Archives for posts with tag: VHS

Phteven 0

Phteven Universe, for the uninitiated, is the musical project of Pilleater, one of the more individual and idiosyncratic racial thinkers to have carved out a niche for himself online. An original, challenging, confounding, and often obnoxious figure, Pilleater in his now substantial body of Alt-Leftish critical and creative work explores a wild frontier at the margin of the Alt-Right without ever really being of it, putting in occasional co-host appearances on Robert Stark’s Stark Truth podcast, writing books, and doing everything from comedic impressions of Alt-Right figures to music reviews on his frightening YouTube channel.

Pilleater

Pilleater

Musically, the oeuvre of Phteven Universe is not entirely separable from its creator’s perverted boutique ideology of “Asian Aryanism”. Even the name, referencing as it does a grotesque viral canine meme and a Japanese-influenced Cartoon Network TV series, is expressive of Pilleater’s interest in internet subcultures and Asiatic hybridism, conveying as well the sense of whimsy that characterizes much of Pilleater’s output.

The first, self-titled Phteven Universe album advertises itself as a vaporwave release – and there is certainly some memorable vaporwave on here – but to pigeonhole Phteven Universe as a vaporwave artist, while this perhaps is useful as a marketing niche, is to do a disservice to the eclecticism of the tracks. This one opens with effervescent waves of peace, melancholy, and inspiration wafting in with wetness and the sounds of birds – only then to plunge the listener into a morbid cityscape with soundbites expressing contempt for the soulless corporate mentality.

Phteven 1Then comes a sassy succession of late-80s-sounding Terminator-X-style hip-hop sounds and quaint computer noises. Keeping the scenery in flux, the album evokes a windswept expanse of blue desert followed by a slick retrofuturistic club beat, after which the listener is treated to a truly inspiring vapor track sampling the Commodores’ “Easy” over determined pulses of synth ascending into triumph. The vocal is spaced out – way out – so that the listener can believe it and feel it when told, “I wanna be high – so high.” This moment alone was so glorious that I actually felt a bit bad about having paid so little to own this awesome tape.

The second side of Phteven Universe is another eclectic nostalgia trip, launching from a disorienting opening into a sample of the once-ubiquitous “You’ve Got Mail” announcement and leading into an earnest, ballad-style piano number, followed by the inarticulate moan of a man ripped painfully out of a comfortable but no longer accessible past, both sad and soothing. Then the album gets crazy again and shifts into some oriental synth cutesiness followed in succession by slick, ritzy, high-rise vanilla elevator funk, a track with aggressive percussive elements resolving into a pastel chill session, and then “Fuck Off Melissa”, a nasty track evocative of a futuristic mutant sex club and reminiscent of Cabaret Voltaire of the era of The Crackdown.

Phteven 2

The second release, おさかなといっしょ – which, if Google Translate can be trusted, comes out as “With Fish and Lettuce” – consists of a first side inspired by primitive video game soundtracks and a second side that recreates what I have to imagine a night out at the gay disco must have sounded like in the early nineties. It had me thinking of C+C Music Factory, but Pilleater is very particular and autistic about his club music obsessions and probably has something else altogether in mind. The creepier and more interesting first side, which apart from nostalgia bears no immediately apparent relationship to the second, gives the haunted impression of bad AM radio reception and a lonely, neglected vintage Nintendo game that seems to ask with a touch of menace, “Hey, kid … why don’t you play me anymore?”

Illicit, the third Phteven Universe release, opens with some busy, hectic, alien-sounding material somewhat reminiscent of Prodigy or Ministry’s classic “Stigmata”, warning the listener, “There is no future.” This is followed by more distorted video game sounds in keeping with the material on おさかなといっしょ, but this time mining a more baroque melodic vein. From here Illicit turns dark again, with chaotic, repetitive cacophony evocative of a malevolent universe. As eclectic as Phteven Universe, however, Illicit never settles into a single style for very long and progresses through guitar discordance, African chanting, more homoerotic club music after the fashion of おさかなといっしょ’s second side, some funky programming and S&M percussion, industrial sounds, high-NRG dance, and a disjointed jumble of childhood memories, blips and beeps, gothic electronica, KMFDM-style angst, and – most hilariously – a sample of Jamie Stewart’s Stark Truth appearance in which the Xiu Xiu artist hissily unleashes on the Alt-Right.

