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‘All Women Have Periods’: Incredibly strange instructional video from 1979
12:23 pm



Back in his Channel 101 days, Dan Harmon learned of the wisdom of Joseph Campbell and would preach the building blocks of storytelling constantly. This eventually led to his famous story wheel, which he uses to break down every story on his shows Community and Rick & Morty. In explaining the importance, indeed ubiquity, of story structure, Harmon cited an interesting-sounding instructional video from the Seventies:

[Rob] Schrab has this video we watch all the time: It’s an orientation video designed to teach mentally retarded girls about their period. The protagonist is a retarded girl. She starts asking questions about periods. She’s led into a bathroom by her older sister, and after a very uncomfortable road of trials, things take a turn for the bizarre. I won’t go into detail. Not only is the protagonist going on a journey, the audience is, too.

I’ve tracked down the movie, and it’s a beaut. It’s about ten-minutes long, and doesn’t have credits but must have as a title “All Women Have Periods.” In it a little girl with Down syndrome named Jill asks her mother, father, and older sister Suzy about what a period is and receives a full-blown tutorial in the bathroom from her sister.

The following must be one of the greatest dialogue exchanges in movie history:

“Suzy? What’s a sanitary pad?”
“Come on, Jill, I’ll show you. I’m having my period now.”

I’ll say this: It’s a testament to the power of repetition—everything in the movie is explained four times. The next time someone asks me what a period is, I’m going to say, “Blood from inside a woman’s body comes outside from an opening between her legs. All women have periods about every four weeks for three or four days…..” I hope no one asks me.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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‘Beach Ball’: Having a beach party with Scott Walker, 1965
07:10 am


Scott Walker
Walker Brothers

When you listen to Scott Walker, do you think “beach party”? No? Well, long before “The Electrician,” before “The Plague,” even before “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore,” the Walker Brothers appeared in the drive-in movie Beach Ball (1965), starring Edd “Kookie” Byrnes of 77 Sunset Strip.

Scott Walker sings “Doin’ the Jerk” in Beach Ball
Even by the standards of the beach party genre, Beach Ball is pretty bad, though it’s considerably enlivened by the musical guests. The Supremes, the Four Seasons, the Righteous Brothers, and the surf band the Hondells (whose every song endorsed Hondas) all take higher billing than the Walkers, who had as yet no hits to their name.

The Walkers play one of Scott’s first compositions, “Doin’ the Jerk,” a tribute to the dance craze of 1964. Because their performance at the movie’s climactic rock ‘n’ roll/hot rod festival is intercut with a car chase, “Doin’ the Jerk” stretches over six minutes of film. Scott Walker-loving hodads like me will want to skip directly to 1:06:40, though I wish the best of luck to those brave souls who settle in for the whole thing.

Jazz those glassy sets!

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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William Shatner leads a racist reign of terror in Roger Corman’s ‘The Intruder,’ 1962
04:14 pm


William Shatner
Roger Corman

You may remember a post we did a while back on the all-Esperanto art house horror, Incubus, starring the immortal William Shatner. Although the film is beautiful in its ambition, fascinating in its inscrutability and kind of hilarious in its absolute weirdness, it is not my favorite Shatner deep cut. No, that great honor belongs to The Intruder,  a weird little anti-racist morality play directed by Roger Corman, the brilliant mind behind the 1960 Little Shop of Horrors, and producer of such classics as Rock ‘n’ Roll High School and Death Race 2000. Oh, and more recently, Sharktopus.

While The Intruder definitely exhibits Corman’s trademark outrageousness, itt does so in an earnest effort to engage the audience’s humanity. Shatner plays a sneaky white supremacist that rolls into a southern town with the covert mission of sowing racial unrest into the recently integrated community. At the time he was a young Canadian theater actor looking to break in to Hollywood, and the role was pretty juicy and subversive—Shatner later said “I’d have paid him to play that role.”

As far as drama and social analysis of bigotry goes, yeah—it’s pretty heavy-handed and ham-fisted to the modern eye (I mean it’s Roger Corman and William Shatner), but Shatner’s performance is uncharacteristically understated. He’s sleazy and sly and generally threatening as all hell. The picture follows him charming the previously peaceful citizens of Caxton into a a paranoid frenzy, even going so far as to seduce a teenage girl before pressuring her to frame a black man for rape.

