Amanda By Night's Retro Ectero Page

Retro Ectero is a place to wax poetic about all the wonderful silly things of a past long gone by.

Sunday, October 04, 2015


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Horror History Timeline

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Impulse (1984)

A subdued, thought-provoking film that doesn’t seem to fit in with the usual horror fare that came out in 1984, Impulse draws a lot of comparisons to Romero’s underrated gem The Crazies, but it also bears a lot of similarities to another film which came out that same year, Return of the Living Dead. Perhaps I’m coming from out of left field, but this nihilistic take on Big Brother might lack the visuals and humor of Return, but it certainly carries the same theme of out-of-control madness and the powerlessness to contain it.

Jennifer (Meg Tilly) receives a phone call from her mother. After mom calls her a “smiling slut”, she then puts a gun to her head and pulls the trigger. She survives the wound, and Jennifer and her attentive boyfriend (Tim Matheson) head to Smalltown, USA to see Jennifer’s mother. Upon arrival, the town Jennifer grew up in seems normal enough, but slowly she and Tim begin to notice a subtle dissention amongst the townsfolk. A man urinates on a car, a scorned lover breaks his own fingers, a mother watches her kids set a garage on fire (while Jennifer is trapped inside!) and a sheriff kills a young delinquent boy as the town watches, emotionless. The one bridge that leads the outside world into the town is cut off as Jennifer and Tim search for the answers to the sudden madness.

On the surface, Impulse feels like it’s at odds with itself, presenting the dark with the light, but Graham Baker’s meticulous direction (there are several subtle visual clues sprinkled throughout) leads every single frame to a shocking climax.

Meg Tilly and Tim Matheson are excellent, with Matheson proving that he’s much more than a pretty face and deserving of more thoughtful fare. Hume Cronyn is great as the doctor who can’t stop himself from cutting off his patient’s oxygen, only to give her a few moments of breath and begin suffocating her again. And Bill Paxton puts in an energetic and deeply disturbed performance in an early role.

Impulse is a thinking man’s horror movie; compelling, contemplative and alarming, it reminds you that control is not always yours.

Sparks Interview

I wrote this a couple of years ago for Entertainment Today, a local papter. It was written to promote their then-new CD, Hello Young Lovers. Enjoy!

If anyone could give the homogenized world of modern pop a good swift kick in the pants, it would be Sparks. Brothers Russell and Ron Mael formed Sparks back in 1971 (originally they were called Halfnelson) when music was raw and imaginative. The inception of their vision has seen may transformations, from the more traditional band format who swept the European music scene with 1974’s incredible Kimono In My House to the trailblazing duo who gave a new face to electronic music with Number 1 in Heaven. Forever chic and always in the mix of brilliance, Sparks has been going strong for well over three decades and they don’t plan on stopping here. Their newest record, Hello Young Lovers, is a sublime companion piece to their critically acclaimed record Lil’ Beethoven, featuring lush orchestral textures brimming over their singular lyrical style. Poignant and witty, Sparks will settle for no less than making music that please not only themselves but their always growing number of loyal fans.

Sparks will be unleashing Hello Young Lovers live at the Avalon in Hollywood on the 20th and lead singer Russell promises an eclectic presentation of visual and melodic delectability for all who attend.

Russell sat down with Entertainment Today to tell us about Hello Young Lovers, why new music sucks and to let the world know how totally cool Giorgio Moroder is.

Will it be difficult to perform the songs from Hello Young Lovers live?

We have a six member group now. We have musicians that are not only musically great, but also personality wise, fit into the whole presentation. We do Hello Young Lovers in its entirety during the first half of the show. Ron only has only two hands to play, so when there’s 45 string parts, some of that is augmented by computers.

Do you enjoy playing live?

