Crapfest: Into the Mancave

Whenever I attempt to do something even remotely handy around my house, I really feel like if I succeed, the Vatican should recognize it as a miracle. I am the least handy of primates; there is a reason I earn my living by pressing buttons.

This is the blueprint Dave was working from

This is the blueprint Dave was working from

So how amazing is it to me that Host Dave took it upon himself to create the ever-popular mancave in his garage, moving our questionable movie-watching activities out of his living room (and not incidentally, a house away from his long-suffering wife, Ann?). I’m lucky I can keep my toilet running. He air-conditions and re-purposes a damn recreation room.

There are still tweaks to be made, yes (probably until doomsday, knowing Dave), but it was fully functional for our Memorial Day weekend get-together (though our host was upset that the Disco Ball wasn’t working – yes- the disco ball.). He wasn’t content with lording that over us either, he was determined to make three pizzas from scratch, dough and all. While that process was ongoing, he had some youtube playlist of music videos going (in the mancave and the living room), and the major thing learned was Rick absolutely cannot stand Adam and the Ants, and especially not “Antmusic”. So here it is for him again:

From this you can assume I owned a lot of Adam Ant albums. Okay, two. But that was on one of them.

After seeming hours of pizza prep (I didn’t actually mind – I enjoy watching other people cook so I can steal any useful techniques for my own use), we were finally eating and settling down to watch some horrible, horrible stuff.

"CURSE THESE CHEAP CHINESE CARDBOARD GLASSES!"

“CURSE THESE CHEAP CHINESE CARDBOARD GLASSES!”

We started out with the 3-D sequences of The Mask, which were available in red-blue anaglyph as an extra on the recent Kino-Lorber blu-ray. I had ordered 3-D glasses from Amazon (shipped from far-away, exotic China) for pennies and distributed them. For those who missed me rhapsodizing about it before – The Mask is an ancient Aztec ritual mask that, when you put it on, produces bad acid trips, and eventually homicidal episodes. The gimmick was when the soundtrack started entoning “Put the mask on – NOW!!!!” the audience was supposed to put on their 3-D glasses and be wowed by the bad acid trip. Kino-Lorber is to be complimented for allowing our group to enjoy these bizarre segments without having to sit through the rest of the fairly static thriller.

The experience also pointed up the reason why 3-D was a flash in the pan in the 50s: red-blue (or in the 50s, red-green) anaglyph demands a lot of light when projected. Exhibitors weren’t inclined to shorten the life of their projector bulbs by cranking them up, resulting in dark images and headaches. We didn’t even have that option on Dave’s projector, but the results were still good enough to provoke good-natured screams and ducking of heads. It had to be admitted that was a first for Crapfest.

Conjoined-Poster-Small2This was followed by another first: local filmmaker Joe Grisaffi had offered one of his movies for viewing. I imagine the conversation involved Dave saying, “You do know this is called Crapfest, right?” and “You’re aware of how we treat these movies, right?” And yet, here we are, watching a movie called Conjoined.

This is the tale of the traditionally reclusive schlub Stanley (Tom Long), who has met the love of his life, Alina (Michelle Ellen Jones) on the Internet and plans to marry her. Stanley has only two other friends: Jerry (Jake Byrd), a co-worker at a slaughterhouse, and Courtney (Deidre Stephens), a cam girl whom Stanley pays just to have a conversation. On the eve of their wedding, Alina reveals a big secret: she has a sister, who will have to live with her and Stanley. As the title would suggest, the sister, Alisa (Keefer Barlow) is conjoined. Also, because this is Crapfest, the twins look nothing alike and we surmised that they were joined at the dress. (also, welcome to low-budget filmmaking)

Now the mood in the room was pretty tentative during the opening scenes. Would this be mere cringe comedy (not my favorite flavor to be sure)? I had sneaked a peek at the basic plot, but we were unsure what tone the movie was trying to set. Alisa starts fomenting for a boyfriend of her own, and when Jerry walks out on a suddenly abusive dinner, Stanley turns to the video dating service where he met Alisa, and the first date seems to be going pretty well – until the guy says something wrong, and Alisa smashes his head into the floor a couple hundred times until there’s blood and brains everywhere.

