Ho-kay, folks, see if you can wrap your head around this plot: When an irascible old fart who's confined to a wheelchair (Ferrer) decides all of his cumulative woes and problems are solely the fault of his much younger trophy wife (Lyon), he vows to kill her. Now, sure, cinematically speaking, this standard and well tread plot is never as easy as it sounds, and so, filmmakers like to spice things up and throw a few more bananas into the plot-pudding, hoping to make it taste better than the last time -- or at least taste a little different. Here, producer and director Charles Band decided what this tired old plot needed was a demon-possessed automobile to, and I quote, "Smash other, defenseless cars into a mass of twisted metal."
Now we're getting somewhere! But how will this development help the husband murder the wife, you ask? Well, it doesn't, but that part of the plot is nothing more than an excuse to set-up the killer car. See, when Mr. Crankypants sics his murder weapon of choice, his pet Doberman, on the wife, she tries to escape in her trusty convertible. Of course this strategy backfires since the top is down, allowing the dog to hop in and severely maul the victim, causing a horrendous wreck, which she barely survives.
Rushed to the hospital, mummified in bandages, her mind lost to shock and amnesia, the only thing the wife seems to react to is a trinket recently found at a swap meet, currently held in a death-grip, that is allegedly in the shape of an ancient demon named Akaza -- though honestly, this totem looks more like a one-eyed gremlin trying to pinch-off a deuce.
Anyways ... soon enough, the constipated demon not only possesses her but also re-animates her junked auto AND her husbands well-chair! Turning them both into sentient, rampaging vehicles bent on homicidal vengeance, culminating in a Mexican stand-off between the no-goodnik husband and the killer car from hell.
Only future Full Moon front man Charles Band would have the kahonies to try and cash in on the dubious demon-possession and The Amazing Dobermans and the cataclysmic car chase-n-wreck boom of the late 1970's all in the same movie. And though most sources claim this film wasn't released until 1977, I've got some contradicting ads for Crash! from December of 1976. Whenever it was released, one can only hope they handed out souvenir Akaza totems at the concession stand. Sadly, this whole plot description is completely second hand as I've yet to have the privilege of seeing this, though not for a lack of trying. Please, somebody, anybody, get this thing out on DVD or Blu-ray or streaming as soon as humanly possible. Thanks.
Crash! (1976) BLC Services Inc. :: Group 1 International Distribution Organization Ltd. / P: Charles Band / D: Charles Band / W: Marc Marais / C: Andrew Davis / E: Harry Keramidas / M: Andrew Belling / S: José Ferrer, Sue Lyon, John Carradine, John Ericson, Leslie Parrish
Courtesy of the always entertaining maestro of Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule, my terminally late (-- it's OK, my doctor gave me a note and everything) answers to Sister Clodagh's Superficially Spiritual, Ambitiously Agnostic Last-Rites-of-Spring Movie Quiz.
1) Favorite movie featuring nuns
2) Second favorite John Frankenheimer movie
3) William Bendix or Scott Brady?
Nobody loves William Bendix.
Nobody but me.
4) What movie, real or imagined, would you stand in line six hours to see? Have you ever done so in real life?
Oh, say, if Joe Dante ever got it into his head to do a remake of THEM!, sure ... For realsies, it wasn't quite six hours, but the line to see The Empire Strikes Back was long enough but worth it.
5) Favorite Mitchell Leisen movie
Well, I've only seen two, Kitty and Lady in the Dark, and though I love pretty much everyone involved, cast wise (Paulette Goddard, Ray Milland, Ginger Rogers), neither really did a whole lot for me.
6) Ann Savage or Peggy Cummins?
In a fight? I think Savage could take her. Three rounds. Tops. On screen? Cummins. So let's call that a push.
7) First movie you remember seeing as a child
A matinee double-feature of Disney's Blackbeard's Ghost and The Gnome-Mobile. Can't remember which was top-billed.
8) What moment in a movie that is not a horror movie made you want to bolt from the theater screaming?
Not from a theater, but, the scene in The Naked Prey (1966), where the natives torture and kill Cornel Wilde's hunting party, especially the native levy, who was coated and cocooned in clay and then cooked alive and crushed as the coating contracted in the heat, had me screaming "THAT AIN"T RIGHT!" at the top of my lungs. That scene still gives me the drizzles just thinking about it, and is the reason why I will never, ever watch that movie again.
9) Richard Widmark or Robert Mitchum?
Who gets to tell the other that they didn't win? Not me, brother. Next.
10) Best movie Jesus
Alan Arbus as "Jesse" in Greaser's Palace. Not trying to be a wise-ass, here, either. I dug the hell out of that movie. "If you feel you're healed."
11) Silliest straight horror film that you’re still fond of
I watch the network broadcast of this religiously every Easter. The only thing I do do religiously around Easter. Even invented my own drinking game for it.
