Dandy Dust -1998

Attempting to find or follow any kind of coherent narrative in Dandy Dust is futile. There's a loose interpretation of a story-like thing involving a cyborg, lesbian clones, memory loss, sex spiders, drill dicks and space travel. Despite mostly having no clue what was going on, I would be remiss not to at least mention these plot points in passing. Instead of  pretending to know what I'm talking about I'll move on to the real star of the film: The highly saturated experimental special effects. At the end of the day that's where 98% of my attention was drawn. Me and probably any human-like person subjecting themself to this fluorescent celluloid orgy. From a certain character having a lighter flame for a head or the vagina-torso'd (I think I just created a word there) spider was aptly named "Spidercuntboy" - these were all passing fragments I can but feebly piece together in this neoplasmic assault of the senses.

Using all kinds of extremely effective low budget techniques, Dandy Dust took 5 1/2 years for director A. Hans Scheirl, to finish. Being completed just two years before the 21st century, Dandy Dust just may be the quintessential cyber punk opus. It covers so much ground while still being utterly ridiculous and visually stunning in a cut and paste black light and cardboard kind of way. You can really see the care that went into making this hyper-sexualized gender bending sci-fi expression of pure pandemonium. Every detail of every black light heavy set piece, neon paper mache costume, electric potato starch slime, every barrage edit and stop animation clip, 16 mm projection, every dazzling shadow every video toaster manipulated effect was placed haphazardly and doused in magical unicorn jizzim to seal it with a cosmic kiss from Kenneth Anger and Rinse Dream to make a rich tapestry of vulgarity and psychedelia.

This review is running a little shorter (and ramble-y) than most. Not because I didn't love the film but because it's in many ways greater than words. It fits into a very exclusive type of films I fucking love that I very rarely get to see. My default case-in-point has always been, Rinse (Stephen Sayadian) Dream's Dr Caligari. Which looks like a Tennessee Williams play compared to this distorted kaleidoscopic hullabaloo. Other notable films that remind me of/ have similar characteristics would be Liquid Sky, Pink Narcissus, Carmelo Bene's Salome, Superstarlet A.D., Geek Maggot Bingo and this amazing Max Headroom-ish  movie from 1989 called "Split" that no one ever talks about for some reason. There are also moments reminiscent of the Kuchar Brothers and more recently Craig Baldwin. Not to name drop too much but I couldn't help while watching the film but find myself in waves of prismatic nostalgia.

After the movie ended I had to take a few days off of all activities requiring use of my brain. After slipping into a pornoplastic diabetic booger coma, I awoke with a new sense of being and a revelation that this is the kind of movie I should be watching all day every day, or at least spend a good portion of my life seeking out films such as this that can make my frontal lobe quiver with candy colored wonderment.


The Snow Queen - 1966

Within the past few years my interest in Russian Fairy Tales has grown from a curiosity to a thriving obsession. I mentioned my discovery of the genre in my review for the Golden Horns, so there's really no need for me to go over it again. No matter how well I know the story, each film feels refreshing and flawless. Since I'm watching another equally amazing film I feel the need to stress that point once again. The dream-like quality and imagination achieved by most of these films reaches near perfection. At least by my standards and personal taste. Finally coming to own the Snow Queen was just another small victory on my mission to conquer this illustrious world of celluloid.

Look out the window. GAHHH!

Based on the famous story by Hans Christian Andersen. The story follows two children, Kai and Gerda, who live happily with their Grandmother. One day a mysterious man shows up and offers to buy their roses, which bloom even in the snow. Because the flowers were a gift, the Grandmother refuses. The man reveals that he works for the Snow Queen and attempts to intimidate the elderly woman and children to obtain what he was sent for. They persistently refuse so he shuffles out angrily. Shortly after, the Snow Queen (played by the lovely Natalya Klimova) arrives to procure what her footman could not. In this meeting she becomes fixated on Kai and tries to lure him to come live with her in her castle, presumably as a son-like figure. He declines and she bitterly exits the room, wilting the roses with the wave of her icy hand on the way out.

The next day, while riding her gilded sleigh around the town square, not realizing who was driving, Kai playfully decides to hitch a ride by lassoing his sled to the back. When the Snow Queen has him at her disposal she speeds off, kidnapping poor little Kai. From here the story follows Gerda in her journey to find and free her brother Kai.