Yep. Those are twins, alright. Yessir.

Yep. Those are twins, alright. Yessir.

The mood in the mancave shifted appreciatively. This wasn’t splatstick on the level of Raimi or Jackson – not yet anyway – but it was something we could tune in to. Turns out this isn’t Alisa’s first kill, either, nor will it be the last, and as the body count rises, Stanley desperately turns to Jerry for help, with a plan to separate the two women in a plastic-sheet shrouded attic, using household appliances instead of surgical instruments. If this weren’t low-budget black comedy, both women would have bled to death, but as it is, several gallons of stage blood don’t mean much. The operation is a success, at least until Jerry, supposed to ditch Alisa’s body, makes a poor decision (bad in intent and taste) and suddenly there’s a homicidal twin more on the loose than ever.

The closest comparison I can make is to another semi-obscure regional flick, Blood Car, that I saw at another festival of questionable films. Extreme subject matter taken only semi-seriously enough to be engaging, and backed up by better acting than you’re used to seeing in such low-budget affairs. It’s not going to be for everybody, but good grief what is?!?! And never forget – This! IS! CRAPFEEEEEEEST! 

INTO THE PIT, MOVIE WITH A BUDGET!

INTO THE PIT, MOVIE WITH A BUDGET!

(Didn’t even mention how Joe came to the Fest about 20 minutes after we started the flick and was a tad uncomfortable, thinking we would have watched it by that time. He failed to reckon on pizza prep time. I think we were fairly kind. Fairly.)

19-DeathStalkerPoster

Note this scene does not occur anywhere in the vicinity of this movie.

Now, although I said I wasn’t going to do this anymore, I had presented a list of possible movies. To be plain, I’ve spent so long trying to catch up on the world of quality cinema, I kind of felt like I’d lost the thread of what constitutes a good crap cinema viewing experience. To be even more plain, I found out quickly why I had sworn I was going to stop being so democratic because that is how we wound up watching Deathstalker.

Deathstalker (Rick Hill) is a blonde pile of muscle indiscernible from other blonde pile of muscles like Ator, Blernbag, or Botox the Barbarian (he only needs a white horse and a forest of fake trees and Nazis would be stealing his footage for propaganda). He does not engage in any Death stalking throughout the movie, but he does engage in a lot of attempted rape. We were of the opinion that Deathstalker was a family name, like Baker or Cooper.

Has it been five minutes since the last attempted rape already?

Has it already been five minutes since the last attempted rape?

His quest (of course he has to have a friggin’ quest to link together all the instances of attempted rape) involves gathering a sword, a chalice and an amulet for Ultimate Magical Power. The villain Munkar (Bernard Erhard) already has the chalice and the amulet. The sword Deathstalker gets from a Muppet claiming to be a wizard (who then falls into a river and becomes an Odious Comic Relief person). Along the way he picks up the warrior Chachi (oh who bloody cares) and poor doomed Lana Clarkson as a female warrior who is on a quest to find the top of her costume.

You see Munkar is having a tournament of warriors that is completely unripped-off from Enter the Dragon. Barbi Benton is also there as a captured Princess because Lana Clarkson has a sword, so somebody has to be around for rape to be attempted upon. We are assured that Munkar is evil because he keeps feeding childrens’ eyeballs to Muppets and his facial tattoo keeps switching sides (we were rooting for a subplot involving twins, but no, it was just bad continuity).

(Also I need to stop calling bad special effects Muppets because the worst Muppet in the stable has more personality than any character in this flick.)

ds-2You may have noticed a certain reliance on attempted rape in this review; that is also a fair assessment of the plot of Deathstalker. While the photography is okay, the movie itself is ugly in imagery and tone. This was the flick that convinced me it was okay to not check out every sword-and-sorcery movie that came out after Conan the Barbarian. Being the forgiving sort,  I’d bought the disc cheap years later. Maybe I was in a bad mood the day I saw it? Turns out I wasn’t.

