Tag Archives: Campy films

Tommy-1975

Tommy-1975

Director-Ken Russell

Starring-Roger Daltrey, Ann-Margret

Reviewed February 15, 2017

Grade: B+

The film version of Tommy (1975) is a musical fantasy, rock opera based on the famous album recording by The Who in 1969. Composed and adapted by The Who member Pete Townsend, the film tells the story of a deaf, dumb, blonde kid named Tommy. Featuring a star studded cast of actors and singers performing musical numbers, the film is an over the top treat and quite campy- certainly late night fare. The stage version is usually a bit more serious and sedate than the film.  I enjoy the film but it pales in comparison to the stage versions- in which I was fortunate enough to see at my local community theater recently. The film is directed by Ken Russell.

Set during the 1940’s and told mainly through song, we see a montage of Captain Walker (Robert Powell) and his wife Nora (Ann-Margret) on their honeymoon and Walker subsequently being sent off to war leaving a pregnant Nora behind. When his fighter plane is shot down and he is presumed dead, the montage skips ahead five years and Nora is now involved in a relationship with Frank (Oliver Reed). Tommy is five years old and is visited by his father, who is very much alive. After a struggle with Frank and Nora, Powell is killed and a traumatized Tommy is unable to speak, see, or hear (except within his own mind) as Frank and Nora are desperate to make sure he keeps quiet.

As Tommy grows into a young man, he becomes a “Pinball Wizard” , a prodigy at pinball, creating great wealth for Nora and Frank. Still unable to see, speak, or see, he is first abused by his Uncle and Cousin, but then championed as they are all able to get rich off of his abilities. Through the years Nora and Frank attempt to “cure” Tommy of his ailments via a preacher (Clapton) leading a Marilyn Monroe cult and a prostitute (Turner).

The joy in Tommy (the film) is seeing the star studded cast- Elton John, Tina Turner, and Eric Clapton, as well as Roger Daltrey, bring a sense of wonderment to the film. Who doesn’t like to see rock stars perform? Famous actors Jack Nicholson, Ann-Margret, and Reed are featured. The musical numbers are the splendid part of the film and one must be prepared to escape into a world of fantasy. Musical highlights for me include, “Acid Queen”, “It’s A Boy”, and “We’re Not Gonna Take It”.

My most recent viewing of the film that is Tommy, disappointed slightly, and this may be due to recently seeing the stage version- far superior in my mind. Ann-Margret, while superb and believable as Tommy’s mum, is not the character that Townsend had in mind. Sultry and sexy, she is clearly cast to bring some sex appeal- nothing wrong with this, but the stage character is more of a working class woman, and more in line with the rest of the cast.

The film also seems a bit too over the top- almost silly at times. But Tommy is an escapist film- based on the album, which is more serious. I wonder if Russell was going for a more late-night, Rocky Horror Show or Little Shop of Horrors type feel. Tommy has its place, certainly, but I would first recommend the stage or the album version as a starting point and move to the film as escapist fare.

Desperate Living-1977

Desperate Living-1977

Director-John Waters

Starring-Mink Stole, Liz Renay

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Reviewed December 4, 2016

Grade: B

Desperate Living will certainly not be everyone’s cup of tea. It is a raunchy, late-night comedy, in similar fashion to other John Waters directed cult-classics. This one however, suffers from the absence of Waters staple, Divine, who did not appear due to scheduling conflicts. For this glaring omission, Desperate Living is not the greatest of the Waters films, but it is a fun experience all the same. The film has choruses of political satire, specifically fascism, and overthrowing the government.

Mink Stole (Peggy Gravel) takes on the lead role as a crazed, mentally unhinged, neurotic woman on the lam with her maid, Grizelda, after they accidentally cause the death of Peggy’s husband. Peggy has been in and out of mental hospitals and is clearly off her rocker as she yells at neighbors about communism. After an encounter with a lewd police officer, the duo are banished to Mortville, a town filled with outcasts and social deviants. They align with others in the town to overthrown the tyrannical Queen Carlotta, played by Waters fixture Edith Massey. Carlotta plots to spread rabies throughout the community and is at war with her daughter, Princess Coo Coo.

