Roger Corman’s Death Race 2050 | This Wacky Races for the Trump era is a turbo-charged blast of popcorn fun
This ‘sequel’ to Roger Corman and Paul Bartel’s 1975 cult drive-in actioner Death Race 2000 is a hoot and a half – and finally consigns those dire Jason Statham/Luke Goss efforts to the wrecker’s yard.
Malcolm McDowall dials in another performance as the Trump-esque Chairman of the United Corporations of America who gets his bouffant comb-over in a twist when his four-time racing champion Frankenstein wants to retire from the ‘greatest pissing contest of mankind’ (aka the Death Race), which every citizen (now permanently unemployed) vicariously joins in via VR headsets.
Playing the man of many a spare part (and stepping into John Carradine’s black leathers) is Manu Bennett (TV’s Spartacus), who seems to be channelling Mel Gibson’s Mad Max as he sets off with his proxy Annie Sullivan (Marci Miller, Days of Our Lives) – who is secretly working for a resistance group – from Old New York to Los Angeles. But as they mow down ‘willing’ fans along the way to collect vital points, will trying to avoid some high calibre hospitality, hot on their tailgate is the genetically-modified superstar Jed Perfectus (Burt Grinstead), who’ll stop at nothing to beat them to the finish line…
This Wacky Races for the Trump era is a turbo-charged blast of popcorn fun that pays loving homage to the original (even down to the retro poster design), while also providing some thigh-slapping political satire by lampooning everything that is wrong with America today – from guns and religion to consumerism and social apathy.
Director GJ Echternkamp and co-writer Matt Yamashita inject loads of black humour into the film and its characters, who are great fun to cheer on or boo as they traverse America’s re-named cities and states like Upper Shitville (Baltimore), New Texxaco (Texas) and MeatPakistan (Kansas).
Amongst the racers are hip-hop star Minerva (Folake Olowofoyeku), whose latest hit song is ‘Drive… drive… drive… kill… drive…’; Tammy the Terrorist (Anessa Ramsey), a bible-bashing interfaith wack-job who is a ‘magnet for heathens’; and ABE, a KITT-like artificial intelligence who has an existential meltdown when he accidentally impales his sex-mad proxy to the hood of his bonnet.
Turning up the Roid Rage to warp factor 10 is Burt Grinstead as the sexually-ambiguous Perfectus, who reminded me of a closeted version of Gerrit Graham’s glam rocker Beef in 1974’s Phantom of the Paradise, while Yancy Butler (of Lake Placid and Witchblade fame) is the tough as nails Alexis, a former network programmer who now leads the resistance – a bunch of leather clad muscle boys. But for me, it’s Shanna Olsen who steals the show as the Hunger Games-styled news anchor Grace Tickle.
Among the many funny lines are ‘It’s hard to turn global famine into click bait’ and ‘I’ll drink your tears Frankenstein and lick them off your handsome face’, but the most chilling must be, ‘The world is fucking crazy, a sane person doesn’t stand a chance’. Considering what America is going through now, it might just be true…
The late-great Ib Melchior gets a credit at the end for it was his short story The Racer that inspired Corman’s original Rollerball rip-off in the first place… now, does anyone remember sales people?
Death Race 2050 is out on Blu-ray and Digital Download from Monday 20 March 2017
DID YOU KNOW? You can watch the original cult action film here – in full!
Multiple Maniacs (1970) | John Waters’ outrageously offensive Cavalcade of Perversion restored and on Blu-ray
Who knew that after nearly five decades in the cult underground, one of John Waters’ early homemade ‘celluloid atrocities’ would end up sitting alongside the works of Sergei Eisenstein, Ingmar Bergman and their kind? Well, his gloriously grotesque second feature Multiple Maniacs has achieved that rare feat thanks to an amazing restoration by Janus Films, who first brought world cinema to the American masses, and The Criterion Collection, who are now bringing their fantastic releases into the UK.
