Jungle Holocaust (1977)

Jungle Holocaust 1977

5 out of 5 stars

Jungle Holocaust 1977Ruggero Deodato’s Jungle Holocaust, also known as Last Cannibal World (Ultimo Mondo Cannibale) is actually the first film in a cannibal trilogy, followed by Cannibal Holocaust (1980) and Cut and Run (1985).  Like many of Deodato’s works, violence, depravity and disturbing content is used to evoke self realization within viewers.  In this particular instance Deodato suggests that within us all there lies a degree of savagery, as shown through the lengths one man goes to survive in the jungle.  Jungle Holocaust 1977Interestingly, the main character Robert Harper (Massimo Foschi) becomes less likable as his need for escape escalates.  This is the intention of the film however.  Viewers are meant to be repulsed by his regression.  As Robert is exposed to degrading torture and humiliation, he begins to respond to his moribund state with equal savage justice, proving that there are multiple facets to a man.  He is stranded in the land of the primitive Stone Tribe and must face them squarely on their level, which is shown late in the film after he slays a member of the tribe and eats some of his organs.Jungle Holocaust 1977Jungle Holocaust 1977Jungle Holocaust 1977 Continue reading

Road Movie (1974)

Road Movie 1974

4 out of 5 stars

Road Movie 1974Joseph Strick’s 1974 picture, Road Movie is one of those films that has sadly sailed for decades under the radar.  Not only does this work feature Barry Bostwick, a year before he went on to play Brad Majors in The Rocky Horror Picture Show and a young Robert Drivas, but also Joe Pantoliano in his breakout role, one that garnered him entrance into the Screen Actor’s Guild.  Road Movie is a film about two freshly independent truck drivers, hell bent on success in the face of countless perils: traffic managers, highway police, and one particularly devious prostitute that causes them endless troubles.  As the title insinuates, this is a picture about the road, or journey and like the American Dream, its fallacy.Road Movie 1974Road Movie 1974

America’s gritty cinema of the 1970s offers a glimpse into an era that has long since withered, as well as a revivalist realism that approaches that of Italian productions following the second world war.  Road Movie 1974Road Movie is certainly a niche genre picture.  Besides being a work that is constantly moving, featuring natural scenery as the characters, Gil (Robert Drivas), Hank (Barry Bostwick) and Janice (Regina Baff) drive from Newark to Chicago, Road Movie is essentially about life as a freight trucker.  Yet this picture appeals to the gritty nature of road life, unlike films such as Convoy (1978), which despite being a Peckinpah classic, borders absurdity and unfortunately devolves into a simplistic good vs. evil movie, even though there is a solid Kristofferson performance. Continue reading

Shame (2011)

Shame (2011)5 out of 5 stars

Shame 2011Filmmaker Steve McQueen’s second feature effort, Shame, is a dark, brooding character study of a well-off New York City businessman whose perverse, highly routine life begins to crumble during a visit from his sister.  Released in 2011, Shame is the second collaboration between Steve McQueen and his star, Michael Fassbender, after 2008’s Hunger.  This work depicts Fassbender as Brandon, a detached wealthy executive who must confront his sex addiction and emotional distance when his younger sister, played by Carey Mulligan, arrives for an extended visit.  Naturally the emergence of his sister upsets Brandon’s diurnal routines and emotionally vacuous sex life until he is forced to change, or at least entertain the possibility.Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 11.40.29 PMShame is a film of routines, of cycles.  It is through the mindlessness of Brandon’s daily activities, through his anonymous sexual encounters with prostitutes and strangers that one comes to identify his shame, the motivation behind his eerily reserved nature.  The arrival of Brandon’s sister, Sissy interrupts these daily rituals, thereby forcing Brandon to face both his habits and past.  While this film intimately depicts a sex addict, Brandon’s true shame stems from an inappropriate sexual encounter or incestuous relationship that occurred in his youth.  Shame 2011Brandon’s emotional isolation and inability to cultivate meaningful relationships, not even with his sister; in addition to his usage of sex as a tool are his ways of coping with the past.  One can also note how Sissy has coped with their troubled youth, which is essentially  directly opposing Brandon’s.  While he may be wealthy and own a posh apartment in Manhattan, he remains unfeeling, emotionally vacant.  However, though seems to be a drifter, constantly moving, owning nowhere to call home, she does possess an ability to forge bonds with others.  Brandon claims that he sees no point in marriage or relationship, and when he attempts to date a coworker, after disposing of his immense pornography collection, he finds himself impotent, then immediately seeks out a prostitute.  Yet Sissy’s relationships also seem to fail, despite her hope, as we hear her being dumped over the phone and then seduced by Brandon’s boss into a one night stand that she believed would result in more.  McQueen is depicting the self destructive side effects of sex abuse on children, as it possesses and stagnates variously in different individuals. Continue reading

