Category Archives: Film

“SNOWFLAKE”—- Inventive and Archaic Adult Fairy Tale

“Snowflake”

Inventive and Archaic Adult Fairy Tale

Amos Lassen

Coming in December from Artsploitation is Charlie Kaufman’s metafictional surreal film, “Snowflake”.  It is “An ass-kicking, blood-spurting, whip-cracking, adrenaline-pumping ride” — Pop Horror.    
“Hunting down the murderer of their families in an anarchic near-future Berlin, two outlaws find themselves trapped in the wicked fairy tale of a mysterious screenplay that entangles them in a vicious circle of revenge – apparently all written by a clueless dentist.  In their quest for vengeance, they must contend with a myriad of wicked fairy tale assassins, madmen, a blood-covered angel, and an electric-powered superhero.”

In near future Germany, immigrants and neo-Nazis openly clash on the streets and emergency services never venture into certain neighborhoods. A robot also plays a minor role. Murder might be a common occurrence, but not for everyone.

Javid (Reza Brojerdi) and Tan (Erkan Acar) shot up the kabab shop where Eliana’s (Xenia Assenza) late parents were eating, because they are violent knuckleheads. They deserve some harsh payback, even though they are products of their savage environment. They too seek revenge for the deaths of their families, which they blame on a former security minister turned outlaw paramilitary leader—not without some justification. With the help of her family’s former bodyguard Carson (David Masterson), Eliana will hire some of Europe’s vilest assassins to cap Javid and Tan. 

There will be considerable collateral damage, which nobody knows better than Arend Remmers (Alexander Schubert), the screenwriting dentist. Every violent scene he writes comes true. When Javid and Tan find an incomplete early draft, they pay him a little visit hoping to strong arm a better ending out of him, but it is hard to get around certain principles of screenwriting.

Arend Remmers, the real-life screenwriter, deserves credit for re-invigorating the Don Quixote/Pirandello-esque conceit of characters acknowledging and responding to the supposedly fictional works in which they appear. In Remmers’ screenplay[s], it is presented in a fittingly surreal and post-modern fashion, but it is never belabored, because there is additional pressing mayhem going on simultaneously, particularly that involving the film’s wildcards, Hyper Electro Man, the costumed vigilante, and Snowflake, Javid and Tan’s supposed guardian angel.

“Snowflake” is a charged revenge thriller, with many moving parts and shockingly memorable performances. A pair of murderers, their guardian angel named Snowflake, a Nazi climate boss, a woman seeking revenge, a superhero with electrical powers, and a dentist who seems to possess a script that stars all of them makes up the bizarre and vibrant cast of “Snowflake”. As the pair of murderers learn about the dentist and his script, they force him to write and rewrite the ending to their liking. Everyone is seeking revenge against everyone and they all feel like they could converge and explode at any given moment. Along the way, they meet more colorful and diabolical characters. It all makes sense in a twisted way.

At times the film feels as if it simply exists to bring on one offbeat character at you after another. The story moves between characters and storylines. This is a film about creation, failure, setting a goal, and then being able to refigure it. It’s a story not just about guns, gangsters, torture, angels, murder, and mayhem. It’s also about working through life with a plan and then being able to rewrite that plan or being a victim of your own rigidity.

But it’s also about blood and bullets and carnage. There’s a lot of that in “Snowflake”. Blood flies all over and the filmmakers make it all look beautiful. It is is a wonderful homage to word-making and bloodletting. Here is an original fairytale with some Tarantino style violence and witty humor.

“BLOOD PARADISE”—   A Swedish Horror/Comedy

“BLOOD PARADISE” 

 A Swedish Horror/Comedy

Amos Lassen

“Blood Paradise”, the Swedish horror-comedy from producer-director provocateurs Andréa Winter and Patrick von Barkenberg will be released through Artsploitation Films early in 2019. Reeling after her latest novel flops, best-selling crime writer Robin Richards (Winter) is sent by her publisher to the Swedish countryside to regain inspiration. There alone, she comes across an assortment of peculiar characters, including her driver and most obsessive fan, his explosively jealous wife, and the progressively more unhinged man who owns the farm that’s hosting her. Totally out of place in her new surroundings—for one, she is always dressed for glamorous, big-city life—Robin discovers just how dangerous these oddballs may be. Bathed in dreamy atmospherics and streaked with offbeat humor, the film pays an homage to Brian De Palma’s oeuvre and a host of fabulously chic Seventies genre pics.


 
Paradise marks the feature debut of Swedish electro-pop musician BABY YAGA (Winter) and German director Patrick von Barkenberg. Barkenberg, a graduate of the American Film Institute, shot the film with partner Winter at Winter’s family home in the Swedish countryside. Winter composed the haunting score and songs, while producing the picture and also playing the lead role of Robin Richards.

