Monday, June 27, 2016

I think that perhaps the undoing of Jaws III (1983) comes with its gimmick. This was supposed to be its drawing lure. Come see the great white shark in 3-D!!! That scene at the end where Jaws bursts through the control room window, threatening our heroes, the shattering glass couldn't look less effective. In fact, it carries the unfortunate label of "cheesy", certainly not the intent of the visual effects folks. Jaws does munch down on one of Gossett's control room tech operators. Chomp, chomp! So there was that. Oh, and what about those heroic dolphins!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Jaws 3-D (1983)

Gosh, it's hard to believe it has almost been a year since I last watched and reviewed this movie.  Review

Well, it was last August. I didn't particularly enjoy it all that much. It went over a bit better this time. It's just nothing too extraordinary. It isn't scary or intense enough. Still, I realized I liked one piece of acting from the oft-mocked  Gossett, Jr. It is the realization that the mother shark in the waters inside his park could ruin him, bring it all crashing down. He's mortified and defeated. It rings true. In the control room he sits in reflection of how it all torpedoed what should have been one of the best days of his life.

Seriously, how does Jake survive? The damn shark roars like the MGM Lion. I couldn't laugh as much as feel dismay. I'm going backwards through the Jaws quadrilogy. So I think it was actually a good thing I started with this The Revenge (1987). Interestingly, this film seems to ignore the third film completely. I plan to watch it not long after. I have already reviewed it last year, but if something rattles the cage, I might free it on the blog. Caine is a passenger in The Revenge. He was probably riding coach, but still Caine was thumbing the bills as they lent off that papery smell of green. The film hilariously posits the inclination that he was shark food. It even drags his plane into the water never to return. But, SURPRISE, he pops up out of the water all well and good, helping to try and steer a boat Gary's Ellen commandeered to go after Jaws. Jake rigs a gizmo that, when charged by Michael, will give Jaws a good jolt. It certainly pisses it off. No worries, Ellen will make damn sure to ram it head first with the boat...instead of just stabbing it, for whatever reason, Jaws goes KABOOM! You just kind of throw your hands up and say, WTF. Oh, but despite Jake literally getting caught in the mouth of Jaws and drug completely underwater for like minutes, he just emerges with some blood and a little worse for wear! Yeah, right!

Sooooo, everything is supposedly back to normal, right? So does Jaws' ghost decide to get even with the Brodys in the next sequel? It makes about as much sense as this shark pursuing the Brodys in revenge for its...what? Were they Jaws, Sr. and Jaws, Jr. and this was JawsIII?
You know, though, the film flirts with at least being moderately entertaining. It can't help itself, though. Case in point: Michael Brody (Lance Guest) decides against his better judgment to agree with fellow oceanography scientist, Jake (Mario Van Peebles), to study the great white shark navigating their warm Bahama waters. While in their underwater research vehicle, Michael is attacked by the shark. The vehicle is torn apart and Michael flee-swims to a wreckage on the floor. He escapes into it and actually is able to exit it with a port hole just small enough to stop the shark from pursuing him. So a suspenseful near fatality and Michael lives to tell about it. The film shows Michael guilt-stricken about discovering the shark but concealing its emergence from Ellen. He begins to wonder (believe?) that the shark is actually what Ellen said: that this was his brother's killer and now wants to claim the whole family. What does he do? He goes back into the water at the very sight of where the shark nearly kills him! This, and he misses out on his artist wife's art show opening. There is no reason for him to do this. None. He says to Jake who is bewildered by his decision that if he doesn't go back in he'll always be afraid of the water! Soooooo...confronting a great white shark that nearly eat you alive is the right way to do this??? It doesn't make a lick of fucking sense! This film is just impossible. Whoever wrote this travesty couldn't get out of the way and let the film be entertaining at all without fumbling the ball. You just have to shake your head.
I'm not the first nor last to take a giant shit on Jaws: The Revenge (1987). But it has minor pleasantries among all the mildew. I enjoyed Amity (Martha's Vineyard) at Christmas, reminding us of how a busy beach front town operates. And the Bahamas, even if set during Christmas, feels all summer-y. Stunning is what it is. Then Van Peebles lays on the Jamaican on-and-off accent. Ocean scientists, Van Peebles and Lance Guest (the son of Lorraine Gary) are tagging conch shells and snails on a grant hoping to secure their PhD in oceanography. Guest, understandably, scoffs at the notion made by Gary that their Brody family is being pursued by a shark. Who wouldn't? Gary saddled with that kind of character baggage, how could she convincingly portray Ellen Brody as someone not considered off-her-rocker? She looks so seriously at Caine after a brief walk-and-conversation on the beach, as her granddaughter builds her sandcastle, insisting that the shark that killed her son will be after them next. How could he not be able to conceal a smile cracking? Oh, and the shark actually trekking all the way from Amity to the Bahamas is quite an impressive feat, eh? Also, Ellen sensing the shark's presence as it attacks the research boat of her only son left during the "Junkanoo Festival" with Caine just confirms how ill-advised this film's plot construction certainly was.
The cast is all wet

