“Death’s a commercial necessity.”

This absurd murder conspiracy movie was the perfect follow-up to a Final Destination sequel. Logical movies are boring, illogical ones are stupid, but movies that follow their own dream logic, where a woman in a busy daylit park can suddenly, while lighting a cigarette, become all alone at twilight, then get chased through a hedge maze, ending up trapped between cobwebbed stone walls… what was I saying?

Drummer and Wife:

Drummer Roberto is being tailed by guy in suit, follows the follower into a theater, but it’s a setup, where he’s photographed killing the suit guy. Paranoid, he tells his blonde wife everything, . Detectives get involved, a terrible gay private eye is hired, the drummer’s cat gets kidnapped, he visits a coffin convention with “God” Godfrey and a wacky Professor. In the middle of all this, a hot cousin stays over and wants to give him a massage in the bath. After the cousin’s incredible death scene, her retinas are scanned to find an image of the last thing she saw, which leads to the drummer’s wife. The drummer and his wife are good in this (some side characters are very dubbed) but the wife’s last-minute psychological backstory keeps reverting to Italian before she fatally flees from the house.

God with his parrot Jerkoff:

Intense filmmaking, this worked better for me than Crystal Plumage or Deep Red. The lead guy was also in a Bea Arthur movie. His wife Mimsy Farmer has a great Italian horror career – Autopsy, Fulci’s Black Cat, The Perfume of the Lady in Black, and something from the Cannibal Holocaust guy. The cousin was in The Disappearance, Stuart Cooper’s followup to Overlord.

A young hot blank dude (Nightmare Detective Ryuhei Matsuda) is found wandering with amnesia and returned to his wife Narumi (Masami Nagasawa of Kore-eda’s Our Little Sister). Blank teen boy Amano (also the name of my favorite sandwich place) recruits dickhead reporter Sakurai (Sion Sono’s Fuck Bomber) to help him locate a blank girl (Yuri Tsunematsu, also in Wife of a Spy) at the center of a recent crime.

Blank Nightmare Detective backed by choir:

But the blank trio are really aliens, learning about human concepts on their way to build a device from scavenged parts that will invite global destruction. The boy and girl finally meet, ruining a cop’s sense of self over wacky comedy-suspense music. The reporter is surveilled by Ministry of Health officers in an unmarked van. Gunfights and CG explosions ensue, and none of it’s very good, ruining my plans to follow this with the miniseries spinoff Foreboding.

Reporter, blank girl, and blank boy with machine gun:

Park’s followup to The Handmaiden doesn’t reach the same heights as Stoker, his other English-language movie, held back by the writing and the six hours of buttoned-up spies underplaying to survive. Big actory dialogue though – by episode three I decided I wasn’t buying any of it, but it’s pretty fun so I watched to the end. On the plus side, cool sets and costumes and cars. Park can really throw light exactly where he needs to, is excellent at photographing multi-level architecture. Michael Shannon has a wonderful laugh, but we maybe hear it once, given he’s playing a tormented Israeli agent on a convoluted revenge mission. Most importantly, Florence Pugh has the most openly expressive face of any actor right now, so what’s she doing in a spy movie? Well, it’s complicated, but she plays an actress hired by Shannon to get caught up with the Palestinian bombers so they can eventually be trapped or killed. Kidnappings and love letters and multiple fake relationships as she becomes a terrorist-in-training… as far as U being who U pretend to be, I wonder if Mother Night is out on blu-ray.

Pugh dances with Alexander Skarsgård:

Pugh practices with evil mastermind Khalil:

In which the conspiracy uncovered by burnout loser Sam (an extremely likeable Andrew Garfield) turns out to be true. Gathering clues from Topher Grace, the Mulholland Dr. diner guy with the eyebrows, a pop-up local rock band, the Homeless King (David Yow!) and hospital boss Barrow from The Knick (in heavy old-age makeup as a secret apex popular songwriter), Sam discovers that his hot neighbor Riley Keough disappeared into a bunker to die (eventually) with a famous rich guy, and that he is not going to rescue her in the end.