“Glorious . . . Can only be described as The Passion of the Christ on Quaaludes.”
The Hollywood Reporter
“Even the garbage is too good a place for it.”
Mary Avara, Maryland Board of Censors
Waters’ anarchic spoof on gore movies starred Divine (in his fourth Waters film) as Lady Divine, the crazed impresario of a performance art freak show in conservative Baltimore whose troupe of counterculture misfits use the show to rob their patrons.
When the sociopathic Lady Divine goes on the run after killing the latest arrivals to her debauched show, she’s sexually attacked by glue-sniffers and has anal sex in a church with a woman (Mink Stole) sporting a set of rosary beads before going on to commit more acts of atrocity – including devouring the internal organs of her ex-lover Dr David (David Lochary) who she kills for having an affair with another woman (Marty Vivian Pearce).
But the death of her prostitute daughter (Cookie Mueller) finally sends Lady Divine over the edge, resulting in her being raped by a giant lobster [spoiler alert!!!] before the National Guard take her out on a busy Baltimore street.
Made on a shoestring budget (funded by mum and dad Waters) and at the home where Waters grew up, Multiple Maniacs has become the transgressive director’s highest rated films (says Rotten Tomatoes) and an anarchic masterwork that the Pope of Trash has longed to see get a proper release.
After a screening of the last-ever 60mm print during a retrospective at Lincoln Center in New York in 2014, representatives of The Criterion Collection approached Waters about doing a restoration. Asked if he wanted to keep the film exactly as is, with all the mistakes included, Waters told them, ‘Are you kidding me? Make it look good!’ Having removed all the splice marks and dirt, Waters now describes his ‘celluloid atrocity’ as looking akin to ‘a bad John Cassavetes movie’. Joking aside, the restoration is truly astonishing given the film’s DIY nature – it was shot on an Arcon 0627 camera using reversal black and white film with the sound being recorded on a magnetic strip at the same time.
So did he go too far? Well, according to an interview he gave to The Guardian following a screening of the restored version, Waters said: ‘Of course I went a little too far! I did look at that rosary sex scene, at the people around me, and I could see the young audience in disbelief. At the same time, I think, how did I get away with this? How did any of this happen? Part of it was a time capsule. A very accurate picture of what my sense of humour, and what my friends were like at the time, which might scare some people. And in some ways, they should actually be scared of us.’ (1)
THE CRITERION COLLECTION RELEASE
• New 4K digital restoration, supervised by director John Waters, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
• Audio commentary featuring Waters (Getting the lowdown on the movie from the horses mouth is truly hilarious and makes getting this release a must. I’ve actually listened to this twice now and can’t wait for round three).
• Interviews with cast and crew members Pat Moran, Vincent Peranio, Mink Stole, Susan Lowe and George Figgs
• Plus, an essay by critic Linda Yablonsky (not included with my screener).
Plagued with production problems, director Roman Polanski’s 1966 black comedy Cul-de-sac should never have worked – but it did and remains a critical high-point of his early career. Having won plaudits and good box-office receipts for his first British-backed film, the psychological horror Repulsion (starring France’s new star Catherine Deneuve), Polanski was given free reign for his follow-up which is now available in a restored HD transfer edition as part of The Criterion Collection.
Set on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne on the Northumberland coastline, Polanski fashioned a morbidly absurdist bourgeois-baiting tale with his long-time collaborator Gérard Brach.
Happening upon an castle on the coastline, wounded American gangster Richard (Lionel Stander) and his gravely ill accomplice Albert (Jack MacGowran) decide it an ideal hide and so take hostage its owners – retired businessman George (Donald Pleasence) and his restless French wife Teresa (Françoise Dorleac).
