Rockin’ in the Film World #17: Frank Zappa’s 200 MOTELS (United Artists 1971)


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Frank Zappa is definitely an acquired taste, one I acquired as a young kid listening to albums like “Absolutely Free”, “Weasels Ripped My Flesh”,  and “Apostrophe”, which goes a long way in helping to explain my warped world view. Zappa’s avant garde rock’n’roll, a mélange of jazz, classical, doo-wop, psychedelica, and anything else he could think of, combined with his nonsensical, sexual, and scatological lyrics, skewered convention, the plastic world of suburban America, and hippie culture as well (Zappa was an equal opportunity offender). 200 MOTELS was his first attempt at making a movie, co-directing and co-writing with British documentarian Tony Palmer, and to call it bizarre would be a gross understatement.

Visually, the film is as close to Zappa’s avant garde compositions as you can get. 200 MOTELS was shot on videotape and transferred to 35mm film, using techniques like double and triple exposure, color filters, flash-cut editing, and…

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Rockin’ in the Film World #15: THE BEATLES: EIGHT DAYS A WEEK – THE TOURING YEARS (Apple Corps/Imagine Entertainment 2016)


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Beatle fans will have a blast watching THE BEATLES: EIGHT DAYS A WEEK – THE TOURING YEARS, director Ron Howard’s 2016 rock doc covering the Fab Four’s career from their earliest club days through the height of Beatlemania, until they stopped touring for good in 1966. The film features rare and classic footage of The Beatles live in concert around the globe, juxtaposing their rise with news events of the day and interviews with all four members.

Howard conducted brand-new interviews with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, and included archival interviews with the late John Lennon and George Harrison. Through these and behind the scenes clips and press conferences, we get a sense of what it was like to be at the center of all the Beatlemania  madness. Ringo says it best: “We just wanted to play… playing was the only thing” far as these talented musicians were concerned, but…

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Music Video of the Day: The Cooler with Ringo Starr (1982, dir. Godley & Creme)


I’m terrible with anniversaries or other things I should be aware of to make tie-in posts for. That’s why I missed the 50th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I’m sure everyone posted the music video for Strawberry Fields Forever yesterday. So let’s go with something else Beatles related.

Back in 1982–or 1981 according to mvdbase–a short film was made starring Ringo Starr that is an extended music video for the songs Private Property, Sure To Fall, and Attention. From what I’ve read, this earned Lol Creme and Kevin Godley a nomination for a Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for Best Short Film. Also from what I’ve read, it not only has Ringo in it, but Paul, Linda, and Barbara Bach.

I know I’ve said on numerous occasions that when something crosses the into A Hard Day’s Night territory then I don’t include it in one of these posts, but I’m making an exception here. Besides, it’s only about 10 minutes long. It’s not like the ABC film Mantrap (1983). That is over 50 minutes long.

I’m guessing this is Barbara Bach. I’m not really sure. I have no idea where Linda is in this.

I do know that this is definitely Paul.

The gist is that the audience travels with Ringo as he goes through a bunch of references to prison movies like The Great Escape (1963). As we go along we see Ringo try to escape in different ways. He has to shine Ilsa: She-Wolf of the SS’ boots. He has a delusion that he is in the Old West where Paul may have also played the following cowboy:

I’m quite sure it’s him. I’m just not 100% sure.

Eventually Ringo McClane…

comes across what he thinks is going to be an exit, but it just takes him back to the cooler again.

Seeing as this came out in 1982, that would make this year the 35th anniversary of The Cooler. I found it to be enjoyable. It’s a nice little piece of post-Beatles work that I have to imagine has all but fallen into obscurity.

We can do one better than just that though. Since it is 2017, that means it’s also the 30th anniversary of when Ringo did commercials for Sun Country Classic Wine Cooler.

Ringo and a polar bear. I love it. I would have enjoyed it more if it were the polar bear played by Vincent Price, but I still enjoy these.

Enjoy!

50 Years Ago Today: The Beatles’ SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND (Capitol Records 1967)


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June 2, 1967. The beginning of the so-called “Summer of Love”. The underground hippie culture was grooving toward the mainstream. And those four loveable mop tops, The Beatles , released their eighth album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, on America’s shores, ushering in the concept of “concept albums” that still reverberates in music today. The Fab Four were Fab no more, but genuine artists, with a little help from their friend, producer George Martin.

