Archives for October 2008 | Varied Celluloid - Page 3

Archive for October, 2008

Opera Review

Posted by On October - 15 - 2008

Halloween Horrors are here again, with Varied Celluloid covering the latest in Horror cinema and the greatest of old. This month is a tribute to all things of the macabre, with this front page being taken up by horror reviews and thoughts. Check back daily for new reviews, as the rest of this month will be littered with sessions dealing with the obscure and the grotesque! Today we have Dario Argento’s last great thrust of Giallo horror in the form of Opera. Truly one of the best examples of stylish Italian horror and one of Argento’s best! Read on and enjoy the festivities!

The Review: For those familiar with Italian horror the name Dario Argento brings up visions of style and chic set design. Argento has made his career from having one of the best eyes for visual filmmaking in all of horror. His films from his pique, like those of Cronenberg or Lynch, have such tremendous visual flair to them that within minutes it becomes evident who the director was. His use of immaculate sets, delapidated buildings and nightmarish lighting creates an atmosphere that is so obviously “Argento”. Opera, which came at the end of his cinematic “best years”, is also his most stylish and uniquely visual film. Flying at the audience at breakneck speeds, Argento crafted a horror film using many of the techniques that made him so popular within the horror community but also outdid himself by throwing all of his visual know-how into every frame of this film. Within the first thirty minutes of Opera, Argento crafts an almost hypnotic allure as the camera in its ever flowing movements (more on this later) wanders about from large set to other large set in such a majestic and fantastic manner that the bloody violence becomes even more jarring to the senses. Truly, Opera is about the closest thing to a “sure bet” that has come from Argento’s filmography – it moves too fast, the violence is so over the top and the style is so thick that you just have to love it. I know that I most certainly do, and so do most Argento fans that I know as well, casual or diehard.

Click Here To Read More

Uncategorized

Opera

Posted by On October - 15 - 2008
The Plot: After the female lead in a massive operatic version of Macbeth is struck by a car, Betty the woman’s understudy is put in as a replacement. Betty has an amazing operatic voice and is immediately the critics’ darling but she is haunted by familiar nightmares of some previous childhood trauma. After a trist with a stagehand one night, things take a turn for the devious as Betty is tied to a pillar with needles placed under her eyelids so that she must watch as her assailant then murders her young lover. Now Betty is on the run from this psychopath, and must still focus on the Opera. Will this degenerate be caught before it’s too late?


The Review: For those familiar with Italian horror the name Dario Argento brings up visions of style and chic set design. Argento has made his career from having one of the best eyes for visual filmmaking in all of horror. His films from his pique, like those of Cronenberg or Lynch, have such tremendous visual flair to them that within minutes it becomes evident who the director was. His use of immaculate sets, delapidated buildings and nightmarish lighting creates an atmosphere that is so obviously “Argento”. Opera, which came at the end of his cinematic “best years”, is also his most stylish and uniquely visual film. Flying at the audience at breakneck speeds, Argento crafted a horror film using many of the techniques that made him so popular within the horror community but also outdid himself by throwing all of his visual know-how into every frame of this film. Within the first thirty minutes of Opera, Argento crafts an almost hypnotic allure as the camera in its ever flowing movements (more on this later) wanders about from large set to other large set in such a majestic and fantastic manner that the bloody violence becomes even more jarring to the senses. Truly, Opera is about the closest thing to a “sure bet” that has come from Argento’s filmography – it moves too fast, the violence is so over the top and the style is so thick that you just have to love it. I know that I most certainly do, and so do most Argento fans that I know as well, casual or diehard.

