Ha ha!

You just never know what he'll review next!

Friday, 29 May 2020

Burl reviews ffolkes! (1979)



Hello ffolks, it’s your ffriend Burl here to review a new ffilm! Ha ha, no, I haven’t suddenly turned Welsh: in fact I’m using this excess of Fs to celebrate the picture I’ve chosen to review today, the logy late-70s adventure film ffolkes!
A bearded Roger Moore, the old Moonraker himself, plays ffolkes, an unreconstructed eccentric who lives in a Scottish castle and has a small gang he’s training to become crack underwater commandos! His training methods involve a lot of shouting and grenade tossing, and then later making his squad line up so he can upbraid them all again! Ha ha, they seem to be training for one specific situation - the precise situation that unfolds as the picture progresses!
That situation begins in the North Sea when an oil platform supply ship is taken over by a nefarious gang led by Anthony Perkins, whom we know not just from Psycho, but from other films too, like Psycho II! The gang rough up the crew and show that they plan on offering no mercy at all: the plot is to have the supply ship, the Esther, chug to a drilling rig called Ruth, and thence to a massive refining platform called Jennifer; each of these ladies of the sea will be strapped with high explosives rigged by Perkins’s grinning second-in-command, possibly lover, and bomb expert, who guffaws at all of Perkins’ mean-spirited comments and puts pointless little labels on his bomb control panel, and is played by Michael Parks! The explosives are attached to the structures by two Japanese frogmen who hardly say anything in the whole movie, ha ha!
Luckily, as noted, ffolkes and his men have been training for just such an eventuality, so, though it seems to take a long while, the commandos are eventually brought out to the middle of the sea! While we wait for them, we spend time with the captured crew of the Esther, led by Captain Olafson (played by Jack Watson from Tower of Evil with a Swedish Chef accent that Perkins makes fun of), and who do their best to foil the hijackers’ plans; and we also meet some of the drilling rig personnel, including platform boss Al “David” Hedison, who already knew Moore from the time he played Felix Leiter in Live and Let Die!
So there’s not a whole lot of action, but there are some fairly suspenseful sequences, especially toward the end! Moore’s character is something of a jerk and a snob, not to mention a raging misogynist, but he’s usually right about things related to underwater commando-ism, and so he gets the job done! Perkins does the Gary Oldman thing of speaking reasonably and then suddenly shouting to frighten and intimidate his victims! And don’t forget James Mason, whom we know so well from Bigger Than Life and ‘Salem’s Lot, and who is always a welcome presence and is here playing some sort of braid-bedecked admiral! His one task is to drop some cigarettes, ha ha, and he pulls it off nicely!
This was a TV mainstay in my youth - ha ha, it always seemed to be on! Watching it again recently revealed a stolid, fairly entertaining and frankly old fashioned adventure! I wish Perkins had been given more to do, as he’s quite good here; and I wish he and Moore had more scenes together; and I wish the climax was more exciting! But it’s not a bad picture in the end, and I give ffolkes two carafes of poisoned coffee!

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Burl reviews Bats! (1999)



