"I'll just get my gear."

Posts Tagged ‘Paul L. Smith’

Crimewave

Tuesday, January 11th, 2022

THE EVIL DEAD was a hit. It took them a while, but they found a distributor, Irvin Shapiro. He’d been a founder of the Cannes Film Festival, and arranged for it to screen out of competition, where Stephen King saw it and loved it. Him raving about it in USA Today brought it outsized attention for such a small movie. It was well reviewed and became a sleeper hit, making 8 times its budget at the domestic box office (and then we all saw it on video).

And you know how these days you can make a low budget horror debut and a studio will hire you to direct SHAZAM! or some shit? That’s a little bit like what Raimi tried to do after THE EVIL DEAD. Not a for-hire thing, but a bigger movie more in the comedic vein of his amateur Super-8 films. According to Bruce Campbell’s book If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor, THE EVIL DEAD editor Edna Ruth Paul had told Raimi that her assistant Joel Coen and his brother Ethan wrote great scripts. “Ethan was just a statistical accountant at Macy’s at the time,” Raimi is quoted as saying in the book, “and I thought it’s probably going to be awful, but I’ll read it because I like Joel. And I read it and I thought, ‘This is really a great script. These guys know how to write scripts.’ I needed help, because ours was no good and they came in and helped me with it.”

Later there was an uncredited pass by Sheldon Lettich, who in a few years would become forever associated with Jean-Claude Van Damme by writing BLOODSPORT and then directing LIONHEART. (Lettich would also co-write a too-ambitious EVIL DEAD 2 draft similar to what became ARMY OF DARKNESS.)

Set in Raimi and Campbell’s home town of Detroit, CRIMEWAVE (1985) is a weird and funny movie, teeming with Raimi and Coen personality, from the precisely worded dialogue full of humorously archaic phrasing, to the over-the-top set pieces, to the straight up Three Stooges cartooniness. A favorite example of the latter: during a struggle, a shelf gets knocked down and a series of bowling balls (or cannonballs?) roll onto a villain’s head one after the other – don’t keep those on a shelf, people! That’s dangerous!

But Embassy Pictures fucked with Raimi from the beginning, causing numerous obvious compromises, so he and the Coens have long since disowned it.

First and worst compromise: they wouldn’t let Bruce Campbell be the star. He’s funny as Renaldo, the “heel” and lady’s man who’s the hero’s romantic rival. But the lead was given to Reed Birney (House of Cards, THE HUNT), who comes off like a poor man’s Anthony Edwards circa REVENGE-OF-THE-NERDS. He plays hapless dork Vic Ajax, who openly reads the book How To Talk To Women and then, when he gets the chance to, only talks to them about himself. It’s easy to imagine this cluelessness working with Campbell’s arrogant buffoon shtick, but Birney’s portrayal seems a little too accurate to that type of person to be charming. I kind of want to see him suffer. But he pulls some of it off. (read the rest of this shit…)

Pieces

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

tn_piecesMan, I don’t know about PIECES, you guys. This is another one I first saw in an all night horror marathon. I remember liking it. But this kind of crudely-presented-brutal-fucked-upness plays better with a crowd who are rowdy and dazed and trying to stay awake than alone in my living room. Maybe I should’ve woken up a bunch of people in the middle of the night and made them come over.

It’s a Spanish movie, but it takes place in Boston. It’s kind of like GOOD WILL HUNTING in my opinion. (I have not seen GOOD WILL HUNTING). I wasn’t sure which version you’re supposed to watch, so I went with the original. The Spanish is not spoken with a Boston accent. It turns out this version also has a different score that’s mostly piano and pretty good, I thought.

This is the style of slasher movie like NIGHTMARE or SLEEPAWAY CAMP or even HALLOWEEN now that I think about it where the killing dates back to childhood and the walking-in-on of a sex act. In this case though it’s a boy’s mother taking away his best porno puzzle and rather than fighting for his right to party he chops her up. He gets away with claiming it wasn’t him, though. Being a kid is a good alibi. (read the rest of this shit…)

Desert Kickboxer

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

tn_desertkickboxerrookiesIsaac Florentine’s first feature DESERT KICKBOXER is not a remake of KICKBOXER that takes place in a more arid climate. It’s also not DESSERT KICKBOXER. That would be weird, and I’m not sure what it would be about. No, this one is just a story about a kickboxer who lives in the desert. Actually I doubt he even considers himself a kickboxer anymore. In a hazy, dreamlike prologue he kills a man in the ring. If this was KICKBOXER he’d be the bad guy, and his dead opponent’s brother would come after him for revenge. Since it’s not, he feels bad about it and is a loner living in his deceased father’s trailer in the middle of nowhere.

His name is Hawk, and I bet you can guess what that means. Yep, he’s that archetype “The Half Breed,” like Billy Jack, or Elvis in FLAMING STAR, or Bronson in CHINO, or the Daywalker. He has all of the white man’s strengths, none of his weaknesses. But he never quite fits in either world. He’s never fully accepted on the reservation, probly called racist slurs by some white people, impressive to others because of his exotic wisdom. And as far as I know the actor playing him is a white guy. He’s John Haymes Newton, best known for playing Superboy in the late ’80s TV series of the same name.

When we first meet Hawk he’s some sort of deputized border guard badass beating up drug smugglers, but he’s pissed when he finds out it’s just pot they’re smuggling, and tells the sheriff – an old colleague of his dad, of course – that he’s not doing this shit anymore. Pretty progressive. (read the rest of this shit…)

Sonny Boy

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Sonny Boy (Michael Griffin) is a young man who lives in a metal shed, raised by a small town crime lord named Slue (Paul L. Smith, Bluto from POPEYE) and his lady Pearl (David Carradine – I think he’s playing a transvestite but maybe it’s gender-blind casting). Pearl has been protective of Sonny Boy ever since he was a baby. But obviously not protective enough, since they cut his tongue out (as a birthday present, they say), torture him with fire to give him tough skin, and train him to bite the necks of their enemies.
(read the rest of this shit…)

Popeye

Friday, July 13th, 2012

Alot of people think, just because of movies like THE FANTASTIC FOUR and THE CROW, that comic strip books are only for kids. Well I’m here to tell you that actually they’re for everybody now. How else do you explain Robert Altman, the director of NASHVILLE and QUINTET, doing a movie based on the early-twentieth-century comic strip Thimble Theater by E.C. Segar? POPEYE is I guess the bizarre movie you’d have to expect when a set of weird old comic strip and cartoon characters are turned into a live action musical by the auteur of M.A.S.H. It uses cartoon physics but with muted colors (except for red or blue clothes) and dirty, lived-in settings. The plot is very simple, most of the funny lines are mumbled, it’s hard to figure out exactly what they were going for, and I sort of love it. (read the rest of this shit…)