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Criminal Woman: Killing Melody

Posted by Josh Samford On April - 23 - 2010
The Plot: Reiko Ike plays Maki, a young woman whose father was forced to distribute illegal drugs and then laid to waste by the ruthless Oba clan. After the murder of her father, these Yakuza came back and raped the young girl. With vengeance on her mind, she located her first target and slashed him dead in a club. She is immediately incarcerated, but refuses to take a lenient sentence by confessing the motivation of her crime. She spends her time in prison, mostly isolated from the other inmates. She immediately is at odds with Masao (Miki Sugamoto) but after a fight between the two, she is able to at least live amongst the girls. She even makes friends with most of them, who ultimately decide to help her in her quest for revenge after they are all released from prison. Masao however remains as distant as possible, because unknown to Maki, she is Hayama’s (leader of the Oba clan) main woman. Maki goes ahead with her plan however and soon turns the entire Oba clan on its head by staging a war between their group and another yakuza clan in the area. Will Maki’s plan come to fruition and will her vengeance be fulfilled?

The Review
If you’ve been following Varied Celluloid within the past six months or so, you’ll have noticed an influx of Pinky Violence films. As with many things, I am more than a little late in discovering these amazing pieces of cinematic history. Their history is rich and here in North America they have started to really gain an audience within the past few years. No doubt this resurgence comes from Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez bringing such films as Lady Snowblood and various yakuza movies to the forefront. The timely release of the Pinky Violence Collection from Panik House (which this film is found on) has also helped to spread their notoriety. The pinky violence genre itself is interesting in the fact that it carries weight with modern audiences more than any other cult genre from seventies-era Japan. Sure, the yakuza pictures of Kinji Fukasaku certainly had the retro fashion that the pinky violence genre does, but the yakuza market is very much stuck within a cultural crevasse. They are films made about a subculture that few are going to instantly have a history with or know their customs. It also doesn’t help that they are uniquely and predominantly male-only films. The pinky violence films of Toei are action filled masterpieces that push their unbridled Girl Power right in your face and have little regard for cultural dispositions. Criminal Woman: Killing Melody is a perfect example of this. Although not a film shot by a luminary of the genre such as Norifumi Suzuki, Teruo Ishii or Yasuharu Hasebe, director Atsushi Mihori would direct this stunning cult item and deliver a film that seems to knock on all pillars of the genre and still add enough intriguing elements that allow it to become something different and new.

These new and interesting concepts are no doubt the entirely exploitative elements that are introduced to the genre, with a considerable focus on the action side of the storytelling rather than simply the fashion and attitude. Not that the pinky violence movement needed any additional exploitation, but for once that doesn’t simply mean more bare breasts. Even though you can be certain that this film features plenty of those. No, it’s the violence, the outrageousness and the sadism of key scenes in Criminal Woman: Killing Melody that give it a memorable edge over some of the more simply sexy films of the time. It’s a little over the top, and when you’re saying that about movies that usually feature girls wearing sunglasses bigger than their heads kicking the tar out of guys who outweigh them two times over, you know it means something. There are some interesting characters introduced, such as a gangster who can spit out tiny metal stars that stick in the flesh of his enemies. This character is inconsequential to the main story and I truthfully can’t even remember whether he was given a name throughout; but his inclusion in several scenes gives him a personality that stands out. Another great character is the “wild man” Tetsu, who is unequivocally unhinged in his performance. An alcohol swilling lunatic with frizzy hair, a leather jacket and a devil may care attitude. Although the character is unfortunately introduced halfway through the movie and doesn’t get as much screen time as I would have enjoyed, he grabs your attention and holds it with each scene he takes part in. His consistent laughing and dialogue shouted-so-as-to-be-intense performance easily makes him the most interesting male in the main cast. Although he is almost shown up by another yakuza who actually wields a chainsaw during a torture sequence! Who ever thought they would see a chainsaw in a Ike/Sugimoto film?

