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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

DOGS IN SPACE


This is a really peculiar film. One can say that about pretty much anything Australian though. Not to say that's a bad thing, it's a country isolated from many influences which means they do things however they see fit and damn the torpedoes. It's kind of like the American midwest only an entire country- having grown up in North Dakota from age 3 & 1/2 until 20, my cohorts and I definitely had our own art aesthetic which was viewed through what we affectionately dubbed the "midwest filter". As the "Australian filter" is also a very very real thing, lots of weird movies that nowhere else in the world could ever manage to think up sprang upon us from this land down under. This movie is an example of this phenomenon.

Trailer:


By now you have no doubt noticed that I did a massive sequence of run on sentences. You may also have noticed that this film stars none other than lead singer of INXS Michael Hutchence. Now in comes a problem. I can't actually give you a plot synopsis because this movie does not actually have a plot. It has a very loose one actually so I will give you an all too brief go at it okay? It takes place in Australia in 1978. There's a punk band called Dogs In Space (based on a real life band called The Ears) that lives in a ratty ass squat house. There's lots of weird and good music playing everywhere. That's about all I will say because I'd have to tell you EVERYTHING that happens in the movie because very little of it is related in a standard plot type sense and is instead composed of day to day happenings like real life. If I saw this as a teenager, I'd probably think it was the most brilliant movie ever made ever.

Now don't get me wrong, this movie isn't bad, but when you start to get into the nuts and bolts of the backstory (by this I mean the Australian "little band" scene in which it takes place) things unravel a little bit, at least for me they did. I guess I should expand on what the whole little bands thing is, as least as far as I can because I only know a very little bit (no pun intended). It centered around Melbourne Australia in the late seventies until the early 80's (it was strongest here, but also was going on in other places as well). It was an underground scene of electronics and non rock instrumentation, very much like punk everywhere else. If the essay on the back of the Dogs In Space soundtrack lp is to be believed, there is a unique difference between the little bands and punk.

I will give you an exact quote off of the lp jacket:

"Punk in Australia, unlike England, wasn't a politicized working-class push. Rather, in Melbourne particularly, it was predominantly middle-class: Intelligent, educated kids rejected the relatively rosy options the middle-class made available to them (unless they side-stepped the issue by studying) and consciously chose to go on the dole and do whatever it was they wanted to do. And mostly, what that was revolved around music somehow."


This is pretty well opposed to what punk stood for in the UK (at least initially). Basically that paragraph leads me to believe that a bunch of kids who weren't that bad off decided to slum it and make art by choice rather than out of necessity. Whether that is the case or not I cannot readily say, but out here in Washington State we call people like that "trust fund kids"- ie kids who shop exclusively at Goodwill (which is actually quite pricey now by the way) and act like they are broke so they can "fit in" with all the people who actually ARE poor. I really hope that paragraph isn't how the whole scene was, because it basically makes them out to be a right load of pretentious asswipes. Britain in the mid to late 70's was not a happy place to be. People didn't choose to be on the dole there, they had to just to survive. The sociopolitical climate of Britain was frightening to say the least. Punk was hopefully a way to change things (how much it achieved this is still open for debate), not a way for kids with an option to have a laugh (of course that still wound up happening anyway).

I dunno, willingly going on the dole doesn't really strike me as subversive, instead it strikes me as lazy. In fact it is Hutchence's character that seems to really exhibit this tendency to be a right prat. Besides his obnoxious slinking about, drug doing, and making his girlfriend pay for beersing, there's a point where his mum drops by and gives him a huge platter of food which without looking up at her he devours and complains about how there isn't a drink as she says he can come back home. His mum is super nice, there is no mention of him having an abusive home life or anything. He's basically just a big asshole, oh sorry, I meant "cool kid". Believe it or not, if you go into downtown Olympia you'll actually see people like this slinking around each and every day. It makes me ill.

