Labor Day Weekend Special: Alone in the Dark (1982)

I've been searching for this in Youtube at a near-weekly basis for about four years now, ever since I started the Movie of the Week feature on this dumb blog. And now, for this Labor Day weekend, the fruit of my labors is finally here, to remind me (a) to cancel my Netflix subscription, and (b) that I have great affinity for some things that I can't begin to explain to myself.

Why does it have such strange appeal? Outwardly, it's a formulaic early 80's slasher/thriller, but in many other ways it's like nothing else. There's a certain honesty here; the kind that makes the audience feel complicit, for better or worse. "You're really there.... you know? You're really there...." I find this moral ambiguity to be both disturbing and funny. I'm having a hard time validating it, but it sure is entertaining.

With star turns from Jack Palance, Donald Pleasence and Martin Landau. Plus we get the massive mountain of a man who stole the show in Stir Crazy, The Wanderers and The Running Man, and a very special and pivotal role by punk-novelty band The Sic F*cks, performing, among others, their Solid Gold hit "Chop Up Your Mother". One of the killers wears a hockey mask, a year before Jason started doing it in the Friday the 13th movies, but who cares. Filmed entirely in New Jersey.

SPECIAL PRELIMINARY FEATURETTE: Also from 1982, the seven-minute cable TV classic must-see short  The Dummy (not embeddable).


A Pair of Russ Meyer Classics

Since Haji died a few days ago, I thought I'd look up whatever Russ Meyer films were currently accessible on youtube.

As far as legit home video is concerned, all of his movies except for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (made for Fox studios) seem to be tied up in litigation; the reason Meyer got so rich is because he was his own producer and distributor, so whether it was theatrical prints or home video, he got all the profits. He passed away a while ago, so availability of DVD's from "RM International", now handled by his estate, have been declining. Anyway, I found a double feature from his late (1970's), most raunchy period, Supervixens (1975) and UP! (1976).

 How can anyone pick a favorite Russ Meyer film? I certainly can't, but perhaps it would be easier if I were to divide his oeuvre into three chronological eras:

 First Wave- Little more to offer than footage of nude women: The Immoral Mr. Teas, Eve and the Handyman, Wild Girls of the Naked West, Mondo Topless… this comprises at least half of his filmography. Burlesque dancers take off their tops. It's all very dated, and doesn't interest me much, although, like all of his work, they're very well shot and edited.

 Second Wave- His exploitive Southern Gothic morality plays: Mudhoney, Faster Pussycat, Lorna, Motorpsycho, Black Snake… titillating around the edges, but with a deeply cynical core. Good stuff.

 Third Wave- Finally, his colorful, fun, hyperactive, hyper-sexualized cartoons: Vixen!, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens… and the two films we'll be seeing here tonight on Futurechimp.com.

 I still can't pick a favorite, although UP! is definitely in my top three. It opens with Hitler getting sodomized, then becomes progressively more outrageous from there. And if you haven't seen these before, then, like, definitely NSFW. They're rated X, and look to be uncut. Also, they each contain individual scenes that I still find to be very off-putting for their extreme misogyny. I love them anyway, against my better judgement.



Depressing Dog Days of Summer Special: Degrassi High - School's Out (1992)

Several months ago, catalyzed by a sudden change of lifestyle, I began watching Degrassi Junior High from the first episode of the first season onwards. I was a little too old to see it back when it aired on the local PBS station in the late 80's, when I was in high school, but had no problem discovering it at the age of 43. Plus the episodes were 25 minutes, almost perfect for a bottle feeding / burping / rocking session at 4:30 in the morning.

Then I moved on to the two seasons of Degrassi High (which was still excellent by any empirical television standard, but a little trite when compared to its predecessor, ironically). Then I finished with School's Out, a post-graduation followup TV movie that only aired in its native Canada. And this, readers, is the movie I offer to you today as the 1,320th post of Futurechimp.com.

