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Wednesday, Apr 2, 2008

To finish up SE&L‘s tribute to Low Budget Pictures’ Chris Seaver, we look back at an August 2007 piece focusing on his amazing trilogy starring the bodacious Bochliadochi sisters.


Great comedy teams are not ‘born’. They do not arrive from the witticism womb fully formed and ready to rib tickle. No, what all classic clown combos have in common is that elusive amalgamation of talent, identity, characterization, and unholy happenstance. There is a real sense that what is happening is the result of some organic convergence, not the preplanned propositions of a cash hungry studio. Take the Three Stooges for example. Among the many charms exuded by the Howard Brothers (Moe, Curly, and yes even Shemp) and Fine (little old Larry) are split second slapstick timing (talent), easily understood personas (identity), several layers to their lunacy (characterization), and the completely chance arrival at Columbia Pictures when the studio needed a showcase (happenstance). From Laurel and Hardy to Abbot and Costello – heck, even up through Chris Farley and David Spade – the recognizable amusement units don’t take years of development to gel. They either work up front, or never find their footing (right, Ritz Brothers?).


It’s even harder to find examples of this instantaneous ideal in the realm of independent film. The reasons are rather obvious, from lack of true talent to the ability to hone a serious set of skills on a homemade movie budget. Try as they might – and there have been some God awful examples of said lousy attempts – there are only two current outsiders who’ve managed to find the perfect union of personality and performance. One is Justin Channel, responsible for the hilarious horror comedies Raising the Stakes and Die and Let Live. With the flawless funny business from the dynamic duo of Josh Lively and Zane Crosby, this director manages to take genre generics – vampires and zombies, respectively – and turn them into risible rites of teen passage. The other sick savant is Chris Seaver. Working in the brash and the blue long before Apatow remembered to freak his geek on, this ersatz entrepreneur has fashioned his entire Low Budget Pictures universe after a sublime love of schlock and scatology. And as part of his extensive underground oeuvre, he’s also developed one of the greatest cinematic partnerships ever – the sensational sisters Heather and Puggly Bochliadochi.


With origins in previous Seaver films (specifically, 12 Inches of Dangling Fury), the unusual duo became fixtures of the writer/director’s filmmaking around 2005. As part of his look back at high school as a literal Hell, this unhinged auteur combined his love of all things pop culture with a clear eye for the simmering social stigmas among adolescents. He tossed in all his favorite horror riffs, some glorious nods to musical extremes (fantasy metal, anyone) and a running cast of characters meant to give the series instant trademarking and long term replay value. From the first film in the (so far) trilogy, Heather and Puggly Drop a Deuce, to the fascinating follow-ups – Heather and Puggly Crucify the Devil and Heather and Puggly Cock-Block the Apocalypse, Seaver refined and retooled his elements, giving them the kind of reflective cultural mirror that renders them as satisfying satires and terrific time capsules.


The plots all revolve around the students at fictional Bonejack Heights High School (another LBP in-joke). When we first meet the horny Heather and her unbelievably unattractive sister Puggly (played to absolute perfection by longtime company players Meredith Host and Lauren P. Seavage), they are suffering through the typical teen angst. While her bucktoothed sibling gets all the Sappho loving she can handle (yes, she’s a lesbian), the normal looking red head can’t capture any man’s attention. Among the available ‘studs’ are country cuss The Meistro and his “Spanish Indian” sidekick, the prog rock loving Proudfoot. There’s also the jocular Johnny Douchebag (played by Seaver himself) and faux fashionista T-Bone, and later on, competitive ladies men (?) Choach and TeenApe. As they go through the typical scholastic slog, they find themselves facing the standard hormone driven dilemmas. To make matters even more maddening, their close knit camaraderie is constantly challenged by all manner of interpersonal and supernatural interference.



In Drop a Deuce, an alien seductress named Venus gets Puggly to turn on her pals, so that the evil extraterrestrial can kill them off, one by one. It’s up to our heroines to save the day. Naturally, everyone is back and alive for Crucifies the Devil (such is the lovable illogic of the series). This time, old Scratch himself shows up to take on our pert pair, who have now become notorious part-time exorcists. Again, all manner of Hellspawn humor hijinx ensure. Finally, a certain boy wizard and his seven book balderdash get the bad ass Bochliadochi treatment as Bonejack High becomes a rather recognizable academy of advanced magic. There, our returning adolescents go ‘potter’ as they try to stop a rival sorcerer from stealing an enchanted orb destined to destroy the universe. Through a combination of teamwork and tentative incantations, evil is once again destroyed, and our chick champions prove the power of believing in yourself, and the importance of friendship. Sort of.


