28 February 2012

The Undefeated

United States - 1969
Director - Andrew V. McLaglen
Key Video, 1988, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 59 minutes

The Searchers

United States - 1956
Director - John Ford
Warner Home Video, VHS 1988
Run Time - 1 hour, 59 minutes

27 February 2012

Platoon on NES

Alright, I guess I'm pretty naive when it comes to video games. I stopped keeping up after about 1994, so there's a lot out there that I don't know about. But this one takes the cake.
Platoon the fucking video game??? It's not so much that they would make a literal game out of village search and destroy missions, but that they would do it in 1988. I don't care that kids are playing it, but that their parents who would have been of the 'Nam generation were buying it! Well, once it's a movie I guess it isn't "real" anymore. After all, the word Vietnam isn't used anywhere on the box or instruction booklet.

20 February 2012

Saturn 3

United Kingdom – 1980
Director – Stanley Donen
CBS/FOX Home Video, 1987, VHS
Run Time – 1 hour 28 minutes 

Until my friend laid this old tape in my hands I had never heard of Saturn 3. That isn’t saying much I suppose, but he hadn’t either, and we are both big fans of robot oriented space-fiction so it was a pleasant surprise. Before watching the film I did a little research and discovered some interesting stuff. Despite not initially wanting to write extensively about what is a fairly mainstream film, after watching I was inspired to say something about it its relationship to space-fi in general.

When it was released, Saturn 3 appears to have received generally negative reviews, and remarkably, continues to do so . Not surprisingly these predominantly appear to stem from unfavorable comparison to Star Wars, which was released just a few years before. Although not mentioned in anything I read, I think it also owes a large debt to Kubrick’s 2001 in both overall plot, and Elmer Bernstein's score. But even if it’s not exceedingly original, Saturn 3 does a damned good job of wearing it’s pedigree on its sleeve.

The important thing to remember about Star Wars, especially because it has compounded its cultural significance in the last decade, is that it wasn’t very creative. As I’ve said before, it’s an entertaining movie, but the plot as we know is a generic and predictable white hero myth. Saturn 3 is not as epic or inspiring than its predecessor, but neither is it any less creative. What was so remarkable about Star Wars (and this is what I think most people find so endearing about it) was the visual design. Saturn 3 interestingly enough, was written and (initially) directed by John Barry, the same man responsible for the look of Star Wars.

The story itself centers around Adam (Kirk Douglas) and Alex (Farah Fawcet) on one of Saturn’s moons where they operate a hydroponic farm but mostly shag. When another astronaut, Benson (Harvey Keitel) arrives at their secluded love nest, they soon discover that he and his robot are not on a mission of peace. Compelling? Perhaps not, but visually everything in this movie, from the spacesuits to the ships clicks. The thing that really sells it for me is the robot, “Hector”, an eight foot tall machine powered by a giant tube of vat-grown human-fetus brains. The concept is pretty twisted if you think about it, and the way in which Hector takes on the sociopathic personality of its programmer Benson is particularly well conceived.

I’ve always cushioned my disappointment with the termination of sci-fi cinema’s great sagas with a simple philosophy; If the human geography of space has been expanded as much as my favorite films claim, then it is quite possible that each space-fiction film (of a nominally similar quality) merely represents another local facet in the same broad story. In that sense, there is no “end” to what I call the Space-Fi Narrative Continuum*. Garnished with moments of genuine intelligence and clothed in awesome visuals, Saturn 3 definitely makes the cut.

*In the future I'll refer to qualifying films under this label. Previously reviewed films which qualify have been back referenced.

 This Japanese poster is from Movie Outlaw

16 February 2012

Salt N Pepa: A Blitz of Hits

Salt N Pepa: A Blitz of Hits
United States - 1990
Director - Various
Next Plateau Video, 1990, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 10 minutes

If you grew up in the 90's you couldn't miss Salt N Pepa, hell, I lived in the boonies and they were big even there. Actually, they already had three albums out by 1990, but that's when they really got big. This video more or less corresponds with the greatest hits album of the same name released at the same time.