When watching Opera, one has to wonder what has happened to Argento over the years. Since this film, it’s as if his output as a director has become less and less stylish as he has went along. His latest film The Mother of Tears, which I did enjoy, only had the tiniest bits of flash strewn about with a ton of gory violence replacing it. Argento, known for his bloody violence without a doubt, is not Lucio Fulci however. His films made at his peak, the films all of his fans care about and have such fond memories of were rarely ‘gory’, but instead focused on more traditional scares and most of all atmosphere. Opera is Argento in top form as a visual storyteller and although it has a few bumps in the road, it’s simply too stylish and too ‘cool’ not to love. The “bumps in the road” I mention, as usual with Argento, comes from the script. Although taking place in the real world, the characters and their reactions to their situations aren’t exactly the most fitting with what most of us normal folks would do. If some psycho breaks into an apartment that you and your lover are in, ties you up and attaches needles to your eyelids so you have to watch as the psychopath murders the person you have just spent the night with – well, I like to think most of us would call the law after the murderer has left – not wander out into the night slowly and awkwardly. Essentially, the whole script hangs in the balance by our lead heroine making some pretty bonehead decisions. The way she reacts to having witnessed this murder as well is completely out of human emotion. After her boyfriend/fling is murdered and she is picked up on the side of the road by her director, is she crying or particularly bothered? When her director friend asks her what is wrong, is it trouble in love? Instead of either dismissing the charge, or maybe telling him what happened, she would rather be offended at the idea and instead we’re lead into a conversation about the Opera and how women of the opera are often thought to be whores. I’m sorry, but this situation hardly seems like the time to be heading down such roads of conversation.

For longtime fans of Argento, these little missteps are easy to overlook due to how lavish and absolutely stunning the film is and how many beautiful compositions there are to fawn over. It really is as if Argento and company went frame by frame of the storyboard and said “what can I throw into this shot to make it even cooler?”. Whether it’s the camera for no real reason starting off at a ninety degree angle and pulling out while rotating until the camera is rightside up again, or simply amazing visuals like those Argento captures during a few mundane sequences in the film when he keeps the camera ankle level and we’re treated to the beauty of the red drapes that accentuate the hallways within the theater. Without a doubt, Opera is Argento’s most stylish film and certainly one of his best crafted. It has its dips in quality, but if you can appreciate the style you’re in for a treat and I can’t help but give it my highest rating. A fantastic film.


Official Captain Stubbing Award Winner

Uncategorized

Sup’ Everybody

Posted by On October - 13 - 2008

Yeah, it’s been nearly two weeks since my last update! Yikes! I know, everyone is probably giving up faith again. Well, I’ve just been working and traveling every other day to make some extra cash here lately so it has put a bit of a damper on things but as you can see – Halloween Horrors are now underway! What does that mean? All horror, all month! kind of sucks that I already wrote out a review for the new Biker flick Hell Ride and won’t be posting it until November – but Halloween Horrors cannot be disobeyed! So, I’m going to kick things off now by posting eight older reviews for everyone to dine over while I groom my reviews for: Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer, The Midnight Meat Train, Return to Sleepaway Camp and Philosophy of a Knife! Whoo! Lots of new stuff! So, without wasting time, here are the old reviews and to save myself some time I’ll refrain from posting up lengthy blurbs about each movie and adding custom HTML for the graphics and such. Sorry, it’s a little plain, but you’re just getting links today fools!

Hell of the Living Dead
House by the Cemetery
House of 1,000 Corpses
House of Clocks
House on the Edge of the Park
Ilsa: She-Wolf of the SS
Ilsa, The Wicked Warden
Island of Death

Well ya’ll, that should do it for another round. Look for those previously mentioned reviews to be getting posts all to themselves in the coming days. Unfortunately I’ll be working tomorrow and their internet is down there or otherwise I would be posting at least one of them up tomorrow! Be patient though ya’ll, the Halloween Horrors will continue and the content will be stacking up shortly!

Uncategorized

Ilsa, The Wicked Warden

Posted by On October - 13 - 2008
Plot Outline: Ilsa, who isn’t actually called by that name in this film (gotta love those imports!) is the head of a woman’s mental health clinic, much unlike the majority of health clinics I would hope. Very little is offered in the way of rehabilitation, and mostly torture seems to be the key to getting any situation solved. After one young woman goes missing without a trace and no word is heard from her, her sister checks herself into this same hospital (as a nymphomaniac who molested school children, as this is a hospital for the sexually insane I’m guessing) and begins to snoop around. With the warden’s greatest profits coming from videotaped sales of her torture sessions, she has to remain on her toes and ensure the inmates don’t become rowdy – so a classic face off is set-up, but how will it turn out?


