GREG KLYMKIW - THE CURMUDGEON OF CINEMA

Greg Klymkiw’s 35+ years in the movie business include journalism, screenwriting, script editing, producing iconoclastic work by Guy Maddin, Bruno Lazaro Pacheco, Alan Zweig, etc, 14 years as senior creative consultant and producer-in-residence @ Norman Jewison's Canadian Film Centre, nurturing international recognition for prairie post-modernist films with his guerrilla campaigns as the Winnipeg Film Group’s Marketing Director, writing for Film Corner, Daily Film Dose, POV, Phantom of the Movies' VIDEOSCOPE, Electric Sheep UK - a deviant view of cinema, Take One Magazine, Cinema Canada & he's currently completing 3 new books about cinema. He's the subject of Ryan McKenna’s 2013 documentary "Survival Lessons: The Greg Klymkiw Story". At last count Klymkiw had seen over 30,000 feature films. GUIDE TO RATINGS: ***** Masterpiece/MasterpiecePotential **** Excellent ***1/2 Very Good *** Good **1/2 Not Bad ** Whatever *½ Poor * Raw Sewage. If a film is not up to earning 1 star, it will earn at least: 1 Pubic Hair. If, God forbid, the movie is worse than 1 Pubic Hair, the absolute lowest rating will be: The Turd found behind Harry's Charbroil and Dining Lounge.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

BOSS NIGGER aka "Boss", "The Boss", "The Black Bounty Killer" - Review By Greg Klymkiw @FantasiaFest2014

Play the theme song from BOSS NIGGER sung by Terrible Tom while you read the review:
video

"Look Mayor, you've been hunting black folks for so long,
we just wanted to see what it'd be like to hunt white folks."
Boss Nigger (1974) ****
aka Boss, The Boss, The Black Bounty Killer
dir. Jack Arnold
Starring: Fred Williamson, D'Urville Martin, R.G. Armstrong, William Smith, Carmen Hayworth, Barbara Leigh

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Boss (Fred Williamson), a tough, tall and lean African-American cowboy, counts his reward money, pockets it obligingly, then flashes a big smile at the racist lawman who grudgingly had to pay it out. "I wants to thank ya, Sheriff," says our title character. "Sorry, we ain't got time to stay for supper, but we got us more whities to catch."

And so begins Boss Nigger, one of the best westerns of the 70s. Boss and his trusty, wiseacre sidekick Amos (D'Urville Martin) ride off into the picturesque natural beauty of New Mexico in search of their next easy kill - always wanted, dead or alive and yes, always of the White Trash Caucasian Persuasion.

Now if you saw Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained and thought the idea of an African-American bounty hunter was original, just remind yourself that QT's entire output has been steeped in ripping off, or rather, referencing the works of older films he revered as being cooler than cool.

And don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed the Jamie Foxx/Christoph Waltz western bloodbath, but Boss Nigger is the real thing.

JED: Go ahead and kill me, Nigger!
BOSS: That's "Mr. Nigger" to you!
JED: Then go to Hell, Mr. Nigger!
BOSS: To Hell is where you're going!
Made almost forty years ago, it's way ahead of its time and proves to be more cutting edge revisionist than Tarantino's. Written and produced by the former football champ turned superstar and directed by the legendary Jack Arnold (The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Mouse That Roared), this terrific duster blends old fashioned western tropes with the very best elements of Blaxsploitation. Don't forget that Django needed to be rescued and taught the trade by a White Man, but Boss Nigger and Amos are former slaves who broke free all on their own and carved a path of destruction to emancipate their fellow brothers in the legendary Nigger Charley series (not to mention that Django is single-minded in the pursuit of securing his wife's freedom at the expanse of anyone, whereas Williamson's character is all about making America a better place for all oppressed people of colour).

How can anyone not like a film wherein
Fred Williamson goes at it with William Smith? 
And so it is that Boss and Amos are on their way to a wild, wooly tank town bereft of a sheriff in order to track down Jed Clayton (William Smith), the meanest, orneriest criminal psychopath this side of Hell and his gang of bloodthirsty, shoot 'em up, rotgut-guzzling and female-violating redneck racists. The pair rescue the beautiful Clara Mae (Carmen Hayworth) from gang rape at the hands of some Clayton cowpokes, deposit her in the care of some kind Mexican-Americans on the outskirts of town, then proceed to nominate themselves as Sheriff and Deputy of a town so corrupt that its Mayor (R.G. Armstrong) is secretly in cahoots with Clayton.

Boss and Amos waste no time in posting the new laws of the town which all include hefty fines for spitting, cussing, shooting and worst of all, using the word "nigger". Many townspeople are shocked by this and would just as soon put up with the Status Quo, but some, like the sexy schoolteacher Miss Pruitt (Barbara Leigh) are relieved that law has come to their town. She even develops a mad crush on the muscular, leather-adorned Boss Nigger.

In addition to their shenanigans in town, the Boss and Amos wreak havoc upon the huge gang of cutthroats and Boss Nigger reigns solidly as a violent, action-packed western of the highest order.

Jack Arnold's helmsmanship is first-rate, the fisticuffs, shootouts and explosions are taut and engaging and Fred Williamson's writing equally so.

The dialogue is especially ripe and you'll feel like delivering a standing ovation when the prim, proper schoolmarm Miss Pruitt begs Boss to take her along when he leaves town after tidying up his business. Williamson, always the King of Cool, writes himself one of the best lines in movie history. Bidding the sexy schoolteacher farewell, he says:

"Lady, a Black Man's got enough trouble in this world without a White woman following him around."

Enough trouble, indeed!

Boss Nigger (with the title Boss) is playing at the 2014 FantAsia International Film Festival in Montreal.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

COLD IN JULY - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Jim Mickle Delivers the Goods (Again), Rocks @FantasiaFest 2014

Sam Shepard, Michael C. Hall & Don Johnson - Vigilantes? Executioners!
Jim Mickle's COLD IN JULY
Cold in July (2014) ****
Dir. Jim Mickle / Script: Nick Damici & Mickle
Starring: Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard, Don Johnson, Vinessa Shaw, Nick Damici

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Dane (Michael C. Hall) is late for the interment ceremony. A preacher has just finished reading words over the body in a cheap wooden box and two gravediggers are already piling dirt into the maw of the six-foot-deep open cavity in the earth where the young man Dane has killed will lay for eternity. The Sheriff (co-writer Nick Damici) has assured Dane that all is well - it's an open and shut case of self-defence. After all, we're in the great state of Texas, where a man's home is his castle, where he shall protect it and his family against anyone who dares creep into his sleepy suburban abode in the middle of the night. Still, Dane feels the weight of his actions. While his little boy slept soundly and his wife silently padded into the living room, Dane squeezed off one well placed shot into an intruder's skull, spraying globs of brain and geysers of blood all over the wall and chesterfield. Still haunted by images of cleaning the remnants of someone who was once a living, breathing human being and now reduced to a squeegee sponge of blood and gooey pulp being squirted and splashed into the toilet bowl, guilt has sunk its teeth into Dane's very soul, like some pit bull from the depths of hell, with jaws to match. He knows now his life has changed forever.

