Documentary Sidebar : “Soaked In Bleach”


Trash Film Guru

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If you’re of a certain age (that is, mine — or thereabouts), there’s a pretty good chance that the suicide of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain was something more than just the most significant celebrity death of your lifetime — for many, it was the nearest thing we had to a, for lack of a better term,  “JFK moment.” It’s not terribly uncommon, for instance,  for members of the so-called “Generation X” to be able to remember exactly where they were when they heard the news that fateful day in 1994.  For my own part, I was on the bus, headed to work (at my second job at the time) when some kid randomly just decided to tell everybody about it, and as I walked home at the end of my shift around 10:00 or so that evening, I came across a small, impromptu candlelight vigil for Cobain in the middle…

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Cleaning Out the DVR Pt 4: B-Movie Roundup!


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It’s time once again to make room on the ol’ DVR! Here’s five films that have their moments, but don’t quite make the “full review” cut.

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KING OF THE UNDERWORLD

(Warner Bros 1939, D: Lewis Seiler)

Mediocre entry in Warner’s gangster cycle. Humphrey Bogart had the tough guy hoodlum thing down to a science by this time; here, he plays it mainly for laughs as vain gang boss Joe Gerney. Bogie was definitely on his way up, but co-star Kay Francis (she of the Baba Wawa speech impediment) was on her way down, playing a doctor whose hubby was involved with the gang, now out to prove her own innocence. Plenty of colorful 30’s slang, but not worth wasting your time on. Fun fact: Listen for the scene where Kay calls Bogie “mowonic”!

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GO WEST YOUNG LADY

(Columbia 1941, D: Frank L. Strayer)

Cornball comedy Western starring Penny Singleton (on break…

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Late Night Cable Movie Review: Carnal Wishes (2015, dir. Jon Taylor)


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This is one of the movies in the Cinemax app so I didn’t expect much. However, it’s rather ambitious for one of these. It’s like a version of Double Indemnity (1944). Well, maybe a little more like the remake of Double Indemnity called Body Heat (1981). It has the spider woman, the detective, the husband who has to die, and what was sorely missing from Double Indemnity and Body Heat: lesbians. Let’s talk about this movie.

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The movie opens up with Rachel (Jayden Cole) shooting a man who we find out was her husband (Ryan Driller). He dies and falls into a pool. Since he isn’t William Holden, the movie plays the opening credits, then takes us back a week instead of him narrating the story. Of course by taking us back a week, I mean to a sex scene between Rachel and her husband. This is where I’d like to note that the sex actually has a purpose and is integrated into the story. Heck, this movie does something I never expected to see. Several times two people enter a room and don’t proceed to have sex with each other. That’s a rarity in the ones I’ve watched. In this one, for whatever reason, they basically tried to make a low budget film noir that happens to have sex prominently featured in it.

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After they finish, he pops up, checks his phone, finds he has a meeting to attend at night, and basically just leaves. The next morning Rachel moans and groans about her husband to a female friend of hers named Daphne (India Summer). Kudos to this film for that not leading to a sex scene. It wouldn’t make sense here, so they don’t. That really was surprising coming off a movie like Scared Topless where three girls entering a house together means they all go to do a shower scene.

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Now we meet the detective (Sean Juergens) and his friend with benefits who wants to get into the PI business. Of course we meet them when they are having sex. But like all of the sex scenes in the movie, it has a purpose. It establishes that the detective is an easily manipulated person. He kind of reminds me of actor John Heard in this movie. As for those two statues behind him, I’m assuming those are in case of premature ejaculation since The Joy Of Sex album no longer comes equipped with Big Jim Slade.

Now Daphne introduces Rachel to the detective since Rachel thinks her husband might be cheating on her. I mean he keeps leaving in the middle of the night for business meetings and is a little on the cold side when he’s with her.

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Then comes a sex scene that I would say they messed up. Not in terms of it having a reason to exist. In this movie, when a girl is with a girl, it’s not because like most of these that just expect you to believe that all men are straight and all girls are bisexual. Here, when we see Daphne with a girl, it’s to establish she’s into girls and foreshadows the ending of the movie, which I will reveal since it’s very easy to figure out given this movie is a film noir. The reason I say it’s messed up is because it’s the only one that really feels like it’s just an act. It’s like buying that the Seyranyan sisters actually enjoy hanging out contorted into a small cube together rather than something they are doing for your enjoyment as a performance.

