Friday, January 24, 2014

GUEST POST: The-Lost Highway.com's Favorite Older Film Discoveries Of 2013

Inspired by drive-in movie critic Joe Bob Briggs, The-LostHighway.com is a desolate road trip through the backwoods of B-movies and cult films.   The site has some fun reviews written by a collection of movie lovers with a great sense of humor.     Check out the site at www.the-losthighway.com 

LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM (1988) - Review By:  Barry Goodall 
LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM really lives up to it's title in that's there's a cave and a giant albino worm.The story revolves around an Archeologist and his girlfriend who unearth a weird snake skull behind their English cottage. They show it to the local lord of the manor, James d'Ampton. James is played by an incredibly British Hugh Grant at his Grantiest who is the descendant of a famous snake killer. Not impressed they decide to keep the skull at their house. Unfortunately a local snake vampire, Lady Sylvia Marsh, lives down the road and has been luring victims to her mansion and turning them into snake vampire slaves. Her plans are to resurrect an albino worm god to reign terror on earth and help bring improved soil water filtration to all. This requires a virgin sacrifice, which is not an easy things to come by in 80's rural England. Hugh Grant was just looking for a chance to play with his sword. Barry Goodall says LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM will hook ya, so check it out.

BLOODSPORT (1988) - Review By: Tiger Sixon
Everyone loves an underdog. Now, an underdog who can do the splits and knock guys out with a kick to the head? Even better. Jean-Claude Van Damme's BLOODSPORT has pretty much everything I want in an action movie. Training montage? Yep. A dangerous tournament in a spooky city? Yep. A deadly fighter with man-boobs? Yep. BLOODSPORT has it all, and more. Let's not forget the 80s-action-music infused tournament montages either. It is a feast for the eyes, watching a young Van Damme tear his way through opponent after opponent. Speaking of montages, Van Damme's training montages are some of the best ever—including when he gets stretched into the splits by his teacher. Ya don't see such dedication in movies these days, which is why BLOODSPORT truly is a treasure. Tiger Sixon is forced to watch B-movies from the comfort of a secret government base in Death Valley and write reviews for Lost Highway. He looks nothing at all like Daniel J. Hogan (@danieljhogan) who draws the comic Clattertron.

MIAMI CONNECTION (1987) - Review By: Doktor
The first precept of the Forbidden Sciences states that the 80’s birthed an infinite number of cult films. These films continue to surprise cultchiatrists such as myself thirty years on. Case in point, I discovered MIAMI CONNECTION January 18, 2013, and is, without a hint hyperbole, the penultimate of Grade-B movie entertainment.

Thanks to Tony Montana, Sonny Crockett, and Rico Tubbs everyone knows Miami was the blow capital of the world. What most people don’t know is that Miami was also crawling with Ninja—a very specific Ninja: Miami Motorcycle Ninja or Llello (pronounced YAY-yo) Ninja. The only known counter to the Llello Ninja is the even more rare synth-rock, college student, Tae Kwon Do team, Dragon Sound. They rock hard. They study harder. They karate chop hardest. They eat, sleep, party together. They even have a song about it, “Friends.” (Free Downlad link-http://drafthousefilms.com/film/miami-connection).

Despite all the machismo, at it’s heart MIAMI CONNECTION is a feel-good movie that’ll restore you faith in humanity. Jim’s search for his father is so moving even the hardest of Grinches’ hearts will grow two sizes too big, which will likely kill him but who cares? He was a jerk and deserves what he gets, right? The only negative criticism I have is Jim needs to learn to zip up his pants when he’s walking around the house. But, hey, let’s give a little something for the ladies for a change, amirite?

NIGHT OF THE DEMON (1980) - Review By: The Goon 
As a lover of the Video Nasties, I can’t believe it took me that long to see NIGHT OF THE DEMON. I was aware of it, but had never viewed it until I picked it up at are yard sale for a quarter. The story is disjointed, as a survivor details his story of standing around in a flannel accompanied by several other people in flannels as they search for Sasquatch. The film cuts back and forth between these toneless nimrods to Bigfoot savagely and ferociously butchering people! The gore here is preposterous, most notably when a biker has his wedding tackle yanked off by the hairy palm of the ‘Squatch. When he isn’t ripping out someone guts from underneath an ugly 80’s flannel or melting someone’s face with a frying pan, Sasquatch is making use of a camper in a sleeping bag by twirling him around like a flail! Perhaps the most ridiculous death is when two Girl Scouts are frolicking in the forest WITH KNIVES and he grabs their arms, forcing them to stab each other! It’s absurd, it’s laughable, it’s one of the greatest times I’ve had watching a movie. Best quarter I’ve ever spent.

SUSPIRIA (1977) - Review By: Die-Anne Takillya
I've loved horror since I was a kid. My mom managed a small video store, and I would run around, but would always end up in the horror section, mesmerized by the lurid covers of the VHS boxes, waiting until mom was distracted enough for me to grab a box and try to read the back cover. Without fail, she would catch me staring goggle-eyed at bloody, screaming faces, and I would be shooed back to the kiddy section. But, the damage was done, and here I am today. As much as I love the genre, I hadn't watched SUSPIRIA  until this past year. My pantone-red heart grew three sizes that night. It even inspired me to change my lightbulbs, making my room deep red or dark blue, just off-kilter enough to make people uncomfortable, which was a wonderful device Argento used liberally. I won't say I understood it, I won't say I could truly critique it if I tried, but damn if I didn't enjoy it. The weird witch-zombie subplot, the scary German teacher making those poor ballerinas twirl until they fell out, mysterious illnesses, and a... crystal peacock? I will admit it here: I don't get it, but I love it, and I finally realized that when it comes to Italian horror, I don't really have to get it. I guess that preserves my cred after all.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

INTERVIEW: PART ONE - Cali Lili Indies™ talks about the amazing and mysterious teaser for her new film eVe N' god™ this FEMALE is Not Yet RATED™

Actress/Filmmaker Cali Lili Indies™ talks with TV Store Online about the teaser trailer for the release of her upcoming film, eVe N' god™ this FEMALE is Not Yet RATED™

In late 2013, actress/filmmaker Cali Lili Indies™ put the a teaser trailer for her upcoming film eVe N' god™ this FEMALE is Not Yet RATED™.   The trailer offers it's viewer a very powerful and visceral female image.  TV Store Online decided to ask Indies all about it.


Actress/Filmmaker Cali Lili Indies™



TV STORE ONLINE: Hey Cali...Thanks for taking the time out of your schedule to talk with me. I took a look at the teaser trailer for your new film and I'm totally intrigued...

Cali Lili™: I love that you said you were intrigued by it. I've received feedback with that EXACT word from quite a few people online...and I love it.

TV STORE ONLINE: When I watch the trailer....The first thing I notice about you and also about your official website is that you seem to be trying to literally make art out of everything...It's a wonderful notion and certainly not something that everyone is trying to accomplish either....

Cali Lili™: That's very perceptive of you! But I don't "try"... it just happens...Art does me. I don't yet have an official website ... I am "floating" on social networks currently ... and it's fun for now ... but our official site is under construction ....

TV STORE ONLINE: One of the most interesting facets of this, is that you seem to be creating a totally different way of using basic language and in writing it too on your website...Are there any rules when it comes to making art?

Cali Lili™: Rules in art? Hmmm..."Do no harm to innocent living beings" is pretty much the only "No" rule I can think of in life or art. I don't really believe there are any credible rule(S) about art. In Bali they have no word for "art". Everything is intended to be beautiful, and to be art.

TV STORE ONLINE: Your teaser has such a strong and powerful female image in play...Where do you think that strength comes from in that image in your teaser trailer?

Cali Lili™: Thanks. The action in the teaser is me "ripping" off the  Iconic NoHate/NoH8 tape. It's a physical act... A moment. I hope that comes across in ... That feeling you get, when you see that girl's eyes onscreen (my eyes). "She" is feeling it for women all over the world, for LGBTQ communities, and for anybody who is disenfranchised or abused, also for the animals ... for dolphins, any abused or unwanted creatures, creations. In creating that image...I was expressing the feeling that my own voice was becoming painful to squelch, and, I began to literally feel that many voices of women in the world were also feeling squelched.

