01/27/2014

“Should I kill myself or get another hooker?”: Cinema Obscura Part 2

by Matthew Hawkins

The Roger Ebert of drive-in cinema himself, Joe Bob Briggs in the flesh.

Where was I? Oh yeah: on the Monday that followed the Totally 80’s Movie Freak Out (as detailed in part 1), I made a trip to Carroll Gardens, which I hadn’t been to in ages; without Rocketship, my reasons to be in that part of Brooklyn pretty much disappeared. To the apartment where Peter Kuplowsky was staying; Peter’s a pal I made during the very first Comics Vs. Games in Toronto, who came to town for the aforementioned Subway Cinema shindig. Together, along with the guy he was staying with (dude named Josh; really nice guy), we all watched movies the way God intended (at least in the 80s and 90s), via the good ol’ VCR…

Runaway Nightmare

In a nutshell: two dudes, including one who has the looks of Nicholas Cage and the voice of James Stewart (but neither of their acting chops), are bug farmers (yes, that’s an actual thing) in the middle of nowhere. Craving adventure, they get it in the form of an all female cult that kidnaps them; initially it would appear that they’re goners, but the gals decide to make nice and them members in the end, though they have to pass a test first. And that’s having sex with the women, naturally. Eventually we discover that the ladies need muscle, in their war against the mob, which stole a briefcase filled with plutonium that’s rightfully there’s.

Of the two, the non Nic Cage/Jimmy Stewart hybrid enjoys his new lot in life, mostly since he’s banging all hot chicks. Whereas the other one only seems to get hit on by the resident crazy chick, fat chick, and vampire. Did I mention that, whenever any of the females get naked, it’s actually video footage that was inserted by the distributor, to give the proceeding some extra flavor? Runaway Nightmare is a MST3K film but without Joel and Bots to fill up the long stretches of awkward silence. In many ways, it’s super reminiscent of Manos: The Hands of Fate, since much of its mind-numbing confusion also stems from everything being too damn dark (plus it also takes place in the desert). Yet there’s always this genuinely weird and creepy vibe, like a David Lynch flick. So Runaway Nightmare ends up being the bastard love child of Manos and Mullholand Drive.

Shreck

Nope, not the CGI big budget blockbuster staring the lovable ogre that hails from Hollywood, but a SOV (Shot On Video) no budget obscurity starring the ghost of a real life Nazi that was shot in Wisconsin. You basically have three dorky teenagers who love horror movies (and the very types to makes SOVs, BTW) that decide to resurrect the sprit of said monster, to force him to do their bidding, or something to that effect. And it actually works! Except, turns out that Shreck’s not the agreeable type. It’s typical SOV fare, meaning it’s that home movie you made with pals in junior high, and one of them sat onto the footage for years, until community college, where it became his final project. See for yourself; am posting the entire thing since I’m certain that there’s no chance in hell that I’m going to get a C&D (plus SOVs rarely had trailers, since there was never a place to show them).

… The following (and this past) weekend I was back at the Spectacle, to see a Ronnie Cramer retrospective hosted by noted B movie critic and advocate, Joe Bob Briggs. The man’s long been a hero of mine, believe it or not (actually, anyone who knows my penchant for bad movies should not be the least bit surprised), so not only was it a thrill to see Briggs in the flesh but hear him talk about Cramer, the indie filmmaker that he helped to put on the map. Well, certain kinds of people’s maps, at least…

Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend

WARNING: the above gets NSFW just 17 seconds in

The title comes from lead character Marcus Templeton’s revelation that even the most evil man in the history of mankind was able to get a girl. Marcus is a prototypical loser: a 30 year old security guard who does the graveyard shift at an abandoned lot, and who has just as little contact with other humans in his down life. Marcus has no males friends, nor any female acquaintances; his obsession with sex, particularly women’s breasts is either the cause or end result, who knows. At first we see him consume copious amounts of porn and engage in peeping tom nonsense, but eventually resorts to phone sex and finally hookers. Along the way he comes up with so-called genius ideas, like secretly audio and video taping his hook ups, to save money on porn you see, plus getting a corset and ”Reduce-O-Creme” in hopes of improving his looks and self esteem, to get a regular girl. Neither works, naturally.

And on top of all that, Marcus is also tormented by the spirit of his dead father, who pops up every once in a while to let his son know what a POS he is, his neighbor keeps slipping religious propaganda under the door, and he also looks like wanted mass murder. But none of these points are at all developed, alas. Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend feels like a bizarre mishmash of Clerks and Sex, Lies, and Videotape, with some truly compelling moments. Andren Scott, who plays Marcus, simply shines as this pathetic individual that kinda deserves his lot in life, yet who is still totally sympathetic. Unfortunately, the movie’s pacing and even progress of events is all of the place, and the end result is somewhat tedious. Which I guess you can see for yourself; couldn’t find the trailer, but just the whole thing, and figured what the hey. Oh, and there’s also a sequel!

