The one movie event that matters is tomorrow, October 23, at the legendary Aero. I cannot wait! I’ll post more photos in a couple days from the event.
RUNAWAY TRAIN (1985)
Directed By Andrei Konchalovsky
Starring Jon Voight, Eric Roberts, and Rebecca De Mornay
Streamed this on Prime
Transfer is legit good!
This is a straight up underrated ripping classic. If you haven’t seen it, well than you need to watch it tonight! One of my favorite films of all time, I’ve probably seen it almost ten times in my life. It’s the best Cannon Group Film in my opinion. There really is nothing like it for that time period. I found myself having to re-watch it again today because I was talking to Devon, and Matt about it, and Matt has never seen it (or even heard of it for that matter). Don’t worry, we’re trying to change that. Jon Voight is terrific in this, every single line that comes out of his mouth is as hard and cold as steel. He’s very believable playing a career criminal who is also a hero to all of the other inmates in the prison that he escapes from. This is Voight’s role of a lifetime here, he has nailed it completely. You really don’t like his character as a person, but you find yourself routing for him all through out the movie. A very young Eric Robert also stars in this, and plays Voight’s annoying sidekick. If you love movies like I do then you probably look at Roberts as a annoying D grade hack actor. Well, for this film he is amazing in it, and they definitely could NOT have chosen a better partner to play the part of Buck.
The story is awesome, with some violence and brutality that is cringe worthy when you watch it happen. This film is based on a screen play written by Akira Kurosawa.
The only negative thing I can say about this film is the music straight up sucks. At times it sounds like Seinfield meets Knightrider, but even that can’t destroy the movie. I think it holds up just as good now as it did when I saw it for the first time on VHS in around 1986. I recall renting it with my buddy/bandmate Kenny Donovan. We were hooked and rented it a few other times before I moved back East.
Do NOT sleep on this, you’ll be shocked at how fun this film is. I’d rate This as an 8. (NW)
Nate Wilson: NW Devon Cahill: DC Matt Average: MA
Tell me about it! Another one from the marquee at the Laemlee Royal. This one is referencing Mel Brooks comedy from 1977. A little bit of clever humor from the person putting these marquees together goes far these days. (MA)
While the movie theaters remain closed, The Laemmle Royal marquee remains active with weekly updates that offer commentary on what’s happening, sometimes with movie titles, as you will see in some future posts coming up soon.
It’s certainly a bleak time for those of us who love going to the theater, but these marquees give me a boost when I see them and make it slightly easier to keep on keeping on until the doors reopen and we can all sit down and shut out the world via the big screen. (MA)
You know you can always count on Bad Transfer to be timely. Set your broken clock to it, and it will be right twice a day, guaranteed! Here it is April 2020, and we are now bringing you our (well, two of us) top ten best of 2019 lists. Dig in, make comments, and write some comments to us as well. We’re lonely, and in need of cyber companionship.
In order for me to move to Brooklyn, NY in 1998 I needed to get rid of a ton of stuff to be able to pack my life into a Ford Econoline van. The van was named Tom. Some of those things I gave away, some I threw away, and some I sold. Of all things that I regret getting rid of none are bigger than dumping nearly all of my cassettes. Over the past few years I’ve been trying to find some of the things I tossed out as well as keep up with the new, great things that are coming out. Home recording is killing the music industry, thankfully! Without further ado, here are 10 tapes that I picked up in 2019 but not necessarily from 2019.
These last three are from Michigan, my home.
That’s it. Send me things to have an opinion about and maybe you’ll get on my 2020 list.
Top 10 of what I experienced in 2019.
- Aero Horrorthon: I remember reading about the Horrorthon in the LA Weekly when it first started happening, but for some reason didn’t go until the 9th year, and last year was the 14th one. Why I waited so long? I have no excuse. However, I’m fully committed to going to these as long as they have them, and I hope that is for years to come. Old horror films all night long with strange skits and trailers in between. A recent fond memory is watching Anthropophagus with Devon, and his response during the scene where George Eastman takes the baby out of the pregnant woman and begins to eat it, “Brutal.” I imagine Devon likes how the waitress at the vegan bakery across from the Aero thought I had an attitude problem last year when we stopped for breakfast after Horrorthon let out. “Do you have a problem?” she sternly asked with a glare. My favorite night of the year.
2. The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue at Beyond Fest : Most people go to Beyond Fest for the newest genre films, I go for whatever Cinematic Void programs. The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue is one of the big highlights for me of 2019. Fully restored. See it by all means.