I deny the Southland Tales comparisons, will happily loop this in with Big Lebowski and Inherent Vice, a trilogy of hapless L.A. detectives with different styles and tones. This was hilarious and terrific to look at, and probably warrants a rewatch, as well as catching up with his first film during the presumably long wait for his next, since this seems to have flopped.

Secret owls on the dollar bill:

Mike D’Angelo:

Under the Silver Lake dunks on its dipshit of a protagonist (beautifully played by Garfield as haplessness incarnate, right down to the way he walks and runs throughout; that puppy-dog quality no doubt gets in the way of folks recognizing that he’s meant to be kind of awful)… but it’s also achingly sincere about the innate human desire to believe there’s some secret code that will reveal the key to everlasting happiness, or at least enable some basic understanding of what the hell’s going on.

Matt Singer in Screencrush:

It doesn’t take a conspiracy theorist to see the film is poking fun at Sam, and at the urge to search for buried meanings in things in order to avoid the painful reality staring you in the face. And Sam’s sexuality is part of that; Mitchell openly compares his hunt for life’s little Easter eggs to the act of masturbation. Some viewers seemed to miss the joke altogether — even though Under the Silver Lake is a movie where former Spider-Man actor Andrew Garfield buys an old issue of The Amazing Spider-Man that then gets stuck to his hand.

A very long, bizarre movie, feels like the script was written by a distracted conspiracy theorist then it was was filmed completely straightfaced by dedicated (but low-budget) actors and craftsmen armed with heavy giallo lighting.

Opens with a massive fake rant about yuppie culture on 60 Minutes, then our man Trent sees himself inside the TV preview for The Hand That Rocks The Cradle. Outside, a maniac in a hairpiece is wrapping a dead woman in foil. I think this is Trent’s brother, but Trent complains to his wife about “your brother-in-law,” which is a strange way to refer to your own brother. After the brother(-in-law) sexually harasses a woman whose Secret Service ex-boyfriend then runs him over repeatedly in an alley while a lumpy pink alien look on, I realized I needed to let go of basic things like the characters’ identities and relationships.

“Get her some coffee, some cocaine, anything left over from the 80’s.” If the Mr. Robot guy can win an oscar for portraying Freddie Mercury, then Damon Packard can fill his movie with sub-cable actors and claim they’re major celebrities. Julia Roberts crashes on Trent’s couch for six months, Sade rehearses next to Rush, a hitman is sent after Bono, Dick Cheney takes orders from Johnny Carson’s band leader Doc Severinsen, William Friedkin gets mad that nobody wants to see his movie The Guardian, and Janet Jackson is married to one of Trent’s fellow Illuminati members.

This is all aimed at people slightly older than me, who saw Sleeping With the Enemy in theaters and got upset when Rush rapped on a 1991 single. Have I mentioned that it’s long? Every scene goes on for a small eternity, with repetitive dialogue, though sometimes the sound mixer will amuse himself by randomly pitch-shifting an actor, or blatantly dubbing in completely different lines, or an actor’s face will get Black Hole Sunned. The song Ice Ice Baby is being used for mind control, the movie New Jack City sparks riots (the rioters simply chanting “new jack city!”)… even this movie has multiple titles. The whole vibe is cool and unusual, chase scenes through empty Hollywood streets in the middle of the night with 1991 movie posters photoshopped onto the billboards, cheap direct-to-video effects combined with creative production design and an indecipherable story. I’ve long been tempted to rent Packard’s Reflections of Evil, which sounds similarly demented (but is very, very long); there’s also the 1982-set sci-fi feature Foxfur, the hour-long SpaceDisco One, and the twenty minute fake-trailer Dawn of an Evil Millennium, and I should watch all of these – even if they’re “bad,” they’re also exactly the kinds of movies I always aspired to make.

