Archives for posts with tag: 80s Oddities Month

Human Highway

Human Highway (1982) ****

Co-scripted and directed by eccentric rocker Neil Young (using the pseudonym Bernard Shakey), Human Highway is the weirdo sort of movie destined from its inception to become an item of cult interest. Young stars as lamebrained mechanic Lionel, who dreams of rock stardom while making a mess of his duties at Dean Stockwell’s roadside gas station and diner, where coworkers include Sally Kirkland, Russ Tamblyn, and Dennis Hopper. The diner is situated near a nuclear power plant where the boys from Devo work and are exposed to so much radiation that they actually glow with red light. Stockwell, who has inherited the diner from his father and finds it in financial disarray, gets the idea to torch his unprofitable business and be rid of it; but will he be able to hatch his plot before toxic waste, radiation poisoning, or a full-blown nuclear holocaust throws a monkey wrench into his plans?

More of a gratuitously bizarre curiosity than a genuinely admirable film, Human Highway remains a valuable document of the prevailing new wave musical sensibility of the day as applied to cinema, and also conveys the anxieties of the eighties about the possibility of nuclear holocaust and the threat to man and the environment posed by toxic waste. This black comedy’s script, unfortunately, too often aims for the random and leaves most of the ideas and characters underdeveloped, while the production values are on the order of a typical episode of Pee-wee’s Playhouse – which, depending upon the viewer’s individual taste, could be a blessing or a curse. The film really starts to fall apart from a narrative standpoint during the second half, with (for some reason) a montage of Native Americans dancing around a bonfire of wooden Indians and Lionel dreaming after being knocked unconscious of rock-and-roll stardom and excess, and letting a groupie suck milk off of him with a straw. The high point of Human Highway is an extended bout of down-and-dirty, feedback-fried riffing and jamming between Neil Young and Devo, with the team totally freaking out and looking like a bunch of psychos.

4 out of 5 glass parking lots.

Incident at Channel Q

Incident at Channel Q (1986) *****

Al Corley headlines this trash heap treasure as Rick Van Ryan, a smug, sarcastic, rebel-rousing VJ at regional television station Q 23. The teenagers love him, but stick-in-the-mud suburbanite parents and Christian conservatives are all in a tizzy and picketing Rick’s unwholesome influence, demanding that his program, Heavy Metal Heaven, be taken off the air in order to save young people’s souls. Corporate sponsors are getting nervous, the old guard at Q 23 hates his guts, and the Tipper Gore ticket is getting unruly, with two right-wing brutes ambushing Rick in an alley and beating him up, after which the young radical moves to bring the cultural crisis to a head, barricading himself inside the TV station and calling on his followers to lend him support. 

What passes for a story line in Incident at Channel Q is primarily a pretext for exhibiting a series of then-recent music videos in their entirety, these videos – ranging from Rush to Rainbow, KISS, Iron Maiden, and all points in between – taking up half or more of the movie and simulating the experience of watching 80 minutes or so of MTV on a typical day in the 1980s. The music, for the most part, is fantastic stuff for 80s rock buffs, with a trio of videos – Lita Ford’s “Gotta Let Go”, the Scorpions’ “Rock You Like a Hurricane”, and Motley Crue’s vicious “Looks That Kill”  – constituting some of the greatest, most outlandishly photogenic material ever committed to film. Poofy hair, horror lighting, whore makeup, chintzy sets, studded leather wristbands, tight pants, and other depravity abound, with KISS’s “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose” being another fun and action-packed video, while others – Rush’s “Body Electric” and Deep Purple’s “Knocking at Your Back Door” – showcase the post-apocalyptic imagery that was popular in those years.

5 pentagrams for the rock and the morally righteous camp value. VHS copies of Incident at Channel Q are inexpensive, so readers who see one languishing on a used bookstore shelf or in a moldy box in a basement are advised to redeem it or suffer the vengeful disfavor of Satan. 

 

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Dr. Caligari (1989) ****1/2

A non-pornographic film from Stephen Sayadian, the man behind the fan favorite Cafe Flesh (1982), Dr. Caligari casts a formidable bid for the most colorfully flamboyant and lurid movie ever made. Recalling the premise of Sayadian’s script for the episodic adult feature Nightdreams (1981), Dr. Caligari concerns the titular harridan’s perverted experiments in sexuality at her insane asylum. Her latest guinea pigs include Mrs. Van Houten (Laura Albert), who suffers from psychotic “nympholepsy”, and redneck serial killer and cannibal Mr. Pratt (John Durbin in a thoroughly grotesque and charismatic performance). Meanwhile, subordinate Dr. Avol (Fox Harris of immortal Repo Man infamy) discovers that Dr. Caligari has finally gone too far and resolves to bring her reign of erotic terror to an end.

