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De vierde man (1983)
Another Masterpiece from the Dutch Master
One of the best filmmakers to come out of Europe in the 1970s, Paul Verhoeven amassed a superb portfolio of work as a director in the Netherlands. De Vierde Man is Verhoeven's sixth film his last before moving to Hollywood and continues, in fine form, from his masterful back catalogue. The film is a Hitchockian-like thriller, as a writer becomes involved with rich femme fatale and subsequently discovers that she's already disposed of three husbands and fears he could be the fourth man of the title. Quite a mainstream thriller then. Ha, not with Verhoeven behind the camera; there's plenty of artsy symbolism, outrageous religious imagery (seriously, the Church of Holland must've gone absolutely bonkers over the scene in the cathedral!), a gay romance sub-plot, plus the usual sex and violence to frequent Verhoeven's work you won't see that in any blockbuster this summer! The acting from Verhoeven regular Jeroen Krabbé and Renée Soutendijk (from Spetters) is also excellent. Incidentally, Verhoeven claims to have added the symbolism to appease the Dutch film critics who mauled his previous masterpiece, Spetters, for being overly sensationalist and devoid of morals.
The Last House on the Left (1972)
A sadistic, vile and primal piece of filmmaking
"To avoid fainting keep repeating, it's only a movie (add infinity)", so reads the tagline of this grim, gruesome and extremely notorious of B seventies horrors. Dreamt up by now legendary screen shock veterans Wes Craven and Sean S. Cunningham Last House on the Left (cool title) is a sick little tale, shot with documentarian realism, of rape, mutilation and bloody revenge set in a rural American countryside. The blood splatters just like in any decent horror then or now but, for me, the torture and humiliation inflicted on two young girls on the cusp of womanhood by Krug & Company are what sickens the most about this film (although the penis munching scene makes me want to cross my legs each time I 'see it' - nothing is actually shown; the imagination making up the rest). As mentioned, the film is shot using a documentary style approach, making the viewer (voyeur?) watch on, close enough for the blood to splash the face but powerless to stop the violence being witnessed on screen. Craven actually takes the central idea from Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring (without the divine miracle ending) and so exposes a terrifying sub-strata of life that society at the time was not used, or ready to be exposed to but was lurking beneath the surface and occasionally reared it's ugly head (there's a bit of the Manson family in Krug's lot, dontcha think?) much like Tobe Hooper's Texas Chainsaw Massacre the only contemporary of this film. Last House caused incredible controversy, reaching fever pitch over here in the UK where it was banned by the brainless buffoons of the BBFC it being one of the more high profile 'Video Nasties'. Despite the hysteria dying down over the years, the dark cloud of censorship (which still refuses to relent even as I write this in 2011!) hung over Last House on the Left for many years. The film did see release but with cuts until just recently when it was released fully uncut and uncensored (finally). It remains a cult classic of modern horror cinema and remains a sadistic, vile and primal piece of filmmaking. Hard to believe now that this was the debut feature of Craven, the darling of mainstream horror in the '90s with the Scream trilogy but I guess we all gotta start at the bottom. Joking aside, I hold a deep fascination with underground horrors of the '60s and '70s and Last House does more for me than any Hostel or Saw big budget, glossy, 'torture porn' movie ever will. Trivia note: the score in this film is performed by none other than Krug himself, David Hess. Bonus: The new 3 Disc Ultimate Edition DVD features the whole movie uncut and contains over five hours of special features including the documentary Going To Pieces: The Rise & Fall Of The Slasher Film which is really cool but has nothing to do with Last House on the Left!
Last Exit to Brooklyn (1989)
An underrated gem that stays faithful to Selby's novel.
Hubert Selby, Jr's controversial novel Last Exit to Brooklyn is a classic and is transferred to the big screen brilliantly by underrated German director Uli Edel. The film stays very faithful to the novel about, possibly, the lowest form of humanity that occupy the decaying streets of Brooklyn in the 1950s; brilliant cinematography giving the film a real sense of high class despite the modest budget. The movie takes place during a bitter factory strike and follows many characters and how their lives intersect. The acting is first rate, with Jennifer Jason Leigh (brilliant as usual) and Stephen Lang (now a cast member of the biggest grossing film in Hollywood history!) taking all the plaudits respectively as Tralala, the hooker with a hart of ice, money is all she knows and cares for; and Harry Black, the repressed homosexual leader of the strike. Indeed, very good all round which surprises me a little that this gem has fallen under the radar. This should've received some recognition from the Academy Awards (in an ideal world, eh?) but I guess the violence put some people off. Such a shame.
Rock Star (2001)
Disappointing in the end
As a Heavy Metal fan I was keen to see this film, even though I had a few doubts going in. However those doubts were soon put to bed as the film progressed. The first half was very enjoyable for a fan of the music. A great sound track and the songs of Steel Dragon had a good 80s rock vibe about them.
The first hour of the film basically takes the story of what happened to Judas Priest in the early 90s: they're singer leaves and they hire a new singer who was previously in a Judas Priest tribute band. However come the second half of the film they really mess things up with the plot. We are somehow supposed to believe that Mark Walhberg's character is obsessed with Steel Dragon and actually singing for them is the ultimate dream come true but then when he actually achieves this dream he is just gonna walk out on it so he can be with his girlfriend who doesn't even support his dream and suddenly get over the band.
I'm sorry, but I just don't buy it. To me it basically said that Heavy Metal is just a phase that you'll one day grow out of. Well any true fan will tell you that this music stays with you for life. To me this movie was not written for fans of the genre because they totally copped out on the ending.
However, I was pleasantly surprised with Mark Walhberg. I still think he is one of the worst actors in Hollywood today, but I thought he handled the role very well. Also, as I said before, the soundtrack was also cool. It was also great to see Steel Dragon made up of actual musicians: Zakk Wylde (Ozzy Osbourne, Black label Society), Jeff Pilson (Dokken)and Jason Bonham (son of late Led Zepplin drummer John Bonham).
A film of two halves so I'm gonna give 5/10 a wasted a potentially good film messed up by ridiculous plot holes.