Much like the
unfortunate victims subjects of A&E’s “Intervention,” I surround myself with enablers. “Yes of course” and “that’s an unquestionably excellent idea” are some of my favorite phrases in the English language.
Sergio Martino, you clever SOB. Not only did you produce some of the sleekest, sexy-cruelest gialli of the early 1970s, but you were equally as adept at churning out brilliant knock-offs in the 1980s. It’s a little hard for me to digest the fact that the same director is responsible for both the vicious eroticism of “The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh” and the cyborg nuttiness of “Hands of Steel,” but such is the case. Playing as it if was assembled (much like its protagonist) from the best functional elements of several movies, including “The Terminator,” “Smokey and the Bandit,” “Blade Runner,” “Over the Top,” and “Road House,” “Hands of Steel” is a gloriously slap-dash celebration of what makes 80s sci-fi knock-offs so damn much fun to watch. Unlike virtually all of the other 80s sci-fi knock-offs *I* can think of, however, this movie prefigures the latter two films that appear to be clear influencers.
- Rotary phones
- Mazda RX-7 sports cars
- That brown, orange and creme texturized-plaid loveseat from your grandma’s house
- Garfield posters
French artist Philippe Druillet is hands-down my favorite film poster illustrator. While there have been many skilled pulp artists (both named and anonymous) who have created iconic posters linked to famous films, Druillet’s art graced some of the sell-sheets for far more eccentric cinematic efforts of the 60s, 70s and 80s.
There are as many reasons for enjoying cult cinema as there are people who enjoy cult cinema. I know folks who crave newness above all other qualities, while there are also fetishists for specific genre tropes*. Some follow the work of their favorite directors with a passion that verges on the religious, while there are huge fans of certain actors and actresses. Viewers seek art, laughter, sociological commentary, and cultural reflections in cult films. While there’s something for many of these viewers in “Gone With the Pope,” it’s a special gem for those of us who revel in visionary-if-misguided works of celluloid mayhem.
Ambition is not a shortcoming of “Chemical Wedding,” the Bruce-Dickinson-scribed sci-fi/horror film that builds its plot on the reputation of occultist Aleister Crowley. Aiming for the majestic scope of Iron Maiden’s best metal epics, the film waffles between sinister prophecy and flaccid plotting only to wind up stumbling over its own pomposity. In short: “Chemical Wedding” has gotta lotta problems. Chief among these problems is the fact that this could have been a really cool movie if it had been approached with a stronger aesthetic pimp hand. Knock off a good 20 minutes of talky exposition, strengthen the visuals enough to cover up the plot holes, and cast a leading couple with more than symmetrical features to their collective credit, and you could have a psychedelic romp to compare favorably to the continental output of the early 1970s. Sadly, the finished product can’t find its footing between splattery comedic excess, New Age scare tactics, and tepid melodrama (HINT: that first one would’ve been the direction to take–just sayin’).
Now, because some of the actors in this film (along with Ozzy Osbourne fans) can always use a helpful reminder regarding the pronunciation of Crowley’s name, here’s “CrowleyMass” by Current 93:
Stieg Larssen’s novel “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (first published in Sweden in 2005, with the American edition following in 2008) is a fantastic read, well worth the attention spent on the multiple hundreds of pages of business espionage, intricate family history, computer intrigue and cold case mysteries that make up its story. Director Niels Arden Oplev’s two-and-a-half-hour film adaptation manages to be simultaneously faithful to the content of the book and deeply, deeply problematic.