Shoulder pads were invented for Madeleine Reynal, evilly graceful and domineering in the role of the mad scientist, while Fox Harris gets the most outrageous showcase of his career for his special brand of over-the-top camp craziness, and sultry, unforgettable Laura Albert furnishes eye confection of the most delectable order as the hallucinating nymphomaniac patient. Dr. Caligari‘s true star, however, is writer-director-designer-cinematographer Stephen Sayadian, whose sight gags, wacky color schemes, sick sense of menacing humor, and flair for the tastefully tacky permeate and elevate this 80s oddity, updating the original’s expressionism for the decade of eye-popping neon. Shot almost entirely in chiaroscuro, Dr. Caligari occasionally evinces the feel of a real horror movie and packs some genuinely disturbing content with its hat-tips to incest, sadomasochism, and Cronenbergian body angst. The only thing Sayadian’s opus is missing – other than emotional depth, obviously – is the narrative momentum that might have prevented the film from overstaying its welcome slightly even at 80 minutes.

4.5 out of 5 stars. Be sure to check Dr. Caligari out in its entirety on YouTube.

 

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Strong Medicine (1981) ***1/2

Produced with a grant from the fiendish National Endowment for the Arts, the self-consciously artsy Strong Medicine is the brainchild of avant-garde playwright Richard Foreman, founder of the Ontological-Hysteric Theater, which has “the aim of stripping the theater bare of everything but the singular and essential impulse to stage the static tension of interpersonal relations in space” and “seeks to produce works which balance a primitive and minimal style with extremely complex and theatrical themes.”

Strong Medicine follows a woman named Rhoda (Kate Manheim) through a real or imagined absurdist hell of uncomfortable interactions with a host of strangers ostensibly celebrating her birthday. Among those she meets are a dirty-minded doctor (David Warrilow) and a horny lesbian on a train. An air of Kafkaesque futility and ennui pervades Foreman’s film, which may interest those who go for the outre, and who like or can stomach the likes of Beckett and Bunuel or enjoy the stagebound austerity of a film of the type of Marat/Sade (1967). Mildly amusing at best, the experience of taking Strong Medicine is very much like that of watching an opaque European art film in English – although, betraying its foreign affinities, the pretentious end card actually reads “FIN”.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

 

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Cannibal Mercenary

Mercenary aka Cannibal Mercenary (1983) ****

This Thai film, titled to capitalize on the success of then-recent Italian gut-munching horrors Cannibal Holocaust (1980) and Cannibal Ferox (1981), finds a ragtag team of sleazy and mentally damaged mercenaries venturing into VC-infested territory to assassinate a drug kingpin who commands an army of “Draculas”, cannibal tribesmen sort of like Indochinese hillbillies.

Clearly inspired by Apocalypse Now (1979), Mercenary opens with post-traumatic battle flashbacks intermingled with a shot of a ceiling fan like the one that transfixes Martin Sheen. After a little hokey, English-dubbed melodrama to set the plot in motion, Mercenary gets down to business – and brutal, nasty business it is, with the outnumbered protagonists encountering the Viet Cong, quicksand, booby traps, and (speaking of booby traps) a treacherous, manipulative jungle bitch who threatens the cohesiveness of the group.

Idiosyncratically edited, Mercenary has scenes of high-stress, noisy, tension-ratcheting quick cuts that appear to be designed to strain the viewer’s nerves to the breaking point, such as when a henchman threatens to waste a whining kid and initiates a death countdown. Standout imagery includes a beheading, eye-gouging, maggot-eating, face-urinating, a skull being split open by a spike, and subsequent hungry brain-gobbling. Horror watchers will also enjoy the tacky, uncredited appropriation of Goblin’s music from Dawn of the Dead (1978). Recommended to cannibal movie videovores and other perverts, who, however, should not get their hopes up about seeing the pictured Aryan super soldier spring into battle, as no such figure appears in Mercenary, an all-Asian affair, alas.

4 out of 5 stars.

