Four Lions, Foxy Brown,
14 Days in a City with No Laws,
and a few more films

Four Lions (2010)
Streaming free at Tubi

"Do you have any Islamic arguments, brother? I only listen to Islamic arguments."

This is a ballsy satire, hyping all the stereotypes of Muslim radicals into a story of four incompetent, bickering Jihadists as they plan a terrorist attack. Shall we blow up the local mosque to radicalize other Muslims, or shall we bomb the London Marathon? Decisions, decisions.

It's ever-so-slightly provocative, sometimes hilarious, sometimes just LOUD. Early on, one of the wanna-be terrorists attends a conference on "Islam Moderation and Progress," but interrupts from the audience to show that dynamite is strapped to his body. Then he delivers a fiercely radical rap performance, but doesn't blow himself up. Not yet. Martyrdom is a dish best delayed.

Omar is the lead terrorist, and the film draws dark laughs from his idyllic home life — so loving and domestic it could be Leave It to Beaver, except that Omar and his wife and son never talk about anything but Omar's plan to blow himself up, which the family enthusiastically supports.

Everything here is insane, obviously, but you're drawn into the comradery and arguments, and laugh at the stupid beliefs of these bumbling terrorists, even as they're planning to kill themselves and others. The movie holds nothing back, stays true to itself, never slows or quiets down, and it's certainly not for everyone. I laughed a lot, but also got a headache. 

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Four Musicians of Bremen (1922)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

#276  [archive]
APR. 14, 2024

This is another short, surreal cartoon from pioneering animator Walter Elias Disney. 'Pioneering' is the key word, because audiences in 1922 were still dazzled that the painted and projected pictures moved — bricks and bowling balls fly and houses and animals jump out of the way. Nowadays we ask for a story, too.

There's a cat, a dog, a horse, and a rooster in this, moving all over, but it's not entirely clear what they're up to. 

Verdict: MAYBE.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Four Seasons (1975)
a/k/a Seasons of the Year
Streaming free at YouTube

It ain't easy being an Armenian shepherd.

This is an almost wordless half-hour study of Armenians herding sheep, into and down a river's rapids, through a tunnel, past a wedding, harvesting hay, and losing their footing on a snowy mountainside. The visuals are vivid, historical, and remarkable.

The movie is a peek at lives lived long ago, and jeez, it wasn't easy being an Armenian shepherd.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Four Sided Triangle (1952)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

"A paradox is only a truth standing on its head to attract attention."

Two young brothers are best friends with the neighbor's daughter, and it's all fun and games until they grow up. The girl, now a va-va-va-voom blonde bombshell, falls for one of the boys, leaving the other brother quite dejected, but here's the twist:

Both brothers have been working on a nifty new sci-fi device called a 'reproducer', which does exactly that. Put a check in the device, you get two checks. Put in a locket, and you'll have two lockets, identical, right down to the same slightly damaged link in the chain. Put Lady Va-Va-Va-Voom into the reproducer, and there'll be one blonde for each brother.

This is an early entry from Hammer Films, the famous horror studio. Set in a small English town, the film looks lovely, has solid acting and a great laboratory for the brothers.

But even beyond the reproducer, there's a huge impossibility that the script never addresses. Duplicating this woman is supposed to duplicate everything about her, even her memories and emotions, and she's in love with Brother A, so her reproduction should also be in love with him. Yet after the duplication, Lady Voom B goes off with Brother B. She is allowed, and seems to want, no agency over her own life, or lives. She's the locket, only alive.

Verdict: MAYBE.

♦ ♦ ♦  

14 Days in a City with No Laws (2023)
a/k/a Slab City
Streaming free at YouTube

Slab City is a California enclave for people with nowhere else to go, or nowhere else they want to be. It was built by hand, and it's still being built one shack at a time, near an abandoned military base in a remote corner of the southern California deserts. It's called Slab City because when the Marines' Camp Dunlap closed in 1945, what was left wasn't much more than concrete slabs and pillars.

Police, bureaucracy, and civilization are far away, and that's the attraction, but there's no electricity, no plumbing. There's a barely-built library, a hot spring, a couple of restaurants, a busy AirBNB, a soup kitchen, an internet cafe, and numerous artists and stoners and decent people who've been beaten down by 'society', but found a home at the Slabs.