3. Godzilla movies at the Vista : Summer mornings watching Godzilla movies on the big screen is good living. Devon and I met up many a Sunday morning to see things like Godzilla v Hedorah, Destroy All Monsters, Mothra v Godzilla, and others. There was also a Godzilla marathon at the Egyptian back in May as well. Great times they were.
4.The New York Ripper at the Egyptian: One of Fulci’s last great films. Kind of strange to say something as sleazy as The New York Ripper is great, but it is. A movie you will never forget.
5. Pink Flamingos at the Aero: It’s one thing to watch Pink Flamingos at home, it’s an entirely different experience in a movie theater at midnight. See it in a theater if you ever get the opportunity.
6. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood at the New Beverly: The New Beverly is the place to see this movie. So the screen’s small, however, they try to make the experience more immersive with the BOSS radio broadcasts playing over the house PA before the film starts, trailers and ads before the movie are from the time the movie is set in, and there’s also set pieces in the lobby. The movie is pretty good as well. I would love to see movies, or books, expanding on the story of Cliff Booth.
7. The Tom Atkins triple feature and Q&A at the Beyond Fest: Outside of the Cinematic Void programming at the recent Beyond Fest, this was the other high point. Three movies: Halloween III, The Fog, and Night of the Creeps. Then there’s the interview with Tom Atkins afterwards. Dom Atkins also made an appearance. A truly historic moment in genre cinema history.
8. Dolemite is My Name: I expected to hate this movie. However, I have rediscovered that Eddie Murphy is great, and it was time Rudy Ray Moore was given some much needed attention. Hopefully when the quarantine is lifted we can get to paying visits to the last remaining sites where his movies were filmed.
9. Phantasm, Three O’Clock High, and 10 to Midnight at the Aero: This triple feature celebrated three years of Cinematic Void. Don Coscarelli was also there signing his book. Phantasm is one of my all time favorite films, and I see it every chance I get. It’s that good. Then you add in Three O’Clock High, and Charles Bronson in 10 to Midnight (featuring the men’s room at the Aero!), you can’t go wrong.
10. Repo Man at the Egyptian: I may have missed out on the Severin secret movie marathon in the Speilberg, but I was able to see Repo Man and a great Q&A with Alex Cox instead.
Wake In Fright
Director: Ted Kotcheff
Staring: Donald Pleasence, Gary Bond, Chips Rafferty
Viewed: Streaming on Amazon Prime
Transfer Quality: Good enough
Man this movie is deranged and completely fucked up. I’d seen this poster around forever, but the trailer and story line just never really grabbed me enough to give it a go. Well last night I took a chance and gave it a shot based on not being able to find anything else to watch. I’m glad I finally made the decision to spend the time with this weirdness.
The story is that of a under paid schoolteacher in Australia who has been working in a remote town for the government. When the school year ends the teacher goes on holiday trying to visit the city of Sydney to see his girlfriend. His train stops in a small Australian redneck town, and he has one night in Bundanyabba (the Yabba) and ends up getting ridiculously drunk and gambling all of his life savings away (doesn’t seem like much of a savings really). The teacher has nowhere to stay and no money to catch another train or bus to get out of this drunken violent hell. He ends up waking up on different people’s floors and beds after many nights of debauchery. The teacher starts hanging out with an alcoholic doctor who doesn’t believe in money (played by the infamous Donald Pleasence of Halloween). This might be DP’s best role ever as he steals the show in this one. I actually was wondering if the director got Pleasence completely shitfaced and just let him have at it with the character he was playing.
The pair goes out drunkenly hunting for kangaroos with some red neck miners driving them around shooting in the bush. They chase and kill many a kangaroo. They also drunkenly fist fight and wrestle these beautiful beasts. Some of this film is hard to watch. As (DC) said to me about this film when I told him I was viewing it… “Donald Pleasence is Satan in that movie”. When (MA) asked me what film I would have as a double feature with Wake In Fright I immediately said Last House On The Left.
Eaten Alive (aka Death Trap)
Starring: Neville Brand (Judd), Marilyn Burns (Faye), Robert Englund (Buck),Stuart Whitman (Sheriff Martin), Mel Ferrer (Harvey Wood), Crystin Sinclair (Libby Wood) Carolyn Jones (Miss Hattie), William Finley (Roy), Roberta Collins (Clara Wood), Kyle Richards (Angie)
Director: Tobe Hooper
Transfer Quality: Very nice transfer!
