Monday, January 28, 2008

Fritz the Cat


Fritz the Cat has been one of my very favorite movies for years. It's got so many pluses that make it worth watching again and again. It's got fascinating animation which is beyond cartoonish in its intermittent psychedelic sequences. It's got a great soundtrack. It's got a great story that is both comedic and moralistic (sort of), especially for a film that actually became the first animated motion picture to receive an X rating. Therefore, like most of the content on Cultarama, it really shouldn't be shown to kids, even if it is animated. It also received the honor of becoming the first independent film to gross over a million dollars. The character of Fritz the Cat was actually a character created by Robert Crumb who's "Keep on Truckin'" logo became part of the 60's. In fact the entire movie really captures the feel of the late 60's which is when it was being made, despite a 1972 release. Robert Crumb never gave the producers of the movie any rights or permissions to use his characters and actually sued to have his name removed from the credits. Crumb even went so far as to kill off Fritz the Cat in his comics so as to discourage another film. It didn't work, a sequel named "The Nine Live of Fritz the Cat" was released the following year. The story takes us through Fritz's adventures as he strolls through the major themes of the late 60's... orgies, drugs, religion, music, activism, etc. Even though it's rated X doesn't mean it's a porno, and especially by today's standards, far from it. It's just a great adventure story told by one of the most suave cool cats you'll ever meet. Plus a myriad of other colorful characters. All animals of course, but appropriate animals (cops are pigs, black people are crows, shady activists are lizards, Jews are old lions, the list goes on and on). This is a true classic and doesn't just deserve to be watched, it demands to be owned. It just made it to DVD so you have no excuse not to go out and get your copy!! An interesting side note to this movie is towards the end of the film when the activists are plotting to "make a statement" (blowing something up, I think). The makers of the movie invited real militants and activists into the recording studio and just recorded whatever they talked about. This actual dialogue recording was edited and used as the dialogue of the shady activists in the movie.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Blacula


He's black, he's beautiful... he's Blacula! Dracula's soul brother. This great blaxploitation film is basically just Bram Stoker's Dracula with black characters. Mamuwalde (great name) is an african prince who along with his wife Luva visit the legendary Count Dracula. Mamuwalde is bitten, turned into a vampire and locked in a coffin for centuries while his wife Luva is killed. In the year 1972, two gay interior designers buy Mamuwalde's coffin and bring it back to Los Angeles where he is unleashed upon the city and is hungry for fresh blood (I guess centuries in a coffin does tend to make one a little peckish). Mamuwalde meets Tina who is the reincarnation of his beautiful wife Luva. He pursues her while dodging her friend Mr. Gordon who finds out that Mamuwalde is a vampire. Gee... a cape, fangs, sleeps in a coffin... how did he ever figure that one out? Mr. Gordon thinks he's got Blacula by the balls when he finds his coffin, but when he opens it and stabs the inhabitant in the chest with a wooden stake, he realizes that he's accidentally stabbed Tina... duh. Blacula having lost his one and only true love for the second time, commits suicide by crawling into the daylight and frying himself. This movie was sincere in it's efforts to be a real horror film, but lacked the ability to frighten due to it's blaxploitation overload. Huge afros, some groovy disco music and Blacula... who's afro, eyebrows and sideburns grow huge whenever he vamps out. There's maybe one or two scary moments, but for the most part, this is a totally campy movie and is therefore very amusing to watch. A true cult classic.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Diane Linkletter Story




This little gem has been almost impossible to find. It's one of John Waters early short films. It was minimally released with Mondo Trasho when first produced, but not included when Mondo Trasho achieved an actual video release, which was John Waters first full length feature film. Thanks to YouTube, we can now finally get to enjoy it. How it got out is anyone's guess. I always assumed that like all his early short films, you had to be able to snatch it directly from John Waters attic to be able to view it. I haven't seen any other of his shorts on YouTube, but keep a look out, you never know what will surface. Some others to look for are "Eat Your Makeup", "Hag in a black Leather Jacket", and "Roman Candles". The Diane Linkletter Story is only about 10 minutes long, therefore it is presented to you in its entirety on the YouTube video below this post. It was actually only made to test a new camera with sound. It's simplicity is apparent of being a test take, it has a truly creepy ring to it. It was filmed the day after Diane Linkletter (Art Linkletters daughter) committed suicide by jumping out of a window while on the mother of all acid trips. Divine plays Diane Linkletter (naturally) with David Lochary as Art Linkletter and Mary Vivian Pearce as his wife. The parents bicker for about six minutes, Diane comes home high as a kite, she runs to her room crying out for her boyfriend Jim then takes a flying leap out the window, the end. After his daughters suicide, Art Linkletter released an album addressed to his daughter called "We Love You, Call Collect" which is played during Waters' film (creepy). Enjoy!

