Man with a giant penis in the shape of Japan does battle with a room full of junk Godzilla-style.
Man with a giant penis in the shape of Japan does battle with a room full of junk Godzilla-style.
George C. Scott emotionally weighs-in on the Star Wars: The Complete Saga (Episodes I-VI) Blu-ray box set.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Darth Vader’s ‘United States of Noooooooooooooo!’
Maverick Salt Lake City-based indie filmmaker Trent Harris (who made the quirky cult favorite Reuben & Ed with Crispin Glover and Howard Hesseman) was working as a cameraman at a local TV station in 1979 when he met Richard LaVon Griffiths, AKA “Groovin’ Gary” (Griffiths’ CB radio handle). Harris was in the parking lot testing out a new video camera that the station had just bought and “Groovin’ Gary” was taking pictures of the station’s news helicopter. Their meeting, caught on videotape, would prove to be a fateful encounter for both men.
As he is initially revealed in the film, “Groovin’ Gary” seems to be a Jeff Spicoli-esque, late 70s stoner-type. He’s even got blond “feathered” hair. Gary is a bit of a ham-bone and describes himself as Beaver, Utah’s answer to Rich Little. He (somewhat inexplicably) seems to see his impromptu time on camera as an unexpected showbiz “break.” After doing some terrible impressions of John Wayne and other celebrities, he takes Harris over to his car and shows him his AM/FM stereo 8-track tape player—of which he’s very proud—and the engravings of Farrah Fawcett and Olivia Newton-John he’s had put on the windows. It’s banal, yet weirdly compelling.
“Groovin’ Gary” then invites Harris (via letter) to a talent show he’s producing at a high school in Beaver. A pageant that Gary himself will perform in. In drag. As his alter-ego “Olivia Newton-Dong.” He suggests in a letter that Harris might want to get to the local mortuary (?) at 8A.M. to shoot his hair and make-uo session.
During the make-up application (done by the mortician), he discusses his profound love of Olivia Newton-John. Even in full drag, he somehow does not come across as gay, more like someone who thought that they were about to do something just totally hilarious.
We see the talent show itself, with some truly soggy “talents” on display. Then “Olivia” is onstage and it’s weird, ending with a strange-looking masked man picking up Gary and carrying him offstage. To say that it’s a riveting performance is an understatement. Keep in mind as you watch this, that he orchestrated the entire talent show just so he could do this!
Afterwards “Groovin’ Gary’ happily recaps the event with Harris in his car. Harris drives off. Then the film cuts back to Gary, out of drag, doing a shitty Barry Manilow impression from earlier in the talent show. That’s how it ends.
The video below is out of sync, but it didn’t bother me that much.
Two years later, in 1981, Trent Harris directed a “dramatic” remake of the first video with a young Sean Penn playing the goofy kid from Beaver, Utah. There is an ending now, in the scripted version—based on what really happened or not, I have no idea—of “Groovin Gary” coming to the suicidal realization that perhaps his drag performance getting on TV would not be the best thing for his life in a small Mormon town and he tries to talk the Harris character out of showing it. The second film was made, apparently, for $100, and often recreated the scenes from the original video (Harris does not play himself here).
It’s not like this is the greatest thing you’ll ever see, but it is fascinating to see a pre-fame Sean Penn performing in drag (the short was made the same year Penn appeared in Taps). It seems clear that Penn picked up some tricks for his actor’s repertoire here that went right into his infamous character from Fast Times at Ridgemont High the following year. In many ways, this short was just a dry run for “Jeff Spicoli” and the next film in The Beaver Trilogy starring Crispin Glover.
After the jump, the final installment of The Beaver Trilogy starring Crispin Glover…
Like many Americans of a certain age, I saw Santa Claus Conquers the Martians in a movie theater. A later generation caught it as one of Mystery Science Theater 3000‘s favorites in the 90s. It’s routinely listed as one of the “worst films ever made,” thus insuring its status as a cult film for years to come. It also stars a young Pia Zadora, but she’s hardly even an answer in Trivial Pursuit anymore, is she?
So, yeah, I actually saw this movie, twice, in a movie theater. I viewed it both times, UN-ironically, too, I might add and loved every minute of it (It was 1971, I was five, okay?). Although it’s a Christmas film, of course, its yearly screening in my hometown of Wheeling, WV, came on Halloween weekend. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians was the lead film of a traveling holiday “road show” and I doubt there were that many prints struck of it, so smaller towns like mine probably got it first before it moved on to larger ones. It was an event as far as I was concerned, at least until I moved on to James Bond films and rock music…
Here’s the synopsis, from Wikipedia:
The story involves the people of Mars, including Momar (“Mom Martian”) and Kimar (“King Martian”), They’re worried that their children Girmar (“Girl Martian”) and Bomar (“Boy Martian”) are watching too much Earth television, most notably station KID-TV’s interview with Santa Claus in his workshop at the North Pole. Consulting the ancient 800-year old Martian sage Chochem (a Yiddish word meaning “genius”), they are advised that the children of Mars are growing distracted due to the society’s overly rigid structure; from infancy, all their education is fed into their brains through machines and they are not allowed individuality or freedom of thought.
