Saturday, February 23, 2019

While my wife is away

We sent Erika off on her business trip to San Antonio by playing her John Wayne's The Alamo. The hokiness of the film notwithstanding, it has some pretty amazing visuals, and I finally got to play her a Richard Widmark movie (it was also her first John Wayne and her first Laurence Harvey, but Widmark is one of my favourites of the day).

Turns out that before she left, though, she passed on her cold to me, though it seems to have hit me much harder than it did her: I spent last night, for instance, uncontrollably shivering, feverish, and blessed with a headache. I've taken the day off work and am going to do nothing today but watch movies (and scribble a few notes). Trying to pick things Erika might not care for, or that I can't vouch for.

Last night it was Rollover. Jane Fonda rejoins Alan J. Pakula for a tale of corporate conspiracy, banking, and paranoia about Saudi Arabia; it also features some convincing sexual chemistry between Fonda and Kris Kristofferson. It has a few strikingly crappy elements (dullest title sequence I can recall and a soundtrack to rival the awfulness of 80's porno soundtracks) but overall it's a strong and interesting Pakula, which seems to be about the sexiness of money. (Will Jane and Kris still want to fuck each other once the economy collapses?). Pakula was a great American filmmaker, and this is a very worthy, somewhat neglected item in his canon; though I still have no idea what a "rollover" is (the film doesn't explain its banking terminology much).

Today, I started out with Argento's Phenomena, which is a really odd item. I had watched and enjoyed (beyond my expectations, actually) The Cat O' Nine Tails, a couple of weeks ago, and thought I would attempt another of his films; truth is, I've never really gotten Argento, though I haven't tried very hard, and always - every time there's a ballyhooed screening of Suspiria - wonder if I'm missing out. There are definitely interesting things in Phenomena: from psychic communication with insects to a pretty young Jennifer Connelly vomiting and being plunged into pools of feces, corpses, and maggots; from a wheelchair-bound Scottish entymologist (Donald Pleasance) with a chimp helper - who turns out to be the hero of the film - to a razor-wielding, deformed, homicidal dwarf-child. Lots of maggots, too! As with Fulci, there are occasional moments of incompetence - often involving cringeworthy dialogue, placed in the mouth of actual English speaking actors, but clearly written by someone for whom English was not a mother tongue. Inventive as it is, though, Argento manages to do something Fulci does not: he bores the hell out of me. Scene after scene drag on pointlessly; I can see why the American distributors cut 20 minutes out of the film, because there is at least that much fat on the bone. Some critic out there, I gather, has posed the question of, what do you make of a film where the most convincing performance is given by a chimpanzee? I had thought I might watch two Argento's today, but no - if I do another Italian horror film, it's going to be Fulci.

But that will be later. After slogging my way through Phenomena - the most boring killer dwarf/ psychic insect connection/ vengeful chimp movie ever made - I followed the thread from Argento to his sometimes-collaborator George A. Romero, for one of the few films of his I've only seen once: Bruiser, which I didn't like much at all back in the days of VHS. To my amazement, I appreciated it much more now - though the most curious thing about the film ended up being that, in searching out Leslie Hope, who I knew I knew from somewhere, I discovered she played Joanie in Cassavetes' Love Streams. The film itself is barely a horror movie at all: a doormat of a man (played by Jason Flemying) loses his face, literally, and sets out to get revenge on his cheating wife, his treacherous best friend, and a truly obnoxious boss (Peter Stormare giving one of his broader performances). The climax takes place at a carnival of grotesques while the Graves-era Misfits play. It's not top-drawer Romero, but it is one of the better later entries in his filmography.

Oh, and Tom Atkins is in it, so I'm following another thread and watching Night of the Creeps now (which I've never seen! Tho' I rather loved Fred Dekker's The Monster Squad). Then maybe Fulci's City of the Living Dead, then maybe REC 4, which I've never seen.

It's not a bad way to spend a sick day.

1 comment:

David M. said...

There's a laserdisc of the extended Roadshow version of "The Alamo" and it's much improved with 40 minutes added. Of course I have this.