Collapse, and six more movies

I'm currently rewatching all the movies I remember fondly from the 1970s, '80s, '90s, 2000s, and '10s, and also and always anything else that's smart, subversive, and/or simply strange in a good way. Anything you'd recommend?

The Neverending
Film Festival

Today movies are Assault on a Queen (1966), Blood Beast from Outer Space (1965), The Bug (2016), Collapse (2009), The Last House on the Left (1972), The Man from Snowy River (1982), and Zardoz (1974). 

The winner is Collapse, but if for any reason Collapse cannot complete its duties, 1st runner up The Man from Snowy River shall be given the crown.

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Assault on a Queen (1966)

Frank Sinatra cool, in a heist film set at sea. Or, more accurately, on sets floating in a Hollywood mock-up of the Atlantic Ocean.

It's the 1960s, and deep-sea diver Frank Sinatra has found a sunken WWII-era German submarine in remarkably (and unlikely) good condition. Richard Conte, a familiar face from film noir, plays the mechanic who's supposed to make the sub's engines purr after twenty years on the ocean floor. Clear the corpses out and lube the engines, and Sinatra and his cohorts have a navigable, functional military submarine.

With their new toy, their plan is to hold up the titular queen — the Queen Mary, a passenger ship carrying 2,600 rich passengers across the ocean. Nobody will expect a stick-up in the high seas, right?

This is based on one of Jack Finney's better non-sci-fi novels, with a screenplay by Rod Serling. It's not nearly as good as the novel, and you'd never guess Serling was involved if his name wasn't on-screen in the credits. It's awfully dry for a story set at sea.

In the novel, I loved the main character, but in the movie Sinatra is playing Sinatra. Pretty sure the ending was altered too. It's been ages since I read the book, but I don't remember thinking, No, man, that's impossible.

Music by Duke Ellington, which might be the best reason to see Assault on a Queen. It's delightfully unlike the ordinary cues of an ordinary movie score, and like the novel, it's music that deserves a better movie.

Verdict: MAYBE. 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Blood Beast from Outer Space (1965)

A strange but mostly boring science fiction piece, about a space alien that comes to Earth and starts attacking women. Fuckshit, we have more than enough loutish human men attacking women, who needs space aliens for this?

The movie does have a point to it, and eventually it get a little brainier than just "space alien wants earth women'. What it never gets, though, is interesting.

Verdict: NO.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Bug (2016)

You're thinking this'll be a monster movie from Roger Corman, but no, it's a documentary about Volkswagen Beetles.

It's structured like most documentaries, with talking heads over mood music and clips, but everyone agrees that Beetles are cool. I learned a little about the history of the Beetle, or Bug: No, Hitler didn't design it, and neither did Ferdinand Porsche. According to The Bug, the Beetle's earliest design came from Josef Ganz — a Jewish man living in Germany. 

The Bug is a pleasant enough low-key look at what's probably my favorite car, but it spends way too much tome with smiley movie star Ewan McGregor. A puke-green Beetle was his first car, he says, and no doubt he loves his Volkswagen collection, but to me the classic Beetle was a car for ordinary folks. In a documentary about VW Beetles, I wasn't expecting to spend twenty minutes with Ewan McGregor.

Verdict: MAYBE. 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Collapse (2009)

In the 1990s, Michael Ruppert published a zine called From the Wilderness, which I remember as top-notch wingnut stuff — one breathless story after another, exposing scandals nobody else was covering — and by top-notch I mean that Ruppert's reports and analysis always seemed plausible. It was smarter than ordinary conspiracy theory crap, but still, I read the zine skeptically, and eventually my subscription lapsed.

Well, here's Mike again, in a movie. His theories are the central focus of this documentary, which is almost entirely comprised of Ruppert talking and chain-smoking on camera. What he's saying ranges from bad news to catastrophic, but it still sorta makes sense.

The "infinite growth paradigm" of capitalism isn't workable. We are facing industrial and societal collapse, our leaders are corrupt, we are running out of oil, and it is going to be a disastrously different world for the next generation when the pumps run dry, as the effects of climate change accumulate. It'll be worse still for the generation after that, and pretty soon each generation will be smaller than the previous. Yeah, that's the bright side — climate change and peak oil will solve the population explosion.

Ruppert comes across as intelligent, but his background is a Bachelor's degree in poly-sci, and some years as a narcotics cop in Los Angeles, until (I think he said) he was fired from that job.

The movie is 13 years old, and some of Ruppert's dire warnings haven't yet emerged as big problems. A lot of them have. He was an alarmist, but there's plenty to be alarmed about, and he was mostly right. When he was wrong it was about the details, not the general thrust of current events, which is of course a knife to the heart of humanity.

