Attack of the Saucer People,
and a few more films

#226  [archive]
NOV. 28, 2023
Attack of the Saucer People (1981)
Streaming free

This is not the schlock you'd expect from the title. Not at all.

Roger is the head of a local sci-fi movie club, where friends gather in the basement of a pub and watch 16mm movies, maybe some golden oldies from the 1950s. He dreams of making his own sci-fi epic, and for the club, he screens some very bad special effects shots he's put together.

Where the story goes after that is for you to find out, and the whole movie is only 13 minutes, so why don't you?

Written, produced, directed by Roy Spence, an Irish theater owner and film buff famous for his homemade movies like this one. 2001 it ain't, but it's an utter joy of do-it-yourself moviemaking.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦

Auto Focus (2004)

Does America remember Bob Crane, fifty years after Hogan's Heroes went off the air? This is Bob Crane's biopic, and if you've forgotten, he was an amateur drummer, a successful disc jockey on the radio, and an actor who lucked into that hit sit-com about comical Nazis.

I missed the show in prime time, but watched it five days a week in after-school reruns. I liked it, despite the frickin' weirdness of a Nazi prison camp comedy.

Crane was a married man, but followed his cock into a lot of women, all while taking enough pictures and home XXX movies to fill his basement.

In these matters he was assisted by wingman and electronics aficionado John Carpenter, which really his name but it's also the name of a rather well-known film director, so I'm surprised this movie didn't at least make him Jack Carpenter.

"A day without sex is a day wasted."

So there's a lot of boinking here, though nothing much explicit. After Crane's orgy-lovin' ways sink his second marriage, and nobody wants to hire him because of his creepy reputation, Crane says in his own defense that sex is normal, and liking sex is normal. And I agree, don't you?

Obviously, Bob Crane was addicted, had a weakness, had a problem, and yet… Take any ordinary heterosexual man, reasonably handsome and bright, add fame, and women become easier to pursue. Ain't saying it's right, but the number of famous men who aren't fucking around has to be close to zero.

Willem Dafoe is great as Crane's sleazy friend. Greg Kinnear as Crane is mostly on target, but something's missing, or maybe it's just that I remember the 'real' Crane too clearly from TV. The movie succeeds at making you care about both of them, despite the fact that neither of them have any redeeming qualities.

By the way, what happened to Greg Kinnear? He used to be in a movie every few months, but I haven't seen him in anything in ages.

Auto Focus isn't nearly so dark and despair-ridden as you'd expect from director Paul Schrader, nor is it all that dirty despite the sexy backdrop and storyline. Don't get me wrong — the movie is dark and despair-ridden and raunchy, just not so much as you'd expect. Surprisingly, it's kind of sweet.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦

Kin-Dza-Dza! (1986)
Streaming free

A couple of Russkies in Russia try to do a kindness for a bum on the street, who's babbling about being a lost interplanetary traveler. The bum holds out what looks like a low-tech device, says he's unsure which button to push, and when a button is selected and pushed, poof, the two Russian gents have been sent many light years away to the barren planet Pluk, leaving the bum behind.

From there, this absurdist sci-fi is mighty strange, mildly comedic, minimalist, and never boring.

The two Russians don't know each other, but one's "Uncle Vova" and the other is simply called "The Fiddler." They meet a few natives of Plukians, and wander across the planet, having conversations with the aliens. The Plukish language has only about a dozen words, "Koo" being the most commonly spoken. Watch your manners, though. 'Ku' is a vulgarity, so be careful you say 'koo' instead.

Doubtless much of this is lost in translation. USSR-era Russian, with aliens who have little to say and not in Russian, all subtitled into English, adds to what's clearly a movie intended to be bizarre.

The currency is matchboxes, and there's no water because it's needed as rocket fuel, so I suspect there's satire here, though you'd have to be Russian to know who's nose is being tweaked. Even knowing nothing, though, this is enjoyable simply for the strangeness.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦

The Night Porter (1974)
Streaming free

In 1957 Vienna, Max (Dirk Bogarde) is the night porter at a European six-star hotel, providing anything the well-heeled guests require — aspirin, ice, sexual favors on request.

An American composer checks in, accompanied by his wife Lucia (Charlotte Rampling), but the wife and the night porter spot each other across the room, and it's clear that they have an uncomfortable past together.

Max, it's revealed, had been a guard at a Nazi internment camp during WWII, where Lucia had been a prisoner, so he has fond memories of raping her repeatedly. He's soon waiting in her room to attack her like old times, which could be awkward, but she's into it.

All this seems an unlikely series of events, and to make it even less palatable, there's opera. We listen to arias at full volume, watch operatic performances, while Max and Lucia attend the opera, seated some rows apart, and her husband conducts. We also hear opera in scenes unrelated to the opera.

Fuck opera. It's far too expensive for ordinary people to attend, so I've never developed a taste for it. To me it sounds like rich people, which registers musically between a yawn and a flipped finger.

That's also my reaction to the film. It's a movie well-crafted for rich Aryans and self-hating Jews who dig Nazis and rape and opera, but alas, I am none of the above.

Verdict: NO.


