Thursday, January 30, 2014

INTERVIEW: Steve Railsback talks about playing Charles Manson, working with Elia Kazan and The Stunt Man (1980)




TV STORE ONLINE:  Steve, could you talk about how you got your first acting break with the help of Elia Kazan?

RAILSBACK:  That's right, I did THE VISITORS (1971) with Kazan.   At that time, I was living in New York City, but I had been out on the road doing some plays.    I'm originally from Texas, and when I went out on the road I ended up staying out there for about three-and-a-half years.   That Christmas, and I can remember it clearly still today, it was on a Wednesday, and New Years Eve was the next day Thursday.  My phone rang and on the other end of the line a guy said, " Steve Railsback there?"  I said, "Yeah."  He said, "This is Kazan calling from New York."   I thought it was a friend of mine playing a joke on me.   So I let him speak for about twenty minutes and then finally I stopped him and said, "OK. OK.  Who is this really?"  Then he said, "Quit busting my balls, this is Kazan. I'm calling you from New York."   Even thought I couldn't see myself in the mirror, my face probably changed about three different shades of color.

I had admired Kazan from Texas my entire life.   I had never met him though, not even in New York.   He said, "I'm doing this little film, and somebody mentioned your name to me."   He never told me who had mentioned my name though.   He said, "When are you coming back to New York?"  I said, "I can come back tonight!"  He said, "No, No, No.  Spend the holidays with your family and fly back on Friday.  When you get to to town give me a call.  I'll be at home watching the football games."  So I flew back on Friday and called him.   He said, "OK, let's meet at my office tomorrow."    I was really worried about going in to his office to meet him.  I didn't know what I should wear.  So I borrowed a sports jacket from a friend of mine.   I went up to his office and knocked on the door.  When he opened the door, he was standing there dressed in fatigues. (Laughing)    He looked me over for about five seconds and he said, "Railsback?  Kazan."  He shook my hand and we stood there for a second, and you could tell that he was still looking me over some.   Then he said, "You don't dress that way all of the time do you?"  (Laughing)  I said, "No, No. I just didn't know what to wear!"   From there, we went to The Actor's Studio.

When we got there, we went right to work.  All Kazan told me was, "There is a girl in the next room waiting for you.   She knows where Electra is... Electra has left you, and you need to go in there and get this girl out of this room and have her take you to see Electra."  Then Kazan left and went into the next room with the girl.

I didn't know this at the time, but before we started, Kazan had told the girl that no matter what I did or said to her when I walked in, she wasn't to leave the room no matter what.  So I walk into the next room and the girl is sitting in the room doing some kind of Yoga and Kazan was laying on the couch in the room smoking a cigar as he always was.   I walked in and the girl said, "What do you want?"     I said, "Well, I need you to take me to see Electra."  I didn't know what to do really.   I'll never forget this...There was a stool in the room.  I walked over to the stool and sat down and looked at the girl.    I looked at Kazan, but he didn't make eye contact to me.   I started rubbing my finger nails.   I said to myself, "Steve, you'll never get a chance like this again in your entire life."   So I stood up and walked over to the girl.  She was standing in front of a brick wall.  I went up to her and said, "This is the most important day of my life, and so help me God....   If you don't take me to see Electra...I'm going to knock you right through that fucking wall."  I looked at her, and she was shaking.     I carried on with her.  I said, "OK, here's your jacket."  I handed her a jacket.  I said, "OK, now we're going to go  and we're going to walk past a secretary, and you don't need to say anything to her."   I had her out of that room in four minutes time. 

 I, again, had no clue that Kazan had told her that she couldn't leave the room.   That was me sitting on that stool and telling myself that this was the chance of a lifetime that caused me to do this.   We left the room and afterward, I walked back in to see Kazan. He walked up to me and gave me a big hug.    From there, I went back home to Texas and a week later, on a Wednesday, he called me to tell me that I had the part in THE VISITORS (1972).   He gave me an opportunity that changed my life.   I loved that man.  I got to know him, and we spent time when we weren't working just walking and talking around the city and at his house in Connecticut.    I will always be very grateful for the opportunity that he gave me.

TV STORE ONLINE:   I once read...That when you were preparing yourself to play Charles Manson for the television film HELTER SKELTER (1976) that you actually would lock yourself up in a dark closet and sit down for hours...