The mob violence and virulent hatred is tidied up quite neatly by a level-headed salesman who eventually (basically) just gives Shatner’s character bus fare to leave town. It’s a pretty rosy Hollywood resolution to an obviously complicated and dire subject—racism is treated as an “intruder,” not a part of civic and political fabric. The movie fails to really indict the white citizens of Caxton for their own horrific crimes, nor does it really seek restitution for its black victims.

But you’re not watching The Intruder for critical race theory… you’re watching it for an evil Bill Shatner in a convertible with the KKK.

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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LEGO recreation of the ‘You killed the car’ scene from ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’
08:38 am

Pop Culture

John Hughes

As immensely enjoyable as the 1986 John Hughes classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is, it is my belief that viewers needed some assurance that Ferris and Cameron weren’t just predestined to live out their lives as carefree, materialistic sociopath and suicidal scion with daddy issues, respectively. The necessary turn comes in the late scene in the Fryes’ garage, where the much-fetishized Ferrari belonging to Cameron’s dad normally resides. Cameron has his sorely needed emotional breakthrough and…. well, you probably know it.

Some genius or geniuses from Sweden going by the name Etzel decided to make a LEGO diorama of the most kinetic moment of that scene. There’s a slight cheat in temporality—check out chapter 4 from Scott McCloud’s brilliant 1993 primer Understanding Comics to see what I mean. McCloud establishes that a single comic frame, far from capturing a single moment, can easily encompass a span of time of as high as thirty seconds. Similarly, here, the car is flying backwards through the air (not stuck in a tree, as you might guess), while Cameron, Ferris, and Sloane gather near the destroyed plate glass window to admire the destruction. In the movie, of course, the car plummets to the surface of the forest, and the teens become a formalized audience a few seconds later.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love it, just as it is.





For the forgetful, here’s the scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off:

via Chicagoist

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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‘Say hello to my little friend’: Behind-the-scenes of ‘Scarface’
05:55 am


Al Pacino
Oliver Stone
Brian De Palma

Actor Paul Muni so immersed himself in his film roles that he often continued to remain in character long after a scene had been shot. Director Howard Hawks noticed this when Muni played notorious gangster Antonio “Tony” Camonte in the original version of Scarface in 1932. It was said that Muni became possessed by the character and his whole demeanour changed—in particular his eyes seemed utterly deranged. Al Pacino had heard the stories of Muni’s great acting talent and in the early 1980s he attended a screening of Scarface at the Tiffany Theater in Los Angeles. The film and Muni’s performance blew him away, and Pacino contacted his agent, producer Martin Bregman, to suggest they collaborate on a remake of the movie.

Pacino had an idea of keeping the film in period 1930s, but after discussions with first choice director Sidney Lumet it was decided to set the film in the present day and to tell the story of a Cuban exile, Tony Montana, and his rise and fall as a violent drug lord. Lumet wanted to use the film as a political attack on the US government’s involvement in South America, and the reasons for the massive influx of cocaine into the country. Bregman disagreed and Lumet quit the project. Brian De Palma was then chosen to direct the film with Oliver Stone as screenwriter. At that time, Stone was apparently struggling with his own cocaine problems, and chose to write the screenplay in Paris, later explaining:

I don’t think cocaine helps writing. It’s very destructive to the brain cells.

Tell us something we don’t know Oliver Stoned! Solely fixed on writing, Stone delivered a hefty three-hour movie script, which De Palma turned into one of cinema’s greatest gangster movies. When the film was released, not everyone agreed as the majority of movie critics denounced Scarface as being a morally bankrupt, overblown B-movie, and damned the film for its excessive bad language (the word “fuck” was used 226 times) and its gratuitous violence. However, most of this violence, in particular the notorious chainsaw scene, is suggested rather than seen, and while most critics headed for the exits, the likes of Roger Ebert and Vincent Canby praised the film.

