Greetings mon amis! I did another review! I braved Jörg Buttgereit’s NEKROMANTIK 2 (1991); check it out at 366 Weird Movies! Ghastly at times but compelling viewing.
As some of you may know I have been on a journey through Jess Franco’s massive 200+ library of films. If you follow me on Tumblr, I host a feature on Fridays called “Franco Friday” where I only post and reblog images from Jess Franco films. Continuing this Franco love I jumped at the opportunity to review one of my favourite Franco flicks for 366 Weird Movies; Vampyros Lesbos. To check out the review at 366 Weird Movies click here.
To check out my massive archives of Jess Franco film images on Tumblr click here.
The name Russ Meyer has become synonymous with sexploitation. Seriously, is there a better known director of sexploitation than Russ Meyer? Meyer proudly wore the moniker “King of The Nudies” and even had it carved on his tombstone. The photography and moving picture bug bit Mr. Meyer early. His mother pawned her wedding ring to buy him his first 8mm camera when he was a teenager. Before directing his first film Meyer shot footage during World War II (apparently you can view some of his photography in Franklin J. Schaffner’s 1970 film Patton). Meyer also took glamour shots for magazines like Playboy; including pictures of his wives Eve Meyer and Edy Williams. Meyer made his first feature film in 1959; The Immoral Mr. Teas. He was able to finance his next film with the proceeds. Meyer continued to make successful features with the proceeds of previous films working on a tight budget and doing most of his own writing, directing, editing and distributing. The exception being the 1970 film Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and 1971’s The Seven Minutes which were financed by 20th Century Fox. Sexploitation flicks come in many shapes and sizes and no one did them quite like Meyer. His large breasted beauties were smart, dangerous, free-spirited, conniving, spoiled, charming, clever, eccentric and always sexy. His female characters are not just victims they are antagonists and heroines. Energetic, violent, sexy and funny; it is always a good time when I sit down to watch a Meyer flick. Part of the fun of watching a Meyer flick is his lovely leading ladies and their Wholly enthusiastic performances; Kitten Natividad, Uschi Digard, Haji, Alaina Capri and Lorna Maitland to name a few. However, if it wasn’t for Faster Pussycat!… Kill! Kill! and Tura Satana’s bad-ass performance as Varla I may not have even discovered any of Russ Meyer’s other naughty nuggets. Faster Pussycat!… Kill! Kill! opened the flood gates. Meyer has twenty-nine director credits listed on IMDB (five of these are shorts). I have seen eighteen of Meyer’s twenty-four full-length features and they are all pretty damn fun. I have never seen a Russ Meyer film I did not enjoy.
What I’ve Seen: Pandora Peaks (2001), Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens (1979), Up! (1976), Supervixens (1975), Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970), Cherry, Harry & Raquel! (1970), Vixen! (1968), Finders Keepers, Lovers Weepers! (1968), Good Morning and Goodbye (1967), How Much Loving Does a Normal Couple Need? (1967), Mondo Topless (1966), Motorpsycho! (1965), Faster Pussycat… Kill! Kill! (1965), Mudhoney (1965), Lorna (1964), Wild Gals of the Naked West (1962), Eve and the Handyman (1961), The Immoral Mr. Teas (1959)
BENEATH THE VALLEY OF THE ULTRA-VIXENS (1979)
Cast: Kitten Natividad, Ann Marie, Ken Kerr, June Mack, Patrick Wright, Henry Rowland, Robert E. Pearson, Michael Finn, Sharon Ceccatti, Don Scarborough, Aram Katcher, DeForest Covan, Steve Tracy, Uschi Digard, Stuart Lancaster, Candy Samples
Lamar’s propensity for putting his penis in his wife Lavonia’s butt is threatening to ruin their marriage. Lavonia loves Lamar but is sexually unsatisfied and is getting nookie elsewhere. Meanwhile, Lamar’s boss Junkyard Sal is looking for Lamar to do some overtime in her bed. Lamar and Lavonia eventually visit their local dentist for marriage counselling to no avail. Finally Lamar finds faith through Eufaula Roop, the local evangelical radio preacher. Meyer’s output definitely got saltier as the years went by. At this point in his filmmaking career there was full frontal nudity, softcore sex and graphic violence. Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens is definitely a whole lotta naughty but in the most hysterically funny and outrageous way possible. I laughed often from beginning to end and Kitten Natividad is especially charming and convivial.
