Saturday, August 31, 2013

Only now does it occur to me... THE SPY WHO LOVED ME

Only now does it occur to me...  that the James Bond series had the balls to basically insert a Hammer horror villain into not only one, but two of their films, (and three if we count Christopher Lee in THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN).

Now I'd seen chunks of this film on TV as a kid, and was already well-aware of the pop-culture phenomenon that is Richard Kiel's "Jaws" (a hulking brute with steel-capped teeth) but I don't think I'd ever seen THE SPY WHO LOVED ME in its entirety till this week.

For God's sake– the first time we meet him, he's biting someone in the throat in an Egyptian tomb while bathed in Hammer/Bava-style green light.


 
And then there's the whole "Jaws vs. Jaws" entanglement, which ends poetically with Jaws biting Jaws to death.



It is without a doubt the most artistic "man biting shark to death" scene ever committed to celluloid.  Apparently (Kiel's) Jaws was saved from a watery grave by test screenings that affirmed his inherent likability as a shark-man-and-steel-cable-biting madman.  In my mind, he's second in "metallically modified gimmicky villains of the 1970s" only to Chuck Connors' "Claw Zuckerman" in 99 AND 44/100% DEAD.

Anyway, they should have gone all the way and just replaced the "James Bond will return in..." credit at the end with "Jaws will return in MOONRAKER."  And he did.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Only now does it occur to me... PIRANHA 3DD

Only now does it occur to me...  that Gary Busey and Clu Gulager have ever fused together their particular demented aesthetics and artistic manias in the form of something as accessible as a "film scene."

Yes, the opening scene of PIRANHA 3DD (directed by Clu's son, John) affords us such an opportunity, as two hapless backwater folk (Busey and Gulager) wade into ominous marshland to examine a flatulent, piranha-infested cow-corpse.  Needless to say, they don't last for long, but Clu (still wonderful, at 84 years-young) gets to growl out some "God damns" and "What the hells"

and Busey gets to (improvise?) some peculiar dialogue:

so it certainly maintains a kind of integrity.

(And for those of you new to the Gulager "scene," I advise checking out my review of THE KILLERS, which spells it out more thoughtfully.)

Anyway, the incredible mixture of the two volatile substances that are Busey and Gulager had me wondering if this was the first time it had ever happened.  Some IMDb-ing revealed that in 1991, they both appeared in MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN COWBOYS, a rodeo drama which co-stars Scott Glenn, Kate Capshaw, Ben Johnson, and Clarence Williams III, among others.  While I've been unable to discern whether or not Busey and Gulager shared any scenes together, I have been able to discern that it is a film that must be seen!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Film Review: NOWHERE TO RUN (1993, Robert Harmon)

Stars:  3 of 5.
Running Time: 94 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew:  Jean-Claude Van Damme, Rosanna Arquette (AFTER HOURS, PULP FICTION), Kieran Culkin (HOME ALONE, IGBY GOES DOWN), Joss Ackland (THE APPLE, LETHAL WEAPON 2), Ted Levine (FLUBBER, THE MANGLER, Jame "Buffalo Bill" Gumb in THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS), and Allan Graf (stuntman and actor from DEADWOOD, UNIVERSAL SOLDIER, ROBOCOP, POLTERGEIST).  Music by Mark Isham (POINT BREAK, SHORT CUTS).  Cinematography by David Gribble (THE QUEST, CADILLAC MAN).  Written by Joe Eszterhas (SLIVER, SHOWGIRLS, BASIC INSTINCT, FLASHDANCE), Richard Marquand (director of RETURN OF THE JEDI), Leslie Bohem (HOUSE III: THE HORROR SHOW, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5: THE DREAM CHILD), and Randy Feldman (HELL NIGHT, TANGO & CASH).
Tag-line: "When the law can't protect the innocent, the only hero left is an outlaw."
Best one-liner:  "Where'd you learn to fight like that?"  –"Law school."

