Queens of Evil

Written by Joe D on November 8th, 2023

Toniono Cervi’s Queens of Evil starring Ray Lovelock is a crazy cool take on a  Fairy Tale .

 

Kind of like a hippie Hansel and Gretel setup with sex instead of gingerbread and early 70’s  Italian set design. Great camera work by Enrico Lucidi (OK maybe a few zooms too many but it was 1970!) and an incredible score by Angelo Francesco Lavagnino! Super cool, demonic chanting, jazz harpsichords and I think Edda del Orso doing her demented child voice, ala Morricone’s scores for Argento. A terrific score! Ray Lovelock sings the title song which he wrote as well.  The acting is all good. Ida Galli, Slvia Monti, and Haydee Politoff are the three witches of the title and they deliver a combination of weirdness, sexiness, evil, violence, and Italian style,  check out the wigs these three evil chicks wear if you want to have your mind blown. It has so many artistic touches, including a proliferation of red flowers on a grave, for what reason? Who can say.

A surreal dream sequence, a house in the middle of the woods, a spooky castle. It’s like Rosemary’s Baby on Acid. Just check it out for yourself, Go to You tube and look up Ray Lovelock films and you’ll find it. I can’t post it here for some reason. Unfortunately it’s dubbed in English I would have preferred it in Italian but what can you do it’s free.

 

 

A Night At Quentin Tarantino’s New Beverly Theater

Written by Joe D on November 1st, 2023

I went with my friend Duke Haney to the New Beverly the other night. They were screening two Horror/Blacksploitation films. Sugar Hill and J.D.’s Revenge. A fun double bill, the kind of films you want to see with an audience. Sugar Hill featured a beautiful black female protagonist ( Marki Bey) who wants revenge after her man is brutally beaten to death.

She gets help from the King of the Undead. But he wants something in return. The head of the criminal organization is played by Count Yorga himself( Robert Quarry). Also featured is Don Pedro as the horny and funny Baron Samedi.

The other film, J.D.’s Revenge starred an excellent Glynn Turman as a cab driver being possessed bu a razor wielding stud who was unjustly murdered 30 years prior. He is very convincing as the revenge crazed J.D. Walker.

Lou Gossett Jr. is a preacher and does a fine job. He is a wonderful actor and can play anything! Check out Enemy Mine. The great thing about this evening was seeing these obscure films projected in 35mm with an audience. It makes a huge difference to see a film that is being projected on film! It’s a Spiritual thing, you can feel it! That’s why I am so grateful to Quentin Tarantino for having this theater. It is an enormous gift to the City of Los Angeles.

Meanwhile the Cinema Dome sits shuttered! What a disgrace to Hollywood. Some superrich person that made his fortune in the Movie business should buy it, restore it and open it up! Spielberg or Geffen or any of the billionaires out there should save that Landmark of Film Presentation and become a Cinema Hero.

QT is rich but not as rich as these other people, he spent his cash on what he loves, Cinema! And Bravo to him for doing that! Let him be an inspiration to these others, Invest in the cultural future of your City, your Industry. Protect the Heritage of Film. Do something with your mountains of cash instead of just sitting on them.

 

 

 

https://archive.org/details/JDSREVENGE1976FullMovie

 

William Friedkin’s CRUISING

Written by Joe D on September 22nd, 2023

I am going to go out on a limb here and say I think CRUISING is William Friedkin’d best film. I saw it in a theater just off Times Square back in 1982 or so. I had just started a job as an assistant editor, the editor I was working for, Bud Smith, told me it was playing and I should go see it. So I did. At the time I was creeped out by the film and the creepy forty deuce theater I saw it in. I thought it was confusing, I did not get it. I was in awe of some of the visuals, powerful images , shadows, dead bodies, a Blue Arch in Central Park at night. But I didn’t think it worked. I recently rewatched it and I had a revelation, the filmmaking is top notch! The camera work, editing and score( by my old friend Jack Nitzsche) are all great. The plot is bizarre, but now I think it is genius in a David Lynch kind of way.

