Sunday, May 22, 2016

Shock 'Em Dead (Mark Freed, 1991)

Finally, a movie with the guts to expose the ugly truth behind the popularity of hair metal. I always knew the genre's inexplicable run as the music of choice for America's youth was voodoo-related. I mean, how else can you explain the fact these bands sold millions of albums? Guitars and drums? Oh, how boring. Of course, I'm being somewhat facetious. But deep down, you have to wonder, what if the reason so many L.A. hair metal bands became so popular back in the 1980s/pre-Nevermind early 1990s was because their members had made a demonic deal with a Voodoo Woman with Mobility Issues? Personally, I could care less about hair metal and why it was so popular, as Shock 'Em Dead is probably one of the most stocking top friendly movies I've ever seen. And we're not talking bland nylons up in this joint, we're talking statement hose, yo. What's "statement hose," you ask? Statement hose is hosiery that makes a motherfuckin' statement, and the hose attached to the legs of the leggy floozies assigned to demonic rock star Angel Martin do just that... make a motherfuckin' statement. I know what you're thinking to yourself, how do I get "assigned" a trio of statement hose-wearing leggy floozies? Well, the first thing you have to do is run into a Voodoo Woman with Mobility Issues. Granted, she doesn't have to have "mobility Issues," but it doesn't hurt. What I mean is, you have a better chance of running into a Voodoo Woman if she has mobility issues. It's simple physics. And from the looks of things, the best place to run into a Voodoo Woman with Mobility Issues is outside Pizza Playhouse.

It should be noted that the Voodoo Woman with Mobility Issues (Tyger Sodipe) in this film can grant you anything your heart desires. But seeing that this film takes place entirely in Hollywood, the majority of the Voodoo Woman with Mobility Issues' "clients" are wannabe rock stars. Which, again, explains why L.A. was crawling with so many grown men in leather pants during that particular period in history.

Now, I don't mean to imply that grown men in leather pants is a bad thing. It's just that... Actually, uh... I'm sorry, but the image of Stephen Quadros (the scarecrow from Dr. Caligari) sitting on the couch in that sleazy record exec's office in a pair of leather pants just popped into my head. And, I have to say, what a glorious image it is.

In fact, if I was in charge of men's fashion, I would force everyone to dress the way Stephen Quadros does after the Voodoo Woman with Mobility Issues makes his dream of becoming a rock star come true. I liked how his look combined classic L.A. hard rock stylings with traditional Gothic fashion.

To put it another way: Type O Negative? More like, Type O Positive, as am I positively in love with Stephen Quadros' gothic doom metal attire in this movie. Gorgeous.

And to think, before he met the Voodoo Woman with Mobility Issues, he was just a lowly pizza chef without big hair who lived in a rundown trailer park. 

Speaking of being without big hair, what's up with Traci Lords' hair in this movie? I mean, why isn't it big like her co-stars? At first I was annoyed. Then it dawned on me. Not only is Traci Lords' hair awesome, it's precise as fuck.

Look at her bangs, goddamn it! Have you ever seen anything so meticulously crafted? I don't know who did Traci's hair, but the fact they bucked the big hair trend that was literally polluting the atmosphere in 1991 needs to be recognized (I love the smell of Aqua Net in the morning...). And since I'm only one here at the moment, it's up to me to get the word out about Traci Lords' hair in Shock 'Em Dead.

As for Traci's wardrobe. While it's a tad on the conservative side, especially when compared to Stephen Quadros' assigned leggy floozies and even the Jonny Crack (Markus Grupa), the flamboyant soon to be ex-lead singer of Spastique Kolon, I did like how she mixed vests and jeans with old Hollywood glamour. If I had to pick two people who clearly inspired her looks in this movie, I'd have to say, Debbie Gibson and Veronica Lake.

In case you didn't know, my favourite cover version of Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" is by The Fibonaccis. But if I had to choose a second favourite, it would have to be the one by Spastique Kolon that opens Shock 'Em Dead. While it's nothing all that special musically (the guitar work is weak), the sheer enthusiasm of their aggressively campy frontman, Jonny Crack, is hard to ignore.