Phteven 3

Side B continues with the eclecticism, getting underway with some pleasant hypnotica before launching into machine-gun-like percussion followed by more throbbing homo nightclub shenanigans. Next some breezy synth washes over an unobtrusive beat – one of the few soothing moments in Phteven Universe’s oeuvre – but the respite is brief, as the horizon darkens and gloomier tones return, followed by hip-hop and trance-like obsessions. It must be noted, too, that some of the ambient explorations and the disquieting ruminations on Illicit’s second side would seem to belie Pilleater’s cultivation of a clownish persona, so that the album is far from a mere hodgepodge of carnival weirdness. This is an album that at times expects and receives a listener’s serious attention. The creepy voice comes back again before Pilleater apostrophizes a “dream girl”, and ends on a bit of a Wendy Carlos note, with some classical synthesis.

Getting off to a fun start with some Moonman and dis rap samples and some soulful, moaning retard scat, Asian Girlfriend further develops the styles established on the previous Phteven Universe releases, with more naughty club thumping, baroque video-gamey electronica, discordant lo-fi dystopian cuteness, atmospheric electro-percussion worthy of old-school New Order, and more dark and whimsically primitive gaming, some of it sounding almost sentimental – or it would, at least, without the mutated robotic muttering over it. As with the previous albums’ smatterings of vocal passages, Pilleater seems not to be too concerned with whether or not the words are heard – except when it comes to needing help with his algebra homework; that bit gets the proper enunciation it deserves. The highlight of Asian Girlfriend, however, is easily the nasty dance number “Consent”. If you don’t like this one, it’s probably just because Pilleater can do, as he puts it, so many things – “and you’re just jealous!” The artwork alone would make Asian Girlfriend worth owning.

Phteven 4

Phteven Universe, again, is much more than a vaporwave fad-follower; but Pilleater’s commentary on the sociopolitical significance of vaporwave is key to understanding what he is attempting with his music and new Apocalypse Culture. “At its core, the vaporwave genre nostalgically admires the past: VHS tapes, electronic synthesizers, retro-futuristic cars, vector grids, vintage arcade games, bad consumer products, Japanese culture, etc.,” he writes in his essay “Fashwave Sectarianism vs. Vaporwave Hegemony”. At the same time, he concludes, vaporwave is “the music of the future.”

If vaporwave is inherently reactionary, nostalgic, and retro-futurist, it is already Right-wing. The whole thing is Right-wing. Not just the fashwave secession. What I would like to see is a critical discourse that accompanies and interprets the vaporwave genre as an essentially anti-liberal art form sprung from a sincere longing for the future we were promised but denied, without cutting itself on edgy National Socialist and Evola memes. Sure, people will try to trot out Capitalism and Schizophrenia, but it’s up to us to call out such errors in thinking. It is up to us to construct a dominant anti-liberal paradigm to eventually turn vaporwave discourse, and the music itself, against the globalist nihilism and transhumanist philosophy of Eccojams and Floral Shoppe.

Fashwave is dead! Long live fashwave!

Do Pilleater’s Phteven Universe project and Apocalypse Culture revivalism lend themselves to the construction of this anti-liberal paradigm? As Varg might suggest … let’s find out!

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Protocols of the Elders of Zanuck: Psychological Warfare and Filth at the Movies – the DEFINITIVE Alt-Right statement on Hollywood!

 

 

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sinai-guerrillas

Feel lucky, goy?

panther-squad

Great cover. Terrible movie.

