Saturday, March 23, 2013

Pretty Painful

Tuesday Weld sucks her spoon in Pretty Poison. Her thumb wasn't available.

My friend Val hipped me to 1968's  Pretty Poison, notable to him because it was shot in and around Great Barrington, Mass.

Tony Perkins is Dennis the weirdo, out on parole for a juvenile arson/manslaughter beef.

Tuesday Weld is Sue Anne, the psycho high school babe.

And that chunky guy over there, half asleep in the armchair, is me.

See, Dennis is nuts. He tells ol' Sue Anne some load of bull about being a secret agent and a sinister plot.

And she turns out to be crazier than he is.

Unhappily for this flick, the craziest of all are those who sit through it without once deploying the fast-forward.

After a long night in the woods, Dennis is menaced by a red newt.

Never mind too much plot getting in the way of the story. For that to be true, you'd have to know which story the plot is messing with.

And there are too many things happening here.

It could be a serious attempt at a topical thriller, except it's not even a little bit thrilling.

It could be a black comedy, except the humor is unintentional.

Or it could just be a lousy movie.

"Helmut, please! Make the dog stop!"

Val reports that when Perkins arrived for the shoot, he visited the only openly gay men in the neighboring town of Egremont — two German furniture makers who wore tight leather pants. Their dog bit him, which might explain the way he runs in this film.

We're talking extremely unlikely love scene between Tuesday Wed and Anthony Perkins filmed through the foliage. (Normally this would call of an automatic one-coil deduction but in this case I think it's a blessing.) Psychedelic freak-out with the full moon, so lamely rendered that it would have me chasing down my dealer to demand my money back. Much examination of little bottles of some red liquid. Many fine character actors wearing bow ties, cardigans and stingy brim fedoras. Cops that say "Shaddap, punk." Big Tony running festively through a field after being attacked by a red newt. Loud cigarette-smoking mother with shellacked hair. Incidental music by Johnny Mandel that he reused for M*A*S*H, correctly reasoning that no one would remember Pretty Poison.

Only watch this with a South Berkshire County, Mass., old-timer to point out the locations and talk about gay German furniture makers.

Otherwise this is pretty painful poison.

One coil.

(Click one the link for an entirely different take from an art-damaged ninny:

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Fangs, Si! Angst, No!

Vampire Party (2008) is a vampire flick with young people in it that has absolutely zero angst.

And what a relief that is.

Sam and his two pals Prune and Alice are party animals. They finagle invitations to this infamous Medici Night party, held in a castle accessible only by helicopter.

That's the good news. The bad news is the party is for vampires, celebrating some similar night in the 14th century where one of the de Medici gals arranged with the local bloodsuckers to wipe out a few thousand Protestants.

So it doesn't take long before mayhem breaks loose.

Thank God the directors don't try to explain everything. Instead they go with silly sight gags and bad jokes, rendered worse because this is a French flick.

One of the two breasts featured in Vampire Party.

Arms melt off in holy water. Vampire death by fire. Vampire farts. Vampire toupee. Vampire hairstyling, discussion of. Running dental gag. Incantations that produce amusing results. Two breasts. Plenty of well-timed blood. Honest-to-God vampires that burn up in the sunlight.

Light-hearted and short, this is the perfect antidote to the ghastly "Twilight" nonsense.

Four coils, and a nomination for the iron Coil list

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Trout Madness 2013 — First Foray

The stoneflies are out on the Housatonic, causing great excitement among anglers whose brains have turned to soup after a winter of pretending to be interested in basketball, hockey, and a proposed code of ethics for the town of Salisbury, Conn.

I headed out this morning, feeling pleased with myself since I had a) remembered to change the clocks to daylight savings time and b) because last week's snow was melting at a nice, steady rate and c) because we have some year-round streams around here, so no need to wait for the statutory "Opening Day" of trout season and d) because I CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE!

After stopping to get a sandwich and two Snickers bars (which with a box of Band-Aids constitutes my emergency kit), I thought, "Let's just head up the mountain road and see if the brook looks fishable."

And it sure did.

Reasoning that if it was a washout I could still get to the big river and get in a couple hours flinging stonefly rigs, I suited up, ducked in, and plopped a size 12 red Humpy in a likely-looking spot.

Nothing happened.

I switched to a stimulator, thinking if stoneflies are on the big river they would probably be here too. (I was ignoring the total lack of said stoneflies on the rocks.) That got a couple of looks, but no dice.