I'll try my best to curb my ecstatic fanaticism for the entire Degrassi saga, except to say that if you've never seen the show, and plan to, definitely do so before seeing this (if you're subscribing to Hulu Plus, all of the Degrassi universe, including this movie, is available there). And I recommend approaching it the same way I did, from the beginning. If you aren't sold by the third episode of the first season, then you can feel free to quit, but give it a chance until then.

However, if binge-watching five seasons of a TV series from the 80's that was made for children doesn't seem appealing to you, then (a) you're a well-adjusted adult with better things to do, and (b) the movie holds up fine enough on its own, and can be seen regardless of familiarity with the characters, so I think you should trust me and give it a go.

It's set during the Summer after High School graduation, and the realism of that retrospectively short time - the feeling that you're growing apart from your closest, oldest friends and starting a new path… it's something I believe most of us can relate to, bittersweet and perfectly realized. And if you've seen even a handful of episodes of the television show, then you know to expect one happy ending for every four tragic endings. It's a sad and dangerous world, but it never preaches or provides easy answers, it only prepares kids to make difficult decisions for themselves.

This was allegedly the first time the word "fuck" was used on CBC. And it's not simply used as an expletive, but in its literal meaning as a verb, in one of the most heartbreaking scenes you'll ever see. It's not exploitive, it's painfully familiar. Quite a moment for a show whose audience was 11-year olds at the beginning. But what made Degrassi so great is the way it evolved with its audience over the five-year run, and continued to respect its intelligence and maturity. It makes Beverly Hills 90210 and everything on the Disney channel look even more like the phony pandering boring corporate consumerist bullshit than it already so obviously is.

(movie is not embeddable: click the links below)

part eight

Postscript: The cast were mostly untrained as actors, so the show's creators seemed to go through the effort of learning who they really were, and writing those qualities into the characters they played.  For example, while looking up this movie just now, I learned that the most consistently troubled character on the show, "Wheels", was played by a kid who grew up with alcoholic parents. His father died of cirrhosis early in the production of the show, when his character was still in the seventh grade. In the second season of Degrassi Junior, Wheel's TV parents were both killed in a car accident. His personal turmoil was written into his character, and he continued to play the role of a deeply disturbed teenager for another three years.

Real life "Wheels" ending up dying alone in a trailer in 2007, at the age of 35. His body wasn't discovered until 2012. Not everyone is granted the privilege of a Disney ending.


Movie of the Week: Get Crazy (1983)

Allen Arkush's highly underrated and supremely entertaining followup to Rock and Roll High School is finally on Youtube in its entirety, lucky you. As far as I know, it's otherwise only available on VHS. Why is that? Music licensing issues? And why didn't it catch on the first time around, when it played theaters? It should have become a midnight movie. 

But maybe it was too late, because I personally consider Get Crazy to be the last studio movie of the counterculture, before the Reagan era destroyed everything fun. After this film, 80's pop culture was all about materialism and complacency and conformity and wealth. So it's a little out of its time, maybe, but that makes it all the more exceptional. A threadbare plot about a New Year's concert serves its purpose to throw as many jokes as possible onto the screen. It's Rock and Roll High School on speed, and I think it's the bee's knees.

Allow me to describe a small portion of the cast:

Lou Reed, poking fun at himself for a change
Malcom McDowell drops acid and hears voices from his penis
Ed Begley Jr. as an archetypal 80's yuppie
Lee Ving, who steals the whole Goddamn movie
Paul Bartel and his movie-partner Mary Woronov
Lori Eastside, front woman of Kid Creole and the Coconuts
Robert Picardo of The Howling and one of those Star Trek television series
Linnea Quigley as a groupie
Derf Scratch of FEAR as Reggie's guitarist

Plus the little sister is played by the hottie "tsatske" from Halloween III: Season of the Witch, who, as a teenager, dated Woody Allen and was the inspiration for the Mariel Hemingway character in Manhattan.

Also keep an eye out for Dick Miller, Clint Howard and Fabian. There are a bunch of other faces I'm recognizing here, but I'm not going to look them all up.