Right up front, it has to be noted that Seaver is a certified spoof samurai. He’s a sneaky SOB, lobbing his lampoons at the audience with a combination of audacity and affection. Like an intricate game of ‘80s Trivial Pursuit (with only movie, TV, and music questions) played by a pack of undeniable pop geeks, a LPB production is like Superbad without the BFF sentimentality. Seaver is as adept as Apatow and pals at playing the curse word card, but there is no apologizing with this eager fringe filmmaker. When he wants filthy, he goes for the full bore gross out. Not even the infamous Farrelly Brothers are as excessive with the expletive as this deranged director. Seaver is infinitely better at context, however, finding fascinating and fresh ways of making even the most obvious toilet or sex-related gag explode with determined delight. From early hits like Mulva: Zombie Ass Kicker to recent reinventions of his classic characters Bonejack and TeenApe (the defiant Destruction Kings) this is one movie maven who puts his obsessions where his objective is.


In the Heather and Puggly films, the focus is on the awkwardness of adolescence, how rapidly arriving maturity messes up even the most cocksure clique. Without reading much more into it, lets just say that the various demonic and paranormal elements the students have to deal with could easily be made into metaphors for responsibility, love, and the upcoming realities of the real world. Or maybe not. That’s the beauty of a Seaver film – you’re never sure if he’s serious, slack-jawed, or simply sold on his own unbridled and out of control Id. With their diversity of characterization and kitchen sink wit, we definitely need an anchor to hold and LPB production together. That’s where our crackerjack comedic team comes in. By playing off of and against each other (Heather, the henna-headed babe, is outright man repellant, while she-hag Puggly gets all the girl-on-girl action she can handle) and using an undercurrent of sibling rivalry, Seaver lays the foundation for the anarchy to follow.



Oddly enough, the Heather and Puggly films follow the current trend in Tinsel Town tre-quels – Drop a Deuce is a stunning debut, Crucify the Devil is a bonafide classic, and Cock-Block the Apocalypse is good, if not totally great. Each movie is different in that they use varying elements to achieve their sometimes surreal goals. For example, Drop a Deuce offers one of our only glimpses of the rest of the Bochliadochi household. Scream Queen icon Debbie Rochon is absolutely hilarious as the girl’s equally muttly mother, while Punk Rock Holocaust director Doug Sakmann is ridiculously effective as their dithering dad. This higher level of performance is not unusual for an LPB film (Seaver is lucky to have a group of friends and associates who sync up faultlessly with his own bizarre brainpan), but it does lend the movie a sly and supportive signature.


Crucify the Devil is even better, thanks in part to a lively premise and a more complete view of the Heather and Puggly universe. The idea of making the gals into pseudo ghostbusters is classic, as are the calm and comic confrontations with Satan himself. Brad Austin plays the mangoat as a combination bully and henpecked husband, and the scenes at home with his minions are a marvel of bumbling domestic stupidity. As with most of his movies, Seaver loves to ladle on the gore, giving old fashioned fright fans a gallon or two of arterial spray for their money. He also realizes that you can’t have violence without its companion curse – sex - and he laces his dialogue with some of the filthiest, funniest material you’ll hear outside a boy’s locker room. The constant references to pornographic acts, genitalia, and any combination of the two can make for some offensive moments, but if this director has a fault, it’s never knowing when enough is enough. In fact, much of LPB’s inherent charm is its ‘anything and everything’ approach to filmmaking.



Maybe this is why Cock-Block the Apocalypse feels a little less inventive. Going the Harry Potter route is fine, but without the ability to fully realize your aims, the homage feels hampered. Still, Seaver saves it by staying true to what makes Heather and Puggly great. It needs to be mentioned again - Lauren Seavage and Meredith Host are brilliant here. They may be playing variations of their own personalities (though it’s highly doubtful, especially in Ms. Puggly’s case), yet they turn what could be one note novelties into fully realized, and beloved, characters. You want to see more of them onscreen, and actually feel disappointed when they fight and fracture as family and friends. It is easy to envision this pair making the leap to legitimate mainstream cinema. After all, a comedy founded on a mismatched duo who uses their differences as a means of empowerment and achievement sounds like every other buddy comedy of the last two decades. Why the standard male leads can’t be switched out for a harried hosebag and her les-bionic sibling will perhaps always stay a movie biz mystery.


Finally, there’s one thing that makes Seaver and other camcorder creators like Channel, Scott Phillips, or Eric Stanze stand out among other amateur auteurs - a fearless belief in their abilities. There is no doubt in a LBP film, no sense of apprehension or hesitation. Like all great artists, there is a confidence that comes across loud and clear, a belief in what is being spoken and shot. Sometimes it’s dopey. Other times, it’s delightful. It can be crude, calculated, or completely cracked. But the bottom line is that, in a domain literally drowning in wasted wannabes, there is more noticeable talent in a single frame of a Seaver film than in a dozen more derivative efforts. This doesn’t mean that his movies are for everyone. Like a warning sign at the start of a long theme park amusement, movies made by this man are definitely not recommended for pregnant women, people with bad heart conditions, or those whose sense of humor runs to the more Puritanical.