RAILSBACK:  Well, that story has been so exaggerated over the years...I think I told that story once in a magazine article....It's just gotten exaggerated.    What I did for Manson....I love doing research on characters.  I did a lot of things for Manson.  I read the Helter Skelter book.  I studied his speech. I watched him speak.  I did that to look for any contradictions.   I listened to his music.   I thought it was awful by the way...(Laughing)      What I did with the closet...Manson had been in several institutions for well over half of his life.    He went in at age 11 and he didn't get out until age 33.   I don't truthfully know if locking myself into a dark closet helped me with the character.  I really don't know.   But, I was thinking about how Manson would be put into solitary and have only himself.  So I would get into a dark closet for about forty-five minutes and just sit in there and talk to myself. I wanted to see what that feeling of solitary confinement could feel like.    I had to try it, because I myself, have never been placed in confinement actually, and I thought it might help me feel something.

TV STORE ONLINE:    What about THE STUNT MAN (1980)?  What were your first thoughts on that script when you first read it?

RAILSBACK:  That screenplay was so layered.   After I read the first forty-pages I put it down and picked up the phone to call Richard Rush about it.   I knew right away that this was a very special project.  I called Richard and said, "There's something special here.  I can't really put my finger on it now, but I know that there is something very special here."  He said, "C'mon on over and let's talk about it."

TV STORE ONLINE:   After reading it...What was your approach in regards to how you would play that "Cameron" character?

RAILSBACK:  Well, we knew a lot about Cameron.   We knew were he came from, how he had just come back from the war. I went out and talked to a few Vietnam vets about their experiences in the war.   I also talked to them about that feeling of loneliness that one could have when they come back from war and discover that the girl that they thought that they were going to marry is now with someone else.     I put a lot of thought into who was chasing that character too.   Then I made my choices around those thoughts.   I loved playing that character and I could go on and on about working with Richard Rush.   THE STUNT MAN belongs to Richard Rush.  Richard is my son's godfather.  I love Richard Rush, and I know that Peter O'Toole did too.   I couldn't wait to get to that set everyday, and all of the actors felt that way as well.
  
TV STORE ONLINE:  Do you learn anything from Peter O'Toole as a younger actor working with someone of his caliber and experience on THE STUNT MAN?

RAILSBACK:  Of course.  How could one not learn from someone like Peter O'Toole?  The man was a brilliant man.   He was a very giving actor, and he was a very giving man.  Acting is about giving.   Acting isn't about waiting for your cues and saying the lines.  You give when you make choices as an actor.   Every time we'd finish a take on THE STUNT MAN, Peter and I would run off and walk around and talk about acting.    Peter and I did a play in New York City at Lincoln Center that was directed by Arthur Penn a few years after THE STUNT MAN, and one evening Arthur Penn, Peter and I were talking about acting and Arthur Penn said,  "Choice is art."  What he meant, was that the choices we make are what creates the art that we do.   When he said that, I looked at Peter and he said to me, "Yes, art is choice!"   Working with Peter O'Toole was the biggest thrill of my life.


TV STORE ONLINE:    You did a fair amount of your own stunts on THE STUNT MAN....Any reservations now looking back at these years later at the danger you put yourself into?

RAILSBACK:   No, because what you didn't see in the film was all of the stuntmen that were always surrounding me.  When I was running on that roof in THE STUNT MAN there were stuntmen all over the place protecting me.   All of those stuntmen were incredible guys.  They were amazing.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Looking back now all of these years later...Do you think that THE STUNT MAN will be a major part of your legacy after you've gone?

RAILSBACK:   I was a very fortunate man to just have been a part of that film, and to have worked with Richard Rush and the others that worked on that film with me.  That film stands so strongly on its own and it plays better today than when it first came out in 1980.   We shot THE STUNT MAN over a four-and-a-half month period, and I wouldn't give that experience up for anything in the world.     Richard Rush is a brilliant man, and THE STUNT MAN is a film I'm very very proud of all these years later.

Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung
For more with Steve Railsback please visit his official website HERE:

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

INTERVIEW: Watch All This And World War II (1976) as Executive Producer Russ Regan tells you how it was made


If you've never seen ALL THIS AND WORLD WAR II (1976) you shouldn't blame yourself.   After all, the film has never been officially released and it has only been shown in theaters a handful of times since its release in November of 1976.    A long form music video or grand experimental opus, ALL THIS AND WORLD WAR II  tells the story of WW2 using a combination of 20th Century Fox 1940's newsreel footage and a melange of scenes from the Hollywood studio's best war films.

You should probably know too, that all of this is set to the music of The Beatles!  Well, Beatles cover songs to be exact, and some of them are literally better than the Beatles originals.      

ALL THIS AND WORLD WAR II uses a juxtaposition of the atrocities committed by Hitler, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and The United States' very own controversial history in the conflict itself to tell the story of WW2. What one doesn't plan on encountering with ALL THIS AND WORLD WAR II is how much of a impact the music of The Beatles actually has in correlation to the footage seen from the war.

There is something powerful, meditative, visceral and universal about this particular joining of music and image. What could be shrugged off as a music video, WORLD WAR II comes through as something much more. ALL THIS AND WORLD WAR II is such a potent experiment that words almost escape a description of the filmic experience itself. The film has never been released on any home video format to date, and today exists as a cult film earning its infamy via the film bootleg community and via YouTube.

You can watch ALL THIS AND WORLD WAR II via the YouTube link below.   Executive Producer Russ Regan talks about the making of the film with TV Store Online.  Here's what he had to say:     

TV STORE ONLINE:  Hi Russ! Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today about ALL THIS AND WORLD WAR II (1976).  I'm a huge admirer of the film....

REGAN:  Well, firstly, thank you for saying that.    I think that film is actually a classic to be honest with you.

TV STORE ONLINE:  It's an incredible film.   It's such an interesting piece of cinema.   Considering what it is and that a Hollywood studio made it, how in the heck did it even get made?   It's sort of experimental in a way....

REGAN:  I was always a great fan of the Beatles music, and I still am all of these years later.  What happened was,  I had a dream.   I had a dream of the Japanese planes taking off and heading toward Pearl Harbor and in my dream there was music playing. It was The Beatles "Here Comes The Sun".   I woke up at 3 a.m. that morning, and sat down and started to write all of it down...  Then "Fool On The Hill" by The Beatles popped into my head and I remembered seeing footage of Hitler in his bunker in a newsreel when I was a kid.

I went to my boss at 20th Century Fox at the time and said,  "I wanna do this film about WWII with the music of The Beatles..."  I had some pull there so I was able to get what I wanted, and from there I went with a small budget over to England and started to go through some of the footage that was used in the film and began to assemble together some of the artists to make that great music that you hear in the film today.

When the film came out, it didn't do well.  The critics didn't like it.   They claimed that I was trying to glorify the war, but I really wasn't.    I just tried to give the kids a way to relate to the war a little bit. War is hell, and I think that ALL THIS AND WORLD WAR II presents that idea pretty clearly, and I wanted to show kids that.  I just thought that by using the music of The Beatles... That would assist me in getting the kids into theaters to see just how awful war really is.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Did you ever put any thought into the psychology of this dream that you had that included The Beatles music?

REGAN:  You know, I have no idea how it happened.   Because I was just a young kid with WW2 ended.  But back then, I had seen so much of that war in the theater through newsreels and it all stuck with me.

TV STORE ONLINE:  How did you pitch the idea to 20th Century Fox?   Was it you or another producer who pitched to [Fox President] Alan Ladd Jr.?

REGAN:  No, it was me.  At the time I was President of the record division at 20th Century Fox.  So I went in to see Alan Ladd Jr., and he gave me the green light.

TV STORE ONLINE:   How did you pitch it to Alan Ladd Jr.?

REGAN:   Ladd thought I was crazy!   But he said, "Well, maybe you've got something here.  Let's take a shot at this."

TV STORE ONLINE:    The year before, Columbia Pictures had released Ken Russell's film for The Who's TOMMY (1975).     With the success of that film for Columbia and then the equal success that the film's soundtrack had, do you think ALL THIS AND WORLD WAR II (1976) was green lit as a direct response by 20th Century Fox to compete against that or cash in on that success of that time?

