"This is a movie that cannot be seen with the eyes of evasion. It is a movie that needs to be watch it (sic) with the eyes of the soul as well as the physical eyes, without prejudgments, and without taboos."
Wednesday, December 21, 2022
Tuesday, December 13, 2022
In the meantime in honor of Kat Ellinger's new chthonic podcast To the Devil a Daughter (on Spotify), the first episode which is about Russ Meyer's Faster Pussycat and Vixen. As a committed Paglian, I am a huge fan! Here's a Deadly Women round-up, including a piece I meant to publish earlier but accidentally deleted. Patiently transcribed from an old preview screenshot, you're welcome! Kat has kind of made me realize my 'amok chthonic' feminism hinges on my finding the badass femme attractive, so apologies if I slant that way. Know too for me it's also largely in the performance. Are they going for broke, pushing the envelope past the point of cutesy or posey? I mean are they possessed of the maenad gnashing frenzy wildness at the core of the fully sexually voracious, Meyeresque, goddess? If so, argh, I be for ye.
Whether harpooning little girls' beach balls, kissing fat mental patients while grinding her heel into their toes, or seducing and then Strangers on a Train-ing some dissolute golf pro after he loses a match and goes off the drunken midlife crisis deep end, Carol Linley owns every moment she's onscreen in Once You Kiss a Stranger (1969). She even one-ups (if such a thing is possible) Robert Walker's Bruno in Hitchcock's original Strangers on a Train, a film Stranger makes no bones about imitating ( Linley's character is named Diana Granger, last name of the star, Train-stranger Farley, whose memoir Include Me Out saved my life once) by virtue of being one of the homicidal minxes so beloved by this blog. What middle-aged, still-handsome, slightly drunken-relapsed golf pro (regularly kept from the top prize fee by a better/douchier golf pro on the same tour) played by TV mainstay Paul Burke, lonesome, awash in self-pity, and semi-suicidal, could resist?
|Sometimes there's a buggy|
And if she's still expected to report in to her shrink every week to avoid going back to the funny farm, and if she was secretly still homicidal, manipulative nutcase, only now endowed with more Patricia Highsmith cunning and less Raymond Chandler laudanum-fueled impulsiveness, well you would have Diana Granger. And what a lucky soon-to-be-framed man you'd be!
But though Diana is wild and able, and everything seems ducky for some sexy hijinx, Once You Kiss... is. not unlike their hook-up itself, wondrously staged (the real thrill of these kinds of Fatal Attraction/Misty-for-Me-type pics is the first third, but just as Diana's scheme falls apart as it unravels in the story, so too does the film fall apart since the writers don't know how to parcel out information to keep us guessing and worried over Paul's now shaky fate. Both Lynley's parents already know she's insane (vs. Bruno's in-denial parents), and she has already been committed once before, which kind of weakens her testimony. The fact that the guy she wants dead is her shrink (the ever-sane White Bissell). There's no reason to think some random golf pro, breezing through town, clean record, is going to want to kill some random shrink, as opposed to the shrink's psycho gamin patient who she knows was about to re-commit her. It's already basically a no-brainer who the cops will believe once you sober up long enough to tell them, Paul. What's worse, Diana even undoes the solid fake evidence she created from tape recording their manipulating the tape him into agreeing the criss-cross, by manipulating and splicing the tape to the point of obsessiveness, making it all too easy for the cops to discern. All this hastens to lessen the suspense as Diana basically becomes her own worst enemy before anyone else even gets a crack at it, destroying her chance at the sort of spooky credibility Robert Walker's Bruno kept almost to the bitter end. That's likely because his in-denial artsy mom and ever-disappointed tycoon dad would rather think their son is just a loafer or a delightful eccentric rather than admit to societal taboo of congenital insanity (i.e. he hasn't been violent enough in the past to be committed).
But all that's quibbling. And why do that? There's Jimmy Faggis' super cool jazzy scoring throughout-- nothing too fancy but nothing you wouldn't enjoy snapping your fingers to and feeling like a kind of post-beatnik jazzbo. And like all the best films of this period, there's a catfight between too crazy blondes armed with spearguns and a dune buggy chase along the day-for-night beach. Nothing quite tops the sight of Linley, in her cute minidress, lifting herself out from under a flipped-over dune buggy in the surf, all slow, sultry, and Venus-from-the-clamshell-like. Though you might think she's just playing a male fantasy coquette, Lynley makes the most of every gesture, the groovy bass-front-and-center jazz score races along like a down and dirty wind under her mean girl sails and she just takes off. There's no big set piece like Hitchcock's amok merry go-round, but the film makes up for that in sheer brevity. And at the end the symbolic beach ball is patched; the child neighbor looks slightly older, and, just like Guy in Strangers on a Train, Paul really does luck out, perhaps proving once and for all that straying with murderous coquettes can prove immensely profitable: at the end he gets his wife back, has a sexy memory that doubles as aversion therapy for future straying, and is destined for top prizes as his only tournament circuit competition has been left literally dead in a sand trap. Fore!
