GUILTY PLEASURE, GUILTY PAIN Olmsted’s Rental Guide to Hell

 O.K., it’s a weak moment, you want to watch some mindless horror or science fiction film that you’d never shell out the bucks for to go to the theater and see. There it is, available in DVD and video, and maybe you’re home sick, yeah, that’s your excuse, and yes, you are weak because you feel like shit, and you say, “What the fuck?”, and that demonic force that waits in the aisles of the video store (or now over the net if you get kozmo.com) forces your hand to choose against your better judgement. You pick the fucking dog that is worse than staring at the goddamn walls contemplating the grave with a head full of snot.
So my mission here, dear reader, is to try to warn you away from the sins I have stupidly committed. Don’t go there, my friend, the albatross hanging around my neck is stinking like the rotting end it is and I say, don’t go there, watch something you’ve already seen, it doesn’t have to be a classic, it doesn’t have to be intelligent or foreign, you can watch THE HIDEOUS SUN DEMON again, but don’t, I repeat DON’T see these movies:

THE ASTRONAUT’S WIFE
(New Line)

Jeezuz what a bad film! The only thing of interest is watching Johnny Depp’s Southern good `ole boy astronaut, highly reminiscent of Brando in THE CHASE. It’s ALIEN meets ROSEMARY’S BABY, see, that was the pitch meeting and maybe they weren’t on coke at the time. But no amount of cocaine could save anyone once this picture begins to unfold. How clearly one will understand Polanski’s original ROSEMARY genius in managing to have such oppressive tension when so little is really happening. Here we are witness to a car accident of tedium. We see something slimy at the end but my god you will have paid for it. One of my favorite elements of my DVD player is glancing up to see how much time is left. I did a lot of glancing here.

 

LAKE PLACID
(20th Century Fox)

This one is so marginally tolerable you could ALMOST give in – fuck it, wait for it to show up on cable, blundered upon by channel surfing, and stand it for whatever length you deem worthy. It will seem fun then. Rent it, and your pizza arrives lukewarm. The good news: the computer animated crocodile is very cool (it looks like an alligator, frankly – doesn’t seem to have that long needle-nosed snout but maybe ALLIGATOR’s New Line could have sued if they said it was the same reptile – they’re already getting away with derivative murder). Some good gore – imagine ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS on an A-budget – down to pulling in the body from the boat and his head is gone. The back of the box says “This year’s ANACONDA.” Well, it looks much better than that cartoony snake, but it is very short on the demented humor of ANACONDA, we need Jon Voigt doing a Ricky Ricardo voice (“…before yer veins essplode!”). It is funny, but the humor is not much funnier than Richard Dreyfus yelling “Turkey!” out of his truck in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS. Maybe that had you rolling in the aisles. I like it a lot more twisted, my dear. They thought they were going for twisted, but the big bucks have ridden this one a little too closely. Remember the original ALLIGTOR had a John Sayles script and starred Robert Forster. It’s better.

 

BATS
(Columbia Tristar Home Video)

Dreary. Some clever montage suited for the trailer – think PSYCHO shower scene cutting with bats in a closed car. A very tiresome anamorphic point-of-bat’s-view shot used over and over. A dull mad scientist role aching for Dennis Hopper. Lou Diamond Philips is miscast and bored in a part better suited for Bill Pullman (which he does in LAKE PLACID). Jimmy Sands, as Leon, is a quite genuine comic relief; almost like the guy in the audience commenting on the movie loudly, but subversively. He is filling an increasingly common role, the black guy who, it is clear, will never get the girl and is treated like an intelligent pet, a hip-hop variation of Stepin Fetchit almost to the point of “feets don’t fail me now.” (Check DEEP BLUE SEA for another example of this). The bats, however rubbery and hideous, are the ones we’re rooting for and I hated seeing them get splattered and crushed all the time. Unless your kicks involve shooting rats at the junkyard, you may feel the same.STIGMATA
(MGM Home Entertainment)