Probably my biggest takeaway from this film is that while a scythe looks cool and makes for great promotional poster art, it is ridiculously cumbersome as a murder weapon. Oh, and that Nile crocodiles in Texas can both shrink in size when pursuing prey in tight quarters and eat several adult-sized humans in a single night.
Hooper again exploits our deep-seated collective fear of backwoods Texas to explore something I’m still not quite able to put my finger on in the horror hotel genre meets Jaws flick, Eaten Alive. Apparently Hooper had some creative differences with the producers that lead to some scenes being helmed by a different director. Perhaps this can explain away why this movie has so many elements that could have made it great, but still manages to fall short. In the end this is a pretty clunky film, but with some cool components, great cast and soundtrack, and a campy plastic crocodile that morphs into different sizes that make it worth checking out.
So the set-up: The film opens at a sleazy country brothel run by Miss Hattie (Carolyn Jones, The Addams Family) with “Name is Buck, I’m rarin’ to fuck,” Buck (Robert Englund, Nightmare on Elm Street) trying to force newbie prostitute Clara Wood (Roberta Collins, The Big Doll House) to do pervy stuff she doesn’t wanna do. Of course, Miss Hattie takes the good ‘ol boy Buck’s side in the dispute and banishes Clara from the whorehouse. Well, it’s out of the frying pan and into the fire for poor Clara as she stumbles over to the Starlight Hotel, a dilapidated mess of a place in the swamp where she meets a similarly dilapidated mess of a mental case, Judd (Neville Brand, Mad Bomber, Stalag 17), who owns it. Not to spoil too much, but it doesn’t end well for Clara or just about any man, woman, monkey, or small dog that happens to find themselves at the Starlight that evening.
While watching this I kept wondering what Judd’s motivation is for undertaking all these killings. At first, he seems to be exacting revenge for all of the abominations and iniquities of the world embodied in the guests he encounters at his hotel. We know he’s definitely got a thing against prostitutes, but it’s certainly not a consistent motivation to kill. For example, he also chases a little kid under the house, with the scythe, no less…a pursuit that smolders throughout the film, but he ties her mother up to the bed without killing her. He mumbles to himself at times, so I’m guessing he’s hearing voices, but that’s never clarified. There’s also this thing where he takes off his glasses when he kills. Maybe an alter ego he takes on? Anyway, don’t expect any of this to be explained at any point. Judd’s just a creepy guy who acts nice and then ends up killing you for no real reason…first with a pitchfork and then with a scythe. And, yes, as the title gives away, Judd doesn’t quite finish off any of his victims, so they’re each “eaten alive” by a giant crocodile that Judd keeps in the bog next to his hotel.
While leaving things unexplained is what gives the horror in Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre such depth and intensity, it just doesn’t work here. In my opinion, this comes from Hooper’s decision to film the entire movie on a sound stage. I will say first that the genius of this is that it allows him to create a discrete and completely fictional universe, where the rules of the real world don’t necessarily apply. The dominant red hue cast in the hotel scenes really does create an alternate reality kinda feel that intensifies just how cut off from sanity the hotel is. The downside, of course, is that in the process it cuts the viewer off from any sense that this is real, and forces us to start finding holes in the narrative leaving us asking questions like “why any of this is happening?” In Chainsaw, it’s precisely the documentary feel that allows the viewer to abandon need for explanation and join the fictional victims in full panic mode. In Eaten Alive, only confusion results.
Finally, as ludicrous as the plastic croc is in this, I will say it is pretty absurdly amazing every time it appears on screen. Also, the crescendo of carnage in the final scene is intense enough not be missed. Unfortunately, it’s the only scene that even comes close to the level of anxiety that Chainsaw produces.
Although not quite a “for Hooper completists only,” and not among his top films, I would definitely recommend checking it out.
Starring: John Turturro (Harry), Deborah Kara Unger (Kate)
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Transfer Quality: I would say…good? Looked like a DVD basically.
I’ve been a fan of Refn’s work since I first saw Drive. When Only God Forgives came out to middling reviews, I went to the trouble of actually buying a digital copy instead of waiting for a DVD or BD release, since it wasn’t playing in any theaters around me. I loved it for seemingly all of the reasons many reviewers hated it. Since then, I’ve played close attention to Refn’s new releases and his unique film streaming service, byNWR. For some reason, though, I never took a deep-dive into his work before Drive. When a friend recommended that I watch Fear X, I jumped in almost completely blind; the only knowledge of the film I had was its title, poster, and the Rotten Tomatoes aggregate review score that pops up when you Google it (58%).