"The Partridge Family vs. Brady Bunch dichotomy provided parameters for our collective 70s pre-sexual psyche, and maybe that's partially the idea a Susan Dey archetype untethered from her prim bitch overprotective mom and ginger brother, running away with a Satan-worshipping boyfriend and winding up rabid (ala 1970's I Drink Your Blood --her first movie role) or foaming at the mouth thanks to some new STD (Shivers), chem warfare agent (The Crazies)--or just really speedy acid--rang so many popular unconscious gongs. The times demanded a girl who could slice off a woman's hand with an electric carving knife and come off as an innocent, a free spirit, cranked to eleven, a girl so pure the needle spins all the way around to the other extreme- batshit homicidal, with no stops in between. And no hysteria or hamming. If you've ever known and partied with the type then you know how rare and intoxicating they are, the sweet sudden shock of dread when what was once a feeling of smitten love and devotion to her sweet beauty becomes sickening blood-chilled dread, the realization you were so far on cloud 9 you made the mistake of letting her get between you and the exit." (more)
Hmmm I'm not trying to put any ideas into anyone's heads, but it seems to me a badass girl gang crashing a lot of different genres would be just the thing. A lot of folks have tried and they end up being the usual overwrought nonsense with one too many well-scrubbed thugs locking overly siliconed strippers in trunks, in between lugging bags of cash in and out of hotel lobbies, shots of sunglassed douchebags smirking into rearview mirrors, abusive backstory, flashy meaningless over-editing (you know the ones I'm talking about - no names) and female violence done with "this hurts me more than it does you" anguish in their eyes rather than sadistic relish. (more)
All hail Princess Dragon Mom! Arggggh! Grrr! A shape-shifting, whip-snapping, go-go boots wearing master of monsterdom! A Shaw Brothers version of Japanese Kaiju kids movie, INFRA-MAN is wisely wrought with a vicious villainess or two (Many of the Shaw Brothers' films are remarkably feminist - with badass females on both sides and in the middle of their sagas). Dragon Mom is so cool all other evil supervillains of kaiju movies pale in comparison. Sending out her spies, monsters and hypnotized sleeper agents over to Infra-Man HQ to steal away their big scientific genius for her own nefarious ends, Liu projects real menace, and a refreshingly direct approach to her evil deeds. At the same time you can see her chasing some Buggle around a Sid and Marty Kroft- style evil lair one minute, chaining Batman to a water heater after stunning him with poison lipstick the next, then blowing /herself up to Godzilla-size and becoming a dragon to level Hong Kong after that. She's versatile! And her monster minions are great too, all of them in a row, waving their appendages around in great paroxysms of relish in their own evil while she issues orders from her grand psychedelic throne.
"What really sells it all though is the aliveness of Jennings, so good as the restless morally bankrupt Rose it makes it all the sadder to realize she'd be dead in just five years --victim in an accident off the Pacific Coast Highway (at age 30). Here she finds a good match in John Martino as the mafia-dispatched goodfella "Smith" for whom she serves as combination hostage, conspirator, and lover. He should be recognizable as one of Clemenza's button men in the first Godfather. Here he brings far more wit and character than you'd expect, even earning our sympathy on occasion. Best of all, he has some great chemistry with Jennings. The pair know just how to play a kind of villainous love scene, making it always just a little ambiguous whether they're really falling in love or just playing each other for a shot at all the marbles. There's a magical scene in their motel room together in the morning after some indefinite period of late night boozy conjugal bliss: they're getting leisurely dressed and drinking tumblers of breakfast whiskey on the rocks, and we realize maybe there is no difference between acting smitten for a (criminal) purpose and being smitten for real with a criminal. Either way, we want their love or whatever to survive, despite all our best judgment." (more)
Sunday, November 06, 2022
In honor of Godzilla's 68th birthday (Nov 3) here's my praise and love of my favorite version of that original classic. It's a truly one-of-a-kind--colorized, bastardized, anti-pasteurized, lionized and ionized--remix from 1977 by Italian cult luminary Luigi Cozzi. Impossible to find anywhere these days but on a YouTube or Internet Archive stream culled from a VHS dupe, its sound and image warped by the ravages of time, you'd think it something to be ignored and forgotten except as a strange footnote in the Godzilla Wiki. But no! Even mangled and re-duped, dubbed, and dumped for dead, COZZILLA still flows like a psychedelic special report from your coziest monster kid nightmare.
