The Cassandra Cat (1963)

When I found out about this movie I pretty much flipped my shit. All of the proper elements were in place. It's from the 60's, it's Czech, it's obviously some kind of children's fantasy story and best of all it features a A CAT WEARING SUNGLASSES. Not just a cat. A MAGICAL cat. Not just sunglasses. MAGICAL sunglasses. This is more or less the selling point of the film for anyone with a heart. A magical cat, his magical sunglasses. End of story. How could I NOT obsessively need to see this? As a person who can spend hours looking at websites like this. (yes, hours). It became a moral imperative to track it down.

While the film may appear to be a cat lover's enchanted dream. It's mostly about a teacher named Robert and shenanigans of his small town life. His boss, the school director is a heartless jerk who kills animals for taxidermy. His girlfriend appears to be having an affair with the the school director. One day in class Robert brings in a friend to inspire creativity in the children, local wise-old-man-type, Oliva. He begins telling tales of his past and his encounters with a beautiful girl who had (...here it comes...) a magical cat that wore sunglasses. She told him never to take off the glasses because if they were removed the true feelings of everyone around him would be visible by their glowing color. Red is for lovers, Yellow is for cheaters, Blue is for jealousy and grey, perhaps worst of all is for the "average" person. Someone who lacks character and emotion. He then goes on to explain that such a dramatic reveal of individuals makes them go crazy. They went after the cat and killed it. Just as you're ready to throw your shoe through the screen outraged by such a terrible story of magical cat murder, we hear music in the distance. A circus is coming to town, and it appears to be a mysterious and extravagant one. Front and center is a magician who looks EXACTLY like Oliva and a beautiful girl holding a cat wearing sunglasses. What are the odds? You'd think this was a movie or something.

That evening the show begins. It's filled with ballet, pantomime, smoke, mirrors and obviously a little bit of magic. This whole scene is just phenomenal, and well worth sitting through the entire movie for. Clothes with no people in them dancing a choreographed vaudeville. The beautiful Diane appears in her red leotard and literally floats up to the trapeze where she sits admiring the audience as if she had a secret. As she swings, so does the music. It lifts from a lilting ballet to a jazzy number. The magician snaps his fingers and all these cats appear in mid-air! He snaps his fingers again, and a disapproving audience member joins them.

In another snap of the fingers, Mokol, the magical sunglass attired cat is rolling himself in mid-air towards Diane on a ball like some kind of fashionable mystic acro-cat. Then Diane does the unthinkable! She removes Mokol's glasses. The lights go down and his eyes begin to brighten, suddenly there are glowing red lovers dancing. The crowd scatters as one by one they start turning their "true colors". Violins swell while blue wives tug on the sleeves of their yellow husbands. Some people are rapidly changing colors to show that they are conflicted and unstable. A panic ensues and after Mokol has disappeared, they all want to track him down to destroy the creature who revealed their true identities.

Since this all takes place fairly early on you'd think this would set a nice tone for the rest of the film, but this point it's mostly personal dramas and extended exposition. Most of which didn't interest me much, especially after the second viewing. In fact you see very little of Mokol through out the rest of the film. Robert, his budding romance with Diane and figuring out how to stand up for himself becomes the primary driving force of the film. Perhaps it was always supposed to be? You mention magical cats wearing sunglasses and I tune everything else out.

Like most Czech New Wave films, the Cassandra Cat uses an abstract and psychedelic atmosphere as a building block to subtly showcase the oppressive ubiquity of the communist government. Often these films illustrate nonconformity in a paradigm of subversive fairy tales. The end result is something timeless that both adults and children can enjoy. In this case my inner child was demanding more cat magic, but that didn't distract much from enjoying this marvel if a film. The scenes that are beautiful are so attractive that you might think you're watching a Powell and Pressburger film. The music is a big part of it too, like Leonard Bernstein meets Zdnek Liska.

