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Adam Sandler turns in a pleasantly understated performance as Max Simkin, a Lower East Side shoe repairman who discovers that an heirloom stitching machine has magical properties in Tom McCarthy’s film The Cobbler. Put on any customer’s two shoes and Max takes on that person’s appearance, allowing him to indulge such entertaining caprices as sneaking into a black thug’s gun-and-bling-filled apartment or walking into a beautiful stranger’s bathroom. Max eventually takes his place as a “guardian of souls” in addition to his work as a mender of soles.

While funny, The Cobbler is a film which, like Punch Drunk Love (2002), allows Sandler to show off his non-idiot side and is welcome as a change of pace. Steve Buscemi and Dustin Hoffman appear in supporting roles as, respectively, Max’s barber neighbor and mysteriously absent father. Viewers may see the surprise ending coming, but so much of The Cobbler is entertainingly unexpected that any conformity to audience expectations is handily offset.

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Cobbler is:

6. Obesity-tolerant. “I’m not fat. I’m big-boned.”

5. Pro-gay and pro-miscegenation. Simkin’s eventual love interest is peppery Carmen (Melonie Diaz). An Asian woman (Greta Lee) flirts with Simkin in a bar after he has unwittingly taken on the form of a bisexual man (Dan Stevens). “I think it’s hot,” she reassures him. Sandler also dons high heels to occasionally assume the appearance of a gauche Latin transvestite (Yul Vazquez).

4. Family-ambivalent. Simkin is deeply devoted to his mother (Lynn Cohen), who was abandoned by his father (Dustin Hoffman). The latter turns out to have responded to a higher calling. Asked if she ever wanted to be somebody else, Mrs. Simkin replies, “I’m your mother. That’s all I ever wanted to be.” Carmen seemingly discounts the necessity of fathers, however, when she says, “My dad split when I was 12. Life goes on.”

3. Localist and populist. Carmen works for the Lower East Side Action Committee, committed to halting the area’s gentrification, and attempts to get Simkin to support the cause. “I’m glad that you’re supporting a local business,” she tells him when she sees him with a box of pickles.

2. Racist! The Cobbler’s only important black character is a career criminal, a murderer and abuser of women, played by rapper Cliff “Method Man” Smith. “You Jewish?” this black bigot interrogates Simkin. “Lucky you.” He then insensitively asks if his recently deceased mother left him any money. In another scene, the fiend creates a Michael Brown-style ruckus in a convenience store.

1. Borderline anti-Semitic. Surprisingly, The Cobbler offers an unsavory portrait of a Hebraic slumlord and gangster in tough-as-nails “Jew from Queens” Elaine Greenawalt (Ellen Barkin). The film compensates for this cinematic blood libel by providing typical wailing violin movie portrayals of weak, long-suffering Jews like Simkin, who gives submissive shoeshines to arrogant blacks. Ratcheting up The Cobbler’s Jewish victimhood factor is Fritz Weaver from the 1978 Holocaust miniseries, who appears as Mr. Solomon, the helpless old man Greenawalt hopes to evict by any dastardly means necessary.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Dallas Buyers Club

Matthew McConaughey, who over the past few years has become one of this writer’s favorite actors working today, is the only reason to watch Dallas Buyers Club, the most recent attempt to subvert and metamorphose the American cowboy into a gay activism icon after the manner of Brokeback Mountain (2005). McConaughey stars as Ron Woodroof, a narrow-minded ne’er-do-well whose life changes forever – or, anyway, for what remains of it – after he is diagnosed with what Andy Warhol called “gay cancer”.

Jennifer Garner portrays a concerned physician, while Jared Leto munches the scenery as junkie transvestite Rayon, who becomes Woodroof’s business partner in the “Dallas Buyers Club”, a grassroots enterprise designed to provide AIDS sufferers with a healthier treatment alternative than the big pharmaceutical competition. Woodroof’s drive to prolong his life and combat the establishment’s market stranglehold is fairly compelling, but squeamish viewers are forewarned that the movie contains such tacky attempts at heart-tuggery as the sight of a sick, self-pitying transvestite drooling blood and whining “I don’t wanna die . . .”