Cast: Haji, Alex Rocco, Steve Oliver, Holle K. Winters, Timothy Scott, Coleman Francis, Sharon Lee, Steve Masters, Arshalouis Aivazian, Russ Meyer, George Costello, Fred Owens, Richard S. Brummer
Motorpyscho! follows the violent adventures of a bike gang led by a Vietnam vet. The gang makes an enemy of a veterinarian after they rape his wife. The veterinarian teams up with a woman whose husband was killed by the same gang and together they plan to exact their revenge. A more serious affair then the other films on this list and apparently one of the first portrayals of a disturbed Vietnam veteran. Motorpsycho! is one of the few films in Meyer’s library where the action focuses on a male character. There is of course an array of lovely ladies but with the exception of Haji they are more minor characters. Speaking of which, Haji is fabulous here! There is definitely signs of Meyer’s style but for the most part this is a straight up biker flick and one of my favourites in the sub-genre. Violence, betrayal, murder and rape; all the things that make for a solid biker outing. Sadly the DVD quality was the pits but it is well worth seeking out nonetheless. I sincerely hope a better copy of this film exists out there. I was not happy with any of the pictures I saved so I sourced these from wrongsideoftheart …
Cast: Edward Schaaf, Robert McLane, Elaine Collins, Candy Samples, Su Ling, Janet Wood, Linda Sue Ragsdale, Harry, Raven De La Croix, Monty Bane, Marianne Marks, Larry Dean, Bob Schott, Foxy Lae, Ray Reinhardt, Kitten Natividad
Up! follows the exploits of a group of small town folks after the murder of nazi Adolf Schartz. A whodunnit narrated by Kitten Natividad sans clothing. We meet restaurant owners Paul and Alice, new comer Margo Winchester, the local law Homer Johnson, Gwendolyn, Limehouse, The Ethiopian Chef and a host of others as they fornicate their way to the final reveal. A cat-shit crazy, action-packed murder mystery with tons of laughs, sex and nudity. A huge castle in a small American town owned by a nazi wouldn’t be complete without a sex dungeon. Everyone is having sex with everyone in UP! in many places and in many different positions! The film has an almost whimsical feel about it bordering on surreal. Up! really is a riot and a must-see if you are a fan of Meyer’s work.
Cast: Charles Pitts, Shari Eubank, Charles Napier, Charles Pitts, Henry Rowland, Christy Hartburg, Colleen Brennan, John Lazar, Stuart Lancaster, Deborah McGuire, Glenn Dixon, Haji, ‘Big Jack’ Provan
Clint Ramsey is an attendant at a local gas station somewhere in the desert. His crazy jealous girlfriend SuperAngel is constantly calling him at work to check up on him. On this day SuperAngel insists Clint come home to “service” her. The two have a loud violent argument and the police are called in. Clint takes off to the bar while SuperAngel seduces the cop, Harry Sledge. When Harry can’t get it up SuperAngel’s insults and taunts lead to her demise. Harry intends to pin the murder on Clint who is forced to flee. Clint meets a series of beautiful women along the way as well as their angry boyfriend, father and husband. Clint eventually meets SuperAngel’s doppleganger SuperVixen and the two fall in love; but will Harry Sledge threaten to spoil everything? Supervixens was my follow-up to Faster Pussycat and it was the perfect choice. Crazy, violent, sexually-charged shenanigans of the first order. Despite SuperAngel being a SuperPsycho, to this day, I still find her death particularly brutal. Supervixens is the perfect introduction to Meyer’s sexier 70s output. Shari Eubank is a real highlight and does a fantastic job playing both SuperAngel and SuperVixen!
FASTER PUSSYCAT… KILL! KILL! (1965)
Cast: Tura Satana, Haji, Lori Williams, Ray Barlow, Sue Bernard, Michael Finn, Dennis Busch, Stuart Lancaster, Paul Trinka
Yep. Still the mother of them all. Faster Pussycat!… Kill! Kill! has aged like fine wine. It is no wonder at all that Faster Pussycat!… Kill! Kill! has become a cult classic. A trio of sybaritic dames challenge a young couple to drag race which ends with the death of the boyfriend and the kidnapping of the girl. A chatty gas attendant tells the trio about a treasure hidden on a rundown remote piece of land owned by a crotchety old man living with his two sons. The trio’s leader Varla hatches a plan to make off with the old man’s loot but karma eventually catches up with the ladies. These women don’t mess around; fist fighting, car racing, knife throwing, kicking, go-go dancing, kidnapping, murdering divas! Man-crazy Billie, Faithful Rosie and tough as nails Varla; three very different personalities that seemed destined to clash. Lori Williams (Billie), Haji (Rosie) and Tura Satana (Varla) are picture perfect in their roles and all are believable bad-asses living on the fringe. Faster Pussycat!…Kill! Kill! is really Tura Satana’s trip. Her tongue stings like a whip and her angry fists leave a mark that stays with you long after the pussycats have left the screen. Faster Pussycat!…Kill! Kill! is one of the all time great exploitation films!