While watching this movie I was reminded of an 80's kids movie called the Peanut Butter Solution. It's a cheesy straight to video, considerably bad by most standards, Canadian movie about about a biy who gets "a fright" and loses his hair. Two ghosts show up and offer him a solution (made from peanut butter no less) that makes hair grow where ever applied. They warn him not to add too much PB or he'll suffer the consequences. He does, of course and as a result his hair won't stop growing. All day long it just grows and grows. An evil art teacher catches whim of what's going on so he kidnaps the boy, and basically ever other kid in town, to make a paint brush sweatshop using the never ending supply of hair at his disposal. The paint brushes create magical paintings you can jump into. This movie is so awesomely bad, I've considered reviewing it but I haven't had the opportunity to give it a fresh re-visit. Something about the Cassandra Cat reminded me of Peanut Butter Solution. The pacing, the madcap and the absurdness felt so familiar. Come to find out, Cassandra Cat director Vojtech Jasny wrote the Peanut Butter Solution some 20 years later! I don't necessarily recommend one if you love the other, PBS is a SUPER acquired taste but I suppose if you're really into weird kids movies, it's worth a shot!

The Cassandra Cat is delightfully elegant and oddball film that deserves better treatment than the dollar bin slim case double feature release it has here. But then again, so do a lot of under appreciated Czech films. I'm still anticipating a Karel Zemen boxset that will never happen. As these things go, we take what we can get, and if you can get the Cassandra Cat it's well worth the trouble.


Belladonna of Sadness (1973)

Can't talk about the movie without revealing some spoiler, so brace yo'self...

I stumbled upon this movie by accident while doing some online research. With no prior knowledge or interest in anything related to it. After seeing some still I was fascinated by it's beauty. The style was much different that I'd seen in any Japanese animated film. The term "anime" wouldn't come around for a few years and Belladonna of Sadness seemed to have no stylistic confinements to what we would now call "anime" in any case. I decided to track it down. It's a tragic story about a lovely young woman who on her wedding night is raped by the town overlord in some kind of savage ritual. Her husband treats her very coldly after the incident. Late at night she wallows in her sadness when she begins being visited by a tiny penis shaped devil spirit. He claims to be apart of her and begins planting the seed of witchery in her mind. While also pleasuring her with his obvious bawdiness. Rumors start to spread about Jeanne being possessed by the devil, as her social status plummets her descent into psycho sexual activities with the devil heighten. He tries to force her to be his satanic bride, still claiming to love her putz husband she declines but agrees to continue prostituting herself in myriad of demonic adultery. Kind of a shitty deal for everyone if you ask me. After being completely cast out by both the village and her husband Jeanne finally concedes to the devil's offer in exchange for the ultimate power of destruction.

The film deals with some seriously heady subjects. Based on the book "La Sorcière" by the French historian Jules Michelet in 1862. Known for being a liberal feminist, he used the topic of witchcraft and sexuality as a rebellious commentary against the brute reality of the French Revolution, the barbaric customs of Western Civilization and the persecution of women by the Catholic Church. 

When Jeanne's wish has been granted she witnesses much suffering by the people who've mistreated her, then she's condemned to be a witch and is burned alive. In an unexpected plot twist during her burning she transfigures into a saint like figure. We're given the impression that she is supposed to be a representation of Joan of Arc. As Jeanne is burned on a cross the image of St. Joan overlays as to tie the characters together in some way. I wasn't quite sure how to take this at first. It was an odd thing to throw out there at the end of a movie. I read one point of view that comments on the misogyny of comparing a hellbitch of satan to an iconic symbol of free will such as Joan of Arc. I think that's a little extreme. Circumstantially, Jeanne went through a lot. Raped by society, discarded by her husband and inevitably giving in to her final option. While some see chauvinistic undertones, others see her submission into darkness actually an acceptance of personal freedom and power. In the 14th century was there anything more wicked than a sexually awakened woman, spurned by her husband, feeling confidant and free? I find it a little more likely that given the devil's claims of being apart of her, that these elements are a sardonic allegory for her mental and emotional suffering. A way to cope in a guilt driven fantasy. There really is no devil at all. She awakens her libido by herself with no need for her husband or any other creep. 