It’s exciting. About six weeks ago we finished a big European tour, played lots of dates in the UK and finally played Russia. We played in Moscow a couple of nights. The reception has been amazing, it keeps us really excited and we feel we’re doing the right thing. We present the new album in its entirety because it really feels it’s of one piece, even though there’s no linear thread that goes through it lyrically, but it stands up like a piece. There’s always a hesitation doing that sort of thing for an audience, when some of the audience may not have heard the whole album, you’re asking a lot of them to stay with you and to go along with your thought process. We have a really elaborate visual presentation; it’s kind of the visual equivalent of what the music means to us. Then in the second half of the show we do selections from the other nineteen albums.

How do you narrow down the play list with so much material?

It is hard. When there are nineteen other albums and when you’ve already played for an hour, to keep it from turning into a Grateful Dead concert, we have to prune out but vary it. This time we’re doing a lot of really old ones from the 70s that we haven’t really done before and some of the 80s songs we’re known for. The positive thing that we found is that most of it works together and doesn’t sound dated. It all kind of works and people are surprised that it sounds timeless and not of another era.

You’re music really is timeless.

We’re proud that people who listen to the second half of the show and are kind of new to Sparks are surprised to hear that the other stuff sounds modern. Some of the songs are 32 years old and I doubt a lot of people would be able to tell which the newer ones are and which are the older ones.

How long did Hello Young Lovers take to record?

We spent almost two years on it. I have a studio in my place and my brother and I just take a lot of time to do an album that was kind of keeping in line with the thought process of our last album, Lil’ Beethoven, where you’re not relying on pop conventions that are just kind of tired. It’s just bland and a rehashing of the past, so we’re always finding a way, especially with this album and the one before it that strip away the elements. When you have 20 albums, for yourself and fans you want to do something that’s really striking.

How do you feel about the state of popular music?

Everything seems to be pretty timid. We try to make really good recordings and then later after the fact, we figure out how to do it live. A lot of bands don’t work that way, their traditional bands and that’s all well and good but you’ve heard a lot of that before. The faces change but the stance seems kind of stale. In our own way we’re trying to desperately fight that, by doing an album like Hello Young Lovers. We’re trying to set an example of at least one way of working differently.

Who influences you?

Way back when we were anglophiles and liked a lot of bands we saw when we were young, like the early Who and The Kinks before they became stadium rock. We really liked the Beach Boys. The Beach Boys music is lyrically, musically and harmonically really deceptively sophisticated. Later on, the stuff became more complex and you just don’t see that kind of spirit of wanting to wow people with something fresh.

How did you hook up with your drummer, Tammy Glover?

She was introduced to us by a mutual friend. We were looking for a drummer about ten years ago; she’s been with us for that long. To find a drummer that fits in sensibility wise and is really strong and visually she’s really striking is really difficult. Tammy is amazing. She’s puzzled as to why there aren’t more women drumming, she’s been an exception to the rule. She’s been perfect with the band, kind of a fixture within it.

When you made Number 1 in Heaven, what was working with Giorgio Moroder like?

He was really amazing. At that point in our career, we’d been working in a more traditional format, the music wasn’t traditional but working with a five piece band was. We’d done maybe three or four albums with Island and had good success in England but we reached a point where we wanted to make a break from what were doing. We really liked what we heard Giorgio was doing, particularly with I Feel Love by Donna Summer. I thought that was an amazing combination of a cold, icy electronic background with a singer who had more warmth to her. It was soulful in its own way. A lot of critics in the UK questioned what we were doing and now so many bands cite that album and critics forgot what they had said at the time about it. Now they say it’s kind of a blueprint for the duo approach to pop music.

Do you have a favorite Sparks record?

There are different albums that have a special importance. Some because of the time and some because of what they did commercially. Kimono In My House was really an important album for us because it established the band in the UK and Europe in a big way. Number 1 in Heaven because we were trying to reinvent ourselves in a way and it worked. Commercially and artistically it was really big. Gratuitous Sax and Senseless Violins was really big in Germany, where we’ve never had big success and all of the sudden we’ve got this new young audience like we had in 1974. Those kinds of things are flattering.

Did you ever imagine your music would be so timeless?