I've never read the Snow Queen and my only other reference is from the "Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theater" version with Lee Remick, which I loved of course (as I did most of those). This one was much more upscale in budget, content, and that little extra something that I keeping finding in Russian films. Gerda meets all kinds of charming characters, my favorite being the human size birds who help her get to the castle. They're just big and cute and I want to hug and fly around on them! In fact, Gerda does exactly this, and when she does it the sequence is animated which I thought was a charming break in atmosphere.

CUTE. For real though.

When the bird takes her to the castle she meets a friendly Prince and Princess who give her access to their golden carriage and warm clothing for her trek into the Snow Queen's territory. By the way, I'm loving the Princesses cotton candy colored hair. I also love the expressive mid-century style portraits of her hanging in the palace....

After she leaves the castle, while traveling through the Kingdom Gerda is kidnapped by thieves working for the weasely footman of the Snow Queen. Luckily, the daughter of the head bandit wants to keep her as a friend. At first the little robber girl attempts to force Gerda to stay by tying her up like a big weirdo but eventually gives in and lets her go. She also helps by giving Gerda a talking reindeer to guide her through the rest of her journey to defeat the Queen and free Kai.

My only real complaint with the movie is the lack of the actual Snow Queen. What a FANTASTIC villain. Beautiful and statuesque but also menacing and truly "cold" feeling. In all of her scenes, especially those with Kai, there's a sense of emotional disconnect that's could translate to real-life parental issues, is probably meant to. I couldn't take my eyes off of her. The Snow Queen's awesome wickedness is of Ursula-like proportions, and I would have really loved to see her wreak more havoc than her limited screen time allowed.

Other things I loved about this movie: Um,  EVERYTHING. I'm sorry to go on so many endless ellipses of praise but it's hard to talk about something you think is genuinely good (not in a silly or funny way) without simply repeating yourself. As of now, the Golden Horns is still my favorite but as I further explore Russian Fairy tales I realize that it has served two purposes. It comforts my inner-child (or whatever you want to call it), making me feel all whimsical and inspired, while still being a relevant and vastly overlooked piece of film history, nurturing that side of my interests as well. This suits me just fine as I always feel that I'm struggling between the two. One that wants to create and be carefree, which I associate with art, working with my hands and the freedom of youth. The other to speculate, reflect and engage myself which I associate with film study, reading, writing, and forming my own opinions which is a virtue that has come with maturity. Somehow these films make me feel connected to both equally important aspects of my personality. And as silly as that may sound, being that these are in fact children's movies, I cannot help but be moved by them in a way I hope I have articulated in this stream of consciousness cluster of words.

On a lighter note, I've recently learned that this genre is more commonly known as Russian Fantastika, a term used not only for family films but also for spectacular fantasy and science fiction films as well. What sets these films apart from others is their incredible use of special effects, cinematography, and lyrical story telling. This movement spanning decades has been treated with little to no respect by American distributors, probably for bullshit political reasons which I could care less about and should hold no baring whatsoever on an artistic medium. This explains the lack of accessibility of these huge budget landmark masterpieces that I should have grown up with.

That's Gerda and Kai on the right. LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THE SNOW QUEEN. Magic.

Having browsed some other reviews, not everyone seems to have such unbridled love for this movie as I do. Many just consider it a well made kids movie. So I hope I haven't blown it too much out of proportion. But, for my purposes, it was just what the doctor ordered. A highly saturated, fable-esque, handmade-looking example of story telling and nostalgia.. I can't wait to experience the next one that falls into my lap.


Purana Mandir - 1984

I don't claim to be an expert on Bollywood horror, though it has always appealed to me. There's such a small output for it, so like most good things, you have to actively hunt. My introduction to the genre happened in my late teens when I first started collecting hard-to-find movies. I came across a little Nightmare on Elm Street rip-off called Khooni Murdaa, which if you have any base knowledge of the genre I'm sure you're familiar with. It was a gateway drug , so to speak, and served as an entry level pass key to the fascinating world of Bollywood Horror. Now to be fair, Khooni Murdaa wasn't really that great. Going from that to the Ramsay Brothers was a huge leap. I later saw Bandh Darwaza and found it to be worlds apart in quality and entertainment. The settings, the atmosphere and exceptional portrayal of an Indian Dracula by Anirudh (Ajay) Agarwal. A hulking 6"7 giant dude. He's got an enormously scary head. More than anything, the size of his head scares me. Yeah, it's really big. I was pleased to the learn that in addition to Bandh Darwaza, he also plays "Samri", the monster in Purana Mandir.

