Monthly Archives: August 2011

How to impress film snobs with absolute crap

Ah, film festival season is upon us.

For those unfamiliar with them, most film festivals are events put together by film snobs who need to have a label of cultural respectability attributed to the films they see so they can feel superior to the rest of us uncultured slobs who just go to movies for entertainment purposes.

Also it gives them a chance to purchase their culture in bulk for the same reason the same way I get toilet paper at Costco. They gorge themselves on films for cheaper than a regular movie ticket and have diner conversation material for the rest of the year. God forbid they’d actually pay full price to see a movie.

So if someone asks them if they’ve seen the latest blockbuster, they can condescendingly respond with “I only see films featured at film festivals.”

As I was attached to many such events in the past -in some capacity or another- I fond myself exposed to many such poseurs. After a while something snapped in me and I started playing a game at their expense. It consisted very simply of mentioning foreign “trash” films like a Kaiju Eiga (Japanese Monster Movie) or a Lucha-Libre (Mexican Wrestling) film but making sure I’d pronounce the title perfectly. Then I’d just step back and watch these jerks just bury themselves under the weight of their own bullshit.

Poseur: “Do you watch many foreign films?”

Cinémasochist: “Yes. For example, these days I am reviewing a lot of films by Ruben Galindo”

Poseur: “Ah, I think I’ve seen a few of his films. Can you name one to refresh my memory?”

Cinémasochist: “Just yesterday, I watched Santo contra Los Asesinos de Otros Mondos.” [Make sure you pronounce it as convincingly as possible. You don’t need to master the whole language- just that title.]

Poseur: “Ah yes! I think I’ve seen that one at the festival two years or so ago… If I remember correctly that director has certain visual fetishes, no?”

Cinémasochist: “He works with masks a lot. His films are filled with portrayals of the violent underside of society.”

Poseur: “That’s the one! He’s a genius! I think I’ve seen all of his films.”

Galindo’s “auteur” fetishes in full display

And so it went on. The fun part is that no one ever called me on those, they just pretended they knew what I was talking about.

The film I mentioned above was a most sweet one to con a cultural wanker with as they would die of embarrassment should they find out what they have just been raving about. The title translates as Santo vs The Killers from Other Worlds. In this entry Wrestling superstar (and cultural demi-god) El Santo fights a blobbish menace from outer space portrayed by a bunch of dwarves under a blanket. Wrestling promoter and trash-culture renaissance-man Johnny Legend once distributed it under the title Santo vs The Creeping Terror.

El Santo (Rodolfo Guzmán Huerta) made fifty movies in his career, grappling a variety of opponents and genres (He’s fighting monsters in one, nazi war criminals in another and spies in yet another…) and this certainly qualifies as one of the low points. I’ve seen bad. I’ve seen very bad. But, I rarely saw a film where the victim has to cover his face deliberately to avoid laughing on camera (as you can see for yourself around the 04: 30 mark).

For a Cinémasochist, this is the sweet equivalent of hooking your nipples to a car battery (for a run-of-the-mill old-school physical pain masochist, that is.)
UPDATE: I used to have the film embedded here but the youtube link has since been tagged “private”. So here instead is Santo and the revenge of the Vampire Women. Enjoy!

Eventually, tough, the game got tiresome and I figured I’d rather stay home and watch “crap” than expose myself to real torture in the name of “culture”.

Pain Level: 8/10

Quality of Pain: Mucho grande!


Child-friendly disaster

“Oh no, they didn’t!”

This was my reaction as I extended my hand to grab the DVD of Titanic: The Animated Movie off the “bargain videos” shelf in front of my teflon-coated, disbelieving eyes. The cover was populated with “clones” of Disney and Don Bluth movies like 101 Dalmatians, Oliver and Co., An American Tail and Anasthasia. I had an unshakeable feeling that somewhere in Italy still resonated the booming curses of a producer not happy that his writer hadn’t managed to work in the dinosaurs from The Land Before Time.