In a familiar, darkened alley:

"Hey, man, it's been awhile since we watched a Van Damme."
–"Yeah."
"Didn't you promise me that this'd be the 'Summer of Van Damme'?"
–"I don't know, maybe."
"Well...?"
–"Alright, let me sing ya the praises of a little ditty called NOWHERE TO RUN, from Robert Harmon, the director of THE HITCHER.  Not to be confused with THE HITCHHIKER, whose makers brought us the Van Damme film, UNIVERSAL SOLDIER."
"Confusing!  And hot damn!"
 "The writing pedigree is pretty damned substantial, too, if you've bothered the read about the notable cast and crew.  Good God– the makers of SHOWGIRLS, RETURN OF THE JEDI, NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5, and TANGO & CASH teamed up to create this incredible story– the cinematic canvas upon which Jean-Claude Van Damme will paint his wonderful pictures.  Like so:"


 –"Wait, what is this all about?"
 "Well, it's kind of about strip mining and small towns and land developers.  Joe Eszterhas (SHOWGIRLS) boldly shows us that his screenwriting wheelhouse has room for strippers AND strip mining."

 –"Wow!"
"Yeah, right?  With all this rustic Americana stuff and evil corporations versus unorganized labor and well-meaning drifters and impassioned speeches, it's sort of like the world's worst Steinbeck novel brought to cinematic life."
–"How does JCVD fit in?"

"He plays a really intense, embittered escaped convict.  You can tell he's intense and tortured, cause he's doing that thing with his eyebrows that conveys tremendous inner tumult.  After his spectacular escape, he stumbles through the wilderness onto the property owned by Rosanna Arquette, who's depicting a country gal who wears 80s yuppie vests

and who is trying to play single mom to a family made up of Kieran Culkin and some other child actor who never made it big, and she's having trouble at home because she's under constant attack by the thugs of the evil land developer Joss Ackland

whom you may remember as the evil apartheid-lover from LETHAL WEAPON 2 and the evil Wyld Stallyns-hater from BILL AND TED'S BOGUS JOURNEY.  He's got a right-hand, kickass henchman –like every other 80s and 90s action villain– played by Ted Levine, who's Buffalo Bill from THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS!

Through a series of extraordinary events, Van Damme befriends the entire family and saves everyone and everything worth saving."
–"Extraordinary events like what?"

"Well, for starters, when he's camping in the backyard, Kieran Culkin thinks that Van Damme is E.T."
–"WHUTTTTTT?"
"He later finds out that he's not, in fact, E.T. when he and his little sister stumble upon Jean-Clean Van Damme who seems to be put into a compromising situation every time he bathes throughout this film...

...which, by virtue of my phrasing, is obviously more than once.  It also begs the question of why he bathes so much– I can't remember how many showers that Stallone takes in COBRA, or Schwarzenegger in COMMANDO or Willis in DIE HARD, but I do remember Van Damme's ice baths in UNIVERSAL SOLDIER.  Anyway, I'll get to that in a minute."
–"Er... what?"
"So Van Damme slowly wins the kids over with a kind of cat-and-mouse-getting-to-know-you tango.  In the midst of it, there's a strange moment when a red ball ominously bounces down the stairs, which I feel has to be an homage to melancholy horror classic THE CHANGELING,

but for the life of me, I can't figure out why it's here.  There's also a great moment of man-kid bonding when Jean-Crude Van Damme disaffectedly flips through the pages of TOP HEAVY magazine

and in walks Kieran Culkin who, taken aback by Van Damme's unexpected reading material, inquires whether or not he actually likes boobs:

Van Damme responds with a definitive, "Sometimes."

Even with forty-seven other writers credited, you can tell a line like that is pure, uncut Eszterhas."
–"Hey, I like SLIVER."
"Okay.  Anyway, he wins over Rosanna Arquette, too, when he saves her from some land-developing thugs.  They begin a tender romance that is punctuated by scenes like one where Van Damme tenderly watches her bathe a horse.


