SLEAZE CINEMA 2: 10 MORE REVIEWS OF CLASSIC SLABS OF TRASH
Awakening Of The Beast directed by Jose Mojica Marins (1969)
Jose Mojica Marins's 1963 movie "At Midnight I'll Possess Your Soul" saw the screen debut of the character Coffin Joe (Ze do Caixao), a kind of latter day Max Stirner who believed in nothing but himself. Mirroring the self-belief of his most famous creation, the director Marins also took the leading role. Despite Coffin Joe's right-wing individualist philosophy, by the mid-sixties Jose Mojica Marins had became a darling of the left-wing Brazilian underground because he confronted Catholic taboos and the values espoused by the military junta who'd seized power in the country in 1964.Coffin Joe returned to the silver screen in the 1966 feature "Tonight I'll Possess Your Corpse", and he reappears in "Awakening Of The Beast". The film begins with a series of still frames from Coffin Joe comics (the character was very popular in Brazil and at the time you could even buy Coffin Joe perfume), which are mixed with the credits, then cuts to a lingering shot of a girl injecting herself with what one assumes to be heroin. The cutie who has just shot up then does a strip tease and takes a piss on a potty in front of an audience of leering men - and all the while a pop song about war blares out on the soundtrack. The first two thirds of the film consists of similar scenes to this intercut with a psychiatrist Dr Sergio speaking about the links between drugs, crime and degeneracy. As a further example of the latter, we follow the antics of a group of dope smoking hippies. Initially one is stretched out on the floor strumming a guitar, another plays a set of drums from a step ladder and a third hangs upside down against a wall; then they whistle "Colonel Bogey" and stamp their feet. A girl in a mini skirt is made to stand on a table while the hippies attempt to remove her panties using only their teeth. The first few to try fail, but once the chick is knickerless she lies down and a guy carrying two stone tablets (like a latter day Moses) shoves a pole up her snatch, with which - after much sexual excitation - he eventually kills her. In another scene a rich mother snorts drugs and strokes a donkey as she watches a servant make love to her daughter.After many more neo-Surrealist episodes and an equal amount of discussion (some of it from a TV studio panel addressing the question of whether Jose Mojica Marins is a great primitive film-maker or a fake) it becomes apparent that the psychiatrist who has done much of the talking wishes to conduct an experiment which entails four volunteers taking LSD. The acid is injected (yes, injected!) into these subjects and they are placed in a bare room and made to stare at a poster of Coffin Joe. The previously black and white stock explodes into a mixture of colour and tinted footage as we witness the trips experienced by the four drug addicts taking part in the psychiatric experiment. Coffin Joe appears in all their visions to torture and torment them, although one man is also menaced by a line of figures that are actually faces painted on the bare bottoms of actresses (wiggle that ass honey). A lot of stop motion camera work is used to make Coffin Joe jump around as he strips women of their clothes, lashes them with whips and he also walks down staircases of human bodies (a piece of imagery repeated in a number of Marins films). Other tricks used to disorientate the audience include rapidly cut zooms, although these feature more in the black and white than colour sections of the film. The psychiatrist eventually reveals that he injected his subjects with distilled water rather than LSD, and that the evil they saw was already inside them waiting to be released by whatever mechanism came to hand. So the message of this movie is that drugs cannot be blamed for social ills. Wild! No wonder "Awakening Of The Beast" was banned in Brazil and only got its first screening there in 1986. Moving on, Coffin Joe announces that women always have been and always will be slaves to men - although one hopes this is supposed to be tongue in cheek. The most obvious message to be taken from the Coffin Joe films is the existentialist one that it is only thru action that we live, and we should not allow ourselves to be shackled by received beliefs because virtually everything in this world is false. So naturally when the camera pulls back from the various intellectuals locked in discussion at the conclusion of "Awakening Of The Beast", we see that all the theoretical expositions being given by the so called academic "experts" were taking place in a TV studio and we come to understand why the director Marins (who was playing himself and not Coffin Joe in these scenes) sat in resolute silence through most of this cheap talk. The final image is a freeze frame of Marins in the street smiling at us. Jodorowsky was obviously heavily influenced by Coffin Joe, and if he could dig this shirt (misprint) so can you. Sleaze cinema doesn't get any sleazier than this, so eat your heart out Jean-Luc Godard, because the Coffin Joe films piss all over anything you ever did....