• • • Coming attractions • • •

Barton Fink (1991)
Between the Lines (1977)
Cellular (2004)
The Dark Glow of the Mountains (1985)
Gods of Times Square (1999)
Frankenhooker (1990)
Greystoke (1984)
Hugo (2011)
The Importance of Being Earnest (1952)
The Lawyer (1970)
Not of This Earth (1957)
The Saint in New York (1938)
Same Kind of Different as Me (2017)
The Shooting (1966)
The Spook Who Sat by the Door (1973)
The Train (1964)
Welcome to New Orleans (2006)
Winter Soldier (1972)

... plus occasional 
schlock and surprises 

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 twenty-plex, you're missing out.

To get beyond the ordinary, I recommend:

AlterCineverseCriterionCultCinema ClassicsDocsVilleDustFandorFilms for ActionHooplaIHaveNoTVIndieFlixInternet ArchiveKanopyKinoCultKino LorberKorean Classic FilmChristopher R MihmMosfilmMubiNational Film Board of CanadaNew Yorker Screening RoomDamon PackardMark PirroPizzaFlixPopcornFlixPublic Domain MoviesRareFilmmScarecrow VideoShudderThoughtMaybeTimeless Classic MoviesVoleFlixWatchDocumentaries • or your local library

Some people even access films through shady methods, though of course, that would be wrong.

— — —

Illustration by Jeff Meyer. Reviews are spoiler-free, or at least spoiler-warned. Click any image to enlarge. Arguments & recommendations are welcome, but no talking once the lights dim, and only real butter on the popcorn, not that fake yellow stuff. 
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  1. I unapologetically *love* Night Porter. That and The Servant are Dirk Bogarde's finest moments.

    Now do Salon Kitty:


    1. It's conceivable that The Night Porter deserves to exist. Might've liked it if I was much, much younger, more patient, willing to give the artsy-fartsy a chance, and also if they'd turned down the damned opera. My open-minded era seems to have closed, so I'm probably missing out of some classics.

      I'd say Dirk's finest is The Victim, which I've recently seen and written about but the review's not yet published.

      Salon Kitty is 88% downloaded. Also, here comes Ulysses.

    2. Haha, Salon Kitty is total garbage, can't wait for the review!

      Nazispolitation is my favorite genre. Have you seen the Ilsa films?

      There's one flick made a few years ago, utterly bizarre, I have a copy but always forget the name, let me check my drives and I'll find it. Looks and feels like In The Company Of Men, but about a secret eugenics breeding program at a university, absolutely incredible and chilling.

    3. Yeah, I suspected a set-up, but I'll watch Salon Kitty.

      Haven't seen any of the Ilsa franchise. Tell me if I'm incorrect or missed a masterpiece, but they *look* to be intentionally bad in order to be intentionally funny, while my philosophy is that being bad on purpose is simply too easy. I do it every day. Whether a film is superb or schlock, I prefer the assumption that everyone gave it their best.

      I think the Company of Men is in my hopper. Please rattle your skull or check your files for whatever other flick you recommend.

  2. Here's a comment posted by someone anonymously, which Google's AI has rejected in eleven different permutations as I've tried to re-post it.

    So this time I'll try breaking it into smaller chunks:


      I haven't seen any of the selections here.


      The Night Porter sounds like someone made a Cinemax ...


    "word Google won't allow thriller" out of the subject matter of "Death and the Maiden."


      The one thing I remember about "Auto Focus" is that one of Bob Crane's relatives was trying to sell the footage of his escapades and would write these dry descriptions. Like "Bob's cock enters three women. Another man appears but remains flaccid. 14 minutes."

    2. 12 tries for someone who posts as anonymous and starts with "haven't seen any of the selections." So . . . fewer or more tries for someone who identifies (him,her,its) self and doesn't use the word "flaccid"?

      The last time I remained flaccid for 14 minutes started 14 minutes ago. Not Dark Yet, but nobody is singing "Here Comes the Sun".


    3. I always wish there were more comments from more readers, so I'm stubborn and don't want to see Google prevent participation.

      As you well know, these battles are not uncommon, but all through it last night I assumed "cock" was the problem. But, no, it's 'erotic'. I would sure like to meet and laugh at the Google programmer who decided that was too dirty a word for discourse.

    4. And today it's OK, after last night it got us sent to detention!

  4. For the sake of science I tried to reply but it's vernbotten by Google if I include the word which begins with ero and ends with tic.

    This is very like a chat with my father, only without the bar of soap in my mouth.

    1. My parents never did the bar of soap in our mouths for naughty words, but my kooky grandmother did, and she made us use her icky lavender old-lady soap. Fuck that.

    2. I had no idea you were 500 years old. Did she also test for witches by setting them afire?


    3. Is soap in the mouth all that outdated? It wasn't just my family. I knew other kids who got Lifebuoyed and Doved.

    4. I knew nobody who got soaped, and we cursed like motherfuckers. We got chewed out, put on probation and grounded, but nobody stuck a bar of soap in our mouth on which we could have choked to death or set us afire. Are you entirely sure you're not 500 years old?


    5. Were there bars of soap 500 years ago? I always assumed everyone in that era smelled funky like me.

    6. Google says there were bars (or gobs) of soap as early as 2800 BCE. Google also says you should send them all your money, so there's no guarantee on the dating.


    7. So some of those bars of soap probably landed in kids' mouths as punishment for uttering vulgarities in Sumerian.


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