Short Cuts (Robert Altman; 1993) Watching this as a teenager I was so impressed with the concept – how we’re all connected and the most seemingly insignificant details of your day bind you to an extensive social spider-web that links us to the deepest, truest parts of others. Here we are bumbling about, sharing the same hurts, losses, loves, passions & problems in silence. At the time I recall thinking how tragic it was; my young mind totally bewildered as to why we don’t care more, try harder. It’s amazing to think that 20+ years later I can barely recognize the hope that I possessed in my youth.
The film stars an ensemble cast of roughly 22 principal characters who pinball around one another engaging in various levels of interaction. A running theme is dishonesty – be it by way of intent & purpose or by keeping secrets – from themselves as well as others. Most of the characters are self-absorbed and self-serving. They deal with their problems in the most convenient & selfish manner ensuring that no true solution is ever found thus further solidifying their participation and comfort in a willful ignorance. The level of casual disrespect & lack of meaningful communication that each character perpetrates/endures is astounding. At times I found this difficult to stomach – characters who are either blind or so afraid of extending themselves to one another that they nurture a darkness that births something far worse into the world. Baffling, thought provoking, earnest & mournful, this film stands the test of time for me. Great stuff.
Confessions of a Serial Killer (Mark Blair; 1985) This is a largely unknown but very well done low-budget serial killer flick that I can’t recommend highly enough. It’s loosely based on Henry Lee Lucas/Otis Toole and is told in a series of flashback vignettes that take place after “Daniel Ray Hawkins” (Henry) is arrested. I stumbled upon this movie as a teenager flipping through cable one night & tracked it down again sometime in my twenties lucky enough to happen upon an uncut VHS. This version is more vicious containing a particularly nasty rape scene (when he scoops the vaseline, you know he’s going anal), an unsettling & more graphic childhood flashback, several salty lines of dialogue and of course an extra helping of that delectable crimson krovvy.
Most fans stand by McNaughton’s masterpiece Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer as the final word on the subject but I find both films to be very much on par albeit different – I’d be hard pressed to pick one over the other as they each bring their own varying & indelible offerings to the table. The biggest injustice and one of the major contributing factors to it not being more well-received has to be the God-awful VHS cover. It depicts a man in a Hannibal-inspired mask which does an enormous disservice by managing to make the film look like a low-budget Silence of the Lambs rip-off. Worthy of note is that it stars Robert A. Burns (the insanely talented art director behind Texas Chainsaw Massacre) in his only lead role. I can only assume that he preferred work behind the camera because he’s certainly competent enough in front of it. Essential.
Kick or Die (Charles Norton; 1987) Action International Pictures put out some real gems in the 80s & unfortunately this isn’t one of them. Kevin Bernhardt (not to be confused with Bloodsport alum and kickboxing extraordinaire Daniel Bernhardt) stars as a martial arts specialist (complete with tragic past) who is hired by the local college to teach self-defense to the women on campus because there’s a serial rapist on the loose. A wealthy record producer weasels his way into the mix as well as a hideous, selfish twat who thinks she can be the next Sheena Easton-by-way-of-cum-dumpster. Oh! I almost forgot about the marauding gang of face-painted bikers who make a few appearances for no discernible reason. To be completely honest a movie titled “Kick or Die!” should have far more kicking and dying than this actually provides. Poorly acted & replete with boom mic shots, this little turd is a terrible way to waste a Friday night unless you’ve got a bottle and bong at your disposal.
Prisoner of Pleasure (Shaun Costello; 1981) I’ve seen this one a handful of times over the years and I suppose it will always have a warm little nook in my heart. Not only is it directed by Shaun Costello (who I happen to dig the hell out of) but it was the first time that I became acquainted with all that Jeanne Silver had to offer. I had seen her in Costello’s 1977 tour de force “Water Power” although it was without actual amputated-limb-action. Anyone who reads me with any regularity knows of my fondness for this era of porn as well as the hardcore “roughie” – so if you toss these things together with a kidnap/rape theme, scuzzy NYC, George Payne & a twisted lil slut who ends up enjoying her torment – all you’ve done is ensure that my ass stays glued to the seat. Also, do my ears completely deceive me or is there some Tangerine Dream action in this?!
Costello was profoundly adept at bringing a gritty realism to his direction & even though this isn’t nearly as rough as some films you still manage to feel pretty god damn dirty watching it. Between the plot, locations, the voice-over narration and an unapologetic filth that oozes off the screen, what we’re left with exudes an undeniable sense of despair that when mixed with sexuality leaves one lost in thought & stumbling towards the shower. Keep your eyes peeled for a cameo by Carter Stevens who gets his meat worked over by Patrice Trudeau. Useful tidbit: My screencaps are from the VHS – there was a DVD release in 2011 by After Hours as part of an Avon 7 collection that purports to be “uncut” & is longer than my VHS. I believe this release cuts the Jeanne Silver “stump” scene & instead splices in additional sex scenes to pad the run time & give the appearance of being an ultimate “uncut” edition. If this is indeed true, it’s absolute bullshit. Essential ownage as far as this lil’ lady is concerned so be informed before seeking it out!
Shotgun (Addison Randall; 1989) PM Entertainment has been responsible for some truly magnificent shit festivals & this is certainly no exception. The story centers on detective Ian “Shotgun” Jones whose sister just happens to be one hardworking whore. After she’s murdered by a sadistic rapist, he goes on a rampage against the system, the force, criminals, drug lords, the rapist, a Mexican village – all the while wearing a very snappy & professorial cardigan sweater. Seriously, not only is the guy made of fucking wood & a laughable actor but he’s just to the right of strawberry-blonde-crossing-into-hardcore-ginger territory so simply allowing the sun to hit his pallid flesh is enough to render him ineffectual. Don’t worry though, just around the bend is this whole montage where he meets a beefy Freddie Mercury & they build a post-apocalyptic flame throwing car to battle Mexico.
This film is the most awesome kind of z-grade trash. Fans of this kinda yumminess will surely recognize a few character actors peppered throughout. Myself, I was tickled to see the guy working the desk at the hooker-hotel to be none other than the spider-web tattooed Bolivian from Stone Cold ! Shotgun’s partner is a salesman in “The Dealership” episode of Seinfeld. The rapist has been in several David Prior movies! If you’re like me and are easily amused then you owe it to yourself to check out this steaming pile of hot garbage. Did I tell you that Shotgun Jones has his own theme song? Did I neglect to mention that there are lots of 80s sluts & exposed tits? What exactly are you waiting for?