Director: Fernando Di Leo Screenplay: Fernando Di Leo Based on a Novel by: Giorgio Scerbanenco Starring: Gastone Moschin, Barbara Bouchet, Mario Adorf, Philippe Leroy Country: Italy Running Time: 102 min Year: 1972 BBFC Certificate: 18
The Italians spawned a number of subgenres that have remained popular amongst lovers of cult and genre cinema. I love a good spaghetti western myself and I’ve been starting to work my way through more giallos recently. One Italian subgenre I wasn’t particularly aware of until watching Arrow’s new release of Fernando Di Leo’s Milano Calibro 9 (a.k.a. Caliber 9) though is the poliziotteschi. This is a form of crime and action film that came from Italy in the late 60’s and 70’s, cashing in on the success of tough American cop thrillers like Bullitt, Dirty Harry and The French Connection. Although Di Leo’s film wasn’t the first in the subgenre, it was a critical and commercial success and helped boost the popularity of the poliziotteschi and the director. I’d heard of Milano Calibro 9 through a podcast and I’ve been keen to see it ever since, so I was very happy to hear Arrow Video got their hands on the title.
The film opens with a classic money/drugs exchange which goes wrong, resulting in some gangsters being out of pocket by $300,000. They quickly take their anger out on all those who could have done it, in a spectacularly violent fashion. They find nothing, although they didn’t quite get to everyone. Ugo Piazza (Gastone Moschin) was sent to prison shortly after the deal. Mobster nutcase Rocco (Mario Adorf) is waiting for him as soon as he sets foot outside the prison gates, and harasses him for the money. Ugo claims he doesn’t have it, but Rocco tells him that he has to pay the money back to his boss The Americano (Lionel Stander) or there will be devastating consequences. The police believe Ugo has the money too and also give him a hard time. Ugo does his best to keep both sides at bay, enlisting the help of his former gangster ‘family’ Chino (Philippe Leroy) and his Don. As expected, things don’t quite go to plan though and the bodies begin to pile up.
Director: Brian Yuzna Screenplay: Rick Fry, Woody Keith Starring: Billy Warlock, Devin DeVasquez, Evan Richards Country: USA Running Time: 99 min Year: 1989 BBFC Certificate: 18
After producing Stuart Gordon’s first few films (Re-Animator, From Beyond and Dolls) and having trouble retaining control over their script for what would become Honey I Shrunk the Kids (yes the pair behind Re-Animator wrote the story to this family favourite!), Brian Yuzna decided to direct his own film. A script he’d been sent, combined with some of his own ideas as to what he wanted to make, resulted in the controversial cult classic Society.
It’s a film about Bill (Billy Warlock) who, like most teenagers, feels he doesn’t fit with the rest of his family. His wealthy socialite parents care for nothing but social status and have a disturbingly ‘close’ relationship with his sister (although Bill’s intentions towards her veer in this direction too). When a classmate presents him with some shocking evidence as to what really happens at one of the upper class ‘coming out’ parties, Bill begins to think that his fears are more than just the usual adolescent rebellion. After doing some digging himself, Bill finds himself more and more worried as to the nature of not just his family, but the whole of the upper classes around him. When he gate crashes one of their soirees, he finally learns the disturbing truth.
I’d heard so much about Society before watching it this week, that it was strange to finally see it. It’s a film that’s notorious for its shocking finale which must have absolutely fried people’s minds on release and sent them running for a sick-bag. Unfortunately I’d seen so many images and clips and read a fair few reviews of the film over the years that I knew pretty much exactly what was going to happen. Because of this I felt like I spent most of the film just preparing for the climax.