The Beatles had stopped touring  the previous year, tired of the grind and the hysterical screaming that drowned their music out. They had done some experimenting in the studio with “Revolver”, their previous LP, but “Sgt. Pepper” was something different. Martin and the band members, influenced by both The Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” and Frank Zappa’s “Freak Out!” discs, utilized then cutting edge studio techniques (tape loops, sound effects, varying speeds) and instrumentations (sitar, harmonium, Mellotron, tubular bells, even…

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A Movie A Day #79: Blindman (1971, directed by Ferdinando Baldi)


In the old west, a professional gunman (played by Tony Anthony) has been hired to escort 50 women to a Texas mining town.  The gunman is known as Blindman, precisely because he is a blind man.  He is also a fast and deadly with a gun and has an apparent psychic connection with his horse.  Unfortunately, for Blindman, it turns out that his partners double crossed him and sold the 50 women to a Mexican bandit.  Blindman must go to Mexico to rescue the women from the ruthless Domingo (Lloyd Battista) and his crazy younger brother, Candy (Ringo Starr).

You read that correctly.  This is not only a Spaghetti western about a blind gunslinger who owns a seeing-eye horse.  It’s also a Spaghetti western that co-stars the man who replaced Pete Best.  Of the four Beatles, Ringo was always the best actor and he is surprisingly convincing as a psychotic Mexican bandit.  As for the rest of Blindman, it can not compare to the best Spaghetti westerns but there’s enough novelty in the idea of a blind gunman that it is still interesting to watch.  Tony Anthony may have been one of the lesser known Spaghetti western stars but he probably gave the best performance of his career as Blindman.  Along with being a violent, bloody, and nudity-filled western, Blindman is also a comedy.  Most of the jokes are delivered by Tony Anthony, who spends a lot of time talking to himself and who, despite being blind, stares straight at the camera while doing so.  (Most of the jokes were also written by Tony Anthony.  He’s one of the credited screenwriters.)

Why does Blindman do what he does?  As he puts it in the movie, “To be blind, with no money, now that’s a bitch!”

 

Playing Catch-Up: Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (dir by Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone)


Have you heard of Conner4Real?

If you haven’t, you’re probably just old or else you don’t keep up with what’s happening in the world of popular music.  His real name is Conner Friel and he used to be a member of the Style Boyz.  Of course, the Style Boyz eventually broke up.  Kid Brain became a farmer.  Kid Contact became a DJ.  And Kid Conner — well, he became Conner4Real and he became a bigger star as a solo artist than he ever was as a Style Boy.  His debut album, Thriller, Also, broke records.

But the follow-up, Connquest … well, Connquest wasn’t quite as acclaimed.  In fact, it was hated by just about everyone.  This is despite featuring classic songs like:

Finest Girl (Bin Laden Song)

Mona Lisa

and Equal Rights (featuring P!nk).

Fortunately, when Conner4Real was facing his greatest existential crisis, a film crew was present to record his struggle.  For those of us who were fascinated by the career of Conner4Real, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is a chance to see how Conner dealt with everything from his terminally ill pet turtle to the elaborate marriage proposal ceremony that led to Seal being attacked by wild wolves.  We would have gotten to see Conner and his manager defeat a swarm of mutant bees but, unfortunately, that happened right after the only time that Conner’s manager asked the film crew to stop filming.

Oh well, these things happen.

So, as you should have guessed from all that, Popstar is not a serious film.  It’s a mockumentary, with the emphasis on mock.  It was also one of the funniest films of 2016, a spot-on parody of the silliness and pretensions of fame.  Conner is a combination of Justin Bieber and Macklemore at their shallowest, a well-meaning but thoroughly empty-headed singer.  In fact, if Conner was played by anyone other than Andy Samberg, he would be so annoying that the film would run the risk of being unwatchable.