It's kind of shot like those ubiquitous 'sexy chick washes a car' scenes, which makes the whole thing even stranger."
–"Lot of bathing in this movie?"
"Yup.  As I was saying, bathtub nudity and compromising positions continue to plague Van Damme as the film continues.  He decides to take another shower and is immediately barged in on by the local sheriff, who's incidentally sort of trying to romance Rosanna Arquette, too. 


To cover for him, she claims that JCVD's her cousin, from 'Quebec.'  I love how every Van Damme movie tries to shoehorn in a half-assed attempt to explain his accent, whether it's vague, Cajun heritage (UNIVERSAL SOLDIER, HARD TARGET), a career in the French foreign Legion (LIONHEART, LEGIONNAIRE), humble beginnings as a French street clown (THE QUEST), or an attempt to reclassify the accent as Russian (NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER; MAXIMUM RISK).  I could go on.  But my point is, you think they'd just throw their hands up and say 'Fuck it, he's Van Damme!  We don't owe the audience an explanation!'  That's what I'd do, anyway."
–"I see."
"Though maybe it's just an excuse to use 'Au revoir, fucker!' as a one-liner.  In which case, it's probably worth it."

–"Sounds like it."
"And, oh yeah, I forgot to tell you that Van Damme's usual cover story for why he's in town in that he's 'hunting.'  When a convenience store clerk asks what he's hunting for, he responds with, 'Pink Flamingos.'

Honestly, I'm not sure if that's him being facetious, a John Waters reference, or if it's code for directions to the nearest small-town gay bar.  I prefer to think it's the latter."
–"What about the action in this movie?  It is an action movie, isn't it?"
"It is, but the action's sort of disappointing.  It doesn't have the kind of jaw-dropping martial arts and spit-take inducing kickblasting you've come to expect from Mr. Van Damme."
–"Wait, wait, wait!  What about the splits?"
"No splits, sorry.  There is a scene when he has to get on his motorcycle really suddenly, though."
–"Well, that's pretty good."
"And it all ends (SPOILER ALERT) with a scene that I like to describe as 'JCVD delivers an extremely inspirational car door to the nuts.'
And that's no joke– that's an unaltered clip from the movie.  That is really the music that is playing during that scene."
–"Well, it looks like JCVD's delivered another winner."
"In a way.  I mean, it kinda feels like an extended WALKER, TEXAS RANGER episode, but with Van Damme instead of Chuck Norris. While it's not a masterpiece, I can think of million worse ways you could spend a Saturday night.  Three stars."

–Sean Gill

Friday, August 23, 2013

GIRLS BEFORE SWINE at the 2013 Coney Island Film Festival

Girls Before Swine, a short film I collaborated on with director Rachel Klein, has been chosen as an official selection at the 2013 Coney Island Film Festival!

The festival will take place at Coney Island between September 20th and 22nd– screening locations and times are TBA.


You can watch the trailer here:


Girls Before Swine– Trailer from Sean Gill on Vimeo.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Only now does it occur to me... TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES II: THE SECRET OF THE OOZE

Only now does it occur to me...  that legendary actor David Warner has rocked out to Vanilla Ice– and so hard!
 

 
 
 
 
I could begin to explain the chain of events whereupon decorated Shakespeare/serious actor (A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, THE FIXER, STRAW DOGS, THE BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE, CROSS OF IRON) and genre superstar (THE OMEN, TRON, TIME BANDITS, MY BEST FRIEND IS A VAMPIRE, TWIN PEAKS, TIME AFTER TIME, BODY BAGS) David Warner ends up wearing a bow-tie and a lab coat to a Vanilla Ice concert and pumping his fist in all of its rock n' roll glory as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fight-dance some low-level villains–  but ya know what, I'm not going to! 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Forthcoming: THE DEAD DREAM MACHINE!

