What!? You Haven't Seen... Marnie?

"Oh Ms. Marnie-penny, sometimes a phallic symbol is just a horse's mouth."

Marnie (1964)- Alfred Hitchcock

Pike's take:

Some of us folks here at the Booth have decided to play a little friendly game of film recommendation with our intent being that we post our impressions after watching the films. For this kick-off post I was recommended the 1964 Hitchcock film Marnie by the master of the ten-film review, Patrick. Now I must admit beforehand, that I am not a big fan of Hitchcock's work in general and that I always enter into one of his films with a skeptical eye. I have found his work for the most part to be alternately hackneyed or bombastically overbearing, and generally consider his films to be lesser works in comparison to his English compatriots Carol Reed, Michael Powell, David Lean (in his early years) and Anthony Asquith. With Marnie though, Hitch really outdid himself in that he finally let his hackneyed and bombastically overbearing sides merge into a completely stupefying whole.

Marnie stars Tippi Hedren as the titular character, a compulsive thief who goes through life trying to gain her mother's love and affection with ill-gotten gains. Her trick is to fall into the confidence of her leering male bosses and then, while working a little overtime, rob the office safe of its contents and split town. It's a good gig until she applies at a publishing house that does business with her last place of employment/heist. The publishing house owner, Mark Rutland (played by Sean "007" Connery), recognizes her from her last job. He hires her knowing full well that she stole ten-thousand in cash from her previous employer, and it is with this knowledge that he plans on trapping Marnie and forcing her into the most compromising position of all.

What starts out as a controlled thriller à la Vertigo, soon gives way to some of the most ripe melodrama Hitchcock has ever produced. In the mix we get: A grown woman speaking in a little girl's voice, a disapproving mother straight out of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie that speaks (of course) in a full-on magnolia drenched drawl (... after living most of her adult life in Baltimore? Really?), one of the most ridiculous old-moneyed New England families ever put to screen and, last but not least, the most disturbingly ambiguous rape scene since Rhett took Scarlett upstairs in Gone With the Wind. All the while, Freudian nonsense (repression as a self defense mechanism, transference, sexual sublimation) is flying off the screen fast and hard. In one scene Marnie and Mark even go tête-à-tête with a little free association that could be considered comically heated if only this was a screwball comedy. As for the ending- I won't spoil it for those who haven't seen the film but- Oh my! What an ending it is! Marnie ends with so much overwrought emotional bloodletting (literally) and pop-psychology mumbo-jumbo that it had to be Hitchcock's intent to push the film over the cliff into pure camp. There is no way that he believed that this stuff could have been taken seriously by even the most unsophisticated audience of its day.

I shouldn't give the impression that Marnie is a complete misfire though, as it has a lot going for it. Some scenes are well handled and in their own way prove to be iconic examples of filmmaking, such as the opening scene with Marnie walking down the train platform or the scene where she shoots her horse after a riding accident- all we see is her gloved hand in the foreground carrying the pistol forward and firing, while in the background her horse's legs kick one last time. The most controlled and impressive scene has to be the the first Rutland heist scene where Marnie is emptying the safe while a cleaning lady is mopping the floor close by. The way that the tension of the scene is resolved is pretty fantastic and funny to boot.

These moments though are not enough to overcome what the film asks of my suspended disbelief. In addition to the aforementioned "heightened emotionalism" and Freudian bunk in Marnie, there are also some moments of shear laziness in the filmmaking. One example is with the character of Mark's sister-in-law who is introduced as a lesbian (maybe bi-sexual) tigress on the prowl but then is later shuffled off in a abruptly dismissive manner as just a caring sister with a proclivity for Nancy Drew-like antics. There are also moments of over-explanation in the visual storytelling that become almost ham-fisted motifs in their use and repetition. In Marnie, Hitchcock shows either a lack of confidence in his material or a lack of confidence in his intended audience. It amazes me that he, being the master craftsman that he was, was not able to eschew the blatantly clunky elements in the film. I mean how many times do you have to fast zoom in and out on the money to show that Marnie is having a moment of troubled conscience or how many times does a character have to repeat an action to show that he hasn't memorized the combination to his own safe and that the said combo is in his drawer. After a while, all of these little things pushed the film past the point at which I could continue to enjoy it. Watching it just became a chore to trudge through. It also didn't help that Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery felt like a couple of also-rans in the casting of their respective rolls. Neither one ever came close to producing the on screen magic of either the James Stewart and Kim Novak pairing (Vertigo) or that of Cary Grant and Grace Kelly (To Catch a Thief). Both performers run the gamut from bland to comically bad in this film.