Eaux D’Artifice (1953)

eaux d'artifice

5 out of 5 stars

eaux d'artificeEaux D’artifice,’ released in 1954, is a beautifully composed, scored and edited short film by esteemed director Kenneth Anger, highlighting a true expertise in his field of work.  Like some of his earlier pieces, this picture has oneiric qualities that prompt one to transcend terrestrial ties, entering a mystical new domain.  The plot of ‘Eaux D’Artifice,’ is most elegantly put by Anger himself, who describes the work as, “Hide and seek in a night-time labyrinth of levels, cascades, balustrades, grottoes, and ever-gushing, leaping fountains, until the Water Witch and the Fountain become One.”  While this work is yet another installment within ‘The Magick Lantern Cycle,’ the techniques used emerge above the plot as the preeminent quality of the piece as a whole.

eaux d'artificeAfter several proposed projects, which include adaptations of publisher Jean- Jacques Pauvert’s ‘Histoire d’O,’ and Comte de Lautréamont’s  ‘Le Chants de Maldoror,’ Anger spent some time In Rome where he visited the Villa d’Este, the setting for his next picture.  Before Italy, Anger toured parts of Egypt where he birthed the concept behind ‘Hymn To The Sun,’ a two hour feature film, which even had a completed screenplay.  Unfortunately the 23 July Revolution, a xenophobic uprising occurring in Egypt in 1952 made filmmaking virtually impossible and prompted Anger to flee the country, although not before two of his friends were killed.  Two years prior, Kenneth Anger was hard at work editing Eisenstein footage that would eventually be ‘Que Viva Mexico!’  The varied nature of Anger’s work at this time, despite nothing being fully completed except his first effort, ‘Fireworks,’ led him to begin work on a four movement piece set in the Villa d’Este in Tivoli, a lush location, rich with history and most famous for its water garden.  eaux d'artificeFeaturing fountains, gargoyles, water falls and pools, the Villa d’Este was built by Cardinal d’Este who practiced ‘Worship of pagan gods, conducting numerous Dionysian rituals and ceremonies,” says Alice Hutchison, an authority on the works of Kenneth Anger.  Considering the young filmmaker’s interest in the occult, it’s no surprise that this villa held a certain allure, especially since Crowley’s Abbey Of Thelema also stood in Italy since 1920.  But in keeping with a monetary state Anger held for most of his career, the full concept for ‘Eaux D’Artifice,’ was shortened due to lack of money and film.  What resulted was a elegant traipse through the villa’s water garden set to the score of Vivaldi’s ‘Winter’ movement from ‘The Four Seasons’. Continue reading

Rabbit’s Moon (1950)

Rabbit's Moon 1950


5 out of 5 stars

rabbit's moon 1950Opposing western thought, when Japan gazes to the moon, instead of seeing a man’s face, there is the undoubted image of a rabbit, thus creating, at least partially, the foundation for Kenneth Anger’s 1950 masterpiece, ‘Rabbit’s Moon’.  A picture unlike any of his others at the time, ‘Rabbit’s Moon,’ is yet another title within the ‘Magick Lantern Cycle,’ boasting a classical cast of characters, a distinct visual style, and hidden qualities that help to make this work one of Anger’s most personal.  Shot behind the Studio de Pantheon in Paris over the course of four weeks in 1950, ‘Rabbit’s Moon’ was shelved for 20 years until 1970 when its contemporary doo-wap score was added, and yet again altered, for another cut in 1979.  While the same footage is used in both versions, the latter is sped up and given a different soundtrack, allowing for two wholly different experiences.  Anger has been quoted as saying his 1979 version of this film is the ‘kiddie version”.