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Dallas Buyers Club is:

9. Anti-Christian. Woodroof dresses as a priest while attempting to smuggle drugs into the U.S. from Mexico. The image of an AIDS patient wearing a clerical collar is of course no sartorial accident and works as a barb directed at Catholic moral hypocrisy, so many priests being closeted homosexuals, many of whom are known to have succumbed to AIDS.

8. Anti-drug. Woodruff’s intravenous drug use, along with his inveterate whore-chasing, has put him at greater risk for contracting AIDS. Also, Rayon’s dope addiction only exacerbates his decline.

7. Anti-racist. One of the personal failings Woodroof must overcome is his racism, evidenced by his references to Asians as “chinks” and Saudis as “sand niggers”. As his drug procurement operation goes global, he learns to appreciate the profitability of doing business with foreigners. “I like your style,” he tells a Japanese doctor.

6. Feminist. In addition to overcoming his racism, Woodroof must also come to accept women’s contributions to the modern workforce. “I don’t want a nurse, I want a doctor!” he protests in one early scene.

5. Anti-redneck. The spectacle of a gun-toting “homophobic asshole” and piece of “Texas hick white trash” suffering from AIDS and lashing out in his agony as dignified professional women and minorities look on with contempt is pure political porn for liberals, the quintessence of their wishful thinking.

4. Capitalist. Dallas Buyers Club betrays a left-libertarian streak in its combination of social liberalism and celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit, attempting to illustrate how unfettered markets will serve both the small businessman and consumer. “I say what goes in my body, not you.”

3. Anti-corporatism. The IRS, DEA, and particularly the FDA appear as antagonists in the film, the cronyist footmen of big pharma monopolists looking to squeeze the competition. “Now that’s the shit that’ll rot your insides,” Woodroof avers, examining a package of meat in a grocery store. “What a surprise,” he then adds, “FDA-approved.” The FDA, Dallas Buyers Club alleges, merely functions as big pharma’s glorified street pushers.

2. Pro-gay. Through a business partnership that blossoms into a friendship, Woodroof learns to appreciate Rayon as an individual, and comes to appreciate the general plight of homosexuals as he succumbs to the disease they share. AIDS, as the great sexual-sociopolitical equalizer, almost seems to be the movie’s unsung hero. Demonstrating his transformation from homophobe to humanitarian, Woodroof in one scene grabs his bigoted friend T.J. (Kevin Rankin) and holds him in a headlock until he agrees to shake Rayon’s hand. Homosexuals appear as sensitive and nurturing throughout Dallas Buyers Club.

1. Pro-NWO. “Look at this place,” Woodroof muses, surveying the scene in a bohemian clinic south of the border. “Fuckin’ chinks, homos, herbs, hot nurses. You got a regular New World Order goin’ on here . . .”

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Council on Foreign Relations creature Angelina Jolie directs Unbroken , a.k.a. (as it shalt be known for the purposes of this cinematic exegesis) The Unbroken Passion of G.I. Goy, the Judeo-Christian fable of Olympic athlete Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell), his war service to organized Jewry, and his long and not particularly interesting tenure as a P.O.W. Equal parts war movie, survival story, and prison film, The Unbroken Passion of G.I. Goy’s most satisfying passage is the section in which Zamperini and two other survivors of a plane crash are stranded at sea for more than a month in a lifeboat. For the remainder of the film, Zamperini stoically endures forced labor and regular torture at the hands of the Yellow Peril. One might have expected something more engaging (or at least more divertingly offbeat) from screenwriters Joel and Ethan Coen, but what the audience gets is tolerable, if judged by the standards of neocon fodder.

3.5 out of 5 possible stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Unbroken Passion of G.I. Goy is:

4. Sodomy-ambivalent. Showing their solidarity with the globalist gay agenda, P.O.W.s put on a drag show. A pox on progressive internationalist Angelina Jolie, however, for resorting to the cookie-cutter homosexual villain type in the characterization of Commander Watanabe (Takamasa Ishihara). Shame on her and the Coen brothers for their clearly unreconstructed Hollywood hetero-fascism!