But fortunately, Conner is played by Andy Samberg.  It’s hard to think of anyone who plays dumb with quite the same panache as Andy Samberg does.  There are plenty of lines in Popstar that shouldn’t work but they do, specifically because they’re being delivered by Samberg.  He brings just the right amount of sweetly sincere stupidity to the role.  Almost despite yourself, you find yourself hoping that things will work out for Conner and the other Style Boyz.  Conner may not deserve to be as big a star as he is but it was obviously going to happen to some idiot so why not a sincere one?

Samberg is not the only funny person in Popstar.  The movie is full of funny people, from Sarah Silverman to Bill Hader to the always underrated Tim Meadows.  It’s also full of celebrity cameos and I have to admit that I usually tend to cringe when I see too many people playing themselves.  But in Popstar, it works.  One need only rewatch something like Zoolander 2 to see how well Popstar pulls off its celebrity cameos.

Sadly, as funny as Popstar was, it was also one of the biggest bombs of 2016.  (The trailer, it must be said, did not do the film justice.)  However, I expect that it will soon develop a strong cult following.  In a few years, we’ll get a sequel.  It probably won’t be as as good.

Oh well.  These things happen.

Rockin’ in the Film World #7: The Beatles in A HARD DAY’S NIGHT (United Artists 1964)


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(It’s a Sunday night, February 9, 1964. Everybody’s watching THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW to get a peek at this new phenomenon called Beatlemania. The adults in the room are disgusted, saying things like “They look like a bunch of girls!”, “They must be sissies!”, and “Yeah yeah yeah? What the hell kind of song is that??” They just don’t get it.  But the six-year-old kid watching along does, and a lifelong obsession with rock’n’roll is born…)

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From the opening shot of the Fab 4 being chased down the street by screaming teenyboppers to the final clanging guitar notes of the title tune, A HARD DAY’S NIGHT makes a joyful noise introducing The Beatles to the silver screen. John, Paul, George, and Ringo come off as a mod version of the Marx Brothers with their anarchic antics, guided by the deft hand of director Richard Lester. Shot in cinema verite style, this zany, practically…

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So You Want To Be A Rock’n’Roll Star: The Idolmaker, Breaking Glass, That’ll Be The Day, Stardust


So, you want to be a rock and roll star?  Then listen now to what I say: just get an electric guitar and take some time and learn how to play.  And when your hair’s combed right and your pants fit tight, it’s gonna be all right.

If you need any more help, try watching these four films:

Idolmaker

The Idolmaker (1980, directed by Taylor Hackford)

The Idolmaker is a movie that asks the question, “What does it take to be a star?  Who is more interesting, the Svengalis or the Trilbys?”  The year is 1959 and Vinny Vacari (Ray Sharkey, who won a Golden Globe for his performance but don’t let that dissuade you from seeing the movie) is a local kid from New Jersey who dreams of being a star.  He has got the talent.  He has got the ambition and he has got the media savvy.  He also has a receding hairline and a face like a porcupine.

Realizing that someone who looks like him is never going to make hundreds of teenage girls all scream at once, Vinny instead becomes a starmaker.  With the help of his girlfriend, teen mag editor Brenda (Tovah Feldshuh) and a little payola, he turns saxophone player Tomaso DeLorussa into teen idol Tommy Dee.  When Tommy Dee becomes a star and leaves his mentor, Vinny takes a shy waiter named Guido (Peter Gallagher) and turns him into a Neil Diamond-style crooner named Cesare.  Destined to always be  abandoned by the stars that he creates, Vinny continually ends up back in the same Jersey dive, performing his own songs with piano accompaniment.

The Idolmaker is a nostalgic look at rock and roll in the years between Elvis’s induction into the Army and the British invasion.  The Idolmaker has some slow spots but Ray Sharkey is great in the role of Vinny and the film’s look at what goes on behind the scenes of stardom is always interesting.  In the movie’s best scene, Tommy performs in front of an audience of screaming teenagers while Vinny mimics his exact moments backstage.

Vinny was based on real-life rock promoter and manager, Bob Marcucci.  Marcucci was responsible for launching the careers of both Frankie Avalon and Fabian Forte.  Marcucci served as an executive producer on The Idolmaker, which probably explains why this is the rare rock film in which the manager is more sympathetic than the musicians.

