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By Dean Treadway

pit 1

I have to admit, I was certainly surprised when the first results of this poll were first revealed, mostly because one of my favorite genre entries was not in our top 75. Luckily, when the poll was finally expanded, there was the Hammer film classic Quatermass and the Pit, landing at a too-low #84. I struggled to figure out why and concluded that not a lot of our participants have seen it. It’s been out of print on DVD for many years, and was only released on Blu-Ray in 2011 (and has quickly gone out of print again). Also there could be some confusion lingering as it was (not badly) renamed Five Million Years to Earth upon its 1968 American release (since the estimable UK TV and movie hero Professor Bernard Quatermass was largely an unknown quantity on US shores). Anyway, if I’m right and many of you have missed this bonafide masterpiece (or somehow have forgotten its rather nightmarish power), I’m glad to remind you to see it. For those, it’s now available on You Tube in pristine shape.

The Quatermass series has a complex history. It originated on British TV in 1953, with actor-turned-writer Nigel Kneale’s serial The Quatermass Experiment dramatizing the aftermath of a failed mission to space, resulting in the return to Earth of a single astronaut (out of a three-man crew), upon which Quatermass is charged to figure out why the spaceman’s flesh is slowly deteriorating. Reginald Tate would be the first of many actors to assay the role, and the piece would be remade for cinemas in 1955 with Brian Donlevy in the lead (the film would be rather strangely retitled The Creeping Unknown in the US). (more…)

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85. Zardoz (1974)

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By Roderick Heath

The success of Deliverance (1972) turned John Boorman into a major figure on the cinematic landscape, and gave him the opportunity to do almost anything he wanted. Almost. He first tried to realise an adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, and after the potential expense scuppered that project, Boorman remained excited by the idea of tackling an invented, fantastical world. An idea had come to him whilst working on Tolkien for a tale set in a distant future where extreme science fiction ideas could commingle with motifs and atmosphere out of mythology, the realm to which his thoughts were increasingly turning as he contemplated the unease of humanity with itself and the world it lived in. The result, Zardoz, has been extremely divisive work since it was released. There’s no doubting that if Boorman had set out to make a film that would dazzle and provoke some and strike others as bewildering and absurd, he could not have done better than what he managed with Zardoz. Aspects of the film have even retained a kind of fame though decontextualized, like the mantra “The gun is good, the penis is evil,” and the sight of Sean Connery in a red loincloth, still eternally provocative to the kind of adolescent mindset pervading the internet. From its very first moments, Zardoz announces its strangeness, its odd humour, and its sly understanding of itself as post-modern trip through the idea of myth-making. A man’s face hovers in the darkness, drifting closer to the screen, playing the chorus to the tale he himself is author of, protagonist in, and creation for. He is Arthur Frayn (Niall Buggy), made up like a Renaissance actor’s take on an alchemist or a pharaoh, confessing quickly that he too is just another made-up character for a tale before asking the audience, “And you, poor creature—who conjured you out of the clay? Is God in show business too?”

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Frayn has many secrets to be unveiled in the course of Zardoz, not least of which is that he is the title character, or at least pretends to be. As in any good myth, the death of a god is the pivotal act. In the post-apocalyptic wastes of 2293, Zardoz floats high above the desolate Earth, a giant, floating carving, a fearsome godhead worshipped by the remnant human population known as Brutals. Zardoz preaches a grim testament, encouraging his followers to take up the creed as anointed holy warriors who call themselves Exterminators and wear masks based on Zardoz. These adherents have been charged to kill their fellow humans and wipe the infesting remnant of their species from the face of the world. Zardoz delivers them loads of guns for their purpose. But one of the loyal Exterminators, Zed (Connery), sneaks into the godhead when it lands by hiding in a load of grain, and discovers it’s actually a kind of hovering aircraft, loaded with goods and stores and people in suspended animation, and captained by Frayn. Zed shoots Frayn, who falls from the craft. The Zardoz head lands in an enclosed commune, one of several scattered about the countryside, called the Vortex. Shielded by invisible force-fields, the Vortex is an oasis of green and summery pleasantness in the otherwise forsaken land. Zed explores the Vortex and enters one of the houses, a seemingly ordinary old country house littered with keepsakes and relics from a forgotten world. He discovers a miraculous crystal on a ring that projects Frayn’s image and links to a supercomputer that answers all of Zed’s questions – except for the truly important ones. Zed is soon discovered and apprehended by the inhabitants of the Vortex dubbed the Eternals, a collective of humans who have, thanks to advanced science, achieved life stasis, effectively making them immortal. Even Frayn, dead at Zed’s hand, is already being regrown, his foetus suspended in plastic in the laboratories of the Vortex. (more…)

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blowout-1

 © 2016 by James Clark

      Brian De Palma—a science prodigy and high school wunderkind—could, no doubt, have carved out a peppy career in some corner of what practitioners call “hard science.” At the doorway (in the form of Columbia University) of this generally considered to be fulfilling life, he turned away in favor of becoming a movie maker. Some might jump to the conclusion that he realized he didn’t have what it takes to pursue a “hard” endeavor. My guess is that he came to realize that science isn’t hard enough.

Whereas classical rational science is about managing the architecture of a brilliant intellectual past in order to discern growth potential which could up the ante of discovery, it also functions as a form of church which sustains taboos against regarding sentient entities as logically more cogent than aggregations of elemental particles. It is, I think, the matter of that hostility and coercion which induces, despite the many attractions of scientific research, the drastic turnaround into personas and their seemingly unacceptable, unpredictable actions. Exciting as dynamic scientific discoveries may be, even more exciting (to De Palma) are the truths and consequences of dynamic courage which only full-blown human sensibilities can discover.

