Rabid (1977) – (dir. by David Cronenberg)


Great films are loved by all, read Gary’s take on Rabid before starting this one.

What a strange film. I don’t have a whole lot to say about it, save that I enjoyed what I saw.Rabid-1977-movie-Chambers-cronenberg-3

I accidentally stumbled on to Rabid. I woke up with the tv on late at night to some guy trying to console a nearly nude and upset patient in her bed.

“Wait a minute….” I say, rubbing my eyes and trying to wake up fully. “Okay, this isn’t Lifeforce. What is this?” My hands start looking for the remote, but by the time I’m able to grab it, the guy howls in pain. Blood starts running down his side while in the patients arms.

“What the what? Hell am I watching?” My hands search for the remote.

I bring up the info on the film and sigh with a smile…”Oh. Cronenberg. I should have known.”

I jumped to the In Demand station and watched it from start to finish. I was always under the impression that Scanners was David Cronenberg’s first film, so Rabid was a nice surprise. I also learned that Ivan Reitman was a producer both for this and some of Cronenberg’s earlier works, much like Mel Brooks was for The Fly. My mind is blown. What is with comedy makers turned Horror Producers?

When Rose (Marilyn Chambers) suffers major injuries in a motorcycle accident, a local medical center takes her in and performs some strange new surgery on her. She’s kept for some time, while her boyfriend Hart (Frank Moore) is sent home. It’s during her stay that the madness starts. As she recovers, Rose finds she has a craving for blood, Leave it to Cronenberg to find the strangest way to do it. Rabid is the kind of film that teaches horror fans. Watching it, I was able to see how it was the source for films like James Gunn’s Slither, Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce, George Romero’s The Crazies and Hal Barwood’s Warning Sign. Anyone watching Rabid would get an idea of where Slither could have gotten the stinger from, which is interesting to see.

Those bitten by Rose begin to suffer from an advanced case of rabies, and this spreads like wildfire. It happens to be one of the best elements of the film. The terror in Rabid comes from both Rose as a carrier, who is compelled to find someone to drink from/infect and her victims, who are left foaming and violent.  Bart spends the bulk of the film trying to track down Rose and piece together what’s occurring while facing some guilt. Not a terrible thing, given the entire situation and the fact that it was his motorcycle they crashed.  As the story progresses, the danger escalates for everyone involved. By the second half of the film, the city is almost under Martial Law as they try to contain the virus. As a result, the pacing for Rabid is even for a film from the 70s. It doesn’t feel like it drags on at all.

From an acting standpoint, everyone’s parts were okay. Chambers’ Rose is a mixture of innocence, quiet sexuality and a little ruthlessness. I particularly liked Joe Silver (Shivers, another early Cronenberg film) as the investor who watches the hospital kind of unravel. Frank Moore (who reminds me a lot of Christopher Walken) has this tortured soul quality to him that I enjoyed.

The effects and makeup work were great. There’s quite a bit of blood and foamy mouths, of course it’s what anyone would expect from Cronenberg. The blood doesn’t look entirely real, but considering that this was about 40 years ago, it seems to hold up okay.

Overall, Rabid is a great late night movie worth catching if you can. At the time of this writing, the film is available on Amazon Prime.

 

 

Whit Taylor Answers The “What Does She See In Him, Anyway?” Question In “Fizzle” #3


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Now on its third issue — the first released under the auspices of its new publisher, Radiator Comics — Whit Taylor’s Fizzle is really finding its footing as one of the outstanding naturalist comic book narratives of our time. Stories focused on physically and emotionally unmoored “20-somethings” are hardly anything new, of course, but ones that use homemade popsicles (or, if you prefer, “paletas”) as a framing device are — and ones that transcend their own (admittedly clever) storytelling crutches and gimmicks as the series goes along are a true rarity indeed.