What fascinates me most now is the aesthetic of that era; the clothing certainly, but the design on this box captures it fairly well. The solid flat colors in boxy shapes, beefy typefaces with randomly colored letters. Wow, that will always be a formative part of my life, and as tacky as it looks now I can't help but love it, just a little.

15 February 2012

Double Team

United States - 1997
Director - Hark Tsui
Columbia Pictures Home Video, 1997, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 33 minutes

Followers of Hong Kong cinema (of which I am only peripherally) will recognize the name Hark Tsui as that behind a number of epic and popular Chinese films. As a director, producer and actor he has been prolific and successful at re-envisioning the Chinese cinema. Although not his first United Statesian release, Double Team was definitely his worst. Well to tell the truth, I haven't seen his other Van Damme picture, Knock Off, co-starring Rob Schneider, but it sounds better already. Amazingly they both had theatrical releases.

14 February 2012

The Killing Fields

United Kingdom - 1984
Director - Roland Joffe
Warner Home Video, 1986, VHS
Run Time - 2 hours, 22 minutes

As a longtime student of the conflicts in Southeast Asia, this is among my favorite films on the subject. Although only peripherally related to Vietnam, it is an integral part in the overall history of the region. Not only is The Killing Fields really well acted, (regardless of anything else he has done or will do I have eminent respect for Sam Waterson because of this movie), but it is acted by an actual survivor of the brutal purges, the Killing Fields of Cambodia; Dr. Haing S. Ngor, one of only two non-actors to win an Oscar. Ngor went on to act in a number of films, usually about Vietnam, only to be murdered on the streets of Los Angeles in 1996.

13 February 2012

A Long Month

Wow, it's been a long and trying month.
I just moved from my house of seven years into a new apartment here in Seattle. In the process I had to disinter all of the VHS tapes and DVDs that had gradually encrusted the place and re-organize them all in a new unfamiliar space. It took almost 2 weeks to get everything set up and operating so that I could draw and watch movies again. Without those two activities I quickly become a neurotic misanthrope as my partner will attest.

Now we're back in action, although the boxes are sort of still acting as furniture. With luck there are a lot of new things coming at Lost Video Archive. If you've been following lately you'll have noticed some extra reviews over at Paracinema, more to come. I'm working on a larger project similar to that. More stuff over at Illogical Contraption, and for those of you who remember Blair Week and Kotto Week, it's soon time for a new installment!

And so thanks for (unwittingly) bearing with me as I reorganized my life. And now back to our regularly scheduled program.

08 February 2012

Nature's Sweethearts

United States - 1963
Director - Larry Wolk

What exploitation enthusiast can forget those laughably innocent days of the nudist camp film?!

06 February 2012

House on Bare Mountain

United States - 1962
Director - Lee Frost (R.L. Frost)
Something Weird, VHS, 1993
Run Time -1 hour and a full 2 extra minutes of hilarious bouncing and bootlegging.

Granny Good runs an exclusive finishing school for girls high in the mountains of somewhere. At Granny Good's School for Good Girls, many of the lessons are conducted in the open air. As one would hope, physical education takes place without material confinements, but even the more intellectual pursuits are taught free of binding restrictions.

With the increasing emphasis on privately subsidized education these days however, Granny is finding it incredibly difficult to meet the school's financial needs. To make up for the shortfall she's begun distilling moonshine in the basement. Or rather, she's impressed a werewolf to do the distilling while she assists in the girl's unrestrained education. Unfortunately one of her new students, while not too concerned about physically covering up, is metaphorically speaking an undercover cop. Right in the middle of one of those wonderful go-go parties that lend such energetic authenticity to low budget films of the 60's, the Feds bust Granny's still and the school is shut down, bringing our titilating tale of woe to a tumultuous termination.

A textbook Nudie-Cutie from the auteur who brought you such classics of good taste as Black Gestapo and The Thing With Two Heads, House on Bare Mountain is pure dumb entertainment from the days when pornography was still kitschy. It's a concentrated nugget of exploitation history, a lowbrow vaudeville/burlesque comedy chock full of gyrating pelvises, big boobs, amazing hairdos and men in rubber masks. But you know, to tell the truth, if I have to participate in base objectification, I'll feel a lot better about it if it's goofy.