Archives for November 2011 | Varied Celluloid

Archive for November, 2011

Jerry “The King” Lawler talks Memphis Heat December 1st

Posted by Josh Samford On November - 28 - 2011
I don’t know what it is, but if you get a decent number of film geeks together, at some point the discussion will turn to professional wrestling. Certainly within my generation, it seems that many geeks are either very open or totally closeted wrestling fans. There’s something fantastical about this particular form of entertainment that draws us in. Maybe it is the storytelling, or maybe it is just that it is a niche segment of pop culture, but many geeks (like myself) are drawn to this world of sports entertainment.

Memphis Heat: The True Story of Memphis Wrasslin’ is a documentary that looks to examine one of the most bombastic sections of pro-wrestling history. The Memphis territory! A notoriously rowdy crowd that took their wrestling very serious, and in a time where kayfabe was strictly enforced, this was a era in wrestling that could never be duplicated. Featuring numerous interviews with those who were there, Memphis Heat is even being referred to as one of the best films of the year!

On December 1st, Jerry “the King” Lawler, who stars in the documentary and was a God within Memphis during this period, will be celebrating his birthday and talking on NPR about Memphis Heat: The True Story of Memphis Wrasslin’. Lawler will speak with Bob Edwards about the film, as well as his time with the WWE, and you can tune in on Sirius/XM Public Radio (XM 121/Sirius 205) Thursday, December 1. The show will also run on NPR’s Bob Edwards Show the weekend of December 3/4th (depending on local airtimes). Tune in and check it out!

“Outrage” Review

Posted by Josh Samford On November - 14 - 2011

A film that has divided audiences everywhere that it has been discussed, today Varied Celluloid looks at Takeshi Kitano’s Outrage. A film with very little subtext, it serves as a sugary treat for fans of ultra-violent crime films.

The Plot: The plot for Outrage concerns a struggle for power amongst Tokyo’s yakuza clans. Although today the yakuza have a slightly more business-friendly face, Outrage shows that the Japanese mafia still knows how to get their hands dirty. The story begins with a warning traveling down the yakuza hierarchy, starting from the main boss Sekiuchi (Soichiro Kitamura) and then coming to his main lieutenant Kato (Tomokazu Miura), and then he finally directs it to the man that the warning was initially made for: Ikemoto (Jun Kunimura), a lower boss within the family. It seems that Ikemoto has ties with the Murase crime family, due to the two gangster bosses swearing an oath to one another while in jail, but this friendship outside of the family doesn’t sit well with the higher ups. Knowing that trouble will surely brew if he doesn’t make a move, Ikemoto orders his right-hand man Otomo (Takeshi Kitano) to take a crew and open up a office on the Murase families main turf. This is seen as a less offensive way to send a message back to the bosses, but this small message then spirals into a full-on yakuza bloodbath.

Outrage

Posted by Josh Samford On November - 14 - 2011

Outrage (2010)
Director: Takeshi Kitano
Writers: Takeshi Kitano
Starring: Takeshi Kitano, Kippei Shiina and Jun Kunimura



The Plot: The plot for Outrage concerns a struggle for power amongst Tokyo’s yakuza clans. Although today the yakuza have a slightly more business-friendly face, Outrage shows that the Japanese mafia still knows how to get their hands dirty. The story begins with a warning traveling down the yakuza hierarchy, starting from the main boss Sekiuchi (Soichiro Kitamura) and then coming to his main lieutenant Kato (Tomokazu Miura), and then he finally directs it to the man that the warning was initially made for: Ikemoto (Jun Kunimura), a lower boss within the family. It seems that Ikemoto has ties with the Murase crime family, due to the two gangster bosses swearing an oath to one another while in jail, but this friendship outside of the family doesn’t sit well with the higher ups. Knowing that trouble will surely brew if he doesn’t make a move, Ikemoto orders his right-hand man Otomo (Takeshi Kitano) to take a crew and open up a office on the Murase families main turf. This is seen as a less offensive way to send a message back to the bosses, but this small message then spirals into a full-on yakuza bloodbath.