Reiko Ike and Miki Sugimoto, the angels (or devils) of this genre, deliver once again in roles that pit the two against one another in a battle for supremacy. This actually leads to what I would consider one of the more visually memorable moments in all of their work together. During the prison sequence of the film these two goddesses of course rub each other the wrong way and are lead to an overblown catfight, but the scene is upped a notch by having the two women clench a cloth between their teeth and arm and the first one to let go is deemed the loser. The fight sequence is overly long and pushes the limits of interest, but visually it’s a very compelling moment and probably the one sequence that is really burned into the mind of its viewers after the closing credits fade away. The two girls once again couldn’t look any better and are a staple for judging beauty, in my opinion. Reiko Ike, who always looked far more mature than her actual age, starts the film off dressed as a school girl as she takes her revenge on one of the gangsters who enslaved her father and raped her. During these moments, Ike may have set the bar for her beauty because she has that simple girl next door look and it suits her so well. In many films she was dolled up and dressed in some pretty over the top costumes; but she shows her natural beauty here and she wears it so well. Miki Sugimoto is as stunning as usual, wearing a full yakuza tattoo that of course covers one of her bare breasts, another staple of the genre. Her moody character gives her a sexy stagger to almost all of her actions, as you can never tell exactly what team she is playing for. Although I hate to spend so much time talking about the beauty of these talented women, I can’t help but make mention of it because these films are such a celebration of this fact and these two women sold out theaters due to the lovely nature of their features. After so many years, not much has changed as young men like myself still find these women and fail to find any flaws.

The film presents a revenge inspired Yojimbo-like fable set in the lawless and feudal yakuza underworld that permeated 1970′s Japanese cinema. Although Toshiro Mifune’s character may not have had any personal motivation behind his actions in Yojimbo, Reiko Ike proves to be a different beast entirely as she uses her womanly ways to manipulate these men and force themselves into war. In the same way that the yakuza film of the time was separating itself from what had come previous, by showing the more modern and lawless yakuza who no longer lived by their own ethical code (ie: Battles Without Honor and Humanity, Sympathy For the Underdog), Criminal Woman: Killing Melody illustrates the more vengeful side of the fable. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned as they say, and this journey through female vengeance ultimately proves to be empowering despite the exploitation angle. Scenes such as the torture sequence, which once again features some very heavy sadomasochistic imagery involving ropes and cigarette burns, are certainly there to entice those members of the audience who might be into that sort of thing – there’s still a very enlightened attitude in much of what goes on. Director Atsushi Mihori demonstrates that while he may not have been an overly experienced director (IMDB lists this as his only credit, but Panik House says he also directed a trilogy of films called “Cruel High School – Bad Boy” aka: Hijo Gakuen – Waru), whoever this man was he certainly had a flair for his job. He delivers a very stylish and visual film, where he uses great composition and framing skills to paint this lurid and colorful world of wild characters and outrageous acts. The film some times borders on the cartoonish, yet the visual nature of the film makes it rich and respectable; amidst all of the sleaze.

The Trivia
  • The final film featuring Miki Sugimoto and Reiko Ike together, afterwards they would both continue acting but not together. Neither actress would be featured in a film after the conclusion of the 1970′s. Ike would be embroiled in controversy after a drug charge and Sugimoto would go on to be married and settle down.

  • It is claimed that Reiko Ike initially had some issues with Toei over contractual disputes at some point, which saw Miki Sugimoto becoming more heavily promoted at the time. When the two were often paired together and their cat-fights would inevitably happen – Miki was often seen as the winner. As is the case in much of this film.

  • The Conclusion
    There is no getting past it, I really loved Criminal Woman: Killing Melody. It is a testament to the fun that one can have with this genre and while these pictures may not be packed to the brim with character depth or any kind of emotional baggage, they are the epitome of cinema as entertainment. If you haven’t experienced a film of this sort yet, then … Killing Melody would certainly make for a fun place to start!


