“5 Dolls for an August Moon” blends elements of black comedy, playful narrative and psychedelic fashion into a fun mystery story. Three wealthy couples have gathered at the isolated island mansion of millionaire George Stark to attempt to convince the Professor Fritz Farrell (who is accompanied by his ice-queen wife Trudy) to sell his industrial resin formula. When Farrell resists, the murders begin. Yes, it’s pretty much “Ten Little Indians,” but with gobs and gobs of colorful style substituting for Agatha Christie’s clever plotting.
Making a movie like “Black Dynamite” is a dicey proposition in the Ironic Hipsterism climate of the past several years. I love a good spoof, but I reserve a special hatey place in my heart for the kind of too-cool-for-school disaffected humor that aims its guns at weird media like an semi-retarded eight-year-old pre-quarterback homing in on the gangly kid in the eyeglasses during dodgeball. It’s with enormous glee and pleasure that I’m able to report that “Black Dynamite” is a Valentine to the Blaxploitation action subgenre, made by a team of creative folks who love these movies and totally, utterly, absolutely GET what makes them tick. This isn’t merely an extended in-joke, though–this is a genuinely funny comedy that was able to satisfy a very mixed room at the Tribeca Film Festival this past Friday, eliciting laughter from folks who enjoy the idea of vintage 1970s exploitation films as much as from those who are long-time enthusiasts.
As you guys have probably gathered by now, I have a real problem with exploitation media that doesn’t deliver what it promises. That’s why it’s so refreshing to receive a link from my uber-pal Joan Arkham under the header “DOES WHAT IT SAYS ON THE TIN.”
Well, internet–I think the unpossible has happened! I got sucked into attending this past weekend’s Chiller Theatre convention in beautiful and scenic Parsippany, NJ, and–you can quote me on this–it was awesome. Granted, the smell of hotel hot dogs still lingered over the hotel lobby Celebrity Pit, but this time it took on an air of pleasant nostalgia as opposed to the sorta-terrifying desperation I perceived last time I ventured out to ye olde Chiller. I’ve gotta give props to the organizers for putting a cap on Saturday ticket sales and not offering at-the-door entry. From the bottom of my rotten, black heart, I thank you!
The account of Elizabeth Bathory is sort of a perfect storm of Stuff That’s Relevant to the Tenebrous Interests, as you can probably tell by the multitude of tags that are attached to this post. It’s a tale whose soil is rich enough to support a multitude of interpretations from those focused on class warfare (entitled aristocrat preys on the poor villagers nominally under her care) to a feminist cautionary tale (a woman who finds value only in her appearance is driven to brutal measures) to a blood-soaked kink melodrama (cruel, beautiful mistress takes “abusing the help” to new extremes). Depending upon the artist’s perspective, the clay of the story allows for a great deal of molding to fit the tastes of the teller.
To paraphrase a rather inelegant yet evocative verbal chestnut, Jess Franco has thrown a lot of shit at the wall during his decades-long career and, by golly, some of it has stuck, and stuck good. Made early in his career, “Venus in Furs” might just be the director’s ultimate artistic statement in Style Over Substance, with its warped narrative, evocative use of music (both incidental in in-scene), and luxuriously perverse eye candy. Franco sets out to make a movie about love, death, and all that jazz and the result is a triumph of haunting beauty and searingly original vision.
- Lesbian fashion photographer – CHECK (seriously, Fashion Photography must have the Textile Arts of the 1960s)
- “Garter belt” and “fur” making up the sum total of an outfit – CHECK
- Gratuitous artistic use of mirrors in shot framing – CHECK
- Prerequisite “woman crawling on the floor” nightclub number – CHECK
- Caucasian actor in the garb of the Mysterious Orient – CHECK (Franco coulda scored extra-bonus points here for outfitting Ms. Rohm in the turban, but Klaus Kinski is a very close runner up for this title, and I’m placated by the fact that Ms. Rohm is wearing very little more than elaborate jewelry during this particular sequence)
One of the things I enjoy most about the blogs I read is what they reveal about the individual preferences and perspectives of their authors. I’ll confess that I get a voyeuristic jolt out of learning where an individual writer finds value in a creative work, especially if it’s a particularly loopy creative work. Professor Jack once told me that, while he’s not a fan of Jean Rollin, he’s a fan of the fact that *I* am a Jean Rollin fan. I’m psyched to live in a world where there are so many people championing so much bizarre shit–that’s a special brand of excellent!
I don’t like to play the “Because I Am A Woman” card, but ye gods–the power of Jose Mojica Marins’ “Embodiment of Evil,” with its themes of reproduction, rape, and sexual mutilation, hit me like a sledgehammer when I saw it this weekend. Rarely does a film come along that makes me squirm in my seat with active discomfort, but this film did precisely that, wrapping its long-nailed claws around my throat and refusing to let up until the final frame had dimmed from the screen. It’s a film of such demonic malevolence and fierceness of vision that it defies efforts to dismiss it as smut or trash-cinema–with an eye honed on truly disturbing visuals and an artistic sensibility that has steeped in Brazil’s poorest corners, Marins creates a deeply personal, deeply troubling film that is among the most successful translations of idea to screen that I have ever seen.
I rarely go into a movie deeply, madly desiring to love it more than I did going into my viewing of director Joseph Losey’s uber-groovy 1966 super-thief epic “Modesty Blaise.” I will cop to an almost-complete ignorance of the Blaise novels and comics, but that type of ignorance has enhanced my enjoyment of other movies of the period (for more info on the O’Donnell comics and novels, check out the amazing web archive atModesty Blaise Ltd. for hours of adventure-story fun). I’d read Curt Purcell’s recent musings on the Modesty Blaise novels, and should’ve been red-flagged by his sinister allusions to the film. I always want to back an underdog, though, and so I sought out the film for what I hoped was a fluffy bit of fun. Baron XIII has told me that the only thing worse than a drone job where you can totally turn off your brain and coast is a job where you have to pay just enough attention to what you’re doing that you get a little headachey, and “Modesty Blaise” never let me click the OFF switch in my brain that allows me to coast on a cloud of nonsense-fun.