“Blood Paradise” actually began in Winter’s dramatic writing class .  Winter started writing there and couldn’t stop even after graduating. Everything began to come together when she met Patrick von Barkenberg.  Winter knew she had found the perfect creative partner in order to make her first feature film

According to Winter, “Blood Paradise” “steals upon you in the dark and blows out your tires.” 

“RONDO”— Part Black Comedy, Part Slasher, Part Revenge Thriller— All Exploitation

“Rondo”

Part Black Comedy, Part Slasher, Part Revenge Thriller— All Exploitation!

Amos Lassen

Coming in early 2019 from Artsploitation is “Rondo“. It takes us back to the exploitation classics of the Sixties and Seventies in the design of the sets and the delivery of the dialogue. It is sleaze is a class act.”

“Rondo” premiered at the Fantasia Film Festival earlier this year to enthusiastic reviews and sold out audiences. Paul is a troubled young veteran who is told by a psychiatrist that sex is the solution to his dependency and drinking problems. However,  things turn out otherwise as Paul and his sister are sucked into a criminal underworld where sex and murder are daily specials and revenge is rule of the day. 

Director Drew Barnhardt pays homage to the sexploitation films while injecting his own dark modern touches giving us an intelligent, craftily stylized and wildly entertaining film.

“CHRISTMAS AT ROSEMONT”— A Few Special Nights

“CHRISTMAS AT ROSEMONT”

A Few Special Nights

Amos Lassen

23-year-old Lisa (Ayla Kell) is pregnant and desperate to get as far away from Las Vegas as possible but it is not easy to do when the bus, she is on turns back because of a blizzard. She ends up sharing a ride with Brad (Brendan Michael Coughlin), a professional snowboarder, who is due back for his engagement party and is late. Eventually, they crash in the middle of nowhere and come across the shut-up Rosemont Lodge where Josephine (Grace Zabriskie), the owner, has become a bitter and twisted old woman haunted by something in her past. Abe (Brad Dourif), her one remaining member of staff tries to keep the building from rotting drinking heavily to put up with Josephine’s sniping. Now that the four strangers are snowed in together, they become friends as their past issues are raised and Brad and Lisa become close as the others are on edge. Lisa is almost full term and could go in to labor at any time. 

This is not a new story—  strangers stranded together and becoming a quasi-family with each having an issue to contend with. In the case of “Snowed in at Rosemont” we have a woman who lost someone, and it has made her bitter and twisted whilst we have a pregnant woman on the run from the baby’s father who wants to sell the baby.

“Christmas at Rosemont” also has a familiar tone from a moment of drama as Brad heads out in the snow to try and get help when he and Josephine have to help deliver the baby. Brad Dourif and Grace Zabriskie are a great odd couple who cause us to smile and there is a twist that suddenly gives the movie the miracle it needs.  While at “Christmas at Rosemont” is normatively very familiar but the tone, the casting excellent and makes it work.

This is a surprisingly sweet movie that I loved all the way through but again that is because of the characters. It is more a story of two women, Josephine and Lisa who is unsure if she even wants to continue with her life. Josephine owns Rosemont which has been closed for the past 18 years and her able but often hard drinking caretaker Abe (Brad Dourif) always seem to be on opposite sides when it comes to making any decisions about the outside world. 

When Brad and  pregnant Lisa attempt to get out of the cold after their car falls off the road during a winter storm, they are met by Josephine’s gun but her capable Abe influences her that these two young people must get out of the storm or they will surely die. Each of these four characters must now share a roof for at least one night and they get to know each other’s’ stories of who they are and why they feel the way that they currently do. As each character starts beginning to have feelings of empathy for the other three, they all find a way to enjoy each other’s company for a few more days and nights. When Christmas comes all is good in the world once again. 

“GAS FOOD LODGING”— Rootless Men in a Western Town

Gas Food Lodging

Rootless Men in a Western Town

Amos Lassen

Allison Anders’s debut feature “Gas Food Lodging,” is a look at three vibrant, restless women in a dusty Western town. The town of Laramie, New Mexico is the setting in which Nora (Brooke Adams), a hard-working waitress with a knowing, generous grin, has tried to bring up her two unruly daughters.

The older daughter, Trudi (Ione Skye), has turned defiantly trampy by the time the film begins and tries hard to hurt her mother while inflicting even greater pain upon herself. The younger and more hopeful girl, Shade (Fairuza Balk), loses herself in campy Mexican movie romances that tell her something about noble, long-suffering women in a cruel world. The father in this family is long gone, and the mother and daughters spend too much time in indirect efforts to replace him. Trudi fails at drowning her sorrows with the town’s l teen-age boys. Nora has had her own share of dead-end encounters.