About 4,000 people live there during the winter months, but come summer, only the bravest, toughest, and dumbest remain — a few hundred people at most, because 120° isn't unusual on a summer day.

Lack of law enforcement has, of course, brought criminals and unsavory sorts to Slab City. If you leave something nice lying around in the open, it won't be there when you return. If you're a child molester or a bad neighbor, your shack might burn down. But folks in the movie say that if you stay out of strangers' business, they'll generally stay out of yours. 

More than two hours long, this film is an episode of the YouTube podcast Ranger Rick TV, which I've never seen. There's thankfully almost no opening theme song, and if there were ads none slipped through my adblockers. 

Ranger Rick seems like a nice guy, and he talks with plenty of Slabbers, asking intelligent questions, listening to the answers, and treating the residents with respect. He lets everyone talk long enough to feel like you're getting to know them.

Slab City has always intrigued me, and I think I'd feel at home there, but I'll never be able to even visit. This is the next best thing.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Fourteen Hours (1951)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

There's a guy on the ledge of a high-rise hotel, being all suicidal. That's the movie.

Is he going to jump? A crowd of gawkers gathers, watching (just like I watched) to see if the guy goes splat. 

(Spoiler: The guy does not go splat. A splat movie wouldn't have been allowed in the 1950s, but maybe if Abel Ferrara does a remake of this...).

Way too many cops swarm the hotel, doing whatever can be done to prevent the guy from jumping. Their strategies seem stupid to me — I'm not suicidal, but if I was on the ledge and cops kept talking to me about personal things they'd uncovered from my past, and brought my mother in, and my ex-girlfriend, screw it, I would do an Olympic dive to the sidewalk.

There's one cop who gains the ledge-loiterer's confidence by being honest with him, or at least seeming honest. Of course, anyone who knows anything knows never to trust a cop, but it made me ponder — is it ethical for the trusted cop to lie to the guy? 

The film has a few enjoyably cynical moments, mostly wisecracks from the gawkers. One of them looks up, trying to see what everyone else is looking at, and says, "So what is it, advertising?"

Co-written by John Paxton (On the Beach); directed by Henry Hathaway (Call Northside 777, True Grit '69). Small roles for a few up-and-coming faces — Howard da Silva, Jeffrey Hunter, Jeff Corey, and Grace Kelly, and a bigger role for the always-excellent Agnes Moorehead.

I have a mild fear of heights (acrophobia), and this movie messed with that, even though the ledge scenes were obviously shot on a set.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Fox (1967)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

Jill and Ellen run a struggling chicken farm together, in the snowy wilds of Canada. It's a tiny place, so they share a bedroom and a bed, but they're just friends, or at least that's what Jill thinks. With a few furtive looks, though, I'm quickly convinced that Ellen wishes their relationship was more.

And then a mysterious man comes to the farm, and comes between the women.

This is an intense drama, quiet but riveting all the way, until an extremely disappointing and contrived but not unexpected end, which I'm still angry about.

Sandy Dennis, Anne Heywood, and Kier Dullea star. Based on a novel by D H Lawrence (Lady Chatterley's Lover), and directed by Mark Rydell (Cinderella Liberty).

Verdict: MAYBE. 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Fox Pop (1942)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

This is a Merrie Melodies cartoon, directed by Chuck Jones. It's about a fox who hears on the radio that everyone wants a fox, but misunderstands — he thinks people want foxes as pets, not pelts, so he tries to trigger a trap and get captured. 

It's not particularly funny, and Mel Blanc's voice as the fox sounds exactly like Bugs Bunny.

Verdict: NO.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Foxy Brown (1974)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

"Bartender, get this dusty young lady whatever it is she needs to quench her magnificent thirst."

When her boyfriend, a narcotics cop, is killed, Ms Foxy Brown (Pam Grier) goes into vengeance mode. 

Jack Hill (The Big Bird Cage, The Big Doll House, etc) directs, so the violence is shown, not implied. The bad guy is doused with gasoline and lit aflame, another bad guy gets his dick sliced off, and when someone comes face-to-face with an airplane propeller, we see it all. No worries, the desserts are just.