Ha ha and chiroptera, it’s Burl! Yes, I’m going bats today with a review of the 1999 gooseberry Bats, and right up front I suppose I must say that this is not a picture for which I’ll be going to bat! Ha ha!
Yes, Bats! I’ve reviewed bat pictures before, of course - ha ha, remember Nightwing? This movie is similar in some ways: both, for example, are set in the scrublands of the American Southwest, and both contain scenes in guano caves! Bats, however, stars Lou Diamond Phillips from The First Power as Sheriff Kimsey-Kimsey, the lawman of Gallup, Texas, which is experiencing the mysterious rippings-open of its populace!
Dina Meyer from Starship Troopers is the bat lady called in from her cavecrawling, along with her associate Jimmy, played by Leon, a.k.a. Leon Period or Leon Full Stop! At any rate, Leon was in Cliffhanger, if you can remember that picture! Ha ha, I can remember it, but that’s because I just watched it again last year! Bob Gunton from Demolition Man plays the sweaty mad doctor who created the bats simply because, as he says, “Ha ha, that’s what scientists do!”
There are plenty of attacks, including once scene in which the streets of Gallup get more crowded rather than less after a stay-home order is called (ha ha, something that’s perhaps happening as we speak!), and the citizenry of the cowpoke town only get to taking the threat seriously after it flies down from the sky to bite them upon the behind! This sequence also involves an unsavory bit wherein a bat is crawling in a crib toward a baby, but luckily we aren’t witness to the end result of this encounter! There’s an attack upon a school, empty but for our main characters, which features no shortage of sparky explosions (a feature of the entire movie), but also a cuisinart editing job that renders the scene a complete suet pudding!
The bats themselves, when shown in close-up, are little crawling puppet creatures with fixed, rubbery expressions of perpetual white-hot rage! In longer shots with great masses of bats, CGI trick effects are used, and these sometimes look pretty good and at other times seem more the work of the fellow who brought us Birdemic! There are some nice, effective moments in which all the bats turn their heads and show us their little yellow eyes, and many ridiculous but fun bits showing the bats’ extraordinary rending-tearing abilities! Ha ha, and in the R-rated version, which is clearly the one to watch if you’re going to watch it at all, there’s some brief, gloopy gore!
So that's okay, but the picture is also terminally rote and frequently stupid! We can practically see the script, stage directions and all, unrolling as the movie progresses! And the attempts at style, with constant unmotivated camera moves, pointless use of distorting lenses, desperately frantic editing and dumb, unscary whooshing sound effects, are all very late-90s and frankly quite irritating! Bats has its moments and its beauty shots, and there’s certainly some ambition at work here; but all of this is generally obscured in a morass of contrived effects, and in the end I give the picture one panic-headbutt through a windshield!

Friday, 22 May 2020

Burl reviews Prom Night! (1980)



Hi, Burl here to let you know that it’s prom night; perforce, everything must be all right! Ha ha yes, that’s right, I’m quoting the sadly misinformed and inaccurate disco theme song to the early Canadian slasher film Prom Night, a night in which, for a number of characters in the movie, everything is decidedly not all right!
This is a semi-classic slasher movie whose semi-classic status stems entirely from its vintage and from the fact that it spawned three or four sequels, with which all it has in common are proms and nights! Certainly it does not arise from great style, technique, pep, or other signposts of cinematic quality! And yet it has a certain something, that indefinable, ineffable thing which I will try to parse out for you in this review!
We start with the prologue, a half-dozen years before the main action, in which a little girl finds herself chased out a second-story window by some slightly older kids playing a game called The Killer Is Coming! Six years later we meet the Hammond family: no organ players they, but a school principal played by Leslie Nielsen, whom we know from Project: Kill and Creepshow; an older daughter named Kim, essayed by the one and only Jamie Lee Curtis of Halloween and The Fog fame; a wrung-out looking mother played by Antoinette Bower from Time Walker and Club Paradise; and a brother, Alex, played by actor-turned-location manager-turned realtor Michael Tough! Of course the little girl who fell that day was the family’s youngest child, and they all miss her terribly!
At Hamilton High prom night is approaching, and Kim is the queen, and Wendy, a perfect recreation of the P.J. Soles character from Carrie, here played by Eddie Benton from Halloween II and The Boogens, is seething with jealousy in the margins because her former boyfriend Nick is the king, and it looks like Kim and Nick have started a royal romance! Wendy hooks up with a missing-link greaser called Lou, and meanwhile a couple of Kim’s friends are hoping this special night to shake the dew off their petals, ha ha!
Nick, Wendy and the two virginal girls were the bullies who sent young Robin out the window, and the innocent fun of the evening is spoiled when a balaclava-clad killer starts in with the pokings and the slashings! It all takes a while to come about, though, and meanwhile we spend quality time with Mr. Sykes, the drooling, hair-netted janitor whose presence at the school goes unappreciated by the teens! Ha ha, they just moon him, or Vicki does anyway!
 

But he’s the reddest of herrings, as is the local deformed killer whom everyone assumes will be responsible for any murderous rampages that might occur that evening! And one does, of course, amid endless scenes of disco hand dancing and a fair old bit of necking! The peppiest it all gets are one scene involving a boogie van going off a cliff with the unfortunate nerd Slick still at the driver’s seat, and another wherein the troublemaking monobrow Lou is decapitated with an axe and his head rolls down the catwalk to make everybody scream! In the end there’s a surprise culprit, and part of the surprise is the unexpected use of lipstick in the scene!
It’s a slow picture, a little like Halloween but without the style or the scares! It’s got its own style, however, mostly in the form of slightly cheesy but still effective goofshots courtesy of director Paul Lynch, who also brought us Bullies! And it’s got aspects I really like! Character things, like Wendy’s mysterious relationship with the little old lady who lives with her, or Slick’s simultaneous double life as a portly nerd and a boogie van-driving stoner! There aren’t much in the way of Special Makeup Effects on view, aside from one severed head and a bit of neck jelly on a slashed throat, so that’s a bit of a shame! (There’s a credit for “Prosthetics” in the end crawl, but I didn’t see any!) For all its faults I quite enjoyed my recent VHS viewing of this picture, and so I give Prom Night two savage moonings!