But if you can tolerate tastelessness ala a yet-to-be-weened John Waters, if you aren’t afraid to take a walk on the Super VHS side of cinema, if you’re sick and tired of being beaten over the aesthetic regarding what’s supposed to be funny, innovative, or exciting, then drop that snobbish wet blanket and give Chris Seaver’s sh-art a try. While the Heather and Puggly films may not be the best place to begin your journey (that would remain his Mulva and Filthy McNasty efforts), they definitely represent the kind of craziness he trades in. And if you’re brave enough, you’ll also get a lesson in the unadulteratedly unrefined nature of comedic chemistry. No matter how often a team works together, or how like minded a group is in their unified creative belief, classic duos of delight just can’t be manufactured. They must arrive from a completely unique and naturalistic place. Oddly enough, that’s an accurate description of Chris Seaver, his Low Budget Pictures empire, and the amazing Heather and Puggly films – in a nut(case) shell.


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Monday, Mar 31, 2008


As a director, he continues to grow. His style has stayed basically the same, yet he still finds new ways to incorporate inventive ideas and social satire into the madcap mix. As a writer, his work has become polished and professional. Gone (well…almost) are the rude rants, the sexually explicit diatribes meant to shock as much as satisfy. In their place is a considered concentration on character, a desire to explore more mature aspects of humor while never quite leaving the confines of filth. Yet perhaps the most amazing thing about Low Budget Productions guru Chris Seaver and his 16 years of independent moviemaking is his consistency. Few if any mainstream auteurs have the track record that he’s developed, from his earliest experiments to his latest - and some may argue, greatest - works of genius.


Never one to rest on his lengthy laurels, 2008 looks like a banner year for this tireless talent. Already, Tempe has released Teenape Goes to Camp, and within the next few months we should be privy to new offerings like The Film Crew, Wet Heat, and the soon to be classic Ski Wolf. And what’s even more astonishing is that Seaver continues to create. A quick trip over to his website indicates the starting dates for two more films, as well as ideas for future projects. Not bad for a 30 year old who struggled in anonymity for years before DVD delivered his insane cinema to a wanting world. Even a change in personal status (he’s married, with a newborn baby) refuses to dampen his filmic fervor.


In this first part of a two day overview, we will look at Seaver’s old school pseudo-swansong, a crazy kiss-off revisit to the LPB universe melding the mindless teen sex romp with a small dose of Richard Connell.  Then it’s time to buy a ticket and take the Multiplex ride as a staff of highly skilled theater employees banter back and forth with the forces of evil. Together with the flicks featured in Wednesday’s piece, we’ll realize that something strange is happening to Chris Seaver. He’s leaving his past behind, and is preparing to take on so-called legitimate cinema. From what we see here, he’s got more than enough tenacity - and talent - to spare.



Teenape Goes to Camp



When former associate Heather calls, asking for a favor, our simian lothario is suspicious to say the least. When he finds out the request is for his services as a camp counselor, the mack daddy monkey goes ballistic. Little does he know but this entire summer stay-over set-up is just a ruse. Heather and her associates have the ‘most dangerous game’ prepared for our primate, and not even an obsession with sex can stop them.



It’s weird watching this surreal mix of Meatballs and Surviving the Game, especially in light of where Seaver’s career has been headed lately. To see him shuffle back to outrageous scatology, to rely on body parts and their accompanying functions as a means of making his business funny reeks of an unnecessary regression. Argue all you want about the LPB universe and its cast of kooky characters, but when this director wants to diddle in dirtiness, there is none better. So at least Teenape Goes to Camp offers its fair share of corporeal complements. Between our title character and the ever popular (and horny) Choach, there’s enough blue balling to go around. In fact, Seaver seems to have substantially stepped up his game in the proto-porn and massive mammary department. Some of his newest cast members are carrying cleavage that would make the editors of Juggs jump for joy.


It will be the sudden shift into stalker/slaughter mode that throws many off their game, especially when Father Mushroom from the MST3K classic Jack Frost shows up to offer his sage-like fungal advice. Granted, the moments of revenge are sweet as the gamiest cheek meat, and we want to see these standoffs as part of the overall LPB dynamic. But this is clearly a movie made for fans who just can’t get enough of the entire goofball gimmick. Fortunately, the film offers enough glad-handed good-timing to warrant attention. As a matter of fact, had he not made the next three movies under discussion, this would be one of his crowning achievements. Yet what happens to Teenape Goes to Camp is what tends to occur with all midcareer capers. There’s an undeniable sense of greatness here. There is also a tendency to view things via a “been there, done that” set of revisionist glasses. If you love Seaver and LBP, you’ll dig this fun flick. But be prepared - the next cinematic leap is a dozy.





