27 December 2010

Parallel Skiing Made Easy

Parallel Skiing Made Easy
United States - 1993
Director - Martin Heckelman
Morningstar Entertainment Inc., 1993, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 3 minutes

Death Mask of the Ninja

Hong Kong - 1982
Director -Chia Tang
Master Arts Video, 1986, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 35 minutes

Ski School

United States - 1990
Director - Damian Lee
MCA Home Video, 1990, VHS
Run Time -1 hour, 30 minutes

Ninja Operation: Licensed to Terminate

Hong Kong - 1987
Director - Joseph Lai/Godfrey Ho
Imperial Entertainment Corp., 1989, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 29 minutes

24 December 2010

Snappy Answers

An old Al Jaffe piece from a 1986 issue of MAD magazine. I appreciate that it relates to a now ancient experience that was so totally ubiquitous to everyone that bad jokes somehow captured its banality. It was an experience repeated so frequently that it became ritual, and yet now, a mere 25 years later seems almost primitive.

Rental Store - Video To Go

20 December 2010


United States – 1985
Director – Vincent J. Privitera
Video Treasures, 1990, VHS
Run Time – 1 hour, 32 minutes

When I saw this on the shelf at the thrift store, I felt that I was being pressured, browbeaten, and even taunted into buying it by the singular, menacing name on the box. Shelley Winters. The movie sinks or floats on the power of that name alone, and that is all you need to know to justify its purchase, rental or theft. Not knowing who Shelley Winters was only deepened my feelings of guilty ignorance, playing upon heretofore suppressed feelings of inadequacy and making it all the more necessary to paper over the deep rifts in my spirit with the purchase of this dollar ninety-nine indulgence.

Shelley Winters many years before Witchfire
During a long career that began during the Second World War, Winters began as an up and coming blonde bombshell actress, but rejected this role both on screen and in her public persona, and instead actively challenged expected feminine norms. Some 45 years later in Witchfire, she actively challenged my tolerance for shrill, embarrassing nonsense. Her character Lydia is a patient at a psychiatric hospital where the handsome young doctor has just driven his car off a cliff. In an attempt to calm their psychoses, the interim doctor allows Lydia and two other aggrieved female patients to attend his funeral. Led by the intrepid Lydia the ladies escape and hide out in the nearby woods at her childhood home. It is there that she burned her family to death as a child, resulting we are left to assume for lack of any evidence other than the criminally deceptive title, in her subsequent mental illness and pharmaceutical treatment for such. Lydia claims to be a witch with the ability to cast a spell which will resurrect the dead doctor and bring him back to comfort them. Without their medication however, the three women begin the descent into unscripted madness. When a strapping hunter conveniently appears, they assume that he is the returned doctor and a few tepid minutes of climax splutter and ooze across the screen like the exudate from a carbuncle.

Witchfire, but not Shelley Winters
Witchfire is a slow-motion train-wreck in progress engineered (literally) by the nonsensical ad-libbing of Winters. I am not embarrassed to admit that I devolved into a more primitive mental state, debasing the film at every turn, and seeking whatever crude and degenerate sport I could make of this scintillatingly flogable carcass. What my desperate vulture-like mind latched on to were an extra’s boobs, (see right. Despite a love scene with The Hunter which generated some base anticipatory tension, patient Julietta (Corinne Chateau) doesn’t grace the screen with her presents) and the little kid from Over The Top (David Mendenhall) who performs the exact same role here, and receives a satisfying smack across the face from his dad, the very same Hunter. That I enjoyed these two moments so much is equally the fault of Witchfire and my own weak will, but assigning blame is irrelevant when the end result is the same.

13 December 2010

Luigi Martinati

United States - 1952
Director - Edward Ludwig

These posters were painted by Italian artist Luigi Martinati who did Italian versions of posters for all sorts of movies as well as political posters and advertisements, most notably for the Italian car manufacturer Fiat. A small amount of his work can be found online, almost all of it in low resolution, but I haven't yet found a decent gallery so we'll have to piece it together ourselves.

US - 1941
Director - Raoul Walsh

US - 1951
Director - Crane Wilbur

United States - 1945
Director - Michael Curtiz

United States - 1949
Director - Michael Curtiz

06 December 2010

Girls In Prison

United States – 1994
Director – John McNaughton
Dimension Home Video, 1995, VHS
Run Time – 1 hour, 22 minutes

The term “guilty pleasure” is confusing and somewhat self defeating. Film historian and social critic Robin Wood points out (in a brutal critique of that jawless cancerous mongoloid Roger Ebert) that if one feels guilty at pleasure, you’re bound to renounce either one or the other. The term’s use suggests that the “guilty” viewer really sees themselves as slumming, and has to reify their refined tastes by pointing out their “guilty” feelings at watching what they "really consider" to be such base garbage.

Here at Lost Video Archive though, we don’t make excuses for taste, and Women In Prison films are a case in point. I hate to let things get too serious in this damp corridor without a little levity, and what with all the social commentary around here lately it seems high time to lighten things up a bit. So here it is, about as close as it comes to “guilty pleasure” in my book; Girls In Prison. Let’s not kid ourselves, has there ever been a WIP film that has a serious plot? I mean, one to which the nudity and catfights are incidental rather than fundamental? (One exception is 1943’s head-swimmingly boring and nudity-free House of 1000 Women which is about Englishwomen imprisoned in Germany during the Second World War {I have not seen Ida Lupino in 1955’s Women’s Prison but I'll bet that it is similar}) It’s already suspect to walk into a video rental place and pick up a WIP film (and this is where I think guilt is confused with embarrassment in the above statement), but to pick one that has such a well known name on the cover is to walk willingly into the disparaging gaze of society.

Anne Heche became a well known actress when she starred in several films with Johnny Depp and Demi Moore around 1996. But particularly after her well publicized psychological issues and relationship debacle in 2000, this early film became something of a dirty little (not so) secret. The sort of early career choice we all assume that actresses regret once they're established. Ironically of course, Girls In Prison is one of the more clever WIP films out there, and despite its low production value and shoddy, self-aware comedy, has an interesting premise set in the midst of the McCarthyism/Red-Scare of the early 1950’s. If hard pressed, one could probably come up with at least a partially redeeming excuse for watching any other WIP flick, but considering the names involved here, it is impossible to credibly justify watching Girls In Prison to anyone, except to see Anne Heche’s (and maybe Ione Skye's) boobs, no matter how "innocent" you might actually be.