Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Boston Underground Film Festival 2011 Day 2: Machete Maidens Unleashed! and The Twilight People

Friday night turned out to be my wimp-out night: I think I nodded off a bit during The Twilight People, and then when it finished, I looked at the half-hour plus until Wound started and had a hard time mustering enthusiasm. After all, I didn't watch it at Fantasia, didn't have any idea whether the title was referring to an injury or emotional state, and, hey, I may have missed an important plot point in the last movie (inasmuch as The Twilight People had important plot points) by being asleep.

Nothing to do with it looking a bit past the amount of nastiness I was looking for. Nope, no sir.

Machete Maidens Unleashed!

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 25 March 2011 in Landmark Kendall Square #4 (Boston Underground Film Festival 2011)

I wonder where Mark Hartley's next stop will be. Hong Kong? Thailand? Indonesia? After spotlighting the exploitation cinema of Australia in Not Quite Hollywood and the Philippine Islands in Machete Maidens Unleashed!, there must be other spots on the Pacific rim that he can give a look-in. Machete Maidens Unleashed! is maybe a little less informative than Not Quite Hollywood, but it's certainly one of the more energetic movie-history docs you'll see.

As the opening narrative crawl tells us, the Philippines had a thriving film industry throughout much of the twentieth century. Starting in the 1960s, and especially the 1970s, it became a popular place for American exploitation filmmakers for its combination of skilled professionals, cheap labor, and varied environments. Roger Corman's New World Pictures, in particular, shot many of their most famous pictures there, sometimes with American directors like Jack Hill, other times with local talent like Eddie Romero.

Many viewers may come away wishing that the film focused more on Romero. His interview segments are fun to watch - he's one of the directors that looks back on his time working with Corman without shame and laughs nostalgically as he recalls making blood & guts pictures. When others talk about him and his work, though, it's with unusual respect; Corman and others describe how his shots would be beautifully framed and lit, and how he would put more effort into things like story and character development than Corman thought necessary (or even really desirable). His career extends many years in either direction away from his American exploitation pictures, and as the movie points out, he is a grandmaster of Filipino cinema.

Full review at EFC.

The Twilight People

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 25 March 2011 in Landmark Kendall Square #4 (Boston Underground Film Festival 2011)

The Twilight People is one of the movies featured in Machete Maidens Unleashed!, and it's a good example of how well Hartley cut his picture together - the clips of this film in the documentary make it look fast-paced, fun, and perhaps surprisingly good, especially with all the positive words said about director Eddy Romero. And... It's not good. To be fair, it's got potential. Romero shoots the jungle quite well, and there's both some actual tension to the last act and some well-shot action.

The animal people, in particular, are an entirely watchable combination of cheese and restraint; there is a nice blend of bestial and human to them. Nobody but Pam Grier (who has a more or less silent part) would really go on to bigger and better things, but they're mostly adequate. If the first half of the movie were a little better, it might fit solidly into guilty pleasure territory, but it's not quite there.

1 comment:

movieman said...

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