Before I move on to the review, I just want to mention how much I love these certification cards at the beginning.of EVERY Bollywood movie.

Purana Mandir translates to "the Old Temple", which is where the story begins. Big ol' ugly Samri is going around killing people, to put a stop to his evil reign the King has him captured and couriered to be decapitated in front of the village. Naturally, in bad guy fashion, Samri curses the king so that all of the women in his family will die horrible deaths during child birth. Two Thousand years later, in present day, the king's heir, still haunted by his wife's death, is now concerned for his beautiful daughter. She will inevitably be attracting the attention of potential husbands which only brings her closer to her doomed fate. He soon finds out, she's already met someone, they're in love and all that crap. They want to get married. He tells them all about the curse in hopes to guilt trip the suitor into bowing out. Instead they decide to go to the old temple in attempts to disprove the existence of a curse. Of course, Samri is resurrected and all kinds of monster-y stuff happens.

I did like this one, and I hate to be the jerk who complains about the running time of movies but it was really putting the hurtin' on me. I was totally into the Samri story line and even didn't mind the love story or the song and dance numbers, in fact I anticipate all of those things. Purana Mandir is considered by many experts of Indian film to be the first solid horror entry to the Bollywood cannon. Sure, there had been horror elements in other films and the Ramsay brothers themselves had been working towards the horror genre for years but with the ever growing popularity of the Halloween and Friday the 13th films, this kind of monster movie hadn't been made regionally yet. The Ramsay Brothers wanted to do something like that while still maintaining the flavor of Bollywood. It was very popular and is still considered a classic. That being said, based on my admittedly very limited knowledge of the genre, I felt it was trying to be too many things. There's a huge amount of comedy in the middle section of this 2 1/2 hour epic that was lost in translation. From what I've read this sub-plot was parodying a famous movie and was hugely successful at the time. The audience was litterally "rolling on the floor" laughing in the theaters. Then there's me sitting my bedroom with a blank expression on face. I'm not apart of the culture so I can't accurately gauge the relevancy of this plot point. But as a non-partisan movie go-er, it lost me for a good chunk of that mid-section. Whether or not this aspect of the film was popular and successful doesn't change the fact that's it's uneven. But I digress...

One thing I always thought was interesting about Bollywood films is that despite whether they're horror or romance or action, first and foremost they are Bollywood films. There will always be signature song and dance routines and you can bet that you're butt will be in that chair for a minimum of 2 1/2 hours. This isn't a bad thing, I just find it interesting that in the past century the genre has been tweaked a little this way or a little that way and modernized for sure but has never really strayed from the formula.

Aarti Gupta was a total babe and I love all of her clothes in the movie!

While on the subject of clothes...


And I can't move on from this subject before I mention...

Samri's FANTASTIC bedazzled wolf jacket. I suspect this jacket had something do with his tough guy demon persona. It HAS to be related. This is some Kenneth Anger shit.

I love the rural aspects of Bollywood horror. There's a real sense of isolation there. To my foreign eyes, it's exotic, alluring and dangerous. I can't discredit the fact that at times Purana Mandir was legitimately creepy. All humor and dancing aside, the atmosphere is really something and for the Ramsay brothers first serious attempt at horror, they did a damn fine job and most importantly, they gave India a monster. Samri.

I still prefer Bandh Darwaza slightly. Less comedy, less dance numbers, more straight up horror and I still get to see Ajay Agarwal be a total creep face. I think by then they had honed their art, although I'm sure many would disagree. But the influence of Purana Mandir cannot be denied. It's a landmark film and once I got over my Westernized need to be constantly entertained, I really dug it.


Child of Peach - 1984/1987

As you may know, I have a particular fondness for foreign, weird, archaic or just plain horrible kids movies. Despite having seen lots of other Asian fantasy flicks, but I realized that Taiwanese films, at least as far as family films are concerned, are relatively new to me. So I was more than up for the challenge. My  introduction to the world of Peach Kid was by stumbling upon a clip from the second film on youtube while doing some cultural mining. I plan to review that film later, but if you'd like to see the clip, click HERE, it's only 34 seconds and will make you a believer.