I was disappointed, at first, with the beginning of Fear X. The basic premise is straightforward: protagonist Harry Caine, played by John Turturro, is a mall cop whose wife was shot and killed without explanation. There are some long, moody shots that prepared me for a meditative, thoughtful film, but the first half hour was populated with cut-and-paste thriller plot motivations and tropes (a dead wife, a man pouring over camera footage, the obligatory shot of news paper clips and photographs stuck to a wall used as shorthand to communicate the protagonist’s obsession). However, there were small moments that captured my attention enough to continue, like brief visits from widow Harry Caine’s murdered wife and an inexplicable cut to an abstract red mindscape.
I appreciated scenes in the beginning of Fear X much more after viewing the entire film. Many of them border on parody, but rather than being humorous, they deliberately couch you in the comforts of genre while depriving you of its joys. The most explicit example of this is a quintessential diner scene. Harry finds a small-town restaurant where he questions a waitress about an individual he believes is connected to his wife’s murder. There is a shot of Harry sitting down with a cup of black coffee and a plate of apple pie. On the wall behind him is a big mural of an American flag. The scene ends with a slow zoom on the flag, making the scene’s intent obvious. It made me wonder, “Do people really go to diners alone and order apple pie and coffee?” Probably, but not as often as cinema would have you believe, and, perhaps, even less so when they’re on the hunt for a murderer. It’s not laugh out loud funny, but it’s clever and signals Refn’s intentions.
As I watched, I started to realize that this isn’t a thriller at all. It’s an anti-thriller, a story about a world where vengeance is impossible and, even more importantly, knowledge is out of our grasp. This goes for both Harry and the viewer. Fear X certainly isn’t a movie for anyone who wants easy answers, because there aren’t any to be found. As Harry pushes forward on his quest to know why his wife was murdered, his anger and frustration grow. We watch his feelings get increasingly intense until it’s no longer possible to interpret what is being shown to us literally.
Watching this film from 2003 after being introduced to Refn’s work in 2011, I couldn’t help but see the signs of him honing his craft as a director. There is some serious obsession with heavy unnatural lighting, blood orange creeping on red in particular, though not to the extent of his more recent work. Harry, like many of Refn’s characters, is a man of few words, and his motivations are extremely simple. He walks a path from point A to point B, going along with whatever he needs to get there without undue deliberation while the camera lingers and zooms just to the point of discomfort, without overstaying its welcome.
While Fear X is not as refined and definitive as my favorite Refn movies, it stands on its own merits and has interesting ideas that subvert genre expectations. This is not a graphic movie; when there is violence, it is intentionally restrained, awkward and uncomfortable. Some of the scenery, with colors that manage to look beautiful despite their garishness, and dialogue delivery, often stilted in a naturalistic way that doesn’t usually play well on the screen, remind me of Dario Argento’s giallo cinema. The ending is unsettling and cathartic at the same time; it is this uneasy mix of both that makes Fear X so effective. The movie seems to tell you that you will never have the answers or catharsis you want, but never allows you to accept that. Bonus points for being creepy right until the end; be sure to stay for the credit roll accompanied by copious security camera footage utilized throughout the movie proper.
Recommended for people who like asking questions without expecting answers in return.
ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD (2019)
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Margaret Qualley, Timothy Olyphant, Emile Hirsch, Dakota Fanning, Luke Perry
It’s rare, but I do go see a new movie now and then. Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood is not one I’d miss out on seeing in the theatre. Tarantino is one of the few directors today that I think makes movies worth seeing. Even if you don’t like everything he’s done you still talk about those movies. I still remember seeing Reservoir Dogs when it opened at the now long gone Lumiere Theatre in San Francisco. I was blown away, and went back to see it many more times before it left. Sometimes twice in the same day, if it was on a weekend. I even dragged all my friends to see it, and convincing them repeated viewings were worth their time. The acting was great, the dialog was smart, and the soundtrack was perfect. And it was a much needed breath of fresh air in the shitty shitty state of genre cinema at the time.
All the reviews for Once Upon A Time… are out, so you know who’s who and what’s what. I’ll just mention that Brad Pitt is great as Cliff Booth. I’d love to see more about him somewhere down the line. I’d even settle a series of novels about his past, present, and future.