Bizarre AKA Secrets Of Sex directed by Antony Balch (1969)
Bizarre is a softcore exploitation film that doesn't live up to its title. It was made by Antony Balch who is perhaps best known for his shorts "Towers Open Fire" and "The Cut-Ups", which star William Burroughs. The experimental techniques Balch pioneered in these earlier films are deployed more sparingly in "Bizarre", since it is essentially a compendium of stories introduced and partially narrated by an Egyptian mummy, which are designed to induce those who are turned on by bouncing tits and odd flashes of snatch to part with their money. Balch was a gay misanthropist, so when he has two guys and a woman romping around together, it's pretty obvious what he was really interested in. A woman strips and when we see her ass it is badly blighted by cellulite. We are shown various actors and actresses in cheesecake poses and asked if we'd like to make love to this boy or girl. A group of women in their underwear are pelted with rotten fruit by some bare chested guys with guns. The mummy tells us that the fight for dominance between the sexes is as old as time, and will go on and on.... I don't know about that, but "Bizarre" certainly goes on for far too long. A male model is killed by a female photographer who is preparing a book about medieval torture, but before doing so she indulges in a tad too much psuedo-scientological talk about pain and emgrams. A young female scientist marries a rich old businessman who is desperate for a son, despite knowing it is medically inadvisable for her to get pregnant. A female cat burglar seduces the man who catches her robbing his home, and after some frolics involving a telephone receiver being rubbed around her ass and snatch (while a switchboard operator on the soundtrack repeatedly asks the subscriber if something is wrong), manages to make off with the silver. A further trick that saves this last sequence from complete tedium is the dissociated soundtrack coming from a radio that's been left on in the bedroom In another sequence a prostitute refuses to have sex with a man who wants a threesome with a reptile. Then there are a series of spoof episodes involving a bawdy spy called Lindy Leigh, and a parody of silent movie making involving partner swapping between gay and straight couplings. Most tediously of all, a middle-aged woman tells her new butler she's trapped the souls of her many lovers in her hot house flowers, and he proceeds to strangle her. While an entertaining short could have been made out of this, at feature length it is too drawn out and becomes extremely boring
Beat Girl directed by Edmond T. Greville (1960)
The last time I saw this movie was 25 years ago as part of an all night screening of Beat films at the Scala Cinema in Kings X; where it was shown alongside the likes of the Hollywood adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s novel “The Subterraneans”, Robert Frank’s “Pull My Daisy”, and Roger Corman’s “Bucket Of Blood”. I had fond memories of “Beat Girl” and didn’t feel let down by re-watching it. What’s interesting about the flick is how unsympathetic Noelle Adams is in the title role. Adams plays Jennifer, the thoroughly dislikeable teenage daughter of a London architect with important South American connections that enable him to realise his dream of a creating an entire city for the future (this is too obviously based on the development of Brasilia). Jennifer is at St. Martins College of Art –so we get a nice shot from the entrance north along Charing X Road – and she hangs out with the jazz crowd at The Off Beat Café in Soho. Jennifer has three close friends, two every bit as stuck up and spoilt as her, but the fourth played by Adam Faith is working class and sympathetic. The film begins with Jennifer’s upper crust father, who divorced her mother when she was small, arriving home with his new French wife Nicole. Jennifer is rude to her father and hates Nicole, and finds escape from them in jazz and beatnikery. Her scene is a decidedly weird, since the music she grooves to switches between the big band sound of The John Barry Seven and Adam Faith’s home grown rock ‘n’ roll. The working class teddy boys in The Off Beat wind up the toffee-nosed pseudo-hipsters, and you wonder what Faith is doing hanging around with an uptight bitch like Jennifer, since he seems to have much more in common with the teds. When Nicole ventures to The Off Beat in an attempt to bond with her step-daughter, she runs into an old friend from Paris called Greta, who is working as a stripper in a club called Les Girls further down the street. By visiting the strip club, which is managed by Christopher Lee, Jennifer discovers that before her step-mother met her father, Nicole and Greta had been prostitutes in Paris. Lee comes on to Jennifer and Greta gets pissed off. Similarly, things go from bad to worse on the domestic front for the beat girl (and it’s all her own fault), the only joyous moment being when Nicole gives Jennifer a richly deserved slap. After an interlude at Chiselhurst Caves out in Kent for an evening of jazz and more of Adam Faith’s rock and roll – leading to his character Dave being told he is so cool he is “straight from the fridge” – Jennifer announces that her dad is away, and invites everybody back to her place in swanky south Kensington. On the way there Jennifer’s friends have a chicken race in their two cars, and then play the same game with their heads on a railway track, vying to see who can wait the longest before fleeing from the path of an oncoming train. Once home, Jennifer deliberately wakes Nicole by doing a strip-tease for her friends and throwing a shoe she’s taken off against the parental bedroom door; an argument ensues and during it her father comes in. Jennifer rushes off in a huff and after feeling bored at The Off-Beat, decides to visit Christopher Lee at Les Girls. As Lee seduces Jennifer, the jealous Greta stabs him to death (which provides the sleazy strip club owner with a lucky escape from the far more terrifying prospect of a relationship with Jennifer). The police arrive on the scene but Jennifer manages to get through them and falls sobbing into the arms of her father and step-mother. THE END.
