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Marie Antoinette (2006)
Coppola's Costume Drama Experiment
Marie Antoinette (2006): Starring Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, Marianne Faithful, Rip Torn, Asia Argento, Judy Davis, Danny Huston, Molly Shannon, Shirley Henderson, Mary Nighy, Sebastian Armesto, Jamie Dornan, Steve Coogan. Directed by Sofia Coppola, screenplay by Sofia Coppola.
Released in 2006, Coppola's Marie Antoinette is heavily flawed. Far from faithful to the historical reality of Marie Antoinette - her personality, her life and times - it's really more of an offbeat colorful costume comedy set in Versailles in the late 18th century. This should come as no surprise when you consider the number of comedic actors in leading roles - Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette, Jason Schwartzman as Louis the 16th, even Molly Shannon and Shirley Henderson as Louis' aunts Sophie and Victoire. Adding to the mix is the very accomplished British actress Judy Davis as Comtesse DE Noailles, head supervisor of etiquette at the court of Versailles and Rip Torn as the old King Louis the 15th. This film isn't about the complete life of Marie Antoinette therefore it's not a biopic. The film's strongest focus is on Marie's difficult life at Versailles. Marie finds it challenging to please everyone and she turns heads with her inexperience and her continuous breaking of social customs and protocol. Marie's only role is to mother Louis the 16th's children, the heirs to the throne of France. For years, she is childless, owing to Louis' sexual dysfunction, upsetting the nation who consider her to be uninterested in her husband, in her people and caring only for parties, luxuries and an extravagant lifestyle of jewelry, gowns and pastries. When at last Marie gives birth and becomes Queen, her life becomes increasingly dull. She escapes the growing pressures at court and the disdain of her enemies by spending time at the fake country château of the Petit Trianon where she has established a small farm. She has a brief sexual affair with the Swedish Count Axel Von Fersen (Jamie Dornan), something which might not have occurred at all.
This film omits the Revolution and we hear of it only from word of mouth. The film never loses the perspective of Marie Antoinette. Also missing is the very significant Affair of the Necklace incident involving the thief Jeanne Remy, the Cardinal DE Rohan and a diamond necklace. The scandal ruined the Queen's reputation and made her very unpopular and hated by the people. The film is unnecessarily long and very hollow, highlighting on the stereotypical aspects of Marie Antoinette's life, the parties, the fashions and the excesses; the very things that made her a hated figure by the French. Kirsten Dunst is woefully miscast and delivers an unsatisfying performance. Clearly historical drama is not suited to her abilities as an actress. She never delves into the character's inner suffering and psychology, never gives us enough for us to care and sympathize. She's wooden and never becomes Marie Antoinette, she's just being Kirsten Dunst, modern comedienne in dress up. Jason Schwartzman is worse with the minimalist dialog and lifeless persona. He doesn't do anything with his character. The superior performances are from Judy Davis as the Countess DE Noailles and Marianne Faithful as the Empress Maria Teresa, minor roles and appearing only briefly in early portions of the film. We would benefit from at least one other person's perspective because Marie's life was sheltered from reality and her geography was limited to Versailles. Looking at this movie, we don't truly understand why they hated her in Paris, nor see just how seriously her position as Queen was threatened.
Perhaps the reason this film is terrible lies in the poor screenplay and bad writing. Coppola is better suited as director but not as writer. She might have done better by hiring a good writer. Her direction is generally good. The cinematography is excellent. There are beautiful vistas of the palace of Versailles and it's gardens, including also the Petit Trianon and the Queen's farm. The costumes may be over the top and far too colorful to be realistic and authentic but they are beautiful to look at. The cast and crew were allowed to film at the actual palace of Versailles. Only a few films have done this and it's good to know that it's not a fake set. This is a lovely movie visually but it's an insubstantial film with unimpressive writing. and acting. It also suffers from the fact that it wants to take itself seriously as a historical drama but it's far from it. On the plus side, Coppola did her homework and the details of Marie's frustration at Versailles is accurate. Everything is generally faithful to the real events of Marie's time in Versailles such as her correspondence with her mother Empress Maria Teresa and the visit by the concerned brother Josef. But in many ways, this film falls into the genre of experiment because Coppola lost track of the more personal tragedy and human side of Marie Antoinette. We never see her being a good mother and wife, both of which she truly was. Another downside is the modern music for the soundtrack. Although Coppola has a few excerpts of Baroque and late 18th century classical music as well as opera, she also varies it with modern pop which is unnecessary and freakishly anachronistic. Coppola seems to want us to relate to Marie with the heavy emphasis on modern attitudes by Kirsten's performance, but she fails miserably because it just doesn't suit a period film which should be restricted to the milieu and the attitudes of the people of that long ago period, which has no immediate connection with our modern society. This film could have been better if Coppola had opted to make a serious drama about the life and death of Marie Antoinette and the events of the French Revolution. Only the cinematography and lavish costumes are worth watching.
