Friday, April 28, 2017

The Naked Kiss- One of the Best Bad Good Films Ever

          “Film is a battleground. Love, hate, violence, action, death… in a word ‘emotion’.” – Samuel Fuller, writer & director of The Naked Kiss
          A bald prostitute beats her pimp unconscious with a stiletto shoe. That’s what were given in the opening of The Naked Kiss. When we thing of old films we naturally have an idea of a sepia toned wholesomeness or watered down action where a person didn’t bleed after being shot. The bad guys are always bad, the good guys are dove like icons, and never never a hint of sexuality or “gasp” fornication. This film smacks that idea in the nuts
          After the pimp smack down, the protagonist, played by Constance Towers, goes on the road as a traveling prostitute. Eventually she bumps into a small town sheriff who samples her wares, then sends her across the river to the whorehouse in another town as his is a “decent place”. Emotionally at the end of her rope, she decides to quit the life of a hooker and miraculously lands a job as a nurse in charge of the cripple children’s ward. I guess they didn’t need accreditation for nurses back then.

          Well life turns good for the poor hooker and she becomes embroiled in the small town society. Stopping a girl before she starts the life a whore by picking a cat fight with the across-the-river Madame and so on. He then enters into a relationship with the town rich boy, who is best friends with the sheriff. After a dream-like courtship where even Tower’s confession about her hooker can't deter rich boy, the two decide to marry.
          Just before the wedding, she arrives her fiancĂ©’s  mansion, to find him on the verge of molesting a small girl. As he grinningly tries to persuade her to marry him, arguing that she too is a deviant, the only one who can understand him, and that he loves her, Towers kills him by striking him in the head with a phone receiver. Jailed, and under heavy interrogation, she must convince him and the town that she is telling the truth about her pervert beau’s death.

          An odd mixture of sappy and fucked up, tone in The Naked Kiss shifts dramatically from scene to scene. It is inconsistent in its presentation, as if the film is struggling on what it wants to be. From a harsh beginning we believe that we are delving into a sweet faux Cinderella story, only to have that illusion ripped away by a child molestation. I will say though that the actual scene is rather tastefully done, several people I showed it to were confused as to what had actually happened.  
          Mixed in is one of the strangest musical scenes ever shot. In a sense it is a perfect mirror of the rest of the film. None of the kids can actually sing or, more accurately, they sing like untrained kids, badly. When Constance Towers joins, who can sing, the two blend incongruously together. It reminded me of Cop Rock, the two elements did not fit, but makes something truly weird.
                                                      The Children's Song
          When the film is good it is dead on slap-in-the-face “did they really allow this kind of thing back then” good, but it does get bogged down in a sappy undertone that Tower’s character descends into after she decides to give up hooking. The film is then scattered with stock small town oddball “characters”.
          Parts of The Naked Kiss would still be controversial today. I can’t imagine how people reacted to it back then. The full film is below. Enjoy and Caveat Emptor!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Smacked By Life- Short Fiction

