31 October 2011

The Grasshopper

United States - 1969
Director - Jerry Paris
American Video, VHS, 1988
Run Time - 1 hour, 35 minutes

Sadly, Canada is not a subject that comes up very frequently at Lost Video Archive. When it does however, it is always interesting. That’s really no surprise when you consider that the United States is such a profoundly different place. Standing down here and looking up is like peering into an impenetrably muddy cultural pond. Having now watched The Grasshopper three times, it is perfectly clear to me that this bitter and acrimonious rivalry between the two nations is obviously a result of fundamental cultural differences. It must be as hard to understand this modern, progressive country from up there as it is to understand that conservative, traditional wilderness from here. Thankfully, over the course of its disappointingly brief hour and two thirds running time, The Grasshopper illuminates the moral chasm between these neighboring nations.

That great frigid Commonwealth of the north is above all a place where loyalty and fealty to one’s family are of paramount importance. The U.S. on the other hand is a wasteland of egoistic individual desires and dreams disconnected from concern for even one’s own kin. But the promise of personal fulfillment is a heady aroma, and as Christine (Jacqueline Bisset) hitch-hikes the long miles between the family hearth in British Colombia and her boyfriend in California, she breathes deeply of its scent. Perhaps too deeply, for when she arrives in the Golden State her dreams of immediately starting a family are instantly smothered by practical economic concerns. She balks at male rationality and strikes out on her own for Las Vegas where begins a string of exploitive and abusive relationships and increasingly degrading jobs before Christine finds herself bereaved, destitute, high on marijuana (gasp!), in police, custody and literally cursing the heavens at the end of the film.

Oh if only she had known that women shouldn't dream or have desires beyond raising a family. But many questions remain at the end of The Grasshopper, for its intentions are more opaque and nebulous than usual for an ordinary cautionary tale about too much freedom (ominous music). Yes it’s true, Canadians hate freedom and The Grasshopper (also known as The Passing of Evil) has no qualms about asserting that liberty is especially bad for women. But the film appears not to realize that Christine’s drawn out downfall is the result not of her liberation, but of male selfishness. Even this becomes more confounded by the character of Tommy Marcott (Jim Brown) whom Christine marries. He is the only man who doesn’t exploit her, but is instead gunned down defending her honor. Are we to see this as a condemnation of inter-racial marriage or the irredeemability of a soiled woman? It’s hard to say, and even if you read the film’s source novel The Grasshopper by Mark McShane, I suspect you wouldn’t get much more clarity. Those Canadians are devious people. Watching this American Video tape (how ironic is that?), what you ultimately get is a grainy, washed out film about regret, which you will regret watching.

A double bill which makes it sound as if Christine is the predator.

This poster makes it sound like a 1950's juvenile delinquency scare movie updated for the late 60's.

26 October 2011


United States - 1968
Director - Edward Dmytryk
Columbia/Tristar Home Entertainment, VHS, 2000
Run Time - 1 hour, 57 minutes

In the midst of the United States' darkest hour in Vietnam came black-listed director Edward Dmytryk's Anzio, based on the very real Operation Shingle in January of 1944.

25 October 2011

24 October 2011

Surviving the Big One

Surviving the Big One:
How to Prepare for a Major Earthquake
United States - 1989
Director - 
Run Time - 58 minutes

17 October 2011


United States – 1982
Director – Hal Needham
CBS/FOX Video, 1990, VHS
Run Time – 1 hour, 32 minutes

Who can forget those ascetic days of the Carter Era when we were admonished to be ashamed of ourselves and all reticent and stuff? What a drag, no fun at all. It really didn’t feel good to be American. All we wanted was for people to get a shiver down their spine just knowing how awesome we were, but instead we were told to be more humble. Where’s the fun in humility? What the world needs is a little hubris. Hal Needham, director of such astute visions of grandeur as Smokey and the Bandit and The Cannonball Run understood the United Statesian yearning for escape from such philosophical self flagellation and conceived a new vision, a new concept of proactive intervention that coincided perfectly with our desire for a resurrected self-image. Hegemony and war needed to be fun and sexy again, and Needham, pungent genius that he was, went right for the jugular, hell bent on stuffing as many wheelies and explosions into this foreign mis-adventure as Megaforce’s already strained spandex seams could take.

But this new birth had to be helped into the world by the midwife of salvation, hand delivered sticky and mewling with anticipation and mini-rockets. For the United States so loved the world that it gave its only begotten son Ace Hunter (Barry Bostwick) and his prominently bulging manhood bankrolled by Hong Kong's Golden Harvest pictures. This guy has so much love that he can’t give enough, like a messiah offering himself up as golden spandex clad sacrament. Drink of me he seems to say, for this is my blood engorged ego. Eat of me, for this is my throbbing self-confidence. Hunter is the lone and solitary leader of Megaforce, a man so charismatic that he disdains substance or depth, relying instead on the potent charisma and sexual power of a gazillion dollar fantasy techno-boner to lead his followers to the end times.