Regular followers of this blog may be aware of my ongoing interests, not only in the Jewish Question as it expresses itself both culturally and politically in recent films, but also in the obscurely nostalgic as well as my apolitical fondness for VHS refuse of the awesome eighties and tacky nineties. These readers will understand and forgive my indulgence of curiosity in a moment of impaired judgment when I discovered a cheap 1991 video era relic titled Sinai Guerillas. Just take a look at the art on the box. What VHS trash aficionado could pass over something as righteous as this? That too-cool yenta commando with her machine gun, shades, exposed cleavage, and bullet belt, ready to mow down a horde of evil, cartoonishly stereotyped Arab primitives, like some hyper-Zionist variation on the work of Andy Sidaris, Fred Olen Ray, or Cirio H. Santiago! How could this promising cover adornment not herald some rare and boobs-and-blood-filled VCR viewing experience? Unfortunately, not since Sybil Danning beckoned siren-like from the similar cover of the abominable Panther Squad have I been so completely and mercilessly let down by a deceptive and damnable VHS box.

blazing-sand

It wasn’t enough to burden the Germans forever with “Holocaust” guilt. They also had to be subjected to epic turkeys like Blazing Sand.

Imagine my disappointment when Sinai Guerillas turned out to be not some unfairly neglected exploitation gem of the early nineties but a retitled and English-dubbed repackaging of the utterly tame and quaintly corny 1960 Israeli adventure movie Blazing Sand! Concerning a perilous mission to rescue a wounded Israeli stranded in Arab territory, the story plays much like a Middle Eastern western, with tiresome scenes of the Jewish posse riding their horses and camels across a desert peopled not by savage Indians, but by Jew-despising Arabs. Emphasizing the parallel with the western, one of the characters even dresses like a Jewish cowboy!

The genre connection is, furthermore, more than superficial. Just as the western in its heyday celebrated a rugged confidence in American mastery and expansiveness, so Sinai Guerillas extols the Zionist claim to a twentieth century “frontier” in Greater Israel. The story takes the characters into what is supposed to be Jordan – which, however, is never mentioned by that political designation. After all, this “whole place used to belong to us. Now we have to come here illegally,” one of the Jews says indignantly. The artificially imposed lines on maps “are a hindrance to the cultural development of a rising young nation,” the viewer is told. Apart from constituting a mild cinematic curiosity as a pop-cultural artifact of Zionist chauvinism, the film does offer some regional scenery, but very little else. Even the awkward attempt at sex appeal, with actress Daliah Lavi performing a robotic fifties-style exotic dance routine to entertain a dying comrade in his final moments of life, is enough to put a chill into those blazing sands.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

blazing-sand-daliah

Daliah Lavi in Blazing Sand. No slouch on the kosher bimbometer, but not exactly what I had been led to expect by the false advertising. The woman depicted on the glorious VHS cover appears at no point in the actual film – nor do the two helicopters, the flamethrower, or the scantily clad lounge singer pictured on the back of the box. God damn you, you Zionist bastards!

10_cloverfield_lane

Nasty woman Mary Elizabeth Winstead wakes up chained to a cot in survivalist John Goodman’s basement in 10 Cloverfield Lane, a genre-bending experience in the tradition of Cabin in the Woods (2012) and The Signal (2014). Is Winstead, recalling Misery (1990), the prisoner of an obsessive loser who intends to possess her sexually – or is Goodman telling the truth when he claims that he only intends to keep her alive and that the world outside is uninhabitable, that everyone she knows and loves is dead, and that civilization has collapsed after a catastrophic apocalypse? Is it the Russians? The Martians? Or is it just a tall tale to dissuade his uncooperative guest from attempting to escape? Finding out is as frightening and fun as being held captive in John Goodman’s basement!

