Favorite Cult Classics That You Probably Haven’t Seen, Part 3

None of the following films is particularly outstanding nor are they that unique. What can be said for these films is that they are all tremendously entertaining and certainly memorable. But most significantly, I was exposed to all of these films with my little brother Hank or my friend Dan, whose laughs are contagious, making them an ideal candidate for any cult film audience.

Luv (1967)

Luv publicity still featuring (from left to right) Jack Lemon, Elaine May, and Peter Falk.

Luv publicity still featuring (from left to right) Jack Lemon, Elaine May, and Peter Falk.

This film is generally thought of as Clive Donner’s weak follow-up to What’s New Pussycat? (1965). But this film is as loud and as campy as a middle-aged Jack Lemon can get. It must be said that Lemon’s best scene is when he rear-ends Harrison Ford’s car and Harrison Ford gets out and punches Lemon. Otherwise, it’s pretty much Peter Falk and Elaine May’s show.

 

The Human Tornado (1976)

Dolemite (Rudy Ray Moore) post-intercourse

Dolemite (Rudy Ray Moore) post-intercourse

I love Rudy Ray Moore’s albums Eat Out More Often and The Moans & Groans Of Love, and this film is the best translation of his unique comic styling to the silver screen, mainly due to the film’s talented director (and often Rudy Ray Moore collaborator) Cliff Roquemore. In just the opening alone we find Dolemite in bed with the sheriff’s wife. When the sheriff catches them in bed, his wife accuses Dolemite of raping her. To this accusation Dolemite replies “Bitch! Are you for real?”, and then dives naked out of the window. We then cut to a naked Dolemite sailing through the air about to land and roll down a hill when the film freezes. In voice over, Dolemite asks “Y’all didn’t think I could do that?” Then the film rewinds and replays. The Human Tornado is ridiculous, crude and totally self-aware. It’s by far my favorite Rudy Ray Moore experience.

 

Vibes (1988)

Cyndi Lauper, Jeff Goldblum and Peter Falk on location.

Cyndi Lauper, Jeff Goldblum and Peter Falk on location.

 

This film is about twice as ludicrous as The Human Tornado. Any film where Peter Falk can quite seriously wonder aloud “Maybe she bounced” has to be seen and enjoyed. Add to that the director, Ken Kwapis, would go on to helm such films as Dunston Checks In (1996), and a cast that includes Jeff Goldblum, Cyndi Lauper and Julian Sands in the leads and you have one of the greatest cult films ever made. If you still need convincing, check out this plot summary courtesy of Wikipedia:

“Lauper plays Sylvia Pickel (pronounced with an emphasis on the “kel”, as she points out), a trance-medium who has contact with a wisecracking spirit guide named Louise. She first began communicating with Louise after falling from a ladder at the age of twelve and remaining comatose for two weeks. Subsequently, Louise taught her astral projection while Sylvia was placed in special homes for being ‘different’. She meets fellow psychic Nick Deezy (Goldblum), a psychometrist who can determine the history of events surrounding an object by touching it, at a study of psychics. Sylvia has a history of bad luck with men, and her overly flirtatious behavior turns off Nick right away.

Sylvia comes home to her apartment one night to find Harry Buscafusco (Falk) lounging in her kitchen. He claims to want to hire her for fifty thousand dollars if she will accompany him to Ecuador where his son has allegedly gone missing. Sylvia recruits Nick who is reluctant but also eager to leave his job as a museum curator where his special talents are abused like a circus act.”

-Robert Curry

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Harwood & Cassavetes: Thoughts Concerning An Aesthetic

John Cassavetes and his films are noted for many things, but rarely is much attention given to Cassavetes’ collaboration with composer Bo Harwood. Like many of Cassavetes’ closest collaborators (Peter Falk, Ben Gazzara, Gena Rowlands, Al Ruban, Sam Shaw, Timothy Carey, Seymour Cassel, Val Avery) Bo Harwood contributed his talents to a number of Cassavetes’ films, often supplying sound design skills in addition to his compositional talent.

John Cassavetes and Bo Harwood

John Cassavetes and Bo Harwood

Beginning with Minnie & Moskowitz (1971) with a musical supervisor credit, Harwood made his first mark on the cinema of John Cassavetes. However, Minnie & Moskowitz does not feature any of Harwood’s original pieces, but is instead a film with a soundtrack of found music. Harwood, under Cassavetes’ supervision co-selected the tracks from numerous sources and applied them to the film. Unlike most films, these musical cues were entirely diegetic, motivated by natural occurrences, often at the hands of the characters within the film. This technique would be the dominant style Cassavetes would employ in his subsequent films with very few exceptions.

