Thursday, June 24, 2010

Revenge of the Grindhouse!

I'm not totally immune to enjoying schlock and camp, although I'm not nearly as fond of it as some of the folks in attendance at the Brattle's Grindhouse series, especially guest programmer/host Lars Nilsen, who delivered long, enthusiastic introductions for everything that played that weekend. The man seems sincere about his love for this stuff, although there were times when he seemed too forgiving; Black Cobra got a long spiel on how maybe these movies don't do things like "telling a story" well, but make up for it with unusual cinematography or the like.

I'm not sure I agree with that; I think that's making excuses to a certain degree, like the talk on how we're getting added authenticity by screening them on scratched-up 35mm prints that are in full yellow-layer decay. And I suppose that creates an atmosphere of sorts, but I'm not sure about fetishizing sub-par work, whether in direction or the quality of the film. I presume these movies looked nice at one point, and they should be appreciated for what they are, not as targets of derision.

That's also part of why I didn't see nearly as much this year as I did in the last Grindhouse series the Brattle held; that one had things like Truck Turner, Rolling Thunder and Darker than Amber which were maybe not mainstream or polished, but which could be appreciated on their own merits. It seems like the entire line-up for "Revenge" was about tacky stuff where the idea is to point at them and laugh.

Black Cobra (Eva Nera)

* ¾ (out of four)
Seen 11 June 2010 at the Brattle Theatre (Revenge of the Grindhouse)

Leading lady Laura Gemser is very pretty and gets undressed quite a bit. There are snakes, and a weird rivalry between two brothers, with one played by a slumming Jack Palance. And... It's kind of boring. Host Lars Nilsen wasn't kidding when he said that sometimes a kind of "sex fatigue" sets in with these movies; as good looking as Gemser and the ladies who share her bed are, it's a contrived and hollow exhibition.

Loaded Guns (Colpo in canna)

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 14 June 2010 at the Brattle Theatre (Revenge of the Grindhouse)

Ursula Andress had a short peak as a movie star, if she ever was one: A memorable entrance in Dr. No and an adaptation of She that occasionally claws its way out of the vaults and onto home video. Of course, that's not her entire career - as much as Hollywood has always chewed young beauties up and spit them out, she kept working in Europe. Loaded Guns isn't a great addition to her filmography, but it's much better for having her in it.

She plays Nora Green, a flight attendant with a two-day layover in Naples. A passenger asks her to deliver a note, which turns out to be a threat to gangster Silvera (Woody Strode) from shadowy criminal mastermind "Americano". He doesn't kill the messenger, but roughs her up a bit. She's found and taken in by acrobat and former boxer Manuel (Marc Porel), and though she seemed to go down easy at first, Silvera doesn't know what he's gotten himself into.

It's a very silly movie, with chase scenes straight out of the Keystone Kops, a silent comedic sidekick who gives a much better impression of being a clown than the actual clowns who attempt to chase Nora down (Silvera's home base appears to be circus), and Manuel's bed conveniently turns into a trampoline when a fight breaks out in his remarkably spacious apartment. The music is something out of the circus, too. The really strange thing, though, is that for as ridiculous as its details are, the story is played rather straight; Silvera is no joke and nothing in the set-up winks at what goes on in the crime story.

Full review at EFC.

Teen Lust

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 15 June 2010 at the Brattle Theatre (Revenge of the Grindhouse)

Believe it or not, when you type "Teen Lust" in the IMDB's search box, it brings you directly to this movie. Apparently there's no fifties/sixties cautionary tale by that name, no foreign film with a title that translates to that, nothing with that as an alternate title. Maybe that would change if I said to include porn. The really funny thing, though, is that James Hong's 1979 exploitation piece focuses on the picture's "good girl".

That girl is Carol Hill (Kirsten Baker). Her mother (Dolly Carolla) is a lush; her father (Stand Kamber) is uncomfortably affectionate. Her boyfriend Terry (Perry Lang) doesn't complain too loudly when his ex DeDe (Lee Ann Barnes) tries to hook up. Carol and her best friend Neeley (Leslie Cederquist) are participating in an after-school program with the local police department, which promptly puts them to work as bait for the vice squad. She's also got a mentally retarded neighbor, Dustin (Michael Sloane), with a trust fund that her mother wants to fix her up with.

There is no credited writer on this movie, with director James Hong generally given the blame. However, this is absolutely a movie that I could see being produced with no detailed screenplay; it's a series of episodes that each have the germ of a funny idea but without much in the way of funny dialogue or a solid zing at the end of the scene. In fact, some of these bits seem to directly contradict each other, even though one wouldn't be taking place without what happened in the other!

Full review at EFC.

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