All of which makes this sound like a conventional JD “shocker”, but there is more to it than that despite a noticeable absence of drugs (“charge” had been big on the London jazz scene since 1948 and so if this flick hoped to pose as “realism” it should have included some “reefer madness”). Adam Faith gets to jive talk about fighting being for squares, and offers the sage advice that if you wanna fight, you should join the army (and get yourself killed, I presume). It is equally amusing to watch Christopher Lee playing a “wicked” strip club owner and using exactly the same limited repertoire of moves he ran through as a silver screen Dracula and Fu Manchu; he’s a one trick pony who could barely act and “Beat Girl” really hammers this fact home. Curiously, the class relationships depicted in this flick mimic those shown in Karel Reisz and Tony Richardson’s 1956 short “Mamma Don’t Allow”, which caught the emergence of British youth culture by focusing on The Wood Green Jazz Club in north London, and juxtaposing cool and confident working class kids against a small group of inexpressive toffs who couldn’t dance and whose night of slumming it dampens the good time vibe that had sparked up before they arrived.. The concern of the toffs in “Mamma Don’t Allow” that their posh car might be vandalised is mirrored in “Beat Girl” when towards the end the teds smash up a motor belonging to one of Jennifer’s upper crust friends. While not quite up there with “Expresso Bongo” as a pre-Beatles London pop film, it still rocks and contains added bonuses including brief but tasty footage of Berwick Street Market circa 1960. The cinematography is in crisp black and white; and the various striptease routines are fun, even if they have been truncated to appease the censor. The moral animating “Beat Girl” seems to be: “don’t mix with the children of architects and army generals, since they’re stuck up and spoilt, making it impossible to have a good time with them”. Oh, and don’t forget those immortal lines given to Adam Faith: “I won’t fight you man, fighting is for squares.” Groovy!
Tombs Of The Blind Dead directed by Amando de Ossorio (1971)
This starts with a series of shots of a medieval village as we roll thru the credits. Next a couple of old friends Virginia and Bet meet by accident at a public swimming pool and decide to go away for a weekend in the country with Roger, a man they both find attractive. By the time this threesome are settling down on the train which is taking them out of town, Virginia and Bet are falling out over Roger. Cue completely gratuitous cut to boarding school flash back in which Virginia and Bet have lesbian sex. Unfortunately back in the present further upsets lead to Virginia jumping off the moving train and heading into the deserted medieval village we saw in the opening sequence. All is quiet and Virginia is settling down in her sleeping bag for some kip when the local Knights Templar rise from their graves to feast on her blood. The Knights are skeletal zombies in filthy medieval cloaks, and they ride horses that move in slow motion. After a chase Virginia cops it. The following day she's taken to the morgue where she rises from the dead and feasts on a retarded attendant. The undead Virginia also gets to assault a maker of mannequins before being burnt to a cinder. Next Bet and Roger discover the legend of the Satanic Templars, which states that by ritually sacrificing a virgin and feasting on her blood, shown naturally enough in gory detail, they could live after they died. The Catholic church had the Knights put to death for this sacrilege, and hung their bodies up in public as a lesson to others until crows pecked out their eyes. It turns out that as a result the undead Templars can't see, they track their victims by listening out for them. Disregarding local folk-law, the cops suggest that it isn't the Templars but a criminal gang who murdered Virginia and that these gangsters are using the legend of the undead Knights as a means of protecting a patch of land they use for their smuggling activities. Roger persuades one of these criminals and his moll to spent the night with him and Bet in the deserted village containing the graves of the Templars. The moll fails to seduce Roger, and since Bet rebuffs the advances of the male criminal, he rapes her in the Templar graveyard, but afterwards the Knights rise from their tombs and feast on his blood. Virginia escapes and warns the others. Roger decides to investigate but ends up becoming a blood feast, as does the moll. Bet manages to flag down a passing train but the Templars follow her onto it and massacre all those on board including a small child. Truly post-modern in the liberties it takes with plot, this is a classic example of Eurosleaze. If only Hollywood directors could learn to make films like this the world would be a much better place....
Lèvres de sang aka Lips of Blood directed by Jean Rollin (1975)
Within Eurosleaze Jean Rollin and Jess Franco are kinda the prince and court jester of the lesbian vampire flick. There are touches of high brow mixed with the low in the work of both directors but it's definitely Rollin who is on more of an art kick. "Lèvres de sang" is possibly Rollin's best movie, right up there with his other anti-classics "The Rape Of The Vampire" and "The Living Dead Girl". The film is a slow surreal trip through the salons, graveyards and catacombs of Paris, with childhood memories of a ruined castle haunting the imagination of the male lead Frederic (Jean-Lou Phillippe). The female characters are all slow moving somnambulists, while Jean-Lou Phillippe's acting is foetid and over done. Rollin's focus is mood and imagery and he demonstrates a healthy disdain for naturalism. Much of "Lèvres de sang" consists of female vampires decked out in sheer dresses and a set of blood dripping fangs languidly wandering the streets of Paris. Frederic's mother doesn't want him to know about the female vampires who plagued the seaside town they left twenty years earlier. He doesn't understand what is happening and why all those around him fall victim to the vampires, while these night creatures leave him untouched and on a number of occasions intervene to save him from harm. When Frederic's mother is forced to admit the truth and exhorts him to slay the vampire who murdered his papa, he rebels and after freeing this blood sucking freak makes love to her. The movie ends with a newly undead Frederic and his long dead lover setting sail in a coffin for a desert island. A truly lyrical evocation of childhood, and even if you don't dig that you'll enjoy the nudity....
Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals directed by Joe D'Amato aka Aristide Massaccesi (1977)
Cult starlet Laura Gemser stars as the "Black Emanuelle" in a softcore sleaze fest also featuring her husband Gabriele Tinti. This particular Black Emanuelle flick kicks off with Gemser working undercover as a journalist in a nut house where we've just seen a blood drenched nurse whose breast has been bitten off by a cannibal patient. The medical staff use drugs to sedate the mammary chomping maniac, but once this psychopath is tied down, Emanuelle is able to calm the troubled chick by rubbing her clit. Having completed the nut house assignment, Emanuelle goes off to talk to Professor Mark Lester (played by Tinti) about cannibals. Mark shows Emanuelle some grainy black and white film of a cannibal castration in Africa and immediately afterwards they get it on with each other. Once Emanuelle and Lester have decided they will go to the Amazon together, Gemser gives her screen boyfriend a quick shag on the shore of the Hudson River with the New York skyline behind them before heading off for further erotic adventures with Tinti. In Brazil they meet Isabelle who masturbates while watching Mark and Emanuelle shagging. The next day the two girls skinny dip together. As Emanuelle starts to get it on with Isabelle in a stream, a chimp on the bamk mucks around with their possessions; they don't notice when he takes a cigarette from a packet of fags and lights up, but when the monkey puts on a pair of sun glasses, the lezzie action is interrupted as they emerge from the water to get a good look at him..Further up the river a snake wraps itself around Emanuelle's neck, and we're introduced to Donald McKenzie who emerges from the jungle to shoot the reptile in in the head, saving Gemser from certain death. This scene is clearly symbolic because it later emerges that McKenzie is impotent and his wife Maggie is forced to get her oats from their porter Salvadore. There is even some hilarious cod Freudian footage of Maggie masturbating as she watches Salvadore clean a rifle. About an hour into the movie the cannibals start knocking off its stars, beginning with one of the porters assisting Emanuelle's party. When a nun who is also with them decides to go for a shit in the jungle, she is captured by the cannibals, tied up and stripped; then her breasts are cut off and eaten. This is followed by another porter being knocked off, this time with poisoned darts. When Maggie and Donald find a crashed plane containing diamonds, Mr McKenzie unexpectedly regains his potency and so he and the missus make love in the jungle despite the fact that they know they are surrounded by cannibals. Bad move, the cannibals attack wounding Donald and kidnapping Maggie. Emanuelle and her friends save Donald, who makes a speedy recovery, then they all set off to rescue Maggie. Unfortunately Salvadore is killed by the cannibals, who also capture Donald and Isabelle. Back at their village, the cannibals tie Maggie between a couple of posts, disembowel her and share Mrs McKenzie's guts around so that everybody gets a snack. Then Donald is strung up and the cannibals use sharp wire to separate the upper and lower parts of his body. We don't actually see any gore, instead the camera cuts from Donald writhing in agony to a shot of what is obviously a life size photograph of the top part of Mr McKenzie's body, which has been nailed between the two posts the actor was previously tied to. This is a low budget movie and the special effects are anything but stunning. Moving on, Isabelle who has been drugged and stripped naked is gang-banged by the cannibals who want to sacrifice her to their Goddess of the Water; but before they can get on with the ritual killing they need to get her knocked up (the Goddess only wants pregnant sacrifices). We don't really see much of this since the camera cuts to Emanuelle and Mark. Emanuelle announces she knows how to save Isabelle; she will emerge from the water pretending to be the Goddess, and the superstitious cannibals will be so dumbfounded this will give both of them sufficient time to get into the motorised dingy Mark will be driving as a getaway vehicle. The ruse works but before the credits roll, Emanuelle reflects on all those who have died because of her journalistic desire to pursue the cannibal story. This is intended to leave the audience with the idea that perhaps it is those who arrogantly enter the "green inferno" of the Amazon feeling certain of their own cultural superiority who are the "real" "savages".....So yes, this is an exploitation flick with a message! As far as the gore goes this is pretty tame for an Italian cannibal movie, and while Gemser looks cute in the nude, the wild collision between two very different exploitation genres was necessary to make me sit through all the softcore scenes, most of which were pretty dull... Nothing here to match the nasty sex in "Emanuelle In America" (made the same year as this, starring Gemser and her husband Tinti and directed by D'Amato), where the bestiality with Pedro The Stallion is introduced with the following dialogue: "She just can't help it, poor kid! Since she met that Pedro she's been off her head." Tedious softcore is definitely preferable to sitting through a hardcore scene of an "actress" jerking off a horse (even if there is a cut before cliimax). Gemser's "Black Emanuelle" films have a small but dedicated cult following, and if you haven't seen any of them then "Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals" is as good a place to start and stop as any... It may be technically inept but it's still superior to anything produced by Hollywood over the past thirty years; and according to cult movie mythology, the "Black Emanuelle" films even inspired David Chronenberg to make his one really great feature "Videodrome"!