Having said all of that, I think it's time for Patrick to give his take on the film.

Patrick's Take:

Well, sure it's over the top. That's one of the things I liked about it. I'll grant you that it belabors some points heavily - didn't bother me, but I'll grant it - but saying it starts out as a controlled thriller which then turns into a ripe melodrama sounds like it's as a bad thing, which I certainly don't believe.

This was recommended to Mr. Bishop with the proclamation that it took many of the themes running through Vertigo to extremes. For me, if it pushes it into melodrama, if it uses unrealistic effects - a tree ten stories up, a rear-screened process shot of a horse ride - to highlight the emotional state of the characters, so be it. It adds to the overall feel of the film, even if elsewhere Hitch has been subtler and slyer. I've never been one to be upset by a filmmaker who takes a sledgehammer to things to drive an interesting point home.

It takes a lot of ideas out of Vertigo and gives them a different spin here - in particular, I focus in on the obsessive drive of the male character to take control of an errant woman and in some ways, break her. In the case of Marnie, he's breaking her to reset the bone and have her heal properly but like Jimmy Stewart's Scottie in Vertigo, it seems he's got to go to some real ugly lengths to do what is supposedly right and along the way we begin to question not just how pure the man's motives are but if what's he's doing to the lady in question is really in any way a good thing. In fact, I'd say that this one's even more brutal in how it portrays Mark's behavior as compared with Scottie's, given that Madeline/Judy could've actually walked away from Scottie if she chose to - though then she'd probably be in deep trouble with the even more sinister Elster - while Marnie is left little choice by Mark and he manipulates her knowing that at any time he could turn her over to the law.

Again taking a trick from the Vertigo bag (maybe even the Spellbound bag), the horse rides, the red screens, the Poltergeist-y evil tree branch - all are effects the aren't necessarily meant as realistic, they're more expressive in the way that the green light of the Judy's hotel room reflects back to her green dress the first time Scottie met her (as Madeline) or the famous telescoping "vertigo" shot puts us inside Scottie's head when his acrophobia kicks in or the hazy, dreamlike quality of the cemetery and redwood scenes. For me these are merely visual referents intended to express the mindsets of the characters (though it may just be Freudian hoo-hah to you). You may be right, Mr. Bishop, that these in conjunction with repeated dialogue that also offers these same ideas is too much - it's been years since I saw the film and I don't remember if they too frequently double up ideas that could have been expressed visually - but I also don't remember it bothering me in the slightest.

Long story short - Vertigo's a better film, nobody's arguing that. It's subtler, better shot, requires less suspension of disbelief and Stewart's performance is terrific (though I think that I might actually prefer Hedren's Marnie to Novak's Judy (but not her Madeline)). It's a masterful and beautiful film. Marnie takes some of its ideas and motifs and takes them in a different direction. Certainly it veers to melodrama but it's nothing that turned me off, and I was quite taken with parts of the film - the central relationship is a fascinating extension of the Scottie/Judy relationship and even if the overall technique of the film is blunter, rawer, less refined, it doesn't make it less fun for me to watch.

david lynch thursday!


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Center for Disease Control officials say they have traced
the new and virulent strain of canine flu back to this abandoned hotel filled with Rube Goldbergesque machines.

Top of the morning to ya, DVD releases for the week of 4/28/09!

U.S. Region 1 -

- Alexandra (directed by Alexander Sokurov)
- Cargo 200
- Cold Eyes of Fear (directed by Enzo Castellari)
- Deadly Sweet
- Empire of Passion (Criterion Collection directed by Nagisa Oshima)
- End of the Line
- Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home and Studio
- Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West
- Frost/Nixon: The Complete Interviews
- The Hairdresser’s Husband (directed by Patrice Laconte)
- The Hit (Criterion Collection directed by Stephen Frears, staring Terence Stamp)
- Hotel for Dogs
- In the Realm of the Senses (Criterion Collection directed by Nagisa Oshima)
- Johnny Got His Gun (directed by Dalton Trumbo)
- K*ke Like Me
- Little Dorrit (2008)
- Martyrs
- Mum and Dad
- Naked Rashomon
- Outside the Law/The Trap (silent double feature starring Lon Chaney)
- Perfume of Yvonne
- The Price of Sugar
- Alain Resnais: A Decade in Film (Life is a Bed of Roses / Love Unto Death / Melo / I Want to Go Home) (box set)
- Revenge of the Crusader (directed by Riccardo Freda)
- Scarce
- Shaolin Against Wu-Tang (3 DVD set)
- The She-Beast (1966)
- Stranded
- Waiting for the Clouds

Region 1 Blu-Ray -

- In the Realm of the Senses
- The Reader

Multi Region DVD and Blu-Ray -

- Arabian Nights (dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini) Blu-Ray and R2 UK PAL DVD
- Barquero (starring Lee Van Cleef) R2 UK PAL
- Canterbury Tales (dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini) Blu-Ray and R2 UK PAL DVD
- The Decameron (dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini) Blu-Ray and R2 UK PAL DVD
- Gardens In Autumn (dir. Otar Iosseliani) R2 UK PAL
- Julia (dir. Erick Zonka, starring Tilda Swinton) R2 UK PAL

Pike talked about JCVD once upon a time here. Color us excited.