The Adventures of Marco Polo (1938)
Entertaining Historical Adventure Film From 1938
The Adventures of Marco Polo (1938): Gary Cooper, Basil Rathbone, Sigrid Gurie, George Barbier, Lana Turner, Binnie Barnes, Ernest Ruex, AlanHale, Ward Bond, H.B. Warner, Robert Greig, Henry Kolker, Lotus Liu, Harold Huber, Reginald Barlow, Harry Cording, Richard Farnsworth, Leo Fielding, Anne Graham, Hale Hamilton, Eugene Hoo, Greta Granstedt, Granville Bates.....Director Archie Mayo, Story by N.A. Pogson, Screenplay Robert. E. Sherwood.
By 1938, Gary Cooper was as big a star in Hollywood as Clark Gable. Cooper's Western films always drew crowds. "The Adventures of Marco Polo" was a different type of film for him and originally, audiences did not flock to see it. Playing a historical figure, although with a heroic and fictional slant, this was a sort of a departure from his usual roles. He was paired with an actress who never made it big - European-born Sigrid Gurie. Basil Rathbone as the villain and a young, previously unknown Lana Turner as a maid. She would become famous in the 40's shortly after this film. The results are a highly entertaining adventure film that is not historically accurate. The real Marco Polo never behaved the way Cooper does in the movie, nor did he ever experience the type of encounters he has in this film. It was a trend in the 30's to show adventure films, escapist films and it had been this way since the start of the Depression. For such a film, this one is well worth viewing, especially if you're a fan of Gary Cooper or have an interest in classic films.
1300's era Italian/Venetian explorer Marco Polo (Cooper) is assigned to explore China, namely the capital of Peking, the home of the Great Emperor Kublai Kan (Barbier). Italy hopes to make trade/commercial relations with China. Before long, Marco and his servant, carrying on his back, reach Peking and the Palace. Kan treats him hospitably. He discovers the beautiful Princess Kookoo-Chin (Gurie) who although engaged to marry the Prince of Persia, falls madly for Marco. Trouble arises when Marco is sent to dangerous enemy territory, as part of a carefully constructed plot by the Emperor's adviser Ahmed(played by Basil Rathbone). With Marco away, and shortly after the Emperor himself, Ahmed devises a plan to marry the Princess himself and usurp the throne of China. Will Marco be able to save China from this dastardly plot ? Will the Princess Koo-koo Chin and Maro have a happily ever after ? With exciting music, exotic costumes and sets (and yes this is a set picture) this type of film was a standard of most escapist adventures. Gary Cooper is no swashbuckler icon like Douglas Fairbanks or Errol Flynn, who was in '38 at this time, the only swashbuckler icon, but he holds his own and does a marvelous job. It's part comedy, part romance, mostly adventure. It's sad to think that audiences did not seem to enjoy it. Now it's a wonderful reminder of an older form of cinema and a credit to the many acting styles of Hollywood star Gary Cooper.
Rear Window (1954)
Classic Hitchcock Films: Rear Window
Rear Window (1954): James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter, Wendell Corey, Raymond Burr, Judith Evelyn, Ross Bagdasarian, Georgine Darcy, Sarah Berner, Frank Cady, Jesslyn Fax, Rand Harper, Irene Winston, Havis Davenport, Alan Lee, Anthony Warde, Benny Bartlett, Harry Landers, Iphigenie Castiglioni....Director Alfred Hitchcock, Writer/Screenplay John Michael Hayes, based on the short story "It Had To Be Murder" by Cornell Woolrich.
With "Rear Window" director Alfred Hitchcock began his greatest hits decade, the 1950's. A master of suspense and what was at the time considered thrillers, Hitchock created a successful franchise of movies that endured into the mid 1960's. He also had his own TV series with half-hour episodes full of suspense and intrigue. "Rear Window" released in '54, starred James Stewart, a veteran of Hollywood whose popularity had not yet diminished. Hitchcock would cast him again as a lead in the 1958 "Vertigo", which was also a hit. Opposite Stewart is the equally iconic Grace Kelly, who was for Hitchcock, the perfect Hitchcock film heroine - blonde, beautiful, cool and a damsel in distress. He would later cast his favorite leading lady in another classic winner Dial M for Murder released the same year. With two big names as Stewart and Kelly, Hitchcock took Hollywood by the horns.
