MARTYRS, FLIPPER and CAINE
Score another one for French horror. After being dazzled by the recent horror flick INSIDE, I checked out the movie MARTYRS (2008) by Pascal Laugier. The film is at turns compelling, very disturbing and down-right haunting, as we get the story of Lucie (MyleneJampanoi), who as a young girl was abducted and tortured in a warehouse in the middle of nowhere. The movie opens with her escape. She then ends up in an orphanage that also seems to be a psychiatric center. At first, she rarely speaks and doesn’t trust anyone. As she gets older, she continues to be increasingly terrified and paranoid, but she is also bent on revenge against the people who made her this way. Her only friend at the facility, Anna (Morjana Alaoui), does everything for her, and tries to protect her from her own demons. But there is only so much she can do.
When they turn 18 and go out into the real world, Lucie tracks down the people she feels were responsible for her abduction. They look just like a normal family, and she breaks into their home, taking revenge with the barrel of a shotgun. By the time Anna shows up to try and stop her, they’re both up to their necks in violence and carnage. And the question arises – are these people really the ones who adbucted Lucie as a girl? Or has she gone completely insane? Strangely, this point comes fairly early on in the movie, and the rest of the film seeks to answer this question. In ways that will give you nightmares! And what does the title mean? Well, beyond that, I won’t say another word. If you are one of those strong-stomached souls who can sit through profoundly disturbing movies and reap their rewards, then you might want to check this one out. I thought it was amazing, and found myself thinking about it days later. Highly recommended.
One of my favorite bands of the 1980s, the era of hardcore punk, was Flipper. Most of the people reading this probably never even heard of them. While they definitely had their cult followers in the day, and were notorious for performing live concerts while being totally sloshed out of their minds, they never really gained much fame outside of the underground. With alternating bassists/singers Bruce Loose and Will Shatter; Ted Falconi on guitar; and Steve DePace on drums, they played long, droning songs when their hardcore peers were playing faster and faster. Some of their songs were downright bizarre. Their biggest hit was probably “Sex Bomb,” a seven-minute opus with just one line of lyrics, “She’s a sex bomb, my baby, yeah.” They got together in San Francisco in 1979, and their albums included the incredibly influencial and amazing GENERIC FLIPPER (which just said ALBUM on the cover) in 1982 and GONE FISHIN’ in 1984, both for Subterranean Records. There were also some one-off singles like “Get Away.”
In 1993, the band, now without co-leader Will Shatter (who died of an overdose in 1987) put out their third album, AMERICAN GRAFISHY, on Def American, the label run by Rick Rubin (who also produced Johnny Cash’s later albums). And that was it. Amid rumors of drug abuse, the band pretty much vanished off the face of the earth, presumably never to record again. Well, last month they returned, with not one but two albums, LOVE (a studio album of all new tunes) and FIGHT (a live album of old and new tunes). Bruce Loose is still the singer, but bass this time around was taken over by none other than Kris Novoselic, who used to be in a little band called Nirvana.
Not only was I overjoyed to see the revival of one of my all-time favorite bands, but it’s even more of a pleasure to say that I love the new albums, especially LOVE, which really captures the feel of their early songs, and has some heavy, excellent bass lines from Novoselic. With songs like “Be Good, Child!” and “Love Fight,” they prove they’ve still got it. So if you’re a fan of the band, or just a fan of hardcore in general, check out the new stuff. This is a band that has become a legend. And rightly so.
And, finally, David Carradine died this week. He was found dead Thursday in Bangkok. He had hung himself in a closet. He was 72. I wouldn’t be much of a grindhouse/B-movie aficionado if I didn’t tip my hat to Mr. Carradine’s long and illustrious career.
