Coming of Age film or softcore pornography? To me, there is a definitive line, if not several levels separating the two genres. Coming Of Age films tackle topics of entering early adulthood. Topics like first kiss, first love, breaking out of ones shell, and all that other being a teenager happy horseshit are the standard subject matter. You might see the occasional booby shot or bathroom shower scene, but the nudity and sexual innuendo are typically pretty tame. Coming of Age movies are more driven by character development.
Softcore films, on the other hand, are less about the characters and more about the display of sexuality. Sure, many of these European films were character and/or story driven, but they had to be because hardcore sex on film wasn't yet socially acceptable throughout Europe(except possibly Sweden). I've also found that many of the 70's softies were directed and filmed with artistic vision. Focusing less on the sheer rawness of sexuality and more on the beauty of the female creature.
Strangely, to some, the two genres can be one in the same. Mixing both the drama of being a teenager and overdone sexuality, Bilitis(1977) is proof of this. Bilitis is the story of a young schoolgirl who has never known the kiss of a boy, but frequently fools around with her female classmate. In fact, it seems as if the whole private school she attends does. Not only do they all go on group skinny-dipping adventures, but they have teacher monitoring their activity. Kinda creepy and weird. Anyhoo, it's the end of the school year and Bili is spending her summer with a an unknown guardian who happens to be a family friend I'm guessing. Bili's guardian happens to be married to a scumbag, who happens to forcibly take his wife whenever he's not cheating on her. Bili, being the sensitive type, develops a deep hatred for the man, at the same time lusting after her much older "guardian". Things start to get a bit strange when scumbag takes a trip with his mistress, Leaving Bilitis a chance to act on her growing impulses.
I would like to pass the creepiness that is Bilitis off as just a "French" thing and me being 'Merican I couldn't possibly understand, but it's not that at all. David Hamilton, the director, although sought out as a visionary photographer, is well known for being quite a bit of a creep. If you check out the links at the top, you'll see what I mean. He may be an artist, but all his films have to do with teenagers and sex, and not like Porky's or American Pie. He really has a thing for schoolgirls between the ages of 14 and 16, who happen to have the hormonal drives of a sexual predator. I don't care how innovative the guy was by smearing vaseline on a camera lens, He obviously had some issues with attraction that aren't necessarily natural by modern standards, especially mine.
I'll admit that the photography was spot on and artistically pleasing as it was intended, although I wouldn't ever describe it as "visionary" or "cutting edge". The two lead actresses were also very nice on the eyes, and thankfully of age as actresses, so I was not offended by watching the two of them nakedly embrace and kiss each other. I am a straight man, after all. Other than a couple of beautiful filmed vanilla sex scenes and the creepiness of the direction, Bilitis had very little else to offer besides boredom, and lots of it. I won't be watching this again, or probably any other Hamilton production for that matter. Just plain creepy!!!!
It's been a long time since I've covered Mexican cinema. Specifically the broke-ass, Universal monster rip-offs that were prevalent during the 50's and 60's. Sure, I would rather watch a luchador movie, anytime and anywhere, but sitting down with microbudget monster movies is always worth the 90 minutes or less out of my day.
Today, I took some afternoon time to watch The Rider of the Skulls(1965), a film that not only has c-grade rip-off monsters, but also incorporates Mexican cinemas favorite element, A masked hero. Unlike Zorro, El Charro de las Calaveras wears a mask that is more akin to a burka and chooses to use his "fight" for justice to fight supernatural creatures instead of banditos. I know now the real scourge of the Mexican countryside are plaid-wearing werewolves. The movie brings us through three distinct stories that easily could have been the pilot episodes for a television show, albeit a really bad one. The werewolf I previously mentioned, Charro also ends up going head to head with a vampire and a headless horsemen. Throw in a crazy witch and a prophesizing zombie for good measure, and there you have it, a classic Mesoamerican western.
Does it sound ridiculous enough for you yet? If not, let me telll you about Charro's rather unorthodox approach to fighting beasties. In most movies, we see monster hunters use the conventional weapons such as silver bullets and wooden stakes. Not Charro, nosiree!! Charro carries a gun, and a machete as well, sometimes using them. But his preferred means of eliminating the forces of evil is punching the shit outta them,with the occasional judo throw tossed in. Who fucking knew that would work? Let's add in that he keeps the company of an alcoholic retard and two young, orphan boys and the weirdness just hits astronomical proportions.