Plot: Wheelchair bound Jeff Jefferies (Stewart) lives in a crowded tenement slum in New York City. His fiancée Lisa (Kelly) loves him despite her privileged background and distance. Having nothing else to do, Jeff becomes a voyeur at his window and observes the daily rituals and snippets of the lives of his neighbors, who just happen to leave their windows open all the time. It's a colorful cast: Miss Lonelyhearts (Judith Evelyn) a lonely, single middle-aged woman who longs for love and cannot seem to find it, the Songwriter (Ross Bagdasarian) who labors over the same tune and entertains party guests, "Miss Torso" the gorgeous ballerina who draws a lot of male attention, a newlywed couple, a couple that are NOT so newlywed and the main draw - Lars Thorwald (Burr) whose invalid, bed-ridden wife mysteriously disappears. Jeff is convinced Lars has murdered his wife but all he has are suspicions. There are nightly departures from his apartment, a missing wife whose whereabouts are not known, mysterious long distance phone calls and some other things that seem very odd such as the missing clothes and jewels of his wife. Before long, he gets his nurse involved (Thelma Ritter), his landlord and yes his girlfriend. Are Jeff's suspicious unfounded ? Has his voyeurism led him to some fantastic conclusions that are not real ? What really goes on behind closed doors ? What do people do when they think they are not being watched ? The voyeuristic slant of this film seems to be one of many of the "neurosis" or psychosis themed films with characters whose problems are on the inside but whose world we are sucked into with horrifying force. This film is not violent, nor is it even the least bit eerie. It's a mystery plain and simple with an A list cast and with Hitchcock doing his best early in his career as America's King of Suspense at a time when these types of films were quite new. It's interesting to note how there are besides Stewart and Kelly, 2 other big names - Raymond Burr and Ross Bagdasarian. Burr was a well known figure in Hollywood himself and became the iconic TV star "Perry Mason". Ross Bagdaarian went on to become a songwriter (much like his character in this film) who wrote successful hits in the early 60's via the animated cartoons The Chipmunks - "Witch Doctor", "Hurry Christmas" and other hit songs.
Bugsy Malone (1976)
1975 Classic Musical: Bugsy Malone
Bugsy Malone (1976): Scott Baio, Jodie Foster, John Cassisi, Florrie Dugger, Martin Lev, Paul Murphy, Sheridan Earl Russell, Albin Humpty Jenkins, Paul Chirelstein, Andrew Paul, Davidson Knight, Michael Jackson, Jeffrey Stevens, Peter Holder, Donald Wagh, Michael Kirkby, Jorge Valdez, jon Zebrowski, Ron Meleleu, Paul Besterman, Brian Hardy, Dexter Fletcher, Bonnie Langford, Mark Curry, Vivienne McKone, Helen Corran...Director Alan Parker, Writer Alan Parker....
The 1970's was still a big decade for musicals, only its musicals had become more modern in their content. Although this is not a "rock" musical that was common then (Rocky Horror Picture Show, Tommy, Jesus Christ Superstar, etc) it was instead an homage to the Roaring 20's and Gangster Movies. Far from containing violence, sex and foul language, as a standard 1970's gangster movie would have had, we instead have an ensemble cast made up of minors with their lead stars being Scott Baio and Jodie Foster. Foster had already made several movies as a child star and this was the first hit movie of actor Scott Baio who would later become famed as a TV star in the 1980's series "Charles In Charge". John Cassisi as a tough-talking Speakeasy owner and Florrie Dugger as the sweet, Hollywood-bound Blousy. With many song and dance numbers, historically accurate costumes, cars, guns and music, a lot of jokes, and pies-in-the-face, this is a movie that can be enjoyed by the whole family. It's first theatrical release earned it a G rating and although there are guns in the film and gangster wars, there is no violence. Instead of firing bullets, they fire pie cream. This film is a feel-good comedy musical that spoofs gangster movies from an earlier period such like the 1940's. The story is original but it was drawn from real life mob wars such as those in Chicago during the Al Capone Era and those in New York City in the 30's and 40's.Plot: Bugsy Malone (Baio) falls for the aspiring actress/singer Blousy Brown (Dugger)but they are both down-on-their luck until Busy works for the shifty Speakeasy owner and Mafia boss Fat Sam (Cassisi) who is currently in a gang war with his rival. But Fat Sam has Bugsy on his side and a new weapon: cream-of-pie bullets. Much attention at this time went to the maturity of Jodie Foster who plays a sultry lounge singer Tallulah. Already noticeable are the qualities she would display as an adult actress. Although this film has been dismissed as campy and nothing significant, this is still a fine family film that proves to be a hit even years later. Many drama schools still produce this musical and the role of Tallulah particularly is one some singers aspire to.