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

4.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that 10 Cloverfield Lane is:

4. Alt-media-ambivalent. Goodman is “like a black belt in conspiracy theory”, a mixed bag of a man simultaneously tuned-in and misled as to a number of topics. The fact that, in addition to aliens and Russkies, he is also concerned about “Al Qaeda” seems to suggest that the film is condescendingly and disingenuously conflating neoconservative outlets and various conspiracy-oriented media of varying quality.

3. Anti-redneck. Goodman’s character represents a typical cosmopolitan millennial’s idea of a conservative Republican: a slovenly gun nut, “authoritarian personality”, and “no touching” prude scared of Martians and the prospect of a real-life Red Dawn scenario. He is stuck in a vanished American past, as evidenced by his Frankie Avalon records and VHS collection. The fact that major elements of his assertions turn out to be correct prompts the deliciously implied question at the heart of the film. Which would be more horrifying for a millennial woman – the prospect of an alien invasion that razes everything and everyone she knows, or the possibility that, for all of these years, those hateful, judgmental, beer-bellied, rifle-toting, misogynistic deplorables were right?

2. Disaster-alarmist. Turning viewer expectations upside-down, Goodman’s conspiracy-theory-fueled survivalism comes in handy when the shit really hits the fan. Rather than rejecting extreme preparedness outright, the movie suggests that liberals, rather than pointing and laughing at the conservatives, ought to appropriate such foresight and associated skill sets for themselves. The idea that fashion design could become a survival skill in a post-apocalyptic landscape is no doubt highly appealing to a number of young women and homosexuals with tacky, clashing heaps of student loan debt in the closet.

1. Feminist/anti-family. Goodman presents a negative patriarchal archetype (“I want us to be a happy family.”). Winstead also recounts a traumatic memory of seeing a man cruelly pulling his daughter by the arm and hitting her. Perhaps under the influence of such impressions of family life, she rejects the possibility of reuniting with her boyfriend in order to strike out on her own as a superheroine and save the planet – a choice about which the director, Dan Trachtenberg, expresses a cuckolded you-go-girl enthusiasm in his audio commentary.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

CDC5

Given sufficient passage of time, any cultural compost will, it seems, eventually take on a patina of fond remembrance; but Joey Steel, in his April 2012 Blood Video write-up “Bio-Terror and the VHS Freedom Fighters: How VHS Tapes Stop Disease, Fight Terrorists, and Show What Real Terror on Tape Looks Like”, may be going a bit too far. Steel’s tone is, of course, largely sarcastic; but the idea of a hipster collector subculture sprouting up around boring Bush-era propaganda videos is almost too much to bear. Here is what Steel has to say for himself:

CDCWhen terrorists attack, how will America defend itself? What cutting edge technologies will the US and its legion of limitless resource turn to [in order to] rid the world of the freedom hating masses? As per all things, the only real answer to these questions can be given by the dedicated, and often lonely, VHS hunters.

Look, we all know that terrorists are technophiles. They have become obsessed with fickle fads [such] as the internet and computer systems, or such foolish ventures like high speed encrypted communication and genetically engineered bio-weapons. The USA does not follow flash in the pan fads. It holds steadfast to the classics. It knows not to give up a good thing when it has one. Like ignorant racial prejudice and religious intolerance the US is not gonna move forward without a fight.

In the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, the US state was in a panic to unify and prepare its forces for battle against the world wide jihad conspiracy. In its infinite wisdom that the internet was not secure, and worked far too slow to update its people with blitzkrieg speed, the US government issued VHS tapes on how to deal with BIOTERRORISM!

CDC3I picked up these two tapes a few months ago, CDC RESPONDS: BIOTERRORISM AND THE HEALTHCARE EPIDEMIOLOGY / INFECTION CONTROL TEAM made November 16th, 2001 and CDC RESPONDS: RISK COMMUNICATION AND BIOTERRORISM made December 6th, 2001. They are both from the US Department of Health and Human Services / CDC / Public Health Service. They are totally legit, and throughout the tapes drop little post 9/11 reminders of how soon these were made following that attack.

