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Vault Reviews, September 2014, Part 1

[this post should have gone up Monday, were it not for the holiday, and then Things Happened(TM) Tuesday and Wednesday to stop me from having the time to work on these… today was almost as bad, but I did it piecemeal… the movie list changes should be up later as well. Part 2, however, will have to wait for tomorrow.]

 

Pee Chang Nang (The Screen at Kamchanod) (Songsak Mongkolthong, 2007)

A large face looms over a filmgoing crowd on the movie poster.

Warning: projecting images onto a large face may cause blurriness.
photo credit: movieexclusives.com

I will allow for the idea that my reaction to this movie, which I am hypothesizing was due mostly to the time (after a 2AM dosing of dilaudid) and place (I was in the hospital with a potentially life-threatening condition) I saw it, may have actually been the reaction the filmmakers were looking for here. Because my fragmentary memories of the movie, complete with washed-out jungle shots and fuzzy figures, actually kind of mirror the movie’s plot (a ghost story about, basically, the backwoods Thai version of a drive-in theater). If so, it’s a bit unfortunate that the trippiness factor may have worked a little too well on me, because fragments were all I remembered, so I rewatched it a couple of months ago…and once again, I’m only getting fragments when I try to bring it up in my head. My experience with movies like this is that the fact that there are fragments means there is a decent possibility that after a number of rewatches over the next decade or so, I may end up coming to love this movie and sing its praises whenever possible (I hated both Suspiria and Begotten the first time I saw each for exactly this reason, and now both are among my favorite movies); we’re a year and a half into it since my first seeing it, though, and I’m not there yet. If I do get there, I’ll write a new, longer review for it and tell you it requires multiple viewings to really get…but for now, it’s an “if you don’t have anything better to do…” movie. **


Trailer. (The full film, unsubbed, is available at Youtube.)

* * *

Splintered (Simeon Halligan, 2010)

Our heroine peers through a hole in the wall on the movie poster.

Heeeeeeeeere’s EYESORE!
photo credit: indirmedennfilmizie.net

You have seen this movie at least a dozen times. Innocent, or maybe not so innocent but she’s certainly done nothing to deserve this, girl is abducted by someone or something and imprisoned. There is someone close by who may or may not be able to help her, but is useful for passing information through to the captive (and, by extension, to the viewers). There is a Big Reveal about the killer, and often whether the viewer is left with a good taste in his or her mouth about the movie turns on whether that Big Reveal works. (I’m not sure it did here, I don’t think this movie could have been saved one way or the other.) It’s a well-established framework that lazy scriptwriters insert characters into for an almost instantly-completed movie. The end result, given that you are using a well-established framework, is utterly predictable and very rarely worth your time. Such is the case with Splintered. *


Trailer.

* * *

Nude Nuns with Big Guns (Joseph Guzman, 2010)

The title's nun, not nude, stands ready for a firefight on the movie poster.

Forgive me, Father, for I am about to sin. A lot.
photo credit: walkerpercyhero.blogspot.com

Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I didn’t know what I was getting into when I started watching a movie called Nude Nuns with Big Guns. It would be kind of hard not to; the title is about as descriptive as they come. And if you go into it expecting nothing but nude nuns with big guns, you’re in for a good time. That said, when I see a title like that, I see the weight of history behind it. Nunsploitation is a time-honored genre in a number of cultures ranging from Japan to Mexico (Italy, of course, is the godafather, if you’ll pardon the pun, of the genre—Visconti’s 1969 The Nun of Monza seems to have been the first true nunsploitation movie as we know the genre today), and I would have felt a lot better about it had I gotten the idea that co-writers Guzman and Robert James Hayes felt any sort of affection for, let alone connection with, such nunsploitation treasures as Alucarda. Instead, this feels like they found out the genre was A Thing by reading an article about it and said “hey, we can make a movie about this!” without bothering to find out, say, what’s cliché, what works and what doesn’t, whether nuns serve in monasteries (they don’t), you know, the small things. As a result, the picture is mildly amusing for a bit, but gets old quick. **

* * *

Seux (Female Tiger) (director unknown, date unknown)

photo credit: nogoodcause.blogspot.com

We can’t show it to you because the Internet fails us (maybe I’ll grab a title screen when I get home).

