The following text is from a little art-slanted curated shelf I did at my beloved local video store Movie Madness a while back…
Lucio Fulci was a huge fan of Antonin Artaud and knew a thing or two about art. Sadly I believe he thought he was stuck grinding out crap cinema for a paycheck. Just watch this and imagine it with no music. You’d swear it’s some unholy mutant child of Luis Buñuel and The Chapman Brothers.
Note: Of course I don’t think Fulci’s work was crap. Critics and moralists did, maybe Lucio himself from time to time. I have featured Don’t Torture a Duckling here and also love his films The Beyond, Beatrice Cenci, A Cat in the Brain, Zombi, and Contraband, among others.
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Well, if this isn’t Anomalous Cinema, I don’t know what is. Here is one of the more art film-influenced giallos. Godard’s Weekend came out a year before, and there’s a definite influence. It is also one of the more bizarre entries in the subgenre. Bizarre in the sense it’s surrealistic, and a lot of the set decoration looks like strange contemporary art. Death Laid an Egg is also not as violent or graphic as later gialli, but don’t let that stop you from seeing this one. The cinematography is spot-on, the lead performances are great (I always love to see Jean-Louis Trintignant), and the weird plot will keep your eyes glued to the screen.
The version streaming on Prime looks good, but seems a tiny bit cropped, and is not 1080p. It is also a shorter version than is available on the most recent disc release (I believe the one on Prime is the approx 90 min. “Giallo Version” that Cult Epics released). That’s ok, it’s still definitely worth checking out this streaming version. If you really enjoy the film, you may want to invest in the 2018 UK import from Nucleus. You can read a very detailed review and breakdown of the various disc versions on Nathaniel Thompson’s excellent Mondo Digital website. His book series DVD Delirium was a big influence on my taste in movies.
In the ’70s many star-studded thrillers were made (The Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure, etc). None of them really impressed me all that much except this one. The Cassandra Complex is a crazy pebble, that rolls into a crazy snowball, that eventually becomes an avalanche of crazy. This is NOT a five star film. It should be terrible actually, but it’s not. What you get is a very entertaining mess, with seemingly every known working actor of the time thrown in. Get ready for a fun ride on the Crazy Train.
I saw an early screening of Alexandre Aja’s High Tension at the Philadelphia film fest and really enjoyed it. I hoped that he’d become the next great horror director. That didn’t really happen. However Aja has managed to make several entertaining genre films over the years. Crawl is not as intense as his 2006 reboot of The Hills Have Eyes, but I liked it. It’s a solid, well-constructed, horror thriller with some genuinely chilling moments. Expect no more and you won’t be disappointed.
The original One-Armed Swordsman was played by Wang Yu. This total reboot stars David Chiang, and it’s a blast. Here the Shaw Brothers go for more straight-forward action, not Five Elements Ninjas-type insanity. Don’t let that discourage you, this is a very entertaining martial arts film. Even the dramatic scenes kept my attention. Recommended, fast-paced action that is not for the whole family (what with the arm chopping and all).
Joel Peter Witkin is an influential photographer while his twin brother Jerome is a less celebrated, but excellent painter. This documentary talks about their lives, relationship, and a Mexico City exhibition of both artists’ work. Witkin & Witkin is not for sensitive viewers as it contains a lot of nudity, people with deformities, and dead bodies which make up the majority of Joel’s photographs, as well as some of Jerome’s source material. Overall this is a well made and revealing film that should appeal to anyone interested in contemporary visual art with a dark edge.
Why the hell would anyone want to watch a ’60s car racing movie? I asked myself that same question and then realized it was directed by Jack Hill. He’s the man behind several excellent fast-paced action / exploitation movies including Coffy and Switchblade Sisters. This one isn’t nearly as violent, but damn it grips your attention just as well. You also get to see a young Ellen Burstyn from The Exorcist, and of course, Sid Haig (who didn’t know how to drive when they started production). I thoroughly enjoyed Pit Stop, so give it a chance.
FYI – there are two versions up on Amazon Prime. The better quality one begins with the Film Rise logo.
Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer (sign-in necessary)
Henri-Georges Clouzot is responsible of two of my favorite European movies of the ’50s, The Wages of Fear and Diabolique. In 1964 he was given a huge budget to create an experimental drama combining his usual black and white photography with candy-colored hallucinatory sequences. The bad news is, pretty much everything went wrong, and the film was never completed. The good news is, we have this fantastic documentary. This is worth watching to see the trippy color scenes alone, but the rest of the story is absolutely engrossing as well. If you’d like to see another excellent unfinished movie, check out Andrzej Zulawski’s On the Sliver Globe.
Dr. Hess Green is stabbed three times by a mystical dagger and becomes a different kind of vampire. Different is an understatement with this experimental dream of a movie. Director Bill Gunn was tasked with delivering his version of Blackula. Instead he made an art film in the guise of horror. Despite an award at the Cannes Film Festival, the original cut was butchered down to a more commercial version, and faded into cinema history. Thankfully MoMA and Kino Lorber were able to restore the original version. They didn’t do the drastic restoration job that we’re used to these days either. The film probably looks similar to when it was first shown, warts and all. That was a wise choice, as polishing Ganja & Hess would have taken away from all the elements that make it special.
This movie will not be to everyone’s taste. It challenges your attention span at times, and then challenges your sense of decency. That’s why I love it. Additionally you get to see Duane Jones (Night of the Living Dead) in his very best screen performance. That should be reason enough to see this, but the script is great, and the music is excellent as well. Watch with patience and you might just appreciate it as much as I do.