As bi-polar March melts and freezes and jumps 30 degrees up and down almost every day here in NYC, I'm a veg, Danny, my SADD dragging me around like Angel tied to the back of Mapache's automóvil. My mother died last month, so who am I trying to shock with all my crazy gonzo rambling now? Who's next in the Agatha Christie keelhaul? In the hell of my natural Brooklyn habitat the prices keep going up up up up; I've been writing about the lysergic properties of The Green Pastures all week, but with all the instant crucifying going on in the blogosphere, I'm worried it's racist instead of merely clever. If the weather wasn't so unendurable I might hazard a guess, but the barometric pressure makes clarity impossible. Soon enough, chillin' with some entries in the drive-in triple feature canon instead. Because good recycled trash just might be the only haven from the demons at our doorstep, who be us. And I turn to Joanne Nail to fuck the shit up on my behalf, for my god is one of wrath and vengeance and he's tired of bureaucrats and bourgeois liberal tenure-trickers bearin' false witness. Hear these words long written down: the Jezebels will be back!
RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR
Dir: Bruno Mattei
1984 - **1/2
El Rey has delivered the great trashy 1970s-80s Italian goods like clockwork these days, and the best so far is Rats: Night of Terror (1984) -- which is different from Willard or Food of the Gods, or Rats, as in the Frank Herbert series about giant rats: Rats, Lair, and something else, which Stephen King recommended in Danse Macabre, and I found at the school book fair and bought and read avidly and so was crushed by the lame movie of. Whew! Anyway, it's the post-apocalyptic land wandering phase of junk 80s Italian cinema, the time when Escape from New York, The Warriors, The Road Warrior, and Conan the Barbarian all swirled together in the Italian trash auteur mind.
Since the advent of DVD a lot of these once-maligned gonzo Italian trash classics have found a new vibrance, as instant nostalgia for the era - even though at the time we'd just sneer at them, and with the glorious El Rey channel, we don't even have to seek them out. And you can feel the love and eye for deep blacks and deep color restoration on a lot of these, not all, but Rats: Night of Terror looks amazing, and that helps us get over the general grimy look of all the abandoned buildings where the film was shot, and our natural displeasure seeing masse of rats congregated in a room with no clear direction from their alpha leader what they're expected to do in order to seem menacing. The rats don't seem to have anything better to do than hang around though, so why not? Bruno Mattei, el director, makes sure there's other subplots as the events unfold, and so why not? Were rats harmed during the production? This is Italy, mate. So yeah. Probably. But in a hellscape like this, the dead are the lucky ones.
More than just the rats, it's got sci fi futurism as a Road Warrior style biker gang with tricked out vehicles that must have been left over from the 1983 Enzo Castellari film I nuovi barbari (The New Barbarians AKA Exterminators AKA Warriors of the Wasteland) which were from his classic 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982) and its sequels. In fact, in Germany, Rats: Night of Terror was billed as the Rifts III - Die Ratten von Manhatten i.e. one of those sequels, billed as third in the Bronx Warriors trilogy--hey, there were others still to come, and hey, they borrow from the best, and probably used the same cast and vehicles -- these guys use so many Anglicized names in their credits, how would we ever know unless Tim Lucas was interested enough to find out?
So these Bronx "Rifts" (yeah, "right!") pull into a deserted (bombed out in WW2 and never restored?) Italian (not supposed to be) villa and soon are besieged by shots of nonplussed en masse ratten, never funnier than when being pulled via an 'unseen' carpet towards our terrified post-apocalyptic biker antiheroes and their molls. There's a room with futuristic radio equipment and an opening scrawl that delivers a whole series of post-apocalyptic upsets, evolution amok, up and under.
This biker gang though seems to have dropped into this world from an amnesiac nightmare, initially super psyched to eat uncooked flour, soon enough wondering where it came from, and how to protect it from the rats. There's a long stretch where the camera urges us to think killing the bigger white rat will end the hostilities, and gang members lock eyes with it, but do nothing. Mainly, it's just gonzo 70s-80s Italian nonsense, the gang killing each other as much as the rats, with the fake Charles Bronson going up against the fake Richard Chamberlain; but the music is great, it looks foxy and retro-chic all tarted up by El Rey (or someone) with a lot of drive in fan geek love to the deep blacks and dusky dusty ratty colors. For those of us who saw the Escape-Road-Warriors trifecta over and over and over as kids, it's enough that this film tries hard to look like them, at least on some level. Could-a done without the rats, though. Twist ending!