These two tapes are more than just collectables. They are shrines to America. They are gems of the battle for justice and freedom … well not justice really, or freedom, but fuck the terrorists. These are gems from the battle to fuck terrorists. Hell yeah, America.

It is a well known fact that over 99% of all terrorists are strict DVD users. It is well known that when you want to battle fast moving diseases released by smoothly operating terror cells communication is the key. And the key to that key is VHS.

CDC2Sure, they are insanely boring, hugely and horribly painful to watch, but I watched them as part of my civic duty. We watch bad movies all the time. Watching bad shit is part of our job. If it was easy to watch this crap, everyone would do this. This is not your everyday crap, no. These tapes are so much more. They are monuments to the impending doom of this great dinosaur we call the USA.

Let’s drop the laughable pretext here, people. No more funny stuff. These tapes are a painful reminder at [i.e., of] the dusty and outdated system we have. Sure the tapes are stylish, and hilarious. But beyond the sweet sleek style of the tape, and the silly glowing blue background of the banal […] set design. These tapes were actually produced with money, and were long as hell. THEN they were sent around with 1-800 numbers and talked about how people can prepare to better communicate about bioterrorism. I can’t make this shit up!

CDC4What a shocking and horrific joke that the ass-heads who run this gluttonous pig would actually make these videos in the year 2001. That tapes that are touting the most efficient and streamlined ways to communicate are educating their teams that small mailed VHS tapes and 1-800 numbers would be effective ways to contain bioterrorists.

These terror tapes are more than just obscure collectables of hard to find tapes; they are dark foreshadows of America’s ugly death at the hand of some luddite terrorist who was still more tech savvy than those pure bred retards who put this defense strategy together. Cash in your chips, and lock up your tapes, when the wall comes tumbling down VHS is going to be worth more than gold, and you are not going to want the bio-weapons messing up your ribbons.

We can all rest easy tonight knowing that on the front line of defeating these haters of freedom is the US State Department and their VHS recorders. Sleep tight, terror fiends. And remember the real horrors will always be on VHS.

Regular readers of this blog know that I watch a lot of horrible movies, but even I could probably never muster the fortitude and attention span exceptionalism to sit through boredom-threat-level-red crap like this!

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Bauer VHS

In a recent issue of the VHS fan culture publication Lunchmeat, enthusiast Mike Dank describes his experiences exploring other people’s discarded home-recorded videocassettes. “After you accumulate a few hundred ‘normal’ tapes, you tend to want to go a little outside the box and seek out something truly bizarre,” he explains1. One passage of Dank’s account strikes this writer as having a greater significance than the immediate find he details – a resonance more societal than personal.

I started to accumulate more interesting personally-recorded tapes. Some of my initial odd-balls were an audition tape from a terrible actress, a recording of some guy bungee jumping, and what appears to be an amateur recording of an awards dinner. Nothing too terribly exciting, but far from what you might define as run-of-the-mill VHS pick-ups. Then, as if by some sort of VHS-obsessed fate, I found something truly intriguing on the side of the road. Not a block from where I lived, I spotted a cardboard box containing a Betamax deck, and a handful of VHS tapes left out for the trash man. One of these tapes contained the first 30 minutes of an empowerment seminar for women (the kind of half-infomercial, half-roundtable discussion you might see hypnotizing the masses at 2 in the morning) followed by around an hour of soft-core pornography clips stitched together for… well… use your imagination! It seemed to be an inarguable textbook case of someone camouflaging their porn. I mean, who on earth would watch the first 30 minutes of that tape straight through on a whim only to eventually uncover the Skinemax-harvested goods concealed afterward? You start to wonder about the story behind this tape. Did I snag this from some sneaky teenager, maybe a hen-pecked married man?2

Could this be a more perfect encapsulation of sexual trends in the West? Women’s “empowerment” as a ruse, leading into a lonely, voyeuristic depravity, and all of it bound for one civilizational garbage dump.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Endnotes

  1. Dank, Mike. “Finding Forgotten Footage: Unearthing Ultimate Home Video Obscurities”. Lunchmeat Midnight Snack no. 4 (Spring 2015), p. [21].
  2. Ibid., p. [22].