Rewatched this in less-than-optimal conditions (not on my fucking telephone, at least), but I’ve seen it so many times already. It’s hard to watch without the fan theories I read online in 2002 popping into my head… can’t let the mystery of it all wash over me when my mind keeps fitting the pieces into a puzzle. Granted, the theories work pretty well. And each scene is fantastic whether it makes narrative sense or not.

Classic Hollywood: landlady Coco is Ann Miller of Kiss Me Kate and On The Town, and the ranting woman wandering the apartment halls is Lee Grant of Detective Story and Shampoo. Betty’s new friend at the airport is Mary’s mom in Eraserhead. Since this came out I’ve seen Naomi Watts in a few things (none of them very good except Eastern Promises), Laura Harring in nothing, and Justin Theroux in Wanderlust and Charlie’s Angels 2. Most upsetting is when Patrick Fischler, the scared guy in the diner, shows up in a movie or TV show, as he does more regularly than his Mulholland costars.

Learned from the interview extras: Lynch says the title Mulholland Dr. was originally for a cancelled Twin Peaks spinoff, and The Cowboy is wearing Tom Mix’s original clothes.

2500th post!

Wasn’t planning it this way, but I guess my viewing of Abel Ferrara’s Body Snatchers, and last year’s SHOCKtober screening of the 1956 original (and I suppose The Invasion) were all prelude to this wonderful Alamo screening of the best Body Snatchers movie. It loses the 1950’s prudishness, ramps up the energy and paranoia (and humor, when Jeff Goldblum is onscreen) and lands on an even bleaker ending than the original tried to imply. It could almost be a sequel instead of a remake – the 1956 ends (not counting the dumb framing story) with Kevin McCarthy screaming on the highway, unheeded, and early in this version McCarthy appears on a city street yelling “We’re in danger – you’re next!” just before getting killed.

“A disquieting paranoid thriller informed by the conspiracy theories of the period and the jaded cynicism that followed the death of the counterculture movement,” per Adam Cook.

Donald Sutherland is our new McCarthy, a San Francisco health department investigator and the boss of Elizabeth (Brooke Adams: The Dead Zone, Shock Waves). Donald likes Liz but she’s married to Art Hindle (lead dude in The Brood), who is the first to be invaded – not counting their psychiatrist guru friend Leonard Nimoy, who was probably a pod from the start. While uncovering the plot and figuring out what to do about it, they huddle with friends Goldblum and his wife Nancy (Veronica Cartwright, in The Birds as a teen, later Alien and Witches of Eastwick).

The Shaun of the Dead trick of pretending to be a zombie and walking among the others seems to work, until Donald and Liz get shocked by something and scream. Donald spotted a pod next to a homeless dude (and his dog) and kicked it – a few scenes later the dog is walking around with the dude’s face. As in the original, Liz is only left alone for a few minutes when she falls asleep and gets replaced, melting in Donald’s hands as her pod version rises up, telling him to join them.

Screenplay by W.D. Richter, later director of Buckaroo Banzai with Goldblum. Fun angles and shadowplay, and perfectly balanced tone of terror and action – no wonder a couple movies later Kaufman’s The Right Stuff got eight oscar nominations. Sutherland was later in the quite bad Puppet Masters, in which Earth is invaded by mind-controlling alien parasites, and McCarthy would reprise his role yet again in Looney Tunes: Back in Action.

Film Quarterly:

Visually, the movies couldn’t differ more. Siegel’s unadorned black-and-white has yielded to Kaufman’s lyrical color, tilts, handheld shots, and high key lighting. Michael Chapman’s photography is both lustrous and penumbral, with deep shadows and crowded, mobile frames. Annexing the genre’s salient mood of engulfing dread, he has made the new Body Snatchers a film noir in color.

“Can’t talk – some peace protestors are trying to kill me.”