Field Guide to Invertebrates in Film: Beginning of the End

Beginning of the End (1957)
: Gigantic mutant grasshoppers in the Family Acrididae
Size: Bus-sized
Modus Operandi: Chomping with razor sharp mandibles
How the Menace Emerges: A USDA agricultural research project investigating enlarging vegetables to feed the world goes awry when grasshoppers sneak in for a munch
End Goal: Dinner

Beginning of the End is the aptly titled second feature from the king of the gianormous, Mr. B.I.G. (Earth vs. the Spider, Empire of the Ants). This time, an agricultural experiment using radioactive isotopes to improve crop yield goes haywire. Grasshoppers that fed upon the gigantic tomatoes and strawberries respond very well to the radiation in their snack and grow to enormous size. They consume an entire town in southern Illinois before heading off to Chicago for some real fun.

Mr. B.I.G. uses his characteristic back projection to inject the enormous fiends into the scene, and for the most part it’s pretty effective. Although grasshoppers are typically not scary when we encounter them in reality, these gigantic ones climbing up photographs of Chicago’s skyscrapers and peeking in the windows would scare the pants off most of us, no matter how herbivorous we knew them to really be. As an interesting side note: this was filmed in California, which even in 1957 had very strict importation regulations against potential agricultural pests. The 300 grasshoppers that star in Beginning of the End were brought in from Texas, where they know how to grow ‘em big. Since they could escape from the set and create a much more miniaturized, but still pesky mayhem in CA, only males were allowed to be brought into the state.

Peter Graves (Night of the Hunter, It Conquered the World) stars as the entomologist responsible for the disaster and determined to fight the military with science until all is well in the world once more. He is joined in his quest by Peggie Castle (White Orchid), who starts out as an independent, star journalist after a scoop, but winds up a meek girlfriend-type by the end. Despite her character flaws, Beginning of the End is punchy and rolls right along. While nothing close to Them! caliber, it would make a fine Saturday afternoon pastime for you B-movie folks.

Nit-picking Science: Dr. Wainwright, I think you’re exaggerating the communication & social capacity of these guys. Rather than working together to devour everything as a team, these guys are usually solitary. When they get too cramped, little hairs on their legs get rubbed, and they go nuts, undergoing a Jekyll and Hyde-style transformation that turns them into an army of destruction. Just as a side note, serotonin has been experimentally implicated as the possible neurotransmitter responsible for this change.


david lynch thursday!

--- A scene from his 2007 exhibit at The Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art in Paris, "The Air is On Fire."


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How'dya like me now, Costanza?

Don't call it a comeback, DVD releases for the week of 4/21/09 - we've been here for years!

Region 1/U.S. releases:

- Finding Me
- Frost/Nixon
- Hellraiser (box set)
- House of the Sleeping Beauties

- A Jihad of Love
- Long Ride from Hell
- Malatestas Carnival of Blood
- Mulligans
- Nickelodeon/Last Picture Show (directed by Peter Bogdanovich)
- Notorious (2008)
- Science Is Fiction: 23 Films by Jean Painleve (Criterion Collection directed by Jean Painleve; music by Yo La Tengo)
- The Wrestler

Multi-region/other foreign releases:

- The Baader-Meinhof Complex (UK PAL)
- A Borrowed Life (Taiwanese version, region 3)
- The Divine Weapon (Malaysian version, region 3)
- Dark Floors (UK PAL)
- Dynamite Warrior (HK version, region 3)
- The Manchu Boxer (HK version, all region)
- Mr. Vampire II (all region)
- Rape of Nanking (HK version, all region)
- Santa Sangre: 2-disc special edition (All region)
- Stone (1974) (UK PAL)
- Une Femme Mariee (Masters of Cinema, UK PAL)

Region 1 Blu-Ray:

- Arctic Tale
- Frost/Nixon
- Hellraiser
- Notorious (2008)
- Sin City
- The Wages of Fear (Criterion Collection directed by Henri-Georges Clouzout)
- The Wrestler
- X-Men Trilogy