Just to give you the meta-meta origin- alpha & Omega: There is a Japanese original monster film (inspired by Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and, of course, their nation's tragically atomic history). This version is very cool yet somber and kind of a bummer; then that version is imported to the US where it's "Americanized" as we're xenophobic and also hate to read subtitles--with the critiques of Hiroshima edited out and a plethora of footage of Raymond Burr added. He stands alone or with one other actor or two, reacting and interpreting/narrating the film proper so we don't get too alienated. We almost never hear any Japanese actor speak unless it's to him, hence in English. That is the version most Americans had seen, that and only that version, until around 2005 or 2006 when the original Japanese version made the rounds of the art houses (I saw it at the ------), Cozzilla is the Italian remix of the American remix, transferred onto VHS transferred onto YouTube. The end result packs a whole cubist wealth of post-modern goodness, all while kicking ass, entertaining like hell, and kind of lulling you into a trance, espcially if you've seen the original (either version) more than a few times as a kid.
Strangely, when Cozzi got the rights to do his Godzilla redux in 1977, the Japanese gave him the the Burr version. Burr and the rest of the cast were dubbed into Italian, and Cozzi put his own Hiroshima / Anti-American subtexts back in, with a vengeance. The sound was remixed, with a partially new score, and the end result was drenched it in strange psychedelic color, and shuffled in artsy Hiroshima stock footage, especially in the opening, which begins with stylized high-contrast, color-drenched, slow-mo stock footage of everyday Japanese life promptly obliterated by the A-bomb, followed by long pans over the wreckage, and--cleverly--footage of a bomb-blasted Berlin (if I know my WW2 documentaries, and I do) all set to a wild ominous, irresistible contemporary electronic score.
Its new colors are not 'colorizing' as you and I understand it today, but colorizing branches far and wide, adding extra strange patina to the strange images, merging perfectly with the tracking problems and other image issues that 'plague' the streaming version. With the already weird soundtrack wobbling and wavering, accompanied often by the sound of a whirring projector and near constantly blowing wind, and you have a kind of found object accidental Brechtian re-paradise for late-night dozers and dosers.
That's four layers of meta and three different directors, with credits to match. They begin with Ishiro Honda, then Terry O. Morse (director of the American version), then Luigi Cozzi. The combination of the three, like some 30 story exquisite corpse, results in the best, the ultimate, the only version that feels truly 'complete.' Not only profound, but moving and elegaic without wallowing in late-inning histrionics like we get in Honda's version.
Just to preface: I'm a huge Luigi Cozzi fan (see my gushing appreciation of his other films here). His imagination and love of the genre is so all-consuming it brings his work way past the boring and familiar things that hold up other directors, i.e. pacing, classical-style narrative, character arcs, romantic arcs, and heartfelt dialogue. Instead, Cozzi gives us everything great about Italian versions of America sci-fi movies, with an endearing primitivism that captures the essence of why we want to see a movie in the first place, especially one we want to watch over and over and never get bored, the way children never get bored of their favorite bedtime story - because myths never age, and are never fully known, never fully consumed.
All of which is to preface this: my adoration of his 1977 Godzilla redux hinges on a developed love for his unique and endlessly rewarding sensibility, combined with not being a huge fan of the Japanese version of the film or the Raymond Burr-insert Americanized version. The whole endless fight to get that one-eyed scientist to use his oxygen destroyer is the kind of hyper-emotional Japanese romantic triangle soapiness that frightens a lot of Americans away with its tearful, prolonged, over-the-top histrionics. But the Burr footage drags too --inserting way too many shots of him watching events (if an American didn't see it, did it really happen?) and way too much narration. Cozzi goes for broke in the opposite direction, removing more footage from both version than they ever would, none of it, as it turns out, worth keeping, then padding the remix with footage of radiation burns, slow-mo PTSD, and-- realizing it's the most important element of the picture--expands the climactic monster scene outward, splicing in a full naval bombardment adding overkill to overkill, and letting everything else--the parts that make getting there a bore--go dissolving into the sea--keeping only the skeleton, which no mere convention can e'er burn away.
I would have loved to hear this in a theater wired for Sensurrround or whatever it was called in Italy (you can read up on its history here) , with Godzilla's thundering stomps (some of which appear only in the Cozzi version) making the floor shake. I know that will never happen, but the meta refractions of its current only surviving 'print' give Cozzi's flawless nutcase instincts just the sort of contexutalizing they needed, the final post-modern boost to make Godzilla finally not only resonant, but a work of found art.
For best results watch at 4 AM in a Remeron and CBD trance after you've tossed and turned in bed for a couple hours before finally giving up, getting up, moving to your big easy chair in the living room.... pouring some kind of a stiff one..... bombs away.
For some reason Cozzi can get the very best composers and scores that rival the classics: John Barry does the score for his Starcrash and gets Nino Rota for Hercules. And here, he's got the amazig Fabio Frizzi and Franco Bixo (aka 'Magnetic System) to kick things off for the grand and disturbingly lovely Hiroshima opening, immediately launching viewers into a hypnotic trance.
