I could never get into Straight To Hell either. There was a re-edited version playing at Filmbar recently, I thought about going, but it didn't happen.
Well....I am the type of person who once every couple weeks drinks a couple of really good beers with his friends and watches a random Troma film .
I like how Straight to Hell is a really silly spaghetti western and is really off.And who can hate this?
You have to wonder if Sy Richardson's character was an inspiration for Jules in Pulp Fiction.
They used to show this on the Encore Westerns channel, which I would imagine was pretty baffling to the elderly John Ford fans who tend to watch that a lot.
Last night I watched the original version of The Stepfather, which, if you don't already know, is about a man who marries single mothers in search of the perfect family then eventually murders them when they don't live up to his Norman Rockwell standards before jumping towns and finding a new family to infiltrate. Despite (or maybe because of) some typically cheeseball 80s moments, in addition to laying on the title characters fixation with the perfect family a little thick, this is a really solid horror film. For the most part, it plays everything pretty low key. There's minimal violence and mostly just plays off the inherent creepiness of Terry O'Quin, whose barely held together squeaky clean performance carries the film. The scenes of him briefly losing grip on reality are genuinely chilling. I'm sure there's all kinds of social commentary and metaphors going on here about the family unit and suburbia and whatnot, but they're pretty surface level and this should just be enjoyed as a modest yet creepy and effective horror flick.
From here on out, in order to raise awareness about cult films, I plan on doing a write up on one cult classic a day. I'll start with a lot of the more obvious stuff every cult cinema fan should see and work my way towards more obscure stuff as I see fit until I just burn out. These will all be films I personally relate to on some level and are amongst my favorites. Feel free to suggest something. I doubt the rest will be long as my first one.
Desperate Living (John Waters, 1977, X, USA)
Even as a kid, I was destined to become a cult film addict. Growing up, my favorite movie was Beetlejuice and I'd watch it on repeat as many times as I could possibly manage. While I appreciated the typical children's fare, I also was fed by my parents a diet of oddities from Yellow Submarine to Monty Python. I remember showing my friends the scene in Holy Grail where the Black Knight gets his limbs hacked off one by one and not being able to figure out why they weren't laughing hysterically. Still, cult film was just a passing interest I didn't even really realize I had. Until John Waters.
Somewhere in my early to mid teens, when I was starting my own explorations into the outer fringes of pop culture, I had heard Waters' name thrown around as a master of transgression. Being a teenager, of course I needed to be in the know about these kinds of things. For some reason, his more mainstream ventures had eluded me. I was probably aware of Hairspray or Cry-Baby, but hadn't actually seen them. Instead, I decided to seek out his most notorious work first: Pink Flamingos. Surprisingly, my local library had a VHS copy (I owe the Akron Public Library an immeasurable amount of thanks for corrupting me and educating me cinematically; their VHS selection during my teen years was like my own private Criterion Collection). Even more surprisingly, they let me borrow it without parental approval. Although it was unlike anything I had ever seen, it didn't quite convert me (which is why I'm not writing about that more infamous film). It did, however, lead me to seek out more John Waters movies. This is how I came across Desperate Living at my local Blockbuster, of all places.
And thus the floodgates opened. After my initial viewing of Desperate Living, I knew I had to seek out everything this Waters fellow had ever touched. Furthermore, I needed to get my hands on every weird, offbeat, disgusting, shocking, rare, low budget, idiosyncratic, underground film I could find. I bought books, scoured libraries and video stores, ordered out of print VHS tapes from the internet (my mom was worried I was ordering snuff films when I sent for Peter Jackson's Bad Taste), researched endlessly, trying to find every obscure nook in the cinematic universe. Somewhere along the way, I stumbled across the works of "serious" foreign art film auteurs and became a bonafide Film Lover. I even dropped out of film school. But at my heart I was still a rabid cult film fanatic, and it all started with Desperate Living. What about this film captured my imagination so? I had seen gross out comedies before. I had seen odd, independent films before. This was something different though.
Like all of John Waters' early work, Desperate Living is a completely independent, home made production, written, directed, shot, and edited by Waters himself, starring a cast of his oddball friends and acquaintances. He named his production stable Dreamland Studios, as though he were aspiring to create magnificent Hollywood melodramas from the 50's. The flimsy plot concerns a neurotic suburban housewife and her maid, who, after murdering the former's husband in a fit of schizophrenic panic, escape to a rogue shanty town called Mortville populated by criminals and degenerates, and ruled over by tyrant queen. It all plays out like some bizarre fairy tale fantasia, splitting the difference between the Marquis de Sade and Disney.