The opening music as well as the music on the beach in A Woman Under The Influence (1975) marks such exceptions. These sparse piano pieces are original Harwood compositions. But even these non-diegetic music pieces do not totally mask the diegetic sound of the scene. This not only keeps the audience grounded in the reality of the film, but indicates an interest in marrying both non-diegetic and diegetic sounds together as one (which is further supported by Harwood’s work as the sound recorder for the film). This same marrying of sounds reoccurs in The Killing Of A Chinese Bookie (1976) in which Harwood will abruptly bring excerpts of his music in and out of the diegetic soundtrack without the use of fades, thus punctuating Cosmo Vitelli’s tension early in the film when he paces outside of The Crazy Horse.

The Killing Of A Chinese Bookie is also significant for the songs in the film, which Harwood wrote with lyrics by Cassavetes. This model of songwriting would repeat in Opening Night (1978) and Love Streams (1975). Love Streams would be the last film Cassavetes and Harwood would do together and would also mark their most complete and mature collaboration on the operetta sequence near the end of the film. This fantasy dream sequence features the actors singing their own parts while Harwood and other musicians accompany them in a string quartet. In both cinematic and musical terms this sequence is singular in all of Cassavetes’ filmography. The scene now, most appropriately, stands as a testament to Harwood and Cassavetes’ decade long collaboration.

-Robert Curry

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Jon Tomlinson

When I first started working with Jon Tomlinson he was working at Wade’s Comic Madness. I had been going to Wade’s since I was a kid since it was conveniently located near my grandmother’s house. Jon probably sold me a dozen or more comic books and action figures before I ever asked him to be in a film. I was a junior at University Of The Arts when I asked him if he wanted to be in a film I was doing for class titled Harrington Strange.

Jon and Lauren in an outtake from Harrington Strange

Jon and Lauren in an outtake from Harrington Strange

We shot Harrington Strange at my family’s house in Hulmeville in the fall of 2009. Jon came over with a bag of wardrobe options for me. He was far more prepared than either Lauren or Marissa, his co-stars. The film was shot in about four hours. This is how Jon and I began working together. I was so taken with his performance that I wrote my first film specifically for him called The Deadbeat, which we shot in a day early in December. After that, Jon was in almost all of my films for UArts.

Jon, being six years my senior, had an understanding about filmmaking, a kind of courage really. He was able to instill that courage into me. I remember preparing to shoot For The Love Of Marty and being nervous about asking Annie R. Such to do another film with me since her previous venture with Jon and I was a bit of a mess. Jon told me “it never hurts to ask”. I didn’t fully realize it till a few productions later that that sentiment is essential to the success of a project, at least with the kind of budgets I have. Since For The Love Of Marty I have employed Jon’s approach on every shoot and always with positive, and sometimes surprising, results.

By the time I graduated, Jon had acted in fourteen of my short films (Harrington Strange, The Deadbeat, Terribly In Love With Her, My Heart Once Wandered Free, For The Love Of Marty, She Called Him A Bastard, Bingo, The Man Who Loves Less Has More Power, The Baptism Of Isabelle, The Tenant Of Vanderventer Court, I Can’t Seem To Wrangle The Thoughts In My Brain, Preventorium Road, Scenes From An American Dream, and Film From A Dream). By 2012, he had been in four more (The Riots Of Spring, In The Wake Of Death, The Sweeter Dreams Of An Itinerant Woman, and Early One Morning). Sadly, for the first year of Zimbo Films I made my films without Jon. Often I had him in mind for different parts, but things just never followed through on my end. However, in 2013 I was able to get Jon to perform in two small supporting rolls in my first two features, An Atrocious Woman and Bitches.

In one of our two on screen appearances together, Jon and I in Dan Dickerson's Midnight Heat

In one of our two on screen appearances together, Jon and I in Dan Dickerson’s Midnight Heat

It was very important to me that Jon was in my first features. He is a mentor and a friend, and to exclude him from that would have been terrible. When you work in film the very nature of the medium amplifies the roles people play in your life, forcing you to remember different things more clearly than you would sometimes like. Working as I do, using a number of the same players, one can clearly trace when someone entered and then exited my life by watching my films. I guess since Jon turned 32 yesterday I have realized how glad I am that he’s still doing my films and in my life. Thank you for everything Jon.