Field Guide to Invertebrates in Film: The Swarm

The Swarm (1978)
: Africanized Killer bees, a hybrid between the vicious African honeybee Apis mellifera scutellata and one of the infinitely adorable and helpful European honeybees A. mellifera ligustica, carnica or caucasia
Size: About 3/4 inch in length individually, but en masse, as big as a small town.
Modus Operandi: Attack in large numbers and kill with unbelievably potent poison stings. As few as 3 stings can kill you.
How the Menace Emerges: Sick of life down south, the bees decided to hit Texas.
End Goal: After taking over Houston, the bees just want a peaceful life of beeness with no homo sapiens in the way

Packing the cast with such notables as Shelley Winters (Night of the Hunter), Richard Widmark (Night and the City), Slim Pickens (Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid), Henry Fonda (Once Upon a Time in the West) and Fred MacMurray (Double Indemnity), The Swarm is another disaster of a disaster film from Irwin Allen. Coming straight off of his made-for-TV Fire! and Flood!, the “master of realism” is back with another “man against nature fight for survival”. This time the menace is the dreaded Africanized honey bee, and only entomologist Michael Caine (The Muppet Christmas Carol) can save the day. Despite the danger being of such small stature, Allen still finds a way to pack in a ton of his patented disaster footage, most notably a spectacular train wreck and a man jumping out of a window on the 60th floor of an office building entirely engulfed in flames. No matter how well rendered these spectacular effects were, I was much more enamored with the victims’ cheap hallucinations of enormous bees and the slow-motion scenes of children dying as they run in terror from these wee terrors. Thankfully, Allen spared no expense in the bee department. About a billion real live bees were invited onto the set, and that’s a sight to see!

Unfortunately, the bees are the only real draw in this overwrought piece of schlock. Sure, there’s a certain fascination with seeing Widmark as a grumpy old man completely in touch with his lines when they rip someone a new one, yet bored senseless when his lines just advance the plot, but all in all, Allen takes his characters too seriously to treat them as badly as he does. First, he gives them too many subplots drenched in sickly sweet sentimentality than the flimsy story could possibly handle, and then he just drops them in the first train wreck he can squeeze in. Given that Allen had the balls to drag this piece of trash out for 156 minutes, you’d think he could have given Slim Pickens just a bit more screen time.

Nit-picking Science: Rather than dissect the many things that The Swarm got wrong about Killer Bees, I’ll just mention this one as a public service: There is no such bee that delivers some weird venom that will kill you in just 3-4 stings. (Unless you’re unlucky enough to be allergic, and seeing that less than 1% of the population has this allergy, you should consider yourself very unlucky if you’re in that camp.) Here in North America, Killer Bees have been slowly migrating northward from Brazil, where Dr. Warwick Kerr, a real mad scientist, accidentally unleashed them back in 1956. They are distinguishable from cute, fuzzy honeybees only by behavioral differences. Unlike our helpful honeybee, Killer Bees are just downright mean. They’ll chase you for up to half of a mile, and if they catch you, you’ll get a whole lot more than 4 stings. Now why can't anyone make a film as cool as the real thing?

happy birthday, patrick!

As you might say, "Uh-mazing."


okay, it's spring - are we getting a david cronenberg movie, or what? (denver premieres for 4/17/09)

Authorities are asking citizens to be on the lookout
for this man, who is suspected of eating Russell Crowe.

Tokyo!- This omnibus film follows in the tradition of such recent films such as New York, I Love You and Paris je t'aime in that it presents quirky little vignettes about the film's titular city. Tokyo! is divided in to three parts with Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotlees Mind, Be Kind Rewind), Leos Carax (Pola X) and Bong Joon-ho (Memories of Murder, The Host) directing a story apiece. General consensus among those that have seen it is that the Gondry and Bong entries are good but the Carax is uneven, starting out strong but ending as a drawn out courtroom drama.

State of Play - So, 'New York' magazine is claiming - at least in a headline - that "most moviegoers are too dumb to enjoy State of Play"; this likely means the film is aimed (as Pike might put it) squarely for the middle of the brow. Indeed, I looked over David Edelstein's review, and it's one of those big timey movie reviews which is impressed with how many simulacrums and references from the big timey media and politics landscape said movie can jam into its allotted time, but little else (and even Edelstein seems a little mystified that he's supposed to like a movie he himself says loses the dramatic tension and intelligence of the original source material and feels like a cut n' paste of Alan Pakula's All the President's Men. Also, kudos to the mag for the way they're pumping the flick up: "Hey, dumbass, go see this movie, or be a dumbass, dumbass!" Dumbasses). (Dex)

Shall We Kiss? - I feel lucky I'm not dating the type of gal who would ask me to go see this. Stars Virginie Ledoyen (who made her international bones in hot-then-not director Danny Boyle's The Beach) and a bunch of EuroActors I don't recognize. (Dex)

Crank 2: High Voltage - Do you know what would be cool? What would be cool is that Jason Statham gets to roundhouse kick that old lady I see him rubbing up against in the teevee previews for this thing. Just once. Alas, he broke my heart in that suckfest he did with Jet Li as well as that wretched Bank Job (2008) thing. Fool me once, Jason...(Dex)


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I bet you could've bottled and sold that bathwater for a mint.
Especially after she got that Oscar.