Ruppert was full of himself, but he's worth listening to for an hour and a half. You will not be whistling Dixie when it's over. It was over for Ruppert in 2014, when he killed himself.

"We have waited so long for somebody to listen to us. When the mainstream press and the government says nobody could've predicted this, they are lying through their fucking teeth."

Thanks, Mike. You were right about most of it.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦

The Last House on the Left (1972)

Written and directed by Wes Craven, this was his first big success, long before A Nightmare on Elm Street. I liked Craven's Nightmare enough to see it several times, and I've heard of this movie for years. I was expecting monsters, and there are monsters, all right, but not the kind I'm willing to watch in a movie.

Two teenage girls get kidnapped and raped, and probably beaten and killed, but I didn't stick around to see.

Wes Craven got better than this, but this is shit.

Verdict: BIG NO.

♦ ♦ ♦

The Man from Snowy River (1982)

Tom Burlinson plays an 1880s "high country" man whose father dies, so he has to go to work for a rancher. The rancher is a prick (Kirk Douglas, sneering) with a lovely daughter, and a long-estranged brother (Kirk Douglas, bearded). There's an escaped stallion that needs to be chased down, and Burlinson's the man to do it.

This is a big happy Australian western based on a poem, with plenty of adventure and romance and horseplay with real horses. It's sweet but not too sweet, romantic but not too romantic, and it has no missteps along the way.

Never heard of him before, but one Banjo Paterson (1864-1941) wrote the poem behind the movie, and he's a very big historical Aussie. In my hemisphere he's best known for writing "Waltzing Matilda," which seems about as beloved down under as Americans love "God Bless America." Paterson's face is on the Australian ten dollar bill.

This movie is a fine old-fashioned western. You'll cry when it wants you to cry, and you'll hate pricky Kirk, love bearded Kirk, and want Burlinson to catch the horse and kiss the girl.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Zardoz (1974)

Trippy sci-fi, set in the 23rd century, and impossible to summarize but I'll try:

There's a big blockhead floating in the sky, and a pasty-faced god called Zardoz lives inside the blockhead. Most people are Brutes, which is actually what they're called. Sean Connery wears a one-piece bikini and plays Zed, an Exterminator, which seems to be a cop-type position but without any pretense of "protect and serve"; his job is killing any troublesome Brutes.

There's a lengthy discussion of what causes erections, and for Zed the answer seems to be nothing. Then he finds a children's alphabet primer, and teaches himself to read, which, in this movie's future, leads to trouble.

Zardoz was written, produced, and directed by John Boorman, so it's exhilarating to look at, but it's a lovable mess and I'm still baffled.

Verdict: MAYBE.


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.   



  1. Last House is one of the roughest 70s horror/exploitation flicks, and one of my favorites. Not a fan of anything else Craven did, but this one has enough extremity and tonal weirdness (all the comedy bits and the AM soundtrack only make it all the more disturbing) to differentiate it from so many other films of the time.

    Also key is the last third of the film, which I assume you didn't see -- the parents get the upper hand and it turns into a revenge film like Taxi Driver, Death Wish, Rolling Thunder, I Spit On Your Grave, and many others, but without any real satisfaction for the participants.

    It is a remake of Bergman's Virgin Spring, which is also highly recommended. How many 70s horror films have that kind of pedigree or self-awareness?

    Lead baddie David Hess was apparently a total delight in real life despite the horrible creatures he played in so many films. He also wrote "All Shook Up" for Elvis.

    1. In memory of Jesse Garon, thanks for not including Elvis' last name. I like some of the other guy's music -- maybe more than that of the original -- but Jesse's brother changed the first world, and that can be said about a limited number of people.


    2. https://genius.com/Scott-walker-jesse-lyrics


    3. Wow, I never would've guessed at the rock'n'roll connection, thanks.

      My short and shortening patience has undoubtedly cost me plenty in life. I once politely broke up with a woman because her conversation was boring me, though I'm certain I could've been in her pants by the next date.

    4. Rule #1: Feign interest

      Rule #2: See Rule #1


    5. I've always broken both rules.

    6. Sooner or later she's going to fake an orgasm, so there might be a moral imperative for you to fake interest. To be fair, I'm not exactly an expert on moral imperatives.


    7. I faked an orgasm, just once. I'd been piledriving for fifteen minutes and she hadn't complained but I thought she was tired of it, and *I* was tired of it, so I made the O face and the O sounds, and we ate the rest of the pizza.

