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The Man Who Fell to Earth,
and six more movies

The Curious Female (1969) 

This is technically a science fiction film set in some distant future where marriage and love are illegal. Everyone screws everyone else in an endless orgy, but a small group of rebels are screening old movies from the time of marriage, love, and 'morals'.

Mostly, the movie you're watching if you watch this movie is one of the movies the rebels watch, though it's interrupted sometimes to flip back to the sci-fi movie, so someone there can explain something that the (entire) movie lacked the budget to actually film. The main part of the movie, the movie within the movie, is about the last three virgins on a 1960s college campus, as they decide they're ready to get fucked.

The Neverending
Film Festival
#77

As you might guess, The Curious Female was rated X, but all the boinking takes place off-screen. By modern standards it's not even a porno, and only occasionally sexy. It's more like How to Stuff a Wild Bikini without the bikini.

What surprised me is, it's a movie. It's not a good movie, but it holds up better than Gidget or any number of other light comedies from the '60s.

There's a plot, it's directed, and all three of the virgins are portrayed with actual acting, something you no longer see in X-rated movies. Some serious matters are handled far too fleetingly — the lecherous uncle, the honeymoon disappointment — but aren't played for laughs. It's only slightly sexist, and subtly portrays an omnisexual 'LGBTQ is AOK' future. 

It's a so-so comedy, with a few giggles and a hundred tits.

Verdict: MAYBE. 

♦ ♦ ♦

The Getaway (1972)

Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw. Music by Quincy Jones. Screenplay by Walter Hill, from a novel by Jim Thompson. Directed by Sam Pekinpah.

That is a frickin' all-star team for an action movie, but The Getaway can't be as good as everyone says it is, can it?

Action. Money. Doublecross. Romance. Shootout. Chase. Tough dame. Kissy kissy. Another shootout. Another chase. Slim Pickens. 

Yeah, it's that good.

I wrote a much longer review, but lost it in a computer glitch, so that's all you get. It's all you need, anyway.

Verdict: YES, but don't mistake The Getaway for an unnecessary and ill-advised 1993 remake, with Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger‎.

♦ ♦ ♦

Joe (1970)

This movie has breakthrough roles for Peter Boyle and Susan Sarandon, and it was the first hit for director John G. Avildsen (Rocky, The Karate Kid).

Boyle plays Joe, an angry misogynist racist Republican (ah, but I repeat myself). He sounds and kinda looks like Archie Bunker. Only difference is, Bunker was on TV, so he called black people "spades." This being a movie, Joe uses harsher language.

Sarandon plays Melissa, a drug addict who's been hospitalized after an overdose. It's a mid-size role, and she's good. Dennis Patrick plays her father, who gets into an argument with her boyfriend/dealer, and snaps — and kills him.

The movie is one-third over before Joe shows up, and quickly befriends Sarandon's father. Since Joe hates druggies and drug dealers, along with everyone else who's not white straight male and Republican, he admires this man who's actually killed one of the scumbags, and after that it's an nervous buddy movie.

Joe is painful to watch, but it's a damning immersion into what America was in the 1960s, and what it still is for the MAGA crowd. Nothing has changed, really, so it's a sadly timeless picture.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)

Made by Nicolas Roeg and starring David Bowie, you know this is gonna be bonkers, and it is. 

It's the story of a space alien (Bowie, naturally) who gets nauseous traveling at more than 25 miles per hour. He's stranded on earth, where since he knows stuff, he soon becomes a millionaire. Then he's lucky enough to meet and marry Candy Clark.

The focus is on Bowie, and he's great, but for me the movie is about the spaceman's wife. Clark is smashing as a woman who loves and hates her unearthly beau, and she's confused by him, before and after she knows what he is.

This is one of those movies I re-watch every few years, and always it gets me. It's occasionally boring, but it's also brilliant, and gets odder and more effective as it flows along. You get Rip Torn and Rip Torn's penis, and the always eccentric imagery of a Nic Roeg film. The music (not by Bowie) is excellent, too.