The Innocents (1961)
Gothic Mystery Horror Drama
The Innocents (1961): Starring Deborah Kerr, Martin Stephens, Pamela Franklin, Peter Wyngarde, Meg Jenkins, Michael Redgrave, Clytie Jessop, Isla Cameron, Eric Woodburn.....Director Jack Clayton, Screenplay William Archibald, Truman Capote and John Mortimer.
"Gone is my lord, and the grave is his prison. What shall I say when my lord comes a-calling? What shall I say when he knocks on my door? What shall I say when his feet enter softly, Leaving the marks of his grave on my floor? Enter my lord, come from your prison Come from your grave, for the moon is arisen!"............
Loosely based on Henry James novel "The Turn of the Screw", The Innocents was actually taken from a successful stage play at the time but made into a suspense-filled Gothic ghost story which for the early 1960's was absolutely groundbreaking. Released in 1961, it was directed by Jack Clayton and starred the well-known British actress Deborah Kerr. Although Kerr had done many excellent films before "The Innocents" (including From Here To Eternity and The King and I) Kerr delivers what she considered to be her greatest performance, in part because so much of the dialog is taken from theater which had always been her forte. Kerr portrays Miss Giddens, a 19th century Victorian nanny, known at the time as a governess who is sent to care for two orphan children whose guardian is their busy, distant and indifferent uncle. The boy Miles (Martin Stephens) comes home after being expelled from school. He is a strange boy with an adult mind and personality. His sister Flora (Pamela Franklin) although sweet and innocent, also has a creepy quality about her. The housekeeper Anna (Isla Cameron) tells Miss Giddens about the sordid past in the house. The children's previous governess, Miss Jessel, had a torrid affair with the valet Peter Quint (Peter Wyngarde). The children were exposed to the lovers' erotic trysts and Quint's brutality and were consequently corrupted by them. Quint died under mysterious circumstances and Miss Jessel committed suicide by drowning herself in a lake. Their ghosts still haunt the estate and later, after seeing the apparitions for herself, Miss Giddens is convinced that the spirits of the adult couple have possessed the bodies of the children. The writing is brilliant. Some of the script, lifted from the original play, was written by Truman Capote, who manages to slip in subtle, discreet innuendo, particularly in the scenes with the precocious boy Miles, who behaves like a miniature Truman Capote. He always speaks to his nanny as if he were an adult gentleman and not just a little boy she's taking care of. There is enough evidence in the film to suggest that Miss Gidden is not just imagining things or has lost her mind, unlike the more ambiguous Henry James novel. In the film, we see what Miss Giddens sees through the window during a game of hide and seek when she first sees the specter of Quint face to face and when she encounters Miss Jessel as seen from a distance by the lake where she drowned and also in the library where she again sees her this time far closer in person and even touches her tears. There are many unforgettable moments in the film that paved the way for later horror movies. There have been many film versions of The Turn of the Screw and a recent adaptation was with Nicole Kidman entitled "The Others". The ghostly presence of former residents of a house has also been seen in recent films like "The Grudge" or "A Haunting In Conneticut". Two scenes that stand out is when the children are reading an eerie poem "What shall I sing to my lord at the window?' which is actually about the relationship with Miles and the dead Quint and the scene when Miss Giddens, alone in the house in the dark with a lantern, hears a melange of eerie noises and screams that seem to fit inside a haunted house attraction ride! At this time in early 60's horror films, sound effects were more sophisticated and this film definitely makes use of them - the children's song serves as an eerie, unsettling musical theme, the children's laughter, Quint's sinister laugh and voice, Miss Jessel's cries of pain, screams, sudden gusts of wind and doors closing with powerful force. The story reaches dramatic heights toward the end when Miss Giddens attempts to get rid of the ghosts and their influence over the children. The finale is both climatic and disturbing. With eerie and exciting music by Georges Auric and a Gothic cinematography by Freddie Francis, this is a classic horror movie that although tame by today's standards is a perfect example of drama and mystery coming together and the results are spine-tingling.