The Film Crew






The employees at the local chain theater are a little wary of management’s new hire. His name is Caspian, and he seems unusually preoccupied with death, dismemberment, and retribution. As they go about their business, being rude to the customers and inappropriate with each other, something sinister starts to happen. One by one, the crew starts disappearing…and the new guy seems to be behind the vanishings.


Let’s get the lovefest out of the way right up front - The Film Crew is fantastic. It is by far one of the best, most inventive, and most consistently clever film Seaver has ever helmed. Not only does it prove that he can exist outside the strictures of the Low Budget Pictures universe, but it indicates a level of pop culture intuition that’s simply dead on. Attaching the at one time tired slasher dynamic to what is basically a stellar sitcom waiting to be discovered, we are treated to riffs on Jeremy Statham, American Idol, and geek cinema obsession. The scripting literally shimmers at times, reflecting one man’s undeniable ability to channel his entire catalog of fandom into a witty exchange of hilarious horndog hollabacks and genre homages. No one knows the horror comedy better, and when Seaver is on - as he is here - the results are electric. Indeed, one gets depressed at how the film ends, since it seems to indicate a sequel is next to impossible.


And another thing - Seaver has really solidified the work with his actors. The cast is incredible, delivering dead on parodies of slackers, dreamers, angst-ridden rejects, and ‘bumble-clot’ Rastafarians. The cartoonish quality they bring to each line reading really amplifies Seaver’s sensibility, and they end up endearing themselves to us with a juvenile gesture or a natty non-sequitor.  Not everything here is anarchy - the plot percolates along on whiffs of Prom Night and the essence of the venerable Voorhees. Even better, the splatter is kept under control, not allowed to overwhelm what is an excellent mainstream effort. Like his lost masterpiece The Karaoke Kid, Seaver continues to prove he can work well outside the confines of Bonejack, Teenape, and the entire Heather and Puggly domain. All he needs is someone to give him the chance. The Film Crew may just be his ticket to wider mainstream acceptance.

Tomorrow - we check in with another Teenape adventure, and witness the rebirth of Chris Seaver as a legitimate independent icon with his amazing ‘80s homage, Ski Wolf.


 


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Sunday, Mar 23, 2008


It’s not the most visualized holiday in the motion picture canon. Perhaps it has something to do with the bifurcated nature of the celebration. On the one hand, you’ve got the solemn grace of the Christian conceit, a moving proclamation of faith and forgiveness as best illustrated by the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Then, for some perfectly pagan reason, this honorarium for the dead turned into a brightly colored pastel puke fest, as baskets laden with all manner of glucose grotesqueries became the annual endowment to dentists and dieticians everywhere. Even worse, the King of Kings was cast aside for some oversized animal with a tendency toward rapid preproduction and raisin pellet feces. Trying to explain this all to an impressionable youth has got to be one of the greatest challenges in all of parenting. No wonder they saddle their bratlings with all kinds of caffeine and caramels instead.


Hollywood’s been no help. They’ve treated Easter like a leper in the motion picture punchbowl, sticking with either the saintly (The Robe) or the silly (Easter Parade) to illustrate their interest. Of course, kids catch the brunt of it, with all manner of egg and eye candy creations used to keep their attention off the obvious death and dying subtext. Between standard animated offal (It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown) and the unusual ersatz religious revamps (the Veggies Tales take on Dickens called An Easter Carol) it’s no wonder children choke down sweets. But here’s a way of avoiding all this conceptual contradiction. As part of our cinematic service to the planet’s populace, SE&L suggests tossing out the typical and trying a few new entertainment entries this holiday. While they probably won’t fill you with much spring spirit, they will definitely make the time period more tolerable. Divided into the recognizable symbols of the season, let’s begin with:


Rabbits – Night of the Lepus (1972)


So you think all bunnies are cute as a button and snuggly as freshly dried cotton fluff? Well, the gigantic clod hoppers at the center of the surreal creature feature hope to cure you of your one note view of the long eared brotherhood. In one of those typical “science gone screwy” concepts, standard desert pests are given an injection of hump-hindering genetic material to keep them from…well, you get the idea. Anyway, as kind of an infertility payback, the bunnies go ballistic, growing to over 50 feet in size and packing an equal quantity of ludicrousness. Traipsing in between all this Hellspawn hasenpfeffer are noted has-been movie icons Stuart Witman, Janet Leigh, DeForest Kelly and Rory Calhoun, each one testing their acting mantle in respond to good luck charms the size of an SUV. Even Mr. McGregor would have a hard time keeping these elephantine entities out of his precious cabbage patch.