  


The Review: You know, I reviewed an Ilsa for this website a long time ago. Back before Rogue Cinema or much of any recognition from any particular direction, but that review actually spurred one of my first encounters with a filmmaker who created something I reviewed. That was the immortal Ilsa She-Wolf of the SS, and the director of that film Don Edmonds. To be honest, I don’t think my particular review was all that fair and perhaps made light of the film a little more than I am proud of (every film deserves mutual respect, this is something I have learned over time), but Don felt I was fair with his film and he thanked me for it. I was floored to even be contacted by him much less thanked or congratulated. The original Ilsa was never really in contention for greatest cinematic work ever made, nor was it ever really close to the greatest exploitation film in my opinion – but it definitely made it as a classic in its own right. It was perverse, distressing, exploitive and nasty when it wanted to be. Not usually what you would consider great qualities for a lot of people, but when you compare it to other films of the era, the sexual torture and sexualized brutality of the film made it something really original. To this day these issues are taboo and Ilsa did its best with the limited budget and ability that it had, to break down these walls and show the audience something it had never been seen before. Of course, any film in or around the Hollywood system that makes money will have people questioning when the sequel is going to debut. With Ilsa, film fans didn’t have to wait long. Ilsa, Harem of the Oil Sheiks was released the next year, and our film here today was released once again another year later. This time under the guidance of veteran sexual/sleaze filmmaker Jesus Franco. There is much to be said about Franco, the man delivered soft-core erotica on his own terms and even though his work was nowhere near as consistent as a lot of his peers, he still held his head much higher than the likes of other exploitation directors of the time like Bruno Mattei (someday Bruno is going to pound my face in for constantly zinging him I bet). He made erotica chic and often times delivered some style to go with his provocative work. Ilsa sadly doesn’t up the ante very much in terms of style or beauty mixed with erotica, but, well, it does deliver the erotica part. At the same time some might say you can’t ask much more from a Franco film, but I consider working with what the film had, it could have either been a whole lot nastier or it could have at least punched things up a bit in one form or another; sadly I can’t help but think of the film as a tiny bit on the bland side.

Ilsa She-Wolf of the SS, even after all of these years remains a well-talked about exploitation nasty and I think that speaks volumes for the staying power of something genuinely new. If hardened horror fans are to go into it expecting something that keeps up with Salo or the August Underground flicks, of course they are going to be disappointed but it is an unfair comparison to make and I hope that most viewers of that film take into account the system it was made in, the content it presented and the taboos that were being broken in the age it was made. Ilsa the Wicked Warden, well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s a bad film; a lot of these sort of films you can interchange the titles and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference; Wicked Warden at the very least has a few things going for it. A boob joke, most likely centered around Dyanne Thorne and her huge chest would probably go over pretty well right here, but I’ll keep things PG. Dyanne Thorne, and yes her chest too, do add to the film tremendously in their own respective fields I must say. It has been a while since first seeing She-Wolf, but I have to say that after Wicked Warden I can see where all the praise for Thorne comes from. She is looking much better here in my opinion (and attractiveness is even more subjective than comedy), and does well at developing her character even though she isn’t given a whole lot of change aside from this character being a lesbian rather than a man-hating heterosexual. How much does that change the course of things? Not really a whole lot. Torture is committed, young women are brutalized and there is a whole ton of nudity to make you feel uncomfortable watching with your family. Wicked Warden follows a less formulaic conclusion than the film this feature tries to spin-off of, but it’s a case of too little too late. If Wicked Warden were to break through more taboos, it could have become at least a more interesting film and if Franco had put to work some of his usual flare for creativity and beauty amongst the trashier side of things (as seen in Vampiros Lesbos), this at least could have been something produced either in a very good way, outrageously bad or any combination thereof. At the very least it could have been something interesting, and been highly memorable. As it is though, I hate to say it, but Ilsa the Wicked Warden for me is one of those flicks you watch, put back on your DVD shelf and have it slowly fade from memory. Then your only reason for re-watching it is just to refresh your memory of what it was actually about.

I am not giving Wicked Warden a horrible score or anything like that. It isn’t a terrible piece of work. It has decent production values for it’s budget, there’s plenty of genre fodder for those who are interested (Girls fighting in the shower! Huzzah!) but I can’t help but deduct points for there not being a whole lot else to it other than the fact that it’s an “Ilsa” movie. There are a couple of memorable characters aside from Dyanne Thorne’s in the film, but it just isn’t enough for me to re-think my two star score. Probably the lowest rating I’ve given a film in a good while, but that’s been due to selective film-watching more than anything. Like I’ve said, I would never list Wicked Warden on any “worst films ever made” list, but I for one found it to be fairly drab and lacking any real pace that could keep me too interested or involved. What can you say though, some claim it as one of the best of the series, I guess I’ll just have to search out the rest of the series and find out for myself (hopefully I can track down that one Bruceploitation Ilsa flick if that thing even exists… which, no, it does not) and hopefully you guys can join me. Remember kids, this is what videostores and netflix are for!