TV STORE ONLINE: There's something else that releases from the image in your teaser....There's the power of the image itself, but it also seems to have a very dreamlike aesthetic to it as well. When I was reading through your website, I notice a phrase at work "Dream about a dream about a dream.." Is cinema a dream to you and why? And, who is the dreamer in your upcoming film?

Cali Lili™: Yeah, there's even a line in the film about that. It's very much part of the style of the film. However, I do dislike "dreamy for dreamy sake" aesthetics. If I don't "buy it" or "believe it" in a film, or on a set, I'm out. I think we're all dreaming though. I do feel we are all "Connoissieurs of Media". We're all dreaming together in a collective unconscious manner. Everyone is online via social media, mainlining conversations, and when we watch movies together or listen to music together, we all dream together. We have the power to create a reality beyond the mortgage or the nightly news. I feel we all have the responsibility to dream beyond the everyday chores of life.

From the teaser trailer  'eVe N' god™ this FEMALE is Not Yet RATED™'

TV STORE ONLINE: What are some of the films that have influenced you and why?

Cali Lili™: I love so many films. In no particular order...HIS GIRL FRIDAY (1940) ... Howard Hawks,  because of how the actors, the dialogue .... how the muscularity of it all operates. It's a perfect dance. It's brilliantly written, and also offers a potent social commentary. That's what I aspire to ...   There's also a great tension between the male and female roles, and that's something I write about a lot .. It's a theme, a conscience and consciousness,  in all of my work ... Another film I admire is WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE (2009), which was directed by Spike Jonze. Seeing that really changed my life. We can be out there all alone, afraid, and with monsters around us. If we can survive, we can thrive. THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR (1975): I love the mystery. It tells us to question everything. Then it has this amazing style. I love the look of that era in film. All of the actors look really great, and the directors of the '70s wanted them to look great and iconic. Directors weren't trying to upstage actors either. There's some weird voodoo shit going on in all of that. Sydney Pollack is a fucking genius.... so is Spike Jonze ... so was Howard Hawks.

I'd add THE CONTENDER (2000) here = Rod Lurie .... Strong female character - Gutsy role - perfectly played by Joan Allen, Jeff Bridges and Gary Oldman in that film? I'll never remember anybody EATING in a scene more than Gary Oldman eating that steak .... And ... I'd add .. MERYL STREEP In ANY FUCKING THING ...Watching her think without any sound would be Oscar Worthy. Same with Dustin Hoffman, there are so many genius actors that I wish I could work with as an actress and direct in something someday   People say it's a directors' medium... but ... I say :  "we the actor" are the inevitable paint, canvas, subject ...all to illustrate the human spirit ....that's what is most culturally significant about the film medium ... celebrating the human spirit and the magic that cannot be defined but must be experienced.

TV STORE ONLINE:  I know you've just released a teaser on line for your new film, but could you tell us at least who's going to be in the film?

Cali Lili™:   I am so proud to say I got Wings Hauser to be in this film - and I can assure you he did NOT do this as a favor ! Ha!  Yes he is my partner, but NO he doesn't do film favors ... It was a really life-changing experience to hear him say that of all the directors and actors/actresses he's worked with in his career, I was in his top five  - and I can't wait to show off his KICKASS PERFORMANCE in this new film, for which, I take full credit ...laughing

Interview Conducted by: Justin Bozung
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The Teaser Trailer for eVe N' god™ this FEMALE is Not Yet RATED™

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

GUEST POST: Maurice Bursztynski's Favorite Older Film Discoveries Of 2013


Maurice Bursztynski is the host of the wonderful Australian music podcasts Love That Album and See Hear.   Love That Album takes a particular album and breaks it down examining it track-by-track. You can check out the podcast's official website HERE, while See Hear is a breakdown of a music related documentary film.


IKIRU (1952)
The more I delve into films, the more I realize I have huge gaps in things I believe I should have seen or at least been aware of. In 2012, I realized that the films of Akira Kurosawa (and classic Japanese cinema in general) was one of those gaps. Wanting to separate the samurai period pieces from the contemporary films, in early 2013 I watched over a couple of days DRUNKEN ANGEL (1948) and IKIRU. Both films left me amazed at what could be conveyed by a great filmmaker and his cast.

IKIRU is a film with two distinct parts. A council bureaucrat (played by Takashi Shimura)  discovers that he has cancer and wants to find a way that he can make a positive difference to local peoples’ lives before he dies. The first half is about his search, and the second half shows a gathering of people at his wake. If you’ve seen this film, I wonder if you’d agree with me that it the second half plays out in a way like 12 ANGRY MEN (1957). I know that Toshiro Mifune justifiably gets a lot of love from fans, but I am more firmly in the Shimura camp. He had such a range and depth of characters that he played across Kurosawa’s films, he’s become amongst my favorite actors ever.  Shimura is great at conveying his character’s emotional helplessness, after a life spent with repressing emotion for efficiency. He has one of the greatest faces in cinema. The film is definitely emotional, but the story doesn’t manipulate the viewer’s feelings like IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946) (a film I love). You come out with a lot of respect for Kanji, Shimura’s character -and watch his peers fall on their metaphorical swords - without ever feeling the manipulation of the melodrama this could have been.

THAT'LL BE THE DAY (1973) & STARDUST (1974)
True, these are two films created by two different directors and with two different ways of conveying events, but ultimately, this is one tale in two halves that need to be considered together.

Claude Whatham directs THAT'LL BE THE DAY as a tale about a narcissistic fellow Jim Maclaine (played very well by David Essex), growing up aimless in early 1960s England. Like millions of other teens, he has the rock and roll bug, but has no idea what he wants to do with his life. Like his father before him (returned from World War 2), he deserts his well-meaning mother to go off and work at a holiday camp, then a fairground. Along with his best mate played by Ringo Starr, he lives to shag birds, slack off, and avoid the suburban responsibility his mother would have of him (looking after family business, marrying and settling down). This is no carefree representation of post war England as might be seen in, say, a Cliff Richard musical. It’s not so much a gritty film, but it’s no rock and roll fantasy either. Nothing we do is consequence free. Maclaine, to be frank, is a prick. He has no loyalty to anyone – family or friends.  He tries to be otherwise, but the film goes a long way to suggest you can’t fight your paternal genetics. His father was a wanderer, so….

Michael Apted’s follow up (both were written by Ray Connolly) takes up almost where the last one finished off. Unlike the first film’s tales of a working class lad wanting to escape from his surroundings, Maclaine finds his wishes come true – but with consequences. He becomes the lead singer of successful rock and roll band the Stray Cats (featuring Keith Moon and Dave Edmunds). Getting everything he wants only accentuates his self absorption. He falls for all the trappings of fame – groupies, adulation, money. You feel a combination of pity and contempt for Maclaine. The scene where he sings on TV with a huge choir as a Christ-like figure is a scary display of how far he has come from the character at the start of the first film. There’s a scene where he almost feels regretful of repeating his father’s mistakes with his own child. Is his final fate his own fault or due to the celebrity-obsessed society that places no checks on an ego run rampant? The film asks these questions, but the truth is ultimately both, making this story more relevant than ever.

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984)
This film came out in 1984 when I was 19. I got to see it for the first time (at a repertory cinema) in 2013 when I was 48. Is this relevant?

To be honest, I wasn’t interested in seeing it all those years ago, and really only went because my son was keen to see it, and it was on a double feature with a Peter Cushing film called CARNAGE aka CORRUPTION (1968) (which was not worth the effort).  Often, people see films many years after the fact and it is not a problem. As film fans, we have thousands of films from all manner of genre and different cultures to investigate, and usually those films will rise or fall on their own merits, even taking the climate they were born in into account. It seems to me that NIGHTMARE is different.