All of which is my convoluted way of saying that Taylor’s skills as a cartoonist are developing right before our eyes as we go along here, and it’s a pretty remarkable thing to behold. We’ve all had friends who are with significant others that leave us scratching our heads and wondering “what the hell is she doing with…

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Ford v Ferrari (dir. by James Mangold)


fordvferrari posterIt’s rare for me to say that I enjoyed a film so much that I didn’t want it to end, but James Mangold’s Ford v. Ferrari hits all the right notes. A fantastic cast, impressive visuals on the races, scenes that flow without any time wasted and sound that begs to be heard on a surround system. It’s no surprise that the film earned Four Oscar Nominations – Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Film Editing and Best Picture, all of which are well deserved. If the lineup this year wasn’t so stacked, I’d say that Ford v Ferrari would score quite a bit. It can go any way, but It may end up like The Shawshank Redemption – A great film that could be eclipsed by giants.

Based on a true story, Ford v. Ferrari focuses on the Ford Motor Company in the mid 60’s, down on its luck and looking for a way to stay ahead of the game. Henry Ford II, played by a scene stealing Tracy Letts (August: Osage County), asks his workers to come up with an idea. A young Lee Iacoccoa  (Jon Bernthal, The Punisher) feels the best way to do so is to attempt to win the famed 24 hour race at Le Mans in France. The LeMans is dominated by Ferrari, who hand manufactures their machines to be legends in the racing circuit. If Ford could win, it would put them in a better light to consumers, but winning requires more than just a fast car.

Ford enlists the help of Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon, The Martian), along with his brash and skillful driver, Ken Miles (Christian Bale, 3:10 to Yuma), Ken has a few issues getting along with others, but his knowledge of cars is brilliant. Shelby continuously goes to bat for Miles, who isn’t exactly poster boy material in the eyes of Ford.  Together, they work on building a competitive vehicle. The poster may suggest the story is about the cars, but at its heart, I felt that Ford v. Ferrari was more about the friendship between Shelby and Miles than anything else. Their mutual love of cars and racing is what ties it all together.

When it comes to the technical points of racing, Ford v Ferrari’s script doesn’t ask you to know much about cars going in. Just about everything you need to about the LeMans and the abilities of the cars is explained through the characters over time. Car gurus may find areas where liberties are taken, but casual watchers should find themselves entertained.

Kudos goes out to the casting for Ford v. Ferrari. Josh Lucas (Poseidon) plays the heavy in the film as a Ford businessman who would love to see Miles out of the spotlight. Caitriona Balfe (Starz’ Outlander) has some good moments with Bale as Miles’ wife, Mollie, though she happens to be the only woman in the film with many lines. Given that the story takes place in the 1960s and its guys building cars, it made sense. Playing Miles son, Peter, Noah Jupe (Honey Boy, A Quiet Place) is that character that helps the audience understand the nuances of racing. I kind of wish Bernthal had more to do here, but he’s cool when he’s on screen and carries his weight easily.

The film belongs to Damon and Bale, though. Damon’s Shelby is full of attitude. He knows what he wants to get done, what needs to happen and just does it. Damon carries this with ease, and it’s easy to forget that the actor is there at times (for me, anyway). Bale does the same, but is on a different level, with his Ken Miles being both focused and a little wild, perhaps even cynical. There’s a great mix of comedy and drama between the two actors.

The sound quality of Ford v. Ferrari is amazing. If you had the chance to see it in the cinema, consider yourself lucky. The rev of the engines are crisp, the shifting the of gears sublime. I’d be somewhat shocked if the film doesn’t walk away with the Sound Mixing / Sound Editing Oscars. From a visual standpoint, the races themselves offer some nice tracking shots, though there may be one or two scenes that particularly stand out.

