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Sunday, May 30, 2010

BATMAN XXX (2010)

If there's one thing I never imagined I would see, it's the sight of the Riddler initiating an act of drooly "snowballing" and doing that famous lunatic giggle as he enthusiastically eats Bruce Wayne's fiancée's asshole.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Like many superhero geeks, the classic Adam West BATMAN teevee show from the 1960's was a favorite during my formative years and it very strongly instilled certain virtues in me at a young age that are still in place today. Hey, if Batman said it was a good idea to wear a seat belt, you had goddamned well better believe that the wee Bunche buckled up for safety! Adam West's Batman was my hero with a capital H and I admired everything about him, even if he was something of a monotone square. I watched the show religiously while it ran in syndication on New York's Channel 11, and I'll never forget the moment when, after not having seen it between the end of fourth grade and the start of junior high school, I twigged to the fact that the show was in fact a comedy, in fact the very definition of the term "camp," and with that understanding came a whole other level of enjoyment.

Now comes BATMAN XXX, a porn parody of the old Adam West cult classic that is incredibly exacting in capturing the look and feel of its template, and seeing the familiar and visually-accurate characters engaging in activities that I was much to young to have contemplated when I was first introduced to them was a very strange experience. Not a bad or creepy one by any means, but definitely strange.

Taking the first episode of the series, the two-part "Hi Diddle Riddle" and "Smack in the Middle," as its starting point, BATMAN XXX plays exactly — and I do mean EXACTLY — like any given installment of BATMAN, right down to the splattery cartoon sound effects during its sole fight scene, only with its absurdity periodically derailed in favor of hardcore action where the characters leave on just enough of the iconic costumes to be recognizable to their fans. Writer/director Axel Braun's genuine love and respect for the Adam West series is evident in every aspect of the production, and that feel-good vibe makes this one of the most engaging porn flicks to come along in a while.

The plot, such as it is, involves the Riddler (Evan Stone, who played Captain Kirk in THIS AIN'T STAR TREK XXX ) kidnapping Bruce Wayne's fiancée, Kimberly Kane (Lisa Carson), so that he, the Joker (Randy Spears) and Catwoman (the very sexy Tori Black) can seal the fates of Batman (Dale DaBone) and Robin (James Deen) once and for all when the heroes speed to the rescue. As our heroes rush to save Kimberly, they find themselves in situations where they — Surprise! — fuck all and sundry. And it wouldn't be the 1960's BATMAN without Batgirl, and here she's portrayed with charm and verve by the adorable Lexi Belle.

Robin (James Deen) and Batgirl (Lexi Belle).

There's even Molly, the Riddler's ill-fated moll who was played by Jill St. John in the original version and who was subjected to Batman's legendarily goofy "Batusi" dance moves, now incarnated by the foxy and enthusiastic Alexis Texas, and this time around Molly gets to live!

The finished product is good, wholesome dirty fun and I enjoyed it quite a bit, more for its tribute aspect than for its sexual content (which is in no way a slight on that aspect). A few notes:
  • Best Bat-climb cameo ever: Ron Jeremy pops out of a window to invite Batman and Robin to help him out with a roomful of horny chicks, but, being the heroes that they are, the Dynamic Duo politely decline his offer and get on with their search for the kidnapped Kimberly Kane.

  • Batman and Molly's tryst held my attention from start to finish (no pun intended), largely due to Alexis Texas' spirited performance, spectacular and refreshingly real breasts, and her occasionally incoherent stream-of-consciousness ramblings as Molly is transported by animal passion. I never expected to witness Batman getting graphically laid and I certainly never thought I'd hear him on the receiving end of a line like, "You like it when my pussy fucks you back, don't you?" That leads me to wonder what the Dark Knight heard issuing from the mouths of Selina Kyle or Talia (the mother of his son) during his comic book dalliances with them...
  • Batgirl and Robin getting it on after witnessing a threesome involving the Joker and two of his toothsome minions was intriguing and more hot than I expected it to be, possibly because of my long-term familiarity with the characters as portrayed in the comics and their romantic history. The coupling of the Boy Wonder and the Dominoed Daredoll — yes, that really was Batgirl's nickname in the comics back in the days — is in no way raunchy and instead revels in a certain youthful sweetness that surprised me. Sure it's hot but it was quite appealing and I was glad that the event didn't culminate with Batgirl being facially decorated, as has been the standard in this kind of thing for ages.
  • Sexy in just about any incarnation since her first appearance back in BATMAN #1 (Spring 1940) and definitely smokin' as embodied by current adult video superstar Tori Black, Catwoman presents her backside to the Caped Crusaders in a move that mimics a she-cat in heat, and in no time we're off to the races for a good guys/bad girl three-way.
The sexy-as-all-fuck Tori Black as Catwoman. Mee-Yow!!!