The negative reviews had little effect on the audiences and the film made a profit. Over the years, the “ayes” were proven right, as in 2008 Scarface was included by the American Film Institute as one of the ten greatest gangster movies ever made.
Director Brian De Palma prepares to shoot a scene with Al Pacino as Tony Montana.
De Palma with cinematographer John A. Alonzo.
De Palma, Alonzo and Pacino setting up shot.
Though set in Miami most of the movie was filmed in Los Angeles, as the Miami Tourist Board feared the depiction of the underworld of drugs and gangsters would deter tourists from visiting the city.
Pacino as Montana pulls the trigger.
More from Tony Montana after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ comic in fantastic Howard Johnson’s ‘Children’s Menu’

Only the most observant of Kubrick-aholics will even remember the Howard Johnson’s reference in his landmark 1968 movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, but it’s right there, around the 30th minute. Dr. Heywood Floyd, played with purposeful blandness by William Sylvester, finds himself in a veritable barrage of product placement following the legendary Johann Strauss “Blue Danube” slam cut from the apes’ bone to the graceful, silent spacecraft. Dr. Floyd is flying in a Pan Am vehicle, we’re told, and over the next few minutes, at the space station, he walks through a Hilton hotel lobby, places a call to his wife and daughter using a Ma Bell videophone, and yes, walks by a “Howard Johnson’s Earthlight Room.”

As the beneficiary of a truly special promotional opportunity, Howard Johnson’s did their part, releasing a combined comic book/children’s menu depicting a visit to the premiere of the movie by two youngsters—well, the title actually tells it pretty well: “Debbie and Robin Go to a Movie Premiere with Their Parents.” Neat-O! Given that in the movie (SPOILER ALERT) a computer bloodlessly kills off several members of the crew of the U.S.S. Discovery One and that the movie ends in a psychedelic and well-nigh incomprehensible farrago of colorful effects that Mad Magazine insisted was a result of David Bowman (Keir Dullea) crashing into “the brand new 105-story Jupiter Museum of Op Art,” it’s understandable that the comic focuses on the gee-whiz feeling conveyed in the middle chunk of the movie, and glosses over the ending—the two comic panels in which the family emerges from the theater discussing “the way the mystery was solved!” are, given the downbeat goings-on in the movie, perfectly apposite and false in the only way it can be. The synopsis ignores one of the movie’s most noteworthy aspects outright, by which I mean the apes of the opening sequence. But note that the comic’s discussion of the movie—hilariously—does not gloss over Hal’s murders, as evidenced by the above panel.

What we see here is the old Hollywood promotional methods associated with Mary Poppins, perhaps, or Cleopatra attempting to deal with the totally new, technologically sophisticated, and thematically bleak mode of filmmaking. Would you be able to create credibly cute kiddie characters who gush about “The Dawn of Man” and what lies “Beyond the Infinite”? I sure can’t.   







More great cartoon panels and a video clip, all after the jump…..

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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‘Am I Normal?’: Hilariously dated sex education film on male puberty, 1979
05:30 am


Sex Education

Am I Normal
With all the back-to-school talk this time of year, I’m reminded of the dreaded middle school period, when suddenly our own bodies turn on us. Many of us who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s remember being forced to watch sex education films in health class, and while these little movies had the best intentions—attempting to help us navigate the most-awkward of life’s phases—all they really did was make us giggle. Am I Normal?: A film about male puberty is one such film.

Our hero here is Jimmy, a boy of about thirteen who’s been waking up to sticky sheets and experiencing random boners. Jimmy has lots of questions and goes to just about everyone—his friends, the school librarian, a zookeeper—to help him find the answers. Jimmy just wants to know: “Am I normal?”

Produced by the Boston Family Planning Project and the Department of Health and Hospitals, the film certainly means well, but is hopelessly behind the times in just about every sense and must have looked dated upon arrival in 1979, at least from a fashion sense (the haircuts and outfits scream mid 1970s). The presentation, with its forced, corny dialogue and situations, will surely only look familiar to kids today in parody form.

Though it tries to incorporate humor and is actually relatable at times, it’s most notable for its unintended hilarity. An IMDb reviewer has a slightly different take:

I remember watching Am I Normal? back in the 6th grade. This film is supposed to be a film about male puberty, but it is so dated that it’s hilarious. I can’t even tell if it’s trying to be funny, or this is actually how people of the 1970s acted.

