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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.

 

Hebrew Cover

Got Gas?

After taking a break of a week or so to recuperate, your humble reviewer has finally mustered the courage to venture back into the Danger: Boredom Zone and finish watching the communo-Zionist “Holocaust” propaganda documentary Shoah. Following are a few of his observations on the contents of disc four, comprising the exciting conclusion. (Discs 5 and 6 of the Criterion Collection set promise “special” [i.e., T4-worthy] features.)

Fredy Hirsch

Fredy Hirsch, Auschwitz’s tragic Prom Queen

This straggling stretch of the much-lauded, long-winded, and stupendously self-important film, irrespective of the intentions of director Claude Lanzmann, provides some valuable insights into how and why false rumors of extermination by gassing spread among European Jewry during the war. Rudolf Vrba, a dishonest-faced Jew who was given duties as a registrar in Auschwitz, recalls attempts by communist inmates to secure the cooperation of Fredy Hirsch, a homosexual Zionist with leadership ability, for a violent uprising within the camp. Unfortunately, Vrba’s claims that a mass gassing of prisoners was to occur within two days only drove Hirsch to commit suicide. It also comes out in the interviews that the Czech internees in the camp were unmoved by Vrba’s gassing stories, spotting these as they did for wild prevarications.

Rudolf Vrba

Smiling liar Rudolf Vrba

Explaining his decision to escape rather than go forward with a revolt, Vrba says that his intention was to spread abroad rumors of mass exterminations at Auschwitz: “I thought zat if zis will be made known by any means wizin Europe and especially wizin Hungary, from where a million Jews were supposed to be transported to Auschwitz immediately [. . .] zat zis might stir up ze resistance outside and bring help from outside directly to Auschwitz.”

Filip Muller

Sonderkommando (i.e., Jewish Nazi lackey) Filip Muller

Another of Lanzmann’s seemingly endless procession of talkative tellers of tales of heroic “Holocaust” survival is Filip Muller, who claims to have worked as a sonderkommando, forced by the SS to assist in the gas chamber exterminations. Before proceeding to unleash his terrors, Muller makes a dramatic show of being too emotionally discombobulated to continue with his story (a pretentious objection repeated by more than one of Shoah‘s interviewees – always valiantly overcome for the sake of history and remembrance!), but then promptly sets about rambling again and rattling off a self-aggrandizing anecdote.

Muller, claiming to have witnessed one brutalization too many at the entrance to the gas chamber at Auschwitz, says that he resolved to die and to join in the chamber the Czechs he was supposed to be gassing. The Czech women, however, objected and told him, “Your death won’t give us back our lives. [. . .] You must get out of here alive, you must bear witness to our suffering, and to the injustice done to us.” For this reason – to warn and enlighten posterity – and for this reason alone did Muller refuse to die along with those women, he says. So, if this yarn-spinner is to be given credence, it would seem that some of the Nazis’ victims had the leisure of making melodramatic speeches at the gates of Hell itself and that others, furthermore, actually had the privilege of deciding for themselves whether or not they would be exterminated.

Jan Karski“They didn’t look like human beings,” Polish courier Jan Karski says of the Jews whose indignities he witnessed in the Warsaw ghetto.

Also pulling the I’m-too-overcome-with-horror-to-continue shtick, but somehow mustering the fortitude to persevere, is old Jan Karski, who during the war acted as a secret courier moving between the Polish underground and the government in exile. Karski conjures from the hideous mire of his memory a 1942 meeting he had with two Jewish leaders, a communist Bundist and a Zionist, respectively, who sought his assistance in lobbying the Allied governments for arms and for special strategies and actions to liberate the Jews in the concentration camps. “They were whispering. They were hissing. It was a nightmare for me,” Karski recalls of the meeting.

Among these Jewish provocateurs’ uncompromising demands, recounts Karski, were the following: “Let dem [the Allies] make offeeshal declaration, again, offeeshal, public declaration, dat if de German nation does not offer evidence of trying to change de policy of their government, German nation will have to be held responsible for de crimes their government is committing. And now, if der are not such an evidence, to announce publicly, offeeshally, certain objects [i.e., civilian targets] will be bombed, destroyed, as a retaliation for what de German government is doing against de Jews. Dat bombing which will take place is not a part of de military strategy. It deals only with the de Jewish problem.”

Warsaw ghetto“Stench, stench, dirt, stench . . .” Karski recalls of the Warsaw ghetto.

Karski was instructed to visit as many politicians, influential Jews, and leading intellectuals as he could and spook them with the incipient legend of the Final Solution. And so as to instill in Karski a personal understanding and appreciation (sense memories, a Method actor would say) of the squalor of the Warsaw Jews’ situation, he was secretly taken on two private tours of their ghetto. “It wasn’t humanity,” he says in an awkward attempt at pathos in describing the scene he witnessed. “German officers were dere,” and on the streets were the naked bodies of people whose relatives were too cheap to pay the tax for their burial. Other horrors included the sight of peddlers desperately selling cookies and onions and flat-chested Jewesses publicly breastfeeding “babies with some crazy eyes.”