The Hitler Tapes

Cramer, perhaps motivated by the success of Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend (I’m guessing that he got a decent amount of pub when Briggs called it the ”Best Drive-In Movie of the Year” of 1991), decided to do a follow up. Unfortunately, actor Andren Scott was killed halfway through during filming. In real life, Scott was an everyday schlep apparently; according to Briggs, he worked at a convenience store during the day, and was asked by a friend to do the evening shift. And the one time he does so, he gets robbed and the murdered in the process, for a measly $12. Such a shame. Anyhow, it’s hard to judge the sequel given that Cramer had a real creative quandary on his hands.

Much of the footage that had been shot is simply Marcus engaging in the same nonsense as before; he’s still trying to haggle down the prices of hookers and asking them bizarre questions while videotaping them. Though it also gets all artsy fartsy; the parts in which women are respond to Marcus are way longer and far more existential. There’s also this super model that’s seen listening to Marcus’s secrete audio recordings in various parts of town. In the end, The Hitler Tapes is flat out depressing, given the knowledge of what happened to the lead, and how this was his last movie, and the fact that it’s shot on video and not film makes it that much worse.

Highway Amazon

Cramer’s one and only documentary is centered on Christine Fetzer, a female body builder that travels the country to wrestles men in hotel room. Basically, horny guys that are into muscle worship. Basically it’s Christine giving us the 411 about her background, how she fell into such a thing, and various anecdotes regarding memorable patrons. Just to be clear, she doesn’t have sex with these men, and instead simply tosses them around on a bed, often putting them in head scissors for prolonged periods of time. We are told that sometimes dudes will jerk off afterwards, but that’s about it. What a living!

The yarn that Christine spins is definitely amusing, though the best part is seeing her grapple dudes, but not surprisingly, many did not want to be seen on filmed. As such, it’s mostly just Fetzer talking directly to the camera and unfortunately that gets simply old after the first hour. That and her flexing for the camera, and she only has like three poses. It’s still worth checking out if it every crosses your path, and if anything, it’s interesting seeing how wackos found each other before the internet really came into its own (whereas today, there’s like a million ways to become aquatinted with wack jobs).

Roar

Remember how I said I have two new cinematic obsessions for 2014? Say hello to film #2, which I learned about at the Spectacle; they showed a trailer for a late February screening, and it looked so nuts that I had to download a copy myself. Roar is the brainchild of Noel Marshall, who wrote, direct, and stars in the film, along with his wife at the time, Tippi Hedren (both served as producers as well). It’s why Roar is often referred to as ”The Birds, but with lions”. Speaking, the real stars of the show are the 150 or so lions plus tigers and panthers; there was a script, you could say, but the large cats (who were completely untrained) called the shots and ultimately dictated the finer details (which is why a few also received writing and directing credits also).

Along with his wife, even Marshall’s children (which includes Melanie Griffith) are in the movie, who all in real life lived in a large home that housed over a hundred lions roaming in and out as they pleased. This was not in Africa, btw, but in Los Angeles. The plot’s paper thin, mostly about people needing to treat animals with respect, cuz they’re our b-fries, blah, blah, blah. Mostly since it’s just random footage of big cats going completely apesh*t that’s been pieced together to form a narrative of sorts. Again, these are NOT trained animals; while not completely wild either, they do whatever the hell that they want, like getting super rough with each other (plus people) and with Marshall getting right in the think of things. There are times in which it looks as if he’s getting mauled, because he is, and while not a bloody mess afterward, he clearly shows the damaged that had been done.

I cannot emphasis how insane Roar is. There’s a reason why it’s also referred to as ”the most dangerous home movie ever made”. Alongside Skatetown USA, I also can’t believe it’s not more famous. Perhaps because no one died, miraculously, though the lead cinematographer apparently had the back of his head clawed off, essentially scalping him and requiring 200 stitches, yet he did return to work (fun fact: that was Jan De Bont, who aside from filming classics like Die Hard, also directed Speed). Otherwise, the turnaround was pretty high, which might also explain why it took 11 years for the movie to be finished. But yeah, however you can, FIND THIS MOVIE.

… I suppose I should mention that, while not nearly as annoying the previous weekend, that audience at Spectacle during the Ronnie Cramer retrospective was still fairly annoying. At the very least I’ve finally come to understand the crowd; they’re just young kids, the clueless types. Case in point: everyone loved all the Cramer flicks, to the point that they believed them to be works of genius. And they’re kinda not. I suppose it simply speaks of their lack of familiarity, and that’s okay, cuz we all have to go down that rabbit hole on our own. In that sense, it’s almost feel like I’m some stranger who is sitting in on movie night among a group college pals.

Maybe if I go there enough to know me, they’ll realize that I for one am not a fan of their witty commentary, cuz it’s lame, and be quiet.

Speaking of, I got to know yet another member of the Spectacle family, the guy who’s in charge of the midnight screenings, and I gave him some recommendations that I believe is perfect for the theater (and he definitely sounded interested). I also told him about Canzo Empyrean, as in, if he had possibly heard of it and maybe even screened it. No such luck. Was a real long shot, but had to ask; with my time in NYC winding down, I am pretty desperate to see it and need as many helping hands as possible. Speaking of, there’s a brand new trailer that I had no idea existed! Well, it came out last year, but it’s still one I hadn’t seen up until now…

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