I apologize for not knowing a blessed thing about Female Tiger. IMDB doesn’t, either, and I can find nothing at all about it on the Internet. The copy I have, which is obviously a bootleg (though I didn’t know that at the time), is unsubbed, which would make it tough for me to tell you much about the movie without guessing. That said, this is not a movie you’re going to be watching for its plot niceties. Female Tiger is a Thai softcore film. I wasn’t aware any culture but America had a market for these silly things, but there you have it. And because of that, you’re probably far less interested in the story, which seems to have something to do with the male lead—who has more sex than your sister on prom night during the film (and probably with more partners, even)—being some sort of supernatural (or possessed) guy who can hex insanely beautiful women into sleeping with him, and far more interested in the many, many scenes that involve said male lead getting it on with a small legion of said insanely beautiful women. And for that, well, who needs subtitles? Easily findable at places that stock Thai VCDs, and if it’s the kind of thing you’re into, well, you could do a lot worse (and have with every American softcore movie I’ve seen since Black Emmanuelle). ** ½

Trailer? …yeah, no.

* * *

Dok (The Pot) (Tae-gon Kim, 2008)

The child, during the ritual, is shown  on the movie poster.

Upside down. Pot you’re turnin’ me. Inside out. And round and round.
photo credit: IMDB

I really wanted to like The Pot, one of those bottom-of-the-sorted-queue movies that Netflix’s description made sound relatively interesting. As is often the case, however, Netflix’s description missed the mark by a relatively wide margin. Instead of the promised creepy ghost story, this seems (either because of bad script, bad editing, bad subtitles, or some combination of the above, it’s not that easy to keep track of what’s going on here) to be some sort of evangelical-Christian movie about a kid gone wrong corrupting her family (until, of course, deus ex machina). I’d say more about it but, honestly, why bother? Most of what you need to know is contained in the phrase “the Netflix description is wrong.” **

* * *

Paul Bright, Grumpy Badger’s Christmas (Good Books, 2009)

Badger, grumpy, stands amonst a bunch of other woodland animals on the book's cover.

“The Gophers made it to the Sun Bowl. AGAIN.”
photo credit: wgrl.net

Everyone in the woodland valley is looking forward to Christmas except grumpy badger. Which makes sense if you’re an adult given that badgers hibernate during the winter. Problem is, people keep knocking on his door and disturbing his rest. He keeps getting grumpier and grumpier until he finally falls asleep and realizes that he’s done something horribly wrong, after which everyone kisses and makes up. I am—to put it mildly—not a fan of Christmas, but this one does hold up to the kinds or readings and re-readings it got in December, and for the Bean’s general attention level, this is a pretty long book, and he eats it up. And hey, I love badgers, and everyone loves a good party (oops, spoiler alert). *** ½

* * *

Michael Twinn, Great Pal Puppy (Child’s Play, 1996)

The bookk, shaped to look like a puppy, has a cover that only hints at the horrible illustrations inside.

Are you scared yet?
photo credit: paperbackswap.com

The dog's obviously prehensile eye stalks stare at you from the bottom of its cheeks in this terrifying picture.

WHAT. IS. WRONG. WITH. THIS. DOG’S. EYES.
photo credit: me me me

This is one of a series of oversized board books focusing on various animals. Most of them are just badly-written, at least the ones we’ve come across over the past couple of years, but Great Pal Puppy ups the ante with a terrifying, anatomically-impossible illustration on the second page that looks far less like a puppy than one of Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones descending from above to devour your soul. You’ll want to take a good long look at this one before adding it to your permanent collection; the kid may be fine with it, but you might be traumatizing yourself for life looking at that monster on Page 2. *

* * *

Jamie Lee Curtis, My Mommy Hung the Moon (Joanna Cotler Books, 2010)

The narrator and his mother cuddle under a full moon on the book's cover.