"It waited all this time and came for him."

I'm not about to go on some apology tour for Jaws: the Revenge (1987). It was so far removed in quality from Spielberg's classic, it doesn't prove as a faint memory of what once was as much as a reminder that it couldn't get much worse. Inexplicable is a term that seems fitting for the plotting of this film. I pity Lorraine Gary who gets to be the star of a film in the Jaws franchise finally and it's this disaster. Caine has plenty of paycheck films in his career but he could continue to redeem himself, but this was Gary's moment to get a real substantial part in her own Jaws movie. Alas, this is what she was stuck with, bless her heart.

So the Great White Human Hunter Shark is stalking Brodys in revenge of their killing other sharks relative to it. Yes, that is the plot. The cast has good names in this turkey. The aforementioned Caine and Gary, Lance Guest (The Last Starfighter), Karen Young (9 1\2 Weeks), and Mario Van Peebles (Full Eclipse): this isn't without talent. But making anything remotely valuable out of this plot was just not reasonable.

Not sure I'd want my face on the poster of this one. Well, Caine was on the poster of The Swarm...

The Ultimate Shocker - Pulse

The general consensus of 80s genre film is that there was a lot of suck. I couldn't disagree more. There are lots of gems. One day I'll get on that write-up for The Sender (1982), starring Zeljko Ivanek and Kathryn Harrold. But there are some sleepers just waiting for new audiences, newer, younger faces. Speaking of young faces, Joey Lawrence is a kid star for this little sci-fi thriller about this "alien signal" (a kooky electrician calls it "the pulse") that finds its way into the home of his pop (Cliff De Young) and stepmom (Roxanne Hart). I really like Hart in this. She is genuinely affectionate and personable towards Lawrence and that translates well in her favor on-screen. Lawrence is thankfully not an annoying, irritating brat. Obviously he is bummed about his parents divorcing, but Hart appeals to his good graces as they spend time together. When the pulse uses the hot water heater to scald her in the shower, it is horrifying, amplified significantly because she's so likable and undeserved of that unwarranted attack. That's one of several eye popping scenes in the film. The special effects are particularly good. Like when the circuit board in the TV/VCR serves as an epicenter/conduit for the signal pulse to develop and work. The pulse is a menace that seems to function as a threat towards humankind. It functions/travels through any outlet and current...the garbage disposal in the kitchen and a running chainsaw in the basement will attest to this. Just the way the pulse operates, the visual effects of it are impressive. Cool little movie. I have more--probably too much, heh--to say about it.

You get more than just eye candy beach and waves in The Shallows (2016). After riding some waves with a couple of local surfers, Lively chilled for a bit, eating an apple and calling her sis and pops. In the film, Lively pursued this locale because her mom surfed there in '91. Her mom died of cancer, inspiring Lively to go into medical school, for which she has nearly finished. Her dad was giving her a hard time about getting done and making a difference in memory of her mom.

Uh, oh. Lunch time.

This is what the actual bottom of her board looks like. A nice little bit of foreshadowing at the beginning has a kid on the beach passing up a broken piece of this surfboard washed ashore.

Daunting an image as any, this shows you how much of a predicament she's in.

A bird's eye view upon Lively and her only friend, a bird with a bum wing. Lively's blood remains on the bird throughout.

While a drunk who awoke from a stupor went to fetch a surfboard after snatching Lively's phone from her bag, he meets his end despite her futile attempt to persuade him from doing so. A carefully designed shot shows the victim crawling in the sand half the man he used to be. This scene has Lively expressing the horror of his mutilation.