Kinda silly and obvious as a thriller, but well acted and assembled so you enjoy the ride at least. And man does Ewan McGregor ever blow it, when he finally gets evidence that the prime minister’s wife Rosemary Cross has been pulling the strings all along as an undercover CIA agent, what does he do? He tells her that he knows. He tells her! So she has him killed, end of movie. It’s too bad I watched Dollhouse before this, because I saw her as a schemer all along.

Mouseover to see McGregor’s reaction to the PM’s memoirs:
image

McGregor is taking over the PM’s memoirs from the previous ghost writer who died mysteriously last week on the ferry to PM Pierce Brosnan’s U.S. island hideaway. All is quiet until allegations of torture and other war crimes come out and the press mobs the island, and during the distraction McGregor starts digging up the dirt his predecessor had left clues about. Kim Cattrall is the PM’s assistant, Tom Wilkinson a friend/rival/neighbor, and Eli Wallach an old man who feeds Ewan clues.

This film’s attention to detail is impressive – they’ve noted how the news tends to misspell basic words:

NYTimes:

It would be easy to overstate the appeal of The Ghost Writer just as, I imagine, it will be easy for some to dismiss it. But the pleasures of a well-directed movie should never be underestimated. The image of Mr. Brosnan abruptly leaning toward the camera like a man possessed is worth a dozen Oscar-nominated performances. And the way, when Lang chats with the Ghost — his arms and legs open, a drink in hand, as if he were hitting on a woman — shows how an actor and his director can sum up an entire personality with a single pose.

Patrick McGoohan is #6, resigns from some spy organization and is immediately kidnapped, waking up in a prison/town. They want to know why he resigned, and he wants only to escape. Opening credit sequence is three minutes long, and each ep starts with him waking up, dazed, looking out the window towards the title of this week’s episode, giving the impression not of continuity between episodes but that each episode is an alternate reality, or that Pat is caught in a time-loop.

Ep 1 – #2 (Guy Doleman of The Ipcress File) invites him over, has a dwarf attendant (Angelo Muscat, a rare series regular). A girl (suicidal Virginia Maskell of Our Virgin Island) pretends to conspire with him after their mutual friend dies. Escape Method: stolen helicopter, which is remote-controlled back to the island. And there’s already a new #2 (George Baker, an agent in Hopscotch) at end of episode.

Ep 2 – The new #8 (Nadia Gray of Maniac) tells him she’s figured out they’re in Lithuania, and she has friends on the outside. Escape Method: they sail off in a hand-carved boat created as abstract-art project with purchased tapestry as sail, packed by fake #8’s friend into shipping cartons and sent to fake London, revealed by time zone discrepancy. Today’s #2 is Leo McKern of Help! and Finlay Currie plays a chess-playing general.

Ep 3 – Scientist #14 (Sheila Allen of The Alphabet Murders) hooks him up to a mind-reading machine (showing that his mind tends to linger on the show open), gives him experimental drug causing him to dream meetings with three different spies to see his reactions: fabulous party host Katherine Kath (appropriately of The Man Who Wouldn’t Talk), mustachioed defector Peter Bowles (The Legend of Hell House) and former compatriot Annette Carell. Pat takes control of his own dreams to fuck with the new #2 (Colin Gordon of The Pink Panther) in grand fashion. Pat does tell them one definite thing, “I wasn’t selling out. That wasn’t the reason I resigned.” That piece of information won’t keep #2 from getting replaced in the next episode.

Ep 4 – Fake election is held and Pat is voted the new #2 in order to boost his confidence before breaking his spirit and beating the hell out of him. A Canterbury Tale star Eric Portman is the old/fake #2, and Rachel Herbert is Pat’s non-English-speaking personal driver who turns out to be the real #2.

Ep 5 – #6 is made to think that he’s #12, and his doppelganger is now “the real” #6. It’s never explained where they found an identical twin of Pat, but the effects are very well done. Odd to hear mister “I am not a number” emphatically declaring himself to be #6. Jane Merrow (Hands of the Ripper) is his psychic friend, and #2 is Anton Rodgers (a cop in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels).