Good Times directed by William Friedkin (1967)
Friedkin's first outing as a Hollywood director featured pop duo Sonny and Cher, and it comes across as a Monkees rip-off but without the Pre-Fab Four's musical and acting talent. Cher makes up for this to some degree by wearing a host of seriously groovy outfits, and it is these and the pop art set (more Lichtenstein than Warhol) on which the duo perform "It's The Little Things" that really steal the show (apart from the chimps, but I'll get to them later). In this their first movie, Sonny and Cher play themselves, two married pop stars who love each other but bicker a lot. Sonny fantasises about making a western movie, a jungle movie and a detective movie, and his "imaginary" genre parodies feel like they last far longer than the "real" thing. (although they don't). In between these overlong sequences there are songs, some domestic "comedy" and a series of confrontations with movie studio bosses who try to manipulate the teen stars. Since Sonny and Cher refuse to blow their "credibility" by making a movie with squares who don't understand them, the climax has "righteousness" winning the day. Given that Sonny and Cher made "Good Times" with Friedkin, this plot twist is as much a departure from reality as the rest of the film. It is also a bit of a downer that Sonny has a seriously bad haircut, an equally poor voice and couldn't act his way out of a paper bag. On the up side there are lots of pretty colours and one really cool scene featuring gambling chimps without a human in sight. Friedkin is ashamed of this movie, but it's better than some of the dreck he directed like "The French Connection".... although I do like some of his other stuff like "The Exorcist" (any film which could make Linda Blair a star has to have a lot going for it). I'd love to recut "Good Times"; it would make a great short what with Cher's outfits, the chimps and the opportunity to replace a weedy rendition of "I've Got You Babe" with The Dictator's 1975 reworking of the song as "I Got Me Babe" (featuring "Handsome" Dick Manitoba on vocals....). I would retain the scenes in which Sonny rides around "recklessly" on his motorcycle, so that I could dub "Skiing In The Snow" by Wigan's Chosen Few over them. The film as it stands is just about worth watching when you're wasted.... don't expect too much but it will put you in a sixties groove.....
The Chosen One: Legend of the Raven directed by Lawrence Lanoff (1998)
Former Prince protégé and Playboy Playmate Carmen Electra plays McKenna Ray who is forced against her will to defend the world from evil. Her possession by powerful spirits transform her into a nymphomaniac female superhero called The Raven. She develops psychic powers which enable her to draw men to her and seduce them by pouring milk over her legs and breasts. A body double (Barbie Coleman) is used for the nudity in these sex scenes. Since Electra and Coleman look nothing like each other, the cuts between them during the softcore anti-action hilariously parallel and undercut McKenna's transformations into The Raven. While superficially invoking "The Crow" as a way of selling itself to middle America, this movie pisses all over cod Hollywood gothic crapola by completely overdoing its famous movie and TV references and rip-offs. The opening story set up which features scrolled words which are simultaneously read aloud comes across as a no budget Star Wars homage; then there is a serial killer subplot (mainly an excuse for balding director Lanoff to make a cameo appearance as the killer); the superhero scenes featuring Electra as The Raven recall camp seventies TV series "Wonder Woman"; and the Ameridindian mythology that almost carries the creaking plot is so generic it could have been lifted from just about any supernatural movie of the past 100 years. Carmen's dead sister (Shauna Sand Lamas) also appears from time to time, to tell her and us what is going on; and to provide the reluctant heroine with pep talks about how saving the world is ""...better than being a spoilt, rotten, hot-tempered bitch". These endless parodies, alongside a voice-over that doesn't quite match the character of McKenna's father (the medicine man), makes this a side-splitting and extremely effective post-modern update of the Russ Meyer exploitation formula. Indeed, the "world" The Raven is attempting to save from "evil" consists solely of a hick American town with a population of around 12 people, which brings to mind almost any Meyer production you care to mention. There is even a subplot about drug dealing; and amazingly Tim Bagley, who plays retarded cystal meth maker Ricky Dean, comes across as a dead ringer for the ultimate dork "cult" "musician" Doug Pearce of Death In June. This film is so cheap that the final show down between "good" and "evil" consists of a cat fight between Electra and the local bad girl played by Debra Xavier; and it kicks off when The Raven enters a bar and delivers the line "Hello scumbag".. Trash doesn't get any better than this! A cult classic! Landoff and Electra almost single-handedly save American independent movie making from the evil influence of Hollywood!