3. Pro-immigration. Zamperini serves as the poster boy immigrant son whose mother still speaks Italian. Bigoted Anglo-Saxon boys pick on him and call him a “wop”, unaware that he will go on to become a war hero and suffer his Unbroken Passion for all of their sins of WASP privilege. Even his underwhelming eighth-place finish in the 5,000 meter race at the Berlin Olympics is treated as an immaculate triumph for America, democracy, and equality, a companion feat to that of fellow diversifier Jesse Owens (Bangalie Keita), and the film actually attempts to give the impression that the crowd in Olympic Stadium is cheering for Zamperini.

2. Ostensibly Christian. Zamperini, initially an agnostic or atheist, is eventually moved by the Spirit to become the personal Jesus of his fellow P.O.W.s. In the triumphant moment of his Unbroken Passion, Zamperini is made to lift a cumbersome beam, the framing unsubtly calling to mind Christ’s bearing of the cross, after which he must stand crucifixion-like with it or be shot by the sadistic Jap-Romans.

1. Pro-war. The opening shot of The Unbroken Passion of G.I. Goy is a dreamscape of clouds accompanied by the singing of a chorus as of angels. Soon the angels materialize as American bombers doing the righteous bidding of FDR’s Yahweh-state. In The Unbroken Passion of G.I. Goy’s most laughable scene, a P.O.W. falls to his knees and weeps on hearing the news that FDR has died. Oh, no! God is dead! Yes, seventy years later, the Jew World Order is still cranking out stupid WW2 propaganda movies – in other words, hardcore porn for folks like the annoyingly coughing old Tea Party type who sat behind this reviewer and commented with a reverent and wistful air during the trailer for Selma that “if they hadn’t killed him, things’d be different today.”

Make no mistake: the tableaux of ruined Jap buildings and bodies is included not to evoke sympathy for the victims of Allied war crimes, but as a warning of what can be expected to befall any Eastern powers attempting to resist the will of ZOG. (Malaysian jet pilots, are you reading this?) The detail that the Japanese have beheaded some prisoners is no doubt intended to engender a subconscious psychological continuity between the viewer’s experience of the still highly marketable “good war” against nationalist Europe and Japan and the current money pit conflict against “ISIS” (Israeli Secret Intelligence Service?).

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Multiple MickBlame_It_on_the_Night_poster

Blame It on the Night (1984) ***1/2

Top arena rocker Dalton (Nick Mancuso) has his busy but more-or-less freewheeling backstage lifestyle upset when he learns he has an illegitimate son, Job (Byron Thames), now a teenager attending a military academy. Dalton desperately wants to make up for lost time and to be a real father to the boy, who, however, has been accustomed to icy military discipline and insists on acting like he has a baton stuck up his ass. The clash of their personalities and the cache of Job’s unresolved emotional suppression and resentments provide the background for this innocuous 80s movie’s conflicts.

Philip Norman gives the following account of the Rolling Stones frontman’s involvement with Blame It on the Night in his 2012 biography Mick Jagger. Approached with the opportunity to star in the film, “Mick was initially interested, especially when producer Gene Taft offered him a co-credit for ‘original story’ if he would provide material from his own direct experience of rock stardom. He changed his mind, however, on realizing that the estranged parent-child theme had uncomfortable parallels with himself and his daughter Karis. When the film finally came out in 1984, ‘Michael Phillip Jagger’ was still co-credited [with Gene Taft] for the story.”1

The resulting experience suffers, haunted by the absent Jagger’s specter, so that one can only wonder, while watching Blame it on the Night, what the film might have been like had Jagger actually committed to playing the lead, which instead went to handsome but comparatively colorless Nick Mancuso. Jagger’s input on the rock ‘n’ roll life would likely have lent a gritty edge to what, in the event, is an overly sanitized portrayal of the world of rockers, roadies, and floozies, so that the movie almost seems to have been made to play on the Disney Channel. Scenes of Dalton angrily telling his son to clean up his room or, worse still, engineering a cringe-inducingly forced reconciliation around a campfire, are unconvincing, to say the least. Only former Willie Nelson drummer Rex Ludwick brings an air of rock excess to the film in the role of Dalton’s hearty-partying bandmate Animal.