Dane hasn't even had time to get out of his station wagon when he arrives at the cemetery. Then again, nobody would ever know he's been the lone witness to the tail-end of the burial. No one, that is, save for Russell (Sam Shepard), the lanky, grizzled and grimacing old man with a grey buzz cut atop his dome and a pair of shades he's removed to reveal his piercing eyes. The old man, seemingly appearing from nowhere, towers above Dane, dwarfed only by the big, old Texas sky. He leans into the open window, burning holes into the killer of his only son.

"Come to watch the shit go into the hole, huh?" quips Russell with a half smile. "Mighty Christian of you."

Dane struggles for words, knowing that whatever he says won't make the old man feel any better.

"That sure was a nice picture of your family in the newspaper," says Russell with a smile so warm, it's sinister. He dons his shades again. That huge orb of Texas sunshine's mighty powerful. "Your little boy," he continues, "He sure looks a lot like you."

Dane's face is frozen.

"Y'all have a nice day, now." And the old man strides away, old, but resolute and powerful.

We've all seen J. Lee Thompson's Cape Fear and while Sam Shepard is no Robert Mitchum (who in Hell could be?), one surely wouldn't want to be on this sonofabitch's shit list, either. As Russell, Sam Shepard is plenty scary.

Cold in July plays out in a tense, low key manner that at first seems similar to the classic 1962 revenge thriller, albeit with a dose or two of lithium, but all comparisons to Thompson's picture soon flake off like so much old paint on an abandoned farmhouse in some Texas dustbowl. The narrative transformation is, of course rooted in the striking screenplay adaptation of Joe R. Lonsdale's 80s pulp novel. Written by longtime creative partners Jim Mickle (the film's director) and Nick Damici (brilliantly playing the smarmy, corrupt local sheriff), the gorgeously crafted script takes us on a tortuously serpentine path of shocks and ever-mounting blasts of violence that keep our tiny hairs bristled, our mouths ever-agape and our jaws thudding ever-lower to the floor. And don't be fooled by the few loose ends that might plague you, but only after you've finished watching the film - they're as much a part of the intentional dives into straight-faced ambiguity as they are part of the strange social, political and cultural backdrop.

Lansdale's novel was borne out of the raging Rompin' Ronnie Reagan-omics. Add to this the Texas setting, a state overflowing with massive longhorn cattle, big old American gas-pig Mustangs, station wagons, mighty half-tons plus a gun culture wherein the right to bear arms was lightyears ahead of states that already had extremely liberal National Rifle Association (NRA)-approved attitudes to brandishing such weaponry to begin with. Here, we just plain gots are-seffs sum purty choice material ripe for Mickle-Damici's cinematic ropin' and'a ridin'. Their film is savagely funny, full of surprises and yup, just plain savage.

Shepard isn't the only scary-ass dude in this movie. Don Johnson as, get this, Jim-Bob, gets to yuck it up as a good ol' boy galut. He's a part-time pig farmer with the most behemoth-like porkers this side of Hog Heaven (and generous slabs of superbly white-fat-marbled bacon in his breakfast frying pan) and a part-time private dick with the shadiest connections imaginable. Jim-Bob boasts an arsenal of truly magnificent weaponry, a killer instinct to go along with his killer smile and one knee-slappin' sense of gallows humour. Plus, he's what you might call, in the parlance of white trash everywhere, good people.

The performance that never ceases to take one by surprise is Dexter-star Michael C. Hall. Shucking his persona from that annoyingly overrated series, Hall looks super-sexy-ugly, complete with a horrendous mullet and thick cop-moustache, Hall renders the mild-mannered picture-framing small business owner with a brilliant, underplayed hand which slowly and creepily mounts into that of a hardened killer - on the right side of the law, that is = or rather, whatever side of the law in the pulpy amoral world the film inhabits, that's less wrong than the other.

The trio of Shepard, Hall and Johnson become a perverse Texas version of The Three Musketeers fighting for love and country (in the sickest manner imaginable). At one point, the recently-released jailbird's son is disparagingly identified as "shit that don't fall too far from the tree", but as the lad has gone so far beyond even Dad's pale, Shepard himself remarks: "Whaddya do with a dog that keeps biting people? You either keep it on a chain or shoot it."

Shepard and Johnson play old buddies from Korea and they're both enveloped with a post-war ennui that lead them to take very different roads, at least on the surface. Deep down, though, it's a well-worn path they both share. Hall, of course, is mild mannered, but he is a product of gun culture and the almost-separatist Lone Star State DNA-hard-wiring of individualism that firmly delivers a sense of what's right, what's wrong and as such, doing right at all costs. It's the fluid of life-force that courses through his veins like a river wild. Though his character would have been too young to serve in Vietnam, he'd have grown up believing that it was a just and noble war. Add post-Cold War and Reagan-omics to his persona and he's prime material for bloodlust. Even though his first taste of blood renders him virtually immobile, it's ultimately the thing that leads his need, like a carrot on a stick, to see justice through - Texas-style, of course.

A warning: PLEASE be careful not to read much more than this about the movie before you see it. After my first helping, I scoured a variety of items and discovered WAY TOO MUCH INFORMATION!!! What in the hell is wrong with critics, puff-piece-scribes and flacks? Are they completely out to fucking lunch? Well, for my part, I saw the movie in a plumb virginal state - I even picked up a copy of the book, but didn't read it until afterwards. With that in mind, it would be unfair to reveal too many of the eye-popping, though perfectly natural twists in the story, but let's just say that the criminal element revealed is so appalling that we need to pinch ourselves to assure us we're not dreaming. One of the more grotesque elements that's revealed is the whole notion of organized crime in Texas. Johnson refers to it as "Dixie Mafia. Put "Dixie" and "Mafia" together in the same breath and you've got more scary-ass shit than you've bargained for. Even worse, however, are some of the activities the trio discover on a videocassette labelled "Batting Practice". Believe me, you just don't want to know. Well, at least until you see it to believe it and then, you really don't want to know.

Jim Mickle is a director who continues to dazzle. I hope he keeps making films with the same intelligence, prowess and independent spirit he's brought to bear on this film as well as his previously fine work Mulberry Street, Stake Land and We Are What We Are. I can't imagine the studios not wanting Mickle, nor can I imagine he doesn't want to make studio pictures either. He would benefit from their resources and we'd all benefit from his being able to keep growing, but he needs to remain resolutely his own man - so here's to the system not fucking him with an unwanted kiester-slam.

Cold in July is pure, deliciously vicious pulp fiction. It's as compulsive and propulsive as storytelling at its finest should be and it's marked with a tone and style that bears a unique, individual voice. There's no tongue-in-cheek, no cinema-referential indulgences and best of all, it remains true to its foul roots. There's a purity and cleanliness here that is absolutely and marvellously mired in filth, and we're all the better for it.

Cold in July played at the 2014 FantAsia International Film Festival, It's been released by IFC in the USA and by Mongrel Media in Canada.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

GMO OMG - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Annoying, 1-sided personal doc about the GMO controversy misses boat.

