Tag Archives: Roger Corman

A Dead Bee Makes No Honey…..

……. or so the jail cell wall in Jack Hill’s 1971 romp The Big Doll’s House tells us.

My Jack Hill experiences so far have been pleasurable without being taxing. His films drip with subtext but can be watched with no real mental investment, if that happens to be the mood you’re in. IMDb have his directorial career starting with an uncredited stint on Roger Corman’s The Wasp Woman which is a minor Corman but interesting nevertheless. He works with Corman again on The Terror and co-directs a series of low budget horror flicks before finally going it alone on the deliciously titled Spider Baby, or The Maddest Story Ever Told, a film I sourced and watched online recently. you can see it here. Check it out, it’s great.

The flick opens with the soulful tones of Pam Grier singing the distinctive title track, a tune that will later feature in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown . This is Griers first significant feature role and it’s easy to see why she went on to make many flicks with Hill. Her powerful female aura and considerably marketable physical form make Grier the perfect poster girl for the blaxploitation genre.

Back to the flick……

We immediately find ourselves the throes of incarceration. A new, and strangely attractive inmate, is given the obligatory “search”. The nature of the search gives us crucial information as to how this joint is run. Think Japanese POW camp with a dusting of Nazism (The guards have German accents and stormtrooper uniforms) topped off with a garnish of sado-masochism. After being examined, our female protagonist is bundled into a beautifully lit jail cell with 6 equally good looking inmates. This is no Prisoner – Cell Block H….

What unfolds is an often unexplained sequence of events that have no real connection but get us to where we need to be for the violent climax. We have 2 delivery men who come in and out of the story. They have the obvious male intentions considering they deliver goods to a prison full of women, all of whom have been starved of “company” for what seems like an age. There’s a great scene where Alcot (AKA the blonde one) corners one of the hapless duo in a store room and demands he carry out his manly duty at the point of a knife. The strong female is the staple ingredient of Hill’s pictures and this flick is rammed with them.
In addition to the delivery guy strand we have inmates being tortured in a medieval looking chamber for the pettiest of misdemeanours whilst being watched by a strange hooded figure. We have alliances and friendships being broken and rekindled at breakneck speed for no apparent reason. We have a great fight between Grier and Alcott that very conveniently winds up taking place in a pit full of mud. We have a flimsy romantic sub plot between the newly recruited doctor and the prison boss. And that’s not to mention the heroin addicted inmate who adds an air of real menace to the proceedings. It a sweaty, steamy, self consiously angry flick.

Then there are guns…… Lots of guns

The film can be picked apart and the nuances of social commentary drawn out and examined. I much prefer to just go along for the ride with these pictures. Jack Hill’s films contain little in terms of emotional richness but that does not diminish their capability to entertain and despite their grindhouse aesthetic and themes, you do find yourself looking for something beyond the scratchy facade.

Corman Meets Poe

It feels like a country age since I last put up a post of substance. Please accept my apologies for the slackness on the blog front as I’m writing my dissertation and the treatment / script for the next flick which will be shooting sometime around March / April. We’re currently in the process of cleaning up The Three Tenners for entry into next years Edinburgh International Film Festival so everything that can be crossed, is crossed for that.

The dissertation is on the subject of adaptation which has meant watching tons of interesting flicks. I’m on a little strand of the Roger Corman / Edgar Allan Poe adaptations so it’s maybe right I should bring some of this stuff to your attention, should you have seen them or not. There’s 8 of them in total which Corman made between 1960 and 1964….. That’s almost 2 flicks a year, and he was making films in between! 5 day features man, bring em’ back. Well I suppose Shane Meadows already has with Le Donk.

Anyway, here they are in chronological order….. Seek them out!

House of Usher (1960)

Pit and the Pendulum (1961)

The Premature Burial (1962)

Tales of Terror (1962)

The Raven (1963)

The Haunted Palace (1963)

The Masque of the Red Death (1964)

The Tomb of Ligeia (1964)

The Bedroom Film Festival

It’s been a long time since every minute of the waking day was taken up with watching flicks. Saturday was such a day. rather than write about them I’ll let them speak for themselves in all their poster glory. It’s better that way…….

JET PILOT movie poster web

mallrats

parallax_view

biggerthanlife

in-a-lonely-place-poster

00prematureburialins

They look pretty cool together I think, it was a fantastic day in.

EIFF Off

eiff_blue_logo

The EIFF is over for another year.