The Review
Takeshi Kitano’s Outrage may be the most “gangster” film that the director has ever made. Easily combining every potential combination of macho bravado that has ever been seen in any of his tales of cops and robbers, Outrage could very well be seen as Kitano completely pandering to his audience. Within recent years, the director has stepped out and made more wildly experimental films than at any other point in his varied career. Dolls was a bizarre, yet stylish, look at love and longing, but it was told without any form of realistic logic. Then there was the incomprehensible Takeshis which nearly ended my own personal love affair with the filmmaker’s work. Outrage has been touted as a return to form, where the popular comedian returns to what he is best known for: criminal violence. He cut his teeth as a director on projects such as Violent Cop, Sonatine and Hana-bi, and all were films that portrayed a slightly darker view of morality. Outrage is a much more procedural film than anything he has ever done. However, this is not a documentary style crime film. The best way to describe it would be Tony Montana-esque in its portrayal of modern crime, but desaturated in both its look and emotion. Packed with more bloodshed than all of his previous films combined, Outrage is certain to push a few buttons.

The positive attributes for having this be the most “gangster” film of Kitano’s career are obvious: it is incredibly cool. Filled to the brim with ferocious violence and machismo, Kitano lets himself run loose inside the world of the Yakuza in a fashion that doesn’t seem to acknowledge reality. After seeing this film, one would imagine the Yakuza of Japan racking up more bloodshed than the Bloods and Crips during the early nineties. At all times, characters seem as if they are posing for the camera instead of legitimately emoting. The male cast ups their masculinity to a level that leaves the earth’s stratosphere. This sometimes comes across as being over-the-top, and a bit silly, but for the most part Kitano manages to deliver on the “hip” factor whilst pandering to his audience. Pandering is a dirty word, I realize, but you can hardly say he is doing much else. Indeed, this seems like the sort of film that a teenager imagines when trying to conjure up visions of the most violent and macho crime film ever made. Sure, it doesn’t reach levels of outright goriness, but human life is shown as fickle throughout, and Kitano even becomes elaborate in his forms of torture and death. Expect to see dentist tools used in exceptionally brutal ways, as well as a near-decapitation sequence that has to be seen to be believed. The ferocity of Outrage jumps off the screen right from its start, and it never dares to relent.

The film embellishes on the enormous violence of the yakuza, and does not attempt to give much more in terms of depth or meaning. This isn’t the Kitano of old, where violence came from out of the dark within a moment’s notice. Outrage portrays its violence in a very methodical way, filling the film with a sense of oncoming tragedy right from its very start. Even when violence isn’t crashing down on our protagonists, the film is establishing reasoning for eventual violence. Death and bloodshed seem inevitable within this world that Kitano has crafted, and although the subject matter is similar to what he has done before, the execution is done in a much different way. Previously Kitano used violence as a means to show the fragility of life and the sudden impact that one moment can have (such as the firing of a bullet), but gone is that sense of existential dread that made the director a known figure in world cinema. Instead, he focuses on a much more procedural story that looks to examine the changes in organized crime. Similar titles to this would be the Italian crime film Gomorrah, or even the works of Johnnie To. In particular, Outrage plays out like a much more violent take on To’s Election series.

Maybe the clue to Kitano’s intentions are right in the title. Maybe the inevitable goal was to create outrage amongst those who might be offended. Maybe Kitano set his film into hyperdrive for the sole reason of giving the audience an overdose on everything that they think they want. Kitano’s story is terribly conventional by his standards. The story establishes warring factions who only serve the purpose of showcasing many scenes of violence and style. The few clues that we have in finding further depth within the story seems to be in the character of Otomo, played by Kitano. He is a character who is out of place within the yakuza element, due to his old-fashioned views of honor. This new yakuza that the film introduces, seems only focused on greed and victory. Towards the end of the film Otomo has only one scene that punctuates the aura of “bravado” that encompasses all of the main cast, where he all but admits that that times have changed. This is one of the few hints that I found where Kitano seemed to have something legitimate to say. Perhaps, coming off of the critical lambasting that his recent films have had for their experimentation, Kitano too feels as if his touches of sentimentality have left him out of touch with an audience that simply demands more gangster films. Outrage then plays out as both as a ruthlessly “gangster” tale, but also a sarcastic and biting answer to his most prevalent critics. If sources are correct, it seems that Kitano made the film with the intentions of creating something entirely financially viable. He even crafted the death scenes well before the actual story was ever put into place, which seems to compliment the theory that the film is ultimately a satirical answer to his most ruthless critics.