The lady in question. Not a scene from this movie, however.

The lady in question. Not a scene from this movie, however.

Next up, we were held hostage to Dave’s newfound love for Edwige Fenech, an almost transcendentally lovely lady who made a lot of Eurotrash epics in the 1970s. She’s known mostly for sex comedies and a handful of gialli. Pretty, a good actress, and not that particularly shy, shall we say – an ideal subject for Crapfest.

Dave, though, doesn’t like to watch movies over again, and so put on one he hadn’t seen – All the Colors of the Dark. Edwige is a young lady suffering from nightmares (“Put the Mask on—-NOW!!!!), stemming from a miscarriage she had after an automobile accident. Her sister and her shrink think she needs psychotherapy, her boyfriend (no, they’re not married) is a jerk and thinks she doesn’t. So is it any wonder Edwige joins a cult of devil worshippers (in between showers, of course)?

All-the-Colors-of-the-Dark-1972All the Colors of the Dark goes into some pretty decent mindfuck territory, as Edwige is forced to sacrifice the friend who recruited her into the cult (it turns out that, like Amway, the only way you can leave a devil cult is get your own replacement), there’s a guy with weird contact lens following her with a knife, her jerk boyfriend is doing unhelpful things like bringing home books about witchcraft. Edwige’s grip on reality is getting really slippery, and she stopped taking showers at the halfway mark, meaning there was a lot of boredom and loud conversations in the room.

(If there is one failing of the mancave, it’s that these conversations used to take place in the kitchen, where they were more easily ignored. Note to self: next time ask Dave which remote controls the sound)

"But I don't WANT to put The Mask on NOW!!!!"

“But I don’t WANT to put The Mask on NOW!!!!”

Anyway, like Scooby-Doo, there is eventually a logical explanation for everything, except that it’s not that logical and it’s certainly not reasonable. (I had to track down a copy later to confirm that. The conversation-unfettered-by-boobies had gotten particularly loud, and possibly resentful) It does however, give Luciano Pigozzi, the Italian Peter Lorre, a chance to drop by and pick up a paycheck.

Too talky, and I’m not just talking about the audience. Dave promises us much better results next time, with the more provocatively-titled Strip Nude for Your Killer, also known as Why the Hell Weren’t We Watching A Movie With A Title Like That?

Erik then attempted to elevate the evening with Death Bed: The Bed That Eats. 

Death_Bed-_The_Bed_That_Eats_FilmPosterFirst, realize you are looking at the saddest beast in the D&D Monster Manual: a monster bed that sits in a room and hopes that someone lies down in it. Then realize you are watching one king-hell bizarre horror movie and sit back and enjoy.

There is a Narrator (Dave Marsh) who may or may not be Aubrey Beardsley, trapped behind a portrait he drew of the monstrous bed – the Bed tried to eat him, but “my disease” prevented his complete digestion and somehow bound him to the Bed. He offers at least two origin stories for the Bed, but the one that sticks has something to do with a demon-infested tree whose wood was used to build the Bed. Most of our menu will be provided by a young runaway, her friends, and her brother who’s pursuing them (William Russ, who went on to a pretty decent career). There are a couple of instances of oddball but effective horror – when an injured victim crawls tortuously toward the one door in the Death Bed room (which takes at least as long as the interminable fist fight in They Live), only to be drawn back by a tentacle-like bedsheet just as she crosses the threshold; and when the Brother tries to cut the Bed apart with a knife, only to have his hands reduced to skeletons by the hungry mattress meanie.

deathbedhuhAccording to the IMDb, Death Bed was filmed in 1972, an answer print struck in 1977, and then… nothing. Apparently bootlegs were circulating, and when writer/director George Barry found out he had – without trying – actually worked up a fair amount of word of mouth, finally released it in 2003. I think I would have really liked it even if it hadn’t been preceded by several hours of pretty stultifying material. When I get through my current fiscal crisis, I am picking up that blu-ray… this is a flick that deserves more than one look.