REGAN:   I don't think so.  I think people like to put those films together for the reason you've just mentioned, but I can say with certainty that TOMMY was not an influence on us while we were making ALL THIS AND WORLD WAR II.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Going back to what I mentioned earlier....ALL THIS AND WORLD WAR II has a fun vibe of something akin to an experimental film in the truest sense.  Had you see any sort of experimental cinema pieces prior to starting work on the film?

REGAN:  No, I sure didn't.  I've never looked at the film in that way before you've mentioned just now.  We honestly just thought we were making the first long form music video.

TV STORE ONLINE:   In doing a bit of research in preparation in talking with you today...I found an interview with the film's editor Tony Palmer online. He mentioned a first cut of the film being completed, but yet, a cut that something different than what you intended originally. He also stated that 20th Century Fox, hadn't liked that cut and insisted that it be re-cut to be more in line with your vision for the film....

REGAN: Right, I have a memory of that.    That's true, and that first cut was Tony's and he was pretty upset about having to re-cut the film on Fox's insistance. 

TV STORE ONLINE:   Can you recall the differences between the film we have today and Tony Palmer's first cut?

REGAN:  I'm sorry I can't.   I have this thing where I try to forget bad experiences, and the editing of ALL THIS AND WORLD WAR II really wasn't a very good experience.  I think I've blocked out all of the negative things in regards to the film all of these years later.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Rumors have been flying around for years about those that wanted to be involved in the making of the film but weren't for one reason or another.....A couple names I wanted to ask you about are Philippe Mora and Bill Murray....

REGAN:  I don't recall those guys wanting to be part of the film, but I do remember that the animator Ralph Bakshi wanted to work on the film.  He wanted to do the entire thing animated but I didn't want to go in that direction with it.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Getting the green light from Fox on the project...Was the deal conditional on that you'd have to use only 20th Century Fox war film footage in the film and nothing from any films made at any other studio?

REGAN:   Well, Fox had the most footage.  They had made the most war films out of any of the Hollywood studios to date, and during WW2, Fox had also produced their "20th Century Newsreels", so we had a ton of footage to work with from them.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Any truth to the rumor that John Lennon had some sort of involvement in the making of the film?

REGAN:  No.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Who picked the artists and the specific Beatles songs that would be used in the film and eventually appear on the film's double album soundtrack?

REGAN:  Myself and Lou Reizner.

TV STORE ONLINE:  The band Ambrosia kicks off the film with a cover of The Beatles "Magical Mystery Tour"....   Didn't you originally discover them or sign them?

REGAN:  That's right.  Ambrosia was my band.  I signed them originally.

TV STORE ONLINE:  ALL THIS AND WORLD WAR II ran in theaters for two weeks before it was pulled out by the studio...

REGAN:  Right, 20th Century Fox was very disappointed with the box office.     Another film that I got the green light on from Fox around the same time as ALL THIS AND WORLD WAR II was THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975).    Just like WORLD WAR II, ROCKY HORROR was a bomb at the box office, but then it started playing at midnight screenings around the United States and it became a big cult movie that's made a lot of money for Fox.    I got the green light on ROCKY HORROR because I insisted that there might be something to it. Lou Adler was a friend of mine, and when he told me about the project, I took it in and got it green lit for one million dollars. 

TV STORE ONLINE:   The film WORLD WAR II was pulled, but how did the soundtrack do sales wise when it was released?

REGAN:  The soundtrack came out on 20th Century Fox Records.    It was not a big success either, so many of the double albums ended up in the cut out section at record stores.    But, about a year after the soundtrack was released, I was in Cannes and a record industry friend from 20th Century Fox came up to me and said, "Russ, I just want you to know that you have the number one cut out in America.  It's the soundtrack for ALL THIS AND WORLD WAR II."  (Laughing)

TV STORE ONLINE:  It's been almost 40 years since the film was released and shelved...Do you think we'll ever see the film released officially at any point?

REGAN:  I tried to buy the film back from 20th Century Fox but they wouldn't sell it to me.   It's just sitting there.  Fox is really missing the boat with this one.   I think it should be re-released out into theaters with all of that great music.  I think that if they put it back into theaters it would be a real mind-blower.

Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung

WATCH THE ENTIRE FILM:  ALL THIS AND WORLD WAR II:

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.