Director: Mark Hartley Screenplay: Mark Hartley Starring: Menahem Golan (archive footage), Yoram Globus (archive footage), Sam Firstenberg, David Paulsen, Luigi Cozzi Country: Australia/USA/Israel/UK Running Time: 106 min Year: 2014 BBFC Certificate: 18
Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films was one of my most anticipated releases of the year. Yes I’m excited about some of the big name films coming out (particularly the new Star Wars of course) and couldn’t wait to catch Mad Max: Fury Road a couple of weeks ago. However, those are/were all still risky ventures. They could quite easily be a huge disappointment, but given the subject matter of Electric Boogaloo and the excellent job writer/director Mark Hartley did of the fairly similar cult movie doc Not Quite Hollywood, it was highly unlikely I wouldn’t enjoy this documentary and, what do you know, I enjoyed the hell out of it.
As the title clearly points out, Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films looks at the history of the notorious film studio, Cannon Films (or Cannon Group for the wider corporate title), that battered its way through the movie world during the 80’s before coming crashing down and dissolving in the early 90’s. The company was actually formed in the late 60’s by youngsters Dennis Friedland and Chris Dewey, but it’s better known as being run by its 80’s owners, Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, and this film largely focuses on their work in making the Cannon brand notorious among cinema-goers and eventually running it into the ground.
For those not familiar with Cannon Films, they were a company that got a name for themselves by producing a veritable stream of trashy movies. Operating a production line mentality, they made low-rate genre films on the cheap and threw everything into the mix (particularly sex and violence) to try and appeal to every possible lower common denominator. They helped boost the career of Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme as well as drag out the career of Charles Bronson. This was their public image at least, for actually they backed a few respected directors when they were struggling to get work financed (e.g. John Cassavetes, Jean-Luc Godard and Franco Zeffirelli) and they also made a few underrated gems such as Runaway Train, 52 Pickup and Barfly. Unfortunately their terrible reputation made them a source of ridicule and their over-eagerness to make as many films as quickly and cheaply as possible, among other problems, caused everything to implode.
Director: Seijun Suzuki Screenplay: Ichirô Ikeda, Tadaaki Yamazaki Based on a Novel by: Haruhiko Ôyabu Starring: Jô Shishido, Misako Watanabe, Tamio Kawaji Producer: Keinosuke Kubo Country: Japan Running Time: 92 min Year: 1963 BBFC Certificate: 15
I‘ve been aware of Seijun Suzuki in the Japanese cult cinema landscape for some time. I’ve seen his two most famous classics, Tokyo Drifter and Branded to Kill, but I haven’t ventured beyond those yet, which is a bit mad seeing as I enjoyed both quite a lot and he’s directed over 50 films so far. His career has been an unusual one though which resulted in (supposedly) quite a hit and miss collection and his story is possibly more well known than his films have actually been seen.
In the mid-50’s, the Japanese entertainment company Nikkatsu started producing films again after a hiatus which began during WWII and, in a bid to keep productions fresh and exciting, they hired a number of young assistant directors from other studios, promising to promote them quickly to full director status, which was unheard of in the traditional Japanese studio system back in those days. Among those directors were Shōhei Imamura and Seijun Suzuki. Whereas Imamura started making his unique glimpses of the underbelly of society pretty much straight away, Suzuki found himself churning out cookie-cutter releases for the studio by the dozen, largely yakuza/gangster pictures. By all accounts, most of the 20-odd films he directed in his first 7 years or so at the studio weren’t particularly memorable. However, growing tired of this workmanlike practise and getting jealous of the freedom allowed to his peer Imamura, he finally tore off his shackles and made what is considered his breakthrough film with Youth of the Beast in 1963. It didn’t make much of a mark at the time, but in retrospect, it paved the way for his most highly regarded period which culminated in Branded to Kill which may have got him fired from Nikkatsu, whose head thought it was “incomprehensible”, but cemented his name in the pantheon of cult classic cinema.
The ‘Burbs Ah The ‘Burbs…A film that leaves some unmoved, but (after repeated exposure) settles comfortably into many people’s personal Top 20 lists. My own first encounter with it 25 years ago left me unconvinced. Fortunately, I felt a pull back to it years later…
When the film was released, Tom Hanks was already a “star” comedy name and had a few big hits under his belt (most notably Splash and Big), but also a few klunkers. Name recognition still got people to the theatres in 1989, but then they weren’t sure about what they found there – the comedy in The ‘Burbs was both subtle and broad, it had action, horror & satire and it warned us of the hidden evil that lurked in the bedroom communities of our major cities (not the first to do so, but one of the more clever attempts). Director Joe Dante certainly liked using the suburbs as his playground of choice and in this case even reduced his focus to mostly just one particular block.