What's distasteful is that Foxy herself is tortured and raped, an unwelcome interruption of what's otherwise a pretty good blaxploitation adventure.

Antonio Fargas co-stars as Foxy's brother, with Sid Haig as (you'd never guess) a heavy, but deeper in the cast some of the acting sounds like early rehearsals. Of course, you're not watching this for delicate thespianship. What matters is: the action is fine, and Grier kicks ass.

Verdict: YES.


• • • Coming attractions • • •     

Frankenstein (1931)
Freaky Faron
Free State of Jones
Freedom Riders
Freeway (1996)

... plus schlock, shorts, and surprises

— — —
'Movie reviews' that that recount the plot, paragraph after paragraph, suck. My pledge to you: I'll only give the basics of a movie's premise, with no spoilers after that.  
— — —

Illustration by Jeff Meyer. 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. After Larry Cohen, Jack Hill may be my favorite exploitation director. My favorite is Spider Baby, a truly unique film blending several genres.

    That poster for Four Lions reminds me of a strange doc I saw about oil sheikhs whose hobby was falconry, The Challenge.


    1. Loved Spider Baby, but I've mellowed to the point where Mr Hill's violent classics like The Big Doll House might not be as appealing as when I was young. He's great at what he does, though. Is Abel Ferrara on your exploitation list?

      The Challenge, goes on the list.

    2. Love Ferrara, esp Bad Lieutenant, King of New York, The Addiction, The Funeral

    3. All coming soon. Any other exploitation greats you'd recommend?

    4. Well, the first one that always comes to mind is Last House on Dead End Street


      The story behind the film is also very interesting.

      But the problem is, "exploitation" is a slippery definition, even in hindsight. Lotta "art" films rub up against exploitation, and vice/versa. Heck, Taxi Driver is both at the same time. That's what makes it more intelligent (but also more dishonest) than something like Death Wish (which I own and love). Salo, too. And so on.

      Some others, without drilling down to specifically on what is or isn't:

      Man Bites Dog
      Ichi the Killer
      Street Trash
      Who Can Kill a Child?
      Martyrs (2008) (First two thirds are moronic and confusing - the last third is on a par with 2001 as far as spiritual/intellectual leap is concerned. Has perhaps the single most disturbing image I've ever seen in a film, but it's actually necessary at that point in the film, and gives the few minutes that follow a serious weight.)
      I Spit on Your grave
      Cannibal Holocaust
      Hanzo the Razor


      I have soft spot for Naziploitation, personally

    5. Man Bites Dog is without question the FUNNIEST serial killer film ever made:


      And the lead performance by Benoît Poelvoorde is an all-timer

    6. Everything goes on the list, thanks. I saw Man Bites Dog at the Metro in the U District, loved it yessir.

      I don't think nazisploitation would be for me. I bleed when someone in a movie gets hurt.

  2. Interesting companion to Slab City is a Darwin, a documentary about a town in California that people describe as an "almost ghost town." It's an old mining down down to about 30 people and the doc really gets into their lives in a compelling way.

    1. Looks interesting, so it's on the list, thanks.

      IMDB says "Propelled from society by tragic turns, the isolated community of Darwin, Death Valley (population 35) must now find ways to coexist in a place without a government, a church, jobs, or children." And it occurs to me, I saw no mention of a church in Slab City.

    2. https://www.filminquiry.com/anarchic-cinema-jean-vigo/

    3. > Vigo spent most of his childhood in guarded anonymity due to his infamously militant anarchist father Eugène Vigo, who publicly wore the pseudonym Miguel Almereyda, an anagram for “this is shit”.

      Oh man, I love that. Call me Ishti Hisst.

  3. Doug, you're probably aware that Simon and Garfunkel sang a song about a guy they went to college with who was a freedom rider (Mr Simon wrote the song) who was killed by the fine citizens of Mississippi. This isn't a great copy but you can make it out.



    1. Not sure whether I knew that song's about Andrew Goodman. It's good to know, though, and a good song. It's hard to know these days what I already knew and what I didn't.

    2. My fingers got ahead of my brain again.

      I knew who Andrew Goodman was in the 60s and I forgot until I saw his name in your comment. I think we just have to keep learning the same stuff over and over.



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