Then Vince Tempera adds synths in there and under it all is a wise and perfect remix of the best parts of Akira Ifukbe's origial score (that incredible 'Elegy' that only plays over the TV shots of the carnage towards the end, here comes at the beginning too and at the end of the carnage). This haunting music adds just the right mix of comfort, tension and grandeur as we find Burr under the rubble. And when our man is on the stretcher, asking for water, trying to be heard over the din of suffering along the rows of other survivors, the music and color makes it strangely comforting. After being buried in rubble even a stretcher on the floor can be paradise, thirst or no. Ifukube gets that with his elegy, Tempera gets it, and most of all Cozzi gets it. If only Hollywood got it.
You would think expanding the running time by throwing a reel of hand-colorized Hiroshima stock footage up front wouldn't work. It does. We get the before (daily life of the civilians), the explosion (pretty, from a distance), and the after (radiation burns, long tracking shots over the endless grid of rubble). And it's all drenched in weird colors and rendered occult and bizarre by the deliciously ominous Bixio and Frizzi synth music. Even the sky is given a poetic resonance, bleaching out when the sun or bomb get too bright. The result seems like the bomber has flown past the color swaths. When the bomb drops, it looks like a splash of white amidst a Rothko color field. As if draining the warmth and life from the city. When the new credits come up they are over a beautiful, hypnotic sped-up motion of gathering and roiling and dissipating cloud formations which, with the music and the sound of roaring wind, creates an undeniably hypnotic and almost pre-infantile state of rapture.
The combined effect is totally unique. It may be purely the result of necessity (stock footage = the cheapest way to pad), but whether intentional or not it winds up being so much more. Rather than just a document of the global tragedy, the music and colors add intriguing depth. Even today the name Hiroshima still has archetypal power wherever you are so it's not like it's 'stale' or fully 'absorbed' or maybe will ever be.
It helps perhaps Cozzi is not American, so bears no national guilt over its use, Italy being the one country to 'switch sides' and, perhaps to its credit, quickly surrender rather than stand and die for a cause they didn't believe in. Thus we see facets of it through his Italian eyes that we usually cannot when seeing through either Japan's or America's (they're too close to the problem)--that America is the father of Godzilla in more ways than one - we're the Nick Nolte to Godzilla's Eric Bana in Ang Lee's Hulk so to speak.' That's why having an American in the mix is so essential and why it works better that..
The insertion of Burr into Godzilla prior to its American release can seem racist, but once he's dubbed into Italian and we're reading what he's saying via subtitles (i.e. translated back again), all that bad taste goes away and the whole thing becomes post-modern sublime. With the warping wobble of the VHS source giving the voices a strange echo quality that takes him (and the Japanese around him) out of the 'present,' his narration (welcomely truncated for Cozzi's version) echoes through the action like a dream. Welcome everywhere, always up front thanks to his big time news service press credentials, he merges into the post-modern warp in a way that's definitely cool. The weirdly calming deep tones of the Italian actor dubbing him makes us automatically re-interpret what we hear as, not just monster movie junk, but an art film ala Antonioni. We're safe inside his cavernous voice, like the dragon in Excalibur.
4. The use of Ifukube's "Elegy" in the opening sequence of Raymond Burr under the rubble and later after the main attack, and the last part.
In the original American version, the first act has Raymond Burr is unearthed from the rubble, features just a mournful, plodding minor key oboe (or bassoon?). Dull, then it stops for endless exposition and seldom returns. In Cozzi's, the best parts of Ikfube's score, such as the 'elegy' heard only towards the end via TV in the original version, add a grandeur and marvelousness that situates the film right off the bat as something that's emotional, even strangely operatic, especially after the Hiroshima prologue. When I see and hear this first section of the Cozzi film, I think instantly of where I was the evening after 9/11 (watching from across the river in Brooklyn Heights, eating ice cream on the boardwalk--finding it hard to pick an emotion other than a kind of surrealist shock). "Elegy" fits that so perfectly I don't even have to remember it to feel it. Rather than just play for the broadcast, it plays from the rubble slow pans and flows right up into the ocean with the O2 destroyer. Rather masterfully, too. Watch for example the Burr version of the attack - there's no music - no real noise almost - aside from Burr it's quiet for huge stretches until he starts stomping on train tracks and finally omitting a loud growl.
Supposedly every frame was hand tinted but as it survives on the streaky VHS the effect seems like the tinter/colorizer was hittin' the pipe, so to speak. Sometimes the color is effective (the red skies during the fires) sometimes it seems to wash around but it never quite fades out altogether. The key scenes of Godzilla trashing Tokyo are the most conscientiously colored, and that's what's important, making the surreal presence of the big reptile and its destruction into something so transformational and shocking/strange/all-consuming it changes our perceptions of color.