Can I claim you on my taxes, DVD releases for the week of 4/14/09?

Region 1 releases:

- Abar: Black Superman
- Gateway Meat
- Dark Matter
- The Reader
- Scarred
- Slaughter High
- The Spirit
- The Telling

Multi-region and other foreign releases:

- Candle for the Devil (All region)
- The China White (VCD)
- The Equation of Love and Death (All region)
- His Girl Friday (Region 2 PAL)
- Iri (Region 3)
- Peking Opera Blues (digitally remastered, all region)
- The Putin System (Region 2 PAL)
- Song of the Exile (star. Maggie Cheung, all region)
- Tiger Blade (Region 2 PAL)
- Wicker Man: The Director's Cut (Region 2 PAL)
- Wushu: The Young Generation (VCD)

Blu-Ray releases:

- 8 Mile
- Imax: Deep Sea/Into the Deep
- Mean Girls
- The Reader
- The Spirit


Field Guide to Invertebrates in Film: Empire of the Ants

Empire of the Ants (1977)
: Multiple members of the family Formicidae
Size: Many variations of huge
Modus Operandi: Gnashing mandible attacks that gorily kill, or sinister coercion for nefarious purposes
How the Menace Emerges: Nuclear waste dumped at sea washes ashore and mutates normal ants into gigantic freak ants!
End Goal: World domination through mind control! Oh, and all of the sugar they can get too.

I’m always a sucker for a bug-horror flick that kicks things off with a doom-saying narrator talking of the wonders and horrors of the insect world. The opener for Empire of the Ants is a classic example of this little joy of mine. Mr. B.I.G. is at it again, this time with a so-called adaptation of H.G. Wells’ 1905 story retooled for a modern age. Rather than the ants staying normal-sized and taking over humankind by sheer force, Empire of the Ants opts for a more insidious sort of takeover that will knock your socks off. Since Mr. B.I.G. is at the helm, we know the ants can’t stay the small, insignificant little guys Wells employed.

It’s 20 years down the road from Earth vs. the Spider, and Mr. B.I.G. has learned that on screen attacks make us much happier. In Empire of the Ants, we get models attacking folks combined with back projection ants. We even get up-close gore shots! It seems that Mr. B.I.G. finally got the hang of it after all of these years.

Empire of the Ants stars Joan Collins (Tales from the Crypt) in another of her fabulously bitchy horror roles, this time as a swindling real estate agent trying to bamboozle an odd group of folks into buying crappy swampland in Florida. In many ways, this is a character piece. The characters range from a sleazy, cowardly rapist to a sympathetic older woman, down on her luck and trying not to be swindled out of her last bit of hope and cash. These are stock characters from the 70s but more fleshed out and believable than most. Their personalities come in handy and add interest as the story moves from light conversation to banding together to fight giant, menacing ants and then into even weirder territory. The story of Empire of the Ants is quite a treat. I would have been happy with merely a giant ants stalking humans type story, but no, Mr. B.I.G. had more nefarious plans for his little tale.

Nit-picking Science: 1) Mr. Narrator, there aren’t quite 15,000 known species of ants. To date, there are only 12,471. 2) Hey Sheriff, you’ve been hoodwinked! That’s no queen!


a woman in trouble, pt. 1 - norifumi suzuki's sex and fury & school of the holy beast

Reiko Ike prepares to fuck your fucking shit up in Sex and Fury (1973).

Amber's gonna hate this, but her excellent post on the great Frank Henenlotter's latest got me thinking about...Quentin Tarantino (yeah - sorry, Amber. First the postmodernism, and now this).

Here's why - it's hard to say what the exploitation flick, and it's many manifestations - say like Henenlotter's superweird and somewhat trashy-sexy exploration of desire and satisfaction, or blaxploitation, or chixploitation, or the more niche-y nunsploitation, or it's inbred cousin the rape n' revenge flick, or it's penpal from across the sea, Eurotrash - it's hard to say just what it is now, and a big part of that is the way people come to movies now: for instance, is DVD the rightful heir to the grindhouse theater? Was the exploitation flick the product of a cultural moment, now since evolved, and do we mostly see only more skillfully and artistically deployed variations on those themes? Or are the way exploitation filmmakers used to "emplot" their movies dressed up in layers of budget and big names?

