Recent movies (and TV)

I’ve been on a viewing jag over the last couple of weeks. Marx Brothers films, Russ Meyer films, an old TV show, a rare Japanese thriller, and a Mario Bava giallo.

  • Marx Brothers
    • A Night at the Opera (1935) [ IMDB ]
    • A Day at the Races (1937) [ IMDB ]
  • Russ Meyer
    • Lorna (1964) [ IMDB ]
    • Supervixens (1975) [ IMDB ]
    • Up! (1976) [ IMDB | Wikipedia ]
    • Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens (1979) [ IMDB ]
  • McMillan and Wife (1971-1977) [ IMDB ]
  • Angel Dust (1994) [ IMDB | Letterboxd | Wikipedia ]
  • Five Dolls for an August Moon (1970) [ IMDB ]

A Night at the Opera (1935) [ IMDB ]

A Day at the Races (1937) [ IMDB ]

I had never watched these, or maybe had and forgotten, or maybe just had watched some scenes on their own and forgotten. The scene in A Night at the Opera where Chico plays piano on the ship was familiar, and I remember how effortlessly adept he and Harpo were at the piano (Chico more than Harpo) and harp (Harpo, natch). There is a lot of humor that is dated and cringy, but the handful of scenes that still connect make both movies worth the viewing. Notably madcap was the examination scene from A Day at the Races which meanders and ultimately builds to classic vaudeville mayhem. By the end of it, all involved are running around, Mrs. Upjohn is being bounced up-and-down on a gurney, and a horse runs through the scene as the fire sprinklers go off. And the Lindy scene from A Day at the Races, although… problematic at the end, is just absolute joy. See the clips below, which includes the problematic ending.

Chico playing piano from A Night at the Opera
The opening of the “Who Dat Man?” scene from A Day at the Races
The second part of the “Who Dat Man?” scene from A Day at the Races (colorized)
The examination scene from A Day at the Races, sadly, minus the horse at the end

Lorna (1964) [ IMDB ]

Supervixens (1975) [ IMDB ]

Up! (1976) [ IMDB | Wikipedia ]

Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens (1979) [ IMDB ]

Many years ago, Lisa and I went to see a showing of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965) [ IMDB ] at Plaza Theater. I didn’t realize at the time what a rarity such an occasion was and only knew the film as Something Weird to Go See. We walked away–well, I walked away–amazed what an artful film it was despite the, or because of the, B movie patois (“You really should be AM and FM. You one-band broads are a drag!”). Since then, Russ Meyer has been in the back of my mind as cultural gold that I’d someday have to investigate and so, many years after seeing F,P!K!K!, I purchased the iconic 12-disc Russ Meyer Collection. The best way I can describe many of his films is that they’re like if Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In made softcore porn. There’s marching band music when there shouldn’t be, exaggerated and unlikeable stereotypes, and laughable sex (“sex”) scenes. However, with those absurdities are are creative and jarring edits and unique blocking that make him a respected auteur. He would possibly be better known and more “publicly” respected if his subject matter was different.

Sadly, during a purge or cleanup of old books and movie, that set was mistakenly purged. More sadly, it goes for more than $500 today. Sigh. I’ve recently replaced it with a hard-to-find three-volume German set and a few individual discs from the original Collection.

The German poster for Faster, Pussycat! released as Die Satansweiber von Tittfield (The Satanic Wives of Tittfield). “Tittfield”, as one blogger guessed, is something like “Boobyville” in English. Because of course it is.

Over the past several years I’ve started collecting original movie posters. Most have been 60s and 70s Eastern European sci-fi or Japanese pinky violence films. Then I started collecting original lobby cards for the same sci-fi movies along with some giallo. The natural progression was then to Japanese chirashi (movie flyers) once I learned of them and found prints for both pink films and Russ Meyer retrospectives.

Chirashi for a 2009 retrospective of the Terrifying Girls’ High School series (four films)
Chirashi for a a Russ Meyer film festival in 2004

The films:

Lorna is the odd movie out, released over 10 years prior to the others. It has both a more coherent story and more tasteful sex scenes than the others, one sex scene even happening off camera as we watch a breeze blow window curtains, near silence. Lorna is unhappy with her husband and has an affair with a brutal, escaped convict. The affair is discovered and both the convict and Lorna are killed, her by accident. It’s a moody and often attractive film and is very much in the vein of The Postman Always Rings Twice and other noir movies telling of marital indiscretion.