-Robert Curry

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Favorite Cult Classics That You Probably Haven’t Seen, Part 2

One of the most attractive things about cult films is the sense of belonging they can bring. There’s an inherent elitism to cult films.  To see a particularly rare cult film, such was the case with David Lynch’s Eraserhead (1977) in the nineties, gives one and one’s friends this sense of exclusivity that brings them together.  Most cinephiles are familiar with these occurrences whether they recognized it or not.  When I was a teenager, making weekly trips to Movies Unlimited in North East Philadelphia, I was able to rent extremely hard to find titles to share with my friend Danny. Some films, such as Lommel’s Blank Generation (1980), weren’t just bizarre novelty escapades on celluloid but were of some critical value that lead to seeking out other films, such as Lommel’s Cocaine Cowboys (1979).  This was the nature of the video store and its function in establishing the social aspect of the cult film experience.  The three films I discuss and recommend in the following blog post are all titles I initially saw as a teenager, and had been rented from video stores back in the early 2000s.

 

The Terror Of Tiny Town (1938)

The Terror Of Tiny Town

Billy Curtis stars in the only all-little person musical western directed by Sam Newfield and produced by Jed Buell. The film is standard Roy Rogers fair except for the casting.  Many consider this one of the worst films ever made, but its otherworldly execution makes it a “must see” cult film.

 

Bill & Coo (1948)

a behind the scenes look at shooting Bill & Coo

a behind the scenes look at shooting Bill & Coo

George Burton’s trained birds are the only stars of this fantasy film in which the world is one giant bird civilization. Dean Riesner, the film’s writer/director, has constructed one of the most unique children’s films of all time utilizing nothing more than a narrator to propel the narrative and lend the feathered performers depth.  The film was so unique and so well crafted for what it was that it won an honorary Oscar the year it was released.  Adult audiences today will more likely equate their viewing experience to surrealism, not fantasy. But seeing this film as a boy I was captivated by its quirky charm.

 

The Gardener aka Seeds Of Evil (1975)

The Gardener

After making a number of films with Paul Morrissey and Andy Warhol actor Joe Dallesandro starred in this oddball thriller. Dallesandro plays a seductive gardener, seducing affluent women left and right.  The primary concern of the film is not with the narrative, but rather with providing reasonable scenarios in which Dallesandro can be seen in the nude.  The Gardener is not particularly enjoyable for those who aren’t already fans of Dalesandro, nor is it anything of real substance beyond its use as a historic document of sexual sensibilities in the mid-seventies. However, the climax of the film may be enough to justify non-Dalesandro fans sitting through the first ninety minutes.

-Robert Curry

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Post-Modern Spectacles

With regards to the cinema, a spectacle is a series of images endowed with sensational content meant to tantalize an audience.  These images may occur in one single scene of a film or throughout.  What makes these particular images a spectacle is the fact that they function around a superficial stimulation of the audience derived from either the sex appeal of an actor, the scale of a special effect, or a pervasiveness in violence and gore.  Certain films employ the spectacle throughout, and rely on the spectacle to entertain the audience, keeping them hooked with superficial thrills.

Spectacle is the defining attribute of mainstream narrative filmmaking in America today.  And what is the mainstream? Any film produced by or distributed by one of the five major Hollywood studio conglomerates, ranging in style and genre from the popular Harry Potter franchise, Baz Luhrmann’s Great Gatsby (2013) to Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel (2013) and Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Rises (2012). These films have been born out, in terms of their aesthetic execution and concern with mass marketability, of a long standing tradition in Hollywood that has only become more and more distilled with the advent of the blockbuster or “event” film. This trend towards spectacle is a post-modern notion, dependent not only on the most rudimentary genre conventions and narrative tropes but also careful market research. As this trend has progressed, so has the bankruptcy of American film literacy.

Consider now the movie serials such as Flash Gordon and Superman. Each episode was carefully constructed to be the pinnacle of escapism and a total encapsulation of not only the serials’ genre, but also the narrative conventions that accompany the featured characters.  For instance it is inevitable that in any episode of a Superman serial that the title character would be featured in flight, that Jimmy Olsen and/or Lois Lane would get into trouble in search of a newspaper story that would some how end in a cliffhanger.  In this way, as television would quickly come to learn in the following decade, the serial not only gave the audience what it demanded (and every time with only the slightest moderation) but also left that audience craving more of the same.  The contemporary notion of spectacle is simply a grandiose effort on behalf of the studios to cash in on these conventions.

