A Movie A Day #200: A Breed Apart (1984, directed by Philippe Mora)

Sometimes, the story behind a movie is more interesting than the movie itself.

Rutger Hauer stars in A Breed Apart, playing an eccentric environmentalist named Jim Malden.  Malden loves nature but he hates people, with the exception of a local storekeeper named Stella (Kathleen Turner) and her young son.  The local fishermen (one of whom is played by Hauer’s Blade Runner co-star, Brion James) may hate him but they are no match for Malden’s guerilla tactics.  Recently, a new breed of bald eagle has been discovered and Malden is determined to protect it.  At the top of a cliff, there is a nest full of eagle eggs and Malden will not let anyone near them.

Rich collector J.J. Whittier (Donald Pleasence) is determined to get those eggs for himself.  In order to deal with Malden, Whittier hires famous rock climber, Mike Walker (Powers Boothe).  Disguising himself as a nature photographer, Walker attempts to befriend Malden so that he can get to the eggs.  Even as Malden shows Walker why it is important to protect the environment, Walker falls in love with Stella.

With a cast like this, A Breed Apart should have been far more interesting than it was.  It provides a rare chance to see both Rutger Hauer and Powers Boothe playing heroes but neither seemed to really be into their roles.  Kathleen Turner was sexy but saddled with a terrible accent while Donald Pleasence seemed to be in a different movie.  When I watched A Breed Apart last night, I thought it seemed like a very disjointed movie.  For instance, the movie abruptly jumped from Stella and Walker first meeting to the end of their first date.  There was a random scene of Malden putting on war paint, while remembering the sound of helicopters.  War paint combined with helicopters in an 80s movie usually means that someone is having a Vietnam War flashback but Malden’s military background is never mentioned again.  Even Walker’s conversion to Malden’s cause and rejection of Whittier’s money seemed to happen offscreen.

According to Wikipedia, It turns out that there was a reason for all that.  A Breed Apart was filmed in North Carolina.  After principal filming was completed, four reels of film were sent back to Los Angeles.  However, only three reels ever arrived in California.  One reel disappeared and has never been found.  The footage that actually did make it to Los Angeles was reorganized and edited to try to disguise the fact that a huge part of the movie was missing.

It didn’t work.

(ADDENDUM 9/4/2017: Originally, both myself and a lot of other reviewers, were under the impression that one reel of film went missing and, as a result, the film had to be reedited to make up for the missing footage.  This story is presented as fact on Wikipedia, which is where I and I assume a lot of other people originally got it.  The lesson here is not to use an online encyclopedia that anyone can edit for a primary or even a credible source.  In the comments below, Director Philippe Mora has let me know that there was no lost reel and that, instead, there are several different cuts of the film kicking around, some of which are incomplete and some of which are ok.  Since Mora actually worked on the film, he is a far more credible source than an anonymous Wikipedia article.  I apologize to Mr. Mora for the mistake.)

Film Review: Boot Camp (dir by Christian Duguay)

Occasionally, if you’re lucky, you come across a film that so totally and completely conforms to your own worldview that you’re forced to wonder if maybe you wrote the script and then somehow forgot about it.

That was certainly the case, for me, when I recently watched 2008’s Boot Camp, a teen melodrama with an anti-authoritarian subtext.  Check out the trailer:

In Boot Camp, Mila Kunis plays Sophie.  Sophie is rich and, in the eyes of her parents, out of control.  She talks back.  She sneaks out of the house.  She hangs out at all the wrong clubs and with all the wrong people.  You know the story.  We’ve all seen the talk shows.  Sophie’s parents are convinced that the only way that they can get Sophie under control is to exile her to what the film calls a “tough love boot camp.”

The boot camp is located on an island, just a few miles away from a luxurious resort.  From the minute Sophie arrives, she is told that escape is impossible and she can only leave after the facility’s founder, Dr. Arthur Hall (Peter Stomare), says that she can.  Some people have been at the camp for years, waiting for Dr. Hall to announce that they’re rehabilitated.

The rest of the film follows Sophie and several other inmates as they try to survive boot camp without surrendering their free will.  It’s not easy.  Though he is more than happy to take their money, Dr. Hall resents the parents and his program is mostly designed to brainwash the inmates into thinking of him as being their new father figure.  The camp is staffed with brutes, sadists, and rapists.  When one inmate drowns, the staff tries to cover up his death.  Eventually, like the inhabitants of the Island of Dr. Moreau, Sophie and the other inmates have no choice but to rise up in rebellion against their masters.