Shade, thinking that finding a mate for her mother may offer some sort of family solution and she  actually arranges a blind date between Nora and a man with whom she has already had a long, deflating affair. Each of the three principals has learned the hard way that Laramie is a small town. “Gas Food Lodging” pivots upon the arrival of various male strangers on this desolate scene. “Gas Food Lodging” takes a wry, upbeat view of its principals, despite the enormous obstacles that face them and despite the absurdity of their situation. The fact that Shade is sweet on a boy who wishes she were more like Olivia Newton-John, or that Nora can stagger out of her trailer at dawn and bump into Mr. Right, heightens the women’s world view.

Director Anders keeps her film balanced perfectly between quiet despair and a sense of the miraculous. When Trudi experiences a transforming romance with a sincere English geologist (Robert Knepper) who is passing through town, the consummation of the affair is staged unforgettably in a cave shimmering with eerie blue light. Shade’s friendship with a shy Mexican boy (Jacob Vargas) takes an unexpected turn when his mother, who is deaf, motions for the couple to join her in an impromptu modern dance.

This is a big film in a small setting and a character study of women who don’t know their own strength. The film shows how they find that strength and heal old wounds and they discover grace and hope in the process.

The characters are. subtly etched and give fine performances in a moving story that is not easily forgotten. James Brolin in a small but important role perfectly embodies the kinds of hopes and disappointments this story is all about. The themes of growing up (and growing out), peer pressure, and how women look at life are all well-handled here. Watching Nora’s failed attempts at romance, and the character growth of Trudi and Shade makes for good viewing. “Gas, Food Lodging” is filled with the kind of personal, small-scale rewards that indie filmmakers seem best at delivering.

DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation, approved by director Allison Anders

Original uncompressed 2.0 audio

Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

The Road to Laramie: A Look Back at Gas Food Lodging, italicize title and remove commas a brand-new interview with Allison Anders and Josh Olson

Cinefile: Reel Women italicize(Chris Rodley, 1995), a documentary looking at the challenges women face in the film industry from independent to studio filmmaking, featuring interviews with Allison Anders, Kathryn Bigelow, Jane Campion, Penny Marshall, Gale Anne Hurd and others

Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector s booklet featuring new writing on the film

“TORSO”— ENTER… IF YOU DARE!

“TORSO”

ENTER… IF YOU DARE!

Amos Lassen

Director Sergio Martino is known for his giallo thrillers from the early 70s. Among the most highly acclaimed of these, 1973’s “Torso” that laid the groundwork for the modern slasher movie.

A sex maniac is prowling the streets of Perugia, targeting picturesque university town’s female students, Jane (Suzy Kendall) and her three friends elope to a secluded country villa only to learn that, far from having left the terror behind, they’ve brought it with them.

Torso contains many giallo conventions including the straight edge razor and the faceless killer with black gloves. The plot involves vacationing young women in Perugia, and a killer who has some aesthetic sense in how he displays the corpses of his victims. However,  the cluelessness of the victims as to how to avoid their fate, or how to defend themselves was a bit annoying at times.

This is a film that wastes no time being strange or salacious. A photographer is shooting a soft-focus lovemaking session between three women. By the time we register what is happening, we’re now in a classroom, where swooping pans and zooms refer us to the main cast of the film as we overhear a lecture and later a discussion about Pietro Perugino’s painting of Saint Sebastian. We cut to a couple making out in a car as a figure stalks them through the eye of the camera, making us complicit in the act of the killer. Quick cuts reveal the white masked face of this maniac. The man runs after him while the girl doesn’t even care that they had a voyeur watching. As she waits for him to return to the car, she grows impatient. The headlights of the car cast her shadow large across the columns of a bridge. And their light is quickly extinguished by black gloved hands. We’re no longer behind the killer’s eyes. His attack is swift and ruthless.

The art professor (John Richardson,) and Jane meet by chance at a church where she challenges him to change his views on Perugino. As she returns from their somewhat romantic afternoon, she spies her friend Carol arguing in the car with a married man.

Meanwhile, ladies of the evening walk the street, ending up with Stefano, a student who has been stalking Julie. He has trouble performing and the prostitute he’s with tells him that all the hang ups come her way. He flips out and attacks her, but she makes her escape.