George Lucas' Star Wars (1977)

George Lucas’ Star Wars (1977)

Of course the realization that a two-hour feature film with an astronomical budget could in fact function as a serial was very much the brainchild of director/producer George Lucas, whose Star Wars films popularized this technique for the first time in 1977. What Lucas and his Star Wars films did was to negate any topical political reading by ardently adhering to the conventions of the Science Fiction movie serial, a ploy that gave audiences a total escape from an America in the clutches of post-Watergate depression and a cinema of social and cultural awareness. These various components of the films and the socio-political climate into which they were released made Lucas millions of dollars.  The success of Star Wars inevitably spawned a multitude of equally successful imitations from the major studios such as Robert Wise’s Star Trek The Motion Picture (1979), Richard Donner’s Superman The Movie (1978), and Steven Spielberg’s Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981).  All of these films are dependent not only on special effects, but pre-established character types (or in the case of Star Trek and Superman, pre-established characters and accompanying signifiers) as well as a single moral commentary.  For instance, Raiders Of The Lost Ark teaches us one rough idealistic American individual is all it takes to thwart the schemes of Fascism. Where Star Wars was content with its simplification of Joseph Campbell’s scholarly concept of good versus evil, these films branch out into a more sophisticated territory where one moral issue may be addressed.

It goes without saying that not all of these precursors to the contemporary notion of spectacle were franchises.  It just wasn’t necessary to adopt the serial format literally if films of a particular genre stuck to what is best described as a stylistic blueprint. A film like Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park (1993) resembles Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) enough that audiences were happy to ignore Jurassic Park’s many short comings, much in the same way Jan de Bont’s Twister (1996) is indebted to Spielberg’s Jaws (1975). Producers like Jerry Bruckheimer who were smart enough to bank on this format in the nineties were almost always assured a large return on their investments.  However, when one makes a film like The Rock (1996) you have to one up the star caliber and the special effects while maintaining a simplicity of narrative and character development in a follow-up feature, Con-Air (1997) and once again with the epic Armageddon (1998).  Other films that have counted on this format and audience trends and were able to find considerable success were Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day (1996) and Godzilla (1998), Brian DePalma’s Mission: Impossible (1996), Kevin Costner’s Dances With Wolves (1990), Martin Campbell’s Goldeneye (1995), Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan (1998), Chuck Russell’s Eraser (1996), Baz Luhrmann’s William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (1996), Nora Ephron’s You’ve Got Mail (1998), Michael Mann’s Heat (1995), John Woo’s Face/Off (1997), Richard Donner’s Lethal Weapon (1987), Jonathan Frakes’ Star Trek: First Contact (1996), Mel Gibson’s Braveheart (1995), Brian DePalma’s Snake Eyes (1998), Kevin Reynolds’ Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves (1991), Robert Zemeckis’ Forrest Gump (1994) and many more.

Bruce Willis in Die Hard (1988)

Bruce Willis in Die Hard (1988)

There have been successful attempts at combining the spectacle of action and violence or the budding romance between two well-established film stars with more intellectual commentaries in certain films.  John McTiernan’s Die Hard (1988) is a film that balances the cheap thrills of Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman sporting guns and puns with a sharp piece of social commentary and a sensibility for the ironic.  Die Hard’s balance of aesthetics, though not quite perfect, is derived from the film’s self-awareness. The satirical nature of Die Hard is not common place in the action genre nor in the popular blockbuster, whose very nature is to avoid self-awareness at all costs for fear of the audience stepping out of the blockbuster’s narrative and accessing the film for what it is, pure spectacle.  However, this dilemma, when coupled with nostalgia, is precisely what has made The Expendables franchise so successful in recent years.

Many of the conventions of the nineties blockbuster spectacle provide perfect examples of the ready-made signifiers apparent in films today. The Nicolas Cage character in The Rock is a geek, boasting about his recent acquisition of a rare Beatles LP.  But we also know he is “manly” because of the steamy sex scene he has shortly there after.  In this way Cage is the sexy nerd character type and the audience accepts that, and will look for and find similar signifiers in Michael Bay’s Transformers (2007) and Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spiderman (2012).  This shorthand is the kind used in old film serials, and can therefore be equated to the archetypal character conventions on which Star Wars is entirely dependent.