The animation style of this film is direct influence of Gustav Klimt and Aubrey Beardsley. An absolutely gorgeous, illuminating tapestry of of classical and experimental imagery. The eroticism is executed in very different ways then I'd ever seen in animated film. Sometimes violent, horrifying and dark; sometimes sensual, enticing and flowery. At first glimpse I was afraid it would be a storybook style animation; still-framed illustrations set to a comprehensive dialogue. Although certain scenes stagnate in such a way it's often interrupted by a burst of lsd fraught psychedelia. Expressive, operatic, mod, gothic, art nouveau inspired. There are moments I would say it even has shades of Peter Max and Alphonse Mucha. The fluidity of the water color and pastels creates a pastiche that seems to dance to the jazzy Japanese rock fusion score.

There's also some hilariously juvenile moments of the film...

The film was put out by Mushi, the same animation company as Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion. I have no idea how this sleazy hallucinogenic adult film sprung from such a wholesome company. With it's unrelenting brutality and perversions it makes our adult cartoons of the day, such as Fritz the Cat and Jungle Burger look relatively tame. Never in print in the U.S., if you can manage to track down a subtitled copy I would highly recommend it. For admirers and perverts alike, Belladonna of Sadness deserves a lot more attention.  Even if you find yourself a little lost in the socio-political subplot, you'll certainly find yourself captivated by the bewitching atmosphere that this wildly intoxicating film creates.


100th Blog!

This should have happened a LONG time ago. But I'm a flakey flake, etc, etc. You know the drill. Anyway, it still seems like cause for celebration. Although I wasn't really sure how to commemorate such an event, I thought maybe it would be appropriate to do a pseudo retrospective. I must warn you thoughm this blog may be a little self fellating because I'm feeling kinda nostalgic right now. Like one of those crappy sitcoms that makes a veritable highlights reel from old episodes as filler for the writers having the week off or something.

Although 100 blogs isn't that much especially since it's been over the course of almost 3 years, I really had no idea where I was going with all this. I've always been on again, off again reviewing. I started when I was 18 years old. EIGHTEEN. That's 8 years ago btw.  Seems like an eternity. I think it's actually the only thing I've ever even remotely done consistently for that long. I was super into Troma and gore and didn't have much to add on the subject of film as a serious concept, but I always liked talking about movies and the few people who actually enjoyed my reviews seemed to like that about them. They're not really critiques just stream of conscious bullshit. I did a few on Deadjournal, remember that? I don't think it exists anymore. Then I moved over the Myspace where I had a separate account just for movie reviews. I even reposted my early ones from Deadjournal. For the record, my very first review was for Cemetery Man. Also for the record, it SUCKED. The review, not the movie. Not going to direct link it here but for those interested I will go ahead and post the myspace link.

there ya go!

I had a lot of fun on Myspace but it was an inevitability that it wouldn't last forever. Their blog format kind of sucked too. Once Facebook stepped into the limelight I knew I needed a separate home for reviews. Blogger had always been there. So many great informative pages, especially on movies. I wanted to be one of them.

My first review here was for the Man with the X-Ray Eyes . Still probably my favorite Corman movie. For a while I wasn't even sure if I wanted this to be a movie review blog or just a generic anything blog. Like when I wrote a whole blog about trying thousand year old eggs. Those were G.R.O.S.S. After I bought them I began giving this out as party favors whenever we had company. When I say "give out" I mean "force feed" in order to earn a shot of whatever liquor I had on hand.

