A couple of movies I haven’t seen in many years… Fortress being the only Gordon film I saw in theaters, before I knew him as the Re-Animator guy. It sets up a decently convincing sci-fi dystopia, but no actors are “good” in this, not even Jeffrey Combs. Anyway it’s not taking itself too seriously so why should we?
That 70s Dad runs a private prison where even an “unauthorized thought process” will get your guts electroshocked (“intestinated”) – after RoboCop, Kurtwood Smith was typecast as an evil boss in cyborg dystopias. Ex-soldier Christopher Lambert and his illegally pregnant hotwife arrive as prisoners, and while T7D macks on the wife (Loryn Locklin of Wes Craven’s Night Visions), Lambert teams up with his cellmates to escape – including timid nerd Combs, Lincoln Kilpatrick of The Omega Man, and Clifton Collins Jr. of Guillermo Del Toro’s Robot Jox remake Pacific Rim. Lambert has to fight a giant psycho (Vernon Wells of Mad Max 2 and some Joe Dante films)… Combs is killed while installing a virus into the mainframe by typing “install virus.exe” or something, which reminds me, isn’t there a new version of Blackhat coming out?
Unauthorized thought process:
Space Truckers (1996)
An even sillier movie – I don’t think sci-fi action plays to Gordon’s strengths – but Dennis Hopper is a huge upgrade over Lambert, bringing the charm he omitted from Witch Hunt. He’s a Millennium Falcon/Firefly-style independent space trucker, beefing with George Wendt over shipment prices, then accidentally gets involved in a plot to take over the world.
Our heroes in a porta-potty:
Hopper and hired hand Stephen Dorff take a load of killer robots, then get stuck in space while lusting after the same girl (Hopper’s Witch Hunt costar Debi Mazar), then attacked by their own murderbot cargo. Nice cynical ending, the guy plotting a hostile planetary takeover (Shane Rimmer, best known from Thunderbirds) is now President of Earth – the super-soldiers were just a backup plan should he not get elected. But his plan to eliminate witnesses backfires, and our guys flee after blowing up the president. I’d take a sequel, but this straight-to-video widescreen movie was never gonna get one.
Heuermann’s second of three(?) Zorn movies contains some gems. Zorn credits Carl Stalling’s cartoon scores with teaching him new forms. He explains the rules of Cobra to its participants, which would’ve been useful for me to see a year ago. We sit in on a remaster of the Morricone album, and catch JZ’s enlightening interactions with the musicians during a rehearsal.
But the movie is also tediously about making the movie, about Claudia’s struggles to book an interview with Zorn, and questioning what the movie will be and how to piece it together, including footage of audience screenings of scenes we watched earlier. It returns to re-enactments of the director first hearing the Naked City record and getting into this kind of music, but these meta-elements feel like filler, because all we learn about Claudia is she likes Zorn’s music and is making a doc about him… two things that were pretty easily assumed going in.
Franz Kafka’s A Country Doctor (2007, Koji Yamamura)
Yamamura made Mt. Head, which I saw a bunch of times when it came out and now don’t remember so well anymore. When a choir starts narrating in song it is clear that this isn’t a great Kafka story adaptation, but the design and animation are very cool. Heads keep deforming, voices keep double-tracking, while hairy loops and bubbly blobs float over the image.
Jefferson Circus Songs (1973, Suzan Pitt)
There is some kind of human stop-motion here, kids (all the actors are kids) dressing in fancy doll clothes and moving like robots or Svankmajer creatures – insane and dreamlike, not always in a good way. No idea what this meant, it’s completely out of the blue – even the credits don’t make sense. Apparently made in Minneapolis, the kids created their own roles, and even the distributor calls it “a string of puzzling little episodes.”
Flo Rounds a Corner (1999, Ken Jacobs)
Extremely Arnoldized clip of a girl in pink rounding a corner, the picture strobing and the frame sometimes splintering into sections that Arnoldize at their own separate pace. Had I known it was going to be silent, I would’ve thrown on “Light’s New Measure” by Black Duck.
Jackals & Fireflies (2023, Charlie Kaufman)
Like a music video for a poet. Eva HD’s work also appeared in I’m Thinking of Ending Things, and she is a fan of David Berman and Nico. Kinda works as “overheard in new york: the movie” – I’ll bet the movie plays better if you enjoy the voiceover poem and its delivery.
