#215 – Female Predator

(1990, Indon, 82 min) Dir Joko Wayang. Cast Jemima Kryten, Rudi Bo, ‘Eddie’ Katung.

In the late 1980’s there was the Indonesian bad movie classic Lady Terminator which appropriated scenes from the American classic The Terminator for its own low budget ends, splicing the action beats of the original to a supernatural tale of the revenge of some sort of female sea demon who had a snake in her vagina or something. On the back of this a second bright spark decided to nab the same basic scheme to produce Female Predator, a rip off of a rip off (or, if you are Harlan Ellison, a rip off of a rip off of a rip off). The set-up: on a remote Indonesian island a long dormant volcano erupts and among the poorly realised magma that is loosed is what appears to be a woman – nude, of course – played by martial artist/Playmate model Jemima Kryten. She’s not a normal naked woman though, she’s a lizard demon bent on revenging herself on the cadre of warrior monks who imprisoned her in her volcanic jail a millennia ago or, at a pinch, their modern-day descendants. Within no time she’s made it to Jakarta and with her sophisticated methods of seduction (i.e. she disrobes without compunction) she sets about sexing her prey to death, revealing her true form in mid-coitus to be in possession of a wobbly snake head and pendulous scaly breasts, a more easily constructed appearance than the other, bigger budgeted Predator’s pincer-lined maw. It only takes a pile of mutilated corpses before tubby, stubbly, mulletted cop Mo (Bo) is on the case and we can get cracking with the shoot-outs and explosions. Almost as amusing and random as Lady Terminator, fans of which should seek this out.

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#214 – Nagarhole Elephant Dreaming

(1976, Ire/Fr/Ind, 64 min) Dir Daniel Dermot McBurton.

As he tells it in 1927 the struggling and wholly unsuccessful painter Daniel Dermot McBurton, then the same age as the century, had a dream in his decrepid Dublin basement flat. In his dream he was sitting outside a coffee shop in Paris having just sold his first painting. Upon waking and with nothing to lose McBurton promptly sold everything he owned bar the clothes he stood in and his paintings (which no one wanted anyway) and bought himself passage to France where his dreams promptly came true despite not speaking or understanding the language. Thus a lucrative career was born, first in painting and then in film. In 1972, when he was still the same age as the century and at a time of creative plateau, he had a dream of an elephant in India. When this elephant was hurt McBurton himself was hurt. Upon waking he decided that he no longer had anything to lose, left his third wife and sold all his possessions and moved to Western India close to what was then the Nagarhole wildlife sanctuary and is now Nagarhole National Park. Despite once again being in a country whose language he neither spoke or understood he assembled a film crew and recorded, without plan or narrative, the world he now found himself in. In the process of making the film he found Emai the elephant, who he claimed to identify from his dream and whose life he believed was inextricably bound to his own. Unfortunately the resulting film, Nagarhole Elephant Dreaming, wasn’t the success that resulted from his earlier dream – it showed in Cannes to overwhelming disinterest though years later it’s plotless exploration of the land proved an influence on ethnographical documentarians such as Pascal and Filipe of Access Road anti-fame. Either way McBurton didn’t care – he died happily ten years later, in 1986, still as old as the century. Coincidence or not and unbeknownst to McBurton, he also expired within an hour of Emai’s death in Nagarhole National Park.

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#213 – Corporal Wojtek the Bear (Kapral Wojtek Niedźwiedź)

(1985, Pol, 95 min) Dir Ewa Wąchock. Cast Stanisław Bielski , Roman Wilhelmi, Jerzy Radziwiłowicz.

The first film from actor turned director Ewa Wąchock tells the true story of Wojtek, the Syrian bear donated to the Polish Army while they were stationed in the Middle East during World War II. They raised him, feeding his condensed milk from an old vodka bottle, getting him hooked on cigarettes and training him to salute when greeted. They became so attached hen they were being transported to Italy they officially enrolled him into the 22nd Artillery Supply Company. In Italy he served at the Battle of Monte Cassino, apparently transporting ammunition for the soldiers. Along with his fellow soldiers he ended the war in Britain and was given to Edinburgh Zoo where he lived out the rest of his life. Deciding that using a real bear in the film would be too dangerous (and would go against the message of the film) and that a person in costume would be obviously fake, Wąchock embraced the artifice and instead cast a child dressed as a bear, considering that the sight of a child smoking or fearfully negotiating a war zone would convey the same emotion in her audience as a real animal would. Thankfully she lucked out by casting a young Stanisław Bielski in his first role and his future renown is writ large in the authenticity of each expression and reaction, despite being dressed as a bear. A heartfelt film about the relationship between man and beast.

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#212 – Bip

(2008, Ukr, 108 min) Dir Viktor Sadovska. Cast Viktor Nemets, Aleksey Vertkov, Boris Kamorzin.