Devastator

The Devastator (1986) ****

Directed by low-budget action specialist Cirio H. Santiago, a master of what Joe Bob Briggs has termed the “exploding bamboo” subgenre, The Devastator is yet another generic 80s ‘Nam vet vigilante movie – or, in other words, a classic! Richard Hill, better known for playing the title part in Deathstalker (1983), stars as Deacon Porter, a vet who just wants to get on with his life, but finds himself thrust back into the fray when his old commanding officer is murdered. In the rural California community of King’s Ransom, drug lord Carey (Crofton Hardester) rules his roost with a hell-raising paramilitary force and even has the sheriff (Kaz Garas) on his payroll. When Deacon and a few of his ex-soldier buddies assemble in town, however, Carey’s days of 80s drug tyranny are numbered.

Not much in the way of plot, The Devastator is primarily wall-to-wall action – largely set to chintzy synthesizer music – with some truly impressive stunt work along the way. The most fun, however, is probably to be had from Deacon’s burly compatriot Ox (Jack Daniels!), a growling party animal who greets his old teammate by punching a hole through his door (!) and who clearly delights in over-the-top mayhem for the kicks. The villain has a healthy, thriving marijuana field, which, when Ox assaults it and sets it on fire, results in an even more humongous marijuana holocaust than the one in Up in Smoke (1978) – that, and a funny variation on Duvall’s famous line from Apocalypse Now (1979), with Ox taking big, deep breaths of the stuff and exulting like some victorious barbarian.

Rock-jawed Hill is only so-so in the charisma department, but with his muscular build the actor definitely has the look of the all-American action hero. Jack Daniels, as noted, is quite the hoot as Ox, while foxy item Katt Shea, who co-stars as Hill’s love interest, spunky gas pump attendant Audrey, would go on shortly after The Devastator to become a director of some note, creating stylish thrillers like Stripped to Kill (1987) and Streets (1990). The Devastator would make a perfect double feature with funky Gary Busey actioner Eye of the Tiger (1986), an entry to which this programmer bears a thematic resemblance. 

4 stars. Check it out!

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The Jar

The Jar (1984) ***

Paul (Gary Wallace) is a dull, bearded man who will spend most of The Jar wandering through nightmares and staring at his surroundings with irritable angst after experiencing a fateful auto accident. The other driver, a strange old man (Les Miller), is shaken and uncommunicative, so Paul takes him home with him to his apartment. The elderly gentleman soon disappears, but leaves behind him a jar wrapped in a paper sack. Inside the jar is a little blue demon, and before very long Paul is suffering visions of his bathtub filling with blood and his shower head emitting rays of otherworldly light that transport him into a dark, rocky pit. Crystal (Karin Sjoberg), a beautiful, bright-eyed brunette with a dimpled chin, for some reason takes an interest in Paul, wants to date him, and attempts to drag this drab, unfriendly nutcase out of his madness and increasing isolation.

An offbeat, minimalist horror obscurity that will try and annoy all but the most open-minded seekers after the arcane, The Jar is a film that flouts conventions, refusing to conform to the expectations of genre buffs. People who rented the video based on the cover image of what the box describes as “a repulsive, embryonic creature” and hoped for another Gremlins (1984) or Ghoulies (1985) must have been sorely disappointed, as the thing only appears onscreen for a second or two at a time and is almost totally inanimate, to boot. Unremittingly weird and yet frequently boring, The Jar‘s most unforgivable fault is that next to nothing happens for the duration of its draggy 85 minutes.

On the plus side, The Jar has quite a few eerie moments and shows how scuzzy production values and a cast of non-professional actors can sometimes evoke more menace and atmosphere than high-dollar horror. The Jar, in a Vietnam flashback scene, also contains the most maddening helicopter noise ever heard in a film, the electronic sound design doing much to sustain viewer interest for much of this rather frustrating movie. Unsurprisingly, this was writer George Bradley’s and director Bruce Toscano’s only film.

3 out of 5 stars.

 

Getting Lucky

Getting Lucky (1990) ****

Bill (Steven Cooke) is a nerdy, liberal weenie and recycling enthusiast being bullied by the jocks at school when he fortuitously finds a recovering alcoholic leprechaun (Garry Kluger) in a beer bottle. Granted three wishes, Bill naturally wants a shot at hot cheerleader Krissi (Lezlie Z. McCraw), which brings him into intensified conflict with sadistic stud Tony (Rick McDowell), who also wants to get his paws on her. The hit-and-miss Irish magic results in such memorable moments as Bill being turned into a cat, Tony’s tennis racket coming to life and giving him a whacking, and Bill shrinking to mite size, riding a naked vixen’s bar of soap as she lathers herself, and bouncing around in Krissi’s panties and holding on for dear life in the perilous jungle of her pubes. Throw in a few quaint soft rock songs, and Getting Lucky has the makings of an 80s classic.