Is it possible to take a documentary
seriously that incorporates the moronic
social networking acronym OMG in its title?
Yes. If the movie is actually good.
This one isn't.
GMO OMG (2013) *
Dir. Jeremy Seifert

Review By Greg Klymkiw

I sincerely believe everyone should see this film - not because it's any good, but because it's important for audiences to experience how egregiously an independently produced, but one-sided, misguided and all-over-the-map propaganda picture like GMO OMG can be just as dangerous to progressive thought and exploration of issues that affect all of us, as propaganda on the flip side from heavily-financed-and-approved corporate/political interests can be.

Let it be said, though, that these days, I have a fairly strong bias of acceptance when it comes to films dealing with environmental concerns. Firstly, I've always been against corporate culture, ideology and bureaucracy. I believe it's downright evil. Secondly, I've also been extremely skeptical about any political process and feel it's usually little more than legal organized crime devoted primarily to nest-feathering of the most blatant and petty kind. Thirdly, and most importantly, I'm somewhat ashamed to admit I came late in life to caring about our world in any green sense, but frankly, to use the well-worn, but perfectly reasonable expression: better late than never.

I've become especially committed to animal rights and hugely aware (and mindful) of both energy and environmental issues. To the latter, I've gone so far as to live completely off the grid, grow my own consumable food product (including free-range animal product of the egg variety) and rescuing animals from torture and inhumane slaughter. When I encounter films dealing with any of the aforementioned, I prick up my ears, sharpen my eyes and drink in the myriad of cinematic perspectives on such issues. That said, I demand the films be good - aesthetically and by extension, ideologically. GMO OMG is neither.

Filmmaker Jeremy Seifert is just your regular garden-variety Dad who became alarmed when he discovered just how much food he and his family consumed was derived from genetic modification. He chose to become a bargain basement Michael Moore and explore the world of GMOs by making a film about it. Fair enough, but what he's wrought is not only poor filmmaking, but does little more than preach to the (ignorant) converted. Even worse is that it places a valuable tool in the hands of scumbag corporations like Monsanto which employs vicious strong-arm tactics to foist their product upon food producers and consumers.

At the beginning of the film, Seifert professes to know very little about GMOs until hearing about them, so he first engages in what will be his uncompromising approach to investigative journalism as he asks ordinary Americans in the street what they think about eating GMOs. Well shucks, it turns out that the folks he approaches known nothing about GMOs and frankly, have never even heard of them. What this proves is the ignorance of the American people, or at least, the ignorance of the American people he approaches in his random fashion.

What the film ignores, is that many Canadians are well aware of GMOs (and proudly) since Canadian scientists at the University of Manitoba in the 70s first developed the exquisite and healthy Canola Oil (modified Rapeseed) which has become one of the biggest crops in North America. Yes, corporate scumbags in the 90s began adding herbicide resistant properties to the seed, but the only real threat here has been of the patent copyright variety. The only mention of Canola in Seifert's film appears to be in one of the many slick animated charts which look and sound like they're providing solid information, but are, in fact, delivering a whole lot of nothing.

Seifert includes images of Haitians burning GMO seed donated to them from Monsanto. Fair enough, the people of Haiti wish to grow their own natural variety of seeds and have bought into the anti-GMO lobby, but there's no investigation as to the corporate ramifications of rejecting Monsanto's donation and a whole lot of negative information about the dangers of not using "natural" products. Last I heard, human beings were "natural" and while some have used their considerable natural brain power to genetically/chemically treat a lot of things that are generally considered bad for you (Big Tobacco, anyone?), the film never makes any attempt (save for getting nowhere with Monsanto) to explore what the positives might be with respect to GMOs.

He interviews a variety of farmers about GMOs - some agin, others for and yet many on the fencepost. His line of questions are just plain scattered. At one point, and seemingly by default, he engages in a decent enough conversation with one farmer, then interrupts the flow, fumbles for a stupid question (which most of them appear to be throughout the film) and idiotically asks the gentleman if he's a God-fearin' church-goer and how this affects his use of seeds that might well be seen (moronically) as playing God. This is a dumb question on a number of levels, but mostly because it's a cheap (and clumsy) attempt to play into Right Wing Christian morality with respect to GMOs and, of course, the fact that many thinking people don't believe or are rightly skeptical of the notion of God within the context of what's been seeded (so to speak) by organized crime, oops, I mean, religion.

And let us, for a moment, get back to the Monsanto issue. The real problem here is that they are forcing farmers to use their product in a manner in which the corporation decides, at prices the corporation sets and then engages in endless legal harassment (the right of all God-Given Corporate assholes) of those rejecting them on a number of levels. Seifert touches on this, but he's more interested in getting Monsanto and its ilk to discuss and/or release their own scientific findings with respect to the safety and production issues of their seed. This is fair enough, but all we get here is the fact that Seifert's getting the runaround on the telephone (Duh! No surprises here, really) and when he physically enters Monsanto, all we hear is an audio recording of his conversation at the front desk wherein he is told to leave. The cameras remain outside until he returns to express his frustration.

Bud, if you really want to be Michael Moore, why aren't you in there with your cameras and worse yet, why are you giving up so easily? Afraid of getting arrested? That's commitment for you.

Okay, so Monsanto doesn't want to reveal any of this info and is being sneaky about it. The fact remains that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the U.S. of A. has its own guidelines with respect to GMOs and has not only given them an okay, but seeing as it's based upon what Seifert and many others charge is a potentially low level of scientific investigation, where are the raft of scientists not employed by Monsanto and/or the FDA who agree with this? Where are all the politicians and bureaucrats who do agree? Why do we only meet one anti-GMO politician who wants greater openness with respect to the whole issue? Aren't there more? If not, why not? Seifert even whines about the legality of patenting seeds. How, he wonders, can life be owned by a corporation? Hey Bud, try taking a Business 101 course sometime.

While Seifert dredges up one scientist in Europe who's come up with some fairly damning evidence against GMOs, were there no others who could agree with him? And what about those scientists who refuted the findings? What do they have to say about it? Specifically, that is. Could they be right? Who says so? Why? Beats me. The film sheds no light on this.

Aside from what feels like a whole lot of personal home movie footage in the movie, Seifert engages in a series of conversations, photo-ops and experiments (strictly for the cameras) with his own kids. One of the little shavers always looks especially terrified - not, I suspect, by truly understanding the ramifications of GMOs, but by his potentially crazy Dad making him do a bunch of stuff that seems a whole lot scarier (to me, anyway) than any of the doom and gloom Seifert espouses.

One jaw-droppingly stupid and seemingly unnecessary "experiment" is when Seifert talks about how kids used to be able to run free and wild through corn rows, but that nowadays, because of genetic modification, the corn is full of potentially poisonous pesticides hard-wired into its DNA, making it dangerous to do so. What does the filmmaker do? He adorns his kidlets with heavy-duty, scary-looking body suits and gas masks, then forces them into the cornfields for the edification of the cameras. The suits are heavy and hot and once they're doffed, he and the children are drenched with sweat and out of breath. One of the kids is upset and crying.