Attention, ladies and germs–  coming this fall to Brooklyn is a horrific theatrical horror anthology called THE DEAD DREAM MACHINE.  I'm designing the sound and doing some freaky video art transitions for it, and I also made the official trailer, which I have linked to below.

Dead Dream Machine: Teaser from Sean Gill on Vimeo.

Here's the skinny from the press release:
RAGING SQUID INK and ERIC SCHMALENBERGER are pleased to announce the world premiere production of Jake Thomas’ THE DEAD DREAM MACHINE, directed and choreographed by Rachel Klein with video art directed by Sean Gill. THE DEAD DREAM MACHINE will play a limited engagement at La Luz (135 Thames Street, Brooklyn, NY). Performances begin with previews Wednesday, September 18 and Thursday, September 19th and continue through Sunday, October 13.

In an abandoned theater on the outskirts of town, an experiment is being conducted--one which extracts dreams. But if this insane enterprise works, what dreams may come? Mad scientists, monstrous killers, tyrannical royalty, government witches and hipster occultists (and not one damn vampire or zombie) explode forth in this crazed horror anthology that incorporates song, dance, puppetry, aerial, magic and more to build an out of body theatrical experience.

The production stars Darlinda Just Darlinda (NYC Burlesque icon, Taylor Mac’s Lily’s Revenge) , Michael Cavadias (Wonderboys, The Citizens Band, Claywoman), Jillaine Gill (Makin' a Martini, Cut to Black), Chris Cipriano (Russell Curtis, Escape from Staten Island),  Elena Delgado (House of Yes aerialist), Arden Leigh (“The Rules of Attraction: How to Get Him, Keep Him, and Make Him Beg for More”), Eric Schmalenberger (BANZAI!!!!!, Blunderland), David F. Slone, Esq. (The Love Show), and Ashley Springer (Teeth, Dare), and many more!

THE DEAD DREAM MACHINE plays the following regular schedule through Sunday, October 13:
Thursdays at 8 p.m.
Fridays at 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 8 p.m.
The show opens Friday, September 20. There are additional preview performances Wednesday, September 18 and Thursday, September 19, and a special closing night performance Sunday, October 13 at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $15-$25 and are now available online at DEADDREAMMACHINE.EVENTBRITE.COM. Tickets may also be purchased in-person at the theater ½ hour prior to performance.
The Facebook page can be found HERE.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Only now does it occur to me... POLLOCK

Only now does it occur to me...  that Ed Harris ought to have his own, instructional drum video based around this gem of a scene from POLLOCK:


And now that we're on the topic of Ed Harris and rhythmic convulsions, I guess I can't resist making you watch this all over again (from CREEPSHOW):

Hopefully, I have now cured everyone's case of the Mondays!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Film Review: TIGHTROPE (1984, Richard Tuggle)

Stars: 3.75 of 5.
Running Time: 114 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew:  Clint Eastwood, Genevieve Bujold (DEAD RINGERS, OBSESSION), Dan Hedaya (COMMANDO, CHEERS, BLOOD SIMPLE), Allison Eastwood (BRONCO BILLY, MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL), Marco St. John (FRIDAY THE 13TH PART V: A NEW BEGINNING, MONSTER).  Written and directed by Richard Tuggle (writer of ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ, the Schwarzenegger-directed episode of TALES FROM THE CRYPT).
Tag-line: "A cop on the edge..."
Best one-liner:  "You want some honey?"  –"I don't eat sweets..."

Alrighty, folks– so we've taken THE BIG EASY and we've had a visit from THE PAPERBOY– so let's close out Crawdad-Lickin' Southern Fried Sleaze-O-Rama and walk the TIGHTROPE– whaddya say?