My only real complaint regarding this sequence was that, once the action got started, Tori Black performed it without wearing a trace of the Catwoman outfit, not even the ears, and the ornate star tattoo on her belly took me completely out of the 1960's Batman aesthetic. But, whatever. She's quite toothsome, so I'll just shut the hell up
  • After the aforementioned threesome, we get the film's classic dialogue exchange as the nude and considerably bespunked Catwoman, her upper torso glistening like a Krispy Kreme donut, observes to Batman as he complements her for efforts and tells her it's time to for her to go to jail, "Of course, Batman, but give me a minute to freshen up, huh? You wouldn't want the prison warden to see me all covered in your Bat-cum, would you?" Somehow, Tori Black managed to utter that line without cracking up neither herself nor her co-stars.
  • Just so ya know: The Joker (Randy Spears) is not chalk-white all over and his pubes are not green.
The funny thing is that after watching the porn version, I was inspired to break out some episodes of the original series, and I find it quite interesting that Catwoman and Batgirl in the straight version are a thousand times more nuclear-hot than their admittedly cute tenderloin cinema counterparts. Then again, is it even possible to best Julie Newnar and Yvonne Craig in their prime for looks, smokin' thermonuclear bods and outright sexiness? I think not. In fact, Julie Newmar as Catwoman is the female who first made the five-year-old Bunche "stand at attention" and feel all tingly in a certain location south of my navel, a moment that confused the shit out of me, but felt quite nice at the same time.

Anyway, BATMAN XXX is definitely worth checking out for BATMAN nostalgists who appreciate a fun fuck-movie, and even the casual curiosity seeker won't regret spending time in Axel Braun's lovingly-recreated and rather lubricious Gotham City. RECOMMENDED.

Friday, May 21, 2010

THE BEST OF SEX AND VIOLENCE (1981)

I love how the guy representing "Violence" resembles a post-apocalyptic Tommy Chong.

Back in the days of my misspent youth I had a friend named Kenny who was the one kid I could always count on for tales of outrageous movies that he'd somehow stumbled across in whitebread Westport, CT. in the pre-VHS days (some of the moneyed families we knew had such luxury items, but the likes of Kenny and myself didn't get properly hooked up in that department until around 1984). The most memorable film he ever described was a little charmer entitled OLD MacDONALD'S FARM, a rather eye-opening selection from his dad's incorrectly-presumed-hidden library of 8mm hardcore pornography that was Kenny's first exposure to the magical world of grainy bestiality, and when Kenny recounted its grimy highlights all the kids in our junior high art class paid rapt attention and sat there in sheer shock. Our mutual pal Matt backed up Kenny's claims and since everyone knew Matt was a source to be trusted we bought Kenny's impromptu film review and from then on gave ear whenever he'd say, "I saw the most fucked-up movie the other day..."

At some point during our high school years Kenny mentioned some movie he'd seen at the local combination art house/grindhouse movie theater, Norwalk's Sono Cinema, and though he could not recall its title I was intrigued by his recounting of it. The nameless film in question was apparently a collection of "coming attractions for movies that never come," hosted by a nearly dead and visibly-crippled-by-arthritis John Carradine (a very respected character actor from the golden age of Hollywood, for all you young 'uns what don't know), and packed to the rafters with an avalanche of unforgettable trailer come-on copy of the kind they simply can't replicate nowadays. I'd heard of a handful of the films Kenny described as being represented, but the majority of them made me scratch my head and wonder if he was making up most of them (Matt had by this time moved a few towns away and was no longer on hand to verify Kenny's cinematic education). Since Kenny couldn't remember the film's title and none of my friends who worked at the Sono were there for the one-shot midnight show when it ran I had no verification if this alleged cornucopia of sleaze even existed, so for once I wrote it off as Kenny bullshitting me for the sake of spinning an entertaining story and soon forgot all about it.

Then came college and a few years of drunk and utterly stoned VHS movie-watching, and at some point during that time a fellow sleaze film junkie, a freshman who would later go on to be known as "Selwyn Harris" (one of the undisputed experts on the grindhouse pleasures of the Deuce in its heyday), invited me to watch a tape of trailers provided by his roommate. The tape was entitled THE BEST OF SEX AND VIOLENCE and as I watched it it seemed familiar, miraculously battering through my damaged brain cells to get to the memory of Kenny's yarn from five years prior. When I realized what I was watching I let out a scream of recognition and explained the Kenny connection to my fellow viewers, both of whom where shocked that it had actually received a theatrical run. As soon as possible I obtained a copy for myself and over the next several years dragged any who were willing to sit through it into its squalid depths, eventually yielding a fiercely loyal audience among my friends who were still in Westport as we made the transition from college to the world of grownup life and responsibilities.

THE BEST OF SEX AND VIOLENCE is by no means a particularly good trailer compilation but it is indeed entertaining, and for every dreary coming attraction like THE WORKING GIRLS or THE MANHANDLERS, there's a FAIRY TALES or EBONY, IVORY & JADE to be had. With the exception of 1980's THE BOOGEYMAN and TANYA'S ISLAND, all the films included hail from the late 1960's and the 1970's, covering several genres, including biker sleaze, Euro sexploitation, blaxploitation, women in prison T & A epics, softcore (and not-so-softcore) porn comedies, and of course horror. Perhaps 95% of the films represented are outright shit, but THE BEST OF SEX AND VIOLENCE is where I first heard of the now legendary DOLEMITE and its sublime sequel, THE HUMAN TORNADO, so it was well worth sitting through more than once.