Adam CzerniakowDiarist Adam Czerniakow: the face of nerd revenge deferred

Elsewhere in Shoah the camera goes for a pornographically lurid stagger through a Warsaw cemetery, arriving at the tombstone of Adam Czerniakow, a Jewish community leader whose diary provides a valuable record of the day-to-day happenings in the ghetto. Slack-jowled, oily-nosed Raul Hilberg, editor of the English edition of the diary, puts in another appearance in order to plug the book and to attempt to extrapolate from its contents – its “anxiety”, “rumors”, “premonitions”, and anecdotes about drunken hearse drivers – a kind of preternatural foreknowledge on Czerniakow’s part of the hellish ovens awaiting his people. Ironically, Hilberg, in the midst of painting one of his tableaux of agony, admits that Czerniakow “hasn’t any criticism of the Germans themselves” or how they administered the ghetto – but this, no doubt, is only an implicit indictment of the most ingenious subtlety!

Raul Hilberg

Raul Hilberg assumes the ironic position

One of Shoah‘s most appalling sequences has the sullen Lanzmann badgering a friendly-faced old gentleman named Franz Grassler (sounds a little too suspiciously like “Gasser”, no?), who as Deputy of the Nazi Commissioner of the Warsaw ghetto played a role in trying to keep the residents in good health and free of typhus through hygienic measures. The idea, Grassler explains, was to maintain the Warsaw Jews as a workforce, not to kill them. “Ja,” Lanzmann answers sarcastically, suggesting throughout the interview that Grassler is trying to cover up his complicity in the Final Solution.  Confronting Grassler with Czerniakow’s diary, reading aloud an innocuous passage, and feigning to yank from it some smoking gun like a rabbit from a magician’s hat, Lanzmann finally stabs Grassler with this devastating and unanswerable charge: “You were part of the vast German power structure.” So shut up and feel guilty, you old archfiend!

Franz Grassler

Lanzmann hatchet victim Franz Grassler

Meandering and non-chronological to the end, Shoah concludes with the reminiscences of an Israeli veteran of the 1943 Warsaw ghetto uprising. “If you could lick my heart, it would poison you,” this boring man deadpans, blaming the Germans for his alcoholism. This could have been the tag line for Shoah itself: “Lick the poison heart of the Jews! Sadomasochistically savor the holy blood of Shoah – if you dare!” Either that or “Writhe in penitent boredom, you gentiles!” In the final analysis, however, this reviewer arrives at the judgment that this oldie-but-goodie would probably be most appropriate to describe Lanzmann’s 9.5-hour opus:

killer joe

Whereas 2006’s Bug was an interestingly novel but frustrating film, this second collaboration between playwright/screenwriter Tracy Letts and director William Friedkin is an essentially perfect work of art and probably the greatest product of Friedkin’s career – which, in view of the fact that said career also includes The French Connection and The Exorcist, is praise of an unusually high magnitude.  An ironical study of human folly and avarice in the mode of the Coens’ Fargo, but resembling Oliver Stone’s U-Turn, Sling Blade, or No Country for Old Men more in its climate and milieu, Killer Joe is an elegantly and wickedly realized adaptation of a crime story in the pulpy and noirish tradition, and is brought to wonderful, vibrant life by the year’s finest assemblage of actors.

A stylized black comedy focusing on a Texas white trash family, Killer Joe surprises in not approaching its subjects with the expected Hollywood condescension, but in allowing even the dumbest and sleaziest characters their due degree of human dignity and consideration.  Emile Hirsch plays Chris Smith, a loser and gambler deep in debt to loan shark Digger Soames (Marc Macaulay).  His not-so-bright solution is to hire a hitman, policeman Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), to kill his divorced good-for-nothing mother and collect on her life insurance policy.  Chris’s dimwitted father, Ansel (Thomas Haden Church), childish, enigmatic sister Dottie (Juno Temple), and whorish step-mother Sharla (Gina Gershon) are willing to go along with the plan; but when Chris and Ansel are unable to meet the killer’s condition of pay up front, Joe decides to take Dottie as his “retainer”.  This being a noir world, nothing goes as planned.

In The Manchurian Candidate, Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey) explains that, “the human race is divided into two distinct and irreconcilable groups: those that walk into rooms and automatically turn television sets on, and those that walk into rooms and automatically turn them off.”  Joe Cooper, in Shaw’s paradigm, is the serious man, the one who always walks into a room and switches off (or smashes) the television.  “I’m real,” he says to Dottie.  Joe is also an increasingly threatening and problematic figure for the Smith family, particularly after he shows himself content to keep his “retainer” indefinitely.