A terrible storm has swept through the fictional Ukrainian city of Meiz and among the many catastrophe it unleashed was the releasing of many of the animals from the zoo including their celebrity Bengal tiger cub, Bip. Hearing of this an idea occurs to hard up young men Petro and Arseniy – if they can somehow trap young Bip they can sell him to Volo, local drug dealer and fan of all things tigerish. So Petro and Arseniy head off into the forests above the city on a tip-off, determined to find their prey. Bip is a comedy as best described by late film critic Harrison Bird: “there is a certain type of black comedy that I have seen from Eastern Europe and South America that is often mistaken by critics as drama, where the humour is derived from a starting point where everything is awful and getting, from there, progressively worse.” At least Bip has a happy ending of sorts. Once they have tracked down their prey, Petro and Arseniy have endured so much misfortune that they decide to shoot Bip and hope that Volo will make do with a stuffed version of the animal. They are at the border of the plains beyond the forest with the sun dipping behind the far horizon and the sky streaked with red. Petro raises his rifle and takes aim at the beast, only to be shot himself with the tranquilising dart of the zoo keeper, also on the animal’s trail. The film ends as quickly as that too – Petro is shot, collapses and the tiger cub melts into the long grass, disappearing back into the wild as the camera lifts off into the crimson sky and away.

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#211 – Strip, The

(1974, US, 118 min) Dir Tom Gries. Cast Robert Duvall, Jennifer O’Neill, John Saxon.

California, October 1969. The paranoiac pall from the Tate-La Bianca killings hangs over the city. Private investigator Tom Beckett (Duvall) is hired by an old Korean War buddy to track down his missing daughter Sally. Fifteen years old. Last place seen: the Sunset Strip. Tom takes to the strip each night, pounding the streets, bugging each and every freak and drop out until he meets Cat (O’Neill). She knows Sally, recognises the picture. Saw her at a party in a house up in the hills. An abandoned mansion. It was too much of a dark scene for Cat – all kinds of sick sex rituals and power trips. People have been telling stories about this gang, roaming the streets in a fleet of Beetles, picking up ‘strays’. Word is that they were in on the killings up in the hills, they just didn’t get caught. She takes him to this house, the abandoned mansion. There are kids there with scared eyes. They tell stories that make no sense. About a ranch out in the desert, underground bunkers and mass graves. Tom and Cat investigate… A tense and moody film fantastically shot all at night by Lucien Ballard with a stand out performance from Duvall like a clenched, sweaty fist. Director Gries, incidentally, would go on to shoot the 1976 TV film of Helter Skelter which notoriously shot the Tate-La Bianca murders at the actual crime scene.

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#210 – King Eye

(1968, US, 122 min) Dir John Alpha. Cast Johnny Spigott, Dean Martin, Mia Farrow, Mae West, Olivia Bream.

Legend has it that psychedelic freak-out King Eye was conceived at a LSD party when legendary studio producer Pat Wagner, then 86, met young freak John Alpha (real name Casanova Berlardinelli), expert party-surfer and professional bullshitter. After a long night crawling on the floor of the universe the two of them bonded hard with Wagner going so far as to employ Alpha as a producer with King Eye, which they had plotted during the consciousness raising blow out, as their first feature. Alpha himself directed and with Wagner’s help cast a slew of big names all desperate to connect with the younger generation by starring in a hip epic. The story was that there was no story, instead two hours of vignettes were produced, some linked and some not, intercut with manic collages of Vietnam War footage, American football games and advertising. Halfway through the film its ostensible lead gets turned into a talking dog and befriends a reanimated JFK whose burst and bloody head sickens everyone they meet. Of course it was a disaster – even in an initial screening filled with friends of the makers it flopped. Wagner’s straight compatriots were incensed at the film’s plotless madness and Alpha’s freaky pals had their vibes totally harshed by its gross violence, aggressive editing and mad lurches in tone. Cut in half it was released a decade later on late night TV where a cult audience with a stronger constitution lapped it up. For Wagner and Alpha however their film careers were over.

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#209 – Manson!

(1973, US, 156 min) Dir Heinz Bohnen.

Tasteless and epic Brechtian musical about the eponymous Charlie and his Family produced by the North Californian experimental theatre company Evlove as headed by the by then octogenarian Austrian-born artist and agitator Heinz Bohnen. It is essentially a filmed performance in the blank space of Smallwater High School’s football ground at night, the arc lights strong enough to bleach out the faces of the participants and, depending on their positioning, cast long black shadows across the pitch like dark fingers threading the grass. The acoustics are also terrible in such a big venue, especially with their basic sound system, but this too turns out to be a distinct advantage with the music leaking out into the night around them, making the proceedings sound as though the troupe were performing in a void or while pitching off into deep space. Despite all of this eeriness of presentation and the uncomfortable subject matter, Bohnen positioned Manson! as an old-fashioned comedy extravaganza complete with trousers falling down to the accompaniment of a slide whistle sound effect, slapstick accidents and the grisly murders for which the Family are famed recast as prolonged Keystone Kops style farce. Bohnen is ploughing the same furrow he’d been working his whole career here and his followers knew what he was getting at but, perhaps to his surprise, the outcry that greeted the film’s release reached places the plays themselves couldn’t reach and some say it helped ease him into his grave a year later when he died following a dinner of ninety-seven oysters and a whole cooked hen.

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