Cozzi wipes out whole dull exposition, and connecting and establishing shots of the Americanized and original version, especially with the phone calls, customs, standing around while narration explains things, and door entrances and romantic triangle sudsiness, and instead stretches out the attacks, the devastation, and the retaliation. He 'Cozzifies' it. Whittling it down to the basics, he then had to add footage to get it to feature length but he Cozzified there too, instinctively knowing just the right passages to expand, such as the climactic Tokyo trashing (adding to the aftermath by a section of post-Hiroshima footage intercut with short inserts of Godzilla breathing his radioactive fire breath and the "Elegy" music again. and the final O2 Destroyer ending, which becomes a slow-mo death dance of bubbles and a prolonged surfacing wherein Cozzi tries to goose up the wow factor by intercutting stock footage of naval ships firing all their guns on Godzilla as he surfaces. In the original it's just a quick pop up, followed by a sad sinking, Cozzi replays and slows down the surface death rattle so that he seems to take forever to die, the O2 destroyer below, the naval destroyer above.Instead of all the preparation, the bubbles and the destroyer and all that seem to take forever - it's like the whole movie blends into a blur or white blobs, pink and turquoise sky wipes, slow-motion bubbles cascading past a doomed Godzilla. He knows what makes an emotional, strong image and how to give such images time to resonate, to envelop us in ways too deep to analyze.
7. SOUND RE-MIXING
Cozzi and Co. creates a nonstop melange of every kind of sound that lulls me to sleep;-- there's rushing wind, all bubbling and whooshing, the Italian dub sounding like it's being heard outside a shrill Roman theater before the main feature. The din of conversation and busy Tokyo streets becomes a comforting white noise, alongside what sounds like the whirr of a projector, or brisk wind. When the roar of Godzilla comes along it occupies the low end, but is drowned on on the top. Meanwhile the sound of a dance band playing the night Godzilla first attacks Tokyo has a kind of ghostliness reminiscent of hauntologic music of 'the Caretaker', The (post-dubbed) loud pounding of his footsteps (even when still in the water) sounds like Marley's ghost hammering at my chamber door; the blur of crowd noises, Ifukube's music (sometimes it seems like two different passages are playing at the same time), the ocean roar, morse code-style telegraph beeping (to convey urgent news), the explosions and also.... almost of it almost inextricably tied up with...
8. META-SOUND ARTIFACTING
At times you can hear what sounds like grinding sprockets, and the sound wall kind of wobbles as if going through a flanger. Is it the projector screening the film for the video camera, or the sound of the fire of Serizawa's burning o2 destroyer notes and the whooshing of his lab equipment? Are these intentional or the result of age, transfers, the sound recorded for the VHS in a sloppy duping. When Dr. Serizawa is down underwater delivering the O2 Destroyer for example, the wobbling of the reels seems like the film in the sprockets is shifting as the tracking issues persist at the same time, as if the water and bubbles were leaking into the camera and microphone. Some spots are slowed down to stretch out scenes, which gives the sound and extra warping weirdness. The line between accidental and deliberate effects is wiped away. For the climax, for the underwater climax, for example, the warping and waving of a comforting wall of soothing sounds, with layers of that unforgettable Ikufube 'Elegy,' under bubbling, ocean sound effects, muffled roars, dialogue up on deck and through the oxygen tube, static from the recording transfers, including the whirr of a projector, all laid in front of each other in layers to form a comforting wall of white atmosphere that then warps and wavers from the video tracking issues
Compare it to the original or the Burr version and the soundscape is much more austere. The early scenes of Burr under the rubble and working his way to the Tokyo press room are generally silent, with maybe an oboe or a distant crowd noise. In Cozzi's version a weird radio plays constantly in the background, along with ringing phones, telegraph beeping, the rush of conversations, traffic, and the projector itself; elsewhere morse code bleeps echo in successive layers - the frenzied gull like voices of concerned family members for the crew of the missing vessel. It's a roar in itself, in a good way
9. META VIDEO DISINTEGRATION
At one point we see the reel run out and an End of Part One sign flashes; we see the film running out. Elsewhere the images buckle and jump, and echo! Interestingly, the print waits until about 50 minutes in to really fall apart with tracking problems that happens to be during the big centerpiece of the film, Godzilla's rampage in Tokyo. It's as it the sheer size of the monster and the vehemence of the military response is breaking apart film as we know it. It's one thing to have the image jump around when say, showing a couple on the couch, but with rapid edits of explosions and raging fires as a monster the size of a ten story office building beats the shit out of some electrical wires, before snacking down on a train? That makes perfect sense. Even when the screen goes completely dark, before wobbling back, making the monster scenes harder to see, it fits--as if we're watching it live on TV and the camera signal is breaking up. Sure, eventually it gets pretty annoying but then, the problem dies away... for awhile when the attack is over.