One of those movies (see also: The Game, Hypnotic) where people have to behave exactly as predicted by the supervillain for the plot to work – though there is a hitch in the plan when our man on the run (Choi Min-sik, who’d return in Lady Vengeance) and his sushi chef girlfriend/daughter (Kang Hye-jung of Invisible Waves) discover and remove their tracking devices, and the bad guy (Yoo Ji-tae, the married guy in Woman is the Future of Man) kills one of Choi’s friends with a “you made me do this” sort of speech that I didn’t buy, figuring that killing all of Choi’s friends was part of the deal. The deal is that Young Choi spotted Yoo smooching his sister in high school, told others then forgot about it, she killed herself, so Yoo becomes a rich maniac devoted to tricking Choi into fucking his own daughter. Good ending: they end up happy together after he gets the illegal prison’s house hypnotist to make him forget the girl’s identity. I can forget things just fine without hypnosis, so I’ll happily rewatch this in theaters every 20 years and be surprised each time.
Early Wenders muse Rüdiger Vogler drives past Richmond, gets to NYC and sells his car, then goes to Shea Stadium – I like this guy already. He’s a writer/photographer disowned by his editor for wandering the States and ignoring his story and deadlines, but he’s got enough cash to fly home. After he meets a woman and her daughter at the airport then the woman disappears, the movie sneakily adopts my least favorite movie plot of all (aimless adult gets stuck with precocious child), but somehow remains good. Robby Müller did nice work in Goalie, kills it here. Almost Kaurismäkian in its large-heartedness – rare that I watch a movie from the 1970s and think things were better back then. Rüdiger keeps behaving in a very relatable manner (he drops the girl at a police station and goes to a Chuck Berry concert).
Rüdiger on TV: “All these TV images come down to the same common, ugly message: a kind of vicious contempt. No image leaves you in peace. They all want something from you.”
The Victor Garber-looking prosecutor is Jason Clarke – he ruins Oppenheimer’s career in 1954, sent by Atomic Energy Commissioner Robert Downey Jr, whose own career is then ruined by Oppenheimer-loyal scientists in a cabinet non-confirmation hearing in 1959.
Florence Pugh is here to have a steamy affair with Oppy, and Emily Blunt plays the steaming mad wife. General Matt Damon helps link to Nolan’s other film involving black holes. This inverts Interstellar by placing its avant-science imagery over the early backstory segments and saving the real-world tedium for the final hour – an extraordinarily talky movie. I’d willingly watch it again, but if I can spare three hours for Cillian Murphy movies, I might just watch Red Eye twice.
Kate Lyn Sheil’s husband is dead in the trunk, and her new man Kentucker Audley is driving them from Jacksonville to Tampa to hide his body, but they’re not very smart criminals and end up racking up another body. Maybe in the wrong mood for this – Kate playing not-smart isn’t working for me.
Memorial screening for Friedkin. I thought about rewatching Bug, but should really check this out – I’d avoided it after deciding Wages of Fear couldn’t be topped. And maybe not, but nearly equaled. Same story of two trucks with redundant supplies of unstable dynamite heading for an oil-well fire over treacherous terrain, but this time the drivers are more desperate than ever, after an extended intro showing each of their criminal enterprises that led them to hide out in South America under fake names. 1970s Lead Character Roy Scheider drives with shady Francisco Rabal, and in the other truck is gentleman fraudster Bruno Cremer (a Brisseau star) and Jerusalem bomber Amidou (later in the Friedkin-indebted Ronin).
The great Filipe Furtado:
What for Clouzot is social need, for Friedkin is self-punishment. First world crimes reimagined in a third world purgatory, an amusement park of unforgiven nature. The beauty is that everything is translated in pure action … Francisco Rabal’s taciturn killer is the film’s heart and Bruno Cremer’s masochist banker it is clear-eyed soul.
“Who wants to be famous? Who wants to die for art?” I should’ve watched this a very long time ago, like before Cecil B. Demented. Divine is Dawn, who storms out of her parents’ house as a teenager since she didn’t get the cha-cha heels she wanted for Christmas, immediately gets pregnant, flash-forward and she’s got a teenage daughter called Taffy (Mink Stole) and a hairdresser husband named Gator.
Divine & The Dashers:
Then the plot goes haywire. Taffy seeks out her real father (also Divine) and stabs him to death, then threatens to join the Hare Krishas. Gator’s aunt Ida throws acid in Dawn’s face, and the Dasher photographers who own Gator’s hair salon try to make the disfigured Dawn famous, everyone agreeing that she looks even more beautiful now. None of the performances are “bad” because they’re all on the same heightened wavelength, but the dialogue is mostly yelling and it finally gets tiresome during the court scene that sends Dawn to the electric chair.
Post-acid Dawn with daughter and caged Aunt Ida (Edith Massey):