Films I Enjoy (But Most Do Not Or Have Never Heard Of) Chapter II: The Quickening

film reviews | movies | features | BRWC Films I Enjoy (But Most Do Not Or Have Never Heard Of) Chapter II: The Quickening

Here is the second appearance of what I hope will be a series of articles about movies, or films as they are sometimes called, that pleasure me highly upon viewing, but don’t necessarily tickle other people’s fancies (if they have even heard of these celluloid expressions at all.)

 

Fatal Instinct (1993)
In 1992 Paul Verhoven unleashed a beast unto the world known as Basic Instinct. And, that film in turn ushered in a wave of rip-off’s, knock-off’s and quickie cash-in flicks so staggering in amount, frequency and stupidity, it would be mind boggling, were it not so totally normal for every day Hollywood business.



We got Madonna’s “steamy” (retarded but fun) magnum opus Body of Evidence (1993), The Temp (1994), EVERY Shannon Tweed direct to video Soft Core “Erotic Thriller” and even a mediocre direct to video affair starring Michael Madsen called… Fatal Instinct (1992).

THAT however is not THE Fatal Instinct I refer to here. No, Fatal Instinct ’93 is a much different beast altogether… While it does feature a murderous love triangle, steamy bedroom romps and sultry saxophone score… It also features a roller-coaster riding skunk, Sean Young’s “buns” being buffed with carnauba wax and the aforementioned sultry saxophone score being played by an ON CAMERA musician. Yes, Fatal Instinct is a parody of the genre, a scathing, dead on, pitch perfect parody at that.

Comedies are tough to review, because what is funny to some, certainly may not be funny to others. So, all I will say on the current subject is, Fatal Instinct effectively skewers all the cliches and tropes found in classic and not so classic Erotic Thrillers and Film Noir’s with deadpan lunacy. From Double Indemnity to Fatal Attraction, no one is safe. The acting, production design, score and cinematography come together in a perfect semblance of comedic bravura… (There are back-lit venetian blinds and ceiling fans in nearly EVERY set, including a phone booth and the lead character’s car… If you realize what this means, then Fatal Instinct will flat out slay you.)

Also, if you like “Naked Gun” or Mel Brooks style humor, Fatal Instinct will be your paradise. You’ll be quoting the film for YEARS!

And with that, I will leave you with this classic exchange from the film’s hard boiled, cop/lawyer, main character Ned Racine (Armand Assante at his grizzled, sexiest) and the femme fatale Lola Cain (Sean Young… at her crazy, sexy peak):

(Setting: Lola’s Bedroom. Ned has just dropped by to help Lola look over some very confusing legal “papers.” Much to Ned’s dry amusement these papers turn out to be a laundry receipt and an expired lottery ticket. EXTREMELY thankful for Ned’s “help” Lola shoves the “papers” into Ned’s pockets with lustful force and nestles up close to him in a lusty embrace…)

Lola: (Orgasmic) Ohhh, I’m so grateful. How can I ever repay you for all that you’ve done?

Ned: (Deadpan) Cash would be nice.

Lola: (Confused but still lusty) Isn’t there some other way?

Ned: (Smirky, but oblivious) I spose you could wash my car.

Lola: (Annoyed, but erotic) No… I mean… Isn’t there something else you want? Something else I could give you? (Rips off Ned’s sport coat)

Ned: (Slips jacket on, still deadpan) Slow down. There’s a speed limit in this town. Sixty-five miles an hour.

Lola: (Laughs, playfully sensual) How fast was I going officer?

Ned: (Nervous) About a hundred and twenty three.

Lola: Spose you pull me over and frisk me!

Ned: Suppose I let you off with a warning…

Lola: Suppose I find a cop with a bigger night stick. (Grabs Ned’s butt)

Ned: Suppose I put you under arrest for being a bad girl, with bad thoughts.

Lola: Suppose you handcuff me to the bed?

Ned: Suppose I do… And then we lose the key… And while I’m gone to get a duplicate made this house catches on fire… And I can’t get back to save you because the bridge is washed out… So, you die a horrible death, toasted like a polish sausage on a flaming spit!… Would you like that?

Lola: Mmm, I’d love it!