The Devil's Nightmare directed by Jean Brismée (1971)
This Eurosleaze classic has appeared under many different titles, apart from "Devil's Nightmare" it has also been billed as: "Au service du diable"; "Castle of Death"; "Nightmare of Terror"; "La Notte piu lunga del diavolo"; "La Nuit des pétrifiés"; "Succubus"; "La terrificante notte del demonio"; "The Devil Walks at Midnight"; "The Devil's Longest Night"; and "Vampire Playgirls". This starts with a World War II flashback to a woman dying during child birth and her husband stabbing his new born daughter to death (after baptising her). Cut to the present (or circa 1971 when this was made) and seven travellers take refuge in a remote castle belonging to Baron von Rhoneberg (Jean Servais), who we've already met murdering his new born daughter The most interesting pair among the travellers are Regine (Shirley Corrigan) and Corinne (Ivanna Novak) who after settling into their room engage in a softcore lesbian romp. Okay, so they are the best looking rather than the most interesting of the travellers, and blonde Regine has particularly stunning legs. Corinne the brunette turns out to be bisexual and later has it off with one of the male travellers. As the plot unravels it becomes apparent that each of these 'characters' represents one of the 'seven deadly sins'. And while Corinne obviously represents lust, it took me longer to work out Regine is a manifestation of sloth. Although the treatment of gluttony and greed is a bit heavy handed, the 'deadly sin' conceit isn't that overdone and certainly doesn't suffer from the Hollywood dreck factor of a film like "Seven" (which ripped off "Devil's Nightmare" but lacks the panache of its Eurosleaze inspiration). After the lesbian sex and a nude bath scene, the travellers and von Rhoneberg have dinner together. As they eat, redheaded Lita Müller (Erika Blanc) turns up. Lita is a scantily clad succubus (female sex demon) and with help from The Devil (the extraordinary looking Daniel Emilfork) eventually seduces all the travellers into committing mortal sins at the moment of their death. The trainee priest who represents pride is particularly obnoxious, and he doesn't earn his damnation until the very end, but the twist accompanying this is worth waiting for. The slow pacing of this movie works perfectly as a lead in to what are essentially a series of dream sequences. It doesn't matter whether what we see is believable or not, the ride is fabulous.Gore fans hate "Devil's Nightmare", but sleaze addicts love it. Worth watching just to see Erika Blanc undergoing a series of incredible transformations between vamp and crone, and these rely more on facial expression and body posture than make up. A stunning performance which puts the witch in "Something Weird" (Herschell Gordon Lewis) to shame. If you liked ."The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed-Up Zombies" (Ray Dennis Steckler), you'll love this. Trash doesn't get any better!
Jack The Ripper directed by Jess Franco (1976)
Franco at his best is draw-droppingly good, check "Succubus" or "Female Vampire", but while working off a series of amusing conceits "Jack The Ripper" is not the Spanish trashmaster firing on all six. Still, who but Franco would film in Zurich when their story is set in London? This disregard for realism is admirable. Likewise, while this film is supposedly set in 1888, the costumes are quite variable, and the duds various ballet dancers prance about in are clearly contemporary rather than from the nineteenth-century. So far so good, and you'd think putting Klaus Kinski in the lead role of Jack The Ripper would be perfect, but for whatever reason he just doesn't properly sink his teeth (or his knife) into the part. Franco, who also wrote the script, completely disregards the true life story of the uncaught serial killer and instead combines something which bears only the most superficial resemblance to the Ripper slayings with another series of London prostitute murders, the Jack The Stripper outrages of the 1960s. Franco may simply be ripping off Hitchcock's "Frenzy" (based, albeit very loosely, on the Jack The Stripper murders). Still, we see the body of a murdered prostitute dumped in what's supposed to be the Thames (but clearly isn't) which is precisely what The Stripper did with a couple of his victims (and Hitchcock's opening gambit in "Frenzy" is the body of a Stripper victim washing up on the banks of the Thames). Likewise, we see Kinski as The Ripper getting a simulated blow job from one of his soon to be victims, and it appears the uncaught Stripper killed those he targeted by suffocating them with his penis during deep throat fellatio (there is nothing to indicate The Ripper got streetwalkers to give him oral). Throughout Franco's movie it is never clear exactly where we are supposed to be in London - there are at different points references to Chelsea in west London (Stripper territory) and Whitechapel in east London (Ripper territory); and making the whole thing even more disorientating, nothing we see places us in London (no one who knows the British capitol will be convinced by the locations - this was clearly filmed in central Europe). This assault on realism ought to make a great film, but somehow the deadening hand of producer Erwin C. Dietrich gets in the way, and the movie just doesn't live up to its promise. Anything by Franco is worth a look, but he's made so many flicks that if you're not familiar with him you really don't want to start with this one....
Sleaze cinema 1 (earlier reviews)
Sleaze cinema 3 (later reviews)
Sleaze cinema 4 (even more reviews)
The films of Manchester exploitation legend Cliff Twemlow
The Films of Alejandro Jodorowsky
Stewart Home's mother Julia Callan-Thompson, London 1966.
No More Rock 'n' Roll
You've read the Kurt Cobain obituaries, now it's time to sit back and enjoy the ridiculous rumours circulating about the dead rock star. Personally, I think it's absurd to suggest the singer's suicide was faked. However, various cranks are claiming Cobain was gunned down by a hitman, possibly a member of the Mafia, who'd supposedly gone after Nirvana because the band refused to pay protection money.