This cheapjack pseudo-documentary opens with a shot of an attractive blonde walking down the street in broad daylight as an ominous Casio-generated tune is heard on the soundtrack to suggest menace. She looks around nervously and soon begins to run as an unseen attacker gives chase. Then for no apparent reason she's seen running full tilt, only now she's clad in naught but a pair of panties as her breasts flop all over the goddamned place, mere seconds before the camera shifts to show a masculine arm driving a switchblade into the lens as the woman's scream is heard. It is at that moment that the titles appear, accompanied by some clearly disinterested offscreen singers belting out "Sex...and Vi-Oh-Lence!!!" and we're off to the races.

The film includes the following trailers, supplemented by truly awful jokes croaked forth by John Carradine and a bizarre segment in which his sons David (he of KUNG FU television fame and later the KILL BILL films) and Keith flank him and do nothing but look into the camera with faces filled with embarrassment for a few seconds before the next coming attraction kicks in:
  • BURY ME AN ANGEL (1972)
A rock-bottom-cheap biker movie starring Dixie Peabody (Who???) as a biker chick described as "a howling hellcat, humping a hot steel hog an a roaring rampage of revenge." Cheap-looking though the trailer is, it doesn't even begin to communicate just how poverty row the movie is, to say nothing of giving any hint as to its extraordinarily high boredom factor. I'll spare you seeing the film with this capsule synopsis: Biker chick seeks revenge on the murderer of her brother, who, at the end of the film, is revealed to have been her lover.
  • THE DOBERMAN GANG (1972)
One of a couple of boring heist movies involving the title dog breed.
  • TUNNEL VISION (1975)
An occasionally brilliant series of TV-related gags revolving about the programming on an all-uncensored television network in the future year of 1985. The funny bits in the movie itself are hilarious, but you have to wade through a lot of crap to get to the gems, plus the trailer does absolutely zero to get one interested in seeing the film.
  • THE SIN OF ADAM AND EVE (1969)
A boring-looking Mexican nudie flick about Adam and Eve, in which Adam has an unusually greasy ass and fights a number of wild animals before putting the bone to Eve (and her happenin' high maintenance hairdo).
  • BILL OSCO'S ALICE IN WONDERLAND (1976)
A mildly pornographic and incredibly annoying musical version of the Lewis Carroll classic. I recall seeing newspaper ads for this while visiting my dad in Washington, D.C. when this came out, and I was amazed the paper was able to get away with an illustration of Alice sitting on what was quite clearly a mushroom-penis.
  • CINDERELLA (1977)
A softcore fairy tale sendup, of note solely for starring exploitation mainstay Cheryl "Rainbeaux" Smith and the black dude who played Lyte in REPO MAN as her cross-dressing fairy godmother.
  • FAIRY TALES (1978)
Another musical adult fairy tale sendup that has a few truly funny segments including a terrific ode to the joys of female-empowered S&M and a jaw-dropping bit in which Snow White (see above) sings about "the seven little wonders" of her world as a gaggle of dwarves with shit-eating grins merrily undress her prior to simultaneously jumping her. Those highlights are both thankfully seen in the trailer.
  • EMANUELLE AROUND THE WORLD (1977)
One of the seeming legion of turgid (and not in a good way) softcore flicks starring the sexually inquisitive Emanuelle character.
  • TANYA'S ISLAND (1980)
In which former girlfriend of Prince and future Vanity 6 frontwoman Vanity (appearing as "D.D. Winters") gets boned up the ass by a guy in an ape suit (which is in the trailer). NOTE: said ass-raunchin' ape guy was Rob Bottin, the makeup effects genius behind THE HOWLING (1981) and John Carpenter's THE THING (1982).
  • I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (1978)
Almost unwatchably nasty, love it or hate it, this is one of the undisputed classics of the rape/revenge genre and all I have to say on this one can be found here.
  • TOURIST TRAP (1979)
A decent shocker that played endlessly on the Tri-State Area's Channel 9 for much of the 1980's.
  • THE BOOGEYMAN (1980)
An Italian-made slasher entry about shards of a haunted mirror that cause gory havoc.
  • ZOMBIE (1979)
Perhaps the best-known of the many Italian DAWN OF THE DEAD ripoffs, and definitely one of the dullest.
  • THE SINGLE GIRLS (1974)
Boring sexploitation fodder.
  • THE WORKING GIRLS (1974)
See above (although Cassandra "Elvira" Peterson is in it with her natural red hair, though that's little consolation).
  • THE MANHANDLERS (1975)
See above (only minus Cassandra Peterson).
  • DR. MINX (1975)
A really boring sexploitationer, of note only because it stars Edy (BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS) Williams, who was once married to legendary big-titty maven Russ Meyer.
  • TRUCK STOP WOMEN (1974)
C.B.-era tomfoolery starring the late and super-hot Claudia (GATOR BAIT) Jennings.
  • THE TWILIGHT PEOPLE (1973)
An unimaginably boring ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU knockoff featuring a young Pam Grier as a human/panther hybrid.
  • BEYOND ATLANTIS (1973)
Dull crap about scantily-clad undersea cavegirl types.
  • THE DEVIL'S WEDDING NIGHT (1973)
Dull Euro-horror.
  • SWEET SUGAR (1972)
Mediocre women in prison antics set at a sugar cane plantation.
  • TERMINAL ISLAND (1973)
A terrific trailer featuring a heavily-guarded penal island where the co-ed prisoners make their own laws (in other words the strong horribly subjugate the weak; you do the math), with Marta Kristen (formerly Judy Robinson on LOST IN SPACE) and a pre-MAGNUM P.I. Tom Selleck and Roger E. Mosley.
  • EBONY, IVORY & JADE (1976)
An outstanding trailer that completely disguises what a boring piece of shit the movie actually is.
  • DR. BLACK & MR. HYDE (1976)
In which kindly inner city doctor Bernie Casey injects himself with a serum that turns him into a homicidal white man (by "white" I mean it looks like somebody dumped liberal amounts of flour all over him. Seriously!). This ran forever on Channel 9 during the pre-cable days, only in a version that edited out all the violence and naked women, much of which can thankfully be found in the trailer.
  • DOLEMITE (1975)
The movie itself may be a study in artistic incompetence, but the trailer for DOLEMITE is a tour de force on how to sell a turd to unsuspecting audiences. This now-legendary example of pimpalicious blaxploitation comedy is shilled with incredibly over-the-top tag lines and clips of ludicrous action and profanity that instantly make all who see it want to immediately watch the movie. I saw the trailer on the VHS tape of THE BEST OF SEX AND VIOLENCE in 1987and since DOLEMITE was still quite obscure to mainstream audiences at the time, it took me another three years to finally see the movie and let me tell you that it was not worth the wait.
  • THE HUMAN TORNADO (1976)
The direct sequel to DOLEMITE, THE HUMAN TORNADO is everything its predecessor was not (even though it's still strictly amateur hour film-making) and has gone on to become one of my all-time favorite movies. The trailer, though fun, does not even begin to do it justice, so I strongly urge you to track it down for yourself.
  • DISCO GODFATHER (1979)
Now known for some inexplicable reason as AVENGING DISCO GODFATHER on DVD, this was the last gasp of the features turned out by DOLEMITE creator Rudy ray Moore and when one sees the film for oneself there's little wonder why. Released at the ass end of the disco craze, it's the story of a deejay who takes on evil PCP pushers with his feeble fat-assed karate stylings when not spinning platters at a roller disco while punctuating every sentence with loud exhortations to "put some weight on it." The trailer shows you all you'll ever need to know about the movie, so its brevity is less a sales pitch than an act of kindness.