Yeah, sucks to be her, right?

Saturday, June 25, 2016

This is the kind of poster you might see before heading into a theater.

The bottom of the surfboard is inaccurate but the shot, certainly Jaws-inspired, gets the point across.

Although a poster for a foreign market, it shows the buoy and rock she calls a safe spot for a majority of the picture.

A poster showing the flare gun. Each poster indicates the threat Lively is up against.

The Shallows

I noticed a comment from a horror fan regarding how the just released The Shallows (2016) that he/she hated this type of movie. I wasn't sure why but asked to us horror fans what we thought--a message board question--I thought it was a very smart movie to make.

What I responded verbatim:

I think it is a very smart release. Summer. Hot lady in peril. Idyllic setting. Shark. Nothing else out there similar to it this year.

I felt that way the whole time I watched this in the theater on a sweltering summer afternoon on a Mississippi Saturday in June. I'm a fan of the shark movie. Syfy has put out so many stupid shark movies, the genre, popularized significantly by Jaws in the 70s (come on, how could I not mention it???), has been bludgeoned by mediocrity and a comical lack of restraint. Clones and mimicry have bred some bad movies over the years. The Shallows eschews any complexity in its plotting and distills from the genre its true essentials: an attractive setting, an attractive lead, a badass great white with gnarly chompers and a cavernous mouth, a constant sense of dread and impending doom, a very difficult position far away from shore with choice few places to keep away from a carnivorous predator, a cerebral approach to strategically outsmart a shark with the distinct advantage of being large and in charge of its domain, and a wounded heroine losing precious time as her bitten body part needs medical attention badly.

The film has learned from its predecessors. The use of secondary characters to tell us just what Blake Lively is up against as the shark surprises surfers (locals of the "secret place with a concealed name" in a Mexican beach at the end of a trip through a jungle with impressive sized trees which reach towards the heavens at great heights) and a drunk. The use of a murdered whale to temporarily safe herself from the jaws of the shark. Following dolphins (incredible effects work here) to the giant whale carcass (another fine dummy model of the real thing), Lively disturbed the shark's mealtime and put herself in its cross hairs. Once her leg is bitten, bleeding like a stuck pig, Lively seductively draws the bloodthirsty shark to shallower waters closer to shore.

There's a fun finale as Lively determines to make it to a buoy, and how jellyfish come into play is indeed a bit far-fetched but clever. The buoy is certainly a helping device as it has a lockbox containing a flare gun and enough shells to fire into the sky...and at the shark. Sharp, pointy, protruding metal results from the shark's persistent approach and pursuit of Lively. Lively, in survival mode, will use whatever is at her disposal. Sure the screenplay isn't above giving Lively options to make it out, but not without a fight.

A rock formation in a conveniently positioned spot allows Lively to stay just out of harm's way. She even has to use earring and necklace to stitch her shark bite, with parts of her swim suit and ankle brace to tourniquet and conceal the bloody wound. This movie pushes the PG-13 to the brink. When the shark leaps from the water, catching a surfer in his jaws, it is appropriately shocking. The leg wound is especially gory.

But best of all, the movie is intense as it needs to be. It does well to emphasize her out of reach distance from shore, and even the shorter length of the buoy seems so far away. The shots underwater, use of a helmet cam, broken surf boards, a shark tooth found in the camera helmet, supposed help on the shore Lively tries to cry for help and watch in horror as the shark claims them individually, and even a bird with bloody, dislocated wing that keeps Lively company contribute to the film's establishment of its fierce predator and wily heroine. The bird is a star itself!

But this doesn't fail it's intended audience. You want woman in peril? You get it in spades. You want a scary shark? You get it in heavy, plentiful doses. You want a plot that builds suspense and stacks the deck against the heroine? This provides. There's beauty in both the tropical island, the surfing and eye popping waves, and breathtakingly lovely Lively. Just think that Ryan Reynolds gets to wake up to her every morning! The camera knows how sexy she is...damn blessed with smashing good looks. The movie even cleverly shows off a two way conversation between Lively and her sister and dad, not to mention, viewed pics from her phone, visualized on screen along with the lead as she looks at them...we've come a long way in the technological advances of movie magic.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

But I don't necessarily believe Murphy is as much in love with Electra as much as he is addicted to the crazy sex and her appetite for it. Let's face it : she was devoted to satisfying his lust and was seeking satisfaction herself.  It was what worked for them.  Sex was their drug.  How could Murphy ever get over the addiction?

