Dreamchild (1985)

Children’s’ heads are usually force fed saccharine gruel by funnel. The process resembles teaching ducks to grow up to be foie gras. That’s why I’ve always loved ALICE IN WONDERLAND. For a book aimed at malleable brains it is deliciously dark and strange. Imagine WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS writing for Highlights Magazine in a psychedelic beanie. Alice’s encounters mirror a universal part of adolescence when one is trying to decipher their new surroundings and every question is met with nonsensical answers. What child can’t relate to the feeling of being indoctrinated into a world of seemingly random (forks on the left, spoons on the right) protocol? ALICE does more than grab the reader by the hand and tour them through a colorful landscape, it slyly teaches them how to spot the absurdity in their own world as well.

For fans of WONDERLAND, DREAMCHILD is really a must see. It focuses on the twilight of the woman who once inspired the tale as she travels to New York for a celebration of the work and life of its author. Some of the movie is as dainty as a doily, which makes its multiple plunges into near ELM STREET territory all the more disturbing. It’s like having tea with DAME JUDI DENCH and then she suddenly leans into reveal, “I’m tripping my balls off.”

Who is to say how accurate any of the flashbacks are but as the eighty-year old Alice Hargreaves is jolted with lightening blast recollections of her youth, we get a glimpse into her vaguely creepy relationship with the man she theoretically inspired. As played by IAN HOLM (ALIEN, THE SWEET HEREAFTER) Reverend Charles L. Dobson (also known as Lewis Carroll) is at turns off-putting and sympathetic. Plagued by a speech impediment and awkward social skills, one wonders if his fascination with the young quizzical child was merely a coveting of the normalcy she had to look forward to in life. Much speculation is made about the true catalyst behind CARROLL’s work, but here he is presented as a sort of shadowy Jaberwocky himself until elderly Alice comes to terms with her memories and is able to separate herself from her more famous fictional identity.

Whatever. As much as I love my homie HOLM there is literally nothing in this movie that is not utterly and completely upstaged by the fucking incredible creations by JIM HENSON’s creature shop. Don’t get me wrong, there is a very sweet, finely done drama going on here (written by DENNIS POTTER no less) but if you’re a brat like me you’ll only pretend to care whether the old lady gets her act together before kicking the bucket just so you can get a glimpse of the incredibly monstrous and borderline hideous denizens of wonderland that KRUEGER-stalk her psyche. If you want to learn about the real Alice Hargreave, go to the library or better yet Google the lady. Instead, I’m going to stare at these incredible images from DREAMCHILD

NOTE: If you want to check out this barrel of awesome get thee to Netflix Streaming. It has never been released on DVD and the VHS looks like crap. I like this movie a great deal but I have no option but to remove seventy hundred groovy points for not inviting the Chesire Cat to the party.

The Visitor :: Five Favorite Things

The OVIDIO G. ASSONITIS (TENTACLES, MADHOUSE, BEYOND THE DOOR)-produced THE VISITOR from 1979 is just too much for your Unk to handle all his own, so I have elicited the help of both AUNT JOHN and our good pal AMANDA BY NIGHT of MADE FOR TV MAYHEM. As far as I’m concerned, the movie is spectacularly daffy enough to be absolutely critic proof so the question I posed before them and myself was simply, “What are your five favorite things about THE VISITOR?” All three of our answers are below…

First up, AMANDA BY NIGHT‘s FIVE VISITOR FAVES:

1. JOANNE NAIL – this enticing actress’ portrayal of the put-upon mother with the crazy ass womb is one of sympathy and grace. And her wardrobe is simply to die for. When you think about it (I mean, really think about it), has anyone else made being thrust through glass look so elegant? I could say the same about her chain swinging badassary in SWITCHBLADE SISTERS, but alas I shall save that for another day!

2. Ice Skating as the Deadliest Sport in the World – In a movie almost all about whacky set-pieces, one of the most fantastic scenes features our creepy little traumatot Katy luring some slightly older boys into a game of survival of the fittest. They fail on every possible level but it’s so much fun to watch!

3. Crazy Cameos – From GLEN FORD to SAM PECKINPAH, someone had the goods on a few of the more prominent people of Hollywood society. Also, there hasn’t been a pairing as cool as JOHN HUSTON and SHELLEY WINTERS since, well, since they were first featured together in TENTACLES just two years before! Wow, were those guys an item?