Perhaps to compensate for the absence of Mick, notable Rolling Stones collaborators Billy Preston and Merry Clayton (whose fiery “Rape! Murder!” vocals fans will know from “Gimme Shelter”) appear as themselves in minor roles. Unfortunately, the music, with the exception of the marginally catchy title tune, is uniformly uber-generic 80s pop cheese delivered with sappy Michael McDonald earnestness. On the plus side, Blame It on the Night is appealingly paced and goes down as smoothly (and is about as nutritious) as a spoonful of Jell-O. Nostalgia aficionados, furthermore, will appreciate that Blame It on the Night features more than one obligatory 80s rock montage sequence. Think of it as a C-grade rock ‘n’ roll Over the Top minus all the testosterone and arm-wrestling.

Running out of Luck

Running out of Luck (1986) *****

Previous to helming this epically bizarre film, Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle (1980) director Julien Temple had also created the atmospheric music video for the Rolling Stones’ “Undercover of the Night” (1983). “For Julien Temple,” relates Philip Norman, “the filming [in Paris, passing for South America] was an experience that made the Sex Pistols seem almost a rest cure by comparison.”2 But whatever his bad experiences on that set, Temple agreed to reunite with Mick for another tropically-themed collaboration in 1985 when he jaunted to Rio de Janeiro to film the absurd rock musical Running out of Luck.

Essentially a vanity project for Mick, Running out of Luck finds the star playing his arrogant, sneering self in what amounts to a series of several music videos connected by a loose adventure narrative. After shooting a video for self-absorbed director Dennis Hopper (!) in Rio, Mick picks up three women who turn out to be transvestites (“She’s a geezer!”) and who beat him up, rob him, and stow him in a meat truck that takes him into the middle of Brazilian nowhere. After stumbling around and hallucinating in a desert, Mick gets picked up by a horny virago (Norma Bengell) who forces him to work on her banana plantation and satisfy her sexual needs. While there he hooks up with Brazilian bimbo Rae Dawn Chong (who has a steamy, bare-breasted love scene with the star) and makes his escape from the plantation only to fall into further misadventures and gets thrown into a grimy prison, which, fortunately for the viewer, is lax enough to let Mick to sing and wiggle his butt to his heart’s content. Mick’s moll Jerry Hall, who also appears in the film as herself, has meanwhile decided that Mick is deceased and entered into a tawdry affair with an American politician.

For those who feel, as this writer does, that the “Dancing in the Street” video with Jagger and David Bowie camping it up like a couple of move-busting insane asylum escapees is one of the finest slices of cinema ever broadcast, Running out of Luck is the real thing – a veritable mother lode of eccentric 80s Mickness in full-lipped snarling glory. Among the various sights and sounds and marvels awaiting the viewer of this freak show of a flick is Mick in drag, Mick getting manhandled and stepped on, Mick licked, Mick groping a tranny, Mick eating maggot-infested prison gruel, Mick playing the roulette tables like James Bond, Mick writhing with a tarantula on his back – and more! The funniest scene has him stumbling into a country store, trying to convince the proprietor that he is, in fact, Mick Jagger, and futilely jumping around, shouting, and shaking his ass to prove it. In short, any Rolling Stones or 80s obscurities fan should pounce at the chance to watch this sicko sweetness dredged from the VHS trash trove.

Mick Jagger performs “She’s the Boss” in Running out of Luck (1986)

Endnotes.

  1. Norman, Philip. Mick Jagger. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2012, p. 475.
  2. Ibid., p. 526.

Java Heat poster

This innocuous fix of action exotica has renegade American counterterrorism agent Jake Wilde (obnoxiously handsome model type Kellan Lutz) sojourning in Indonesia in his hunt for the culprit in a string of international terrorist bombings. In a scenario reminiscent of Red Heat and The Kingdom, the irreverent, charmingly ugly American is teamed as an action odd couple with totally serious Indonesian counterpart Lieutenant Hashim (Ario Bayu). Naturally, this far-fetched pairing allows for corny intercultural bonding and mutual respect to develop as the two must set aside their differences if they are to rescue an abducted sultana (Atiqah Hosiholan) and save Lieutenant Hashim’s family from capitalo-terrorist Malik (Mickey Rourke, who tops himself for sleazy weirdness). Java Heat milks its colorful Indonesian locations to pleasing effect, lending to every scene a degree of novelty, and never slows down long enough to be less than amusing.