Which brings me back to the Tarantino thing (and I promise, we're just about to get to the subject of this post) - if there's one truly remarkable thing about his pop culture phenom Kill Bill (2003) and the sequel, it's that he managed to introduce multiplex audiences (and reintroduce hepper peeps) to a kind of cinematic character type (albeit with zero calories and only some of the taste) that had only previously stalked second run houses in big cities or rural backwaters back in the day - self-made ladies who used their bodies, brains, and above all the strength of character to scale whatever walls a vulgar, hyperviolent and chauvanist world threw up in their way. Characters like Yumi Takagawa ("Maya") in School of the Holy Beast (1974) or the sparkling Reiko Ike ("Ocho") in Sex and Fury.

Your shit? She'll fuck
it up!

Actually, there are probably two chixploitation archetypes - the first show up onscreen as wily, hip, and rock solid women who'll likely stay that way the rest of the film (think Cleopatra Jones or Foxy Brown), while the other type ends up tested (and usually unclothed at some point) by events, only to emerge at the end of the film stronger, if a little more world-weary (think Coffy).

Ocho and Maya occupy the former category, though they were far from original archetypes even for Japanese moviegoers. But originality isn't exclusive to the exploitation subgenre - lots of times, it's all in the execution. Indeed, director Norifumi Suzuki is as much the star of these two films as his tough-gal leading ladies. The director had already been churning out a slate of voguish girl gang boss (sukeban) flicks and the four-film series Terrifying Girls' High School (1970-72) by the time Reiko Ike (who, because of a Traci Lordsish rumor she let slip, was one of Toei studio's most infamous stars) starred in Sex and Fury, and from a glorious nude sword fight (which is twice as genius if you consider it's shot and edited in a way that wouldn't offend Japanese censors)and an array of stunning visual sequences and set-ups, in a lot of ways the film represents a culmination of Norifumi Suzuki's outrageously arty style. And having Swedish sexpot Christina Lindberg tag a long as a secret agent and object du lust done up as an early anime-style Sweet Lolita doesn't hurt either.

(as they say in teeveeland, "to be continued in part two...")

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Hit 'em with your siren, Emanuelle, hit 'em with your siren!

How are things on the west coast, DVD releases for 4/7/09?/I hear you're moving real fine/You wear those shoes like a dove!

Region 1 releases:

- Alexandra (from the director of Russian Ark)
- Bedtime Stories (2008)
- The Boys From Brazil (reissue)
- Cleopatra (75th Anniversary edition)(directed by Cecil B. DeMille)
- The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)
- Donkey Punch
- Doubt
- Fun in Girls’ Shorts 2
- A Galaxy Far, Far Away
- Goldwyn Follies
- It’s A Pleasure
- La Grande Bouffe
- Loyal 47 Ronin
- No Country For Old Men (collector’s edition)
- Pre-Code Hollywood Collection
- Shaw Brothers Collection (4 DVD set)
- Shuttle
- A Song Is Born (1948)
- Tale of Despereaux
- Tales of Ordinary Madness
- 13 Most Beautiful… Songs for Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests (music by Dean & Britta)
- Tokyo Zombie
- Vinyan
- Yes Man

Multi-region and other foreign releases (courtesy the inimitable Pike Bishop) -

- The Bela Tarr Collection (includes Damnation, Man From London, Werckmeister Harmonies) UK Region 2 PAL
- Damnation (dir. Bela Tarr) UK Region 2 PAL
- The Film Noir Collection: Quicksand (starring Mickey Rooney) UK Region 2 PAL
- The Film Noir Collection: Trapped (Richard Fleischer) UK Region 2 PAL
- The Film Noir Collection: Woman On The Run (starring Ann Sheridan) UK Region 2 PAL
- Hansel And Gretel (dir. Yim Pil-Sung) UK Region 2 PAL
- Man From London (dir. Bela Tarr) UK Region 2 PAL
- Red (starring Brian Cox and Robert Englund, Dir. Lucky Mckee and Trygve Allister Diesen) UK Region 2 PAL
- Silence Of Lorna (dir. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne) UK Region 2 PAL
- Werckmeister Harmonies (dir. Bela Tarr) UK Region 2 PAL

Region 1 Blu-Ray releases:

- American History X
- The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)
- Doubt
- Final Destination
- No Country For Old Men (Collector's Edition)
- Point of No Return
- Tale of Despereaux
- 2010: The Year We Make Contact
- The Wedding Singer
- Winged Migration

Dex on Vinyan:
You came for the creepshow and the Rufus Sewell, got some first-rate cinematography but were left holding second-rate psychohorror draped in phony-baloney Herzogishness. And, Why. So. Serioussss? I ask, 'cause I think that's why you sucked, see.