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Burl reviews Passenger 57! (1992)



A hearty welcome to all! I’ve got a bit of advice for you movie lovers today: always bet on Burl! Ha ha! Yes, I’m reviewing 90s action today, as I have done so often, and today’s 90s action offering is one of the quintessential early-90s actionstravaganzas! It is not, I hasten to add, one of the best of them, but if on one starry night it happens to be all you’ve got, then it’ll do until one of the best comes along! The picture in question is, naturally, the Snipes-on-a-plane picture Passenger 57!
Of course this is not the only time Wesley has had trouble in the air - you'll recall how, two years after this picture, he hit the silk to fight parachute criminals in Drop Zone! In the case of Passenger 57, he’s John Cutter, some kind of security expert who tutors airlines on how to acquiesce completely to hijackers and their demands! Of course, ha ha, he’s the best there is, and we have his buddy Tom Sizemore, whom we may recall from The Relic, there to remind us of this every few minutes! Ha ha, the Sizemore character’s two defining characteristics are his hounddog admiration of John Cutter and his mild fear of flying in helicopters!
Anyway, at the beginning of the picture the world’s most deadly airplane hijacker, played by Bruce Payne from The Keep in a way that’s meant to recall Alan Rickman in Die Hard, is captured just as he’s trying to change his face, and of course the authorities decide this nefarious character must be taken by commercial air carrier across the country to California! Double of course, John Cutter is on this very same flight, on his way to take a job with the airline run by Bruce Greenwood from The Malibu Bikini Shop; and triple of course the hijack terrorist has a plan for violent escape that includes several Euroslimes like himself, a pretty lady masquerading as a stewardess, and a sadistic glasses nerd, which was a common 80s-90s henchman archetype! On Snipes's side there is a helpful flight attendant who is an exact forbear of the stewardess Halle Berry played later in Executive Decision!
It’s a 90s action movie that seems to have been stamped out on a tintype! Ha ha, the bad guy is what an AI computer would spit out if you fed it details from every other action movie made around the same time! Everything about him, from his name, “Charles Rane,” to his plummy accent, his style-mullet hair, his snide, superior, steely-effete manner, the way he first underestimates and later admits to underestimating the capabilities of the Snipes character, whom he calls “Mis-tah Cut-tah,” and finally to his climactic, hilarious death plummet from the plane, is so familiar as to seem a Simpsons-style parody!
The action scenes are not as peppy as one might want, but at least our characters get out of the plane for a while and chase around through a fun fair adjacent to the airport! Ha ha, there’s a merry-go-round shootout which none of the kids on the ride seem even to notice, even as horseheads are exploding into splinters all around them! And where are the parents? I know that when my child is on a ride, I’m standing there watching him! Not so in the world of Passenger 57!
So it’s goofy and dumb, and one wishes it were more exciting, or exciting at all; but on the other hand at 87 minutes it’s short and sweet and never boring, and it’s as comfortable as an old cotton shirt in its absolute refusal to stray from the action formula of that period! Ha ha, I give Passenger 57 one and a half bottles of steak sauce!

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Burl reviews Tightrope! (1984)



