Category Archives: Film

“GO, JOHNNY GO!”— The Next Big Rock ‘N Roll Star

“Go, Johnny Go!”

The Next Big Rock ‘n Roll Star”

Amos Lassen

Rock & Roll changed 1950s America at 45 revolutions per minute, and we see just how in “Go, Johnny Go!” The film is based on DJ great Alan Freed’s search for the next big star and as the search continues, we get to hear some great music from Chuck Berry, Ritchie Valens, Jimmy Clanton, Jackie Wilson, Eddie Cochran, Harvey Fuqua, Jo-Ann Campbell, The Cadillacs, The Flamingos and Jimmy Cavallo.

Released in 1959, the film is a musical time capsule. While the acting and plot are mediocre, the film is filled with great musical performances by some of rock n’ rolls biggest hitmakers at the time.

We meet a young singer (Jimmy Clanton) who goes by the stage name of Johnny Melody. After a few opening performances, Chuck Berry and Alan Freed (playing themselves) talk about discovering Johnny.

Freed shares that Johnny was once a choirboy from an orphanage but managed to run away.Johnny bumps into his old friend from the orphanage, Julie Arnold (Sandy Stewart) who wants him to call her to re-connect, but he tells her he has no money for dates and is saving to record a demo record. Freed then tells Johnny that the talent search was only a publicity stunt by his agent.

At a recording studio, Julie records a demo of “Playmates”. On her way out, she meets Johnny again, and sings back up on his recording of “My Love Is Strong”. The record is one of many sent to Freed and Chuck Berry, hearing something special in it, urges that it be given strong consideration. But Johnny has failed to include contact information, and his subsequent call to Freed’s office fails to get through.

Freed has begun playing Johnny’s record on his radio show to overwhelming response, and has started a public search for Johnny. Ultimately we get to a happy ending and while this is, by no means a great film, it is fun to watch and remember when rock ‘n roll ruled.

“MUSSOLINI: THE UNTOLD STORY”— A Mini-Series

“Mussolini: The Untold Story”

A Mini-Series

Amos Lassen

Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini (George C. Scott) was powerful and arrogant. He dreamed of a new Roman Empire with himself as its new emperor. As Italy’s leader he was at first revered, feared and ultimately despised. But at the height of his power, the crowd would roar “Il Duce.” Mussolini was also the head of a family and was a devoted husband, father and godfather.

The focus is kept on Mussolini’s private life, moving between his roles of loving father and indefatigable womanizer. Closer to home, the leader has to contend with his devoted and protective wife, Rachele (Lee Grant) who has retained her peasant roots and spends most of her time being suspicious about ”outsiders.” She become is furious when her husband begins a serious affair with the young Claretta Petacci (Virginia Madsen).

Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio is the fiercely independent and troubled Mussolini daughter, Edda. Robert Downey, is Bruno, the son who died in a plane crash. Gabriel Byrne is another son, Vittorio.

The series begins in 1922, as Mussolini gathers his power through the use of his militia the Black Shirts. Mussolini gains a national fervor that peaks after the Italian invasion of Abyssinia in 1935. In 1938, Mussolini attempted to promote peace at the Munich Conference but then aligned himself with Hitler. Mussolini drew Italy into the Second World War, which led to his country’s decline and Mussolini’s fall from power.

“ONE BILLION B.C.”— A Fantasy Historical Epic

“One Million B.C.”

A Fantasy Historical Epic

Amos Lassen

“One Million B.C.” is a 1940 American historical epic fantasy film and the story of boy meets girl ala prehistoric style. It is also the story of man’s battle to survive against the terrors of the prehistoric world. Dinosaurs, savage nature and man and a gigantic erupting volcano are part of the camp adventure classic.

Victor Mature stars as protagonist Tumak, a young caveman who strives to unite the uncivilized Rock Tribe and the peaceful Shell Tribe. The film was the top-grossing movie of 1940 and was nominated for two Academy Awards for its special effects and musical score.

It is a masterpiece of imaginative fiction that is as corny as it is fun to watch. There isn’t much sense to the action nor much interest in the characters. Majority of the animals fail to impress but the fight between a couple of lizards, magnified into great size, is exciting and well photographed. The ease with which some of the monsters are destroyed by man is a big laugh.

The story is about the way common dangers serve to wash up hostilities between the Rock and Shell clans, with a note of culture developed by the heroine (Carole Landis) who astonishes the lads of the stone age. But if you can get through all the foolishness, you will be entertained.