When the trailer for DISCO GODFATHER ends, Carradine states that the only thing that could keep him from hosting THE BEST OF SEX AND VIOLENCE PART 2 would be the end of the world, so of course the camera immediately cuts to a cheap globe prop that explodes as we're treated to a reprise of "Sex...and Vi-Oh-Lence!!!"

The bottom line on this one is that THE BEST OF SEX AND VIOLENCE is a surefire winner if put on during a boozy late-night gathering of like-minded sleaze addicts, especially those who have not yet seen it. If nothing else, it's likely to spur the uninitiated to track down grindhouse movies for their own edification, and the preservation of that now-extinct in-theater genre and indelible part of this nation's cinematic history is a noble pursuit.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

YEAR ONE (2009)

NOTE: this review contains minor spoilers. You have been warned!

Harold Ramis' biblical-era comedy YEAR ONE opened in June to mediocre reviews and I can certainly understand why, but now that I've seen it on DVD in its unrated version I say it deserves a second chance. It in no way great, but, well, lemme explain...

The film follows the other-than-heroic journey of Zed (Jack Black) and Oh (Michael Cera), two members of a tribe of primitive hunter-gatherers who live in what was once the Garden of Eden. Zed's a skunk pelt-clad fatassed loser of a hunter who's loathed by nearly all of his tribe for his not incorrectly perceived uselessness, while Oh is the quiet, weak and sensitive brain of the clan whose smarts got totally unappreciated, so of course these two misfits are pals because no one else will give them the time of day. After laying out the futile and unrequited love the boys have for two attractive tribeswomen (June Diane Raphael and Juno Temple), the plot advances things by having Zed violate the tribe's one absolutely carved in stone rule and eat the garden's forbidden fruit, leading Zed to incorrectly conclude that he's suddenly the super-intelligent "chosen one." His transgression is soon discovered and Zed is banished from the tribe, with his friend Oh reluctantly tagging along (after Zed accidentally burns the village to the ground), and the two embark on an odyssey that brings them out of the garden and into the world beyond for the first time. There they meet Cain (David Cross, who's awesome as always) and witness him committing history's first murder, and from there it becomes a shorthand burlesque of the stories of Abraham and Sodom and Gomorrah (Sodom, actually; Gomorrah is visible from across the way, but never ventured into). During the course of their misadventures, Zed and Oh discover that their tribe — and more importantly the girls they desire — has been sold into slavery in Sodom and must be rescued, a task that the pair is woefully unsuited to pull off. Plus, God's about to wipe the infamous city of sin off the map with a rain of fiery destruction, so time is definitely of the essence...

