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Home Video Hovel: The Paul Naschy Collection, by Dayne Linford

9 Aug

One of the best things about cinema over this last century, characterized by this art form perhaps above all others, is the way it has left thousands of little pockets, obscure cinematic worlds unto themselves, just waiting for you to discover them. In that vein, I recently dove into The Paul Naschy Collection, a set of five films featuring the talents of Naschy, a widely beloved, Spanish B-movie star, producer, writer, and director I’d never heard of before. Though often far from perfect, I personally found viewing these disparate films to be rather delightful, a fun dip into an aspect of cinema history that’s almost never touched upon.

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Home Video Hovel: Fox and His Friends, by David Bax

2 Aug

Generally, I try not to include much of anything in the way of biographical details about the filmmaker when writing about a film; as a matter of personal philosophy, I try to limit my focus to the content of the movie itself. But, in viewing Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Fox and His Friends, it’s difficult not to reflect on the man’s volatile status as a gay man who angered conservatives who found him vulgar as well as many in the gay community who saw him as reinforcing negative stereotypes. By way of response, in his life, just as in his performance as Fox, he fascinated by mixing yearning soulfulness with not giving a shit.

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Home Video Hovel: The Man Who Skied Down Everest, by David Bax

28 Jul

Visual documentation of Mount Everest is not hard to come by, especially in the 21 years that have passed since the 1996 disaster that was chronicled in IMAX’s Everest (as well as Jon Krakauer’s landmark book Into Thin Air). But Bruce Nyznik and Lawrence Schiller’s The Man Who Skied Down Everest, filmed in 1970 and released in 1975, represents a sort of time capsule. Only seventeen years after Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay summited the mountain for the first time, the industry of Everest-climbing is still in its infancy here. Hillary himself appears in the film, providing a link between eras. But Nyznik and Schiller have something other than an adventuring chronicle in mind. The Man Who Skied Down Everest is lovely, contemplative and, at times, surreal.

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Home Video Hovel: Game of Death, by Chase Beck

24 Jul

Shout! Factory has released Game of Death under its Shout! Select branding. It is the last film that Bruce Lee worked on before his untimely death. Game of Death was to be Lee’s directorial debut. However, his passing left the film unfinished. Producer Raymond Chow looked at what had been shot, and, with director Robert Clouse, decided to edit Lee’s original footage, constructing a new film and story line with heavy use of look-alikes.

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Home Video Hovel: Car Wash, by Craig Schroeder

11 Jul

1976’s Car Wash is a cinematic outlier, noteworthy for spawning a ubiquitous disco hit and hosting early film appearances from legendary comedians Richard Pryor and George Carlin (as well as a bevy of performances from notable character actors like Franklin Ajaye, Bill Duke, and Antonio Fargas). Car Wash isn’t a crowning achievement, but it deserves to be remembered as more than a 1970s oddball spectacular.

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Home Video Hovel: 8 Million Ways to Die, by Alexander Miller

10 Jul

Since home video has undergone the Blu-ray evolution, it has unearthed a handful of neo-noirs and cop movies from the 1980’s; some overlooked, some divisive and others that have aged out of the public perception for one reason or another.

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Home Video Hovel: Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie, by Mat Bradley-Tschirgi

10 Jul

Before Cheech & Chong’s first movie Up in Smoke came out, they had several hit studio albums and had been touring for over a decade. Up in Smoke was a huge hit, so it was not a surprise when a sequel followed with 1980’s Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie. Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie proved to be another hit, domestically out-grossing both Caddyshack and the original Friday the 13th. This Shout Select Blu-ray release has just enough amusing extras for fans to enjoy.

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Home Video Hovel: Dreamscape, by David Bax

16 Jun

1984’s Dreamscape, directed by Joseph Ruben, deserves to be better known. Not because it’s great (it drags with the introduction of a lame political intrigue plot in the second half) but simply because it’s a weird, fun movie that happens to have a jaw-dropping cast. Dennis Quaid and Kate Capshaw are the leads but they’re joined by Max von Sydow, Christopher Plummer, Eddie Albert and the great David Patrick Kelly, along with minor turns by Peter Jason, Chris Mulkey and George freaking Wendt, who shows up for a clandestine meeting in the park at night wearing a bright, red St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap. How could you pass this one up?

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Home Video Hovel: Black Christmas, by David Bax

15 Jun

It’s pretty much impossible to pinpoint any singular origin of the slasher movie as a genre or subgenre. Its anatomy has been assembled from very nearly the beginning of cinema. It seems, though, that the formula as we now define it (or as Randy defined it more than twenty years ago in Scream) was crystallized by John Carpenter’s Halloween in 1978. So there’s a delightful cognitive friction to watching Bob Clark’s Black Christmas now; so much of it seems to fit slasher expectations yet, without the firm blueprint, surprises still abound.

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Home Video Hovel: Voodoo Black Exorcist, by Alexander Miller

8 Jun

With a title like Voodoo Black Exorcist, you might get the impression that this 1974 film would be a knock-off of Friedkin’s movie that came out a year prior. In a surprising turn, this is an oddball horror hybrid pursuing more mythical hallmarks than riding on the coattails of The Exorcist.

I have a genuine, unironic love for Blaxploitation cinema, and the horror films that followed are more credible than their reputations would indicate (though Blackenstein and the Blacula series are more reliable than their reputations would indicate). Voodoo Black Exorcist is a misleading title as the film is more of a vampiric mummy variation and a blaxploitation film by name only; so in the spirit of exploitation cinema, this title is either a cut above or cut below in that it exploits the genre of its namesake.

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