GREG BELLAVIA VS SHOCK-A-GO-GO

“Bride of the Monster” – Written by Edward D. Wood Jr. – Directed by Edward D. Wood Jr.

What It’s Like: Ed Wood is an experience like no other.

What It’s About: Dr. Vornoff (Bela Lugosi) works in a remote mansion to create an army of supermen…and a huge octopus.

Money Shot: Tie. Either Lugosi’s “I have no home speech” or Lugosi battling the limp octopus.

Verdict: Friedman made a remark earlier in the evening that seemed to sum up Wood’s career – “We all knew we were making crap, except him”. Ed Wood is now famous for being one of the worst directors of all time, but in all fairness his films aren’t as terrible as people make them out to be. This is not to say they’re good films, but instead the amount of love Wood put into this movie (as with his other films) is present in every frame. A thoroughly enjoyable Z-Grade picture.

Note 1: The print was in great condition which is rare for a film such as “Bride of the Monster”.

Note 2: The octopus stolen by Ed Wood to use in this film was the one used in “Wake of the Red Witch” where it killed John Wayne. That movie prop had the distinction of beating Lugosi and the Duke, not too shabby.

It was now a little after 8 in the morning and time for a brief intermission. After a reel of vintage intermission trailers we are back with the only crime movie of the festival.

“Detroit 9000” – Written by Orville H. Hampton – Directed by Arthur Marks

What It’s Like: ½ The French Connection + ½ Blacksploitation = 1 Groovy Flick

What It’s About: The underpaid and underappreciated white cop Lieutenant Danny Bassett (Alex Rocco) must team with high profile black cop Sergeant Jesse Williams (Hari Rhodes) to solve who robbed a political fundraiser which is causing big waves in both the black and white communities.

Money Shot: While the fundraiser is being held up by gunmen and instructions are being dictated by a voice on tape over the loudspeaker, the gospel singer who was providing entertainment keeps her cool and keeps on singing.

Verdict: Another winner. For a film that was buried at its time of release as trash and only recently resurrected by Quentin Tarantino’s Rolling Thunder Pictures, “Detroit 9000” is a solid crime picture. While the 70s are known for the large amount of trash cinema and grindhouse cult films, a lot of well made genre films flew under the radar. With the amount of exploitation films being churned out it would be easy to lump “Detroit 9000” into this category but this would be a grievous error. There is a moral consciousness at work here inside the characters. Bassett is hesitant to even take the case since he is afraid of either not solving the crime (where he would be labeled a failure) or being successful (if the criminals were indeed African-American themselves he might appear to be a biased cop). The relationship between the leads is complex as well, both men respect each other but at the same time resent one another. Williams doesn’t like Bassett’s cynical attitude and Bassett sees in Williams everything he could never have. The film also contains a great chase sequence and a fantastic ambiguous ending that proves that Arthur Marks was attempting to create more than a simple genre picture. “Detroit 9000” is faaaaaaar from an art film but is pulp fiction of the highest order.

The theatre begins to fill up once more as those who opted to go home to get some sleep, return.

“The Man from Deep River” – Written by Francesco Barilli and Massimo D’Avak – Directed by Umberto Lenzi

What’s It Like: “Cannibal Holocaust” Meets “Dances With Wolves”

What It’s About: After losing his girlfriend at a kickboxing fight in Thailand, John Bradley (Ivan Rassimov) gets into an altercation at a bar and ends up killing an assailant. Fleeing into the jungle, John is captured by a native tribe and allowed to live at the request of gentle Maraya (Me Me Lay. Yes, that’s the actress’ real name). The rest of the story is John surviving some extreme initiation ceremonies, falling in love with his benefactor and attempting to adjust to life amongst the natives.

Money Shot: During the ritual where the women of the tribe choose a mate by allowing the men to touch their naked body while they are blindfolded, John opts to hold Maraya’s hand instead of groping her like everyone else.

Verdict: Tough call. The film is filled with memorable images including John being tied to a crucifix and shot with little darts or the above mentioned mating ritual. This is not a horror film despite many chilling gory moments and instead could be seen as a really graphic, yet compelling adventure pic. There are, however, several roadblocks to fully enjoying the movie.