Burl here, with just a touch of Clint! You know, when people think of Eastwood playing a police detective back in 1984, they’ll usually have Sudden Impact in mind! Ha ha, “Make my day,” and all that! (I’ve never actually seen that movie, now that I think of it!) Not many recall how, that same year, old Clint took a step away from Dirty Harry (but not too big a step) and, as Detective Wes Block, took a ride on the sleazy side! Ha ha, the resulting movie was and is called Tightrope!
We open as a Puma-wearing killer in a cop uniform is terrorizing the city of New Orleans with a mad-dog campaign of rape and murder! The crimes are real downers, frankly, but we are mostly spared the actual murder scenes and thankfully spared the rapes entirely; over and again we get the build-up, until the killer springs out from somewhere or pops up in a weird mask, and then we cut right to the discovery of the body! That’s fine with ol’ Burl, as I wasn’t much in the mood for sex-crime stranglings when I recently watched this!
Wes Block, meanwhile, is a crusty murder detective, divorced, with two precocious daughters and a house overrun by garbage-eating street dogs! He’s in charge of solving the killings, but frankly, despite the surfeit of scenes in which Clint barks orders at his staff of underlings, it’s his loyal right-hand man Dan Hedaya (whom we recall from Commando and Buckaroo Banzai) who seems to do most of the work! The killings continue while Block’s daughters chatter a lot and eat Donkey Kong cereal! Wes is distracted from both them and from the killer when he suddenly descends into a red-neon world of sexual perversity and transactional love, and simultaneously begins a tentative romance with anti-rape activist and amateur kinkster Genevieve Bujold! Ha ha, we may recall Bujold from her curiously similar role in Dead Ringers!
The murders continue, and the police are desperate enough to pull in midget oil wrestling referees on the chance they might be the powerfully-built strangler! The pressure starts to chip at Block, and he suffers scary nightmares in which he turns out to be the killer; bourbon benders that terminate only when he falls insensate off the couch clutching a bottle in one hand and a came-with-the-frame style photo of his former family in the other; and half-eaten meals of fried chicken and Perrier! As Block has repetitious conversations with an especially chatty coroner, the killer moves in, peeping on Block’s intimate business moments, killing prostitutes which Block himself has engaged, and first threatening the older daughter (that is, the one played by Clint’s own daughter Alison), then going after Bujold!
I saw this way back in the old VHS days, and have ever since thought of it as being moody and atmospheric, but it turns out I was really just thinking of the poster! In a more recent viewing it felt to me much more conventional, with the red-light sleaziness - the nude strangled dead ladies, the mild kink, the oily sexual encounters - feeling slightly grafted on, with the seams showing in Frankenstein Monster style! The sweet if largely unwarranted love the cereal-munching daughters have for their frequently absent, generally untrustworthy and almost psychotically stoic dad is meant to stand especially athwart the luridness, and I suppose that aspect of the picture works just fine!
The writer and ostensible director was Richard Tuggle, who had written Escape From Alcatraz for Eastwood, and later directed Out of Bounds for Hall Jr.! Tuggle takes us on a dogged but unflashy checkmark tour of the Big Easy: Bourbon Street, a warehouse full of crazy parade characters, one of those aboveground graveyards, and a Halloween parade standing in for the usual Mardi Gras! Only swamps and voodoo are absent - this is not The Skeleton Key after all, ha ha!
The killer, whose trademarks include red strangling ribbons, handcuffs, scraps of doggerel sent to his favourite police officer, and, oddly, the habit of making and drinking cups of coffee while engaged in his rape/murder sessions, is an especially dislikeable jerk, and one is well pleased to see him mangled by a train, his severed hands still clutching at Clint’s neck! Ha ha, a dedicated strangler to the end! As a suspense picture it’s sort of middling, and as a Clint picture too it sits in the middle of the pack; it has a couple of ok scenes and a lot of claptrap; and one has a difficult time imagining a series of Wes Block pictures! I give Tightrope two cease-and-desist product placement requests from Puma!

Friday, 15 May 2020

Burl reviews Redneck County! (1974)



