This month’s movie viewing started off with a string of stinkers that really bummed me out—if I see a bunch of bad films in a row, it can really impact my mood. My mood did change when I sought solace in some familiar flicks: George Miller’s classic first two Mad Max movies—skipping over stuff to get to the good crunchy car smash stunts—cheered me right up!
Then it was onto Nicholas Winding Refn’s Valhalla Rising, a movie steadily rising up the charts here. I’m still working on my interpretations of this intense and symbolist flick—and I’ve been purposefully avoiding reading others’ interpretations of Valhalla Rising so to keep my ideas clear—but I think One-Eye is Odin, forced to earth because no one believes/worships him anymore, and he manages to play one last mad trick on the Christians who’ve driven him out (literally and spiritually), before dying in battle—like all warriors must if they want to reach Valhalla—against other beautiful and doomed pagan warriors, the Indians of the New World, the only foes worthy of One-Eye, and the only ones who can bring him down. (And I honestly don’t think it’s unsportsmanlike of them to gang up on him—not after what you’ve seen One-Eye do to other opponents before.)
Love the Lee Ranaldo-esque guitars on the soundtrack, too. It’s how Refn is fucking with genre conventions—Valhalla Rising is a philosophical parable that just happens to have several moments of extreme violence. Available at Netflix Streaming, you really should seek out this incredible and unique film.
After that, it was discovering some new shorts, and checking out some old school sci-fi, with a trip to the cinema to see Kill List, a movie that I wish wasn’t so oblique. It was very frustrating for me. Maybe I’m stupid. Movies Listed in Order Screened—
Sweetgrass (2009; Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Castaing-Taylor (uncredited)) This could have easily have been only 30 minutes long. Lots of wasted footage. Could almost be found footage! Sweetgrass does not bode well for the subgenre of narration-free documentaries. However, fast-forwarding to the sheepherder’s profanity-infused tirade against his charges, and his subsequent breakdown on the phone to his mom would be a really good idea. That sequence is mind-blowing.
Star Crash (1978; Luigi Cozzi) Not so much a Star Wars cash-in, like Message From Space or Battle Beyond the Stars, Star Crash more of a Barbarella rip-off— And LORDY, does it stink! Save your time, and just watch the trailer—that was edited by Joe Dante! Caroline Munro was a stone fox, though. Absolutely. Death Kappa (2010; Tomo’o Haraguchi) FALSE ADVERTISING!!! The flick pitches itself as a Yokai/Kaiju mash-up—and it is—but as a campy spoof on the genres, not a genuine example of the them—so I was extremely disappointed. For me, “camp” is best when it’s inadvertent. When it’s planned, it’s horrible. (And I don’t really consider John Waters’ movies as camp—he makes sick comedies that use elements of camp, and he does it well, I feel. But that's a topic for another day...)
Deathsport (1978; Henry Suso & Allan Arkush; produced by Roger Corman) Soooooooooo bad. However, the commentary is worth listening to, especially for burgeoning film students—“plagued” doesn’t begin to describe this production.
Battletruck (1982; Harley Cokliss) Worse that Deathsport! A clunky and ham-handed Road Warrior rip-off. Awful. The Battle Beetle was cute though, and Cliff from Cheers said something funny, that neither my wife or I could remember later. Otto Mannixrecommended this snoozer. I’ll get him….
Portions of Mad Max (1979) and The Road Warrior (1981; both directed by George Miller) to wash the rotten taste of Battletruck out of my mind.
Valhalla Rising (2009; Nicholas Winding Refn) Seen before, still awesome.
Machete Maidens Unleashed! (2010; Mark Harley) Hey, I used to know Cirio Santiago’s nephew! Fun filled documentary about the 1970s Phillipino exploitation film boom. Great stuff, lots of interviews and clips. Roger Corman is in this one a lot!
Kill List (2011; Ben Wheatley) Intense, scary, brutal film that blows all its goodwill by having a crappily ambiguous ending. Loved this creepy movie until the last minute--then, pfhht!
Beginning of the End (1957; Bert I. Gordon) Lots of slow spots, but I dig grasshoppers superimposed over stock footage. Watch it HERE To be part of a future Ivanlandia post, along with...
Quatermass and the Pit (1958; Rudolph Cartier; written by the great Nigel Kneale) The original BBC miniseries, three hours worth, originally performed live on TV! Subject of a future Ivanlandia mega-post, along with Beginning of the End and Hammer’s 1968 cinematic version of Quatermass and the Pit. For the US market, domestic distributor Twentieth Century Fox gave the film the title Five Million Years to Earth. Watch the BBC 1958 version HERE
Shorts—I’m only mentioning shorts that I recommend. Why slam a short?
Spider (2007; Nash Edgerton) Great short. It’s not fun until someone loses an eye. Available at Netflix Streaming. Now I have to catch Edgerton’s feature film, The Square: I’ve heard good things about it.
That was my original idea for the title of this blog, a sort of summation of nearly everything I'd ever wanted cinematically: regularly playing on the ABC Channel 7 4:30 movie--or on WOR-TV Channel 9's 4 O'Clock Movie--the greatest monster movie in the universe, and incredible combo of miniatures, men in suits and stop motion, with entire continents destroyed!
But then there was a coup d'etat, and Tzar Ivan I of Ivanlandia took charge.