Twilight of the Cockroaches VHS cover

This writer’s father took him to see the Japanese import Twilight of the Cockroaches (1987) during its 1989 American theatrical run – at the now-defunct Fine Arts Theatre in Mission, Kansas, if memory serves. Directed by Hiroaki Yoshida, whose only other credit at the helm of a film is the Jeff Fahey thriller Iron Maze (1991), Twilight of the Cockroaches is but one of unnumbered oddities spawned by the Japanese cinema during the 1980s; and one suspects that the principal reason it got picked up for stateside distribution was its combination of live action and animation, a pairing that had demonstrated its power to charm audiences with Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988).

The plot concerns a colony of pampered cockroaches who are permitted to live and thrive in the apartment of the dissipated and enigmatic Mr. Saito (Kaoru Kobayashi), who seems to spend most of his time in a stupor. The roaches’ peaceful existence is upset, however, when Saito gets a girlfriend (Setsuko Karasuma) who understandably insists on ridding his place of its swarms of invertebrate squatters. Not too many movies muster the gumption to cast six-legged vermin as sympathetic protagonists in such a situation, but Twilight of the Cockroaches does exactly that and succeeds largely by anthropomorphizing the animated pests, complete with human faces, facial hair on the men, and even cleavage on the females of the species.

What makes the film doubly strange and noteworthy is that the roaches apparently represent Jews, much of the story suggesting a “Holocaust” allegory. The English-language script, credited to a Steve Kramer, even uses the term “genocide” to describe humanity’s treatment of its innocent, toilet-tripping neighbors of order Blattodea. “With its subtle allusions to Hiroshima and Dachau,” the VHS box quotes The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Carrie Rickey, “this comedy has unexpected resonance. You will think twice before getting out that can of Blockade.” (Ms. Rickey is presumably unaware that even mainstream “historians” of the “Holocaust” no longer support the Nuremberg Tribunal lies about the Dachau facilities housing homicidal gas chambers disguised as showers.)

The cockroaches comprise a “tribe” suffered in the home of “host” Mr. Saito, who is described as being diverted or entertained by them, much as Jews in America distract the host with Hollywood. Then, too, they see themselves as having a special racial destiny, and they also worship a toy rabbit they know as “Torah”. Nothing in the English-dubbed soundtrack suggests Jewish vocal mannerisms, but some of the older and more important roaches do exhibit large and somewhat hook-shaped noses. The penchant of many of the roaches for spending their nights frolicking in the toilet could also suggest the subversive traits of Jews who specialize in pornography and the propagation of other degeneracies.

Seeing this movie as a child, this writer was wowed by the sheer weirdness of it, Europeans having been conditioned for decades to adore the foreign and the bizarre as a virtue. Revisited now, it is hardly a classic. Twilight of the Cockroaches does, however, furnish a useful illustration of how and why such infestation occurs. The “host”, Mr. Saito, the film eventually reveals, has been abandoned by his family, and only after the dissolution of this essential unit has he fallen into complacency and toleration of vermin and allowed them scavenge on his goods, the spoils of his own productivity. The destruction of the family is the crucial and most fundamental component of Jewish subversion of a nation; without that the Jewish cockroach is in peril, and it is only after another woman enters Mr. Saito’s life and inspires within him a yearning for new happiness in domesticity that he awakens to the filth and asserts his masculine sovereignty over his realm.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Twilight of the Cockroaches VHS back

"Can we talk?"

The needle on the Jewometer just broke.