       Fifteen year old Spencer Robertson looked into the eyes of his new niece, the daughter of his younger sister, Davea. She had been seduced by a smooth talking wanna-be gangster, ten years her senior. His name was Jobiah, and was easily identifiable by his crooked smile and clover shaped birthmark on his cheek. Everyone knew he was bad news, but Davea was just young enough to be lured in by his bullshit. He had charmed her with cheap booze and cigarettes, making her feel oh-so grown up, then took her virginity and breezed off in the middle of the night, leaving behind two unpleasant surprises. A baby and the HIV virus.
By the time the child was born, Davea was wracked with full blown AIDS. Nowadays she was covered in lesions and barely able to make it to the bathroom, while Jobiah didn’t even feel sick. Their child, mercifully, had been unaffected.
The baby’s eyes looked up at Spencer with an almost alien quality. She couldn’t understand this thing before her and her irises ran over every curve and crevice on Spencer’s face. She was neither happy nor sad, just passive.
For a second Spencer saw in her a being that would hopefully live past him, that would experience life in a way he could never conceive of. Then the moment passed and she reverted back into the creature that he had to occasionally shove food into and, ugh, change her diaper- the worst job of all. The stench of baby shit made him puke each time without fail. He made a vow after each episode that it would be a long time before he had kids, and that he would get his woman to change do the changing.
Of course it would be a long time! He had a life to live, places to go, Crystal to drink, things to have- gold chains, fat rims, a six pack of cars- and all the hot chicks, like you see in the movies, to fuck. He knew he’d get it eventually. He’d seen it happen over and over again on TV. Till then he’d just chill.
As for girls, well, his current girlfriend, Ranisha, was all right. A fat booty. A near flat stomach. But he didn’t like that gap in her teeth and her nose was too wide, plus she got ashy way too easily. She was hot, but not supermodel hot. He’d keep her around for now, but when other boys were around he pretended like he wasn’t with her.
Spencer picked up his backpack and went outside for the bus to take him to school. On the bus he saw Ranisha, but there was no room next to her. He wasn’t unhappy about that because didn’t feel like talking to her anyway, but he gave her a nod as he pushed his way to the middle and sat next to his friend Randle.
Randle was excited about a Youtube video he had seen, where a man gets hit with a car, and played it for Spencer on his smart phone. In it there was an audible crack when the car smacks the man’s leg. The man flips over the hood and must have hit the pavement extremely hard for his head exploded all over the street, looking like a very chunky pool of salsa. Randle loved pictures of death and gore, pulling them in from every sleazy site on the net.
“Look at that shit! Look at that shit!” Randle kept saying.
This wasn’t Spencer’s thing. He could blow away 1,000 aliens a night without blinking, but Randle always took things too far. Still he was a buddy and they looked out for each other, so he put up Randle’s crap. No matter how queasy it made him.
Spencer’s phone buzzed. A text from Ranisha. I got to tell you something. He wanted to ignore it and watch some more Youtube, but then she would be complaining to him the rest of the day. So he typed back, Later at lunch. He was too tired right then to deal with whatever she was going on about.
Spencer had been up all night playing video games and drinking generic cola. Both his parents had to work and, as they couldn’t afford any real care for their daughter, they spent most of their free time making her comfortable. This left no time to handle Spencer apart from yelling an order at him from another room. So his bedtime tended to be whenever he passed out. This made for a lot of groggy mornings.
He slept through most of homeroom, the morning announcements filtering in and out of his dreams. First period was English for which he had to prop his head up, because the teacher Mr. Thies, an old teacher, was uncool like that. Not like the other who let you do what you wanted as long as you were quiet.
The first part of the period was writing down some boring vocab words for next week’s test. They’d been doing this all year and Spencer couldn’t remember a single word from a past test. He’d just look at the list a few seconds before class started and regurgitate back whatever stuck to his brain. Then he’d forget it completely. It was just another thing to get through.
His hand slipped into automatic writing, while his mind wandered onto important things. What was he going to do after school today? What TV shows were on? Did he have enough money to buy some Doritos and a two liter of soda- or would he have to settle for a one liter? Would he be able to sneak Ranisha over during the hour and a half between when his father came home from work and his mother left? How long would it take to get her pants off again? Just enough time probably.
“Are you paying attention to me, Mr. Robertson?”
Spencer snapped up.
“Oh yeah, Mr. Thies.”
“Good.” Mr. Thies sat on the corner of his desk, trying unsuccessfully to look informal. “Now I want to talk to you all about your future…”
Spencer groaned. Here we go again. Another lecture on responsibility, planning for the future, and all that crap. There was one teacher every year that would bang on about it. Usually it was some young bright-eyed female, straight out of college, who tried to “inspire” all of them like some teacher out of a movie. Spencer hated this type because they always talked down to him, like he and his parents were too dumb to know any better. He always ignored them.
They never lasted long anyway. It took the new ones about a year, sometimes only a few months, to be ground down to reality. But the schools Spencer went to ran through teachers like toilet paper, so there was always a new one popping up. Veterans like Mr. Thies should know better.
By now Spencer had heard these lectures so many times that the words just slid through his brain. They became background static while he watched the second hand of the classroom clock tic away to freedom.
Mr. Thies’s perpetually sagging lips stopped moving and Spencer realized that a question had been asked, possibly to him.
“What?” He said sleepily.
“I was just asking Randle here what his plans were after he leaves school.”
“I’m a go home.”
