I managed to watch a couple more Halloween themed films this weekend. This included another Fulci film, A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, whichI rank as his best along side The Beyond. Unlike most of his other work, this one is tightly plotted and suspenseful. It features a bunch of deranged hippies, surreal dream sequences, a fantastic Morricone score and a compelling performance by David Horowitz of TV’s Fight Back:
I got the entire family to watch the “Drop of Water” segment from Black Sabbath. This is Mario Bava at his best with loads of colored lights, sets that look like renaissance paintings and a super creepy corpse. I like the rest of the film too, but the slow pacing probably wouldn’t have kept the attention of the crowd that evening.
The Italian thriller Death Walks on High Heels is not terribly noteworthy even within the tiny cinematic sub-genre of giallo. There is, however, one scene in the movie that does jump out like a breaching marlin. It is the only film that I know of that sexualizes the eating of a grilled fish dinner.
Nothing foreshadows an evening of passionate romance like a cart of dead fish.
The flames of love have erupted beneath a pile of gnarly meat and scales.
That’s right, no silverware required. The best way to appreciate good food is by touch.
Next step, start ramming globs of flaky white meat into your mouth.
Be sure to chew carefully. You wouldn’t want to cut the evening short with a bone caught in your trachea. Well, a fish bone that is.
Here’s the Lucio Fulci close-up gore moment.
By the end, her fingertips are just covered in half-chewed fish matter.
And that calls for a little clean up.
Now, bear in mind this scene goes on for like two minutes. The images of Nicole chomping are interspersed with clips of her lover, Dr. Matthews smoking, taking sips of what I suspect is J&B Scotch and then staring at her with creepy middle-aged man-eyes. I’m sorry, but there is nothing sexy about this and, for the record, I still hate seafood.
My Halloween movie fest continued last night with a re-watching of Mother of Tears, the third film in the Three Mothers trilogy. When I first watched the film I pondered if it would get better on rewatching. Nope. It was actually more painful on the second viewing. What a rambling mess of a film with awful acting and dialogue all around. No screengrabs for this film. It doesn’t deserve that level of respect.
My Halloween movie fun-run continues with Mario Bava’s Kill Baby, Kill. Not really his finest work, but it is memorable for the scenes of the ghostly child at the windows.
This is a very creepy still, but, in the context of the movie, it doesn’t come off as eerie as it could. I’m probably the 9000th person to post this screenshot on the Web, but any Kill Baby, Killpost must include it.
The film is filled with more great compositions such as this one in which a young girl is compelled to impale herself with a sconce.
Italians sure do love their spiral staircases. As a note to budding architects who work in cities with high counts of maniacs and vindictive ghosts: a simple straight flight of stairs is probably a bit better in emergency situations. Oh, and avoid the metaphysical endless room loops.
While on vacation in Tinsel-Town, I had the pleasure of viewing the 1974 Sci-Fi epic, Zardoz. This film, John Boorman’s follow up to his masterpiece, Deliverance, ranks amongst the most confused and misguided pieces of cinema I have ever witnessed. Suffice to say I loved every minute of it.
Like Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space, Zardoz is a complete train wreck that fails at so many levels it has to be seen to be believed. If you don’t want me to spoil the fun for you, stop reading and go rent it now (it’s coming out on DVD later this month), otherwise what follows is my synopsis of this debacle.
Zardoz is undoubtedly a product of the early seventies, when hippies were still stinking up the land and all the hipsters were out to “expand their minds.” The film, I suppose, owes much to Stanley Kubrick’s, 2001: A Space Odyssey. This chart maps the comparison:
2001: A Space Odyssey
Set in the near future (2001)
Set in the distant future (2293)
Trippy planetariumesque light show
Slide projections on Sean Connery’s tangled nest of a chest
Deals with man’s evolution to the next level, floating space fetuses
A cast of immortals, the supposed pinnacle of human evolution, who go topless at the drop of a hat
A perplexing ending in which the main character rapdidly ages through the stages life.
A perplexing ending in which the main character rapidly ages through the stages of life.
All this worked in Kubrick’s movie, what was Zardoz missing that could have taken it to the next level? My guess is that it’s Zardoz’s general lack of monkeys. This was Kubrick’s genius. The man knew how to push the monkey to boring plot ratio. Boorman came close to achieving this sublime balance by casting Sean Connery in the role of Zed’s hairy chest, but falls just short of the mark.