You’re just excited you have a record and everything is wonderful and you never think of influencing anyone. We’ve just now been made aware of it. Like Franz Ferdinand, who we might be working with at some point and Morrissey and then electronic bands like Sparks for different reasons. About four months ago Justin Hawkins of The Darkness covered This Town Isn’t Big Enough for Both Us and it would seem he wouldn’t have been a big fan of Sparks. It’s a really disparate group of bands and it’s kind of bizarre and all over the map but it’s also encouraging that people can find what we’re doing appealing.

What’s next for Sparks?

This album really took a lot out of us. We were isolated in a room, just the two of us and then we brought in other people. From the beginning it was a lot of trial and error and is like solitary confinement in a way. Now we’re playing live and it’s kind of a perk to get the fan’s feedback and their reactions. We really don’t know what the next thing is. We’ll undertake some big project that may not be necessarily another Sparks album, but we haven’t formulated what that means! We’re looking for something big and maybe meaningful. We’ll make it meaningful whatever it is!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Toolbox Murders (1978)

The title The Toolbox Murders is now more famous because of Tobe Hooper's recent "re-imagining" of the old grindhouse flick. Not that I have anything bad to say about it. It's an amazing film that seemed to take Hooper back to his more primal instincts. And it was a bloody good time. But it's unfortunate that new-ish horror fans might not be aware of how differnt the original was. Not only that, but the original Toolbox is a damn fine film. It was awash with human emotions and even with all of the so-called brutality aside (most of which happens in the infamous first thrity minutes), Toolbox ups the ante by becoming something more. My friend, and co-reviewer, Michael Ferrari, said it best when he wrote about audiences not being prepared for what the film had to offer. Not that it was over flowing with violence, rather it's an acute character study on grief. And you'll be damned if you'll find another horror film like it, especially in todays white-washed PC cinema.

Toolbox Murders
Review by
Amanda By Night

1978's The Toolbox Murders is a surprising film. Surprising because it lives up to it's ultra-exploitive title and because it also manages to be a study on the human condition. Yeah, you heard me... this movie is all heart. Sometimes the heart is broken and other times it's just ripped from one's chest, but all kidding aside, Toolbox is an anomaly,and more importantly, it's good.

The first 1/2 hour of Toolbox is a slice and dice extravaganza. Few films can boast such a brutal bodycount in so few minutes and for once,the movie is what you think it's going to be. Then it switches gears and becomes one of the most personal slasher films in the genre. Whether it was the writers' or the director's input, Toolbox becomes a very moving and fairly realistic look at loss and grief. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but there's way more here than meets the eye here. On the surface, Toolbox is at once brutal and ugly while maintaining a highly underappreciated look at effectives of death on those left behind. While most 70s horror would be happy just to revel in the demise of its victims,Toolbox offers up other kinds of casualties as well. Practically everyone with a major part in this movie experiences some kind of loss,and inside of this loss is where the demons and or angels come forth. For the missing girl's mother, it's just to simply keep moving, for the brother, it's to take action even if it means getting in too deep. And for the killer, it's to exact the evil from the world; an evil he believes killed his little girl.

A good portion of the film dwells on the captive and the captor. It is here that we get to the meat of the story and the killer becomes both tragic and sad. Then there's a twist and everything you were lead to think is happening and once again Toolbox spins into a yet another descent into grief.

Shot in a matter-of-fact style, anyone who saw this movie when it first released in theaters or on vhs, probably remember the infamous bathtub scene best. It's a fantastically button pushing scene, and was even discussed on 60 minutes. But there's more here than just a voluptuous nude woman fighting for her life, but of course, if that's all you want, this movie is sure to satisfy you there too! What an interesting line Toolbox walks, and seemingly with ease. One of the oddest films to come out of a decade where odd was its middle name, The Toolbox Murders is a one-of-a-kind viewing that deserves a wider, more appreciative audience.

