26 December 2011

Theodore Rex

United States – 1995
Director – Jonathan Betuel
New Line Home Video, 1996, VHS
Run Time – 1 hour, 32 minutes

Sometimes in the process of poisoning my mind with all these films I stumble across one that, despite its relative availability, just demands closer inspection. After watching Theodore Rex, there are a lot of things going through my mind. It’s a mess of confusion and wonderment up there, a jumble of emotion, fright, anger and even some sadness. I feel a little bit dirty. In case you are too young, have forgotten, or never had the pleasure of knowing at all, I’ll give you a quick refresher on the plot. In a nominally sci-fi future dystopia, detective Katie Coltrane (Whoopi Goldberg) partners with a bumbling, human-sized talking Tyrannosaurus Rex (“Teddy”) to solve the murders of several other dinosaurs. Much “hilarity” ensues. However, there is something much more problematic here than the fact that a talking dinosaur has just been given a job as a cop.

On the surface Teddy is an “adult” who drinks, chases women and has a job.  But because he talks, dresses and acts like a child, he is the film’s demographic selling point and titular hero.  Despite, or perhaps because of, his best efforts to channel Axel Foley, our “hero” is given all the attributes of the constantly frightened or mistake-prone sidekick. The subsequent hour and a half wallows in the resentment of his human counterparts. They make no secret of their contempt when such an obviously inferior creature is given a toy job on the police force in order to placate dino-rights activists, (I’m not making this shit up.) Even Whoopi uses the closet-bigot’s time honored phrase “you people,” (errr, dinosaurs.) In this light, we must recall that Theodore Rex is a product of the decade that gave us such PC Tokenism as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the backlash against Affirmative Action. As such, its bitterness towards childlike-adults (read: the mentally handicapped) reeks of the sort of recrimination familiar to an artist forced to sacrifice his aesthetic vision on the altar of commercial viability. Beneath its kiddie, buddy-cop exterior, Theodore Rex is an agonized cry of outrage at the decline of that great imperialist institution, “meritocracy”.

When confronted with movies of highly subjective quality, one often hears the question “why did this seem like a good idea?” This is an understandable response, a reflexive reaction to offended sensibilities, but it’s too loosely used against movies that venture into uncharted territory. Specifically the question lacks definition, being too subjective to serve as any real criterion. Humans are after all gifted with creative, imaginative minds which should be used and enjoyed even if their vision is sometimes more than a little out of their grasp. This film however is one movie for which this overused question is entirely appropriate. The anti-hero has a long tradition in narrative storytelling. Theodore Rex however, takes the unprecedented step of removing the hyphen from the trope and being literally against its hero. This sort of meta-ethical flip-flopping is dangerous, because it dissolves the existential barriers between film, audience and film-maker. It is a mind-warping paradox that can lead to feelings of betrayal and revulsion for all three parties, and ultimately to the sort of resentment that causes a writer/director to quit making films altogether.

22 December 2011

Last Embrace

United States - 1979
Director - Jonathan Demme
Key Video, 1986, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 41 minutes

Ohhhh, there's one of those sexy Key Video boxes I was talking about last Monday. Nice rainbow pattern and unobtrusive color scheme centered around the red bordered box.
And directed by Roger Corman protege Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs, Rachel Getting Married) no less. This sucker has been sitting on my shelf for about six months, I better get to it. But why does this box make me think of Sylvester Stallone?

Poster from IMPAwards does justice to the original artwork by an artist I do not know.

19 December 2011

Sherlock Holmes: The Hound of the Baskervilles

United States - 1939
Director - Sidney Lanfield
Key Video, 1988, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 20 minutes

As soon as I saw the Key Video box I was sold. Although Key was just the distribution arm of CBS/FOX, I can't help but love those boxes. Although this 1988 version is different from earlier versions in that it lacks the wonderful rainbow motif, the color scheme is otherwise similarly appealing.

14 December 2011

A Great Score!

Wow, it's been a long ass time since I started raising a stink about movies.
I wanted to use the opportunity of my 200th follower and my 500th post (almost perfect; 201-498) to take a few minutes to thank those of you who read Lost Video Archive and especially those who, on occasion, actually think it's kinda neat and tell me so! I love and strive for dialogue!

What I have primarily tried to do here over the past 4 years at LVA is to hone my writing ability on something I love, namely genre film. As the rest of my brain has grown and I've pursued other areas of interest the whole thing has become what you see now; a multi discipline interaction with the world of culture and cinema.

I really appreciate those of you that follow and actually read Lost Video Archive, you are the 200! And those of you who carry links to LVA on your own amazing sites and/or blogs, I extend my humble gratitude; a recommendation is among the highest of compliments. Now, for those of you who follow LVA and have a site/blog to which you would like me to post a link, let me know! A true community is reciprocal, and despite my best intentions and a confirmation bias, I sometimes miss things that are right in front of my face.

