CHILD BRIDE (1938) Tonight we have finally uncovered a film so inherently evil, even WE had to censor it: from a world which believes that ten year old fruit are ripe for the plucking comes the 1938 Child Bride.
“We aim neither to ridicule nor defend their way of living.” So begins one of the most hateful examples of hicksploitation from 1938, posing as a plea to outlaw child marriage amongst hillbillies – the po’ White Trash huddled in mountain communities far away from civilization’s disapproving gaze.
THAT’S GODSPLOITATION! PART ONE: Mark IV Productions’ Rapture Films, and interviews with Russell S. Doughten Jr & Donald Thompson
No Christian sub-genre resembles a Scare Film more than the Apocalypse or Rapture Thriller, films which cover a literal interpretation of Revelation, the rise of the Antichrist and the Second Coming of Christ at the Battle of Armageddon. Apocalypse Thrillers are quite populist in execution and feature elements of action and war films, science fiction and horror movies, but at their heart is a disturbing undercurrent. These films, for all of their faith-based narratives, wallow in a pornography of violence. Gore, it seems, sells as well to Christian church goers as it does to heavy metal teenagers in the suburbs. The God of the Apocalypse Thriller is an Old Testament God, wreaking burning starsludge on the world as the Revelation of St John the Divine unfolds in low budget splatter action. This is religion as transgression and punishment, and like Mel Gibson’s image of Christ the concept of “love” is left behind, sunken beneath bucket loads of blood.
1972 would prove to be a watershed year for Rapture films and Christian cinema in general, when Mark IV Productions released the seminal Apocalypse thriller A Thief In The Night. Still based in Des Moines, Ohio, producer Russell S. Doughten had previously formed Heartland Productions in 1965 to make low-budget devotional films; on his first production The Hostage, the cinematographer was none other than Ted V. Mikels (director of such incredible shockers as The Corpse Grinders, Astro Zombies and Blood Orgy Of The She-Devils!) .
A mutual friend, Jack Sargeant, regularly quotes Japanese photographer Araki: “Cities need zones of obscenity to make things interesting.”
The same can be said for filmmaking. Danger, violent conflict, the extremes of human experience and behaviour, these are the mainstays of drama, not to mention the voyeuristic urge to witness the forbidden. Few Australian filmmakers dare to go to those dark places, and yet director Jon Hewitt has lived amongst the shadows for his entire career. From helming the low to no-budget genre productions Bloodlust (1992) and Redball (1999), Hewitt graduated above-ground with Acolytes (2008), a $4 million horror thriller pitting three high school fuckups against devious backpacker murderer Joel Edgerton.
With X (2011), Hewitt has fashioned a dark love letter to his home town, a veritable “zone of obscenity” in any culture. Set over one night, X is the tale of two prostitutes chased through Sydney’s Kings Cross by corrupt cops, knife-wielding pimps, drug dealers and other creatures of the night. The second in Hewitt’s ‘Kings Cross Trilogy’ after the guerrilla romance Darklovestory (2006) and made on a quarter of Acolyte’s budget, X is a remarkable achievement: equal parts art film and exploitation as well as style and substance, with rapid-fire, split-screen editing and stunning photography. It’s a mythic descent into a Hades-like world of perpetual darkness, and Hewitt’s cameras capture its sense of time and location to perfection.
Soviet scientists play metaphysicians and bring dead dogs back to life, in a chilling and soulless medical training film designed, no doubt, to “inspire” similar lines of enquiry Stateside. First a dog’s severed head hooked up to a pump and reacting to citrus wiped on its nose, followed by a cheer squad of reanimated pooch-sickles, and surely armies of thawed-out ubermentsch facing each other on either side of the Iron Curtain is just around ze corner!