What if Christ’s energy came back as a post-punk woman hair dresser? What was that pitch meeting like? It’s not the Devil this time, even if it looks it from the trailer, it’s Christ, dig it, but a new pagan Christ that’s actually the old primordial Christ and the Church wants you to have nothing to do with Him. Patricia Arquette has stigmata just like St. Francis of Assisi but she gets wounds in her wrists because this is historically accurate stigmata, you see, even though all the saints got stigmata wounds in the palms of their hands. Gabriel Byrne looks a lot like Jason Miller in a priest collar and does pretty much the same thing – earnest tortured looks. Just what the fuck is going on here? Perhaps more is explained by the neighbor’s name above our hair-dresser’s door buzzer to her vastly expensive trendy loft apartment: P. SMITH. Oh, I get it, it’s the heroin Easter menstrual blood poetry rock’n’roll nigger Holy Ghost dove Christ we’re talking here. And here I thought it was just plain Jesus. All this done with a similar earnestness as in Boorman’s EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC. But you can watch that one over and over, if only just to hear Burton drunkenly mouthing “The sow is mine!” No such campy besotted fun here. Of vague interest: you can watch the director’s alternative ending actually spliced in directly instead of stored in “Special Features”. Or watch it with the theatrical release ending (which is less MTV-overwrought). A first, as far as I know. Also, the copy I saw has Arquette floating in some sort of sexy mystical crucifixion pose on the cover. Blockbuster’s copy has only her face. No surprise there.

[ed. note: I was reading your STIGMATA review, and while I agree it was a horrid film, I did get sucked into seeing it too, and maybe because I’m Catholic, I got a different story line. Arquette is actually inhabited by the spirit of the priest that was translating the hidden gospels. Her mother buys the rosary stolen from the priest’s body from the little kid who stole it and sends it to Arquette, and poof, priest possession (though they don’t go as far as to say that). The possessor’s goal is to make sure the hidden gospels are heard, hence Byrne’s promise to do so when he is asking the priest to leave her body. These gospels reveal that you don’t need to go through a priest to talk to Christ (a major foundation of the Catholic Church). While this does not sound revolutionary to some, it is a big deal for Catholic’s. Stigmata are the wounds of Christ, but they are received by the most holy and supposedly this priest that has possessed Arquette was one of the chosen so his stigmata was affected upon her…but the possessed by Christ thing is interesting. –Carlye Archibeque.

Clearly you are correct and followed STIGMATA way closer than I did. Thanks. — Olmsted]

So there you have it. As Lugosi says in GLEN OR GLENDA: “Bevare!” Conjured from the Astro-Hell of DVD’s, I remain your humble servant.

Marc Olmsted

ReviewsTHE BIRDS
Alfred Hitchcock, Director
Universal
[DVD]

   You already know the movie, so let’s cut the chase. This DVD pissed me off, but I still want to own it. I only buy DVDs that I know I’ll watch again and again. If Mr. Hitchcock were still around, maybe he’d pull a Lucas with THE BIRDS and beef up the effects with a computer. Part of what makes the movie so good is Hitchcock’s expert use of the effects of the time, piecing together multiple takes into one shot, electronic birds and sulfur screens that I still don’t entirely understand. All the effects and some backstage stories are told in an excellent documentary included on the DVD’s special features list. And here my problem begins.
The list of special features on the box reads: “All About The Birds” (that’s the documentary), Deleted Scene, The Original Ending, Tippi Hedren’s Screen Test and so on. I’m hooked. Deleted Scenes? I am all about special features and deleted scenes. So I watch the movie, figuring I’ll check out the features after a good viewing so I don’t spoil it for myself. It had been a while since I had seen THE BIRDS. After I viewing it, I can’t wait to see what was deleted and the promised “Original Ending.” I start clicking the remote along the path: Menu; Special Features; Original Ending.
The deleted scene and original ending listed on the box turn out to be a few photo stills and script pages that were either never shot, or lost. I have Evan Hunter’s script on my bookshelf. I don’t need to read script pages on my TV screen. I start to feel like Annie Wilkes in “Misery”. “This isn’t what it says on the box! Do those people at Universal have amnesia? They just cheated us! This isn’t fair! There aren’t any COCK-A-DOODY DELETED SCENES!”
Now, Tippi’s screen test is mildly interesting, but after having been lied to about the other stuff, who really cares? If you get this DVD, do it for the movie itself and not the missing scenes.