Admittedly, Getting Lucky, sporting its 1990 copyright, is not technically an 80s movie, but it does demonstrate nicely how the early 90s were in many instances a holdover, a culmination, or a last gasp of the 80s – and so it narrowly squeezes in as an 80s Oddities Month pick. Something of a straggler within its genre, Getting Lucky is essentially a throwback to the early-to-mid-80s variety of teen raunch comedy, a genre which had lost steam over the course of the decade, with the charming likes of Screwballs (1983) and Hot Moves (1984) having given way to lamely tame youth fare like The Allnighter (1987) and How I Got into College (1989). At the same time, Getting Lucky‘s imaginative nastiness is tempered by a sweetness and innocence that at times recalls The Virgin Queen of St. Francis High (1987).

4 out of 5 stars. Recommended to fans of films of this type.

 

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Future Sodom

Future Sodom (1987) ****

An initial viewing of Future Sodom may be a disappointment if viewers allow the stylish cover photo of Laurel Canyon to lead them to expect a dark, creative vision of a futuristic world. When friends Mickey (Frank James) and Morgan (Jesse Eastern) find themselves transported into an unknown place and time – “to grow, to advance” in their sexuality – their sylvan surroundings resemble the idyllic woods around a summer cabin more than a dingy, urban vice capital. What follows is mostly a plotless succession of sexual encounters between the visitors and the carefree inhabitants of this sunny natural paradise.

First, Mickey and Morgan double-team a blonde beauty (Canyon), Mickey receiving a boisterous blowjob as Morgan bumps her from behind, all while ethereal synthesizer and mechanized tribal beats convey that this is the future – either that or the 80s. After trading orifices and having their fill, Mickey and Morgan relax indoors and exchange philosophies about sex. Morgan, a hopeless romantic, is disillusioned with what seems to him to be the mechanical nature of sex; but Mickey is perfectly content to screw anything that moves. “It was so impersonal, man, it was hot as hell,” he says, describing why phone sex gets him excited.

Group play follows: first an enthusiastic threesome set to languid electric guitar with Laurel Canyon, Britt Morgan, and Peter North, who find that an open door policy spices up the boredom of marriage; and later a more elaborate session conducted by a toga-bedecked Instructor (gross Jew William Margold) who sets a proper orgy in motion – complete with oral and anal sex and disgusting asshole-licking – before joining the fray himself, ultimately slurping his own semen off of a woman’s back. All of this unfolds to some drab 80s disco.

In one of Future Sodom’s few acknowledgments of the notion that this is all supposed to be taking place in some kind of futuristic setting, one of the sordid celebrants is a tattooed, freakish “robot”, Lucy (played by Viper), who has been “specially programmed as an anal participant.” This bargain basement production’s idea of an android, alas, is a tramp in a Mardi Gras mask, with chains strapped across her chest, nipple and clitoris piercings, and obscenities like “motherfucker” and “eat shit” scrawled all over her body. Lucy explains that mischievous Boy Scouts are responsible for the physical graffiti. “They raped me anally and I castrated ten of them,” she says in Future Sodom’s most outrageous scene. “Yes, I programmed myself to castrate Boy Scouts.”

In the second of Future Sodom’s two standout performances – the first being newcomer Laurel Canyon – Frankie Leigh plays the mysterious “Woman”, a sexual chameleon who suits her behavior to the fantasies of her partner of the moment. This cute but thoroughly debauched brunette has the best scene in Future Sodom, sneering her needs at horny Mickey: “Nah, I don’t think you fucking understand. I want dick, dick, and more dick,  you hear that? And I want buckets of fucking cum. I wanna fuckin’ swallow it, I wanna choke on it. I wanna fuckin’ wallow in it. I wanna fuckin’ bathe in the fuckin’ shit, you know? I want you to turn my mouth into a fuckin’ sewer, into a goddamn toilet.” Leigh then proceeds to blow three guys in creepy transparent plastic masks like the ones in Last House on Dead End Street.