My favorite blog of my own is a tie between Hanuman vs. 7 Ultramans and the Noble War. Both films by psycho Thai schlockmeister Sompote Sands. Of which I was turned onto by super blogger Die, Danger, Die, Die Kill! . That whole world of Thai wizardry struck me in a very profound way. I'd just never seen anything like it. Since then, it has inspired me to go on several Thai VCD shopping sprees. Adventures I've yet to even begin to explore here in this blog. That obsession took the backseat when I had to move and all my stuff was locked up in storage for close to a year. I must also give a shout out to my pal over at Raculfright 13's Blogo Trasho who's constantly impressing me with his amazing discoveries of the Mexican exploitation varieties.

Anyway, I have no idea where I was going with this! I just wanted to talk about how much I love this blog and even when I'm not writing much, I'm thinking about it constantly.

I'm also thinking about this constantly...

And just so you know I still have a few aces up my sleeve, here are some recent (and recently re-discovered) purchases you can look forward to in the future....

Once I can figure out the titles, ha!

I think we're done here.

Professor Peabody's Last Lecture (Night Gallery - 1971)

EDIT: Per the request of a random internet whiner, allow me to warn all readers of this review of a 45 year old Night Gallery segment running approximately 11 minutes that I spoil the ending in this review. If this is at all important to you as it was the concave penis'd cabbage fart who insisted I alter my 4 year old review, I say avert your eyes or adapt. My blog and if you don't like my spoiler you can suck it.
 - - - - -

I was was recently reminded by a friend of how amazing Night Gallery was. It's been a few years since I've watched any but growing up it was always a treat to see re-runs of this clever outlet of Rod Serling's infinite talent. When I got a little older I started reading Lovecraft and making connections to movies I already loved. In my studies I discovered that there had been an episode of Night Gallery based heavily on Lovecraftian mythology. Episode 14 of Season 2, Professor Peabody's Last Lecture. It became an instant favorite. I decided to give it a re-watch today.

Firstly, and very importantly, it stars Carl Reiner. A living-freaking-legend. Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid and Summer School were ESSENTIAL to my youth. Not to mention his comedic stylings alongside Sid Caeser, Mel Brooks, and young Woody Allen when he was just getting started writing. The man's a genius and it's always nice to see his involvement in any project. Add H.P. Lovecraft and Rod Serling to the equation and the mastery is STAGGERING.

The episode, being only 11 minutes, is like a highly concentrated shot of espresso. Heavily saturated in Lovecraft lore. A lot of "Lovecraft inspired" sci-fi is very loosely based, or in recent years just poorly made. It seems like anything with ancient gods or tentacles can be deemed worthy of H.P. Lovecraft's name emblazoned all over it. This brief but potent Night Gallery episode contains more Lovecraftian elements and trivia than most full length movies. It's almost like a little class of Lovecraft 101. It breaks down the mythos at it's most basic level. There are these Gods called "the Great Old Ones", Professor Peabody speaks of this cult with great cynicism and a tone of profound mocking. He pulls out a copy of Necronomicon and begins reciting like an over zealous thespian. Most of what he reads is from The Dunwich Horror, by the way. The majority of students are bored but a few show concern for his careless disrespect of the Great Old Ones. These students names are a "Mr. Bloch" (Robert Bloch was a fellow writer and correspondent of H.P.), "Mr. Derleth" (August Derleth, another fellow writer and publisher of Lovecraft's early works. He also co-founded the Arkham House publishing company) and then of course a "Mr. Lovecraft" himself.

After Professor Peabody reads several passages from Necronomicon with great anguish, a windstorm begins to form. Dark clouds and vengeful thunder stir. As the professor's tone becomes more intense the storm becomes more enraged. Finally in a climactic finish the storm calms as the professor poses to the class "and now if there are no further questions", he's revealed to have turned into a slimy, cormanesque, grody salad bar, pseudo tentacled monster man.