Like the FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980-current) and HALLOWEEN (1979-current) franchises, NIGHTMARE and in particular its villain Freddy Krueger are iconic. Not that its cult status should be an impediment to an objective assessment, but at my jaded age, I didn’t find it scary or overly interesting (don’t tear me to pieces with your own razor gloves). All I could see was '80s hair and horny teenagers. I mean I liked PORKY'S (1982) back in the day, but…

This is probably more of an indictment on me than the film, but it just did nothing for me. There was no nostalgia factor, and objectively, it did little for me. I grant you the idea of a killer working within teenagers’ dreams was a clever one, but ultimately I probably needed to have watched it on VHS, in my teens with a group of friends, not in 2013 with my teenage son. Oh….and I only just watched FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF (1986) for the first time two years ago also. Don’t get me started…..

CHARLEY VARRICK (1973)
I’m currently on a mission to try and watch as many American seventies crime films as possible. It’s a long journey, but that’s good. I try to not find out what common perception of a film may be so I can view it objectively (I only found out that NIGHT MOVES (1975) is highly regarded after I watched it and I found it only so-so).

Boy oh boy. What a wild ride CHARLEY VARRICK was. I confess, I’ll probably bump up my expectations of anything with Walter Matthau. Like his partner in comedy Jack Lemmon, he had a great gift for the dramatic as well, although in a different way to Lemmon. Even in a film as tense as THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE (1974), Matthau still has room for the comical. Varrick is all drama and suspense…no comedy relief. Matthau and his gang pull off a bank heist from the worst possible location – one that is used to launder mafia money. Matthau and the surviving member of his gang after the heist played brilliantly by Andy Robinson are in deep shit. Joe Don Baker plays Molly, a gun for hire sent to get back the money (I just watched PRIME CUT (1972). What is it about bad guys with female names?) On the surface, Molly looks too laid back to do anything too nasty, but this fucker tortures you because it’s fun.  I sense the Coen brothers are fans of this film.

That’s the great thing about crime films – we’re often asked to cheer the guy who did the least wrong. Varrick is a thief fercryingoutloud…But he’s not involved in the crooked goings on of organized crime. He’s betrayed at every turn, but always handles himself with style. My image of Robinson has always been as 'Scorpio' in DIRTY HARRY (1971), so it was interesting to see him as a vulnerable character. A great cast and a finale that Hitchcock would have been proud of. I found this a riveting watch.

CLEAN SHAVEN (1993)
I have my good buddy Tim Merrill to thank for this one. Truth be known, I think it will require several views to take in all that it offers. It stars Peter Greene  from PULP FICTION (1994) as a man with schizophrenia who has been released from a mental institution and wants to be reunited with his young daughter, currently with her adoptive mother. The film’s soundtrack is full of the sounds we hear and accept everyday, but all sound like static to Peter. He can’t put these sounds out of his head unless he can subvert his thoughts by self inflicted pain. The story gets more complex by the suspicion that he has murdered a young girl while a detective who is trying to track him down.

This film is not an easy watch, and not just because of the disturbing images and themes it presents. We are all bombarded with images and sounds every day whether we want them in our lives or not. Many of us are fortunate to be able to disregard most of them (people’s chatter, cars passing by with their horns blaring, radios playing the umpteenth repeat of the day of that song you hate or an advertisement for some stupid stuff you’ll never use, supermarket muzak), but Peter hears the world as static that he cannot evict. No one just wants to revel in silence. Quite the contrary. We willingly subject ourselves to these things more than ever, be it through the traditional medium or through the “hum and static” of Facebook. Thousands of posts on what people ate for breakfast, their political rants or pictures of their dogs. All Peter is looking for is a way to get that static out of his head. The narrative itself is interesting, but this is a film where the mood and the tone are more important than the story. Whichever way you look at it, it’s still a fascinating film.

Monday, January 20, 2014

GUEST POST: Marco A. S. Freitas' Favorite Older Film Discoveries Of 2013

A film buff from a very early age, Marco A. S. Freitas has studied University-level Advertising in Brazil, has a B.A. in film from Columbia College-Hollywood and the completed UCLA screenwriting Program. Some of the film memories he´s got ingrained in his brain include Sammo Hung proving one can be overweight yet still flexible, Gene Kelly dancing alongside a mouse known as ´Jerry´, Franco Nero as a coffin-carrying gunslinger and a jaw-droppingly gorgeous Marisa Mell naked, cavorting under under millions of dollars with John Phillip Law. He has collaborated with digital Film magazines from Belgium, Italy, France, Portugal, the UK, the US, etc

Some of his musings on Cinema has recently been published in CEMITÉRIO PERDIDO DOS FILMES B: EXPLOITATION (   http://www.estronho.com.br/editoraestronho/index.php/cemiterio-exploitation  ) ,  a pioneering Brazilian book on some of the world´s best forgotten films.


UN BIANCO VESTITO PER MARALÉ/A WHITE DRESS FOR MARIALÉ/SPIRITS OF DEATH (1972)
A father gives a one-way ticket to hell to his wife and her boy toy and the cuckolded fella´s child, Marialé, sees it all...years later, she is basically being held captive by her oppresive aristocratic hubby and his watchdog of a butler, in a huge mansion. Well, let´s just say everyone reaches a breaking point, proving a person´s trauma´may stay years dormant, only waiting for a twisted mind, to wake it all up. The sluggish pace may be a burden sometimes, but this gothic giallo is well acted by Ida Galli AKA Evelyn Stewart, Luigi Pistilli-resembling like a mix between Jess Franco´s regular Howard Vernon AKA Mario Lippert with US Character Actor Robert Miano-and genre stalwart Ivan Rassimov. The feast sponsored by the protagonist packs a wallop somewhat akin to the ones perpetrated in Pasolini´s SALÓ (1975) and Ferreri´s LE GRANDE BOUFFE (1973). Unforgettable score by Bruno Nicolai and Fiorenzo Carpi; directed and photographed by the stylish Romano Scavolini, whose NIGHTMARE IN A DAMAGED BRAIN aka NIGHTMARE (1981) was banned in the UK in the 80s.

CHEATERS (2000)
Skillfully written and directed by former teen idol John Stockwell (he was in two Tom Cruise´s movies´, LOSING IT (1983) and TOP GUN (1986); costarred with another future director-Keith Gordon-in the underestimated CHRISTINE (1983), and first went behind the scenes under the tutelage of Cannon´s Menahem Golan & Yoram Globus-and Albert Pyun- and appears briefly here), this could be dismissed as a ´cable-made, teenaged cousin to QUIZ SHOW (1994), but to my money, it is superior, or as just another title in the very tired´teacher-makes-a-difference-in-student´s life sweepstakes´, but it is NOT. Jeff Daniels (when will the Academy give a nom to this thespian? The guy has been giving solid performance after solid perf for 30 plus years now!) and Jenna Malone head a brilliant cast in this very subversive ´cinematic criticism´ on the state of Education in the US. You will be rooting for the kids even when they get behind a scholastic cheating scam. Inspired by real events, the real Mr. Plicky-the high school instructor that is played by Daniels, makes a cameo here.

INTIMATE STRANGER (1991)
Kinkfest that owns a lot to the Italian genre of Giallo Movies, it stars one of the most smoldering hot women ever to grace the screen-big or small-or a stage ever, gorgeous-and a fine actress in her own right!-, Debbie Harry, as a sensual (am I repeating myself here?) foul-mouthed phone sex operator (I guess it comes with the job) who becomes the target of a perverted maniac. A cop (James Russo, an actor that despite his short height and small build can really look like he could kick anybody´s behind after sputtering anything with East Coast accent and a stare) goes rogue to help her out. Lush Cinematography by Israeli cinematographer Ilan Rosenberg (reminiscent of Jordan Cronnenweth´s work in BLADE RUNNER (1982), but done with a what that movie had to spend in catering), and assured directing by Corman alumn, Allan Holzman. Harry, the Punk/Post-Punk/New Wave/Disco/Pop Diva, even sings a desolate version of the classic ´Piece Of My Heart´. With a supporting cast made in heaven:  Grace Zabriskie, Tim Thomerson and a sans-body double Tia Carrere. Neal Israel, helmer of BACHELOR PARTY (1984), and Musician Billy Vera, have small roles.