Underlying the flimsy excuse for a story, specifically in the old-fashioned Morgan character, is an awareness of a discomfort left in men’s hearts in the wake of the sexual revolution. Now that moral constraints are no longer an issue, do men really want their women to be voracious sexual beasts? What do women want? Paula Damiano’s script, unfortunately, leaves this speculative thread underdeveloped, the only semblance of resolution to Morgan’s uncertainty being his sullen resignation and determination of, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”

Future Sodom, though nothing particularly special, does have a few things to recommend it. The hair is big, the action is hot, and the actors are clearly enjoying themselves; and, with the exception of Viper, whose damaged goods and devilish scowl are a little intimidating, the principal actresses are exquisite. 80s aficionados will appreciate Jesse Eastern’s mullet, and may also be interested to learn the ultimate fate of Ronald Reagan. Viewers, however, should expect nothing profound from a film which, after all, was produced and directed by Deep Throat auteur Gerard Damiano.

4 out of 5 stars.

Load Warriors

The Load Warrior aka The Load Warriors (1987) ****1/2

From the first bleak, synthesized notes queuing up The Load Warrior’s ugly orange pixelated opening credits, all the makings of a 1980s pornographic classic are present: movie parody premise, pun title, hokey electronic music, garish eye makeup, and big, beautiful, puffy manes of whore hair. Peter North portrays the titular titillationist in this post-apocalyptic tale of a world devastated by a “great fire” (i.e., nuclear holocaust) followed by the “invisible fire” of radiation that causes fertility to plummet. The result is a wasteland in which “seed became money and men became cattle”, with female barbarians unceremoniously milking their slaves like farm animals, the old ways of love, foreplay, and even vaginal penetration having been forgotten by most – all but the Load Warrior.

The Load Warrior satirizes the seeming reversal of sex roles effected by the sexual revolution, the entry of women into the workforce, and the cold commoditization of reproduction through sperm banks. “‘Married’?” Willow (Krysta Lane) asks, puzzled at hearing the word for the first time. “What’s ‘married’?” Men, reduced to utilitarian sex slaves, are left wanting foreplay, affection, and some sense of sexual autonomy, while women have become violent, impersonal brutes, as typified by ruthless businesswoman Queen Humongous (Lois Ayres), who reigns like a callous CEO over a “bustling rat hole” called Motherload. Here the remains of the wasteland’s men come to sell their sperm at the trading post of Dr. D (Jesse Eastern), who hands out “antique” broccoli and rotten chicken (“Of course it’s got maggots in there. That’s the nutritious part.”) in exchange for their more or less ineffectual sperm. Fortuitously, the Load Warrior comes and pounds into the women an important truth: “A load in the bush is worth far more than any in the hand.”

Sharon Mitchell, who participates in an ambitious fivesome (!) with Eastern and others in the “Blow the Man Dome”, is typically tough and charismatic as the aptly named Wilde, who threatens to cut off a woman’s tits and make lampshades out of them. Too much time is spent on an interracial scene between Eastern and Angel Kelly; but the sex, if not consistently scorching, is solid, and for the most part tastefully photographed, greatly enhanced by the scuzzy art direction of “C.L. Jaz”. Much of the action in The Load Warrior plays like a music video, with the imitation Tina Turner theme song smoothing North’s scene with delectable Gail Force being a definite highlight of the show. Also, the manner in which the hero dispatches the bitchy Queen Humongous is not to be missed! Hot, heavy, and humorous, The Load Warrior is mandatory sleaze for 80s strokers.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

 

Till Death Do We Scare

Till Death Do We Scare (1982) ****

Poor Irene (Olivia Cheng) – every man she marries dies as soon as they tie the knot! Fortunately (?), her three dead husbands, who loiter around the house as ghosts, want Irene to be happy, so they determine to locate another, hopefully more durable husband for her and pick incompetent radio horror show host Alan (Alan Tam). What follows is essentially a series of slapstick shenanigans as the ghosts, invisible to Irene and Alan, pull various stunts to bring the couple together. Complicating matters are the machinations of evil spirits who would prefer to see Alan dead. 

Till Death Do We Scare is typical fare for the Chinese ghost comedy genre, but with the odd, added attraction of stretchy Beetlejuice-style special effects by none other than Tom Savini. The best comic set piece in the movie is probably the haunted chair that refuses to let fat guy Eric Tsang sit in it; but other highlights include a deflatable ghost face, an animated pig’s head on buffet table, a decomposing princess with amorous intentions, and an unfortunate sucker who rolls down a hill and gets flattened by a steamroller. Till Death Do We Scare has the madcap energy viewers have come to expect of the Hong Kong film industry in the eighties, and should please devotees of the Chinese horror comedy.