Ep 6 – The young new #12 (John Castle of Blow-Up) is possibly an actual counter-conspirator inside the organization? Maybe not, I wasn’t paying close attention. The organization controls a professor (Peter Howell of Scum) through his artist wife (Betty McDowall of Time Lock and Dead Lucky), getting him to design a supercomputer (“the general”) to brainwash the already-brainwashed citizens in the guise of speed-learning. #6 blows up the computer, conspirator and professor before an amazed #2 (Colin Gordon again, from ep 3) by asking the machine “why?”

Ep 7 – The town is deserted. Pat builds a sailboat and compass, keeps a log, sails to England. He meets Mrs. Butterworth (Georgina Cookson of The Woman Who Wouldn’t Die), the woman living in his old apartment, borrows his old car from her, and goes to headquarters, tells The Colonel (Donald Sinden of Mogambo) and his man Thorpe (Patrick Cargill of A Countess From Hong Kong) about the village. They figure where on the map he could have sailed from and Pat searches in a jet until he finds it – and the pilot ejects him back into the village, where everyone reappears (including Mrs. Butterworth).

Unhappy birthday:

Ep 8 – Pat finds a radio on a washed-up dead man, tries to drive his observer (Norma West of And The Ship Sails On) crazy. New #2 (Mary Morris of Thief of Bagdad) focuses on convincing him that the outside world is dead to him, and he to them, as she has the dead man sent back into the ocean with Pat’s ID in his wallet. Crazy scene where after a trial on carnival day, the costumed villagers chase Pat through town hall.

Ep 9 – Nice double-cross variation. Pat teaches fellow prisoners how to detect who’s a secret sentinel, recruits an inventor to create a distress signal to summon nearby ships, but because of his confidence and authority, the prisoners decide Pat is a sentinel and turn on him. New #2 is Peter Wyngarde (The Innocents, Flash Gordon) even though Mary Morris claimed she was playing the long game and seemed triumphant at the end of the last ep.

Ep 10 – Pretty straightforward. Pat runs around doing fake spy stuff, having hushed conversations with bewildered villagers, sending coded messages to nobody in particular, to drive #2 (Patrick Cargill from episode 7) mad. As a bonus, Pat has a trampoline duel with #2’s main man #14.

Ep 11 – Trampoline fights are the new padding scenes. This is feeling like the flabby center of the series, with Pat’s goal changing from escaping the village to fucking with various #2s. Outgoing #2 (Andre Van Gyseghem of Demy’s Pied Piper) is going to be assassinated by Incoming #2 (Derren Nesbitt of the 1972 Burke & Hare), or was it vice-versa? – and Pat cares about this supposedly because he fears retaliation against the villagers since a brainwashed watchmaker (Martin Miller of Peeping Tom) rigged the bomb. Pat teams with the watchmaker’s daughter (Annette Andre of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum), turns the bomb against the bomber, ending in stalemate.

Ep 12 – Pat has lost his sunny disposition, is being short-tempered with everyone, so he is declared persona non grata by the town and given the silent treatment. The new #2 (John Sharp of The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu) is into mind control, has a Clockwork Orange-like “aversion therapy” room, but orders instead a mood-improving lobotomy for our hero. Of course they can’t burn his brain with all those valuable memories inside, so they fake it with drugs, leaving Pat meek and defenseless against the striped bullies – for about 20 seconds before he pulls himself together and turns the drugs against his handler #86, then at his “confession” in the town square, Pat gets the townsfolk to rebel, and another #2 goes down.