Just a few months before, I had bust a gut watching Robert Smigel’s hilarious TV Funhouse short Disney’s Titey which spoofed both Cameron’s blockbuster and Disney Studio’s resolve at revising stories to make them more “child friendly”.

Robert Smigel’s “Disney’s Titey” was only kidding for crying out loud.

Holding this refugee from a parallel universe in my hand, I flipped the clamshell over only to have a highlighted notice drive a wedge through my fevered brain with this caption:

“Child-Friendly Ending assures everyone is rescued and lives happily ever after!”

I had to take this puppy home. It’s a medical condition.

Well, the film opens with the ship sinking into the frozen waters of the North-Atlantic (so far so good for historical accuracy). We meet poor wittle Angelica, crying as she rows the lifeboat (there were plenty for all- whew!). That iceberg was a big party pooper.

Mean ol’ Mr. Iceberg ruined my cruise.

We then flash back to a few days earlier as the ship gets ready to depart from Liverpool (Again, this is historically and factually correct. I mention this because it’s also the last time the film will be).

We again meet young orphaned Angelica (all smiles and optimism). Flanked by her wicked step-mother and her two stepsisters, she boards the RMS Titanic, bound for America, love , advnture and, perhaps, a reunion with her real mother.

We also meet handsome and dashing young master William, accompanied by his Nanny . It’s a long way to America so he brought along a snack for the journey: The Last Emperor Happy Meal.

Also boarding are a bunch of emigrating animals who fully intend to lie at customs when asked if they visited a farm in the last 14 days. Amongst these is a tiny mouse who dreams of a life in America.

These characters just stand over the legally-defined border of intellectual property violation, taunting lawyers like a bunch of North-Korean soldiers across the DMZ.

According to some reports, producer/director Camillio Teti wanted his animators to get “as close as possible” to resembling established characters as he believed that videos are purchased according to the number of recognizeable stars and names featured on the cover.

Of course, romance blooms but we are spared seeing steamed up car windows on the cargo deck. This is, after all, a child-friendly version.

They do include “something for dad”.

There are also musical numbers doing what musical numbers do best: kill time. Except these are so excruciating, they do more than just kill time- they talk time into going to K-mart, purchase a rifle, take it home, load it, stick in it its mouth an pull the trigger.

Are you ready for this? Here’s the “Celine” song:

I think I just threw up in my mouth just now.

You may want to get alcohol for this next one. Plenty and plenty of alcohol cuz this next number is “kickin’ it old school” . Yessir, it’s “Party Time!”

I suspect this video is often accompanied by this :”Confess! We know you have ties to Al-Qaeda! Now, confess!”

Now back to the story…

SPOILER NOTICE: (Go stand outside while you read this)

The ship hits an iceberg and sinks.

(Ok , you can come back in now.)

This regrettable and untimely incident leads to all manners of comical mishaps as passengers scramble to find a good seat. Lifeboats are such a rich vein to mine for humour.

Lifeboats= funny!

If your heart can stand any more of this phenomenal chunk of diaper stuffing, here is the entire freaking movie (minus the end credits which run for 12 minutes). Just follow the links at the end to move through the oher parts.

But hold on! There is also an UNCUT version available:

Now I know I’m spoiling you kids.

Who’s your daddy?

Pain Level: 10/10

Quality of pain: It’s PARTY TIME!

Are you still here?

If that wasn’t enough to satisfy you appetite for alterate universes, you might want to check out this OTHER animated Titanic movie I came across when researching this one.

Say “Thank you, Daddy.”


American New-wave

Ah, yes! La Nouvelle-Vague. The French New Wave. Where taking your camera and a small crew along with your actors on location and improvising a film is a form of art.

Provided you have subtitles, of course.