For such a short segment, Professor Peabody's Last Lecture packs a powerful punch of Lovecraftian information. It's a ball for the scholarly fan and also a good entry level example for people just getting into the world of Lovecraft. Whatever the case may be, you can watch the whole short on youtube. For anyone with 11 minutes to spare, I say Why Not!

I might also plug the book, "The Lurker in the Lobby: A Guide to Lovecraftian Cinema". Although I'm sure there are many fine lists online dedicated to this subject. Having such a vast spectrum of material, I find it's best to have a hard copy lying around for quick reference. It's a wonderful compendium! I've gotten a lot of mileage out of my copy in the few years I've owned it.

On that note, I'll leave you. This review turned out to be more of a celebration of Lovecraft than anything else, but with a piece as submerged in the world he created as Professor Peabody's Last Lecture it's hard to think of much else aside from the creatures of the dreamlands that such an infectious inventor created for our reading, and much to his dismay*, viewing pleasures.

*H.P. Lovecraft hated motion pictures.


I wish

this was real...

The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer (1993)

I've never been a huge fan of true crime. The starkness of such subject matter is a little too impolite for my taste, even as a horror fan. Reality is not fun and the world is a terrible, terrible place. That's why becoming attached to movies like Blood Feast and Slumber Party Massacre 2 is so easy. How relatable are Fuad Ramses and the Driller Killer? They're practically cartoons. People who actually go out and do awful things to other people do not interest me. That being said, since art mimics life naturally a few movies are going to pop up that are based on or heavily inspired by a real life monster. I may not hero worship Ed Gein like some people, but that doesn't mean I can't appreciate the 1974 film Deranged. You get what I'm saying.

I might not have given this one a second thought, but lately I've developed a huge crush on dvd distro Intervision. It started when I decided to rent Sledgehammer, an other worldly "slasher"(?) about a ghost killer with a ghost sledgehammer. It crescendo'd after I saw "Things", a 1989 Canadian horror movie that defies any kind of rationalization. It's from another planet. The same planet Death Bed: the Bed That Eats is from. Both of which I intend to review (still catching up on my list!). After those two I knew I needed to just blindly purchase anything this life changing company throws my way. After viewing the trailer for The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer I decided that it had potential so I decided to put my faith in Intervison and give it a look.

Already knowing the basics about Jeffrey Dahmer, as anyone the planet would, it made it difficult for the movie to surprise me. Reality is a spoiler in true crime horror movies. It's all very straight forward. It's a bit repetitive since most of it is him performing his little bait and switch routine. Offering men money to take their picture then slaying them in a cornucopia of plenty. Objectively, there are some good kills. Feets on fire, tenderly requesting permission to decapitate, offering bounties of drugged meatloaf sandwiches. Carl Crew plays Dahmer, despite his over acting I thought he did a pretty good job. He definitely looks the part. More than anything he made me want to rewatch Blood Diner.

This film wasn't spectacular but it did have it's moments.There are three moments in particular that I hold dear to my heart. The first being the scene on the cover of the dvd. Imagine romantic midi piano music while Jeffy lovingly cradles a freshly severed head. He whispers sentiments of eternal love and foreverness. It's an appalling spectacle of enchantment. I also really loved his apartment. Skeleton n' shit everywhere, in practice and in artistic taste. Simple, but metal.

Another is finding out that much to my surprise (thought maybe I shouldn't be) Jeffrey Dahmer was a Herschell Gordon Lewis fan...

Or maybe it's just Carl Crew? Between this and Blood Diner. Either way, he should give me his shirt.

Lastly and most importantly....

This guy.

For no apparent reason at all this Barry Gibb clone appears in a bar and calls Dahmer from a payphone, harassing him with his menacing grimace and awkward silence. Then nothing... That's it... No more Gibb. WHY DID THIS HAPPEN??? Dahmer was offended, even I was offended. But I want more. Where has he been all my life? I didn't even know what to look for in the credits. "Person Who Looks More Like A Serial Killer than Jeffrey Dahmer"? Truly one of the world's greatest mysteries.

