Monthly Archives: November 2011

Return to A-FREAK-a

Following the post on Ghanasploitation earlier this week, a faithful reader has written in to share an Ugandan film, Who Killed Captain Alex?

The trailer promises “badabadabadabada Action!” (more static camera coupled with frenzied cutting). However, this time, the seems to be some serious martial arts happening (albeit not edited very well).

Take a look at the trailer which promises “only da best of da best movies”.

There’s genuinely the feeling someone is gonna get hurt. These guys move like cobras and don’t look like they f*ck around but they also stumble around like Keystone cops a great deal.

Would you believe the film is just as frenzied as that trailer? The big action finish (starting at 1:18:00 for those of you at work) is a mix of truly bottom-of-the-barrel photoshop effects mixed with shots grown-ups rolling around with guns like they were kids playing “cops and robbers” (with photoshopped gun flashes and blood bursting all around) and a truly manic narrator screaming “Commando! Commando! Commando!” ad-nauseam. Is he informing us they’re not wearing underwear?

Here’s the whole thing. DUCK!

Note: Just to make myself clear. If you’ve noticed, I haven’t applied the Painjoyment meter to these films. I honestly applaud these early efforts and hope to see better made films that keep that same kickass energy. Hey, remember, I’m the Cinémasochist. I’m not putting cheap films down. I love them! I’d rather see this than whatever misery-epic their diplomats want to bore me with between festival cocktail parties. Heck, I’ll watch this over “Last King of Scotland”. So there!


How to survive a nuclear attack

Demonstrating the proper way of greeting the invading troups of commie pedophiles.

Yeah, the 50s looked like such a wonderful time -If you forget the ever-present threat of Nuclear anihilation that is.

Never mind guys with exploding sneakers or underpants, them Russkies had rockets, nuclear warheads and a hankerin’ for our women.

Fortunately the good people at Civil Defense had a plan.

And it’s one you can sing along to…

This 16 mm film was shipped to schools across America with an accompanying 45 rpm record and booklets so they could stage daily drills.

And, frankly, given the fact total nuclear disarmament hasn’t happened yet, I strongly recommend you bookmark this page and make it a daily visit. I say his because I care for you. I really do. And I don’t want to your last thought before you vaporize to be “damn, I should have followed that Cinemasochist’s advice to follow the cartoon turtle’s advice.”

This film is really informative too- as when the teacher explains that there are two kinds of nuclear attack: “with warning” and “without warning”. It’s reassuring to know Civil Defense had all the bases covered.

Oh, and incidentally the Federal Civil Defense Administration is currently known under its current appelation: The Federal Emergency Management Agency or, if you prefer, FEMA.


Putting the “Freak” in Africa.

Cinémasochism isn’t about pain- It’s about Painjoyment™.

This means that cinémasochistic pursuits are not about the pain one might feel while watching those films but of the pleasure one derives when the endorphins released by your brain to deal with that pain kick in.

One sure fire way of releasing endorphins is shock. Culture sock.

Over the years, I’ve come to believe that when culture shock goes beyond a certain point, your brain secretes a sort of teflon that prevents the images from registering even as they unspool before your very eyes.

To demonstrate, here is an example of a trailer for a movie from Ghana entitled 12:00, 1, 2 & 3.  (Pronounced “TWELVE O’CLOCK! OOOOOONE, TWOOOOOOOO AND THREEEEEEE!”)

Whoa! I think I need a cigarette.

How about this one for Obonsam Besu (Devil May Cry)?

I feel a tingle in my nipples. Maybe some swelling.

Now for the hard stuff: the must see film of the year, it’s “Alien vs The Terminator” in 2016.

OK. Now my nipples are definitely hurting. Yup. Hard as diamonds.

The great thing bout these trailers is that it shows the fulfillment of a promise. The promise of digital filmmaking as a means for people to break away from noisy, effects laden Hollywood genres and present heartwarming stories from cultures around the world.

I, for one , will forever treasure the image of a child kicked like a field goal by the Alien.

True art should always be life affirming like that.


More Cerebral Cinema

John Agar was the second most decorated soldier of WWII (the first was Audie Murphy).

A veritable poster boy for all that made America great, the handsome hero even married America’s Sweetheart and became the first “Mr. Shirley Temple”.

Appearing alongside Hollywood greats like John Wayne in movies like Sands of Iwo Jima and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, it soon became apparent his acting mostly relied on his uncanny ability to smile out of one corner of the mouth while frowning with the opposite eyebrow.

And so began a long alcohol soaked downward spiral. Soon, a divorce court would sever his best connection in the biz; his daughter Susan would take the name of her stepfather (opting for Black instead of Agar) and a judge would later dismiss his plea for understanding over various misdemeanour charges with “Don’t blame your problems on Shirley Temple.”

