Water Power (1977)

water power 1977

 

3 out of 5 stars

 

water power 1977The 1970s saw numerous revolutionary movements in film, from new American cinema to its foreign counterparts, all gloriously gritty in both subject matter and cinematography.  But few genres of film in this decade were as emblematic of the gritty cultural movement as the pornography industry.  Beginning with the infamous ‘Deep Throat,’ in 1972 and progressing down various avenues of expression and fetish, ‘Water Power,’ released in 1977 is a classic XXX roughie, and perhaps one of the genre’s most bizarre offerings.  Directed by Shaun Costello, ‘Water Power,’ is possibly the adult industry’s most famous enema film and an important picture in the development of the roughie and Jamie Gillis’ legacy.

water power 1977water power 1977water power 1977

Costello’s picture has a relatively simple plot, following the exploits of a disturbed intrinsic man with an unhealthy obsession with cleaning the filthy women of New York.  Initially Gillis’ character is shown ambling around some sort of block party, seemingly without purpose.  Following this character to his home, it becomes clear that this man has a passion for porn, which is pasted all over his wall above his bed.  Finding a magazine tiresome, Gillis moves to a telescope positioned to spy into a neighbor’s apartment, where he watches her move in and out of focus while undressing.  While visiting a brothel, Gillis witnesses another man’s fetish being played out, a high colonic.  long jeanne silverThe victim of this particular incident is none other than Jean Silver, slightly deformed stripper and porn star of the infamous ‘Long Jeanne Silver,’ (1977).  Instead of one of her feet, Silver was born with  a slender phallic stump, which later became her claim to fame.  ‘Water Power,’ is one of Silver’s first roles, although in this particular film, she appears in socks with a prosthetic foot.  While Gillis’ obsession with administering forced enemas to the female population increases, the police begin to track him, as he is continually making front page headlines as a serial rapist.  A trap is created to snare ‘the enema bandit,’ yet Gillis is able to elude the bumbling police force, where the film closes on a haunting close up of the misunderstood deviant in the ominous glow of a red light. Continue reading

Uncle Sam (1996)

Uncle Sam 1996 Poster

 

3 out of 5 stars

 

uncle sam 1996Uncle Sam,’ released in 1996 is a campy B film from esteemed cult director William Lustig.  Although forever hidden within the shadows of classics like ‘Maniac’ (1980) and ‘Maniac Cop’ (1988), Lustig’s ’96 release delivers exactly what one would expect upon reading a synopsis, a gory, far-fetched, instant cult classic.  William Lustig, much like the bulk of the filmmaking society owes a great deal to renown director Lucio Fulci, and Lustig pays homage to the man, both by dedicating the picture to him and recreating the closing scene in ‘The City Of The Living Dead’ (1980), in his own ‘Uncle Sam’.  This small aspect, among numerous other reasons make ‘Uncle Sam,’ an important and essential watch.

uncle sam 1996uncle sam 1996uncle sam 1996 Continue reading

Dark Star (1974)

dark star poster

 

3 out of 5 stars

dark star 1974Reportedly a student film that ‘went out of control’ according to writer/ special effects supervisor Dan O’bannon, ‘Dark Star,’ released in 1974 is a sci-fi/ black comedy that has garnered somewhat of a cult following and exists as a promising early effort for two young filmmakers.  Created within the film school community of USC (which birthed numerous other famous directors, including George Lucas and his early work ‘THX-1138’) John Carpenter and Dan O’bannon’s early film is a campy homage to science fiction.  dark star 1974Dark Star’ shares a plot similar to Kubrick’s renown and enigmatic ‘2001: A Space Odyssey,’ but without the budget and cutting edge special effects, the final product is something that needs to be interpreted on a wholly different plane.  Watching the theatrical cut of ‘Dark Star,’ viewers are first introduced to a comical preface which scrolls through space in the manner of the ‘Star Wars,’ saga, leaving no doubt that Carpenter and O’Bannon’s piece isn’t meant to be taken too seriously. Continue reading

Sorcerer (1977)

Sorcerer

 