Also up for consideration: Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970), Cherry, Harry & Raquel! (1970), Good Morning and Goodbye (1967), Common Law Cabin (1967)
Alaina Capri in COMMON LAW CABIN (1967) directed by Russ Meyer
What I’ve Seen: Katzelmacher (1969), Why Does Herr R. Run Amok? (1970), The Merchant of Four Seasons (1971), The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972), Satan’s Brew (1976), The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979), Lili Marleen (1981), Whity (1971), Martha (1974), Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974), The American Soldier (1970), Beware of a Holy Whore (1971), In a Year with 13 Moons (1978), Querelle (1982), Chinese Roulette (1976), I Only Want You To Love Me (1976), Lola (1981), Love is Colder Than Death (1969), Pioneers in Ingolstadt (1971), Veronika Voss (1982), World on a Wire (1973), Gods of the Plague (1970)
I posted a list of my favourite directors in July 2012 and Rainer Werner Fassbinder made the forty-seven hole. If I was to do this same list today it would look considerably different; Fassbinder would easily make my top ten. Since compiling that director list I have seen fifteen additional titles from the Fassbinder. I have now seen a total of twenty-two films from the director. While I would hardly say that makes me a Fassbinder expert it certainly gives me enough titles to compile my favourite five. Many of the same talented faces turned up again and again through my Fassbinder journey; Irm Hermann, Günther Kaufmann, Volker Spengler, Ulli Lommel, Ingrid Cavan and Katrin Schaake to name a few. Fassbinder himself is in the vast majority of the films on my list in both main roles and brief appearances. When I think of the cinema of Fassbinder I think style, drama, humor and a one of kind presentation that makes his films a viewing experience quite unlike any other. And perhaps, above all, I think of the performances of Hanna Schygulla and Margit Carstensen. Both actresses have been cast in lead roles and the strength they bring to their characters is something phenomenal. Fassbinder’s 1972 film The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant was the first I seen from the director and it made a lasting impression on me. The film takes place in one room; the bedroom and studio of Petra Von Kant. Petra is a successful clothing designer but an unhappy woman. She spends most of her time alone with the exception of her assistant Marlene who she consistently berates and abuses. We learn early in the film that Petra’s marriage ended badly, she has a strained relationship with her mother whom she supports financially and a teenage daughter who lives at boarding school. Her cousin Sidone visits one afternoon and introduces her to Karin. Petra is immediately smitten with Karin who she takes under her wing. Karin is new in town and Petra intends to help her embark on a modelling career. There is an unspoken commitment expected from Karin who is painfully aware of Petra’s love for her. Karin promises nothing and makes no apologies for her aloof behavior; she really appears quite detached from the situation. This drives Petra crazy and when Karin inevitably leaves her it pushes Petra right over the edge. Every one of the all-female cast puts their best foot forward in this emotionally-charged melodrama. Petra’s eccentric dwelling and designs reflect her personality in this wonderfully organized yet chaotic way. It is easy to write Petra off as a crazy bitch but I don’t think that is entirely fair. Petra is a smart, successful woman who has allowed her own drama to get the better of her. Margit Carstensen’s performance is intense and poignant but never sympathetic; you do not feel sorry for Petra. It is very much what makes the film work for me, no empathy just bitter tears as its title suggests. Twenty-two Fassbinder films later and The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant is still ultimately my favourite by the director which is why it is the first film on this list. Running a very close second in my heart is another Margit Carstensen lead role from 1974; Martha. Officially Martha was actually a made for TV movie; despite this I feel it is some of Fassbinder’s best work so I have no problem with including it on this list. Martha, like Petra, is a troubled, lonely woman who is not immune to emotional hysteria although this is where the parallels end. Martha is a quiet woman approaching middle-age and unmarried. She has been charged with the care of her ungrateful and nasty mother after her father dies during a trip to Rome. Martha’s boss is in love with her but she does not reciprocate and turns down his offer of marriage. However, as her mother’s insults and taunts escalate she becomes increasingly desperate. Martha dreads the idea of becoming an old spinster left to care for an icy and uncaring mother. She finds solace in the arms of Helmut; he eventually proposes and she accepts. Martha’s unhappiness spirals into a nightmare of mental and physical abuse as Helmut takes over every last aspect of Martha’s life. Helmut has her mother committed, offers her resignation to her employer (a job she loves) and forces her to move from her family home. Helmut essentially keeps Martha prisoner with threats and subtle mind games and she eventually falls apart. It all ends in the worst way possible that had me cursing Fassbinder and calling him a bastard! That bloody ending! Helmut is worse than any villain in a horror film; he is one of the most unlikable characters I have ever stumbled upon. Karlheinz Böhm is brilliant in the role of Helmut and Margit Carstensen is absolutely devastating as Martha. There was no doubt in my mind what three of the five films on this list would be and Martha holds a firm placing for me right behind Bitter Tears. The aforementioned third film also features Margit Carstensen but in a more minor role; Fassbinder’s 1973 sci-fi odyssey World on a Wire. World on a Wire is based on the novel Simulacron-3 by Daniel F. Galouye and stars Klaus Löwitsch as central character Fred Stiller. The film was initially made for TV and was presented in two parts. The film itself is over three and a half hours long; and yes, I have included two made-for-TV films on my list. What of it? Professor Vollmer is the technical director of a new supercomputer program created for the Institute of Cybernetics and Future Science. The program is a simulation of an alternate universe whose inhabitants interact as human beings in a world not unlike our own. Vollmer begins to suspect other forces are controlling the project and becomes increasingly paranoid when he suddenly dies under mysterious circumstances. Vollmer’s colleague Fred Stiller is charged with taking over Vollmer’s position. Disconcerting events begin to surface the minute Stiller is in his new position. Gunther Lause, who worked with Vollmer has valuable information to share with Stiller but suddenly disappears. The deeper Stiller investigates the more surreal and threatening the program becomes forcing him to flee his position. Eventually the two worlds collide in the most fantastical way. World on a Wire may be Fassbinder’s most impressive film visually. Without any special effects he manages to construct sets and set pieces that perfectly capture a futuristic and other-worldly feel. Modern sterile fixtures including plenty of mirrors and other reflective surfaces are used to great effect. The performances, especially Klaus Löwitsch are fantastic and the