For this practice became current in the late 50s and early 60s in America. It was, after all, a cheap way of making a film now given absolute artistic legitimacy. The problem, however, is that few american filmgoers read “Les Cahiers du Cinéma” and therefore were not given a new vocabulary to describe cheap, trite films mired in self-importance in a glowing manner. So the label “shit” pretty much remained in force for films that “made you aware of the filmic process”.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear, film snobs: it doesn’t take a genius to make m awar of the filmic process. In fact, I firmly believe that one should forget the process altogether when a film has succeeded.

Coleman Francis actually saw himself as an auteur. For him, this snobby reinterpretation of “lack of means” was synonymous with art.

So off he went into the desert to shoot massive swedish wrestler (and member of Ed Wood’s stock company of players) Tor Johnson as a defecting russian scientist who, chased by spies, wanders onto the atomic proving grounds and -Kablam!- becomes The Beast of Yucca Flats – which is essentially nothing more than Thor Johnson stumbling around with oatmeal stuck on his face. (Ah. The magic of cinéma..,)

I’m not kidding when I say this film is worse than Plan 9 from Outer Space or even Birdemic. You’ll marvel at the Creeping Terror style “narrator as dialogue”. You’ll struggle to stay awake. but you’ll want to to witness the lamest payoff in cinematic history as (Spoiler!) the defeated Tor dies hugging a bunny.

Bring it on!

Pain Level: 10/10 !!!

Quality of Pain: Radioactive!


Marital Aid

Not much is known about Dwain Esper.

This prominent member of the “40 Thieves” (the nickname given the pionneers of Exploitation Cinema) is said to have won a film lab and small studio in a card game and decided to put it to good use.

His output usually thumbed its nose at the production code of the time. Under the guise of “educating the masses”, Esper’s films would titillate and ring in the suckers with such exposés as Marihuana, Tell Your Children (a.k.a. Reefer Madness), They Must Be Told (a.k.a. Sex Madness) and the (literally) eye-popping Maniac. He was such a salesmen that when a local censor named Hildegard Stadie banned his one of his films, he walked right her office and not only convinced her let his film screen but also got her to marry him. Hildegard Esper would become his principal writer as well as his secret weapon when it came to working around other local censors.

Capitalizing on it’s star Elaine Barrie-Barrymore who, in turn, is capitalizing on her ex-husband John Barrymore, 1937’s How to Undress in Front of your Husband is a short which will have you acclaim clothing as the greatest achievement ever by humans as they compare two boudoir disrobing styles, first with Ms. Barrymore.

Miss Elaine Barrie-Barrymore

Then with Trixie Frighanza:

Trixie

Click on this YouTube link at your peril.

Pain Level: 7

Quality of Pain: Depends on your orientation.


A Cringing Musical Interlude

Back in 1980, RCA  executives foamed at the mouth when they saw their japanese record label was getting massive sales figures over disco duo Pink Lady.

So blinded by the figures that they didn’t even consider the fact the girls, Mie and Kei, didn’t speak a word of english and stuck them in a Sonny & Cher type variety show. Since they needed comedy to supplement the singing , NBC talent scouts went looking for a young hot comic from the numerous up and coming performers in local L.A. clubs (at a time where that pool of talent included David Letterman and Jay Leno) and got Jeff Altman.

“They must’ve called alphabetically” Altman often joked “had they called Z to A, Letterman probably would have gotten this gig.”

And thus, Pink Lady & Jeff was born.

To make matters worse, the network decided that since Americans did not know any of Pink Lady‘s hits (which were actually good, btw), they should perform established American hits like Earth, Wind and Fire’s Boogie Wonderland.

Enjoy!

Pain Level: 9/10

Quality of Pain: It’s a toss up between feeling the humiliation the girls had to endure or their mangling of the english language.


Lunar Volleyball?

In 1937, a seemingly unimportant legal precedent was set that would virtually create an entire cinematic genre.

A rather dull little exploitation film by the title of Elysia was before the courts, brought up on charges of obscenity. Set in a nudist camp, Elysia‘s plotline was nothing more than a pretext for a lecture on the benefits of basking in the sun’s healthful rays and how liberating it was for the human body to wear nothing but the wind.

