Saturday, January 24, 2009

Schlockmeister Hier!!!

Recently laid up with an Erkaltung (cold), self-medicating with some herbs prescribed by a local pharmacist friend (always good for a Katarrh) and jonesing for some American-style kitsch, I discovered quite by accident a website which features a somewhat random list of long-deleted films for free download. They are all in the public domain, so you don't have to become a member, simply press "download" and Voila! Instant movie collection. There are classics here I have forgotten about, never seen, or never knew existed.

So far I can recommend two schlocky TV movies from the seventies, Bad Ronald and How Awful About Allan. Ronald stars Scott Jacoby, a teenage mama's boy who seems to be suffering from an acute case of Asperger's Syndrome. Within the first 5 minutes he's accidentally killed a young girl, and hilarity ensues when his already overprotective mother goes into hyperdrive. For some reason I was rent with suspense during this little thriller, and it's nice and compact and marginally satisfying. Fans of alternate realities will appreciate Ronald's creation of a Narnia-like universe of which he is the default ruler, although it's really just a way for the writers to telegraph that he's lost control of reality. A whiff of prestige comes from Kim Hunter of Streetcar Named Desire fame, in the thankless role as the castrating mummy. Postscript: the period outfits are also a stitch to behold.

Next up we have How Awful About Allan, a title I relish intoning, not least because it's from the creators of such syntactically similar constructions as Who Slew Auntie Roo? and What's the Matter with Helen? Schlock fans may recall John Water's Crackpot and the section in which he reveals that his favorite moments in film, the real goosebump raisers, occur when a character actually says the title of the film out loud: "When Debbie Reynolds finally uttered those immortal lines, 'Well, What's the matter with Helen?'" Waters writes, "I nearly levitated out of my seat." I'll have to watch it again to see if this happens in "Allan", but the sheer number of times characters call out "Allan!" is enough to drive anyone insane, and rivals that of "Carol Anne!" uttered in Poltergeist.

Allan is a tawdry technicolor thriller featuring reliably typecast Anthony Perkins, let loose on the set like a headless chicken queen let out of its coop, spewing vitriolic bile with such deadpan comic timing you think he might melt if he touched water. There's faux-Freudian subtext, the great Julie Harris as the disfigured sister, an open-ended, surreal ending, and the gaslighting of a person suffering from hysterical blindness. A recipe for some serious shenanigans! Allan is crazy, you see, having lost it after his revered academic father is killed in a house fire. Allan, instead of entering the room to save his father (whom he also resents -- enter Freud) stands there paralyzed with fear, while Daddy's girl Harris rushes into the room to save her father and ends up being hideously disfigured, something which later changes. In fact, this film was far ahead of its time in respect to realistic depictions of plastic surgery. Allan spends time in an asylum, moves back into their Victorian home with his sister, who takes on a mysterious lodger. Allan soon begins to believe rather baroque conspiracies against him, and it is up to the audience to put the puzzle pieces together. Suffice it to say, the best plot and hammy acting ever! You won't soon forget images of Allan/Perkins stealing a car and tooling around town like Mr. Magoo on a flight of bipolar mania! Also featuring Joan Hackett in a hairstyle lifted direct from Cora the Maxwell House lady!

Next up in our Triumvirate of Terror is another technicolor flick, this time an unheard of film from England "Deviance", a simply titled and simply plotted suspenser featuring unknown actors playing killer hippies in a dilapidated mansion on the English countryside. This is the dark side of swinging London, set in creepy, mildewy tones, with miscegenation and intergenerational stoner sex, raving mad blind women chained to beds, intravenous drug use, a soupcon of bloodletting, including a posthumous tattoo removal which is ingeniously used in a Grand Guignol tableau! It's all so very British, and reminded me of the song "Brutality" by Black Box Recorder:

Whatever happened to the fear of god?
Whatever happened to church on sunday?
Whatever happened to the velvet glove?
And the iron fist
Whatever happened to the social season?
Whatever happened to the debutants?
Whatever happened to the South of France?

Good old fashioned brutality
Everything in it's place
Good old fashioned barbarity
Leave the room in disgrace

Whatever happened to drinking and driving
And doing the decent thing?
Hiding out on the continent
Getting over a nervous breakdown
Close the ranks and remove all traces
Say anything to stay out of jail
What it really boils down to:
It always wins, it never fails

Good old fashioned brutality
Everything in it's place
Good old fashioned barbarity
Leave the room in disgrace


Driving back from a late night party
Took a corner much too fast
Head-on collision with the 21st century
Whatever happened to brutality?

Geniessen Sie!!!!

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