Perhaps this isn't child abuse to the precise letter of the law, but it sure damn well feels like it. This and other such sequences with the kids seem so creepy, I almost think that if the film were directed and produced by someone other than Seifert, it might have, Sherman's March-style, turned into being about something altogether different from what it started to be about: that is, a documentary about a committed, well-intentioned Dad who goes in search of answers to his concerns about GMOs, then morphs into a documentary about a committed, well-intentioned Dad with a bunch of half-baked ideas who runs around trying to prove them and puts his kids through hell in order to do so.

I might have actually enjoyed that movie instead of having to infer it from the available footage in this one. Watching Seifert's kids gaze longingly out the window on a hot summer day as an ice cream truck rings its bell and seeing that they can't run out and grab a yummy cone because Dad tells them it has GMOs in it, has got to be seen to be believed.

There are many outright laughable items in this movie, but one of the biggest for me is that it would have you believe everything is genetically modified. There is, however, such a thing as ages-old breeding: all natural and all part of the long-accepted practice of shaping our agricultural product, uh, naturally. Seifert takes us to the famous Norwegian underground storage facility where every known seed to man (including those of the ancient variety), but all this does is make thinking viewers realize even more than man has been selectively modifying seeds since the beginning of time - doing it genetically does not necessarily mean it's a bad thing.

On a separate note, the movie is jam-packed with a whack of slanted, sentimental montage sequences meant to bolster Seifert's thesis (whatever it ultimately is, anyway) and using some of the most sickeningly twee original music I've ever had the displeasure to suffer through, I was more compelled to upchuck than be moved by the "sad truth". The tunes are warbled by a group called The Jubilee Singers. If, God forbid, you actually like the music, I'm sure it's available on the film's website along with other paraphernalia related to the film. It's strictly of the Kumbaya, My Lord variety, but if you're into it, knock yourself out.

Here's what I think you need to do. See this movie. However, see it at the myriad of independent cinemas that are playing the film across North America - you'll at least be putting money in their pockets. God knows, they deserve it. If you miss it on a big screen, though, skip it. No need putting money in the pockets of anyone else associated with this dreadful and, in its own way, dangerous, ill-informed propaganda.

GMO OMG opens for a limited run at Toronto's first-rate independent cinema, The Royal, on July 25, 2014. It's also playing in a variety of independent theatrical and non-theatrical venues across North America.

Here are some genuinely GREAT documentaries dealing with a variety of environmental issues (and/or just plain great documentaries) that you can buy at Amazon via accessing the various links below directly, and in so doing, assisting with the maintenance of The Film Corner.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

COLD EYES - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Stunning Korean remake of Johnnie To HK cop hit @FantAsia2014

"Mmmm. I want whatever that gentleman has in his mouth in my mouth."
All Cops in Korea are Ultra-Babe-O-Licious!
Cold Eyes (2013) ****
Dir. Jo Ui-seok, Kim Byung-seo
Starring: Sol Kyung-gu, Jung Woo-sung, Han Hyo-joo, Jin Kyung, Lee Junho, Kim Byung-ok

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Whenever I see a slam-bang, supremely stylish and rock-solid Asian action thriller like Cold Eyes, I always shake my head and wonder why so many ludicrously-budgeted American studio pictures of a similar ilk are poorly directed and stupid? Who are the morons? The filmmakers or the audiences? I suspect both are equally deficient. The American directors have no real filmmaking talent and American audiences are bereft of brain. Since Americans are too stupid to watch anything in a language other than their own, the prospect of an American remake seems even more idiotic since they'd manage to take a terse, simple and intelligent script and just make it lugubrious, unnecessarily complicated (not complex, either - that word isn't in the American vocabulary) and just flat-out dumb. Astoundingly, Cold Eyes IS a remake of Johnnie To's solid meat-and-potatoes (or, if you will, BBQ pork and white rice) 2007 Hong Kong thriller Eye in the Sky. Given that To is no slouch, it's especially cool that co-directors Jo Ui-seok and Kim Byung-seo deliver a picture that blows his off the map (and most every American cop thriller from the past twenty-or-so years).

There are elements of Cold Eyes that are tried and true - a young cop (and, happily, a major BABE), has a lot to learn, but is still hand-picked by a tough-as-nails senior detective who knows that the "heart" is there in spades. After all, having the right stuff - in his books - trumps by-rote technical proficiency in the field. When she joins the team of high-tech surveillance detectives, a vicious and heretofore unidentified group of bank robbers led by a high-tech criminal mastermind, have successfully committed one similarly-styled job too many and the team is pumped to take the filth down.

Set against the energy-charged labyrinth that is Séoul, Cold Eyes is a tense, edge-of-the-seat cat and mouse action thriller that's replete with astonishing chases on foot and in moving vehicles, daring stunts, superb hand-to-hand fight scenes, shockingly blood thirsty violence and all the requisite and compelling cop/criminal dualities that any action aficionado will enjoy. The "cold eyes" of the title is an especially rich visual and emotional motif and refers to the ability to see everything in such detached detail on surveillance missions (and in the case of the villain. on a major heist), that one's mind becomes a sort of picture-perfect databank to supplement the gadgetry with the human element.

The surveillance sequences themselves have the kind of William Friedkin French Connection-styled doggedness that lets you see and feel the pulse of the streets and the monotony (without being a dull watch) of the days, weeks and even months of eyeballing as the most effective form of detective work. Much of the film is charged with the kind of short shots, quick cutting and hand-held work that just seems sloppy and noisy in virtually all contemporary American films and here demonstrates the genuine artistry of its filmmakers since there is never an unnecessary shot, virtuoso compositions and cuts driven by dramatic thrust as opposed to pure visceral propulsion.

Cold Eyes makes for a glorious big-screen experience and I'd urge viewers to do what they can to enjoy the movie that way. If not, try to watch it at home on high-def Blu-Ray (fuck streaming, digital downloads and DVD).

Cold Eyes recently screened at the 2014 FantAsia International Film Festival following a premiere at TIFF 2013.

Monday, 21 July 2014

ZOMBIE TV - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Lowbrow Zombie Spoof DeliversScads of Knee-Slappers @FantAsia2014

Surprise contestant on Zombie Wrestling: A HUMAN CANNIBAL!!!
A Virgin's Orgasm
Zombie TV (2013) ***
Dir. Maelie Makuno, Naoya Tashiro, Yoshihiro Nishimura
Starring: Ayumi Kuroki, Maki Mizui, Hiroko Yashiki, Jiji Bu, Iona

Review By Greg Klymkiw

In a world overrun by zombies, why wouldn't there be a specialty cable channel devoted to them? Indeed, that's what we get here: an 80-minute what-if sampling of said station in one of the year's most foul, grotesque and tasteless comedies. It's guaranteed to induce spontaneous urination from laughing long, hard and most prodigiously.

Zombie music videos? Of course. Zombie aerobics? Absolutely essential. Zombie beauty tips? Every lady zombie wants to look her best. And these are the relatively normal offerings on Zombie TV.

