Sunday, June 3, 2012

Films 3

Okay, by request, here's some more films that are well outside-the-norm. On a similar note, I haven't seen 'Branded to Kill' yet, but it sounds great so it'll probably get posted here at some point.

'Combat Shock' - 1986
Yeah yeah, it's a Troma movie, and I said I would hold back on the horror comedy genre, but this is most certainly NOT your average Troma picture. Don't watch this movie unless you're kind of pissed off at the world, otherwise it'll bum you out really bad.

On the surface, 'Combat Shock' is a pretty regular post-Vietnam film. Guy gets back from the war, nobody is happy for him, he's kinda crazy, he can't find work, and he's got a newborn to take care of. Only problem is the newborn suffers from Agent Orange poisoning and looks more like the baby in 'Eraserhead.' In fact, this film has quite a bit in common with 'Eraserhead.' It's kind of like a streetwise, tougher, more linear version of that film. It's also, if possible, more disturbing and depressing, and definitely more violent.

I won't give too much away, but if you want to see something that's so realistic it almost hurts, check this'un out.

'Solaris' - 1972
This one is a lot more well-known than some of these weirdo films. That doesn't mean it's any less weird, though. Maybe you're familiar with the 2002 remake by Steven Soderbergh, which I haven't seen, but this is the OG adaptation of Stanislaw Lem's novel by Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky.

So, we're in space, some folks are investigating a recently-discovered planet called Solaris. One dude starts seeing his dead wife walking around the space station, and gets a little too attached to her. Yeah, there's really not a whole lot going on. That doesn't matter though, because in the right mood this film will really get inside your head. It's slooooowwww, but not in a boring way...lots of unusual effects, like different film colors (sepiatone is featured heavily, I think) and weird future stuff. Maybe 1972's idea of the future seems a little outdated, but it kinda seems cooler than what actually happened...

Lem, the author of the 'Solaris' novel, didn't think this version of the film (or the remake, for that matter) stayed true to his original idea of extraterrestrial communication, but I think the message carried through. Basically, it's saying that if an alien lifeform tried to communicate with us, we would probably have no idea what to do because its communication form would be nothing like ours. Pretty interesting stuff. Calmly weird, whereas some of this stuff is beat-you-over-the-head fucked up.

'Xtro' - 1983
In the early 80's, EVERYONE wanted a piece of 'E.T.' Right down to the fact that someone decided to make 'Mac and Me,' an even more commercialized version of the E.T. story. Yeah, nobody like that shit. However, lots of Italians and Brits wanted to make 'negative' E.T. know...'Alien' knockoffs without all the money, and with more 'familial'-type settings than a bunch of astronauts fucking around.

I dunno about some of the others, but 'Xtro' is pretty damn cool...and also surprisingly surreal. Let's see...some kid's dad gets stolen by aliens...a few years later, the alien comes back and gets his wife pregnant, then she gives birth to her full-grown husband and she obviously dies. The kid and his new alien-dad start hanging out and doing alien things to people. The kid also has a bad habit of making surreal clowns and shit appear when he's mad.

I wouldn't blame you if you started dozing halfway through this gets pretty slow in the middle, but then the weirdness kicks in. I'm guessing the director was influenced quite a bit by Dario Argento's pictures, because it has that same surreal look, but it's definitely not an Argento ripoff.

'Fantastic Planet' - 1973
I thought this was a pretty popular 'weird' movie, but maybe not. I guess if you're into 'adult' animation and its origins, you've probably heard of this one, or maybe you just stick to 'Family Guy.' Anyhow, the 70's were a really good time for animated pictures...Ralph Bakshi was doin' 'Fritz the Cat,' 'Heavy Traffic,' 'Wizards,' and 'Coonskin,' and the French were just ripping through fucked up sci-fi stuff like this.

'Fantastic Planet' seems like a really anti-human film to me, which is kind of cool. In the distant future, humans are kept as pets by giant blue aliens with dead eyes. Some of them rudely escape (really, you don't feel any sympathy for them...I felt way worse for the little alien dude losing his pet) and go live in the weird-ass 'forests' of their new home planet. There isn't much dialog, which is good because I've only been able to find this film with subtitles for the French. Maybe it makes me an ugly American that I hate that, but if I'm watching an animated film, I want to be paying attention to the action, not reading.

This one's got a weird cutout animation style that's kind of like bizarro-proto-'South Park.' Plus, whereas most modern-day adult animation is humor-oriented, this isn't really funny at all, just creepy. I only put this film up here, but director Rene Laloux did two other badass animated features in the 80's called 'Time Masters' and 'Gandahar' (aka 'Light Years.') Both of these are definitely worth checking out, too. It was a little easier to follow the story in 'Time Masters,' but it's not quite as creepy as this one.

'Putney Swope' - 1969
I've seen Robert Downey Sr.'s 'Greaser's Palace' and 'Pound' on a lot of weird-film lists, but this one not so much. Yeah, 'Greaser's Palace' is totally incomprehensible and hilarious and 'Pound' has people acting like dogs, but neither of them have a dope-smoking German midget as the US president or a fucked-up biker dude telling a roomful of advertising execs that a glass of beer is 'pee-pee dicky.'

Downey, the guy who reportedly made his 3-year-old son get high, wrote and directed this completely stoned comedy about a black dude working in an advertising firm who ends up taking over when the president dies. The joke is that all the other execs vote for him figuring no one else will, in an effort to throw their votes away. He then turns their company into the 'Truth and Soul' firm and starts making street-smart commercials.

Sounds like some SNL/Rodney Dangerfield type shit, right? But this is the most off-the-wall, bizarre comedy I've ever seen. Chock full of memorable one-liners, you'll probably end up watching this one a few times just because the jokes are so hilarious. I'll give a few examples:
-Two Asian fellows are randomly throwing firecrackers in the hallway before their meeting with Truth and Soul. Putney (the black dude) walks out and says 'What's their bag? Do-it-yourself Pearl Harbor?'
-A fake ad for box fans that features a woman dancing to psychedelic music and saying 'You can't eat an air conditioner!'
-The tiny German president inviting Putney to 'shoot up in the big city' with him.

If that's not enough, Louis C.K. cites this film as a direct influence on his short films and TV show.

'Ginseng King' - 1988
We're gonna finish things out today with one that's so obscure it's probably impossible to find. I got this film on a VHS rip from a pirate video website years ago, and was not disappointed, aside from some of the subtitles being cut off.

This is a low-budget horror-comedy-action-fantasy from Thailand, so you know it's gonna be fucked. I can't tell you too much about the plot because it doesn't really make that much sense, but it's some kid saving his mom with the help of a living ginseng root that follows him around, THEN the ginseng root gets kidnapped by a three-headed monster and the kid has to help it. Then, there's a Nazi zombie. I dunno, a lot of it is filmed in the woods because it's REALLY low-budget, but it's got some completely incomprehensible computerized special effects as well.

If you are into b-horror films, and especially the ill-advised foreign ones, you'll wanna track this down. There's a brief article on it at this blog.

That's it for today...

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