The music is what really makes this movie worth it to me. Certain elements of the story are endearing yes, but music is what this movie is really about. Unfortunately, some bits of music in the film are from the years after 1978 as are some plot elements. There's a big to-do for some of the house kids when they find out that Skylab (America's first space station) is going to reenter the Earth's atmosphere and a radio station is offering a reward to the first person who brings in a piece. The only problem with this is Skylab didn't reenter until 1979- lots of you will say pish about that but facts are facts and I LOVE outer space history so sod off. I'd say the movie is definitely worth a watch or several so if you see it don't hesitate as it's rather hard to find on the loose in absence of a Region 1 DVD release (note: it is available on DVD in Australia so if you have a region free player and are really hellbent, go search ebay).

Back to the subject of the music right? The soundtrack for the movie is pretty damn good. There are unfortunately two different versions: one edited of foul language and one with the foul language intact and rude sound samples in between some songs. While I own the US pressing of the lp (which is edited by the way, booooo) I just so happen to have the two missing songs and whatnot in a file you can have. I know how you buggers really fancy free shit, so if you want it simply click here to get it. There's some real rippers on there, so get ready. The two unedited songs are in their correct places in the tracklist, while the edited "instrumental" versions are placed at the end. Enjoy!

I can recommend the soundtrack highly, but I recommend the film with some reservations. It's not that I don't like it (I went out of my way to own a copy after seeing it the first time didn't I?), I just want a little bit more than what I got. What that is eludes me but that being said some of you out there will really dig on this pretty well unknown (outside of Australia at least) gem. I do think the film deserves more attention than it gets and maybe will one day get a DVD release (outside of expensive bootleg copies dubbed off of vhs) stateside so it can finally get mass exposure. While yes that is a bit of a pipe dream, stranger things have happened. This movie was only released in the US by Key Video, and this is not the only rareish Key tape to not be put on DVD. Much like The Legend Of Billie Jean (also released by Key Video) this movie might sadly be relegated to over priced, poor quality bootlegs and increasingly worn and rare vhs for the foreseeable (and likely indefinite) future. If you wonder how uncommon this tape is, note the sticker on my rental copy. They probably had to keep it behind the counter to prevent some dickweed from legging off with it. One wonders if the store had it happen to them once before to make such a move necessary, we will never know...

Like I said before, if you see it for rent or even on the cheap, give it a watch, it's really pretty neat despite my misgivings about certain bits.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

No review post this week

For the second time ever, I declare a skip week. Thanks to me attending a ten hour long 35mm horror film marathon at the Capitol Theater in downtown Olympia Saturday night, my sleep schedule still has not reset, so you'll have to wait until next week. Or better yet, go read the two review I did for networkawesome.com about Trick Or Treat and Howard The Duck! Operations resume as normal next week.

Thank you for your forced patience.

John

Saturday, November 19, 2011

BORING STATISTICS, PART 2- and a big announcement!

I've decided to keep all of you abreast of the various and ultimately questionable ways people from all over the globe manage to find this blog. A few months ago I posted about this, but have since had more strange search terms lead to here. I'll keep doing these so long as those weird search results keep coming in.

Besides the unfortunately normal amount of porn websites that somehow manage to link to us (or so they say), we get a lot of traffic from people looking up pornography or otherwise ridiculous/absurd/questionable terms. I can imagine that all of these people are vastly disappointed at what they find. As blogger only keeps track of the top ten of everything in its stats section, I unfortunately cannot report on the countries from which many of these results come from like I could the last time. This means more of you are looking (and I hope spreading the word simultaneously) which is definitely a good thing.

Let's begin (note- not in chronological order):

Helpful links to the review in question, many of which remain sadly barely read, are included for your pleasure.

-Someone in New Zealand who found us by googling "Boob Humor". I hope he liked the Microwave Massacre review.

-There have been no less than two people looking for "THX 1138 nude dancers". One used that search  sequence and I forgot the other very similar one. Yes I mentioned that scene, but you people are gross. Read the review here.

-Yet more questionable searches that lead to my review of the film "Girly", came from someone trying  very hard to find "Tantalizing girly video". You are gross.