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The detective returns to tell Rachel about his findings. He found out that as weird as it seems, the husband actually is going out to business meetings at these really odd hours. They have sex here after she tells him a sob story about her unhappy relationship with her husband. Now you’d think that screenshot is from before the sex scene when he tells her the news she didn’t want to hear, but it’s not. They cut to that after the sex. You’d think he just told her that he found her father raped and murdered on the side of the road, but they actually just had sex.

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Then I went hiking. It’s really pretty out there when you’re not racing to get back to your car in a thunderstorm. But seeing as I’ve only once come across two people making out on the trail, let’s get back to the movie.

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After the detective briefly texts with the girl from earlier, Rachel returns to lay it on this movie’s Fred MacMurray a little more. This time that her husband might be abusing her. They have sex again. Then we get a scene that honestly while it does serve another purpose, it’s almost there just to say this isn’t one of those movies folks because two girls enter a room and don’t go at it. The way it’s setup, they would in any other one of these, but they don’t here. Now the movie starts to speed to it’s conclusion as we immediately cut to her shooting her husband as we saw at the beginning of the film. After reporting the possible abuse to an actual cop with Rachel by his side, we get like a quick version of the end of Blowup (1966) or Blow Out (1981). By that, I mean that it all seems in place for him, but then it all slips through his fingers leaving him with nothing.

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That’s right! Rachel’s friend is more than a friend. Same ending as you would expect, but it’s another girl she runs off with, rather than another guy. That’s it! I think Erotic Ink is still the best of these I’ve watched so far. But if you’re looking at the one’s available through Cinemax, then this is probably the best I’ve come across so far. It’s not perfect by any means, but they seemed to put an effort into this one. An actual movie that happens to have sex in it instead of a bunch of sex scenes hung on a clothesline.

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Film Review: Smithereens (1982, directed by Susan Seidelman)


SmithereensShot guerilla-style during the waning days of New York City’s original punk scene, Smithereens tells the story of Wren (Susan Berman).  Wren is a Jersey girl who, after being cut off by her family, comes to New York City.  She moves into a run-down apartment, get a job making photocopies at a xerox store, and tries to break into the New York punk scene, despite having no talent or connections.  The only thing that Wren does have is a lot of determination. When we first meet Wren, she is stealing another woman’s sunglasses and posting flyers of herself around New York City.  Written under Wren’s picture: “Do you know me?”

Throughout the film, Wren bounces back and forth between two men.  Paul (Brad Rinn) is a naive artist who has just arrived from Montana.  He lives in a psychedelic-painted van that he parks in an abandoned lot.  Paul first spots Wren while she is covering a subway car with her pictures and he is immediately infatuated with her.  Wren hangs out with Paul until she meets Eric (played by punk icon Richard Hell), a sleazy musician who has recorded one semi-successful album and who is trying to come up with enough money to leave New York for Los Angeles.  After Wren gets kicked out of her apartment, she moves in with Paul while continuing to sleep with Eric until she is finally forced to choose between the two men.

Susan Berman and Richard Hell

Susan Berman and Richard Hell

When Susan Berman was cast in the role of Wren, director Susan Seidelman told her to research her role by watching Nights of Cabiria and Smithereens does feel like a New York punk version of the Fellini classic.  Like Cabiria, Wren remains hopeful despite the ugliness around her.  Unlike Cabiria, Wren is not a very likable character.  She uses everyone that she meets and is then shocked when people hold it against her.  Despite that, she is so determined that it is hard not to root for her.  What is interesting is that Wren is not a malicious character.  She feels that she is destined to be famous and lacks the self-awareness to understand why other people are not as into her as she is.  If Smithereens were made today, Wren would be trying to get on American Idol or The Voice.  Sadly, Wren was just born too early to win a spot in the Jersey Shore house.

Susan Seidelman filmed on the streets of city and much of Smithereens is a documentary of life in New York City before the Giuliani/Bloomberg administrations cleaned everything up and turned Times Square into an urban Disney World.  Along with being one of the first independent American films to ever compete at the Cannes Film Festival, Smithereens was also the scriptwriting debut for future Oscar-nominated screenwriter Ron Nyswaner.  Keep an eye out for actor Chris Noth, making his film debut as a cross-dressing prostitute.

Susan Berman in Smithereens

Susan Berman in Smithereens