The Bad Seed


The Bad Seed is one of my all time favorites. This film has a huge cult following due to it's constant unintentional hilarity. The story is heartbreaking yet has an unequaled hilarity. Little Rhoda Penmark is the epitome of class. She is overly ladylike, always impeccably dressed, curtsies at any and all occasions and is to say the least a weird ass kid. She's prone to extremely violent outbursts and is a most definitely a little girl that gets what she wants. She has the body of an 8 year old and the malicious nature of a serial killer. At a school picnic, a little boy is mysteriously drowned. Her mother prepares to give her that dreaded talk about death, but Rhoda is just fine with it and asks for a peanut butter sandwich and permission to go outside and roller skate. In front of most adults, Rhoda is perfection... blonde pig tails, frilly skirts, not a speck of dirt in sight and beyond polite. Among a few other people, she the biggest little bitch in the world and you'd feel the need to strangle her if it wasn't a movie. We learn that Rhoda and the drowned kid were in competition at school and the other kid won. Well, it's a bit of an understatement to say that Rhoda didn't take it well. She was seen picking on the winner and trying to steal the winning medal at a school picnic. She's subsequently implicated in the drowning/murder of the little boy by a lot of people and for good reason.... she's a cold calculated killer. She suspects that the handyman knows too much and burns him alive. Rhoda's mother slowly finds out more and more about her daughter, she finds the medal in Rhoda's room and like a protective mother she throws it over the pier close to where the boy drowned to cover for her. Mom also learns that she is adopted and that her real mother was a serial killer as cold as Rhoda. Earlier in the movie, there is a discussion about violence and murder as being hereditary, hence the planting of the bad seed, evil from the very start. Mom isn't taking this well and decides to kill Rhoda with some pills and then shoots herself in the head. Both survive, Rhoda recuperates much quicker than her Mom and goes back to the pier in the middle of a rainstorm to look for the medal. She is struck by lightening, killing her... the end. Apparently this strange and abrupt ending was due to a cinematic rule that existed at the time that said that the "bad guy" could not be shown as winning out in the end. The original ending was Rhoda killing her mother.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Satanis and Sinthia


Satanis is a self made documentary by Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan. You would think that a documentary about Satanism would contain some shocking footage of some kind, but it's nothing like that at all. It's actually rather comical as Anton LaVey expresses his belief system while wearing his horned hood with his arched eyebrows. He looks more like a cartoon character than a satanist. People who follow LaVey's teachings are as comical as he is. His neighbors describe him as a very interesting individual and their only bitch was that he had a pet tiger. His masses always included a naked woman on the altar and it's surprising to see how many women were actually auditioning for this role. Filmed in 1970, Satanis still retains a very 60's feeling. Pretty much a live and let live attitude. People are always scared of the unknown and I think this is actually a very well made documentary that let's you know the goings on inside the Church of Satan. There's no orgies, animal sacrifices, murder, etc... all the things people assume are part of Satanism. Unlike Christianity, Satanism praises sex as healthy and natural, which was enough for many people to consider a change of religion, especially in the time of free love. The only thing annoying is Anton LaVey's sense of self righteousness. He was very proud to be himself and wasn't afraid to tell the whole world how he single handedly built the Church of Satan from the ground up. He claimed thousands of followers in spite of having obviously few attendees at his masses. When it came to religion, LaVey kinda made it up as he went along. Whatever. This documentary has been released on DVD, coupled with a very very bad movie called "Sinthia, the Devil's Doll". Made in the 60's and obviously meant to be watched on drugs, Sinthia doesn't really have a story. It's mostly psychedelic sex scenes with a girl named Sinthia going on about how she wants to have sex with her father. This movie never really made it and was only coupled with Satanis as a vehicle for release.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Xtro