Seriously, how do you ignore a man in a teal crop-top?

The reason, by the way, that guitar work is weak on their "Purple Haze" cover is because Spastique Kolon are in the process of auditioning a new guitar player at their rehearsal space. And what we hear as the film gets underway is another in a long line of terrible musicians.

Since the band have an important show tomorrow, the band, desperate to fill the position, let a dorky pizza chef named Martin (Stephen Quadros) audition. To no-one's surprise, Martin is awful, and is openly mocked by Jonny, who usually let's the auditionees down easy.

Unable to get his job back at Pizza Playhouse (he quit in order to go to the audition), Martin decides to consult the mysterious Voodoo Woman with Mobility Issues. Asking him what he wants, Martin tells the Voodoo Woman with Mobility Issues that he wants to be "the greatest rock star in the world." And, after a brief ritual and a freaky dream sequence (a green-eyed Michael Angelo Batio is shown at one point playing a double-guitar in a graveyard), Martin wakes up with big hair in a mansion that contains three leggy floozies who are there to do his bidding.

Did I mention that Martin's leggy floozies are never not in lingerie? No? Hmm, that was stupid of me. Anyway, greeted at first by Michelle (Karen Russell), Martin eventually meets Monique (Laurel Wiley) and Marilyn (Gina Parks), and is told that he can have anything his heart desires. Well, anything but food. I'll explain that in a minute (if there's time). In the meantime, Martin, who now calls himself "Angel Martin," wastes no time heading down to Spastique Kolon's rehearsal space (with his leggy floozies in tow) to show off his newly acquired talent. Of course, the members of Spastique Kolon, including the aforementioned Jonny, their bass player Greg (Tim Moffett), drummer Dustin (Christopher Maleki), keyboardist Izzy (David Homb) and manager Lindsay Roberts (Traci Lords) have no idea that Angel Martin is the pizza guy who auditioned earlier. Nevertheless, despite giving Jonny plenty of attitude (this scene reminded me of the interplay between Mozart and Salieri in Amadeus), the band hire Angel on the spot.

To celebrate, Angel invites the band over to party at his mansion. While this might seem like a nice gesture on his part, what Angel really wants is to put the moves on Lindsay. Unfortunately, just as the party is about to get underway, Angel learns that his new life as a rock star comes with a price. And one of the biggest is that he has to kill (using special daggers) in order to survive (something about absorbing their souls through their stab wounds). Now, you would think that learning that he's a soulless rock demon would put a damper on his love life. But it doesn't. If anything, Angel seems to be more determined than ever to woo Lindsay away from Greg the bass player.

Will the now demonic Angel be able to shred his way into Lindsay's heart? How do the leggy floozies feel about Angel's obsession with Lindsay? Aren't they enough for him? Normally, I would say that the leggy floozies have a point. But you've got to remember, Lindsay is played by Traci Lords, who, in this film, is at the height of her post-porn foxiness.

Oh, and get this, I recently learned that Linda Blair was the first choice to play Lindsay, but her manager at the time was trying to get her non-horror roles, so, he or she passed on it. Sure, Traci Lords is amazing. But imagine Linda Blair as Lindsay. Dang, that would have been sweet.

All right, where was I? Oh, yeah, the spurned leggy floozies. Don't feel too bad about the leggy floozies. They seem content to serve their metal master, especially Marilyn, who performs exemplary work during the film's epic finale. And she does so while wearing lingerie.

It's true, I'm not the biggest fan of hair metal (a.k.a. glam metal), but as far as hair metal fashion goes, you're not going to find a more appealing aesthetic. And if wasn't for that aesthetic, I don't think this film would be as beloved as it is. I'm not kidding around, the way the Hollywood hair metal aesthetic, which, unlike other metal scenes, manages to include punk (Angel Martin wears a T.S.O.L. t-shirt at one point), goth (the outfit Angel wears to the office of the record company his band signs with practically screams Andrew Eldritch... well, the leather pants do) and new wave (the leggy floozies wear radioactive lingerie-esque lingerie) styles is the key to its success. And, of course, it's the key to this film's overall success.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Happy Campers (Daniel Waters, 2001)