How about some production background?  TIGHTROPE is one of those rare Eastwood films from the last twenty-three years in which he acts, but doesn't direct.  It's in the illustrious company of CITY HEAT (1984, Richard Benjamin), THE DEAD POOL (1988, Buddy Van Horn),  PINK CADILLAC (1989, Buddy Van Horn), IN THE LINE OF FIRE (1993, Wolfgang Peterson), and TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE (2012, Robert Lorenz).  Tuggle apparently snagged this rare gig (his directorial debut) after impressing Clint with his screenplay for ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ, but rumors from the set persisted that Tuggle wasn't working at Clint's regular breakneck pace, so Clint himself supposedly directed large chunks of the film.

As to the movie itself, it's a post-CRUISING "kinky-detective" flick, starring Clint as Detective Wes Block, a crusty cop who's investigating Jack the Ripper-style murders across New Orleans' red-light district.  He's sort of kinky himself, though, and there's plenty of soul-searching and Hitchcockian parallels between the hunter and the hunted.

 Clint gets into some gentle tie strangle-bondage-play.

 It's a serious film, and it does succeed as a solid crime drama and character study.  Supposedly, Clint was getting a lot of Oscar buzz for his role (though ultimately, no nominations), even though he's basically playing a slightly more morally conflicted version of Dirty Harry.

Clint contemplates his daughter's Grover toy.  Note how he's got the same ole' elbow patches as DIRTY HARRY.

 Also, the film gets a lot of bonus points from me for having its main title in the font from BLADE RUNNER:

 and it's cast listed in the font from THE TERMINATOR:

 Uh, what?  (There's no science-fiction element to this film, whatsoever.)

Also, extra bonus points for hand-animated lightning strikes!

 It's like something out of the BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN!

Anyway, let's get into the nitty-gritty:  how does this all figure into Southern-Fried Sleaze-O-Rama?  Well, to be honest, even though it's set in New Orleans, it's not all that Southern.  Clint makes absolutely no attempt at an accent, and neither does most of the cast.  It does feature a lot of iconic NOLA architecture, and there's an obligatory scene in a Mardi Gras "giant head" warehouse (just like in everything else, from HARD TARGET to THE BIG EASY), so I'm still covered.  As to the Sleaze-O-Rama, I'm not even sure to begin.  So here's a bunch of stuff out of context!


Hey, look– drinks are only a buck seventy-five!

 
Clint tries his best to ignore the gyrating man in a thong.



Clint gets tender with man's best friend.



A prostitute with amazing eyeglasses uses a vibrator (no joke) on a disaffected Clint.  This truly is 50 SHADES OF EASTWOOD!


Is that the implied silhouette of Mason-Licksin'?  If it is, I'm three for three!



"What am I looking at, here?," you're probably wondering.  Well, somewhere in that pile of lubricated flesh there might be a Clint Eastwood buttcheek or two.  It's hard to tell, but the camera definitely pans up to reveal Clint and a prostitute, so he's there, somewhere. 


How many trashy things are happening in this picture?  I lost track at four, I think.


I can't even begin tell you what unspeakable acts are performed with this gigondous Mardi Gras Ronald Reagan head.


The less said about this, the better.



Gals in bikinis oil-wrestle as a little person referees the event for purposes of proper sportsmanship.  Clint watches, spellbound.


OH, COME ON!  Clowns weren't scary enough already?  You're giving me nightmares, TIGHTROPE.


OH MY GOD IT'S GOT A MEAT CLEAVER


 This is the kind of workplace context that Clarence Thomas could have only dreamed of.  And the guy on the right should totally be Ron Silver.

 
Hell, this movie is so sleazy, that Dan Hedaya plays a good guy!

 Anyway, all of this gives Clint ample opportunity to raise a judgmental eyebrow and scowl in disdain, which is pretty much why we watched the movie in the first place.
And that's just a sampling– this film is oozing with that kind of stuff.  The music is that seedy, burlesque hall blues with wailing saxophones and fluttering flutes as the wallpaper sweats glue and the men breathe heavy.  The atmosphere succeeds in painting a picture of New Orleans as a series of smoky, deserted streets where long legs in high heels are stalked by cajun-spicin' Jack-the-Rippers!  (Or is that Jacks-the-Ripper?)
 