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Java Heat is:

10. Antiwar. Wilde’s younger brother, who joined the military to follow admiringly in his footsteps, is a casualty of the War on Terror.

9. Feminist. A female university student suggests that the sultana’s accession to the throne has been sabotaged for sexist reasons.

8. Anti-slut. Hookers are untrustworthy creatures. Their lifestyle is one of degradation, torture, and personal ruin.

7. Anti-drug. A nightclub slut slips a mickey into Wilde’s drink.

6. Anti-gay. Malik is a pederast. Wilde rebuffs the offer of ladyboy companionship.

5. State-skeptical/media-critical. A self-aggrandizing general plays to the media and stages a raid for publicity. News reports unjustly vilify Lieutenant Hashim.

4. Anti-capitalistic. Behind the highly publicized bogeymen of the War on Terror lies a cynical profit motive for conflict. Malik is the personification of western exploitation of Third World countries.

3. Pro-miscegenation. Wilde is initially a suspect in what is believed to have been the sultana’s death because he flirted with her at a royal soiree. He also has encounters with Indonesian hooker/masseuse types.

2. Pro-family. Wilde and Hashim, a model father, are both motivated by family-oriented grievances.

1. Multiculturalist. “We’re not all terrorists.” Like The Kingdom, Java Heat is at great pains to persuade western viewers that not all Muslims are evil and violent. Toward this end, the film presents an idyllic portrait of Lieutenant Hashim’s happy domestic existence and and his family’s hospitality. As always, the multicultural experience is a humbling one for the Caucasian and particularly for the American, who discovers that he is not so exceptional. “Americans. You are like children.” To Indonesians, an American is only a “bule dog”, or stupid white person. “From now on, we play by my rules. Java rules,” Hashim informs Wilde after getting the best of him in a physical altercation. Hashim embodies the film’s attempt to show that, along with the legendary corruption, the Third World also boasts truly devoted civil servants, dispelling Wilde’s colleague’s assertion that, “They’re all dirty in that country.” Indonesia, though plagued by terrorism, is depicted as representing a potentially peaceful realization of a multicultural society, with Hashim and a Christian colleague on the police force interacting as cultural equals.

In the wild opening scene of Drew Daywalt and David Schneider’s 2002 film Stark Raving Mad, the protagonist, Ben McGewan (cocksure, handsome American Pie alumnus Seann William Scott), is defined in a single moment.  Alone on a savannah and faced with a lion, he keeps his cool and, instead of running, he flips the savage beast the bird.  In addition to instantaneously hooking the viewer’s interest into this character’s story, the gesture also tells the viewer who he is: a masculine, confident, charming rebel with a touch of zen about him.

Stark Raving Mad, living up to its title, is a caper film about teasing the venomous snake and challenging the king of the jungle, and works the way Sexy Beast might have played if it had been a stateside story directed by Danny Boyle or Guy Ritchie: flippant, frenetic, visually inventive, and still a little psychologically pimply.  Foul-mouthed as any Tarantino film and featuring the same sorts of casual hipster criminals, gratuitous anecdotes, faux-profound contemplations, and wacky, depraved situations, Stark Raving Mad is more fun than might be expected from a film of its gimmicky, derivative type.  As in the work of Ritchie and Tarantino, violence is trivialized somewhat, but the ride is so fast and sexy that the sin of it is beside the point.

Sin does, however, figure thematically in Stark Raving Mad and help to energize it, set as it is in a decadent rave club that could double as some other movie’s futuristic Sodom, what with its lurid, luminous greens, cavernous blackness, wet trance music, neon, drugs, and hive of willing bodies.  As Ben and his motley crew of amateurish crooks are in the basement trying to break into the vaults of the bank next door, floozies and incubi rock the dance floor above, with drag queens performing an S&M show onstage with a snake and date rape drugs floating nonchalantly around the club.  At one point the python gets loose (an excuse for a bit of zippy snake-vision camera work) and wraps itself around a party-goer as a reminder that fire is hot but also burns.  It is, however, the daredevil dance around the fire that primarily concerns Stark Raving Mad.