Another version of the faked suicide story has Cobain alive and enjoying a break from the limelight. According to rumour, the singer has been popping up everywhere between Rio and Paris. London sightings include nights out at the Disobey Club, the Exploding Cinema and even the Hackney Homeless Festival. Most ludicrously of all, one fan claims to have clocked the rocker shopping at the Kwik Save supermarket in Canning Town.
A more believable theory about Cobain's death suggests he was the victim of a CIA mind control experiment. An individual claiming to represent 'a private network of researchers' contacted me about this and arranged a meeting in the Temple Church on Fleet Street. Once I'd settled in a pew, a very nervous young man seated himself beside me. According to my contact, the CIA is deeply concerned about the subversive influence of popular music on young people, that's why 'they murdered Brian Jones, John Lennon and Jim Morrison'.
What's been worrying the spooks lately is the sway black radicalism has gained over the minds of white teenagers, to counter this 'they've been pushing Nation of Islam style separatism among rappers'. Likewise, the white Grunge movement spearheaded by Nirvana was backed by the CIA because 'they wanted to divide youngsters on racial lines, if black and white kids linked up, they'd pose a serious threat to the system. The whole point of Grunge is to instil in teenagers a sense of hopelessness, to fill them with self-hate and prevent them changing the world.'
Apparently, the CIA got hold of Cobain when he was still unknown, then using drugs, hypnosis and medical torture, they broke his will and rebuilt his personality. 'Most of the time he'd act relatively normal,' I was told, 'but all it took was a few key words spoken over the phone and Cobain would carry out the deeds he'd been programmed to enact.' My contact was convinced that the singer had been brainwashed into committing suicide at the peak of his success because the CIA figured this would reduce his potentially rebellious fans to complete despair.
However, the conspiracy theorist admitted several of his fellow researchers thought Cobain had taken his own life as the only means of breaking free from the influence of his controllers. If this is the case, then the rock star is a hero rather than simply a victim, and his death provides grounds for a fresh outbreak of teenager rebellion.
First published in Underground 4 Summer 1994.
Crypto Anarchy, Cyberstates, and Pirate Utopias edited by Peter Ludlow (MIT Press, Cambridge & London 2001, £16.95 paperback - £41.50 cloth)
As is evident from its title, the perspectives to be found in this book are skewed by a tendency to treat the state as a fetish. Cyber manifestations of opposition to commodity culture, such as the Luther Blissett Project, have been rigorously excluded. The most “progressive” piece is a social democratic polemic by Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron, who claim operations like Wired magazine synthesised leftist counter-cultural and rightist Reaganite currents. However, the leftist contribution to this confusionist stew is overstated. We are told: “The radical hippies... championed universalist, rational and progressive ideals...” This is problematic when applied to phenomenon such as the Yippies, let alone the Manson Family. David R. Johnson and David G. Post write: “A Web site physically located in Brazil... has no more of an effect on an individual in Brazil than a Web site physically located in Belgium or Belize that is accessible in Brazil.” The influence of local factors is being overlooked here, and on-line events guides illustrate this. Likewise, in places where English isn't the dominant language, I often have to explain what Amazon is to people asking me how they can buy my books. Easily the most unpleasant of the many rightists included in this book is Hakim Bey, who opines: “..I want to meet other humans for consensual but illegal acts of mutual pleasure (this has actually been tried, but all the hard sex BBS have been busted - and what use is an underground with lousy security).” Bey is well known as an advocate of what he disingenuously calls “man-boy love”. Power inequalities between adults and children mean that sex between them cannot be consensual, it is necessarily abusive. Ludlow’s anthology repackages low-grade material that has been knocking around for years, and it’s of no interest to anyone who already knows that anarchism is stupid.
On the chiliastic banality of contemporary iconoclasm
If one accepts that the classical avant-garde - futurism, dada, surrealism - created no new style of its own but rather conjured new works through a process of bricolage involving all hitherto existing styles, then it is hardly surprising that the succeeding period was not marked by a simple consolidation of this practice, but rather witnessed a crisis of artistic representation and an increasing proclivity towards iconoclasm. Strong iconoclastic inclinations were already evident in both futurism and dada, and since bricolage as a principal is incapable of regenerating culture on a long term basis, it is hardly surprising that after the more constructive surrealist period there was a swing back towards iconoclasm as manifested in tendencies such as fluxus and auto-destructive art.
It is, however, a mistake to judge developments in the arts solely from the perspective of internal growth. With its adoption of both collage and bricolage, the avant-garde found itself developing along lines dictated by the ongoing expansion of the economic sphere, which simultaneously brought progressive cultural forces into conflict with capitalism. The most immediate arena for this conflict was the evolving field of intellectual property. In many ways the ongoing development of laws protecting intellectual property showed capitalist modernisation to be a more iconoclastic force within culture than the avant-garde. Through the introduction of property rights over artistic creations capitalism simultaneously commodified and democratised culture - but by making all culture equal in law, the bourgeoisie did away with the old aristocratic distinctions that privileged certain cultural forms and manifestations over others. Thus what sociologists such as Pierre Bourdieu call cultural capital might be better described - with a nod towards Jacques Camatte - as virtual cultural capital. The law, in seeking to control culture, has simultaneously autonomised it. In the past the ruling class used high culture as an ideological glue to bind its members together, while simultaneously excluding other classes from its privileges; today, a banal post-modern culture oppresses a universal ('universal', at least in the eyes of the law) human class.