But Agar kept on working, capitalizing on whatever fame he had by appearing in big studio B-movies before moving on to the drive-in fare and today’s offering, The Brain from Planet Arous.

Howco International was  small cheap outfit that cranked out an occasional programmer or two for owner Joy Newton Houck Sr.’s chain of drive-ins. Their films are notoriously cheap and include such gems as Mesa of Lost Women and Ed Wood‘s “Film Noir” Jailbait. (Coincidentally, both those films share the same maddening flamenco guitar soundtrack.)

Not all directors working for Howco were lower tier, however. Case in point is Nathan Juran, a talented director who gave us The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and countless Lost in Space episodes. Reputed as having a strong work ethic, Juran wouldn’t turn down a job- he’d just remove his name from the credits and replace it with  his middle name “Hertz”.

Nathan Hertz‘s” most famous film is the astounding Attack of the 50 Foot Woman– a film that really only suffers from a goofy premise and a minuscule effects budget. As far as the directing and editing of the film is concerned, Juran has pulled it together quite nicely, earning the praise of many- chief among them being Joe Dante who qualified it as “a perfect film”.

So as you watch today’s posted feature, try not to blame the director: he’s just doing his job despite non-existent production values and , of course, the thespian skills of John Agar’s raised eyebrow.

In The Brain from Planet Arous, scientist Steve (Agar) goes up a local mountain to investigate bursts of radioactivity which have been turning his Geiger counter into a beatbox.

There he encounters Gor, a disembodied brain from space who possesses him -releasing Agar’s top shelf acting and giving him super mental powers (conveyed by tin foil lined contact lenses). He then heads over to the local military base and gives a demonstration of his full power- the ability to generate a nuclear explosion with his mind.

Well, it turns out the masterminds of Gor’s planet aren’t going to stand for this sort of intergalactic shenanigans so they send Vol, a cop brain, to Earth to stop him by possessing his dog.

I’m not making this up!

The BRAIN from PLANET AROUS – Full movie

PAIN LEVEL: 7/10

QUALITY OF PAIN: Like a brain overheating.

PAINJOYMENT™: Quite high!

A Hertz signature: he does the same distorted face gag in “50 Foot Woman”


Cerebral Cinéma

Ever had one of those days where nothing goes your way?

You’re driving to the cottage with the girlfriend and you’re in such a hurry to get there that you crash the car and decapitate her?

Yeah…That can be a bummer.

Then you have to hook up her head in your basement laboratory…

and go shop for a body if you are to finally get around to doing what you were going to the cottage for in the first place. Always something, isn’t there?

Now, this being the early 60s, The Body Shops did not exist yet and I doubt they could fulfill that kind of a request even today. So where does one go? Well, strip bars and camera clubs are a good place to start. It’s bad enough your girlfriend needs a new body, you might as well try to get an upgrade.

The kneeling photographer here is Sammy Petrillo, the Jerry Lewis impersonator and star of “Bela Lugosi meets a Brooklyn Gorilla”

Hopefully, you’ll find a chick with a killer body but some scar on her face who won’t mind you swapping her noggin.

To make matter worse, the thing that lives in the downstairs closet you’ve stitched together from your previous transplant experiments is acting up.

I want attention!

To make matters even worse, the girlfriend starts to nag nag nag.

I want atte…mfff mfff

That is exactly the premise of the delightfully whacked The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962)

Jason Evers plays the Frankenstein wannabe (and all around bad driver) who tries to reconnect his fiancée’s (Virginia Leith) head to Leslie Daniel’s body. It’s a creepy sleazoid mutation of a movie which is sure to make your nipples hard with the flavor of “wrong”. It’s technically fine- given its minuscule budget- and one gets the refreshing feeling that, for all it’s inherent goofyness, the filmmakers got exactly what they were striving for. In that respect, it’s more in line with an Evil Dead movie than Plan 9 from Outer Space.

This independent gem still startles audiences today with it’s delightfully sleazy premise and unapologetic audacity. The dialogue is pulpy, the premise oh-so-sleazy and the execution is just in the right tone to prevent this guilty pleasure from becoming a real pain. It just hits the cinémasochistic nerve just right.

Just one question:

What part of the movie is that still from?

And how about this one?

I definitely don’t remember this scene in the film:

Aaaah. The troubled life of a still photographer.

That startling giant creature, by he way,  was played a performer by the name of Eddie Carmel. Born in Israel, he was a circus performer billed as “The Jewish Giant”.

He was a tall drink of Manaschevitz.

There are two cuts of the film. The TV cut and the full theatrical version- which features a surprising amount of gore.  Guess which one I’m posting? Thats right! The one with all the chocolate syrup.

