A Paranormal Puberty

Yasmine Dahm plays Sophie, a young girl who sets off a chain of poltergeist activity in Au Rendez-Vous de la Mort Joyeuse (1973, aka Expulsion of the Devil).

Although Luis Bunuel never made a straight up horror film in the traditional sense, many of his movies contained elements of the horrific and the fantastical such as the “mother meat” nightmare sequence in Los Olvidados (1950), the severed, crawling hand in The Exterminating Angel (1962) or the Devil in his many disguises in the 45 minute allegory, Simon of the Desert (1965). However, Juan Luis Bunuel, the director’s son, launched his feature film career with an audacious and unsettling journey into the paranormal – Au Rendez-Vous de la Mort Joyeuse (1973, aka Expulsion of the Devil) which must have made his father proud as it was brimming with the sort of anarchic disregard for the conventional and corruption of the innocent that distinguishes the master’s best films. It’s also creepy as hell.      Continue reading

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Russian Road Rage and Car Catastrophes

What is your worst car wreck nightmare? Is it a drunk or out-of-control driver who is speeding and suddenly swerves into your lane for a head-on collision? Or maybe it’s rounding a curve in the road too fast and breaking through the guard rail to land in the river below. Perhaps it is the unpredictability of an icy road where a speeding truck has jack-knifed and is now sliding sideways at 70mph toward your car. All of these and more are just a few of the accidents and mayhem on display in The Road Movie (2016), Dmitrii Kalashnikov’s compilation of car-cam footage from Russian drivers, which I saw at the November 2017 Virginia Film Festival in Charlottesville. Continue reading

Audie Murphy: Role Model

Audie Murphy plays an angel of death in the semi-allegorical western western, No Name on the Bullet (1959), directed by Jack Arnold

Clint Eastwood certainly carved out his own genre niche as “The Man With No Name” gunslinger of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western trilogy but he wasn’t the first to craft his screen persona as an archetype of the tight-lipped, deadly frontier drifter. Audie Murphy had already perfected the prototype in No Name on the Bullet (1959), a much darker variation on the heroic lawmen the actor usually played in westerns. Continue reading

Working Without a Safety Net

Alexandra Stewart & Warren Beatty defy gravity in Arthur Penn’s existential noir, Mickey One (1965).

Every actor or director probably has at least one movie in their filmography unlike anything else they’ve ever done before or since and for Warren Beatty and Arthur Penn that film would be Mickey One (1965). Allegedly inspired by the French New Wave films of the early sixties, Penn’s film is an enigmatic and existential tale of a nightclub stand-up comic who goes on the lam from the mob because of a huge financial debt he can’t repay.  Continue reading

The Corporate Ladder and How to Climb It

Despite a long and prolific career, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. is more famous for being the son of the silent era superstar Douglas Fairbanks Sr., his Hollywood social connections (including ex-wife Joan Crawford) and a handful of films in which he’s overshadowed by his co-stars (Greta Garbo in A Woman of Affairs [1928], Edward G. Robinson in Little Caesar [1931], Katharine Hepburn in Morning Glory [1933], and Cary Grant in Gunga Din [1939]).  Continue reading

Cult of the Arachnids

By the mid-1980s the Italian film industry was in a state of major decline. The glory years of the fifties and sixties were now fondly remembered footnotes in the history of world cinema and even the popular film genres – giallo, poliziotteschi, spaghetti western and horror – were near the end of their heyday. There were still a few determined stragglers such as Tinto Brass with his fetish based erotica (The Key, Miranda, Snack Bar Budapest) and Enzo G. Castellari, who soldiered on with formulaic hybrids like 1990: The Bronx Warriors, Tuareg: The Desert Warrior and Striker. But the horror genre, in particular, was suffering with masters of the macabre Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento trying but failing to top past high water marks like The Beyond (1981) and Suspiria (1977). It was during this downward trend that Gianfranco Giagni made his directorial debut with The Spider Labyrinth (Italian title: Il Nido del Ragno, 1988).  Continue reading

Missing in Action: William Klein’s Quirky Portrait of Little Richard

Richard Wayne Penniman
aka Little Richard
circa 1950s

Those who follow the contemporary art scene and are well versed in art history know William Klein as one of the most influential American photographers to emerge in the fifties along with his contemporary Robert Frank. Famous for his unconventional fashion shoots for Vogue as well as his candid documentation of New York City street life, Klein went on to apply his photo-diary approach to Rome, Moscow and Tokyo in the sixties, all of which are available individually as photography collections. He is less well known for his idiosyncratic films (Eldridge Cleaver, Black Panther, 1970) and shorts (Broadway By Light, 1958) but luckily some of his best work is available on DVD – his intimate 1969 portrait of Muhammad Ali, Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee (aka Muhammad Ali, the Greatest) and the Eclipse collection, The Delirious Fictions of William Klein that includes Who Are You, Polly Maggoo? (1966), Mr. Freedom (1969) and The Model Couple (1977). But I still want to see more of his cinema explorations made available and The Little Richard Story (1980), a West German production, is at the top of my list. Continue reading