Michael, Mary and Rambo

Michael, Mary and Rambo

I love it when I discover another gem on YouTube. Here is one such example- an daytime audience discussion show from 1985 on the effects of violent films on their audiences.

On one side was Michael Winner and on the other Mary Whitehouse. As we now now the whole ‘monkey see, monkey do’ theory was a load of old elitest tosh. Mary Whitehouse didn’t even watch the films she was campaigning against. The line of discussion by the MPs trying to ban violent films was ‘Well I can watch these films but have the intelligence and upbringing to know that its a film and not real. But if a car factory worker from Birmingham should see them…’ Pompous, patronising rubbish. Tory government, anyone?

The things that weren’t functioning in society under the Conservative Party were being blamed on popular entertainment and the fact that people could now watch these films in their own homes for the first time. People were rioting and being generally anti-social because they didn’t have jobs, had to live in some of the most rundown areas of the UK and because their lives were crap under the Tories. But hey, lets ignore this and blame it all on The Evil Dead instead.

To read more about this period of lunacy read firstly this-

Video Violence by Martin Baker

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and Video Violence and Children by Geoffrey Barlow and Alison Hill

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People have spoken of a need for a new Mary Whitehouse- someone who will unflinchingly express their outrage when something in the media offends their more conservative sensibilities. I argue that this isn’t necessary- people now have the internet with which to vocalise what they find offensive. The internet has peeled back the new curtains of Middle England and given a voice to the armchair warriors of Britain. We have been exposed as a nation of Mary Whitehouses. A disturbing thought- especially when the word ‘ban’ seems to be the utmost on everybody’s lips still.

Meathook Cinema Hall of Fame- ‘The Warriors’ (1979)

Meathook Cinema Hall of Fame- ‘The Warriors’ (1979)

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I first saw this amazing piece of nighttime New York craziness on VHS like many other cult cinema fans. The first video releases here in the UK were the kind of films that were supposed to appeal to a young demographic and so action, horror and sexy coming of age comedies were all widely available and marketed with gawdy, lurid artwork. This made going to the video store such a brilliant experience.

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It contains one of the best opening scenes for a film ever- the Wonder Wheel at Coney Island all lit up with the darkest most twisted analogue synth you’ll ever hear over it. This film concerns the gang known as The Warriors travelling into the heart of New York to go to a gang summit wherein the leader (Cyrus) of the most powerful gang lays out a plan for the gangs who outnumber the police to take over the city. This would have been a brilliant premise for a film anyway but then Cyrus is shot and word spreads (via the guilty party) that it was actually The Warriors who are responsible. And so they have to make their way home unscathed. So already this film deserves kudos- to take a plotline and completely eschew it in favour of a completely different story. Inspired.

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The film plays like some very dark and nightmarish comic book set in the near bankrupt and life-endangering New York of the 70s. Each gang has its own identity complete with dress, hairstyles and, sometimes make-up (check out the uncredited gang in the opening sequence who are dressed and made up as evil clowns). I love the depiction of New York as completely crime-ridden and downright dangerous. The Big Apple is rotten to the core. This was also evident in the opening credits of The Equaliser

The film also depicts the danger of youth in the same way that A Clockwork Orange does. In the eyes of the right wing tabloid readers the teenagers of the world are running rampant and are responsible for almost every crime under the sun. This would also be evident in some of the Public Information Films from the 70s

This film also contains one of my favourite scenes from any of the films I’ve ever seen. The Warriors finally make it onto a subway train after having to literally fight their way there. This short scene says more than a dozen sociology books could try to convey.

The film was released and was an instant hit. It grossed $3.5m in its opening weekend. However there were incidences of violence between real life gangs who went to see the film. It has been noted-

”The following weekend the film was linked to sporadic outbreaks of vandalism and three killings — two in Southern California and one in Boston — involving moviegoers on their way to or from showings.

This prompted Paramount to remove advertisements from radio and television completely and display ads in the press were reduced to the film’s title, rating and participating theaters. In reaction, 200 theaters across the country added security personnel. Due to safety concerns, theater owners were relieved of their contractual obligations if they did not want to show the film, and Paramount offered to pay costs for additional security and damages due to vandalism.

Hill later reflected, “I think the reason why there were some violent incidents is really very simple: The movie was very popular with the street gangs, especially young men, a lot of whom had very strong feelings about each other. And suddenly they all went to the movies together! They looked across the aisle and there were the guys they didn’t like, so there were a lot of incidents. And also, the movie itself is rambunctious — I would certainly say that.”

The film would go on to make $16.4 million at the box office- far more than the budget it was made on.

Eagle eyed cineastes may have seen in the film American Gigolo that there is a huge billboard advertising The Warriors in LA. This appears to have been crossed out by another gang who have initialed their handiwork as VGV.

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This was actually a piece of cross-film advertising by the same studio Paramount who had a West Coast gang film out at the same time called Boulevard Nights.

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To go even further Paramount actually started showing double-bills of the Warriors and American Gigolo in selected cities around this time. This is a brilliant but puzzling double-bill.

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More about this can be read here.

Rather bafflingly the film was also a favourite of President Ronald Reagan. Did he not see any echoes between the nightmarish vision of New York crime and the real New York?

If you’re going to watch this film please look for the original version rather than the Director’s Cut in which the director felt the need to insert comic book style panels. Mr Hill- we all already knew the film was intended read like a very dark comic book. Please don’t patronise us.

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Boyyyyyyy!!!!!