ANDRZEJ ZULAWSKI´S L´IMPORTANT C´EST D´AIMER (THE IMPORTANT THING IS TO LOVE) (1975)
Another picture by the Polish-born filmmaker (called by many simplistic reviewers, ´French Cinema´s Top Enfant Terribles´), that emerges with exasperation and characters sometimes unable to communicate with each other on the same level. Deranged and violent, yet never lacking in compassion, this largely-forgotten movie (outside Europe, that is, for it was a huge financial success in France), stars Italian beefcake-and accomplished thespian-Fabio Testi as a brooding photographer bent on helping a c-grade film actress (the talented, sad-eyed Romy Schneider, playing a woman incapable of saying ´I love you´ and in a parallel universe, her role could have been played in a George Cukor movie by a still beautiful, yet already presenting the ravages of alcoholism, Judy Garland) crossover to ´respectable status´ through the financing of a Shakespearean play on which she will have a part (acting opposite W. Herzog´s fave/worst friend, Klaus Kinski, playing a stage star). As in some of the director´s other movies (POSSESSION, LA FEMME PUBLIQUE, etc), the oppressive power love can exert over people may result in tragedy. Singer Jacques Dutronc plays Romy´s smarmy husband.

QUEEN OF THE LOT (2010)
A former associate/working partner of  iconoclastic icons Bert Schneider, Jack Nicholson, Dean Stockwell, Orson Welles and Dennis Hopper, true independent Henry Jaglom may unnerve you with his matter-of-fact approach to life´s idyosincrasies and its protagonists, but they will hardly ever leave you cold. His attraction to the odd (ness) in modern day relationships can be moving and his glimpses in the pathetic side to people, rewarding (even if you end up seeing yourself on the screen and contacting a shrink afterwards like I did) even when self-indulgence rears its head. QUEEN...is a valentine to the dreamers who continue to shamelessly pursue their big break in tinsel town, people with stars in their eyes but not necessarily talent or the thick skin to make it through it as well as the bystanders who hoover in their vicinity. In this sequel to the his cute 2006 HOLLYWOOD DREAMS, Tana Frederick returns, suggesting her character may have developed steel balls since her first auditions. And not even a mere ankle bracelet (´acquired´ via some DUIs ´misdeamenors´) will stand in her path to her place in the sun! Zack Norman, Chris Rydell and David Proval are excellent as usual.

Friday, January 17, 2014

GUEST POST: Scott Davis's Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013

When I was asked to create this list, I was given a simple task. Make a list of five older films that I discovered in 2013. The films were meant to be somewhat obscure, so while I may have thrilled to everything from Marcel Carne's CHILDREN OF PARADISE (1945) to Adam Green's HATCHET II (2010), they didn't belong here. Should be simple, right? Not quite. Of the nearly five hundred films I saw in 2013, narrowing it down was hard. So, I expanded the list to ten films. Ten films spread nearly fifty years apart, all very different and all amazing in their own right. 

And me? I've been reviewing these things for years. I currently co-edit the website Film Geek Central. I also have a web series called Moviocrity that I'm pretty proud of, even if it's slow to grow. You can check that out on YouTube right now and possibly a few other venues in the near future. I'm working on the second season right now. I am always willing to write about my love of cult and exploitation cinema, be it in these lengthy articles or on podcasts such as Astro Radio Z and Film Jerks. 

I may as well make peace with it. This obsession has been with me for decades and never seems to decrease. So, here are a few of the films I was happy to discover last year, ranked in chronological order.

BLACK LIZARD (a.k.a. KUROTOKAGE) (1962) – BLACK LIZARD is based on a classic piece of Japanese pulp literature by Edogawa Rampo, a popular writer whose chosen pen name was meant to phonetically resemble Edgar Allen Poe. But BLACK LIZARD, or KUROTOKAGE as it is called in its original language, is not a horror film. Rather, it's the cat-and-mouse chase between the conceited yet dauntless Detective Akeshi (Minoru Oki) and the sexy, diabolical criminal mastermind, Black Lizard. The film plays like a serialized pulp novel come to life as Akeshi tries to protect a wealthy businessman and his daughter.

Akeshi begins by narrating the film in what will be the first of a few instances where the fourth wall is not just broken, but shattered. Style is the name of the game here as moods are signified by various lighting effects. There are odd interludes of humor, occasional political discourse and the inevitable slip into melodrama as Black Lizard falls for her nemesis. If all of that isn't enough, there are musical numbers spread out just far enough for you to forget about them before they take you by surprise again. And that Black Lizard sure can dance. 

This story has been filmed numerous times, most notably by Kinji Fukasaku. whose version consisted of a celebrated female impersonator portraying Black Lizard. That has contributed not only to this film being confused with Fukasaku's work, but also in it being unfairly overlooked.

BLOOD BATH (1966) – There is no reason for BLOOD BATH to work. And if you ask a great number of people, including the many filmmakers involved with the project, it doesn't. And yet, BLOOD BATH is a film I can't take my eyes off of. It absolutely fascinated me. 

The film follows the aspiring artists in a European city, holdovers from the beatnik days. No one is selling nearly as many paintings as Antonio Sordi (William Campbell), whose paintings of women in the throes of death ignite the morbid curiosity of his patrons. If you've seen more than a few horror films, you've probably already guessed that Sordi isn't faking his paintings. He actually is murdering young women, painting them and then disposing of them. What may surprise you is that Sordi believes himself to be possessed and cursed by the spirit of a long-dead temptress, which causes him to turn into a bloodsucking vampire. Didn't see that one coming, did you?

And that's because BLOOD BATH was assembled from three different films. Roger Corman enlisted a Yugoslavian filmmaker to create a horror film starring Campbell and co-written by Francis Ford Coppola. What he got instead was a film about an art heist that even Corman didn't think he could sell. Corman hired the great Jack Hill (SPIDER BABY, SWITCHBLADE SISTERS, COFFY) to ditch the heist material and turn it into a horror film, as was originally intended. Hill added the bulk of the storyline, about the artist who kidnapped, tortured, murdered and painted local women. He also added much of the material with other local artists, a cast of characters that include Jonathan Haze and a young Sid Haig. Still, Corman didn't think it popped. So, it sat a bit longer. Corman then brought in Stephanie Rothman (THE STUDENT NURSES, THE VELVET VAMPIRE, GROUP MARRIAGE) to have another go at it. Rothman added the vampire material and the haunting visuals of Sordi's old lover, tempting him from beyond the grave. Three directors, three completely different films, all mashed into one. Total chaos. It shouldn't work, but BLOOD BATH is an astonishing entry into the field of exploitation cinema.

NAVAJO JOE (1966) and THE MERCENARY (1968) – Any time is a good time to catch up with the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Corbucci. What separated Corbucci from the dozens of other Italian filmmakers trying their hand at the genre is that while Corbucci made a great number of spaghetti westerns, he rarely made the same spaghetti western. 

NAVAJO JOE features a young Burt Reynolds in the title role, the sole survivor of a massacre that has left his entire tribe, including his wife, dead and scalped. But it was not a warring tribe that did the scalping but a group of bigots led by the bloodthirsty Duncan. These bandits set their sights even higher as they enter into a conspiracy with a doctor to rob a train of its gold and kill the townspeople who are depending on the money to build a new future. Joe puts a wrench in their works when he shows up, taking revenge for his slain people. His task is made harder by the townspeople more likely to trust a wealthy white gentleman like their local doctor over someone who they deem to be savage. Joe does indeed show Duncan's bandits what savagery is, as he methodically kills them, often with a knife or his bare hands. 