    Posted by Josh Samford On April - 16 - 2010
    The Plot: Jake “Tiger” Sharp (Michael Sopkiw) is a former police officer who has been released after seven years of incarceration. He was guilty of murder in his former life, after killing the man responsible for his wife’s death. After his release he turns to killing for a living, being hired on as an assassin, but he finds that he simply doesn’t have the stomach for violence any longer. He does however hang on to the weapon that his would-be employer passes on to him. A SPAS shotgun which can fire grenades as well as a number of varying projectile weapons. Tiger decides to run away from his worries and head back to his small Georgian home town. Things aren’t so simple for Tiger though, as he finds his old home town has been inundated with hunters looking to get rich off of a foreign investment group which is paying high dollar for deer pelts. Tiger, seeing the truckloads of dead animals and seeing the forests being ravaged by dumb rednecks – he can’t take any more. Along with Connie, his long lost daughter who stumbles into his life with very little reason or established motivation, he will put an end to this crusade of butchery! Although, he may have to fight off a seemingly ENDLESS number of hunters in the area.

    The Review
    Lamberto Bava is one of my favorite directors from the laundry list of Italian exploitation filmmakers that never made it huge over here in the United States. Even though his father is easily one of the most recognizable filmmakers in the history of Italian film, that popularity hasn’t really been passed on to his son. The reason for this fact is pretty easy and as much as it pains me to say it… Lamberto has had a relatively spotty career. Aside from a hand full of relatively great genre pictures, the majority of his output can be pretty contrived. Despite this fact, even the worst of these titles for me holds at least some interest or entertainment value. Blastfighter, made in the mid-eighties, is Bava trying his hand at the action genre. Not just any particular kind of action title either, this is a hillbilly action caper! Made by Italians! If at this point you’re thinking that this sounds like it’ll end up being a hot mess, you would be correct! Now, there are two vantage points that you can look from when approaching a film such as this one. You can either look at it as you would any other movie, approaching with analytical reason and attention to detail, or you can simply admit that this is going to be a bad movie so why not try and enjoy yourself? I generally do not favor the “check your brain at the door” type of review, even though I am excessively guilty of it, but a film such as Blastfighter deserves at least some sympathy from its audience as well as myself as a “critic”.

    If you’ve heard my voice on the VCinema Podcast, then you probably already know that I’m a proud southerner. Although you may think this means I’ll be particularly hard on Blastfighter due to its brazen inaccuracies in southern culture and the disregard for any kind of actual authenticity, you would be wrong. Let’s be honest here, southerners being shown as rednecks sharing an IQ with the same amount of digits that they can find on their left hand, isn’t exactly new. We’re all fully aware of the stereotypes and this is a film made by those fed on a strict diet of Hollywood archetypes. So when I see a group of guys walk up to a singular man in the forest and tell him “ya’ll get your ass off this hill”, I don’t let it bug me. In fact, I tend to love stuff like that because it becomes something of an injoke for me. How anyone could think the word ya’ll could be used in a singular form is outside of my realm of understanding, but it produces a chuckle every time I hear it in a cheap low budget exploitation movie. The cultural carelessness is certainly a factor in why I tend to enjoy the movie myself, but for the rest of the world what little entertainment is going to be derived from a film like Blasfighter is going to likely be based off of the ridiculous action set pieces.

    For a movie that was likely shot on a shoestring budget to say the least, I have to commend Lamberto for plugging as many vehicular explosions into this film as could logically be tolerated. Although the movie is slow to start, once the first truck initially goes up in flames; all of its brothers are just around the bend. Where most low budget titles from this time and era were lucky to get one vehicle to blow up in their movie, Blastfighter must have at least nine or ten. Each one going off in different scenes, one after the other. For a movie of this caliber, I have to admit it’s very effective in the action department. However, that doesn’t excuse it enough nor offer enough salvation for me to tell you the audience that this is a good movie. Truthfully, it’s not a great bad movie either. Starting off as a Deliverance style “normal man at odds with the psychotic hillbilly locals” genre picture, it morphs into a First Blood Rambo knockoff with a strange focus on conservationism. The last thirty minutes really does morph into First Blood, down to the sequence with Rambo stealth-killing all of the police officers. One reason the two sequences are too different to work is that in one film you have the police and the national guard all willing to risk their lives to hunt down one man, because that is their job. In Blastfighter, you have an endless number of hunters running head first into the forest looking to commit murder for apparently no reason in particular. The ultimate problem with Blastfighter comes from the fact that it’s too dumb to be taken serious and it’s not broad or dumb enough to be lumped in there with low budget action classics like Lady Terminator or The Stabilizer.