There isn't just sex, though. There's conversation. Walks through Paris. Time spent together without hanky panky. But what fuses their relationship is the passionate fucking.

Gasper's True Love

Gasper Noe certainly eschews “safe” through the use of actors with a willingness to embrace the actual sex of their characters, but the film isn’t just decadence and free love. It is about how sex can lead to a life altering sequence of circumstances that interfere with daily rituals of public and private fucking. Sex clubs and parking garages, narrow steps leading forward to ongoing foot traffic which could interrupt them at any moment. The broken condom, pregnancy with a girl he was only interested in casual sex, and the lost love he truly desired; Noe’s male “hero” faces the consequences of “living life on the edge”.

But I won’t mince words: this is still a film for the curious, wondering just how salacious and provocative it is. Well, for one thing, there’s a direct camera shot towards a masturbating penis spewing sperm. There’s couplings, fellatio, threesomes, plentiful masturbating, and oral sex. It is all under the style of Noe’s direction, for which his fans might find interesting. With 50 Shades of Grey (and its later novels) has proven, there’s great interest in how relationships work in an ever complicated world where sexual dynamics are changing and curiosity in sex (and pursuing that curiosity actively) is at an all time high.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

My post from yesterday about Death Proof came from the experience in 2007 in the opening weekend in a theater full of energy. Grindhouse was that kind of epic where those of us fortunate to see the whole instead of movies split apart you just don't get much anymore. Mimicking an era but utilizing new age techniques was an interesting juxtaposition of old and new technology. When Planet Terror finished and we got a load of old school trailers capturing the spirit of slashers, monster movies, haunted house, and action mayhem; Death Proof was quite anticipated. What bag of tricks would QT equip his Grindhouse movie with? So when we are offered ladies and conversation, talking a lot about guys, it does kind of drag down expectations, I guess. Home video, though, can be a bit kinder. Pause breaks and time between one gabfest and another offers a less tiresome experience.

Monday, June 20, 2016

"Dialogue Heavy" is perhaps about as close to as identifiable a two words for Death Proof (or any QT joint) as could be thought of. Or is that "Lady Power"? Because Tarantino provided a major opportunity for a lot of actresses to enforce their will with his words and before his camera. Beautiful, charismatic women who lay style and smack on QT's script. QT always fills his screen with something that wows and his camera can identify faces at their most compelling. I like the Vanishing Point homage, certainly. Kurt Russell, before his crybaby tantrum, as Stuntman Mike, rode that cool and enigmatic part like a Joe Namath fur coat.

I think as a film--or as a standalone QT product--Death Proof isn't perhaps all that lousy. It has a lot of young adult conversation. A bar and diner are two specific settings where two sets of women take part in banter involving their love lives among other things. It is kind of like if "Dinner with Andre" were jazzed up with babes with attitudes and sex appeal. Does myself have much in common with them? Nope. Not a lot of what they talk about necessarily rocks my world. Sure, Mike comes off all charismatic and fascinating, until he's revealed to be a joke once tough ladies undo his façade of macho posturing. He has a weapon: his stunt car. It does some serious damage. It robs young women of futures, undermining hopes and dreams.

As part of Grindhouse, I think QT might have picked the wrong kind of film as ladies gabbing for long stretches doesn't exactly cry aloud: badass. The film does give us a car chase with a hot stunt woman hanging for dear life on the hood of a speeding vehicle and surviving! It was exhilarating in the theater. I must say the constant talking was wearing out its welcome with me personally. Mainly because I guess I was expecting something else, particularly as it followed the crazed Planet Terror.

This above is the favorite of the Sleepless (2001) posters I found.

Piece from the train sequence. I think it gives you an idea of how Argento staged it in all that terror. No matter how much you run, most of the time in an Argento film, there's nowhere to escape.

Brutal English horn kill that sets the nasty tone of the movie.

Of course Argento opens with some full frontal. Yep, she's doomed!