Almost unimaginably, IMDB tells me that The Man Who Fell to Earth was re-made as a TV-movie in the 1980s, which must've been ghastly but you can check it out and let me know. It's also a TV series now, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, which seems more promising but again, I ain't watching.

Verdict: BIG YES.

♦ ♦ ♦

Starflight One (1983)

Lee Majors is the pilot of a newfangled plane designed to skip into shallow earth orbit as it travels between cities. This, we're told, allows it to fly at four times the speed of sound. Of course, something goes wrong the very first time it takes off, and the plane gets stranded in space. But golly, there's not enough oxygen. All these rich passengers might die, unless Majors and co-star Hal Linden can get the plane out of space, or something. 

Produced by Henry Winkler, music by Lalo Schifrin, effects by John Dykstra. Starflight One is not embarrassingly awful, mostly because of Dykstra, but it's not much of anything.

Verdict: NO.

♦ ♦ ♦

The Madmen of Mandoras (1963)
and They Saved Hitler's Brain (1968)

This is two movies in one, and one of them is OK.

"G-gas kills humans in the same manner as DDT kills flies. You die by suffocation. A slight spray is sufficient to paralyze the brain. The gas... can make its way through the most minute openings, and it is virtually undetectable. One cannot see it taste it, or smell it. It doesn't burn or irritate the skin. You die without ever knowing what hit you."

The good guys are working on an antidote, but for now, the use of G-gas threatens the entire world. It's a sinister scheme masterminded by… Adolph Hitler, or what's left of him. See, at the end of World War II, instead of allowing himself to be captured, Hitler had his head surgically amputated, and kept alive in a jar through sci-fi shenanigans.

One of his henchmen lifts and carries the jar, and it's a jarring moment, har har. To Hitler's head, his #2 guy says, "The chemicals will arrive by midnight, and before morning the gas will be released, as you ordered." The fate of all mankind in imperiled, as often happens in the movies.

That's The Madmen of Mandoras, and it's an ordinary but watchable low-budget schlock flick. It's nonsense, but has shadowy cinematography, good music, nasty Nazis, some enjoyable smartassery in the dialogue, and performances better than the material deserves. The guy playing Hitler's head (Bill Freed) has a delightfully demented sneer.

Several years after The Madmen of Mandoras had come and gone from the bottom half of double bills and drive-in theaters, its owners wanted to sell the TV rights, but the movie runs only an hour and 14 minutes. For theaters, such a short run time is desirable; it means more popcorn sales, maybe even more ticket sales if another showing can be squeezed in. For TV, though, movies were usually aired in two-hour blocks, and even adding commercials, The Madmen of Mandoras wasn't long enough.

So they rolled the cameras again five years later, adding a stupid subplot — something about a couple of cops working together despite not liking each other. Different actors, different music, different mood.

Twenty minutes longer, this new version played on television as They Saved Hitler's Brain, and it's one of the worst movies ever made. A decent flick got devastated by the producers' pursuit of profit. Capitalism strikes again.

9/16/2022  

There are so many good movies out there — old movies, odd or artsy, foreign or forgotten movies, or do-it-yourself movies made just for the joy of making them — that if you only watch whatever's on Netflix or playing at the twentyplex, you're missing out.

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Top illustration by Jeff Meyer. No talking once the lights dim. Real butter, not that fake crap, on the popcorn. I try to make these reviews spoiler-free, but sometimes screw up, sorry. Piracy is not a victimless crime. Click any image to enlarge. Comments & conversations invited.   