    Unfortunately Blastfighter is an overall bland mix that reaches certain levels of greatness, but then drops the ball just as things are getting interesting. Such is the case in almost all facets of the feature. For example, look at the electronic synth score that starts the movie off: it’s absolutely great. It brings up memories of delirious eighties cheese and gets your fist pumping. Then in short order the film dumps a cover of the Kenny Rogers tune “Evening Star” over our head, which is belted out by some wannabe starlet. Then it is repeated, over and over again! Our leading man, Jake “Tiger” Sharp (GREAT name) has some really interesting heroic qualities to him such as being an ex-cop who was placed in jail for seeking revenge. That’s a great backstory for a tough guy, and then we find out he is now a hitman as well? You can’t go wrong with this guy! Wait, no, I take that back, yes you can. Tiger might be the girliest tough guy to ever grace the screen. He fights back against hunters… because they kill dear. It’s not that I’m not sympathetic to ecological friendly people or those who have a great love for animals; but eighties action heroes usually fight for loftier goals in my book. They fight against nuclear devastation, life or death situations and not in order to save deers. It doesn’t stop there however, when his daughter first shows up on the scene he stumbles upon her after she breaks into his cabin. Tiger questions the girl and is quickly shouted down by the young woman who refuses to explain who she actually is. So what does Tiger do? Slap her? Kick her out? CALL THE POLICE? No, he takes his pillow and blanket so he can sleep on his own porch. Puzzling that this tough guy wouldn’t even be curious who this woman is that is kicking him our of his own home, much less take some kind of action in order to stop the situation. Then there’s the much ballyhooed SPAS shotgun that we get, which Tiger (what a great name for a leading man, did I mention that?) is given for an assassination job, which unfortunately gets about as much use as the script supervisor likely did on the picture.

    The Conclusion
    It’s a film where the sum of its parts are actually greater than it on a whole. There are moments of sheer over the top bliss, but it’s not enough to take away from the utterly bland moments that tie everything together. Not even George Eastman can save this picture, entertainment wise. I give the film a two out of five, which is possibly lower than it might seem to deserve but keep in mind that for every really great bit the movie throws at you – there’s something equally as bad right around the corner. I would save this one for fans of Lamberto Bava and Italian cult film enthusiasts only.

    Gamera: The Giant Monster

    Posted by Josh Samford On April - 7 - 2010
    The Plot: In the midst of the cold war, a group of Japanese scientists venture to the Antarctic in order to flesh out the story of an ancient beast called “Gamera”. Gamera is a giant turtle monster who breathes fire and is long since thought to be merely a legend. Dr. Hidaka, his assistant Kyoko Yamamoto and their press agent Aoyagi are enjoying this expedition into the Antarctic when a Soviet plane holding an atomic bomb is shot down by American forces near where our scientists stand – the icy ground cracks open and the great beast Gamera rises from his slumber. Standing 190 feet tall and holding the ability to project fire from his mouth, the beast seems unstoppable. All known ammunition seems to simply power this beast even more, with each attempt at destroying him failing worse than the last. Will our scientist team figure out the secret to this great turtle or will he completely destroy the great Island nation!