4 out of 5 stars.

Breakfast

Vampire’s Breakfast (1987) ***1/2

Fat Piao (Kent Cheng) is a portly Hong Kong photojournalist investigating a series of what appear to be vampire murders, but police refuse to believe his stories, and only a sleazy thief (Keith Kwan) is willing to help him. Vampire’s Breakfast, like The Haunted Cop Shop (1987), is not a typical indigenous Chinese hopping vampire movie, but a horror hybrid featuring a rotten-looking blond Caucasian bloodsucker (Simon Willson) with the usual western susceptibilities to crucifixes and wooden stakes – or, as the subtitles would have it, a “mahogany nail”. Pretty, pouty Emily Chu, whom action enthusiasts may remember from John Woo’s classic A Better Tomorrow (1986), adds a deal of grace as Piao’s love interest, Angie, while Parkman Wong contributes irksome antagonism as skeptical Inspector Chen.

The movie drags a bit in the middle, but does feature a handful of suspenseful sequences, generally drenched in creepy blue moonlight and city shadows. A clandestine visit to a morgue makes for one of the more memorable scenes, while a spurting decapitation at the end should please gorehounds. One does wish, however, that the nastiness of one early scene in a strip club had been sustained throughout the film. Veteran viewers of Hong Kong horror will probably enjoy Vampire’s Breakfast, but prissier audiences accustomed to Criterion disc production standards are hereby warned that the subtitles on the Fortune Star DVD release are more than usually sloppy, resulting in lines of dialogue like, “Tow big eyes were ataring at me”.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

Vampire’s Breakfast trailer

Street Music

Street Music (1981) ****1/2

A bittersweet variation on a staple 80s genre – the underdog story in which a motley assortment of misfits band together to save the [insert cause of choice: summer camp, dance club, etc.] – Street Music serves as the perfect vehicle for sprightly, diminutive cutie Elizabeth Guttman (alias Elizabeth Daily), whose exotic looks viewers may recognize from such classics of the decade as Valley Girl (1983) and Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985).

Guttman plays Sadie Delaware, a busker who makes her living giving spirited renditions of old-timey jazz songs. Yet to get her big break in show business, Sadie lives with her boyfriend Eddie (Larry Breeding) in the ramshackle Victory Hotel in San Francisco’s Tenderloin, a colorful slum full of alcoholics, eccentric old codgers, and prostitutes. Unfortunately for the hotel’s residents, it is scheduled to be demolished, and all of its occupants are expected to vacate within a matter of days. Monroe (D’Alan Moss), a black Marxist who works at the Victory, hopes to mobilize the elderly tenants to picket and fight the eviction, but Sadie just wants to get out of the ghetto and make a better life for herself.

Street Music taps into common liberal fears of the 1980s: loss of individuality, ideals, and character; the sacrifice of the little guy on the altar of rising consolidation, commercialism, corporate power, and conformity. The tenants of the Victory – old Jews, blacks, Hispanics, crazies, food stamp recipients, and bohemian artists – represent the liberal dream of harmonious racial diversity in a setting of noble squalor and hearty communitarian grime. A modest movie about little heroisms, full of graffiti, garbage, and heart, Street Music will appeal to admirers of truly independent cinema. Sticklers for craft, however, are warned that, true to its subject matter, Street Music‘s boom operator seems to have been a drunkard, with the microphone dipping into view in more than one of the scenes.

4.5 out of 5 stars. Recommended.

Rooftops

Rooftops (1989) ***1/2

West Side Story director Robert Wise returns to the dance-oriented inner-city fantasy in Rooftops, the story of homeless heartthrob T (Jason Gedrick), who lives in a Lower East Side water tower “like a bat or a rat or something”. T falls for nappy-headed Puerto Rican treat Elana (Troy Beyer), unaware that she works for her cousin Lobo (Eddie Velez), the neighborhood crack cocaine kingpin. Lobo is making life difficult for everyone; and when one of his henchmen burns T out of his tower, Lobo’s days as the local thug-in-chief are numbered.

A prime document of the War on Drugs and its naive “Just Say No” ethos, Rooftops packs a vibrant blast of nostalgia for 80s freaks. Set in a fairy tale barrio where bright, resilient youths settle their differences with beat-driven martial dance showdowns, the movie is splashed with graffiti and peppered with quaint slum dialogue like “You dissin’ me, homeboy” and “don’t bust on my crib”.