Toolbox Murders
Review by
Michael Jonathan Ferrari

Bit by bit by bit, back in the so-called decadent 1970s, filmmaker’s intentions were undoubtedly different from today. As we all know, ultimately all films are a business, and a return-on-investment is the absolute bottom line. But when comparing the films of then to today, there is a huge difference in the way a filmmaker expresses himself within those parameters. You get the sense that most first time directors today feel the need to cram as much as possible into their first films partly out of fear of not making another film, partly to be showy and cover all their bases—ALWAYS looking to get that next big gig. Low budget filmmaking of the 1970s was a time when you could find these quirky little films that end up sneaking up on you, cramming in some interesting subtext when and where you least expect it.

While re-watching Dennis Donnelly’s The Toolbox Murders, I couldn’t help but feel like I was missing out by not being as old as I am back then, enjoying this strange little film in it’s first run in 1978. The picture came out at a time right when the Slasher film genre as we know it today was about to bust wide open with the release of John Carpenter’s Halloween, some 7 months later. Audiences in March of ‘78 walked into the film because of it’s exploitation-esque title expecting some blood and guts, and they walked out with exactly that and something else more curious... Donnelly, an Episodic TV show veteran, crafts a film that always plays with your expectations. The first half hour of the film piles on several murders, seemingly one after the other after the other. Your mind can’t help but wonder if the film is just going to be scene after scene of pointless mayhem, and then suddenly the violence stops and the typical sleuthing aspect of slasher films kicks in. It is also at that point where the film shifts gears completely. The killer is quickly revealed and becomes more of the focus of the story and we as the audience are held captive, much like Pamela Ferdin’s prophetically named final girl Laurie, and in the film’s greatest and most shocking scene... we are simply forced to sympathize with and understand his intentions, while fearing for Laurie’s life.

Discussing this picture with others I often hear that at this point the film is mostly lost on them. While I will agree that it slows down tremendously, I don’t believe at fault to the film. It’s at this point where the film is most alive. Films nowadays make it bit more fashionable to sympathize and accept villains in more substantial roles. Rob Zombie has certainly made a career of it. Recently Kevin Costner got his own chance to shine in Mr. Brooks playing the title character’s sympathetic serial killer role. TV has it’s fare share of it as well, most notably, Showtime’s Dexter. Though back in 1978, most mainstream films stayed away from the concept. It was in rare exceptions, usually in low-budget films, where the despised (usually) obscured madman got his chance to unleash his anguish through the simple act of communicating verbally with another. Some sort of personal tragedy is the jumping point for this macabre bunch, and cold-blooded, calculated murder is almost only their true way of expressing their anxieties.

The Toolbox Murders ends up being more than just a wallow into a man’s psyche as the film’s pace picks up and a little twist is thrown in for good measure. The film’s final scene is decidedly very 70's in it’s refusal to end on a false upbeat note. You walk away feeling more than you thought you would for characters in a film of its ilk. I personally wondered where things went wrong starting in the 80's as films depreciated with each year, characters in the genre increasingly became less dimensional and more annoying than anything else. Risk seemed to be something that comes up a lot. As the years go on, more and more films play to the audience instead of against it. Studios, Producers, Writers and Directors, well-established or not, seem to want to impress as many as possible instead of intrigue the few who actually get that humans even when presented in art, can be complex and not summed up in a 5 to 7 word sentence.

Recently I saw a friend of a friend’s “independent” film that boasted an all-star cast of actors desperately trying to prove they can act and play “dark” and more complex-than-usual characters. You know, a notch above cardboard cut-outs. It was depressing and a reminder that honesty is the one thing left out of most movies today. Once and awhile you’ll see that honesty, and it’s those films I welcome with open arms. To me, instead of calling a decade like the 70s “The Golden Age” I’d rather call the occasional good, honest film to come out of any given decade...golden.

The Toolbox Murders is exploitation with that golden something extra, it’s a great little film that reminds us that the only real way to enjoy films, especially those of a formula, is to keep an open mind and hopefully you’ll find a film that surprises you once in awhile by unexpectedly taking you on your journey a little off-road..You know, that wacky and weird place where you’d less suspect before arriving at your final destination. It’s a groovy thing.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Le Freak, C'est Chic: Jason's Legacy

Mmmm, that bag is hawt.