But the claustrophobic setting and long wait for help to arrive sets in motion increasingly disturbing games involving sexual and emotional humiliation between captor and couple that escalates into terrible violence…
When Cul-de-sac was released in the UK in 1966 (check out the premiere clip below), audiences really didn’t take to the film (probably on account it was too bleak and not the psychological horror that they had hoped). But when it then won the Golden Bear at the 16th Berlin International Film Festival, it quickly gained a new appreciation – and so it should.
From its outset, Polanski had faith in bringing his bleak comedy of manners to the big-screen and against the odds and by going rogue he achieved it.
A typically British summer (rain, snow and storms) and the wrong tides held up shooting, while method actors Stander and Pleasence caused ructions on set, and Polanski was accused of driving his cast and crew to exhaustion, hypothermia (MacGowran) and near death (Dorleac almost drowned) in order to finish the film to his exacting standards. Even the locals began to resent Polanski and co’s presence (especially in the local pubs).
Meanwhile, the film’s fed-up backers (Compton Films’ Tony Tenser and Michael Klinger) eventually shut down production after it overrun its budget– but not before Polanski had the film’s powerful 8-minute one-shot climax involving a Tiger Moth plane in the can.
Donald Pleasence is in his element as the dotty fed-up George, and his performance ranks as one of his best (alongside his alcoholic doctor in 1971’s Wake in Fright). Françoise Dorleac is also perfectly cast (also at the last minute) as the hippy-like Teresa – and her character is the total anti-thesis of her sister Catherine Deneuve’s sexually repressive character in Repulsion. Then there’s the gravel-voiced Lionel Stander (who’d go onto play Max in TV’s Hart to Hart), who is outstandingly repellent as the chief thug. Tragically, Dorleac died in a car accident a year after appearing in the film.
The other star of the film is Holy Island and the surrounding landscape, made luminous by Gilbert Taylor’s stark black-and-white photography – and the inclement weather (those skies are divine, especially when shot day for night).
And alongside the rich visuals is Krzysztof Komeda’s jaunty score that lends the film a sense of carnival and menace, two elements that are that the heart of this caustic satire (which would look terrific if it were adapted for the stage like Polanski’s follow-up film, Dance of the Vampires). Watch for Jacqueline (billed as Jackie) Bisset, briefly on screen in one of her earliest roles.
THE CRITERION COLLECTION RELEASE
• Restored high-definition digital transfer, approved by director Roman Polanski, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
• Two Gangsters and an Island: the 23-minute 2003 Blue Underground documentary (23min) about the making of the film, featuring interviews with Polanski, producers Gene Gutowski and Tony Tenser, and cinematographer Gilbert Taylor. Also participating are production designer Voyek, continuity Dee Vaughn and actor William Franklyn
• Archive TV interview with Polanski from 1967 (this is a fascinating insight into the young director’s cinematic vision about alienation, sex and his genuine dislike for the bourgeoisie)
• Theatrical trailers
• Plus, booklet featuring an essay by film critic David Thompson
The Driller Killer (1979) | Abel Ferrara’s notorious art house video nasty gets a deluxe HD restoration release
‘Abel Ferrara’s debut is in the exploitation ballpark, but it’s as much a product of Warhol low-budget artiness as the slasher genre.’ Empire
One of the most notorious of the video nasties, this 1979 exploitation-art-house crossover from future Ms. 45, Bad Lieutenant and Welcome to New York director, Abel Ferrar was judged almost entirely on its video sleeve artwork with the film itself left out of the equation. Now it’s getting a deluxe Limited Edition Steelbook from Arrow Video with the disturbing film fully uncut.
Director Ferrara also goes in front of the camera to play struggling artist Reno, a man pushed to the edge by the economic realities of late-1970s New York and the No Wave band practising in the apartment below. His grip on reality soon begins to slip and he takes to stalking the streets with his power tool in search of prey…
The Arrow Video release of The Driller Killer features a high definition restoration of the film, plus the following special features…
• 4K restoration from the original camera negative of the never-before-seen pre-release version and the theatrical cut.
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations in both 1.85:1 and 1.37:1 aspect ratios.
