Shocktober Day 18: Sisters

Sisters (1973)

I wanted to write a De Palma review without too much reference to Hitchcock, but after watching Sisters again I don’t think that’s possible. Right from the get-go this film hits you with a healthy dose of Hitch in a visually striking opening credit sequence set to music by who else but Bernard Herrmann. Though instead of dynamic Saul Bass animation, it’s colorful photos of fetuses in utero. This is where De Palma sets himself apart. He’s far more explicit than Hitch ever was. Partly because he was younger, partly because it was later in time and partly because he’s one sick fuck… but in the best way.

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Shocktober Day 17: Don’t Look Now

Don’t Look Now (1973)

Ah, yes. This is the kind of film that always makes these kinds of months worth it: a fantastic, innovative film from a director that I wasn’t familiar with and leaves me wanting to explore more of their work. Nicolas Roeg is a name I’ve known for a while, possibly because of his relation to the rock world, seeing as though he directed boypals Mick Jagger and David Bowie in their debut starring film roles. Don’t Look Now, unfortunately doesn’t feature any rock stars, but it does star two actors that are very emblematic of their era, as well as many other assets that could have only come out of the fast and loose era of ’70s filmmaking. Continue reading

Shocktober Day 16: Straw Dogs

Straw Dogs (1971)

I asked John to put Straw Dogs on the list for this marathon because I didn’t understand what it was. I hadn’t seen anything by Sam Peckinpah before, but was aware of his reputation for uncompromising, gritty, revisionist films, which made me interested in checking his movies out. The synopsis of Straw Dogs makes it sound like good folk horror, the story of a civilized American taking on a village of drunken monsters. Unfortunately for me, this is a film that has little interest in the concept of fun… or good… or taste.

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Rokk Talk Ep. 11: Man in the Mirror

“Your butt is mine
Gonna tell you right
Just show your face
In broad daylight”

100 poets working for 100 years could not come up with something that good. That’s because there’s was only one Michael Jackson. In honor of the 30th anniversary of the Bad album, Colin and John reflect on the myth, the magic and the music of the legendary man in the mirror. You’ve been struck by a smooth podcast. That’s gotta be enough writing, right?

P.S. This was recorded back in late August/early September. We just wanted you to know that so this podcast can take you back to a more simple time.

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Shocktober Day 15: Valerie and Her Week of Wonders

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970)

It may sound like an early ’70s porno, but Valerie and Her Week of Wonders is in, fact a surrealist drama from Czechoslovakia. I don’t think I can name one fact about Czechoslovakia. Not a single person or event tied to Czechoslovakia. Does it have something to do with the Czech Republic? I’m reading now that it became the “Czech Republic” and “Slovakia” in 1992? That makes a lot of sense. I wish this movie did.

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Shocktober Day 14: Equinox

Equinox (1970)

If I had, to sum up, Equinox in one sentence I would say “That’s pretty good for a first try.” This is because Equinox was more of a student film than anything. The brainchild of Dennis Muren—who would go on to win nine visual effects Oscars for films like The Empire Strikes Back, E.T., Terminator 2 and Jurassic Park—while attending business school, Equinox was made for as close to nothing as you can get.

Co-helming the picture with future sound editor Jack Woods (Star Trek III, The Naked Gun 2 1/2) and screenwriter Mark Thomas McGee (Sorority House Massacre II, Stepmonster), Equinox was a stop-motion sci-film shot in Pasadena for $6,500. How does what is essentially a student film become a midnight movie and later a Criterion? Let’s see if we can find out.

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Shocktober Day 13: Kuroneko

Kuroneko (1968)

I hope you’re not too superstitious, because today we’re doubling down on bad luck. Not only is it Friday the 13th, but we’re we’re making matters worse by talking about a movie called Kuroneko, or “Black Cat.” It’s the second film in this marathon from director Kaneto Shindo, who also made Onibaba. Kuroneko is also a return for a few of the stars from that film, as well as its brutal treatment of humanity. What sets it apart? Way more flips.

A woman (Nobuko Otowa) and her daughter-in-law (Kiwako Taichi) are living together after her son is dragged away by a war – that sounds familiar right? Except this time, a band of soldiers happen upon their home and quickly steal their food, rape the women to death, and burn the house down. After the fire dies down, a black cat appears and licks the charred corpses. Soon enough, the women reappear as ghosts, dressed in fine clothes. They start leading samurai, one-by-one, into the woods, where they seduce them in an expansive, ghostly manor and finally maul them to death.

Meanwhile, a young man (Nakamura Kichiemon) kills a massive man in a battle that leaves him the lone survivor. The man returns to his governor, Raiko (Kei Sato), who is pleased with him enough to make him a samurai and give him the name Gintoki. Gintoki gets cleaned up and heads back to his home, which he discovers has been burnt down. What’s worse, he can’t find any trace of his mother and wife. He returns to the governor, who assigns him to kill the ghosts that have been murdering samurai.

You get the idea, right? The ghosts have vowed to kill every samurai, which includes Gintoki. Gintoki has vowed to kill the ghosts, but soon after he meets them, he realizes that they’re his dead wife and mother. So he doesn’t really want to kill them either. Like a lot of horror movies, there’s not going to be a happy ending here. But who’s going to break first? And what does this all have to do with cats?

It’s hard to say what the answer to that last question is. The Japanese title for this film is “A Black Cat in a Bamboo Grove,” which might be a reference to the famous Japanese short story In a Grove, and is sort of an idiom for mysteries that are hard to solve (you might know that short story for its film adaptation, Rashomon). What’s not ambiguous is how well Kuroneko creates a beautiful, eerie atmosphere and simply revels in it. This is more of a horror movie than the other Shindo movie I’ve seen, and for that reason, probably an easier movie to recommend. But maybe watch ’em both and have yourself a real bummer of a double feature.