Archives for posts with tag: Russ Tamblyn

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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django-unchained

Quentin Tarantino is a man with perhaps one great film to his name and who has managed to coast on the strength of that beloved opus for the better part of two decades; he does, however, have more than one very good film to his credit, and the gorgeously realized Django Unchained can, happily, be added to that list.  His love letter to the spaghetti western and blaxploitation genres, it is also his rabble-rousing death threat to civilization and as such is something of a triumph of self-loathing.

Jamie Foxx is affectingly earnest in his portrayal of Django, Rousseau’s chained man, suddenly presented with the opportunity of achieving his liberty and reuniting with his enslaved wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington).  Christoph Waltz is no less charming as the German dentist (who, in a gratuitous irony, has been named Dr. King Schultz) who offers Django his freedom in exchange for a profitable partnership in tracking bounties.  Leonardo DiCaprio, who shines most brightly as a villain, plays Calvin Candie, the handsome, debonair slavemaster in possession of Django’s woman.

The fabulous cast is, typically for Tarantino, filled to the brim with familiar character actors and pop culture favorites of the 60s, 70s, and 80s, with Michael Parks, Russ Tamblyn, Bruce Dern, Don Johnson, James Remar, and Franco Nero, star of the original Django, all putting in appearances.  Samuel L. Jackson, meanwhile, has probably the funniest role of his career in Stephen, Candie’s loyal but sassy domestic slave – the representative Uncle Tom, in other words – who resents freeman Django at first sight and who, in the race-baiting theology of Django Unchained, embodies what may be the worst of evils: the complaisant betrayal of his own long-suffering people.

That Django Unchained is so successful and involving is proof of writer-director Tarantino’s dangerousness as a filmmaker.  Tarantino, who bears major responsibility for foisting the torture porn genre on humanity through his endorsement (“Quentin Tarantino presents . . .”) of Eli Roth’s execrable anti-human hit Hostel, continues his desensitization of the American public with his obsessive fetishization of the splattered blood and played-for-laughs agony of bullet-riddled unprogressive white men.

With humor but also an unintentional irony, Tarantino has cast himself in a cameo as one of the slavers revolutionarily liquidated by Django.  It is ironic because what what the man is peddling is in effect hatred of himself – of successful whites and of the rich – as an unwitting accomplice in what Yuri Bezmenov describes as the systematic demoralization of Americans by useful idiots through cultural Marxist contamination.  Exhibit A: the critically heralded oeuvre of Quentin Tarantino.

This reviewer can sympathize with Django’s violent impulse to liberation and even the pleasure he takes in killing the men who obstruct his enjoyment of natural rights.  Where the film flies off the ethical rails is in celebrating the shooting not only of those directly imperiling Django’s liberty, but all of their associates, including Candie’s unarmed and mild-mannered sister.  Her crime is one of complacency and, one suspects, of blood relation to the oppressor – of having inherited slavers’ genes.

This is particularly reckless in a film that makes a point of alluding constantly to the contemporary – with hip-hop music, “fuck”-sprinkled dialogue, joking reference to the Holocaust, characters named after Martin Luther King and an Italian western hero, and Tarantino’s endless self-referential postmodern hipsterism – and through these conscious anachronisms advertises some imagined relevance to the race relations of today.  Designed with the express purpose of ripping open and poking the synthetic psychological wounds of crimes not experienced by anyone alive in America today, Django Unchained is nothing if not a wholly superfluous incitation to racial hatred, genocide, and redistribution of wealth.  It is all the more egregious for being so good.

4.5 stars with accompanying whip-scarred stripes.  Goodbye Uncle Tom remains the most incendiary and entertaining treatment of slavery on film, but Tarantino’s new contribution is certainly no slouch.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Django Unchained is ominous in its flippancy and:

9. Anti-Christian.  White slavemasters return from a funeral singing a hymn.  Religion that allows for such injustice is a fraud.

8. Anti-tobacco.  Monsieur Candie smokes from a cigarette holder like the bourgeois swine he is.  Rank-and-file southern hick psychos chew and spit.

7. Anti-police.  A racist sheriff turns out to be a wanted criminal.

6. Anti-science.  Study of human biodiversity is represented by pseudoscientific phrenology.  Science = racism.

5. Pro-miscegenation.  A Texas woman eyes Django with interest from her window as he rides through her town.  Black love is described as a tar pool that refuses to let go its hold on the fancy of those who enter (i.e., once you go black, you never go back).  The camera seems to want to lick Foxx’s nude physique.

4. Anti-business.  Thoroughly hostile to private property, the film’s representative forms of commerce are vengeful bounty hunting, the slave trade, and mining – the latter utilizing slave labor, naturally.  Wealth is accumulated through cruelty and murder.  A saloon keeper who objects to Django’s presence is chased out of his own establishment.  Private property = slavery.  “I’m runnin’ a business here,” Candie says during one of the most savage scenes of meanness.

3. Anti-South/anti-white male.  While critics will complain of what was previously the “whitewashing” of American history in films, Django Unchained demonstrates that, if anything, brownwashing and brainwashing are at present the order of the day.  Southerners are without exception vile sadists with bad teeth who live to beat, whip, humiliate, muzzle, brand, and castrate blacks.  The effeminate swagger of Billy Crash (Walton Goggins), the most vicious of Candie’s toadies, suggests that white loathing of and desire to neuter blacks is a function of white sexual inadequacy and salivating, latently homosexual penis envy.  Those not participating directly in these activities remain equally guilty for tolerating the status quo and therefore must receive equal punishment.  The conventional incestuous southerner smear receives a nod with what may be hints of Candie’s overly enthusiastic affection for his sister.  Black-on-black violence results from white manipulation.

2. Anti-slavery/anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn on both counts).  Django Unchained perpetuates the myth that slavery existed not as an economic expediency, but principally as the plaything of whites’ sadism.  Where anti-racist films have previously presented viewers with the “sacrificial Negro” archetype, Django Unchained breaks new ground by inventing the sacrificial honky, the man who absolves the sins of his racial inheritance by dying to liberate blacks.

1. Black supremacist/genocidal.  They mo betta.

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