One of the best things about writing this column is the astonishing fact that I actually receive email from fellow CineSchlockers. Here are some of my recent responses to reader questions, raves and rants ...
Saw vs. Chainsaw
Elektro writes: Hello, i have been reading your articles for some time now. For the most part i find them interesting. But i was reading your review for Saw, and i was rather curious about something. I am 35 years old and for as long as i can remember anyone who is a Texas Chainsaw Massacre fan has always called it simply Chainsaw and not Saw as you claimed. I have talked with people from around the world about this film, and one thing i have learned is that all you need to say is Chainsaw and anyone who knows anything about film will know what your talking about. In fact as i recall your hero Joe Bob Briggs refers to it as Chainsaw as well. Anyway not trying to be an ass, just pointing out that i don't know who your talking to that refers to it simply as Saw, but thats a new one on me and lots of others as well.
Noel responds: While it's true I'm prone to exaggeration, I'll go ahead and argue my point as succinctly as possible. Your honor, I enter Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 into evidence, which both feature the line: "The Saw is Family." Secondly, being the owner of hundreds of recorded hours of MonsterVision and still hundreds more We Are the Weird/Joe Bob Report newsletters, I call myself as an expert witness on the work of one Joe Bob Briggs, who when asked the greatest horror movie of all time, will most often answer: "Saw is king!" The defense rests.
Jeff writes: Re: Shaun of the Dead ["The creators of the British anti-sitcom Spaced have done the undoable by masterfully cross-pollinating an honest-to-goodness romantic comedy with an old-school, flesh-gnawing, apocalyptic ZOMBIE epic."] Of course, the undoable had been previously done by Peter Jackson over a decade ago, and of course I'm talkin' about BRAIN DEAD, one of the finest comedic horror films ever made (says I). Just a thought. Excellent review, by the way. Keep up the good work.
Noel responds: Goldang it, Jeff! You caught me with my foot toe-deep in my mouth. Jackson surely did skate along the line of heartfelt romance and wholesale zombie holocaust. What's more shameful is that Brain Dead (a.k.a. Dead Alive) is my favorite Peter Jackson film. (Never took to those weepy hobbits.) However, I will indulge in a bit of rationalizing by saying Shaun of the Dead plays on "mainstream" romantic comedy conventions. Yet I feel I owe you and my fellow Dead Alive fans some measure of pennance, so pass me your mailing address and I'll send you a disc (have your pick) from my Gunnysack O' Goodies. Thanks for keeping me semi-honest
Barbara writes: I don't leave feedback. Nothing usually sparks enough interest with me. I usually╩make my snide comments to myself and go on about my merry web-surfing way. I have to tell you though, I thoroughly enjoyed your article on "the Dog" Chapman. For a personal reason. I stumbled upon his show one night and have been hooked ever since. On one episode they were of course in Hawaii, and I mentioned to my daughter that╩Justin has a "northside" accent. I grew up on the "Northside" of Denver. It is getting better,. but during my years growing up there, it was pretty gang infested with a high crime rate. My daughter laughed at me and said I was wrong. Several episodes later, it happened to show them in Denver, in the "northSide" and turns out they are actually from there. So I was right (A point I made to my daughter). It makes me so proud to know that someone who lived there amounted to something. Most of my friends are now addicts and living in poverty. My mom once said nothing good ever comes from this neighborhood, but he is the exception to that rule. I love that he is hard but still has a heart. On one episode in particular, he "arrested" the baby brother (quintana) of one of my oldest friends. I laughed that his dumbass got caught on television, but it was sobering to know that quite possibly (knowing the family and their situation) that was the most kindness he had ever been shown. Thanks for the article, it was very well written and showed Dog in╩a great light, even though he radiates that on his own!
Noel responds: It really is Dog's heart that elevates the show above most reality series. It's a nice counter to Cheaters, which is still my guiltiest pleasure. Thanks for sharing your inside take on the Chapman's roots. It's too bad that Justin won't be rolling with Dog next season. Guess he couldn't kick the cigarettes.