Every aspect of the film is infused with an exaggerated hideousness, from the costumes to the sets to the make up to music. Not only is the look of the film ugly, but so are the actions of the characters. While most gross out comedies that followed were underpinned with a sort of debased sweetness, John Waters' early films were filled with a defiant mean-spiritedness that makes them still stand out today. And no one was better at playing a vicious, spite filled bitch than Mink Stole, the star of Desperate Living and probably the main reason I love it so much. The early scenes of her shrieking her way through a nervous breakdown are still some of the funniest minutes ever laid to celluloid. In fact, this is one of the straight up funniest films front to back ever created.
That's all part of what makes this film so special. Since it's nothing more than an outlandish fairy tale, you get to watch completely evil, irredeemable people perform outrageous, over the top acts of cruelty. In his books, John Waters relates how he used to fantasize about being the evil witch from Snow White. Here, we get to watch him have actors play out his childhood fantasies in all of their perverse glory. Which brings me to another point about why this film had such an effect on me. Despite all the cruelty and perversion and dementedness of it all, the whole film seems like it was great fun to make. There's a sense of a bunch of kids gathering up all the spare fabric in their mothers' closet and putting on a show for the neighbors. You get the feeling that if you got up a few extra dollars, bought your friends lunch for a month, and let your imagination run wild, you could make something like this.
Only you couldn't, because you don't possess the delightfully deranged mind of John Waters. Without the filter of a studio, his fantasies are allowed free reign to spill out all over the place. It's really his unique sensibility, informed equally by Disney, Russ Meyer, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Douglas Sirk, Jayne Mansfield, Andy Warhol, Ingmar Bergman, and Luis Bunuel, that holds the whole thing together. Although he may be obsessed with trash and commoners, Waters is way too clever and way too much of an intellectual (sorry to offend) to play it straight. Even when he's exploiting the most crass elements, there's a level of high brow absurdity that distinguishes his films from your average shockmeister.
While many may decry the lack of the always fabulous Divine, there's plenty in Desperate Living that more than makes up for her absence: every word out of Mink Stole's mouth, the cross dressing policeman, Susan Lowe and Liz Renay as a dysfunctional, proletariat lesbian couple, Edith Massey as the loud mouthed tyrannical queen making bizarre demands of her village such as making them all dress and walk backwards for a day, a small army of homo-erotic leathermen acting as Mortville's police presence, tragic tales of exile including a grotesque female wrestling match and a housewife drowning her careless babysitter in dog food, a plot to spread rabies to the population, a necrophiliac princess, a low rent sex change operation, a climactic finish that includes an anal execution and cannibalism, and so much more.
Early John Waters isn't to everyone's taste, and that's more or less the point. These are the types of films reviled by mainstream, but slavishly adored by a small lucky few. If you've ever wondered if you're a true cult film fanatic or just a midnight movie tourist, look no further than Desperate Living.
LOVE Desperate Living. It's probably my favorite John Waters movie.
I don't really have the patience to for a well-worded write up, but I would check out
Steve Balderson's Pep Squad if you haven't seen it before.
I must have watched it 50+ times when I was in high school.
For some reason i've seen extremely little John Waters, even though I'm sure I'd love his work. Serial Mom, Crybaby, and Cecil B. Demented (which i fucking hated with a passion when I saw it) are the only three I've seen. Looking at his filmography, it seems like just starting at the beginning and moving up chronologically is the way to do it, yeah?
I always get Desperate Living mixed up with Female Trouble. I don't think I've actually seen D.L. now that you mention Divine isn't in it.
EDIT- Also, clearly I am not a Waters fanatic, but I'm guessing you don't want to start any further back than Multiple Maniacs, Drinkey. His earlier films were basically silent films.
Last edited by M Sparks; 06-27-2011 at 10:15 AM.
Ah, I was looking at what was available on Netflix. Pink Flamingos is the earliest on there.
John Waters.... I gotta give love to Female Trouble, the scene where Divine's man character Earl Peterson rapes Divine's female character Dawn Davenport is cinematic genius...
Coachella: 4/10-12 @ Empire Polo Fields
U2: 6/28 @ United Center
They screened a director's cut of the Exorcist at our local repertory theatre last week, as part of Comicon, and Linda Blair was there to introduce it. Got to go last minute since my father used to manage the place, was nice to see it in the theatre again, especially with the scenes you don't normally see in the version they air on TV now and again.
Cult Film Of The Day #2: The Rocky Horror Picture Show
We might as well acknowledge the elephant in the room and get it over with early. The Rocky Horror Picture Show is such a huge cult film, it both defines and transcends the label to the point of being almost mainstream. Even your most homophobic, close minded frat boy has dressed up in fishnets and gone to see it at midnight once or twice. At this point, it's more cultural phenomenon than underground movie. Despite all of that, I still fucking love the thing, and probably more as a home viewing experience than the somewhat tired interactive midnight screenings.
