To approach the two Jess Franco-helmed Fu Manchu films as coherent narratives is to do them a dreadful injustice. Not for nothin’, friends–these movies are hott messes and I’m not about to argue with any critic who judges them thusly. It’s just that one has to get around the idea of their messiness in order to get to the creamy center of joy they conceal. “Blood of Fu Manchu” and “Castle of Fu Manchu” are not so much devalued by their plot holes as they are defined, much like a crocheted doily or a paper snowflake, by these plot holes. Having read several of the Sax Rohmer source novels, I can honestly say these flawed plots don’t really bother me since I don’t think they’re out of line with Rohmer’s vision of a Chinese supervillain, devising schemes that are beyond Western comprehension. It’s meta–roll with me on this.
Dear Interpals: this X-Mess, I am re-gifting to you something that was recently gifted upon me. Don’t worry–it’s still got plenty of life in it, and I’ve freshened up the wrapping just for you.
I watch an awful lot of movies that, were they translated into the written word, would overflow with exclamation points and be rendered entirely in capital letters. “Subtlety” is not usually the order of the day in the Tenebrous Empire, where loud screaming, eyeball-assaulting surrealism, and explosions of things that ordinarily would not explode are standard menu items. Based on his performances in films like “Salon Kitty,” “Beast with a Gun,” and “Faceless,” it’s easy to see why I’ve crowned Helmut Berger as King of Pitching a Fit. It brings me no small measure of joy to watch Berger chew the scenery in the way only an extremely gifted actor can–I can imagine that many folks reading this derive similar delight from performances by George C. Scott and Michael Caine at their most unhinged.
Yellow CAUTION tape–it’s a suggestion. There’s nothing except one’s assumption that there’s something hazardous on the other side of the thin, plastic barrier preventing a person from yanking it loose and proceeding through at will. We’re conditioned to obey the suggestion of the tape because it’s there for our own good. Sometimes we tear the tape and walk down the recommended-against steps and discover a spiffy shortcut that shaves minutes off our daily commute. Other times, we put our foot on a rickety step and take a tumble for the worse, hopefully not resulting in a brain injury that leaves us with a deeply embarrassing mental condition that makes us spew foul language during conference calls.
Achtung, New York City pals! In between your frantic, last-minute holiday shopping (I’ll make this easy for you: I want the Joan Jett Barbie), consider taking a selfish couple of hours to yourself this Friday December 18th and participate in what I’ll GUARANTEE is the best Holiday Grab Bag of 2009. 92YTribeca’s monthly “Kevin Geeks Out” event is celebrating the season with a fragrant potpourri of awesomeness, offering expert presenters who will discuss everything from giant Japanese monsters to shark movies to beloved 1980s cartoon heroes. Also: THERE WILL BE CUPCAKES. It’s better than getting to sit at the cool kids’ table in Junior High–get your tickets in advance for Friday December 18th, 8pm, 92YTribeca.
I’m 75% convinced that this film is an incisive, brilliant satire of contemporary German social interactions. Sarno has made the unimpeachably fantastic decision to have his German and Swedish cast deliver all their lines in English–thickly-accented, sociopathically-reserved, icily-precise English. Bonus points for the fact that these folks appear to come from wherever Udo Kier’s Dracula came from, with all their talk of wirgins, wampires, and unholy wengeance. I never knew there were that many words with the letter “V” in them in the English language!
The holiday season is once again upon us, and in addition to thoughts of Krampus* and konsumerism, we should all take a moment to put the Christ back in Christmas and append the word “nun” with “sploitation.” Perhaps that last bit sounds dubious to you, but I’ll have you know that in the Tenebrous Empire, the X-Mess Nunsploitation is a time-honored tradition. You have your fruitcake; I’ll have mine.
Ohhhhh “Black Belly of the Tarantula”–you are yet another giallo that has left me with conflicted feelings and a vague sense of disappointment. Why must this happen over and over again as I search for kinky gold in a barrel of things that are not kinky gold? This Italo-thriller offering, directed by “Mondo Cane” creator Paolo Cavara, is a vexing bit of cinema for me. Let’s get this out of the way right up front: there is no denying that it is a thoughtfully-structured, elegantly-lensed, and competently-acted thriller. The murderer’s modus operandi is sufficiently blood-chilling, and there’s some very fine female anatomy on display. Additional genre points are earned through the casting of three Bond Girls (to wit: Barbara Bouchet, Claudine Auger, and Barbara Bach), and the male lead is played by the actually-very-talented genre vet Giancarlo Giannini.
Ever have something fly completely under your radar for several years, only to be astonished by its very existence and the potential for perfection inherent in that something? If ever a cinematic document possessed the ingredients that might approach the Tenebrous Ideal*, it would be “Captain Berlin vs. Hitler.” I first caught wind of this film via a Twitter post**, and within five minutes I was on Amazon.de all but screaming NAME YOUR PRICE at my computer screen.