Indicative of the film’s will to party is its decision more than once to break the fourth wall, with two characters, Ben and Rikki (Timm Sharp), addressing the viewer directly.  This gimmick, immediately calling to mind Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, complements the self-conscious mischief of the film as a whole and reinforces a parallel between Ben’s relationship with depressed buddy Rikki and Ferris’s patronage and concern for milquetoast sidekick Cameron.  Stark Raving Mad is a much sleazier entertainment experience than Ferris – to be expected in a film with a list of characters including “Seedy Guy”, “Sickly Thin Guy”, and “Trannie #3” – but also captures something of its anarchic validation of salutary revelry and rebellion for its own sake.

A little bit more than just a style-over-substance fix, this one is recommendable for its non-stop neo-disco-gothic visual sensibility, but also for its humor, some adequate suspense, and the anchoring performance of Seann William Scott and supporting players Sharp as Rikki and Lou Diamond Phillips as scary gangster Mr. Gregory.

4 out of 5 possible stars.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Stark Raving Mad is:

9. Anti-Christian/anti-religion.  Oriental mythological beliefs, characterized as superstition, receive more attention than western spirituality.  “Help me, Jesus, help me!” a DJ (Jody Racicot) says in sarcastic despair when told to play a song he dislikes.  Ben, in a tight spot, irreverently invents a lie about a character’s religious tenets to fool an FBI agent.

8. Feminist, at least with respect to the intelligent, technologically adept Betty (Suzy Nakamura).  “Stop bustin’ my ovaries,” this probable lesbian sasses.  “I said have a seat and have some kung pao chicken,” she asserts with menace at one point, transforming hospitality into a threat.

7. Homosexuality-ambivalent.  From the standpoint that all publicity is good publicity, Stark Raving Mad gives an endorsement.  “I feel love,” pyrotechnics man Jake (John Crye) says, arms around a man and a woman, probably under the influence of ecstasy.  The transvestites, though loutish and ugly behind the scenes, put on a sexy show with their makeup masks and tacky regalia.  However, Rikki fears the inevitability of prison bitchery should he be caught by police, imagining that he would emerge from incarceration looking like a doughnut.

6. Anti-state, presenting an unflatteringly seedy portrait of one public servant.  A character eventually revealed to be an undercover FBI agent (NewsRadio‘s Dave Foley) talks about how he likes his chickens frying size.  “These dirty little meat flowers nowadays, they’ll just like strip and jump your donkey anywhere, huh?”

5. Racist!, specifically in its depictions of Asians.  Betty, while smart and confident, is also sarcastic, mannish, and unpersonable.  Most of the other Asians in the film are superstitious gangsters, the only other one being an unseen and apparently stupid or English-challenged Chinese restauranteur with whom Ben has difficulty communicating his order over the phone.  A shrilly annoying rendition of “Sayonara” plays over the denouement.  Also, “mongoloid” is employed as an insult.

4. Drug-ambivalent.  Jake is incapacitated by a drug-spiked drink.  “I work better stoned,” he says earlier in the film, but events fail to bear this out.  Cigarettes, however, lend an air of experienced toughness to Ben and Betty.

3. Family-ambivalent.  Parents receive poor representation, but Ben is motivated all along by a desire to seek revenge for his brother’s death.

2. Misogynistic, sexist, and slut-ambivalent.  With the exception of Betty, no female character in Stark Raving Mad has a shred of dignity.  Women are sluts, fickle in their affections, and exist to serve men drinks and sensual pleasure.  Ben, after describing a type of bird that eats its mate’s heart after sex, explains, “I think it’s because she’s just a bitch.”  Vanessa (Monet Mazur), a former recipient of his attentions, once broke out his windshield, cooling his desire to have a woman in his life as a permanent fixture.  Later, after telling her “Fuck you”, he has sex with her but breaks off abruptly when caper business intervenes.  At the end, after the heist is accomplished, he throws her out of the getaway van.  Hungry club cutie Kitten (Reagan Dale Neis), after settling for dweeby Rikki by default and pleasing him on a sluttish whim, only earns him a brutal beating when her father (Foley) discovers their dirty deed.  On the pro-slut side of the equation, however, is Ben letting a bevy of underage girls into the club and a scene in which one woman receives cheers for flashing her crotch to be let into this apparently very happening nightspot.