HAW HAW HAW it’s Burl, reporting from Redneck County! Yes, it’s a clear case of hayseed action-comedy today, and while the picture in question is variously known as The Great Lester Boggs, The Hard Heads, The Tapioca Tree (ha ha!), or Hootch County Boys, I know it as, quite simply, Redneck County! (Adding to the confusion is that Redneck County is also an alternate title for the Leslie Uggams kidnap picture Poor Pretty Eddie, but that’s neither here nor there, ha ha!)
One might lump this movie into the great burst of rural carchase pictures that bloomed after the marvelous success of Smokey and the Bandit! Yes, there were many - The Great Smokey Roadblock, Smokey Bites the Dust, Every Which Way But Loose, Moonshine County Express, Hotwire - but this one, Redneck County, came along well before Burt’s Trans-Am triumph! There were other hicksploitation pictures before Smokey and the Bandit too, of course, several of them starring Burt himself, but Redneck County has nothing to do with those, and is sort of its own thing!
Our heroes are a white guy with old lady hair and a black guy from Tupelo! The white guy, first seen motorcycling away from a funeral with a potted plant in his sidecar, cruises for a while before heading down into the redneck latitudes, where he comes across a fellow about to catch the beating of his life at the hands of a troublemaking motorcycle gang! Well, the old lady haired fellow, whose name turns out to be Malcolm Vandiver, rescues the other guy, whose name of course is Leroy Jones, and a banjo-pluckin’ chase sequence ensues!
Despite a-slippin' and a-slidin' off their machines over and over again, the bikers are somehow about to catch our duo; when suddenly a dyspeptic biplane pilot named Lester Boggs, played by Robert Ridgely from The Wild Life, swoops in and save the day! The trio become fast friends and from there it’s a series of would-be hilarious outrages throughout the county!
Alex Karras, the burlyman from Porky’s and When Time Ran Out, is the local law, and he of course spends his time a-cluckin’ and a-squawkin’ about the various rucki caused by the trio! Ha ha, or is that “ruckuses?” Anyway, it’s ruckus after ruckus, with some finger-pickin’ car chases, some games a' dice, a little romance between Malcolm Vandiver and a local farm daughter, some airplane stunts from the moonshine-swozzled Boggs, and lots of shockingly casual racism against Leroy Jones! (Ha ha, the racism comes from the redneck characters, not from the filmmakers, it should be noted!)
Ha ha, Malcolm Vandiver and his old lady hair might be played by Scott McKenzie, the singer of the San Francisco song, in his only movie appearance, but I’ve heard tell that he later denied it was him in the picture! Maybe that was the reason for the old lady wig, if indeed it was a wig!
Anyway, critically speaking there’s not a lot to say about a picture like this! The pacing is tolerable, and there’s a fair bit of incident! The behaviour of Lester Boggs is just “plane” irritating after a while, ha ha – he’s supposed to be a good-time folk-rebel anti-hero, but he just comes across as a dangerous, bumbling, drunken ass! It’s pretty plotless – I think the movie was modeled, curiously enough, on the anti-redneck production Easy Rider more than it was on White Lightning or something similar!  It’s altogether a pretty typical rural hayseed yaa-hoo skid-out comedy, and I give Redneck County one big bottle of 'shine!

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Burl reviews Camera 32 27th! (199?)



Hello and welcome, it’s Burl here to review… well, not a movie exactly, but an unusual and unique VHS tape that I found lurking in my collection! The video in question has no title card, but there is a label on the tape reading Camera 32 27th, so that’s what I’m taking as the presentation’s proper name!
Ha ha, here’s the backstory to this… unusual tape! Some years ago I was invited by an acquaintance to help out his friend, whose parents owned a skid row pawn shop, by taking all their VHS tapes off the shop’s hands! They were free, but the catch was I had to take them all, not just the ones I wanted! Well, that was no real problem, and I ended up with a hockey bag and many, many cardboard boxes filled with VHS tapes of all kinds! This haul netted me gems like Action U.S.A. along with many others!
And buried in there was Camera 32 27th! Yes, ha ha, I wondered about it, forgot about it, unearthed it, and then, finally, down in my basement VHS room, I watched it! Well, it turns out to be a tape made by, I presume, the employees of the pawn shop, and judging by the technology and fashions on display, I’d date it to sometime in the mid-1990s!
And what did they film, these amateur outsider cinema artists? Ha ha, backsides! Yes, they seem to have trained their camera on the behinds of every female customer who dared enter their den of iniquity! It’s quite creepy, and the occasional voice you can hear, for example a low murmur asking the cameraman “You got dat ass?,” or else a short Beavis and Butthead laugh, only sharpens the feeling of being party to something unsavory and wrong!
After a few seconds of flickering images showing different angles of the front and side doors of the place (evidently this was a repurposed security camera tape), the video proper begins as it means to go on: with a close-up shot of some unsuspecting young woman’s caboose! There are a few inelegant zooms in and out, and random reframings, and then we go on to the next victim!
The buttocks-obsessed cameraman will frequently drop to the floor to find the camera angle he desires, or when needs be he’ll go hand held! It’s a camera of the id, true first-person cinema, and we can almost read the shooter’s mind as he focuses on what is clearly the object of his every waking thought! And at another point we sense the peep artist’s frustration at one young lady whose bum is unsportingly hidden by her purse!