The issue with Desperate Living really is the absence of Divine, originally set to play Mole McHenry, a self-loathing female wrestler, determined to receive a sex change operation. One imagines Divine in this important role, which was played by Susan Lowe, a capable star, but no Divine. With Divine in the part, the hilarious possibilities are endless. Mink Stole carries the movie well, but traditionally being a supporting player in Waters films, is not quite the star the film needs to be a true success.

This is not to say that the film is a dud- it is entertaining and will please most Waters fans. It contains gross-out moments and vulgarity from the very first scene- as the opening credits role, we see a roasted rat, daintily displayed on good china, on an eloquent dinner table, presumably to be served.

Later, Carlotta meets her fate by being roasted, pig style, on a spit with an apple in her mouth. Another character is executed by being shot in the anus. The offensive moments never end!

There also exists a quite controversial scene that I am surprised made the final cut. Peggy, already in a frazzled state due to a neighbor-boy accidentally shooting out her bedroom window, she is shocked to find another boy playing “doctor” with a little girl in her downstairs basement. Both children are completely naked, leaving not much to the imagination. This scene is tough to watch as one wonders what the child actors thought of all of this. I have never viewed another scene quite like this in film.

Otherwise, Desperate Living is filled with cartoon-like characters, lots of sexually deviant leather men, grizzled men with facial hair, and other odd looking characters, making up the community of Mortville. Water’s set creations for the exterior scenes of the town are great- using mainly cardboard and rubbish he found throughout Baltimore where the film was shot, the sets show a bleak yet colorful underworld.

Desperate Living is a raunchy good time with over-the-top acting, trash filled moments, and laugh out loud fun. The lack of any Divine makes it not the first offering to watch from the Waters collection. Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble would take that honor.

Machete-2010

Machete-2010

Director-Ethan Maniquis, Robert Rodriguez

Starring-Danny Trejo, Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba

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Reviewed February 27, 2011

Grade: B

Machete is a clear, fun homage to exploitation films of the 1970’s movies. directed by Robert Rodriguez (a protege of Quentin Tarantino) and quite heavily influenced by his mentor. In fact, it very much resembles a Tarantino film- the comic, over-the-top elements, the violence, but is somewhat less compelling in the story department, and lacks the crisp, rich storytelling.

It tells the story of a Mexican ex Federale (named Machete) involved in a plot to kill a horribly corrupt United States Senator (played by Robert De Niro). He attempts to flee Mexico for Texas, is shot, and spends the remainder of the film vowing revenge on his assailants.

Machete contains many celebrity cameos and is fun to watch- in a light way. The film is not intended to be looked upon in a serious way. For the interested, you also get to see Lindsay Lohan topless.

The film is a fun, violent, popcorn flick,with a nice political message, but if interested in these types of movies, rent Grindhouse: Planet Terror, which is a better experience.

Heat-1972

Heat-1972

Director-Paul Morrissey

Starring-Joe Dallesandro, Sylvia Miles

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Reviewed March 11, 2011

Grade: A-

Heat is a Paul Morrissey/Andy Warhol collaboration in 1970s sexploitation films. The film is somewhat of a spoof of the classic film from 1950, Sunset Boulevard, and stars 1970s cult star Joe Dallesandro.

He plays a hunky struggling actor, and former child star, who begins a relationship with a has been actress (Sylvia Miles) and her lesbian daughter as they co-habitat in a seedy Los Angeles hotel run by plump landlady (Pat Ast).  He pays the landlady a reduced rent in exchange for sex.

Heat stars two of my favorite cult film actresses (Miles and Ast). It is a fun, over the top, independent style sex romp. A pleasing experience for those in the mood of something left of center.

Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!- 1965

Director-Russ Meyer

Starring-Tura Satana, Haji

Top 100 Films-#85

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Reviewed May 28, 2016

Grade: A

Shamefully, this cult masterpiece from 1965 has somehow alluded me for many years- largely due to its unavailability on Netflix- head shaking for sure. Finally, I decided to simply buy the newly released Blu-Ray edition, and I have immediately become a huge fan of this Russ Meyer work of art. Influential and intriguing, it is no surprise it is a camp classic. Several famous directors, most notably Quentin Tarantino, have paid homage to this film in their own later works- most notably, Death Proof. Fast cars, sexy women, and murder represent this unique film.

In comparison to other famous Meyer works, specifically the gregarious yet brilliant Supervixens (1975), Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is almost understated and quiet. He also directed the well known Beyond The Valley of the Dolls from 1970. Shot in black and white, several notable comparisons to Supervixens must be pointed out: a hot California desert, large breasted women, and gas stations are prevalent throughout. Unlike Supervixens, though, there is little or no nudity.

Three go-go dancers race through the desert in their sports cars. They have murder and kidnapping on their minds. The ring-leader, Varla (Tura Satana) is a vicious, sexy, Asian woman. Her two side-kicks are Billie (Lori Williams), and Rosie (Haji). While Billie and Rosie squabble and fight in a juvenile fashion, Varla is the serious one. The trio enjoy racing their cars and engaging in the game “chicken”. When they meet all-American couple, Tommy and Linda, out for a romantic drive, they have a dispute, and end up killing Tommy- drugging and kidnapping Linda. After stopping for gas, Varla hatches a plot to steal money from a crazy old man, his muscular-yet dimwitted son (known as the Vegetable), and the old man’s seemingly normal son, Kirk.

Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is a groundbreaking film as it is gender bending. The women are hardly written as sex objects like most in films of that day were-far from it. They are ferocious, specifically Varla, as they do typically masculine things- race cars, fight, kill, yet do not sacrifice any of their femininity. All three women are sexy, busty, and wear stylish make-up. They are not trying to be like men, but are tough girls. This is part of what makes the film so wonderful to watch. Usually in Hollywood, these characters would be molls to even rougher men, or supporting the men in some way. These female characters are the film.

My favorite character is Varla. Sexy, fierce, and a minority, how often is a female villain this charismatic?  Perhaps in Bond films, but then she would be a conquest of Bond and not her own person. Varla makes up her own rules. The fact that she is Asian is superb and breaks many barriers in the way Asians are portrayed in film. Varla is more devious than the others characters- willing to kill anyone who stands in her way- even her own friends.  She is a character written very well by Russ Meyer, and pure femme fatale.

The male supporting characters are interesting. The old man, actor Stuart Lancaster, would later appear in Supervixens. He is a cripple, wacky, and as diabolical as the women. He has designs on innocent Linda and makes no bones about it. The Vegetable is hunky and fresh faced- an innocent victim of his father’s evil ways, so he is a character we root for. I enjoyed the brief romance between he and Billie. Lastly, Kirk is the “normal” son, also a victim of his father. When he and Linda run across the desert while being chased by Varla, we root for them to survive.

The black and white style, chosen in order to save money, actually adds to the unique cinematography,  with sharp edits, and gives the  film mystique. The 1960’s jazzy score adds to the film as well. In color, I wonder if the film would have had a more cartoonish quality. The black and white moves Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! into art film territory.

The debate over the film is, “Is the film exploiting women or empowering them”? To me, the film is answering the question of whether women can be tough, sexy, and complicated with a resounding yes. All three principal characters are layered- each develops feelings for other characters, and at one point Rosie’s sexuality is questioned by Billie. Still, the female characters are not monsters nor are they caricatures. They are complex with real emotions.

Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is an influential art film/exploitation film that empowers female characters, questions gender categorizations, and takes hold of the viewer, never letting go.  A miraculous representation of the changing times in cinema during the 1960’s. It is brilliant.