Runner-Up: Evil Anthony conjures up a horrifying rabbit of Hate in Joe Dante’s entry from Twilight Zone: The Movie.


Eggs – Aliens (1986)


As a symbol of fertility and the creation of life, the familiar oblong shape we associate with this time of year can actually hold a deep dark evil. Take the final sequence in James Cameron’s brilliant follow-up to Ridley Scott’s haunted house in space epic. Our heroine, reluctant warrior Ellen Ripley, must take on the monstrous Alien queen to save her Newt, the orphaned child she’s come to care for. Walking directly into the creature’s incredible brooder, the character is confronted by hundreds of face-hugger filled pods. Ripley’s solution? Blast the bejesus out of them with a flamethrower and grenade launcher. Naturally, our birthing beastie gets good and pissed. High octane action ensues. If your own lasting memory of Easter Egging is the slight scent of vinegar and the reluctant discovery, six month later, of the particularly rotten remnants of same, then this battle between the species for the fate of the cosmos will provide a welcome alternative.


Runner-Up: Chad Everett takes on an underwater mutant hatched from a prehistoric omelet in The Intruder Within.


Sweets: The Ice Cream Man (1995)


What do you do when you’re a well meaning maniac, freshly released from the local loony bin and looking to make little children happy with your heartfelt, wholesome intentions? Why, if you’re the stiflingly psychotic Gregory, played with proto-punk brilliance by that human goofball Clint Howard, you don a Good Humor uniform and dish up the frozen treats. Oh, and if you run out of tri-colored Rocket pops – or mood altering medication – you can always add a few corpses to your creamery. Thus we have the perfect antidote for all the sugar-addled pre-adolescents who view the Easter extravaganza as part of a bi-annual excuse to push their internal diabetic tolerances to their very limits. One visit from this frozen custard creep and you’ll be rotting in the ground, instead of your tooth enamel. Besides, nothing can beat Ron’s resplendent little brother as a gap-toothed terror with a 31 flavors jones.


Runner Up: The sickly sweet killer cream at the center of Larry Cohen’s satiric The Stuff.


The Passion:  Dead Alive (1992)


If Mel Gibson’s mega-hit from two years ago taught us anything about the trial and persecution of Jesus Christ, it’s that the Romans really dug their gore. Their skin shredding lashing of the Lord God and Savior was as brutal as it was bloody. If you’re looking for a similar amount of mindless flesh tearing to remind you of the deliverer’s time under the lash, then cast your eyes upon this pre-LOTR classic from Oscar winning wunderkind Peter Jackson. Applying his love of unbridled bloodletting to a surreal story involving a whipped Mama’s boy, the gypsy girl he falls for, and the infected bite of a Samarian rat monkey, it’s not long before the grue goes gonzo and our hero is surrounded by all manner of reanimated zombies. Eventually, claret literally covers every inch of the set. Equally hilarious in its darkly comic creativity, you’ll get a mountain of meaningful violence out of this brilliant bit of bile.


Runner Up: The Japanese argue for the title of most depraved fright fans around thanks to the callous corpse grinding of the Guinea Pig series.


The Resurrection: Deathdream (1974)


In case the brain dulling chocolate rush you’re experiencing has given you a kind of spontaneous amnesia, the main reason most religious types sanctify this time of the year can be summed up in a single phrase – “after three days, he rose from the dead.” Of course, for even the most avid believer, coming back from the grave sounds suspiciously scary. So how about a movie that plays on these allegorical elements to significantly amplify the angst. A masterpiece of uneasy dread, the late Bob Clark’s Dead of Night (known by most under the title Deathdream) uses the old ‘monkey’s paw’ myth to tell the story of a fallen Vietnam soldier “returning” home to his family. In a clear case of being extremely careful what you wish for, our reanimated vet starts exhibiting behavior that would be unacceptable, even in the middle of a murderous war. And all his parents can do is pray – pray that he doesn’t target them for his evil vampiric desires.


Runner Up: The black zombie “redeemer” leading his fellow ghouls out of bondage in George Romero’s Land of the Dead.


The Redemption: The Omega Man (1971)


Ask any Christian you happen to see, and they will tell you that the reason Easter is important is that it signifies Jesus’ sacrifice for all of mankind. In essence, he died on the cross so that the entire world could live. Counteracting such a selfless stance may seem impossible – unless, of course, you’re the fabulous Chuck Heston. First, you warned the world about a certain meat by-product based snack in Soylent Green, and then you challenged mean-spirited mutants in a blitzed out LA as The Omega Man. Either one of these arch epics would satisfy your annual altruistic needs, but the best Messianic complex bet remains Omega Man. Loosely based on Richard Matheson’s masterful I Am Legend, our hopeful hero spends his days driving around an abandoned metropolis. At night, he battles albino throwbacks who want him to die for their new world order. Kind of sums the whole Easter ideal up in a nice little nutshell, doesn’t it?

