Friday, 21 January 2011

London Film Nights

I suppose it would be foolish not to mention the great piece Tony Paley did on London Film Nights, while certainly by no means comprehensive, solid and covering a good range of evenings.
From our friends at Filmbar70 and their classy approach to cult films to The Duke Mitchell Film Club and their treasure troves of trailers and the down right bizarre cult films to the Exploding Head Film Club and Tom's love of American Cinema, not to mention ourselves. I think Tony did a great job.
London has a near endless supply of film nights, some pop up for a few weeks and others stick around for years, but if you want to, you can catch a film and a pint almost every night of the week.

Anyway - have a read, come down to each of the nights mentioned, wander through the comments where even more are mentioned.
Film Clubs: Fancy a Cheap Night out at the Picture and a Pint?

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Bronx Warriors Redux

So back in October we screened Bronx Warriors and did a piece then, but there's nothing wrong with giving this epic trilogy a bit more love, is there? I think not.

Welcome to guilty pleasures. Or rather, welcome to Enzo Castellari's low grade Warriors/Escape From New York mash-up/rip off, an inspired saga of post apocalyptic New York wasteland inhabited by violent rival street gangs. At first glance, appearing for all the world like yet another Italian cash-in on the bigger and more successful American films, these three flicks are surprisingly entertaining and enjoyable. While the acting and dialogue is on par with Cannibal Ferox for the idiotic and laughably quotable, you can see just why a certain Mr. Tarantino never shuts up about this trilogy or its lovable, cheery director. The very same chap who directed the original Inglorious Bastards back in 1978. He comes across as a thoroughly likeable guy on the DVD extras in which he runs us through the film's development and legacy. Castellari remains passionate and proud of his films to this day.

Unlike the previous low grade and deceivingly titled "Vault of Horror" Vipco "Churn 'em out" VHS releases, Shameless Screen Entertainment present these for what trashy fun that they are, who for starters aren't advertising these films as anything other than the fun trash they are and have gone and put out a superb looking trilogy box set in a wonderfully skull embossed metal tin. The care and attention to detail that Shameless put into their DVD releases is a great way of introducing bizarre films such as these to an audience who would otherwise not know they existed. And as daft as this trilogy is (its pacing is at times uneven and makes no sense), it's particularly hard to dislike, especially if you're a fan of The Warriors, Mad Max or just post apocalypse films in general.
There's a tradition with most Sci-Fi films of this type, even with the more respected titles, of slapping a date on the film, in this case it's 1990. Made during the golden period of Italian exploitation films and sharing more than just a passing resemblance to Lucio Fulci's films of the early 80s, Castellari also shared producer, screen writer and apparently locations with Fulci, as there are several scenes set on the same Bronx harbour as the famous opening sequence to Fulci's Zombie, and the twin towers crop up ominously in several shots.

The story itself revolves around Anne (Stefania Girolami), a 17-year-old heiress to The Manhattan Corporation. Feeling guilty over having to inherit a morally questionable company on her 18th birthday, she flees into the lawless wasteland of The Bronx and seeks refuge with The Riders, a street gang, led by the charismatic Trash (Mark Gregory, who for some reason walks more like a horse than a man). Throw into the mix a Clockwork Orange-esque rival gang in clown paint, an insane ninja pony tailed George Eastman (of Absurd and Rabid Dogs fame) and a low key appearance from Vic Morrow as the renegade ex cop out on a manhunt and you have yourself an entertaining night of rock n roll urban hell. Though not anywhere as near as violent or brutal as you would think from the poster art or the time they were conceived, all three films pack quite a punch, and surprisingly, both sequels are fairly strong.

The New Barbarians (part 2 or part 3? Different sources say different things) was shot the same year as the first film and is intentionally silly in comparison. Taking place in 2019 where laser guns and cyber-punks roam the desert wastelands chopping each other up and doing little else. Escape From The Bronx is similar in tone to the first instalment but flies along at high speed as Trash returns alone to stop the Bronx being torn down and turned into a high tech city of the future. Apparently, Castellari felt that Mark Gregory was a bit too pudgy by this point in his career, so asked him to keep his jacket on throughout filming. Though slightly more cynical and downbeat in tone, Escape From The Bronx is a great companion piece to the first film and stays truer to its origins than the more lightweight and sci-fi tinged New Barbarians. Sadly the glowing plastic skulls that adorn the gangs' motorbikes from the first film don't make a return.

All in all solid trashy fun that, whilst not begging for THAT many repeated viewings, is a worthwhile addition to any respectable collection. Especially in this incarnation as it just looks great and feels all the more special for its almost unnecessarily deluxe treatment. Another classy job from Shameless Films.

Monday, 3 January 2011

I Spit on your Graves

Back in 1978 one of the most notorious films of all time sleazed it's way onto the screens of 42nd St. Ground out in cinemas littered with popcorn, soda cups and needles, smut seekers and cinemanics alike witnessed Camille Keaton, great-niece of Buster Keaton, violated and beaten relentlessly, only to retreat to the relative safety of her cabin to emerge the ultimate rape revenge heroine.
I Spit on your Grave has, until recently been the thing of legends, the sort of film that is usually proceeded by the statement "you can't really like it, but..." It's not a film you show your girlfriend (though I did once, that was a mistake). It's a dark, filthy archival film, important in it's own way and in it's time as a slice of our grindhouse past, something we cherish, but realise that time is behind us.

Ultimately, it is a sadistic, misogynistic, hicksploitation pile of revulsion. Even the final playing out of Keaton's revenge fights to overcome the hard to stomach exhaustive brutality her original abuse.
When the remake was announced, I, among others were perplexed. How?! How could you remake the ultimate rape revenge film in today's climate? Fuck how, more to the point, why? Why would you remake what was a fairly pointless exercise in the extreme victimisation of a woman? There is no way that this remake would capture the original grot and unease, those days are gone, the grindhouse is closed.
So it was with great trepidation that any audience of knowledgeable fans would settle in for the initial screenings.

What glistened out of that projector was a slick remake, one of the best. A modernisation of what was previously an relic of time gone by. I Spit on your Grave (2010) is near perfection. If Meir Zarchi sat down to make ISoyG in today's climate, taking into account the films of the past 10 years, I'm fairly certain this is what we would end up with. It is undeniably a film of it's time, muted tones, an attractive lead, and a revenge sequence that could only exist in a post Saw world. Tamed to the point you would take your girlfriend to see it.
Did I like it? or enjoy it? I'm not sure, while I still feel it's a pointless remake of a fairly pointless original, I think that they held true to what a remake ought to be about, modernising the original. Updating it so that today's fans can enjoy the basic tenets of whatever they are revamping.

Both versions sit together and apart solidly, covering capsules of the time they were made. The updated one showing us we have weakened with age, we are less willing to abuse ourselves, our society and our world quite like we used to. Or at least that's what we'd like to believe.
I'll always prefer the original, partly because it is such a filthy and effective film that I had to spend about an hour trying to calm down the girl I was seeing. I don't see the remake ever having that power.

I Spit on your Grave is out in UK Theatres on the 21st January, take your girlfriend, it's a date movie.
Official site is here