We had cleared out the wusses for the night, but as this was a rare Saturday night off for me, I slipped in one last movie at midnight for the hardcore. That other standard of the Crapfest, Kung Fu Treachery – this time, with Iron Monkey.

iron-monkey-movie-poster-1993-1020471362Now, quick and fast came the cries from Twitter (when doesn’t it?) that Iron Monkey is not a crap film – that it is, in fact, a pretty good one. This is true. My response then, is two-fold: 1) This was our reward for sitting through some lame-ass shit that night, and 2) There are some lines I will not cross, and showing bad kung fu flicks is one of those lines.

Iron Monkey is sort of a Chinese Robin Hood, stealing gold from the local corrupt governor and distributing it to the downtrodden poor, using his superior kung fu. The governor is getting pretty hot about it, too, arresting people who own monkeys, look like monkeys, or seem to possess more than the standard fighting prowess. Enter Donnie Yen as Wong Kei-Ying, in town to pick up herbs for his medical practice, with his young son, Wong Fei-Hung. Astute viewers will note this boy will grow into the character played by Jet Li in the Once Upon A Time In China movies and Jackie Chan in the Drunken Master flicks (and Kwan Tak-Hing in about a hundred movies, but that’s a digression for another time). (Also Wong Fei-Hung is being played by Tsang Sze-Man, a girl, but we need to get back to the plot)

ironmonkeyKei-Ying, in defending himself from some local hoodlums, is immediately suspect, but once the Iron Monkey himself shows up to disrupt the kangaroo court, Kei-Ying is blackmailed into capturing the outlaw, with Fei-Hung held as ransom. Iron Monkey is, naturally, the sympathetic Dr. Yang (Yu Rongguang). Then the new governor finally shows up, and who should it be but the Shaolin Traitor (Yen Shi-Kwan) and his two hard-hitting disciples, and then things start to get really kinetic.

Iron Monkey sadly has a little too much of the typical Donnie Yen undercranking the camera so he looks faster than he already is, but that’s in the service of some truly splendid Yuen Woo Ping choreography (he also directed). Quentin Tarantino promoted the movie in its first American release (doing us all a big favor), which also resulted in some very good English dubbing. I circumvented this by using my import all-region DVD, which had poorly translated English subtitles. It still has my favorite line to attempt to work into everyday conversation:

monks

Now all I need is the right situation. This may, I admit, take some time.

We awoke Rick (who later complained of sleeping through the best movie of the night) and headed wearily home. We will meet again, mancave. We will meet again.

 

 

 

Gangsters, Masks and Trogylodytes

I can say that I’m going to stop doing multiple movies in each post, and I will have to admit that I am lying. To accomplish this I would have to A) Write more often; or B) Watch fewer movies. Neither is likely. My berserk schedule does not allow that much flexibility, and February has turned into a month of burdensome obligations. But never mind that:

Once Upon A Time in America (1984)

once_upon_a_time_in_americaFor instance: I’m not sure how long the average post takes me to write; six to eight hours sounds about right, unless I’m talking about my favorite movie, and then it takes more like two weeks. Now consider that in the time it took to watch Once Upon a Time in America, I could have written two-thirds of this column. Of course, watching the movie is what this is all about, so that’s a specious comparison, but I am here to say that at four hours and eleven minutes, this is not a short movie.

Nor should long movies frighten us; in the right hands, they yield amazing dividends. The only slightly shorter Andrei Rublev is an incredible experience, but it also has the allure of the exotic going for it, being set in medieval Russia, whereas Once Upon a Time rests in somewhat more familiar territory, with the early 20th century providing a taste of antiquity, but only a taste. It’s the story of four Jewish kids growing up in New York and working their way into the Underworld, eventually becoming big time bootleggers during Prohibition. By that time the kids have grown up into Robert DeNiro, James Woods, William Forsythe and James Hayden. Elizabeth McGovern, Tuesday Weld, Larry Rapp and Darlanne Fluegel round out the core cast.