Showgirls-1995

Showgirls-1995

Director-Paul Verhoeven

Starring-Elizabeth Berkley, Kyle MacLachlan

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Reviewed January 31, 2016

Grade: D

Having heard much about the infamously bad reviewed Showgirls, and its ranking as one of the worst films ever made, I finally got around to watching this (twenty years after its release). Now considered something of a camp classic, I am glad I did. While I recognize the dubious distinction it holds and do not disagree with it, I also found something slightly entertaining about the film, and my thought process throughout was “this film is so bad that it might be good”, but in the end it is pretty much just a bad film.

Nomi Malone (Elizabeth Berkley) hitchhikes to Las Vegas intending to find success as a showgirl. Having her belongings stolen, she is then befriended by a kind-hearted woman named Molly, who works as a seamstress at the topless dance revue, Goddess. Molly takes her in and introduces her to the star of the show-Cristal (Gina Gershon). A rivalry immediately develops between the women as Cristal mocks Nomi’s job at another topless club. The main story centers on this rivalry, as Nomi attempts to climb the ranks and achieve success in the shady world of adult entertainment.  Along the way she becomes involved with various men, specifically entertainment director (and Cristal’s boyfriend), Zack, played by Kyle MacLachlan, leading to further tensions.

Let me be honest here- Showgirls is a bad film in every way. I observed three major flaws in the film- poor acting, poor writing, and the film being over-the-top on every level. Let’s break it down.

Within minutes, I knew the acting was sub-par, and I wonder if that is the fault of the director’s (Paul Verhoeven) directing or the actors themselves- or a combination. Known for directing Basic Instinct (a sexy, smoldering film), one wonders if he had the same success in mind for Showgirls. Berkeley gets the blunt of the mention since she is the lead character, but, wow what a bad performance. From the over dramatic delivery to the phony earnestness, I did not buy the performance for a minute and fantasized on more than one occasion on how a different actress might have tackled the role (Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts came to mind). Gershon was almost worse as her sexiness and vixen-like character was fraught with an irritating brooding pout.

The writing was clearly one-dimensional- poor girl tries to achieve success in a bad, bad world and meets challenge after challenge. Nothing new here.  The predictability was apparent almost immediately and most of the characters unlikable. When Nomi garners interest in a man, he turns into a player with another aspiring female star on the side, feeding her the same lines as he did Nomi. Even the one sympathetic character (Molly), really exists only to make Nomi more likable as is the case when Molly is attacked and Nomi races to her bedside. Forced and formulaic, this scene is a prime example of the poor and contrived writing.

Most scenes played over-the-top. Brimming with nudity and sexual excitement, the film was bawdy and party friendly. In one scene, dancers take a line of coke before hitting the stage and a feud between two of the dancers results in one sabotaging the production so that the other dancer will break her hip. The larger than life (in more than one way) x-rated, well endowed, mama dancer, while entertaining, was also silly and baffoon-like. Chaotic and pointless, each scene was hard to believe and take seriously.

You may be wondering what positives can be found in Showgirls- the answer is not many, but there is a certain charm I found to the film, but perhaps I am glutenous for punishment.  I think the film “feels” like it wants to have fun and a certain level of entertainment can be found in viewing it, but this is like trying to find a needle in the haystack to see any good in Showgirls.

I do not disagree with the distinction that Showgirls is one of the worst films ever made, but I found a sliver of charm, interest, and  fun mixed in with the more prevalent drivel, poor quality, and painfully bad acting. But perhaps that is because it is so bad.