Supervixens is a road movie of sorts where the hero Clint hitchhikes across the US after he is framed for his wife’s murder by the cop who murdered her. The wife was cheating–attempting to cheat–on Clint with a police officer who, unable to perform-as-needed, tortures and murders her out of shame. Every now and then there is some extreme and vulgar exploitative violence in Meyer’s films; this is one of those cases. Notably odd: the dead wife returns in the final section of the film as what I assume is a watchful, spectral angel standing atop a mountain to view the antagonist’s downfall.

Up! is such a bizarre film. The first scene contains an absolutely bonkers BDSM session with a Hitler-ish person taking abuse from several women of different, garishly stereotypical races and nationalities, along with a man dressed in a Pilgrim’s outfit–complete with a tall, buckled hat. After the scene ends and Hitler-ish is bathing, a Mysterious Person enters and dumps piranhas in his bathtub and he dies in a bloody, soapy froth. We realize that this is to be a murder mystery. The Greek chorus of the film (relatively common for Meyer) is a woman who appears in various nature scenes reciting florid verses commenting on the past and present events in the film. In the end, the killer reveals themselves and is chased by one of the survivors, each monologuing their way through a forest before a final confrontation. I have never seen and likely will never again see anything like this.

Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens tells the story of a man who can only have anal sex with his wife. Because of course. She is unhappy with his, let’s say, approach and the subsequent scenes have them attempting to “cure” him. The Greek chorus of the film is a female radio host for a religious AM station who’s religious commentary echoes or contrasts the scenes until she is eventually pulled into the action.

If you’re so inclined, you can watch Supervixens at and Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens at Tube Porn Classic or xHamster (both are porn sites as-if-you-didn’t-know).

McMillan and Wife (1971-1977) [ IMDB ]

A week or so ago this show popped into my head for no particular reason. I was around 10-years-old when these came out and maybe have some memory of them being on TV when my parents watched the NBC Mystery Movie. They’re just OK but I’ve become obsessed. We started watching them from YouTube, but the quality is extremely poor so I found the entire six season set for 25 bucks. Score! The outfits they wear are pure 70s and–especially Susan Saint James’s–something to behold. It’s like flipping through a JCPenney catalog.

A man, a plan, McMillan (& Wife)

Angel Dust (1994) [ IMDB | Letterboxd | Wikipedia ]

I heard about from one of the cinema accounts I follow on Mastodon. The director, Gakuryu Ishii, is apparently a monument of Japanese punk/cyberpunk cinema from the 80s/90s, just as the genre was coming to adulthood. I couldn’t find a streaming offering so I watched it on an extremely poor YouTube version. No link; not worth the potato quality. It’s available at DVD PLANET STORE and DVD Lady. I’ve ordered impossible-to-find movies from DVD Lady before, but the copy at DVD PLANET STORE looks like it might be better.

A detective is brought in to investigate a string of murders that have been occurring on the subway at the same day and time for several weeks. She is a Great Investigator Character who sees clues others miss by putting herself in the killer’s mind. Sounds hacky, but the the focus of the movie is on the stealth of the killer, the involvement of the investigator’s ex-mentor and -lover who now runs what may be a cult, and her relationship with her husband. It is moody and uncomfortable at times and I’ll definitely be looking for more of Ishii’s films.

Five Dolls for an August Moon (1970) [ IMDB ]

Another Mastodon cinephile suggestion prompted by a post of the actress Edwige Fenech who was in many Sergio Martino films (among them, The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh (1971), Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972) and All the Colors of the Dark (1972) and The Case of the Bloody Iris (1972)). Five Dolls is a Mario Bava film and is related, somewhat, to his genre-starting lake-retreat slasher film A Bay of Blood (1971) [ IMDB ]. Both are related to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. Here, a group of untrusting and decadent acquaintances gather at a house on an isolated island to drink, have affairs, and bargain with the genius of their group to purchase his groundbreaking resin formula (odd, but the concept likely also has cutting edge intimations of “plastics”). One-by-one, etc., they start dying and because of the isolation are stored in the walk-in cooler, hanging from hooks, until the police can arrive.

A little messy but enough of the 1970s Italian fashion and musical style that it’s worth it. Don’t worry too much about whodunit and just enjoy.

Prof. Ferrell and others contemplate the first dead body
A faux death is found
Edwige records a message to the police