This approach to minimalist characterization is perhaps best exemplified by The Great Gatsby. The characterization in this film is in fact so weak that it doesn’t exist at all.  Leonardo DiCaprio is Gatsby, but we don’t need to get to know or understand Gatsby because we, the audience, know DiCaprio from James Cameron’s Titanic (1998) and Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator (2004). DiCaprio is always sexy, he is always deep and with a hidden dark side, and he is a self made man; these are the attributes associated with the actor DiCaprio when he is on screen so that is what the audience projects onto him when he appears in the role of Gatsby. The same is also true for both Tobey Maguire and Carey Mulligan.

Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby (2013)

Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby (2013)

But just as characterization has suffered with an increased focus on spectacle in the name of profit, so has morality.  Though some films maintain a complicated philosophical commentary such as Terrence Malick’s The Tree Of Life (2011), most films vie for the simplicity of Zach Snyder’s Man Of Steel (2013).  After over two hours of bravura special effects and gratuitous fight scenes better suited to a video game we find the moral of the film’s story is the same as Sam Raimi’s Spiderman (2002); with great power comes great responsibility, so don’t kill anyone Superman. Now if we return to Die Hard for a moment we can better chart the steady decline of moral complexity as the franchise continues from the original film of 1988 to the present.  After the original film, the social commentary and satirical sophistication abandoned the franchise with McTiernan’s departure.

The biggest problem is not that films aren’t especially sophisticated if they are blockbusters, but rather the ramifications these films have had on the cinema at large.  A film like Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan had all of the emotional and moral potential of Sam Fuller’s The Big Red One (1980), but negated all of that for what amounts to nothing more than a rescue drama centered around a small group of men where each is representative of one clear character type and therefore without dimension.  The spectacle of the landing on the beach in Normandy, all forty minutes of murderous mayhem and alleged realism, is meant to stimulate the audience, to sell the film as a legitimate historical text into which the audience can therefore invest its trust. In this way audiences aren’t so quick to catch Spielberg’s adherence to a very conservative American notion of political correctness that is actually borderline racist (reconsider Amistad and Lincoln for a second).

This brings us back to the ramifications of these spectacles. If a spectacle is produced for a consumer, and the consumer wants more, so the spectacle gets bigger. Raising in turn the question where is there room for true artistic expression in mainstream cinema?

-Robert Curry

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The Style Of Guy Maddin & Brand Upon The Brain

Brand Upon The Brain

Guy Maddin has been one of the most unique voices in cinema for over two decades now.  His films are a return to the primitivism of early surrealist filmmaking, succeeding through their own inventiveness in terms of technical execution that comes only out of necessity.  It is because of this that comparisons have been drawn between such varied filmmakers as the Kuchar Brothers, Erich Von Stroheim and Fritz Lang.  Though upon an examination of Maddin’s conceptual and thematic concerns it becomes clear that his films communicate in a filmic dialogue all of their own.  Maddin’s resources in terms of influence is so diverse that to compare his style and method to any other single film artist is an over simplification of Maddin’s aesthetic.

However, in recent years Maddin has taken up autobiographical material as his primary subject, beginning with the feature Brand Upon The Brain (2006).  But his brand of autobiography is neither literally representative of his past nor is it distinctly allegorical, and therefore defies any clear literarily derived labeling, unlike the films of Noah Baumbach and Whit Stillman.  Almost in direct opposition of accessible and relatable modes of representation Maddin has employed an aesthetic closer to that of Andrei Tarkovsky’s The Mirror (1974).  Where Tarkovsky’s film meanders in a sort of stream of consciousness, Maddin takes that stream but makes it singularly applicable to the construction of his linear narrative, lending his stories a kind of haphazard association to reality while existing in a highly stylized and absurd world of its own much like that in the cult classic The Forbidden Zone (Elfman, 1980).  In terms of Maddin’s orientation to film history, the employment of such a tactic with such an end in mind recalls only the earliest surrealist films of Bunuel and Dali.

Brand Upon The Brain

Yet, that surrealist influence does not extend so far as Maddin’s visuals that are neither politically or sociologically conscious.  His visuals are intuitive constructions designed to emote not to propel a narrative in the traditional Eisensteinian sense.  In this way Maddin’s alignment of his visuals is seemingly born out of Stan Brakhage’s early experimental films before the advent of structuralism.  But there is a consciousness to Maddin’s composition though that is deliberate and at times classical in the reverence it shows for the films of F.W. Murnau, Carl Theodore Dreyer, and Benjamin Christensen.  Christensen in particular seems to have informed Maddin’s depiction of lesbian sexuality in Brand Upon The Brain.  The witches’ orgy in Christensen’s Haxan (1922) echoes quite clearly in Maddin’s choice of composition in the scene where Sis and Chance rendezvous for a tryst in a cove.