    The Review
    The Kaiju film is a significant genre within the realm of Japanese cinema that I unfortunately haven’t explored fully up until this point. My good friend Jordan from the B-Movie Film Vault was always the resident Kaiju fanatic and expert with any of my film friends. I suppose I never delved heavily into the genre because it seems rather intimidating. The genre itself is so expansive and was such a massive craze that, going off of an intellectual guess, I would have to say there are close to 100 of these films floating around. With Godzilla himself, the most well known of these giant monsters, starring in over 25 titles by himself. As intimidated as I may be, I’m not against launching into any film genre. When I was contacted by Shout Factory to check out their latest release, the original Japanese version of Gamera: The Giant Monster, how could I resist? I couldn’t and I’m glad I took the plunge, because where I may not find Gamera to be a spectacularly well made film – for what it is, it is a glorious bit of naïve fun. It is a retro throwback to the days of limited budgets, big films and low grade special FX. It seems as if it has been forever since I last sat down with an oldschool giant monster movie, but now it seems I’ll have to get acquainted with the genre all over again. I had never actually seen a Gamera film up until this point (but had heard the line “Gamera – A friend to all children!” many times before), so if you are a die-hard Kaiju fan then I apologize if I come off as lacking in knowledge. Although this may not be my first Kaiju feature (have seen Godzilla, Destroy All Monsters and a few others), we all have to start some place!

    The first thing I took notice of with Gamera: The Giant Monster, aside from some of the cheesier special effects (I’ll get to all of that shortly), was the very familiar origin story. With Gamera being born from nuclear power, unleashed at the hands of the United States (with the Soviet Union this time out) – the fear of nuclear power and the feelings of anger, confusion and resentment that the Japanese population must have felt throughout the post-war period seems ever present in this feature. However, it’s interesting how Gamera delivers a message that is quite positive despite these fears that society may have had in the new era of the cold war. From the threat of nuclear devastation being substituted with a far more dangerous adversary, throughout the film we see the Japanese, United States and Soviet Union ultimately come together in the hopes of saving all of mankind. While this may not be the defacto theme that runs throughout the entire film, it’s certainly an interesting and positive outlook from a film that at first seems bleak and dark. As we push aside these curtains, we discover that people are the same from all over and that helping one another is the ultimate push for peace. Despite the silly effects and the ultimate goal of being a ‘scary’ show for the kiddies, there are some really admirable traits at work in Gamera.

    Gamera IS a monster movie though and it delivers on those expectations, big time. The monster actually makes his first appearance within the first five minutes of the film proper! In a scene that is instantly memorable and considered to be one of the finer moments of the classic Kaiju era, we see Gamera escape from his icy prison by the glacial ground cracking open and steam erupting from the center of the ice. We then see Gamera himself as snow, or broken ice shards, cover his body. When he’s finally on solid ground he of course moves on to destroying the closest man-made object he can find which just so happens to be a massive ship. Slaughtering his first group of innocent people, Gamera proceeds to stomp, smash and bite his way through Japan over the next eighty minutes. The inevitable show down with Tokyo would absolutely be the highlight of the film, where we see Gamera absolutely demolishing a grandiose set of miniatures. Smashing over a building at one point and pouring the debris atop a high-rise with several passing cars that proceed to flip and crash. There’s a lot of great destruction at foot in Gamera, but there’s some even better special FX that I just can’t help but mention.

    Now, when you’re dealing with older film fare such as this, you have to be a bit forgiving. In fact, you have to really be forgiving. While younger viewers might sit down and watch this film and see the black wires holding up the airplanes and think ”Wow, how did anyone ever fall for this?”, I recommend that they go back just ten years ago and look at what was considered “cutting edge” in terms of CGI and digital effects and see how well it stands up. In fact, I’m sure Avatar is going to look infantile in twenty years. However, some of the special FX work in Gamera… well, you can’t help but smile when you see it! The previously mentioned wire work, the obvious miniatures and the rubber suit of Gamera himself – it’s just so quaint and fun for me as a film fan. There’s so much fun to be had watching this guy in a rubber costume smashing up a set while explosions are shot at him, go off around him and explode on his own chest. While watching, you see the film in the context of its story and you also see it as this piece of work that so many people slaved upon and their results were no doubt highly successful at the time of completion; however we as an audience now are so familiar with the duplication of these effects that it gives us an insight into their creation. While this might take some audiences out of the film – I think it makes it lovable in a way. The way it crafts all of these simplistic effects, from hand drawn animation (when we see Gamera flying through the air) to the pretty humorous shots of airplanes flying through the air, it all seems so endearing to me.