The film opens as a storm causes a bunch of lost rock climbers to seek shelter in a cave, where an old scientist (Conrad Nagel) tells them an ancient tale involving a cave and a fierce battle between two tribes. The Rock tribe was led by the tyrannical Akhoba (Lon Chaney, Jr.), whose members were meat eater hunters who had no pity or compassion and worshiped only strength. The members of more evolved Shell tribe were vegetarians and tried to find a peaceful way to exist. When the son of the Rock leader, Tumak is banished from his people for defying his father he gets lost wandering far from the highland caves and ends up in the lush valley beach area where he meets and falls in love with the beautiful Loana (Carole Landis) of the Shell tribe. Loana goes with her hunk when he’s given the boot by the Shell people for stealing a spear. Back in Rock country the gentle Loana wins the hearts and minds of the Rock crowd, but a volcano erupts killing off many of the Rock tribe and traps Loana and a few members of the Rock tribe in a cave with a fierce dinosaur. The kindly Shell people help the Rock people kill the beast, and after that the two tribes make peace.

Though the black/white film is impressive to watch but the story is slight.

Bonus Materials include the original promotional recording and a photo gallery.

“THE AFTERMATH”— What Comes After World War III?

“THE AFTERMATH”

What Comes After World War III?

Amos Lassen

When three Astronauts return from space, they find that the life they left behind doesn’t exist anymore.  When only two of the three survive the emergency landing on the coastline “near Los Angeles”, they see that the world is an extremely different place then the one they left.  There are roving gangs that are killing men and taking women and children as hostages.  What remains of the city itself is burned, and the two spacemen, Newman and Matthews, have to make their place in this world. The streets are filled with mutated survivors feeding off the weak and a Manson-like figure called Cutter (Sid Haig) brings terror down on all others. Cutter and his gang of mercenary thugs are systematically murdering all the male survivors and enslaving women and children.

Newman (Steve Barkett) wants to see what is still left of civilization while Matthews stays behind.  Newman comes to an old museum where he meets “the curator” who dies shortly after he explains that the world has been ravaged by nuclear war and germ warfare.  No one is safe from the harsh environment and the bands of killers that are inhabiting the area.  With the curator’s death, Newman is now left to take care of Chris (Christopher Barkett) who has been left at the museum. Newman sees him as a replacement for the son he had that died before he left earth on his mission.

After scavenging around for supplies, Newman and Chris run into Sarah (Lynn Marguiles) who speaks about Cutter (Sid Haig), the leader of a local gang that kidnapped her and many other women.  Cutter is going to come back after her if he isn’t stopped.  Newman goes about making sure that justice is brought back to the land.

“ANGEL OF ANYWHERE”— A Stripper/Therapist

 

“Angel of Anywhere”

A Stripper/Therapist

Amos Lassen

Angel (Axel Roldos) is a stripper at the Anywhere Bar. He is physically very handsome and an answer to every woman’s desire (well almost every woman). Angel also listens to what women have to say. He is very much a therapist. Michelle (Briana Evigan), goes to a strip club because she’s tried of therapy—besides Angel is much cheaper than a psychiatrist and much more fun. She confides in him that her marriage is on the rocks. While Angel is almost nude throughout the feeling, those who come to him are much more naked than he is.

Angel spends his nights dancing for singles and acting as a pseudo-therapist/handyman to his patrons and co-workers. People easily unload their burdens and while they are with they feel a sense of refuge from the outside world. Angel tries his best to help him and keep his livelihood from falling apart.

We see the impact that Angel has on the lives of the customers, both female and male, who share their problems with him. He is a fascinating character who sees his job as being someone that listens to what his customers say. He also constantly helps out at the bar by fixing electrical problems as best he can. There is also more to Angel than people see and it is important to pay attention to the details of the film for just that reason.

There is a surprise ending and if you watch how each action is related to what before, you will a very fulfilling experience watching this. James Kicklighter directed “Angel of Anywhere”.

“POLYPHONIC PORTRAITS
OF A NEW AMERICA”— Self-Expression and the Economy

“POLYPHONIC PORTRAITS
OF A NEW AMERICA”

Self-Expression and the Economy

Amos Lassen

Natalie Bookchin’s feature documentary program is comprised of her award-winning film “Long Story Short”, and her new film, “Now he’s out in public and everyone can see”. Bookchin examines the ways self-expression is broadcast in a sharing economy.

“Now he’s out in public and everyone can see” is a 24-minute look at the fractured narrative about an unnamed man whose “racial identity is continually redrawn and contested by clusters of impassioned narrators.” It explores questions of racism and racial identity in the post-Obama world. The film consists of clips from YouTube and other online sources.

“Long Story Short” is 45 minutes long and addresses people’s experiences of poverty: why they are poor, how it feels, and what they think should be done about American poverty and homelessness today. People are asked about their encounters with—and solutions for—endemic poverty in the US”. Bookchin then layers and synchronizes these interviews with a unique, multi-image editing technique to deepen the original material.

The two films together show innovation and feeling about the divided country in which we now live; contemporary America has moved greatly to the right.