By utilizing a diverse array of filmic constructs and realigning them in what are aesthetically unrelated forms designed to perpetuate a psychological response over an intellectual one Maddin is able to recreate his youth without any concept of our reality at all.  In Maddin’s Kafkaesque nightmare world it is only essential that each image one up the previous image in terms of articulating a single emotion.  This is a language unprecedented in contemporary cinema, one with whom I can make no comparison.

-Robert Curry

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Favorite Cult Classics That You Probably Haven’t Seen, Part 1

The term “cult classics” is used to describe films that, when first released, failed to find an audience but slowly gained a growing following either through midnight screenings (such is the case with the Rocky Horror Picture Show) or a home video release.  The effect of home video on the accessibility of this genre is immeasurable, and has led to a widespread popularity of the genre as a whole.  Yet, there are still a number of cult films that have failed to find a foothold in the public consciousness, remaining the favorites of a comparatively few cinephiles.  The purpose of this post, and the few that will follow, is to recommend cult films that deserve a place in the pantheon of cult film alongside El Topo (Jodorowsky, 1970), Barbarella (Vadim, 1968), Eraserhead (Lynch, 1977), Pink Flamingos (Waters, 1972), I Spit On Your Grave (Zarchi, 1978), Vampyros Lesbos (Franco, 1971), Zardoz (Boorman, 1974) and Driller Killer (Ferrara, 1979).

Lord Love A Duck (1966)

original lobby card for Lord Love A Duck

original lobby card for Lord Love A Duck

This is perhaps one of the most offbeat satirical comedies of the sixties, a film that attempts to and succeeds at lampooning both the teen sex comedy films of the day and the socio-political structure of American society.   The film, based on an Al Hine novel of the same name, stars Roddy McDowall and Tuesday Weld with Lola Albright, Ruth Gordon and Harvey Korman under the excessively campy direction of George Axelrod.  Despite a very talented ensemble cast, the most watchable part of the film is Roddy McDowall  (who refers to himself in the third person as Mollymauk), whose over the top theatrical performance coupled with Axelrod’s sense of modern architecture give the film a feeling of fantasy that could only be compared to Frank Tashlin’s work with Jerry Lewis.  And it is this air of fantasy that enables the film’s narrative; Allan (McDowall) dedicates a year of his life to make fellow high school student Barbara Ann’s (Weld) every wish come true even if it means murder, perfectly acceptable.

Straight To Hell (1987)

from left to right: Strummer, Rude and Richardson in Straight To Hell

from left to right: Strummer, Rude and Richardson in Straight To Hell

Just before directing his masterpiece Walker (1987) Alex Cox helmed this typically offbeat revival of the Spaghetti Western.  The film is the product of a failed charity concert film Cox was to direct.  But since all the acts had allotted the time in their schedules for the concert, Cox decided instead to make Straight To Hell.  This accounts for the rather unorthodox cast which includes Joe Strummer, Courtney Love, Elvis Costello, Shane MacGowan, Grace Jones as well as actors Dick Rude, Sy Richardson, Dennis Hopper, Miguel Sandoval and a guest appearance by film director Jim Jarmusch.  The film has the kinetic energy and sense of danger of a lost weekend.  Along with deconstructing the Western genre at every turn, Cox also imbues the film with some of his own obsessions including coffee, wieners, and hardware stores.  The bizarre mix of talent and obsessive thematic plotting make this film the stuff of hipster heaven, but without any sort of legitimate following.

Free Enterprise (2000)

William Shatner as William Shatner checking out porn.

William Shatner as William Shatner checking out porn.

Free Enterprise is a film made by two trekkies about two trekkies about to enter their thirties and how they navigate their daily love lives and jobs with the hope of ascertaining happiness and fame.  And who better to guide them than William Shatner, playing a version of himself that no one had seen until then (going so far as to rap William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar).  The film follows the narrative style of Swingers but derives its greatest pleasure from the inherent elitism of its referential dialogue, which is so faced paced and obscure it could give the Gilmore Girls a run for their money.  Yet, unlike most cult films, Free Enterprise is a heart felt romantic comedy, as unpretentious as it is obsessed with Captain Kirk of the U.S.S. Enterprise.

-Robert Curry

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