Enjoy!

Pain Level: 6/10

Quality of Pain: Nagging

Painjoyment™ Index: High.


Set hearing aids to “stun”

The recording sessions were a tremendous thrill. The last evening we spent cutting, I had been working from 5:30 A.M. that morning to 6:30 P.M. that night on Star Trek, and Captain Kirk was really beat. I rushed down to Gold Star and went to work with Stan and Don, and we finally got everything done. Then we sat back to hear it from beginning to end. Now I’ve had some great thrills in my career, starring on Broadway for the first time in The World Of Susie Wong, playing in my first motion picture. The Brothers Karamazov, going on stage for the first time in Shakespeare’s Henry The Fifth, but the thrill I got from hearing this album all the way through was deeper and more satisfying that anything I had ever experienced. The Three of us sat there alone in the studio transfixed until 2:00 A.M. I had a 5:30 A.M. call at Star Trek that morning. But I walked out of the studio on air and soared through the rest of the day. I was really in orbit!

– William Shatner, 1968

The text above is from the liner notes to The Transformed Man, William Shatner’s vanity album from 1968.

The album’s concept was to couple a famous exerpt from a stage play or a book and couple it with a dramatic reading of a famous song set against a background of the melody.

Today, it has become the stuff of legend – or at least ‘meme worthy”

It needs to be understood (an is often overlooked) that Shatner is not unique in this late sixties practice of cutting an album of covers. Some of these were quite surprising, like Robert Mitchum’s calypso albums. Some were real unbearable- like Sebastian Cabot’s attempt to cash in on his fame as “Mr. French” on Family Affair.

What distinguishes Shatner’s vanity project from the others is that it may have been the first indication of what Kelsey Grammer beautifully encapsulate in an 2008 interview with GQ. In describing Shatner’s unique thespian style, he declared “It’s total self-delusion, and it works!”

It also remains the only such vanity record still in print.

Today, there are a lot of apologists out there speculating as to wether or not he was serious. Let me clear this up right now: he was. That’s why his “singing” ended up on talk shows like Mike Douglas and not on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In alongside Tiny Tim.

Had it remained there, it would have been quite enough but Shatner held on to his music aspirations including this amazing appearance from The Science Fiction Film Awards. That one floated about via bootlegs for years in the pre-YouTube world. For some it was something told in whispers.

Then, nearly forty years later, came 2004’s Has Been. The real surprise here was that the album was actually listenable. In fact, there is little in that album that provides the kind of sweet sweet Painjoyment™ of The Transformed Man. But it did reboot Shatner’s carreer. Something for which Cinémasochists will forever be grateful.

The Shatner styling became a recurring meme. Something for late night shows and roasts to exploit.

And they did:

Again and again:

But now comes the Shat’s Magnum Opus: 

Seeking Major Tom is cinémasochist gold. As I drove to work today, I very nearly veered of the road as I convulsed to the Mighty Montrealer’s mangling of Bowie’s Space Oddity, Thomas Dolby’s She Blinded Me with Science, Golden Earring’s Twilight Zone, a new cover of Rocket Man and, of course, the album’s first “single”: Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. 

Listening to this album has left me spent. If it were a woman, it would wear a spiked collar and high heels – and it would speak in a german accent.

The Transformed Man 

Pain Level : 9/10

Quality of Pain: Khaaaaaaaaaaaan!

Painjoyment™ Index: Sweet!

Has Been

Pain Level: 5/10

Quality of Pain: Surprisingly bearable

Painjoyment™ Index: Low. 

Seeking Major Tom

Pain Level: 9/10

Quality of Pain: Thunderbolts and Lightning! Very very Frightening indeed!

Painjoyment™ Index: This year’s guiltiest pleasure!

Now can I suggest a single to cover for the next one?

C'mon! It's a natural!


ATOM GOOD! SMOKE BAD! – Reassessing “Godzilla vs The Smog Monster” in the wake of Fukushima.

For Godzilla’s 57th birthday, The Cinémasochist dissects Godzilla vs Hedorah,

In the early 70s , Japan was facing a bright future as it sat on the verge of an industrial upsurge that would make it the world’s second largest economy.

But it needed power- electrical power- to make that national dream a reality. Lots of power. And it needed it fast.

The traditional means of generating electricity in Japan, coal, would prove to be a major concern:  Smog, acid rain, greenhouse gases- all were effects the Japanese people could see- and deplored.

Coal generating plants belch carbon at the foot of Mount Fuji

So the idea of nuclear energy was brought forward. It was relatively cheap (in terms of energy produced) and “clean” (from a carbon emission point of view) but the investment would still be massive and required a strong commitment. The people of Japan would have to embrace an energy source whose dark side the elders were intimately aquainted with- having been the only nation ever to be on the receiving end of a nuclear attack.