The perpetrators of this voyeuristic outrage worked as a pair, with one of them running the camera and the other occasionally coming out in front, casually pretending to browse, then at the right moment turning to make humping motions at the ass of whatever poor woman these cretins are filming! Mercifully, both filmmakers mostly remain behind the camera, ha ha! But all of this goes on for about fifteen or twenty minutes, and a dozen or so bums, then it's back to the cycling doorway security cam footage for several more hours until the tape is done!
It’s a shameful, leering catalogue of Peeping Tom-ism, more morally reprehensible than even Getting it On!, but as a record of this particular time and place, and of these particular jerks, it’s unbeatable! If one is able to temporarily forget the invasion of privacy aspect and take it as a Yoko Ono-esque experimental work, all the better for your peace of mind! This sort of found objet d'art is really something that goes beyond any one reviewer’s rating system, but I’ll just go ahead and give Camera 32 27th one and a half pairs of lifeguard shorts!

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Burl reviews The Daytrippers! (1996)



Hi everyone, and welcome back to the 1990s! Ha ha, it’s Burl here, reviewing an indie picture from that decade that I missed the first time around, but have now finally caught up with! This movie, The Daytrippers, is one of those drama pictures that’s completely of its decade, but nevertheless seems a little timeless! You know, interesting thing, I made one of these movies myself way back then, though I’ll be the first to admit it didn’t turn out as well as this one!
The Daytrippers was the first feature film from Greg Mottola, whose later work would include things like Adventureland and Paul! It has not so much a story as it has a hook: Eliza, a Long Island wife in a marriage she had previously assumed harmonious and loving, one morning discovers a romantic note written to her husband Louis (she presumes), from someone named Sandy! She takes the note to her parents’ house, where her sister Jo and Jo’s boyfriend Carl are visiting! The five of them pile into a woody wagon straight out of Vacation and truck into the city to confront Louis and find out just what in biscuits is going on!
Ha ha, that’s pretty much it for the story: the movie really is about character and incident! The character angle is well served; for an extremely low-budget picture shot on a tight schedule, there are some very solid actors involved! Hope Davis plays the apparently wronged wife, and she’s very good and very pretty in the bargain! Parker Posey from Dazed & Confused and A Mighty Wind is Jo, a flibbertigibbet-in-training; Liev Schreiber, well known from Scream and Phantoms, is the pretentious and constantly micturating would-be novelist Carl, who’s still kind of likeable for a’ that! The parents are played by Pat McNamara from Blue Thunder and Anne Meara from Reality Bites; both are good, but Meara does a particularly good job at creating a realistically monstrous mother, a tough job when that sort of character has become so stock! Stanley Tucci from Monkey Shines plays the mysteriously-behaving Louis! We get cameos from the likes of Campbell Scott from Top of the Food Chain and Marcia Gay Harden from Miller’s Crossing, although these don’t amount to a whole lot, fine as these actors are!
The movie contains a twist that is somehow very 1990s, and hasn’t aged particularly well! But the real conclusion, after all the yelling and consternation, is in fact nicely inconclusive, and while I’ve read complaints about it, it served the picture well so far as I was concerned!
It’s a solid indie, if hardly world-changing (though I guess it changed Mottola’s world, ha ha!), with good acting, an occasionally funny script, and a nice sense of time and place! It’s no visual or cinematic marvel though, that much is certain! But it’s a strong effort that will give you and your viewing partner something to talk about after! I give The Daytrippers two and a half sloppily-made gin and tonics!

Burl reviews Blood Quantum! (2019)