The Conclusion
When I think about the reasons that I like Outrage, I think about the moments that seem to resemble Kitano at his best. The stark characters, the very static camera movement on beautiful scenery, and the ambivalent coolness of the characters, all of this can be found in Outrage at various point. The overall goal of the film is a bit shrouded to me as a viewer, but I enjoyed the ride. Whether or not the supposed Outrage 2, that was hinted at during the credits, actually comes into fruition or is actually just another joke at the expense of a blood-thirsty audience, I do not know. Regardless, no matter what Kitano does next, I am once again excited to see this man’s work.




“MST3K: The Brute Man” Review

Posted by Josh Samford On November - 12 - 2011

We are back with our final review from the Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXII boxset! We have certainly saved the strangest film for our last, as The Brute Man defies all forms of logic! If you’ve ever wondered where The Rondo Awards received their name, then read this review and discover the magic of Mr. Rondo Hatton!

The Plot: Mike Nelson is trapped on the Satellite of Love with his best friends in the whole world… and they just so happen to be robots. This crew of misfits are forced, by the evil Dr. Forrester, to endure many incredibly bad movies. The only thing that makes this process bearable is the fact that they riff and crack jokes during the entire ordeal. Their film for the day is The Brute Man, which is an odd “prequel” of sorts to The House of Horrors. It follows a character known as “The Creeper,” AKA: Hal Moffet (Rondo Hatton), who is a deformed monster of a man searching for vengeance. You see, The Creeper wasn’t always the lumbering monster that he now appears to be. He was once a college athlete who was caught in a love triangle between his roommate and the girl of both of their dreams. When his roommate set him up with a series of wrong answers during chemistry class, Hal was forced to stay in the lab and concoct the right theorem. While dealing heavily with a lethal combination of chemicals, Hal accidentally caused an explosion that would forever change his life. Due to his glands being effected by these chemicals, Hal’s face began to deform and he became a wholly different person. Now, with society looking down on him as a monster, Hal becomes The Creeper and is out to destroy everyone who could be seen as vaguely responsible for this horrid series of events that have ruined his life.

MST3K: Brute Man, The

Posted by Josh Samford On November - 12 - 2011

MST3K: The Brute Man (1996, original air date)
Starring: Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Trace Beaulieu



The Plot: Mike Nelson is trapped on the Satellite of Love with his best friends in the whole world… and they just so happen to be robots. This crew of misfits are forced, by the evil Dr. Forrester, to endure many incredibly bad movies. The only thing that makes this process bearable is the fact that they riff and crack jokes during the entire ordeal. Their film for the day is The Brute Man, which is an odd “prequel” of sorts to The House of Horrors. It follows a character known as “The Creeper,” AKA: Hal Moffet (Rondo Hatton), who is a deformed monster of a man searching for vengeance. You see, The Creeper wasn’t always the lumbering monster that he now appears to be. He was once a college athlete who was caught in a love triangle between his roommate and the girl of both of their dreams. When his roommate set him up with a series of wrong answers during chemistry class, Hal was forced to stay in the lab and concoct the right theorem. While dealing heavily with a lethal combination of chemicals, Hal accidentally caused an explosion that would forever change his life. Due to his glands being effected by these chemicals, Hal’s face began to deform and he became a wholly different person. Now, with society looking down on him as a monster, Hal becomes The Creeper and is out to destroy everyone who could be seen as vaguely responsible for this horrid series of events that have ruined his life.

The Review
If you are a horror movie fan and you have been around the internet for more than a year, you may have seen “The Rondo Awards” pop up on more than a few occasions. A horror movie themed award, the Rondo has developed into one of the more widely touted and thoroughly respected titles within the horror movie community. However, if you are like me, you may have occasionally wondered precisely where the title “Rondo” came from, and just whose face is found on the statue that is given to recipients of the award. Now, thanks to Mystery Science Theater 3000, this award is no longer the enigma that it once was. Rondo Hatton was an actor with a very distinguished face (more on this later), and his specialty in life turned out to be horror movies. Although roles were most assuredly limited for the actor, he made the best of his short career within the entertainment industry. The Brute Man is one of his few credits, and it may be one of his very best performance. That does not mean that it is a certifiably “good” movie. That is certainly not the case here, as the movie is made with a number of amateurish performances, and it lacks a great deal in its narrative focus focus. This amateurish aspect of the production of course opened the doors for it to become a part of Mystery Science Theater 3000 lore, but it still remains a slightly alluring title. As MST3K cast member Mary Jo Pehl says in her introduction for the film, it is certainly one of the most harsh and bleak movies to have ever made it on the show.