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I first heard about the film Phantasm (1979) when its sequel came out in 1988. I hadn’t even heard of the first film but I was intrigued. My sister in law had acquired some old pre-cert VHS tapes that she passed onto me. They were Phantasm, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Motel Hell. All kick ass warped movies that were perfect choices.

I watched Phantasm and wondered what kind of drugs these people must have been taking when they made this film. There were so many surreal and disturbing elements to the film that just seemed to come out of nowhere- The Tall Man, the silver spheres, the severed finger that becomes a murderous fly from Hell, the elderly clairvoyant and her grand daughter… This was the exact opposite of today’s horror movies where filmmakers think that the average IQ of someone watching their movie is in minus figures. Thus they feel they have to explain every single little detail in the film rather than leaving them unexplained and realising that this adds mystery whilst granting the viewer a modicum of intelligence. This film created its own universe and laws of logic in much the same way The Texas Chain Saw Massacre did. It was…out-there!

I also loved the funereal style soundtrack written for the film. It lends it a morbid tone completely in keeping with the Morningside Mausoleum and the events that unfold there.

I’m still elated at the news that Blue Sunshine is getting the 4k treatment. I’m over the moon that Phantasm is getting the same treatment also. Its a long way from watching an old VHS tape.

View the trailer here

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Turn on, tune in, drop out

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I’ve just heard thats theres a new 4K print of Jeff Lieberman’s cult classic Blue Sunshine that is being shown in cinemas in the US.  This thrills me for a number of reasons- firstly, its a kick ass film and fully deserves the 4K treatment. Also, its being shown in cinemas and so an audience will be given the opportunity of seeing this masterpiece on the big screen. Finally, the fact that this relatively obscure film is being given a 4K restoration is fantastic. I honestly thought that it would be the already recognised classics of cinema that would get this kind of attention and not brilliant low budget cult films.

I first heard about the film through my love of the pop group Siouxsie and the Banshees. In 1983 whilst Siouxsie and Budgie were getting all back to nature with The Creatures, Steven Severin and Robert Smith were watching video nasties and going on adventures of the chemical variety. The name for their group was The Glove and they named their album Blue Sunshine. I read in an interview that they had taken that name from a film.

In 1994 I left home to go to University in London. The week after I arrived I saw that the National Film Theatre were showing the film. I eagerly went along and was amazed at how disturbing yet funny this film was. A group of hippies decide to drop a new strain of acid called Blue Sunshine in the late 60s. Ten years to the day that they did this they lose all their hair and become homicidal maniacs. In the film this happens to one person whilst hes in a disco. Genius.

I hope this 4K restoration is transferred to Blu ray. I hope more underground cinema gets this treatment.

 

Gruesome Twosome

I remember as a kid being obsessed by the posters on display outside my local Odeon cinema. And not just the posters but also the lobby cards underneath showing various scenes from the films. These were the days before posters were stringently censored in the same way that films were in the UK (and yes, posters were altered if they were deemed to be too graphic. The poster for A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 was just a black affair as the original featured Freddy Krueger in full eye-splitting technicolour. The poster for Reanimator featured a severed head and this was also altered so that the back of the head could be seen rather than the face as it lay in a metal tray).

I remember some time in 1979 seeing this poster for a double bill of The Incredible Melting Man and The Savage Bees. I was 4 years old.

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The poster that made me lose many nights sleep…

If anything caused me the most nightmares as a child it was this poster. It was like someone had just told me that there were many dangers in the world and that we were all fucked. And I loved it. There was a darker underbelly to life and the door to that had just been opened for me at an early age by a B-movie double bill poster.

I’ve seen both films and both are brilliant. The Incredible Melting Man has a gorgeous transfer onto Blu ray by the ever excellent Scream Factory. But what has happened to The Savage Bees? If this was also to get the Scream Factory Blu ray treatment I’d be ecstatic.

 

 

 

Welcome!

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As this is a new site I thought I’d take some time to introduce myself. My name is Simon and I’m a film aficionado. I studied film for 3 years in London and am undertaking a teacher training course so that I can lecture in the subject.

But before you think that my tastes in film are constrained to the so-called classics of the subject I will have to correct you. I was born in 1975 and remember first hand the birth of video in the UK, the home video boom and also the ensuing Video Nasties controversy. I was lucky in that my parents were very liberal when it came to my viewing habits. The first two videos rented by my parents when we first started bought a VCR were Captain America (a cartoon version from the 60s) and Basket Case. I was much more interested in the latter and wasn’t disappointed. Its still one of my favourite slices of exploitation cinema.

The local video stores were my training ground when it came to learning about my tastes in cinema. Video releases in those days focussed more on the most graphic, lurid and sensationalistic movies with artwork that was just as attention grabbing. I would spend hours in these video stores salivating over video art that featured rotting green zombies, kickass Kung-Fu masters and blaxploitation actresses brandishing shotguns. In other words, I was in heaven.

From there I started to explore more films and even some arthouse movies. I also learnt about the work of auteurs who were highly respected. But before you think I was watching stuffy and boring old nonsense I’d just like to point out that the auteurs I’m talking about are people such as John Waters, William Friedkin and Hershell Gordon Lewis.

I then moved to London to study film and had at my disposal the best cinemas in the world showing all manner of the obscure and cult. When I arrived I went to see a retrospective of Russ Meyer’s work at what I though was an art cinema. It actually turned out to be a porno moviehouse. But I’ll save that story for a later posting ; )

My taste in Film and TV is eclectic to say the least. Within this website I’ll be extolling the merits of Public Information adverts, killer nun movies, gems set in women’s prisons, rape revenge films, animals vs humans shockers…the list goes on and on.

Do you love edgy and extreme cinema? Welcome aboard!

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