Monday, May 30, 2011

Recalling 'Sammie and Rosie Get Laid'

Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, 1988, British, Miramax, 98 minutes, color. Directed by Stephen Frears. Screenplay by Hanif Kureishi. Cast includes Shashi Kapoor as Rafi Rahman, Frances Barber as Rosie Hobbs, Claire Bloom as Alice, Ayub Khan-Din as Sammy, Roland Gift as Danny/Victoria, Wendy Gazelle as Anna, Meera Syal as Anna, Suzette Llewelly as Vivia, Badi Uzzaman as Cabbie/The Ghost. Rating: Eight stars out of 10.
Sammy and Rosie Get Laid is a film that defines the end of a generation. It's the mid-1980s and the sexual and political revolutions of the 1960s still flourish, but definitely as a counter-culture. The ideas, as Rosie puts it, of "Freedom plus commitment" is being rejected by a British society that has embraced Margaret Thatcher and the ideals of strict conservative morality and capitalism. Still, in a pocket of color within London, Sammy, an immigrant accountant and his wife Rosie, a social worker, thrive. They are in love and have lovers. Sammy is currently having an affair with Wendy, an American artist with Ws tattoed on both buttocks. As Anna explains, everytime she bends over it spells WOW. Rosie will soon bed an attractive black squatter called Victoria (played by Fine Young Cannibals singer Gift) by those who like him. Sammy and Rosie like their life. They spend weekends at plays, essays, classes, and walking through their city, London. As they exclaim, they are Londoners, not Brits. An eclectic crowd surrounds them of gays, homeless, artists, council (public housing) dwellers, squatters, immigrant shopkeepers, scared, vicious police, and riots. However, life is changing. Sammy and Rosie's part of London is beginning to percolate as racial tensions and injustice bubble to the surface. The police kill a black woman who thought her home was being invaded. Before the film is over, the neighborhood will at times begin to resemble 1980s Beirut.
Critic Roger Ebert describes Sammy and Rosie as a film about London, and writes that those who love London will appreciate director Frears and screenwriter Kureishi's efforts to bring London to its multi-cultural life. Many different scenes of London are displayed: Sammy's office, an artist's studio, a wealthy woman's home, Sammy and Rosie's apartment, a council flat, a squatter's settlement, London parks, the airport, a riot in the streets, and a lot more. Kureishi's films have brought many Asian actors to mainstream audiences, and in Sammy and Rosie, the famous Indian actor Shashi Kapoor stars as Sammy's father Rafi, a former high political figure in his native country (It is never made clear what the country is) who has a reputation as a torturer and murderer of thousands. Rafi returns to England to see his son and visit an English woman, Alice -- played by Claire Bloom -- whom he loved and abandoned 30 years ago. Rafi also confides to Sammy that he is on the run from potential assassins, and that he wants to give his fortune to Sammy.
Rafi is suffering though. He continues to see a ghost of a man with one eye and a bandage over his head, who first appears as his cabby at the airport. This ghost will eventually lead Rafi to a terrifying experience. Rafi also finds the sexual lifestyle of Sammy and Rosie disturbing, but remains tolerant to a degree. However, his hopes to live a peaceful life with his son and daughter-in-law are threatened when details of his past as a torturer are slowly revealed. Rosie cannot accept it, and her lesbian friends are ready to kill Rafi. He also receives a deserved comeuppance from spurned lover Alice, who at times resembles a modern-day Miss Havershim.
Rafi's visit eventually brings Sammy and Rosie to a realization that perhaps they aren't as open minded as they thought. The tragedy of his time with them brings a disagreement --- Sammy can't abandon his dad, and Rosie can't forgive and forget what he's done. Eventually, his presence leads to a break-up. Sammy and Rosie Get Laid is a witty, at times touching film with an honest ending that portrays racism and oppression without blinders. There's no happy ending because it doesn't exist yet.
-- Doug Gibson

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Steve Stones' take on Beast of Yucca Flats

The Beast of Yucca Flats - Flag On The Moon. How Did It Get There?

The Beast of Yucca Flats is a low-budget sci-fi film that has the potential to grow on you in time. Many film critics regard it as one of the worst, if not the worst, films of all time. It's likely those critics have not seen the film entirely, or watched it a number of times. It is certainly worth viewing more than once.