The film itself is actually surprisingly well made. Normally, if a film makes it to MST3K, people naturally assume that it is going to be one of the worst films ever made. A cursory glance at the IMDB reinforces this due to the number of illogical votes for any movie that has ever been presented on the show. However, The Brute Man really isn’t all that bad. It isn’t great, nor exceptional, but it does seem competent. In fact, it plays out like many older horror films generally do. There’s some decent suspense, a intriguing story, and the black and white photography is solid (though it can get dark during certain moments). Generally, there’s a quality use of shadow that goes along throughout the movie, and actor Rondo Hatton has a strong face just perfect for those shadows. The movie seems to be a technically apt piece of work in most regards, but some of the acting certainly leaves a lot to be imagined. Rondo was never considered much of an actor, and although he is a presence in this film, his line delivery is awful. He was never formally trained, but was instead used because of his exceptionally big nose and forehead which was a deformity caused by damage to the pituitary gland. As with any movie that might capitalize on its central character having real physical abnormalities, this title is a bit over-the-top in many regards. The acting by the rest of the cast, is adequate at best. The performances, especially during expositional scenes, lack passion or actual character depth. The film has a very strange path in that regard. It seems as if we will have scene after scene of Rondo stalking the streets, or killing some poor fool, but then we will counter these much more interesting moments with rather bland scenes of police officers prattling on about seemingly nothing.

The use of Rondo Hatton’s deformity as a plot device is certainly something done in poor taste. Taking a great deal from Rondo’s own personal life story, the film treats him like a sideshow attraction. Whether or not it is based upon reality or not, it seems fairly offensive that his looks are continually insulted throughout the duration of the movie. Rondo Hatton’s appearance was certainly different from “normal,” but his deformities weren’t so completely unconventional as to get the reactions that he does throughout this movie. I commend the MST3K crew for avoiding attacks on Rondo’s deformity, which would have been in even worse taste than the actual plot for this movie. Although there are a few zings here and there, the majority of the jokes at Rondo’s expense seem to play him up as if he were a lug-head. This isn’t far from being offensive, but it at least leaves behind simple jokes at the expense of Rondo’s nose or specific abnormalities.

As with numerous titles in MST3K history that do not meet the time length necessary for the show, the “theater” segment of the episode begins with a short film. This time out, The Chicken of Tomorrow is our short. Featuring a title that is about as dumb as any film could ever have, the short essentially follows the work that goes on inside of a chicken farm. These seemingly mundane activities turn out to be potentially shocking footage for animal lovers. The filmmakers glance over what they see as normal behavior, but the harsh handling of the chickens within this short may come across as both abusive and callous to modern viewers. These chickens are thrown around without any sort of sentiment, and the harsh reality of what goes on before these chickens are slaughtered becomes wholly apparent to the viewer. It is the sort of behavior seen in current PETA videos which showcase animals being butchered, but in the past our society wasn’t as oblivious to the reality of what it takes to get a meal on their table. Although some of the footage might seem a wee bit eye-raising for some viewers, Mike and the bots somehow use their chicken-related puns in order to dull down any impact that the short might have.

Featuring the most special features out of any disc on the Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXII boxset, The Brute Man has two very interesting featurettes, as well as the previously mentioned introduction by Mary Jo Pehl. The two featurettes are very solid. The first little documentary covers Rondo Hatton himself, and tells his rather sad story. A man who was transformed in a very similar way to The Creeer, the documentary goes into his entire life story and shows a very different look at this legend within the horror business. Indeed, I would recommend this box set for this one thirty minute documentary alone because it adds a considerable amount of weight to any viewing of Rondo’s work. The second featurette is a “Making of” made for Mystery Science Theater 3000 back in 1997. I had actually seen this little featurette before via YouTube, but to see it in higher quality was definitely a joy. Plenty of the jokes are worth sitting through multiple times, because this far from your average look behind the scenes of a television show.


The Conclusion
What a weird basis for a movie. This sort of thing would be considered too patently offensive to do in this day and age, but something like this wasn’t uncommon during the decades following Tod Browning’s Freaks. The Brute Man pushes the envelope for general weirdness in its conceptual idea, but the actual execution is very average. Still, this is a decent episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Although it seems that the guys were a bit limited in what they could riff on, the jokes get plenty of laughs and overall there’s plenty of entertainment here. I give the episode a three out of five.




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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.

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