Randle grinned. Acting the fool to confound the teacher was an old game of his, one he played well. Undaunted Mr. Thies continued.
“I mean when you graduate. What are you going to do?”
“Man like I’m be a rap star.” He flashed a gang sign. “I’m be big and have diamonds and Ferraris and shit.”
“And if that doesn’t work out?”
“I guess… I’ll shoot hoops down at the playground until the NBA gives me a contract.”
Now Randle was dead serious.
“I don’t think too many talent scouts hang out at the playground Randle.”
“Man you ain’t seen me! I’m really good. There was this one time when these niggas came up on me and…”
“Don’t you think you should set your sights a little higher?”
“Ain’t nothing higher. They make bank!”
Mr. Thies went around the room asking everyone. The answers were about standard. Football player, basketball player, rap star, movie star, NASCAR driver. One boy wanted to “like make video games and shit.” Aim big! There were a few other choices. Nurse, mechanic, carpenter, pest control specialist, but they were the minority. A number of the girls wanted to be full time mommies, more than you would expect in this day and age. There was barely any mention of college at all.
“What about you Spencer?”
“I dunno.”
On the way to the next class, Spencer spotted Sgt. Dunree in the halls. Sgt. Dunree ran the school’s JROTC program and was friendly with everyone, though Spencer had hear he could be a real jerk when the JROTC were out on the parade ground. Dunree always stuck out because of his army uniform which he wore every day without fail. He looked good in it, smart, sophisticated. The uniform commanded respect. Spencer liked that.
Dunree was talking to a couple of seniors about them enlisting in the army after graduation. He gave them a couple of brochures and added,
“Well think about it.”
The bell was about to ring so the boys had to move on. Dunree had an extra brochure in his hand, when Spencer caught his eye. Dunree didn’t know who he was. Spencer didn’t join JROTC or anything that required him to spend more time at school. But he slapped the paper into Spencer’s hand anyway and clapped him friendly on the shoulder.
“Here you go chief,” he said, “This could be your future.”
Spencer looked over the leaflet in his Math class when he should have been learning the FOIL system. It was glossy, bright. A strong jawed soldier was on the cover, full uniform, weapons locked, staring off proudly at a distant horizon. It looked good to him. His eyes picked up the key words around the photo. Army of One, dignity, honor, travel, great benefits. All that was great, but it was the images that attracted Spencer the most. They were nice and clean and he could see himself in them- fixing a jeep, or calling in reinforcements, or blowing up a bunker filled with terrorists, or holding a hill against an enemy advance.
Maybe this was for him! It was something to think about. To be tucked away and brought out at the end of his time here. After all graduation as years away. Practically all the time in the world.
Spencer missed most of his lunch period, so he didn’t get a chance to see Ranisha. The vice principal had called him into his office to ask Spencer questions about his sister. How was she? Would she be returning to school? If the teachers sent work home would she be able to complete it and send it back? That way she could still graduate. The vice principal tried to display interest and compassion, but it was obvious to Spencer that he didn’t really care. What he was really interested in was the school’s statistics. Spencer had come across the problems in this school, while online while online trying to find out if Mr. Ethel, the librarian, had been in a porno, like the rumors insisted. If his siter died before graduating it would be counted by the state as a dropout in the school. Another black mark against a school that was constantly teetering between “average” and “below average” ratings.
After assuring the vice principal that he’d have his mother call the school, a promise he’d forget five minutes later, Spencer went to the cafeteria just in time to scoop up the last slice of cardboard pizza. While shoveling it down his throat, he looked around but couldn’t see Ranisha. In a school of 1200 students and only three periods for lunch, the noon meal was a big operation, even with a quarter of the students routinely absent each day. The bell rang and he quickly swallowed the last of the crust and trundled off to sleep through his Social Studies class.
Where we u??? Was the text he got from Ranisha later during Chemistry class. Got called 2 office. He sent back. There was a 10 minute pause, then she sent. I’ll come by ur crib ltr.
He smirked. This upped his odds for sex today, oh yeah. Spencer leaned back that wonderful tense joy of anticipation spreading all over him. The day drifted on and Spencer spent most of it in hibernation. He took notes when required, but didn’t think about them. It wasn’t until the day was over that he felt alive. When the final bell rang, he nearly jumped for joy, but that wouldn’t look cool.
On the bus he found a seat in front of Ranisha and turned back, winking at her. She looked at him defiant, then looked away. His stomach sank. Was she going to break up with him? How could she do that? Wasn’t he good looking? Wasn’t he cool? Wasn’t he a good lover?
Who was it? Who was she gonna dump him for? Reggie? That thick nigga was always hanging around her, tryin’ to get in there. Reggie talked big, thinking he was so hard. Spencer was gonna bust that motherfucker up the next day in school. He pounded his fist.
At the journey’s end, Spencer was choking back the anger. His brain had clouded over and a red mist spat evil thoughts all through it. He didn’t say a word to her all the way back to the house. At the door, Ranisha stopped him.
“I gotta tell you…”
What? What you gotta say?”
She clammed up immediately. Her gaze turned downward, fuming. His guts churned. She definitely wasn’t in the mood for love. He unlocked the door and entered, not looking behind to see if she followed him in. He went into the kitchen and got himself a glass of water, the only beverage in the house. He didn’t think to get her any, she knew where it was.
Spencer found Ranisha sitting on the couch. He slouched against the doorframe and sipped his drink disdainfully. When it became apparent that she wasn’t going to start talking, he yelled.
“If you just gonna sit there all day then you can get out. If you got something to say, hurry up!”
She looked up at him tear filled, her lips trembling.
“I’m pregnant.”