I then tied on a piece of tippet to the bend of the hook and played around with a Prince nymph (one tug), a stonefly nymph (crickets) and a succession of soft-hackle wets in different colors (yawn).

This was not a total loss. The day was warm, the shelf ice not as treacherous as it will be in a week or two, the cigar was fresh, and I was treated to the sight of a cross-country skier, so intent on his mysterious exercise that he failed to see me from 15 yards away. He was accompanied by three rambunctious dogs of indeterminate breed, who definitely saw me.

Finally I tied on a crackleback fly, which is all hackle and marketed by an outfit in St. Louis as being the absolute best super-duper all-round fly for when nothing else works. I have never caught anything but a stick on these things, but today it netted the first trout of the nascent season, a skinny little brown trout with beautiful markings and a surprised expression.

I caught two more browns and one brookie, which is what I was really after. The state used to stock this brook with browns, until wiser heads prevailed and it was reclassified as a wild brook trout stream, no-kill, single barbless hooks only. That was several years ago, so where these browns came from I don't know.

Four hours passed quite happily, and I didn't even fall in.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Like Ecch, Man

The Bloody Brood (1959) is a Canadian beatsploitation flick starring an impossibly young Peter Falk as the slightly cross-eyed and all sinister Nico, a drug dealer who is also the leader of a group of beatniks.

They're having a party, dig? And the gang just witnessed the old newsie die of a heart attack at The Digs, dig?

So Nico and this other cat who dresses real square but is truly hip, you know, they decide that the real kick is to plan and carry out a murder.

(Okay, the attempt to write this in Beatnik ends now.)

So when this kid shows up with a telegram for the guy whose apartment they're trashing, and he's not there, and the kid sees a rather fleshy gal in tights doing one of those aimless dances you can still see at a Bob Weir/Phil Lesh show, well, it's all over, because these psychobeats feed the kid a hamburger with ground glass in it.

And the kid dies.

This infuriates his older brother, Cliff, who infiltrates The Digs (the bar where these dorks congregate) and eventually figures it out, in between getting beat up by Nico's underworld henchmen.

The big denouement is when Cliff bribes the house poet (the Gregory Corso of this group) with cash and booze to read a horrible poem that reveals the details of the murder.

This sounds like pure fermented curd, and in many ways this is a pretty crummy flick.

But the acting is pretty good. The direction is pretty good. And the music is pretty good.

The poetry, bongo playing, and bad dancing, however, are about as scaly as you'd expect.

So for a cheapo exploitation flick designed to take advantage of the notoriety of the Beats, it's not half bad.

I give this one an honest three coils.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Glopola City for Jack Brooks

Jack Brooks, Monster Slayer (2007) is a nice, tidy, and moderately amusing revenge flick with some serious monsters and a whole lot of sinister barfing and death tentacles.

Young Jack witnessed his entire family getting whomped on by some sort of forest demon, and he is wracked with guilt because he got away. This in turn causes him to be a goateed, baseball-capped loser with a bad anger problem.

And a plumber.

Normally this set-up would send the red flags flying, but luckily they keep the psychobabble to a dull roar, the better to concentrate on the glop, which this flick has in spades.

Robert Englund plays the nutty professor who buys the house with the evil stuff in the yard, so when he gets infected with the monster yick he retches a lot in front of his dopey students, and then morphs into a thing that looks like a cross between Jabba the Hut and Freddy Krueger.

The thing sends out the Death Tentacles, which bind up the victims until it's time to jam a weird white thing down their throats and suck up their insides (and, presumably, their souls). Then they turn into zombie monsters.

Jack's belligerence sure does come in handy here, because these zombies (or monsters, I can't decide) take a lot of killing.

There's some of kind of love subplot but I can't remember what it was about, except that it does not involve any nekkidity (automatic one coil deduction).

One large fat beast. Two, if you count the nerdy girl. Actually, it's three, if you count Robert Englund before and after the transformation. Two accessory beasts. Fast-moving zombie demon critters that used to be community college students. (You can tell them from regular, non-zombie demon critter community college students by their speed.)

Green barf. Yapping dog. Sinister old man in hardware store. Old boiler. Fun with plumbing. The old "the car won't start and the monster is coming" gag. Superstitious natives. Psychiatrist.

Short and to the point. A nice job, only lacking in breasts to be a CACA Iron Coil contender. As it is, a well-deserved three coils.