New neighbours (as typically happens) get the tongues wagging and curiosity turns to suspicion turns to obsession. Outside influences and out of the ordinary behaviour in the cozy suburbs can be considered potential malevolent forces to be reckoned with, so Ray (Hanks) and his neighbours begin to track the movements of The Klopeks. There’s something amiss about them, so of course they must be piling up the bodies in the basement for some kind of cult-like activities. Whether or not there are indeed occult happenings on the same street where kids ride their bikes, six packs of beer get guzzled and newspapers are the only obvious signs of the corrupt big cities is almost besides the point – the movie revels in the paranoid actions of its trio of husbands trying to “protect” their environment.
Event Horizon One of the few science fiction films featured here, this should be no surprise, because few are crazy enough to merge genres in this fashion and talented enough to pull it off.
I would never say that Paul W.S. Anderson’s Event Horizon is perfect. But it does have some incredibly scary moments, and a pretty sustained level or creepiness across the entire runtime of the film. That is if you can stomach the gorier moments in the film. It is kind of amazing that this was a studio released film with a sizeable budget, considering how graphic the imagery on display. Perhaps this is what endeared the film to me back when I caught in the theatres, the reviews were toxic and the film was a financial failure, but it has just a bit of je ne sais quoi (and two talented actors) to make the whole thing work. And it works well in the dark.
Laurence Fishburn captains rescue ship, commissioned by a scientist (Sam Neill) who hopes to find out what happened to the vessel knowns “Event Horizon” which disappeared, seven years prior but suddenly resurfaces in a decaying orbit around Neptune. The engine was a prototype designed to give faster than light travel by folding space, but instead, it may have opened a portal into another dimension, possibly to Hell.
Over the course of the month, one a day, we will be offering suggestions on cult films to watch. And by cult films, we mean films about cults, even though many of these films have cult followings in their own right. Each will go up as a separate post at the stroke of midnight, as it should be.
Race With The Devil
Why not kick things off with a bit of that old-school 1970s Satanic Cinema mixed with adrenaline-laced car chases. The tail off from the Corman biker movie cycle (the film features a stalwart of the genre, Peter Fonda, along with Warren Oates) before Mad Max, there is an absolutely incredible action set-piece in the middle of the film involving a lot of Satanists attacking a Winnebago at 80 miles per hour.
The rest of the film has some pretty classic occult cinema imagery, as well as sympathetic and fine performances from the two couples who turn off the main road with their RV and witness a human sacrifice.
“One of the problems inherent in using the term “cult” within a contemporary context relating to film, either as a noun or as an adjective, is that it refers to various social structures that no longer exist, at least not in the ways that they once did. When indiscriminate moviegoing (as opposed to going to see particular films) was a routine everyday activity, it was theoretically possible for cults to form around exceptional items — “sleepers,” as they were then called by film exhibitors — that were spontaneously adopted and anointed by audiences rather than generated by advertising. But once advertising started to anticipate and supersede such a selection process, the whole concept of the cult film became dubious at the same time it became more prominent, a marketing term rather than a self-generating social process.”
This is an excerpt from Jonathan Rosenbaum’s sharp little piece on Joe Dante, here.
“I just feel like we are in over our heads.” “Yea, That’s investigative journalism.”
Undercover reporters, cults, and possible time travelers abound in this indie drama/thriller. The Sound of My Voice not only turned some heads at 2011’s SXSW & 2012s Sundance, it stars indie science-fiction favourite Brit Marling (Another Earth) as the enigmatic and charismatic cult leader. There is definitely a claustrophobic vibe to the tone and cinematography here. The trailer is below.