nice scene with young Barbara Windsor (right, with her own assets to the fore, well they would have to be to compete with Jayne…) as 15 year old Ponytail. (Barbara is now one of our National Treasures here in the UK, so its amusing seeing her this early in her career in this context). Carl Boehm (PEEPING TOM that same year) is also to hand with nothing much to do, and Christopher Lee is actually rather sexy with that moustache as the devious club manager. Its all a lot of fun actually. 

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