Runner Up: An international team of scientists, military men, and hack actors all try to save the planet from a Virus that threatens to turn everything into one big Japanese disaster movie.


And there you have it – six films guaranteed to get that nasty taste of bargain basement discount department store pseudo-milk chocolate bunny out of your mouth once and for all. No matter your denomination, or beleaguered belief system, everyone could use a break from tried and true tradition. So give the MGM musicals a rest, and try not to subject yourself to another helping of James Caviezel’s snuff film style scourging at the hands of some psycho-Italianos. Nothing beats the boredom of another mindless spring fling better than something that smotes it right in the repetitive ribcage. With this sly sextet of offerings, it may be a halfway Happy Easter after all.


 


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Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008


Ah, abortion: the solid center to any motion picture entertainment, right? Why so many of today’s movies have shied away from this normal, non-hot-button issue is simply a mystery. How could famed producers and artistically minded directors not see the inherent visual appeal of seedy, back alley clinics, wire coat hangers, and post-procedure hemorrhaging? You’d think by the way they avoided it, there was some manner of controversy surrounding this simple, salient life option preferred by so many modern women. Even the exploitation element felt sheepish about broaching the topic - mostly.


When corn-fed gal Patty Smith arrives in LA from Kansas, she wants to experience all that the West Coast has to offer. But getting gang-raped by a bunch of swarthy toughs was not high on her “to do” list. A couple of bouts of morning sickness later, and Patty has a permanent souvenir of the City of Angels. Hoping for help in terminating this unwanted “with child,” Patty seeks her doctor’s advice. He preaches to her about legalities. Seeking a second opinion, she visits another physician. He sermonizes about ethics…and then demands $600 to “help.” Desperate for money, Patty heads over to her church looking for a loan. The local parish priest condemns her - and her unborn fetus - to an eternity of damnation. Besides, the diocese is short on cash (go figure).


At her wit’s - and first trimester’s - end, Patty seeks the assistance of a sleazy bar owner with “connections.” He spares her a lecture, but does suggest she simply “get it over with” and just turn whore. Finally finding a financially acceptable option, Patty takes $200 to a “floating” clinic and prepares for a safe, sanitary procedure. What she gets instead is another homily to legislative change and a rather deadly infection. It may be hard for the folks back home to understand, but such knitting needle options are simply part of The Shame of Patty Smith.



Over in Dentonville, Florida, folks are as overheated as a cat on a hot tin roof, and view their small town existence as one huge crass menagerie. Trading on her family name - and her physician father’s swollen back account - little Joan Denton loves to cruise the seedy side of the city and hornswoggle the local rough trade. Eddie Mercer is the lucky load who lands Joanie’s physical love bug, and it’s not long before seed has taken womb root. The determined debutante immediately puts the kibosh on further fetlock fun, and this devastates ol’ Ed. He wants her to have the baby. But Joan is too busy preparing for country club parties, going on shopping sprees, and looking for available abortionists in Tampa (which is apparently famous for said surgical saloons).


A confrontation leads to a misunderstanding and before you know it, Edward is in jail on trumped-up charges, Dr. Denton is arranging for the fertility flushing, and a snotty lawyer from Miami is sticking his bar credentials in everyone’s dirty laundry business. When it appears that her trip to one of Ybor City’s finest birth termination facilities is threatened, Joan goes jittery and grabs a gun. Orphans are threatened. Swamps are polluted. And a planned retirement community is turned into a pre-Poltergeist burial mound as death comes from the flash of a muzzle accompanied by the screaming sentiment, “You’ve Ruined Me, Eddie!”



All joking aside, it’s clear that one of the reasons abortion has stayed a minor motion picture plotpoint is that The Shame of Patty Smith covered the subject so thoroughly and with enough debate-oriented detail that no other Tinseltown NOW testament could compete with its completeness. And inclusive is definitely one way of describing this legal and ethical diatribe.


Made 11 years before Roe v. Wade turned promiscuity into a viable vice option (at least in the Puritan’s mind), this cinematic amicus brief to the cause of choice gives every side - medical, religious, law enforcement, and backroom butcher - the chance to have his or her say. A lot of say. Too much say. While the arguments are cogent and the language intelligent, these discomfited conversational sidesteps turn the movie into something of a mad musical of soapbox stumping. Like one of those old MGM Technicolor classics, you can literally watch The Shame of Patty Smith‘s narrative and say to yourself, “I feel a speech coming on.”