Mangold and Phedon Papamichael (his Director of Photography for Walk the Line) perform some interesting tricks with the camera. With the races themselves, the cuts are smooth. You have dynamic tracking shots of cars  in some cases while others are lit enough to be comfortable. One of my favorite scenes involves a play on shadows that makes it appear like you’re watching a race, complete with the sound of the cars in the background. It’s subtle touches like that make me wonder why it wasn’t nominated for Best Cinematography. I should also note that for a 2:30 minute film, it flies by. I found very few (if any) moments where I felt a scene wasn’t particularly needed to push the narrative along. You can thank Jez and John-Henry Butterworth (Edge of Tomorrow) for that screenplay.

I can’t say I have any real problems with Ford v Ferrari. Overall, it’s an entertaining film right from the start that gets you into the story and behind the wheel.

Natalie Dupille’s “In Spite Of Ourselves” : A Travelogue Of The Human Heart


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

There’s no better “relationship recharge” for a couple than getting away for a few days (at least) together — but that doesn’t mean a skilled cartoonist with a natural eye and ear for interpersonal dynamics can’t mine such an excursion for thematically-deep, if often subtle, pathos. And with that in mind, it’s my distinct pleasure to introduce you (or re-introduce you, should that be the case) to Natalie Dupille and her latest “graphic novella,” a sublime little self-published number titled In Spite Of Ourselves.

Rendered by hand entirely in ink and lush watercolors, this is a sensitively-illustrated work that concerns itself with sensitively-explored topics ranging from gender mores to differences in ability (particularly athletic ability) to our nation’s ever-present urban/rural cultural and economic divide. It’s a lot to cram into 48 pages, but it never feels like Dupille is “forcing” anything into her narrative, simply because of her…

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Original Gangstas (1996, directed by Larry Cohen)


Original Gangstas opens with shots of the deserted streets and burned-out store fronts of Gary, Indiana and narration telling us how a once great American city came to be in such disrepair.  The steel plant closed and put much of the city out of work.  While the politicians and the police looked the other way, violent street gangs rose up and took over entire neighborhoods.  Now, Gary is a shell of its former self.  Even the local movie theater has closed down.  The narrators tells us that the last movie to play at the theater was Star Wars.

Led by Spyro (Christoper B. Duncan) and Damien (Eddie Bo Smith, Jr.), the Rebels are the most feared and powerful gang in Gary.  They rule through violence and intimidation.  Talk to the police and your business is liable to get torched and you’re likely to get shot.  However, Spyro and Damien have finally gone too far and now, two men who previously escaped from Gary are returning to town to dish out some justice.

John Bookman (Fred Williamson) is a former football player who wants to avenge the shooting of his father.  Jake Trevor (Jim Brown) is a boxer who once killed a man in the ring and who wants revenge for the death of his son.  When they were young men, John and Jake were the original Rebels and now they’re getting the old gang back together again.  With the help of Laurie (Pam Grier), Rev. Dorsey (Paul Winfield), Bubba (Ron O’Neal), and Slick (Richard Roundtree), the original gangstas are going to take back the streets of Gary.

Original Gangstas was released at a time when, largely thanks to the influence of Quentin Tarantino, people were just starting to feel nostalgic for the old blaxploitation movies.  The main appeal of the film, not surprisingly, is that it brings together so many of the great blaxploitation stars and sets them loose in what was then the modern era.  (Jim Kelly is missed.)  When John and Jake talk about how they’re responsible for the Rebels, they could just as easily be talking about how they’re responsible for both all of the independent crime films that came out in the wake of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction.

Original Gangstas is a tribute to both the Blaxploitation genre and the oversized personalities that made that era so memorable.  Neither Fred Williamson, Jim Brown, nor Richard Roundtree were particularly good actors but they all had so much screen presence and such an innate sense of cool that it didn’t matter whether they could convincingly show emotion or not.  (Original Gangstas gives all of the big dramatic scenes to Pam Grier, who was not only naturally cool but a damn good actress to boot.)  The minute Fred Williamson lights his cigar, he control the entire movie.  He and Jim Brown make a good team and Original Gangstas is an entertaining and violent trip down memory lane.