outstanding story kept me intrigued every last minute of its runtime. Paranoia, betrayal and love in a futuristic hell like only Fassbinder could create. Choosing the last two films for this list of five was more challenging than I expected it would be. I volleyed around six films and was so torn I re-watched four of them (I will discuss the films I left off the list a little later). The next film to make the cut was Fassbinder’s 1973 film Whity starring Günther Kaufmann. Kaufmann had minor roles in several Fassbinder films but this is the first I watched that had the actor in a lead role. After completing my fifty favourite director list, Fassbinder was one of the first I embarked to see more from and Whity was the beginning of that journey. One could argue that they find something undiscovered in every subsequent viewing of a Fassbinder film; I could not disagree with this statement. Whity, for me, is the film in Fassbinder’s oeuvre that I discover something new each time I visit it. Kaufmann plays Whity; Butler and servant to the depraved and dysfunctional Nicholson family. When not servicing the Nicholsons Whity spends his time at a saloon in the company of his lover Hanna who performs there nightly. Whity is in fact a Western melodrama; a period piece that resembles something akin to a warped version of Dallas. Whity is humiliated and abused by the Nicholsons much to the chagrin of Hanna who does not understand his loyalty to this most heinous of bloodlines. The colors used in Whity are particularly lush even inside the gloomy Nicholson’s residence. The Nicholsons themselves however look like death warmed over! The foundation chosen for the family members gives their skin tone the look of a walking corpse. They look as sickly on the outside as they are on the inside. The Nicholsons played by Ron Randell, Katrin Schaake, Harry Baer and Ulli Lommel are convincingly nefarious and perfect but the spotlight belongs to Günther Kaufmann. Kaufmann plays Whity with a subtle pathos relayed through gestures more than words that I found wholly compelling. The lovely Hanna, played by Hanna Schygulla, is the only light in Whity’s life and she shines bright. Whity is betrayal, perversion, delusion, influence, dominance and at the end of it all, love; a beautifully warped and wicked bit of cinema. Hanna Schygulla is the titular character in the final film on my list; Fassbinder’s 1979 film The Marriage of Maria Braun. To truly appreciate Hanna Schygulla as an actress I think that The Marriage of Maria Braun is mandatory viewing. The Marriage of Maria Braun is the first in Fassbinder’s BRD Trilogy (Bundesrepublik Deutschland) a trio of films that focus on the life of a German woman during (and/or following) World War II. Maria marries a soldier named Hermann Braun whom is called to duty immediately following their union. Maria restlessly awaits her husband’s return but instead is informed of his death. Maria takes a job as a hostess where she meets Bill. Meanwhile, Hermann has returned from the dead and catches Maria and Bill post-coitus. The two men fight and Maria smashes a bottle over Bill’s head inadvertently killing him. This does not bode well for the newly reunited Brauns. Once again they are separated when Hermann takes responsibility for the death and goes to prison. Maria meets a wealthy industrialist who offers her a job and becomes his lover; Maria also continues to make regular visits to Hermann in prison. Fassbinder has written some truly awesome roles for female characters; this list is a testament to that. Schygulla’s Maria character is an intelligent and sassy woman who easily adapts to the business world and becomes a success. Maria is as strong as she is sentimental and despite everything, in her way, she stays faithful to Hermann. Schygulla is confident and poised as the bold Maria. And that ending! Again a Fassbinder ending that left my mouth agape. What is with Fassbinder and those nasty, crazy finales? To recap, my five favourite Fassbinder films with cast list and images:
THE BITTER TEARS OF PETRA VON KANT (1972)
Cast: Margit Carstensen, Hanna Schygulla, Katrin Schaake, Irm Hermann, Gisela Fackeldey, Eva Mattes
Cast: Margit Carstensen, Karlheinz Böhm, Barbara Valentin, Peter Chatel, Gisela Fackeldey, Adrian Hoven
WORLD ON A WIRE (1973)
Cast: Klaus Löwitsch, Barbara Valentin, Mascha Rabben, Karl Heinz Vosgerau, Wolfgang Schenck, Günter Lamprecht, Ulli Lommel, Adrian Hoven, Margit Carstensen
Cast: Günther Kaufmann, Ron Randell, Hanna Schygulla, Katrin Schaake, Harry Baer, Ulli Lommel, Elaine Baker
THE MARRIAGE OF MARIA BRAUN (1979)
Cast: Hanna Schygulla, Klaus Löwitsch, Ivan Desny, Gisela Uhlen, Elisabeth Trissenaar, Gottfried John, Hark Bohm, George Eagles
I mentioned earlier that there were four other titles that were strong candidates for this list. The first of the four is Fassbinder’s 1971 film Beware of a Holy Whore; which made my list of favourite films watched in 2014 (Fassbinder’s Martha and World on a Wire also made the same list). The film is about the making of Whity and the drama on and especially off set. Beware of a Holy Whore is full of humor, colorful sexy sets and costumes and jam-packed full of Fassbinder regulars. A favourite among Fassbinder fans and well worth checking out. The second candidate is Fassbinder’s 1978 film In a Year with 13 Moons; chronicling the last few days of cross-dresser Elvira. Elvira visits a slaughterhouse, the convent where she grew up, and an old lover among other interactions. It is very sad and beautiful and Volker Spengler gives a heart-aching performance as Elvira. Kudos also to Ingrid Cavan who is especially charming as Elvira’s best friend. The third candidate was Fassbinder’s 1976 film Chinese Roulette. It was really tough leaving this one off of the list. Chinese Roulette is a guessing game the family and acquaintances play together in the film’s final chapter. Ariane and Gerhard Christ have both been engaged in long term affairs and make arrangements to meet their lovers at their house in the country. Needless to say things get awkward when the two couples meet face to face. They make the best of the situation at least until their manipulative pre-teen daughter decides to also join the party. A solid story with smart and seething dialog and outstanding performances from Anna Karina, Margit Carstensen, Ulli Lommel, Volker Spengler, Alexander Allerson, Macha Meril and Andrea Schober. The final consideration was Fassbinder’s 1982 film Veronika Voss. The film is loosely based on the career of Sybille Schmitz. Veronika Voss was a formerly successful actress who now struggles to get roles. She meets a reporter named Robert who becomes caught up in the complicated emotional rollercoaster that is Ms. Voss’s life. This is the second film in Fassbinder’s BRD Trilogy (The Marriage of Maria Braun was the first and Lola is the third) a trio of films that focus on the life of a German woman during (and/or following) World War II. A gorgeous black and white masterpiece with a poignant performance from Rosel Zech as Veronika Voss. In reality, I have enjoyed every Fassbinder film I have seen with the exception of I Only Want You To Love Me (1976) and would recommend checking out any and all of them! I bought myself Criterion’s The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant a new release from this past January. I also treated myself to the Criterion Eclipse series Early Fassbinder set. Fassbinder is a force of nature whose work can affect my emotional state unlike any other.