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Breaking Glass (1980, directed by Brian Gibson)

At the same time that The Idolmaker was providing American audiences with a look at life behind-the-scenes of music stardom, Breaking Glass was doing the same thing for British audiences.

In Breaking Glass, the idolmaker is Danny (Phil Daniels, who also starred in Quadrophenia) and his star is an angry New Wave singer named Kate (Hazel O’Connor).  Danny first spots Kate while she is putting up flyers promoting herself and her band and talks her into allowing him to mange her.  At first, Kate refuses to compromise either her beliefs or her lyrics but that is before she starts to get famous.  The bigger a star she becomes, the more distant she becomes from Danny and her old life and the less control she has over what her music says.  While her new fans scare her by all trying to dress and look like her, Kate’s old fans accuse her of selling out.

As a performer, Hazel O’Connor can be an acquired taste and how you feel about Breaking Glass will depend on how much tolerance you have for her and her music.  (She wrote and composed all of the songs here.)  Breaking Glass does provide an interesting look at post-punk London and Jonathan Pryce gives a good performance as a sax player with a heroin addiction.

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That’ll Be The Day (1973, directed by Claude Whatham)

Real-life teen idol David Essex plays Jim MacClaine, a teenager in 1958 who blows off his university exams and runs away to the Isle of Wright.  He goes from renting deckchairs at a resort to being a barman to working as a carny.  He lives in squalor, has lots of sex, and constantly listens to rock and roll.  Eventually, when he has no other choice, he does return home and works in his mother’s shop.  He gets married and has a son but still finds himself tempted to abandon his family (just as his father previously abandoned him) and pursue his dreams of stardom.

David Essex and Ringo Starr

Based loosely on the early life of John Lennon, the tough and gritty That’ll Be The Day is more of a British kitchen sink character study than a traditional rock and roll film but rock fans will still find the film interesting because of its great soundtrack of late 50s rock and roll and a cast that is full of musical luminaries who actually lived through and survived the era.  Billy Fury and the Who’s Keith Moon both appear in small roles.  Mike, Jim’s mentor and best friend, is played by Ringo Starr who, of all the Beatles, was always the best actor.

That’ll Be The Day ends on a downbeat note but it does leave the story open for a sequel.

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Stardust (1974, directed by Michael Apted)

Stardust continues the story of Jim MacClaine.  Jim hires his old friend Mike (Adam Faith, replacing Ringo Starr) to manage a band that he is in, The Straycats (which includes Keith Moon, playing a far more prominent role here than in That’ll Be the Day).  With the help of Mike’s business savvy, The Stray Cats find early success and are signed to a record deal by eccentric Texas millionaire, Porter Lee Austin (Larry Hagman, playing an early version of J.R. Ewing).

When he becomes the breakout star of the group, Jim starts to overindulge in drugs, groupies, and everything that goes with being a superstar.  Having alienated both Mike and the rest of the group, Jim ends up as a recluse living in a Spanish castle.  Even worse, he gives into his own ego and writes a rock opera, Dea Sancta, which is reminiscent of the absolute worst of progressive rock.  Watching Jim perform Dea Sancta, you understand why, just a few years later, Johnny Rotten would be wearing a homemade “Pink Floyd Sucks” t-shirt.

Stardust works best as a sad-eyed look back at the lost promise of the 1960s and its music.  Watch the movie and then ask yourself, “So, do you really want to be a rock and roll star?”

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6 Trailers To Strip Down For


It’s time for another edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Trailers.  This week’s edition has no set theme beyond the fact that, in-between typing up the six trailers featured here, I was also trying on different outfits.  Multi-tasking!

1) Performance

From 1970, it’s the debut film of Nicolas Roeg (though technically, he co-directed by Donald Cammell).  Reportedly, acting in this film led to costar James Fox having a nervous breakdown.

2) Twitch of the Death Nerve

This is the trailer for Mario Bava’s infamous, trend-setting giallo.  Bava’s preferred title for this film was Bay of Blood though it was released under several titles, including Carnage and my personal favorite, Twitch of the Death Nerve.

3) The Comeback

This 1978 film is from the criminally underrated director Pete Walker.  The trailer has a similar feel to Lamerto Bava’s A Blade in the Dark.  Who is Jack Jones and was he actually an international singing sensation?  So many questions.