Of course the greatest attraction of The Beast of Yucca Flats is 300 pound plus Swedish wrestler turned actor - Tor Johnson. Tor starred in a number of low-budget sci-fi, horror films, beginning in the mid 1950s into the early 60s. Three of these films were directed by eccentric cult director Ed Wood in Bride of The Monster (aka Bride of The Atom). Plan 9 From Outer Space and Night of The Ghouls.

Tor plays a Russian scientist named Joseph Javorski, who has defected and is chased into the Nevada desert by Communist spies during an atomic test. The spys are determined to obtain his breifcase with plans for a secret space expedition. An atomic explosion turns Tor into a monster as he wanders out into the desert, trying to get away from the spies. A narrator repeats meaningless philosophical rantings like: "Flag on the moon. How did it get there?" and "Joseph Javorski. Noted scientist. Caught in the wheels of progress." The film was directed by Coleman Francis without any sound, so little dialogue occurs.

Tor chases two young boys, played by Francis' sons, with a big stick and strangles a woman in her car. He later chews on her hair and sleeps in a cave. The film ends with a rabbit licking Tor's face as he lies on the ground from gunshot wounds. The film has to be seen to be believed. It's an exercise in amateur, penniless filmmaking.

Don Post Studios in Hollywood later made a hugely successful Tor Johnson Halloween mask in the 1960s, which has proven to be one of their best sellers. His face has become as iconic as other horror legends, such as Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. Happy Viewing!

Please see Doug Gibson's article about this film, also on this web-site.

Steve D. Stones

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tales of Tomorrow's Frankenstein

By Doug Gibson
The Frankenstein episode of early TV show Tales of Tomorrow is a historical curio. It's an example of TV in its infancy. There's nothing spectacular about the 1952 24-minute TV teleplay drama, filmed live. Its fortunate existence today is more teaching tool than art.
Lon Chaney Jr. plays the Monster. He's the only good thing about the plodding show. It has Ed Woodian bargain basement sets and props, as well as overtheatrical wooden acting by indistinguished TV actors of the time. The plot involves Dr. Victor Frankenstein (John Newland) living in a castle on the sea with his husband and wife servants and, for some reason, his young nephew (Michael Mann) is there. Also hanging around but not living in the castle is Mrs. Frankenstein (Mary Alice Moore) and her dad, who is also Dr. Frankenstein's mentor (Raymond Bramley).
Nothing much happens until Dr. Frankenstein unveils his monster (Chaney Jr.). He lumbers around the house, killing the maid and scaring the nephew and butler. This is all rather leaden sans much drama although Dr. Frankenstein offers quite a few long-winded laments. Eventually, the principals plot to do away with the Monster.
Chaney looks nothing like his 1942 performance as the Monster in The Ghost of Frankenstein, but he's an old horror hand and he knows how to roar and generally give a menacing performance.
Now, here's the most interesting part of this creaky curio of a TV show. Apparently, Chaney Jr., a severe alcoholic most of his life, was very intoxicated when the live shoot was being don. In fact, he was so intoxicated that he thought it was the dress rehearsal and refused to throw furniture to the floor. It is true that Chaney, in two scenes, gently places furniture back on the floor that is obviously meant to be tossed! You can also hear him mumble once "save it" as he places the furniture down. Otherwise, his role is mute with grunts.
As mentioned, an interesting curio, directed by TV director Don Medford. It is often in discount DVD packs, the kind sold via or in dollar stores. It is free to watch on the Web or you can buy it on also.
Horror fans will enjoy it, completists will want it. It's a chance to see Chaney Jr. in a TV setting. Despite his drinking, he stayed active in films until his death in the early 70s.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Giant Robot rocks: Voyage Into Space