Uncategorized

House on the Edge of the Park

Posted by On October - 13 - 2008
Plot Outline: Alex is a psychopath who gets his kicks from raping women and sadistically torturing people. Like any good lunatic though, Alex likes to keep up a steady job. He and his best friend Ricky both work as mechanics in a autoshop where they spend their days waiting to go out at night and ‘boogie’! As they are gearing up for a night on the town though, a car with two wealthy young people pull up. The young man driving the car puts some pressure on Alex to help him get his car fixed, so Ricky steps in and takes care of the problem. The young driver fills us in that he is heading to a small ‘get together’ at a close friend’s house, so Alex being the gentleman he is, invites both himself and Ricky to tag along. Alex is eyeing the young girl in the car, and Ricky is almost borderline retarded. So they show up at the party, and the young girl from the car keeps teasing Alex sexually until he gets furious. The group taunts Ricky, making him dance for them (the man just can’t dance) and eventually humiliating him at poker. Alex does what he does best, he pulls out a razor blade and forces everyone to deal with his insanity. Now these kids are going to have to live through a night they’ll never forget.


  


The Review: Here at Varied Celluloid, I have a very scientific way of choosing which films I want to review. I just review what I feel like watching. So for anyone who might be wondering why I would review House on the Edge of the Park before delving into the early king of the home invasion films, Last House on the Left, it’s based on the sole reason that I feel House on the Edge of the Park is a bit easier to watch. I don’t like starting out comparing the two films because that’s just what you expect every reviewer to do. Yes, this film does have the same star as Last House and he plays essentially the same role, and yes the plots are even highly similar when compared to one another but don’t let that detract you from viewing the film because you may actually be shocked into enjoying this film more than Craven’s picture. A very boisterous comment indeed, who am I to say such a thing? I’m nobody, it’s just an opinion. I too enjoy Last House to a great degree, but it’s hardly the type that could ever register as flawless. Not in anyone’s book. House on the Edge of the Park brings a lot of the things to the table that Craven had already pounded out in his film, but Deodato brings a completely different approach to the Home Invasion film. He delivers a film with a surprisingly minimal amount of gore and is as sleazy and disturbing as you would expect. He doesn’t just deliver some flick to play at the drive-in, he also includes a reverse morality play that is bound to mess with the head’s of anyone who might be watching the film for anything more than just seeing the sleaze played out on the screen. If you came for a film that will make your skin crawl, no doubt about it you may find it in this film, but sandwiched in between all of this is some genuine filmmaking talent. It could be all in my head, just trying to legitimize my love for exploitation cinema, but if so don’t let me know about it. Ruggero Deodato may not make it into any of those famous books about foreign cinema. Robert Maltin and Roger Ebert may never sing of his glory, but he’ll always have a place in the hart of cult cinema fans. Well, select fans. There wasn’t really a visual pattern between his different films, Cannibal Holocaust seemed to have been his most technically brilliant film, but unlike the majority of other similar directors in Italy at the time, he knew how to tell a story and he knew how to challenge his audience. Not just deliver buckets of pointless gore.