I first saw Rocky Horror as a kid, long before I knew what cult films were, exposed to it through my mom who had gone to see it with my uncle when they were teens. It was a staple of my childhood film viewing experience, dancing to "The Time Warp" in my living room. When I became a teenager, my friends and I would travel to the next town over to catch it at midnight. The first time I ever talked my mom into letting me take the car out on my own was so we could go see it. Years, and dozens of viewings, later and I've become weary of the audience participation shtick. In most cases, it's become a very rigid, restrictive experience, filled with bitter drama class rejects who scorn you if you fall out of line with their rote recital of all the expected lines. It's a way to feel transgressive without actually having to be dangerous or spontaneous. (Sorry if this is a little harsh, as I'm sure there's a bunch of really nice weirdos nationwide who are Rocky Horror cast members, but the whole thing has lost a lot of its charm since I've graduated high school.)
So what remains is the film itself, which is, admittedly, a hot mess. It's inconsistent and lumpy, non-sensical, campy, self indulgent, tacky, and incredibly dated. It's also a loving tribute to classic b-movies, especially the horror and sci-fi genres, 50's rock & roll and drive-in culture, over the top theatricality, Broadway musicals, deviant sexuality, extravagant hedonism, and tongue-in-cheek sleaze. All of which are the hallmarks of a great cult film. Filled to the brim with catchy tunes, pitch perfect camp performances, ridiculous one liners, ingenious sight gags, inventive low budgets sets and costumes, and absurd plot twists, it's a party of a movie, endlessly re-watchable for all of those perfectly weird, giddy little moments.
While Tim Curry undoubtedly steals the show as a transvestite mad scientist, the entire cast attack their roles with subversive glee. Everyone seems to be taking extreme pleasure in vamping it up in the name of innocence debased by sexual liberation, even future Serious Actress Susan Sarandon. Featuring shades of bisexuality, homosexuality, crossdressing and transgenderism, bondage, polyamory, and all other manner of perversion, the film still stands as a joyful affront to American puritanical values. This is probably why the live screening still endure as a rite of passage for American teenagers, and for all my trashing of the experience, I can't really hate too much on anything that convinces straight teenage boys to unironically dress up in women's clothing for a night.
Despite all the celebration of sex and pleasure, there is a tragic element to Rocky Horror that gives this otherwise totally frivolous film a slight glimmer of emotional heft. For all of the film's glorification of decadence and deviance, it's ultimately the hedonism of Curry's Frank-N-Furter that leads to his downfall. In the end, the whole thing almost serves as a cautionary tale of going off the deep end of debauched excess. While it's probably slightly ridiculous to read too much into the social commentary aspects of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, there's an undeniable sorrowful streak to the film's final act.
Over 35 years after its original release and Rocky Horror's cult appeal still remains strong. No amount of pop cultural co-opting, self serious geeks claiming exclusive fan ownership, or remake rumors can detract from its campy, perverse charms. It may not be obscure or underground or widely dismissed by the general public any more, but it's still a whole hell of a lot fun.
I have not seen Rocky Horror in a long time. I've never really understood the fascination with it, but it is fun and there are a number of great songs.
Last edited by Drinkey McDrinkerstein; 06-27-2011 at 04:22 PM.
Just got through my first viewing of John Woo's Hard-Boiled, and I have to confess I don't get what all the hype is about. It's perfectly fine as a fun, cheesy 80s style action/buddy/cop movie, but I don't get where all this reverence for his "ballet" like style and tonal sophistication comes from. Maybe I'm just spoiled from years upon years of movies filled with operatic violence, sensitive gangsters, and troubled lawman, some undoubtedly influence by this movie. Still, I thought the acting and dialogue were totally cheesy in an Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle kind of way, and the action scenes reminded me more of video games than any kind of delicately choreographed dance. Nothing in this movie holds a candle to the gunplay in a Seijen Suzuki classic. And the whole climax with the hospital and rescuing the babies was so over the top, it was just straight up funny instead of tense. Like I said, it was totally entertaining, but I'm going to have to see some pretty strong arguments if anyone wants to convince me this is a genuinely Great Movie.
Any of you Rocky Horror fans have an opinion of Shock Treatment? I am of the opinion that it is "more watchable" than Rocky, if not necessarily "better".
I tried to show it to someone recently and they seemed baffled at my affection for it.
HMMM I've got to stew in my juices a bit to work up a good write-up about Hard-Boiled...it MIGHT be a "you had to have been there" kind of thing to honest, but I fucking LOVE that movie. Seeing that at the Egyptian followed by a Q&A with John Woo 10 years ago w2as a high point in my film nerdery. I'm well overdue for a rewatch too.
Deep Red aka Profondo Rosso is showing at a local bar this week. Hoping I can make it out for a viewing. I'm more familiar with the original score by Goblin than I am with the actual movie.
That would be a great movie to drink to I'd think. I've only seen Suspiria of Argento's films so far, and that was only this most recent Halloween