This being the 30s, this sort of radical thinking was sure to land you in courts. Wether it was sex or evolution, exposing the origins of life was verboten. And so it was with Elysia.

However, a clever defense attorney succesfully argued that the human body, in of itself, is not obscene being the creation of God. And that given the fact that the film features neither sexual intercourse nor discourse but rather preached the value of communing freely wit the rest of creation, charges were dropped.

This paved the way for more and more nudist camp features – as if this was a good thing.

For those who have never seen one, an explanation for this lack of enthusiasm is in order: there is no duller genre in the whole firmament of cinema than nudist camp flicks. In addition to the usual sermon about the sun’s heathful glow, the only action to be seen on screen would be a game of volleyball which gave the genre it’s nickname of “Volleyball films”.

The root of the problem seems to come from the camps themselves. David F. Friedman, “Mighty Monarch of the Exploitation Film World”, would often describe it as such: “For those who have never been, a nudist cam is about as erotic as walking in the cold storage of Swift and Co. in the Chicago stockyards.”

The simple reality is that the compulsion to remove one’s clothing seems inversely proportioned with the interest others would have at seeing said person nekkid.

“We had to “salt the mines” so to speak” Friedman often chuckled, referring to the fact he’d have to hire more photogenic models to frolic before the cameras.

Another surprising thing about Nudist Camp features is that the genre’s most prolific director was a woman- Doris Wishman- with eight films between 1960 and 1964.

Nudist Camp film pioneer Doris Wishman

And of all of her films, the one she likes the least is her most famous title – 1961’s Nude on the Moon.

“The models were so goddamned ugly.” she often offered as the reason for her contempt. She wasn’t kidding either. Some of these girls have asses that look like cottage cheese or, worse, a burlap bag full of doorknobs.

Shot in Coral Gables, Florida, Nude on the Moon cashed in on both the space race and lonely men’s need to ogle.

NASA spends too much. They can shop at the Five and Dime.

In the film, two intrepid space travellers make their way to the moon in department store space helmets where they come across a race of “beauties” who go around topless wearing pipe-cleaner antennae.

Who sez the Moon doesn’t have babes? Everyone! (even the director)

One has to hand it to the film, despite the ugly models and the lack of any science-fiction (not to mention science-friction), the film keeps bringing the suckers in and remains Wishman’s best known title from the nudist part of her oeuvre. It could very well be just the title.

The title IS everything.

However, as nudist camp movies became “quaint” and “tame” compared to the sexier fare that emerged in the latter part of the decade, Wishman would make a name for herself in the sexploitation genres with crackpot films that earned her the nickname of “The Female Ed Wood”. These will be the topic of a future post.

In the meantime, why don’t you break out the sunscreen and enjoy a day in the lunar sun?

Here is the film in its entirity:

Pain Level: 9/10

Quality of pain: Get some clothes on, lady. Please!


This one hurts all around (a post for Gay pride)

Sid Davis’ intentions were good.

His first film, Girls Beware, came about when he received a $6000 contribution from Hollywood Legend John Wayne to produce a prevention films warning young girls not to get into cars with strangers.

The predators are lurking everywhere!

It’s a worthy cause. So far, this writer has no beef.

Then Davis turned to warning boys. Not a bad idea either. Except that , somewhere along the way, the definition of “sexual predator” got mingled with that of “homosexual”.

The result is something painful not in the viewing experience but rather in how it helped reinforce negative, hurtful stereotypes. You see, according to Boys Beware, homosexuality is a “disease of the mind …but no less contagious”.

That guy Ralph is a sick sick man.

So in honor of Gay Pride, the Cinémasochist would like to pause and present this cringe-worthy little short. One hopes it will be viewed from a perspective of having moved forward.

Pain Level: Unable to assess damage

Quality of Pain: Ignorance hurts others

One last thing: if you think people no longer think that way- think again: