Freaks

This is a 1932 film I had been wanting to see for quite some time, and when I chanced upon it on YouTube I had to watch it there and then.

I was expecting this to be a blatant exploitation film, just a film version of a circus freak sideshow, which it was for some part. But mostly it did not portray the various actual circus performers in a disrespectful way, and by the end of the film they were basically revengeful heroes.

The main character was Hans, a German dwarf who falls in love with a trapeze artist in the travelling circus they are part of. The trapeze artist, Cleopatra, learns that Hans has inherited a large amount of money, so she and Hercules (the strongman of course) conspire to get into that money. Hans has a dwarf lady friend (played by his actual sister), and she loved him, so things get messy quickly.

Other actors included a man who had no arms or legs, the bearded lady, Stork Woman, conjoined twins, and Schlitzie (also called ‘Pinhead’). Each of them was given a little time in the film so we could observe their various traits. There were also side stories, some of which were quite silly, including the love quadrangle between the conjoined twins, one of the twins’ husband, and another chap who proposed to the other twin. And the story of the bearded lady having a baby.

I wasn’t expecting much going into this, but by the end I was quite impressed and was hoping Cleopatra would get what is coming to her, which she did in a very bizarre fashion.

From Wikipedia: Following disastrous test screenings in January 1932 (one woman threatened to sue MGM, claiming the film had caused her to suffer a miscarriage),[6] the studio cut the picture down from its original 90-minute running time to just over an hour. Much of the sequence of the freaks attacking Cleopatra as she lies under a tree was removed, as well as a gruesome sequence showing Hercules being castrated, a number of comedy sequences, and most of the film’s original epilogue.

The final cut is 59 minutes long.

It was a financial disaster when it came out, and was banned all over the place due to it’s “outrageous and repulsive” content. The director made only three more films after this, the film had ruined him. The actress playing Cleopatra hoped this film would boost her waning career, but she too was finished after this.

It was banned in the U.K. until 1963, and upon release was given an X-rating. It became a cult film in the 1960’s.

Researching the various actors in the film I was surprised to see that many lived to a ripe old age despite their physical or mental deficiencies. Schlitzie died aged 70 after a long life of mostly performing, something he loved doing (he had a mental age of 3). The actor playing Hans died aged 83, and Koo-Koo lived into her 80’s.

It is a very good thing people are not being treated like this anymore, either on film or in circus acts, but I found this to be an almost sympathetic look at how these people lived. They were not portrayed as monsters, but instead as quite happy and positive people who enjoyed a good time.

Well worth a watch as this is a significant film in many ways.

Date watched: June 30th
Score: 8/10
Film count 2019: 19

Braindead

As mentioned in my previous post, I found this (on YouTube) and watched it last night.

This film upped Bad Taste in all ways. The production was much better due to a NZ$3 million budget (Bad Taste was made for $25,000), the use of real actors, and there was a lot more splatter. In fact this must rank as the most splatter-goriest film of all time, especially the last thirty minutes of the film which is basically just blood, entrails, and brains flying everywhere. It was also funnier, which it really needed to be due to the amount of extreme gore happening. Some scenes were a bit absurd, such as when the hero of the story takes the zombie baby to the park in a pram, and proceeds to attempt to subdue it when it goes berzerb… Peter Jackson’s favourite part of the film apparently.

The actors and actresses in this are a who’s-who of 1990’s New Zealand television and film. Familiar names such as Timothy Balme, Elizabeth Moody (she was brilliant in this), Ian Watkin, Davina Whitehouse, Bill Ralston, and Belinda Todd. Peter Jackson also had a minor role. They were all brilliant and they were all subject to a huge amount of fake blood and gore.

It was good to see 1990’s Wellington made to look like 1950’s Wellington. There was one scene where I saw the street where my brother lives, and the bus stop near his place where earlier this year I waited. This link shows the shop used in the film, and across the road is the bus-stop, although it has been renewed since then. In the film a tram was visible on the street which is impossible as the streets are very steep in this area.

The special effects, especially the puppets, were very impressive. This article is a good read about how the film was made.

Braindead is banned in countries such as South Korea, Finland, and Singapore. In Germany it is heavily cut, and the R-rated version in the U.S.A. is also cut, although the unrated version is completely original. Peter Jackson announced plans last year to restore this and Bad Taste in 4K, along with Meet the Feebles.

Here is a good story of someone who played the zombie “Mum” in the film.

This actually bombed in the day, I guess it was just too gory for most people.

I absolutely enjoyed this, it was just so over-the-top gory and yet funny at the same time. I would place it slightly above the Evil Dead films, Evil Dead 2 in particular, as the most funniest horror films in existence.

Recommended for anyone who can stomach a large amount of splatter and laugh at the same time.

Date watched: June 16th
Score: 10/10
Body count: unknown
Film count 2019: 18

Bad Taste

I felt like returning to this Peter Jackson classic horror film after many years since my last viewing. In fact I have no review of it on this blog, so it was quite some time ago that I last saw it.

