Thursday, 25 August 2011

MIXED BAG: The Baby, Pia Zadora





 
The first reviewed film is the 1972 cult classic THE BABY, starring STRANGERS ON A TRAIN Ruth Roman. It is well-made and totally fascinating as it deals with the premise of a grown-up male forced to be a toddler by his family, all females.  It also stars NIGHT OF A 1000 CATS Anjanette Comer as the social worker who wants to help him—or so we think.  Some scenes are on the wacky side, but some are truly eye-catching. The climactic sequence is worth the viewing experience alone. For more on my review click here.



Last but not least, here is the link that takes you to a recently made one-on-one interview Pia Zadora  gave to Backstageaxxess.com (just scroll down a little once you get to the page) during her one night only singing gig in Niagara Falls. She talks about her comeback performing the standards, her thoughts about sharing the screen with Orson Welles and Leslie Nielson in BUTTERFLY and NAKED GUN 33⅓, respectively. She also talks about her kids, Jermaine Jackson and, last but not least, Frank Sinatra with whom she toured as the opening act. No words on THE LONELY LADY though. But you can feel the interviewer David "Gus" Griesinger wanting to go there. Thanks for trying, Gus.





Until next post—Martin



Monday, 15 August 2011

MIXED BAG: 1980 Nightmares, Hanna D. The Girl From Vondel Park



 

Here's an 1980 slasher flick from down under called NIGHTMARES, aka STAGE FRIGHT.  It is watchable mostly for the attractive leading lady and the giallo handle the director uses to tell the story of a post-traumatic victim of a double murder who may or may not be the killer herself.  It is done stylishly but the script falls flat, alas. But HELL NIGHT alum Jenny Neumann, who plays the central character, makes the film more enjoyable as her performance verges often on the unintentionally funny.   So If you dig this sort of entertainment, then by no means check the film out.  In the meantime, click this link for the full review. 




 


The last entry is 1984 HANNA D. THE GIRL FROM VONDEL PARK.  Directed by sleaze master Rino Di Silvestro, this Italy and France GO ASK ALICE is cheesy at its best.  Everything's cliched but the film is never boring.  If you guys have seen 1981 CHRISTINANE F. - WIR KINDER VOM BAHNHOF ZOO, you got a pretty idea what to expect. Those who have not seen this German flick, well, I got three words for you:  drugs, sex, prostitution.  Oh, imagine what Pia Zadora could have done with this part...  Anyway,  here again is the link for the full review.

 
 
 






 
Until next post—Martin




Tuesday, 9 August 2011

'THE GIRLS OF THE WHITE ORCHID' OR 'DEATH RIDE TO OSAKA'?



"Based on a true story” THE GIRLS OF THE WHITE ORCHID first premiered as a TV movie during the fall of 1983 on NBC. I was already aware of Jennifer Jason Leigh, having seen her as an anorexia victim in THE BEST LITTLE GIRL IN THE WORLD two years prior, not to mention having witnessed her losing her onscreen virginity in the 1982 super hit FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH, that also featured LACE Phoebe Cates in that infamous shedding of a bikini scene. Needless to say, I was intrigued by this tale of an aspiring singer who goes to Japan thinking that she could be the next big thing but ends up being a singing prostitute and prisoner instead. THE GIRLS OF THE WHITE ORCHID had all the right ingredients for sleazy viewing: sex, hookers, debauchery… Little did I know that I would like it so much as to wind up talking about it almost three decades later on a blog such as this one.

Directed by THE ACCUSED Jonathan Kaplan, THE GIRLS OF THE WHITE ORCHID takes its time to get to the action, and that’s okay since the quiet scenes are wisely intermingled with the raunchy ones from Japan. Jennifer Jason Leigh plays good girl Carol who, in between her waitressing job, goes to auditions in the hopes of being discovered. She’s a singer/ songwriter, you see, and though she has little talent in both areas, the film wants you to believe that she does. Numerous times we hear praises like “You’re such a good singer”, “She’s great, isn’t she?” as we beg to differ. Sort of like Bette Midler’s over-praised beauty in the tearjerker STELLA. Anyway, to make a long story shorter, Carol hits the jackpot when answering an ad for wanted performers in Japan. We all know she’s getting screwed just by the way the promoter behind the ad looks and acts—sort of like a dollar store pimp who thinks he’s more than that—but especially when she agrees to sign the contract written in Japanese (!) without batting an eye.


So out goes little Jennifer to East Asia where she meets Ann Jillian who’s the main attraction at the club where our heroine will “perform”. For those clueless of who Miss Jillian is, Ann was sort of a mini sex symbol in the ‘80s, having made a name for herself in TV hits such as IT’S A LIVING and later on in the ANN JILLIAN STORY in which she chronicles her true battle with cancer. In THE GIRLS OF THE WHITE ORCHID, however, she battles a series of sex-starved oriental males and a madam from hell (the great Carolyn Seymour shown above) while stripping and befriending little Jennifer.


In films such as this one, there is always a secondary character who comes to be known as the sacrificial lamb. You know, the one to whom everything will not come up rosy; whether it’s the recently departed Jeff Conaway in THE MAKING OF A MALE MODEL as an over-the-hill model; or Mark Singer in FOR LADIES ONLY as an over-the-hill male stripper; or more recently Sandra Bullock’s auto-destructive rehab roommate Azura Skye in 28 DAYS. In THE GIRLS OF THE WHITE ORCHID Jillian is it, the main sufferer to little Jennifer’s plight. But thanks to her unfavorable outcome and the help of an on and off American boyfriend of little Jennifer who flies all the way to Japan to rescue her (that’s how much he loves her, people), our heroine will have an happily ever after ending after all, one that does not even involve singing.