    The Trivia
  • The first and only film in the Gamera series to be shot in Black & White. It was done in this way due to financial reasons as well as the crew simply being more familiar with B&W.

  • Made as a direct reaction of the success that the Toho film company had with Godzilla, Daiei wanted in on the action so thus Gamera was born.

  • The initial story was inspired by Masaichi Nagata, the former president of Daiei. When he was returning home from the US on an airline trip he looked out the window and saw a vision of a tortoise. When he came back into the offices, he said he wanted his vision to become a reality.

  • The Conclusion
    Although it probably doesn’t hold the weight that the original Godzilla does, it’s a fun Kaiju film that has influenced so much of pop culture. Although that in itself doesn’t reflect the quality of the film, I do think it has some bearing on our judgment of the film. ShoutFactory! really delivers with their presentation of the film and also packs along some pretty sweet special features. Amongst them a 12-page booklet featuring an interesting write-up from director Noriaki Yuasa, written shortly before his death. Also on the disc is an excellent commentary track from August Ragone, author of Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters and expert on Japanese film. His commentary track is slam-packed full of information on all things Gamera. Last but certainly not least is the Gamera retrospective, which is a short documentary focusing on the filmmakers who helped compile the series. Coming in at roughly twenty minutes, there is a lot to grab from this featurette

    Blue Velvet

    Posted by Josh Samford On March - 19 - 2010
    The Plot: Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle Maclachlan) is a fresh faced young man back in his home town of Lumberton after his father falls ill and is spending some time in the hospital. While strolling, on one of his regular visits to his father, he stumbles upon a severed human ear just sitting in the forest. He takes the severed appendage to the local police and they assure him that they will get right on top of the situation. When Jeffrey decides to follow up on the ear, by visiting the Sheriff in his own home, he meets his lovely daughter Sandy (Laura Dern) who clues Jeffrey into the gossip about local singer Dorothy Vallens (Issabella Rossellini) who appears to be mixed up in some rather dark situations. Jeffrey eventually sneaks into Dorothy’s apartment and discovers her situation is more sinister than anyone could have envisioned. She has a husband and a son who are both being held hostage by the psychotic gangster Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper) who uses her for sexual purposes. As Jeffrey slowly delves further into this world of dark forces, he slowly loses his grip on the sunny and peaceful Lumberton that he grew up with.

    The Review
    I originally had a review written for Blue Velvet back when this site first opened its doors in 2003, but I actually put it on the side as my writing just wasn’t up the standards that I think the film ultimately deserves. Truthfully, I think the content was a bit over my ability to grasp and put into words. Truthfully, it probably still is. After another recent viewing of the film though,I feel compelled to discuss it. David Lynch is a filmmaker that demands a lot from his viewers. He asks for your patience, he asks you to be open minded and in some cases he asks you for your sanity so that he can dispose of it. Blue Velvet came off the heels of Dune, a project that Lynch still feels a pretty sore about to this day, and reflects his attempt at creating a piece of art while also paying more heed to the general laws of cinematic technique than he would in later years. While not conventional in the least, just by comparison you might think that Blue Velvet is a more toned down work, but just as in the movie, things are not as they seem.

    The opening sequence, aside from being absolutely brilliant in its simplicity it’s also very important to understanding the film. It essentially tells us everything there is to know about Blue Velvet and the ideas it looks to convey. Lynch starts things off by showing off the town of Lumberton, where the film takes place, with its series of white picket fences and the serene landscape where a fireman waves at us from the side of his fire truck. We see a man watering his flowers with a hose, his dog hovering in the background, but as we draw closer the man grabs at his head and falls to the ground. The audio becomes a sound-scape of odd pitches and noises, as the dog bites at the water firing from the water hose. The camera then zooms into the wet grass, where we discover that underneath this serene image lies a cavalcade of insects. A chaotic scene of violence, as we see these beings all fighting and snapping. All of this beneath the dull scenery. From there David Lynch expounds on this allegory and takes it into different and perverse directions, exploring the human existence and ultimately making one of the best films of his career.

