Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Terrible Film Terrors Tuesday: Open Season (1974)

The scribble below is infested with SPOILERS

Open Season is (on the surface) a re-telling of The Most Dangerous Game sprinkled with Vietnam-era angst.


Underneath the "humans hunting humans" plot, there are subtle comments about the privileged in America. If you have money and power, you can get away with anything. The world is your oyster for the eating. The people you mow down in your quest for thrills do not matter. You can rape, kidnap and murder without recourse.

Eventually, you are going to have to pay. In the end, you could have someone like William Holden hunting you down and making you swallow that silver spoon you have in your mouth.

The film's cast is just delicious. A trifecta of B-Movie coolness.

Richard Lynch?

Playing a villain? I'm in!

Ironically enough in his first film he also played a rapist. He manages to not only almost rape Al Pacino in that film, but steal the scene from him too!

Open Season is a film of its time. Dark, morally ambiguous with one hell of downbeat ending. They don't make them like this anymore.

David Osborn (who also co-wrote the screenplay) wrote the novel the film was based upon. It's somewhat hard to find, but it is worth seeking out because, well, it's better than the film. Surprise!

The film is available in its entirety on Youtube. It has yet to receive an official release in the USA on VHS or DVD.

Other films that helped the viewing public realize the Summer of Love was absolutely over are:

Rituals (1977)
Shoot (1976)
The Sporting Club (1971)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Amazing LP Friday: Clock DVA - Advantage (1983)

Today is Dashiell Hammett's birthday.

In honor of the seminal crime writer I submit for your perusal a noirish track from my favorite full-length record by one of the finer bands from the 1980s and 1990s:


I love all the different phases of Clock DVA. The early tape-loop, electronic noise, wired to Beefheartian funk and white-boy-free-jazz and the sound of the Advantage-era which is basically a more sleeker, cleaner version of the earlier gritty noise.

Even the late 80s and 90s music programmed by the re-activated Clock DVA sounds like nothing else released in the era. In a time dominated by the industrial stomp and roar and pound and orgasmic moans of Wax Trax Records, Clock DVA was a much darker mystery.

Even their inevitable release on Wax Trax Records (the label had a roster filled with legends of the genre) sounds much more sinister than anything else on the label. The title track is all sex and Elizabeth Báthory...

Their last three full-length releases were made even more thrilling because of the liner notes that contained information about what inspired each track on the record. You came away from a listen wanting to know more about parapsychology, cybernetics, sound research, sexual fetishes, etc. There was no other band around with that sort of presentation. Dig the liner notes to Buried Dreams (1989) for just one example.

For me, the track ("Dark Encounter") tends to conjure a more 1950s Jim Thompsonesque, sexy sort of darkness than the steely, toughness of Hammett's books from the 30s.

But it was Hammett who brought the light to the darkness.

As Raymond Chandler wrote:

Hammett took murder out of the Venetian vase and dropped it into the alley...he gave murder back to the kind of people who do it for a reason, not just to provide a corpse; and with means at hand, not with hand wrought dueling pistols, curare, and tropical fish.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Terrible Film Terrors Tuesday: The Morning After (1974)

The scribble below is infested with SPOILERS

Admittedly, I often watch films for their cheesiness or their reputation for being so bad the badness becomes surreal - almost accidentally becoming art in their utter shittiness.

The Morning After (1974) is NOT one of those films. I approached this one wanting something cheesy, but what I got was a devastating, powerful performance from Dick Van Dyke. There is no Ottoman for tripping over, no chimney to sweep, but there is a lot of alcohol to drink and that is what Mr. Van Dyke does in this made for TV film.


Based upon a best-selling novel adapted for the small-screen by the heavy-weight-genius Richard Matheson, this film does not hit one false note. Van Dyke plays a very successful middle-aged public relations man with two kids, a wife and a fine pad in the suburbs. Underneath the sheen of success, Dick is not happy with his career or himself. That fact mingled with a drinking problem that is slowly becoming out of control sets all the wheels in motion for a disaster.

It is gut-wrenching watching these wheels careen out of control. Not only are the effects on the drinker shown in ugly detail, we also see the damage done to family and friends. Those moments filled with tears and screaming are when the film transcends its humble prime-time-TV roots and becomes a drama that is much heavier on the soul, hard to watch and something that could change your life. We ask that TV only entertain us, give us a little hoot and guffaw. When it explodes with depth and truth and makes us maybe question ourselves or the people we love, we are shocked, nearly speechless in its wake. At least I was.

A series of broken promises, failed attempts at therapy and medical advise unheeded eventually leads to a stay in a Sanitarium. We are given a smidgen of hope, because there are only two ways a story like this can end. The drinker seeks help for his problem. As the screen fades to black, we hope the drinker stays sober. The other ending is darker.

He could walk out of the place, head to a bar, call his family between drinks, tell them through tears that he loves them, say goodbye and start drinking. The screen would fade to black with the viewer not knowing what will become of the drinker. The setting sun would cast a terrible gleam off of the drinker's upturned bottle of booze.

Just like it does in this film.

The film ends with the image of Dick stooped at the end of drainage tunnel sucking down booze while a maudlin cover of The Beatles' song, "Yesterday", is crooned on the soundtrack. A very appropriate blanket to lay over his devastation. The song is used at key points throughout the film to drive the message home. Dick himself drunkenly laments the state of music to a bar patron and uses the song as an example of fine tunes from the past. The irony is lost on Dick, because he is drunk but the viewer can muse upon it. Even more ironic is Van Dyke really did struggle with his own problems with alcohol making his performance all the more convincing. All in all, a harrowing viewing experience for me that left me contemplating the empty beer bottle I held in my hand at the end of the film.

A depressing night in front of the boob tube for anyone who tuned in for this one in 1974.

The film has never been released on VHS or DVD, but it is available via some of the fine sites that specialize in hard to find films. Peruse my links!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Amazing LP Friday: A Certain Ratio - To Each (1981)

A Certain Ratio - To Each...

ACR's second LP arrived in 1981 with a cover designed by the late Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson, an aura of gloom and static and fog courtesy of Martin Hannett, haunted,cobwebbed funk numbers and a long eerie-ambient-noise-festooned Latin-tinged percussion track ending the darkest of dance parties.

Folks seem to prefer their glossier third record (Sextet released in '82), but I am still quite taken by To Each. There is a foggy, lonesome atmosphere amidst the funk on the record that has never been matched by anyone since.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Terrible Film Terrors Tuesday: Spookies (1986)

Terrible can sometimes mean terrifyingly cool or just plain bad...it all depends on your perspective, taste, the amount of beer consumed, your education, your socio-economic status, the exact length of time you held that bong hit in your lungs...

That pizza you ordered just arrived. You get up to pay the dude, put a couple of pieces of that greasy pie on a plate and open another beer. The film you thought you were watching has changed into something totally different. This incoherency is what makes this film terribly cool! It's incoherency and the fact it took two years to complete is explained here.

The film was released in VHS, but sadly enough has never made it to DVD. It is available through some of the fine dealers of out of print films. Take a gander at my links there to the right!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Amazing LP Friday: Nocturnal Emissions - Fruiting Body (1981)

Nocturnal Emissions' second album (Fruiting Body) was one hell of a life changing LP for me.

Nocturnal Emissions - Fruiting Body

Intimidating, scary and disorienting.