It’s a shame I never got round to posting fresh analysis and opinion on the films as I saw them but to be honest, my desire to type has been waning of late. It seems like the only thing I’ve done for the last 2 years is type so I thought it best to take a break and regain my thirst for communicating. Via the gift of innocent smoothies and some decent sleep, it seems to be back.

It was a good festival, maybe not as complete an experience as last year due to my work commitments but I got along to a decent amount of stuff and met some cool people.

away-we-go

The opening film was the new Sam Mendes pic AWAY WE GO which had John Krasinski (star of the US comedy TV show The Office) and Maya Rudolph (Saturday Night Live) in the leading roles. It was a good natured, whimsical start to the fest which neither offended nor inspired me. The dudes at Filmspotting ripped it to shreds but the picture, in my opinion, doesn’t strive to be anything beyond what it is on its surface, 2 people in love trying to find their way after discovering they have a child on the way. Mendes himself came out and introduced the film and his summing up of what we were about to see was in no way weighty or philosophical. And that’s ok by me. You can’t sit and watch PERSONA over and over after all.

Away-we-go2

The EIFF wouldn’t be what it is without its weird midnight pictures. Those pictures that may not see the light of day beyond the festival circuit. These are the real finds and it always annoys me that these little gems are what make a festival, but very few people get to see them.

One such example is White Lightnin’.

White_Lightnin_Poster_b

The film stars up and coming Brit actor Edward Hogg as Jasco White, a real life character from the deep south of America who has his troubled life dramatised in this picture (Jasco, incidentally, is currently in jail) Hogg does a tremendous job bringing this hardened individual to life. There are moments of striking beauty despite the grimness of the subject and I never once felt that director Dominic Murphy pushed things too far. I loved this film and would say it was the best of my festival. I hope this picture gets a release, if it does it’ll probably run late at night, it’s worth staying up for!

The real highlights for me this year were the In Person interviews. I took in Darren Aronofsky, Bill Forsyth, Roger Corman, Sharmila Tagore and Joe Dante sharing their cinematic views live on stage. It was especially pleasing to see my college tutor Jonny Murray doing a great job interviewing Bill Forsyth. It’s now clear in my mind that Scottish cinema can be funny, insightful and important without having to resort to drab, arbitrary stories of drink, drugs or violence. Our nation has more to offer, we just don’t know how to fund it.

Roger 2
Kim Newman interviews Roger Corman

I’ll lastly mention the Roger Corman retrospective that was running as a compliment to his In Person appearance. I’ve mentioned Corman a few times on this blog but I don’t think his contribution can be overstated. I had the pleasure of watching THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, THE INTRUDER and THE RAVEN on the big screen, more on THE INTRUDER soon as I’ve bought it and will dedicate a full post to the flick. People need to get into this guy. The films, although quite rough around the edges in many cases, show an ingenuity, a passion and an energy for story so often lost on glossier, more expensive productions. This freedom, I believe, is now returning thanks to the digital age, how that freedom will be utilised is another discussion altogether.

intruder%20(1962)%20title%20capture

Gone Shooting

Today sees the first day of principle photography on my new film THE THREE TENNERS. I’m half an hour away from “leaving the house” time so, having checked, rechecked, then rechecked again, equipment, actors and crew, I thought I’d calm the old brain down by firing up a post.

the_trip

Last night I took at the 1967 “freak out” movie THE TRIP for some low budget inspiration and Roger Corman, true to form, didn’t dissapoint. Peter Fonda plays Paul Groves, a television commercial director who, following a split with his wife, enlists the help of a friend to guide him through the kaleidoscope of confusion and weirdness that is your average LSD experience. I’d write more about it as it’s interesting stuff but my pc has dragged its heels and now I’m off to shoot a picture.

Here’s the trailer, you can watch the whole thing on Youtube right now!

Movies on Youtube

I’ve always been against watching full movies on Youtube but when faced with staying in a room in Camden last week that had no DVD player, no TV and a laptop that didn’t play AVI files I was left with no choice. Now I have to tell you…..

Apart from having to move to the next section every ten minutes, The experience wasn’t at all horrible.

Here’s what I watched and the beauty of this post is, you can watch them too…… and NOW!!

things_to_come

This 1936 Alexander Korda production of the H.G. Wells novel is a fine example of really good British Sci Fi. Wells apparently hated the Fritz Lang film METROPOLIS and wanted to make this picture the opposite of the German’s futuristic epic. I have to say though, even though there was a dislike there, you could definately tell the filmmakers had seen METROPOLIS, along with Eisentein’s work. This is no criticism however, as if it could be.