Well hello gumchewers, it’s Burl! Ha ha, just as was the case when I brought you reviews of WolfCop and The Editor, I’m here to review a new Canadian horror movie! Ha ha, it’s always my pleasure to watch those! This particular one under discussion today is a zombie picture called Blood Quantum!
The picture takes place on the Red Crow reserve somewhere in Quebec, which is one steel truss bridge away from the whitepeople town on the other side of the river! The story opens at the beginning of the zombie plague, when an elder, Gisugu, catches some salmon, guts them, then watches in horror as the undead fishes flop all around him! Pretty soon the zombie epidemic becomes apparent to the other characters, which include Gisugu’s grown son Traylor, the lawman on the rez; and Traylor’s ex wife, a nurse named Joss; and their own wayward son Joseph; and of course the nefarious Lysol! Ha ha!
We jump to six months later, which is a welcome narrative development! The rez has become an armed, walled encampment, because, ha ha, Indigenous people are immune to the zombie virus, and must keep out the walking dead while grudgingly admitting wandering groups of uninfected refugee white people! This of course is the picture’s allegorical triumph! Subtle it’s not, but it does the job, and one senses agreeably the meeting of theme and moment! And now, in the midst of an epidemic with even heads of state talking about Lysol? Ha ha, put out the catch-barrel, Mama, ‘cause Junior’s gone a-streakin’!
The picture spins its wheels a bit once we’re in the encampment! Joseph, who has been pushed into manhood not just by the crisis but by the pregnancy of his girlfriend (who is white, therefore susceptible to zombiehood), is in favour of allowing the refugees to stay, but Lysol and his boys are violently opposed! This conflict bakes for a while, and the picture seems not to be getting anywhere until a third act that one wishes went to a more interesting place than it does! Many of our characters buy the farm in one way or another, and there’s a fair bit of tomato paste slung about! Ha ha the makeup and effects are fairly abundant and certainly ambitious, something one always likes to see!
The acting is all over the place! The old man, Gisigu, was pretty good, and I liked the performance of Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers as Joss! Gary Farmer, well known from Demon Knight and Ghost Dog:The Way of the Samurai, does a bit as a big teddy bear of a man called Moon, who allies himself with Lysol’s gang and pays the gruesome price! Other performances are either not so hot or are perfectly fine!
It’s a conceptual treat, and it looks good and is slickly made, but it lacks the follow-through I wish it had! The script never really got licked: the salty dialogue is repetitive, and the characters are, for the most part, slimly or confusingly drawn! We’re told over and over that Traylor is a “fuck up,” but he seems a perfectly competent police officer who’s doing his best in a trying situation! With all this tell-don’t-show it seems the movie is setting Traylor up for a big redemptive moment, but it never really comes! Or it sort of does, but lacks much impact! There’s a kind of ad-hoc feeling to the storytelling!
But there’s a lot to recommend it, too! I say Blood Quantum is worth a look, and I give it two out-of-season snowblowers!

Sunday, 3 May 2020

Burl reviews Sisters! (1972)



Ha ha to all you ladies and gents, it’s Burl reviewing your way! Today I’m going full De Palma, reviewing one of his earlier and more eccentric pictures, Sisters! I’ve enjoyed this fine old numbula several times before, and recently I enjoyed it again! It’s not fully developed, mature De Palma, and even De Palma fans like myself must admit that’s both a positive and a negative, ha ha!
Nevertheless the picture establishes much of what we still today love about the man’s filmmaking! Yes, it’s got that unmistakable Hitchcock buttprint, but while De Palma has been given grief about this obvious influence for practically his whole career, I myself have never seen a problem with it! As in Rear Window, the acts of looking, of seeing, of spying, are of paramount concern here; equally too the idea that the looker is as likely as not to misinterpret what they’re seeing!
The picture starts with a goofy game show, Peeping Toms, in which contestants are put into situations in which they must balance moral concerns with prurient ones! (Ha ha, one wonders how many times such a concept could be repeated, and, really, how it could even fill out a single half-hour episode!) Margot Kidder from Black Christmas plays Danielle Bréton, a Québécoise model whose job on the show is to pretend to be blind and to begin undressing in a half-built locker room while a lingering man, the game’s real contestant, decides whether to keep watching through the open wall or not! Ha ha, the male contestant is played in a likeable performance by Lisle Wilson, who was also in The Incredible Melting Man!
After the show, and dinner at The African Room, the two return to Danielle’s Staten Island apartment! Here, things become complicated when some disappearing pills, a gaudy birthday cake, some game show cutlery and a mysterious, savage Siamese twin all come together to spell murder! The bloody carnage is witnessed by investigative newshound Jennifer Salt, from It’s My Turn, who has an apartment across the way!
Ha ha, of course the coppers don’t believe our newly-minted heroine because she writes exposés about police misadventure for the Staten Island Shining Light, so she turns first to aged newshound Barnard Hughes, the heroic Von Grampa in The Lost Boys, and then to private eye Charles Durning, whom we love so well from Stick and The Hudsucker Proxy! Together they discover things about the creepy Franco-Canadian doctor played by De Palma regular William Finley, whom we may recall from The Fury and Silent Rage; and they learn something interesting about a couch; and the personal dangers of hypnosis are revealed! Ha ha, I won’t go into great detail about the rest of the story, as this is the sort of movie whose pleasures derive from the unpredictability of its plot!
Of course there’s one development that might not come as a surprise, to some anyway! But there’s more than enough weirdness along the way to make up for that, ha ha, and the last shot in the picture, involving Durning and a telephone pole, wraps things up with very un-Hitchcock ambiguity! It can’t be said that everything in the picture works; there’s something a little cluttered and unfinished about the storytelling, and the tricky-tricks De Palma employs, like the split screen stuff, don’t seem as well thought out as they do in some of his other pictures, for instance Phantom of the Paradise, Dressed to Kill or Blow Out!
Bernard Herrman’s score is mostly good, though a few of the stings he employs sound like something from a Herschell Gordon Lewis picture! Ha ha! And just about all the performances are strong, each bringing precisely what’s needed to the story! Even Margot Kidder’s Quebecois accent is acceptable! It’s a stepping stone picture, no question, but a good one, and I give Sisters three couchstains!