…and then hung Laurie Strode from it, broken and bleeding…
photo credit: Amazon

I wasn’t terribly fond of this one, and while we had it out of the library for a three-week span, the Bean never actually asked for it the way he does with the books he really enjoys, and he is obsessed with all things moon. The rhyme is thudding, the language is simplistic (I know that seems an odd thing to complain about in a pre-lit book, but contrast it to, say, Victoria Adler’s books and you can easily see the difference). Nothing about it distinguishes it from a hundred other pre-lit books we’ve been through and sent back to the library with no intention of ever getting them out again. **

* * *

Mrs. James Ward Thorne, European Rooms in Miniature (Art Institute of Chicago, 1948)

A very busy wallpaper pattern adorns the cover of the book.

“Of course it would look lovely on the walls dear. In the basement.”
photo credit: ebay

Narcissa (Mrs. James Ward) Thorne’s first book on miniature architecture was this one, published in 1948 (I reviewed her 1962 follow-up, American Rooms in Miniature, last year). I just found out a number of these are still housed, as of this writing (29 January 2014) at the Art Institute of Chicago, and am now planning a roadtrip. The rooms themselves are, of course, exquisite, at least in the provided photographs; I imagine seeing them live would be an entirely different experience. Once again, the text is a bit on the dry side, though more enthusiasm comes through in this one than in American Rooms in Miniature; still, worth it for the pictures if you are at all interested in the subject matter. ***

* * *

Karen Katz, The Babies on the Bus (Henry Holt, 2011)

A number of Katz' signature babies crowd into the front of the bus on the cover of the book.

Shouldn’t you be able to reach the pedals before trying to drive?
photo credit: Amazon

Karen Katz lends her inimitable style to a rendition of “The Wheels on the Bus”, and the result is just as cute as you would expect. A few points off for not sticking to the original formula of the song, which never repeats any word in “the _____ on the bus”, but that’s a minor thing; this is a good’un and will find its way into storytime again and again. *** ½

Capsule Reviews, August 2014 (new)

Inkubus (Glenn Ciano, 2011)

Robert Englund taps his eye with a red knife on the DVD case.

This devil is out of the details. Way out.
photo credit: Ebay

Glenn Ciano’s debut film, Inkubus, is not all that great, though in hindsight it is leagues better than his followup, Infected. But then he’s starting from a pretty good place: casting Robert Englund (Nightmare on Elm St.) as a demon who walks into a police station during the night shift and starts confessing to almost seven hundred years’ worth of crimes. Why this station? You’ll find out eventually, if you stick around long enough. Whether you will want to or not depends entirely how you feel about Robert Englund; this is his movie entirely, and if you feel he’s good enough to carry it, then you’ll probably like it. I was less impressed. * ½

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L’Altro Inferno (The Other Hell) (1981): …Is Where You Are When You’re Done Watching This

L’Altro Inferno (The Other Hell) (Bruno Mattei, 1981)

Half a skull with something blooming behind it adorns the Italian DVD cover.

“Have you seen my head?”
photo credit: gentedirispetto.com

You’ve heard of The Asylum, yes? It’s an American production house that for a while turned out decent indie pictures, every once in a while coming up with a really, really good one. But roundabout 2006 or so, they realized that for a low-budget shop, the real money was in no-name knockoffs of blockbuster pictures—and thus, the Asylum Mockbuster was born. They have turned into a one-studio mockbuster cottage industry. And you know what? Pretty much every movie The Asylum has released since Halloween Night, their first successful mockbuster, has been reviled both critically and popularly…but The Asylum are laughing all the way to the bank, because no matter how much we hate the stupid things, we keep watching them. But you didn’t think The Asylum invented the idea, do you? If so, let me introduce you to Bruno Mattei, a one-man mockbuster factory who spent thirty years making bank by ripping off other people’s work. His third feature, 1977’s Casa Privata per le SS, is a shameless ripoff of the Ilsa movies, and his final picture, 2007’s Zombies: The Beginning, was an equally shameless Aliens rip. In the interim, he “paid homage” to just about every horror and exploitation film you can think of. 1981’s The Other Hell, Mattei’s entry into the wonderful nunsploitation genre, mixes equal parts The Sinful Nuns of St. Valentine (1974) and Killer Nun (1977) to come up with something that is just about as original as the first half of this sentence would have you believe.