Sleeping Beauty (1959)
Disney's Animated Epic Classic: Sleeping Beauty
Sleeping Beauty (1959): Verna Felton, Barbara Jo Allen, Barbara Luddy, Eleanor Audley, Mary Costa, Bill Shirley, Taylor Holmes, Bill Thompson, Candy Candido, Bill Amsbery, Pinto Colvig, Dal MacKennon, Marvin Miller, Thurl Ravenscroft...Director...Clyde Geronimi..Screenplay/Writing...Erdaman Penner, Joe Rinaldi, Winston Hibler, Bill Peet, Ted Sears, Ralph Wright, Milt Banta...Based on the Charles Perrault fairy tale and the ballet by Peter Ilych Tchaikovsky with music arranged by George Bruns.
The Masterpiece: When released in 1959, Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty heralded a new era in it's company's animated films that would continue into the 1960's. It was a film that cost Disney 6 million dollars and his most cherished creation that took the entire decade of the 1950's to complete. The result was a beloved and world renowned fairy tale come to epic life on the big screen in Technorama, with amazing sound, color and beautiful music and melodies/themes lifted from Tchaikovsky's ballet score. It was for the folks at Disney their masterpiece not unlike epic movies that had been impressing audiences by the late 50's to compete with home television - The Ten Commandments, Ben Hur, etc. But the crown is definitely the animation and bold new cinematic look. This brilliant new look was breathtaking for 1959 audiences who had never seen anything like it. It was a kind of animated epic drama or opera. It owed to principal animator Eyvin Earle's stylistic and artsy technique, plus the contributions of great animators like Don Bluth (who would later in the 80's create films like The Land Before Time, etc) and even Chuck Jones who did work for Looney Tunes. Despite following the "fairy tale book" genre that Disney had done with "Snow White" and "Cinderella", the fairy tale presented in the film is not based on the simplistic original. It is an original Disney re-make of the old and distinctly European tale. Rather than seeing it as a fairy tale, one must see it as being fantasy fiction. Its look borrows from 1400's pre-Renaissance/Gothic Medieval paintings, "Joan of Arc" times, Christian and Catholic Europe, coat of arms, embroidery, drapes, banners and architecture. The castles are very European and in fact resemble castles depicted in illustrated manuscripts and even King Ludwig's Neuschwanstein castle in Bavaria, Germany, for which Disney modeled the Disneyland castle in California. Everything is bigger than what it was originally in the tale and it ultimately deals with good versus evil and the protection of an innocent princess by the forces of good from an evil prophecy. The epic battle between Prince Phillip and Maleficent as a Dragon suddenly becomes a sword-and-sorcery fantasy complete with a hero and heroine.Plot: King Stefan and his Queen have their long awaited child/heir Princess Aurora and the whole kingdom celebrates by a lavish and ritualistic, almost Catholic Christening. The Three Good Fairies (in primary colors red, green and blue) Flora (Verna Felton), Fauna (Barbara Jo Allen) and the feisty Merriwether (Barbara Luddy) bestow Aurora with blessings and gifts of beauty, grace and song. But the country's outcast fairy, who is in fact an evil sorceress Maleficent, bitter at not being invited and more so for not being "wanted" takes revenge by cursing Aurora with an evil prophecy: On her 16th birthday she will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and die. Merriwether's gift: the reverse spell of putting her to sleep until her true love kisses her. The 3 Fairies take no chances and decide to raise the girl as their own ward in a secluded cottage in the deep woods. Aurora grows into a beautiful young maiden with a beautiful singing voice (Mary Costa vocalizes). Before she knows it, she's met Prince Phillip, out for a ride in the woods, and does not know that he was her betrothed all along. Neither of them are aware of their previous roles as future Prince and Princess. Upon Aurora's return to the castle where she was born, Maleficent uses her dark magic to hypnotize the princess and have her prick her finger on a dark spinning wheel made by witchcraft. The 3 Faries put the entire kingdom to sleep. Maleficent kidnaps Prince Phillip, complicating things until the Fairies rescue him. It's now a direct conflict between Maleficent and the Prince, between good and evil, for the fate of Princess Aurora.The films of Walt Disney, beginning with Snow White, including Fantasia, and the films made in the 50's- Peter Pan, Alice In Wonderland, and Lady And The Tramp, seemed to climax with the "new" style of Sleeping Beauty. It was the pinnacle of Disney's animated movies at the time and a fitting fireworks finale to a decade of great movies.