Even though it has been a long time, I remembered most of the film. Scenes such as Derek falling down the cliff, Frank having to eat from a bowl of puke (and enjoying it), various chainsaw scenes, and the exploding sheep.

Despite being a film made on a budget by a bunch of friends in weekends, and being Peter’s first proper film, it was very well made. Peter’s film techniques and comedy timing were impressive, as well as the special effects and makeup which Peter mostly did himself. Peter also had a couple of roles in the film, including Derek who was the funniest character in the story.

I remember going to see this at a theatre not long after it was released, and my cousin who was with me had to leave a few minutes after it started, he couldn’t handle the gore (I think it was the scene where the alien had the top of his head blown off, and the brains slopping out that did it). I though thoroughly enjoyed it back then, and still do.

Braindead, Peter’s next film, was probably better overall, but as I cannot find that film anywhere I cannot compare the two films. But Bad Taste is a fun film and I would say is one of Peter Jackson’s best.

Addendum: After a quick search I found Braindead… watching it tonight!

Date watched: June 16th
Score: 9/10
Film count 2019: 17

Le Sacre Du Lièvre

My latest purchase on Bandcamp is from Terminal Cheesecake, a band that I have been listening to for a very long time.

This is their latest album, released last month. In 2016 they released Dandelion Sauce Of The Ancients, which was their first album in 18 years after a long hiatus. I was chuffed to get that album, and it was well worth the wait. This new album is good, but not quite as good as Dandelion Sauce. They have gone for more of an experimental sound, and it is also more psychedelic sounding. The basic Terminal Cheesecake sound is there, but it is missing some of the catchy droning sounds that previous albums have.

Of course, more listens are needed, perhaps it will grow on me a bit more, but it is still a very worthy addition to the Terminal Cheesecake collection.

Music count 2019: 20

Into The Slave Nebula

I bought this at a place called “The Book Barn“, which was an actual barn in the small farming town of Chertsey. It is quite a place with mountains of books.

I made a beeline for the science fiction section which was in a small room, and there I found a good selection of cheap paperbacks. I bought this book and another, both for one dollar each. I could have bought a lot more, but I already have plenty of other books in my bookshelf that need to be read.

The author is John Brunner who wrote quite a few stories, and won the Hugo Award for his book Stand on Zanzibar. He also wrote the screenplay for The Terrornauts, a film I must watch.

This is very much a pulpy science fiction story, but is engaging and has a thrilling ending. The story is basically about slavery where human children are passed off as androids and sold to Earth, which is the most wealthiest and privileged planet in the galaxy. There is a lot more to it of course, but I won’t go into details.

This is not essential science fiction reading, but I found it to be a very good read, and for $1 it was an absolute bargain. I shall return to the Book Barn one day.

Book count 2019: 1

Far Cry 4

This is a game I bought a few years back now (it was released in 2014), and recently I completed it in full for the third time. I realised though that I had not reviewed it.

A few weeks ago I actually installed Far Cry 3 again, but minutes into the game I got tired as it seemed dated. So I installed FC4 and instantly was having fun.

It is quite a large game with plenty of missions to get through, lots of baddies to shoot, and side missions to complete. It is also great to look at, and has a pretty good story. It is also a funny game with plenty of silly humour and some nutty characters such as Yogi and Reggie – a couple of British dudes who like to experiment with drugs.

My weapon of choice in most FPS games such as this is a sniper rifle, and this game has an excellent one. I always bling it out with a silencer, extended cartridge, and camo colours. It is very satisfying to liberate an outpost by sniping all of the baddies from a high vantage point from a distance, watching them run around trying to find you. Throwing molotovs at them is fun too.

I can’t think of any negatives really. Maybe some of the side missions are a tad tedious and pointless, but overall this is a brillo game, probably my all-time favourite FPS game.

Far Cry 5 turned up on Origin for a discounted price recently (it was too pricey for me up to then), so I bought it. So far it is pretty good, but while the graphics are very nice, the location and mood of the game is not as good as FC4. Having said that it is still a blast to play, and the sniper rifle I just pimped out is fun to use. But, more on that after I finish the game.

The Pianist

This is based on the true story of a Polish=Jew who survived the German occupation in World War Two, directed by Roman Polanski. And it is most excellent. It was a French, German, Polish, and British co-production.

Adrien Brody plays Wladyslaw Szpilman, a gifted piano player who along with his parents, sisters and brothers tries to survive the German occupation after Poland is invaded. Things only get worse of course.

The film portrays the hardship and horror of what the Jews had to go through, some of it quite shocking, and no doubt based on actual accounts of what went on. I didn’t know that a part of Warsaw was used to house all of the Jews in the city temporarily, and was walled off from the rest of the city, like the Berlin Wall.

The acting was absolutely superb from all, as was the direction and the sets. Some of the shots of bombed-out streets towards the end of the film could not have possibly been real, so the CG was most excellent too.

It is a long film at 150 minutes, but it does not feel like it at all.

Not an uplifting film, and not easy to watch at times, but it’s three Academy Awards (out of seven nominations) proves that this is a must-watch.

Date watched: June 1st
Score: 10/10
Film count 2019: 16