1. The animal cruelty, oh the animal cruelty. As with the other films in the “Cannibal” genre of the 70s this one attempts to derive authenticity from the real life slaughter of animals. While I would never in a million years call myself a prude, I must say that it was more of a turn off here than a helpful plot device. The killings don’t even have a context in the film, they kind of pop up from time to time just to remind you that John is in fact living with natives. In “The Wild Bunch” there is a fantastic image of school children torturing ants and scorpions but being insects that never bothered me, compare that to killing: A rattlesnake (I can live with that), An Alligator (Again not really an animal I like but trust me the death is anything but painless), a monkey (not cool) and a really graphic shot of a young goat’s throat being cut (Come on!). I hate to harp on this point, but I need to stress that a large part of the film is just animal cruelty for animal cruelty’s sake and that always struck me as uncreative filmmaking more than anything else.
2. If you don’t want a plot spoiler skip this next part. Maraya becomes pregnant but grows sick. Tribal custom says no one can leave to try and get her aid, in effect signing her death warrant. One tribeswomen tries to help John escape and has a hand cut off for her effort. Maraya dies but not before having John’s child and the film ends with John helping to rebuild the community followed by an attack from a rival tribe. The problem here is why on Earth does John want to stick around?! The only reason he opted to stay with the tribe to begin with was Maraya and the other tribes people seem violent and closed minded.

Anyway, after that long winded digression, despite these two points the film is entertaining and in fact one of the better cannibal films. If you are a fan of “Cannibal Holocaust” or “Doctor Butcher M.D.”, this one is worth checking out.

“The Devil’s Bloody Playthings” – Written by William Hellfire – Directed by William Hellfire

What It’s Like: Friedman meets Polanski.

What It’s About: Christine (Ruby Larocca) earns a living with candid camera programming and ends up turning her voyeuristic tendencies upon her roommate, the innocent Karen (Zoe Moonshine). A bizarre relationship forms between the women with Christine dominating the meek Karen who grows more and more unstable…

Money Shot: Christine’s comments on what to wear quickly turning from friendly advice to sexual humiliation.

Verdict: If anyone is set to inherit the mantle of exploitation filmmaker it is William Hellfire. A true independent, Hellfire has been making homages to the 70s grindhouse film for years. While “the Devil’s Bloody Playthings” tends to run a little too long it is, however, a mature departure from his earlier work and shows that Hellfire is trying to evolve as a craftsman. If truly offbeat filmmaking appeals to you both this and Hellfire’s satire of the Columbine massacre Duck! The Carbine High Massacre (Made 4 months after the tragedy! His justification: if he didn’t make it into a movie someone else would have) should prove appealing.

“Prison-A-Go-Go” – Written by Mike Wiebe and Barak Epstein – Directed by Barak Epstein

What’s It Like: “Airplane!” meets “Caged Heat”

Whats It’s About: When Callista (Lauren Graham) is kidnapped to be a human guinea pig for Dr. Hurtrider (Travis Willingham) in a prison complex located in the Philippines, her sister Janie (Laurie Walton) must infiltrate the women’s facility to try and get her back.

Money Shot: A clan of ninjas gets bored and decides to attack the women’s prison because that’s what ninjas do (and it was supposed to be sushi day in the cafeteria).

Verdict: Really funny flick. The key here is Epstein knows exactly what he’s doing: Making a comedy about women’s prison films, no more, no less. Little touches like the counter at the bottom of the screen counting down until the next shower session, the fact one of the ninjas is captured and is a main character for the rest of the film or the twentysomething slacker of a warden as played by co-writer Mike Wiebe, all show a nice appreciation for the genre being satirized. While some gags such as the character of Breezy (Tina Parker) who smuggles things in through her ass or the doctors over the top antics grow old there are plenty of other gags to keep the film’s head above water. An indie labor of love that pays off.

Following “Prison-A-Go-Go” director Barak Epstein and Mary Woronov, who makes an inspired cameo in the film, did a Q & A with the audience. Epstein came off as very likeable and his film shows a great deal of potential for the future. Woronov was captivating and recounted working with Andy Warhol, Paul Bartel and her husband Theodore Gershuny in a project she loathed, “Sugar Cookies”.

The trailers for “The Devil’s Rejects” and High Tension were then shown. I was lucky enough to catch “High Tension” at a test screening a few months back and I’ll just say it delivers the goods. It is one of the best horror movies I’ve seen in years and aside from one seriously superfluous plot twist (a story for a different day) a great film.

Woronov returned and introduced the film she attributed to her success in the film industry: “Rock and Roll High School”.

Rock and shock in part four of GREG BELLAVIA VS SHOCK-A-GO-GO>>>




Posted on December 8, 2004 in Festivals by
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