Damn you, Daniel Waters! Damn you for making me choose between Emily Bergl (Carrie 2: The Rage) and Dominique Swain (Lolita 2: The Quickening). I know, what about Jaime King? Screw that free spirit vibe she was putting out there, this is clearly a battle between the Berglster and the Swainstress. Of course, given my track record when it comes to championing those who possess, oh, let's just say, an oft-kilter brand of beauty, you would think I would naturally gravitate towards Emily Bergl (Francis Jarvis from Gilmore Girls!!!). But holy crap does Dominique Swain ever bring her A game to Happy Campers, the lesser known summer camp comedy from 2001 (Wet Hot American Summer being the more known one). Written and directed by the writer of Heathers, the film, as expected, is darkly humourous and refreshingly unsentimental. But like I was saying, it put me in a bit of a bind. And that is,  repeatedly forcing me to choose between two actresses I have the hots for. Granted, the characters in the film itself seem to have no trouble whatsoever making their decision (they either went with Swain or King), but I'm not Brad Renfro (Ghost World) or the Xander-esque Jordan Bridges (Dawson's Creek), and I'm definitely not Justin Long (Drag Me to Hell). Which reminds me. Can you believe that Justin Long actually settles for Emily Bergl at one point? The nerve of some people. But don't worry, Emily Bergl sees right through Justin Long's lame attempt to reluctantly woo her and shuts him down right in the middle of the eye of a hurricane.

You're probably thinking to yourself: Great, another camp movie where youthful heterosexuals try to hump one another over the course of the summer. While, yes, it's true, there are plenty of attempts to hump the opposite sex in this movie. I was pleasantly surprised that two camp counselors, the rebellious Wichita (Brad Renfro) and the perky Wendy (Dominique Swain), decide to use live frogs instead of their genitals to court one another. What I mean is, instead trying to insert certain parts of their anatomy into each other, they would try to stuff live frogs down one another's shorts/bikini bottoms.

While this all sounds completely normal on paper, the actual practice of frog stuffing causes Oberon (Peter Stormare), the dictatorial camp director of Camp Bleeding Dove, to loose his shit. Oh, and just to let you know, the scene where Oberon catches Wichita shoving a live frog down the backside of Wendy's bikini bottoms in front of a rapt audience of camp counselors and campers is the film's first big laugh. Well, at least it was for me.

I think the line went something like this: "What kind of sick fucky-fuck ritual is that"?

And, yes, the camp at the center of this movie is called "Camp Bleeding Dove." And while this sounds like the ideal location for a machete-wielding madman to get his kill on, the only thing that is killed in this movie is the buzz that Wendy repeatedly kills with her deranged brand of enthusiasm. Actually, I think that's a tad on the harsh side. What can I say? She sucks at her job. That is until she's gets a whiff of Wichita's salty man-scent.

Oh, and when I say, "sucks," I mean it in a good way. You see, Wichita's social experiment for the summer is to change the definition of "sucks" from a negative verb to a positive one. On top of telling Wendy she sucks, Wichita tells Trevor Christensen's Wes (my favourite camper) that what he did for a fellow camper sucked. As a reward, Wichita tells Wes to go down to the lake, where he gets an eyeful of side-boob.

Eventually growing tired of the frog stuffing scene, Wichita and Wendy decide to start using their junk to communicate their affection for one another. Much to the chagrin of the cynical Talia (Emily Bergl) and the dorky Donald Dark (Justin Long), who both have massive crushes on them.

Hold up, I just remembered that hippy-dippy Pixel (Jaime King) makes a play to get into Wendy's ultra-tight panties (pressing oh so tightly against her goose bump-laden crotch skin). Sure, she ultimately settles on the cock attached to the crude and pig-like Adam (Jordan Bridges) as her summertime plaything, but the fact that she tries to cut herself a sweet slice of Wendy pie before hopping on Adam's pork stick was quite telling. And, on top of being telling, annoying as hell.

I mean, seriously. What does Talia have to do to get noticed around here? She could make a play for Jasper (Keram Malicki-Sánchez), but he's as queer as a three dollar bill. In other words, no nookie for Talia.