Opening credits theme.
Watching Dario Argento's Sleepless (2001) last night I was taken aback by his return to absolute savagery.  I think we have reached a point where this kind of film is on the outs or already nearly over.  The kind of brutal violence towards women as seen in this might be just too politically incorrect for the audience of 2016. The scare or attempted building of dread is more important than the visceral spilling of blood and destruction of the human body.  No one destroys victims in the giallo like Argento. He has made brutality a near art form. The train sequence at the beginning is impactful if just because Argento sets it up similarly to Suspiria and others familiar to his fans.  The woman sees something she shouldn't have and is pursued by a madman.  In this film's case,  a prostitute grabs a blue zipper bag with incriminating evidence that would implicate a killer who paid for her favors.  Fleeing to a train she believes she's okay but he is on board with her.  She loses at the sharp end of the blade. Even worse,  the handle to an exit door cuts off her fingers!

Dario doesn't stop there. The most cruel of the deaths would seem to be a nasty use of an English horn which is repeatedly stabbed in a mother's mouth while her horrified son looks on, trapped in a cellar. Almost rivaling that is a woman's face bashed repeatedly into a wall until her teeth break out. Another ballerina is lifted off her feet (the camera pointedly at her wiggling feet as we hear her struggle for breath) and decapitated by a hatchet (impressive severed head gag as it flops to the floor). The drowning victim gets off easy in retrospect. The nursery rhyme (it is heavily promoted as written by Asia Argento) and Animal Farm book provide a seriously warped nutcase with ideas as he takes what happens to animals and applies them to victims, casualties of his psychopathy. Little animal cut outs left at crime scenes by the killer link each victim to the murdered animal from the rhyme.

The child who watched his mother's horrible murder returns home to Turin after seventeen years away in Rome. His childhood buddy, an asthmatic, calls him home and the now twenty year old finds himself aligned with a retired cop (the great Max Von Shadow) as they investigate a new crop of homicides, supposedly related to the "dwarf killings" if not committed by another never caught.

Goblin has a score which integrates effectively with whatever tone each scene carries. The opening in the train is pulse pounding and frenetic as Dario ratchets up the terror of the prostitute running back and forth from car to car by making his camera frenzied when she tries to escape, with the distant shot of her from the outside calmer, observant. As with films from the past, Argento has Goblin apply scoring to his kill scenes that enhance the establish set up of the victim (it isn't too difficult reasoning that the person we see who isn't introduced as a lead principle cast member is doomed), her dilemma (she is often in a place with few people present, and almost every homicidal attack happens at night), and the anticipation of when and eventually how she dies (often the camera looks through the eyes of the killer in classic slasher tradition before, and full view of him is never elaborated until the very end).

My IMDb review to close:

I feel "Sleepless" is a fine example of how to make a giallo and make it right. The red herrings, the reasons behind why and how the killer works, the violence which is jarring and graphic, the strength of having a legend, Max Von Sydow, as the central sleuth detecting, and the great finale which is actually quite satisfying. You'll have detractors saying that this has such familiarity to it, but I felt this is a completely original story in it's own merit while exhibiting the traits fans of this genre know and love. The film concerns killings from the past and how they connect with a fresh crop of new killings. It is said that a killer dwarf(!)was behind the death of three women, one being the mother of Giacomo(Stefano Dionisi)..viciously slain by a musical instrument. It is stated that Ulisse Moretti solved the case which ended when a dwarf named Fabritiis decided to commit suicide instead of tolerate the scorn of others lying guilt at his feet for the slayings. The fresh killings bring that case back to fruition and Moretti begins to suspect he was wrong in fingering the dwarf. It seems the killings are following a pattern from a nursery rhyme book with animals. After each female is killed, a cut-away picture of an animal is left by their body. Giacomo, who had left the area, returns at the invitation of an old school chum, Lorenzo(Roberto Zibetti). With Moretti, Giacomo go on their own investigation and make some startling discoveries on the way. During the course of the film, Giacomo will also have a passionate affair with a talented harp player, Gloria(Chiara Caselli). This film has some very nasty killings such as a poor woman who gets her face bashed up against a wall, a man who receives a gold pen inserted in his skull, not to mention some knife slayings for good measure. The train sequence in the opening(..not to mention what happens shortly afterward)is very well done. There's an inspired sequence where a ballerina is beheaded during the intermission of a "Swan Lake" concert. I love how the film develops over time as we discover the connection between the animal rhyme book and the slayings, not to mention who the killer really is. Everything comes together in such a thrilling was. An essential giallo, and one of Argento's finest films.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

"You'll get rich here or you'll be killed. Juan De Dios tolls the bell again."