Did the high contrast and rapid editing have anything to do with the problems of this transfer? I don't know but I do know watching the HD version on Criterion, the monster is very unconvincing - we can see the scenery better, admire the details of the cityscape he tramples through, savor the detailed craftsmanship that went into each building, but it's clearly a man in a suit in the long shots and --in some others-- clearly a hand puppet. The apocalyptic images of the crumbling press building, as it slowly collapses floor-by-floor is truly impressive in the original. And, of course, one should watch that version often. But it lacks the strange post-modern poetry we get from tbe Cozzi version - the way the melt-down of film and of tape seems to suit the gravity of the scene better.
Here's an example - the attack in the Burr film starts at 50 mins in, ends around 101; in Cozzi's, it starts at 50 mins but then ends - ends 101:12 - so like double the length. Then the end underwater climax in the Burr verison last 6 minutes but the Cozzi version expands to 12, but then goes back to slow motion the explosion and the anguished roar go godzilla - his pathetic rise from the deep only to be mercilessly shelled by the boats, howling and then sinking back down. Cozzi spatters into a full on military assault at the head as if target practice, before it sinks down to the slow motion depths, the sound warped and flangered with the music carrying through a sea of bubbles, almost Wagnerian and triumphant. The beast takes forever to fall back down to the depths. He finally sinks and the sea dissolves again into a sea of bubbles.... We only see a few cutaways to people on the boat but Cozzi doesn't care about them and knows we don't either - we don't even care about Serizawa's brave suicide (cutting his air hose). We're glad to be rid of him and all his crying and tantrum-throwing.
I don't know but when you add the washes of pink, yellow, orange, and green blurring into each other, somehow it all comes together as...
10. HIGH EXPERIMENTAL FILM ART!
The original Japanese version of Godzilla was a metaphor for America's radioactive warping and altering of the Japanese psyche ala the firebombing of Tokyo and nuking of Hiroshima. That version that was then warped and altered by America to suit itself, editing out the Hiroshima references to suit itself, That version then warped and altered, with loads Hiroshima footage added in,
Did Italy's mid-war conversion from Japan's side to America's have any subtextual effect on Cozzi's artistic choices? Either way, he created most astute yet warped meditation on Hiroshima that you're likely to see, especially when the media you see it on has been warped and altered many times over itself. And hopefully so have you!
Thats 10 -- BLAST OFF!
But the cumulative effect of these 10 reasons isn't a downer, it's a great narcotizing embrace, like sinking down to an eternal sleep. The bubbling noises of the surf, the bellowing of the ships. the scratchy vibe, the haunting Ikufube music, the weird washes of cool colors, it all flows and swirls into some wild light-sound extravaganza that satisfies the soul, keeps the spirit engaged and brings frazzled nerves into a pre-natal warm, pulsing tide. Godzilla's oxygen gets sucked out of himself at the end but it flows into us like the cool breeze from a projector's whirring fan when the bulb is off. Protected against the onslaught of man's blind folly for another night, we drift off secure in the arms of Cozzi and his crew, Burr and his crew, Honda and his crew, the Italian dubbers and the English subtitlers, and the signature of time itself (always something that can be stopped or otherwise manipulated in Cozzi films), slowly warping and ravaging its way through a Russian doll-style chain of decomposing media upgrades. It delivers exactly what I want out of a film I'm watching at some godforsaken hour of the night, technically trying to fallsleep, but kind of enjoying that I'm half-awake, nodding in and out, until I'm never quite sure if I'm watching the film or not... did I black out for certain sections or are they just not there? Seen while fully conscious during the day I can find myself frustrated by the lengthy parts of over-the-top tracking issues during God's all-night stomping and torching of Tokyo. But late at night, eyes lidded over, it's truly sublime.
We shouldn't be surprised, it may be Ishiro Honda's baby but Cozzi raises it as his own and teaches it who it really is. Before it only knew it was Vishnu, the destroyer of worlds, now it knows it's Robert Oppenheimer, and it's here to send us to sweet oblivion. . here
Monday, October 31, 2022
In short, Paul Naschy, over the course of his countless "Valdemar" movies, became the werewolf we never really got from Lon Chaney Jr., who spent all of the sequels trying to die, chasing the scientists who inevitably bring 'the Monster' back, movie after movie, making us all wonder why he doesn't just jump into the nearest threshing machine instead of moping around like that guy who's always threatening suicide if you try to break up with him. For some reason his brooding Edwardian emo persona attracts all sorts of smitten gypsy girls. And there's a full moon tonight!