Kirk Douglas, R.I.P.


Kirk Douglas passed away today in Beverly Hills, California.  He was 103 years old.

Kirk Douglas was one of the last surviving stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age.  Douglas began his career in the 40s and he made his last film appearance in 2008.  Interestingly enough, that final appearance was in a film that was made for French television, called The Empire State Building Murders.  The film was meant to be a mockumentary and a tribute to old detective and crime films of the 40s.  It was full of archival footage of Douglas contemporaries like James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, and Lauren Bacall.  Douglas played a character named Jim Kovalski.  As a result of a stroke that he suffered in 1996, Douglas did not speak in the film but his very presence was powerful just because he was Kirk Douglas and he was still with us.  Even though he was noticeably frail, Kirk Douglas remained an icon.

Indeed, if there was any Golden Age star that you would have expected to reach 100, it would have been Kirk Douglas.  Douglas played several different characters over the course of his career but almost all of them had one thing in common.  They were all tough.  On screen, Kirk Douglas always came across as someone who laughed at death.  One could imagine the Grim Reaper showing up at his front door and Douglas simply saying, “Get the Hell out of here.”  If anyone could bully Death into submission, it would have been Kirk Douglas.

Kirk Douglas was a survivor.  In several interviews, he described himself as being a “tough son of a bitch.”  Kirk Douglas was not the type to allow himself to be pushed around and the fact that he even had a career in Hollywood during the studio system is kind of amazing.  It wasn’t just that Douglas had a reputation for not suffering fools.  It’s also that Douglas was an actor who was willing to put his career on the line for what he believed in.  By not only hiring Dalton Trumbo to write the script for Spartacus but also giving him onscreen credit, Douglas has been credited with helping to bring the blacklist to an end.  At the height of his stardom, Douglas appeared in Stanley Kubrick’s antiwar film, Paths of Glory.  He stood up for the state of Israel and defended it against it’s most vehement critics, even rebuking his friend Jimmy Carter at one point.

What’s my favorite Kirk Douglas performance?  In Spartacus, Douglas made “I am Spartacus” a rallying cry for revolutionaries everywhere.  In Ace In the Hole, he was the perfect representation of an amoral journalist.  Playing a gangster, he was both charming and dangerous in the classic film noir, Out of the Past.  Lust for Life was an imperfect film but he gave a strong performance as Van Gogh.  Paths of Glory featured Douglas at his most compassionate and outraged.  Later in his career, he starred in the campy but entertaining Holocaust 2000.  That said, my favorite Kirk Douglas film remains The Bad and The Beautiful, which is one of the best films ever made about Hollywood.  Douglas played a real heel in The Bad and the Beautiful and, watching the film, you get the feeling he loved every minute of it.

Kirk Douglas’s death is not really a shock.  When he appeared at the Golden Globes in 2017, he was noticeably frail.  With his passing, though, we’ve lost a true icon of American cinema and one of the last living links to the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Kirk Douglas, R.I.P.

Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: Doctor Zhivago (dir by David Lean)


Klaus Kinski is the main reason to watch the 1965 film, Doctor Zhivago.

The legendarily difficult and erratic Mr. Kinski shows up about halfway through this 3-and-a-half hour film.  He plays a cynical and unstable prisoner on a train.  The train is full of passengers who are escaping from Moscow and heading for what they hope will be a better and more stable life in the Ural Mountains.  (The film takes place during the Communist revolution and the subsequent purges.)  That Kinski taunts everyone on the train is not a surprise.  Both Werner Herzog and David Schmoeller (who directed Kinski in Crawlspace) have made documentaries in which they both talked about how difficult it was to work with Kinski and how several film crews apparently came close to murdering Klaus Kinski several times throughout his career.