“Tough love boot camps” are a real thing.  They used to be hugely popular with daytime talk show audiences and I know that Dr. Phil still has a ranch to which he sends “out of control” teens.  (I put “out of control” in quotes because, often times, it seems that “out of control” is code for “thinking for yourself.”)  The idea is that rebellious teenagers are sent to the camp, where they get yelled at until they agree to stop being so rebellious.  Over the years, there’s been a lot of debate over whether boot camps actually work.  If I had been sent to a boot camp, I think I would have just lied about my feelings and put on a repentant good girl act just to get the yelling to stop.  I’d be perfectly humble and contrite for three months and then, as soon as I got out of the camp, I’d go back to sneaking out of the house, skipping school, shoplifting, doing drugs, and whatever else got me sent to the camp in the first place.  From what I’ve seen of the whole boot camp experience, it seems to be more about brainwashing than anything else.  What’s the point of having well-behaved children if they can’t think for themselves?

But, then again, boot camps have never really been about  helping the teenagers sent to them.  Instead, they’ve always been about making lousy parents feel better about themselves.  Parents who have spent the last 14 years totally fucking up their children get to pat themselves on the back because they sent their kids to boot camp.  Other adults, bitter over having lost their youth, get to say, “It’s time to teach those ungrateful children to respect authority.”  As for the people who run the boot camps, it’s less about the inmates and more about power and money.

That’s certainly the message of Boot Camp.  In fact, I was taken by surprise to discover just how much Boot Camp conformed to my own thinking on … well, on just about everything.  Make no mistake, Boot Camp is a flawed film.  There’s nothing subtle about Christian Duguay’s direction and, with the exception of Mila Kunis, none of the performances are as memorable as you might hope that they would be.  Peter Stomare is way too obvious in his villainy, giving a performance that belongs in the Overacting Hall Of Fame.  (You’ll find Stomare’s Dr. Hall in the villain wing, right next to Christoph Waltz in SPECTRE.)

But, even with all that in mind, it was impossible for me not to get excited when Sophie and her fellow out-of-control teens finally made their move against their tormentors.  The final third of Boot Camp turns into a celebration of disobedience and rebellion and it was impossible for me not to be thrilled by it.  Considering the increasingly Orwellian nature of American culture, we need more movies that celebrate revolution and individual freedom.  At a time when we’re being told that we “have to do this” or “have to do that,” Boot Camp says, “Nobody has to do anything, beyond what they choose.”

It’s an important message and one that people need to start heeding.


Music Video of the Day: Sweating Bullets by Megadeth (1993, dir. Wayne Isham)

Lisa recently spotlighted a music video for a Megadeth song called Hanger 18. In that post she mentioned that she didn’t really know much about them except that the song fit World UFO Day. Because of that, I feel I need to provide what little backstory I know about them.

When I was a kid I remember seeing the album Countdown To Extinction in the store. I remember it to this day–not because I was listening to them at the time, but because of that cover.

I saw that, and figured this band was not for me. I was a child at the time. I didn’t really get into heavy metal till I went to Cal in 2007. I knew some of the big bands, and had probably heard music they had done, but that was about it. The only band I remember having an album for in the 90s was Metallica. That’s fitting when discussing Megadeth because they are an unintentional spinoff of that group.

Lead-singer Dave Mustaine was the guitarist for Metallica until he was kicked out of the band in 1983. Metallica were well known for their heavy drinking. They were even nicknamed Alcohollica for awhile. The problem was apparently that while the rest of the band were funny drunks, Mustaine was a violent drunk. That was too much of a deadly combination, so they kicked Mustaine out of the group. Kirk Hammett would end up taking his place. To say that Mustaine was heart-broken. I remember an interview he gave close to twenty years later where it did, or nearly brought him to tears.

After Metallica, Mustaine would go on to form Megadeth. A couple of successful albums later, and they hit upon the one that featured the classic, Peace Sells. That song was so popular that according to Mustaine in the book I Want My MTV, MTV even stole part of it to use it in the theme for MTV News:

MTV scammed me. They never paid for using the bass line from “Peace Sells” as the MTV News theme. I wrote that music.

Several albums later, they released Countdown To Extinction. The album did well–I’m sure this amazing video didn’t hurt.