YEAR ONE's big problem, like the majority the majority of Ramis' fourteen feature films — CADDYSHACK, GROUNDHOG DAY and NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION being the obvious exceptions —, is that it simply isn't as funny as it aspires to be or thinks it is, but the film is helped by its leisurely pace and amiable goofiness, two factors that add up to make it a film I'd bet will catch on with the stoner audience once they discover it on cable. Its essentially lighthearted and certainly has many amusing moments, more than enough to have held my interest, and features a number of bits that were indeed memorably funny. For instance:
  • The tribe's post-hunt celebratory dance and Oh's truly pitiful moves.
  • The tribal shaman (John Hader) matter-of-factly informing Zed that by eating the forbidden fruit he's "seriously fucked the pooch," but thanks to the holy man being seriously high after licking several toads and staying awake for almost a month, there's jack shit he can do to smooth things over with the rest of the tribe.
  • David Cross as Cain is hilarious and perfectly defines a sociopathic presence for his biblical setting. He's a murderous, lying, betraying opportunist of the lowest order, and as such he's exactly what the story needs.
Cain reads the sentence of the condemned, including charges such as "leprosy, puppetry, animal husbandry, and not committing sodomy."
  • The depiction of the story of Abraham is a riot, completely dominated by Hank (THE SIMPSONS) Azaria's turn as the father ready to sacrifice his son (Christoper Mintz-Plasse, best known as McLovin out of SUPERBAD). The biblical zealot writ large and practically foaming at the mouth with fervor, Abraham's obsession with circumcision and his warning lecture on why our heroes should avoid Sodom are not to be missed.
Abraham asks the lads to wait while he goes off to retrieve his best knife for their imminent circumcisions.
  • Oliver Platt is hilarious as Sodom's high priest, a flamboyant soothsayer and pedophile who's hairier than Ron Jeremy on his worst day. The guy openly lusts after the sensitive Oh (who's been painted gold and forced to serve as a living statue at an orgy in Sodom) and the scene where slave boy Oh rubs down his grotesquely abundant chest hair just may make you gag.
The film's cast is quite game and their anachronistic behavior and turns of phrase work well when lampooning the biblical epic genre, although a little of Jack Black usually tends to go a very long way for me, but he keeps his signature schtick reigned in just enough to be tolerable. Michael Cera is perfectly cast as Oh and if anyone in the story can be seen as a bemused stand-in for the 21st century human being, it's him; everyone else is pretty much a cartoon character, but we've all either met or been Oh, and thus we totally feel every bit of his annoyance, disappointment, and haplessness in the face of a world much more violent and testosterone-driven than he is.

If you do decide to give YEAR ONE a shot, make sure you see the unrated edition. I didn't bother watching the theatrical PG-13 version (which is included on the disc with the unrated version), and if you ask me the unrated is a "hard" PG-13 at best. I mean, there are maybe one or two utterances of "fuck," a little gross-out humor, visual and verbal sexual innuendos and gags that are in no way R-worthy (not even the one featuring a girl basically giving head to a banana), and even the big orgy scene in Sodom displays nothing that would get cut for a network TV broadcast, so why the version I saw wasn't given a plain old PG-13 is beyond me. The story takes placing in (literally) goddamned Sodom and there's not a trace of nekkid flesh or any of the more scurrilous behavior that the place was famed for to be seen, so how could this ever have been considered for anything other than a PG-13? I swear, I will never understand the arbitrary nature of the MPAA...

Anyway, YEAR ONE is worth a look, provided you're not expecting anything along the lines of MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL. Just make sure to have a hookah, fully loaded with some skunky buds, close at hand.

CRANK 2: HIGH VOLTAGE (2009)

In my lifetime of seeing movies there have previously only been four that literally made me doubt my own sanity thanks to what I witnessed on the screen. EVIL DEAD II, MEET THE FEEBLES, DEADALIVE and DEATH WISH 3 all blew my mind for various reasons and made me ask "What the fuck?!!?" as their stories unfolded in glorious explosions of sheer lunacy, bad taste and utter outrageousness, and now I can add the deliriously out of its mind CRANK 2: HIGH VOLTAGE to that elite short list.

Picking up right where the last film left off, professional hard man Chev Chelios (my man Jason Statham) lands in the middle of an L.A. street after plummeting thousands of feet to earth without a parachute (don't ask) and inexplicably survives, little worse for wear.

The brazen theft of Chev Chelios' "strawberry tart."

No sooner is our hero on the ground than a pack of Asian organ-harvesters pull up in a van and haul Chev's ass to some grungy makeshift operating room where they steal his heart and replace it with a temporary artificial stand-in. Y'see, Chev's organs are scheduled to be transplanted into the aging body of a Triad kingpin (David Carradine in a heavily made-up yellowface role so ridiculously outrageous that it erases any offense spurred by his portrayal of Kwai Chang Caine on KUNG FU), but when the thieves make to harvest his genitalia, Chev springs into action, kills his tormentors and embarks on a quest to reclaim his heart. The problem is that the artificial ticker he has in his chest is running on a dying battery and is not designed for continued strenuous use, so Chev has to continually recharge the fake heart as the story progresses, with each charge being achieved in a more insane manner than the previous.

The "I don't give a fuck" awesomeness that was David Carradine.