Once Upon a Time in America 10The movie starts with DeNiro’s character, Noodles, on the run for snitching on Woods’ character Max (and its consequent bloodbath), and finding that a million dollars he had stashed away is mysteriously missing. The movie is going to flash forward to 1968 and then back to the 1900s, throughout Noodles’ life as he attempts to put together exactly what happened, and taking the audience along with him. Somebody tracked him down in his new life and is leaving clues for him to pick up. If the biographical parts don’t interest you – and they will – the central mystery will certainly keep you hooked as the movie progresses.

There are a lot of people that are going to argue that Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is his crowning achievement, and I would have held out for Once Upon a Time in the West, but that was before I saw Once Upon a Time in America. It’s quite possible that anyone who lobbies actively for the first two had only seen the truncated theatrical cut, slashed down to two hours and twenty minutes – almost half its running time! – a cut that Treat Williams (playing an idealistic Union boss who turns to the dark side) claimed couldn’t possibly make any sense. The version I saw had footage spliced in that was obviously from the cutting room floor, lacking the shine and gloss of finished product, and at least one lengthy scene has such an essential plot point that I was amazed it was cut. A filmgoer who had paid attention up to that point could have filled in the details later… but I’m finding more and more that filmgoers that pay attention are rare animals.

abixwBht_zps96e04c74.png~originalLeone had reportedly been offered The Godfather and turned it down, to his regret. There is a lot of the epic flashback stuff in Godfather 2 that is an obvious influence here, but Leone’s recreations of early 20th century New York are breathtaking. This is a four hour movie that only felt like three hours. It’s the longest movie on this year’s List, and I glad it’s out of the way, but I’m also very, very glad I saw it.

Buy Once Upon a Time in America on Amazon

Little Caesar (1931)

220px-LittleCaesarPYeah, it was with a little sarcasm that I followed up with Little Caesar, going so much in the opposite direction that it was absurd. The movie gives us the rise and fall of a crime kingpin in a slim 80 minutes. It may go by faster, but it also seems much slighter, certainly far less dense.

Edward G. Robinson delivers a star-making performance as Rico, who starts out the movie sticking up a gas station, but deciding to head to the Big City because he’s made for bigger stuff, see? Going along with him is his partner, Joe (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) who sees the City as his big chance to become a dancer. Rico signs onto a mob easy enough, even though the boss (Stanley Fields) is a little concerned about Rico’s willingness to use his gun.

105659-004-3271C8DCJoe does get a job as a dancer at a night club (it was a different time, I tells ya), and slowly removes himself from Rico’s sphere. Rico does stage a hold-up at the nightclub, and winds up shooting a local Commissioner. After that, his rise to the top of the Underworld begins, and it is as meteoric as his fall, precipitated when he tries to force Joe back into his gang, and Joe’s lover convinces him to turn state’s evidence against Rico. His loyalty to Rico is, shall we say, bruised when Rico tries to kill him, but can’t bring himself to pull the trigger.

Rico will end up hiding out in a flophouse, but is roused to action by the head cop who’s been dogging him all movie long starts insulting him in the papers, leading up to a shootout and those famous words, “Mother of mercy, is this the end of Rico?”

vlcsnap-2016-01-31-01h13m17s081It all feels very 1931, if you catch my drift. Stilted and somewhat mannered, even given the subject matter. Sources are conflicted as to whether or not Rico is based on Al Capone or Salvatore “Sam” Cardinella, another violent Chicago mobster, but that doesn’t really matter. From this comes The Public Enemy, Scarface and any number of other gangster movies – but the real reason to watch is Edward G. Robinson. Robinson was a serious student of drama, and watching him act is always an unalloyed pleasure. He’s probably one of the finest character actors of the 20th century, and that he’s unrealized as such, and is instead relegated to the ranks of cartoon characters, ending every sentence with a “nyah!” is the true crime here.

Buy Little Caesar on Amazon

The Mask (1961)

CR3Ynk2VAAAzh77In the spirit of due diligence, I should reveal that I entered in a contest in December, sponsored by Classic Movie Hub and Kino-Lorber. I won the first week, and the prize was my choice of eight Kino-Lorber blu-ray titles. They were all tempting (and more than a few I have purchased in the meantime) but the only one I had never seen was The Mask, though it had haunted most of my adult life when it was the cover for RESearch magazine’s Incredibly Strange Films issue.