For the romantics, the artist was the official depository of human creativity and consciousness. In the face of the compromises and confusions of nascent industrial society, only the artist possessed the passions which in the end spiritual necessity would force society in its entirety to adopt. However, spiritual necessity failed to accomplish its historical task. Eventually the modernist movement arose and asserted that only a historically informed avant-garde, the artist as agitator, was capable of the total aesthetic transformation of industrial civilisation. For modernists, sentiment - which lay at the root of the romantic attempt to aesthetically educate mankind - was transmuted into a term of abuse. In time, the avant-garde came to be seen as far too constricting and rigid. Thus post-modernity wanted to let everything hang out without the onerous necessity of attempts at theoretical coherence.
Precisely because of the anti-theoretical stands it has taken, one cannot expect to find 'originality' within post-modern culture or its progeny. For example, Baudrillard whose name is synonymous with post-modernism, was extremely slow in adopting this term within his own work. His writing - Baudrillard's photography is equally trivial but since it lacks the humour of his prose, it is too tedious to address - is neither theory nor sociology, but instead a low-grade repackaging of pataphysics. While post-modern art in the form of paintings, photographs,, videos, performances and installations, patently is not theory, and at most might claim to be theoretically informed or theoretically coherent, it suffers from similar flaws to Baudrillard's babble. Nevertheless, the works produced under the rubric of post-modernism during the eighties still appear theoretically rigorous in comparison to what followed. Successful contemporary artists such as Tracey Emin have not so much dumbed down, as become cultural celebrities on the basis of their self-evident stupidity. Emin repeats the gestures of the avant-garde - by, for example, exhibiting a bed - but with a naive and romantic belief in the authenticity of her project. Emin lives out - rather than represents - her traumas by wetting the bed she has famously exhibited. Possibly Emin even believes that in doing this she goes one step beyond exhibiting a ready-made such as a urinal. Nevertheless, Emin is now a celebrity and so the life that she leads with such artless sincerity is ironised - not by Emin, who is personally immune to irony and kitsch - but by the cool digitality of the media.
This ever proliferating media is voracious in its appetite for news, gossip, personalities and opinions. That said, the range of what is actually processed is very narrow. Many newspapers and magazines give paperback books one hundred word reviews and very few of the hacks responsible for puffing these commodities of the moment have done any more than read a press release or back cover blurb. Likewise, 'expert opinion' is relayed by the media in the form of sound bites rather than informed analysis. Those fronting for the culture industry - whether they be novelists or pop stars - are expected to perform in this circus. These days the 'originators' of 'successful' cultural products inevitably end up on television, and so it is no longer necessary to contest classifications such as genius. In the make-believe world of the mass media, there is an endless parade of interchangeable celebrities and these celebrities are by definition stupid. Rather than being allowed to talk on matters of any interest, celebrities are questioned about their banal lives. Self-obsession is the nature of celebrity and the celebrity is 'everyman' reduced to an electronic flicker. While never more than a phantasmagoria, the notion of genius was once a real weapon in the armoury of high culture. Today, such a concept can only be invoked ironically. Nobody who appears on television with any regularity could possibly be a genius, since genius and celebrity are necessarily incompatible.
Traditionally, and even today, the artist occupies an anachronistic position within the capitalist economy. Rather than being wage-labourers, artists are nominally self-employed - but in practice they tend to be dependent for their incomes on either one or a small number of individuals (a dealer and/or patrons). The virtually feudal economic situation endured by artists coupled with a star system that results in a small minority of them being vastly overpaid for their work - with the overwhelming majority grossly underpaid (although this poorly rewarded labour is undoubtedly necessary from an economic point of view, since it is required to valorise and justify the prices paid for works by star names) - had until recently resulted in those producing art professionally being peculiarly susceptible to reactionary ideologies such as anarchism and fascism. Today, politics (and particularly those forms of politics grounded in petty-bourgeois rancour) are a dead weight to aspiring cultural celebrities. It is no longer necessary for artists to espouse reactionary platitudes, since the very culture they're enmeshed in is totalitarian. What we have witnessed is iconoclasm transformed into a blind and automatic mechanism that necessarily accompanies the ongoing digitisation of intellectual property and the commoditisation of 'character' in the disembodied form of inhuman celebrities. Capitalism is not merely the motor behind contemporary iconoclasm - in its indifference to what it obliterates (human community, human intelligence, human bodies), the commodity economy is a monumentally destructive force that raises idol breaking to new levels of chiliastic banality.
First published in Sentieri Interrotti (Vanished Paths: Crisis Of Representation and Destruction in the Arts from the 1950s to the End of the Century) edited by Elena Carotti and Debbie Bibo (Edition Charto, Milano 2000 catalogue accompanying exhibition of the same name at Museo Biblioteca Archivio, Bassano del Grappa).