4. The Power of Pong – Not only is the game shown often, it’s used as a device to create suspense… and it works! All of this terror is brought to us via the crazy 1979 version of awesome home theater. Remember those curved large screen TVs which flooded images with the help of those giant red, green and blue lights coming from something called “front projection.” Yeah, 1979 ruled! You had to sit in just the right spot to actually see anything, but it reminds me of the first high-tech store my childhood town had. It was called Video Concepts (which was eventually bought by Radio Shack and closed down… lame) and this odd, curvy TV was all the rage. They make good use of it in THE VISITOR and it brought back every single little kid mall memory I ever had… now that’s scary!

5. THE VISITOR as a symbol for the chaotic incoherence of life – No, I am not joking. Is THE VISITOR in any way reminiscent of real life? Even ’70s high-tech real life? Nope. But I think sometimes confusion in films works because confusion has to work in our everyday lives. I mean, we’ve got a little girl who is driving her mom nuts and hates her babysitters. Sound familiar? I guess that’s the core of this movie and through the warped bewilderment of film as a mirror of our lives, we also get straight up escapism. I guess if you needed to write an academic paper on THE VISITOR, you could pull all kinds of crap out of it (especially with that ending!), but you can also completely shut down and watch the pretty lights. It’s nice.

Now let’s talk to AUNT JOHN:

1. THE HAWK
What was it about the ‘70s and the falconry fad? It seemed like everyone and the their mother had one of those padded leather hand mitts and a scary bird to match, but in THE VISITOR, Squeaky the hawk (or was it a falcon?) had free range to fly all over the place. Who in their right mind let’s their child keep one of these things in the house?

2. THE HOUSE
From its railing-less, open back stairs to the strangely ornate cement work surrounding its pool, the Collins’ house is truly something to behold. Bonus points for the incongruous 7-Up Tiffany style light fixture hanging in the kitchen.

3. THE HOUSEKEEPER
SHELLEY, SHELLEY, SHELLEY! She is in maybe three scenes, and she steals everyone last one of them because who can really compete with the force of nature that is WINTERS? Was it W.C. FIELDS who said he would never work with kids or animals? Well, kids and animals should probably never work with SHELLEY WINTERS based on the masterful bitch slapping she delivered to PAIGE CONNER.

4. THE HUSTON
Throughout the film, it looked to me like JOHN HUSTON knew less about what was going on than I did, but there is one scene towards the end where he makes the strangest face after conducting an impromptu light show on the top of a skyscraper. The eye roll says it all.

5. THE HOTTIES
Bald is beautiful and the brigade of follicly challenged bruisers were like a big bag of confusing eye-candy. Apparently they are angels but you would have never known it from the menacing looks on some of their faces.

Last up UNK:

1. THOSE GLASSES!

I’m not one to be too observant when it comes to fashion but these are some spectacular spectacles and if I understand the movie correctly, they have the power to manipulate basketball players like KAREEM ABDUL-JABAR by remote control. O.K. I admit it, I did not understand the movie correctly.

2. LANCE HENRIKSEN

HENRIKSEN followed up roles in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND and DAMIEN: OMEN 2 with his part in THE VISITOR which is kind of like starring in peanut butter and then starring in jelly and then starring in GOOBER GRAPE. It’s always nice to see early HENRIKSEN and note how even at a young age, he stood out of the pack as an offbeat presence. If I were speaking of any other movie besides THE VISITOR I would be able to say that he was the most otherworldly effect in the entire film, but this is a movie that throws a blonde wig on aquamarine-eyed FRANCO (DJANGO) NERO and sells him as Jesus Christ.

3. AHEAD OF THEIR TIME VISUALS

I realize now that logic and sense can go peddle its papers elsewhere for all I care if a movie can stun me enough with its visuals. THE VISITOR’s arresting surrealism not only looks cool but also foretells the direction that movies will steer towards once music videos become popular in the early eighties. The bit on the rooftop with the nonsensical shadow hands flapping behind sheets seems ripped right out of a MTV mainstay years away from THE VISTOR’s 1979 release. Let’s hear it for proper presentation too, this title may have seemed like a throwaway on VHS but given the space to reveal all of its charms on DVD it transforms into a keeper. Strangely enough THE VISITOR’s director GIULIO PARADISI was the assistant director on FELLINI’s 8 1/2 !

4. THE SCORE

Holy crap FRANCO MICALIZZI’s score is utterly fantastic and better than Earth deserves. It’s epic and galaxy dwarfing and in complete denial about the nonsense unfolding on screen.