Most of the film does consist of Sean Connery running around in a reddish Speedo™ and knee-high boots, with nothing but a bandoleer covering his chest. My reaction during the first third of the movie wavered between being in awe of this ridiculous outfit and wondering why Connery even accepted this stupid role.
For all its failings, there are some seemingly grandiose ideas lurking behind the cheese. The movie actually opens with the floating head of Arthur Frayn proclaiming that the story we are about to witness is of great importance, “rich in irony and most satirical.” You would think that somehow a guy with a painted on moustache and an English accent couldn’t possibly mislead you. However, by the end you realize his monologue bears the same message delivered in Criswell’s intro to Plan 9: “Future events such as these will effect you… in the future!”
The whole thing seemed to be about something. What is truth behind our existence? Who controls the floating god-head of Zardoz? Are guns really better than a penis? Wouldn’t it be great if we all died? The only real message I got from the film was that drugs are bad, they make you do embarrassing things, they make horrible film ideas come to fruition.
Much of the film’s plot centers on the giant floating stone head of Zardoz. The question that perplexes the residents of the Vortex and the one that the film makers want the audience to be perplexed about is, “How did Zed get inside the stone head?” This doesn’t provide much of a driving plot line. Many times throughout the movie, the question most of us as viewers want answered are more along the lines of, “What just happened?” The movie is filled with little goofy touches: one of the character’s voice cutting in and out for his friends’ amusement, green bread, mud wrestling, zombie-like characters who drink sweat for power, group-meditation, and gratuitous toplessness.
Fortunately, later this month Zardoz will be released on DVD. The DVD will include John Boorman’s commentary. I am hopeful that his commentary will amount to more than an apology to his fans, and that they truly let some light on the meaning behind this cinematic debacle.
After waiting for weeks, the planets aligned (I got access to my parents huge screen TV), I was able to watch For Your Height Only. This movie is the “A-side” of a DVD double feature including the previously reviewed Challenge of the Tiger that was released by Mondo Macabro ealier this year.
For Your Height Only (or as it appears in the title screen, For Y’ur Height Only) is another Dick Randall (Pieces) exploitation production. This film was made in the Philippines on a near-zero budget and features Philippino little-person Weng Weng as its secret agent protagonist.
The movie is essentially a Bond parody in which Weng Weng’s height is the basis for all the intended humor. The movie is, however, filled with loads of unintential laughs as well. The main source being the awful, over-the-top voice dubbing–all the baddies have James Cagney gangster voices. There are even self-aware moments in which the dialog serves as Mystery Science Theater-like comments on the action taking place. For example, during the ultra boring gadget sequence, Double-O’s boss says, “You got a bug in your hair?” only because Weng Weng happens to scratch his head during the scene.
The plot is horrible and loses track of itself about ten minutes into the film. It’s not until the climax that we remember that Double-O is trying to save a scientist or something. Most of the plot is simply an excuse to get Weng Weng to kill hordes of baddies (often the same guys multiple times). The kung-fu is a bit lacking but some of Weng Weng’s acrobatics are pretty amazing. Especially, since, I swear, Weng Weng has to be wearing leg braces under his stylish disco suits. On top of all the fighting there is also a bit of disco dancing and the obligatory, cringe-worthy Bond “love scene.”
At first I was also pretty amazed at the quality of the score, an almost note-for-note variation on For Your Eyes Only and other Bond motiffs. It’s at about the 14th time that they play the same song that I realize that the music is a bit repetitive.
This movie just oozes cheesy bad taste. It has all the markings of your typical so-bad-it’s-good movie. Take heed though, this also means there are plenty of boring moments between the insanity, but, all-in-all, a great movie to watch with your drunk friends. Taken in tandem with Challenge of the Tiger it’s a very worthwhile DVD purchase… yes, I bought this piece of crap cinema history.
I watched a great piece of eighties cheese this week, Bruce Le’s (that’s not a typo) Challenge of the Tiger. This movie is part of a Mondo Macabro double feature DVD along with vertically challenged spy thriller, For Your Height Only.
Both films were produced by Dick Randall, the writer and producer of the legendarily so-bad-it’s-good giallo, Pieces. Challenge features lots of bad dubbing, plenty of gratuitous nudity (worth watching just for the completely unnecessary topless tennis scene), some fast-kicking kung-fu, and some slow-punching speedo-fu (pictured). The plot is so dumb it forgets it’s even there. Most of the plot is simply a means of getting Bruce to his next batch of thrift store clothed baddies or Richard Harrison to his next greasy bedroom conquest. Highly recommended.