The co-star and love interest in Genevieve Bujold, a tremendous actress with a healthy sleaze pedigree herself (De Palma's OBSESSION, Cronenberg's DEAD RINGERS).  She plays a rape counselor who Clint meets and begins to romance in the midst of his investigation  Here, she's pictured teaching a class on how to kick rapists in the nuts:

It's difficult to tell if this is being played for laughs, or if it's meant as a genuine public service announcement.  The scene only becomes more spectacular when she introduces a ball-swat-training ROBOT into the regimen.  (Inappropriate, comic appearances of robots were truly a hallmark of the 1980s.  I'm looking at you, ROCKY IV.)
 
Bujold lands a spirited blast to its (tennis) balls:
 
Prompting it's eyes to light up and it's cardboard tongue to emerge:

 Which causes Clint, standing in the back of the classroom, to wince in empathy:

Then, one of the balls rolls over to him, and he catches it:
 
 Prompting a goofy, schoolboy smile:
 
Well played, Clint.  (And I must say, it's hard work being the web's leading authority on brutal ball-squeezing.  What began as a bit of snark has resulted in hundreds of google-search-hits a month, and presumably a lot of disappointed fetishists!)

There's also a wonderful double-spit-take scene that demands to be addressed.  First, Clint takes a hearty sip of his soda (the necessary set-up for any great spit-take):

Then, his youngest daughter drops a bomb:
 
Which prompts a fountain of soda and astonishment:
  
Clint's eldest daughter (played by real-life daughter, Allison Eastwood) gets in on the fun, as well:
 And finally, Clint marvels that he succeeded in pulling off a bona-fide father/daughter double-spit-take:
 
 Personally, I'm impressed, too.

So the film continues as an elaborate cat-and-mouse between Clint and the killer that gets increasingly personal– first, the murderer begins targeting prostitutes whom Clint had previously frequented, and finally he starts going after Clint's family.  This leads Clint deeper and deeper into the seedy underbelly of the Crescent City.
Clint is propositioned by a gay prostitute who offers some "honey"– Clint squints, and growls that he doesn't eat sweets:

Later, a random leather daddy offers:


"Looking for something... Alice?"


So then, Clint meets with a person of interest in the nerd section:

seriously, though– the guy on the right has a DOCTOR WHO t-shirt, and in the background appears to be Q*BERT'S QUEST, a rare and spectacular pinball adaptation of the video game!

Anywho, Clint meets with the hustler and tries to glean some information, but the guy doesn't know much, and keeps flirtin' away, wondering how Clint knows he's not gay if he hasn't tried it:
 
Clint retorts with the incredibly unexpected: "Maybe I have."

That's sort of subversive for a Clint film, and it may be, I daresay, the 51st shade of Eastwood?

Finally, Clint gets to show off some of his acting chops in a dramatic scene of self-reflection which I have entitled, "Clint Gets Mad at a Bed and His Dog Disapproves":

In closing, TIGHTROPE is not quite a hidden "gem" in the Eastwood catalog, but it's an unusually perverse mainstream police procedural with some solid melodrama and a few taut suspense sequences.   If we follow the whole "Eastwood vs. Bronson" rivalry to its logical conclusion, perhaps this is the reason Bronson made a sleazy-underbelly cop-on-the-edge movie of his own a few years later, with KINJITE: FORBIDDEN SUBJECTS?  Who knows.

This draws the "Crawdad-Lickin' Southern-Fried Sleaze-O-Rama" series to a close (though I certainly wouldn't rule out future installments).  I hope you've enjoyed the trip– so it's time to cork up the Southern Comfort, stick the leftover jambalaya in a tupperware, and start moppin' up the sweat (and everything else)!

–Sean Gill