Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Laure (1975)

This is a movie that was not just made in the 70s, it was made by the 70s. The 70s should have a production credit of some sort, or one of those notices like they have on PBS- "This movie was made possible by the 70s". Everyone in the film seems stoned at all times, dresses in very comfortable-looking leisure clothes and swaps sexual partners. I'd like to live there.

Set around a research university in Manilla, the film stars the lovely Annie Belle as Laure, the free-spirited daughter of the University Director who meets the similarly free-spirited Nicola (played by Al Cliver who is in half the Italian movies I watch). We know she's free-spirited because while she's operating the slide projector during a professor's lecture a hippie girl under the podium licks her pussy. Luckily, Nicola is also free spirited and would like nothing better than to watch her have sex with lots of men, which works out fine for her. They're clearly an ideal match.

For most of the movie, there is little in the way of plot. Nicola is making a documentary about love and they sort of wander around having sex with various people and speaking pretentiously about open sexuality. Much of the dialogue is along the lines of:

Him: You want everything and think everything is possible.

Her: And you what is your dream?

Him: I should like to see you doing impossible things.

(And delivering impossible dialogue!)

The open-marriage lifestyle was, of course, detailed in the Emmanuelle films, and Emmanuelle Arsan apparently wanted to take a more active role in the filming of one of her books than she was with those films- she's a supporting actress here and actually has a few sex scenes, including a very silly one with girl-girl and flower sex. Her involvement sort of explains the otherwise inexplicable American title "Forever Emmanuelle" since nobody in the film is named Emmanuelle. I'm still confused about who directed this movie- different sources say Arsan, her husband, or herself under another name. Apparently, the production fell apart and everyone disowned the film.

This is a shame because the movie's got some advantages over the real Emmanuelle- for one thing, the main character is much more in charge of her situation and less of a borderline victim than the character in the French Emmanuelle- in this, she's more akin to Laura Gemser's Italian character. Also, Laure is a prettier movie to look at- the locations are more lush and the direction more adept. Finally, Annie Belle is a truly lovely actress, probably moreso than Sylvia Kristel.

Whatever else you want to say about it, Laure is a strikingly beautiful movie. The Philippine locations are well-photographed, the visuals are evocative, and there's a dreamy/druggy vibe to it all that makes this a pleasant movie to watch- given the era it was made, it's likely that plenty of audience members watched it while stoned and that would certainly suit the film.

The drawbacks? The characters are very one-dimensional, really just there to express the writer's ideas about non-monogamy. The plot is a bit silly- a story in which the characters go searching for a tribe who is "reborn" annually is interesting but only shows up in the last 20 minutes. A story in which Laure screws a transvestite in a helicopter while her boyfriend films and nobody flies the thing is pretty silly. Finally, there's not a great deal of chemistry between Cliver and Bell, which is strange considering they were an item during the filming.

But, I think a movie like Laure should be watched in the spirit it was intended- so, get really stoned and be enchanted by the beautiful tropical locales and naked people, and maybe the psuedo-philosophical dialogue will sound deep, man.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Salute of the Jugger (1989)

I first heard about this movie when it was released in the US as The Blood of Heroes. Rick Sullivan's classic zine the Gore Gazette recommended the flick, noting, "although the flick is yet another in an endless spate of post-apocalyptic sci-fi bludgeonthons, it is packed with enough explicit violence, senseless carnage and ample nudity to enable gorehounds to forget they've been down this road a zillion times before." That road is the one Mel Gibson took in The Road Warrior, in which the apocalpyse has come and left everyone in the desert and Australian.

After the wars, everyone lives like bedouins in a desert landscape. The only heroes in this world are athletes known as "juggers" who play a game in which everyone puts on makeshift armor and beat the crap out of each other with chains and clubs- the winner is whoever can stick a dog skull on a stake! It does look like fun though and in recent years real world jugger leagues have sprung up in Germany, the US, and Australia. One assumes they don't use dog skulls.

Rutger Hauer is Sallow, the head badass of his jugger team who apparently once played in the League many years ago. Joan Chen plays Kidda, a cute young scrapper on her way up in the sport who wants to make the team and is willing to bite a dude's ear off to win a match. Vincent D'Onofrio is Young Gar, the more experienced player who befriends her and beds her before Hauer. Sullivan was exaggerating about the nudity being "ample", although we do briefly see Chen's juggers. D'Onofrio had just gotten off of Full Metal Jacket- he's really in a world of shit here. (Not a comment on the quality of the movie)

The League is where the really good players go and our heroes want to make the League. This requires going to one of the Nice Cities underground and challenging the legitimate juggers to a match. Salo has some sort of dark secret in his past- the upper crust lords want him to be blinded in the match- all of which is going to come to a head in the climactic match. And, of course, there will be a climactic match and there's no points for guessing who wins.

Okay, so none of this is particularly original stuff, but it's easy to see why the film has attracted a little cult following. Clearly, a lot of care went into creating this world. For example, the costumes are really well designed- there's a common desert nomad look to them, mostly in browns and blues, that looks like they were put together by a professional instead of just having the extras show up to the set in old clothes like they usually do with these post-apocalyptic movies. Also, there are some really good make-up f/x by Michael Westmore and Bob McCarron- everyone pretty much looks like they've been dragged behind a mule face down. The action is well-choreographed and bloody and the movie moves at a good pace. The direction, by David Peoples who also wrote the film, is assured and engaging. Finally, the acting is solid and the dialogue is never corny, not always the case in action movies; admittedly, "I never hurt a soul for any reason but to put a dog skull on a stake" is pretty memorable.

So, if you like post-apocalyptic action movies from the 80s, this is a must-see.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Endgame (1983)

An Italian action film (a.k.a. by the great "Bronx Lotta Finale") set in the distant future year of 2005, after a nuclear blast has wiped out the cities and left people either burned, mutated, or made up like 80s new age band members- a fate worse than death. I’ve never entirely understood why, in the 80s action movie dystopian future, people are starving and desperate but have lots of face paint. Anyway, the main form of entertainment is “Endgame” a televised game show in which three hunters try to track and kill a player designated as prey. It’s hard not to wonder if Stephen King saw Endgame before writing The Running Man- then again, “what if there was a game show where they hunted people?” isn’t exactly blazingly original.

Alas, the game show plot doesn’t last very long. Mark Shannon (Al Cliver, yet again) is the prey in the game. Meanwhile, black trench coat and gas mask wearing storm troopers called the Security Services (SS- get it?) are on a secret military mission to exterminate the mutants and a strange woman (played, of course, by Laura Gemser) repeatedly tries to enlist the hero’s help. And, about a half-hour in, he’s won the game and the story switches to his mission to protect the mutants on their way out of the city. Shannon assembles a fighting force of extraordinary magnitude: martial artist, guy who catches knives, fat guy with a battleax, etc.

The government wants the mutants- really psychics- dead because they pose a threat of some sort in a society that has no order anyway. And our heroes want to help the mutants in order to get a lot of gold in a society where there’s nothing much to buy. Anyway, the government agents drop out of the story after the first half hour anyway, only to show up at the last ten minutes, and our heroes are inexplicably fighting blind monks and guys on dirt bikes until then. There’s lots of scenes shot in quarries and abandoned buildings. There’s a battle with hundreds of monks in black cloaks getting gunned down that gets sillier and sillier as it goes on. There are souped-up battle cars. And there are Laura Gemser’s nipples for a few seconds. Basically, it’s a movie for 12 year old boys awaiting its Saturday matinee.