Despite the really, really bad special effects and completely ridiculous storyline, I found myself loving this film. Partly for the very reasons I just mentioned. Okay..it's for most of it. Charro is nonstop laughs and something that should never be contained. Show it at parties, bars, wedding funerals, it is good for all occassions and everyone should see it.
For those of us fans of the Giallo, there are certain elements that we expect in the pre-slasher italian classics, no matter whether the movie is good or bad. In fact, those of us that are fans of the Giallo genre usually don't care whether it's good or not, we will typically watch it regardless. While there are many gialli that are considered by cinematic and horror classics, for every good one you can count are there being at least three bad. But even if the film is considered a masterpiece by fans of the genre, there are still going to be many out there who consider it pure garbage. So goes the plight of the genre-film nerd, as is the rule for all of nerdom.
Eyeball(1975) is not a giallo I would consider a genre masterpiece. In fact, if you read through the comments section of IMDB, you'll find that many people don't consider it as such. As a giallo fan, I don't really give two fucks what people had to say about it, I enjoyed watching it. It had everything I expect out of the giallo genre, and then some.
Premise....A busload of "American" tourists land in Madrid for a group tour. Little do they know is that there is a killer among them. Almost upon arrival, buddies start stacking up wherever the bus lands, turning everybody into a supsect. Not only are the murders quick and brutal, but the victims are all found with there left eye removed in the most hideous fashion.
As with most gialli, most of the main characters are considered suspects at one point or another. Obviously. It is of course, a step above your typical murder mystery, but it is still a "whodunit". Unlike the stereotypical black leather gloves and trenchcoat, our killer wears red gloves with a red plastic raincoat, and not a slicker either. I'm talking about the throwaway types that are given to bus ride tourists in NYC when the weather is shitty. Such a cheap and gawdy disguise really adds to the comedic element of the movie, even if it wasn't the directors intention. But this is a Lenzi film, and those of us familiar with his works also know this type of unplanned comedy appears often. I also found the attempt to make the actual murders seem believable also added to the unintentional comedy. I've seen off-off Broadway scenes that have more believable murder scenes. The gore was there, but the speed at which the dagger was coming toward the victim could have been escaped by a person in a wheelchair.
As with many giallo's, some of the old standards were present. We got a fairly healthy dose of lesbianism, jazzy music, and even a discotheque scene. I don't know what it was that made Italian directors in the 70's obsessed with girl-on-girl action, but it's a pretty prevalent theme... and it sell movies to a mostly male audience. I just answered my own question.
Despite Eyeball not being one of the best of the genre, I really enjoyed the film. Lenzi might not be the best writer, but he definitely has mad skills with the camera, as well as knowing how to film in some excellent locations. Not only did Eyeball provide me with 90 minutes of non-stop thrills and laughs, but it also made me add Madrid to my destination map of places I'm going to eventually see in Europe if I'm ever able to save up money to do so.
For those of you who were eagerly awaiting my NYC happenings last week, I'm sorry to disappoint. I spent the weekend in New England with friends and family. Yes, there are actaully things in life that come before Grindhouse cinema. Thankfully, Spectacle has so much shit going on this weekend, and can't be contained in one blog entry.
I should really try to write this sooner, because tonight kicks down the door to the weekend with Dr. Caligari(1989), an 80's adaption to the classic silent horror from almost a century ago.
Spectacle says -"Meet the surrealistic psychiatrist with the camp couch. She's totally twisted and continuing the mind bending experiments of her grandfather, the original Dr. Caligari. She treats her patients like human lab rats as she swaps their psychoses with cross cranial conulations. Witness the sexual fantasies of a lovely, lust-crazed Dr. Caligari -- an eroto-maniac! You'll be shocked by her high voltage therapy for a 'juiced-up' cannibal. Sigmund Freud is turning somersaults in his mausoleum over this doctor's demented diagnosis. Fall victim to the captivating Dr. Caligari! "I can't possibly make it sound as good as it is by describing it. I'm afraid I must demand that you see this for yourself with your analyst! Dr. Caligari is the biggest explosion of eclectic erotica in years, and it can sizzle your brain!"