The first victim comes back to life to murder the second victim. All the killers are dubbed by the REAL KILLER’s father. Who exists only in the mind of his son, having died years earlier. And when the REAL KILLER is being interrogated, he says in his fathers dubbed voice “I didn’t kill anyone” . this is all subversive filmmaking of the highest order. What does it mean? Well, Friedkin was inspired to make this film by talking to a real killer in jail for murder. This guy had appeared in a small role in THE EXORCIST. He played an X-Ray technician. He told Friedkin that the cops said they would go easy on him if he confessed to a whole string of gay murders, even though he only recalled doing one of them. I’m sure this got Friedkin thinking, do we ever know the truth about these things. Are they more complicated than we realize? Are people influenced by other forces when they commit these horrifying crimes? I think he found a creative way to explore this ambiguity, uncertainty. The film had such a negative backlash, mainly due to protests by the gay community in NYC, but none of them had seen the film. They were reacting to a film about gay people being murdered. The S&M gay community supported the film and a lot of them appeared in it.

 

I actually think the film was a step forward in the Cinematic treatment of gay people. There are scenes in leather bars, S&M clubs, extreme sexual things are happening but you never feel they are being judged in any way. No one is saying “That’s bad!” or “That’s disgusting!”Friedkins cameras are in documentary mode. He’s showing us what goes on behind these doors but not making any judgement calls. Also in so many “Straight” horror films , people have sex and are then slaughtered by a monster , the Puritanical result of out of wedlock fornication. Here gay people are given the same treatment. So they are being treated exactly the same as straight people. All in all I think this film represents a big step forward in portraying gay characters.

The film opens with two incredible poetic images, Hi-Con Black and White shots of iconic images from the film, one is a crowd of leather clad club goers outside of The Mineshaft, the other is Pacino in Central Park standing in a stone archway. There’s no explanation as to why these images are here, but with the minimalist atmospheric score I find them enigmatic, compelling, in a word poetic. And that sets the stage for some great Cinema, offbeat, unorthodox. The murder scenes are gripping , the one in the Peep Show, that yes the projected porn as a visual element is Cinema of the highest order. There is even a subliminal ( 4 frame) cut of a penis slithering into a butt during the stabbing, Artfully done, it took me a couple of viewings to see it.

The soundtrack is amazing too. Great sound effects , great Foley of creaking leather, rattling chains, all kinds of strange atmospheric textures laid over the scenes in an incredible way. It makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. The score is great, iconic, Nietzsche recorded several bands for this movie including The Germs and Willie DeVille. He told me that Friedkin complained that he spent too much on the score. I guess because the movie did not do well at the Box Office. It’s really a shame that this film was so badly judged and received, mainly because of the protests, it had a negative publicity campaign before it came out. Some theaters even put up signs saying they were sorry they had to show the film, they didn’t want to but were contractually obligated to. It’s bad when things are judged by people that have not seen them or read them or heard them. Just attacking something based on a rumor, something they read, not making their own minds up about it. The film was a commercial flop. unfortunately because Friedkin should have continued in this vein of creativity. A sort of Metaphysical Thriller. He really forged a new style that he wound up abandoning in reaction to its reception. A Real Shame.

An often overlooked fact about this film and The Exorcist is that Bud Smith and Jack Nitzsche worked on both of them. Their contributions to both was inestimable in my opinion.  Bud met Jack while working on Bob Downey’s Greasers Palace, a psychedelic Western.

            Bud Smith

Denizen of the Midnight Movie Craze of the 60’s and 70’s along with El Topo, Fantastic Planet and Performance. (more on this film in a minute) Nitzsche started out as an arranger, the guy that wrote the parts for Phil Spector legendary Wall Of Sound. The Rolling Stones were enamored of this sound and sought Jack out. He collaborated with them on several songs and wound up scoring the Mick Jagger starring film Performance by Donald Cammel and Nick Roeg. An amazing score, one that supposedly Friedkin loved. Bud introduced Nitzsche to Friedkin and Jack along with his friend Ron Nagle recorded a lot of special sound effects for The Exorcist, rats running on sandpaper, crashing glass, glass harmonicas, bees in a jar. All kinds of exotic sounds. Then Bud would edit them into the film in a very creative unsettling subversive way.

                                                                                                       Jack Nitzsche

The combination was irresistible. Their collaboration on Cruising was just as powerful. They deserve so much credit for the atmosphere and unsettling nature of these films. Both masterpieces of sonic and Cinematic brain manipulation. Bravo!

