Me and you Barbarella! High noon. Time to settle this once and for all!
As long as we're on movie posters today, above is a completely different type of femme fatale. The promo art, which we think is quite nice, is for the DVD release of CQ in Japan today in 2003. If you look closely at the right border of the art you can just make out the Japanese text. The movie was made by Roman Coppola, starred Jeremy Davies, Angela Lindvall, and Élodie Bouchez, and dealt with a struggling young director making a cheeseball sci-fi movie to pay the bills while working in his spare time on his beloved art film. That's Lindvall above as secret agent Dragonfly, a Barbarella-type space heroine, armed with vaguely organ-shaped retro-futuristic space gun. CQ premiered in 2002 and quickly achieved cult status, but writer-director Coppola has not had much opportunity to direct films since then, though he did helm a 2012 Bill Murray project called A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III. We haven't seen it, but we know it flopped pretty hard. We've talked about CQ before, so we won't reiterate except to say we loved it.
Another blonde stirs up trouble in the benighted jungle.
Amazonia: Kopfjagd im Regenwald, for which you see a West German promo poster above, was originally Italian made as Schiave bianche: Violenza in Amazzonia, and was titled in English White Slave. We really enjoy lost world movies and this one looked like it fit the bill—fierce looking blonde woman on the poster holding a sword, jungle setting—so we tracked down a copy and had a look. We were imagining something along the lines of those entertaining ’80s actioners that all ended with big battle sequences and climactic decapitations. It was only after acquiring the film that we learned it was also known by another title—Cannibal Holocaust 2: The Catherine Miles Story. Uh oh. We are less fond of cannibal movies than lost world movies, but we forged ahead, bravely, with popcorn and beer.
Basically, a woman played by Elivire Audray is kidnapped by Amazon tribesmen and must submit to tribal customs in order to survive. But considering the fact that various loin-clothed alpha males soon begin to fight to possess her, the real question might be whether the tribe can survive her. All of this is wrapped inside a murder trial taking place after Audray's rescue, where a courtroom learns not only every sordid, sexual detail of her time with her tribe, but that her very presence in the jungle may have been part of a conspiracy, and her kidnapping might have been in reality a rescue. We can't really recommend this movie, but its eventual anti-capitalist twist is interesting, and at least you get to see plenty of Audray, below. Amazonia: Kopfjagd im Regenwald premiered in Italy in 1985 and opened in West Germany today in 1986.
Russ Meyer's tale of killer cats from Southern California is absurd but entertaining.
Though the text is in English, this promo for Russ Meyer's Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! was made for a 1994 re-release in Japan. You can see that the flipside at right is partially in Japanese. Faster Pussycat is one of those movies—everyone has heard of it, but fewer than you'd suspect have actually seen it.
So what's the deal? Tura Satana, Haji, and Lori Williams drag race, wisecrack, and roughhouse their way around Southern California. But because they're bad tempered and sociopathic, they eventually kill a guy, which then requires abducting the only witness, and in turn leads to a scheme to cheat a wheelchair bound old man out of his disablement stash. It's an uneasy alliance between these three kittens, destined for implosion, an inevitability helped along by Satana's unending torrents of shouty abuse.
You really have to hand it to Meyer—what he did, he did really well. Faster Pussycat is a completely overdone tale of reckless youth and the lawless west, but ripping around the Mojave Desert with these girls is consistently fun. The type of moral decay and geographical desolation showcased here is one of American film's time-honored motifs. Meyer's entry in the genre holds up pretty well. The movie originally premiered today in 1965.
Sharky's Machine hums along nicely, but only up to a point.
This poster for the 1981 thriller Sharky's Machine was made for the movie's premiere in Bangkok. Every blue moon or so Hollywood decides to update a ’40s film noir. Sometimes these are excellent movies—Body Heat as a rework of Double Indemnity comes to mind. Sharky's Machine is based on William Diehl's novel of the same name, which is a restyling of 1944's Laura. If you haven't seen Laura, a detective falls in love with a murdered woman, focusing these feelings upon her portrait, which is hanging over the mantle in her apartment. In Sharky's Machine the hero, Atlanta vice detective Burt Reynolds, falls in love with Rachel Ward via his surveillance of her during a prostitution investigation, and is left to deal with his lingering feelings when she's killed.