Also, I recommend seeing this at the New Beverly, and it’s playing all through September, so there’s time. Before the movie they play the broadcasts from KHJ that you hear throughout the movie when DiCaprio and Pitt are driving around LA, then you get the trailers that are also shown in the movie, as well some props from the movie on display in the lobby and back of the theatre.
Will I go see this again? Definitely. (MA)
BONNIE’S KIDS (1972)
Starring: Tiffany Bolling (Ellie), Robin Mattson (Myra), Steve Sandor (Larry)
Director: Arthur Marks
Music: Carson Whitsett
Viewed: Streaming, Amazon Prime
Transfer Quality: Excellent! Top quality restoration and transfer
Larry: You mean to tell me that God made two of you?
Ellie: God had nothing to do with it, darling.
Hot, oversexed, devious, and cruel would aptly describe the sisters, Myra (Robin Mattson Candystripe Nurses, Phantom of the Paradise) and Ellie (Tiffany Bolling The Candy Snatchers, Kingdom of the Spiders), but Bonnie’s kids aren’t the only morally bankrupt denizens of this twisted and superficial world of predator vs. prey. Virtually every character that appears on screen is on the make in one way or another. Even the camera is a lecherous creep, shamelessly panning up and down the contours of every female figure and implicating the viewer along the way whether we like it or not. This feature is gratuitous, but why would you expect any less of a film that was a major influence on Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.
There are some magical moments in this movie, which makes its impact on Tarantino easy to figure. For example, the arrangement of shots in the opening scene is quite brilliant in its portrayal of teen innocence that’s just slightly askew. It’s difficult to describe how well done this scene is, but director Arthur Marx (Bucktown, Monkey Hustle) employs some great visual storytelling techniques here that set the deliciously cynical tone for the film. An ice cream truck, headlights glowing in the distance, blares its syrupy looped tone made even more unsettling by its incongruity with the nighttime scene. Something is off balance, and it creates a sense of foreboding that subconsciously prepares us for the nihilistic excess that will occupy the rest of the film. As the ice cream truck jingle continues, we see two high school couples making out in a convertible. While the ominous vehicle slowly rolls towards the make out session, Myra skillfully rebuffs the advances of her boyfriend as he presses his luck trying to unzip her dress. In the meantime, the truck passes without incident and the camera moves away from the action in the car to zoom in on the front window of the house where Myra’s stepfather, the tightly wound Charlie (Leo Gordon, Riot in Cell Block 11) is playing cards with his buddies.
Myra leaves her friends and enters the house where things get intense quick. Charlie’s buddies take turns teasing Myra and him about what they’d do with her and her older sister Ellie if Charlie wasn’t around. Myra quickly reveals herself as no innocent as her sexual teasing of the older men shatters any presumptions lingering from the opening scene. Later, as an undressing Myra is ogled at through the bathroom window by his departing guests (and then by the local police!) Charlie, who’s planning a trip to Montana to be with his terminally ill father, is in his bedroom chugging down a bottle of Seagram’s. Things continue to devolve as the drunken Charlie catches Myra on the phone talking sexy to her boyfriend. The out of control stepfather unleashes on Myra in a violent rage, and initiates what most certainly will end in sexual assault. It’s at this precise moment that Ellie enters and from quick back and forth we infer that she too was molested by Charlie. No sooner do we piece it together than Ellie blasts Charlie twice in the chest with a shotgun, leaving him dead. And so it begins…
The hallmark of the great morality exploitation film is that it titillates the viewer with precisely the vice it purports to condemn. At first I thought this was going to be one of those kinds of movies, but the ambiguous principles of each character left me wondering if anyone could be described as the morally righteous hero in this story. The way this film ends (and I’ll leave it for you to watch) only led me to further abandon all hope for humanity. However, when I wasn’t catching myself sinking into depression or contemplating the reason for my own existence, I actually found this film quite difficult to pause.
It’s also cool to keep an eye out for the connections between Bonnie’s Kids and Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. From a “Bonnie” whom we never see on screen, to Eddy and Digger (Alex Rocco, Timothy Brown) as the inspiration for Vincent and Jules, to the flirty banter and surreal showcase dance scene with Ellie and Larry (Steve Sandor) ala Mia and Vincent, it’s obvious that Tarantino was mining the gold nuggets embedded in this film. Even the shot composition at the diner scene with Eddy and Digger seems strangely familiar.
Check it out…enjoyable to say the least, but you might find yourself craving a shower by the end of it. (DC)
NW: Nate Wilson DC: Devon Cahill HR: Heath Row MA: Matt Average