Ned: Well… I’m sorry ma’am.

(Ned leaves. Lola looks into the camera briefly, heartbroken and confused.)

 

The Sender (1982)
A young man in a tattered red pullover (Zeljko Ivanek) wakes up beside a desolate country road, in the middle of nowhere. A spider crawls across the boy’s pale hand. He looks around, seemingly lost and in a daze. The young man stands himself up and walks along the nearby highway until he reaches a bustling lakeside, populated with noisy summer travelers.

The young man walks slowly toward the lake, oblivious of everyone around him. As he walks along in a trance the young man begins picking up rocks and stuffing them into his pockets, filling them to the brim in fact. When he reaches the waters edge he keeps right on walking… tears begin to fall from his eyes… he goes under the murky water… the scene cuts to black…

And so begins one of the greatest low budget horror/thriller’s of all time, The Sender, directed (unbelievably) by “Battlefield Earth’s” Roger Christian.

From it’s powerhouse opening we follow the young man, nick-named John Doe #83, as he is taken to a mental hospital, where he is placed under the care of Dr. Gail Farmer (Kathryn Harrold.) The rest of the film revolves around Dr. Farmer trying to reach the young man, who’s frequent, painful dreams seem to influence the bodies, minds and realities of everyone around him in increasingly terrifying and violent ways…

The Sender is a stylish, ambiguous, gory and emotional affair, well acted, scripted, directed and played on all counts. Zeljko Ivanek and Kathryn Harrold deserve particular praise for lending real, heartfelt gravitas to roles that could have easily been short changed. And, had Roger Chrisitan maintained the magic he displays while directing this film all the way up to making “the worst movie ever” Batlefield Earth, he probably could have salvaged it and made a true sci-fi classic. But I guess he just had this one great movie in him.

The Sender features scenes of hauntingly horrific beauty that will stick with you for ages (including a jaw dropping slow motion “psychic explosion” which will never let you look at electro shock therapy the same way again) and was recently released on DVD for the first time from Paramount, I highly recommend adding this wonderful film to your collection.

 

Ultraviolet (2006)
I enjoy “bad” movies nearly as much as I enjoy good or classic ones, this is no secret. I am also an avid studier of film reviews (nearly as much as I am a studier of films themselves.) Often times, naturally as they would, these two areas collide… As, sometimes, I read a review for a film that I would usually pay no mind to, that is so ALARMINGLY negative that it COMPELS me, with every fiber of my being to see said cinematic abortion. This statement, in turn, takes me to March of 2006…

Every Friday I used to take the film review section from the newspaper (when they still released one), look over the goods, bads and uglies and pick out a couple movies to take in over the weekend. This particular Friday, four years ago, featured one of the most absolutely scathing reviews I had ever seen printed (besides their just verbal raping of Bad Boys 2.) The review in question was for Ultraviolet, a film by Kurt Wimmer, starring Milla Jovovich. Our local critic awarded the film 1 star out of five and went on a tirade about wooden acting, lack of plot and incoherent pacing as per the norm with such lambasting… He, however, ended the article with a paragraph so inconsequentially “praising” (to my eyes at least) that I decided I’d need to pony up and watch the movie twice. I will paraphrase this lovely tidbit for you now:

“In this visually over the top, candy colored, style over substance world, we watch super-model turned “actress” Milla Jovovich as the titular Ultraviolet strut through the film, in skin tight, color changing outfits, as if on a catwalk, slaying literally THOUSANDS of men, while tossing off banal one liners left and right like some half-baked comic book heroine…”

Needless to say our local critic was right, to a degree, as that is almost exactly what Ultraviolet turned out to be. A glossy, hyper stylish, effects driven, pseudo-comic book, puff piece of a film, in which Milla Jovovich clomps along in time with a pulsing soundtrack while she murders hundreds and thousands of baddies in increasingly over the top methods, while spouting grizzled action hero zingers as if she were a female Bruce Campbell.

However, while the local film reviewer found this repugnant, I disagree whole heartedly. I do not find Ultraviolet to be a bad film at all. A cheesy, over the top, somewhat fluffy film, yes. But bad, no.