There's no questioning my fascination by the Idiot Man Child in slasher cinema. A modern day freak shows that you don't have to witness in person, the idea of a mutated man (or woman as in the case with Screams of a Winters Night), is pretty hard to resist. And of course as we all know, Jason from the Friday the 13th series set the bar high for these mutated villians. But there was a map even before him. Usually, the IMC in question raised himself in the wild, bitter and bent on avenging whatever ill gotten life it was forced to live. The IMC normally took out his aggression on the innocent and more often than not, they were a vacationing group of teens whose sole purpose was to get drunk and laid. Good looking and moderately intelligent (at least by the IMC's standards), these victims represent what the IMC lost when another group burned down his forest, mistakenly killed his parents, or whatever other tragedy that might befall an IMC-to-be.

In Jason's case, the legend kind of wraps itself into several little legends - the most famous being that he supposedly drowned whilst two counselors were off playing the naked pretzel instead of watching him. Unfortunately, that meant whatever oedipal relationship Mrs. Vorhees had begun to build with Jason soon vanished before her very eyes. In a shocking turn of events, she kept the blood shed going as she stalks new counselors at the Camp where her boy perished. To this day, Mrs. Vorhees is the only female killer tied into any successful franchised slasher.

But half way through Part II, one begins to realize that there is more to the puzzle then originally spoken about. Ginny (Amy Steel, the greatest heroine in the Friday series), wonders if perhaps Jason was still alive and living in the wild, "Crying for the return of his mother". Kind of nightmarish, huh? I mean, imagine a deformed, mentally retarded kid who saw his mom get her head lopped off? If Jason didn't have any hatred towards peppy teens, that was sure to change.

And what came about from Ginny's innocent theory was a cavalcade of IMC wanna-bes. I mean, if we can't be Madonna, then we can still dress like her, right? Same goes for the IMC. It’s not like Jason was the first idiot killer to splash across the silver screen, but I’d like to think that he’s to thank for the dozens of films that pulled out the IMC card (albeit, to varying levels of success). Here are the five best and five worst rip-offs to enjoy. My only criteria for this list was that is should take place in the forest (or at least in some isolated area) and the killer should be stupid as hell. Hey, he is an Idiot-Man-Child right? I hope this list will spark a a little love for (as Paul so astutely said in Part II), "That Friday the 13th".

Love Songs for the Retarded (These are good!):

House on Sorority Row (1983) – OK, so I bent the rules on my first pick. Yeah, there’s no forest, but damn, this movie just never talked about enough. Housemother Mrs. Slater gives birth to a crazed bastard (literally) and when Mrs. Slater supposedly dies in a practical joke gone wrong, her son puts major ‘tardo foot to ass. Sumptuous and suspenseful, House is one of the best takes on the IMC.

Humongous (1982) – A strange but enjoyable horror movie, Humongous features a really big IMC and he does not like strangers. What makes this movie is the minimalism of it all. Humongous just is. No ifs ands or buts and it’s scary. Practically unheard of outside of slasher circles, this one is an underrated gem of a movie. Big, stupid killers RULE!

The Prey (1984) – I was conflicted about putting this on the best list. I know it’s not a very good movie, by technical (or storyline or acting or anything) standards, but there’s something so creepy about this movie. From the crazy killer gypsy (whose family died when someone accidentally set fire to the entire forest!) to that weird rock that overlooks the victims. The violence is well played out and although there is little more than a few lines of dialog and lots and lots of nature footage, this movie gets you where it counts.

The Unseen (1981) – OK, I’m not sure which came first – this or Friday part II, but the IMC on display here is just too awesome to ignore. I mean, is that really Flounder (Steven Furst) from Animal House in diapers?!? Well, yes it is! A wonderfully obtuse movie with the late, great Sidney Lassick as dear old dad and Ringo’s wife Barbara Bach as the wide-eyed Final Girl help give the proceedings a sense of class. This movie goes for sympathy, and sometimes it gets it. Cool flick.

