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Southern Comfort, and 6½ more movies

Today at the movies — sci-fi so bad it's good, monsters killing horny teenagers, a famous avant-garde film, a murdering mechanic, Lou Costello without Abbott and without laughs, and very good and very bad redneck thrillers.

The 30-Foot Bride of Candy Rock (1959)
The Day Time Ended (1979)
Lolly Madonna (1973)
Neon Maniacs (1986)
Southern Comfort (1981)
The Unbelievable Truth (1989)
Wavelength (1967)
WVLNT: Wavelength for Those Who Don't Have the Time (2003)

THE
NEVERENDING
FILM FESTIVAL

#123

Friday,
Dec. 23, 2022


The winner is: Southern Comfort. 

And if you want something strange: The Day Time Ended.

— — —

The 30-Foot Bride of Candy Rock (1959)

I was hoping for bad sci-fi, but this is a comedy, as revealed by the music in the first fraction of a second. All through the movie, the music tells you when to laugh, but a laughtrack would've been more appropriate.

Lou Costello stars as Artie the rubbish collector, who's also an inventor. Dorothy Provine plays Emmy Lou, his fiancée. Something goes wrong and she gets big.

The 'comedy' is Costello yelling "Emmy Lou!" and bad actors making big-eye faces to indicate shock at her size. It was a different time, yes, but could any adult ever have found this amusing? 

Verdict: NO.

♦ ♦ ♦  

The Day Time Ended (1979)

Charles Band makes low-budget movies, like his more famous colleague Roger Corman. The movies might be good or might suck, but they're cheap so it doesn't take much box office to recoup production and distribution costs. Usually I enjoy the work of either Corman or Band, but for me Band's movies have a higher batting average.

Take The Day Time Ended, for example. It's inarguably awful, but also delightful.

It stars Jim Davis — not the cartoonist who's milked Garfield to death, but the reliable aw-shucks B-movie character actor. Here he's the leading man, playing "GrandDad," and he and GrandMom have just built their dream house in the middle of some desert. Before they can get settled, though, all sorts of cheap special effects start happening. 

First, there's a glowing pyramid that visits and briefly gives a young girl the ability to flip lights and faucets on and off with her mind.

Forget that, though, because the movie does, and it's never mentioned again. Instead, there's a little green man leaping onto the daughter's bedpost. 

Forget that too, because next there's a briefcase-sized spaceship in the living room, which GrandDad takes a shot at.

Then there's fog all over the living room floor, and stop-motion monsters tap-dancing in the back yard, and there's a "triple supernova," but none of that matters, cuz soon there are dozens of lights in the sky, shaking GrandDad's new house apart.

Forget all that, though, because every ship or plane ever lost in the Bermuda Triangle is deposited on the patio.

And then forget that, because Jenny and Beth are both gone!

"The Vortex took them. Just, just took them away. I don't know what place they're in. I don't even know what time they're in. I don't even know what time we're in."

The direction looks like every shot was limited to one take, and with the exception of Davis, the acting is uniformly bad. The story cannot be followed and goes nowhere, and yet this flick cannot be clicked off. I watched all the way to it's clearly drug-addled conclusion, and someday when I'm feeling blue, I'll watch it again. 

Chris Mitchum, son of Robert, co-stars badly.

Verdict: YES. It must be seen to be disbelieved.

♦ ♦ ♦

Lolly Madonna (1973)

This is based on a book by Sue Grafton, who has a good reputation as the author of many detective novels. As I haven't read the book, or any Grafton books, I won't hold the movie against her, but cripes it's awful.

It's set among Southern rednecks, where there's a long-running feud between the Feather family and the Gutshalls. For complex hick reasons, one of the Gutshall boys sent the Feathers a post card signed by a woman he'd invented and called Lolly Madonna.

Under the movie's version of Southern logic, the Feathers believe some random woman is Lolly Madonna, and steal her away in their beat-up old Chevy. They won't believe her when she insists she's not who they insist she is. Did Tennessee not have driver's licenses by the 1970s?

There's moonshine whiskey and dirt roads and squealin' hogs and fake Southern accents. Mr Feather is played by Rod Steiger, and Mr Gutshall is Robert Ryan, but everybody in the movie is stupid, except maybe the woman who's not Lolly Madonna.

I suffered through about 40 minutes of this, but it moves like old people shopping, and anyway, I don't voluntarily hang out with with dipshits, even in a movie.