• Original Uncompressed Mono PCM audio.
• Audio commentary by Abel Ferrara, moderated by Brad Stevens (author of Abel Ferrara: The Moral Vision) and recorded exclusively for this release
• Laine and Abel: An Interview with the Driller Killer, a brand-new interview with Ferrara (see a clip below).
• Willing and Abel: Ferraraology 101, a new visual essay guide to the films and career of Ferrara by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, author of Cultographies: Ms. 45
• Mulberry St., Ferrara’s feature-length 2010 documentary portrait of the New York, available on home video in the UK for the first time ever.
• Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Michael Pattison and Brad Stevens
• Steelbook Limited Edition features original artwork (2,500 copies).
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by the Twins of Evil (UK Amaray specs).
• Collector’s booklet (first pressing only).
To celebrate Arrow Video’s release, we have been given this exclusive extra to share with you. In this new interview with Abel Ferrara recorded for this release, he discusses why he cast himself in the title role after initially asking David Johansen of The New York Dolls…
Lovelorn supermarket shelf-stacker and paramedic in training Holly (Abigail Hardingham), sets her sights on suicidal colleague, Rob (Cian Barry), who is still grieving over the death of his girlfriend Nina (Fiona O’Shaughnessy). But during the couple’s first fumbling attempt at sex, Nina emerges from a blood-stained mattress to interrupt them. It soon becomes clear that the potty-mouthed Nina has no intention of letting Rob go, and wants Holly out of the way…
This quirky British indie horror comedy comes from writer/director brothers, Ben and Chris Blaine, who cut their teeth editing Jack Whitehall’s Bad Education UK TV sitcom. But it’s worlds away from that show’s irreverent humour, as guilt, loss and closure lies at the dark heart of this black comedy, played out through a bunch of characters who are all stuck in their own particular limbo.
As Nina, O’Shaughnessy (Utopia) steals the show and watching her I was reminded of another ghostly comedy in which a restless spirit comes between a couple: in Noel Coward’s quintessentially English comedy of manners, Blithe Spirit. And there are shades of Coward’s disruptive Elvira in O’Shaughnessy’s Nina, only with the added vocal mannerisms of Michelle Gomez’s Missy from Doctor Who.
Cian Barry (Doctor Foster) and Abigail Hardingham (Hollyoaks Later) bring a moody emo intensity to their dysfunctional wannabe lovers, Rob and Holly, while also getting their kit off for the film’s many sex scenes – which actually left me cold (probably on account of Nina’s constant corpus interruptus.
While the film does falter in parts, David Troughton’s forgiving dad and Elizabeth Elvin’s grieving mum are on hand to paper over the cracks, with one scene in particular, in which Troughton’s Dan lets slip his mask to vent his anger, supplying some genuinely raw emotion.
Nina Forever is released by StudioCanal on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK from 22 February 2016
Entertaining Mr Sloane (1970) | Beryl Reid’s glorious grotesque makes this British black comedy worth a revisit
In this 1970 screen adaptation of English playright Joe Orton’s subversive 1964 black comedy, drifter Mr Sloane (Peter McEnery) meets frumpy middle age spinster Kath (Beryl Reid) in a suburban London cemetery and accepts her offer to lodge with her and her elderly ‘Dadda’, Kemp (Alan Webb).
But while fending off Kath’s rather clumsy attempts at seduction, the young stud is taken under the protective wing of Kath’s closeted spiv brother Ed (Harry Andrews), who makes him his personal chauffeur, while Kemp is the only one who can see through the slippery charmer’s facade…
Outrageous, shocking, and packed with sexual innuendo, Orton’s parody on British family mores was a real eye-opener in conservative 1960s Britain, and marked the playwright as the ‘Naughty Young Man’ of the British stage. Following a TV adaptation in 1968, a screen version, written by Clive Exton (10 Rillington Place) became the feature debut of former documentary and commercials director Douglas Hickox, who’d go on to helm the cult 1973 black comedy horror, Theatre of Blood, starring Vincent Price.
