Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Only now does it occur to me... WHITE OF THE EYE (1987)

Only now does it occur to me... that WHITE OF THE EYE truly stands alone in the (overflowing) cabinet of '80s horror curiosities. Where else do you get a Tucson, Arizona-set Cannon Film giallo with weird psychedelic fever-dream visuals from Donald Cammell, artistic prodigy and co-director of PERFORMANCE (with Nicolas Roeg)?


 

Taking the "extreme closeup of the murderer's eyeball" ball from TENEBRE and running with it, WHITE OF THE EYE dashes headfirst into a yuppie soap opera


full of mad (and smooth) visuals from legendary Steadicam operator Larry McConkey (CARLITO'S WAY, AFTER HOURS, KILL BILL, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, GOODFELLAS). It genuinely feels like Dario Argento and Richard Rush collaborated on a Cannon Film. (The most Cannon moment: the line of dialogue "Shove it up your sloppy orifice!" which sounds like it came straight from MURPHY'S LAW.)

Strewn with crazed flashbacks, Route 66 Americana, denim, fur coats, waterbeds, and busted diners,

I think the less I tell you about WHITE OF THE EYE, the better. However, I will say that it does feature two great performances by Cathy Moriarty (RAGING BULL, BUT I'M A CHEERLEADER)

 

  and David Keith (AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMEN, FIRESTARTER).



A weird and wild ride, and I'd recommend it as a solid deep cut for when you've exhausted the catalogues of Argento, Rush, and Roeg and are thirsty for more.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Only now does it occur to me... 9 1/2 WEEKS (1986)

Only now does it occur to me... as a filmgoer who had somehow seen every single one of Adrian Lyne's features (from FLASHDANCE to UNFAITHFUL, from FATAL ATTRACTION to FOXES, from JACOB'S LADDER to INDECENT PROPOSAL), that in not having seen 9 1/2 WEEKS until now, I completely missed the beautiful (?) homage to 9 1/2 WEEKS in one of my favorite scenes in TROLL 2 (1990).

To contextualize: the following sublime scene occurs near the end of Claudio Fragasso's TROLL 2,

 (This video has been age-restricted for some unknown reason––if you click on it, skip to 1:44)

wherein witch/goblin queen Creedence Leonore Gielgud (Deborah Reed)  approaches an RV containing errant teen Brent (David McConnell). She appears on his TV, "sexy-dance-walk-stumbling" to a rootin'-tootin' MIDI track while clutching an ear of corn. This lures him outside (where in one of the best diegetic sound reveals in film history, the mix reveals the music as actively "playing" outside the RV), prompting him to let her in. She suggests they "heat... it... up" and they proceed to simultaneously gnaw at the ear of corn, which––when confronted with so much raw sexual energy––begins exploding into popcorn, which is heaved in handfuls upon the pair by bored production assistants.

Obviously, you can understand why this scene rules, with or without context. But it turns out––according to me, anyway––that Claudio Fragasso was paying a specific homage to 9 1/2 WEEKS. In one particular scene, Kim Basinger––who is embroiled in a steamy, weird, gross love affair with a Wall Street wackjob––is performing a striptease for said wackjob (naturally, Mickey Rourke). 

She does some wacky dancing through some blinds, set to Joe Cocker's cover of Randy Newman's "You Can Leave Your Hat On"

 

 

 


which has inexplicably become some kind of striptease anthem despite possessing all the raw sex appeal of an old mattress stained with hotdog water, or a guy attending night school in a mesh shirt. This song was fired from its job as a roadie for George Thorogood. This song eats mothballs, recreationally. It washes its hair with dish soap. It probably owns a black market human skeleton. This song's girlfriend broke up with it because it wouldn't stop singing "Splish Splash I Was Takin' a Bath" every time it showered. This song eats Chef Boyardee cold, straight out of the can.

Anyway, so Kim continues dancing as Mickey Rourke keeps doing his creepy "aw, shucks" bashful serial killer smile...

 

 

uh, got hungry, did you, Mickey? What's that he's shoving into his mouth?

 

 


Popcorn.

And then it clicks––that TROLL 2 MIDI track is the fuckin karaoke track of "You Can Leave Your Hat On!" (The key is slightly different but probably not enough to avoid litigation if somebody actually cared.) And there's popcorn in this scene. Claudio Fragasso probably thought he needed a sexy scene in his goblin movie, and because he's a noted Italotrash plagiarist, he likely watched noted "sexy movie" 9 1/2 WEEKS and thought he'd take all the proper ingredients one needs for a sexy scene and simply reassemble them: gyrating body, Joe Cocker track, popcorn––let's call it a day!