Wrong Turn (2003) – Dude, this movie is great. Imagine my surprise when the post self-referential horror craze was going out the window and this little straight-faced-old-school slasher put bigger budgeted Hollywood films to shame. And it was a shame. This movie tanked big time, although it spawned a sequel which was released earlier this year. And we get three IMC’s instead of the usual one! One could argue that this movie leans more towards the X-Files episode “Home”, but there’s just too much killing to not give credit where credit is due. An excellent throwback with lots of neat little references (I caught one for the Prey actually!), this is a must for those who like their IMCs knee deep in mud and guts!

Let’s Get Retarded (These are so-bad-they’re-good!):

Blood Tracks (1985) – OK, this movie is bizarre and confused, but features some fun glam rock, a lot of chicks with mullets and lots and lots of people being killed! Forty years after a woman and her children flee to an abandoned factory, a rock band encroaches on utopia to film the best music video ever! Well, if you’ve seen The Hills Have Eyes, you have a general idea that these mutated IMCs are going to stay hidden, no matter what. Don’t expect to get scared though. Unlike Papa Jupe and his clan, the scariest thing about this family is their frostbitten faces. Now explain it to me again why the family insists on living in an ice cold abandoned factory when there is a nice warm cabin right down the way? Bad, clean fun.

Don’t Go in the Woods… Alone (1982) – And whatever you do, don’t watch this movie alone either! It’s something you NEED to share with others. A recluse who looks like he got too blitzed on Mardi Gras is keeping the forest clean by wiping out any hikers who happen by. Even those in wheelchairs! Now, why would anyone in a wheelchair be hiking, you ask? Puh-leeze, logic under such circumstances is just going to upset you. Code Red recently released this movie on DVD with director commentary and the lovely James Bryan (I’ve met him and he is absolutely awesome) explains where it all went wrong.

Hills Have Eyes Part II (1985) – Oh. My. God. This movie is nothing like the sinister original, although a good portion of the sequel is filled with flashbacks from it. So many, in fact, that the dog even has one! When he goes “Aarf” and the screen starts to go all wavy, it’s totally awesome. What this movie does have though, is a nice pace and it stays interesting, even if the story and the characters are really stupid. So points to Wes for at least keeping our attention.

Memorial Valley Massacre (1988) – Wow. That’s really all one can say about this one. It’s one of those movies that is never really sure if it’s playing it for scares or laughs. When that happens, it usually succeed at neither and this movie is certainly one ponderous little mess. The IMC in question though is freakin’ hee-larious. I mean, truly. He’s all loin-clothed out and has a super duper mullet to boot. Now that’s WHITE HOT.

The Night Brings Charlie (1990) – A last and utterly futile attempt to make a decent IMC slasher, this movie is mostly forgettable except for the fact that killer just may be the local disfigured tree surgeon! No joke, and any movie with a disfigured tree surgeon needs to be on a list for something, right? I mean, it’s a movie full of firsts. Still, it’s kind of let down and it also ushers in the new age of direct to video slashers that took over video store shelves in the 90s. But yeah, an IMC by any other name would smell just as sweet.

"Happy Fridy the 13th, guys!"

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Deadly Rivals (1972)

Sometimes discovering movies is an awesome thing. It's even better when you can share such a find, so imagine the elation I felt when I found a movie my good friend Michael Ferrari hadn't seen, but he hadn't even heard of it either! That's some feat, as those of you who know Michael can attest to. A movie buff to the nth degree, he loves movies more than he loves just about anything else. To make things even more promising, he's a big fan of Scott Jacoby and Joan Hackett.

Ditto for me.
Deadly Rivals is that rare kind of movie that screams 70s indie cinema in the most unpretentious way possible. A time capsule that captures New York before 42nd Street became a Disney store, Deadly Rivals is edgy cinema at its best.
Michael and I decided to do "Dueling Reviews", and although both of us were impressed by this movie, we found different (and sometimes the same) qualities in this quirky and oh-so-unique film that made it richer for us.
For our incredibely thoughtful...uh, thoughts, read on...