We’re then taken to a  party with weed, acoustic guitars, bongos, motorcycles. After leading on two men, Carol makes her escape into the foggy night. We hear her footsteps through the swamp as she walks, exhausted and covered in mud. We see glimpses of the killer through the fog and then he is gone. Violence is extended, and the killer and his actions are in full view. After killing the girl, he rubs mud all over her body before stabbing her eyes and her blood leaks into the mud. That is all that I want to say about the plot—-I have given you general ideas.

Suzy Kendall is great, but you can’t help but miss the rest of his established players. “Torso” is way closer to a slasher than a giallo.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

Brand new 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative by Arrow Films

 

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentations of both versions of the film: the 94-minute Italian and 90-minute English cuts

 

Original lossless Italian and English mono soundtracks*

 

English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack

 

Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack

 

New audio commentary by Kat Ellinger, author of All the Colors of Sergio Martino

 

New video interview with co-writer/director Sergio Martino

 

New video interview with actor Luc Merenda

 

New video interview with co-writer Ernesto Gastaldi

 

New video interview with filmmaker Federica Martino, daughter of Sergio Martino

 

New video interview with Mikel J. Koven, author of La Dolce Morte: Vernacular Cinema and the Italian Giallo Film

 

2017 Abertoir International Horror Festival Q&A with Sergio Martino

 

Italian and English theatrical trailers

 

Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Adam Rabalais

 

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Adrian Smith and Howard Hughes

* The English audio track on the original, longer cut has some portions of English audio missing. English audio for these sections was either never recorded or has been lost. As such, these sequences are presented with Italian audio, subtitled in English.

“MEMORIES OF ME”— Father and Son

“Memories of Me”

Father and Son

Amos Lassen

Abbie (Billy Crystal) is a high-powered New York surgeon who begins to take his life more seriously after he has a heart attack. He and his father, Abe (Alan King), a character who has become known as “the King of the Extras” have been estranged for years. Abbie has vague memories of Abe telling him bedtime stories, and then came a great silence over many years. When he thinks of his father at all, Abbie he considers him to be an embarrassment. But now the heart attack has caused him to re-examine his life more closely and so, almost against his will, he goes to Hollywood to visit his father.

The moment we see Abe, we recognize his type. He’s the life of the party, one of those guys who keeps people at a distance while professing friendship. Almost from the moment Abbie sees Abe, he’s making plans to go back home to New York. But somehow, he stays. And eventually he begins to notice some disturbing things about his father.

Abbie talks him into a complete medical examination, and the brain scan reveals “a little pimple on a blood vessel in the brain.” Sometimes, Abe gets a little confused. Abe is dying.The best moments in the movie are the scenes between King and Crystal (who co-wrote the movie). Their timing is amazing and most of the dialogue involves paradox, as when King observes that his wife was crazy: “That’s why I divorced her.” “But,” says Crystal, “she divorced you.” “See what I mean?”

 “Memories of Me” is a warmhearted comedy that creates believable characters without sacrificing big laughs. It is hard to imagine how two egos as secure as King’s and Crystal’s could have co-existed on the set. Director Henry Winkler found the strong story line from beginning to end. Abe and Abbie Polin approach each other with one liners ready to go, but what is really going on underneath?     That conflict is at the heart of the film that takes a hard look at a “show biz” family.

Abbie resents his father for leaving years ago. Sooner or later, the two men must come to terms with their relationship, especially as another medical emergency knocks Abe down. This is a father-son relationship that is friendly, but distant.    Abe and Abbie don’t hate each other as much as they don’t understand what the other feels.     They were involved in too much distracting banter to reveal the truth of their feelings towards each other.     There is clearly love, but also bitterness.    The key to the film’s success lies in the performances.    Crystal and King have a relaxed, unforced rapport which serves the film well, even when their relationship is anything but relaxed.   

“GLASTONBURY FAIR”— Free and Open

“Glastonbury Fayre”

Free and Open

Amos Lassen

“Glastonbury Fayre” is both an interesting and challenging documentary film to watch. The music performances at most are fantastic but are spoiled by some indulgent performances by heavily drugged out amateur performers in 1971.
People were much more aware of themselves and were freer and more open back then. The opportunity to perform/express yourself was encouraged and one could be different and be accepted. We communicated without having social media at our fingertips. We see here how things happened in the counter culture at a very different musical event.

Highlights include Arthur Brown, the first “Shock Rocker” is outrageous . Dave Swarbrick of Fairport Convention is on fire tearing it up on violin. Earthy Melanie and Terry Reid are wonderful. Rare Traffic with Dave Mason were spirited. Glastonbury was not Woodstock. The free form dancing audience makes the show as much as the artists getting more screen time. The festival peak was at the end on Traffic’s “Gimme Gimme Some Lovin”. A lot of footage shows the crowd in celebration. For rock festival viewers who love the late 1960s-early 70s, this is a good time on DVD.