Verdict: BIG NO.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Neon Maniacs (1986)

I'm not sure what I expected from something called Neon Maniacs, but I was hoping for something better than monsters killing horny teenagers. I made it through about 15 minutes and ten or so slashings, stabbings, and decapitations.

There's nothing to see here. Move along, move along.

Verdict: BIG NO.

♦ ♦ ♦

Southern Comfort (1981)

This is a thriller with ample thrills.

Guns are dangerous and need to be treated with respect. Same with Louisiana swamp people. Troops are supposed to follow orders from anyone with more stripes on their arms, but the Guardsmen in this movie are ignorant of all this.

They're half-trained weekend warriors on Louisiana National Guard exercises deep into the bayou, and with a few foolhardy decisions it becomes a battle for their lives against some Southern not-so-good ol' boys.

There's no hint of any "Southern comfort," and that's a terrible title for this movie — it sounds like a mint julep romance. The title is probably what kept me from seeing this 40 years ago, but don't let it fool ya like it fooled this fool.

Writer-director Walter Hill has always insisted that the film is not a metaphor for Vietnam, but it doesn't need to be. It's a war story, and most war stories are metaphors for Vietnam.

The cast is peppered with familiar B-level actors, and the music is by Ry Cooder. I recommend seeing this in the afternoon, so you'll have time to rest and recuperate and get your heartbeat down again before bedtime.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Unbelievable Truth (1989)

Audry is skipping too much high school and doesn't want to go to college, and she's quit her job at Burger World. She's fixated on the looming likelihood of nuclear armageddon, and she's finally breaking up with loser boyfriend. History is coming to an end, she says, and also the washing machine is busted.

Josh, meanwhile, is dressed all in black so everyone asks if he's a priest, but actually he's a mechanic. He's fresh out of prison for killing two people — first, his girlfriend, and then he went to see her father to apologize, but whoops, killed him too.

Audry immediately decides he's the double-murderer for her, but Josh isn't looking for romance. Or is he?

"He seems like a nice man."

"Do you think so? I mean, after he's killed your sister, and your father?"

"Things happen. People make mistakes."

All the situations and dialogue are over the top, and played for comedic effect, and it's funny. The Unbelievable Truth is an enjoyable satire of movies in general, though not of any particular movie. It's an extended smile, and an enjoyable hour and a half.

Written and directed by Hal Hartley, and watch for a very young Edie Falco as the waitress.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Wavelength (1967)

This is avant-garde, so I am required by law not to understand it. I had to Google around to even come close, but I'll save you the trouble and tell you: 

Michael Snow set up a camera looking across a mostly-empty room with four windows, and left it rolling for a week. Slowly — very slowly — the camera zooms in on a picture on the wall. The film is 45 minutes long, and there's a brief bit of drama in there, but mostly it's just the slow zoom.

With sharp focus and the right music, that's a seriously cool concept for a cinematic artwork. 

To be avant-garde, though, it needs to be unpleasant, so this is filmed on the lowest-quality videotape available in the late 1960s. The soundtrack is designed to be annoying, with a tinny Beatles song at the beginning, and then a long, slowly rising tone for most of the rest of the movie, plus random static to make it more grating. That's not unpleasant enough, so some flashes of light are added, too.

This is one of the most famous works of avant-garde film, so it seems fair to say that movies like this are where avant-garde gets its bad reputation.

Verdict: NO.

 ♦ ♦ ♦

WVLNT: Wavelength for Those Who Don't Have the Time (2003)

Having created the longest zoom shot in motion picture history, director Michael Snow decided to shorten it. This is Wavelength again, but reduced to 15 minutes. 

In the original, the zoom effect is imperceptible to the human eye, but sped up, you can maybe see it, if you're very patient. The noises remain painfully perceptible to the human ear.

Verdict: NO again. Stop asking.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Coming soon: 

A Nous La Liberté (1931)
Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)
Escape from Absolom (1994)
MLK/FBI (2020)
Pink Flamingos (1972)
Rolling Thunder (1977)
Shoplifters (2018)

12/23/2022   

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.   

 

11 comments:

  1. I am surprised by your positive response to The Unbelievable Truth! I haven't seen it in many years, in part because I loved those movies so much when I was younger (and identified with his dark, romantic loners) and worry they will have aged poorly. Or I have. But also because I've checked in on Hal Hartley's latest films and absolutely hated them. Everything, it was just ponderous and awful.