THE GIRLS OF THE WHITE ORCHID became DEATH RIDE TO OSAKA for the VHS and, later on, DVD editions, with added scenes featuring nudity and topless dancing. Those yearning to see Jennifer or Ann in the nude, however, will be slightly disappointed as Ann only ends up making one PG rated striptease in the film first half. But viewers with plenty of exploitative flair will certainly have an eye full, as long as they can bare Jennifer’s off-key singing throughout. But rest assured, her vocals are much better here than they were in the gripping but deaf-toned 1995 GEORGIA. So that’s another big plus.





 

Until next post—Martin



 
 
 

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

HERBERT KASTLE AND 'THE MOVIE MAKER'



 

VALLEY OF THE DOLLS did breed a ton of carbon copy bestsellers during its hectic heyday, like this surprisingly effective Hollywood novel about the pre-production stage of an epic movie (think GONE WITH THE WIND but way bolder) and the sexually-starved people gravitating over it. THE MOVIE MAKER is very raw in terms of character development and action sequences, a pop-culture must-have for the 1960s fiction. In fact, Herbert Kastle is an old pro at the wheel, having already penned a couple of well-received potboilers during the late ‘50s. Suffice to say, his attempt at writing à la Susann comes easy enough for him, or so it seems.


THE MOVIE MAKER centers around an unhappy bunch lusting for the good life. We have the down on his luck central character, a writer, who yearns to prove his worth via a commercial script while his long distance relationship with wife and kid is hanging by a thread. We have a pair of swinging sisters torn by success and jealousy. One is a sought-after starlet while the other struggles in her shadow. We also have a bunch of secondary characters who, as the main ones proclaim, wish to follow the yellow brick road, but with little success.

 
Of course, what they really need is one good therapist to bring them out of their funk (and they should go at a group rate), but that’s what’s so cool about this novel. The way the author refuses to rose-tint his characters in spite of their gloomy ways. Because we, the readers, all want to jump off a bridge when done with this book. Believe me. That’s how depressing it sometimes gets. But, the fact remains that THE MOVIE MAKER is one heck of a fascinating read. Especially for the way Herbert approaches things through his strong and catchy narrative. Indeed, not only does his tale of lost souls brings forth a string of well-executed characters in a sexually-charged setting, but it also manages to pull the heart strings every now and then; something rare in this so-called superficial genre.

 
And what’s even more engaging about THE MOVIE MAKER is that, despite its cliché-ridden front, the author pulls off quite a unique story. Which to my way of thinking is quite a celebrated affair, since it involves ability and a unique sense of style on his part. It took me years to finally settle down with this book, believing it to be just another pale copy of DOLLS. So imagine my surprise finding out it that it is actually more than that. Sure, this unexpected trait may be one of the reasons why I praise the novel so much, but, trust me on this, THE MOVIE MAKER is definitely the real deal. If you have yet to try a trashy novel, do it the right way and grab this one up first. You’ll thank me later.







Until next post—Martin
 

US hardcover edition
 
 
 
 

Monday, 1 August 2011

MIXED BAG: Alien From The Deep, Dead Snow, 13Teen, Pia Zadora


 

This week I give you 1989 ALIEN FROM THE DEEP, a schlock entry into the ALIEN clone. It’s all about this monstrous form wrecking havoc on a island compound somewhere. Directed by master of sleaze Antonio Margheriti, the film focuses on three unlikely partners (two men and a woman) who try to infiltrate the bad guys’ turf with deadly result, of course. The film is nothing to shout about but enjoyable if you dig low-budgeters that include wet-t-shirt boobies, substandard FX, and a plot worthy of the recycle bin. Click here for the full review.



The second film is Norwegian 2009 DEAD SNOW. Now, this one is worth the price of admission. If you like zombies, especially those of the WW2 kind, then get ready for some kick ass action sequences and in your face gore. The film takes no time involving us into the plot, and though it does tend to verge on the teen angst shtick every now and again, the end result is still very appealing. No wonder it ended up being the crowd pleaser two years ago at Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal. Go check it out if you haven’t already. The full review is right here.


The third film is an indie called 13TEEN. It’s a psychological horror film à la… Well, I’m trying to compare it to something else but can’t at the moment. Though the people behind the film proudly proclaims it to be “SEVEN meets PARANORMAL ACTIVITY”. To that I say, no way hosey, but I got to admit that the film is no lost cause. Okay, it isn’t the best horror flick out there but if you like whodunits with supernatural undertones, than you are in for a good time. Again, here is the link for the full review.
 


Last but not least, if you’re in the Niagara Falls area on the weekend of August 6th 2011, why not attend a Pia Zadora concert at the Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel. To my knowledge there are still some tickets left. She will be singing her little heart out (perhaps in the vein of something like this?) while being accompanied by conductor Vinnie Falcone and his orchestra. I would have loved to go but am working that weekend. But I promise myself that if she ever performs in Toronto, I will be first in line. So c’mon Pia, head there soon, will ya?!




 
Until next post—Martin