#4 – Boxer’s Chains, The

(1986, US, 109 min, b/w) Dir Randall Hex. Cast Matt Dillon, Stacy Herr, Brad Dourif, Ogdon Marshall.

Matt Dillon’s Cal lives in a town called Blueford in an unnamed Mid-West state. Blueford has been gutted, a depopulated maze of cracked streets and leaning buildings – it’s the mid-Eighties and Reagan’s America is downsizing. Cal lives in an abandoned factory, sleeping the day and boosting cars at night to sell to Dourif’s Cash. He’s in love with Sandy, the skinny half-punk waitress at the local diner who’s too shy to talk (an ethereal Herr in her first film role). He takes her into the country and their love blossoms and they plan their escape from Blueford. So far so generic – one part Badlands to one part Drugstore Cowboy – but what sets it apart is how it’s shot, in luminescent black and white like it’s the last silver nitrate print struck. The film just glows off the screen. The still pace isn’t a problem when it looks this good, giving you all the time in the world to drink up every shot of the big cloud smeared sky, the never-ending wheat fields, the rusting factory hulks, the planes and angles of Herr’s face shot in enraptured close-up. The film ends, not with a bang but a whimper – no high dramatics or adolescent nihilism, just life moving on as life does. When it was released in ’86 it got lost between Blue Velvet and True Stories and Randall Hex – a former war photographer who had captured the war in Vietnam – died two years following this, his only film, in a car accident that some claim still was suicide.

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#3 – Commander in Beef

(1993, US, 105 min) Dir Andy Farmer. Cast Jim Varney, Jon Lovitz, Heather Locklear, Charlton Heston.

Daft candy coloured ‘satire’. An irate farmer (Varney), angry at the corrupt local governor, puts forward his award-winning heifer Daisy as a candidate in the upcoming elections. Despite the odds – and thanks to a century old legal loophole – Daisy is indeed elected and thus the ball is rolling for her ascension to the highest office in the land with all sides hoping to gain, from cynical journalists out for a story to corrupt politicians using her to score points off their rivals. Heston, as her main opponent, surprisingly emerges with his dignity intact, despite a prolonged scene where he has to endure a televised debate with the beast, a scene that now stirs memories of Clint Eastwood’s chair talking escapades. Like Daisy though, this film is mostly toothless – a daffy enterprise neither funny nor insightful enough to be of much use for anything. It’s too dull for the Disney crowd and lacking the requisite bile for a satire and ends up falling between more stools than a greased drunkard.

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#2 – Hell Boat

(2004, US, 102 min) Dir Roger Bertle. Cast Michelle Rodriguez, Treat Williams, LL Cool J.

Ghost Ship knock off. Rodriguez is hard-ass extreme sailing champ Mickey Valdez whose one-woman boat is torn up in a freak mid-Atlantic storm while she’s trying to break a circumnavigation record. Then, from amid the howling winds, appears the titular Hell Boat. Rescued from the wreckage by a rope ladder thrown from the ship, she climbs aboard to find it deserted. After a period of exploration and some routine jump scares, company arrives in the shape of Williams and LL Cool J as hi-tech modern day pirates who, with their anonymous cannon-fodder flunkies, are searching for the legendary treasure that is supposedly stored on the damned vessel. Suddenly Alien becomes Aliens when the boat begins to fight back and within no time the heads of said anonymous flunkies are rolling in fine style. Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves bar Rodriguez in this one – an effective roller-coaster until the inevitable CGI excesses of the final five minutes.

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#1 – Bread on the Wind

(1932, Ire, 32 min, b/w) Dir Seamus de Pascal.

A kind of realist/surrealist documentary that suggests Buñuel on holiday in Sligo, the mysterious (and pseudonymous) de Pascal serves up a horse’s lucky gold shoe (he won’t plough without it), a village of blind crones stitching frocks for cigar smoking clergy and – in the most astonishingly realised vignette – a family using a beached Spanish galleon as a house complete with their washing strung between the masts to dry and children sleeping in the barrels of its long abandoned cannons. Despite the fancy on display de Pascal – here helming his only film – never shies from the squalor of rural Ireland in his time. The film ends with a hilltop family, scanning the horizon for the flock of loaves suggested in the title but doesn’t reveal whether this is a hunger fuelled delusion or whether this is an Ireland so poor that even the bread migrates to warmer climes.

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Twitter: @MadeUpFilms

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