Tag Archives: bad boys

STANLEY KUBRICK & RODNEY DANGERFIELD

I’ve watched some crap this week. The ‘Conan the Barbarian’ redux was far-from-entertaining and lacked the lead, script and score that gave the 1982 version such presence while ‘The Devil’s Double’ was neither trashy nor truthful enough to be of any point whatsoever. If you can’t make anything out of barbarians or psychotic dictator’s sons what kind of filmmaker are you? Still, I hope that the box office dirty bomb that ‘Conan…’ and ‘Fright Night’ activated wipes this relentless trend for remakes out.

Still, I was heartened to hear that the rumours of Rodney Dangerfield appearing in Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Killing’ back in 1956 — the heist film that’s been homaged time and time again —- were actually true. I heard the bug-eyed king of the self-deprecating one-liner was an onlooker in an uncredited role, but I’d never been able to spot him. So I assumed it was apocryphal — after all, two of my heroes crossing paths is a significant thing that must have been too good to be true. Someone once told me that Antipodean folk-hero Alf Stewart from ‘Home & Away’ was in ‘Abba the Movie’ and it turned out to be bullshit. As a result, I approach these early sightings with the same skepticism we approach yokels claiming to have seen alien transport. That was until Criterion upped this excellent Chuck Stephens essay a couple of days ago, taking the reader through ‘The Killing’s cast — from the lead to supporting roles, the narrator, and including a still of Mr. Dangerfield in full onlooker mode, peering over a shoulder at a an impromptu bout of race track fisticuffs. This is easily my favourite uncredited cameo of all time since Robert Duvall sat on a swing in the 1978 ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’.

On a similar subject, the New Yorker is talking up a spot of beef between another deified director and Mr. Sean Penn, with Sean claiming that the ‘Tree of Life’ script never made an accurate leap to the screen when Terrence Malick directed it, and reinforcing the popular consensus that the film is anaemic in the narrative department. I’ve got a lot of time for ‘Milk’ but I preferred the Penn that starred in awesome films like ‘Bad Boys’ and ‘At Close Range’ (with an excellent Walken turn too — I never realised how based on a true story it actually was). Having grown up gawping at the ‘Bad Boys’ VHS sleeve with a vivid illustration of Penn sat on another teenager and about to drive a shiv into his neck, this crappy US-poster makes this 1983 teen prison flick look like ‘Beat Street’ — what’s up with that covered lettering?

I’ve long tried to stop this blog straying too far into retro territory by implementing a retro offset section when I feel I’m a little too lost in rose-tinted Cazal territory. Simon Reynolds’s excellent new book ‘Retromania’ takes on that issue head on and explores our fetish for the past. He’s especially taken with the early to mid 1960s’ work of André Courrèges, who brought a defiant futurism to women’s fashion, and — according to Reynolds — represents one of the last stands against reverse thinking before the 1960s (thought by so many to be the progressive decade) began to look back. I love this LIFE profile of Courrèges from their May 21st, 1965 edition, entitled ‘The Lord of the Space Ladies’ (referencing the 1964 ‘Space Age’ collection) where he spits some superior soundbites, steeped in progression (“Le Corbusier is my only master. If I had the guts, I would leave it all today to become an architect”) and is pictured playing Basque pelota in some court sport whites. In stark contrast, his silver, intergalactic creations for the Munich Olympics were eccentric and amazing too.

It’s interesting that Supreme referenced Courrèges as early as 1995 in Suprème ads and logos (with the lettering frequently misunderstood as a Macy’s homage), possibly to represent their future-proofed vision, complimented by that box logo in contrast to the more garish skate and street wear of the time, treating their tight-knit team and employees like a Weber Calvin Klein shoot was something different. I’ve never known whether that B&W treatment was linked to the brief controversy over box stickers stuck to Calvin Klein ads that’s referenced on the much-faked and still-imitated Kate Moss t-shirt. Courrèges remains legendary.

As I age and lose touch, I’m clinging on, white-knuckled to some semblance of the new before I lapse into a permanent “everything’s shit” mode and the gradual Benjamin Button style reversal back to a happier ideal of years past that’s historically rewritten to make even the most mundane releases look definitive. That’s why I have to shout out Nick Bam —my advisor on all matters of waviness — for putting me onto Nakim’s ‘Swervin’ remix. I can’t stop listening to it and those visuals are some budget brilliance.

Shouts to team Leisure on the launch of their site, offering month-long online explorations of a chosen topic, seemingly in retort to the insubstantial canapès of Tumblr and the blank-eyed global spread of the low-attention epidemic. There’s plenty of content on the new site that’s relevant to my interests, dwelling on psychedelia until the 15th of September. This piece on Ricky Kasso (a longtime personal preoccupation — see also Anthony Jacques Broussard and James Vance) is fun.

PRISON FILMS

Busy, busy, busy…that means rushed blog entries like this one – apologies.