Nothing is sacred in this delectably idiotic, decidedly lowbrow and scattershot indulgence in hilarity of the flesh-slurping zombie kind. Do you find addled senior citizens funny? I know I do. Imagine an addled senior citizen zombie who has his own lifestyle show entitled "Zombie Walker" wherein the cameras follow the stumbling, bumbling, bone-headed Grandpa Zombie as he wanders through Tokyo shopping plazas to sample the multitudinous wares of only the finest shops and eateries. Zombies are clumsy and messy at the best of times, but when they're old, they're especially prone to accidentally breaking things or slopping their food all over themselves. And, of course, when senior citizen zombies moronically misplace their dentures, eating raw human flesh becomes nigh impossible.

And who doesn't enjoy regular professional wrestling matches? God knows I do, especially when they involve zombies. But, wait just a goddamn second, the latest episode of "Zombie Wrestling" has a surprise opponent for the champion Zombie wrassler. Normally, a live human being tied to a post in the middle of the ring is the quarry that two zombies must wrassle over, but not so this time. A human being has challenged the zombie and it's none other than a savage cannibal from the deepest, darkest, most backwards and savage jungle. With a frizzy afro, tusks jammed into his nostrils, white war paint adorning his blackface makeup and attired in a comfortable grass skirt to ensure better agility, he's bound and determined to beat a zombie to eat some raw human flesh. Who will survive? What will be left of them?

Delights of the flesh-eating variety are also to be found in the adventures of the beautiful, petulant and oh-so picky Pink Zombie as random humans beg her to bite them so they too can become one of the living dead. Yes, the residents of Tokyo are cottoning on to the fact that being a zombie is a pretty good deal - no cares, no job, no woes and lots of yummy human flesh to devour. It's Tokyo, after all. Last I heard they had one humungous population. Plenty of good eating in the Land of Nippon - if you're a zombie.

SQUEEZE THOSE
ZOMBIE FUN-BAGS
If continuing drama is your cup of green tea, there's plenty o' that on Zombie TV. One gripping tale involves an office worker who is bitten by a zombie, but continues to go to work as best she can - and nobody really notices much of a difference. Such is life as a worker-bee in a fluorescent-bathed corporate office. Eventually our heroine assists her lonely, grotesquely fat colleague by turning her into a zombie. It's the ultimate life-changer, don't you know? And, of course, one of the most touching dramas involves a male virgin hiding from zombies until he spots a living dead missy with the hugest breasts he's ever seen in his life. Will he risk all to squeeze those "water balloon fun bags"?

I'm sure you get the idea by now of what you're in for if you choose to partake of Zombie TV. Like all scattershot spoofs, it's hit and miss, but when it hits, it hits big, and you'll probably need major knee surgery from slapping it too hard.

Zombie TV enjoyed its Canadian Premiere
at the FantAsia 2014 International Film Festival in Montreal.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

THE HARVEST - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Samantha Morton porks into the New Kathy Bates - @FantAsia2014

Ladies and Gentlemen,
presenting the heir apparent to Kathy Bates in MISERY:
Samantha Morton in THE HARVEST.

The Harvest (2013) ***
Dir. John McNaughton
Starring: Samantha Morton, Michael Shannon, Peter Fonda, Natasha Calis, Charlie Tahan

Review By Greg Klymkiw

A pudgy, pushy small town doctor (Samantha Morton) and her subservient hubby (Michael Shannon), a male nurse no less, are treating their terminally ill little boy (Charlie Tahan) at home. The lad is very lonely. When he's befriended by a new girl in the neighbourhood (Natasha Calis), Porcine Mama gets her back up and refuses to let her son have a friend. Kids will be kids, though, and they persist in surreptitious play-dates. This annoys Mama to no end and she becomes even more unhinged than when we first met her.

She foists verbal, psychological and eventually physical abuse on her crippled dying son. Dad, being a male nurse, and therefore (of course) subservient, can barely stick up for the lad. It doesn't take too long for Samantha Morton to give Kathy Bates in Misery a run for her money in the psycho sweepstakes. As well, Morton is porking out to Bates dimensions, though it's still a case of close, but no cigar in the chub department.

This very strange film feels like an ABC Movie of the Week from the 70s. This is not necessarily a bad thing since there were plenty of decent thrillers to come out of that wave of small-screen cinema. That said, The Harvest isn't in Duel territory, but closer to the vicinity of Bad Ronald, Crowhaven Farm, A Taste of Evil, The Failing of Raymond, Revenge and any number of others which blended melodrama with suspense and often starred actresses just slightly out of their prime like Shelley Winters, Jane Wyman, Suzanne Pleshette, Hope Lange, Barbara Stanwyck - all of whom delivering terrific performances in spite of either chubbing out and/or indulging in too much plastic surgery.

And Samantha Morton is no slouch in conveying the requisite just-past-prime-time evil harridan gymnastics. It's impossible to take one's eyes of Morton - not for the same reasons 17-years-ago when she charmed us in Woody Allen's Sweet and Lowdown, but rather because her commitment and intensity is full-steam-ahead evil. She creates a seemingly flawed, but ultimately psychopathic child abuser and as the film progresses and reveals, something a whole lot worse. It's a great performance.

Sadly, the rest of the cast just isn't quite up to her level of thespian muscle-flexing. Michael Shannon, stout yeoman as always, is genuinely good, but it's painful to watch him slinking around so cretinously. Yes, I know, I know. He's playing a MALE nurse and as such, can only convey a subservience that's in line with that of a whinging castrato.

The real problem are the child actors. They have no chemistry, zero screen presence and their abilities fall somewhere in the contemporary continuing TV series range of acting. Given the importance of these characters to the film, their sub-par emoting really drags the movie down.

The Harvest just doesn't have the old snap, crackle and pop stylistics of the director John McNaughton of old. He handles the suspense admirably enough, but visually, the movie seems flat and a bit lifeless. This is certainly a far cry from the man who gave us Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and (hubba-hubba) Wild Things. Clearly he wanted to stretch his wings here into some manner of To Kill a Mockingbird territory, but it ends up just feeling a bit dirge-like. Given that we're dealing with a fat harridan abusing her crippled terminally ill child, where in the hell is the humour? I'm not kidding. This movie needed some genuinely nasty nyuck-nyucks.

I will say, I did - in spite of everything - enjoy Stephen Lancellotti's writing. The screenplay initially offers an original take on the thriller genre, but about halfway through the movie when I was able to easily piece together where it was ultimately going, I felt like I was just putting in time on the old punch clock. Predictability reigned supreme and each mark it hit that I assumed it would hit, felt like a traitorous stab in the gut.

It seems like McNaughton wanted to be a kinder, gentler genre filmmaker with The Harvest, but I do hope this is a temporary aberration on his part. The melodrama is all there, but the grimy, gritty and dirty sludge bath one really wants from a picture like this is woefully missing.