What drew me to the film on my first viewing wasn’t just the great (for an exploitation film of course) performances given by Hess and John Morghen, although both lived up to their reputations with the film, it was the morality tale in the film. My first reaction was negative, because we are literally given no one to root for in the film because every person is sickening. The people whom we are expected to grow sympathetic for, the victims, are nothing more than spoiled kids who make fun of our lower class goons. From the very beginning they are antagonistic and patronizing to these guys and the audience knows what will eventually happen. It’s like slapping a bull in the face, at first when Hess begins taking revenge on these saps it doesn’t seem too ridiculous to view him as the actual hero of the film. The first scene in the film shows him raping a woman after pulling her over, but this case is different. These people actually deserve a good slap, but then things start getting sadistic and demeaning and even though we don’t care for these spoiled brats, we still care that another human being could treat someone like this. The film is always moving, with the audience always unsure of their own personal attachments to the characters. Who is the ‘good’ one and who is the ‘bad’? I normally wouldn’t care for such relative morality, but I don’t think Deodato was getting at that. There is some humanity in some of these characters, and you might be shocked by the end of the film to see who is the most genuinely decent. I’m not going to sit here preaching at you and try to convince you that there is some huge underlying statement being made in the film. That it is somehow deep or intellectual to enjoy the film, not at all. If you watch it and find such things, that’s just an added bonus. For what it is, House on the Edge of the Park is an amazing piece of cinematic exploitation. There aren’t any gruesome death scenes, but there are some moments where you can’t help but feel a little dirty for sitting through such a film. The never ending threats of rape, followed by actual rapings and immense brutality, I imagine might could make some viewers just a little more than disturbed while watching the film. The sexual violence never seems to stop throughout the film and if that is a problem for you, then it might be smart to just pass this one on by. Women are beaten, raped and exposed more times than I dare count. It’s an exploitation film though, it comes with the territory. You don’t watch a film like this to feel good about society, yet the nihilism portrayed here might be a bit too much for some of the less receptive audiences.

Now, as I said above the performances given in the film are great by exploitation standards. What I mean by that is you can’t judge this film in the same regards as you would a serious drama. The dialogue in the film is stilted, rigid, cheesy and bares little resemblance to anything you could see someone saying in real life but I’m only stating the obvious. It was probably relatively low budget, with a majority of the dialogue dubbed in later and had only few intentions in the eyes of the producers. There’s a big difference, and the only real way to judge the performances is how well they fit into everything. John Morghen probably gives the standout performance, he is so over the top that he ranges from annoying to hilarious. He keeps the film interesting in my opinion, and for the most part he manages himself well. The sequence in which the snobs have him dancing, and almost stripping, in front of them is just plain bad. Morghen should never be asked to dance in any film he is ever in, because it is a terrible thing to see. No offense to the man, I think he’s a brilliant actor in the realm of cult cinema, but his dance moves look like a small child after receiving electro shock therapy or perhaps a lobotomy. David Hess is complained about often that he is just repeating his role from Last House on the Left, and maybe that’s true but thankfully we don’t have a soundtrack contributed by him this time around. The man just looks rough, and he’s twice as intimidating. He hams it up a bit here, but he’s good at what he does. If we didn’t buy the violent persona the film would fail, but Hess puts up a great show. Whether it’s better than Krug from Last House on the Left or not is debatable, but it is at least on the same level. Rugerro Deodato may never be accused of being a flashy director, but he gets his point across. There are few moments in the film that leave you in awe because of artistic decoration, but he knows how to keep things moving and focused that’s for sure. He tells this nihilistic and bleak story without pulling any punches. No intentional humor that I can recall and no breaks away from the story. There are no bumbling cops searching for the teens (ala Last House on the Left) and there are no characters introduced in the story who don’t go through this catastrophic turn of events. The film is meant to hit you hard, fast and leave you dazed. If it achieves it’s goal is up to the viewer, but I wouldn’t be giving it such a high rating if it didn’t do so for me. The soundtrack for the film can be a little weak at moments, especially any time the lame disco breaks take place, but the haunting theme song works very well in the film. Audio maestro Riz Ortolani returns to the Deodato stable delivering a soundtrack that doesn’t quite reach the high standards of the ‘weird-but-good’ Cannibal Holicaust score, but definitely deserves it’s own mention in any review.

Let’s make no bones about it though, this is definitely a B-Movie. An exploitation film. You should know what to expect, if you don’t then god help you. It contains the usual things that you might hear average critics rail on but if you don’t mind hearing a story told in the most unconventional of methods and you don’t mind getting a little grit on yourself then take this one out for a spin. If it disturbs you, leaves you breathless or makes you want to slam your fists down on the dvd player in frustration that someone could be so sick; then the film is doing what it’s supposed to. Revulsion is the highest achievement a film like this should strive for. I’m giving it a four on my measly scale. It’s not a film that everyone can just pick up and fall in love with, but for that select niche of freaks and weirdoes (like myself) who actually seek films like this out you may find a new classic.



Uncategorized
NAVIGATION

VIDEO

TAGS

2 3 4 art asian asian 4 explo hor kungfu pink pinky rev

WP Cumulus Flash tag cloud by Roy Tanck requires Flash Player 9 or better.

Sponsors

About Me

Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.

Twitter

    Photos