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White Dog (1982): Sundown Town

White Dog (Samuel Fuller, 1982)

An artist's rendition of the snarling title creature adorns the DVD cover.

Never bite the hand that bleeds you.
photo credit: subscene.com

There a number of directors who have become canonical over the years whose films I have simply never gotten. Woody Allen. Mario Bava. Sam Fuller. Every time I dig into a Fuller movie I try and see what it is that sets him apart, and every time I fail. My most recent attempt was with the 1982 racism melodrama White Dog, and I think that perhaps I’ve figured out what the canon sees in him. I still didn’t get to the “all that and a bag of racists” point with this one, but it’s starting to make sense. The thing about Sam Fuller’s strain of melodrama, if I’m right in my hypothesizing, is that in movies like Shock Corridor and Pickup on South Street, both of which left me kind of cold, Fuller was doing that gig first; Douglas Sirk and Grace Metalious and Russ Meyer and all that lot would come after and hone the genre, so that when Fuller returned to the fold in the eighties, he not only had his own base to work from, he had everyone else’s, too. And I think that, more than anything, may be what impressed me about White Dog: Fuller wasn’t afraid to build on the work of others, rather than focusing obsessively upon his own corpus.

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The Evictors (1979): Court Is Now in Session

The Evictors (Charles B. Pierce, 1979)

A dark figure carries a dead body away from a house on the movie poster.

We get ‘em out the old-fashioned way!
photo credit: dailygrindhouse.com

There are a whole lot of directors at work in America today who should be sat down—with as much force as necessary—and made to watch The Evictors, which is an excellent example of how to make a stylish, effective thriller on a basement budget. But since that’s not going to happen, I can distill what they need to learn from this movie into a single sentence: look backward, not forward. Look, if you dare, at the plague of Asylum pictures and Syfy Original Movies and all that sort of dreck, and one thing you will likely notice is that everyone’s waving around CGI like it’s a brand-new toy they can’t get enough of. It’s a very loud, flashy toy, and it annoys the hell out of mom and dad five minutes after the box is opened. Now watch the opening sequence of The Evictors, which is filmed in sepia-tone; the sequence takes place in the thirties, and Pierce was going for that kind of look. It’s very well-shot, it’s obviously out of place, and it does what it sets out to do. If this movie was made in 2013, that sequence would probably be CGIed to death, and the movie would be the worse for it. This is not to say that The Evictors is a perfect film, not by any stretch of the imagination, but for what it is, it is a very good one.

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Love Is Not Because (1998):…You Read This Book

Ruth F. Boorstin, Love Is Not Because (Lone Oak Press, 1998)

The title of the book is all that is found on the otherwise painfully-red cover.

Love Is Not Because This Book Has a Fire-Engine Red Cover.
photo credit: Amazon

Ruth F. Boorstin, the About the Author blurb tells us, was the wife—and longtime editor—of Daniel J. Boorstin, a Pulitzer Prize winner, Library of Congress librarian, seller of many, many books. You have likely heard of Daniel Boorstin. Unless you aware aware of the minutiae of his life, you have probably never heard of Ruth. Having now read the horrifying Love Is Not Because, I know why all too well.

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Affections (2012): Objections

Warren L. G. DeMills, Affections (No press listed, 2012)

Had I been planning on giving this any stars, it would have lost them for incomplete information.

A tree-lined path adorns the cover of the book.

I thought I took the road less travelled, but then I realized that wouldn’t be the case with this much landscaping.
photo credit: Amazon

Vanity-, POD-, and Self-published poetry comes in two flavors, with no middle ground: it’s either really, really good or really, really bad. If you are familiar with vanity-published work at all, you are probably not surprised by the idea that 90% of the vanity-published books you will pick up are of the latter flavor. When it comes to poetry—and I will admit right up from that my criteria for what makes a great poem is far, far stricter than it is for prose—that number tends to be closer to 99%. Now, why am I telling you all this? Well, there’s the kicker. As I write these words at the end of September 2014, Affections has eight reviews at Amazon. One of them is a three-star review (which to me means “lightly recommended”, since 2.5 is the average). All the rest are either four or five stars. So this has got to be one of the one percent, right?

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After the Dark (2013): Before the Robots

After the Dark (John Huddles, 2013)

The cast stand in the foreground, a mushroom cloud behind them, on the movie poster.

The Day After.
photo credit: movies.yahoo.com

After the Dark (also released under the title The Philosophers), John Huddles’ first film in a decade and a half, starts out with an intriguing, sobering, and rather terrifying premise. Zimit (Exorcist: The Beginning‘s James D’Arcy) is a philosophy teacher at an Indonesian school containing some of the world’s best and brightest students. It’s the last day of his class’ senior year, and he’s not going to let them go without one last exercise. There are twenty students in the class, and Zimit makes twenty-one. A nuclear disaster has occurred, and they are within range of a bunker that can sustain ten people for one year, enough time for the radiation level on the planet to subside enough for it to become habitable again. Given a random distribution of talents (the students pick slips of paper from a box describing their professions), an exercise in pragmatism: who gets to go into the bunker? Who lives and who dies?

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Bad Ass 2: Bad Asses (2014): Another Sequel

Bad Ass 2: Bad Asses (Craig Moss, 2014)

Danny Trejo and Danny Glover adorn the DVD cover.

If these two can learn to stand each other…
photo credit: ramascreen.com

It is a foregone conclusion, given Hollywood economics these days, that when one finds oneself with a surprise hit on one’s hands, one must make a sequel. Bad Ass was the very definition of a surprise hit; Moss’ 2012 basement-budget Danny Trejo vehicle became a bona fide smash on video. This, Bad Ass 2: Bad Asses was in the cards almost immediately, and who better to join Trejo as a geriatric vigilante than Detective Murtaugh himself? I do have to give Moss credit for not having Danny Glover use Murtaugh’s “I’m too old for this shit” tagline, at least.

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Lovelace (2013): Shallow Throat

Lovelace (Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, 2013)

Amanda Seyfried vamps on the movie poster.

I had too much to dream last night.
photo credit: flicksandbits.com

I try—these days, anyway (I make no promises of same in my vault reviews)—to limit my comments about actors of either sex to their performances rather than their looks, other than a generic comment here and there about eye candy when it’s obvious that a writer obviously put in a part of Nameless Hot Blonde (especially in a lead role). But given the subject matter and the thrust, no pun intended, of Lovelace, I think it’s fair to open this review by saying that from the moment I set eyes on a nineteen-year-old actress named Amanda Seyfried in 2004′s phenomenal comedy Mean Girls, I developed a life-size crush on her. I think she is, in the vernacular, crazy gorgeous, one of those actresses who usually ends up getting cast as the hanger-on (viz. Mean Girls) or the mousy best friend (Jennifer’s Body, about which Seyfried was the only thing worth watching) when she’s the prettiest woman in the room. (At least she’s got job security, since Janeane Garofalo, who was often relegated to those same roles, seems to have chosen to focus more on TV these days.) So as soon as I heard she was going to be starring in a Linda Lovelace biopic, I was champing at the bit. One of the most beautiful women in the world playing one of the most famous porn stars in the world? How could this go wrong? That turns out to be a far more complex question than it probably deserves to be, and because of that, I watched Lovelace almost a month ago as I write these words, and I’m still pondering the question. That leads me to believe the film is maybe more worth your time than I initially believed. But I am, as usual, getting ahead of myself.

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