THE MERCENARY (a.k.a. A PROFESSIONAL GUN) in turn stars Tony Musante as an early 20th century Mexican freedom fighter who is short in brains, big in spirit. He hires and befriends Kowalski (Franco Nero), a Polish gun for hire who adds a sense of intelligence to his operation. The group is pursued by a bounty hunter (Jack Palance) whose bloodthirstiness is only matched by his persistence. Oh, and the name of Palance's character? Curly, the same name given to his character in CITY SLICKERS (1991).

Both of these films have a completely different feel and are equally amazing to behold. Time and again, Corbucci proved that just because they were all there because of Sergio Leone, that didn't mean they had to copy him.

TWO-LANE BLACKTOP (1971) – I'm not sure how obscure TWO-LANE BLACKTOP is. But it does seem like it will always be a cult film amongst cult films. Monte Hellman's approach isn't necessarily easy on the viewer, something that turns off the Redbox generation. But while TWO-LANE BLACKTOP may not be easy going, it is intensely rewarding.

The film follows two cars and the people inside of them. Inside the '55 Chevy are the Driver (James Taylor) and his Mechanic (Dennis Wilson). The two share a symbiotic relationship, roaming the countryside looking for people to race and... what, exactly? It's a mystery that they keep very close to the vest and the film persists in exploring. Their car is a character in itself, something that has been shaped into a creature that looks like it should live on the road. They continue to encounter a G.T.O., pristine and factory-made. Both the car and the man driving it (Warren Oates) seem like the complete opposite of the Driver and Mechanic. The one thing they do have in common is their need to be behind the wheel, to race, to go faster and faster. Everyone's life is complicated by the appearance of the Girl (Laurie Bird), a vagabond who travels in both cars and is a source of humanity in all of its strange entanglements.

This is not a car movie in the sense of GONE IN 60 SECONDS (1974) or even VANISHING POINT (1971). It's odd that many viewers will search TWO-LANE BLACKTOP, hoping to find a clear road to follow. But virtually everything in the film is about what is underneath the hood, if I can be forgiven a shameless stab at metaphor. This film, like Hellman's brilliant 2010 film ROAD TO NOWHERE is a film that continues to creep into your psyche long after it's over.

BOARDINGHOUSE (1982) – From the artistic beauty of Hellman's thought-provoking character study to the abject insanity of BOARDINGHOUSE. Who says I'm not eclectic?

Jim is a successful man on the move, sporting a look and attitude that scream early 80s California chic. After inheriting a house that was the site of a number of mysterious deaths, he opens the place up to a number of young, attractive women. The group lives as sort of a family, though one prone to frolicking in jacuzzis. Jim is also mastering his own telekinetic powers through intense discipline and is able to make bars of soap zoom around the tub at will. The girls are soon haunted by strange visions which later manifest themselves as a mystical force begins to murder them one by one. 

BOARDINGHOUSE was presented in a process called Horror-Vision. Which is just a William Castlely way of saying the film was shot on video and then blown up to 35mm for theatrical showings. Check the date on this film and you will discover that this is the first film to undergo this process. This makes BOARDINGHOUSE stand out visually, but what really sets the film apart from the pack is the dizzying number of directions it veers off into. The theatrical cut is 100 minutes and doesn't drag, mainly because there is always something out of the ordinary lurking behind every single corner. Even the most jaded connoisseur of exploitation will be bowled over by this one.

Oh, and if that theatrical cut isn't enough for you, the limited edition DVD from Slasher Video boasts a new director's cut that runs an hour longer!

VARIETY (1983) – New York is a cleaner, safer place than it was when I was a kid. The influx of gangs and drugs made it dangerous place to hang out, especially in the neighborhoods I was interested in. During the Giuliani years, the city got a makeover. They got rid of the panhandlers and “renovated” 42nd Street. Unfortunately, this consisted of destroying much of the culture that had built up around it. Gone were the true grindhouse theaters and surrounding businesses. Now, New York is place where you can have a safe experience, under the watchful eye of the Disney Store and the various other corporate eyesores that have taken the old 42nd's place. And the hardships the previous incarnation had laid bare on its streets? They're still present, locked behind closed doors, just like the tourism board prefers it.

VARIETY takes place in that glorious era of yesteryear and makes for an excellent time capsule. It involves a young woman named Caroline (Sandy McLeod) who sells tickets at a Times Square adult movie theater in order to make ends meet. A student of human behavior, Caroline slowly becomes fascinated with the films that are being shown at the theater and the assortment of characters who watch them. She becomes more and more engrossed in this world, much to the chagrin of her boyfriend (Will Patton). Eventually, she is drawn to a mysterious and dangerous figure and her curiosity takes on a whole new shape.

McLeod is fantastic in Bette Gordon's overlooked but crucial indie film. Visually, the film captures early 1980s New York like few other films really could. The cast is populated by several notable actors and personalities, including Spalding Gray, Luiz Guzman, Nan Golden and Cookie Mueller. The soundtrack, sparse as it is, is composed by John Lurie. Cinematographer Tom DiCillo would of course go on to direct films such as JOHNNY SUEDE (1991) and LIVING IN OBLIVION (1995).

THE EMERALD FOREST (1985) – While many people celebrate John Boorman for films such as DELIVERANCE (1972) and EXCALIBUR (1981), it seems as though many overlook this, one of his best films.

Bill Markham (Powers Boothe) brings his family to the Amazon rainforest, in order to construct a massive dam. Shortly after arriving, his son Tommy disappears. For several years afterward, Bill searches the vast forest whenever he can, learning survival skills and the value of a gun as he does so. Eventually, he does come face to face with his son (Charlie Boorman, son of the director), who has grown into a young man. His son had been taken by one of the rainforest's indigenous tribes. Tommy now considers the tribe his family, his childhood among the Markhams a long ago dream. Most films would end here, but THE EMERALD FOREST isn't done exploring. Bill must come to terms with the fact that Tommy's life is now with his tribe, which puts him in danger from cannibals, a criminal underground and the ever-encroaching threat of modern civilization. After finding his son, he has to search his heart and wonder whether he's ready to lose him again.

A beautiful film that was shot in the Amazon rainforest, THE EMERALD FOREST wears a lot of hats. It's a drama, an action thriller and a statement outlining the cost of deforestation.

PUNK VACATION (1990) – Here is a film from the old VHS days that was pretty much forgotten until Vinegar Syndrome released a beautifully restored Blu-ray/DVD package last year.

The set-up is the same as so many other action thrillers of the era. A roving band of no good, Reagan-hating punk rockers tear into the outskirts of town and kill the beloved old timer who runs the local grease pit. His daughter, Lisa (Sandra Bogan), tries to even the score and is kidnapped for her troubles. All of this infuriates Lisa's cop boyfriend Steve (Stephen Fiachi), who wants to rescue her and take care of this before it gets out of hand. Ramrod (Roxanne Rogers) is the leader of the punks and plots a massive takeover of the town, which isn't the relaxing trip some of her horde had planned. Yes, the title is accurate and the punks, so help me God, really were on vacation. The town is more than willing to strike back with deadly force if necessary, much to the mild perturbability of our hero.

What sets this film apart from so many similarly-themed films of the mid-1980s is the quirky script. The punks will threaten to rape and kill people one moment, and then wonder aloud if maybe they should chill out and take a correspondence course the next. It's the type of film where a character will say, apropos of nothing, “That girl hasn't been the same since she joined that Chamber of Commerce.” And of course, I don't have to tell you that the “punks” presented in this film aren't real punks. They're sociopaths sporting ROAD WARRIOR (1981) makeup jobs and presenting a threat to 1980s conservatism. The extreme version of the stereotype presented on so many investigative reports and action films during the “Where's the Beef?” years. And yet, the film takes the odd detour to show them concerning themselves with the mundaneness of everyday life. Subversively, PUNK VACATION doesn't paint a great picture of the townies, as every one of them, from the Guns & Ammo-loving sheriff to the sweet and innocent heroine is all too ready to spill massive amounts of blood when the undesirables make their presence known. Operating on a number of levels, PUNK VACATION is one kooky trip.