For all of these years, I had been enjoying TROLL 2's inexplicable fusion of rootin'-tootin' MIDI music, corn, and sexy lurching movements without realizing that it was an homage to Adrian Lyne. Beautifully done all around, folks.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Only now does it occur to me... PERFECT STRANGERS, "BLACK WIDOW" (6x10) (1990)

Only now does it occur to me... that PERFECT STRANGERS made a TWIN PEAKS joke at a very intriguing time. In this particular episode, Larry (Mark Linn-Baker) has become convinced that his cousin Balki's (Bronson Pinchot) girlfriend Mary Ann is a "black widow killer" and has murdered her roommate, Jenifer. When Larry is proven wrong on this count (and not for the last time), Balki says,

"Now that you've solved the Jennifer 'murder,' maybe you can figure out who killed Laura Palmer?" 

 

This is an obvious reference to the iconic central mystery of TWIN PEAKS' first season: Who killed Laura Palmer? (Incidentally, ABC aired both TWIN PEAKS and PERFECT STRANGERS.) However, what makes this joke especially interesting––as it's the only TWIN PEAKS reference on PERFECT STRANGERS, so far as I can ascertain––is the timing. This episode was shot on September 26, 1990 (four days before the premiere of TWIN PEAKS' second season), suggesting that it was perhaps an intra-ABC cross-promotional idea. TWIN PEAKS went on to reveal Laura Palmer's killer in a David Lynch-directed episode (2x7), which aired on November 10. Then, this PERFECT STRANGERS episode ultimately aired on November 30 to viewers who, by then, would already have known who had killed Laura Palmer. The very next day, December 1, saw the airing of the TWIN PEAKS episode (2x9) which tied up the arc of Laura's killer and answered some lingering questions (some!) about the nature of the murder. Is all of this useless information? I mean, probably. But that's sorta this site's bread and butter, amirite?

Monday, August 2, 2021

Only now does it occur to me... VIRTUOSITY (1995)

Only now does it occur to me... that VIRTUOSITY (1995) is perhaps Ridley Scott's favorite movie.

What––you don't believe me? That a film directed by Brett Leonard (THE LAWNMOWER MAN, SIEGFRIED AND ROY: THE MAGIC BOX, Billy Idol's "Shock to the System" music video) would be Ridley's fave? I promise I'll convince you. But first, some background.

Penned by underrated genre scribe Eric Bernt (SURVIVING THE GAME, ROMEO IS BLEEDING), it's a post-DEMOLITION MAN/GHOST IN THE MACHINE cyberpunk fable of a murderous A.I.––in this case, a virtual "serial killer" training program (Russell Crowe)––who escapes into the real world to battle his nemesis, a jailed and hardboiled cop (Denzel Washington). I'd say that it draws some tonal inspiration from Ridley Scott's BLADE RUNNER and BLACK RAIN––for instance, there's a scene where Crowe's A.I. come-to-life encounters an older, bartender-model robot (Kevin Loreque, in a great, butoh-adjacent performance),

 and is made so existentially uncomfortable that he "retires" him, á la BLADE RUNNER:

In general, I must note that this movie is majestically entertaining. Allow me to submit, for your consideration, a scene where Russell Crowe jaunts down the street in a '90s zoot suit while homaging SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER and receives his very first high-five––a moment which calls for serious and immediate contemplation.

 

Or this scene, where Russell Crowe rocks out, in concert, with some theremin-style 1990s musical accoutrement.

The film features John Waters'-own Traci Lords as a cyberpunk nightclub singer, 

and even brings us the mind-boggling occurrence of a Debbie Harry/non-David Byrne Talking Heads song called "No Talking Just Head" which, I guess, attempts to subtly satirize the Talking Heads' existence while mostly sounding like an ersatz Nine Inch Nails banger. This plays over the end credits and just feels like the perfect capper for the madness we've just witnessed.

But I don't want to stray too far from my main point, which is that "VIRTUOSITY is Ridley Scott's favorite movie." Now, I may have amply demonstrated the "whys" and "hows" of VIRTUOSITY becoming someone's favorite movie, but I haven't fully illustrated the Scott connection.

You're probably thinking: Oh, yeah, you're going to remind us that Ridley Scott is a maniac for Russell Crowe and casts him in all of his movies. He even cast Crowe and Denzel Washington in AMERICAN GANGSTER (2007), and reversed their roles, with Crowe as the cop pursuing Washington's criminal. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

And you're absolutely right, I think that's a point worth discussing. But I sense you pushing back already

Well, that's not enough to prove your hypothesis, buddy––you're making a serious claim about Sir Ridley Scott's rarefied tastes, and you don't have the receipts!