This is probably the only movie to ever really scare me. The first time I saw it, I was maybe 12-14 years of age and only after years of assaulting my mind with twisted and bizarre movies am I able to watch it again. It has many scary sequences, though after films like The Exorcist, 28 Days Later, and Jacob's Ladder, I think I'm prepared to stomach Xtro once again. Like I said, this movie has several disturbing sequences in it (most fulfilling). To start off, Young Tony's father is abducted by aliens and isn't heard from in over a year. Wife Rachel has moved on believing that her husband Sam has simply deserted his family for some unknown reason. A year later, a UFO deposits a hideous alien creature in the forest, it crawls to a cottage and impregnates a woman it finds there. Moments later, the woman awakes with goo all over her mouth (the site of the implantation) and a puddle of melted alien slime next to her. her belly then begins to grow... and grow and grow! Suddenly she gives birth... to a full grown man. And boy does he leave her a mess, as you can well imagine. The man is Sam, Tony's missing father. He returns to his family, claiming to have no knowledge of where he has been. By now, his wife has a new (and really annoying) boyfriend who is convinced that Sam is up to no good. Sam starts doing weird things like eating snake eggs and sucking on people's shoulders. He tells Tony that he's been somewhere else and has been changed. He wants Tony to change too. After sucking on Tony's shoulder for a while, Tony starts having unique powers. He can move things with his mind, he now has a creepy clown friend that has a yo-yo with razor blades on it. He creates a human size toy soldier to kill the bitch next door. Tony also has a live-in babysitter who eventually becomes cocooned on the ceiling and deposits eggs of some sort that are put into a refrigerator full of green slime, apparently for some sort of gestation purposes. To make a long story short, Sam has ultimately come back for his son. A flash of light and their gone. Mom goes home, finds the refrigerated eggs, picks one up and "sploosh". An appendage of some sort flies into her mouth from the egg, just like the poor woman in the cottage. I guess this is revealed to show that the process may start all over again. Creepy from beginning to end, this movie made the video nasties list, one of only two films from the U.K. to do so. It was banned for a short time, maybe a year or two, but was then released to the general public after some editing. A few years later when compared to other video nasties, it didn't seem quite so bad I guess and was re-released intact and uncut. This movie is a must if you really wanna be freaked out. I haven't spoken to many people that have seen this film, but the few that have say that it scared the hell out of them too.

Cannibal Holocaust



This is another "video nasty" that was banned for years and is making a comeback via new interest and DVD releases. Cannibal Holocaust is pretty convincing, and although there was a tremendous belief that the footage is real, it most certainly is not. Some of the cannibals really are actual native people though, mostly from South America. The only real and ultimately most distressful footage is of some live animal killings. A muskrat gets gutted alive, a turtle get mutilated, a monkey has his head chopped off and a pig gets shot in the head. Being an animal lover, I can say that this is the only thing that I found disturbing about this film. The rest really isn't too bad. The director of this film says that the animal killings are the only thing he regrets about this film, despite being arrested under the belief that it was a real snuff film. Anyway, the story goes as such... A team of scientists are going into the deep jungle to find and study cannibals. The two missions before them never returned, yet these snotty adventurers think they have what it takes. Two months later they are classified as missing (well, duh). A new research team is sent in to find these people. They find traces of them here and there, some of their clothes and equipment, some rotting bodies, etc. They also stumble upon the film canisters from their expedition. Upon returning to the states, the films are watched and reveal a rather stupid group of people that frankly deserve to be cannibalized. Instead of research, they use the cameras to record orgies, the raping of native women and totally disrespect the tribes in every way by eventually burning down their village. The last canister reveals them finally getting their comeuppance as they are all butchered and eaten by the cannibals. Yum!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Freaks