MARK OF THE ASTRO-ZOMBIES (2002) – Ted V. Mikels has continued to work as an independent filmmaker since the 1960s. This film was the first sequel to his 1968 cult classic, THE ASTRO-ZOMBIES, a film I love so much, I devoted an entire episode of my show Moviocrity to its many pleasures. 

The 1968 film involved a mad scientist (John Carradine) who had perfected a means of transferring a person's brain into a solar-powered robotic creature that would hopefully be able to impart knowledge, take care of grunt work and survive long space voyages. This 2002 film ports over the old concept of the Astro-Zombies, as demonstrated by the living head of Carradine (a hilarious-looking model) and the presence of the late Tura Satana. Tura plays the sister of the character she played in the first film, trying to use the secret formula of the Astro-Zombies to make her rich and powerful. But that's where the similarities to the original end, as the real Astro-Zombies show up as remote controlled creatures carrying out orders to kill from a race of alien invaders. 

There's more, much more in fact. MARK OF THE ASTRO-ZOMBIES brings in angles involving alien abduction, murderous robots, international intrigue, spies, mad scientists, revenge plots and that's just the tip of the iceberg. As is the case with many of his recent productions, Mikels has assembled a group of dedicated individuals to serve double and triple duty on the cast and crew. The sets and costumes are the kind you would find in your local school assembly and the whole thing sports cable access production values. The only thing more fun than trying to figure out what's going on in MARK OF THE ASTRO-ZOMBIES is wondering what Mikels will come up with next.

Mikels didn't stop here, by the way. He has since directed two additional sequels, bringing the number of total ASTRO-ZOMBIES flicks up to four.

LOVE (2011) – One of the most celebrated films of 2013 was Alfonso Cuaron's GRAVITY (2013). It was a great film, no doubt. But I would also direct you to another film that focused on a lone astronaut's struggle to stay alive.

Lee Miller (Gunner Wright) is the last astronaut living at the International Space Station. Close to the end of his time in space, he receives a message from Mission Control, stating that something has happened on Earth and they are unable to bring him home. It is the last contact he has with the surface world. He is shocked, hurt and very worried about his future. He goes into survival mode, sealing off parts of the ISS in order to save air. He makes the many repairs necessary with whatever he has and tries to stay alive. Years pass and he grows more and more isolated. Life becomes a daily routine that Miller undertakes just to retain his sanity. Along the way, he discovers of all things a journal belonging to a soldier during the Civil War. He reads the journal entries, which continues him on a journey of discovery.

Director William Eubank spent more than four years making this film, constructing sets meant to represent the ISS and Civil War locations in his own backyard. LOVE was produced by Angels & Airwaves, a band that has tons of devoted fans, though I admit I am still unfamiliar with most of their work. You don't have to be a fan to appreciate this amazing vision, a smart and cerebral science fiction film in the tradition of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968) and SILENT RUNNING (1972).

And that's it for now. A little more than what was asked for. Sorry about that, but starting these things isn't hard. Stopping is. It will be quite a trip to see what 2014 has in store.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

GUEST POST: Steven Fahrholz's Favorite Older Film Discoveries Of 2013




The following are five older films that I discovered in 2013. Somehow, these gems eluded me for years and I am glad I finally watched them.   Follow Steven Fahrholz on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/steven.fahrholz?ref=br_tf




MEDIUM COOL (1969) Director/writer Haskell Wexler really captured an era with this one. Robert Forster gives a commanding performance as a television reporter trying to expose what is really going on in the streets. There is a scene with him in the Chicago ghetto interviewing people that is particularly eye-opening. The jump between documentary and narrative film is extremely effective. Talk about being at the right place at the right time;Wexler was there to capture the riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention and make it flow perfectly with the rest of the film.




TOUGH GUYS DON'T DANCE (1987) Why, oh why,have I ever let critics influence me on watching any films? I was one of those idiots scared away from this one by the toxic word of mouth from critics. Luckily, I started seeing praise that got me interested in seeing it. Norman Mailer's hardboiled tale of a writer trying to unravel the mystery of a bender-induced blackout is mesmerizing. Full of memorable characters and some of the best film quotes ever,this will stay with you. It has a pretty straightforward story. However,it doesn't feel like it is. At least, it doesn't upon your first viewing. This is one that demands you watch it repeatedly to fully appreciate it.


TRUTH OR DARE? A CRITICAL MADNESS (1986) Tim Ritter's film had completely been off my radar. That changed when Elijah Wood sang its praises while promoting the remake of MANIAC. The tale is one of a man going on a violent rampage after catching his wife cheating. It is a scrappy,true independent shot on 16mm and released direct-to-video. The look is what gives it a lot of its appeal. Among the many psycho killer films of the '80s, this is one that stands out. It has more than a fair share of cheesiness. However, there are a few scenes that have a genuinely creepy feel. The "truth or dare" camping scene,in particular,is a definite highlight.

 

VENUS IN FURS (a.k.a. PAROXISMUS) (1969) I feel like I have failed somewhat as a horror fanatic. Somehow, I had never watched a Jesús 'Jess' Franco film in all my years of film-watching. I had no good reason for that as I had watched many Jean Rollin films and many people who are fans of one of them are also fans of the other. Then, Franco passed away and I felt guilty about ignoring his films. Oddly enough,I picked one of Franco's non-horror films to introduce myself to his work (though, not totally without some horror sensibilities). It is the tale of a jazz pianist and a woman who has possibly returned from the dead to get revenge on the sadists who murdered her. However, that description doesn't even come close to doing the film justice. It is a psychedelic, kinky, hypnotic blast of a movie.....also,it has Klaus Kinski in it.




THE WOMAN ON THE BEACH (1947) Jean Renoir's dark love triangle is a classic noir. Robert Ryan plays a Coast Guard officer who becomes infatuated with a blind painter's wife. Furthermore,he is convinced the painter is faking his blindness to keep his wife trapped in their relationship. A lean character study anchored by the always reliable Ryan, this is a noir that stands up there with the stronger efforts in the genre.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

GUEST POST: Todd Cauley's Favorite Older Film Discoveries Of 2013




Todd Cauley writes for The Gentlemen's Guide To Midnight Cinema Blog at http://www.ggtmc.com


5. THE NOAH (1975) Director: Daniel Borla
A strong performance from Daniel Strauss (whom you may remember as “Animal” in Billy Wilder’s STALAG 17) anchors this film about a solitary man trying to assuage the guilt over his complicity in a nuclear war.  The overlapping dialogue works wonderfully, and the imperfection inherent in Noah’s imaginary world only drives home the fact that these problems are ingrained in man from birth and are, therefore, inescapable.  Strauss and company also do an outstanding job creating complete characters almost entirely from dialogue alone, a sort of callback to the golden age of radio (at least to my mind)however, .  Yet the film’s pacing never flags, and Borla maintains visual interest right up to the final frames.  I did feel that the finale was a tad heavy-handed, but not enough to diminish the overall experience.  

4. DARK HABITS (1983) Director: Pedro Almodóvar
I admit I like Almodóvar’s films in general.  This one stands out for me, however, because it manages to balance perversity, humor, and creepiness, while being absolutely engaging simultaneously.  The director’s skill behind the camera easily overcomes the film’s budget with a stunning low-fi aesthetic.  What’s funny is, for how uniformly odd the characters all are (as if they were assigned to this convent in order to keep them all in one place), they are also strikingly human and relatable.  At first glance, the film could be taken simply as a cartoonish comedy, but I think it’s much more than that.  