“TOKYO IDOLS”— Looking at Idol Culture

“Tokyo Idols”

Looking at Idol Culture

Amos Lassen

Kyoko Miyake’s “Tokyo Idols”  explores what has come to be known as idol culture, a huge, nearly billion-dollar industry in Japan as girl bands and pop music permeate Japanese life. RioRio, a bona fide “Tokyo Idol” who takes us on her journey toward fame and idol Culture. Rio has “brothers”a group of adult middle-aged male super fans ages 35–50 who devote their lives to following her in both the virtual world and in real life. Once considered to be on the fringes of society, the “brothers” have given up salaried jobs to pursue an interest in female idol culture that has since blown up and become a mainstream movement via the Internet.

The film takes us to the heart of a cultural phenomenon driven by an obsession with young female sexuality and Internet popularity. It is more than a fad and one of the interviewees here says it is a religion. in Kyoko Miyake’s increasingly unsettling documentary. “Idols” is a status claimed by around 10,000 teenage girls in the country, who sing and dance frothy J-pop for a, predominantly, middle-aged male fans. Their followers, in keeping with that quote, display a reverential fervor for the girls that hovers somewhere between being funny, depressing and sinister.

Miyake takes us on a thorough approach to her subject, showing both the fan-side and the opinion of those who make money from the industry, all the while probing at the psychological drivers fuelling the craze. RioRio, who is 19 years old and under no illusions admits that she cannot do this forever and is trying to move into adult pop. Almost all her energy seems to be spent on pushing her career, whether it’s recording YouTube make-up guides or even embarking on a cycling tour to get closer to her fans and, by extension, their money.

This cash element is very important. Koji Yoshida is a brother who admits that a large proportion of his pay packet goes on attending Rio’s concerts or on the associated ‘fan events’. These handshake sessions permit fans to have a couple of minutes of face time with their idol, to take a photo and have that all-important handshake. Like much in Miyake’s film, this seems pretty harmless at first glance, but it takes on more of a creepy vibe once we learn that handshakes in Japan are culturally and sexually loaded, not particularly for the younger women who have grown up with the practice but for the older men, who recall a time when touching of this sort was forbidden.

There is no attempt to present this situation simplistically. Miyake shows the many elements at play, not least the over-worked salaried men and obsessed ‘otaku’ who see this as getting attention from women the easy and quickest route, without any of the usual messiness that comes with relationships. She also isn’t out to condemn those who are obsessed by the idols, many of whom are chiefly motivated by the camaraderie that joining the fan base brings.

As the film progresses, Miyake starts to probe the more sinister aspects of all this, showing us younger and younger girls who are becoming involved in the industry. What might seem like harmless fun for a young woman with her head screwed on like RioRio, doesn’t seem so innocent when you see Yuzu, 10, meeting her fans or hearing one say that if she were older he would not be interested in her.

Miyake refuses to draw any firm conclusions, yet she certainly opens the subject up for the uninitiated and provides plenty of thought-provoking areas for debate. I want to see where RioRio’s career has ultimately takes her.

” A TRIBUTE TO LES PAUL: LIVE FROM UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD”— The “Godfather of the Electric Guitar

“A Tribute To Les Paul: Live From Universal Studios Hollywood”

The “Godfather of the Electric Guitar”

Amos Lassen

Les Paul has had quite a career— a hit-making musician, solid-body electric guitar trailblazer, and an inventor of unprecedented recording techniques. His impact and influence has changed the face of the music industry in this country and if anyone ever deserved a tribute, he is the one Filmed live at what was then the Gibson Amphitheatre in Los Angeles on February 8, 2006, this tribute gives viewers a front row seat for an unforgettable night of powerhouse performances, as some of music’s biggest names come together to honor him. The night was filled with by show-stopping numbers from an all-star slate of his disciples. We have Slash and Edgar Winter teaming up on Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition;” Toto axe man Steve Lukather’s give their rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing;” and Joe Perry and Buddy Guy closed the night with a set of soulful blues. Other highlights include performances by Joe Satriani, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, recent Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Neal Schon, and more.

There is rare commentary taken from several of Paul’s final interviews recorded at New York’s landmark Iridium Jazz Club, as well as at Paul’s home in Mahwah, New Jersey. The tribute was held to raise funds and awareness for the South Central charity, “A Place Called Home” which was designed to give at-risk youth a safe and secure environment they can thrive in.

Les Paul is considered by many to be the “Father of Modern Music” and we see that by the number of musicians from every corner of the globe and in every genre of the music industry who think so. He was an inventor, an award-winning musician, an innovator and most importantly a very special man. Those who made this tribute program possible give us every reason to remember that Les Paul was a man who influenced our music industry profoundly.