Alfredo writes: If you absolutely loved "Fear and Loathing...", and you haven't ever heard of "Where the Buffalo Roam"... then you absolutely MUST!!! I have heard a few people talking about "Fear..." who have no clue about "...Buffalo..." and it kinda breaks my heart at some level. So... PLEASE... for my mental sake... if you haven't seen BOTH movies and you honestly enjoyed the one that you did see... please do so as soon as possible. Thank you very much....
Noel responds: Excellent suggestion, but in fact, I actually DID review Where the Buffalo Roam. My being such a fan of Depp's characterization probably colored my take on Bill Murray's. Although I do think the flick's more accessible than Terry Gilliam's typically (and ingeniously) daft direction.
Charles writes: I must say, good article. With that said, I much prefer the original to the remake. I personally feel that the acting in the remake was sub par. I tried watching the pilot for the remake and barely got through the first of the 2 and decided to delete the rest off my DVR. It's hard to believe Starbuck and Boomer as women, nothing against women, but the characters are just don't seem right being played that way. Additionally, going from laser blasts to missle warheads, doesn't seem like a progression, or perhaps I missed something in the sub standard acting and story. I've personally had conversations with Richard Hatch and would welcome his rendition to the Galactica saga. His would at least tie into the oringal story line alot better, and appeal to those that are, in alot of ways, hung up on the original idea such is I. My hopes are that the powers that be would allow other ideas to come forth and give them a shot at making it happen. Of course it may seem a bit out of place for another BSG film, but hey, who cares.
Noel responds: I too had words with Hatch once. He called me a metrosexual, but I probably had it coming for ribbing him about his horndog antics on the sinfully short-lived reality series "Star Dates." Seriously, though, I was as onboard with his vision as anyone. I'm pretty sure I even signed an online petition. How's that for geek cred?
Daniel writes: Frack you for not mentioning this. There was a "FUCK OFF!" during the pilot. It is written on the ground as Cylons attack Caprica. Try checking out about 26:50-26:55 of the pilot on the DVD. There is a shot of Caprica from above and it shows 4 cylon raiders swooping dow -- off to the center right -- "Fuck off" is visible in the lights.
Noel responds: That's too funny. Thanks for the education!
Andrew writes: I very rarely comment on TV shows. Simply, because, I want to be taken somewhere else when I sit down to watch a show like BG. But in this case I am going to say something, small.... I don't understand why Boomer and Starbuck had sex change operations. Seems to me that they were getting all the fun they could handle while they were guys. As Dolls, the characters seems incongruent. The rest of the show very good. I look forward to watching more. Thanks for listening...
Warren writes: I was not that much of a fan of the original series (it took 'em ten years to come up with this so-so bandwagon jumper following Star Trek?) and i really like the psychological complexities of the new series. And making some characters women just makes sense.
Noel responds: Star Trek? No slight against Mr. Roddenberry, but I think they were more so cribbing George Lucas' playbook. I understand the new series has been picked up for a full 26-episode run. Seems we're not alone!
Thomas writes: At the time of the first premier of Galactica, I remember listening to an anlaysis (on an A.M. talk radio show) from official soviet media. Apparently the soviets thought Battlestar Gallactica was official (American) government prooganda, and this re-reading of their analysis came to the conclusion that the series was a call-to-arms to increase military opposition to the russkies. It was very paranoid. It seemed to imply that the russkies thought American television was an official "information arm" of the United States government, and in an apparent projection of their own controlled society took Battlestar Glactica to be an official parable which the American people were enticed to observe and follow. I think I saw that there was to be a documentary on (I believe)╩the Science Fiction Channel about the soviet take on B.G. Was there one? How might one attain a copy of it? Also, are there any sources of unadulterated Russian and Eastern Block science fiction films circa 1945 to 1970 on DVD? I have really wanted to see alternatives to yesterday's western vision of things speculative and cosmic.
Noel responds: Fascinating! Sort of a space-based Red Dawn? That's a documentary I'd surely like to eyeball. I'll post your note and perhaps one of my fellow CineSchlockers will have the skinny. As for pinko sci-fi, that's beyond my field of expertise.
Gore Girls Gone Wild
Fred writes: I enjoy the mailouts! I love the horror-gore-schlock genres and am always ready for your great reviews and finds. Can you tell me if the "classic" "Gore Gore Girls" film from the 70s or 80s is available in any format? This was one of the goriest, schlockiest bombs I've seen. There were some great mutilations strewn with off-the-cuff humor that helped make this a laugh riot.