-Several recent hit have come from people trying to find out about the movie "Straw Dogs". Not really a problem in and of itself, it's just the WAY they tried to find out and just what they were looking for that's the problem here. So far these are "Straw Dogs fucking" and "Straw Dog fuck".

-One that actually JUST showed up was "cut-throat Kommandos foot sex" Yes, there is a foot sex scene in that movie which you can read about right here, but the scene is more what the fuck enducing than sexy. I guess this is what happens when you are the only person on the internet with a blog who bothered to give this movie an actual review instead of a download link...




So far those are the strange search results made privy to me. Hopefully none of them were lost but I check a few times a day just to make sure I don't miss anything. The following are extremely non specific things that lead to the blog you are now enjoying:

- Some people looking for images relating to "1945 Hohner Melodica". Thankfully this one is pretty innocent. All they managed to find was my google profile picture of me playing my old Hohner Soprano. Things did get slightly creepy when I noticed someone had looked for "davis melodica". In case you didn't realize, Davis is my last name...

-I am sort of honored, but someone found us by searching for "top fucked up video sites". WHile they were probably looking for gross stuff, I hope they at least stopped by and had a laugh reading some reviews.




And now for the search terms that were straight up porn related, or related to this site showing up higher in search than porn related bullshit:

-Someone looked up "www.home video.blogspot.com". This seemed innocent enough, but when I followed it up my ste was nowhere in sight. The Bing search page contained only four links, all of which related to gay porn. Thanks a lot Bing...

-Just today we received a hit via someone looking for "fucked up ways to fuck video". I don't want to know what they were expecting.

-Thanks to the ever vigilant never sleeping internet, this blog has made it to page one of Bing search. I don't give a shit about Bing and use google myself, but lots of my traffic seems to come through there. We are currently (as of November 19th, 2011 at 12:48 pm PST) sandwiched between the "fuckshit" page at deviant art and directly above the IMDB page for "Fuck My Dirty Shit Hole (Video 1997)". I am believe it or not very proud of this.



I am really pleased that the film Microwave Massacre has been searched for more than anything else. It was that way before and still is again. It's currently the number two most viewed post. Keep up the good work, I will keep on writing for you.



BIG ANNOUNCEMENT:

I have been offered a writing position for the really terrific website www.networkawesome.com. It's a lot like PBS. So far I have done a review of the 1986 horror film Trick Or Treat which you can read here, and this sunday (November 20th, 2011) will have a suitably damning review of Howard The Duck posted there also. Thank you one and all for your continued support of this blog. You have given me the will to continure honing my writing to a very sharp and dangerous point.
                           

Monday, November 14, 2011

Chopping Mall Aka Killbots (1986)


If you have any brain whatsoever you (like me) suffer from enjoy a particular disgust of the standard American shopping mall. Let's face it- they're loud, shiny, and full of people I don't like the overly perfumed scent of. On top of that there is lots of bullshit I do not want. This movie will make you feel better about all that I guarantee it. I haven't lied to you yet and I don't plan on it anytime soon. Jim Wynorski wasn't fucking around when he made this, just like when he made Deathstalker II (Yeah that's right, I've been doing this just long enough to be able to refer you back to older posts you might have missed! Go ahead, read this then click the link for DS2 to see that I'm a bona-fide Wynorski super fan).

Trailer time, jerks:


This trailer is interesting to nerds like myself for a number of reasons. First off: they do NOT break into the damn mall, they work there and stay after hours- but to be fair saying that in the trailer would be boring. Horror movie viewing teens want danger and excitement (and a little T&A of course) not sneaky real life style shenanigans. Lucky for you the second point onwards is resoundingly positive: The trailer is interesting for featuring footage not in the finished film. The clips appear to have been shot specifically for the trailer as they are filmed and lit rather differently from the rest of the movie, and also feature totally different robot claws from what wound up on the finished props. I like it when these sort of things happen, as it gives us an insight into production development and marketing of an otherwise obscure movie.