But nuclear energy wasn’t the same as bombs. It was really a new form of steam power with a massively hot cooker. That’s all. The atom is your friend.

Selling this idea to the masses was not going to be an easy task given that they weren’t blinded by the insane profits the power companies would make. Rebellious ecologically-minded  youth- not yet easily dissuaded by the phrase “it will mean jobs”-  was bound to question the logic behind wanting to set oneself up for yet anther round of nuclear nightmares. The industry needed a pitchman who could allay the fears of a generation already jittery at the prospect of extinction through war. Someone who had already had a firm hold of their imagination.  One whose street cred was built on his own radioactiity.

They needed Godzilla.

As anyone who wasted valuable academic time researhing perfectly useless topics like “Asian Trash Culture “will tell you: Godzilla was originally conceived in the mid 50s as a metaphor for the downside of nuclear technology. Whether he was embodying the bomb or (as he would in the 80s) the threat of a power station meltdown; The Big G was always a promethean caution AGAINST releasing the nuclear genie from its bottle.

But in the early 70s, Godzilla took a break from his role as anti-nuke cruisader to being the spokesperson in favor of the emerging nuclear industry.  It was the day Godzilla sold his soul.

Known in America as Godzilla vs The Smog Monster at the time of its release, Godzilla vs Hedorah is an epic collision of Saturday morning kiddie matinee, educational shorts and  Midnight Movie psychedelia that has delighted children and acid-heads alike for close to forty years.

Crazy animation interludes pepper the film.

The film’s rubber model-stomping baddie is Hedorah-  a nasty smelly pile of industrial sludge brought to life by some kind of space element. Looking at first like a big tadpole, the shape eventually evolves a pair of legs (much more comfortable for the suitmation actor) and struts to the nearest industrial sector to take bong hits off the somestacks- all the while purring like a kitten.  Hedorah (whose name literally means “sludge” and figuratively “pollution”) feeds on waste.

“Whoa! I think I see a giant lizard, dude. This is good smokestack!”

Instead of walking off the calories, Hedorah mutates into a giant cow flop and goes flying, carried aloft by his methane emissions and burning eveything that comes in contact with his sulfuric emissions

You’ll believe a cow-cookie can fly!

The people of Japan are powerless. The situation is hopeless. Then, to the tune of the most unenthusuastic character theme ever, hope- in the form of Godzilla- appears.

Who changed my music? This new theme really sucks!

A long drawn out fight begins which culminates with Godzilla, like any self respecting superhero, pulling out a couple new tricks out of his ass: the most hotly debated one is his sudden ability to fly.

Just ignore the bit about the flying- it’s just going to get us off-track.

What really concerns us here is his newfound talent for generating electricity in industrial quantity- like a goddamned reactor!

The army’s plan to dispose of Hedorah is to lure it between two large metallic panels and zap him with a shitload of electric arc animation. When the power lines go down, it’s up to Godzilla to fire his atomic halitosis at the metal panels and generate the flashy optical effects needed to reduce Hedorah to a pile of powdered carbon. See kids? He’s radioactive and therefore electric. Get it?

In the end, the big lizard’s mission is accomplished: Hedorah is vanquished. Flowers can bloom again. Godzilla -fallout and all- is our friend. Cue the “Save the Earth” song.

I’d get misty eyed here save for the fact that the film (despite being derided on this side of the Pacific) was not only a commercial hit in the Land of the Rising Sun but a critical darling as well. It was credited with having “helped” the youth of Japan shed its concerns over Nuclear power and celebrated for calmly explaining the science behind atomic power stations. ( Regrettably, it was not taken to task for not mentioning concerns about the disposal of spent material- this could have been worked in the script with a discourse on the half-life of Godzilla’s droppings). It even had cute animated interludes to explain fission.

Yes. They actually gave nuclear fission a happy face!

The downside of nuclear reactors would thankfully reemerge as a central theme of future Godzilla movies a decade later.  However, for the time being, Japan would gleefully move forward with building these little prosperity generators- geological surveys be damned.

No need to go any further. You and I know all too well how that turned out. Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20 but that’s no reason to dismiss this reassessment. If anything, we should use that newfound clarity  of vision to reflect on where this all went wrong.

Godzilla flying used to be the big objection fans had to this film. Now, questions should be raised regarding the film’s motives in the first place.

Update:
Thanks for making this entry the most read on this blog.
Although not the first story posted, it was originally written as the “warm up” for this entire blog. I am humbled to see hits on this particular story almost every day from all over the world,
As a thank you, here is a look behind the scenes.