  2. Song of the week: 21st Century Schizoid Man performed live fifty years after it was recorded.

    So much has changed since King Crimson released their first album, In the Court of the Crimson King, in 1968 (1969 in the US) that it only makes sense to talk about what hasn't changed. In any case, King Crimson's first album was also sort of their last, although "they" released eleven more albums over the years, members came and went, and mostly they went.

    But they left behind this odd relic of a brilliant attempt to unite progressive jazz and progressive rock that wildly succeeded: it was a niche album at best, but artistically the young motherfuckers actually pulled it off and made an album you could play today that sounds entirely timeless.

    Maybe you had to be there: The first cut on the album, 21st Century Schizoid Man, starts with several seconds of silence, and just as I am approaching my parents' Magnavox Console With The Giant Speakers, saying to myself, "Man, I gotta replace that phonograph stylus", the sound of about fifty long-haul truck horns, all in tune knocks me back across my folks' parlor. I can see my friend Dave, who brought the vinyl over and who is still my friend Dave all these years later, saying something, but the volume swallows his words and I didn't lip read: that would come later.

    Once I placed the table lamps back on the appropriate tables, I nodded because I knew he was saying something like "Pretty good, eh?"

    Well, here we are in the 21st century, and these guys, Robert Fripp, Michael Giles, Greg Lake, Ian McDonald, and Peter Sinfield, are mostly dead or retired. Except for Robert Fripp, who soldiers on with capable and occasionally inspired musicians and vocalists. I don't think their later stuff was wonderful, but their entire first album changed the way I thought about music and changed the way I listened to music for the rest of my life in a way that only Dylan equaled.

    So here, live in Japan in 2018, fifty years after its original recording are Robert Fripp and a few of his close friends playing the first cut off the album In the Court of the Crimson King, "21st Century Schizoid Man". My understanding is that the fourth drummer was sick that day, but the show must . . .

    The song is eleven minutes long, so get comfortable. And play it fucking loud.



    1. My favorite KC album is "Red"

      It's like something Lovecraft would listen to while dying of stomach cancer

    2. Sounds like a party.


  3. Yup, and I loved American Movie so much, me and the Mrs rented a copy of Coven, the movie he was making in the documentary.

    Now I have a hankering to see both movies again.

  4. I enjoyed Collapse but I'm curious how much my impression will have changed in the last 10 years since I saw it. I recently re-watched A Gray State, and while much more recent it makes an interesting companion to Collapse. I watched both films as entertainment the first time, sort of how I regarded most conspiracy theory up until pretty recently. Watching A Gray State recently, Crowley just seemed like a psychopath from beginning to end. The first time I thought he lost himself, got in too deep, etc.; the second I was almost angry at everyone in the film who went along with his fantasies from Day One (including his fantasies that he could make a film, but also his fantasies of playing tacticool army man that started as a teen and never entirely left. He was still playing dress up even after he saw the reality that war is mostly sitting around doing nothing with brief moments of everyone freaking the fuck out and shooting everything that moves.)

    It's tempting to say BUT NOW I SEE HOW IT REALLY IS, but I think it's just that I now know so many people who thought this stuff was pretty light-hearted fare go down into dark conspiracy holes during COVID. There's just a real difference in personality when someone nods at an idea like Peak Oil vs. the notion that the elites are preparing for mass slaughter and culling of the human population in our lifetime. I don't know anyone who went down that path and has pulled themselves out of it. They've become even more isolated and weird since 2020.

    1. Never seen or even heard of A Gray State, but I gotta now.

      Nothing gives conspiracy theorists a bad name more reliably than conspiracy theorists. For a few years I was pretty loud about believing we hadn't been told half the truth about 9/11/2001, but eventually I shut up about it, because I noticed everyone else who was on about 9/11 was nuts.

      To some extent, less dramatically, I've shut up about a few other things, but it's been so long I don't even remember what I was skeptical about.

      There's no space for publicly doubting the official story of anything, without standing in the company of idiots.

      Now I just say, I don't believe we've been given the whole truth, about anything.

    2. I think we're the same, I couldn't stand to be in any peer group that would have me as a member.

      I would love to read what you think about A Gray State. The first time I watched it, it was just a WELL WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT. The second viewing I focused more on what my brain was telling me about this guy vs. what his family & friends were saying about him, and the third time was when I realized that almost everyone who dealt with him and wasn't a drinking buddy or related thought he was a fucking psycho from the start. Like "Collapse," the subject of the film itself later becomes a conspiracy, and then (off-screen, after it was released) the film itself becomes part of another one.

    3. It's on my list, and I look forward to saying WELL WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT.


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