Joan Rivers and Friends Salute Heidi Abromowitz (1985) ****

Joan Molinsky (alias Rivers) appears as herself in this Showtime comedy special about a star-studded Las Vegas tribute to notorious (fictional) nymphomaniac Heidi Abromowitz. A veritable constellation of A-and B-level celebrities is in attendance to toast this tart, “the biggest tramp since Charlie Chaplin”. The only problem is that nobody can find her, so that cantankerous hostess Joan is reduced to rushing around a hotel trying to find out where Heidi is holed up probably getting gang-shagged.

This incredibly raunchy campfest mostly consists of hit-and-miss one-liners (Heidi is alleged to have invented “eightplay”, or simultaneous foreplay with two guys) and nostalgia-tickling cameos from the likes of Kris Kristofferson, New York City Mayor Ed Koch, Anthony Perkins, Brooke Shields, Selma Diamond, Robin Leach (who of course gets to spoof Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous), Joyce Brothers, Ruth Westheimer, Willie Nelson, Tony Randall, Erma Bombeck, Little Richard, Betty White, Suzanne Somers, Ali McGraw, Howie Mandel, Elvira, Garry Shandling, Vincent Price, Morgan Fairchild, Father Guido Sarducci – and more! The Solid Gold Dancers even put in an appearance, taking the stage to the tune of Olivia Newton John’s hit “Physical”.

80s buffs will be thrilled by the totally retro references to Mother Theresa, Mr. T, and Boy George (“Just what England needs,” Joan kvetches, “another queen who can’t dress!”). The highlight of this extravaganza, however, is not a celebrity, but a hilarious troupe of trained orangutans, one of which specializes in flipping the bird. The only real drawback to this trash treasure is its off-putting Talmudic attitude in promoting juvenile sexuality. “Harder! Harder!” Heidi is supposed to have exclaimed as a newborn when the doctor slapped her bottom, and she is also supposed to have enjoyed an outdoor orgy with several boys as a girl. The best line in Joan Rivers and Friends Salute Heidi Abromowitz definitely comes from negro janitor Vernon Washington: “Joan Rivers? Sheeeit. I thought you was Tony Orlando.”

4 out of 5 possible stars

Post-op cyborg

“We’ll say United 93 went down in this trench here in Shanksville . . .”

How to Murder a Millionaire (1990) ***1/2

Joan Molinsky, the grotesque diva to out-bitch them all, gets to display her sensitive side in this tacky TV comedy feature about a privileged, rich housewife whose life revolves around shopping, hoarsely kvetching to best friend Morgan Fairchild, and watching interviews with transvestites on Monique in the Morning followed by Monique in the Afternoon. Unfortunately, Joan’s idle idylls are thrown into chaos when she begins to suspect that husband Alex Rocco may be trying to murder her – and, even worse, that he may be having an affair! (“What possible motive could he have?” her friend hilariously consoles her. “You look great.”) Desperate for refuge, Joan hides out in a ghetto rat’s nest (“This place just screams for a decorator”) with Fairchild’s thieving black maid (Telma Hopkins) and even goes to work with her as a housecleaner.

All of this, of course, is just an excuse for such fish-out-of-water scenes as Joan cleaning a toilet and trying to make herself comfortable on a disgusting black person’s couch – but not before covering it with sanitary tissues. How to Murder a Millionaire is something of a rarity in Molinsky’s list of movie credits in that it is a genuine starring vehicle for her as opposed to a cameo. For that reason alone, Molinsky admirers (i.e. homos) will probably want to check it out and treat themselves to such TV candy as Joan slumming in her expensive fur coat, washing a window with her rump, and self-pityingly crying while treating her eyes with cucumber slices. Nostalgiacs, furthermore, should enjoy the chintzy early 90s muzak and period cultural references to Leona Helmsley, Arsenio Hall, and the forbidden dance of lambada. What other movie, pray tell, has the sass to ask the question, “Does a bear shop in the woods?”

3.5 of 5 possible stars.

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.

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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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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