A huge lineup of rock legends pays homage to the man who left such an indelible mark in the music and guitar-building industries. Les Paul was not only a phenomenal, Grammy-winning songwriter and musician, but he made huge strides as an inventor. In fact, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2005 for crafting the solid-body electric guitar. He was also among the first artists to use certain recording techniques including overdubbing, tape delay and multitrack recording.

This captivating concert special features unforgettable performances that pay special tribute to this man’s rich, enduring legacy. Guitar enthusiasts everywhere won’t want to miss a minute!

“SATAN’S CHEERLEADERS”— “The Satanic Kitsch Classic”

“Satan’s Cheerleaders”

[“The Satanic Kitsch Classic!”

Amos Lassen

Benedict High School’s cheerleaders aren’t shy and sweet. We have Debbie (Alisa Powell) who is quite slutty, Chris (Hilary Horan) who is quiet but usually speaks up with attitude, Patti (Kerry Sherman) who is soon to be possessed the hottest of the group and Sharon (Sherry Marks) with her fabulous legs.

The football team knows them well and Billy (Jack Krushen), the school’s disturbed janitor, would like to know them in the same way. In the locker room, the girl’s shower and dress, unaware that they are being secretly watched. They don’t know that a curse has been placed on their clothes. And they don’t know that their trip to the first big game of the season might sideline them forever. These four young and sex-starved teenage girls gallivant around town in this film directed by Greydon Clark. They flaunt their sexuality to all of the older prudes and to the crazy janitor at their school, who is also a practicing Satanist. He puts a curse on them as they make their out of town trip to cheer at a game.

Once the curse is revealed, their car breaks down on the side of the road just long enough for Billy to pick them up and kidnap them. He takes them to a satanic alter in the middle of the woods and straps Patti down as she is hypnotized and nude. Patti is then devil-raped by the pervert fallen angel Lucifer, who wants to make her his bride. When the janitor gets mad and wants in on the action, the devil chokes him out and when the girls come to he is dead at their feet and they don’t remember a thing. Now there we have had some action.

The girls make their way to the road and eventually find the sheriff (John Ireland),but the sheriff knows more than he lets on and is part of the satanic cult running the town.

Director Clark’s film are always interesting and “Satan’s Cheerleaders” is no different, the tremendous amount of cheesy girl togetherness as well as Satan worship are about as awkward a mix as it sounds. Yet it is all in fun.

Bonus features include:

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
  • Original Uncompressed Dual Channel Mono Audio
  • Audio commentary from writer / director Greydon Clark
  • Photo Gallery

“THE LEGEND OF THE HOLY DRINKER”— Exiled in Paris

“THE LEGEND OF THE HOLY DRINKER” (“La leggenda del santo bevitore”)

Exiled in Paris

Amos Lassen

Andreas Kartack (Rutger Hauer) is a tramp who is exiled in Paris and haunted by a criminal past. He sees no way out of his predicament until, almost miraculously, he is offered 200 francs by a wealthy stranger whose only request is that, when and if he can afford it, he return the money to a chapel dedicated to St. Thérèse. Andreas is a man of honor but with a weak will. He decides to try to rejoin the world from which he became a stranger. He finds work, goes out with women, dines out and sleeping real beds. However, these new luxuries make him forget his obligation. such luxuries, however, distract him from his promise. The film is an adaptation of Joseph Roth’s novella and like the book is simple.

Andreas shows us his pride, his dignity and his vulnerability. The film comes across as a parable with its religious elements subordinated to a story that is told minimally yet is very affecting. 
A lot is communicated with a few words and for whatever reason, we fall in love with Andreas. We see in him a sense of being in the moment and living the life that happens. When things change, he quietly follows where they lead. He finds joy in the small moments.

LA LEGGENDA DEL SANTO BEVITORE, (aka THE LEGEND OF THE HOLY DRINKER), Rutger Hauer (left), 1988, © Bac Films

The film is about his epiphany and we see that there is always more than one chance, and that somehow not succeeding completely is okay as long as we do not stop trying. Although the story is primarily about Andreas, there are other wonderful characters including the stranger (Anthony Quayle) and the young prostitute, Andreas’s parents and so on. Italian director Ermanno Olmi adapted from the novella for the screen.

LA LEGGENDA DEL SANTO BEVITORE, (aka THE LEGEND OF THE HOLY DRINKER), Sandrine Dumas, 1988, © Bac films

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

Brand-new 4K restoration from the original negative, produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations of both the English and Italian versions of the film

5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and Stereo 2.0 options for the English presentation with optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing

Stereo 2.0 audio for the Italian presentation with optional newly translated English subtitles

Brand-new interview with actor Rutger Hauer, recorded exclusively for this release

Interview with screenwriter Tullio Kezich

Theatrical trailer

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: New writing on the film by Helen Chambers, author of Joseph Roth in Retrospect: Co-existent Contradiction