Il fantasma dell'opera (1998)
R-Rated Phantom Without The Romance
Dario Argento's Phantom Of The Opera (1998: Starring Julian Sands, Asia Argento, Nadia Rinaldi, Andrea Di Stefano, Lucia Gazzardi, Aldo Massasso, Iztvan Bubik, David D'Ingeo, Zoltan Barabas, Kitti Kerri, Leonardo Treviglio, Enzo Cardogna, Itala Bekes, Tania Nagel, Csilla Ward, Gianni Franco, Gabor Harsai....Director Dario Argento, Written By Dario Argento.
Released in 1998, this is Italian cinema director Dario Argento's Phantom but not the Phantom of the Opera as most people are familiar with nor the truest and most faithful adaptation of the old French novel by Gaston Leroux. This one is clearly a horror movie without any touch of romance. Fans of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical and the earlier Phantom movies from Lon Cheney's classic performance to Claude Rains, Herbert Lom and Charles Dance, this film is entirely on a different level. It falls under the category of Italian horror and international casting in an unpleasant, disturbing and gory independent film. No wonder it did not do well in the box office and most Phantom fans aren't even aware of its existence. Dario Argento cast his own daughter in the role of Christine Daee, and British actor Julian Sands as the Phantom. This time around, the Phantom is NOT disfigured, which is the strongest violation of the original premise. Instead of having facial deformities, the Phantom is an abandoned child who was raised by telepathic rats that kill people. Living under the opera house with his rats, he's developed telepathy himself and a dirty, dark, predatory and disgusting personality. He looks like either a vampire or rock star but there is no real sense of romance. His feelings for Christine are carnal and nothing more. She becomes his lover but other than music and her voice, theirs is a purely sexual relationship. Because of this, and because he kills anyone he dislikes, he's not a sympathetic figure. Without the romance, we can't really feel anything for this Phantom who is pure evil. The story is only partially faithful to the original tale. It is set at the Paris Opera of the 1870's and the Count Raoul De Chagny is Christine's choice of a mate, but this time around we genuinely feel that she belongs with the normal, secure and more romantic Count than the sadistic and no good Phantom. The performances are over-the-top and boring, even Carlotta, the fat soprano who thinks she is above all else. The classic chandelier drop is here but this time it's far more bloody than usual. There are scenes of graphic violence that earned this movie an R rating and ought not to be viewed by sensitive audiences or children. The music is beautiful, haunting and evocative of the period (with the use of the aria from Lakme) and the cinematography, costumes and art direction is truly very Phantom, including the "Degas ballerinas" touches, but there is very little to like about this movie. For comic relief, there is a rat exterminator and a midget which seem absurd and out of place for this tale. The real problem is the lack of direction and lack of romanticism. It's just one movie of Dario Argento's dark ouevre that happens to have the Phantom of the Opera as subject, but he twisted it around to make it his work and his style. Unless you're a fan of the Italian director, you'll otherwise find it too dark and disturbing. The only other "horror-themed" Phantom I can think of is the 1989 Robert Englund Phantom, an American film starring the actor of the Freddy Kueger films, but even that one had more interesting qualities. This one is too sick.
Shock Treatment (1981)
The Lesser Sequel To Rocky Horror Picture Show And Satire on Reality TV
Shock Treatment (1981): Richard O'Brien, Cliff De Young, Jessica Harper, Patricia Quinn, Charles Grey, Nelle Campbell, Rik Mayall, Barry Humphries, Darlene Johnson, Manning Redwood, Jeremy Newson, Betsy Brantley, Perry Bedden, Christopher Malcolm, Ray Charleson, Imgone Claire, Eugene Lipinski, Barry Dennen....Original Music by Richard O'Brien, Richard Harley...Director Jim Sharman.