Friday, 1 May 2020

Burl reviews Futz! (1969)


With a guttural cry we have Burl, living it up among the avant-garde! Yes, I have a very unusual picture to review for you today: it’s Futz! Some of you might wonder what Futz is, or how do I obtain some of this wonderful substance, and what is its consistency! Well, Futz is not a substance, but the name of a character in this deeply eccentric picture!
Of course it started off ‘pon the stage as an off-Broadway bit of hippie-era weirdness! Tom O’Horgan, who choreographed and directed things like this - ha ha, he later made that film of Ionesco’s Rhinoceros, the one with Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder - put together a cast plucked largely from the La MaMa experimental theatrical troupe, went out to Stockton, California with a film crew, and simply Futzed around!
Though adapted from the text by playwright Rochelle Owens, the screenplay, strangely enough, is by Joseph Stefano, who also wrote Psycho! Ha ha, odd! It’s set in the backwoods of hillbilly America and tells the story, or sort of tells the story, of a farmer called Futz and his great love for his pig Amanda! Oh, Futz does truly adore his oinker, and one night when old Oscar Loop, a neighbor, played by an actor who looks like René Auberjonois with his René Auberjonois-ness turned up another twenty or thirty percent, happens to peer into Futz’s barn and sees him making sweet bacon with Amanda, he like to goes crazy and descends immediately into a frenzy of rape and murder!
Loop is jailed for his crime and set to hang, but the community blames Futz for the crime just as much, repelled as they are by his simple act of swine-love! Futz gets pushed around an awful lot, but defends himself with every hick fiber of his being! Unfortunately, however, all these events lead to a tragic finale, demonstrating what happens to nonconformists in this hayseed burg! Ha ha! I guess the moral of the thing is similar to that of Easy Rider, if there were no motorcycles and Dennis Hopper was a pig!
“Now, I don’t want to start a ruckus…” one character says, but really the whole movie is a ruckus! It seems at times like a Bethel Buckalew picture, or a Buckalew-esque work, like Country Cuzzins or Sassy Sue or Tobacco Roody or The Pigkeeper's Daughter, or some other such erotic hickventure! Most other times it’s a big old experimental theatre bumkunis, which you will enjoy or despise according to your feelings about experimental theatre! Actors are forever pushing each other down, or else being pushed down and rolling on the ground, and there’s no shortage of facial gurning and cornpone shouting! There’s also a hefty lady who peels off her dress to go a-swimmin’ in the ol' mud hole! Ha ha!
There are a few familiar faces here, like Sally Kirkland from Hometown U.S.A. and Fatal Games, and Frederic Forrest from It Lives Again and Apocalypse Now! The Auberjonois-Plus who plays Loop is called Seth Allen, and he played Hungry Joe in Catch 22, which seems appropriate! Some of the acting is astonishingly good, it must be said, and other performances try hard but don’t quite make it!
Funny thing, it was shot by Vilmos Zsigmond, who was behind the camera on many fine-looking films, from McCabe & Mrs. Miller to The Witches of Eastwick, but at the time of this picture was making his transition from low budget weirdos to the big pictures that would make his name! There are some good visual moments in here, most notably a genuinely striking overhead spinning optical effect shot - ha ha, you’ll know it when you see it!
But if you don’t like stuff of this sort, this will be the longest ninety-two minutes you ever spend! If you get into it, you’ll find some compelling dramaturgy and a few emotionally penetrating moments! It’s not necessarily the kind of thing I gravitate to, but I appreciated what the picture had to offer! Ha ha, I give Futz two flaming mops!