So I sought it out (plus the sequel) and let it collect dust for a few months, as I do, before finally feeling the need to engage in some cute Taiwanese kung-fu fantasy peach loving weirdness. Thankfully my copy had subs, but they were very soft and bleeding through the image at times so much squinting was involved. The story begins with a family living in an enchanted (or is it radioactive?) garden. A man and woman along with  their baby, protect a mystic sword and are aided by three anthropomorphic animal children. One, a "cock" (or just "bird" if you prefer, which in this case I do as it is not a term I find easy to use in reference to a kid running around in a feather suit), another, a dog and the last, a monkey. These animal children can shape shift at will and despite their petite childlike frames, are little magical fighting machines. One day a villainous tokusatsu looking bad guy named "King Devil" comes along to steal the mystic sword. A fight ensues, the animal children are blasted out of frame and the man protecting the sword, the garden and it's inhabitants is killed. His wife is struck by some kind of laser beam as well and I can only assume she eventually dies too because, the last we see of her is placing her baby inside a giant peach (who without hesitation sends it's pit flying to make room) and instructs a magical little fairy (who decided to pop in unexpected) to make sure the peach takes good care of her baby. End scene.

The giant peach, which can fly by the way takes the baby far away until it finally encounters an elderly childless couple. Though at first the peach is off put by the couple since, naturally, they try to eat it. An extended chase/fight scene follows where at one point the granny is set on fire and the peach "pisses" on her to put it out. I'm not kidding about that part. At first I was like "oh, it's just peach juice", but the old lady announces that it's salty and then becomes increasingly angry because the peach uses her as it's own personal toilet. It even says "piss" in plain English on the screen.


After all of this chaos ensues, the peach is pretty much over the whole thing and is ready to decimate the oldies, when the fairy steps and and assures the peach that they're good people and would make perfect adoptive parents for the little peach baby. So, out hatches Child of Peach.

From here on the story basically follows peach child growing (very quickly) and developing his super strength. When Peach Kid becomes a big Peach Kid, the audience may notice that he's a bit on the effeminate side. That's because, the actor they chose to play Peach Kid is actually an actress. Lam Siu-Lau, who made a whole mess of fantasy action flicks in the 80's, all of them I'd like to see. When King Devil begins his reign over the village, using the power of the stolen sword, Peach Kid steps in to defeat King Devil and his group of demonic minions. There's one particularly cool scene where we get to see King Devil in what I can only assume is Hell (wouldn't "King Devil" be Satan?) and all of his demon lackies are kind of meandering through the foggy darkness in a somehow very effective Jigoku-esque scene that makes me totally not want to go to Hell. Totally. Because, you know, I needed Child of Peach to convince me.

The middle part of the movie lost me a bit. All of the action, fantasy, costumes, and special effects were great but occasionally with foreign films such as this, the humor is lost in translation, at least for me anyway. I notice it more in certain cultures and with certain genres more than others. Family films are tricky because they're meant to be light so lots of silliness and general joke telling gets thrown around. When you're not apart of that culture it can feel like a whole lot of filler. Thankfully, Child of Peach didn't lose my attention for too long before coming back strong with an amazingly fantastic finale that totally left me anticipating the next film in the series.

Kind of spoilery, but who cares...?

My two favorite moments in the final showdown against King Devil...

1. The animal children come back with a vengeance....

Those monkey arms are KILLIN' me!

for real though...

Now they are half animal/half human. Well...make that mostly human with obscure animal arms and generally disproportionate body parts.

2. We discover that when the peach is cut into pieces with the mystic sword, it reassembles itself to me a marrionette-esque peach MAN.

WOW. you gotta see that thing in action. It's so fucking cute.

So Child of Peach was a success. My first Taiwanese kid's movie and it was a gem. And if the aforementioned youtube clip and all of this magical goodness wasn't enough to convince you to stick around for my review of the second film, perhaps this title card will do the trick.

Indeed, Magic of Stell.

Until next time, my beastly kittens...

P.S... I'm still a little confused about the year it was made. Several other review I've come across have said either 1986 or 1987. IMDB said 1984 but it also seemed to have the wrong actress listed as Peach Boy. Very confusing. If anyone cares to chime in I'd love to put this baby to bed.

P.S.S. All of the pictures used were borrowed from fellow bloggers because I'm a lazy fart. Sorry, guys. But check out Die Danger Die Die Kill and Golden Pigsy's sites. Both fine blogs who you should visit more often.