Supervixens-1975

Supervixens-1975

Director-Russ Meyer

Starring-Shari Eubank

Top 100 Films-#75

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Reviewed January 9, 2016

Grade: A

I first watched Supervixens in 2008 and, if I am being completely honest, did not much care for it, or rather, was very perplexed by it. I did not know what I had just viewed and was simply caught off guard and blown away- I have since realized that this is part of my love for the film. Is it a comedy? Is it too over-the-top and shameless? Is it trying to degrade women? Now, a mere eight years later, it lands firmly ensconced on my Top 100 Films list and it is similar to a fine wine- it just gets better and better with age. Never before did I think I would fall in love with a sexploitation film, but I have.

Directed by Russ Meyer, noted for his series of 1970’s sexploitation films, Supervixens, is set somewhere in the desert of eastern California. Gas station attendant, Clint Ramsey, a handsome young man, is found irresistible to a series of sexy and large breasted women, all with names beginning with “Super”.

We are introduced to his steady girlfriend, SuperAngel, a bored, horny, feisty woman played by Shari Eubank. Jealous and possessive, she demands for Clint to leave his job and come home to her immediately, which leads to hilarity as they spar outside utilizing an axe as they wrestle and fight. Their nosy neighbor looks on, both tantalized and frightened.

Others who make appearances during Clint’s journey’s are SuperLorna, a horny gas station customer (strangely appearing in only one scene, but gracing the film cover packaging), who sets her sights on Clint much to SuperAngel’s chagrin. SuperCherry is a buxom girl who picks up Clint hitchhiking, SuperSoul, an Austrian farmer’s wife, who seduces Clint at the farm, SuperHaji, a bartender at the local watering hole, and finally, SuperEula, who is black, deaf, and with a white father.

Supervixens, as well as a number of Russ Meyer’s films have influenced countless other famous films to come, and I continue to note the overall influence Supervixens has had on Quentin Tarantino, specifically. The bloody violence mixed with cartoonish characters, as well as Nazi references (a frequent theme of Tarantino’s) and German marching music, Supervixens has a sly sense of humor- wicked almost, but never apologetic. Tarantino uses a similarly outrageous style.

Carrie (SuperVixen bloody in the tub), The Shining (Harry breaking down the bathroom door amid a screaming SuperVixen), Friday the 13th- Part 3 (the camera angle at the top of the hayloft panning down on the approaching climber) are just a few that I have noticed during repeated viewings.

My love of the film is its outrageousness and I find the film to be empowering to women most of all- not degrading. There is also male nudity and reference to the male anatomy numerous times so it is not a one sided exploitation film. Each female is a superhero, of sorts, and despite the sexploitation aspect, the film is quite romantic in spots- the tenderness between Clint and SuperEula is one of my favorites.

I also love the romance between Clint and SuperVixen (a dual role for Eubanks), as she is a reincarnation of SuperAngel. Working side by side at a roadside gas station that she owns, they pump gas and prepare burgers together, while running through the desert in a happy, lovely way. Of course, their romance is threatened by the sinister Harry, who has returned for revenge.

Hilarious, outrageous, and in your face sexual, Supervixens is a camp classic that is so much more than that. Influential and creative, it simply must be seen to be believed. I hope it is never forgotten.

Reform School Girls-1986

Reform School Girls-1986

Director-Tom DeSimone

Starring-Linda Carol, Wendy O. Williams

Top 100 Films-#100

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Reviewed January 25, 2017

Grade: A

Let’s be honest here- Reform School Girls is neither a work of cinema art nor a particularly well-acted film. In fact, from a critic’s perspective it is riddled with stereotypes and objectifies women. Still, it is one of my favorite guilty pleasures and has an offbeat charm that makes me want to watch the film over and over again. I never tire of it. I also do not think it should be reviled, but rather, revered. There is a perverse magnificence to  the film and some similarities to another cult gem-Russ Myers Faster Pussycat, Kill!…Kill! Critics be damned- not every film needs to be high art!

One of my absolute favorite cult actresses, Pat Ast, famous for another cult gem, 1972’s Heat, stars in Reform School Girls as a vicious prison guard. Alongside punk rocker turned actress, Wendy O. Williams, they make the film a guilty masterpiece as both women bring their share of odd energy and humor to the flick. Sybil Danning co-stars as the corrupt Warden Sutter.

