In 2004, Troma released one of the most startling and original films that it has ever had the perplexing pleasure to be associated with. Up and coming actor Giuseppe Andrews, best known for his roles in Independence Day and Cabin Fever, had been secretly making movies since he was 19. Using the local residents of the trailer park where he lived, Andrews would create outrageous experiments in cinema filled with politically incorrect concepts, slangy sex speak and more cursing than an entire collection of rap CDs. His mostly elderly - and drunken - 'actors' would recite his dialogue verbatim, given line readings to repeat before Andrews trained his leering lens on them.
The results have been nothing short of phenomenal. Trailer Town marked his arrival to the digital domain, a fabulously filthy look at life on the outskirts of the outskirts. His sensational short subject, Dribble, was released as part of The Best of Tromadance Volume 3. Now, in preparation for a major boxset release come this spring, Troma is giving us his first film, the absolutely fantastic Touch Me in the Morning. Loaded with an additional hour of Andrews mania, plus some insights into this filmmaker's freak show process, this DVD instantly takes it place as the first must-own masterpiece of 2006.
And what an amazing argument it is. Far more plot driven than Trailer Town, Touch Me in the Morning is like a series of sharp stabs in the solar plexus, a ennui-reducing wake-up call for anyone who thinks Miramax is the cutting edge of Indie art. Uproariously funny, occasionally cruel, and inventive to a fetid fault, this initial volley in the Andrews career vault is a keeper and a half. In an unusual move for those of us not used to seeing the actor in his own films, Andrews stars as Coney Island, sounding board and instigator for most of the people who populate his peculiar little part of the globe. In the world of a Giuseppe Andrews movie, the homeless are sexual dynamos, the drunken are equally aggressive, and the toothless and downtrodden are more insightful and wise than the idiots encased in their Ivory Towers. Much is made of the fact that this director relies on real trailer park residents in casting his pictures - no matter the age, infirmary or overall oddness of their persona. To many, his films feel like Bum Fights without the fisticuffs.
But the truth is that certified characters like Bill Nowlin, Walt Dongo and Ruth Estes bring an uncompromising honesty to their efforts here, a genuineness that just radiates off the screen. Sure, they can be talking about anal sex, strutting around naked as the day they were born (oh so long ago), and yet we can't help but feel a freshness and a legitimacy to their entire existence. They are not the phony baloney buttheads that pass for people in a standard Hollywood hack job. There is no mannered Method here. Instead, Andrews feeds them lines and together, they capture spontaneity and naturalness in both performance and personality. Some can argue that Andrews is exploiting these people to achieve his own arcane artistic ends. He forces them into tasteless circumstances and takes advantage of their good (and/or inebriated) nature. Sadly, such cynics are missing the point. You can tell by looking in their eyes how much these forgotten folks are enjoying their limited time in the limelight. They never "act" put upon or used. There is joy in their faces - a bliss that comes from being appreciated and engaged.
As an example of the Andrews's ideal, Touch Me in the Morning is terrific. Along with movies, music is also in Andrews's blood and he plays several sensationally silly songs as part of his "job" making the elderly happy. These sequences are setpiece highlights, giving instant grateful grins from ear to ear as the Casio soundscapes sprinkle their pure pop love on the audience. There are also some amazing musical interludes as part of the production, as when Coney finally decides to run away and hitches a ride to Galveston. The plaintive acoustic ballad that accompanies this scene is heartbreaking and proves that Andrews has a real cinematic knack. He's not just some one trick pony who is putting his neighbors on film for a lark. All throughout Touch Me in the Morning, there are flashes of such filmmaking brilliance: the entire stripper sex scene with its merry combination of tacky and toilet humor; Andrews and Nowlin in nothing but underwear, discussing sexual technique; the clockwork comic timing in the interchanges between Coney and his mother; and the opening handheld fight scene, were two liquored up louts prepare to pummel each other. All attest to Andrews's skill and ability.
All throughout this masterpiece of a movie, Andrews finds ways to top himself both creatively and comically. There are dozens of laugh out loud moments - some frightfully filthy, others derived from genuine humor and heart - and several instances where jaws will definitely go agape in human oddity wonder. Andrews himself is excellent, never winking at the camera to show us that he's in on the joke. Instead, he plays it painfully serious - so much so that you sympathize with Coney's plight and want him to win. In conjunction with his crazy, iconic company, Andrews aspires to greater and greater levels of lunacy, and achieves them each and every time. Faultlessly realized and completely original, Touch Me in the Morning proves that, even at the beginning of his foray into film, Giuseppe Andrews was a wholly unique voice in outsider art. His oeuvre will be studied and worshipped for decades to come.
Wiggly - a young man faces a horrible dilemma: help his dad with the daily yard sale, or help his mom secure her trailer home. The catch? In order to satisfy his mother, he has to kill his father!
Using the theme of difficult decisions, Wiggly is wonderfully weird. The homeless hobo who plays Andrews's dad is an amazing actor - a creepy combination of Charles Manson and scarred skeleton - and he shouts his lines with a demented glee that is marvelously manic. The usual suspects turn up throughout the film, and when we get to the fated finale, Andrews handles the meaningful moment perfectly. A great little diversion.
Ants - while his dad films a documentary on ants, a young man enjoys his hobby of rollerblading. Filmmaking pushes his father over the edge. Though it's fun, streetskating is not all that fulfilling.
Our friendly freaked out bum is back again, essaying the role of a mentally unstable filmmaker melting down at the merest suggestion that something he's done doesn't fit his ant movie's mandates. The standout scene, however, has Andrews randomly rollerblading while an original song about the sport plays in the background. It is both ethereal and engaging, as is this entire short.
The Laundry Room - a serial killer is stalking local laundromats, murdering customers for their shoes. It is up to a young man and his girlfriend to protect themselves from the feet-fleecing fiend.
Perhaps the most "mundane" of Andrews's films, this feels like two ideas crammed together. The mass-murdering marauder (our Wiggly and Ants star again) is faultlessly frightening, but there is a strange interlude where an ancillary character goes into a patented Andrews's X-rated rap that feels out of place. While very entertaining, it's not a true testament to this auteur's abilities.
In addition to the short films, Andrews also sits down with Troma titan Lloyd Kaufman to discuss the making of this movie. It is part of a much longer documentary that will be featured in the upcoming boxset. Here we learn how a lot of Andrews' aesthetic derives from Fassbinder, as well as Rudy Ray Moore and the Dolemite films (?!?!). He talks openly about his actors and argues for their skill at improv and adlibbing. Like any added feature, it helps us understand the individual behind the lens and leaves us aching for more. Andrews then offers up an interview with chief player Bill Nowlin. Looking much older and enfeebled than he does in the films, Bill is still a pistol, pontificating on his theory of extrapolation and why he has no problem reciting reams of scandalous sex-laced dialogue. It is a fascinating featurette. Along with trailers for a few of his films and the standard Troma merchandising, this is a great disc with a lot of contextual clarification into Andrews' unique art.