Noel responds: Surely you're speaking of the great gore classick by Herschell Gordon Lewis. Yes, indeed, it's available on DVD from Something Weird Video complete with audio commentary by the Godfather of Gore himself! I have reviews of all his films, an exclusive interview and even a visit to the set of Blood Feast 2. Check 'em out!
For Your Consideration
What an exciting CineSchlockers' Choice race! Bubba Ho-Tep almost eeked out an upset against early favorite Dawn of the Dead. Here's a peek at praise CineSchlockers lavished on their favorite genre DVDs of 2004:
Paul writes: I've been dying for It's Alive on DVD, and even though Dawn of the Dead UE and Videodrome CC are more impressive DVD releases, It's Alive is my favorite genre release and therefore my nomination. I think it's Cohen's best film, and one of the better horror films that actually has some real emotional depth. And Cohen's commentary ranks up there with Cronenberg's great commentaries. Great stuff!
Scott writes: There's some tough competition this year, but Bubba Ho-Tep gets the edge in my book. I mean, come on: Not only is the basic premise (old Elvis and black JFK fighting a mummy) an instant classic, but it takes the crown for being a feel-good, senior empowerment flick in a way that leaves Cocoon feeling as bland as Wilford Brimley's oatmeal. There's an incredible amalgamation of schlock talent both behind and in front of the cameras: inspired casting; a brilliant screenplay of an equally brilliant story that was problematic at best to try and adapt; new heights for an underappreciated cult director; a seasoned score from the genius who did Six-String Samurai. Throw in the incredible amount of word-of-mouth love this film was given on the festival and arthouse circuits, and Bubba Ho-Tep clearly deserves to be this year's CineSchlockers' Choice. The title alone is almost enough to clinch it.
Chad writes: Seeing Bruce Campbell playing an aging Elvis with a bad hip and cancer of the penis who joins a black man (Ossie Davis) who thinks he's JFK in fighting a 1,000 year old soul-sucking mummy dressed in cowboy attire in a rural Texas nursing home pretty much sums it up! It just doesn't get much more Schlock-worthy than that IMHO. And absolutely fantastic extras...especially for a movie made on a shoestring budget. "The King" commentary ranks up there with Joe Bob Briggs on "I Spit On Your Grave".
Zac writes:Cabin Fever is a masterful flick that confuses the hell out of you until you realize that everything is... pancakes. I didn't know whether I was supposed ot laugh or be horrified for the first half of the movie, but in the end I've watched it about a dozen times. I love this movie.
Ray writes: Most original AND well made horror movie to come along in a long time. Also successfully captured that late '70s/early '80s "feel" for me in the way the characters looked/behaved. Lots of good horror homages too and some really funny jokes. The DVD was really good also with so many commentaries that covered a wide range of topics. Eli Roth is more interesting to listen to than most big-name producers and he seems nicer/more genuine too.
Ralph writes:Shaun of the Dead is a slam dunk for this year's best. Funny, horrifying, and made by very talented people with a true love for their subject matter. (Big bonus points for the year's best DVD extra, the Paul McCarney/John Lennon outtake.)
Jon writes: It's almost too easy to pick the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake: three audio commentaries, an Ed Gein feature, hour long doc (that actually shows in detail a film being made) and those cool "crime scene" photos and face plate. This is how you market a film for a home DVD purchase.
Joshua writes: There are two strikes against Ginger Snaps 2: it's a low-budget Canadian film (not that Canada doesn't make good independent films) and it's a sequel. However, it was a surprise to view the sequel in the theatre and be very impressed and even more surprising that the DVD release has a wealth of extras just as its predecessor. In an age when American horror films are obsessed with slasher flicks starring WB actors and remaking horror film classics, it's heartening that Ginger Snaps 2 continues to scare and entertain its audience without insulting it. An engaging film experience and a wealth of extras normally not lavished upon horror sequels make this my top genre release of 2004.