The film, unusual for most modern action or sci-fi flicks (especially one made on an average Uwe Boll caliber budget), is gorgeous to look at and totally unique in it’s visual and production design (unlike say… Transformers, The Bourne Films or anything by Roland Emmrich which all have a very SAMEY “gritty,” shaky cam look.) The fight scenes of the film are quite well staged, if total fantasy and completely over the top, displaying a bit more of Wimmer’s “gun-kata” style from his previous cult-hit Equilibrium (2002.) It does throw a couple of Matrix-esque shots at us, but doesn’t over do it the way some do (McG.)

Plot wise the movie is a loose retelling of John Cassavette’s art-house classic Gloria (1980.) Just, instead of a mobsters girlfriend, fighting through a few gangsters while on the run with a child in tow, we get a genetically modified hybrid woman fighting through hoards of pseudo-vampires and super-soldiers, while on the run with a child in tow, who happens to have a secret medical cure embedded in his DNA.

I concede that there is a bit of oddness in the coherency/pacing department, but there is a story behind it. Ultraviolet premiered at Cannes with a run time well over 2 hours and heavily Rated-R. By all accounts from those in the audience the film was a “modern masterpiece.” The studio that was releasing the film felt otherwise and eviscerated the film for it’s theatrical release, paring it down by over an hour, to 87 minutes, to gain a PG-13 rating. Later they released an “Unrated” version of the film at 94 minutes. I have seen both versions and prefer the 94 minute cut. However, I of course wish there was more of a fan base for the film to insist upon an issuing of the full “Director’s Cut.” Perhaps my little blurb here will compel enough people out there to try this fun little gem out and show it some public love.

 

Looker (1981)
This overlooked sci-fi/drama effort from the woefully underrated (as a personal screenwriter and director at least) Michael Crichton is a stylish, engaging and prophetic look at the entertainment industry’s fascination with physical perfection and digital/media integration.

Looker’s basic plot follows plastic surgeon to the stars Dr. Larry Roberts (Albert Finney) as he tries to clear his name after several of his female patients, each of whom requested very specific and odd physical alterations, turn up dead.

That is just the surface however, under the skin of this flick however, we get a frightening and all too real (especially today) dissection of “Hollywood’s” obsession with beauty and the lengths at which they will use technology to phase out imperfections. The models and actresses of the film (after being run through computers and focus groups) show up to their plastic surgeon with notes on what they wish to have changed, down to the millimeter. The ladies are also subjected to full body scans (years before the current trend of Avatar and Beowulf) where upon their image and likeness are digitized, perfected and rendered in false 3-D forms, for use how ever their new “owners” or customers see fit.

Looker is a bit dated in it’s look, style and fashion. And a few of the visual effects and Barry DeVorzon’s synthesizer score add a layer of cheese to the film that it really doesn’t warrant, but overall, it is an astoundingly poignant look at the (ever increasing) falseness of the entertainment industry.

 

Sorcerer (1977)
Four men with shady pasts, each from different countries, each with varied backgrounds, temperaments and lifestyles are forced, out of personal mistakes, mishaps or misfortunes to work for a seedy Oil company in South America. When a fire breaks out in one of the company’s remote drilling sites the men are presented with an opportunity to make enough cash to get out of this hell and possibly clear their names… The opportunity however, is a daunting one, as the men will have to work together and trek through miles of hostile jungle terrain, in ancient trucks, while transporting several crates of highly unstable nitro-glycerin…

The film is a suitably gritty, realistic, brilliantly acted remake of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s classic film Wages of Fear from 1953, directed by William Friedkin (just off the phenomenal successes of The French Connection and The Exorcist.) Despite having to compete with a more well regarded film I personally feel Friedkin admirably equals, if not outright surpasses the original, by featuring a tighter pace, better performances (especially from Roy Scheider in the lead) and having a bit more polished down-and-dirty, yet still stylish feel.

It’s a movie about how far you can push a man, both body and soul, before he breaks. A movie about the endurance of the human spirit. A movie that explores how far one is willing to go to salvage their life and redeem them self, for whatever reason they may have. And, it is a film that could never be made today.

Sorcerer is a powerful and underrated movie that you should experience as soon as you can.


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