Shock Treatment, released in 1981, was the follow-up to the far more popular and successful musical "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" of 1975. Richard O'Brien, the lyricist and Richard Harley the composer, teamed up once again to make this lesser sequel for the new MTV generation of the 1980's. Despite using the same characters of Brad and Janet, and some of the same actors from Rocky Horror, namely Richard O'Brien, Patricia Quinn, Nelle "Little Nelle" Campbell and Charles Grey (who was the narrator in Rocky Horror), there is still no real semblance to Rocky Horror Picture Show and it's a completely different animal. Gone is the vulgarity of the original, the in-your-face raunchy humor, the camp and the overall fun spirit of Rocky Horror. Also, the plot in this sequel is painfully thin compared to the science fiction/horror parody of the first and it turns out to be simply a boring musical satire about empty glamour of the 80's, the consumerism and materialism of pop culture. Why the creative genius of the Rocky Horror Picture Show should want to make a "thinking man's comedy" is beyond me. If you're like me, you only watched this because it's got the Rocky Horror Picture Show team working on a new musical but it's no Rocky Horror Picture Show. Ultimately, it's too long, boring and the songs aren't even as good. But here's the plot for those curious enough to see this train wreck of a film: Brad and Janet, fresh from their adventures with the ghouls from the Rocky Horror Picture Show (Frank'N'Furter is dead, Riff Raff and Magenta and the rest return to Transsexual Transylvania), return to their beloved and wholesome American small town of Denton. But they soon discover that even this Rockefeller painting of a town is not what it used to be. The whole town has been invaded by the phenomenon of Television and everyone is part of the audience or performers of a hugely popular game show. The whole thing is eerily like what today we call reality television. The "real lives" of certain people are seen as either glamorous or deplorable. In the case of Brad and Janet, Janet decides to liberate herself from her formerly submissive "housewife" role of Brad's woman and turns into a glamorous TV soap star, with the ad and flattery of creepy, agenda-driven producers. The industry mogul is himself Brad Majors' own long lost brother who intends to crush his brother whom he is jealous of and win the heart of Janet Weiss. Brad is sent to a mental asylum where he undergoes the eponymous "shock treatment" by its managers played by Richard O'Brien and Patricia Quinn, who are NOT Riff Raff and Magenta but entirely new characters. In the end, even Janet realizes she's been brainwashed and turned into a product rather than a whole person and she, Brad, her best friend Betty and Betty's new boyfriend (Charles Grey) decide to leave the crazy TV-infected town.The songs are creatively written, no doubt, and only a few are actually good including "Denton USA" and "Shock Treatment" but this time around the songs are too "intellectual" and satirical. They contain none of the nonsense and campy humor of Rocky Horror Picture Show and therefore are forgettable songs. Everyone knows the songs from Rocky Horror Picture Show and their respective scenes/plot point/ from the movie but with Shock Treatment, the whole thing is like some weird and crazy MTV video spoof. Nevertheless, it contains fine cinematography, and often it does seem to fit into MTV individualized videos. But the story itself is too dull and meaningless. At least with RHPS there was an obvious satire of science fiction and horror mixed with 1970's decadence. Shock Treatment manages to put you in a state of shock, straps you into a chair and gives you high dosage of insane music, color, 80's fashion and pop culture. It's really very sad that this was the last we saw or heard of the Rocy Horror team.
Carnal Cravings (2006)
A "Relationship" Softcore Flick For Women
Carnal Cravings (2007): Starring Monique Parent, Danny Pape, Monique Alexander, Tyler Faith, Jassie, Dino Bravo, Billy Chappell, Cytherea.....Director.. J. W. McHausen...Screenplay..April White, Edward Gorsuch...Original Music..Bruce Edwards, Cinematography...David Ortkiese....Casting...Robert C. Lombard...Produced By...Marc L. Greenberg, Elena Shuman.
In this soft core adult B movie, made by the creative forces that do these type of adult films on Cable TV, namely late night Cinemax, Showtime or The Movie Channel, Monique Parent stars as Natalie, a beautiful and mature psychiatrist who organizes a "sex therapy" class for relationships whose sex lives are in trouble. Three beautiful young women, Debbie (Monique Alexander), Sharon (Tyler Faith) and Brooke (Jassie) are having problems with their men - Rob (Danny Pape), Mitch (Dino Bravo) and Jeff (Billy Chappell). They complain to their therapist that their sex lives are missing a spark, that it's routine and dull. After each session, they attempt to practice what they've learned but each time a problem ensues. For Debbie, things get really complicated when her boyfriend's wife (whom he hasn't divorced yet) shows up again and lures him to bed (played by Cytherea). This throws her into the arms of her girlfriend Sharon with whom she had once experimented sexually. But this time Sharon and Debbie engage in a threesome with Sharon's man Mitch. That doesn't work out either since Sharon becomes jealous of Debbie. It's not until at the end when everyone confronts each other and their problems directly in a therapy session that their problems are resolved and everyone's sex life is good again - and a foursome in a hot tub marks their celebration! As for as the sex goes, there are several sex scenes between each couple, female masturbation scenes, a threesome and foursome finale. The quality of the sex scenes are the same kind of eroticism regularly seen on cable TV late night, without graphic or actual hardcore sex. Great music plays as the slow motion sex happens and if you're a fan of soft core adult movies, this one is a good one. But since it has lots of dialog scenes and couples being couples, it's going to be dubbed a woman's porno and or "couples' porno". If you're sex life really needs improvement, this movie might help you! Keep in mind that all this is the stuff Cinemax is made of, so despite the realism of couples with problems, this sort of stuff does not happen in real life. It's rather long for the usual one hour deals on cable, and it does have lots of dialog and acting (which I like). The therapist played by Monique Parent, while a good performance, is unrealistic. All that sex in her own home! Sex is still the focus of this film and the objective is to get the couples to prioritize sex, albeit to save their relationship. "Carnal Cravings" is a soft core adult film for women. It's obvious that some male viewers, as shown by the previous review, find "relationship" talk and "thinking man's sex" too much of a "chick flick" kinda movie, and seems oddly out of place in the real of porno. But one has to remember that soft core is not exactly mainstream porno. These movies are made by independent movie companies and the actors are not actual adult film stars (though some are) and they specialize in soft core adult films, which usually entails dialog, acting and a PLOT. When a real plot is thrown into an adult film, it suddenly becomes a little more than a porno. This is what classic porno of the 70's was like, but nowadays the porn industry has eliminated plot, character and good scripts in favor of solid hardcore sex scenes. It's refreshing to see an adult movie that leaves you thinking, feeling and even learning something. I liked the acting, especially by Monique Parent, whose done several of these kind of movies. It's a really cool film in the end. Women should enjoy this! I know I did.