Sorry for the diversion from my normally formulaic blog setup, but I thought these tidbits were worth mentioning now rather than later. Now it's time for the plot synopsis okay? Plot synopsis: Park Plaza Mall has just received a super badass force of high tech security robots (and giant two piece sliding future doors too keep people out, which begs the question of why robots are needed if you have doors from an Imperial Star Destroyer blockading all entrances and exits to your mall) to keep it free and clear of dangerous mall robbers. A group of teenage buddies who all work at the mall (who are perfectly paired up as jock/bimbo, yuppies, and lovable nerds) are staying after hours to have a party fueled by pizza and sex. Unfortunately for them, an unseasonably huge lightning storm strikes the giant security computer conveniently located on the roof nowhere near a lightning rod turning the supposedly orderly and procedural robots into terrifying killing machines. WHO WILL SURVIVE!?

Lots of folks just dimiss this as cheap-o slasher fare. It kinda is yeah, but the slasher in this movie is not a dude or a ghost, but a team of bloodthirsty robots! Seriously how can someone not find that entertaining? One of the more amusing bits is the ludicrous heavy arsenal these security robots have. Everything from stun electrodes (makes sense), to lasers (makes no sense), and even plastic explosives (makes even less sense)! I'm pretty sure such things as these are only placed on the robot for the security of the audiences entertainment but I'm not complaining, because it worked. I find the choice of filming location- the super famous Sherman Oaks Galleria, THE California shopping mall of the 1980's- also adds to the entertainment too. Seeing teens get their necks slashed, heads exploded, or get set ablaze in a huge/ugly/iconic mall sounds like a fun time to me. Oh yeah- there's also a brief cameo by Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov as their characters from Eating Raoul!

YOWZAH!

Need I say more?


This film was originally released under the title of "Killbots". The poster for this version stunk, it made the movie look like some sort of Transformers ripoff cartoon, so needless to say it did not perform very well. Here's where I get confused though, so don't take the next sentence as fact okay? Some sources state that after the theatrical run didn't work out it was cut by 15 minutes and rereleased as Chopping Mall. Like I said I can't find much to back the fifteen minutes cut claim. I almost feel like it was only given a very limited release, or even a preview release, under this title in the US. I am also confused about whether or not it was theatrically rereleased as Chopping Mall or if this was just the video title, as I have seen what are clearly theatrical one sheet posters for this film.

See here:

I know this poster above is not a vhs release poster (because I own one, duh). Though the artwork is similar to the vhs boxart, it is far more detailed. Plus it has a cool and dangerous looking biomechanoid arm grasping the shopping bag. I don't know how wide the release must have been, all I know is this is a Chopping Mall one sheet. Compare it with the vhs box at the start of this review, or with this photo of my recently acquired original vhs release poster for when it came out on Lightning Video in 1987:


(sorry about the lens glare, it's the best I could do)

See what I mean? Also note the different tag lines. It's not often that horror movies have such a mire of facts to wade through. Sure they may come off as mundane to the rest of the adult population, but I'm not writing this for them am I? If I were (slightly) more resourceful and had a way to get a hold of Mr. Wynorski I guarantee you that the first thing I'd ask him about would be Killbots. Thanks to astute collectors we know that the Mexican release was subtitled as Killbots. Have a look at an image of one of the lobby cards for said release I snagged off the internet:


The lame poster I mentioned earlier is pictured on the left. Sorry I can't get you a better image than that, but if I stretch it any bigger it will get really pixelated and will mess up my blog format. I also found while digging around an image of the Vestron International vhs release used in Belgium/ The Netherlands. This one is interesting for having the art for Chopping Mall but with it's original title. Things get weirder the deeper you go!

See:


Like any good snake oil salesman, I can say that that's not all! I also found what appears to be a Japanese DVD release utilizing the Killbots monicker. Again I apologize for image quality, but I have to purloin a lot of this stuff off of google image search, so forgive me everyone (including the folks who's images I took!).