Chev's search begins in the land of the over-the-top and only escalates into territory that takes the suspension of disbelief that we must employ to enjoy any action flick and throws it completely out the window. No bit of gratuitous violence is too insane for this film and its non-stop madness is only compounded by a cast of characters straight out of the imagination of a twelve-year-old appropriately cranked up on a fistful of Stud City animal stimulants.

Bai Ling as chatty, foul-mouthed hyperactive whore Ria, a movie-stealing performance if ever I saw one.

Chev's path of vengeance and destruction weaves in and out of contact with the Triads, Mexican gangbangers, his faithful (though disgraced) heart surgeon pal (Dwight Yoakam), a manic hooker (Bai Ling, turning in a jaw-dropping performance) whose profane pidgin English is simultaneously hilarious and appalling, shirtless and gay would-be badass Venus (Efren Ramirez, best known as Pedro from NAPOLEON DYNAMITE)) who's out to avenge his dead brother but suffers from full-body Tourette's Syndrome, a troop of hardcore butch gay bikers who are Venus' posse, and a Mexican drug lord with a very personal and bizarre grudge against Chelios.

Beware the wrath of Venus, the toughest grief-stricken, Tourette's-suffering hard queer you'll ever see.

But the icing on this layer cake of cinematic bedlam is Chev's now-a-stripper girlfriend, Eve (Amy Smart, who deserves an award for taking a role that most other actresses would have instantly balked at for its take-no-prisoners bawdiness and semi-nudity), who is relieved to find that her man is not dead and stands by him like no other movie better half that immediately springs to memory.

Best girlfriend ever: Amy Smart as Eve.

No lie, among the movie's legion of crazy and over-the-top set pieces, Amy Smart's involvement in the completely insane sequence taking place at a racetrack to the musical accompaniment of the Marshall Tucker Band's "Heard It in A Love Song" catapults her to the level of exploitation/action cinema immortality, and when I saw that sequence I laughed like a goddamned harbor seal. Ms. Smart, if you ever read this, you have my eternal gratitude for being one of the key elements that cemented this film's live-action cartoon aesthetic and mentality.

As mad as an outhouse rat, CRANK 2: HIGH VOLTAGE may just be my favorite movie of 2009. It's a finely orchestrated out of control bit of live-action cartoon madness that had me laughing my ass off from start to finish. In fact, I'd say it's pretty much what the makers of SHOOT 'EM UP were going for, only CRANK 2 fully embraces its own balls-out insanity and literally chucks all logic and any attempt at a connection with reality straight out the window with a two-ton anchor attached to its legs. If I had known how much I would have enjoyed it, I would have seen it at least three times during its theatrical run, something I have not done since ROAD HOUSE came came out. Oh, and you really don't need to have seen the first one to enjoy the sequel, so rent this motherfucker immediately. HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION.

BLACK DYNAMITE (2009)

Behold the manly awesomeness that is Black Dynamite! NOTE: this scene is actually in the movie.

Damned near every genre of film has had at least one feature-length parody devoted to it and very few of them are actually any good. In my humble opinion the short list of the best in that department would include CARRY ON SCREAMING (1966), YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974), BLAZING SADDLES (also 1974, a good year for Mel Brooks) AIRPLANE (1980), TOP SECRET! (1984), OSS 117: CAIRO, NEST OF SPIES (2006) and THE KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE (1977), and to that list can now be added BLACK DYNAMITE, a film that skewers the particulars of the blacksploitation genre to infinitely greater effect than the similar-minded but mediocre misfire of I'M GONNA GIT YOU, SUCKA (1988). Considering how videotape and DVD opened up the blacksploitation genre to discovery by audiences who would otherwise never have experienced its trashy thrills, I'm amazed that it's taken twenty-one years for anyone to attempt a return to that malt liquor-flavored well of cinematic excess, but I'm glad to say that this time they nailed their subject to the wall and milked it for all it was worth.

The titular hero (Michael Jai White) and his big-assed gun.

BLACK DYNAMITE had a hell of a lot of movies to crib its tropes from but its melanin-rich celluloid DNA can be traced directly back to elements found in THREE THE HARD WAY (1974), BLACK BELT JONES (1974), DOLEMITE (1975), DOLEMITE's far superior and utterly ludicrous sequel THE HUMAN TORNADO (1976), and of course the flick that got the whole thing rolling, 1971's SHAFT. The basic germ of the plot will be familiar to anyone who has even the most cursory knowledge of the genre: When his undercover CIA operative brother is killed, Viet Nam vet/lethal martial arts expert/former CIA agent Black Dynamite (played to perfection by Michael Jai White, and yes, Black Dynamite is the character's name) takes to the streets and finds himself embroiled in a violent web of drugs, pimps, hot bitches (whom he can pleasure three at a time), black militants and kung fu mayhem, all of which leads to the discovery of an anti-black conspiracy of epic horrific proportions.

Black Dynamite and the bruthas clean up the streets, muthafukka!