    Blue Velvet is a film that deals in slow revelations. Following in the foot steps of that opening shot, the entire movie could be seen as a larger version of the same metaphor. When we first meet Jeffrey Beaumont, he’s tossing rocks while walking through a country shortcut. He is the perfect snapshot of Americana. Tall, dark, handsome and full of boyhood naivete. When he discovers the dismembered ear, just lying in the dirt, it’s a confrontation for him unlike anything he’s ever faced up close and personal. I enjoy these early scenes with Jeffrey more as I’ve grown as a viewer, because I see now what Lynch was doing. Generally, in the first thirty minutes of the film – everything seems a bit ‘off”. The performances come across as shelled and lacking in emotion, stilted even. There’s a scene where Jeffrey brings the ear he has found to the sheriff who simply looks at the piece of flesh and comments “Yes. That’s an ear.” without the slightest bit of hesitation or surprise in his voice. This is a bizarre Ozzie & Harriet style universe that we’re introduced to early on in the film, but as we root along through the underbelly of this city – things become more realistic the darker things get; presenting the abnormality and falsehood that the pleasant and wholesome outer surface of Lumberton truly is.

    Blue Velvet is ultimately a film about themes, dealing with the faces we hide from the public and there’s certainly some commentary within about repressed sexuality and desires. That is actually one aspect up until this point I haven’t talked about, as the sexuality in my opinion is needlessly considered “controversial”. Roger Ebert was actually very offended in his initial review for the film upon its release, saying that Isabella Rossellini was exploited and brandished about with no decent reasoning. I could not possibly disagree more and I’d like to hope that Roger has changed his mind on the film at this point, seeing just the type of filmmaker that David Lynch has went on to become. Truthfully, if you’ve ever seen a naked woman or a man before, then there’s really nothing that shocking within Blue Velvet. The sex isn’t graphic and generally the violence isn’t either, but it most certainly is cold and rather disturbing. Much like the mad man that is Frank Booth.

    Really, you have to comment on Dennis Hopper’s performance here. The character of Frank Booth is not three dimensional or well rounded, but what he lacks in emotional depth he more than makes up for in explosiveness. When Hopper steps in a scene, the screen is blown apart by violence. He tears the film apart with his manic presence, bringing chaos to every scene he is in. Every conversation the character has is awkward and ultimately ends with him shouting or going insane, before taking a deep inhalation from his oxygen mask. What is he inhaling? I have no idea, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s just another one of these perverse elements that bring us the creature that is Frank Booth. The rest of the cast are all equally great in their roles, especially Rossellini, who manages to not be overshadowed by the insanity that Hopper delivers.

    The Trivia
  • Robert Loggia, who later went on to play another one of David Lynch’s psychotic creations “Mr. Eddy” in Lost Highway, was originally very interested in playing the role of Frank.

  • Made in the wake of Dune, which showed David Lynch being forced into a more commercial setting, Blue Velvet would turn out to be a controversial and divisive film that split critics and had to be distributed by a secondary company created by Dino De Laurentis.

  • The role of Frank was originally offered to Harry Dean Stanton, an actor that Lynch would subsequently work with on frequent occasions.

  • The Conclusion
    There’s really not a whole lot that I can say about Blue Velvet that hasn’t been said before, in much better terms, but if my opinion means anything of consequence to you as a reader take this bit of advice into consideration when watching: observe everything. When Lynch is at his best creatively, he makes films that get better upon subsequent viewings and Blue Velvet is certainly such an example. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s a divisive film to say the least but if you have the patience and you are of the right temperment; it can deliver so much to the viewer. It gets my highest rating and my greatest recommendation, five out of five.