The film may look tame today, but its surreal Gothic Revival cemetery setting (it was filmed on location at Camberwell Old Cemetery in Honor Oak) and sterling performances make this Brit curio worth revisiting time and again – and its Beryl Reid who’s truly unforgettable. Her spinster Kath, minus false teeth and dressed in a baby doll nightie, is as outrageous a character as Alison Steadman’s Beverly in Abigail’s Party, and watching her seduce McEnery’s sexual menace while uttering Orton’s fruity dialogue is campy fun indeed.
THE UK RELEASE
The 2013 StudioCanal UK DVD release included a TV appearance of Joe Orton on The Eamon Andrews Show in 1967, filmed just four months before he was murdered by his lover Kenneth Halliwell at their Noel Road flat in Islington, North London.
DID YOU KNOW?
• Beryl Reid also played the role of Kath on the London stage opposite Malcolm McDowell as Sloane and Ronald Fraser as Kemp in a 1975 revival of the play, while the subsequent touring production would see Barbara Windsor play Kath, and her Carry On co-star Kenneth Williams take on directing duties. Williams, of course, was best pals with Orton.
• The theme song was sung by Georgie Fame and was released as the B-side of the 1970 single Somebody Stole My Thunder.
HEAR THE THEME TUNE
On 11 April, 1980, the Palme d’Or winning West German film The Tin Drum got its international release in the US, and would go on to win a Best Foreign Film Oscar at the 52nd Academy Awards (on 14 April). But it took over three decades for the original theatrical version and the Director’s Cut of the 1979-made film to finally become available for the home cinema market. In honour of the recent passing of Nobel laureate author, Günter Grass, 35-years (almost to the day) after the film’s release, here’s a look back at my 2012 post on the Arrow Academy HD dual format release.
Based on the 1959 first book in Günter Grass‘ acclaimed Danzig Trilogy, The Tin Drum follows the life of Oskar (David Bennent) who refuses to grow up after receiving a drum for his third birthday. With a scream that shatters glass, Oskar becomes so attached to the drum that anyone who tries to take it away from him soon feels his aural wrath. What follows is a child’s-eye perspective on the rise of Nazism in Oskar’s native Danzig, the ‘free city’ that was claimed by both Germany and Poland whose invasion in 1939 started World War II (and was also the birthplace of author Grass).
Darkly comic in spirit and awash with bizarre, grotesque imagery (some of which remains controversial), The Tin Drum, directed and co-written by Volker Schlöndorff, is like the perfect marriage of Pasolini politics, Buñuel satire and Fellini freak show. But it’s the standout performance of the 12-year-old Bennett that carries the film and stays with you forever.
The Arrow Academy 2012 release includes both High Definition and Standard Definition presentations of the original theatrical version, and a HD presentation of the Director’s Cut (on Blu-ray only). Both are approved by the late director, who also provides an audio commentary, and (on the Blu-ray only) an interview about the new cut. There’s also a comprehensive booklet with some scholarly writings for New German Cinema enthusiasts.
WATCH THE TRAILER
In directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado’s 2010 Israeli black satire Rabies (aka Kalevet) – which is more a play on the idea of the disease than the disease itself – short tempers and misunderstandings result in one screwed-up day for four friends heading off for a game of tennis, as the woods they get lost in become a battle zone (a subtle hint at the country’s ‘situation’) when the four friends come to the man’s aid, but end up fighting each other and a couple of sleazy cops. The results are grisly, gory and downright hilarious.
With its snappy dialogue (in Hebrew, of course), colourful characters and inventive shocks – bear traps, mines, and the great outdoors are all put to blackly comic good use – this is one of those indie film festival finds that so deserves a wider audience. Put this must-see slasher in your diaries now.[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qw2hfNKQuo%5D