I realize that what Lost Video Archive does is something a little unusual when it comes to film "reviews", and as such your appreciation is very much noted and dear to me. Thanks for making LVA a great score so far!

12 December 2011

Creature From Black Lake

United States - 1976
Director - Joy Houck Jr.
Simitar Entertainment, 198?, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 30 minutes

There is an appealing charisma to Cryptozoology. It’s as if the beliefs themselves are contagious; the more you are around a believer, or the more of the “evidence” you consume the more you want to believe it. It is a bit like drinking actually, the more you consume, the less logical you become. Oh, it might be laughed at and shunned by other more “hard science” advocates, but the disappearance of the PhD in Cryptozoology is indisputably one of the great academic tragedies of the last 50 years. Most people aren’t aware, but as recently as the early 1980’s, respectable institutions of higher education were actually just wildly throwing money at cryptid research.

Drinking deeply a heady draught of Bigfoot lore in class, University of Chicago anthropology students Pahoo and Rives decide that this is the perfect subject for their graduate research project. After a casual chat in the hall secures the necessary funding, they’re off on a leisurely swing through the Southern United States in pursuit of a vague rumor. I’m sure it must have sounded brilliant at the time. “Check it out, we’ll drive south on the Department’s dime, do a few interviews and take a few pictures to justify the expenditure and dazzle those dumb backwards yokels with our big city educated vocabulary. They’ll probably worship us as gods the poor inbred fools.” While we may lament the general lack of respect that cryptozoologists now receive from the rest of the academy, it is perhaps understandable considering their unconventional research methods.

You see, tracking down a bigfoot, yeti, bipedal primate, skunk-ape or whatever you want to call it, may have been the excuse, but freedom and adventure is the reason. That’s because Creature From Black Lake is at its core just a buddy road movie and there’s nothing for a good time like a couple of long-hairs stirrin’ up trouble in a small southern town. Our Yankees may be full of ivory-tower assumptions about Southern backwardness and a mandate to analyze and catalogue the local fauna, but they still have to deepen their friendship and learn something about life along the way.

The hitch is that between pull tabs of beer, pawing underage southern belles and nights in the county jail the boys do more or less accidentally succeed in experiencing “Southern Culture,” or at least a movie stereotype modicum of it. And in spite of themselves they do stumble across a “Creature”, or at least, the silhouette of some guy in a fuzzy sweater. Of course, nobody back at the University believes them, but that’s to be expected. After all, it is more about the process than the product isn’t it?

This nice poster (which also made it to a DVD cover) from Wrong Side features art from Ralph McQuarrie, one of the primary artists behind much of the visual design that became Star Wars.

08 December 2011

Enlightened Racism in Rise of the Planet of the Apes

After a brief interruption in service, Paracinema is back in action. My critique of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, after stirring some controversy has been updated and is also back in action. You can read it in its entirety HERE and if you so desire, join in the dialogue.

Those of you regular LVA visitors will recognize my rhetorical style, extended somewhat further here because Planet of the Apes is one of my favorite franchises. I did a lot of research for this writeup including watching a number of other films and revisiting some other writers who offer critical analyses of race, pop-culture, politics and of course cinema.

Paris By Night 52

Paris By Night 52
United States - 1999
Director - Christian O'Shea
Thuy Nga Video 69, 1999, VHS
Run Time - Jeeze, I dunno, three cassettes worth.

Another multi-tape Vietnamese language variety show thing I found at a thrift shop. I'm sure there are lots of these out there, but I find 'em fascinating. This one in particular is awesome because of the science fiction angle. See also Saigon In Beverly Hills

07 December 2011

Halls of Montezuma

Halls of Montezuma
AKA - Okinawa
United States - 1950
Director - Lewis Milestone
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2000, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 53 minutes
Starring Jack Palance

 Japanese poster from Posterati

All of the preceding five posters come from Movie Poster Shop

  These two came from Movie Poster Database

06 December 2011

Terror In the Aisles

United States - 1984
Director - Andrew J. Kuehn
MCA Home Video, 1985, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 24 minutes

Hosted by Donald Pleasence and  Nancy Allen.

05 December 2011

The Wall

United States - 1998
Director - Joseph Sargent
Walking Man Films, 1999, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 35 minutes

A made for television anthology of three stories, each centered on an object which represents the life of a particular person who died in the Vietnam War. The Wall is one of the last films to come out that directly address Vietnam, but is more about remembrance than the conflict itself. I do not remember being terribly impressed, despite the laundry list of second-string actors and actresses. It's not so much that the stories were bad, but that it all seemed like a sham, like it was made for TV or something.