The little things that we take for granted in Leone’s movies, right? The clever dialogue. Like the “three/four” coffins and how “the stranger” is told over and over that the town is made for only scum: killers, smugglers, and thieves. The undertaker is the most employed man in the town. He has learned to take measurements of “newcomers” with his eyes and mind after looking them over immediately! Two families of crooks, one dealing in guns and ammunition, the other in drugs. Eastwood’s Man with No Name arrives right as the families appear to be on the verge of war. He is, at first, sees opportunity in being a man in the middle, reaping reward working for *both* parties. This is quite a dangerous position to take: pocketing cash at the expense of two families who want to eliminate each other.

Leone is a master at faces. When I watched High Plains Drifter (1973), Eastwood has his stranger ride into Lago with a special emphasis on those who look up directly at him in the coastal township. Faces of all of Lago *need* to be emphasized, and the camera has a fascinating cast in that movie so it is a technique that pays off.  The casting of incredible faces has always been a bona fide plus in all of Leone’s movies. That shot of Henry Fonda as he is about to kill a family, for instance, with those dark, cold-blooded eyes, all steely and penetrating, in Once Upon a Time in the West, is unforgettable. 

In A Fistful of Dollars (1964), Leone certainly benefited from faces made for a gunfight. Eastwood’s face, even when caught in an expression of either confidence or pointed silent rage, has never been as painted with master stroke than by Leone’s camera. Eastwood’s own camera certainly done well as did Siegel’s.
Raf Baldassarre (as Juan De Dios, a meager storeowner) has some of the best dialogue, while the iconic bad boy, Gian Maria Volontè (as Ramon, the psychopathic brother of head gun “salesman”, Don Miguel) has the best close-ups. Want to study how to be a really unsettling human monster, Volontè is the actor to watch. How he just joyfully massacres an entire family and his peeps gives you plenty of reason to despise him. Of course, this is a film with few characters that once could sympathize with. Even Eastwood’s character eyes hefty profits during this dispute among crime bosses in the town. He’s essentially sympathetic by default. Ultimately, he is the skilled gunfighter who sees cruelty in the form of Ramone and after heavy persuasion (torture from Ramone and his boys) is dead set on making sure a coffin is built for his ass.

Joe Kidd

While it might not be as pronounced on this blog, I'm a big fan of the Western. It dates back to an "Eastwood period" that started with the obvious Leone trilogy and went on from there. Then I went into the obvious "Wayne period" and once I gained access to Turner Classics, as the channel we know today, old westerns that hadn't been available to me were right there on the television screen, the tube before the flatscreen. High Plains Drifter, Hang 'Em High, and others were gobbled up by my enthusiastic desire to see every damn movie Eastwood had made. The Eastwood-Obama "talking chair" debacle at an GOP event aside, I've remained a devotee of Clint's work since the early 90s.

For a number of years, TBS (Turner Broadcasting) had a Clint marathon on Thanksgiving. You got to see 24 hours worth of his movies. You get them all the time when AMC decides to run a marathon of movies involving him. Encore Westerns, when able to show them, also does so. It seems, since the 90s, Joe Kidd ('72) has just always been on. TBS surely used to show it all the time. I think it was like two or three years ago, I actually watched Joe Kidd twice on Encore Westerns in one complete day.

You know, I've asked myself about what it was about Joe Kidd that made it so easy to just watch repetitiously. The plot isn't any great shakes. It is an oater, through and through. It outlines a land dispute between the Mexican people (Luis Chama, played by John Saxon, is the vocal leader of a revolt with his men following behind him in support passionately) and Anglo developers (Robert Duvall's land baron leads hired guns in a pursuit of Chama, to shut his revolt up so that it wouldn't kick up any more dust that it had), with a former bounty hunter (Clint Eastwood) becoming central to the ultimate victor. Obviously, if the film is named for the character your portray, your role has to be of significance. Kidd is basically a ne'er-do-well with a piece of property, and two Mexican helpers who tend to his land. He cares for them, and when one of them is hurt and barb-wired out of revenge because Kidd shot one of Chama's men (who had been arrested and refused to give a hand-cuffed Kidd a cup of coffee meant for him in the jail) in defense within a saloon. It was a confluence of events that brought Kidd into a dispute he wanted no part of but felt compelled to get involved despite the possible ramifications.