I Kill Them – Antiteater: Music from Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Western Melodrama WHITY (1971) – played during the opening credits.
Happy New Year! Despite the fact that there is crap in my life that needs to change, I refuse to make new year’s resolutions. I’ll fix my crap when I am damn good and ready to fix my crap. The one thing in my life that has always been a constant source of joy is film. I miss my little blog and sharing my love for all things cinematic so I have decided to reactivate my little space on the web. There will be none of this five days a week craziness though; likely a couple times a month and maybe, eventually, one post a week. I watched 317 films in 2014; to see the list click here. This was a banner year of film viewing with a mere handful of films I outrighted loathed; but let us not waste words on garbage and move onto the goodness. This list is in alphabetical order as it was too daunting to rank these gems; each and everyone adored.
Beware of a Holy Whore (1971)
Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Cast: Lou Castel, Eddie Constantine, Marquard Bohm, Hanna Schygulla, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Margarethe von Trotta, Ulli Lommel, Kurt Raab
The cast and crew of a film await the arrival of their director; a project that threatens to fall apart before it even gets started. Allegedly based on the shooting of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s film Whity. Funny, manic and gorgeously shot with memorable performances by all. Just one of three Fassbinder films to make this list (and a few more made the shortlist).
The Blood of a Poet (1932)
Directed by Jean Cocteau
Cast: Enrique Rivero, Elizabeth Lee Miller, Pauline Carton, Odette Talazac, Jean Desbordes, Fernand Dichamps, Lucien Jager, Féral Benga
A film in four chapters that begins with an artist whose illustration becomes animated; a series of strange and mysterious events follow. A trippy, beautiful black and white masterpiece that mesmerized me from beginning to end.
The Brick Dollhouse (1967)
Directed by Tony Martinez and David F. Friedman
Cast: Tina Vienna, Janice Kelly, Peggy Ann, Joyana, Helena Clayton, George French
A gal turns up dead and the police question her three wacky roommates. These lovely ladies divulge the events of the past few days; a whirlwind of weed, wine and nudity. A sexploitation whodunnit! Funky fashions, frisky felines and fun galore abound in this quirky bit of sixties sleaze that gave me one hundred and one laughs.
Cherry, Harry & Raquel (1970)
Directed by Russ Meyer
Cast: Linda Ashton, Charles Napier, Larissa Ely, Bert Santos, Frank Bolger, Uschi Digard, Michelle Grand, John Milo, Michaelani, Robert Aiken
Harry is a sheriff in league with a crooked politician to insure the safe passage of weed across the border. Things get considerably more complicated when one of their associates goes into business for himself; and then there is Harry’s love life! Classic Meyers with plenty of humor, action, sex, nudity and outrageous characters.
Christiane F. (1981)
Directed by Uli Edel
Cast: Natja Brunckhorst, Eberhard Auriga, Peggy Bussieck, Lothar Chamski, Rainer Woelk, Uwe Diderich, Jan Georg Effler, Ellen Esser
Christiane F. is based on the autobiographical book We Children of Bahnhof Zoo by Vera Christiane Felscherinow. The story focuses on Christiane; a heroin addict and prostitute by the age of 14 living in West Berlin. The frank retelling of Christiane’s addiction pulls no punches and Natja Brunckhorst’s performance is outstanding. A live performance by David Bowie (who also provides the soundtrack) is merely a bonus.
Come and See (1985)
Directed by Elem Klimov
Cast: Aleksey Kravchenko, Olga Mironova, Liubomiras Lauciavicius, Vladas Bagdonas, Jüri Lumiste, Viktor Lorents, Kazimir Rabetsky
Come and See is Flyora’s story; a Belarusian boy taken from his sobbing mother to fight with his countrymen during Nazi occupation. A daunting and traumatizing 130ish minutes follow! Come and See knocked me on my ass. I felt both drained and exhilirated that a film could evoke this much emotion from me. Poiginant story telling, beautifully acted and shot; much is said here without words. Stunning.
Criminal Woman: Killing Melody (1973)
Directed by Atsushi Mihori
Cast: Reiko Ike, Miki Sugimoto, Chiyoko Kazama, Masami Sôda, Yumiko Katayama, Ryôji Hayama, Shinzo Hotta, Seiya Satô
Maki has landed in a woman’s prison after attempting to kill the Yakuza boss who killed her father. In prison she befriends a group of women that help her seek her revenge. One of the women however is the girlfriend of the Yakuza boss who threatens to spoil their plans. Reiko Ike and Miki Sugimoto are always a winning combination in my book. Both ladies lend their considerable charm and talent to this pinky thrill-ride full of action and violence.