There are different stories floating around about the source of the song. If you go to Wikipedia, then you get this alleged quote from Mustaine:

I wrote that about myself. It was pointed out to me that I’m kind of schizophrenic and that I live inside my head. Which is something I don’t subscribe to, but I enjoyed the theory nonetheless.”, and “I think all of us are sweating bullets all the time. Society’s a joke right now, and people are getting more and more hostile. When you think about having an evil twin or schizophrenia, I think a lot of us are schizo, because we live inside our heads. There’s someone we all confer with; it’s called our conscience. Some people cannot control their other side; it takes them over. Everybody has that psychotic side. Everyone has a thing that will make them snap.

The problem is that if you actually follow the source cited for the quote, then it takes you to a page that no longer exists even though it was apparently retrieved on January, 23rd 2017.

Hop over to Songfacts and you get a bit of a different story.

Dave Mustaine has said that the song is about himself, and that he wrote it after “it was pointed out to me that I’m kind of schizophrenic and that I live inside my head.”

He revealed on VH1’s That Metal Show, however, that the song was inspired by a friend of his girlfriend (and later, his wife), Pam. This friend suffered from anxiety attacks – Mustaine called her “s–thouse crazy.” She would take Pam to a party, have an anxiety spell and leave her; Mustaine would get the call and have to pick her up.

After Mustaine wrote this song, Pam thought it was about her, but Dave assured her she was “not that crazy.” Said Mustaine, “I wrote this song about her nutty friend.”

The video is a perfect storm of concept, director, and cinematographer.

The video shows us Mustaine in a nightmarish mental health cell where we are taken into his brain by literally seeing multiple versions of himself talking and interacting with each other.

There are two parts that I particularly like.

The first part is when two Mustaines are harassing another from the sides while that one is holding what looks like a human heart before they all come into sync to say the lyric, “Mankind has got to know his limitations.”

The other part is when you see one Mustaine kicking another in the face who is sitting in a corner.

The director of the video is Wayne Isham. Isham has worked with everyone from Rod Stewart to The Spin Doctors to Faith Hill. He seems to have primarily worked with heavy metal bands that include both Metallica and Megadeath. He is credited with inventing the Bon Jovi video for Mötley Crüe–Home Sweet Home–and then giving it to Bon Jovi, who built their career on that style.

The cinematographer is none other than Daniel Pearl. Pearl is the man who has shot well over 400 music videos from the early 80s to today. You could probably write a whole book that is comprised of a series of interviews with him about each video he remembers working on, and you would have a mini-history of music videos from the MTV-era.

He has only helmed a couple of projects because he has stated that he’s perfectly happy with being a cinematographer. One of the few videos that he got behind the camera for was Butterfly by Mariah Carey. He has shot seventeen of her music videos. He has also worked on several feature films, including the original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

That’s why I referred to this video as a perfect storm.

It’s one of my favorites. Enjoy!

30 Days Of Surrealism:

  1. Street Of Dreams by Rainbow (1983, dir. Storm Thorgerson)
  2. Rock ‘n’ Roll Children by Dio (1985, dir. Daniel Kleinman)
  3. The Thin Wall by Ultravox (1981, dir. Russell Mulcahy)
  4. Take Me Away by Blue Öyster Cult (1983, dir. Richard Casey)
  5. Here She Comes by Bonnie Tyler (1984, dir. ???)
  6. Do It Again by Wall Of Voodoo (1987, dir. ???)
  7. The Look Of Love by ABC (1982, dir. Brian Grant)
  8. Eyes Without A Face by Billy Idol (1984, dir. David Mallet)
  9. Somebody New by Joywave (2015, dir. Keith Schofield)
  10. Twilight Zone by Golden Earring (1982, dir. Dick Maas)
  11. Schism by Tool (2001, dir. Adam Jones)
  12. Freaks by Live (1997, dir. Paul Cunningham)
  13. Loverboy by Billy Ocean (1984, dir. Maurice Phillips)
  14. Talking In Your Sleep by The Romantics (1983, dir. ???)
  15. Talking In Your Sleep by Bucks Fizz (1984, dir. Dieter Trattmann)
  16. Sour Girl by Stone Temple Pilots (2000, dir. David Slade)
  17. The Ink In The Well by David Sylvian (1984, dir. Anton Corbijn)
  18. Red Guitar by David Sylvian (1984, dir. Anton Corbijn)
  19. Don’t Come Around Here No More by Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers (1985, dir. Jeff Stein)