Duvall has money and prominence, land that truly belongs to the Mexican people, unlawfully taken, with deeds burned by a supposed accidental fire in the courthouse. Chama sees the injustice and with charisma and rage stirs up able-bodied and like-minded Mexicans to attack the corrupt system.

Duvall wants Eastwood to guide him and his hired cold-blooded gunmen to the territory where Chama and his boys might be hiding. He's reluctant until his rancher was barbwire tied.

I think Eastwood besting a nasty piece of work played by Stroud over and over is the film's primary amusement. Stroud is a blustery blowhard who likes to rub his automatic gun in Eastwood's face. Looking for a duel, Stroud unceremoniously dies by a fall from a watchtower thanks to Eastwood. Wainwright is the expert sniper with his long range rifle who "hardly ever blinks" while the devilish-grin Koslo, who always looks like the cat who swallowed the canary, has plenty of jokes ("The fun is over and he's gone to church!") when there aren't Mexican revolutionaries to kill. They all pick a fight with the wrong man. Duvall is confident and so sure of himself... Eastwood will certainly humble his ass.

Stella Garcia is Helen Sanchez, a Chama devotee and lover who Eastwood grows quite fond of. Because Chama refuses to surrender to Duvall, his people who are residents of a church village are in danger of execution. Helen realizes Chama could care more about his own hide than those who follow his cause but are innocent and unworthy of dying by firing squad. This is where Kidd intervenes and Helen realizes he's not such a bad guy after all.

The train through the saloon, Kidd mimicking Stroud's Lamar on the watchtower and escaping through the use of a carefully harmful jug of water, a clean rifle shot on a master of the clean rifle shot, soup and pan to the face, taking ten days in jail instead of paying a small fine, and helping out a judge during a potential hostage situation; Joe Kidd is certainly if anything unpredictable! Makes for quite an Eastwood character.


The great mystery of High Plains Drifter (1973) is who is Eastwood and what business does he have with the denizens of Lago? There's a very significant moment early in the opening credits of the film where Eastwood's stranger immediately startles at the sound of a whip. Then later he "dreams" of the horrifying demise of Marshal Jim Duncan at the whips of Stacey and his boys. The Lago township look on, most of them not only aware of what is going on, but complicit in the marshal's death.

"Damn you all to Hell!"
This final gasp, a last utterance that condemns the corrupt Lago township of their sins, truly informs us that few are absent blood on their hands. When Stacey and the boys crash the welcoming party the stranger had them prepare, their dismantling is justified.

I have to admit that when Eastwood's "stranger" grabs Marianna Hill's catty, saucy dame, grabbing her into the barn for some *rough sex*, like others I get very uncomfortable. She tells him no, even if she eventually concedes to the lust of the experience. This was not a typical "roll in the hay". Hill is presented as a woman of convenience, someone who moves to the next available man that would improve her situation. It's established that before Morg (Jack Ging), Hill was with the loathsome Stacey (Geoffrey Lewis, in one of his most memorable roles). She looks to better her situation whenever possible. Morg isn't above using her to setup Eastwood. But Hill is a victim like most in Lago of revenge...a restless spirit of vengeance who has come back to Lago to make them pay.

Hill is ferocious and full of spit and vinegar. You could imagine she is certainly interested in a man who can bring out the wildcat in her. She sees the stranger and takes it upon herself to purposely ram her shoulder into him to elicit a response. He does and the result is rough sex in a barn. Later she retaliates by firing a gun at him while he's in a compromising situation...naked in a bathtub!