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“The Commedia dell’Arte tradition had Pierrot, among other things, as a common fool, a thief, an affable street urchin grown up,” says Alice Hutchison, an authority on Anger’s filmography and life.  The character of Pierrot is a nearly ancient presence on stage, in ballet, film and art, with notable relevant examples including Browning’s ‘Puppets’ (1916), Marcel Carne’s renowned ‘Children Of Paradise’ (1945), Will Bradley’s ‘Moongold: A Pierrot Pantomime’ (1921), Méliès’ ‘By Moonlight, or The Unfortunate Pierrot’ (1904), and Urban Gad’s ‘Behind Comedy’s Mask’ (1913) to name only a fraction of his numerous appearances.  rabbit's moon 1950With Anger’s interest in the past, and the apparent influence the works of Méliès had upon his films, its no wonder he would step into the classical tradition, offering up his own meditation on the classical stock troupe, yet beautifully blending the classic with the contemporary and his lifelong fascination with Thelema.  Among Pierrot, ‘Rabbit’s Moon’ stars Columbine and Harlequin, who according to Hutchison is “A pretty, bawdy, working class girl,” and “An Italian version of the clever court-jester, often associated with magic and death.”  In Anger’s film, Harlequin represents a type of Lucifer character, and the first instance of his presence within his filmography, with later appearances in ‘Invocation Of My Demon Brother,’ ‘Innauguration Of The Pleasure Dome,’ and ‘Lucifer Rising’. Continue reading

Puce Moment (1949)

puce moment


5 out of 5 stars

puce moment Puce, a type of changeable purple, derives from the French word for ‘flea,’ which after dead or crushed on linens, resembles the color in its blood stains.  Although according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word ‘puce’ dates back to 1787 in the English language, it was also a popular color for ladies’ dresses in the 1920s, which brings us to Kenneth Anger’s 1949 short film, ‘Puce Moment’.  Released 2 years after Anger’s shocking initial piece, ‘Fireworks,’ ‘Puce Moment’ is a glimpse into the obsolete opulence of silent era Hollywood, a subject that would warrant its own feature film the following year with Billy Wilder’s ‘Sunset Blvd,’ and is touched upon in the later masterpiece ‘Veronika Voss’ (1982) by Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

Originally a longer film titled ‘Puce Women,’ which even had storyboards, but was sadly never completed due to monetary issues with Anger, ‘Puce Moment,’ is exactly what the title insinuates, a mere moment in the life of these anachronistic women, relics of the past.  puce momentBy today’s standards, the color puce is a word of yesterday, rarely spoken, relatively obscure, and exemplary of the film’s intent.  Similar to Anger’s later work, ‘Kustom Kar Kommandos,’ which was also never completed due to extenuating circumstances, audiences can only ponder the brilliance of these films had they been created in their intended full form. Continue reading

Fireworks (1947)

fireworks poster 1947

5 out of 5 stars


fireworks 1947Fireworks,’ is a 1947 short film by Kenneth Anger, the earliest of his surviving works and the first in a series of pictures later to be known as ‘The Magick Lantern Cycle’ a term relating to the thelematic teachings of Aleister Crowley.  Filmed at the age of 17 in Anger’s parents’ house, during a weekend when they were out of town, ‘Fireworks,’ begins a lifelong fascination with portraying characters in quest for light, whatever its specific symbolism might mean pertaining to each of his works.  In this particular picture, light represents a certain sexual ecstasy or contention.  While still a classic example of avant-garde cinema, ‘Fireworks,’ unfolds in a relatively straight forward narrative, following a boy who leaves his bed in the dark of night, in search of a light.  Anger’s ‘Fireworks,’ is essential as a milestone in queer cinema, an influential avant-garde picture and its role as the first of his ‘Magick Lantern’ films.

‘Fireworks’ opens with an image of Anger’s limp body in the arms of a sailor, clearly reminiscent of Michelangelo’s ‘Pieta’ sculpture.  Upon the floor beside Anger’s bed are photos of this image.  He leaves his bed after an erection-esque shape forms beneath the sheets, which is removed and shown to be a small African style statue, and then fishes out a cigarette, finding he has no light.  fireworks 1947Next viewers are given a long shot of the distant town and highway at night, dreamily shown with distorted, twinkling lights.  Anger appears in a bar where a muscular sailor is disrobing, flexing his stunning physique.  After finding a light for his cigarette, Anger progresses to the docks where he is confronted by an ominous group of sailors, highly stylized, swinging chains and brandishing clubs.  The sailors chase Anger and finally corner him in an alley where he is brutally beaten, raped and sliced open with a broken bottle, a scene which shows an electrometer where his heart should be.  Next a sailor is shown with a lit roman candle in his crotch like an erect penis and cutting to an image of a burning Christmas tree levitating towards a statue of Christ in Anger’s bedroom.  ‘Fireworks’ closes with Anger once more in his bed, although now accompanied by the initial muscular sailor, his face distorted by a glimmering sun, symbolizing the attainment of ‘light’. Continue reading

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