    Save the Green Planet

    Posted by Josh Samford On March - 11 - 2010
    The Plot: Byeong-gu (Shin Ha-kyun) is an expert on extra-terrestrials, but his convictions far out-do those of your average internet conspiracy buff. He believes aliens are walking amongst us and have taken our form, but he alone has been able to spot those who come from Andromeda. His simple and slightly dumpy wife has recently been brought on board for his conspiracies, and believes anything that her honey tells her. Byeong sets his sight on a corporate CEO who seems to fit all the right aesthetics of being one of these Andromeda beings, and without too much trouble manages to kidnap the man and lock him up inside of his basement. When the man awakens, he is angered and has no idea what Byeong-gu is talking about, but that doesn’t stop the subsequent testing that appears more like torture. Byeong can not be bartered with and simply refuses to believe anything other than what he perceives as the truth. Outside of the basement, a pair of police officers who are generally laughed at within the station are actually making some progress in the hunt for this kidnapping foe. Will they be able to make it in time to save the man or will Byeong-gu do something that might get him into even worse trouble?

    The Review
    South Korean cinema really exploded into world wide fan consciousness in the late nineties and has been on a rampage ever since, with the genre-film market being fully covered. There have been art house flicks (The Isle), romantic comedies (My Sassy Girl) and of course there have been horror pictures (A Tale of Two Sisters). So, with all of the bases loaded, there would have to be a Science Fiction film mixed in the bunch! Yet, in much the same way that every genre has been turned on its head within the South Korean film market; Save the Green Planet is about as far from a conventional Science Fiction flick as you are going to find. Truthfully, it’s arguably not EVEN a work of Science Fiction. So, just what does that make Save the Green Planet? Since finishing the movie thirty minutes ago, I’ve been trying to piece that together in my head as well. Although not a surrealist piece of arthouse cinema, the complexities and strange ingredients that make up the film are enough to confound any viewer.

    Partially a thriller, partially a comedy – Save the Green Planet is another sterling example of what I have enjoyed so much about South Korean cinema. The more famous, or popular, films from South Korea often take ideas or themes from Hollywood productions and twist them in such a way that not only do they reflect a socially valid view of contemporary Korean life, but they also twist and turn the limits of what is permitted within the confines of whatever genre they are working in. Rarely will you see a South Korean movie appear as bland or run-of-the-mill as your average Hollywood production, even amongst the most mainstream of work. This comes from a base, or maybe even a market of receptive viewers, that simply refuses to conform to cliche territory. Films like Shiri took on the Hollywood pot boiler, My Sassy Girl gave the romantic comedy a swift kick in the backside by being appealing to both sexes and Save the Green Planet takes the world of Science Fiction and mixes it in with both a comedic twist, as well as a distortion of the serial killer genre. What you’re left with is a compelling, and epically strange, piece of cinema.

    I have mentioned it considerably at this point, but this isn’t a movie that can be held down into any one genre. It is a strange ride that takes you on a strange voyage through so many emotional states. The cover art for the DVD elicits the idea that you’re in for a joyous or light hearted affair, but nothing could be further from the truth. The first twenty minutes might also clue you into this fact, because it comes off as a quirky little title about a confused man who kidnaps an executive. However, confused or not, quirky or not – when driven by an idea, no matter how silly it may be, people can be monstrous. This turns out to be one of the main themes, as we watch this character who obsesses over UFO’s make the switch from being a likable protagonist who has got himself mixed up in something that seems above his head – into something that is considerably less likeable. Something almost evil, but at the same time pathetic. This is where the power of the film comes into play and this crux that it rests upon is solid enough to support these wide range of ideas that the filmmaker throws at those of us in the audience.

    This character and the emotional ride that he goes along with, is reflective of what we the audience are forced to endure. Save the Green Planet is a dark film. The cinematography is dark, there’s brutal violence and it covers some very disturbing themes. However, it is engaging in every twist and turn. With a split narrative that follows the police as they hunt down our UFO tracking protagonist (who may very well be our antagonist as well), the film crafts a nearly two hour length that does fall to a few lulls in the action every now and then, but the blitzkrieg of information that abounds the audience in the final reel and the speedy opening sequence will keep your attention easily.

    The Conclusion
    I can’t say that this is a film for anyone but a very select audience, but for those who are open minded enough and can recognize honest and interesting cinema; this is absolutely worth searching out. I feel ashamed that I have had it sitting around for years now without having watched it. I give it a solid four out of five, and hope that you’ll take this bizarre South Korean trip… somewhere, over the rainbow!




    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.