Ep 13 – Excitingly weird one, in which Pat kinda escapes but decides to use his semi-freedom to rescue/endanger a scientist. Chubby-faced Colonel (Nigel Stock, Watson to Peter Cushing’s Holmes) comes to village, sent by “the highest authority,” and they electrically swap his psyche with Pat’s, then send Pat’s consciousness in Colonel’s body back to Pat’s house, where he dances with his fiancee (daughter of his spy boss – did we know Pat had a fiancee?), confuses his superiors (technically his ex-superiors, since he’s still angrily quitting his job in the opening credits), then leads the Village baddies straight to the mind-control scientist who invented the brain-swap device, though if the device worked so well I wonder why they need him. I also wonder why they keep fucking with Pat’s brain, since in the early episodes they were claiming they didn’t want to injure it. Anyway, back in the lab, scientist pulls the ol’ switcheroo, escapes via helicopter in the Colonel’s body (the Village has brain-swap technology, but not a simple radio to recall a helicopter that has barely lifted off), Colonel dies in the scientist’s body, and Pat’s his smarmy self again.

Ep 14 – Pat wakes up in a Western movie, thinks nothing of it. So it’s his stubbornness and moral character transplanted into a drifter who becomes town marshall. Nice Western sets but I think this was underlit because it’s not sunny enough in England. Pat is in prison when the brother of some girl (Valerie French of Jubal) is hanged, then he fails to save her from a loony, obsessed redshirt (Alexis Kanner, who later directed a film starring Patrick McGoohan). Final shootout, then Pat wakes up and realizes it was all a multiplayer dream-RPG. In two weird postscripts, the sets are are real and filled with cardboard cutouts of the other players, and redshirt remains obsessed with the girl leading to both of their deaths in the “real world”. New #2 David Bauer had a small part in a Sean Connery Bond film.

Alexis Kanner #1:

Ep 15 – So right after the episode that gives Pat a backstory and a fiancee, we get two in a row that turn him into an interchangeable spy. This is a really weird one, but fun, as Pat’s in London on the trail of a mad bomber, a resourceful woman who calls herself Death (soap star Justine Lord) and leads Pat into trap after trap, each of which he escapes, up to the lighthouse from where her Napoleon-wannabe dad is planning some kind of attack. The whole thing turns out to have been a story he’s freewheeling for some Village kids. Not entirely sure what #2’s theory was: that Pat would tell the kids his own life story, ending with his reason for retirement?

Ep 16 – An intense #2 (Leo McKern from the second episode) returns to the village, reviews clips from previous episodes to see what he has missed, then resorts to his ultimate solution to get Pat to confess: regress him to childhood via a magic lamp then lock them both in a room with the butler (Angelo Muscat, who may have appeared in every episode) for a week of intensive role playing/interrogation. Leo’s theory is that only one of them can survive this. There’s some 1984 number-play, Pat refusing to say the number six for a while, and Leo slips the retirement question into every scenario, but finally Pat makes him crazy, turns the tables, and Leo falls dead. It’s one of the more boring, shouty and unsatisfying episodes, with Pat being bonkers for most of it, but it’s all setup for an even weirder finale, as Pat is given his desire to see #1 at the end.

Ep 17 – Of course we don’t see #1 – this show makes nothing easy. Instead, Leo #2 is shaved and resurrected and put on trial as a nonconformist, along with Pat and a young mod who never stops singing “dem bones.” Nothing ends a thrilling spy series like a good, slow courtroom drama, amirite? It’s hard to explain what happens, and apparently fans have been trying for years, but Pat seems to escape and/or become #1, and “All You Need Is Love” is played over a machine gun battle and the village is given a specific location in the opening credits and the guy singing “dem bones” is the same actor who died three episodes ago. David Lynch could hardly have done better.

Angelo Muscat made it through the final episode!

Alexis Kanner #2:

Episode directors include McGoohan himself, Don Chaffey (Jason and the Argonauts, One Million Years B.C.), Pat Jackson (Don’t Talk to Strange Men), Peter Graham Scott (Into the Labyrinth, Night Creatures), Robert Asher (Maid for Murder) and David Tomblin (Return of the Ewok). Wonder if the remake is worth checking out? After all, prisoner torture, personal freedom and intrusive searches for information are still making headlines.