Friday, March 1, 2013

I Eat Your Skin — Again, plus the Dangers of Teal Sport Coats

I got a two-fer disc from Netflix with  "Back from the Grave" and "The Undertaker and His Pals."

Somebody got their wires crossed because the former is "I Eat Your Skin," previously discussed in this space. I repeat it here. I have nothing to add, really, except in this version they got the dubbing straightened out:

Two exciting facts about 'I Eat Your Skin":
  • There is no skin-eating in the film.
  • Auteur Del Tenney was from Connecticut and once made a good film, 1964's The Curse of the Living Corpse, which had real writing, a real script, a real editor, and real actors, including Roy Scheider in his screen debut.
"I Eat Your Skin," also made in 1964, wasn't released until 1971 as the second half of a drive-in double bill with "I Drink Your Blood," a hippie-biker rabies epic.

It had been sitting on the shelf under the title Voodoo Blood Bath, but the distributor liked the "Last Supper" imagery on the twin bill poster. ("I Eat Your Flesh" would have been better, but it was taken.)

Novelist Tom Harris writes smutty best-sellers and spends his time poolside at the Fountainbleau in Miami, reading aloud from his works to a crowd of bikini-clad housewives. His agent, a clenched-jawed WASP named Fairchild, hatches a scheme to go to this island where a scientist is working on a cure for everything and, oh yeah, there are supposed be eighteen kinds of poisonous snakes and zombies on this island.

So they go because a pudgy bald guy in a Dacron suit is chasing Tom (with malice aforethought) for horsing around with his wife. So what the hey?

During this opening sequence it is apparent that director Tenney achieved something remarkable: this is the first American film made for domestic release where the words don't match the lips. At all.
It's as if it was dubbed into Korean and dubbed back from the Italian translation of the Korean by a crew from Portugal.

This results in happy accidents such as the pudgy bald man shaking his fist and yelling "I getting you am son of beech!"

OK - there's a whole lot of plot which I won't bore you with. It's sufficient to relate that the zombies are real, the voodoo priest wishes to sacrifice the blonde, the scientist is fairly evil, the other guy is completely evil, the good guys escape, and the island blows up.

The zombie transformation scenes are entertaining in a primitive fashion; their eyes bug out through the caked-on makeup, making them look like trout that have been lightly coated in corn meal and fried. (If you don't believe me try it.)

The voodoo dancing is pretty good but ultimately tedious, as is the sight of Tom with no shirt.
The clenched-jawed WASP looks like what you'd get if you stirred the genes of Robert F. Kennedy and William F. Buckley together and told the result you were outlawing touch football and madras pants.

As a period piece, I Eat Your Skin is mildly amusing. One decapitation. One extended blast of voodoo dancing. Girls in bikinis. Man in Dacron suit shoved in pool. Bad prose read aloud to girls in bikinis prior to man in Dacron suit getting shoved in pool. Exploding zombie. WASP climbing a cliff in loafers. Mad scientist. Snakes. Code Yellow ethnocentrism - enough to be noticeable, but not egregious enough to be funny. Short.
Two coils.

"The Undertaker and His Pals" is a whole different kettle of rancid fish. A private eye has an office above a greasy spoon diner called, appropriately, "The Greasy Spoon." Girls keep getting killed and their bodies mutilated, by these three motocycle weirdos who always stop at a phone booth and check an address in the phone book. 

And something's up with that diner, because they never have anything on the menu except the special.

Here's where the sophisticated humor kicks in: When Sally Lamb is killed, and her legs chopped off, the special is leg of lamb.

Get it?

This is a spectacularly bad film, including a car chase shot in exciting "Improb-O-Vision," in which the cars start out at night, switch to broad daylight, and wind up at night. So unless the idea was that the car chase took 24 hours, I think the filmmaker, the immortal T.L.P. Swicegood, saved a few bucks on the continuity girl.

Good looking cut on the PI's sack sportcoat, only slightly marred by the fluorescent teal color. Girls with big bazooms but no nekkidity (automatic one coil deduction). Greasy undertaker to go with The Greasy Spoon. Bonus stock footage of actual medical operation. Three good lung-busting screamers.
Very little plot to interfere with the story. Acid vat. Meat cleaver to head. Legs roll. Breasts roll (implied). Spurting blood a la Sam Peckinpah. Appallingly stupid and mercifully short. One coil.