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Intikam Kadini (A Woman’s Revenge) (1979): Turkish Sexploitation? Indeed!

photo credit: Oregon State University

Intikam Kadini (Naki Yurter, 1979)

[note: review originally published 24Sep2010]

photo credit: urun.gittigidiyor.com

News flash: Turkish breasts look a good deal like American breasts.

Intikam Kadini (literally “A Woman’s Revenge”, but the only way I’ve ever seen the title noted in English is “The Turkish I Spit on Your Grave”) is quite possibly the single rarest movie in my collection. Turkey had a thriving sexploitation-flick industry in the late seventies; it was derailed by Kenan Evren’s coup on 12 September 1980, however, and both masters and prints of most of the Turkish sexploitation films of the seventies were destroyed in the ensuing tightening of moral standards. Intikam Kadini survives these days thanks only to a master made from an old VHS copy; you can imagine how it looks these days, but unlike most of the films of the period, it’s actually available, and that’s saying something. (It is rumored that director Naki Yurter was also arrested during this time for his role in creating morally offensive movies; Oyle Bir Kadin Ki, another movie he directed in 1979, was the first hardcore movie ever shot in Turkey. This claim, however, remains unsubstantiated by official records, as far as I’ve been able to tell.)

photo credit: esoft.ws

I’ll give you a hint: she’s not in the hay for the same reason Jane Russell was.

The generally-available English title should tell you all you need to know about the plot of the film. Travelers stop at a rural farm after running out of gas and are put up for the night by an old farmer and his nubile daughter (Zerrin Dogan, Yurter’s usual go-to girl for sexploitation). After a good night’s rest, the guys decide, for no apparent reason, to rape the daughter and kill the old man. She decides to get herself some good old-fashioned revenge on the men, transforming herself from peasant farm girl to glamorous lady of mystery (but not otherwise disguising herself, and these guys don’t know it’s the same woman, for real?), after which she travels around Turkey offing them one by one.

Two very important things to note, if you decide to track this down (and it is worth tracking down, if only because it’s such a rare example of what was, briefly, an extremely popular subgenre of the Turkish film scene): first off, the current surviving print lasts just under an hour (as in fifty-nine minutes and fifty-eight seconds). There are certain things that lead me to believe the original cut of the film was longer; most telling are the vanishing of one of the guy from the plot entirely and the fact that the big musical number (who says they have to be restricted to Bollywood films, yeah?) cuts out halfway through. That would never happen in Asian film, especially not in the seventies. Second, mercifully, the rape scene here is a lot shorter than the one in the movie upon which this is obviously based; we’re talking seven or eight minutes here (I remember the rape scene in I Spit on Your Gravegoing forty-five minutes, but it was probably closer to twenty). Yurter does take the really-annoying “let’s film rape as softcore” approach, but to Dogan’s credit, at no point during the scene does she look like she’s enjoying it. In fact, focusing just on Dogan, it may be one of the more realistic rape scenes I’ve come across. It jars with the way the scene is filmed, but in a way that makes her performance even more effective.

photo credit: filmbizarro.com

“You know, Dad, maybe we shouldn’t let these guys stay in the barn. Don’t they look like the kind of people who will, after a good night’s rest, wake up wanting to kill you and rape me?”

One other interesting note: comparing and contrasting the two is an interesting way to look at cultural differences between the US and Turkey. Can you imagine the guys in I Spit on Your Grave actually praising God were they to get food and shelter for the night from an old farmer? Of course you can’t, but it happens here (and that makes the events of the next morning even more oddly disconnected from reality than they would otherwise be).

While there is no way I can defend this as a good film, it’s certainly worth seeing if only for archival value. But you won’t like it much. * ½