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Seven more movies

Gas!
or It Became Necessary to Destroy the World in Order to Save It.
(1970)
YES

Amazon Primestreaming free

Army military experiments have gone wrong and released a deadly gas that kills all people past the age of 25. If you’re expecting Logan’s Run, though, forget it — there’s an end-of-the-world beer bust, but after that the death of all us old folks isn't mentioned again. It’s just a plot device to remove all the world’s gray-haired authority figures.

Gas! was directed by Roger Corman, and it’s not great, but it also ain't bad. There’s Bud Cort in a Lidsville hat, hippie Talia Shire, revolutionary Ben Vereen, pregnant Cindy Williams, and Country Joe McDonald as AM Radio. Heavily barbed with 1960s spirit and sarcasm, it offers some genuinely clever moments and dialogue.

Much of the humor is stale and dated, or wasn’t funny fifty years ago either, but some of it’s simply brilliant, like the political confrontation on the golf course between anti-golf radicals and golf-military strategists, or the native Americans celebrating their victory — “We’ve got America back!” Being a hippie at heart myself, I cheered when the counterculture kids took over teaching the school, and you’ve seen nothing like the shootout using movie stars in place of bullets. There are also some unfunny rape jokes, but at least there are no rapes.

“I want to be a cologne.” “Those who fail history are destined to repeat the course.” “A good woman is like a steel brush. Think about it.” I've thought about that last line, and I still don't get it. Everything in the movie is probably better with doobie, but I saw it only under the influence of Brussels sprouts.

♦ ♦ ♦

Hardware (1990)
NO

streaming free

Can you go wrong with a movie that stars Iggy Pop as Angry Bob? Yeah, you sure can.

The movie opens with a Bible quote, and World War III has finished, and in the radioactive deserts a wandering survivor finds a robotic head. There’s pounding rock'n'roll, and Dylan McDermott reading more Bible verses, out loud. It’s not a Christian movie, though — you can tell by the 5-minute unsexy fuck scene while someone’s secretly taking pictures. Half an hour into the movie I still didn’t know what was going on, but the female lead gets out of bed naked and someone’s secretly taking more pictures of her, and at that point I bid adieu to Iggy Pop.

When I was young, I'd almost never walk out on a movie. Once the show started, I was there until the end credits ended and the theater lights came back up, so I sat through a lot of shit. Mmy patience has grown shorter since then, and also, Dylan McDermott is never not annoying.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Last Seduction (1994)
BIG NO

Criterionstreaming free

Bill Pullman makes some big bucks trafficking pharmaceutical cocaine, Linda Fiorentino steals it from him, and then she runs and he chases. They're smart and despicable, both of them, and it's modern noir, clever and sexy. I was frickin’ loving this movie, right up until it ends with a couple of disgusting plot twists.

Spoilers are against my self-written rule, so I won't say what infuriated me, at least not here in the review. If you're curious, ask and I'll answer in the comments, or just take my word for it. Rarely have I seen such a well-made movie suddenly suicide itself. Save yourself two hours.

The Last Seduction is from John Dahl, who was a hot shot director in the 1990s — he made Red Rock West, which I remember liking. Since the ‘90s he’s worked almost exclusively in episodic TV, and maybe this movie is where his career went south.

♦ ♦ ♦

On Dangerous Ground (1952)
YES

Amazon Primestreaming free

Robert Ryan plays an ordinary cop, pushing his way into people’s homes, threatening and beating up anyone he suspects of anything. For his brutality he’s repeatedly scolded by the chief, but he continues smacking people around, until eventually he’s ‘punished’ by being given an out-of-town assignment.

And that’s when this movie starts crackling. The rest of the way it never lets up, and it doesn't count as a spoiler to reveal that Ryan finds redemption. Indeed, he’s a good cop in the second half of the movie — but tell that to his victims from the first half. He still should’ve been fired and prosecuted, but instead he gets away with it, same as every cop everywhere, in real life or in the movies.

Ida Lupino is always terrific, and here she plays blind, but the sightless shenanigans don’t add much to the story. Ward Bond is astounding in a supporting role, miles from his ordinary Mr Nice Guy persona.