The Mask is notable for several reasons. First, a somewhat novel use of 3-D, especially considering that cinematic craze was over by 1955 and The Revenge of the Creature. It is also the second film by Julian Roffman, who almost single-handedly jump-started the Canadian feature film industry. It was felt that a horror movie like The Mask would be more successful commercially than his first effort, a crime film called The Bloody Brood, starring Peter Falk.

Psychiatrist Allan Barnes (Paul Stevens) has a particularly distraught patient in Michael Radin (Martin Lavut), a young archaeologist who’s been having nightmares and blackouts. Radin feels it is somehow the fault of a strange South American ritual mask he discovered recently; he claims it is exerting an unholy, murderous power over him.

The Mask 2Barnes dismisses Radin’s fears, because unlike us, he did not watch the beginning of the movie where Radin pursued and strangled a young lady. Even more distraught, Radin leaves the office, mails the mask to Barnes, and blows his brains out.

So Barnes finds himself in possession of what his deceased patient claimed had taken over and ruined his life, and like any curious person in the same room with the Necronomicon, he just has to have a look. The ominous voice in the soundtrack intoning “Put the mask on… NOW!!!” probably wasn’t helping, either.

post-269895-0-10112400-1446578737This is the point at which theater-goers were supposed to put on their own mask, ie., the red/green glasses that made 3D work in those days. Barnes finds out that wearing the mask immediately results in a bad LSD trip, full of horrifying and bizarre imagery. He also feels himself compelled to wear the mask over and over, as he slowly succumbs to the same paranoia and murderous delusions as his patient.

Now the first thing one is going to ask (particularly if “one” is me) is – so how are the bad acid trip images? And the answer is pretty darn good, actually. Roffman had gone so far as to consult avant-garde artists in the design of these sequences (ironically, he abandoned their concepts as too unrealistic, especially on his budget) and employ groundbreaking electronic music. These parts are refreshingly forward-thinking. The images are strange and actually unnerving, aided immeasurably by the fact that Roffman uses his 3D very constructively, even when things aren’t flying out or reaching toward you from the screen. Objects in the foreground and the background provide nice parallax scrolling, for instance. The Kino-Lorber blu-ray, in association with the 3-D Film Archive, is sharp and flawless and produced for people with 3-D players and TVs, neither of which apply to me. The trip sequences are supplied in red/blue anaglyph as an extra, but, alas, not as a part of the 2-D presentation. The anaglyph presentation is really strong, as well – but you’ll need to provide your own glasses.

lobby-card-the-mask-1961

Sad as this is, it does force the poorer viewers among us (like me) to judge The Mask on its own merits. It has a reputation as being slow-moving, but hey, welcome to low-budget genre films in the 50s and 60s. Most people watching The Mask came to see the 3D sequences, and under those circumstances, anything not mask-related is doing to be greeted with impatience. Bereft of that gimmick, we can see The Mask as it really is: sightly clunky, repetitious and padded, but no less so than a lot of its contemporaries. And those mask sequences, appearing at roughly a half hour, 45 minutes, and then ten minutes before the end – are really something. I’m unsure of the disc authoring voodoo necessary to make such things happen, but I really wish they could have used the branching capabilities of the technology to make a 2-D/anaglyph viewing of the movie possible, just like in the theaters.

Buy The Mask on Amazon

Bone Tomahawk (2015)

BtomahawkThis was getting quite a bit of buzz at the end of the year, and the premise is pretty unique, so I knew I was going to have to watch it, even if just for the cast. And man, what a cast; I am going to single out casting director Matthew Maisto right here for some lavish praise.