The plot of the film is pretty straightforward and it screams late night fun. A virginal teenage girl named Jenny is sent to a reform school run by the sinister warden and her sadistic and abusive henchwoman, Edna (Ast). While there, Jenny is intimidated by Charlie (Williams), who rules the roost via bullying and threats. Jenny is accompanies by several other terrified girls, who are stripped and degraded by Edna. This leads to an attempted escape and protest scene by the girls and others as they try to remove themselves from their tormentors.

Reform School Girls is simply great fun. The poor acting is actually a strength of the film as one scantily clad female after another prances around the reform school. Wendy O. Williams regularly wears skimpy panties, bra, and heels and is laughable playing a teenager since the actress was pushing forty years old.

The culmination of the film is fantastic as a chase ends up by an enormous tower on the grounds of the prison, resulting in the deaths of Charlie and Edna in dramatic fashion. Edna’s charred remains are met by an uproar of cheers by the inmates- I half expected them to burst into a chorus of “Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead”.  Reform School Girls is a perfect cult classic to enjoy on a late Saturday night.

Clue-1985

Clue-1985

Director-Jonathan Lynn

Starring-Christopher Lloyd, Eileen Brennan, Madeline Kahn

Top 100 Films-#61

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Reviewed January 31, 2017

Grade: A

Clue is a harmless, 1985 comic yarn that is not a cinematic masterpiece, nor really anything more than fluff, but since I adored  the classic board game growing up and reveled in the excitement of the different characters, rooms, and murder weapons, the film version holds a very special place in my heart and memory bank, having watched it time and time again as a youngster.

The plot is immediately filled with intrigue- a successful element and the best part of the film. Six interesting characters- with provocative aliases such as Ms. Scarlet, Colonel Mustard, and Mrs. Peacock, are all summoned to a New England mansion named Hill House. Naturally, it is a dark, stormy night and each receives a mysterious note written by a stranger.

Among the colorful characters working at the mansion are the plump cook, the scantily dressed maid, Yvette, and the butler, Wadsworth, who is running the show and greets the confused guests. Slowly, it is revealed that all of the guests are being blackmailed and all of them either live, or have ties to Washington D.C. After each guest is given a weapon as a gift, the lights go out and a murder occurs, launching a fun whodunit. Each guest, and the staff, strive to figure out who has committed the murder, as subsequent murders begin to occur. The comic hi-jinks are reminiscent of funny films like High Anxiety and even Young Frankenstein.

The atmospheric qualities featured in Clue is what I love most about the film- the vast mansion, the many gorgeously decorated rooms, the secret passageways, and the driving rain all make for great ambiance. Clue is clever in that it features three different endings!  Upon initial theatrical release this was a unique premise- one could see the film multiple times and not know how it was to end or who the killer might be revealed to be- what fun! Unfortunately, the film was not a commercial success so this ploy did not work.

The famed cast delivers their parts with comic gusto, and with lesser talents the film would simply be dumb. It seems obvious that the cast had a good old time with this romp- Eileen Brennan, Christopher Lloyd, Lesley Ann Warren, and Madeline Khan, have a comic ball with their perfect delivery of the lines.

Clue is not a message movie, it does not inspire cinematic art, but what it does, it does incredibly well- it entertains. The writing and the political and sexual innuendos are witty. One can become lost in the interesting characters and try to guess, or even make up, the whodunit and why they done it. I can be entertained by Clue time and time again.