Far too contemporary for its early ‘60s surroundings, this uncomfortable confrontation between life and privacy tries to address this most non-winnable of arguments in a realistic manner. Too bad it sacrifices salaciousness, drama and entertainment to do so. One has to wonder what the raincoat crowd made of this dull, detail-oriented offering. Never before has getting knocked up been so foul…or so thoroughly footnoted. The Shame of Patty Smith has good intentions, antithetical to a grindhouse good time.



If you ever wondered what an exploitation movie about unwanted teen pregnancy would look like had it been penned by Tennessee Williams or Truman Capote, then settle back on your porch swing, pour yourself a frosty mint julep and whittle away an hour (actually, 73 minutes) with the powerful Denton family and their promiscuous daughter Joan. So steamy it instantly irons out the wrinkles in your drapes the minute it starts to unscroll onscreen, and so full of Southern-fried melodrama that Colonel Sanders once thought of including it with a bucket of his chicken, “You’ve Ruined Me, Eddie!” (changed from the original Touch of Flesh) is more Tobacco Road than classroom scare tactic.


Between the backstabbing family lawyer, the local police chief who proudly flaunts his lack of parentage, and a slinky slut who’s new to town but already at home with the horny swing of things, this peculating potboiler is as bodice-bulging as they get. Add in Joan’s sexual slumming, an elderly matron with the “hots” for Dr. Denton, and some gratuitous orphans, and this sleazy saga goes from bad to perverse.


Director R. John Hugh has a unique cinematic style. Placing his camera just a little too high in the frame, he forces everyone to talk down toward the floor, so we get very little actual eye contact. Everyone navel-gazes as they deliver their overly melodramatic lines filled with family secrets and prosecutorial proverbs. Barely touching on the divisive surgery controversy, “You’ve Ruined Me, Eddie!” intends to show how an unwanted oven bun can lead to all manner of overacting. It succeeds in superbly seedy fashion. Not even old Ed can damage this randy rhetoric reading.


As unique as they are oblique, both The Shame of Patty Smith and “You’ve Ruined Me, Eddie!” represent motion picture moralizing at its most truncated and tawdry. They also stand as wonderful examples of abortion’s limited cinematic stance. Pro or con, these are a couple of crazy lessons in Constitutional constructions.


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Wednesday, Feb 13, 2008


Don’t you just hate the false sentiment, the “love them or else” aura that surrounds this so called holiday of love. Ever since marketers discovered that people respond well to social and cultural peer pressure (“everyone is giving diamonds, so why not you, you jerk!”), the most minor of calendar calls has been magnified to maximize shame, and guilt-related spree spending. Valentine’s Day is no different. Where once little kids gave scraps of paper with semi-clever compliments (“Bee My Special Friend” with mandatory bumble), or chalky little candies, the pre-post-proto-modern mindset reels at anything less than designer chocolates, mutant sized bouquets of flora, and a sting of ‘oh so’ precious stones.


There is a way to get back at all this lovey dovey horse hockey and preserve the spirit of merriment and festivity, however. Instead of worshipping yet another questionable saint, why not simply strike the sacrosanct and go gratuitous. Those completely in touch with the practical and the profane know that the perfect antidote to lace and frills is lechery and thrills. And nowhere are such baser instincts better represented than in the world of exploitation. Among the naked bodies and whip whelped backsides, in between the depravity and the debauchery, there’s a chance to have your cake and smear it all over your sex partner too.


“Vile-entines”, as we purists refer to it, can be a ‘whenever’ experience. Any day can be a grindhouse day. Yet what better way to acknowledge your left field obsessions than with flesh feasts from the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s? Isn’t that better than a Build a Bear? While not all drive-in fodder finds its way onto the big picture, if one categorizes the many objects de amore available, the possibilities become far more manageable. Like the song once said, if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with. And with that, here are ten carnal classifications that would make any defiant romantic weep with wanton joy:



Love of SATAN


While the traditional holiday adores the cherub and the cutesy, the antithesis celebrates the demonic and the blasphemous. Since most relationships end up as a living Hell anyway, why not cut out the middle man (or woman) and simply give the Devil your direct attention. Whether it’s a trip to the Asylum of Satan, a quick game of statues with Satan’s Children, a how to guide in worshipping the Beast from Satanis: The Black Mass, or a romp with Sinthia: The Devil’s Doll, there are at least 666 ways to leave your lover…for Lucifer. Besides, fire and brimstone are far more practical gifts.



Love of DRUGS


Everyone needs to feed their head now and again - and no, we aren’t talking about BOOKS, Grace Slick. If unforgettable films like Ghetto Freaks, Alice in Acidland, The Hooked Generation, and Psyched by the 4D Witch have taught us anything, it’s that the best way to turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream is through the ingestion of massive amounts of dope. Opiates, be they injected, snorted, or smoked, just make sense this time of year. After all, how else will you get through the endless saccharine emotions and suggestions that you’re less than a lothario without coughing up cash.