Chochem notes that he had seen this coming “for centuries”, and says the only way to help the children is to allow them their freedom and be allowed to have fun. To do this, they need a Santa Claus figure, like on Earth. Leaving the Chochem’s cave, the Martian leaders decide to abduct Santa Claus from Earth and bring him to Mars. As the Martians could not distingtuish between all the fakes Santas, they kidnapped two children to find the real one. Once this is accomplished, one Martian, Voldar, who strongly disagrees with the idea, repeatedly tries to kill Santa Claus along with two kidnapped Earth children. He believes that Santa is corrupting the children of Mars and turning them away from the race’s original glory.
When they arrive on Mars, Santa and the children build a factory to make toys for the children. However, Voldar and his assistants, Stobo and Shim, sabotage the factory and change the programming so that it makes the toys incorrectly. Meanwhile, Dropo, Kimar’s assistant has taken a great liking to Santa Claus and Christmas, puts on one of Santa’s spare suits and starts acting like Santa Claus. He goes to the toy factory to make toys, but Voldar mistakes him for Santa and kidnaps him.
When Santa and the children come back to the factory to make more toys, they discover the machines have been tampered with. Voldar and Stobo come back to the factory to make a deal with Kimar, but when they see the real Santa Claus they realize that their plan has been foiled. Dropo, held hostage in a cave, tricks his guard Shim and escapes. Kimar then arrests Voldar, Stobo and Shim. Santa notices Dropo acts like him, and says that Dropo would make a good Martian Santa. Kimar agrees to let Dropo be the Martian Santa Claus and sends Santa and the children back to Earth.
Eventually, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians started getting shown on low-rent UHF TV channels and on “Creature Feature” type shows. Today, of course, there’s no waiting around for a yearly holiday screening of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. You can view the entire thing at Hulu, on YouTube or even watch a speeded-up version of this stinker condensed into 11-minutes. You can find a DVD of it in a 99 Cents Only store, too.
Here’s the trailer. Notice how the film looks all faded? It looked that way back then, too (not a result of aging, probably just technical incompetence or maybe they were smoking Angel Dust or something?).
No way The Hulk could ever replace Dee Dee. What were da brudders thinking?
Dangerous Minds reader, Eric Kleptone kindly shared this early film Made, by the late and sadly missed director, John Mackenzie, best known for the exceptional The Long Good Friday and his work with brilliant playwright, Peter McDougall. Made is adapted from a play by Howard Barker, one of the most prolific and original playwrights in modern English theater.
Barker is a writer of secrets, who sees theater as a place where secrets can be shared. What he is not interested in is enlightening the audience with “truths”::
“When I write, I am not giving a lecture, I am speculating on behavior. Sometimes this is dangerous, but it should be. As I say often, theatre is a dark place and we should keep the light out of it.”
This is true of Made (1972), in which Barker speculates on the behavior of single mother, Valerie Marshall (played by Carol White), and her relationships with a musician, Mike Preston (played by folk singer/songwriter Roy Harper, yes, The Roy Harper), and a priest, Father Dyson (John Castle), while dealing with her family and elderly mother (Margery Mason). It’s very much a film of its time - a mix of social observation and exploration of identity, sexuality and independence, which often promises more than it delivers. But MacKenzie draws good performances and keeps the film moving.
Roy Harper contributed to the soundtrack, which became his classic album Lifemask.
Previously on Dangerous Minds
With thanks to Eric Kleptone
Sion Sono and the 400 page script for Love Exposure.
I’d like to add my voice to the chorus of praise for Sion Sono’s (Suicide Club, Cold Fish) epically weird and wonderful Love Exposure.
Three minutes short of four hours long, Sono’s metaphysical black comedy is never boring and completely unlike any film you’re likely to see now or in the near future. Imagine a diabolically funny mix of John Waters, Alejandro Jodorowsky, John Hughes and David Lynch and you might get a sense of what Sono is up to in Love Exposure. Gory, romantic, spiritual and completely bonkers, this is a trip definitely worth taking. Somehow Sono (a poet turned film maker) performs the magic act of juggling what seems like a dozen film genres in the air with supernatural grace.
I dig film critic Simon Abrams’ take on the movie:
Love Exposure is, in a sense, Sono’s equivalent of the Great Russian novel. In it, his substantial disaffection for societal conventions is matched only by his monumental love for his spectacularly messed-up protagonists. These characters become deranged because they have to create their own belief system. There’s no God except for the ones that Yôko, Aya Koike (Sakura Andô), and Yû Honda (Takahiro Nishijima) make for themselves. God is represented by mundane authority figures, people who simultaneously project their own fear of loving someone else and lustful need to be loved. In other words, father/Father figures are all rotten to the core in Love Exposure, though they’re all rotten in unique ways.
Made in 2008, Love Exposure is finally receiving a limited American theatrical run two years after I first encountered it at Austin’s Fantastic Fest.