Played more or less straight, BLACK DYNAMITE is a textbook example of how to do this kind of thing right, nailing everything from the genre's stilted, horribly-acted and ultra-profane dialogue right down to the grainy 1970's film stock and questionable "who gives a fuck if the take was screwed up?" editing. In every way, BLACK DYNAMITE is to the genre of its chosen target what YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN was to the old Universal horror movies and I can think of no higher complement for a parody. I would love to go into the film's seemingly endless playing around with all of the genre's over-the-top tropes, but that would only spoil ninety solid minutes of wall-to-wall hilarity that brings to mind what if National Lampoon during its prime (roughly 1974-1982) had made a blaxploitation spoof. It's politically incorrect to the Nth degree, pulls some truly insane and inspired gags out of its ass, has excellent comedic martial arts sequences and is simply a pisser from start to finish. Plus we get to witness the birth of Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles, an institution in the annals of negro-licious artery-clogging eats, so it's even more of a must see! My dear friend Suzi — NOTE: a white person from California who is aware of Roscoe's and may have been the only snowflake in the audience who got that gag — saw it with me and she has a limited knowledge of blaxploitation, yet she enjoyed the movie immensely and was in as much doubled-over abdominal pain from laughter as I was when we exited the theater, so it even works for the relative novice.

Bottom line: if you dig this kind of thing and even if you normally don't, give BLACK DYNAMITE a chance and see it in the theater if it's playing near you, preferably with an audience filled with us rowdy and dusky ethnics so you can get the full effect. Maybe even sneak in a few orders of Popeye's chicken and some forties of Olde E to wash it down! HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION.

Black Dynamite faces off against the Fiendish Dr. Wu (Roger Yuan, the movie's fight choreographer) on Kung Fu Island.

THE BURNING (1981)

There used to be a camp not far from here, just across the lake. It was called Camp Blackfoot. No one goes there anymore. Everything burnt down. This camp had a caretaker, and his name was Cropsy. Now, this Cropsey was a drunkard... a sadist, and he got real pleasure out of hurting... scaring. And he had these garden shears. The kind with long, thin blades. He carried them all the time, wherever he went. And he had this kind of demonic way of looking at you. One time, Cropsey really went after this kid from Brooklyn, followed him around night and day. He made this kid's life a living hell. But this time, he chose the wrong guy, 'cause the kid and some of his buddies had planned a little prank. Only problem was, the gag went wrong. The next thing anybody knows, Cropsey's trapped alive and burning in his bunk. They try to get him out, but the fire's so fierce, they can't reach him. All they can do is stand outside and listen to him cry out in agony. They say his smashed his way through the bunk room door in just a mass of flames. And as he burned alive, he cried out, "I will return! I will have my revenge!" They never found his body, but he survived. He lives on whatever he can catch. Eats them raw, alive. No longer human. Right now, he's out there. Watching, waiting. Don't look; he'll see you. Don't move; he'll hear you. Don't breathe; you're dead!

-The legend of Cropsey, as retold in THE BURNING

Those of us who are of a certain age no doubt recall (fondly or not) the age of the "slasher" movie, a period in our youths that enjoyed a heyday between roughly 1980 and 1984. The genre was kick-started by the unexpected success of the independently shot, major studio released FRIDAY THE THIRTEEN (1980) and from that cheap and gory template exploded a seeming avalanche of like-minded and mindless "body count flicks" with absolutely nothing on their minds other than making a quick buck by projecting as much Karo syrup blood and naked tits across the screen as possible. Sex and violence are both obvious box office draws so the fusion of them would theoretically ensure a lucrative take, thus filmmakers all over the place sought to rake in some of that cash by churning out shitty, by-the-numbers gore-fests, most virtually indistinguishable from one or the other.

During this flourishing of sanguinary cinema, FANGORIA magazine would feature cover stories chronicling each new slasher flick to issue from the pipeline, and one of the most intriguing-looking was 1981's THE BURNING. The magazine article gave gorehounds page after page of outrageously gory images that certainly piqued our curiosity and got us very interested in seeing the film, but shortly before THE BURNING was due to come out the backlash against slasher movies began in earnest and the genre was forced to knuckle under to censorship complaints in order to keep an R rating and avoid earning the dreaded X, which would have kept out all moviegoers under the age of eighteen. (Anyone who has ever been an enterprising teenage fan of material that's allegedly "adult" enough to earn a movie an R can tell you for a fact that it's pretty easy to get in to R-rated movies because the staff at most movie theaters simply do not give a fuck, just so long as cash crossed through the ticket window's threshold.) This pointless backlash essentially ended up cutting the balls off the slasher genre by preventing the films from being seen as intended, with many being released to screens with such thorough sanitizing that the movies became frisson-free parades of terrible acting by clearly overage "teenagers" that may or may not have provided even the requisite bare tits (which, back in those days, were refreshingly all-natural), so audiences were not satisfied and the genre inevitably shriveled up and died when the money stopped rolling in. All of which is a long-winded way of providing some background leading up to a discussion of THE BURNING, a film that was a glaring casualty of the backlash and released worldwide in several heavily-edited versions, each reportedly being an almost complete waste of the gorehound's time if not for some truly lovely actual boobs gracing the screen.

