Instead of my usual rantings about upcoming releases and cheezy filmmakers, I'd like to offer a few pixels in tribute to the recent passing of Pauline Kael, probably the most influential person to ever review a film. In her columns for THE NEW YORKER, McCALL'S and THE NEW REPUBLIC, as well as in her books I LOST IT AT THE MOVIES, KISS KISS, BANG BANG and others, Kael changed the style of film criticism or more accurately, created a new one which championed a diverse group of cinema talents whose careers grew thanks to her support. Her passion for film and her humor towards life were obvious in her work, and the rather gonzo style that typifies film writing all over the net today probably owes as much to her as it does Hunter Thompson and ROLLING STONE magazine.
It was Kael who saw that film was seldom great art, but somehow more than just "pop art." She saw value in trash, realizing that for all its award shows and tuxedos, movies were closer to carnivals and P.T. Barnum "skams" for the "rubes" than they were to staid museums filled with timeless art. But she also didn't see that as a bad thing, telling us that, "If we've grown up at the movies, we know that good work is not continuous with the academic, respectable tradition but with glimpses of something good in trash, but we want the subversive gesture carried to the domain of discovery. Trash has given us an appetite for art." Her writings gave me an intellectual basis with which to defend my love of Roger Corman and Charles Band movies, to champion '50s sci-fi and '80s gore and all the rest of the dubious joys that make the fantastic genres so much fun. I doubt this was ever her intention, but I thank her for it nonetheless.
13 GHOSTS was certain to be re-released . There's an endearing, tongue-in-cheek quality to Castle's films from this period (1960) and this tale of a family that inherits a house containing the title residents is no exception. It's never scary, but the gimmick of having to wear special glasses ("Illusion-O") to see the ghosts was a great one that is reproduced on the DVD (a welcome featurette on the gimmick itself is also found on the disc).
THE BLOB is Chuck Russell's pretty decent remake of the 1958 original. Like JOHN CARPENTER'S THE THING, this is a remake that is quite different from its predecessor, a fact that is both the film's strength and weakness. Making a feisty teenage girl the hero was a great idea, but making the monster a government project gone wrong was pointless. Still, there're lots of nice effects and a great ending that more than make it worth your time.
THE BRIDE was such a great idea that I still can't believe they blew it. The film is something of a remake of BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, but takes the premise that Dr. Frankenstein (Sting) abandoned his failed first creation and then created a perfect woman (Jennifer Beals). The film looks great, but director Franc Roddam has an over-inflated opinion of his own abilities and also badly cast the key roles with non-actors. The film's best moments are with the creature (Clancy Brown) and his circus midget (David Rappaport).
JUST VISITING is proof that the French have never forgiven us for saving their pansy asses in WWII. Remaking lame-ass French films is practically a cottage industry in Hollywood and this tale (originally made in 1993 as LES VISITEURS) offers a time-traveling French knight and his servant who are transported to modern day New York. There they meet Christina Applegate, Tara Reid and Bridgette Wilson (yeah, I mean, who doesn't?) and run afoul of present day items which create conflicts from which hilarity doth ensue (not!). I haven't seen the original, but it has to be better than this.
MONSTERS CRASH THE PAJAMA PARTY: SPOOKSHOW SPECTACULAR is
THE VEIL is a double disc DVD set featuring all ten episodes of a never broadcast, 1958 horror anthology TV series hosted by, and often starring, Boris Karloff. These early TV shows are pretty static and primitive, but some are imaginative and all are pretty well acted. Image adds value to the set by including the two-episode pilot of the unaired 13 DEMON STREET series, hosted by Lon Chaney Jr.
CARDCAPTORS #5: FIRESTORM offers three more episodes from the series, which involves fire cards, snow cards and high school kids.
GETTER ROBO #2: ARMAGEDDON TRANSFIGURATION is an anime where the title is nearly as long as the video itself. It's more alien invaders and young cartoon characters who can pilot giant battlebots. All for your edification.
ORPHEN: SUPER-NATURAL POWERS continues the adventures of Orphen and her witch-hunting dragon, Majic. In this one they meet Fiena, who can heal animals with a touch.
SORCERER HUNTERS #2: MAGICAL DESIRES is another tale of witch hunting, this time with characters sporting names like Carrot, Chocolate and Big Momma. Could this actually be a Carrot Top/Martin Lawrence film? Let us hope not.
PICK OF THE WEEK
Now I know what you're thinking right about now - you're thinking, man I could do with a couple gorditas and some tacos. No, wait, that's what I'm thinking. You're thinking, what about that "most frightening title ever release" thing from the intro? Well, here it is.
Back in the 1970s, the NBC network was [IMG4R]in terrible shape and desperate for a hit series. A guy named Fred Silverman was in charge and, exhibiting absolutely no shame, he came up with some of the worst ideas ever for TV shows in a mad attempt to attract an audience. Programs like BJ AND THE BEAR and SUPERTRAIN are still joked about as virtual nadirs of the broadcasting industry. Yet, bad as these were, they don't come close to the abject horror of PINK LADY AND JEFF. It seems that Silverman had seen a Japanese singing duo called Pink Lady, which was comprised of two very sexy Asian girls who apparently had a limited budget for costumes. Silverman reasoned that sex, songs and humor were an unbeatable combo so he paired the girls with goofy comic Jeff Altman and put them in a variety show. There really are no words for how awful this show was, and it only lasted a month. But, thanks to the wonder of home video, and the sickos at Rhino, you can now relive the horror that was... PINK LADY AND JEFF.
I'm running a little short on worthwhile Easter Eggs to call to your attention, so here's a new feature that will spotlight films of interest which can currently be found at very reasonable costs on the net.
Take a jaunt over to Ken Crane's DVD Planet site (www.dvdplanet.com) and click on their listings for discs under $10.00 and there is a virtual cornucopia of genre fun at bargain basement prices. Charlie Band's financial setbacks become your windfall as prices are slashed on Full Moon product in an attempt to keep the studio's doors open. The utterly goofy, and undeniably sexy, SLAVES GIRLS FROM BEYOND INFINITY can be found along with the campy nonsense of SORORITY BABES IN THE SLIMEBALL BOWL-A-RAMA, the gory PARASITE (memorable as Demi Moore's first starring role), the amusing HEAD OF THE FAMILY, and the excellent Stuart Gordon period piece THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, with Lance Henriksen chewing up the scenery as medieval torturer Torquemada. And don't forget the eerie TOURIST TRAP. A couple of these titles are actually pretty good, and the rest are all trashy fun. What have you got to lose? Well, yeah - ten bucks. But you could easily blow that on tacos and gorditas and have nothing to show for it but gas and skid marks in your underwear. Buy a movie. It's the American way.
Next week it's creature week with Werewolves in England, Gorillas in Brooklyn, Boogeymen in Haddonfield and Schwarzenegger on Mars.
Vidiocy is our weekly Video & DVD column.