Love of PAIN


If you believe in duality, there is a cause for every effect, some nausea for every naked exploitation actress. Logically then, for all the pleasure around, there has got to be some pain. No one knew this better than the late, great, degenerate Michael Findlay. Via his massively mean spirited Flesh Trilogy (The Kiss of Her Flesh, The Curse of Her Flesh, The Touch of Her Flesh), he created the serial killer slasher film and a perfect advertisement for the seductiveness of sadism. Granted, people do get hurt under this sort of sensuality, especially around the throat, cranium, and breadbasket. But just like a romantic tattoo, a scar is forever.



Love of the SUN


Nudists know best - especially when it comes to stripping off the skin covering and letting the Milky Way’s largest power source bathe their bodies in Vitamin D giving (and malignant melanoma causing) sunlight. Worshipping said source of all bio-chemical existence is the main point behind such epidermis exposing efforts as Nude on the Moon, Gentlemen Prefer Nature Girls, Goldilocks and the Three Bares, and The Naked Venus. Of course, the reality of such a lifestyle choice involves stigmas, occlusions, hirsute happenstance, and lots and lots of moles. They say the human form unsheathed is a beautiful thing. We’ll take their word for it.



Love of BURLESQUE


Matronly-like seductresses doing a bawdy bump and grind. Baggy pants comedians cracking wise. Singers rejoicing in the fine art of melody trashing. All this, and much, much less can be yours if you just let efforts like A Virgin in Hollywood, Too Hot to Handle, Varietease, and Teaserama be your exotic dancing guide. The one time cultured repast, considered quite swanky for sub and urban swells, now resembles grandma getting dolled up in a rather inappropriate manner. Still, if glamour and seduction is an art, then these pancaked pack mules are the very definition of Victoria’s Secret - and perhaps they should stay that way.



Love of HILLBILLIES


Since they’re raised in the backest of backwoods, guided by parents who may be related both legally and genealogically, rednecks are a wonderful repository of unrequited (and un-hygienic) passion. Whether it’s the full figured farmer’s bride in such rural rube classics as Sweet Georgia or Jennie: Wife/Child, or sexually wound up offspring like The Pigkeeper’s Daughter or Tobacco Roody, the results are always the same: more indirect animal husbandry; more kin on kin canoodling; more moonshine inspired spooning. And the occasional trip to the outhouse, just to make sure everything - and everyone - stays good and regular.



Love of the OVERLY AMPLE BOSOM


Chesty Morgan is definitely the cover girl for Vile-entines Day. Lacking much of Betty Pages’ allure, and none of Pat Barrington’s siliconed savvy, this Polish immigrant by way of some industrial sized lingerie is a dead eyed body double sold for her excessive skin only. Attractive in a perogies-producing, earnest Eastern European manner, Ms. FF turned standard sexploitation like Deadly Weapons and Double Agent 73 into crazed cult classics. And if she can do that to the most overdone and derivative of ‘60s/‘70s sleaze, imagine how she can perk up your love life - either that, or your gag reflex.



Love of ROBOTS


While the main premise of the film centers on your typical mad medico trying to resurrect the dead with some special white powder (hey - it worked for Liza Minelli and Andy Warhol), there is a musical interlude in the middle of Swamp of the Ravens that suggests automatons and arousal go hand in hand. As a sweaty longue lizard squawks about his ardor for an amiable android, we see him grope and ogle a mannequin. At least it all seems very innocent. The creepy pervert in Doris Wishman’s Indecent Desires fondles a child’s doll to get his jollies. Now that’s just sick!



Love of PROSTITUTION


Ladies of the night…women of ill-repute…street slags…brothel babes…you nickname them, Vile-entines just eats them up. In films like The Hookers, The Agony of Love, and The Love Merchant, girls giving it up for cash and the pimps pushing them are semi-respectable reflections of a society gone soft and squishy. The easy access to paid passion is always given its main moral comeuppance, but along the way we experience the dueling dichotomy of supply and demand wrapped up in being a whore. And then there are those honeys who think they’re beyond the whole “name your price” predicament. Too bad they can’t see the forest for the Johns.



Love of VIOLENCE


Roses are red…and so are clots of bloody gore! In keeping with the ‘heartfelt’ sentiments of the season, rivers of clarets have come to symbolize what this sleazoid celebration is all about. Whether it’s the old school splatter of Blood Feast (complete with gratuitous conversational innuendo), the subtle slaughter of Doctor Gore, or the live child birth footage from such reddened roadshow classics as Street Corner and Damaged Goods, sluice signifies the best of what this holiday has to offer. And there’s no better way to get close to your potential lover than via a quick trip with a meat cleaver through his or her alimentary canal.


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