Speaking of queer, the scene where Jasper tells Wichita that he will go down on him if Cliff Moore's "Don't Touch Me" Todd catches a about to be tossed football was pretty tense. I mean, call me seriously gay, but I never wanted someone to catch a football so badly.

When Oberon says early on that fun without structure is chaos, he isn't kidding around. After Oberon is knocked out of commission by a bolt of lightning, the camp counselor's take over and anarchy reigns supreme.

You could tell at times that Happy Campers was written by someone who was alive/fully conscious during the 1980s when Adam mentions Phoebe Cates at one point and Jasper says such in such should be avoided like a Spandau Ballet tribute album. Of course, not many nineteen year-olds in the year 2001 probably knew who Phoebe Cates or Spandau Ballet were, but I appreciated the references, nonetheless.

My favourite non-Peter Stormare (whose presence is greatly missed after the lightning strike) line was actually uttered by Emily Bergl when she tells a camper that, "Behind every great woman is a great embarrassing first menstruation story." It's the kind of line Diablo Cody would give her left nut to write.

Some of the characters fuck, some of the characters learn life lessons, some of the characters paint tribal markings on the body and attack the sexually active characters with condoms filled with water. But at the end of the day, I laughed a few times and, most importantly, I got to see Dominique Swain in a bikini.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Doctor Detroit (Michael Pressman, 1983)

Awash with the kind of politically incorrect humour that would most likely get you banished from today's overly sensitive outrage-verse, Doctor Detroit was originally intended to amuse the people of the 1980s (blue collar slobs, closeted white supremacists, unaware yuppies, middle-class geeks and shiftless wastoids and dweebies). In other words, why would anyone in their right mind watch it now? I have two words for you, and I think you all know what I'm about to say: Fran Drescher! I was thinking about faking you out by saying, oh, something like, Nan Martin. Who, don't get me wrong, is hilarious, and, not to mention, pretty hot, for an "old chick." But let's get real, there's only one reason to watch this completely asinine tale about a dorky English professor who gets coned into becoming a cyborg pimp named... "Doctor Detroit," by a high class Chicago pimp (Dr. Johnny Fever himself), and that reason is, to bask in the otherworldly beauty that is Fran Meshuggahumpin' Drescher. Though, to be fair to the film itself,  the opening credits sequence, the one that features a spry Dan Aykroyd power walking across town while Devo's "Theme from Doctor Detroit" blasts on the soundtrack, is kind of amazing. Who am I kidding? It's lots of amazing. I don't know, there's something about the sight of Dan Aykroyd walking really, really fast in red short shorts to the sound of Devo that brings me a shitload of joy.

Now, normally I would say something like this: Well, things can only go downhill from here. And, yes, while it's true, things do go downhill. The prospect that I will get to see Fran Drescher (UHF) tarting it up as Karen Blittstein, the slinkiest, leggiest whore this side of Archer Avenue, allowed me traverse this film's idiotic landscape with a buttery, Cumberbatchian ease.

That being said, I seriously have to question the logic of not sheathing Fran Drescher's womanly curves in a dress that boasted a slit during the Players Ball sequence. And if that's the case, how do you expect Fran's floozy character to shimmy without a slit? (The Players Ball, in case you don't know, is an annual event where pimps and their hos alike get to strut their stuff in front of their peers.)

I mean, Jasmine Wu (Lydia Lei, Vice Squad), the Asian one (I love how she uses a fake Engrish accent when speaking to men), Thelma Carter (Lynn Whitfield), the black one, and Monica McNeil (Donna Dixon), the blonde one, all get slits. What gives, Doctor Detroit?

Oh, and please don't make me play the anti-semitism card, as I don't want this review to become a scathing indictment of Hollywood discrimination (Jews can never seem to catch a break in the movie business). But I couldn't help but think that's what was happening as I watched Fran Drescher struggle to bust-a-move in her slitless gown. It's more tragic than anything else.

Did I let the fact that Fran Drescher's dress had no slit ruin my enjoyment of an otherwise harmless piece of filmed entertainment. Of course not, as the film provided no real enjoyment in the first place.