I first became aware of him in 1972, when he starred in the hit ABC TV show KUNG FU (which ran until 1975). This was one of the first times martial arts had ever been portrayed in a TV show (around the same time, Bruce Lee was becoming famous in low-budget but amazing martial arts films). When I was a kid, everyone I knew watched KUNG FU, and we were astounded by it. Kwai Chang Caine, Carradine’s character on the show, was half-American and half-Chinese, and grew up under the tutelage of a blind master Master Po (Keye Luke) who famously told him as a boy “You may leave this temple when you are able to snatch this pebble from my hand.” Needless to say, it took a great many years until Caine was able to succeed at that. In the meantime, he had much learning to do. When he went out into the outside world, Caine drifted from China to the American West, where he defended the weak against the bullies of the time, using his hands and his feet, in a time when most Chinese people in America worked putting down railroad tracks. This was television at its most entertaining.
But Carradine’s career stretched way earlier than that. His first role was back in 1963 on Armstrong Circle Theater (one of many live theater outlets on early television) and KUNG FU wasn’t even his first time starring in a TV series – that was the television version of the western SHANE in 1966.
His career included appearing in early Scorcese flicks like BOXCAR BERTHA (1972) and a role as a drunk in the seminal MEAN STREETS (1973). He starred in Roger Corman classics like the terrific original DEATHRACE 2000 (1975) and DEATHSPORT (1978 – co-starring with one of my favorite actresses of the 70s, Claudia Jennings). He was in one of my favorite Larry Cohen flicks, Q: THE WINGED SERPENT (1982), One of his most acclaimed early roles was as Woody Guthrie in the biographical film BOUND FOR GLORY by Hal Ashby, in 1976. And he was also in the great Ingmar Bergman’s film THE SERPENT’S EGG in 1977.
He was in a lot of low-budget action films over the years, often playing the bad guys. Stuff like LONE WOLF MCQUADE (1983) and CIRCLE OF IRON (1978). He did a lot of television work like the Civil War miniseries NORTH AND SOUTH and the TV movie remake of THE BAD SEED (both in 1985), and even got some acclaim for films like THE LONG RIDERS (1980) – where he appeared alongside his actor/brothers Keith and Robert.
His father, John Carradine, was often called the hardest working actor of his time, having roles (often small ones) in over 1,000 movies in his lifetime. John was probably most famous to horror fans for playing Dracula in the films HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1944) and HOUSE OF DRACULA (1945).
Between roles in television and in low-budget films, David Carradine worked steadily throughout his career, without too much down time. But he didn’t get a shot at the big time again until he got to play the title character in Quentin Tarantino’s 2-volume masterpiece KILL BILL. As the leader of a group of assassins, Carradine’s Bill was mysterious and deadly, and his death was the main goal of The Bride (Uma Thurman). It took two movies to finally catch up with him, but their final scene together is terrific, and I thought that Carradine’s performance in Volume 2 (we don’t see him in the first one, but hear his voice at the end) was one of his best performances ever. There is a witty speech he gives about what Superman must really think of the human race that borders on the profound in that movie.
He was in tons of movies (and was booked to be in still more) after the KILL BILL flicks. So at age 72, his career showed no signs of slowing down.
Needless to say, the details of his death are a bit odd. He was naked and had a curtain cord tied around his neck and “various parts of his body.” But in a way, this isn’t a surprise. Carradine always had a streak of wildness and eccentricity about him. And there’s no reason to think his death wouldn’t be just as quirky as his life. But whether this was an accidental death, or suicide, what matters is the work he’s left behind. And for the most part, David Carradine lifted anything he was in up to another level. He was one of the great ones.
Finally, I didn’t go see the big-budget LAND OF THE LOST movie this weekend. Those who know me know I’m a huge Danny McBride fan (he was also in THE FIST FOOT WAY, PINEAPPLE EXPRESS and TROPIC THUNDER, as well as his own HBO show EASTBOUND AND DOWN), and Danny plays another asshole redneck in this new movie. But it has been getting such awful reviews, and I didn’t have to review it, so I figured I’d skip this one and wait until it comes to cable. Which is too bad. I like McBride and Will Ferrell, and I was a big fan of the original 1970s kids’ show by Sid and Marty Krofft. It sounds like it just didn’t work on the big screen. Oh well.
That’s all for now. Until next time.