Cult Classic Comedy Musical
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975): Starring Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, Richard O'Brien, Charles Gray, Patricia Quinn, Nell Campbell, Meatloaf, Peter Hinwood, Jonathan Adams, Jeremy Newson...Director Jim Sharman, Screenplay Richard O'Brien, Based On The Stage Musical/Music and Lyrics Richard O'Brien. Produced By Lou Adler, Michael Whiet and John Goldstone, Cinematography Peter Suschitzky, Costume Design By Sue Blane Since 1975, The Rocky Horror Pictures Show has delighted audiences during its long run of midnight movie showings and it has a high place among cult classic films. Outwardly, it's a hilarious, campy, nutty homage to sci fi movies and horror movies pre-1970's (RKO films like King Kong are spoofed, Frankenstein, Dracula, and 50's aliens from outer space movies). But its inner magic comes from the no hold-bars liberal spirit which belonged to the 1970's, a time of gay pride, open sexuality, vulgarity, craziness and overall non-conformity. The film showed an openly bisexual transvestite as its lead character. The movie was released after the success of the stage musical in London by Richard O'Brien who did the music and lyrics (and starred in the film version as Riff Raff). O'Brien followed the success of Rocky Horror with a less successful sequel "Shock Treatment" in 1982.
Plot: Brad Majors (Bostwick) and Janet Weiss (Sarandon) have just gotten engaged after attending a friend's wedding in the old-fashioned, 1950's like town of Denton, USA. During a rainstorm, their car breaks down and they enter an old castle to call for roadside assistance. Here, they immediately become the new prisoners and playthings for its decadent and wild master, the scientist/vampire Frank'N'Furter (Curry). After a Transylvanian party, Frank'N'Furter invites his new guests to witness his latest creation- a muscular blonde man named Rocky (Hinwood) whom he later marries. But Frank'N'Furter's crazy sexual cravings soon includes both Brad and Janet, whose morals are corrupted. Not used to the craziness of the castle, they soon become victims. Before long, it becomes necessary for wheelchair-bound Dr. Scott (Adams)to save them. Wo are Frank'N'Furter and his servants Riff-Raff and Magenta? Ghouls ? Aliens ? What devilish plan has Frank'N'Furter formed ? Tim Curry's performance as the transvestite castle master is sheer comic brilliance. With his powerful rock star voice and over the top personality, he shines in such scenes/songs as "Sweet Transvestite" and "I Can Make You A Man". Other numbers include an homage to rock music "Hot Patoo-tie" by Meatloaf as a psychotic motorcycle rider. There's the famous dance number "Time Warp" and more moving and artful songs "Science Fiction Double Feature" which opens the film and "Over At The Frankenstein's Plac" and the sad concluding songs "I'm Going Home" and "Super Heroes". Nelle Campelle "Little Nelle" is delightful as his groupie Columbia and Patricia Quinn is exotic as the Transylvanian maid Magenta. The cinematography by Sushutzky is meant to resemble the Hammer studios/Eastman color horror movies with its depiction of haunted houses. There is never a dull moment in this highly entertaining 2 hour film. But keep in mind, this movie has always been an adult movie, not so much because it includes partial nudity, but because it deals with the themes of bisexuality, transvestite lifestyle and jokes that adults could understand but are lost to minors. Also, the age of this film shows when compared to comedies of today. It's a classic that is still beloved by many who still flock to midnight showings.