The Dance of Reality (2013)
Directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky
Cast: Brontis Jodorowsky, Pamela Flores, Jeremias Herskovits, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Bastián Bodenhöfer, Adan Jodorowsky, Axel Jodorowsky
I got a double dose of Jodorowsky this year with the documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune and The Dance of Reality; the latter being his first film in twenty-three years! A semi-autobiographical retelling of Jodorowsky’s childhood packed with symbolism and Jodorowsky’s own philosophies. Alejandro’s son Brontis is superb in the role of Alejandro’s father Jaime and Pamela Flores steals every scene she is in with her melodic delivery as Alejandro’s mother Sara. A charming and sentimental journey loaded with gorgeous unforgettable imagery.
Female Convict Scorpion Jailhouse 41 (1972)
Directed by Shunya Itô
Cast: Meiko Kaji, Fumio Watanabe, Kayoko Shiraishi, Mitsuo Andô, Yuki Arasa, Kai Atô, Hiroshi Hayashi, Shinzo Hotta
Matsu is brought out of solitary confinement for a prison inspection. During the inspection she takes the opportunity to attack the chief warden which causes a riot. The prisoners are sent to a work camp as punishment. A bad-ass group of women including Matsu escape leaving a trail of dead bodies behind them. I reviewed this one and gave it a five out of five; one of the best women in prison films around! Read my review here.
Gate of Flesh (1964)
Directed by Seijun Suzuki
Cast: Jô Shishido, Kôji Wada, Yumiko Nogawa, Tomiko Ishii, Kayo Matsuo, Kuniko Kawanishi, Misako Tominaga, Isao Tamagawa
Prostitutes living together in an abandoned building take in a wounded thief who threatens to tear the group apart. A bittersweet story of love and hate, friend and foe and above all else survival. These women have some pretty severe punishment for those who don’t abide by the groups rules. I watched three Seijun Suzuki directed films this year and enjoyed all of them immensely. It was a difficult decision to leave Branded to kill off of this list (Heat-Haze Theatre and Branded to kill both made the shortlist). Suzuki is truly a master behind the camera; the use of color in this film could almost be called legendary.
Heavy Traffic (1973)
Directed by Ralph Bakshi
Cast: Joseph Kaufmann, Beverly Hope Atkinson, Frank DeKova, Terri Haven, Mary Dean Lauria, Jacqueline Mills, Lillian Adams, Jamie Farr
An animated tale sprinkled with live action sequences about the adventures of unemployed cartoonist Michael Corleone. Serious family Dysfunction, racism, poverty, prostitution and violence all come into play in the animated sequences while we get occasional live-action glimpses of Michael’s real world existence. Another bittersweet story to make the list although not without some humor. The animation is lovely and the story is engaging and lively. This was given to me as a gift by a friend this past September and I have already watched it three times.
Intrepidos Punks (1980)
Directed by Francisco Guerrero
Cast: Juan Valentín, Juan Gallardo, Ana Luisa Peluffo, Princesa Lea, Martha Elena Cervantes, Alfredo Gutiérrez, Guillermo Lagunes, Olga Rios, Rosita Bouchot
A bad-ass bike gang bust their compadres out of prison and are pursued by the law. The Intrepidos Punks are a bunch of thieving, raping, drug-taking, violent motherfuckers sporting some of the most awesome punk getups you will ever see! This Mexican made masterpiece is mandatory viewing.
Directed by Luchino Visconti
Cast: Giancarlo Giannini, Laura Antonelli, Jennifer O’Neill, Rina Morelli, Massimo Girotti, Didier Haudepin, Marie Dubois, Roberta Paladini, Claude Mann
A wealthy aristocrat who has openly taken a lover becomes destructively obsessed with his wife after learning she may also be having an affair. The aristocrat Tullio is an arrogant douchebag; a pretty terrible human being. L’Innocente is a bleak but beautiful film with elaborate sets and costumes and perfect performances that surprised, angered and elated me.
La Grande Bouffe (1973)
Directed by Marco Ferreri
Cast: Marcello Mastroianni, Michel Piccoli, Philippe Noiret, Ugo Tognazzi, Andréa Ferréol, Solange Blondeau, Florence Giorgetti, Michèle Alexandre
Four friends get together to eat themselves to death; and it is a comedy! La Grande Bouffe does have a few emotional moments but it is a very funny film with a great cast. The four men Mastroianni, Piccoli, Noriet and Tognazzi have fantastic chemistry and play off each other perfectly. Dark and whacky fun!
La Notte (1961)
Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
Cast: Jeanne Moreau, Marcello Mastroianni, Monica Vitti, Bernhard Wicki, Rosy Mazzacurati, Maria Pia Luzi, Guido A. Marsan, Vittorio Bertolini
An examination of an unhappy couple and their deteriorating marriage. Marcello Mastroianni, Jeanne Moreau and Monica Vitti have all turned up multiple times in films I watched last year. All three are exceptionally talented so it is no surprise they were gamefully employed. La Notte is a lovely and sad reflection on love won and lost.