Other sights and sounds of sentimental interest include the expected 80s fashions (Batman tank top, anyone?); funky music by the Eurythmics, Etta James, and others; and several shots of the World Trade Center looming large and doomed in the distance. Rooftops is elegantly photographed and entertainingly choreographed, but will be most likely to please admirers of period kitsch along the colorful lines of Body Rock (1984), Delivery Boys (1985), Band of the Hand (1986), and Lambada (1990). One only wishes Rooftops had more dancing and less sanctimonious anti-drug messaging.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

Rooftops preview

Writhing Tongue

Writhing Tongue (1980) ***

Not the exercise in horror or sexual perversion that its arresting title might suggest, Writhing Tongue is actually just an offbeat medical melodrama. Masako (Mayuko Wakamori), a pretty little Japanese girl, pricks her finger while playing one day and soon develops an awkward walk and refuses to eat or open her mouth. Doctors diagnose the girl with tetanus, and her extended hospitalization places a strain on her parents’ marriage and even their sanity, their anxiety intensifying when first the father (Tsunehiko Watase) and then the mother (Yukiyo Toake) begin to suspect that they, too, might have contracted the illness.

Writhing Tongue will be a challenge to viewers accustomed to breakneck pacing, with most of the film consisting of scenes of the harried and increasingly haggard parents watching their daughter suffer in her hospital bed. Here and there an odd touch enlivens the proceedings, such as when the despairing father apostrophizes the ancient bacteria occupying his child’s body; but Writhing Tongue, for the most part, is a slow, lugubrious affair, and likely to be disturbing to any parents of small children. This critic’s chief complaint: at no point in the film is there anything even remotely resembling the “writhing tongue” promised in the title!

3 out of 5 stars.

 

Farewell to the Ark

Farewell to the Ark (1984) ****

Very loosely inspired by the magical realist vision of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, this oddball allegorical film is a difficult one to synopsize. Set in a rustic Japanese village where “time doesn’t flow”, Farewell to the Ark follows incestuous cousins Su-e (Mayumi Ogawa), condemned to an indestructible chastity belt by her father, and Sutekichi (Tsutomu Yamazaki), a 35-year-old virgin who longs desperately to penetrate her. Sutekichi’s maddening sexual frustration finally boils over when he hears himself publicly mocked by the randy Daisaki (Yoshio Harada), causing Sutekichi to murder him. After that, he and Su-e flee the village and live as husband and wife in an idyllic forest.

Separated from their community, however, Sutekichi, like some character out of a Paul Bowles story, begins to lose touch with the world around him and feels compelled to create little signs, labeling everything “shoes”, “my house” and so forth; he even hangs a sign on himself that says “Me”. A lot of other bizarre things happen in Farewell to the Ark, as well. A little boy falls into a pit, only to emerge a moment later as a fully formed adult; two youths pursue a woodland nymph whose admirers, if they see her naked, are doomed to die a horrible death; and masked dancers put on a torchlit rite that has to be seen to be believed. Seldom dull, Farewell to the Ark does, however, run somewhat overlong at 127 minutes. Still, it has much to recommend it to seekers after the strange, the obscure, and the thought-provoking.

4 out of 5 stars.

Writhing Tongue trailer

 

 

June Is 80s Oddities Month

 

Next month, in addition to the occasional subtextual examinations of more recent Hollywood fare, Ideological Content Analysis will be shining a special spotlight – no, make that a searingly hot pastel laser – on various weird or forgotten relics of the decade of Reagan and Rainbow Brite, all culled from Dr. Rainer Chlodwig von Cuck’s own cruddy collection of arcane movie effluvia.

 

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NotPoliticallyCorrect

Human Biodiversity, IQ, Evolutionary Psychology, Epigenetics and Evolution

Christopher Othen

Bad People, Strange Times, Good Books

Historical Tribune

The Factual Review

Economic & Multicultural Terrorism

Delves into the socioeconomic & political forces destroying our Country: White & Christian Genocide.

Ashraf Ezzat

Author and Filmmaker

ProphetPX on WordPress

Jesus-believing U.S. Constitutionalist EXPOSING Satanic globalist SCAMS & TRAITORS in Kansas, America, and the World at-large. Jesus and BIBLE Truth SHALL PREVAIL!