The métier which De Palma has settled upon is not without its possibilities of profiting from the architecture of its own brilliant past. Much has been said about his being suffused with the work of Alfred Hitchcock. But that rather ordinary tip of the iceberg traces to Continental avant-gardists as suffused with the energies of the surreal, where humans count for much more (reality) than mathematical flecks. The sensual priorities of this repository entail a remarkable sense of embattlement with mainstream dictates. (In view of this disposition it is well to note that two distinguished colleagues of his generation, namely, Ridley Scott and Michael Mann, present close accompaniment to De Palma’s modus operandi. Mann is particularly significant in being [unusually, for this situation] explicit about his indebtedness to Jean-Pierre Melville—a preposterously underestimated giant—and his own formative years as a close associate with Surrealist jack-of-all-trades, Jean Cocteau.) (more…)

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Beast - and Roller Coaster

by Lee Price

Nonfiction: I’m Not Making This Up

This is about the day Jean Renoir watched The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. I’m not making this part up. He went to a matinee.

To repeat: Jean Renoir—a giant among film artists, director of The Rules of the Game (cited by some sophisticated and astute people as the greatest film ever made) and other masterpieces, ranked as the fourth greatest director of all time in the 2002 BFI Sight and Sound poll, son of the famed impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir—had a grand time at a matinee in summer 1953 watching The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms accompanied by Eugene Lourié, the movie’s director.

Years later, writing his 1985 memoir My Work in Films, Lourié remembered: “Renoir reacted just like the youngsters surrounding us. ‘Eh bien, mon vieux,’ he said. ‘You surely had a wonderful time making this film.’”

I’d give anything for a photo of Jean Renoir and Eugene Lourié in that movie theater, surrounded by a happy sea of monster-loving children and thrill-seeking adults, enjoying the first of the 1950s cycle of giant-monster-attacking-a-city movies. According to Lourié, it made Renoir feel like a kid again. (more…)

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brian

by Sam Juliano

My weekly post as always is a “diary” and as such my own seven day report is one of unspeakable grief, the worst I have ever experienced in my own life.  My brother Joe’s beloved oldest son Brian, who lived several years with my father, shockingly passed away mid week at age 35 (he never woke up after complaining of chest pains) as a result of a long period of on an off drug abuse.  Many efforts were made to remedy the problem, and he was in rehabs, but in the end the abuse affected his heart.  This unspeakable tragedy leaves us all shaken to our cores.

On the other grief-stricken front I do speak to Allan everyday and almost always for long online conversations.  His attitude has improved greatly and he has been immersing himself in movie talks and all the new releases.  His treatment begins Wednesday, and I call on everyone to send on their best to a successful negotiation of the chemotherapy.

Thanks to all for the very kind words.

I honestly have nothing more to say at this time, other than to note I have been trying to divert by watching a bunch of discs Allan sent – mostly Japanese classics, and have been sharing my findings back with him – a practice that gives him some pleasure.

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by Anuk Bavkist

Survivors take refuge in a museum cellar-turned-underground bunker. Lit by flickering light bulbs, they resemble the waking dead. Their daily routine finds them manually pedaling to generate electricity, digging their own graves and philosophizing the end of times. The surface above them is nothing more than an industrial wasteland littered with decomposing bodies and architectural ruins.  Other survivors, equipped with heavy hazmat suits to shield themselves from an endless nuclear winter, still navigate the remains of their former city while an authoritative presence keeps watch in the form of patrolling helicopters and military raids. What caused the nuclear holocaust that left their existence in such disarray is never made clear, but is theorized to be the result of a computer error that launched a war missile (possibly an alternate future where Stanislav Petrov had actually responded to Oko’s false alarm in 1983). Our guide through this post apocalyptic nightmare is a grizzled old man referred only as “The Professor.” He spends much of his days caring for his sickly wife while going through the daily minutiae with the rest of the survivors under the museum. A Nobel Prize laureate and man of science who’s only real defense mechanism to the harsh reality in front him is mentally writing letters to his dead son, Erik. (more…)

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southland tales

 

by Jaimie Grijalba

This is the second essay on this series on Richard Kelly films. That means there’s only one left and we all know which one is. Coincidently, the films are in the countdown in the order I’d put them, this being my second favorite Kelly film and ‘The Box’ (2009) being my third favorite. I’ll use today’s essay to respond to the chapter of a book that I read a couple of years ago. Read on.

The second film directed by American director Richard Kelly is a visionary work that rings true today more than ever. In the current context of United States politics and technology, it becomes more and more telling regarding the vigilance, the violence, the crime, the police and everything else that has flooded the news of the past days, weeks and months. I don’t think even Richard Kelly would’ve prevented half of the stuff that he crammed into this masterpiece would even become real, but here we are, living our own version of Armageddon, the only thing missing is a deep voice going through speakers, asking us how we are and then wishing us a happy apocalypse.

A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of receiving a copy of a book for review purposes. The book was ‘Approaching the End: Imagining Apocalypse in American Film’ written by Peter Labuza, a film critic that I had read lots about and had interacted with on the world of Twitter. I read it and I wrote my review for what was at the time TwitchFilm (now ScreenAnarchy) and here’s what I had to say about the final chapter of the book: (more…)

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