Love At The Top (1974)
Directed by Michel Deville
Cast: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Romy Schneider, Jane Birkin, Henri Garcin, Georges Beller, Georges Wilson, Estella Blain, Florinda Bolkan
A shy bank employee confides to a friend his success picking up a beautiful young woman during his lunch break. The friend, an author, convinces his banker buddy to quit his job and embark on a series of quests to become a wealthy ladies man. A dark comedy that made me laugh often but is not without some tragedy along the way. A perfect performance from the great Jean-Louis Trintignant and memorable turns from Jean-Pierre Cassel, Romy Schneider, Jane Birkin and especially Florinda Bolkan (her character is a riot).
Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Cast: Margit Carstensen, Karlheinz Böhm, Barbara Valentin, Peter Chatel, Gisela Fackeldey, Adrian Hoven, Ortrud Beginnen, Wolfgang Schenck, Kurt Raab
Martha, a single woman in her 30s whose recently lost her father and is caring for a crazy over-bearing mother accepts a marriage proposal from the arrogant Helmut. This film literally tore me to shreds. I hated Helmut with every bit of hate I have in me! Martha’s life is a nightmare but she refuses to leave the horrible sonofabitch. A frustrating, downright infuriating glimpse of a seriously unhappy marriage. Margit Carstensen always gives an immaculate performance but this absolutely takes the cake. Karlheinz Böhm (who you will recognize from Peeping Tom) elicits a hatred that is penetrating and unforgettable.
Mondo Keyhole (1966)
Directed by Jack Hill and John Lamb
Cast: Nick Moriarty, Adele Rein, Cathy Crowfoot, Carol Baughman, Pluto Felix, Christopher Winters, Penelope Faith
A serial rapist living behind a seemingly respectable existence with a nice home and a beautiful young wife attempts to keep his secret hidden; or is it all an illusion? “Each of you must distinguish for himself between the scenes of cold reality and those of pure illusion; the line between them is blurred at best.” One of my favourite roughies that ranks along with Michael Findlay’s Flesh trilogy. Rapist/husband Nick Moriarty convinces as a real sleaze while heroin-addicted, sex-starved wife Adele Rein is adorably ignorant and loyal to a fault. Enough nudity, drugs and sixties sleaziness to fill two movies. Great fun!
Revengers Tragedy (2002)
Directed by Alex Cox
Cast: Christopher Eccleston, Derek Jacobi, Diana Quick, Jean Butler, Andrew Schofield, Paul Reynolds, Justin Salinger, Eddie Izzard, Marc Warren, Fraser Ayres
Based on Thomas Middleton’s play published in 1607 but set in a post-apocalyptic Liverpool. Liverpool is ruled by an evil Duke with a nest of spoiled and unruly sons while Vindici, believed to be dead, has recently arrived in Liverpool seeking revenge against the powerful Duke. Vindici will stop at nothing to avenge the death of his wife and several of their guests; a crime perpetrated by the Duke and his sons on his wedding day. Vengeance is sweet as a rose but it can also sting like a bee. A funny, tragic and quirky twist on classic literature with a most magnificent and enigmatic Christopher Eccleston in the role of Vindici, Derek Jacobi as the creepy Duke and Eddie Izzard as the Duke’s son Lussurioso.
School of the Holy Beast (1974)
Directed by Noribumi Suzuki
Cast: Yumi Takigawa, Emiko Yamauchi, Yayoi Watanabe, Ryouko Ima, Harumi Tajima, Natsuko Yashiro, Marie Antoinette, Emi Shiro
Maya poses as a nun at the Sacred Heart Convent to discover what happened to her mother years before. A nunsploitation and pinky violence flick that lived up to my expectations. Torture, both inflicted and self-induced, sex, nudity, violence and as an added bonus well filmed with loads of creative flourishes. Yumi Takigawa is intense and what an ending!
Directed by Jesús Franco
Cast: Howard Vernon, Doris Thomas, Anne Libert, Jacqueline Laurent, Montserrat Prous, Kali Hansa, Francisco Acosta, Manuel Pereiro
I watched Sinner early in 2014 and it was one of the last reviews I did; read it here. It is one of Jess Franco’s best in my opinion.
The Skeleton of Mrs. Morales (1960)
Directed by Rogelio A. González
Cast: Arturo de Córdova, Amparo Rivelles, Elda Peralta, Guillermo Orea, Rosenda Monteros, Luis Aragón, Mercedes Pascual, Antonio Bravo
Dr. Pablo Morales is a taxidermist in an unhappy marriage to Gloria, a bitter prude and highly religious woman. After several long years Dr. Morales has finally decided something needs to be done. Arturo de Córdova is so likable as Dr. Morales you root for him 100%! A dark and hilarious comedy with a seriously charming performance by Córdova.
Story of O (1975)
Directed by Just Jaeckin
Cast: Corinne Cléry, Udo Kier, Anthony Steel, Jean Gaven, Christiane Minazzoli, Martine Kelly, Jean-Pierre Andréani, Gabriel Cattand
Based on the book by Pauline Réage (aka Anne Desclos) about the erotic adventures of O. In the film version O is a fashion photographer who is taken by her lover Rene to Château Roissy to be trained as a submissive. Enduring all manner of pain and humiliation O emerges a changed woman. Corinne Cléry was a solid choice to play O; she is beautiful, confident, sexy and powerful. The sets and costumes were lovely and the kinky opulence of the whole thing really hypnotized me.
Directed by Allen Savage
Cast: Jennifer Welles, Gary Judis, June Adams, Sue Beaudry, Sheila Britt, João Fernandes
I did a review for Submission as part of the Stepping Into Something Weird project I did with David at My Kind of Story. Read my review here. I loved a lot of Something Weird films but this one was probably my favourite overall. Jennifer Welles is perfect.