4) The Class Reunion Massacre (a.k.a. The Redeemer)

What an odd little trailer.  It starts out all slasher-like and then suddenly, it decides to go all Omen.

5) The Corpse Grinders

Yup, that’s what it is alright.  From directed Ted V. Mikels.

6) Candy

This trailer is from 1968, which — if you’ve seen the trailer — is kind of one of those “well, duh” facts.  Based on a book by my fellow Texan Terry Southern (hence, the tag line), the film features Walter Matthau, Richard Burton, Ringo Starr, Marlon Brando, and James Coburn all taking advantage of Ewa Aulin (who, much like James Fox in Performance, reportedly had a nervous breakdown as a result of making this film).  The film was directed by Christian Marquand who, years later, would play the main French Plantation Guy in Apocalypse Now Redux.

6 Trailers For The End of 2010


I’ve been under the weather since the day after Christmas (and you probably don’t want the details though they can be found on twitter because my twitter account is my place to be all TMI) so I fear that I’ve been running behind when it comes to posting on this site.  Not only have I not written my review of True Grit and Rabbit Hole, but I haven’t written anything about that video of the beaver opening up the box of tampons yet. 

So, wyle ah work on gittin mah purty lil self all caught up here (and attempt to phonetically recreate my natural country girl accent), here’s the final 2010 edition of Lisa Marie’s Grindhouse and Exploitation Trailers

1) Made in Sweden

I love how all the imported, soft-core films of the early 70s were always advertised as being sensitive, coming-of-age stories.  Christina Lindberg later starred as the iconic One-Eye in Thriller, A Cruel Picture (a.k.a. They Call Her One-Eye.)

2) Blindman

Yes, the trailer’s in German and no, I don’t speak German.  I speak French which I guess means I’d have to surrender if this trailer ever tried to enter me.  BUT ANYWAY, this is actually an Italian film.  Tony Anthony plays a blind gunslinger who is hired by a bunch of mail order brides to free them from a sadistic bandit played by Ringo Starr.  Yes, that Ringo Starr.

3) Tattoo

If, like my friend Elly, you live in Australia, you can watch this movie on DVD.  Unfortunately, outside of “region 4,” this movie is unavailable.  I’ve never seen it though I read about it in Bruce Dern’s quite frankly weird autobiography.  (I say weird with affection because, seriously — how can you not love Bruce Dern?)  Anyway, Dern says that in the sex scenes in this movie, he and Adams were actually doing it.  Apparently, the film itself is a take-off on The Collector — Dern kidnaps Adams, covers her body in tattoos, and then has sex with her.  It actually sounds like kind of a disgusting movie, to be honest and the prospect I might see it is making me reconsider my plans to eventually relocate to Australia (sorry, Elly).  

As for the trailer,  I just think it’s really nicely atmospheric, especially in the slow-motion sequence at the beginning.

4) Hell Night

This is the old school slasher film that I always wish I had been around to be cast in.  Why?  Because of all the costumes, of course!  If you’re going to be a victim in one of these movies, you might as well get to play dress up beforehand.

5) Invasion of the Bee Girls

There are two trailers for this movie.  This is the mainstream version and it is a heavily cut — and I mean HEAVILY CUT — version of the one that played in the grindhouses.  You can find the uncut version on Stephen Romano’s Shock Festival.  Anyway, this is one of those wonderfully satirical 70s films that was marketed as a standard grindhouse film.  William Smith plays an FBI agent who is sent to Peckham, California to discover why the town’s men are being fucked to death.  Actually, just looking at the men of Peckham, California — they should probably be happy with what they can get.

6) Deep Red

What better way to end 2010 than with the one and only Dario Argento?  This is the trailer for his first worldwide hit, the classic giallo Deep Red.  This is also the film where he first met and romanced Daria Nicolodi.  Plus, this movie probably features the best performance ever from the late and underrated David Hemmings (who would end his career playing a small role in Gangs of New York, a film which also features Giovanni Lombardo Radice.)

As a sidenote, I’ve really enjoyed sharing these trailers through 2010 and I look forward to sharing more in 2011.  Je te donne tout mon amour, mon lecteur.