I hear your skepticism. I hear it loud and clear. But what if I told you that most of the supporting roles also had a latter-day Scott connection? Stephen Spinella ended up in the Scott-produced NUMB3ERS... and Junta Juleil Hall-O-Famer William Forsythe (THE ROCK, EXTREME PREJUDICE)

appeared in the Scott-produced MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE... the great William Fichtner (GO, HEAT, DRIVE ANGRY, THE DARK KNIGHT) 

was also later cast by Scott in BLACK HAWK DOWN (2001). (Oh yeah, and in this screencap, Fichtner appears next to none other than Louise "Nurse Ratched" Fletcher.) Who's to say that he didn't bring these folks into the Scott fold because he was such a VIRTUOSITY fanatic?

I am. These are all working actors, bub––having them pop up in a subsequent Scott project doesn't prove diddly.

Okay, I can accept that. But how about a canister of primordial, life-giving goo which lends Russell Crowe's A.I. a corporeal form:


 

isn't that exactly like the "concept of Alien life" promulgated by the Engineers in Scott's PROMETHEUS (2012)?

Maybe, but it's not terribly original here, nor in PROMETHEUS. You gotta give me something more substantial.

Alright, here it is: Russell Crowe bursts into an ultimate fighting championship––a modern gladiatorial game, if you will, not unlike Scott's GLADIATOR (2000)––and backflops (that's correct, it's more of a backflop than a backflip) into the ring, and offers not one, but two General Maximus-meets-Vince McMahon"Are you entertained?" gestures to the crowd.

Roll the tape:


Well, that's pretty spot-on, actually, you might be saying. Say, this is all pretty weird. Is it possible that Ridley Scott really does love VIRTUOSITY above all other films?

To which, I say––well, 1995 was a good year. Not "a good year" like Ridley Scott's 2006 Russell Crowe-vehicle wine-country drama "A GOOD YEAR," but a good year nonetheless:

Book 'em, Danno. I says: case closed.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Only now does it occur to me... V: THE SERIES, "THE SANCTION" (1x5) (1984)

Only now does it occur to me... that I've finally discovered the "real" Cobra Kai. Allow me to explain.

If you're new to the "V" series, you could start by reading my initial post on the subject which, though it is eventually hijacked by a happening known as "the Nut Slide of Doom," lays out the basic reasons why you should watch the first two miniseries and then stop before you get this far (to V: THE SERIES).

To recap: the V saga tells the story of the invasion of Earth by fascist aliens (who are actually rodent-snacking reptiles in disguise) who intend to rob our planet of its resources and enslave/eat our population. Some humans collaborate with them and become Vichy-style puppets and/or Hitler Youth. Others join the resistance, engaging in guerrilla warfare against the technologically superior Visitors. This story is skillfully told in V: THE ORIGINAL MINISERIES (1983). It is enjoyably continued as the actioner V: THE FINAL BATTLE (1984). By the time we get to V: THE SERIES, its gutted budget and watered-down purpose have rendered it virtually unwatchable. (Meanwhile, the hair has gotten bigger and the costumes have become more ridiculous, so the "so-bad-it's-good" aficionados can still have a little fun.)


Jane Badler is the best: DYNASTY meets XANADU, man

 

The plot of this episode follows "Sean," son of Marc Singer's "Mike Donovan" (the BEASTMASTER himself, and the perpetrator of the aforementioned Nut Slide of Doom), as he continues his indoctrination as a member of the Visitors' youth program. Sean is now played by Nicky Katt (DAZED AND CONFUSED, THE LIMEY, THE BURBS), a longtime character actor and terrific smartass, who is at this point still a literal child.


Presumably because THE KARATE KID had come out that summer, this episode features the Visitors attempting to re-educate their human wards at a karate dojo.

 

 They introduce a new character to do so: "Klaus" (Thomas Callaway), who is equal parts "Jaws" from James Bond, random leather daddy, and "Kreese" from THE KARATE KID.

He is a sadist with a detachable hand which unveils a chain/whip extension. It's a whole thing. Anyway, he runs this evil dojo,

which is, for all intents and purposes, "Cobra Kai" with more space Nazis.


Now, the visual pun here is that the Visitors––who, remember, are reptiles in human disguises––are pretty close to cobras themselves, therefore, making this a technically more "authentic" Cobra Kai than the one featured in THE KARATE KID!

Anyway, this plotline comes to a close when Nicky Katt punches out (eventual KARATE KID alumnus) Michael Ironside and throws in his lot with the Visitors for good.

 

This does provide us with the excellent––if extremely improbable––visual of Ironside getting his ass kicked by a stone-cold child. (Who strikes first, strikes hard, and shows no mercy.)

I guess they did teach him some effective moves down at the fascist snake-man dojo. Uh, Kreese would be proud?