5 out of 5 stars

 

sorcererWilliam Friedkin’s 1977 adaptation of Heri Georges Clouzot’s classic ‘The Wages Of Fear’ is a brilliant example of the glorious American 1970s proclivity for gritty realism and lurid cinematography.  ‘Sorcerer,’ was an excruciating picture to create, with countless, casting, budget, special effects and location issues.  Overshadowed by George Lucas’ ‘Star Wars IV: A New Hope,’ Friedkin’s picture only recouped 9 million of the hefty 21 million dollars it took to make, and has only recently begun to to garner attention as a solid classic of its time.  sorcererAlthough generally ignored by the majority of fans at its time of release, ‘Friedkin’ has stated ‘Sorcerer’ to be his favorite film he’s ever made because, “it came out almost exactly as I intended,” as found in Clagett’s “William Friedkin: Films of Aberration, Obsession and Reality.”  Regardless of ‘Sorcerer’s past neglect by theatre patrons, fans of revivalist films are finally appreciating Friedkin’s picture for the work of genius that it is, a taut action film, a modern neo-noir, a difficult picture that belongs on a list somewhere amongst ‘Apocalypse Now‘ or ‘Heaven’s Gate,’  and assuredly one of Roy Scheider’s finest performances.

sorcerersorcerer

Originally a novel by Georges Arnaud written in 1950, ‘The Wages of Fear,’ found its way to screen three years later in an adaptation by acclaimed director Henri- Georges Clouzot, who by that time had already under his belt ‘Le Corbeau: The Raven (1943),’ and ‘Quai Des Orfèvres, (1947)” and who would go on to create the great thriller, ‘Diabolique (1955),’ two years later, momentarily stealing the title of ‘master of suspense,’ from the infamous Alfred Hitchcockwages of fearClouzot’s picture is a thoroughly suspenseful action film while still embodying the essence of film noir through its depiction of seedy, ‘down and out’ drifters, desperate for money and eager to risk their lives for it.  Similar to Friedkin’s effort years later, ‘The Wages of Fear,’ experienced numerous difficulties during the shoot, despite the location being southern France as opposed to South America.  Extreme and unforeseen weather conditions plagued both directors trying to accurately complete films that in each respective era, attempted to push the boundaries. Continue reading

The Firm (1988)

firm 1988

 

5 out of 5 stars

 

Picture 2Within the realm of ‘made-for-TV’ film, British efforts have continually proved to be both the most audacious and intriguing.  Screen 1 and 2 was the BBC’s response to channel four’s unprecedented theatrical television dramas, which brought bold new concepts to unwitting audiences.  With directors like Alan Clarke working on Screen 2, it’s no surprise that the grittier elements of British life are glorified within the series.  Perhaps Screen 2’s greatest work, Clarke’s ‘The Firm’ was released in 1988, a raw portrait of Britain’s modern football hooligans in the midst of a dispute.  Running at just over an hour’s length, Clarke’s picture is taut and fast paced, leaving little time for superfluous dialogue or narrative, while successfully presenting a complex and multi-faceted working class tragedy.

the firm 1988

the firm 1988

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Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965)

bunny lake is missing 1965

 

4 out of 5 stars

Bunny Lake Is Missing 1965Bunny Lake Is Missing,’ despite having fallen into relative obscurity by today’s standards, is a dark, beautifully shot, British Invasion era thriller from filmmaking titan, Otto Preminger.  Released in 1965, between classic war drama, ‘In Harm’s Way,’ and the lesser acclaimed, ‘Hurry Sundown,’ ‘Bunny Lake Is Missing,’ channels Hitchcock in its suspenseful scenes depicting the frantic search for a missing girl.  Featuring an all-star cast, Preminger’s picture certainly hasn’t spoiled with age when judged through the rubric by which we view classic cinema.

Bunny Lake Is Missing 1965

Bunny Lake Is Missing 1965

Bunny Lake Is Missing 1965

Like Hitchcock’s thrillers, a complex plot relying primarily on suspense doesn’t translate well into a synopsis, but regardless.  Recently arrived in England, Ann (Carol Lynley) and Bunny Lake are staying with Steven (Keir Dullea), Ann’s brother.  After dropping Bunny off at her first day of school, Ann begins unpacking before going to market, planning to cook fried chicken for her family.  Bunny Lake Is Missing 1965Everything appears to be blissful, despite an unexpected visit from the landlord (Noel Coward), who creeps about pryingly.  The circumstances for dropping off Bunny are slightly odd, but nothing worth dwelling upon at that point in the film.  The conflict begins when Ann returns to Bunny’s school that afternoon to pick her up, finding that she is missing, never having been seen or even enrolled.  Superintendant Newhouse (Laurence Olivier) arrives after Steven and Ann scour the school’s halls, meticulously deconstructing the day’s events.  Bunny Lake Is Missing 1965With no clear evidence (not even a photograph) proving the girl’s existence, Newhouse becomes skeptical that Ann and Steven aren’t attempting some bizarre scam.  He is aware that something doesn’t quite add up, and while police search the city, individually questions all of the suspects involved, hoping to find a lead.  The film’s plot is taut, with one never truly knowing Bunny’s whereabouts, or if she even exists.  Re-watching the film allows viewers small hints as to the film’s resolution, yet most are too subtle to be noticed upon the first viewing. Continue reading