Instead, what’s surprising about Kinski’s performance is that he’s even there to begin with.  Doctor Zhivago is an extremely long and extremely stately film.  It’s one of those films where almost every actor gives a somewhat restrained performance.  It’s a film where almost every shot is tastefully composed and where the action often slows down to a crawl so that we can better appreciate the scenery.  It’s a film that stops for an intermission and which opens with a lengthy musical overture.  In short, this is a film of old school craftsmanship and it’s the last place you would expect to find Klaus Kinski luring about.

When he does show up, you’re happy to see him.  Even though he’s only onscreen for about five minute, Kinski gives the film a jolt of much-needed energy.  After hours of watching indecisive characters talk and talk and talk, Kinski pops up and basically, “Screw this, I hate everything.”  And it’s exciting because it’s one of the few time that Doctor Zhivago feels unpredictable.  It’s one of the few times that it feels like a living work of art instead of just a very pretty but slightly stuffy composition.

Just from reading all that, you may think that I don’t like Doctor Zhivago but that’s actually not the case. It’s a heavily flawed film and you have to be willing to make a joke or two if you’re going to try to watch the whole thing in just one sitting but it’s still an interesting throwback to a very specific time in film history.  Doctor Zhivago was designed to not only be a spectacle but to also convince audiences that 1) TV was worthless and that 2) Hollywood craftsmanship was still preferable to the art films that were coming out of Europe.  At a time when television and independent European cinema was viewed as being a real threat to the future of the film industry, Doctor Zhivago was a film that was meant to say, “You can’t get this on your black-and-white TV!  You can only get this from Hollywood where, dammit, people still appreciate a good establishing shot and treat the production code with respect!”  Even today, some of the spectacle is still impressive.  The beautiful shots of the countryside are still often breath-taking.  The scenes of two lovers living in an ice filled house are still incredibly lovely to look at.  The musical score is still sweepingly romantic and impressive.

It’s the story where the film gets in trouble.  Omar Sharif plays Yuri Zhivago, a doctor and a poet who falls in love with Lara (Julie Christie) while Russia descends into chaos.  The Czar is overthown.  The communists come to power and prove themselves to be just as hypocritical as the Romanovs.  The revolutionary Pasha (Tom Courtenay, bearing a distracting resemblance to Roddy McDowall) is in love with Lara and helps to bring about the revolution but is then declared an enemy of the people during the subsequent purges.  The craven Komarovsky (Rod Steiger) also wants to possess Lara and he’s so corrupt that he manages to thrive under both the Czar and the communists.  Alec Guinness plays Yuri’s half-brother and is the most British Russian imaginable.  Doctor Zhivago is based on a Russian novel so there’s a lot of characters running around and they’re all played by a distinguished cast of international thespians.  However, none of them are as interesting as the scenery.

As for the two main actors, Omar Sharif and Julie Christie convince you that they’re in love but not much else.  Sharif is never convincing as a poet and he feels miscast as a man who spends most of his time thinking.  Reportedly, Lean’s first choice for the role was Peter O’Toole and it’s easy to imagine O’Toole in the part.  But O’Toole had already done Lawrence of Arabia with Lean and didn’t feel like subjecting himself to another year of Lean’s notoriously prickly direction.  So, the role went to O’Toole co-star, Sharif.   Julie Christie turned down Thunderball to do both this film and Darling, for which she would subsequently win an Oscar.

(Speaking of the Oscars, Doctor Zhivago was nominated for Best Picture and, though it won five other Oscars, it lost the big prize to The Sound of Music, of all things.  1965 really wasn’t a great year for the Oscars.  The only 1965 Best Picture nominee that still feels like it really deserved to be nominated is Darling.  Of the other nominees, Ship of Fools is ponderous and A Thousand Clowns is almost unbearably annoying.  And The Sound of Music …. well, I prefer the Carrie Underwood version.)