14) Favorite cinematic moment of unintentional humor
Again, from Frankenheimer's Prophecy, when the giant mutant bear attacks the family of campers and punches the kid stuck in a sleeping bag, sending him flying into a rock, which causes him to explode in a shower of down filling. Look for yourselves if you dare....
17) Movie that makes the best case for agnosticism
18) Favorite song and/or dance sequence from a musical
It does to count! That's a musical, and they're just dancing with cars to Booker T. and the MG's. And if you'd like a more traditional answer, I love that part in Singing in the Rain. You know, that part between the opening and closing credits. Loved that part.
19) Third favorite Howard Hawks movie
20) Clara Bow or Jean Harlow?
Harlow is great but wins this by default. Haven't had the pleasure of seeing Bow in action yet.
21) Movie most recently seen in the theater? On DVD/Blu-ray/Streaming?
Theater: The Avengers (Four times and counting...) DVD: The Great Texas Dynamite Chase Blu-ray: N/A Streaming: Shack Out on 101
22) Most unlikely good movie about religion
I believe in Kowalski's God. I feel secure and humbled knowing that after all his trials and tribulations, tempered by the desert heat, shunning prophets and false prophets alike, Kowalski died for all our sins, and that he is still out there, somewhere, foot on the floor, going hellbent toward another, endless horizon. So, when next you face a moral dilemma or a crisis of conscience, just ask yourself: What Would Kowalski Do?
23) Phil Silvers or Red Skelton?
24) “Favorite” Hollywood scandal
Favorite probably isn't the right word, but, apparently, while on location filming Call of the Wild, stars Loretta Young and Clark Gable had a fling with one of those pesky nine-months later results. (Gable was married at the time, Young was between the first of three.) And fearing for both their careers, and being a staunch Catholic (-- unless we're talking about adultery and divorce, which she already had partook at least once on both counts and would do again on the later), Young hid the pregnancy, rather ridiculously, even so far as to having a press conference in bed covered in blankets to hide the evidence and dispel the rumors. When the baby was born, a girl, she was clandestinely placed in an orphanage by Young's mother. Never fear, when the girl neared the age of two, Young "adopted" her back, apparently the plan all along. Alas, genetics kinda gave it away, especially her father's wing-flap ears, and the poor girl would go through life as one of Hollywood's worst kept secrets. A secret her mother, being a staunch Catholic, would deny and surgically hide (those aforementioned ears went under the knife and were pinned back) until a final, private confrontation, where, after vomiting, Young admitted to the daughter that she was nothing more than a walking "mortal sin." Young would eventually make the knowledge public, posthumously, of course, in her autobiography. And this kind of action, putting a child through this, for that, is the reason I will continue to poke organized religion, any organized religion, with a sharp stick it so thoroughly deserves.
25) Best religious movie (non-Christian)
26) The King of Cinema: King Vidor, King Hu or Henry King? (Thanks, Peter)
*ahem* I'm sorry. Couldn't hear you over the big, roaring monkey. What were those choices again? King who?
27) Name something modern movies need to relearn how to do that American or foreign classics had down pat
Slow down, let the actors hit their mark, hold the camera steady, let special effects enhance your film, not define it, and stop trying to set records for the number of edits per minute per movie.
28) Least favorite Federico Fellini movie
Sadly, I've only seen La Dolce Vita and enjoyed it thoroughly.
29) The Three Stooges (2012)—yes or no?
Nah. But, as they say, your mileage may vary.
30) Mary Wickes or Patsy Kelly?
31) Best movie-related conspiracy theory
Three Men and a Ghost.
32) Your candidate for most misunderstood or misinterpreted movie
It's not about the car, folks. See answer to 22.
33) Movie that made you question your own belief system (religious or otherwise)
I didn't think it was possible to find the actual "worst movie ever made." I always figured that no matter how far you dug into the primordial slime in the rental racks, YouTube holes, or the depths of Netflix instant, there would always be something even worse out there, waiting for my cine-masochistic tendencies. That is, I did, until I saw this: the perfect balance of brain-addling tedium, stock-footage abuse, asinine characters, country-line dancing, flatulence jokes, and, oddly enough, no werewolves (-- sorry, a red-tinted POV shot does not count). There might be something out there that's worse than this, but I don't know if I actually want to find it let alone see it.
While a sadistic sexual predator runs around loose in London, leaving a trail of strangled women in his wake, all adorning his signature necktie, a surly and perpetually down-on-his-luck bartender (Finch) picks the wrong time to have a very public dust-up with his ex-wife, especially when the strangler tags her as the next victim! And as the false-witness and circumstantial evidence mounts against him, including the murder of his current girlfriend, our protagonist turns to his best friend (Foster) as his last chance of escape. Unfortunately, the best friend in question is the real killer (-- no, that's not really a spoiler, trust me), who is doing his damnedest to frame our hapless hero and lead the cops right to his doorstep. Knock. Knock...