Look:


Either way, this film has a rather amazing variety of posters, marketing materials, and home video releases. I'm quite pleased to say that it has far more than I ever expected it to. This film had quite a long reach for what some people regard as a "B grade slasher" don't you think? Oh, I should also plug the soundtrack release too, I know I did it in the Deathstalker II review, but I want to flip the booklet around so you can see the alternate cover art. It's a good release, and affordable too! I highly recommend buying it off the buysoundtrax.com site, as they are responsible for its release and also have a non inflated price on it like some ebay sellers try to. There's a few older bootleg recordings that have been floating around the internet for a few years, but this one is official and of really good quality.

Gaze upon its majesty below:


You probably didn't think I have this much to say about Chopping Mall did you? The world is indeed full of surprises.

THANK YOU, HAVE A NICE DAY!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Straw Dogs (1971)


Let me start off this review by saying that this is the movie I watch every time a relationship I am in ends. Why? I'm not exactly certain but the overbearing amount of nihilism present somehow leaves my mind at peace once it's finished. It's a Sam Peckinpah joint, what more do I need to say here? Oh I know, fuck YOU 2011 Straw Dogs remake! Boooo, hisssss!

Trailer:


Plot summary: David and Amy Sumner are moving to Amy's hometown in rural Britain to escape anti war protests and everyday violence prevalent in the United States. Almost immediately upon arriving David manages to prove to the entire town that he is a complete pushover and an otherwise passive agressive twat. This later proves to have dire consequences for him in this tale of brutality, rape, and ultimate ignorance that is to unfurl before you. That's pretty much the best I can do without tipping my hat too far.

Sam Peckinpah at his best is visceral, brutal, frustrating and beautiful all at the same time. I believe this to be one of his true high points. As anybody who has seen this film knows, it's a pretty heavy view and not for light hearted watching. But what gets me more than the film we see on the surface is all of the subtext. Peckinpah isn't necessarily as well regarded as he should be for his ability to weave messages into his films, and I think this is one of his more successful attempts at making a cinematic layer cake. Mysteries and enigmas indeed! You get them by the bucketload here.

From the outset you are very frustrated by Dustin Hoffman's character David (or extremely sympathetic if you are a fucking xenophobe) due to his complete and utter spinelessness. The same can be said for his wife, who does what she can to flaunt herself about to the men of her old hometown, almost inviting them to cause trouble she knows her husband will do little if anything to stop. The men of the town are bored drunk rural asswipes with nothing better to do than pick on a weakling. You may have noticed by now that I am pointing out the fact that this film has a complete lack of redeemable characters anywhere in sight. No really, EVERYBODY in this movie is a fucking asshole. To be quite honest some of my most favorite films are this way, I find it rather mirrors real life in a way nobody is quite willing to admit to.

Something else I really like about the movie is at the end of it all, only the viewer actually knows what's really going on. Each character or set of characters certainly THINKS they know what's up and what to do about it. They go left when they should go right. This fly on the wall aspect of the film is often overlooked due to the more sensational elements of the plot. The smug self satisfaction David feels at the end of the film leaves the viewer sitting in a cloud of confusion, anger, and uneasiness. Thankfully only the immediate story is resolved, as the larger issues of the film remain up to our imagination which frankly is for the best. In other words, it's pretty well morally ambivalent when you add it all up.

The actual messages conveyed by the film are many, pretty much all of which are highly unpleasant. You may have noticed that the trailer seems to paint this film as a type of "every man has his breaking point" type film where he transcends his hitherto mundane and wussy existence and "becomes a man" through some trial of blood and violence. I guess you could call it that? I see it as a parable of just how fucked life really is and how people willingly blind themselves to the outside world until it is too late. Film marketing is a confusing and well less than exact science, but how many tickets would my idea of the film really sell? There's likely a pretty good reason I don't work for the film industry...

Do yourself a favor and see this film at least once in your life. I've seen it loads and I don't have any complaints.