The Harvest had its International Premiere at the 2014 FantAsia International Film Festival in Montreal.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

FROM VEGAS TO MACAU aka "Ao Men feng yun"/"The Man From Macau" - Review By Greg Klymkiw - He's bigger than Jesus, Cooler than Elvis: CHOW YUN FAT rocks 2014 FantAsia International Film Festival - JE ME SOUVIENS!

JESUS, ALLAH, BUDDHA:
MOVE THE FUCK OVER!

GOD is in the house!
FROM VEGAS TO MACAU (2014) ***
Dir. Wong Jing
Starring: Chow Yun-Fat, Nicholas Tse, Chapman To, Philip Ng, Gao Hu

Capsule Review By Greg Klymkiw

Is there anyone alive cooler than Chow Yun-Fat? Uh, no. Bar none, the man rocks and he's back in the role that made him famous - Ken, the God of Gamblers. And what a God he proves to be! Jesus, Allah, Buddha: Move the fuck over, Ken is Lord and Master. The man can read cards like no other, he's sly as a fox, sexier than the devil himself and cooler than Elvis! Ken teams up with a tripartite army of law enforcement army and a burgeoning master hustler Cool (Nicholas Tse, no slouch in the "cool" department) and his Robin Hood-like team of daring young men who rob from the syndicate to give to the poor. When Cool's Dad is kidnapped by the organized crime scumbags, our heroes must do battle with the revoltingly nasty Mr. Ko (Gao Hu). In addition to his kung-fu-like prowess at flinging poker cards like deadly blades, Ken's got more than a few tricks up his sleeve. He also has a babe-o-licious daughter Rainbow (Kimmy Tong). What's a great HK action comedy without a babe? (There's more than a few wandering about here.) Directed by the legendary Wong Jing (so prolific, he's directed enough films to rival the population of Hong Kong) and with superb fight choreography by Nicky Li, this is a frothy delight that happily brings us back to the pre-1997 glory days of HK cinema. So ante up, varmint. God awaits!

Friday, 18 July 2014

THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - 40th Anniversary Restoration @TheRoyalCinema & FantAsia 2014 in Montreal - includes presentation of Lifetime Achievement Award To Director Tobe Hooper

LEATHERFACE (Gunnar Hansen) - MASTER BUTCHER

Preamble:
On the occasion of a painstaking restoration in honour of the films's 40th Anniversay, a reminiscence of my first taste of the blade, 38 years ago:


I first saw The Texas Chain Saw Massacre on May 6, 1976 at Cinema 3, the long-gone Winnipeg art cinema at the corner of Ellice and Sherbrooke, tucked within a cool little one-block-strip that housed the Prairie Allied Booking Association (film buyers for hundreds of small-town movie theatres), Canfilm (where most 16mm feature film prints were stored and shipped out of) and the Winnipeg branch office of Universal Pictures (which hawked the studio's films to hardtops and ozoners in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario). Cinema 3 was my home away from home during my teen years and was where I saw actual film prints of the very best in classic and contemporary cinema. On this gorgeous spring night, a few days after my 17th birthday, I drove downtown from North End Winnipeg to see a double bill of Andy Warhol's Frankenstein by Paul Morrissey (aka Flesh For Frankenstein) and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. I'd seen neither film at this point. The Warhol film was first released when I needed my Mom and Dad to take me. Though my folks were surprisingly liberal and took me to see anything I asked them to, I'd oft-bestow some mercy upon them and not request their adult accompaniment to movies I knew would probably disgust them.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre had thus far eluded me. The only first-run engagement it had garnered in Winnipeg was at a drive-in movie theatre before I could legally drive a car. Though the notorious horror film found its natural home in drive-in theatres, I'm happy that my first taste of it was at Cinema 3, the birthplace of so many of my cherry-popping alternative-to-the-mainstream movie experiences.

And I can assure you, my memories of seeing it for the first time are vivid. I was as horrified and sickened as I was energized. Gooseflesh overtook my body, as much for the sheer terror the movie generated, as for its dazzling virtuoso filmmaking. Shot after shot, cut after cut, I knew I was seeing something I'd never seen before. I experienced my hair standing on end in ways that had never before coursed through me in all my seventeen years on Earth. When the last frame of picture cut-out abruptly in the famous Leatherface chainsaw ballet pirouettes at the end of the film, I felt like I'd been socked in the solar plexus and left breathless. I stayed rigidly in my chair, still clawing the arm rests on either side of me until the lights came up and I was forced to stagger out into a clear-skied, pitch-black Winnipeg night, rip a cigarette out of the deck in the front pocket of my plaid hoser shirt, jam the fucker in my mouth, light it and suck back the toxins into my body, fuelling it with as much nicotine as humanly possible.

I knew I was hooked. I knew I'd have to see it again. And again. And yet again.

To that end, a couple of years later, I had begun working in the movie business as a film buyer, programmer and film critic. I not only kept seeing movies at Cinema 3, but on Friday afternoons I'd head on over to the little film plaza next door to have lunch at a nearby strip club with the Universal branch manager and a couple of old bookers from Prairie Allied. Once properly fed (usually Salisbury Steak with boiled potatoes drenched in watery gravy) and soused (on several shared bottles of Gimli Goose), I'd stroll into Canfilm to borrow 16mm prints of whatever movies were lying around the shipping room for the weekend, then drive them home to screen on my Bell and Howell Autoload projector.

And occasionally I'd even take a 16mm print of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre to watch on my own or to introduce to friends. A couple of years after that, when booking my own repertory cinema, I played the masterpiece endlessly, often stepping into the auditorium to watch the movie with hundreds of shocked (and usually stoned) audiences. In the 38 years since I first saw the film, it's played an important part in my life. Frankly, I can't imagine a world without it.

* * * * *

It's ALWAYS about the MEAT!!!
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) Dir. Tobe Hooper *****
Starring: Marilyn Burns, Paul A. Partain, Edwin Neal, Jim Siedow, Gunnar Hansen, John Dugan, William Vail, Teri McMinn, Robert Courtin, John Henry Faulk, John Larroquette

Review By Greg Klymkiw

"There are moments when we cannot believe that what is happening is really true. Pinch yourself and you may find out that it is." - A horoscope read aloud during The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

What hit me when I first saw The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is how brilliantly the movie is sectioned into two separate, yet inextricably linked halves, the first being a simple narrative set-up for its especially harrowing second half. Creepily building during the first 40 minutes, with occasional exclamatory jolts of violence, the picture delivers a solid bedrock from which it plunges you headlong into the second 40 minutes, a relentless nightmare on film. This is not a passive experience - you're slammed deep into the maw of pure, sheer, unrelenting terror.

Beg all you like. The nightmare never seems to end. When it finally does, the utter dread and revulsion generated by the whole experience stays with you forever. This, of course, is not because of the gore, or the extremity of the violence, but rather because the tone of the movie is so unlike anything you will have experienced. Even with all the slasher films, torture porn and moronically graphic remakes that have assailed contemporary audiences over the past decade, none of them come close to the disquieting power and intelligence with which The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is so astonishingly infused with. As they say, this one's for the ages.