The Megaforce milieu is introduced with a sweeping display of impractical but inspiring armored, missile-armed dirtbikes and a grand tour of a giant invisible base stuffed to the gills with secret military hardware, all of it received unsolicited from anonymous donors with the promise that Megaforce will “defend freedom wherever in the world it might be threatened.” But I’m getting ahead of myself. This is not supposed to be a point by point recital of the plot in which a sparkling wonderforce uses a dirtbike-smoke-screen rainbow and a script written by a stuntman to stop cigar-chomping Central American dictator Duke Guerrera (Henry Silva). It’s supposed to be a reminder of our national potential, a potential we have allowed to slip away, or simply to be forgotten.

It doesn’t matter that there is no substance or depth to the Megaforce message and mission, for neither the film, the messengers nor the rhetoric from which it springs require such petty practicalities to look awesome. What matters is that Megaforce (and yes, by extension the USA) believes itself, for this is above all an instrumental politics of posturing, a self-deluding canonization of the ego. That’s exactly what our troubled nation needs, a thick and heavy slice of realpolitik smothered in messianic exceptionalism. It’s just too bad we all threw our VCR’s away.

This review originally appeared in Paracinema issue 12.

Clip courtesy of lucienpsinger.

15 October 2011

Coming Next Week

This Megaforce advertisement comes from the June 1982 issue of Heavy Metal magazine

14 October 2011

Rental Store - Galaxy Video/Video Gallery Plus

This two-fer video label post is brought to you in part by my copy of the Australian adventure film Treasure of the Yankee Zephyr. Stocked at one time or another by two stores, the video box took quite a beating.

10 October 2011

El Robo de Las Momias de Guanajuato

Mexico - 1972
Director - Tito Novaro

Tragically, I have only seen a very few Luchador films, but of those few, this one is my favorite. Well, because it stars a cast of reanimated mummies of course! There's also the costumes, the dialogue and a gripping plot...
The top poster comes from From Parts Unknown

This poster from Wrong Side of the Art

El Emnascarado de Plata

Mexico - 1954
Director - Rene Cardona

Huracan Ramirez

Mexico - 1953
Director - Joselito Rodriguez

03 October 2011

Operation 'Nam

Italy – 1986
Director – Fabrizio De Angelis
IDF Films, 1986, VHS
Run Time – 1 hour, 35 minutes

The ‘Nam was such a major shock to the United Statesian social psyche that it catalyzed over a decade of filmic reinterpretations and finger pointing. Here at Lost Video Archive we’ve talked about the well-worn cast of comfortingly predictable stereotypes to which United Statesian ‘Nam movies quickly devolved. The unhinged ‘Nam Vets and sensitive killers are fun and all, but never so entertaining as when percolated through the Italian exploitation cinema machine. Fabrizio De Angelis' Operation ‘Nam is the most intense concentrated dose of predictable ‘Nam that I have had the pleasure of experiencing.

Ethan Wayne kicks grandpa ass.
Dispensing with all pretense, Operation ‘Nam opens with its four protagonists weathering a barrage of ‘Nam Vet stereotypes that doesn’t stop until the clip is empty. Within seven minutes one man’s wife declares that “you ‘Nam vets aint worth shit!” A potential employer says “Three years in ‘Nam don’t count for shit” on his resume. A pawnbroker assessing military medals offers, “Yeah, looks like you fought the whole Vietnam War by yourself pal. How much did you say you want for these?” At her wedding a third man’s daughter complains that her dad and his war buddies embarrass her and the wife throws them out. Deciding to commiserate over a few cold ones they head to a nearby bar where they have a run in with some WWII and Korean War vets who call them druggie cowards from a pussy war.

A few brief minutes to catch your breath and then, government conspiracy tales kick in full blast. Channeling all the Chuck Norris they can muster (Missing in Action came out just two years earlier) our squad of protagonists, (their fourth ‘rescued’ from a mental hospital) confront the charge that Washington knows about but doesn’t care about the P.O.W.’s still in ‘Nam. But why hold the Fed accountable when you can still blame the Vietnamese! So our protagonists head back to Southeast Asia to re-fight the war in under an hour. Along the way they pick up weapons from Donald Pleasence, a holdover French priest with a stash of firearms available for packs of embittered ‘Nam vets. The next forty-five minutes of explosions (including a toy helicopter!), gunfire and yelling go precisely according to cinematic formula. The accompanying chase results in the deaths of all the rescued P.O.W.’s, the whole point of the operation actually being the philosophical redemption of the soiled honor and dignity of veterans.

'Nam Vet vs. The World
Operation ‘Nam would be exactly like any other crude Vietnam conspiracy movie except that it’s exactly like all other ‘Nam conspiracy movies in one fucking movie. Stacked with a stable of action-exploitation movie veterans that includes Gordon Mitchell, Manfred Lehmann, John Steiner and John Wayne’s son Ethan, this movie is the very meaning of “if you see only one shitty reactionary ‘Namsploitation movie in your life” make this the one. Operation ‘Nam covers all the bases without any of the confusing subtlety or moral complications of its contemporaries.