Amanda By Night:
I may have never heard of this movie if it wasn’t for my sincere love and semi-obsession with the two leads – Scott Jacoby and Joan Hackett. When Jacoby was still just a wee pup, he appeared in some of the most bizarre and underrated films of the 70s. He was in everything from the heartbreaking gay drama That Certain Summer to the notorious TV Movie Bad Ronald. Even as an adolescent, Jacoby possessed a weirdly mature and strong presence in every film he appeared in. Deadly Rivals is the youngest I have ever seen him and this role must be his darkest…

Joan Hackett was this kind of esoteric creature who seemed to be more of a personality than an actress. By that I mean, she’s a damn fine performer, but it seemed that it was really Joan coming through in all of her movies. She was quirky and strangely beautiful and in her short life, she left behind one of the most interesting filmographies to date. The movie I remember her best in was the TV Movie Five Desperate Women where she played the sullen ex-college girl lying to her friends about how well her life was going. On this trip, she befriends a dog who is murdered. In a rage of despair, Joan screams “He was a good little doggie and he liked me!” It was the kind of line that most actors could never pull off, but Joan was having fun and so was I.

The Spring/December relationship works well in Deadly Rivals, as they are mother and son, but with a strange erotic twist. Jacoby is Jamie, the brilliant ten year old filmmaker who took over the role of man of the house when his father was killed in a plane crash. He doesn’t seem to mind his mother dating until one day she meets Peter, someone she actually likes (Robert Klein who is just great). That’s when it hits the fan. Since Jamie is far more mature than his ten year old body would have you believe, Peter has sort of taken on the child role for Christine (Hackett) and maybe it’s that he’s pretty lousy in bed that Joan can accept this lot in life. Jamie however is wracked with jealousy, and even goes so far as to have a wanton affair with his babysitter. The scene where he loses his virginity is about as darkly chilling as they get. Jamie might have the thought process of an adult but his sexuality is all mixed up in grade-school confusion. Finally, Jamie decides to get rid of Peter once and for all and boy, does it end in tragedy!

Deadly Rivals is that kind of one of a kind movie that could only have been produced in the 70s. It’s gritty and dark yet sweet and romantic. Robert Klein is a revelation. I was used to his hackneyed comedic stylings and was extremely impressed with his quixotic presentation of the world. I never thought I’d say this but, gulp, Robert Klein is sexy. Whew! That feels better…

It’s pretty obvious that nobody knew how to accurately market this curio, which is why the cover looks like a B-Grade horror film. As you probably already know, I adore B level genre films, but this movie, much like Simon, King of the Witches, transcends, and even defies categorization. In some ways, it reminded me of Ted Post’s classic shocker The Baby, although it’s not nearly as perverse. Still, there’s such a mad streak of tar-black humor that you can’t help but sit their jaw-dropped at some of the proceedings.

The writer and director, Krishna Shah’s career seems equally as enigmatic, having made Deadly Rivals his directorial debut. He went on to other films such as The River Niger and Hard Rock Zombies (!). He’s even credited as a producer on Sleepaway Camp 4! This film may well be his most personal, and with the gentrification of New York City since this movie, it also feels like a love letter to the way it used to be.

Deadly Rivals, like so many other curious films of the 70s has practically disappeared into vhs moratorium hell, but is well worth picking up if you can find it.

Michael Ferrari:

Anytime I see winter in New York on the screen my mind races backwards in time and I remember my younger days in this town being surrounded by the seemingly never ending snowfall. I remember one photograph in particular, it is of my younger sister and myself in central park playing on a slide, the white snow everywhere, confining us to the small patch of playground left. Rivals (AKA: Deadly Rivals) opens with a scene of skiing through snow and right away this movie made in 70's New York City threw me back in time.

That opening scene of skiing serves as a high point for it’s young protagonist Jamie (played by Scott Jacoby) as it’s his happiest memory. Jamie, a very sophisticated and intelligent young man, and his equally sophisticated mother Christine (the almost unearthly beautiful Joan Hackett) make quite a life for themselves in the big apple. It’s just the two of them and both are seemingly content with that. Soon Christine meets a man (Robert Klein) who sweeps her off the streets of Manhattan and into his makeshift tour bus and things change dramatically for the twosome. The already burgeoning Oedipal complex takes a dark turn as Jamie struggles with his own blossoming sexuality and the implications of having a new father after a long absence of one threaten to destroy the sanctity the two have created.