3. THE NIGHT OF THE FOLLOWING DAY (1968)
Director: Hubert Cornfield
This kidnapping film is a slow burn, but everything from the color schemes to the music portend bad shit coming down the pike.  There are shots that are out of focus, but this is one of those instances where these errors don’t work against the film.  Quite the opposite, they accentuate the verisimilitude and the impending violence foretold from the film’s opening. Boone and Brando play marvelously off each other, but Rita Moreno also gives a stellar performance as a drug-addled conspirator (all the more shocking if you first came to know her from the series The Electric Company (1971-77), as I did).  As crime films go, this one deserves a wider audience, in my opinion.  Seek it out.  


2. ZARDOZ (1973)  Director: John Boorman
One of the things I really enjoyed about this one (aside from its subtexts) is the loving reference Boorman makes to 1903’s THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY with Connery’s Zed firing a gun in Direct Address to the audience.  Unlike that earlier film, though, we’re being told about the artifice of the film we’re about to watch rather than reminding us of the experience we have just undertaken by this shot’s placement at the film’s beginning.  This film is more concerned with its concepts than with its story, so there are incongruities in the characters’ actions from time to time, but the visuals are so striking (including, but not limited to, riding around in what I like to call “Bionic Bigfoot’s Head”) that it makes these inconsistencies as well as much of what could easily be very heavy-handed commentary go down much easier.  It entertains while it stimulates ideas.  It’s good filmmaking. 


1. ALUCARDA (1977)  Director: Juan López Moctezuma
I think the best way to describe this film (and this is likely doing it and its creators a huge disservice) is as a Jodorowsky horror film not directed by Jodorowsky.  It is stunning in both its mise-en-scène and its metaphors.  It is as batshit crazy and steeped in chaos as it pensive and measured in its design.  In some ways, it could conceivably be called a perfect horror movie, since it manages to satisfy so fully on both visceral and cerebral levels.  For the longest time, I had been put off by the derivative-sounding title and the poster art that didn’t particularly captivate me.  Well, I’m here to do you a favor if you were at all like me in these thoughts.  See this film.  Today, if possible.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

INTERVIEW: Screenwriter Rex McGee talks about his 1992 film PURE COUNTRY



 A CONVERSATION WITH SCREENWRITER REX McGEE Screenwriter of PURE COUNTRY (1992) and Assistant to Billy Wilder

TV STORE ONLINE: Starting off Rex, I wanted to see how you got started on the script for what would eventually become the film, Pure Country (1992)?

REX: McGEE: Oh my god! [laughing] Well....The whole project started out as an idea of Elvis Presley's former manager Colonel Tom Parker. His protege was film producer Jerry Weintraub. Parker had told Weintraub, "You should put George Strait in a movie and get a movie career going like Elvis." Then at the same time, there was a new breed of country artists coming into popularity like Clint Black and Garth Brooks, and George Strait was being a little overshadowed by these guys.

It took Jerry Weintraub about a year and a half to convince George to do a movie. Once he convinced him, I got a call from Jerry Weintraub's executive of story development, and I had worked with her a couple times in the past and she said, "You wanna write a movie for George Strait?" I said, "Who is George Strait?" [laughing]
 
I'm originally from Texas, but I was living in Los Angeles at the time. So they told me to go down to this studio and meet George and I could see what he was all about. So, I got to meet George. He was a very unassuming guy, and he didn't look like a movie star to me. I mean, he was just hanging around wearing a t-shirt, tennis shoes, and a baseball cap.

It became my job to sort of hang out with George. I started going to his concerts, and hanging out with him backstage. I didn't really know what I was going to write for George, but I wanted to get to know him and his process. I got two instructions from Jerry Weintraub on the script. He said that we had to have ten songs in the script, and there had to be a scene of George roping something in the movie, because George had actually been a rodeo star. [laughing]

By this time, I had actually decided to move back to Texas. I had inherited a 120-year-old house from my family. I had been away from Texas for twenty years. When I got to Texas and got ready to start to write the movie, all I really had to work off of was a couple videos, and some time back stage with him. Now George isn't the most talkative guy. He's not someone who is comfortable being out there. So I didn't have much to work with, and that made me start to think, "What are you going to write for this guy? He's never acted before, and he doesn't really want to act."

So I started immersing myself into all of this cowboy western culture. I started going to rodeos. I started going to Texas poetry readings. I dated this barrel racer in the rodeo, and she gave me some really great tips. I did all of this research, and then finally I just hit a stone wall. Then one day, it occurred to me that what I had myself just gone through in leaving Los Angeles and moving back to Texas...I was burned out.

As a screenwriter, I couldn't find my spark. I mean, for twenty years I was working in Los Angeles. I was writing screenplays, working on assignments, doing re-writes, I was very busy but nothing was getting made. So it occurred to me that the reason why I had moved back to Texas was because I had to find my creative spark again. It was very much on my mind that I was back in Texas exploring my own roots, and that sort of became the idea for PURE COUNTRY.

In the film, "Wyatt" [George Strait] has hit a wall. He's not turned on by his own music any more. He's not turned on by the crowds or the fans any more. So he decides to walk away from it all, and go back to his roots to find exactly what had inspired him or moved him in the first place to play music.

Then I started researching mythology. I read this Jungian psychologists book on Goethe's Faust. Faust was a man that had hit the dark night of the soul. Faust was going through the ultimate mid-life crisis. He'd got this success, and he was at the top, but it wasn't fulfilling any longer, and that struck me as being part of the theme as well.

Plus, I was also a huge Elvis Presley fan. So I started asking myself, "What if Elvis had walked away from it all?" What if he had walked away from the concerts and movies, changed his look, lost the Memphis Mafia and Colonel Tom Parker, and just walked away from it all and went back to Memphis and into hiding?" So that became an idea too, and all of these things blended into what would become the screenplay for the film.

Also, being a protege of Billy Wilder, I always loved his themes of masquerade. Where people are pretending to be something that they're not. That was always on my mind when I was writing the script to PURE COUNTRY as well.

TV STORE ONLINE: With ideas for the film being sort of autobiographical, where do the female characters of "Harley" and "Lula" come from for you?

REX McGEE: Well, when I had moved back to Texas I had met this girl, and I was falling in love very quickly, and I was thinking about her when I was writing "Harley." She was good with her hands, she had a funny way about her, she was smart, she was witty. It was really mirroring the girl that I had met. Then, "Lula" was play on a former girlfriend that I had, so both of those girls in my life had worked their way into that script. I think, I also had Jerry Weintraub in mind for "Lula." And Colonel Parker too. But, I don't think Jerry Weintraub ever caught onto that.

Then "Grandma Ivy", that was my real grandmother's name. That character was really based on my step-mother, who was known for always coming up with all of these non-sequiturs. She'd always say the strangest things. I used to always take notes on her. She'd say things like, "I feel like a frog on a wire fence!" [laughing] I still don't know what that means!

TV STORE ONLINE: How long did it take you to write the script for the film?

REX McGEE: Well, those contracts are pretty standard. So, I think, about three months to complete the first draft.

TV STORE ONLINE: How many revisions or rewrites did the script have to go through before  it got the green light?

REX McGEE: You know I always thought that they shot it too quickly. I've always thought that we should've spent some more time on the script, because they really green lit my first draft. It was really amazing. I finished the first draft in February, they started production in May, and it came out October. It was done all in the same year! I wished we could've worked on the script a bit more.

There were certain things in it, and particular scenes that we had to cut out, just because George's acting just wasn't up to par. I'm not sure if you've noticed?

TV STORE ONLINE: Well, yeah I have. One scene in particular that sort of sticks out like a sore thumb to me is that scene where George is standing on that porch with Rory Calhoun and he tells that guy who walks up and starts talking to them to, "Get your ass outta here." That entire scene is pretty wooden.

REX McGEE: Oh..yeah. That was the director's re-write of that scene. I have several sort of "cringe" moments in the film. One is the LSD trip he seems to be taking at the beginning of the film. George comes out of it and he's just fine. But I remember seeing it for the first time, and thinking to myself, "What just happened?"

TV STORE ONLINE: Right.