I mention this as Naschy talks about falling love with horror after seeing Frankensstein meets the Wolfman in a matinee with his father as a child. His whole werewolf journey seems designed to redeem that movie. Always sensual and ready to fondle and make-out with anyone, burly body-builder Naschy's squat, ruggedly handsome physique and even-keeled manner imbues his Valdemar with a romantic nature that's inherently aristocratic yet sexually proletariat at the same time. He's the werewolf we always wanted, even if his make-up is nowhere near as elaborate. (though I've never been a fan of Chaney's wolf face - too pouffy and poodle-like; I much prefer the less extreme but scarier version in the underrated Werewolf of London. )
The focus here isn't on Naschy though. He's great but the focus is on three super gorgeous tourists coming to a remote tomb on a holiday, wanting, for some reason, to revive,Elisabeth Bathory (we see her and her minions put to death in the Middle Ages opening, as was the style of the time). The leader of the trio is totally evil (ala Tura Satana in Faster Pussycat) while the other two girls seem rather naive, along for the ride. One can't help but admire their brazen self-assurance in their mission, despite all the warnings from locals. Plunging fearlessly into a vast cave network to find the tomb of the most eveil serial killer ever, Elizabeth Bathory, they're set on becoming her vampire handmaidens. The 'good' one amongst them falls for Vlademamir but will she be able to kill him when the time comes?
It's another interesting echo of FVTWM that Valdemar has a deformed servant in love with him (ala the hunchbacked gypsy girl turned on by Chaney's emo vibes). Half her face is burnt, but her hair is great. In fact all their hair is great, the same color, long brown and more or less straight. Clearly Naschy has a type. But it's a good type, and these women are strong and self-reliant. Not only that but there are way more in the cast than men, making Night reminiscent of the films of Luigi Cozzi! And Jack Hill!)
In other words, Night of the Werewolf is revisionist classic Euro-horror heaven for the Universal and Euro horror fan. And the cinematography--thanks to a wondrous recent restoration--glows with lots of candle and torchlight golds, deep inviting shadows and swirling luminous fog. It's lovely to look at, and aside from the sex and gore, is fit entertainment for the whole family if the kids are too old to trick-or-treat.
A once nearly-forgotten cracked emerald in the American rough, recently given a fancy upgrade by the folks at Arrow, The Child may be set in some remote 30s-40s corner of woodsy mountainous American folk nowhere, but its real location is the dream nebula where childhood nightmares rattle bedroom shutters in the still of the October night in the land of super quiet, super black nights only cloudy country nights provide (that kind of darkness and dead silence are why I live in the city and sleep with a white noise machine) and unearthly squawking moans seem to come from the air itself. Shoehorning themes and moods from Night of the Living Dead and The Omen in amidst its folk horror ominousness, The Child tells the story of a strange but sweet young woman, with period length long straight black hair and strange silver eyes, who arrives to nanny a bratty 11-year old sociopath named Rosalie (Rosalie Norton) after the apparent death of her (bi-polar necromancer) mom. Rosalie's dad is only a shades less demented than the dad in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Luckily, the adult son is tall, chill, and sane, thank God, and there's not much to do there in the dark at night, so they just may hook up, or he might turn into a scarecrow while she dances through the misty front lawn dream on Halloween night after freaking out at the sight of a jack-o-lantern seemingly moving on its own.
There's a masterful use of real darkness here that's rare in horror films (that jack-o-lantern seems to come out of nowhere). Yessir, The Child radiates a real country dark, the kind that seem to swallow the world around you, so that someone could be standing mere feet away from you and you'd never see them, so you strain to hear any sound of breathing in the silence, the kind of dark of where only candles and oil lamps make little bubble sancturaries of warmth and light in the surrounding inky opaque emptiness,. (1)
It took me a long time to warm up to this weird gem, being too cool for what I believed was misogynist gore as a teenager, but after catching the other films in Fulci's undead trilogy, City of the Living Dead (1980) and House by the Cemetery (1981) on TCM, I knew I was wrong. There was so much more here than that. And so much less. Now, thanks to the miracle of streaming, a beautiful HD remastering is ours for the clicking. Sure, it defies narrative cohesiveness and seems to exult in gore for gore's sake, but it's so atmospheric! It's what Fulci meant by an 'absolute' film. A pumpin' Fabio Frizzi synth and pianocore, a script that's just cohesive enough to make the weirdness continually 'dream logical,' ambiguous expressions that seem to imply pages of strange suspicion never written. It's so 'in the moment' it forgets all about the future, leaving us constantly on our guard. Everything is just off. There is 'normal' moment we expect having seen hundreds of horror movies, the foreshadowing is its own uncanny effect with no pay-off, and vice versa. The result is that even minor details seem that's not imbued with the uncanny. From the start with a period prologue of Shrike the warlock painter's torture crucifixion (nailed to a wall, doused in lye, flogged with chains (we never learn why) and walled up in the basement of the "7 Doors Hotel" thus opening one of the seven doors to Hell), all the way to contemporary times, as Liza (the perfectly-cast, instantly iconic Catriona MacColl) inherits the crumbling edifice and sends Joe the plumber down to the vast, flooded basement to stop the leak. The painting the warlock was working on when he died is gathering dust on the ground floor, a strange hellscape that looks like the surface of some macabre moon, dotted with corpses covered in dust. Workmen fall off the roof, Joe busts through a crumbling wall allowing the warlock's decaying hand reaches from the crumbling wall to crush his face. Joe has a funeral minutes later. There is never a police investigation nor a single cop in the whole movie; we never see anyone even find Joe's eyeless body - it just shows up in the morgue. Shrike's eerie painting is hung in the foyer where its strange power seems to take over those who look at it. At one point it bleeds. For some reason the intern in the space age morgue puts an EKG meter on Shrike's long dead corpse which is now laid out next to Joe's; again no explanation - none needed. Shrike waits til he's alone to activate the EKG. Oh, he's in there, all right. To have some tired rationale would lessen its majesty. Hell-that's all you need to know, a hell where the undead shamble through hospitals with their heads down, shambling slow, like the workers in Metropolis after a long shift.