Ghastly? Yes, but also strangely compelling, and you can’t help feeling happy for the dog at the end, its wagging tail and lickey countenance belying the fact it’s had its Pet Sematary moment and has probably seen some shit…
THE KEEP SWINGING YOUR GO-GO BOOTS TIL YOU’RE GONE-GONE DEPARTMENT: Joi Lansing’s “Web Of Love” (1964)
Scopitones, those clunky 16mm jukeboxes in clubs and bars in the Sixties, are a treasure trove of garish pre-MTV musical wonders, and “Web Of Love” is one of the art form’s most delirious delights. Joi Lansing (real name Joyce Wassmansdorff) was a platinum blonde nightclub chanteuse and bit player in movies and TV, but was better known to Middle America as Frank Sinatra’s on-again, off-again floozie, and she capitalized on her tabloid infamy by playing up the sexpot image in three Scopitones made in 1964. “Trapped, I’m…..TRAPPED….” Trapped, that is, on a tacky Vegas set with natives, spiders, bird costumes, a painted snake-man, and the most intriguing of come-hither expressions. Sadly Joi passed away from cancer aged just 43, joining the pantheon of doomed Hollywood blondes, long gone but, from where I sit at least, never to be forgotten.
“Boy meets great white zombie hunter, boy becomes zombie. Zombie meets girl, zombie loses girl, girl finds zombie. A Pinoy guerrilla musical love story – with zombies.”
An experimental short by Filipino filmmaker Khavn de la Cruz, filmed in Australia while a guest at the 2007 Brisbane International Film Festival.
Stars Migs Aguilizan as the Zombie Mariachi, Lesha Pavlis as the Eggnog Girl, Andrew Leavold as the White Supremacist, Scott Black, Terry Coker, Daniel Haig, and Khavn de la Cruz.
Synopsis (from Wildside Cinema): A family get-together goes to hell in a hand basket when government officials crash the party, force everybody into a nearby forest and subject them to tests against their will in order to detect a dangerous viral infection. As each infected are detected and quickly executed, the “festivities” are cut short when a horde of rampaging undead tear thru the forest, forcing the military to fend for themselves and their surviving prisoner Bruce to flee for his life.
Now on the run from the military, the ferocious infected and undead, flesh-eating shamblers, Bruce has no choice but to pick up an axe and fight for whatever time he’s got left.
A minor classic of Philippines horror cinema, the 1966 Curse Of The Vampires is a direct follow-up to the late director Gerardo de Leon’s equally compelling 1964 The Blood Drinkers. Dubbed into English and released by Hemisphere Pictures in 1971 as the bottom of a double bill with his frequent collaborator Eddie Romero’s Beast Of Blood, it looked to the world like any other low budget drive-in nonsense.
But de Leon, along with Romero (the Blood Island trilogy, The Walls Of Hell), was a classically trained filmmaker and is enshrined as a Philippines National Artist, and thus everything he does is with purpose, from the masterful framing, composition, lighting… As a result, Curse Of The Vampires is not just a throwaway B-programmer with bloodsuckers but a serious horror film with deep cultural resonances.
For the pre-brainwashed teen, Coronet Films comes up with What Makes A Good Party (1950), aimed presumably at senior girls during Home Economics class. A trio of high school girls plan a gathering to introduce a college boy to their “gang”. First they work out who’s in and who’s out – “Margie’s lots of fun, the fellas will LIKE her” – then they plan the gathering to the minutest detail.
According to Coronet, even spontaneous happenings must correspond to a carefully prepared program designed to reinforce a herd mentality. It’s FUN, people, and what can be more fun that watching a pack of privileged white kids crowded around a piano singing a minstrel tune. Thus putting the Crack – as in “Cracker” – in “Jimmy Crack Corn”. Peachy.
Village Girl: (Spits) “To fear!” In this demented Nigerian slice of religious hysteria, fear of the unknown has taken over. Exactly what Egg Of Life is about will remain just that – unknown – since all the trailer offers is an incomprehensible mash-up of rural catastrophe and demonic possession, all set to the editor’s After Effects’ machine gun rattle.
It’s hard to separate the sped-up footage with the regular, normal-running stuff – but then our pre-conceived notions of “normal” and “regular” fly, like the round gentleman’s fez with the stuck-on feathers appears to be straining to do, straight out of the village and into Terra Nullis.