By Doug Gibson
Voyage Into Space is an absolutely bizarre 1970 or so Japanese monster-rama that involves a young boy, Johnny Sokko, having control over a crime-fighting, flying Giant Robot. Sokko and Giant Robot work for the Unicorns, a UN-type spy ring trying to save the world from the extraterrestrial evil, Guillotine, his various sidekicks, including "Spider" and Dr. Botanus. The "army" of Guillotine is "the Gargoyle Gang," a group of military types who resemble Nazis.
This is a weird movie but unbelievably entertaining for young kids and nostalgic adults who recall seeing it when they were young kids. I saw this film when I was 7, 8 or 9 and we used to talk about it on the playground in school. It stars no one you ever heard of, the special effects are pretty bad, the acting terrible, the dubbing weak, but it's strangely cool. There's a 1960s' counterculture aura to this film. Several of the baddies dress like they stepped out of a Roger Vadim film. Guillotine raises a whole host of monsters and some are pretty interesting. One is a giant plant; another is a giant eyeball (I kid you not).
But still, this film, released by American Independent Films to TV only, is woefully cheap. The battling monsters don't match up to the same size in close ups and far-away shots. In one scene, Johnny Sokko and a Unicorn agent wash up on the beach with their clothes fully dry and pressed and their hair neat. Johnny Sokko's dubbed voice sounds a little like Bea Arthur of The Golden Girls. The Giant Robot hero is very cool, though, and the film's theme song is catchy. My four year old son, who like his dad loves the film, hums the theme song daily.
Here's the big secret to Voyage Into Space. It's actually about four episodes, including the first and last, culled from a 30 or so-episode series from the late 60s called Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot. That show also aired on TV, including on long-forgotten Channel 52 in Southern California when I was a kid. You can catch Johnny Sokko episodes today on For more than a generation, you couldn't find Voyage Into Space on VHS or DVD. I spent decades wondering what had happened to my favorite Japanese color monster film. Finally, last year Sinister Cinema started selling the film. Since that occurred the floodgates have opened and Voyage Into Space, a public domain film, has many sellers.
It's a great film, particularly if you have a fondness for the Japanese monster genre, and your kids will love it.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Plan9Crunch welcomes all a 'happy' MOTHER'S DAY!!!

By Steve D. Stones
"The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world."
-William Ross Wallace

Movies don’t get much more graphic in violent content than Mother’s Day, unless you’re watching Henry-Portrait of A Serial Killer or the original Last House On The Left. The title of the film might suggest that this is some fluffy, sentimental chick flick dedicated to all mothers on Mother’s Day. It isn’t. The film is a full-blown exploitation, horror story. I would not recommend that any self-respecting mother watch this film because of the extreme violence, particularly against women.

Mother’s Day was directed, produced and written by Charles Kaufman, brother of Lloyd Kaufman of Troma films. Only the sick minds at Troma could come up with a film like Mother’s Day, which would be a compliment to the folks at Troma. Troma is responsible for such cult classic(k)s as: The Toxic Avenger, Class of Nuke ‘Em High, Surf Nazis Must Die and Redneck Zombies. The Kaufman brothers cast their mother in the roll of mama. Their sister, Susan Kaufman, served as production designer. It appears that Mother’s Day is indeed a family affair, no pun intended.

Three women named Abbey, Jackie and Trina get together for a reunion. The three were college roommates at Wolfbreath College in the 1970s. They travel to the Deep Barrens camp area in New Jersey and camp next to a beautiful lake.

The next morning, two hillbilly brothers named Ike and Addley witness the girls skinny-dipping in the lake. Apparently their mother named them after two 1950s politicians – Eisenhower and Stevenson. That night the boys attack the girls, tie them inside their sleeping bags and drag them back to their backwoods home. The girls are tied to some exercise equipment in an upstairs room.

Jackie is later dragged out of the room and forced to act out scenes from movies with the two brothers as their mother watches. Jackie refuses to participate, so she is raped and beaten by one of the boys, then stuffed in a dresser drawer.

Abby and Trina are able to escape and find Jackie in the dresser. Jackie is unable to walk, so the two girls quietly carry her out of the house and back into the woods. Abbey decides to stay and watch over Jackie while Trina goes for help. While Trina is gone, Jackie dies. Trina returns after finding their car inoperative. The two girls decide to avenge Jackie’s death by returning to the house to kill the mother and her two boys.

One of the boys is stabbed in the neck with a TV antenna and clawed in his groin with a hammer. The other boy has drain cleaner poured down his throat and a TV set bashed over his head. Mama is smothered to death with a plastic pillow in the shape of large breasts.

Despite the extreme graphic violence and low budget, there is not much to fault with in Mother’s Day. The acting is well above average and the plot is direct and easy to follow. Even to this day, Mother’s Day remains in the top 100 highest grossing independent films of all time. That says something about the film, good or bad.

This Mother’s Day, keep your mother away from a film like Mother’s Day. She deserves a nice bouquet of flowers, a bottle of perfume and a nice greeting card. After all, she’s earned it. She’s your mother. Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there!!