1. Outlaw/anti-capitalistic.  An announcement of “X marks the spot” serves to cast the robbers as modern-day pirates and adventurers.  Crime, fraught with danger for them though it may be, works out in the end for Ben and his friends.  “I got the money, I got revenge, and nobody got killed.  Hell, Rikki even got laid.”  Which is to say that it pays.  A nasty split-screen montage with a drill equates bank robbery with sex.  The film’s representative businessman is club proprietor Mr. Partridge (Adam Arkin), who is punished for attempting to assert his prerogatives as a property owner.  Also, Betty’s former employer at a software firm is described as “some asshole”.

Spine_VHS

Spine (1986) ***

In this nicely misogynistic shot-on-video horror, L.A. police investigate seemingly in vain as a madman goes on a spree, murdering nurses by ravaging them with a knife and exposing their spines.  The murderer obsesses over someone named Linda, though none of his victims has that name.

The police and their detective work aren’t exactly fascinating, since it largely consists of sitting around, talking, and typing search terms into a bare, green-text-on-black-screen computer display – and the breakthrough, when it comes, is anticlimactic, to say the least.  There’s something compelling about the unsteady, voyeuristic camera work, the grimy synthesized score, and the whole dangerously sick and seedy sensibility of Spine, however, that artistically lifts it somewhat above the snuff sludge aesthetic from which it springs.

Janus Blythe, a familiar face from a handful of 70s-80s genre classics, and Lise Romanoff, who more notably contributed special effects work to such films as Night of the Creeps and Never Too Young to Die, appear as tortured victims of the elusive back-ripper.  Hippie-bearded R. Eric Huxley gives an interestingly soft-spoken, almost Bob Rossish performance as the culprit, generating menace and humor in moments such as when he pauses in the midst of repeatedly stabbing a woman to lick the blood from his knife.

One aspect of the cast that enhances a film of this type is that none of the actors really seem like actors; they just look like ordinary people you’d see on a street – or would have seen in the 1980s – people you’d see and pass without notice, unaware they were on their way to being hogtied, raped, and butchered by Bob Ross.  Director John Howard, according to IMDb, previously made an adult feature subtly titled Rope Burn, so there’s something to add to your checklists, you unredeemed masturbators.

 

True Crimes of Passion

The True Crimes of Passion (1983) ****

Raven-haired, pouty-mouthed Janey Robbins scorches the celluloid as private investigator B.J. Fondel in this adult take on the hardboiled detective genre.  In classic film noir fashion, Robbins delivers dispassionate voice-over narration of her sexual misadventures in a trio of tawdry tales revolving around one or more perversions of varying deviance.

The star is dressed and coiffed differently in each story, which helps to keep it interesting, but the first segment has her looking the best in a shiny maroon jumpsuit as she investigates the lesbian infidelity and light B&D play of a preacher’s wife and her lover – only, of course, inevitably to join in with the sluts.  This is stuff that will have the viewer’s hand down his pants in no time.

Director Kim Christy, who discovered a niche in adult films involving transsexuality, offers more of that in the second story, which features an escaped convict-turned-tranny posing as a maid and exacting revenge against a district attorney by forcing him at gunpoint to screw his sister and get it on in a perverted threesome.  (The maid slips Robbins a mickey, so she’s disappointingly unconscious for most of this one.)

Finally, the flimsiest of the stories is basically an excuse for the insatiable Robbins to take on first one and then two studs in a hotel room – and she earns her audience’s sympathy, if she doesn’t have it already, by bravely taking it in the rear for the climax.  Overall, not at all a bad show.  It’s a shame the B.J. Fondel character didn’t continue through a series of X-rated investigative adventures, as Robbins could have serviced such a franchise with hardboiled and hardbopping panache.

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