Killer Joe is insightfully cast.  Emile Hirsch is an obviously foredoomed man from the moment he first appears, while Matthew McConaughey displays a surprisingly icy, intimidating side.  Thomas Haden Church is both hilarious and melancholic, and quirky Juno Temple may have the prettiest, sweetest face and voice on the planet, the perfect sexual foil for scarily masculine Joe.  Gina Gershon is a national treasure and has the potential in coming years to become something approximating her generation’s Karen Black.  One of the great sexpots of the 1990s, her charisma and animal appeal remain undiminished; her age, if anything, has enhanced her capacity for juicy character parts, so that one can only look forward to the roles of her further maturity.

Gershon’s instantaneously immortal and deservedly notorious fried chicken moment is only one of many evidences of Killer Joe‘s unwillingness to pull its punches or compromise.  A violent film that in no way glorifies violence, Killer Joe‘s view of the human condition is a sophisticatedly absurdist one, with the chicken scene being the most grotesquely brilliant depiction of proxy object fellatio since Roger Watkins’s Last House on Dead End Street.   Whether the scene is gratuitously cruel and intended for mere shock value, or whether it rather has some thematic relevance and meaning is something viewers should enjoy contemplating for themselves, and will probably (or at least ought to) be a point of reference for film fans in perpetuity, much in the same way that the backwoods rape in Deliverance or the nuclear bomb ride in Dr. Strangelove have entered the cultural psyche.

One of the best films of 2012, Killer Joe receives five stars and the highest possible recommendation.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that the film is:

5. Pro-drug.  Use and trade in illegal drugs is a reality of average Americans’ lives and as casual a recreational comfort as beer.

4. Neurosis-critical.  Obsessive health consciousness and the ubiquity of empty sexual imagery have turned America into a basket case, with fast food, consequently, becoming the new pornography.

3. Anti-Christian.  The unthinking invocations of Jesus and God; the crucifixes decorating Ansel and Sharla’s trailer; the rote and meaningless funeral ceremony for a woman whose death was welcomed by the attendees – all are representative only of the obviously ineffectual superficiality of these people’s beliefs.

2. Anti-slut.  Sharla is in for some major pain and hideous humiliation.

1. Anti-state/anti-police.  Dallas police officer Joe moonlights as a hitman and says he likes vicious loan shark Digger.  The ease with which Chris acquires a gun illegally serves as a reminder of the futility of gun control legislation.

The ubergenerically titled House at the End of the Street invites by its monicker classification alongside vicious modern horror granddaddies Last House on the Left (1972), Last House on Dead End Street (1977), and House on the Edge of the Park (1980); and, while House at the End of the Street is nowhere near as noteworthy as these films and will quickly be forgotten, it does at least offer enough unexpected twists not to be instantly forgotten by moviegoers looking for horror kicks.

It’s nigh-impossible to describe House at the End of the Street accurately and in much detail without giving away one of its major surprises, as it’s a film that pulls the risky stunt of switching antagonists at the halfway point.  A divorced woman (Elisabeth Shue, a long way from Adventures in Babysitting) and her daughter (Jennifer Lawrence) move into a home that’s affordable for them only because of the double murder that took place in the house nearest to them – which, they’ve been led to understand, is empty.  The suburban legend has it that the retarded feral girl who lived in the house and killed her parents is still living in the woods and remains a threat to the neighborhood.  In addition to their creepy new environs, mother and daughter are also dealing with healing emotional wounds of their own after what seems to have been a long bout of absentee parenting.  The tension between them becomes especially pronounced when the daughter befriends a handsome but spooky young man (Max Thieriot) and begins visiting his home without telling her mother where she is.

House at the End of the Street takes its time in getting to the goods and actually starts out like a disaster.  First, we see the double murder in retardo-vision, through the eyes of the killer, with intermittently blurry and shaky cinematography that’s more annoying than scary.  Then there are the disposable scenes with the local teens, wastrels just begging to get hammered to death after getting hammered.  Fortunately, the plotting is unexpected and manages to maintain viewer interest, even while the characters and the film overall leave something to be desired.  House does, however, rate 3.5 out of 5 stars for aspiring to surprise.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that House at the End of the Street is:

4. Anti-drug.  An unsupervised child playing outside has a horrible accident while her mother is in the house freebasing.

3. Philanthropy-skeptical.  A teen “famine relief group thing” is actually a front for decadent drinking parties.

2. Anti-family.  Parents are mean and undependable.  Children are wildcards and can turn out retarded or grow up to be serial killers.

1. Anti-human.  Are audiences really expected to care if such disposable characters get killed in a movie with such a self-consciously generic title?

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