Mommie Dearest-1981

Mommie Dearest-1981

Director-Frank Perry

Starring-Faye Dunaway

Top 100 Films-#44

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Reviewed November 20, 2014

Grade: A

Camp, camp, camp! By this point in film history Mommie Dearest and this description go hand in hand, but when made in 1981, it was meant to be a much more serious film than it turned out to be. Sadly, due to a few very over-the-top lines, it is forever inducted into the halls of cult classic memory. Based on the scandalous tell-all book written by Christina Crawford (Joan’s adopted daughter), Mommie Dearest tells the story of Joan Crawford, Hollywood screen legend, from her heyday in the 1930’s, until her death in 1977, and mostly focuses on the tumultuous relationship with Christina- played as an adult by Diana Scarwid. Convinced a baby was missing from her life and unable to conceive after several miscarriages with a former flame, Crawford’s beau at the time, an attorney, wrangles a way for her to adopt both Christina and later, Christopher Crawford. Dealing with her mother’s demands and abuse, Christina goes from happy little girl to rebellious teen sent to live in a convent and later struggling to find her way as an actress in New York City with no financial support from Mom. The film also wonderfully describes the career of Crawford- from highs (winning the Academy award for Mildred Pierce) to lows (being cut from MGM and reduced to screen tests). The film also recounts Joan Crawford’s continuing battles with booze and neuroses.

From start to finish the film belongs to Dunaway as she simply becomes Crawford- the eyelashes, the mannerisms, every detail is spot on. Unfortunately for Dunaway, due to the unintentional comedic view of this film, she was robbed of an Oscar nomination, shamefully so. In fact, the film was awarded several Razzie’s- a derogatory honor given to the years worst films. Dunaway must have put her heart and soul into this performance. During the infamous wire hanger scene, Dunaway looks frightening as her face, caked with cold cream, reveals a grotesque mask- reminiscent of Batman character The Joker- as she shrieks at her daughter in the middle of the night, during a drunken tirade, after finding beautiful clothes on wire hangers. She then trashes her daughter’s bathroom insisting it is already filthy. One shrieks with gales of laughter as Crawford berates her maid Helga for not scrubbing beneath a potted plant, only to insist, “I’m not mad at you Helga, I’m mad at the dirt”. In another haunting scene, Joan throws a birthday party for Christina complete with a merry-go-round, balloons, presents, and the paparazzi. Joan’s attire is a little girl dress matching young Christina’s- a morbid foreshadowing of the competition that is to exist between them as the years go by. The secondary characters are merely an extension of Dunaway’s character and do their best to support her- her harried live in assistant, Carol Ann, played by Rutanya Alda, both of her love interests, lawyer, Greg Savitt, played by Steve Forrest, and later, Pepsi-Cola mogul Alfred Steele, played by Harry Goz. The actors do their best with the material given and are neither exceptional nor flawed. None of these supporting characters have any backstory other than to react to Crawford’s drama and, if written better, may have given the film a bit more depth.

The look of the film is pleasing- Crawford’s house is beautifully decorated with lavish furniture and the colors throughout the film are both bright and vivid. The now legendary lines of “No wire hangers ever!”, “Christina! Bring me the ax!”, and “Don’t f### with me fellas, this ain’t my first time at the rodeo” are hysterical in their melodrama and effect. Crawford is clearly portrayed as an obsessive-compulsive, demanding, control freak. One may debate the authenticity of the claims Christina made against Joan Crawford until the end of time. Not the masterpiece it was intended to be, the film can be enjoyed viewing after viewing for some campy silliness, with one hell of a great performance by Dunaway mixed in.

Female Trouble-1974

Female Trouble-1974

Director-John Waters

Starring-Divine

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Reviewed August 4, 2014

Grade: A

Female Trouble is a deliciously naughty treat by famous Independent film legend, John Waters. Not exactly family friendly, it is a gem for those desiring more left of center fare with depravity and gross out fun mixed in for good measure. Water’s theme of the film is “crime is beauty” and the film is dedicated to Manson family member, Charles “Tex” Watson.