 

13 comments:

  1. I know you probably don't have ShowTime, but the new series starring the incomparable Chiwetel Ejiofor (Kinky Boots) as Bowie's protege, was IMHO *excellent*. Naturally, since Bowie is no longer among the living (Notice how everything in the world started going to shit about that time? Just sayin') he was unable to reprise his role as James Newton Howard in the new series, but a passable stand in (Bill Nighy) was found was used who has the expected amount of cantankerousness one would expect from the character after the passage of 40 years. Each episode is named from a Bowie song, and there are LOTS of nods (some subtle, some obvious)_ to the original film and plot in this re-imaging/sequel.

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    1. I'm a fan of Bill Nighy, from Doctor Who and About Time and Shaun of the Dead and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and most everything else he's done. He's a seriously sexy dude, so I'll give that show a looksee.

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  2. I find it fascinating how many works of dystopian fiction took for granted a future of pointless, emotionless sex and here we are and repeated studies are showing that basically no one under 25 fucks anymore. Brave New World, Logan's Run, just giggly orgies all around and the reality is people staring at screens.

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    1. Never gave it much thought (that's my motto) but that is peculiar. The "sexual revolution" was one of the biggest changes wrought by the 1960s, and I guess it reverberated through science fiction...

      "A future of pointless, emotionless sex" sounds OK to me. At least it's a future.

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    2. The oral contraceptive was introduced in 1960 and became widely available in 1965. Probably just a coincidence.

      And I'm going to need some references with regard to the assertion that no one under 25 fucks anymore. Three hundred thousand years of human sexual behavior wiped out because we're looking down instead of up? Every generation thinks they're redefining sexual roles. Then they grow up.

      John

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    3. . . . and they don't masturbate either. Just ask them.

      jtb

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    4. Well, I haven't had sex with anyone under 25 since the 1990s.

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    5. Damn. I have never had sex with anyone under the age of... lemme math this out... 29, probably?

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    6. OK, that convinces me that nobody under 25 is having sex. Thanks.

      jtb

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    7. "Gen Z Sex" leads to an almost endless list of studies and pop culture takes on it. I have no idea if it's true as I'm a few letters removed from Z.

      @jtb the irony to that statement is that there is less social pressure to lie about promiscuity than ever before.

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    8. Yeah, in my parents' era teenagers might've lied that they were virgins when they weren't, and in my era teens lied that they weren't when they were. What do today's teens and young adults lie about?

      The generational labels, from baby-boomer to Gen Z or whatever, seem mostly meaningless to me. People don't really have much to be stereotyped just from their birth years... For a while I worked with a young woman who constantly referred to herself and her friends as Gen Z'ers until it became an a bit humorous, a bit annoying.

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    9. This labeling of the "generations" started with the baby boomers, which was a real, statistically significant event in the 20th century birth rate dynamic. The Great Depression economically encouraged young marrieds to delay starting families, and the Great Depression ran smack into Pearl Harbor, which, in the United States, made millions of men unavailable to father a family for at least four more years (it took nearly three years to get them home: it was a logistical nightmare). So 15 years of low birthrate was followed by nearly 20 years of high birthrate, creating a population fluctuation popularly known as the "baby boom".

      Combined with the U.S. economic boom of the 1950s (workers were once again allowed to strike, Europe was slow recovering from the devastation of WWII, etc) the boomers took on some common perceptions and behaviors. So, unlike the sort of fake Gen X, Gen Y and Millennials, the Boomers were/are a real generations with statistically common traits and perceptions of their place in society (although we shouldn't overgeneralize: a fair number of the disturbed Boomers joined Gen Q, which, of course, makes no fucking sense).

      So the desire of subsequent "generations" for a label of their own (heaven knows why) created these phony Vonnegutian karasses that had no more in common than a Thursday night bowling league.

      Everybody wants to belong, but nobody wants to join. The Elks, the Masons and most all fraternal organizations are dying for lack of membership while the populace searches for their "teammates" in their fake generations. What hath god wrought?

      John

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    10. I feel little kinship with anyone, even kin, but none with anyone just because they're approximately my age. The stereotype of baby boomers is that we're all watching Fox News and voting for Trump, and that sure ain't me. All myth.

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