IMDB says -"Two cannibals/health food diner owners are on a wacky quest to restore life to the five million year old goddess Shitaar. Aided by their uncle's brain and penis, the two set about getting the required parts - virgins, assorted body parts from whores, and the ingredients for a "blood buffet". Their adversaries are the police: the chief with a Russian accent, the "player" detective, and the new Yorker with an Australian accent."
On Saturday, August 13th, we get the cherry on top of the cheese-flavored cake, because Spectacle is showing THE crowning achievement in Turkish cinema, The Man Who Saves the World, known affectionately worldwide as Turkish Star Wars(1982). A film of my own heart, I reviewed this film years ago when I first started this blog (review here). This is the film that was made for people who read this blog. People erect monuments and devote websites to it's greatness. If you have not seen it this is the weekend to finally feel what it's like to be touched by God aka Turkish action hero, Cüneyt Arkin.
Spectacle says -"
Presenting the no-budget, schlocky, shamelessly poor and shockingly inept sci-fi curio Turkish Star Wars (aka Dünyayi Kurtaran Adam/ dir. Çetin Inanç/ 1982/ 91min) a hilarious and gloriously bad movie for the ages that borrows liberally from LucasFilm (pirated effects shots from “A New Hope” and, oddly, John Williams’ theme from “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” repeated over and over) and barely bothers to make the slightest bit of sense.
"The film follows the adventures of Murat and Ali, whose spaceships crash on a desert planet following a battle, depicted by using footage from SW as well as Soviet and American space program newsreel clips. While hiking across the desert, they speculate that the planet is inhabited only by women. Murat does his "wolf whistle", which he uses on attractive women. However, he blows the wrong whistle and they are attacked by skeletons on horseback, which they defeat in hand-to-hand combat. The villain soon shows up and captures the heroes, bringing them to his gladiatorial arena so they can fight. The villain tells them he is actually from Earth and is in a 1,000 year old wizard. He tried to defeat Earth, but was always repelled by a shield of concentrated human brain molecules, which looks a lot like the Death Star..."
Check link below: Film Threat on the peculiar Turkish tradition of appropriating Hollywood blockbusters and “remaking them on a budget roughly equivalent to the price of lunch at a neighborhood kebab shop.” (contains spoilers.) After the screening we’ll drink and discuss which was more uncalled for: this lunacy or Lucas' ill-advised prequels."
Spectacle 124 S. 3rd St., (at Bedford Ave.)Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Out of all the sub-genres of sexploitation, Nudie-Cuties are one that I'm pretty unfamiliar with. I am well aware that access to titles is not very hard, a great deal have been available through the Something Weird catalog for decades at this point. The couple that I have seen I just haven't found all that interesting. "Yay, topless women running around to go-go music! How exciting!"....Not really. Not that I'm some kind of pervert, because I'm not(too much). I find these films quite boring and hardly sexy, but being a grindhouse guy I feel it is my duty to screen and review as many of them as I can, no matter how uninterested I am.
Suburban Pagans(1968) was a bit different than most of the few Nudie-Cuties I've laid my eyes upon. Keep in mind that I was still bored. Not as bored as I have been, but still felt an hour and 15 minutes was a bit excruciating. Unlike other early titflicks, Suburban Pagans didn't take place at a nudist camp. In fact, like many mondo films, Suburban Pagans is presented to be something of a "faux-documentary". The film starts of with a radio show host interviewing a Detective on the Los Angeles Police force who has spent a considerable amount of time investigating the "swingers" movement, which was apparently against the law at the time this film was made. Between short sections of "interview", we get to see different aspects of what is supposed to be the happenings of a secret "key Party" between a group of "immoral" adults.
Besides the key party motif, many of the subjects of a typical pornographic/sexploitation movie are touched upon. Not only does the viewer get to see wife swapping, but there are also elements that make or break even modern fuck flicks. Threesomes, orgies, lesbianism, and strip poker are all prevalent themes throughout the film.The major difference is there is nothing really boner-inducing, or even sexy with this film. So much ,in fact, it was actually quite laughable. Nudity was all topless, with the exception of a few ass shots and a split second of bush in the shower scene. That must have driven the censors crazy. I've watched plent y of softcore in my time, and I know that there are definitively ways to make a film such as this sexy. Intimate, soft contact for one. Most of the scenes in this movie consisted a spasmatic kissing of every inch of the body, with the exception of the sexy parts. The few times there was actual making out. The actors looked like a bunch of eleventeen year old meth-heads. It was all so crazily erratic, that a person couldn't help but chuckle throughout the film. But it wasn't really a fun type of chuckling. The only way I can actually see it being fun is if I were stoned, which I wasn't.