Threads (1984)

Threads

 

4 out of 5 stars

threadsFilms made for television are widely discounted as inferior, often assumed that with heightened censorship comes childish derivatives or tawdry feel-goods.  Yet Mick Jackson’s bleak apocalypse film, ‘Threads,’ was aired September 23, 1984 to an unknowing Britain, simultaneously shocking and depressing an entire country.  In many ways, ‘Threads,’ can be seen as England’s response to the disaster craze, most notably the nuclear holocaust sub-genre, with films like ‘The Day After,’ or ‘Testament’.  threadsBut where many of these other films depict the struggles of post-apocalyptic survival, ‘Threads,’ obliterates even the most meager hopes for its characters, plunging viewers into a hellish realm of eternal despair.  Written by Barry Hines, who seems to have a slight proclivity towards both aviculture and the hopeless, was also behind the British classic, ‘Kes’ (1969).  Jackson’s ‘Threads,’ is the dreary, toxic wind-swept, and soot stained paradigm for effective feature television, didactic, yet haunting, infecting audiences with disturbing imagery like radioactive fallout, long after the credits roll.

threads‘Threads,’ is most successful in its accurate depiction of nuclear war’s effects on a sampling of Sheffield’s bourgeois, most too wrapped up in their daily frivolities to consider the possibility of bomb-fall, its complete and total annihilation.  What begins as kitchen-sink neo-realism, not uncommon for British film of that time, quickly becomes a horrid account of groveling survival, continually prodding the audience, asking what would be the point, to survive in a ruinous, diseased wasteland.  ‘Threads,’ is structured similar to a documentary, with an opening shot of a spider spinning its web to a voiceover that acts as a preface, binding the film’s title to its content.  Appearing almost like a nature documentary initially, ‘Threads,’ soon begins the tortured tale of Sheffield and several of its unfortunate inhabitants.

threads

threads

threads

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Scanners (1981)

Scanners 1981 poster

 

5 out of 5 stars

scanners 1981David Cronenberg’s 1981 film of dueling telepaths, ‘Scanners,’ is a widely acclaimed cult classic and a shining example of a skillful director coming into his own.  Cited as being his most frustrating film to create, Cronenberg’s efforts coalesce into a truly unique work, touching several sociological issues, while showcasing a keen eye for surrealistic atmosphere and explosive special effects.  scanners 1981Originally based upon a fragment of William S. Burroughs’ ‘Naked Lunch,’ a novel Cronenberg would later go on to adapt into a feature film, ‘Scanners,’ is reminiscent of the ‘senders,’ within the book, a telepathic community bent on world domination.  It’s no surprise that a film this bizarre should arise from the collaborative effort of these two creative powerhouses.  ‘Scanners,’ offers a bleak look into a dystopian Canada, big business scheming, and the eternal battle between light and darkness. Continue reading

Rabid (1977)

rabid 1977 poster

 

4 out of 5 stars

rabid 1977Imagine being separated from your spouse during a citywide epidemic, driving through the streets, corpses litter the sidewalks, some hanging limply from cars, their mouths agape in eternal pain.  At a red light, an infected man approaches, foam pouring from his mouth as he convulses on the windshield of your vehicle.  A rifle’s shot breaks the horrible silence, bursting through the man’s chest, making him another corpse.  Men in biohazard suits emerge, lifting the man into the compactor of a trash truck, atop many other dead bodies.  A sanitary solution sprays your car, washing the glass in a red ooze of viscera and disease.  After turning on the windshield wipers, you’re ushered to continue along.

rabid 1977

This simple scene in ‘Rabid,’ David Cronenberg’s 1977 follow up to ‘Shivers,’ is perhaps the most haunting within the film, offering a realistic account of surviving the apocalypse.  rabid 1977With the streets a breeding ground for disease, no one is truly safe, martial law reigns, policed by men in suits with eager guns.  ‘Rabid,’ can be seen as a larger production of ‘Shivers,’ promoting the epidemic to city status.  While still relatively tame in regards to Cronenberg’s later productions, ‘Rabid,’ true horror lies in the concept of a rabies outbreak.  But there are clear signs of growth from the preceding ‘Shivers,’ including several gory scenes. Continue reading