In the annals of movie history, has there been a less sympathetic wronged man than John Finch's Blaney? What a pompous, passive/agressive ass. So is it any wonder, then, when the master-manipulator has us in the back of the potato truck, we're sweating it out with Barry Foster's Rusk as he tries to get the incriminating tie-pin back, hoping the killer will succeed -- and thus get away with murder? Wait. What?!? *snap*crackle*pop* goes the rigor'd fingers ... Yeah. Once again, we're all confused as to who we should be rooting for, which is one of the many reasons why I love this nasty and twisted little film so much.
Now, one of the biggest knocks against Hitchcock is How can he be considered such a cinematic genius when all he ever did was keep making the same movie over an over again. It's a legitimate beef, too, though perhaps skewed a bit by target fixation. Here, we've got another wronged man at the mercy of the authorities (The Wrong Man), we've got another hero on the run (North by Northwest, Saboteur), we've got a homicidal sexual pervert (Psycho), we've got several scenes where we're rooting for the more charismatic killer (Strangers on a Train), we've got a killer trying to hide a body in a steamer trunk (Rope), and it even falls apart in the clumsy third act (Dial M for Murder), only to end on one of the greatest "Oh shit!" moments in cinema history. So, yeah, Frenzy could be considered nothing more than patchwork quilt of Hitchcock's greatest hits. But what, may I ask, is exactly wrong with that?
Remember, this is after a couple of box-office swings and misses that were outside his wheel-house (Torn Curtain, Topaz). So, can you blame the guy for returning to London and a genre he knew inside and out? And in so doing connected right on the sweet-spot? And the only thing, I think, keeping Frenzy out of the same breath as the likes of Vertigo, Notorious and North by Northwest as one of the greatest Hitchcock movies ever is the odious comedy relief provided by the chief inspector and his culinary-impaired wife, where every meal felt like an inside joke that I wasn't privy to. Look, I like these characters, but while we should be laughing at these intrusions I got the distinct feeling they were laughing at me instead, and, thus and so, wore out their welcome rather quickly.
Still, there's a lot to like. And what I like the most is the juxtaposition between the murders of Brenda, the ex-wife (Leigh-Hunt), and Babs, the current girlfriend (Massey). By 1972, being pushed aside by the artistic brutality of Argento, Romero, and Polanski, Hitch was on the verge of ... not obsolescence, but, quaintness. But with Brenda, where we see the assault and murder from the beginning to its gruesome end, the old master ditched his usual tricks of implication and showed these young film turks that what they do isn't all that hard. Now compare that to the later murder, where Rusk escorts the unsuspecting Babs to his flat, where the camera follows them up the stairs, but once the door closes, sealing Babs' grisly fate, the camera silently retreats back down the way it came, back into the noisy streets, knowing full well we'll never see Babs alive again, and then ask yourself which has more of an impact? That's right. And this sequence, I think, is the absolute zenith of Hitchcock's fluid, voyeuristic camera tricks and a fine capper on his career. Because, between you and me, I like to pretend Family Plot never happened.
And since this will be my last post for this Hitchcock hootenanny, it's time I fessed up to something. When this Blogathon was announced I figured I'd best get to re-watching some of these movies. Only then did I realize how light my home video library was on the tributee in question. Aside from an old clam-shell VHS copy of Psycho bought at a library liquidation -- which, upon closer inspection, hadn't even been removed from the plastic-wrap -- there was nary a Hitchcock movie to be found, DVD, DVD-R, VHS, Betamax, Laser Disc, taped, recorded, downloaded or otherwise. Nada. Zilch. Somewhere between shit and squat. And as such a self-proclaimed huge fan, I just found it strange that I was never so enamored by any one film in particular to actually purchase it to watch at a moments notice. Sure. There are plenty that could be. But maybe that's not such a bad thing. Keeping some things at arms length may actually make you appreciate them even more when you stumble upon them on cable, or it randomly gets suggested up in your Netflix que, or forces you to go out of your way to see. E'yup. Maybe not such a bad thing at'all.
This, alas, is my last post for the For the Love of Film Blogathon, a new age telethon to raise funds for The National Film Preservation Foundation to help bring The White Shadow (a/k/a White Shadows), an early silent film that a certain master of suspense did just about everything for except direct — assistant director, screenwriter, film editor, production designer, art director, and set decorator, to the streaming masses and help defray the costs of adding a new musical soundtrack.
Frenzy (1972) Universal Pictures / P: Alfred Hitchcock / AP: William Hill / D: Alfred Hitchcock / W: Anthony Shaffer, Arthur La Bern (novel) / C: Gilbert Taylor / E: John Jympson / M: Ron Goodwin / S: Jon Finch, Barry Foster, Anna Massey, Barbara Leigh-Hunt, Alec McCowen, Michael Bates, Billie Whitelaw