Friday, August 5, 2011

DEATH WISH 3 (1985): Charlie Don't Need No Rockin' Chair

Hello, all. The past 9 months have been really hard for me. I won't relay the full details here--who wants to read about others' problems, right? Suffice it to say I'm having a very hard time dealing. It's been hard to write anything. It's been hard to do anything. Just being has been a pretty difficult and unpleasant thing. Creating content for this blog, in particular, has seemed impossible (for reasons I'll spare you). Earlier tonight, I jotted down what became this new article. It's pretty short and I don't know if it's the beginning of a return to form or just a fluke. It has a light-hearted air about it I'm not really feeling but apparently I was able to tap into the memory of when I could feel it. Anyway, it's new; here goes:

With the third entry in the DEATH WISH series, Paul Kersey, Charles Bronson's introspective vigilante from the 1974 original, is finally boiled down to what the Reagan era mistook for his essence, shedding those niggling bits of humanity that made him interesting in the original and going straight one-man-army on yo' ass and, more importantly, on the asses of a gang of no-good punks in what seems to be a ruined city at the end of time. This is the flick that finally answers the question, "What would it be like if Paul Kersey was plunked down in an Italian post-apocalyptic action flick?" Most of the no-doubt legions who contemplated this intriguing question in the early '80s could scarcely have imagined they'd one day see it so prominently answered.

Bronson's Kersey responds to a friend's call for help, returning to a version of New York that looks suspiciously like a version of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK as rendered by an Enzo Castellari or a Sergio Martino. In a burned-out, collapsing ruin of a once-a-neighborhood, the five or six Law-Abiding Citizens, who seem to be the only somewhat normal people who remain, are perpetually menaced by an entire army of '80s gang-bangers, who wear their era on their lack-of-sleeves from their denim vests (the standard-issue '80s Movie Gangbanger fashion) and in their strict multi-ethnicity (in the cinema of the '80s, racial divisions don't extend to subhuman villainy--all bad men are brothers). The simpering victims suffer heaping helpings of rape, murder, arson, and rape and bewail their fate with appropriate drama and melodrama until Charlie shows up intent on cleaning up the town.

Charlie is the God of Bad-Ass-ery among mere mortals in this one. A relentlessly grim man on a mission, our elderly hero don't need no rockin' chair or no Medicare--at a spry 64, he's able to run down and out-fight healthy 19-year-olds who are a lot bigger than he is. He can beat them down, gun them down (with guns that are also bigger than he is) and blow them up all day long then go home at night, hop in the sack and put a big smile on the face of a Token Love Interest young enough to be his granddaughter. By the end, he's racked up a body-count that makes Rambo look like Beetle Bailey and, as the cherry on top of this slaughter souffle, liquidates his nemesis, the reverse-mohawked leader of the villainous gang, with a rocket fired from a few feet away, reducing the sadistic thug to atoms without even mussing his own hair.

The original DEATH WISH earns its status as a gritty classic, in part because it was genuinely Thought Provoking. The team behind DEATH WISH 3 apparently identified this as a problem with that earlier film. And, with DEATH WISH 3, they certainly remedied it. The film does manage an impressive feat of its own though. Aggressively awful and without a single other redeeming characteristic, it still manages to be utterly, relentlessly, even mercilessly entertaining. Sometimes, that's all a movie needs.[1] A poster on one of the IMDb boards this morning reviewed it and rated it 9 out of 10. I don't deal in number ratings, of course, but if I did, I suspect I would probably put it somewhere closer to 12 out of 10.



[1] An alternate interpretation: DEATH WISH 3 is perhaps the only unintentional surrealist masterpiece in the history of cinema. Can there be any doubt that if Buñuel had made an '80s action picture, it would look an awful lot like this? Except maybe Martin Balsam would have been in a dress at some point.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Things Zombies Love

Here's a little something that's just about as far removed as possible from the dismal mood in which I find myself, a little blast-from-the-past I threw this together ages ago when I first went on Facebook. All sorts of dumb lists were circulating. One that caught my attention was "Things Zombies Love." I like a good zombie movie and I've long ranked the two best as two of the best films ever to emerge from the horror genre, so I took a few minutes and prepared my own horror-nerd-heavy list. I'm not feeling the laughs now but maybe one of my other two readers will see it and smile:

"Things Zombies Love"

1. My imagination (They've consumed it, of late) [Editorial note: I was writing a series of stories featuring the living dead at the time.]

2. George Romero (He makes them SUPERSTARS!)

3. Paraplegics (They put up the least struggle)

4. Sarah Palin (Politician who, though alive, still "thinks" at their level)

5. Tyler Perry movies (Who else is going to enjoy them?)

6. Long walks

7. NEKROMANTIK (From a zombie's POV, a tender romantic comedy)

8. Paramedics

9. Cops

10. Hardcore fans of the 1990 NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD remake (The dead sense their intellectual kinship)

11. Dracula (Their James Bond fantasy, shows that even the living dead can be suave and sophisticated and get the ladies)

12 The Cryptkeeper (Proves that even a zombie can become a mainstream star)

13. Jesus (Also rose from the dead.

14. "Slow Children At Play" signs (Handy lunch tips)

15. Soylent Green (It's made of people!)

16. Jennifer Connolly (Yes, it's true they want to eat anyone who is alive, but can anyone doubt they'd probably like to eat her just a little bit more than all the others?).

17. Marvel Zombies (Their heroes)

18. CPAC (A place they can go and inconspicuously mingle with the living)

19. Zombie movies (Being extras in such films usually being the only paid work they can get)

20. Shuffleboard


Monday, February 14, 2011

David F. Friedman Has Died

Born in Birmingham, Alabama, David Friedman went into America's cinema underground as a younger man and, by the time he was an older one, had become a legend in the exploitation film trade--as he put it with his typical carny-talker's flair, the Mighty Monarch of Exploitation, both as practitioner and as an historian of the trade. Along with Herschell Gordon Lewis, he invented the gore film. He was the producer of the first Nazisploitation film (LOVE CAMP 7), and later helped give birth to the most infamous denizen of that milieu, ILSA: SHE-WOLF OF THE SS (though that's one of the only cinematic feats in which he didn't take much pride). He was full of tales of the previous generations of exploitation filmmaker, many of whom he knew and with whom he worked. Working primarily as a producer but also as a writer, actor, even sound guy, he turned in over 50 movies in his long career, specializing in sex films, where his formula was at least one straight scene, one spanking scene, one lesbian scene. "Something for everyone," as he put it.

Asked, about 25 years ago, what inspired him to make his first movie with Lewis, Friedman said "I owned a drive-in theater in Joliet, Illinois that was playing a lot of junk on the weekend. One day, I said 'Christ, I can make a better picture than that!'" The two made a string of pictures, but really struck gold with drive-in-classics-to-be BLOOD FEAST and 2000 MANIACS.

Friedman was a good, jovial fellow, with a great, bawdy sense of humor (usually present in his films--sometimes omnipresent), and he was absolutely brimming with fantastic lore from his days in the biz, when he'd palled around with many of the founding fathers of exploitation. I'd grown quite fond of his work, courtesy of Image's "Something Weird" discs (his many, many commentaries on those releases were sometimes better than the movies themselves).

He died this morning in Anniston, Alabama, at the age of 87.

The king of sexploitation dropping dead on Valentine's Day seems as if it should inspire a much grander soliloquy than I've managed here. Unfortunately, my life has me pretty down just now, and, my troubles of the romantic variety being compounded by the fact that this, of all days, is my birthday, I don't have a better one to offer than this: I'll miss him.