Overall despite my hang ups with true crime The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer force fed me enough cheese to be constantly reminded that it's all just a little bit of movie magic. It didn't speak to me on the same level as Things or Sledgehammer, but it's a nice slice of  Intervision love to stave off my hunger for today. Seal of approval granted. And I promise more reviews of it's distro brethren in the near future!


Creaturez, Hobgobz, Skeleton Handz.

I have a list of movies I want to review. Eventually I'll get back to doing in depth singular reviews but for now I'm going to catch up a bit  by compartmentalizing these movies into several bunches of mini-reviews. Which seems to be the only way I can get any writing done these days. Anyway, for now I'm starting with three recent views that I was mildly to not at all impressed with. Enjoy...or something.

I finally saw the Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies. I looked forward to it for years. To the point where even after I bought it I was afraid to watch it. Now I know why. It completely disappointed me. I'm not exactly sure where my expectations began and blind affection for Ray Dennis Steckler ends. The trailer seemed magical, the self proclaimed "first zombie musical" sounded captivating but in reality it lived up to very little of what it promised. The "musical" aspects were mostly schmaltzy burlesque stage shows that included very few of the actual actors (if you would actually call the "actors"). Obviously just carnival footage of stage shows. The plot is really thin and between Steckler's acting leaving so much to be desired and the over use of carny exposition there really wasn't much of a chance for salvation. Truly saddening, I really wanted to like this movie. I wanted to love it. Now I'm almost afraid to make the leap for the Thrill Killers, which I also own and is currently collecting dust. Wish me luck on that one, folks.

I also recently watched Hobgoblins. This time I had almost no expectations and that's a good thing because they were still barely met. The film would have you think it's another tiny creature feature film ala Gremlins, Munchies, Ghoulies, Critters, etc. But all of those (including Munchies [even Munchie and all of it's hypnotically repulsive sequels]) are light years ahead of Hobgoblins in entertainment value. It just didn't do it for me! The creatures are more of a frame of reference to explain the dreamlike death laden trance that they supposedly put their victims in. Other than that, they're relatively harmless and also rather illusive. You hardly see them through out the entire movie. It had it's moments but overall left me feeling a void that only a tiny monsters, or many tiny monsters can fill. My favorite part about the dvd was seeing the trailer for one of director Rick Sloane's other movies, the Visitants. Still very self parodying, but struck me as being potentially delightful, at least in comparison to Hobgoblins!

Lastly, and most enjoyably, I FINALLY saw Death Bed: the Bed That Eats. For obvious reasons I've been meaning to see this for years. Somehow, despite the plot and everything about the title being completely absurd I was still shocked at what was actually delivered. Most of it was rather painful. The narration by the man trapped in the painting was extremely difficult for me to stomach. However, the actual consumption of people and objects by the bed were so bizarre that I couldn't very well dislike this otherworldly rape of my senses. The nonchalant behavior of the victims, particularly the skeleton hands guy. SKELETON HANDS. If there's any one thing about the movie that sold me on it was those goddamn skeleton hands. I don't know how to make you understand the power these skeleton hands had over me but I might just change my name to "Skeleton Hands", for the purpose of naming my first child "Skeleton Hands" Jr. so you understand the gravity of this situation. The film attempted some sort of demon possession story line and whatnot, but everything about it was so completely devoid of any substantial foundation that a movie, even a b-movie, necessitates that it TRULY boggles the mind. It's so shocking it makes me create really long run on sentences because, like the film, I have no idea how to come to any reasonable conclusion about reality or my life or how things like this are even made. It will make you question yourself and your standards. It will send you spinning uncontrollably into a quagmire of disillusionment and self deprecation. But mostly, it will just make you wonder how you sat through the whole thing. And how for some reason, you still loved it.

That's it for now. I'm starting to get arthritic pains in my skeletons hands. More soon. Stay cool.