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things: Bad Film by Talented People

         The underwhelming 1972 zombie horror film, somewhat tongue-in-cheek and a budget made from loose change found in a couch, is a fun film to watch when hanging out with friends and imbibing a ton of alcohol.
          The basic story is that a group of snotty drug addled theater types go off to a deserted New England island where there once used to be a small village. There they trundle off to an old graveyard and perform a satanic ritual used to summon up the devil and bring the dead to life. When it seemingly doesn’t work the leader, Alan, gets all bent out of shape and begins hurling insults at the great beast. They then desecrate a grave, dig up its occupant (named Orville), and drag it to an old house where they spend the night drinking and ingesting hallucinogens.
          One of the women, Anya, gets a little too into Orville (“He’s so beautiful!”) so Alan drag him into another room and has a nice heart to heart with the corpse (“You’re the only one I can trust, Orville.”). But of course, what happens? The dead do rise as zombies, it just took them a minute to get going. So everyone in this incredible bunch of pretentious and annoying would-be thespians is eaten which is probably the best ending I could think of for this crowd of irritating characters.
Alan Ormsby in Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things
          Now the interesting thing is that this Z-Grade zombie flick was written and produced by some talented people, several of whom went onto do some great things. It was written in part by Alan Ormsby (who plays Alan, surprise, surprise) who went on to write classics like My Bodyguard, the 1982 version of Cat People, Porky’s II, and The Substitute, among many others. While the other writer and director, Bob Clark (credited here as Benjamin Clark) went on to direct such seminal classics as Porky’s, Black Christmas, A Christmas Story, Murder by Decree, Turk 182!, and From the Hip.
          Rumor has it that Bob Clark was attempting to do a remake of Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things  but unfortunately his death in a car accident in 2007 prevented it.
          The entire film is below. Enjoy and Caveat Emptor!