    He really had something in creating this tableaux made up of damned souls wandering around a place like Long Island that are in his early films (up to I guess Henry Fool, though I think that's kind of when things started to go sideways). The Unbelievable Truth, Trust and Simple Men form a quasi-trilogy with a lot of recurring actors and characters that reveal themselves as the plot unwinds until you realize the plot isn't really the point. I think Ebert said something like this: "American films are usually about plots, French films are usually about stories. You can often guess where a plot will go but a person will fool you."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm making some incredible typos here lately. Should be "French films are usually about PEOPLE."

      Delete
    2. I don't remember why, but I've always shied away from Hal Hartley. Seeing The Unbelievable Truth last week was my Hartley virginity-taker.

      Thanks for rectifying that typo. I was scratching my head.

      Guess I'll see a few more Hartleys, but thanks for the warning about the dude's latter works.

      Delete
    3. Personally, I loved Henry Fool and rank it as my favorite Hartley, just above Surviving Desire. I love the idea of a pompous pretentious windbag thinking his 'confessions' will turn the world upside down -- and that a single poem can cause outrage and stardom. -- Arden

      Delete
    4. I think Hartley's stories are best when they're small: a family, a couple of outcasts, etc. When he starts bringing in the rest of the world, the seams start showing and it looks tacky. The unapologetic, conspiracy-riddled child molester isn't exactly a sympathetic character when many people start picking through your plot. That's my view at least.

      Delete
    5. I might have a strong, weak, or no opinion after seeing some more of his movies...

      Delete
  2. My favorite Christmas poems. . . .

    Christ Climbed Down
    by Lawrence Ferlinghetti



    Christ climbed down
    from His bare Tree
    this year
    and ran away to where
    there were no rootless Christmas trees
    hung with candycanes and breakable stars

    Christ climbed down
    from His bare Tree
    this year
    and ran away to where
    there were no gilded Christmas trees
    and no tinsel Christmas trees
    and no tinfoil Christmas trees
    and no pink plastic Christmas trees
    and no gold Christmas trees
    and no black Christmas trees
    and no powderblue Christmas trees
    hung with electric candles
    and encircled by tin electric trains
    and clever cornball relatives

    Christ climbed down
    from His bare Tree
    this year
    and ran away to where
    no intrepid Bible salesmen
    covered the territory
    in two-tone cadillacs
    and where no Sears Roebuck creches
    complete with plastic babe in manger
    arrived by parcel post
    the babe by special delivery
    and where no televised Wise Men
    praised the Lord Calvert Whiskey

    Christ climbed down
    from His bare Tree
    this year
    and ran away to where
    no fat handshaking stranger
    in a red flannel suit
    and a fake white beard
    went around passing himself off
    as some sort of North Pole saint
    crossing the desert to Bethlehem
    Pennsylvania
    in a Volkswagen sled
    drawn by rollicking Adirondack reindeer
    and German names
    and bearing sacks of Humble Gifts
    from Saks Fifth Avenue
    for everybody’s imagined Christ child

    Christ climbed down
    from His bare Tree
    this year
    and ran away to where
    no Bing Crosby carollers
    groaned of a tight Christmas
    and where no Radio City angels
    iceskated wingless
    thru a winter wonderland
    into a jinglebell heaven
    daily at 8:30
    with Midnight Mass matinees

    Christ climbed down
    from His bare Tree
    this year
    and softly stole away into
    some anonymous Mary’s womb again
    where in the darkest night
    of everybody’s anonymous soul
    He awaits again
    an unimaginable
    and impossibly
    Immaculate Reconception
    the very craziest of
    Second Comings

    Copyright 1958 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Now, there's some poetry from a gent who knew how to poet. I genuine liked it. More than a little subversive, plus it made me laugh around the third stanza. Subversive and funny, man, that's two out of three. Add in a naked women and I'd be feeling very festive indeed.

      Delete
  3. I'm a sucker for alliteration: "and encircled by tin electric trains
    and clever cornball relatives". I've loved that line for 55 years.

    John

    ReplyDelete
  4. I applaud your review of Wavelength. I saw it in a theater, so there was no pausing, no checking messages, not even a clock on the wall for reassurance that time was still passing. There wasn't even popcorn, because we saw it at a museum.

    It's good to be challenged by something new in a movie but Wavelength is hot garbage.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, but hot garbage might at least be savory. Wavelength was garbage at room temperature.

      Delete

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