The film opens with the de rigueur 70s white on black credit crawl, read aloud by a sombre off-screen narrator (John Larroquette - yes, the John Larroquette). The slow, methodical accent he places expertly upon such words as "tragedy" and "invalid brother" is undeniably creepy, but when he places an almost lugubrious emphasis upon the words "had", "very, very", "the mad and macabre" and finally his halting, deliberate and portentous tone and rhythm of the final words of narration, the title of the film itself, you're pretty much convinced, before you see even one frame of picture, that you'll be expunging more than a few bricks o' waste matter. (Larroquette's full narration in cutline to photo below.)

"The film which you are about to see is an account of the tragedy which befell a group of five youths, in particular Sally Hardesty and her invalid brother, Franklin. It is all the more tragic in that they were young. But, had they lived very, very long lives, they could not have expected nor would they have wished to see as much of the mad and macabre as they were to see that day. For them an idyllic summer afternoon drive became a nightmare. The events of that day were to lead to the discovery of one of the most bizarre crimes in the annals of American history, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre."
- The full text of John Larroquette's sombre narration over black as the titles crawl slowly upwards.
Once the white light of the credits disappear, we're left in pitch black and begin to hear heavy breathing, sounds of digging, tearing, ripping and sawing until we're jolted out of our seat by the sound and image of a flash bulb going off. We remain in the black, but every so often, the sounds of flashbulbs signal brief images of the most grisly kind until the tinny sounds of a transistor radio broadcast the sound of a news report as we fade slowly up from black into the blazing sun and we peer into the face of something utterly horrendous as the camera slowly pulls back to reveal a sight that's equally sickening. The news report describes what we're seeing as the top Texas news story until the movie dissolves into a title credit sequence up against extreme closeups of the sun as it emits solar flares and the newscaster continues with more news - all of it of the disastrous variety: oil spills, suicides, various acts of criminal activity. Ultimately, things are not right in the world. They're especially not right in the great state of Texas.

The sun roils violently as the heavens overlook our fair planet and we're introduced to a world that seems completely off-kilter. We meet our protagonists in short order, five twenty-somethings in a van, out for a Sunday drive. Sally (Marilyn Burns), her wheelchair-bound brother, Franklin (Paul A. Partain), Sally's boyfriend, Jerry (Allen Danziger) and another couple, Kirk (William Vail) and Pam (Teri McMinn), have stopped to investigate the site of the aforementioned grisly discovery. Franklin is left alone in the van and he peers out through the open sliding door on the side to see a raft of law enforcement officials, reporters and local citizens buzzing about.

Franklin's eyes turn to the ground, where lying askew and unkempt is an old drunk (John Henry Faulk) who looks upside down at the chubby, sweating invalid peering down at him. The old man chortles manically and gurgles out the following creepy words of portent:
"Things happen here abouts, things they don't tell about. I sees things, but they say that it's just an old man talking. You laugh at an old man? It's them that laughs that knows better."
There's no two ways about it - shit is going to happen and it's not going to be pretty.

The film follows our van full of young folk as they drive out to an old farmhouse that rests on property owned by Sally and Franklin. On the way, they make the mistake of picking up a smelly, facially scarred hitchhiker (Edwin Neal) waiting outside of a slaughterhouse. Their creepy passenger regales them with tales of how cattle used to be slaughtered.

"They did it with a sledge," the creep says with a big grin. "The cows died better that way."

After passing around photos of butchered cattle, the hitchhiker performers a painful ritual upon himself, then instigates an altercation (of the shocking and violent variety), until he's tossed out of the van and our young people make the unwise decision of pressing on. Even more unwise is that they're seriously low on gas and when informed by the proprietor (Jim Siedow) of a gas station that his tanks are dry, they decide to press on - not before, purchasing some tasty Texas Barbecue for their sojourn. The proprietor, who lives in a near-abouts farmhouse, is one hell of a good cook. A glimpse of his BBQ oven inside the gas station reveals an open closet-sized, oak-paneled chamber, glowing with deep reds and oranges from hot coals and filled with hunks of delectable, glistening meat. This is a site to behold. It almost makes you yearn for some good, old Texas BBQ. That said, your cravings to eat will not last long (unless you favour an upchuck or two whilst watching the movie).

Once the young'uns get to the old family homestead, Kirk and Pam excuse themselves to go take a dip in an old swimming hole out back. Sally and Jerry romp about gleefully in the house whilst crippled Franklin remains alone on the ground floor, chewing on his greasy BBQ sausage, expressing consternation at being abandoned and spitting out odd little bits of gristle.

Damnation! What in the hell is in that sausage anyway?

But, I digress.

Once Kirk and Pam arrive at their destination, they're disappointed to discover that the swimming hole is dried up, but happily, Kirk spies a nearby farmhouse that appears to be powered by a noisy, powerful generator. He and Pam saunter over to buy some gas for their van.

This proves to not be the best idea he's ever had.

When Kirk and Pam don't return, Sally's boyfriend Jerry goes looking for them.

This also proves to not be an especially good idea.

As darkness descends, Sally and her crippled brother are alone near the van, honking the horn and screaming out the names of their chums. What's really anxiety-inducing is that the keys are not in the van. Do they wait or does Sally go looking for them, pushing fat Franklin over the rough terrain in his wheelchair while he holds the flashlight in front of them?

Given what we already know about what's thus far transpired, we're kind of hoping they stay put and maybe hide quietly in the dark until it's daytime again. That would make the most sense, but if they did that, then there'd be no movie.

Building on what's preceded thus far, it's here where The Texas Chain Saw Massacre shifts gears into sheer, panic-inducing and completely experiential overdrive.

The nightmare begins.

What this eye sees, you do NOT want to see!

In many ways, I think The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a perfect movie. I really have no idea precisely how many times I've seen it all the way through, but I suspect it has to be at least 50 full viewings. Not once over the 38 years since I first saw it has the film disappointed. It always delivers, and then some. The movie goes so far beyond what once would expect from a low-budget horror movie marketed to drive-in theatres and grind houses.

Its richness is beyond belief.

At the forefront is Kim Henkel and director Tobe Hooper's terrific screenplay. As mentioned, they've created a structure that shouldn't work, but does (and with flying colours). What contributes to making the separation between narrative and experiential so successful are all the superb details they've layered the screenplay with.

Firstly, there's the whole notion of the sun, moon and planets. Speckled throughout the film are references to the weather, time of year and the various ramifications of the astrological and planetary signs, my favourite being the whole "Saturn in retrograde" motif. Pam is the astrology nut amongst the group and is glued to her horoscope book. Given some of the strange events happening in Texas, she reads the following aloud:

"The condition of retro gradation is contrary or inharmonious to the regular direction of actual movement in the zodiac, and is, in that respect, evil. When malefic planets are in retrograde, and Saturn is malefic their maleficies are increased."

Pam is chided by her friends for her beliefs, yet within the overall context of the film, they'd have all been far wiser to heed her. Then again, she might have also fared a touch better if she herself had adhered more closely to this dire prediction. After all, this is an astrological period when individuals should be assessing their motives and needs and most importantly, to learn when they MUST say no or yes. Alas, several missteps are taken by our protagonists with respect to this. Where the script shines, is that our villains also push against the natural order of things and they too face dire circumstances.

