In the many peaks and valleys of his long career the Mickster never shied away from taking on difficult or questionable roles in his relentless desire to perform and entertain. While this adventuresome spirit might alienate part of his fan base that prefers to remember him as Andy Hardy or Judy Garland’s musical partner, it has won him an entirely new set of admirers. I’m talking about those who have seen and been amazed by his participation amid those lost post-MGM years in such eclectic fare as The Private Lives of Adam and Eve (1960), Platinum High School (1960), Everything’s Ducky (1961 with Buddy Hackett and a talking duck), Roger Corman’s The Secret Invasion (1964), How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965), the Mafia-Hippie-LSD comedy Skidoo (1968), and 1971’s The Manipulator (aka B.J. Lang Presents), where he plays a psychotic former director living in an abandoned warehouse with a female captive.
Rooney’s energy, range and versatility are truly awe-inspiring from his desperate loser of Quicksand (1950) to his subtle, moving portrayal in Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962) to his unexpected cameo in Babe: Pig in the City (1998). But I’m willing to bet that La Vida Lactea (aka The Milky Life), made in Spain in 1992, is probably the weirdest thing he’s ever done and very few people have seen it. Continue reading →
Not all film preservationists are focused on saving and restoring lost classics of silent and early cinema like Abel Gance’s Napoleon (1927) or overlooked noir indies from Hollywood’s golden era such as Richard Fleischer’s Trapped (1949). Mondo Macabro, which has been around since 2003 or so, is dedicated to introducing movie lovers to fringe cinema from around the world – obscure genre films that run the gamut from horror to sexploitation to art house oddities from countries as far flung as Japan, Latvia and South Africa. Among some of their offbeat releases are Lady Terminator (1989), a cheesy Indonesian rip-off of James Cameron’s The Terminator, The Living Corpse (1967), a vampire thriller from Pakistan, and Strip Tease (1963), a melancholy French drama starring Nico (of The Velvet Underground) with music by Serge Gainsbourg and Alain Goraguer. The company’s most recent release on Blu-Ray, The Killer of Dolls (El asesino de manecas, 1975), is easily one of their most peculiar and transgressive acquisitions to date. Continue reading →
Two college students, Miguel (John Moulder-Brown) and Julia (Inma de Santis), take advantage of a school holiday to run off together for parts unknown. Their plan is to shack up somewhere where their parents can’t find them but their impromptu road trip takes an unexpected detour. The young lovers soon find themselves prisoners at a sequestered mansion and estate under the control of Don Luis (Javier Escrivá), an aristocrat with a passionate love of fine arts and the music of Richard Wagner. He also happens to be one of their professors at college and the one who picked up the hitchhikers while he was blasting “Ride of the Valkyries” from his car stereo. This is the set-up for Eloy de la Iglesia’s Forbidden Love Game (Spanish title: Juego de amor prohibido, 1975) but if you think you know what’s coming, you’re probably mistaken. Continue reading →
Jose Luis Lopez Vazquez and Geraldine Chaplin in Peppermint Frappe (1967), directed by Carlos Saura
One of Spain’s best known and critically acclaimed filmmakers in his own country, Carlos Saura is less well known in the U.S. where his mentor Luis Bunuel and his predecessor Pedro Almodovar are more famous. Yet, Saura was one of the guiding lights of the Spanish New Wave movement in the early sixties, beginning with his neorealistic social drama The Delinquents (1960). Saura would hit his stride with his two subsequent features, La Caza (1966, aka The Hunt) and Peppermint Frappe (1967), both of which explored the political, social and sexual repression of the Franco regime through the guise of allegory and psychological melodrama, respectively. Continue reading →
A newlywed couple’s road trip into the countryside grows stranger and stranger and then a deranged Michael J. Pollard shows up, wandering out of the wilderness and clutching a stolen wedding dress. Welcome to Morbo, a 1972 film by Gonzalo Suárez which is in the tradition of other dark, disturbing works by Spanish masters like Luis Bunuel (The Exterminating Angel), Juan Antonio Bardem (Death of a Cyclist) and Carlos Saura (The Hunt). Continue reading →