The picture is set in “Everytown” and has 3 major shifts in time (joined together with some nice militaristic montage) covering pre war, post war and the future where man’s futile battles with each other are exposed and examined. It’s great stuff with some nice dialogue and strange futuristic inventions like “the gas of peace”.

Give it a whirl, you can watch it NOW and probably should!

Next up was the 1955 Roger Corman picture DAY THE WORLD ENDED.

day20the20world20ended

This post apocalytic romp charts the fortunes of 7 survivors of a nuclear blast. There’s some real tension here and, true to form for this genre of picture, it features a very interesting “mutant”. Give it a whirl.

It’s NOT What It Says On The Tin

Do you remember this movie poster?

It’s for Roger Corman’s TEENAGE CAVEMAN (1958) a picture that appeared in the “MOVIES I’D LIKE TO SEE ON THE BIG SCREEN” section of this here blog.

Well I’ve now seen it, not on the big screen but I’ve seen it nonetheless and let me tell you this…..

The movie poster is slightly misleading.

Now that’s not to say I don’t love this film, It’s a nice piece of work, and I suppose they’ve got to advertise the thing somehow but at no point in this picture, nowhere at all, does ANYTHING REMOTELY like the scene in the poster take place….. In saying that, they do get chased by some hungry looking dogs, yes dogs, the household type. In fact if you look close enough, I’m sure you can spot a collar.

The film stars a young Robert Vaughn as the “rebel”. Vaughn is best known for his long run in the hit 60’s show THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. but also revered for his turn as the fiendish Ross Webster from SUPERMAN III…by far the worst villain name in movie history.


A hairdresser in Bedrock?

Being prehistoric times (or is it?) the characters don’t have names. Vaughn is “The Symbol Makers Teenage Son”. His dad, not surprisingly, is “The Symbol Maker”. They are members of a prehistoric tribe governed by ancient rules that basically prevents them going “beyond the river”, as the first clip will explain. Despite food being scarce on their side of the water and plentiful on the other, they must not cross for fear of encountering “The god that brings death with its touch”, that’s another thing I adore about this film. It’s like Corman wanted every character to have a name that takes a fortnight to say.

There’s also unspeakable horror to be found with monsters, dogs, bears, big squirrels and “earth that will take you”, or quicksand to the layman. It’s great stuff.

This first clip sets things up nicely. Pretty much all of this picture is shot on one location which would have helped with the time and budgets they had. Look out for the first signs of the perils that lie beyond the river whilst admiring the script and acting.

Vaughn, full of rebellious teenage energy, leads a mob of hardy (yet incredibly weedy looking) lads beyond the river to search for food and possible future prosperity for the tribe. Trouble was bound to come his way and doesn’t let him down when he finds himself faced…… well, not actually “faced” with two VICIOUS looking monsters. I’ve uploaded this delightful scene for you to feast your eyes on. Not only are the beasts rather nice, check out Vaughn’s girly spear throwing technique. It’s a thing of beauty.

Tribal retribution comes his way following this reckless jaunt across the water as his nemesis, protector of the old ways and tribe hate monger “The Black Bearded One, seeks to have the curious lad strung up for bringing evil upon them, this guy is for me the strongest character in the movie and could either be a representation of the Soviets, or maybe the republican party. This film is loaded with cold war metaphor. It could have just left you to work this out for yourself but the last 3 minutes of the picture are devoted to a voiceover telling you EXACTLY what you’ve watched and EXACTLY what it means. Kind of like the moral telling off you used to get at the end of the He-Man cartoons.


The Black Bearded One: He’s got a beard, and it’s black.

I’m dying to tell the rest of the plot which involves a nice twist at the end surrounding “The god who brings death with his touch” but it ain’t in the tradition of this blog to do so. At only 65 minutes it’s not a huge time investment. These films were made for teenage drive-in audiences so they’re just damn good fun. Let’s not take anything away from the filmmaker however. Roger Corman knew how to get movies made, and how to get young talent working.

I’ll leave you with the weediest part of the film. As I’ve said, Vaughn doesn’t really pull off the “rebel” character for me; he’s more like a member of the prehistoric Young Conservatives. I think this scene demonstrates it perfectly…… Just check out how RUBBISH his bow and arrow is. It is a great little film though, if you notice it on some strange cable channel at 4 in the morning, I recommend you stay up and have a look.