BONUS FEATURES include a making of the festival documentary and Melanie in modern times playing one song, looking back at Glastonbury Fayre.

“TOPPER RETURNS’— A Comedy Thriller from 1941

 

“Topper Returns “

A Comedy Thriller from 1941

Amos Lassen

Director Roy Del Ruth’s 1941 black and white “Topper Returns” is based on the characters created by Thorne Smith and is the third and final entry in the series of films that began with the 1937 fantasy comedy,“Topper”. 

“Topper Returns” is a wonderfully written, carefully handled, tip-top comedy thriller spoofing the haunted old dark house kind of movie that was in vogue when the film was made. It has an excellent perfect support acting that includes Billie Burke as Mrs. Topper, Carole Landis as Ann Carrington and Eddie ‘Rochester’ Anderson as the chauffeur.

Topper is bothered by a ghost— the American friend to the heir of a fortune who was murdered by mistake. She wants Topper to help solve her murder. This is the story of an old dark house and is a murder mystery, complete with suspicious characters and a scared black chauffeur; Eddie “Rochester” Anderson who does his best with the latter. The humor here is over-the-top and predictable; Eddie Anderson being scared of the ghost, recycled humor from the first two movies in the series, slapstick antics, a stupid cop and a sarcastic cab driver. It’s somewhat hit and miss, but it does have a great cast. When Gail Richards (Joan Blondell) visits her friend Ann Carrington (Carole Landis) for the weekend, she has no idea just how weird things are going to get.  First off, while Gail and Ann are riding in a taxi to the big and foreboding Carrington mansion, a mysterious man in black shoots out the taxi’s tires.  Though the taxi crashes, both Gail and Ann survive and are able to hitch a ride from Ann’s neighbor, Cosmo Topper.

Once they get to the mansion, Gail meets Ann’s strange family.  Gail loves the mansion and who wouldn’t, seeing as how it is big and dark and full of secret passageways?  But Gail makes the big mistake of switching beds with Ann.  Later that night, when that man in black sneaks the bedroom and attempts to stab Ann to death, he ends up killing Gail instead.  When we next see Gail, she’s a ghost who can’t leave our world until her murder has been solved!  Gail isn’t that upset about being a ghost.  In fact,  she seems to be rather amused by it all.  She floats right over to Topper’s house and demands that he come over and solve her murder.  After some initial reluctance, Topper agrees and sneaks into the Carrington mansion and gets to work searching for clues and attempting to solve the crime.  Needless to say, it involves a lot of family secrets, hidden rooms, and dark passageways.

Joan Blondell seems to be having fun in the role of Gail. The film has a nicely morbid streak and towards the end of the film, there’s a cheerful conversation between Gail and another ghost.  It’s  great fun.

“ORGIES OF EDO”— A Different Japan

“Orgies of Edo”

A Different Japan

Amos Lassen

I had never heard of this film before I received a review screener and I must say that I was both shocked and surprised when I watched it. Directed by the legendary Toei director Teruo Ishii, we have three stories of moral sickness set during the prosperous Genroku era in Japan. The film is a bloody follow-up to his sexploitation classic Shogun s “Joy of Torture”. The film is totally and politically incorrect in terms of morality.  The three tales are of tales of tragic heroines caught up in violence, sadomasochism, incest and torture.

The film is presented in anthology style by an impassive physician (Teruo Yoshida). The first story is about Oito (Masumi Tachibana), an innocent young girl deceived by a handsome yakuza and sold into prostitution. Because she had debts, she had no choice. She finds herself in a doomed love affair with the man who brought her to ruin. The second tale is about Ochise (Mitsuko Aoi), the daughter of a rich merchant whose insatiable appetite for filth and perversion draws her deeper into violence, darkness and betrayal. Her taste in men included dwarves and deformed characters. The third story is of Omitsu (Miki Obana) follows a sadistic lord (Asao Koike) whose eye is caught one day by a beautiful member of his harem who shares his strange taste for pain and blood, but who holds a secret of her own that will destroy his entire household.

Ishii s erotic films grew increasingly shocking, violent and strange, and “Orgies of Edo” has him mixing period film detail with carnival like grotesqueness in order to create his own particular vision of love and sex. This allowed Ishii to experiment with elements that would later show up in his other films.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:

High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation

Original uncompressed mono PCM audio

Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

The Orgies of Ishii an exclusive, newly filmed interview with author Patrick Maccias

Theatrical trailer

Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matt Griffin

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector s booklet featuring new writing on the film by author Tom Mes