The moment when Jimmy talks to the zookeeper is the strangest moment of accidental, awkward comedy in this short film (it’s also a whole lotta creepy!), with dialogue that must be heard to be believed.

Am I Normal? was later adapted into a book, and there’s also a sequel for the girls, Dear Diary: A film about female puberty, from 1981, but it’s far less entertaining. 

If you’d like to own a copy of Am I Normal?: A film about male puberty, you’re pretty much out of luck—unless you can score a VHS copy.

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Discussion
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‘Saturation 70’: The Greatest Sci-Fi Cult Movie (starring Gram Parsons) You’ve Definitely Never Seen

Six years before Alejandro Jodorowsky’s extraordinary but ill-fated 1975 attempt to film Frank Herbert’s Dune—the story of which was compellingly told in the recent documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune—there was another similarly ambitious and ground-breaking film project that, until recently, was largely unknown: Saturation 70, a science fiction movie starring Gram Parsons, Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas and Julian Jones, the five-year-old son of Rolling Stone Brian Jones and Linda Lawrence (later Linda Leitch, Donovan’s wife, of “Legend of a Girl Child Linda” fame.)

Unlike Dune, Saturation 70 did actually make it into production and was shot, but never completed, then was forgotten and undocumented for over forty years. Dangerous Minds pal Chris Campion reveals the story of the film’s production in an article for The Guardian:

The film was the brainchild of an American writer-director named Tony Foutz, the son of a Walt Disney company executive and a friend to both Parsons and the Rolling Stones. The film was shot (but never completed) at a 1969 UFO convention at Giant Rock, near Joshua Tree in the Mojave desert, and in Los Angeles. It tapped into the spectrum of esoteric interests and outlandish ideas — aliens, psychedelics, time travel— of the late 60s counterculture. “The whole experience of making the film was like a technological tribal throw-down, with an energy buzz off the Richter scale,” Foutz says now. “It took on a life of its own.”


The Kosmic Kiddies, from R to L: Tony Foutz, Michelle Phillips, Gram Parsons, Phil Kaufman and Andee Cohen. Photo: Tom Wilkes

Also appearing in Saturation 70 were Stanislaus Klossowski de Rola (aka Rolling Stones confidant, ‘Prince Stash’, the son of painter Balthus) and Nudie Cohn, creator of the Nudie suit. The shoot took place from late 1969 to early 1970.

Filming guerrilla-style, without permits, they managed to realise several ambitious set-pieces, including a surreal shootout between a Vietcong soldier and an American GI in the aisles of Gelson’s supermarket in Century City (Phil Spector, a noted gun fan, visited the set to watch from the sidelines) and a parade of Ford Edsel cars roaring through the City of Industry in a flying-V formation.


Skid Row Los Angeles, 1970. Not much has changed. Look closely at the signs.

Director Tony Foutz was also behind another, even wilder film project, a vehicle for the Rolling Stones to star in and write an original soundtrack for, entitled “Maxagasm,” which was co-written with Sam Shepard in 1968.

Closer to Mad Max than the Beatles’ Help!, the film was to feature the group as a band of unemployed mercenaries wandering through Moroccan desert, in a plot that involved UFOs and Mayan-style human ritual sacrifice.

For years, Saturation 70 was little more than a rumour among Gram Parsons fans—a strange anomalous event in his short gloried career—but now all the existing footage and production photos have been dusted off for an exhibition in London that recreates the film shoot, and the story of Saturation 70 can finally be told.

Saturation 70: the Gram Parsons UFO film that never flew (The Guardian)

Saturation 70, the exhibition, runs at the Horse Hospital in London from September 6th to 27th. More information here.