Successive Slidings of Pleasure (1974)
Directed by Alain Robbe-Grillet
Cast: Anicée Alvina, Olga Georges-Picot, Michael Lonsdale, Jean Martin, Marianne Eggerickx, Isabelle Huppert, Maxence Mailfort, Claude Marcault, Nathalie Zeiger
An eccentric young woman named Alice is kept in a convent while they investigate the murder of her friend. The lines between reality and fantasy become blurred as the tale unfolds. The visuals in Successive Slidings of Pleasure are its strongest asset; every frame is gorgeous. The cast are terrific especially the beautiful Anicée Alvina who plays Alice and her delightfully cheeky attitude towards everything and everybody. Successive Slidings of Pleasure is truly one of a kind. This is one of three films directed by Alain Robbe-Grillet I watched in 2014; a director well worth exploring. His film Trans-Europ-Express also made my shortlist.
The Ultimate Degenerate (1969)
Directed by Michael Findlay
Cast: Uta Erickson, Michael Findlay, Earl Hindman, Janet Banzet, Suzzan Landau, Yolanda Cortez, Rita Vance, Kim Lewid, Donna Stone, Clint McCook, Cindy Freemont
The Ultimate Degenerate was another film reviewed for Stepping Into Something Weird. Read the review here. Michael Findlay’s sleazy, psychodelic roughie was one of the highlights of Stepping Into Something Weird!
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Cast: Mireille Darc, Jean Yanne, Jean-Pierre Kalfon
A bourgeois couple travel across the French countryside to visit a dying father and secure an inheritance. Along the way they pass countless violent car accidents, meet some unusual folks and become entangled in bizarre circumstances. Meanwhile, each is having an affair and plotting each other’s death. These two are freaking nuts! This couple is so obnoxious I could not help but laugh at how audacious and ridiculous they were. A funny, strange and dark comedy/drama with plenty of social commentary and solid performances from Mireille Darc and Jean Yanne.
Wicked City (1987)
Directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri
A peace pact has been reached between the human world and the black world. The Black Guard has been set up to keep balance between the worlds and have been assigned the task of protecting the 200 year old Giuseppi Mayart whose presence is imperative in the signing of a new peace treaty. The assignment of the two black guards Renzaburō Taki, a human male and Makie a female from the black world was no accident and their involvement has the potential to change the world forever. Fabulous animation, a solid premise and lots of laughs and action in the best entry I’ve seen from the genre yet! I will definitely be checking out more Japanese animation in 2015!
The Witch Who Came From the Sea (1976)
Directed by Matt Cimber
Cast: Millie Perkins, Lonny Chapman, Vanessa Brown, Peggy Feury, Jean Pierre Camps, Mark Livingston, Rick Jason, Stafford Morgan, Richard Kennedy, George ‘Buck’ Flower
The Witch Who Came From the Sea is one of the most unique American made exploitation films I have ever seen. The film and especially central character Molly Stayed with me for days after and garnered a perfect 5/5; read the review here.
World On a Wire (1973)
Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Cast: Klaus Löwitsch, Barbara Valentin, Mascha Rabben, Karl Heinz Vosgerau, Wolfgang Schenck, Günter Lamprecht, Ulli Lommel, Adrian Hoven, Kurt Raab, Margit Carstensen
Fassbinder tries his hand at sci-fi and the result is a 3 + hour epic cybernetic, visually arresting, perfectly performed masterpiece. It made my Criterion top ten list over at The Droid You’re Looking For; check it out here.
Made the Shortlist: My Night at Maud’s (1969, Directed by Eric Rohmer), The Living Skeleton (1968, Directed by Hiroshi Matsuno), The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai (2003, Directed by Mitsuru Meike), Female Prisoner Scorpion: Beast Stable (1973, Directed by Shunya Itô), Witching and Bitching (2013, Directed by Álex de la Iglesia), Trans-Europ-Express (1966, Directed by Alain Robbe-Grillet), Veronika Voss (1982, Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder), The Exquisite Cadaver (1969, Directed by Vicente Aranda), The Debussy Film (1965, Directed by Ken Russell), Mystics in Bali (1981, Directed by H. Tjut Djalil), The Colour of Pomegranates (1968, Directed by Sergei Parajanov), Through the Looking Glass (1976, Directed by Jonas Middleton), Viridiana (1961, Directed by Luis Buñuel), Immoral Women (1979, Directed by Walerian Borowczyk), Conversation Piece (1974, Directed by Luchino Visconti), Zero Woman Red Handcuffs (1974, Directed by Yukio Noda), Branded to Kill (1967, Directed by Seijun Suzuki), Inferno (2009, directed by Serge Bromberg & Ruxandra Medrea), Lady Terminator (1989, directed by H. Tjut Djalil), Ludwig (1972, directed by Luchino Visconti), Love is Colder Than Death (1969, directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder), Neo Tokyo (1987, directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri & Rintaro & Katsuhiro Ôtomo), Silip: Daughters of Eve (1985, directed by Elwood Perez), Snowpiercer (2013, directed by Joon-ho Bong), Star of David: Hunting for Beautiful Girls (1979, directed by Noribumi Suzuki), Highway Patrolman (1991, directed by Alex Cox), Bellissima (1952, directed by Luchino Visconti).