Clearly meant for adult, late night viewing, the film tells the story of female delinquent Dawn Davenport, who angrily leaves home one Christmas morning after not receiving her desired cha-cha heels as a Christmas present. Her parents, religious freaks, disown her and she is left to fend for herself on the streets of Baltimore. The film then tells of her life story of giving birth and subsequently falling into a life of crime in the 1960’s.  Her friends Chicklet and Concetta are in tow as they work various jobs and embark on a career of theft. Female Trouble stars Waters regulars Divine, Mink Stole, Edith Massey, Cookie Mueller, and others.

Interestingly, Divine plays a dual role- Dawn Davenport (in drag, of course) and also the father of her bratty child- Earl Peterson. Dawn and Earl have a less than romantic interlude on a dirty mattress on the side of the road, when he picks her up hitchhiking, which results in the birth of Taffy. Also featured is the hilarious feud between Dawn and her love interest’s (Gator) Aunt Ida, as the women engage in tactics such as acid throwing and chopping off of limbs as they constantly exact revenge on each other.

Favorite scenes include Dawn’s maniacal nightclub act in which she does her rendition of acrobatics and then begins firing a gun into the crowd. Another is of Dawn’s dinner party with Donald and Donna Dasher- serving a meal consisting of spaghetti and chips, Taffy’s tirade ruins the evening in hilarious fashion.

This film is certainly not for the prudish, squeamish, or uptight crowd, but a ball for all open minded, dirty fun-seekers. The film contains one over-the-top, hilarious scene after another. The line “just cuz you got them big udders don’t make you somethin’ special” is a Waters classic.

Female Trouble is one of a series of outrageous, cult-classics featuring the legendary camp star, Divine. Not meant to be overanalyzed or some might say, analyzed at all, Female Trouble is unabashedly trashy and makes no apologies for its outrageousness.

Hairspray-1988

Hairspray-1988

Director-John Waters

Starring-Ricki Lake, Divine

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Reviewed June 3, 2013

Grade: B+

Hairspray is one of Director John Water’s later and much more mainstream comedies. Influencing the Broadway musical of the same name that was created years later, it tells the story of a cute, yet insecure, overweight teenager named Tracy Turnblad, wonderfully portrayed by Rikki Lake. Tracy lives in Baltimore in the racially conflicted 1960’s, and she battles to appear on a local talent show. With Waters directing, one might expect comedic raunchiness, but Hairspray is quite tame. In fact, it is the only Waters film to be rated PG, the others rated X.

The film itself, while campy and over the top, is an important film as it does its best to break down racial barriers, including interracial relationships, and sends an important message. Those characters (again the film is set in the early 1960’s) clearly look like buffoons and clearly not with the progressive social times. The supporting cast is high caliber- Divine and Jerry Stiller are perfectly cast as Tracy’s open minded yet cautious and concerned parents. Famous musicians appear in cameos- most notable Debbie Harry, Ric Ocasek, and Sonny Bono.

The musical dance numbers are plentiful and perfectly fit the time period of the film. Hairspray is an entertaining, relevant, free for all with a powerful message mixed in with the entertainment.

The Anniversary-1968

The Anniversary-1968

Director-Roy Ward Baker

Starring-Bette Davis

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Reviewed November 27, 2013

Grade: B+

The Anniversary is a British film based on a play of the same name. The story centers on the Taggert family reunion celebrating the anniversary of the matriarch (Bette Davis) and the deceased patriarch.

The film is set like a play and most of the action takes place inside the Taggert family mansion. The film is all Davis and she gives a delicious over the top performance as a vicious mother intent on controlling her 3 son’s lives and terrorizing their wives or significant others with cutting remarks and insults.

Davis must have had fun with this role as her storied career was clearly on the downturn and this role allowed her to let loose. One must wonder if Davis chewed up the actors in the cast as much as the characters- rumor has it she was quite intimidating to her fellow actors and a terror to work with which adds to the macabre enjoyment. Her physical appearance of an eye patch, wig, cigarette, and bright red lipstick all works in her favor. Her maniacal laugh is incredibly campy and wonderful to watch.

Bette Davis is one of the greats and this late career romp is fun to watch.