Wow, what a masterpiece! This movie was made by Tod Browning (original film version of Dracula, Bela Lugosi) and has all the same subtle creepiness building into a most satisfying climax that all of his films seem to possess. When Freaks was filmed in 1932, the carnival sideshows were a big hit and there were many traveling circuses that had a freak sideshow. Mostly comprised of people born with deformities, women who have hormone problems and grow beards, conjoined twins, etc. Tod Browning used this freakshow backdrop as the frame for the moral plot of the story. The plot being as such... Hans and Frieda are two dwarfs that have a romantic relationship (which must have been odd because they were in reality brother and sister). That is until normal sized Cleopatra, the trapeze artist, comes along. Hans is instantly smitten. He callously dumps Frieda to pursue Cleo, who is definitely beautiful but is still by all means a conniving bitch. She milks Hans' generosity and makes fun of him behind his back, all while she secretly is having an affair with Hercules, the circus strong man. Cleo discovers that the reason Hans is so generous is that he has inherited a huge fortune. She then decides to convince Hans to marry her, then bump him off and make off with the loot. At their wedding reception, with all the freaks present, Cleo puts poison into Hans's champagne in an attempt to kill him then proceeds to make a drunken ass of herself by calling everybody a dirty slimy freak and to get away from her. She puts Hans on her shoulders and humiliates him by treating him like a child. She then fakes nursing him so that she can continue to poison him to death. Luckily one of the freaks overhears her plans to kill Hans and decide that she must pay. Apparently, when it comes to circus freaks, harm one and you piss off the entire tribe. In the middle of traveling through a rainstorm, all the freaks gang up on Cleo and chase her into the woods... a strike of lightning hits nearby. Fast forward a little and we see Cleo in a freakshow of her own, having been somehow changed into a sort of chicken woman. What's great about this film is that Tod Browning didn't want to fake the freaks, he wanted the real thing and throughout the movie we are shown some pretty incredible people. There's a woman with no arms that can do absolutely anything with her feet, a man with no arms or legs that can roll, light and smokes his own cigarettes. For some reason, this use of real persons really "freaked" people out. Apparently the audience is much happier knowing that there is a zipper somewhere that can be pulled and out comes a normal person. It freaked people out so much that it was banned for literally decades. Made in 1932, banned shortly after release and didn't make it onto video cassettes until the mid-80's and even then it was really hard to find. It's been released on DVD finally as of 2005. It's also been recently voted a cinematic masterpiece. It's not vulgar at all and has some very endearing characters as well as a great story, so why was it banned for so long? I wish I knew, but by the time it was released on video, there were all sorts of video nasties out there that are far more disturbing than Freaks. Due to it's notoriety as being banned for so long and it's difficulty in locating a copy, it has gathered a huge cult following and now thanks to DVD, can finally be appreciated and praised by future fans and admirers.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Trouble in Mind


I never in a million years could possibly conceive the idea that there would ever be a movie out there with Divine in it that I didn't love. I found one... I'm very sad about this so bear with. The truth is, I'm not totally sure what this film was about. I watched all 120 minutes of it desperately trying to tolerate an endless parade of stupid characters doing stupid things while waiting patiently for Divine's grand entrance. This is labeled a "crime drama" (with Divine?!) and is pretty hard to find now, I stumbled across it merely by chance. Imagine my excitement! Behold my disappointment!! Anyway, it's a crime drama (still don't know what exactly what the crime was) starring Lori Singer who stumbles around aimlessly, doing her best "Daryl Hannah in Splash" impersonation. The only difference is that she carries a baby around with her everywhere. She has a weird boyfriend that slowly gets weirder as the movie goes on. First he starts wearing a new stiffly sprayed pompadour hairdo. Then the hairdo has color streaks. By the end of the film he has pieced ears and full makeup (so 80's). Throw in Kris Kristofferson and Keith Carradine as some sort of law enforcing agents and there you have it. Divine's screen time was minimal at best. He plays some kind of eccentric gay mobfather. Snow white hair, a huge diamond earring and a solid black suit. He was obviously placed in the film because he was Divine. This was after Polyester but before Hairspray when Divine was finally starting to become a well known entertainer. His cameo is brief and in the end, he gets shot in the head. I can't really say that this is probably a movie Divine would have eventually hated as would be expected (well, it sucked), but I can say that it was nice to see Divine finally shown some true respect as an actor and placed in a big budget film as a cameo. Had he not died shortly after Hairspray, he would have seen a tremendous increase in his stardom because Hairspray was a huge hit. Oh well, those are the breaks. Even though this movie was terrible, I still savored every single second that Divine left on film.