I don't want to go into the overdubbing, but I really have to, Not only do we here all the sounds of the sex party softly though out the film while "sexy" jazz is playing in the background. But the genius director also thought it would be a good idea to loudly overdub dialogue. There was no need for dubbed dialogue and grunts. In fact, it only made the flick that much more ridiculous because it didn't even come close to syncing up with mouth movement, kind of like a kung-fu flick. This just adds to the laughability, and not in a good way.
As much as I was bored with Suburban Pagans, i can actually say that the copy I watched was pretty pristine and must commend Something Weird for a job well done. As bad as the acting and dubbing was, the editing and camera shots were actually pretty decent, but that doesn't mean you should go out and watch it. This film has very little value in the private home viewing department, either alone or with company. Pagans is best watched with a large group of drunk people, in a bar or party, with no volume. Watching it any other day would just cause a person to shut it off within minutes. Me being who I am, I'm still going to sit through so many more of these flicks. Hopefully somewhere along the way I'll find some that are redeeming.
It's been a long time since I've seen a film from Turkey, even longer since I've written a review. Granted, I know nothing about modern Turkish cinema. I, of course, speak of the trash classics that put Turkish cinema on the cult film map. Films like Turkish Star Wars and Three Supermen are the kinds of international films that made me look into the deepest darkest depths of film history to find the classic gold I fucking adore. Reading this, it should come as no to surprise to you that I am a pretty big fan of the Eurospy comic and film anti-hero popular in the 60's know in Italy as Kriminal. More the film part of him than the comic since I have no access to Italian comics or can even speak the language. The Big Screen version of Europe's most famous fictional jewel thief and womanizer was first adapted by the one and only Umberto Lenzi, an Italian director I deeply admire. Other European nations, such as Sadistik and Diabolik, so it should come to no surprise that Turkey had their own version, known as Kilink.
I have known about the existence of Kilink Istanbul'da(1967) since I first became obsessed with the Kriminal character, so it was only a matter of time before I took the to sit back and watch the Turkish version. It took me a couple of years, but I finally got around to watching the first film yesterday. Being a veteran of the classic character, I thought I knew what I was getting into. But, as with most of the films from Turkey I've screened, I was given quite the surprise kick in the ass.
First of all, the character of Kilink is so different from his European counterpart, it's almost night and day. Whereas Kriminal is a suave, master-of-disguise with a James Bond likability, Kilink is more more of a ruthless, sociopathic megalomaniac bent on the destruction of the human race for vengeful purposes. I was completely baffled. There was nothing "antihero" about the Turkish version of Italy's sophisticated and romantic jewel thief. Kilink is just straight up "anti". This threw me for a whirl. How can the title character of the film be such a straight-up antagonist? I would have been a tad dismayed if it wasn't for the true hero of the movie, or should I say "Superhero". You see, unlike it's European counterparts, Turkish films sometimes throw in a twist that wouldn't not only wouldn't belong in the original, but are a straight up mindfuck to the foreign audience. In this case, the addition of "Superman", who happens to be a Turkish amalgamation of both DC Comic's Superman and Shazam, right down to the Muslim Merlin who praises Allah for the power he bestows on Orhan, our hero. As outlandish as this twist is compared to Kriminal and Danger, Diabolik, it worked and made my disappointment at how malevolent Kilink was disappear.
Kilink in Istanbul was a very short 70 minutes, and for good reason. Like the Batman and Flash Gordon serials from the earlier part of the 20th century, it was meant to be viewed more as a series, and less of a single movie. Because of this, you haven't heard the last word on Kilink from me. There is no way reviewing the one movie can actually do it justice. It's either all or nothing. Next time I'll spend some time on the actual plot, which is about a complex as popping a pimple. Even though the quality of the film was horrid and the subtitles were written like English-As-A-Third Language, I enjoyed this first of three and will be covering the second sometime next week.