What happens can simply be described in words as a Greek tragedy, but what lies within is something very unique. Rivals, a generic title in a movie that is anything but, is a movie very much of it’s time. Released independently in 1972, it’s a film that dares keep it’s audience at bay as it juxtaposes rhythms and builds character development in unexpected places. Its jazzy score while viewed by most as cloying and annoying, serves as a metaphor for the seemingly shapeless pieces that are put together every day in this melting pot of a city to form something artful and challenging. It leaves you at unease for a reason. New York bred director Larry Cohen often used jazzy scores for a similar purpose. The picture sometimes moves at strange paces and it’s overall freewheeling style makes you feel like anything can happen, and at points anything just does. You’re shocked and then you are lulled back into it’s complex web of emotions, most of the time presented in a matter-of-fact way.

The performances by all 3 leads are completely different and interesting. Especially child actor Scott Jacoby as he uses his inherit smarts to play a character who’s too-wise-for-his-own-age and doesn’t come off as overly cutesy or false. You believe him every step of the way and he often really does seem more intelligent than most. As with any given abundance, it’s often misused and ultimately Jamie still hasn’t learned the most basic of all lessons we get to learn as we grow up...We’re all accountable for our actions and we must be careful with how we carry them out as the stakes get higher as the years go on. Joan Hackett and Robert Klein deliver solid performances as the mix-matched couple and you buy into their romance even as it’s expedited in the film.

As a fatherless child growing up in New York City I obviously felt a real kinship with the film and I liked that it went to such dark places as it served as a real catharsis. I may have not been as unhappy as Jamie and I would have never dreamt to go to such lengths to regain my happy moments in the snow, but I could say that I was really challenged by the ideas of how relationships can effect one another so deeply and be out of the pure love for another. Rivals is a movie that cannot be duplicated as it wants you to feel those real extreme emotions and the loneliness that comes with living with them. The final shot of one character trying desperately to connect with another from a long distance through a window pane sent a shiver up my spine. I never expecting to feel so much from a movie as random as this one is..

Monday, February 19, 2007

Duran Duran on DVD!

Akward but still cute as a button!

Duran Duran were not only one of the biggest bands of the 80s, they were also innovators in the realm of the music video. MTV darlings and teen idols, their lush, exotic videos broke ground and made the art of the music video actual art. Duran Duran loved beautiful women, gorgeous locales and striking images. A good portion of their groundbreaking work was directed by Russell Mulcahy, such as Hungry Like the Wolf, Rio, The Reflex and the sumptuous fan favorite Save a Prayer. After a couple of video release featuring various songs, Duran Duran: Greatest – The DVD finally brings most of the band’s best videos together in one double disc DVD.


  • Uncensored version of the racy Girls on Film Video
  • Several hidden Easter Eggs, including a TV Spot, a look at the Liberty Press Kit, Interviews and Alternative Videos!
  • A great scope of the band’s history over the last two decades as ever-changing artists

  • My biggest quibble with this release is the omission of Duran Duran’s two best videos. Lonely in Your Nightmare is simply elegant and although it wasn’t a hit, the video and song are definitely worth seeking out. The other video, Nightboat is a great homage to Lucio Fulci’s masterpiece Zombi. This is probably my favorite Duran Duran video because it’s the most like a short film and is quite eerie and atmospheric. Both videos can be found on the vhs release simply titled, Duran Duran Video Collection.

    The other downside to this release is that Disc 2, which features predominately later releases when the band was boiled down to three original members and then only two. These videos lack those certain elements that made the videos on the first disc so memorable. Luckily, the music is still a lot fun and the video for Ordinary World does boast some lovely work.

    All in all, Duran Duran: Greatest is a must for Durannies, and a good way for the novice to see most of the band’s best music video work.