Liza scoffs at the idea of the hotel leading to Hell, even though the service buzzer mysteriously sounds for the warlock's old room at odd times and she almost literally runs into a willowy blind blonde psychic Emily (Cinzia Monreale) with greyed over eyes and a seeing eye dog standing in the middle of straight bridge the goes on for miles over the swamps. Emily plays the ominous theme song on the piano, while regaling Liza with the story of the seven doors (which we never really hear or need to) we move onto other things and then come back. We never quite do find our way back anywhere, except this one time. When Liza arrives back at the hotel dimwitted handyman and his mom get the hotel almost ready to open. The painting is still there leaning against the wall. There is no 'normal' to ground us, yet nothing seems weird for weird's sake like so many 80s horror and sci-fi films. Instead 'the frame of things disjoint' (to quote Shakespeare. The doctor (David Warbeck) alone is the sole voice of patriarchal head-shaking; he worries Liza is losing her mind, or a witch, but not for long. The book shows up in a bookstore then disappears. Tarantulas take about a real time hour to eat a guy's face. The lady housekeeper has her head forced onto one of those Shrike nails by the handyman who arises from the muddy water in the bathtub. Space collapses. Nothing is the same or ever really was.
Don't ask. Don't tell. Just dig the unforgettable shots: Emily standing with her dog and white eyes; the blasted surface of the Sea of Darkness; that strange all-white morgue; the masterfully creepy zombies shattering a opaque glass wall; the strange glances, the gore, the guts, the gusts and the gusto; the crisp atmospheric photography of Sergio Salvati (perfectly brought out by the HD remastering), and Fabio Frizzi's eerie synth music and strange piano refrains. Let it swirl together like a film that's spun off its reel and is wrapping itself around your neck, dragging your eye closer... closer to the hot light inside the proector. Allow it to sync up with your unconscious rather than your conscious expectations and it will all make perfect non-nonsense. You'll either want to vomit and gouge your eyes out or immediately cue up Fulci's other films. There is no middle ground. All hail the... whatever.
This 1982 Aussie thriller has been seldom seen or mentioned until recently Perhaps its bland poster and generic title is to blame? It's got a unique plot, friendly characters, vivid deep dusky cinematography, very cool wallpaper, and a sublime Klaus "Tangerine Dream" Schulze score adding the perfect mix of otherworldly eeriness to the homey surroundings. The sliding camera and dark furnishings keep us always on guard, even when things are all in order and sweet.
Jacki Karin stars and brings a mix of steely energy and frazzled nerves to the role of Linda, a woman who inherits her recently deceased mom's old folk's home somewhere in Australia's vast outback, so drives in to both take over and figure out what's going on with all the deaths. Reading mum's journals she can't decide if the mom is insane or covering up or trying to solve a decade's long murder spree. At night the camera prowls the dark moody hallways, as Linda has pull-focus slow motion POV memories of being a traumatized child. What horrifying thing did she see in the steamy bathroom?
With Schulze percolating his eerie but synth drum-inundated score as the wallpaper and lighting making it all feel like some splendid hybrid between Kubrick's Shining and Nicolas Winding Refn's Only God Forgives. The strange goings on get stranger. Good thing her old friend and ex-lover Barney (John 'Wolf Creek' Jarrat!) is around to keep her grounded! To say much more about it would be doing you a disservice but suffice it to say this film evokes a kind of warm-blooded Shining if it was an active old folks home about to collides nto a kind of four alarm Chainsaw-ish whirlwind of strange and ingenious moments, captured with beautiful dusky cinematography. See it with the lights off, dead sober, alone, your nerves dilated and screaming with alcoholic withdrawal. You will be changed.
8. THE UNDEAD
(1957) Dir. Roger Corman
streaming Prime, Tubi