5. PAIGE CONNER

Little PAIGE may have been in over her head starring in this insanity but she fares no lesser than the seasoned professionals that surround her. Foul-mouthed tots are a post EXORCIST horror staple, yet CONNER’s Georgian accent adds an extra kick to her profanities. CODE RED’s recent DVD provides an interview with PAIGE today. She’s looking damn good and shares that STRASBERG-trained SHELLEY WINTERS didn’t hold back when slapping her across the face within the movie. Why does that not surprise me? PAIGE may not have gotten laurels thrown at her at the time of this film’s release but all I know is that when she reacts to accidently shooting her own mother in the movie with a shrug and a “shit happens” grimace, I totally believed her.

Thanks to AUNT JOHN and AMANDA REYES of MADE FOR TV MAYHEM for helping a rendered nearly speechless bro-ogger out! THE VISITOR, you really are something else.

Star Crash

Post-holiday poverty stricken and desolate, I had no right to be perusing the used Blu-ray aisle in one of the last remaining brick and mortar stores in Philadelphia but I did so anyway like a delusional Delta Dawn. Normally, I just carry items around for a while, with no intention to buy, wearing an invisible hair shirt and scolding myself for contemplating things made superfluous through Netflix streaming. Every junkie has his Achilles’ heel though, and why did they have to put out that recent ROGER CORMAN collection on Blu-ray? I swore I’d stay away from the Blu-beast temptation but my PS3 slobbers karo syrup like a bullying VIDEODROME accomplice. I had to get me that copy of STAR CRASH because it was reasonably priced and I could skip a meal or rob a convenience store if I really put my mind to it.

You can’t deny STAR CRASH’s cast which includes both JOE SPINELL and CAROLINE MUNRO, before they starred in MANIAC, MARJOE GORTNER who, when I was a critter gave me serious heebie jeebies in EARTHQUAKE due to his crone mug, a still-sorta human seeming DAVID HASSELHOFF, and CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER acting as if he had taken a wrong turn somewhere and might as well make the best of it. PLUMMER may not be alone in his feeling that he showed up to the wrong party, Oscar winning composer JOHN BARRY (MIDNIGHT COWBOY) inexplicably lends his talents to the questionable cause. Up ‘till now I’d only seen STAR CRASH on an ancient VHS tape sporting murky stroganoff color schemes but I’ve always had a crush on its ludicrous nature and clunky stop motion animation. I point and guffaw when its pants fall down.

Well, I’m glad I dipped my cone into STAR CRASH’s rainbow jimmies on Blu-ray because it sure as hell showed me what’s what. Moments in, I realized that my eyeballs were about to get reamed. You want stars? Where STAR WARS offers stars in one lone color, STAR CRASH gives ya a whole assortment of glimmering lite-brite hues. As much as this movie gets labeled a rip-off of GEORGE LUCAS’ blockbuster its mise en scène is more bargain basement BARBARELLA. I know I’m looking at a junk pile, but it’s a junk pile of beautiful sparkling garbage. Oh and the special effects, they still suck but now they suck brilliantly. Now I know what to drive when my FLASH GORDON is in the shop. Anyone who has ever dived into a swimming pool filled with Gummi Bears will know exactly the sensation that this psycho slapdash space adventure provides.

What’s it about? Um. Smugglers who hate cops and then don’t and then encounter nudie Amazons and cave people and who have to save a prince? Something about red lava lamp dot monsters that float around and some torpedoes with soldiers hiding inside? I do comprehend that JOE SPINELL is the bad guy and he wants to wreck everything. If you like your robots there’s a really awesome cowboy talking robot named Elle (JUDD HAMILTON, Executive producer of MANIAC) who gives Twiki from BUCK ROGERS a run for his money in the, “My head looks like a dildo” department. Yeah there’s not much of a plot, just a series of sloppily strung together sci-fi vignettes with a major, semi-excellent battle with fake Lego looking spaceships at the end. Perhaps most confusing of all is PLUMMER’s final speech, which I think amounts to, “Let’s do this again sometime.”

Director LOUIS COATES (aka LUIGI COZZI) would go on to frappe ALIEN next with the splatter-tastic goo explosion CONTAMINATON. I love this guy; he’s in the business of making counterfeit Gucci handbags but insists on decorating them with a BeDazzler. Yes this was a wise investment after all, as I’ve watched it three times already playing it like one of those video fireplaces burning nonsense. STAR CRASH is terriblific and certainly not the worst STAR WARS rip-off ever made. (I think that honor belongs to THE PHANTOM MENACE.)

NOTE: I had no way of capturing screenshots from my Blu-Ray but if you’d like to see the glory I’m speaking of, I suggest checking out the images included with this impeccable review by GARY TOOZE over HERE!