My final thoughts on Cruising (at least for this write up) deal with the subject matter, Pure sex, pleasure uninhibited, no Catholic guilt, just raw experience, such a powerful force, that it’s been controlled by Laws, the Church, the Public Mores of Society, clamped down, repressed, locked away. Here is a film that exposes pure hedonism, pure freedom of personal sexual expression as the backdrop for a murder mystery, a detective film in a Meta universe where the dead can come back to life, in their own form and controlling the body of others. But not in a Supernatural Zombie vampire kind of way. In a freudian head trip kind of way. Psychological not Supernatural. A real mind bender.

How To Be Loved

Written by Joe D on June 10th, 2023

Here is a great Polish Film from 1963. Directed by Wojciech Has. And starring the great Zbigniew Cybulski, one of my favorite actors, I should say costarring because the real star of the film is Barbara Krafftówna, a great performance. Beautifully shot in B&W, this is a real Art Film! Has came from the Polish film school that Polanski attended. Seems like a good place to study Cinema. It is based on a novel of the same name by Kazimierz Brandys

and it feels like it. A truly literary work of Cinema, with the plot, scenes characters, inner dialog, of a beautiful book. I love films that play like novel and this is a classic. There’s only one part of the film I didn’t like. Otherwise I really enjoyed watching it. I recommend it to those that want to visit a lost world of pure Cinema. Breathe the rarefied air of the Lodz Film School of the 60’s. Fantasize about being a student there, making films there, living the Art Life.

A Hero

Written by Joe D on January 23rd, 2022

 

                                             Asghar Farhadi

I just watched A Hero by the great Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi. An excellent film, the story of a man who tries to do the right thing and is of course punished by Society. I have seen almost all of his films, they are all great, wonderfully written, acted and directed. Moral puzzles, all worth watching. I was lucky enough to see him speak at a screening of The Salesman, a truly great film, that posed some very complicated questions and did not give you the answers. Something I like in a film. Farhadi himself said he did not know the answer to these questions, he had a feeling what had happened but he the filmmaker did not know for sure. Amazing! He left it up to the audience to decide! On the way down to the parking garage, a man in the elevator expressed his view vehemently! “He definitely raped her!” He proclaimed. This is great Cinema, it has the power to create dialogs that last long after the film has been projected. Filmmaking through time. Also, we are at odds with Iran, our governments are almost at war, yet Cinema has the power to show the humanity of the people living in the Forbidden Country, what a great gift.

A Hero is also in my opinion a homage to the great Luis Bunuel Film, Nazarin. A film where a simple country priest(in Mexico) tries to live according to the true teachings of Christ. And of course is spurned and eventually arrested. In A Hero the daughter of the Creditor that our hero owes money to is named Nazarin, also at the end of Bunuel’s film, a peasant woman taking pity on Nazarin, who she assumes is a criminal because he’s being led to jail in chains, gives him a pineapple. At the end of A Hero, he gets a box of baklava.

The Making Of Silent Running

Written by Joe D on January 15th, 2022

Here is a cool documentary, shot on the set of the seminal film Silent Running. I saw this in the theater when it came out and really enjoyed it. Ahead of it’s time, the environmental message that’s even more relevant today. Bruce Dern is great and the double amputees that play the robots are really cool. They’re all teenagers, who knew. I later worked with two key players from this film, Michael Cimino, who was one of the writers and John Dykstra a VFX supervisor. Anyway check it out and see the film!

Louis Feuillade’s Les Vampires

Written by Joe D on January 6th, 2022

Here is a silent serial that was a big hit with the Surrealists back in the day. One look at the imagery in this trailer and you’ll see why. Elements of Grand Guignol  A French Theater of Shock and Horror popular at the time) and a newspaperman/Detective  hero give it a contemporary relevance, but especially the wonderful, Irma Vep, a female super villian. Ahead of it’s time! Check out the trailer and watch the whole thing on the Criterion Channel. This is excellent silent film making, location shooting, death defying stunts, headless corpses, the list goes on. It is sort of a film version of a comic book, but in my opinion much better than these CGI laden bloated monstroisities from Marvel that are ruining the Film Industry. So Check it out and Enjoy!

