Monthly Archives: May 2015

Midnight Screening: Ed Wood

With the culmination of the month-long Worst or “Worst” feature on some of the alleged worst films ever made, what a better way to return to the weekly Midnight Screening series than a great film about the guy who made some of the alleged worst movies ever made…

As a rule, Tim Burton’s interpretation of “film” works best when it has a guiding light and a vision. In the early 1990s, Burton was about the most visionary mainstream American director you could find, doing nothing less than sneaking away with oodles of money from the Hollywood producers he played uneasy servant to and using that money to paint his personal fixations all over the screen. In recent years, he has become a passe parody of his former self, creating gluttonous products that feel more like someone’s idea of a “Tim Burton film” than the real deal. But the passion, the lusty Americana, and the campy, Christmas tree fuel-for-the-fire went away long ago. Money, as it so often does with directors, has made Burton a blase Hollywood director-for-hire. But for this enfant terrible, boredom was not always the rule of thumb… Continue reading

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Worst or “Worst”: Heaven’s Gate

How does one begin to discuss Heaven’s Gate, arguably the single most infamous film in the entire history of the medium, and this is with the likes of Cannibal Holocaust released in the same year mind you. Michael Cimino, fresh off his dueling Oscar wins for Best Picture and Best Director for The Deer Hunter, his famed dissection of American malaise and disconnect pre, post, and during the Vietnam War, was given an ungodly amount of money by a major production company to make his next film. He then proceeded to greet that money with a severe and aggressive lack of regulation or order. He went over budget many times, and nearly destroyed his production studio, not to mention doing his fair share to sour the relationship between Hollywood production companies and American New Wave directors and ending the great long chain of challenging, pulsing American films to win over both the box office and the critical consensus in the 1970s. Never again would a Coppola or even a Scorsese have almost unmitigated access to the Hollywood well whenever they wanted, and for the next decade, Hollywood drama would be reduced to arguably the most sanitized, antiseptic period in its entire history.
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Worst or “Worst”: Santo on Screen Part 2: Santo Y Blue Demon Contra Dracula Y El Hombre Lobo

As much as 3 Dev Adam gleefully misinterprets Spider-Man and, to a lesser extent, Captain America and Santo, I have to give it up for Santo Y Blue Demon Contra Dracula Y El Hombre Lobo which misinterprets, as far as I can tell, none of its characters, but has a blast being on-point with them from beginning to end.

The title is, naturally, the plot. Mexican Luchadors Santo and Blue Demon (who I am gushing to report never once take their masks off in the film) fight Dracula and the Wolf Man (here named Rufus, and he puts in a game attempt to beat the two heroes for most ostentatious leisure-wear in the film). They also fight a heaping collection of quasi-vampiric zombies, but these are largely non-characters and not nearly so important. As for Dracula, however, what a pallid Hammer knock-off this guy is, roiling and masquerading in the oiliest idea of suave ever known to man, coming off more like a pick-up artist than a foul demon of the night. His sideburns are quintessential examples of the form, and even when he goes to sleep in his coffin, he does so in full regalia and even brings his cane with him.
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Worst or “Worst”: Santo on Screen Part 1: 3 Dev Adam

The likes of 3 Dev Adam (literally, “Three Giant Men”) and its ilk have been parodied and shot through with satire for decades, but this Turkish 1973 anti-classic is the real deal. A … I don’t particularly feel comfortable using words like “action” or “gangster” or “crime” film, so let us not resort to genre in describing it. Let us say instead that it is a film where a guinea-pig toting Snidely Whiplash dressed up as Spider-Man (and presumably several clones of himself, but more on that later) runs a crime syndicate in Turkey and the combined forces of Earth’s greatest heroes are necessary to stop him. Which should be its own genre, honestly. Besides, with Spider-Man as a villain, it already makes 3 Dev Adam more warped and twisted and heinous than the intentionally parodic Italian Spider-Man (3 Dev Adam being one of the premier foreign interpretations of Western superheros found in the filmic landscape, the very idea that Italian Spider-Man was parodying). Continue reading

Worst or “Worst”: The Wicker Man

In The Wicker Man, Nicolas Cage pretends to be a police office and a nice man, and director Neil LaBute has aspirations for only the former. What exactly is he policing? Women, or at least, his own internal dread about women ever having any remote semblance of power or control in society. And he isn’t even trying to hide himself under a veneer of velvety niceness. Continue reading

Worst or “Worst”: Battlefield Earth

First things first when discussing Battlefield Earth: Scientology is a red herring. Criticizing the film for its association with the religion is petty and largely recalcitrant to sensible criticism. In addition, the connection to Scientology is also largely inessential, and in this respect, Battlefield Earth is utilitarian. It gives the reviewer caverns and caravans of badness to discuss, and it spends its entire existence excavating new tombs of incompetence to prop up inadequately in its museum of all that is and has been bad about cinema in the century of its existence. Next to the crimes that Battlefield Earth performs on the world, Scientology is ephemeral. Continue reading

Pop!: Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid

It does not take a historian to note how malnourished and jagged the late 1960s were in American society, or to point out the cataclysm that was the destruction of a nation whose identity had for centuries been predicated on turning the other cheek and smoothing over tension with a facade of nationalist fervor and small-town boot-strap pulling. Things erupted in the late ’60s, the nation fell apart, and film went with it, using that dislocation and terror to create a new breed of films that felt bruised and alienated and hurting from that social apprehension down to their very bones.
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