When Two Mules started I was taken aback by Siegel's opening credits. Accompanied by Morricone's whopping score, this is quite an experience. Then I later noticed this second closing scene of Eastwood's Unforgiven (1992), and it was staggering noticing how he was able to incorporate what he had accumulated from his influences into a shot that is just as impactful.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970) has Siegel channeling Leone, with a Budd Boetticher story, and Eastwood returning to the saddle. Is an Eastwood western an Eastwood western without having him lighting a stick of dynamite or clinching teeth on a cigarillo? A bridge's trestle is dynamited, an arrow wound needs gun powder cauterization, he still draws faster and hits his target (when drunk due to having to endure the cauterized wound, it still only took him three times before hitting dynamite that blew up the bridge), and even has a major contribution to Mexican revolution against the French! Shirley MacLaine is a beauty even while buried within a nun disguise. Her role is to dupe her "rescuer" into getting her safely some other place. He admits that he wants the French's treasure chest and this is her chance to capitalize on his services for her to help in the revolution. The real stars to me are Ennio Morricone's score and the breathtaking Mexico locations which really gave Siegel a spectacular backdrop for the principle action. The use of a rattlesnake rattle by MacLaine in an abandoned village, accosted by natural growth and the elements. This rattle is used to scare off a French soldier and later MacLaine uses a heavy silver crucifix to ward off a tribe that have partially accepted Christianity so her part in getting the two of them to the French garrison is substantial.

I get that Siegel and Shirley didn't exactly see eye to eye but her photogenic face and ability to disappear into a character helped the film despite their differences. She carries this complicated mix of pious Catholic duty and the woman of ill repute who occasionally emerges. Seeing Eastwood's Hogan letting his guard down and admitting to his attraction to her while she holds off her own feelings is fun. Their dynamic is amusing. Despite the film's rep critically (many of those involved even panned it), I love the movie. I like Eastwood in this because of his dry wit, poking fun at his past iconic roles at that point, playful exchange with MacLaine particularly in regards to her nun duty, and the adventurous spirit the film has which allows him to be a part of all the action as only he could.


Back in the old VHS days, this was the picture quality. High Plains Drifter was on so I went to YouTubing and found this. Nowadays it is all prettied up in HD and Letterbox.

Friday, June 17, 2016

The marketing campaign, particularly the posters, for Love (2015) certainly was provocative. So the movie starting with Murphy and Electra masturbating each other shouldn't be of any surprise. It just starts up, and there they are...naked before you. Murphy, though, will also be naked emotionally and psychologically during the film. Electra is complicit in their sexual proclivities, married to a unique arrangement which could open their relationship to problems at some point. To see why Murphy's crazy about her, look no further than when Electra performs fellatio on him in what appears to be a parking garage or someplace. She is always looking into his eyes and the gaze carries this desire for approval, knowing that her work is satisfying. That kind of power, the dynamic of offering pleasure and getting it through how your partner totally responds--no faking or posturing--has it's own rewards. The enjoyment of giving fellatio derives from how the recipient reacts. She really wants him to understand it is important to her that this is equal for both parties. Give and take. He must do the same. But her dedication and devotion to their experience is realized in the fellatio scene.
Going into Gaspar Noé’s Love (2015), I didn’t really know what to expect, really, and at the onset this film isn’t a celebration of intense sexuality. The male lead of the film is miserable as he feels trapped in a relationship with a lovely blond due to an accidental pregnancy. He doesn’t love her, and she clearly, if subtly, provokes his misery (there’s a comment about his gut sticking out, and a pointed reference to “how babies are born”). He longs to just fuck. He wants pleasure without the unnecessary entrapment of a legit relationship. A broken condom and an ejaculation initiate this sudden change in the lead’s life. It interrupts his bacchanal. This is a major buzzkill which alters what has been a sexually adventure. It forewarns of what such unbridled sexual behavior might include. If anything, this development sets fire to his loss of Electra, the woman he truly, obsessively clings to. Ironically, it is their carefree sexual lifestyle that eventually encourages this new woman to enter their lives...and tear them apart.

I was putting together some write-up pieces for some blog posts regarding Gaspar Noé's Love (2015), and I was startled at the use of Carpenter's "Night", from his "Lost Themes". I think I recall that his Halloween score was used in a porno in the 70s so I'm curious if this musical piece of his Lost Themes was "borrowed" or allowed. Whatever the case, seeing a sex scene with his score did kind of feel odd.

But that wasn't the end of it. Carpenter's early score to my all-time favorite film of his--Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)--is used when American Murphy and lover, Electra, visit a sex club! Below are a couple of shots.




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