Dir. Jack Hill
1973 - ****
1973 - ****
"The only thing a man's got below his legs is clay feet."
Anyway, it bombed. The film's original title THE JEZEBELS made drive-in audiences think it was that hoary old Bette Davis southern romance (maybe?). SWITCHBLADE SISTERS as a title is also a little tacky. By the time the distributors changed the title, word had gotten around JEZEBELS was the film to see, but now they couldn't find it. D'oh!! If it had been called I'LL SLIT YOUR FUCKING THROAT, it would be talked about to this day. Hill's other great film, SPIDER BABY had the bad luck to be made in black and white right as drive-ins didn't want black and white movies anymore (NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD had broken the mold the year before, I guess). That title was dumb too, making it seem like some ditzy Andy Sidaris softcore lesbo thing it should have been called THE SPIDER GIRL GAME or I'LL SLASH YOU TO FUCKING RIBBONS!
Anyway, you can guess the story, SISTERS is great when you're really pissed off, like I am right now. It goes all the way and keeps going long after other films pull back and say 'that's far enough, laddies: we don't need, say a feminist black militant ghetto uprising with a badass armored Cadillac or a shocking Cagney-by-way-of Lorre raving mad closing monologue, or an Othello style jealous mind poisoning or the foxy Daryl Hannah-prefiguring eye patch of Patch and heavenly blonde jawline of Bunny. But Hill gives us all that and more, and Quentin Tarantino brings us to the Hill by way of Miramax, looking damn good by way of Netflix Streaming. Forever.
Maybe I'm really pissed off right now, and taking it out on the infinitely carvable idiots in my mind who kept us working until four on while a blizzard raged because they had a meeting with Girl Scouts. I sulked in my office, blasted this movie on Netflix, felt like a badass, then tripped on my snow boot shoelaces like a four alarm ponce. But either way, SWITCHBLADE SISTERS is the shit, see it when you're in the mood to stomp on someone, and that it's on Netflix in HD with gorgeous colors is one of cinema's current great gifts. See it when you're super furious at the world, or just strung out with the shakes because your dealer never showed, and bask in the film's gonzo cathartic powers of the fabulous Joanne Nail. She'll be back all right! In the fascinating drive-in capstone, THE VISITOR!
1981 - ***
The monster stuff is all pretty rote, which is great for lovers of said genre, such as myself. What really sets it apart is the snowy environment and the relative cool of two young men (Fred McCaren, Jeff Harlan) fresh out of engineering school taking a job re-opening an old silver mine, and the two young women--one the girlfriend, the other just there to be set up visiting them for the weekend for sex and skiing (Rebecca Balding, Anne-Marie Martin). I've been on all sides of their foursome and the casual but mature hookup between the girlfriend's friend and the guy's roommate is amazingly well etched. Unlike most scripts, the dialogue has to voice of two separate people, which makes sense considering it was written by two dudes, and then re-written by still more. But for once that works pretty well and we're so used to the usual geeky virgin nerds and hunky alpha bland lotharios, sluts and final girls, that we only realize here in Boogens how under-represented is the gap in cinema between those polarities. Boogens asks: What about the guys and girls old enough to know what they want and not care about their reputations, but young enough they're still a little insecure when real emotion intrudes on the mechanics of a weekend stand? I went into this because I needed as many 80s monster movies I could muster, but what won me over was seeing the dudes and girls who are little nervous about hooking up, but not to the point of geekiness and who hook up with each other without it being about sluts or virgins or getting lucky to the date rapey snickering of baseball cap-wearing douche bags, but just connecting casually when the lover of one roommate brings her friend up to the cabin for the weekend? We must be in Europe! Or Canada. Or in a John Carpenter movie. But we're not!
This was filmed in Utah and Colorado, out there in the woodsy wild. And the monsters have an ingenious connection to all the homes in the neighborhood. The monster are hilarious, cool, and even a little scary. I shall not reveal them here, because the film takes its time not showing them too early, which is how it should be. And by my troth, I shan't be the one to break that most sacred bond for you. You can dig it, right, literally? There's some real terror with a girl in one of the girls fresh out of the shower getting chased around the basement and an explosive ending and some good (presumably real) mine scenes, which we can see and appreciate.... now.