Planets in retrograde are an especially interesting phenomenon. From the perspective of an Earth view, these planets actually seem to be slowing down and moving backwards, their orbit reversing unnaturally. The screenplay is replete with such skewed perspectives from both the protagonists and antagonists. Within the context of the more narrative-based first half of the film and especially during the second nightmare half, the perspectives of the characters and, frankly, even our perspectives as audience members seem to be spinning in reverse, though they are, in fact, moving forward.

The other interesting aspect to Hooper's and Henkel's screenplay is the family dynamic of the antagonists. There's Grandpa (John Dugan) the grand, old patriarch who is reduced to a wizened infirm state and sits mostly alone with the mummified corpse of his wife and family dog. In spite of this, his grandsons worship the ground he hobbles upon - after all, Grandpa was a legendary slaughterhouse worker when cattle were killed the "old way" with a "sledge". He was, as one of the boys says, "the best killer there ever was."

Separated at Birth? Milton Berle, famous comedian (left) & actor Jim Siedow as the "Cook" in TCM.

The three brothers take on a variety of domestic roles. The hulking, mentally retarded Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) is possibly the real heir apparent to Grandpa - his prowess with a sledge hammer and a chainsaw are unparalleled and yet, he fulfills an almost feminine hausfrau role, donning a female wig and dolling up his mask made of dried human flesh with oodles of makeup and lipstick. The Hitchhiker is clearly the family hothead, whilst the gas station attendant is, within the perverse context of this family of killers, the voice of reason. The Hitchhiker taunts him with insults like, "You're just a cook." His considered response is the simple, "I just can't take no pleasure in killing." However, always the voice of reason, of balance, he adds, "There's just some things you gotta do. Don't mean you have to like it."

The screenplay is also rife with the most morbid black humour and it's this aspect of the writing that keeps the film always compelling and entertaining. The horror is occasionally tempered with some of the most hilarious actions and lines of dialogue. One of my all-time favourite moments NEVER fails to make me scream with laughter. After beating Sally viciously with a broom handle. tying her up, shoving a potato sack over her head and forcing her into his truck, "The Cook" starts the engine, looks over to an open door and the light pouring out from inside, turns the truck off, races back to the gas station office, flips the lights off and locks the door. Once he's back in the truck, he looks over at potato-sacked Sally, and like some cross between a Southern gentleman and down-home sage, he remarks, "Sorry to keep you waiting, young lady. I had to lock up the shop and turn the lights off. The cost of electricity these days is enough to drive a man like me out of business."

FRANKLIN:
He's fat, detestably obnoxious
and a cripple in a wheelchair.
One of the best elements of the writing is the deft strokes used to define all the characters and even going so far as to accentuate negative characteristics in the protagonists and almost positive traits in the villains. The character that is, by far, the most bravely written (and beautifully acted by Paul A. Partain) is that of Franklin, the invalid. Larroquette's opening narration places a great deal of emphasis upon Franklin being handicapped and how tragic it is that this crippled young man is subjected to the indignities of this horrific scenario, but that he suffers several indignities, is utterly hilarious.

Franklin is horrid. He's a whining, spoiled and nasty young man and whether he's seen taking a tumble on his wheelchair down a steep ditch while he's trying to pee, or having his fat arm sliced open with a straight razor or even his brutal encounter with a chainsaw, he's the butt of innumerable sick jokes. And damn, if he doesn't deserve it. Franklin is easily one of the most detestable victims in any horror film. There's no sentiment here in his being crippled.

Franklin's a complete asshole. When he finally gets what's coming to him, we're slapping our knees with uncontrollable laughter.

From a purely technical standpoint. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a triumph. The art direction is out of this world, especially the way in which the farmhouse of the psychopaths is dressed. It's replete with such sickening touches as human body parts adorning the furniture (at one point, Sally is forced to sit in a chair wherein the arms are literal human arms that have been severed) and every nook and cranny seems layered with years of filth, blood and all manner of viscera. At times, the grime is so odious that you can almost smell how thick and foul the air is. The makeup, special effects and gore are first-rate. There's nothing digital here, it's the real thing. Hooper and Wayne Bell's score and the latter's sound design work is a thing of absolute wonder, jangling your nerves and sticking resolutely in your craw. Daniel Pearl's cinematography is so stunning, both in composition, lighting and movement that it's hard to believe this movie was made for practically nothing. Even when you adjust for inflation, the base budget of this film was $60,000 and it not only puts virtually every low budget film ever made to shame, the dazzling imagination and virtuosity of this film makes even mega-budgeted work look like crap. Shot on gorgeous 16mm reversal film stock and recorded magnetically, then mixed for an optical track, there are few films that look and sound as good as this one.

Finally, though, it is Tobe Hooper's bravura direction that is the real star here. There isn't a single moment you aren't on edge and in the final half of the film, you will experience a nightmare on celluloid. There terror is relentless. It goes on and on and on and then, when you think you can catch your breath, forget about it. Those dreams we have where we're being pursued and no matter how hard we try to elude our pursuer, we just can't and then, there are those moments where within the nightmare itself, we pass out, then come to and think we're waking up from the nightmare until our eyes focus upon a few details and something's just not right and then, out of nowhere, a sound or action pierces our space and we're once again, smack dab in the middle of that which we think we've escaped.

But there's no escape. Not even when the nightmare ends. For me, this movie is so great, I never want the nightmare to end. I'm more than happy to live it over and over again.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has been painstakingly restored from its original 16mm reversal stock via 4K digital means. It plays in limited release and at film festivals. Please see it on a big screen. In Canada, if you live in Toronto or Montreal, you have no excuse to miss this great film on the big screen. In Toronto the film unspools at The Royal Cinema until July 23. This grand old neighbourhood movie cinema, converted into sound mixing studios and screening venue features the most impeccable sound, picture and acoustics. For showtime and tickets, visit The Royal website HERE. In Montreal, the film screens at the illustrious FantAsia 2014 on July 30 at 9:45 PM in the Concordia Hall Theatre. The film will be preceded by the presentation of a FantAsia Lifetime Achievement Award to none other than Tobe Hooper. Visit the FantAsia website for tickets and info HERE.

Follow by Email

Trailer for Ryan McKenna's Documentary: Survival Lessons - THE GREG KLYMKIW STORY

KLYMKIW FILM CORNER

Looking for a consumer report on movies?

Go away.

Looking forward to polite and/or politically correct analysis of movies?

Go away.

Looking for objective reportage?

Go away.

Looking for humourless mainstream film criticism?

Go away.

Looking for someone who knows as much about cinema as you do?

Please, stay.

You might not always like what you read, but you'll have something to say about it.

So, dear reader, let's engage in discourse.

Let's celebrate our mutual passion for the greatest artistic medium of modern civilization.

Most of all, let's have some fun!

Popular Reviews - Past Week

Popular Reviews - Past Month

Stuff I Read

Previous Articles