Because right at the beginning, we meet two cut-throat western bandits (literally – the very first image of the movie is a man getting his throat cut) played by Sid Haig and David Arquette. And dammit, any movie that starts out with Sid Haig is okay in my book. Not that these guys are going to last long – while vamoosing because they hear horses approaching, they blunder through what is obviously an Indian burial ground of some sort, and before you know it, Sid is festooned with arrows.

BONE TOMAHAWKBut having had our nerves jangled, let’s go over to the little frontier town of Bright Hope several days later, where cattle boss Arthur (Patrick Wilson!) is recovering from a broken leg. His wife Samantha (Lili Simmons) is the backup for the local drunken doctor (luckily for Arthur) and she is called to the jail one night to tend a drifter who got into an altercation with Sheriff Hunt (Kurt Russell!), and got shot in the leg. That drifter is David Arquette, so we’re pretty sure something bad is in the offing.

The next morning a local stable boy is dead and disemboweled, the horses he was tending are missing, and so is the drifter, the Deputy, and Samantha. The local educated Indian, the Professor (Zahn McClarnon) identifies the unique bone-tipped arrow left behind as belonging to “The Trogylodytes”, a tribe the other tribes leave strictly alone because they don’t want to die. He points the way to a series of canyons where the Trogs make their home, and a sadly small party of Hunt, Arthur, a dandified Indian fighter named Brooder (Matthew Fox!) and the “backup deputy” Chicory (Richard Jenkins!) set out to rescue their townsfolk.

bone_7This core ensemble works so incredibly well together that I yearned for more adventures with them. Matthew Fox’s appropriately-named Brooder is a fun departure for him, but the real revelation is Richard Jenkins as Bone Tomahawk‘s Walter Brennan character. Unrecognizable in the role, Jenkins very easily steals the show from the other three, and that is no small accomplishment. It wasn’t until almost halfway through the movie I realized who he was!

bonetomaPatrick Wilson’s Arthur has been given an interesting obstacle for his character to overcome: that broken leg. No devil from hell is going to stop him from rescuing his wife, but the constant re-injuring and threat of gangrene puts a particular edge to his struggle.

Oh, and the Trogylodytes, it turns out, are cannibals, so in the last half-hour it turns into an Ruggero Deodato movie. There’s a reason I can’t expect to see more movies with those four characters.

(To return to the cast once more, I should mention that among the citizens of Bright Hope can be seen – briefly – James Tolkan, Sean Young and Michael Parê. Good work, Mr. Maisto!)

bone-tomahawkThis is S. Craig Zahler’s first movie as a director (and his second as screenwriter) and it does nothing but make you hungry for the next one. The dialogue is so damned good, the characters so well-delineated, that the movie was a genuine pleasure to discover.

Also, if the Universe could continue to cough up two new westerns a year starring Kurt Russell (and maybe Sid Haig, too), I would be very appreciative.

Buy Bone Tomahawk on Amazon

Zéro de conduite (1933)

Zero_de_conduiteSo why not finish up with another story of savages? Or more appropriately, I started with the longest movie on the list, I might as well finish up with the shortest, at only 44 minutes.

Zero for Conduct is about four boys in a repressive boarding school, their lives little better than that of prisoners, who cook up an act of rebellion during the school’s annual celebration of its very existence. This is Jean Vigo’s third film – he only made four – and it was thought so scandalous and subversive that the French censor banned it until 1947. Vigo himself was quite the anarchist, and it shows in his movies to this point, a mixture of irreverence and surrealism. The new schoolteacher, Hugeut (Jean Dasté), little more than a boy himself, draws a caricature of a fellow teacher that animates itself; the dominating headmaster is a bearded midget (Delphin), and in the annual celebration, the grandstand full of dignitaries is quite obviously a bunch of literal dummies.

Zero_de_conduiteZero is tagged as influential, with many descendants like The 400 Blows quoting it. There is at least one sequence of thrilling, otherworldly beauty; possibly the first “shit” ever uttered in a French film (twice), and, sadly, the feeling that this might be a longer project trimmed down due to time and money. In any case, certainly worth a watch, definitely since I’ll soon be watching Vigo’s final film, L’Atalante.

Buy The Complete Jean Vigo on Amazon