Patrick on Tale of Despereaux:
I'm not sure if the pacing and structure is ingenious or unknowing. I think that a lot of the bad reviews for this films stem from the fact that you have a film about a cute little mouse in a swell hat and yet it doesn't kowtow to Disney-fied cuteness, doesn't pander to the audience and offer the adorable little hero they expected. That said, I think its ambitions outstrip its reality, taking on several subplots that don't entwine together, just sort of co-exist. It reminds me in this way of Bergman's Persona, which never seems to be able to make up its mind if it wants to be a heavy psycho-drama or an avant-garde experiment and ends up treading a somewhat unsuccessful line between the two, just as Tale of Despereaux still comes on charming and interesting without engaging as fully as it could (or should). It's never cloying and cutesy, so I appreciate that for sure, but it also never goes a step beyond and turns its bounty of ideas into something better.


Field Guide to Invertebrates in Film: The Naked Jungle

The Naked Jungle (1954)
: The dreaded Marabunta- army ants, Cheliomyrmex andicola
Size: Individually, less than ½ an inch long, together they’re “40 square miles agonizing death”
Modus Operandi: Destruction by tearing with sharp mandibles
How the Menace Emerges: Periodically, these ants go on the march eating everything in their path
End Goal: To turn the jungle into a wasteland

Oh, the drama…melodrama: “How do you stop them?” “You don’t, just get out of their way.”

It’s odd for me to say, but the real draw of The Naked Jungle isn’t the ants. Instead, it’s the over the top exchanges between the straight-faced and arrogant Charlton Heston (Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green) and his fiery, sexy mail-order bride Eleanor Parker (Caged!, The Sound of Music). While some B-movie fans have complained of the heavy hand of romance in The Naked Jungle, the tension and sheer perversity of the early exchanges between Heston and Parker, all drenched in syrupy 50s technicolor, are pure gold. Sure, once they resolve their differences, it’s as boring as any romance, but by then, the ants make their entrance.

Marabunta! The first shot we have of the dreaded Marabunta is a brilliant matte painting of bald mountaintops with ants streaming down their slopes. Soon enough, they’re crossing the moat in little leaf boats on their way to destroying everything that crazy ol’ Heston has built. The ant shots are great, if only for the sheer number of ants involved: odious masses of writhing black death, as frightening as a sentient blob in their malleable advance. Unfortunately, the reign of ants is far too brief in this flick, and before we know it, the triumphant romance music is at it again. Too bad.

The Naked Jungle may not even be a good movie, but between the campy, unsettling tension of the early dialogue and more ants than I’ve seen in any other insect-disaster flick, it’s worth a small slice of your afternoon.

Nit-picking Science: Now, Leiningen, I could be mistaken, but that ant you’re investigating sure looks like a Camponotus spp. to me.


Vroom vroom! denver premieres for 04/03

Ha ha Vin Diesel, I get it! They're Pitch Black. Clever Vin... Clever.

Since I got to the pictures first this week, you won't be seeing any A.) Natalie Portman, B.) alterna-waifs or C.) creepy sexual innuendo. What you do get are the only two reasons you would ever want to see the movie Fast & Furious for: A 1970 Chevy Chevelle (top) and a 1970 Dodge Charger R/T (bottom). So go ahead and save your ten bucks or better yet, go out and rent some of the great car porn of yore that I've listed off bellow. (pike)

Adventure Land- The New York Times says this is not in fact a teen sex comedy, but a sweet coming-of-age story. I tend towards coming-of-age flicks with either vampires or John Cusack, so I wish you and yours the best of luck in finding out. (Dex)

Alien Trespass- Word is that director R.W. Goodwin, a longtime "X-Files" producer, skips the kind of subversive reading of Cold War America scifi which made his teevee contributions so genius for comedy homage instead. All the same, Alien Trespass looks like the sort of fanboy valentine that pushes every single button I have, so maybe I can root around and find a leftist critique in Jody Thompson's breathy delivery of dialogue or Eric McCormac's spitcurl. (Dex)

Crips and Bloods: Made in America- This doc is playing over at the Starz FilmCenter. Their synopsis reads:

