Cleansing the doors of cinematic perception... for a better now

Thursday, September 15, 2011

"Glum Sex Reigns" - Choice Sin Cine Eulogizers

Every new review on Bleeding Skull (which I heaped grossly understated praise on here) is a cause for celebration, a celebration so choked with existential ennui that it prevents me from doing much of my own writing. Today they're discussing the infamous Chesty Morgan movies from relentless auteur Doris Wishman. I know I'm not alone in feeling bad for that poor Chesty, especially I feel her spine, what a curse, gravity making you ever about to fall forward, and a world gone mad for grotesque exaggeration ensuring you never get a reduction. One considers Chesty and one considers the safety zone of the long lost awesome giant breast, normal-size seemed gigantic to our childhood eyes, so Chesty matches our original perspective as toddlers for whom everything else but mom was terror and uncertainty, and now they're taking those breasts away and trying to trick us into standing up for the very first time. Yeah. It's crushing, and we abandon our mom's ever-shrinking (as we grow) breasts until we dwarf her like a mammoth of muscle next to a droopy camel.

Luckily Budnik and Zembia never gave up on the dream of one day returning to that bizarre foyer between life and prenatal embryonic stasis, and so they make sure the wall-mounted VHS-TV combo in the corner of Hell's waiting room shows only Doris Wishman movies, and after a whole Something Weird double feature, the 9th circle of fire can't come soon enough, for me at least. The Bleeding Skulls are built tougher. They say bring it on:

Zembia on Deadly Weapons:
You can do a lot of things with your free time. But none of those things will ever provide the abstract satisfaction of a film starring Chesty Morgan and directed by Doris Wishman. This is where it all begins. And ends. Because you will probably stop watching movies after seeing Deadly Weapons and/or Double Agent 73. Isn't ruination beautiful? (more)
Budnik on Double Agent 73:
"... the use of Chesty's pair is a lot like an all-boob version of Freaks. They're out...a lot...we spend long strings of minutes looking at them and they're never, ever anything but odd looking. One begins to feel sympathy for her after awhile. Does her back hurt? Is it comfortable sleeping? People must stare at her a lot, many of them in confusion. Does Doris feel the sympathy? Probably not. All this strange leering is simply the way Doris does her thing. (cont.)
Budnik notes that Chesty "looks a bit dazed at times" but he doesn't know why? May I suggest it's the same reason John Holmes seemed dazed all the time? It's all about blood circulation! That blood's got to go way out on a limb. If you've ever taken Cialis or Viagra, you know what I mean... you may f---k like a champ with a rocky rod, but you look pale, even bluish, like a hungover smoker.

Another favorite of this site: Tenebrous Kate, a deliriously good writer with an eye for detail so sharp it reminds us just why retro-bad still matters, and who today discusses the mighty giallo-ish Spasmo (1974): 
That dialogue (...)  It's supposed to be clever and flirtatious, but mostly sounds like a verbal game of non-sequitors. Witness, for example, some seductive talk between Christian and Barbara during their tryst, alone in Christian's car, parked somewhere in the woods:

C: That moon doesn't bother you?
B: There's no moon in my hotel room.
C: I was right, you're a sweet sweet whore.  OK, let's go.
B: But you have to shave your beard off first.
C: What?
B: Your sweet, sweet whore doesn't take any payments, but she does have her limits.
C: You're crazy.  I could have you now, here, and you'd like it even with the beard.
B: I have a razor in my room: big, sharp and sexy.

...And they drive off to the motel.  END SCENE.  Do these people like each other?  Is Christian a mad rapist?  Is Barbara actually a whore?  These are the questions posed just in these few lines of dialogue.  Every time a character talks to another character, more questions like this arise, until ultimately the viewer questions his or her own mental well-being.  I'm going to go ahead and give the benefit of the doubt to the five scriptwriters responsible for this material and assume that this off-kilter sensation was their intent. (more here)
A new favorite writer of mine, Budd Wilkins showed great masochistic patience in seeing nearly all the Chaney silents that recently screened on TCM (last August, on Chaney Day).

 The Unholy Three (1925) boasts a top-shelf premise, a crackerjack first twenty minutes…and then plummets steadily into the comforts of respectability. Introducing its titular trio of sideshow attractions mid-performance–Professor Echo, the ventriloquist (Chaney); strongman Hercules (future Ford fixture Victor McLaglen); pint-sized Tweedledee (Harry Earles, star of Browning’s undisputed masterwork, Freaks [1932])–the amusements come to a grinding halt when an irate Earles kicks a taunting child in the face and an all-out brawl ensues. (more)

The first suggestion of peculiar sexual undercurrents glimmers through the scene where Haynes, crouching on the floor like a tiger poised to pounce, and daughter Toyo play safari. The vibe is very much crypto-incestuous, a notion only reinforced by Haynes’ reaction when Toyo introduces him to her intended, Bobby (Lloyd Hughes). Haynes’ scarred face contracts into a scowl of disapproval, his sexual possessiveness and jealousy obvious.
His Obscure Object of Cinema is well worth checking out, as are his reviews over on Slant

The always insightful and incandescent Samuel Wilson from Mondo 70 tackles The Story of Temple Drake (1933), in the context of Faulkner's book (Sanctuary), which he's actually read (turns out I have the same edition but was unable to read it without falling asleep):
Miriam Hopkins is too old to play Temple but gets the spoiled, scared essence of the character right, and she looks fine in the pre-code actress uniform: lingerie. Her ordeal is one with which anyone of either sex who ends up stuck with dubious strangers on a vanished friend's initiative can empathize. Jack LaRue plays Trigger like someone's prophetic fever dream of Humphrey Bogart -- maybe Bogart's own -- but he doesn't live up to my reader's recollection of Faulkner's Popeye. (more here)
 My own review for Drake, from way back in the day, is here. And one of my weird collages from way back, which I think kind of says it all:

PS: And how about a shout-out for weirdness... and water? Meanwhile I'm moping at home to Kristofferson, so let me know who I missed today (, and I'll add you, slyly. I'm not proud, at least not until the Rain stops... Damn you, water! You're a poor substitute to that source of mammalian nourishment we only vaguely remember, until Wishman gets her wish, and our capacity for masochistic self-denial stretches from the mud all the way to the stars, as we escape, escape, escape from the hell of our own blind Willendorf Venus crypto-incestuous safari, and suddenly are even willing to shave our trembling, distended beards. Spasmo reference! 

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