Donald writes: That Freaks is still considered to be a schlock or horror film is not a disservice to the film itself, but rather it demonstrates the true breadth of the genre. Besides, where would we be today were it not for Tod Browning testing the limits of what can be shown on film? And it's proof that the quality of a DVD isn't determined by excessive packaging or the number of discs. This DVD has everything a fan of the film could want, and serves as a great introduction to anyone unfamiliar with the movie.
Casey writes: Fantoma took the biggest cult movie title you've never heard of and produced an extras-packed, lovingly remastered disc of it. Forbidden Zone has still remained on the outer cusp of cult film circles, which means that this particular DVD went without much fanfare when it came out. Too bad, as it's without a doubt the best cult disc of the year! It's not gonna win this competition, but I thought a vote should be given to the little guys who went the extra step for such a niche title.
Joakim writes:Dawn of the Dead ('04) improved on the original in every possible way. I know it's a sin to say this, but the original was boring. The zombies were too slow, and it just wasn't scary. The remake was scary, the zombies were running, and in the director's cut, the blood was flying all over the place. The downbeat ending was just icing on the cake.
Erich writes: When I saw this in a Manhattan theater, there was this mom in there with her two kids and they wouldn't shut up... but once the carnage started they got pretty quiet, and then... when the zombie baby started hatching, they quietly got up and left. In fact, three or four other people did as well. Suddenly a warm feeling spread through me, and I realized these zombies were my people, not people.
Diego writes: In addition to the brilliance, fun and charm of the film itself, Anchor Bay has laid it on extra thick for fans: the set includes the original US theatrical edition, longer pre-release version shown at the 1978 Cannes film festival, and the revised European cut made by Dario Argento. Anchor Bay knows its audience and demonstrates an abundance of care and respect accordingly -- evidence of which is incontrovertibly displayed by the extras, which are positively pants-spoiling: a commentary track for each version of the film, U.S., German and Italian trailers, various TV and radio spots, several art galleries with a grand total of 14 posters, 68 lobby cards, 15 ads, 100 stills, 100 more behind-the-scenes stills, 52 photos of memorabilia (including books, games, figures and more), 73 pressbook images, 21 soundtrack covers and 90 video covers (DVD, laserdisc, and video); lengthy bios and filmographies for Romero and Argento are also supplied, and a period advertisement for the Monroeville Mall where the film was shot, PLUS two feature-length documentaries: The Dead Will Walk and Document of the Dead (1h:31m:37s)! And: home movies from the set, and a video mall tour guided by Ken Foree! Capping it all off is a foldout digipak which includes a "roadmap" for what materials are where, as well as a mini-comic adapting the beginning of the film. Whew! This is a Criterion-level release, dude; this is DVD nirvana - does it get better than this? Can it?
Jeff writes: Shameful, but true, this release was my first introduction to the original Dawn of the Dead movie -- and it blew me away. Despite having heard so much about it, I did not expect such a complete movie -- great plot, acting, suspense, comedy, social commentary -- it is all there in one terrific zombie movie -- and this release was so full of extras that it was quite an introduction indeed.
Peter writes: As someone who has loved Dawn of the Dead since first viewing a crappy VHS rental copy back in 1987, this is the version I've been waiting nearly two decades for. I've probably re-purchased DOTD more than any other movie (twice on VHS, three times on Laserdisc and three more times on DVD...hell, I've even bought Document of the Dead on VHS, Laserdisc and DVD!!!), but the Ultimate Edition finally combines all three versions of the movie into one handsome package, along with Document as well as new commentaries and an all-new documentary. Throw in the fact that the theatrical version (still my favorite version all these years later) is beautifully remastered in both picture and sound, and how can you go wrong? Thanks Anchor Bay for making me one happy Romero groupie!
Sara's a good girl
Tigger writes: About your Species 3 review. I think you mean "Nobody doesn't like Sara Lee." No biggie and I wouldn't expect you to change it. Just thought you should know. Straight from the Sara Lee website FAQ:
Q: What is the slogan for Sara Lee Bakery?
A: Nobody Doesn't Like Sara Lee! B: Nobody Does It Like Sara Lee!
The correct answer is 'A'
Noel responds: I'll be darn. I guess we filthy minded folk have heard it the wrong way all these years! I'll have to share your letter with the class. Who says you can't LEARN something during a swing by CineSchlock-O-Rama!?!