Julian Jones and his fairy godmother

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Hell on Wheels: Vintage outlaw biker movie posters
08:45 am


Outlaw Bikers

Today’s youth culture seems quite tame when compared to the cheap thrills exhibited in this selection of outlaw biker movie posters from the late 1960s and early 1970s. Films like Twilight or (your favorite Marvel superhero here) can hardly compete with The Cycle Savages (starring Bruce Dern), Werewolves on Wheels (genius idea, though apparently the speeding lycanthropes howl and growl for a mere five minutes in this flick) or Angels: Hard As They Come, an early Jonathan Demme movie in which “Big men with throbbing machines” met their match in “the girls who can take them on.” Fnarr..Fnarr…

These films mixed Western outlaw narratives (sometimes directly lifted from other movies) with the heightened anxieties of suburban parental America and a dash of spice from some real Hell’s Angels to give it flavor. They also offered meaty roles for the likes of Bruce Dern, John Cassavetes, Alex Rocco, (the ubiquitous) Jack Nicholson, Ann-Margret, Jane Russell and even Casey Kasem, and a chance for many a young director to learn their trade. Taking a look at these posters one can almost smell the grease and gas fumes from here.
More outlaw bikers after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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‘Symbiopsychotaxiplasm’: Mind-boggling, multilayered 1971 film is an experimental masterwork
05:29 am


William Greaves

“Are we making a movie, or are we not?” (William Greaves in Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take One)

Filmmaker William Greaves recently passed away at the age 87. Greaves, an African-American, left behind a respected body of work, including award-winning documentaries that tackled issues of race. But he is perhaps known best for a movie that doesn’t address race directly. In fact, lack of direction is one of the fundamental elements of the film.

Shot in Central Park in the spring of 1968, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take One at first glance appears to be a documentary about the making of a film. But what’s with the clichéd dialogue, and why are multiple actors playing the same characters? Are they shooting a film or is it a screen test? Or is the finished product going to be something else entirely? Does the director even know what he is doing? Cast, crew, and audience alike ask these questions and are left to wonder: What kind of film is this?

Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take One is a film within a film within a film. One camera recorded the drama Greaves was directing, while another documented the making of the movie, and a third recorded all of the action on set. A fourth camera was handled by Greaves, on occasion. All of these viewpoints are incorporated into the film at various times. If it all sounds like a formula for total chaos, it is anything but. Greaves had a master plan—he just didn’t let anyone else know about it.

Greaves went out on many a limb during the filming of Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take One, including the way he chose to depict his own character, which was a fictionalized version of his true self. Early on, he makes an overtly sexist comment, and then proceeds to act as a bumbling, indecisive director, one who is constantly asking others for their opinions. Greaves was surreptitiously pushing buttons, testing the concepts of power and collaboration in art and elsewhere, but his race was also a factor. In 1968, there were relatively few African-American film directors, and Greaves, by playing the fool, was baiting the cast, crew—and the audience—into making judgments based on the color of his skin.

Of the many fascinating sequences in Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take One are those that show the crew meeting to theorize about the nature of the production, speculating on Greaves’ mind-set and his competence (or lack thereof) as a writer and director. There is much confusion as to what exactly is going on, yet one crewmember has a prescient view of what is happening in that moment—that their on-camera discussion concerning Greaves and his movie—is, in fact, their “function” in the film.
William Greaves creates a diversion
William Greaves creates a diversion.

To ponder too many specifics is akin to getting sucked into the rabbit hole Greaves has created, and, frankly, spoils some of the fun for a first-time viewer. The director, in notes he jotted down before cameras rolled, acknowledged the fruitlessness in outlining the project in great detail, which is also part of his modus operandi for Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take One:

Refuse to give total explanation of the film! First of all, it is impossible due to its complexity. Give only as much of an explanation as will satisfy the performers and film crew. To give more will kill the truth and spontaneity of everyone.

Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take One was first screened in 1971, but for decades was only shown sporadically. It would take the support of two high-profile fans, Steve Buscemi and Steven Soderbergh, to finally bring the film into wide release in 2005, when it at last earned the attention and acclaim it deserves.

At one point, while filming in Central Park, Greaves is asked for the name of the movie they are making: “Over the Cliff,” he says. “We’re going over a cliff.” A director with less ability (and nerve) couldn’t have pulled-off the experiment that became Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take One, but William Greaves had the confidence and skill to not only take his cast and crew, but also the audience—and the director, himself—right over that cliff.

Check out the trailer:

Then watch the entire film:

Criterion’s definitive two-disc DVD set of Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take One (which includes Greaves’ 2003 sequel, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take Two) is still available.

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Discussion
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