A Fistful Of Dub number two. Spaghetti westerns meet the massive attack of dub and reggae.
01. “Cocaine” - Sly and The Revolutionaries
02. “Blood Dunza” - King Tubby and The Aggrovators
03. “Man A Warrior” - Tapper Zukie
04. “Out Of Order” - Prince Jammy
05. “Youth Man” - King Tubby
06. “Coming Home” - Dennis Brown
07. “Washroom Skank” - The Upsetters
08. “Nothing Is Impossible” - Techniques All Stars
09. “Buckshot Dub” - Rupie Edwards
10. “Freak Out Skank” - The Upsetters
11. “Please Officer” - Talent Crew
12. “The Big Rip Off” - Augustus Pablo, King Tubby
13. “New Style” - Niney The Observer
14. “Herb” - Sly and The Revolutionaries
The Units were one of the first “rock” bands in America to ditch guitars completely and focus their set-up on drums, vocals and synthesisers. Leaders of San Francisco’s post-punk synth-led music scene (a lot of which is now resurfacing with the current interest in “Minimal Wave”) the comparisons with Devo are clear, but still don’t detract from The Units’ cracking tunes and tangible influence on the new wave generation. Tracks like “High Pressure Days” and “I-Night” are still sought after by record collectors and forward thinking DJs alike, mainly because they still rock.
During live shows, The Units would perform to a video accompaniment of re-edited instructional shorts and found footage called the “Units Training Films”. Some of these films have been recreated and uploaded to Vimeo by founder member Scott Ryser. While still being very much of their time, they are excellent and definitely rank alongside similar efforts by the likes of Church of The Subgenius. Ryser has this to say about them:
The “Unit Training Film #1”, produced by Scott Ryser and Rachel Webber in 1980, was compiled from films that the band projected during their live performances. The films were satirical, instructional films critical of conformity and consumerism, compiled from found footage, home movies, and obsolete instructional shorts. In 1979 and 1980, Rick Prelinger was a frequent contributor and occasional projectionist at the bands live performances in San Francisco. The film was also shown sans band in movie theaters around the San Francisco Bay Area including the Roxie Cinema, Cinematheque, Intersection Theater and the Mill Valley Film Festival .
There was never a set length or definitive “finished version” of the original Unit Training Film. Just the current version. The film varied in length from about 10 to 45 minutes, depending on how long the Units set was on any particular night. Clips were constantly being added and others were deleted and discarded once their condition became too poor to project any longer. The film was constantly breaking, and the projectionists always kept a roll of Scotch Tape nearby for timely repairs.
This 5 minute version, compiled by Scott Ryser, includes some clips of the band playing along with a brief interview by a very young Fred Willard during the period 1980 - 1982.
Who’d have thought Fred Willard was a fan?!
Here is “Unit Training Film 1: Warm Moving Bodies”
After the jump, “Units Training FIlm 2: Cannibals” plus some more classics by The Units…
For a crash course in the awesome synth-punk sound of The Units, check out History Of The Units: The Early Years 1977 - 1983.
In 1959, a Polish journalist, Zdzislaw Ornatowski paid a visit to the Russian film studio Mosfilms. He wanted to meet the next generation of film-makers and hear their plans for the forthcoming decade. Amongst those Ornatowski met was a young and ambitious man, who discussed his forthcoming graduate film The Steamtoller and the Violin. Ornatowski was so impressed by this youngster that he made him the focus of his article, “Films of the Young”. In it he interviewed the young film-maker about his intentions for making his diploma film, The Steamroller and the Violin:
“It will be a short-feature film. My original idea was not to use this screenplay for a full-length feature - that would ruin the entire composition. The story in the film is very simple. The action takes place within one day, the dramaturgy is without sharp conflicts, it is non-traditional. Its main characters are a young worker driving a steamroller at a road construction and a young sensitive boy who is learning to play the violin. They become friends. Those two people, so different in every respect, complement and need one another.
“Although it’s dangerous to admit - because one doesn’t know whether the film will be successful - the intent is to make a poetic film. We are basing practically everything on mood, on atmosphere. In my film there has to be the dramaturgy of image, not of literature. I offered the role of the worker to Vladimir Zamyansky, an actor from the youngest and perhaps most interesting theater “Sovremennik.” The little Sasha is played by a seven-year old music school student, Igor Fomchenko. I am very happy with them.”
The young film-maker was Andrei Tarkovsky, and The Steamroller and the Violin was his first film.
Ingmar Bergman once said of Tarkovsky:
“Tarkovsky for me is the greatest [director], the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream.”
The Steamroller and the Violin is the first annunciation of Tarkovsky’s “new language”, from its poetic use of mood and atmosphere, to its dreamlike imagery and ending. Co-written with Andrei Konchalovsky, the pair spent 6 months on the script before committing a frame of film. It is a beautiful and memorable film, which tells the story of the unlikely friendship between Sasha, a little boy, and Sergey, the operator of a steamroller.
final part of ‘The Steamroller and the Violin, after the jump…
With thanks to Svetlana Volkova