♦ ♦ ♦

Out of the Blue (1947)
MAYBE

streaming free

Lightly comedic soap opera set in a bustling New York apartment building, with a sit-com style misunderstanding as the backdrop. It could’ve been a ‘YES’ instead of a ‘MAYBE’, but the relentlessly cutesy music insists that you smile, which is annoying. There’s a laugh every ten minutes or so, but it’s not nearly as hilarious as the music thinks it is.

♦ ♦ ♦

When Worlds Collide (1951)
NO

Paramount+streaming free

A pipe-smoking scientist makes a frightening discovery — a star and planet combo are roaring through space headed directly toward Earth. Slide-rule science reveals that both these celestial bodies will smack into Earth in less than a year. “Our world will end.”

Nobody believes those pointy-headed scientists, and they’re laughed out of the United Nations, so we must rely on selfless or self-centered millionaires to fund construction of spacecraft that might take a few lucky survivors to another world, and hopefully allow our species to spawn and screw up that place, too.

This movie isn’t from Disney, but it feels like it is, and that’s a pity. We’ve seen the regressive response to a relatively minor threat like COVID; imagine the response if it was common knowledge that the world would end on a specific date in the near future. There would be chaos, murder, riots in the street, so When Worlds Collide presents a great opportunity for drama, but it’s 75% squandered.

As disaster draws near, the world’s response is relentlessly polite. Humans are heroic, pulling together. We watch people line up quietly, even smiling, to get their life-or-death lottery numbers, until there's a tiny bit of unrest at the very last moment. And what’s the point of the extended rescue sequences, bringing penicillin to the sick and rescuing a little boy from the floods, when the whole damned planet will be obliterated the day after tomorrow?

All the life-lottery winners are white, so I guess humanity has finally eradicated racism.

♦ ♦ ♦

Youth of the Beast (1963)
(a/k.a Yajû no seishun)
BIG YES

Criterionstreaming free

This is a popping and gritty Japanese noir, opening in black and white and then erupting into sparkles of color and jazz. It's about Jo Mizuno, a suave criminal who’s taking offers to join one of the yakuza gangs, but doesn’t care which one, and then starts playing one gang against the other.

Shady and complicated, with drug dealers, pimps, a gay guy (treated respectfully!), and occasional brutality, Youth of the Beast is a raucous drama that seems far fresher than its early 1960s vintage. It feels like Tarantino, only everyone's speaking Japanese instead of tossing around the n-word.

Actually, I am 100% certain Tarantino has seen this film, more than once.

There’s a fabulous gunfight while our hero is hanging upside down from the ceiling, and a couple of brilliant scenes where something’s going on up front, and something completely unrelated is happening in the background. There’s also occasional violence toward women, but not nearly as much as all the violence toward men. 

 11/24/2021

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4 comments:

  1. I must say, I am surprised at your "BIG NO" for The Last Seduction. I saw it on video when it first came out, as it had a lot of hype as a sleeper hit. I remember liking it a lot, but I honestly couldn't tell you one single thing about it. 27 years is a long time ago.

    If you want to spoil it, I'd love to hear your qualms.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are three main characters — the femme fatale (Fiorintino), the duped but deserving to be duped husband, and an innocent country bumpkin who’s pursuing Fiorintino. Like I said, the movie has a lot going for it, probably got rave reviews, and hell, I had a rave half-written in my head until the double-twist finale. That’s when it’s revealed that the innocent country bumpkin had earlier, unknowingly, married a transexual, and Fiorintino uses this info to bait him into raping her, while police are listening on the phone.

      The movie wants us to think this is a brilliant set-up, but I don’t think even the most fatale femme sets up a man to rape her. If I give it any thought, which I’ve tried not to, that adds up to “She asked for it,” a defense I’ve never heard except from rapists and rape sympathizers. No woman asks for that.

      On a lesser level of repulsion, until this point the Country Bumpkin had been portrayed as a reasonably nice guy, not naïve enough to *unknowing* marry a man in drag, and certainly not someone you’d expect to be a rapist. Of course, even nice men will surprise ya sometimes, but yeah, The Last Seduction grossed me out, and it’s not my favorite film of the week.

      Delete
    2. Thank you and my god that sounds awful.

      Delete
    3. I was amazed, and not in a good way.

      Delete

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