When Ward observed years back that she had been too prudish in her artistic choices, we imagine this was one movie she had in mind. We agree. Reynolds' 24/7 surveillance of a high priced hooker is not near frank enough. This is where vice, voyeurism, and sleaze as subtext should have come together overtly, as it does in Diehl's unflinchingly detailed novel, rather than as stylized montages, which is what Reynolds opts for.
Sex and nudity aren't always gratuitous. The plot driver in old film noirs is often sex, but it couldn't be shown. Remaking a noir affords the opportunity to explore the sexual aspect further, as in Body Heat, where it's literally the lure of sex with no boundaries—exemplified in that famous (but implied) anal scene—that snares the hero in an insane murder plot. In Sharky's Machine it's sexual objectification that is the initial driver. Reynolds' loves Ward's body first and her personality later, but the surveillance that is the key to this is barely explored.
It's a missed opportunity to not only make a better thriller, but to examine this lust-to-love transition as an aspect of all romantic relationships. Reynolds doubled as both star and director of the film, and while his relative newbie status in the latter realm may be a reason he didn't push the envelope, he still manages in his third outing helming a motion picture to put together a final product that is stylish, dark, and neon-streaked—everything a neo-noir should be. Upon release many critics had problems with tone—violence and humor seemed to clash. Reynolds' was a semi-comedic cinematic figure and his previous two directorial efforts had been comedies, which may have led to jokes leaking into unusual moments of the film. But these days the mix of violence and comedy is common, so we doubt you'll be terribly annoyed by these few incongruities.
The main flaw with the movie, besides its chasteness, is not its tone, but that it feels compressed in the latter third, especially as relates to the love subplot. True, the film is already a shade over two hours long, but it's time that flies by, populated as it is by so many interesting roles and great actors (Bernie Casey, Brian Keith, Vittorio Gassman, Charles Durning). Another seven minutes would not have hurt. Still, we recommend this one. It should have been as bold a noir rework as Body Heat, but there's plenty to entertain in other areas, and Hollywood may make this film perfect yet—a new version of Sharky's Machine is in development with Mark Wahlberg in the lead. Hah hah—who are we kidding? They'll screw it up completely. You already know that.
Novedades Editores takes readers on a five city tour of street crime and murder.
Mexican pulp art has grown in popularity in recent years, thanks to the efforts of vendors and collectors. It differs from U.S. pulp in that it was produced decades later—during the 1970s and forward. The covers you see here today are prime examples of what is generally classified as Mexican pulp, made for the comic book series El libro policiaco, or "The Police Book," and published by Novedades Editores during the early 2000s. The series was so popular that, like the U.S. television show C.S.I., the books diversified into multiple cities—New Orleans, New York City, Miami, Chicago, and San Francisco. Each city's stories centered around a local police department staffed by a multi-ethnic array of cops and support personnel. And as the banner text proclaims, the interior art was indeed in color, ninety-two pages of it per issue. All the covers here were created by Jorge Aviña, an artist who began his career during the 1970s, and has had his work exhibited in London, Switzerland, Barcelona, and Paris. We'll have more from El libro policiaco a bit later.
In search of the perfect O.
There's nothing special about this poster for Mado kara Roma ga mieru, aka Roma dalla finestra, aka Rome from a Window, other than perhaps that it's double-sided, as you see at right. But the movie does feature Kimiko Nakayama, which is no small thing. Shot in Italy by a Japanese director with a mostly Italian cast and crew, it's the story of a photographer named Carlo, his wife, Nakayama's character O, and the various sexual entanglements these three experience, both between themselves and with others.
This being a movie from Japan's infamous roman porno genre, it's in no way a surprise that the photographer meets O because he comes across her peeing. She happens to be doing this at the monument marking the site where Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini was murdered in 1975, beaten to death by an assailant or assailants then run over several times with his own car. When Carlo and O get together later for fun and games she comments upon the prodigious size of his member, to which he responds that he is of normal Italian size. As a joke, it can cut both ways, as can many aspects of the movie.