Doctor Zhivago is a big, long, epic film.  It’s lovely to look at and it has a few nice scenes mixed in with a bunch of scenes that seem to go on forever.  In the conflict between the state and the individual, it comes down firmly on the side of the individual and that’s a good thing.  (The communist government attempts to suppress Yuri’s love poems because they celebrate the individual instead of society.  And though the government might be able to destroy Yuri’s life, they can’t destroy his spirit.  Again, it’s a message that would have worked better with a more thoughtful lead actor but still, it’s a good message.)  It’s a flawed film but watch it for the spectacle.  Watch it for Klaus Kinski.

The Covers of Manhunt


Artist Unknown

From 1953 to 1967, Manhunt was one of the best-selling and most highly regarded of the crime-themed pulp magazines. Manhunt featured hard-boiled stories from authors like Mickey Spillane, James Cain, James T. O’Farrell, William Irish, and others.  Along with attracting some of the top pulp literary talent, it also featured some of the most memorable covers of the era.  Below are just a few of the overs of Manhunt.  As always, the artist has been credited when known!

Artist Unknown

by Lou Marchetti

by Ogden Whitney

by Robert Maguire

by Robert Maguire

Unknown Artist

Unknown Artist

Unknown Artist

Unknown Artist

Unknown Artist

by Walter Popp

Lisa’s Way, Way, Way, Way, Way, Way, Way Too Early Oscar Predictions For February


It’s a fool’s errand to try to predict next year’s Oscars nominees this early but we’re all about taking risks here at the Shattered Lens.  So, with that in mind, here is my latest set of monthly predictions.

If you look over these names, you’ll see a lot of familiar ones.  That’s because it’s early in the year and familiarity is really the only thing that a lot of these unreleased films have going for them.  Some of the films mentioned below were hits at Sundance.  From what I’ve read, I really do think Minari could be a contender because, along with being loved by critics, it sounds like it’s very much of the current cultural moment.

But the important thing to remember is that, last year at this time, no one expected Joker to become the film of the year.  No one had even heard of Parasite.  Most people were still predicting the Oscars would be dominated by Harriet.  So, my point is — take this stuff with several grains of salt.

To be honest, I think a lot depends on how the presidential election goes.  If Trump is reelected, I think you’ll see the Academy voting for angry, political films, if just as a way to get back at Trump and the people who voted for him.  (Think about the otherwise baffling love that was previously shown to a movie like Vice.)  The Trial of the Chicago 7 sounds incredibly tedious to me but I could imagine people voting for it and thinking to themselves, “This is so going to piss off the Republicans.”  If Trump is defeated, I imagine the Academy will be a bit more upbeat in their selections.

If you want to see how my thinking has evolved, check out my predictions for January here!    (It’s only been a month so my thinking hasn’t really evolved at all.  Still, we could always use the clicks.)

Best Picture

Dune

Happiest Season

Hillybilly Elegy

Ironbark

Minari

News of the World

Respect

Stillwater

The Trial of the Chicago 7

West Side Story

Best Director

Isaac Lee Chung for Minari

Paul Greengrass for News of the World

Ron Howard for Hillybilly Elegy

Steven Spielberg for West Side Story

Denis Villeneuve for Dune

Best Actor

Benedict Cumberbatch in Ironbark

Matt Damon in Stillwater

Tom Hanks in News of the World

Anthony Hopkins in The Father

Will Smith in King Richard

Best Actress

Amy Adams in Hillbilly Elegy

Olivia Colman in The Father

Clare Dunne in Herself

Jennifer Hudson in Respect

Angelina Jolie in Those Who Wish Me Dead

Best Supporting Actor

Bo Hopkins in Hillbilly Elegy

Merab Ninidze in Ironbark

Mark Rylance in The Trial of the Chicago 7

Forest Whitaker in Respect

Steven Yeun in Minari

Best Supporting Actress

Abigail Breslin in Stillwater

Glenn Close in Hillybilly Elegy

Vera Farmiga in The Many Saints of Newark

Mary Steenburgen in Happiest Season

Helena Zengel in News of the World