Blast Of Silence

Written by Joe D on December 6th, 2021

Here is a beautifully shot low budget film, made in NYC in 1961. What amazing locations, check out Penn Station, an architectural marvel, before it was torn down to put the box of Madison Squarer Garden in it’s place. A real crime against humanity. This movie featurtes a ton of voice over by the great gravel throated Lionel Stander, who was in Once Upon A Time In The West and other cool films, like Unfaithfully Yours by Preston Sturis, and Cul de Sac by that perverted dwarf Roman Polanski.I think the VO was added later to help the film, I don’t think it was in the original script, there is a seperate credit for voice over writing.  The Ending of this film is a classic, you have to see it, kind of reminiscent of the end of Truffaut’s Shoot The Piano Player.The director and Star of this film made another film after this called Pie In The Sky or Terror in the City. I havent seen it but I will be on the lookout for it. Then he went onto direct TV shows. Too Bad. The guy has real talent, he should have stayed in the Cinema. But we all have to make a living. So too bad.

I think there is a re-release of this film happening. I went to see it at Quentin Tarantino’s New Beverly on a double bill with Nighty Of The Hunter. First time I’ve been in a movie theater since the pandemic! Two great prints! They looked amazing! See it in 35mm if you are able. From the opening Out Of The Tunnel Birth sequence to the terrific ending, it’s worth it!

Out Of The Blue

Written by Joe D on November 19th, 2021

I just found out that a 4k restoration of this film is being shown in theaters. I think it’s one of Dennis Hoppers best films. I hear tell it started as an after school special, then Hopper took over and turned it into a crazy Art film. But it really is cool, great characters and acting, totally unexpected things happen in it, Check it out!

 

 

Illustrious Corpses

Written by Joe D on October 9th, 2021

I read that they were re-releasing this film in a limited release,stating in NYC. So I figured I’dcheck it out. It is directed by Fransesco Rosi ,a very creative,political filmmaker. I’ve seen a few of his other films, Salvatore Giuliano, Hands Over The City, The Swindlers. All very good and all shot by the great camerman Gianni DeVenanzo. This one however was not.Gianni died unexpectedly at age 46,but his operator Pasqualino DeSantis did shoot this film.And he did a great job,beautiful. (In my opinion no one comes close to Gianni when it comes to moving the camera around moving protagonists,the sense of space you get is magical. )

Illustrious Corpses stars the great acor Lino Ventura,a real presence on the screen. He is a real movie star. He didn’t want to act,he had to be talked into it by his friend Jaques Becker for Touchez Pas La Grisbi. And it paid off very well for him and for us,the film watchers! So thanks Jaques Becker! Also on hand are Max Von Sydow and Fernando Rey, icons of Bergman and Bunuel.  The great Piero Piccione provides the score and the editing is by Ruggerio Mastroianni, brother of Marcello! Anyway the entire movie is on Youtube. The only problem I had was with the sound level, it keeps changing, quiet for dialog, loud for musical sequences. But watch it! It is a great movie! I think my favorite of Rosi’s so far. I still have a lot of his films to see, a thought I find very reassuring.

Kolchak The Night Stalker

Written by Joe D on September 1st, 2021

I just happened upon this on YouTube last night. One of the best TV Movies ever made! Super influential! X-Files Creator Christopher Carter sites it as a major influence. Written by Genius Richard Mathesson, he wrote the book Psycho was adapted from, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Trilogy of Terror, many TYwilight Zones, The Last Man On Earth, which has been adapted many times. The list goes on and on. A big part of why this movie is so good, Plus a great cast, Darren McGaven, Carole Lynley, Ralph Meeker, Charles McGraw, Simon Oakland, Claude Akins and Elisha Cook Jr. Some icons of Classic Film Noir. And an incredible score, kind of Dirty Harryesque, really cool. And I must say some really terrific stunt work! Makes it all seem belivable.  Many Years ago I took a Cinematography class at the Hollywood Film School, kind of a low budget AFI on Hollywood Blvd. It was taught by Michel Hugo, the guy who shot tyhis masterpiece. A very nice Frenchman and an excellent cameraman. Anyway check it out, a real blast from the past.

ANDY WARHOL’S OUTER AND INNER SPACE starring EDIE SEDGEWICK

Written by Joe D on August 27th, 2021

Andy Warhol was givren an early video recorder made by Norelco and he shot a lot of video with it.  Yu can’t watch any of it now because there are no Norelco video decks left! The curse of Rapidly Evolving Technology. He played the video in the background on a monitor and filmed SuperStar Edie in front of the monitor with a 16mm sound on film Auricon Camera. Then he distorted the video intentionally as it plkayed back, this was before Nam Jun Paik got his first video recorder. He was ahead of his time in his own weird way. Check it out .But First see her Screen Test!