Prison films carry a certain miserable appeal. That’s what can attract a film goer to the cinematic classics -‘Penitentiary’, ‘Bad Boys’, ‘American Me’, ‘McVicar’, ‘A Prophet’ (nice sweatshirt – shame about the throat-slitting obligations) ‘Midnight Express’, ‘Riot in Cell Block No. 9’, ‘Short Eyes’, ‘Carindarou’, ‘Runaway Train’ or searing texts like George Jackson’s ‘Soledad Brother’ and Edward Bunker’s ‘Animal Factory.’ I’ve pondered just how much of a weak prisoner I’d be, and whether I’d get Beecher’d into obliged Aryan Brotherhood membership. Not a good look. As a result I’d rather stay on the outside.

After ‘Oz’ ended on a madcap low-note (at least Tom Fontana had the honesty to concede he’d just run out of offbeat killing methods) with Shakespeare performed behind bars using real knives, there’s been an opening for some trashy jail madness, yet only Walter Hill’s repeatedly shelved ‘Undisputed’ really delivered at b-movie level. Sean Penn delivered in ‘Bad Boys’ but the true daddy was Alan Clarke’s ‘Scum’ – after Gus Van Sant had a go at his masterpiece ‘Elephant’, Nick Love caused shock with a half-decent film reworking Clarke’s ‘The Firm’ it looks like we’re going juvey again when his brutal look at British borstal life gets an unofficial remake from Doublegoose wearing ‘Sheitan’ director Kim Chapiron via ”Dog Pound’ – it looks pretty good.

Even though ‘Scum’ takes paternal status by wielding an iron bar and yelling, it’s not the greatest prison flick ever made. That honour goes to John Hillcoat’s ‘Ghosts of the Civil Dead’ – a cerebral, searing, naturalistic near-futureshock that makes the penal system look utterly hellish and totally hopeless. Neoliberal capitalism, the outlook of colonial administrators like Arthur Philip, primal instinct versus mechanical coercion and the (correct) notion that prison systems can further criminalize institutions’ denizens doesn’t make for a lot of laughs either. Other Aussie jail films ‘Stir’ and ‘Everynight, Everynight’ (with ‘…Civil Dead’s David Field in the lead) are hardly fun, but this is next level. Rage turns to murder, and evidently taking a note from one of Norman Mailer’s key “Doh!” (though I’m sure I heard hims say it Homer-style when Rip Torn cracked him on the head with a hammer) moments – the whole Gary Gilmore saga. ‘…Civil Dead’ pulls few punches, but if you can stomach the unrelentingly grim tone, you’ll emerge impressed. Officially Oz-made, this is the original ‘Oz’ – I’ve never seen it admitted, but the clinical, experimental tone of Levinson and Fontana’s fictional criminal housing, and the back story focus owes a debt to this movie.

Some Bad Seeds on the soundtrack and a truly demented Nick Cave performance may well have given this film some extra mileage beyond VHS purgatory, but with the mild popularity of Hillcoat’s ‘The Road’ (too miserable to sit through – well executed but better on paper) and ‘The Proposition’ this still doesn’t exist in digital form beyond a comprehensive but tough to track down Australian DVD. This website is pretty exhaustive too, dating back to 2005 but promising a rerelease. This film will affect you with regards to a deeply contentious topic without concluding with a Hollywood liberal crawling through pipes of shit to topless freedom. Evan English, one of the film’s writers recently wrote an account of the Cannes guerilla marketing for the movie in May 1988 that puts most calculated, hapless attempts at a “viral” to shame.

On asking Evan about a potential release, I got a polite email, “You have obviously seen the website availability page which lays out the intentions. As those ideas have developed and the work of likely contributors reviewed, it becomes increasingly obvious to me I want to do something with this (dvd, book, website) that significantly adds to the film. Mot a making of with some puff, but a solid review of the politics of incarceration and the trends therein.

The problem is this is independent filmmaking (and this answers your question: with the release of ‘The Road’ and ‘The Proposition’ a few years back, why does this masterpiece remain a cult film. Were there distribution or global licensing issues from day one?).

All the work on the film – intellectual to mundane – is done by me. That’s it, me. It’s twenty years after and it’s wonderful it’s alive , but it’s hard work. There have been many offers over time, but I have high standards…”

Evan says, “Believe” and having had similar feedback regarding other personal favourites ‘The Decline of Western Civilization’ , ‘Style Wars’ and ‘Ladies & Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains’ (well, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad) I’m inclined to trust him. Hunt it down in the meantime, but please…don’t have nightmares.

From the extras from that release, here’s an interview with soundtrack composer for the film, Blixa Bargeld. 0:35 seconds in is cool personified…

On a lighter note, lest we forget, this SNL skit with Jerry Seinfeld in Oswald State Pententionary should’ve been a DVD extra in the final series boxset. Jerry was also cast in the show in an unbilled role as the video shop clerk Biohazard’s Evan Seinfeld (no relation) battered to end up in prison.