Thursday, 28 June 2012

Obscene Mirror (1973) [Italian Cut]

This offbeat 70's shocker by Franco, which became cult cult mainly cause it's hard to get hold of – at least in my opinion – also known as "The Other Side Of The Mirror", has been released in three cuts: Spanish, Italian and English with first one extremely rare. Although not as good as director's earlier works like "Venus In Furs" (1967) or "Justine" (1969), the film has got interesting script and pretty protagonist, who boldly takes the story ahead. Filmed somewhere on the coast Of Italy, it features very giallo story, somehow resembling Argento's "Four Flies on The Grey Velvet" (1971) and classic for erotic movies of the era, easy listening soundtrack. Italian cut titled "Lo Specchio del Piacere" contains all juicy sex bites, which serve as a sleazy eye-candy and fill the gaps of this titillating, paranormal exploit.

When Marie (Lina Romay) – one of two beautiful daughters of famous professor of archeology – commits suicide in despair trying to prevent her younger sister's marriage with Norwegian scholar, Annette (Emma Cohen) decides to leave an island of Madeira, where she's been living since she was born and finally get a job as a professional pianist. Although of very fragile character and striking beauty – working as a magic charm for the men – she carries inside a dark call from the the other world! Her older sister's ghost is haunting her and not letting Annette make a connection with any man. Although dark messages from the other world concern mainly incest, lesbian sex fantasies, they successfully take over girl's life and make her a puppet of dark forces. Eventually she becomes an assassin with personality crisis, slashing freshly met studs in a blackout until she meets her destiny.

Although plot is silly and Franco uses it mainly to show two girls licking their pussies with occasional dick swinging, the film ticks all the boxes as a genuine 70's euro sexploitation picture landing boldly in the land of softcore due to quantity of sex scenes and great close-ups (you won't see these angles in any modern adult movie). Although ghost and spiritual possession are part of the game here, it's not a horror by any means, so followers of this genre shoud stay away. However Franco's fans should be delighted with vintage jet-set enter the world of carnal pleasures aura, which has few good moments. Definitely not an obligatory viewing, but worthwhile, pleasurable experience, that brings its reward. Still, only for weird sexploitation connoisseurs and Lina Romay completists.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Pull My Daisy (1959)

Although not even coming near to dark, surreal visions of William S. Burroughs and Anthony Balch, pictured in underground gems such as "The Cut-Ups" or "Towers Open Fire", "Pull My Daisy" is one of these obscure, experimental Beat movies, playing around with images and words to create a vision of hipster's soul. Written and narrated by Jack Kerouac it brings Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie as directors and Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky as actors (who play themselves). Moreover, we get Thelonious Monk bebop style soundtrack, which swings about as the movie goes on. Weaving on and off it supports a casual, accidental mood of the film.

"Pull My Daisy" shows Beat cohorts gathering in an usual Lower East Side apartment for couple of hours to swing, read potery, drink beer and smoke weed while they're interacting with tenants: railroad worker and his wife. Later on the party is being visted by the anonimous bishop and his partner. The only sequence shot outside the apartment is a strange street gathering, in which all characters jerk frivolously around the American flag. Narration is a goofy word spilling as Kerouac runs his jazzy overflow throughout the footage (inspiring and uplifiting our spirits). Breaking away from the linear his delivers lines more in a tonal, poetic way than tries to tie them up with logic. I'd bet they're heavily improvised anyway.

Ginsberg and Corso are dubbed by Kerouac to answer questions about buddhism and zigzag frenetically as they get tipsy. But when Peter Orlovsky finally arrives, it kicks into sort of artistic chaos. They swap bottles with booze, squeeze on the couch or play brass instruments, we know they cannot really play. Everything is innocent fun here and although straight people do not really get the meaning of this fooling around, they are embraced by the Beat wave of madness if they want it or not. Angels with dirty faces are here and they're gonna change the world (as we'd read it back then). Light-hearted, experimental short – an interesting artifact from America's important cultural and literary movement.

Click this link to watch full movie

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Death Race (2008)

Although many tried their take on classic exploitation themes in the last couple of years, I haven't touched such miserable crap as "Death Race", even "Bitch Slap" was better. Pitching a classic story of New World Pictures, unforgettable "Death Race 200" (1975), directed by Paul Bartel, which cost $300.000 to produce, this new independent movie brought to the ground all that made the original such a cool piece of budget filmmaking. Let's recall that the oddball pruduced by Roger Corman became a sort of cult flick throughout the years bringing forward the idea of "future sports" genre (originally derived from 60's pulp science-fiction novels) and directly inspired such film masterpieces as "Mad Max" if we are to believe its creators.

The modern "version", starring Jason Statham, hunts for old school cheap thrills, but completely misses the point in a fervour of blowing up everything on the screen. This is actually one of these things putting me off modern action movies as you really need to microwave your brain first. While AIP and NWP B-flicks were low budget fantasies, which featured cheesy special effects and weird scripts, they followed so called Corman's formula embracing "action, sex and humour". Due to this peculiar mixture often involving hints of anti-establishment stance or even over the top plots involving leftist revolutionaries, embedded in context of the stories, they made the trick of operating on more than one level and survived the sad times, when drive-ins eventually became history forcing producers like Corman to go straight into VHS.

"Death Race" nicks the original story with Corman's official blessing (executive producer credit) putting it in 2012, while American economy collapses and millions of workers are laid off, which causes general havoc and provokes bloody riots. Main character, Jensen (Jason Statham) shares the pain as he's been kicked out as well and paid dime. But coming back home won't be smooth as he's wife gets brutally butchered and he appears to be framed into beaing a murderer. Convicted by the court he's transported to a corporate, maximum security prison (public prisons have been erased in favour of private prisons, operated by international corporations), where he faces inevitable death from hand of the inmates if he doesn't agree to take part in Death Race... as Frankenstein, the biggest hero of this sport, who just died after a fatal car crash.

And there it goes, folks! 95 minutes of violence, car chasing, violence, car chasing and more violence. I personally reached for this movie when saw Corman onboard, nevertheless got bored with it after half an hour. The reasons are plenty. First of all, it bears scarce to none resemblance to "Death Race 2000". Second of all, oldtimers' exploitation formula has been ditched completely. There's no nudity, sex or even occasional tits dancing, so forget about a real fun, guys. Dialogues are as dull as in the shittiest Hollywood blockbuster, this feeling of having them written by a computer program applies well. Political musings are not completely absent, but they're quickly munched by monster car chasing. In fact the only idea of pumping up the action is to bring some locomotive-car with superdestructive firepower (so fuckin' gross). Don't even bother to give it a try if you have a long watchlist to go through, it's just a waste of your precious time.