Now available on DVD in its uncut form, THE BURNING surprised the hell out of me for a number of reasons, including the fact that it's the brainchild of the Weinstein brothers and is in fact the first film from Miramax. As you no doubt gathered from the legend at the top of this piece, the movie has to do with the accidental and utterly horrible immolation of a summer camp janitor/groundskeeper named Cropsey, only the narrative proper deals with the tragic aftermath of that prank gone wrong and opens five years later, once a hideously burn-scarred Cropsey is released from the hospital. A rotten asshole of a human being in the first place, the now monstrous Cropsey has had five years in which to stew over what happened to him and to allow thoughts of gruesome vengeance to twist his mind, so after killing a whore almost immediately upon hitting the streets, Cropsey makes his way to Camp Stonewater in upstate New York (the summer camp just across the river from Camp Blackfoot, the site of his immolation), where he gets down to the business of viciously and randomly murdering innocent teenagers.

If this sounds like the basic outline to a garden variety slasher opus, it pretty much is, only this time around the movie actually takes time to flesh out its psycho-fodder cast for about forty-five solid minutes that are never boring and features a cast of very recognizable young actors, most making their screen debuts, including:
  • Fisher Stevens-from the SHORT CIRCUIT films and many other roles
  • Holly Hunter-of RAISING ARIZONA, BROADCAST NEWS and THE INCREDIBLES renown
  • Brian Backer-instantly recognizable as nebbishy and virginal Mark Ratner from FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH
  • Leah Ayres-unforgettable — and not in a good way — as the ultra-annoying reporter in the Jean-Claude Van Damme martial arts semi-classic BLOODSPORT
But by far the most well-known cast member is Jason Alexander (age 21 when the film was shot), aka SEINFELD's George Costanza, complete with a full head of brown hair, in the unlikely role of an under-18 camper. He looks every bit his age and it took me a while to realize that he wasn't supposed to be playing one of the counselors, but the familiar delivery and comedic chops were already in place and firing on all cylinders.

Yes that's SEINFELD's Jason Alexander in the number jersey, complete with hair and playing someone who's supposed to be a camper, not a counselor. FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH's Brian Backer sits in front of him, while SHORT CIRCUIT's Fisher Stevens sports a happenin' striped shirt.

If the film eliminated the slasher angle entirely, what remains would have made for a passable summer camp teen comedy, depicting as it does the most irresponsibly-run place one could ever send their kids to for the summer. There's a certain amount of supervision, but the counselors take absolutely zero notice of the fact that that campers play poker for cash stakes and smoke and drink right in front of them, to say nothing of very obviously engaging in sex in the woods, but then again the counselors are engaged in exactly the same activities themselves, sometimes with their underage charges, so I guess it's all okay. (Where was Camp Stonewater when I needed it, namely during my awful and unwilling stay at Camp Hi-Rock in the summer of 1979? Not a hope of beer or pussy, goddammit!) But while such activities often serve as the direct cause of teen mutilation in the majority of slasher flicks and unintentionally (?) drive home a puritanical lesson that having sex, indulging in mind-altering intoxicants and having fun of damned near any kind in one's all-too-fleeting youth is "bad," THE BURNING treats such common teen adventures as simply being a part of life as it was back in those days, leaving Cropsey's motivation as being purely revenge-driven.

The plot is obviously nothing worthy of great literature, but as an E.C. Comics-style horror yarn it's simply perfect. After the first forty-some-odd minutes of character development, two counselors take a decent-sized group of campers downriver on an overnight camping excursion, and upon arrival at their destination Cropsey gets to work on his agenda of retroactive abortion, stealing the party's canoes and stranding his victims in a situation reminiscent of the old "fish in a barrel" setup. By that point we've gotten to know the characters well enough to care about most of them, so when Cropsey kills them off one by one you won't necessarily be happy about it (unlike the majority of these movies, wherein the teens are such a bunch of obnoxious assholes that you actually end up rooting for the killer and want to award him a commendation and the key to city when his deadly job is done). Particularly tragic and horrifying is the utter massacre of about six campers as they attempt to paddle upriver on a makeshift raft in search of help, only to meet their untimely demise on the business end of Cropsey's ever-present hedge-trimming shears. That sequence is particularly nasty and quite memorable, especially when Fisher Stevens attempts to shield his face with his hand, only to lose all his fingers in a fountain of gore as Cropsey deftly snips them off.

The whole story feels like a properly told scary campfire yarn and it brought me right back to my fondly-remembered years as a camp counselor, when Camp Mahackeno's director instructed us during training that we were not to tell the kids scary stories of escaped, hook-wielding, disfigured maniacs for fear of traumatizing the living shit out of them. It made me think of the days when the usual outdoor activities got rained out and we'd retreat into the large utility barn to watch projected VHS movies that would offend no one, and oh how I longed to be able to delight the kids with movies like THE BURNING and other such shiver-inducers...

So the bottom line on all of this is that THE BURNING is definitely worth the viewing time of the seasoned gorehound and the curious NetFlix renter. Unlike many of its contemporaries, it's never boring, it delivers on the graphic violence, and reminds us of why the days before the plague of breast implants were sacred indeed. TRUST YER BUNCHE and check this one out, especially now that it's finally presented in the way it was meant to be experienced. Sheer brainless fun, and definitely better than most of the tepid so-called shockers that scarcely merit an R these days.