REX McGEE: I mean, they were trying to get across that he was disoriented, but it just looks weird. One of my favorite moments in the film is where George's character goes to the cemetery. It's where his parents are buried, and there's a shot of a tombstone. And on that tombstone are the first names of my parents, who are deceased. The first time I saw the film at the preview, I just lost it. I just wept like a baby. I mean, I don't know how it got through, and the director didn't put his parents names up there or something. So that was one of my favorite moments.

TV STORE ONLINE: How objective are you as the writer when you see your work on screen for the first time?

REX McGEE: The first time I saw it, I was just off base the entire movie. I was just asking myself, "Where's this scene, where's that one great scene?" The whole idea for the new musical version of the film I think developed from that first screening. I mean, there were so many great scenes that were cut that I knew one day I would have to get it right. That occurred to me then.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Going back to the script again for the film, how difficult is it for you as the writer to just hand over this "autobiographical baby" of yours to some director who isn't you? Someone who doesn't have your vision of the story in mind maybe.

REX McGEE:  Well, that's part of the deal.  It's the deal you make in Hollywood.  If you're a playwright, it's a different story.  Screenwriters get paid up front, and they get residuals.  They sell their work.  It's just part of the deal.

TV STORE ONLINE:  It was a contract script right?  So were you even allowed on the set during the shooting?

REX McGEE:  Oh yeah.  I mean, it was shot like literally thirty miles from where I was living at that time.  I was there on the first day of shooting. I was there for all of the concert stuff.  I was out at "Grandma Ivy's" house.   The director [Christopher Cain] was great and he was very happy to have me out there.  I sort of had the run of the set.  I brought my girlfriend out there who I had based "Harley" on.  That got me a long way with her. She was really impressed. It really put me over-the-top with her. It was great [laughing].

I wrote another film, WHERE THERE'S A WILL (2006) for television, and that film is even more autobiographical than PURE COUNTRY.  On that set, the director [John Putch] wouldn't change anything without my approval.  So I've been pretty lucky in that respect.

TV STORE ONLINE:  The cast is really great in PURE COUNTRY too.   I really love the chemistry between George Strait and John Doe.

REX McGEE:  Yes, they worked together really really well.

TV STORE ONLINE:  What do you think it is about the film that has stood the test of time?   It's very much a film that many people think very highly of.  It has this almost organic feel to it. There's a very beautiful and authentic feeling to it, that you don't get from many contemporary films.

REX McGEE:  Well, I think it hits everyone on the same level.  I think the idea of hitting mid-life and saying "Is that all there is?" hits everybody.   Whether you're a country music singer or a auto mechanic, you get somewhere in your own life where you ask yourself that.  I think that's the secret to why everyone likes the movie.

TV STORE ONLINE:  So tell me how you came to work with Billy Wilder?

REX McGEE:   I was a student at USC in the film school, and I went to a preview screening of his film, AVANTI! (1972) with Jack Lemmon and Juliet Mills.  When the film came out, it didn't do well at all.   So I decided to write Wilder a letter.   I just wanted to write to him to tell him how much I loved the film, and that I was sorry it wasn't doing very well.

In the cinema department at USC they had a book of all of these home addresses for many filmmakers.  So one night I snuck into the school and got his address.  I wrote him a simple little letter telling him how much I loved the film, and about how I was sorry that it wasn't doing well, and that I was a student at USC, and that I was hoping to make films  that could maybe be on the same bill as his one day.   A week or so later, I got a call in my dorm room and it was Billy Wilder.  I couldn't believe it.  He invited me over to the studio to see him.   I went over to the old Samuel Goldwyn lot and into the writers building where he and I.A.L. Diamond had written SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959) and IRMA LA DOUCE (1963) and just about everything else.

So, he sat me down and started talking to me.  I was sitting on his sofa and he started pacing the room.  He was a pacer.   He asked me, "I don't know what I should do Rex.  Why isn't this movie doing well?   Should I retire?  Should I write plays? Should I play the horses at Hollywood Park? What should I do?"   I mean, he was asking me, this 21-year-old USC student what he should be doing.  It was unbelievable. It was an amazing moment.  I'll never forget it, I don't think I was there for only but thirty minutes.

About a year later, he was getting ready to do THE FRONT PAGE (1974) at Universal and I was trying to get into the Directors Intern Program at The American Film Institute.   And he said to me, "You wanna do that? If you want into that program I'll sponsor you."   So I got to be on that FRONT PAGE set with Billy, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Carol Burnett, and Susan Sarandon.  It was amazing.  It was basically one set with a couple shooting locations. I kept a diary during the production.  I kept a log for the A.F.I. and Billy and I got to be friends. The first thing he did for me was to give me copies of all of his screenplays.  Then he set up screenings of all of his movies for me at Universal.  So not only could I see the movie, I could then read the screenplay, but then I could talk to the guy that made it. A guy with six Academy Awards. It was a incredible graduate school of sorts.

After the movie was finished, I just started to hang out in Billy's office at Universal.  Next door, Alfred Hitchcock was shooting his final film, FAMILY PLOT (1976).  Hitchcock had a little bungalow next door, so I got to hang out and watch that as well.  I got to hang out with Henry Bumstead the great art director.  He became a good friend.  A couple years later after that, Billy started working on FEDORA (1978). Which was a sort of echo back to SUNSET BLVD. (1950).  Billy asked me if I wanted to go to Europe to work on that.  I said, "Yep!"  We shot that in Paris and in Munich at various studios there.  It's a great film.  It's about this aging star that makes a comeback.

 It's a little seen Wilder film, but one that people should see.  A bunch of the later Wilder films are supposed to be getting remastered and once they do, I'm supposed to be doing some commentaries for them.

I knew Billy for twenty-nine years.  In fact I was talking to his wife on the phone, the night that he died.  He was just an amazing man.  I learned so much from him.  I learned about movies, music, food, women...everything.  I used to sit in his office and he'd get phone calls from all over the world, and he'd immediately go into that language.  He could speak German, French, Italian, Spanish.  He could go from one call in one language to another in seconds. It was just incredible. I count myself very luckily to have been tapped on the shoulder by that man. I was just this young kid from Texas with a terrible accent [laughing].

TV STORE ONLINE:  One of my favorite Wilder films is THE APARTMENT (1960).  What are some of your thoughts on that film?

REX McGEE:  That was one of his favorites.  Billy's favorite films were THE APARTMENT, SUNSET BLVD. (1950), SOME LIKE IT HOT and DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944).   The spark of the story for THE APARTMENT was David Lean's BRIEF ENCOUNTER (1945), the Noel Coward story. Did you know that?

TV STORE ONLINE:  No, I wasn't aware of that.

REX McGEE:  BRIEF ENCOUNTER is the story of two married people that meet in this guy's apartment and they have a love affair.  That idea always intrigued Billy.  This idea of the guy who owns the apartment.  Billy was intrigued by that guy.  Who was that guy?  What's it like for that guy who comes home and the sheets on his bed are still warm.   How does that guy work?  If you watch that one scene in BRIEF ENCOUNTER you can see where THE APARTMENT was born.   I love THE APARTMENT.   I think that the film probably speaks to everyone now just as it did when it first came out.   I teach screenwriting now, and I love to introduce students to Billy and his films in particular SOME LIKE IT HOT, which they've never heard of.

TV STORE ONLINE: What?

REX McGEE:  Well, they're twenty years old, and they only know about the things that have came out in the last couple years.  They've never heard of Wilder or Jack Lemmon or Tony Curtis.  In fact, last semester I only had one person who knew who Marilyn Monroe was.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Are you serious? How on earth do you take a film class or pursue film as a career and not know who all of those people are?

REX McGEE:  I don't know.  It's their first class in screen-writing or filmmaking, and nobody is showing these movies.  First, they are in black and white and they don't want to watch black and white movies.   But I run something like SOME LIKE IT HOT and it goes over like gang-busters!   They're laughing hysterically at this sixty year old movie in black and white.  I just love showing them this stuff.  I'll run SUNSET BLVD. too and they like that because of the darkness of it, the black comedy of it.

Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung
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