Just kidding, it's not that bad. The montage where Howard Hesseman's "Smooth Walker," and the aforementioned foursome of high-end escorts (a walking, talking Benetton Ad in heels), take a nerdy comparative literature professor named Clifford Skridlow (Dan Aykroyd) out to every nightclub in Chicago, for example, is teeming with righteous energy. If only the entire film could have maintained that "righteous energy" from start to finish. Oh, well.

I think the biggest problem is Doctor Detroit himself. The quality of the film seemed  to take a nosedive the moment Clifford Skridlow becomes Doctor Detroit. Seriously, I don't know what they were thinking when they came up with the Doctor Detroit's voice, as it's beyond irritating.

The reason the mild-mannered Clifford Skridlow becomes über-pimp Doctor Detroit is a convoluted as you might expect. To deflect attention away from his own pimp-related problems, Smooth tells Mom (Kate Murtagh), a powerful pimp who rules Chicago's criminal underworld with an iron fist, that a pimp named "Doctor Detroit" is taking over her turf. And since Doctor Detroit doesn't really exist, Smooth convinces Clifford Skridlow to play the part.

First noticing him while he was out power walking to Devo, Smooth runs into Clifford Skridlow later that day while dining at an Indian restaurant. Using Fran Drescher and the other three ladies as bait, Smooth manages to win over Cliff over. It also didn't hurt that Smooth drowns Cliff's nervous system in drugs and alcohol.

After his crazy night is over, Cliff goes back to work at Monroe College. Little does he know, but Cliff's a pimp now. He even has a limo driver, played by T.K. Carter (The Thing), and access to a vulgar penthouse filled with utterly tasteless furnishings.

Even though Fran Drescher's legs are visible multiple times over the course of the film, Dan Aykroyd's legs are mentioned at least four times. As you might expect, this annoyed me like you wouldn't believe. Granted, it wasn't as annoying as the whole slit debacle during the Players Ball sequence, but it still irked me.

Did anyone else find it mildly interesting that Smooth refers to Mom's minions as the "Yul Brynner clones" and as a "cue-ball convention" at one point? The only reason I ask is because society viewed male baldness differently thirty years ago. Nowadays, you see men with shaved heads almost everywhere and no one seems to care. But back in 1983, it was still pretty rare. In fact, in some circles, male baldness was met with open hostility. Simply put, if you weren't a Buddhist monk or Yul Brynner/Telly Savalas you and your hairless dome were viewed with suspicion.

What the? Why am I talking about male baldness when I could be blathering on and on about Fran Drescher's wicked organic structure? Bizarre. Truly bizarre. Anyway, take special note of Clifford's dream sequence, as it's your best opportunity to see Fran Drescher in sexy lingerie in the entire film. Unfortunately, the camera doesn't linger on Fran's stocking encased gams for all that long, so you might have to pause the video to get the full effect. Which is a shame, because Frannies shouldn't have to resort to such flapdoodle to get an eyeful of Fran.

In a surprise twist, Lynn Whitfield gets a nice stocking-related close-up near the end of the film. Of course, you might miss it, as it takes place as T.K. Carter and Fran Drescher are on-screen (since actor Howard Hesseman collected his check and got the hell out of there, T.K. and Fran are saddled with doing the majority of the heavy-lifting, comedy-wise... which makes sense, as they're both talented comedians). At any rate, if you look at the left side of the screen, you will notice that Lynn is sheepishly putting her stockings on. I can't believe I almost missed this.

In closing, Doctor Detroit doesn't really deserve the amount of attention I've given it. If you're fan of Fran Drescher or even Dan Aykroyd, I guess you should watch it. On the other hand, you''re probably better off just watching Jekyl and Hyde... Together Again, as it as way funnier and way more politically incorrect.

Oh, and why is Glenne Headly (Making Mr. Right) listed in the credits as "Miss Debbylike"? She has no dialogue and she's only on-screen for a few seconds. I'm thinking there must have been a subplot involving Dan Aykroyd and one of his students, and it was obviously cut out of the movie.