"A cluster of neighborhoods lies in the heart of Southern California, streets and boulevards forming a grid between concrete ribbons of freeway. Surrounded by the California Dream, this region has a legacy. It is heavily guarded, yet no one is protected. Nearly a quarter of its young men will end up in jail or prison. Many others will end up dead. These neighborhoods in South Los Angeles are home to two of America's most infamous African-American gangs, the Crips and the Bloods. On these streets over the past 30 years, more than 15,000 people have been murdered in an ongoing cycle of gang violence that continues unabated. It was here, just a few miles from the gated communities and sprawling mansions of Beverly Hills and Bel Air, where this nation’s most bloody and costly outbreaks of civil unrest erupted — not once, but twice, 27 years and just three miles apart. In Crips and Bloods: Made In America, renowned documentarian Stacy Peralta (Dogtown and Z Boys, Riding Giants) examines the story of South Los Angeles and the gangs that inhabit it. Blending gripping archival footage and photos with in-depth interviews of current and former gang members, educators, historians, family members and experts, Peralta brings his trademark dynamic visual style and story-telling ability to this often-ignored chapter of America's history. Hard - hitting, yet ultimately hopeful, Crips and Bloods: Made In America not only documents the emergence of the Bloods and the Crips and their growth beyond the borders of South Central, but also offers insight as to how this ongoing tragedy might be resolved. Produced by NBA superstar Baron Davis and narrated by Academy Award winning actor, Forest Whitaker."

Everlasting Moments- Mother's Day might be a month away, but that doesn't mean you can't take her out this week to see a movie. As for what movie, I would recommend skipping the $1.50 showing of Last House on the Left and take her to see Everlasting Moments. It's about a Victorian hausfrau that begins learning to express herself through the hobby of photography. Isn't that nice? Now go call your mama, she misses you.

Fast and Furious- I'm 99.99% sure that this film is going to blow. It is obvious that the main reasons to see a movie centered around automobiles is to see the cars themselves going outrageously fast or crashing into things. It should also be obvious that directing action scenes (much less a white-knuckled, adrenalin pumping chase scene) seems completely impossible for anyone in the present-day Hollywood system (yes, including Tarantino). So add to that the fact that the acting will be at best mediocre, the character development will be nil and the plot a chore to enjoy, and you have an idea about how this movie will play out. That is sad because good car porn can be an enjoyable cinematic treat. Here is a list of ten greats from years past that you might want to see or see again when you get the hankering for some masterfully executed reckless driving:

1.) Vanishing Point (1971- Richard Sarafian)- It might end on a hippie-dippy note but this movie is manna from heaven for gear-heads.

2.) Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (1974- John Hough)- Helicopter vs. Dodge Charger in an orange grove- unbelievable.

3.) Bullitt (1968- Peter Yates)- Steve McQueen + '68 Mustang = Bad Ass. The scene in the middle with the black Dodge Charger is like a WWII dog fight. Amazing.

4.) Ronin (1998- John Frankenheimer)- The last of the greats. This film has two chase scenes that will not be topped for a long, long time.

5.) Gone in 60 Seconds (1974- H.B. Haliki)- The original, not the Nick Cage abortion (I mean come the fuck on- 80% of the 'Elenore' theft scene was faces in close-up! Why the fuck would I want to watch the actor's reaction shots in a car chase. That's just mind numbingly stupid!). The original's police chase with the '73 Mustang is amazing. Also of interest is the fact that most of the pedestrians/other vehicles in the scene didn't know a film was being made around them.

6.) The Driver (1978- Walter Hill)- Along with Hard Times, Walter Hill's only stab at greatness. All I have to say is, "Ryan O'Neal in a red Chevy truck vs. a Trans-Am." If you've seen it, you'll remember it- 10 minutes of bliss.

7.) Two Lane Blacktop (1971- Monte Hellman)- An existential street racing movie??? Yep, that's what it is. Oh, and the only worthwhile thing James Taylor ever did with his whole stinkin' life was drive that 55 Chevy.

8.) Grand Prix (1966- John Frankenheimer)- Frankeheimer knew how to translate the thrilling precision of human/mechanical interaction better than anyone. The Monaco race in particular is a great piece of drama expressed through sound design.

9.) The Big Steal (1949- Don Siegel)- This has one great chase scene in the middle with enough muscle and grit to go toe-to-toe with anything from the 70s. Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer star in this fun little crime drama.

10.) Thunder Road (1958- Aurthur Ripley) Robert Mitchum again, but this time as a moonshine runner with a hot-rodded 57 Ford and cops on his tail- What more do you need?

I know there are a ton of great car films out there so if you've got one I didn't mention, put it in a comment and we'll make running list.

david lynch thursday!