In general, it's all very weird, possibly because director Masuo Ikeda, who also wrote the screenplay, was foremost a painter, sculptor, ceramist, printmaker and award-winning novelist who only dabbled in film direction. The sense of artistic freedom, in terms of not being concerned with following norms, really shows. With an atmospheric soundtrack from Paul Mauriat (the sleeve is just above and right) that is better remembered than the actual movie, Mado kara Roma ga mieru, aka Roma dalla finestra premiered in Japan today in 1982. And just because we had it laying around, below is a shot of Nakayama to go along with one we shared several years ago.
How far would you go to get the perfect shot?
A freelance photographer who has spent his career documenting the mean streets of New York City, always arriving in the aftermath of terrible events, finds himself presented with the opportunity to photograph a gangland massacre at the instant it occurs. One crime family has decided to wipe out another and Joe Pesci's Leon Bernstein, aka the Great Bernzini, knows where and when it will happen. He wants up close photos and the only way he can get them is to be in the restaurant where the killings will happen. After two decades of seeing his photography ignored by the art world, he thinks pulling off this feat will make everyone take notice of him. Bernzini is reckless the same way Jimmy Stewart is in Rear Window, but in less cartoonish fashion because we’re taken inside his thought process and made to understand it.
There's more here of course—love, loneliness, social status, musings about art—but the shootout and whether Bernzini is crazy enough to shut himself in a room where one stray bullet could end his life is what the film is really about. The Public Eye, which appeared in 1992, was a clear influence (along with the French film Man Bites Dog), on the acclaimed 2014 thriller Nightcrawler, but this one is a period piece, set during 1942. While the historical details are convincing, director Howard Franklin and cinematographer Peter Suschitztky don't aim for a true noir look. The filmscape is dark, but not technically stylish. Still it's good, and it benefits from Pesci, who has a way of inhabiting roles to the extent that you can't imagine anyone else playing them. He makes the movie work.
The rocker, the roller, the out of controller.
Mad Max premiered in Australia in April 1979 and made its way to Japan a few months later. Significantly, the U.S. premiere came after Japan—as well as Portugal, Italy, Holland, and Spain—and when it finally happened it was at The Motorcycle Film Festival in Seguin, Texas, several months before a wide U.S. release. The point is it’s amazing how careful the filmmakers were about releasing the movie in what was the world’s most lucrative film market. They weren't sure how American audiences would react to something so leftfield, but of course it did well enough there to become a series, and now a rebooted franchise helmed by original director George Miller. The Japanese poster above, painted by Tom Beauvais, was made for the movie’s Tokyo premiere today in 1979.
Survival of the scariest.
It’s appropriate The Thing is about a monster that constantly evolves, because it’s another of those ’80s sci-fi movies, like Blade Runner, where most reviews of the day were unflattering, but have since evolved to acknowledge the high quality of the film. The Thing isn’t just great—it’s visionary. The cold, the vastness, the silence, the bone weariness of a bunch of working class scientists pitted against an interstellar horror right out of Lovecraft—a movie of this type could never be made today, as the less effective 2011 prequel proved. The ’80s Thing took the ’50s original and gave it grit and terror. The 2011 version lost the grit and, with its abundant CGI, managed only a few scares. You know, here’s the thing about CGI—producers always want the cutting edge of possibility, but those effects never look real. They’d be better off asking CGI techs to do only what they’ve truly mastered. Just because you can get the computers to render it doesn’t mean it looks good, or that it’s good storytelling. But don’t get us started. The above poster and promo pamphlet were made for the premiere of the second version of The Thing in Japan today in 1982.
Hookers, sports cars, yachts, serious consideration as a U.S. presidential candidate—I can buy anything now!
Here’s that unidentified Mexican artist from a few weeks ago again and he’s got a theme going with the money and the cruelty. This time the tables are turned. The person with the cash in this piece entitled Matenme por Piedad, is about meet a bad end via strangulation, whereas last time the money guy was winning. We like this one better. |
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