Wednesday, April 30, 2003

The Movie I Watched Last Night LXVI

From this past weekend:

Where the Buffalo Roam
This 1980 movie features Bill Murray, who portrays the father of gonzo journalism, Hunter S. Thompson. It's a much more cartoony take than the film adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but if you're a fan of Thompson's work, it's worth a watch. The movie tracks Thompson's interactions and relationship with his attorney, Carl Lazlo, played by Peter Boyle, but it's really Murray's rubber-legged aping that stands out, as shallow as it is. Bruno Kirby -- who also starred in a movie looking at alt.journalism in Boston -- stars as Marty Lewis, Thompson's largely ineffectual editor. Did Kirby do any other alt.journalism movies? Or was this a followup to his 1977 role in "Between the Lines"? Curious. The most effective scene in my opinion was the bit in which Thompson speaks at a college campus. His on-stage shenanigans mirror his once-lively campus speaking tours, as does the students' willing embrace of his countercultural confusion. Reminded me of the lackluster "debate" staged by Timothy Leary and G. Gordon Liddy at Northwestern University years ago. There's also a notable quote presaging Thompson's relatively recent writing stint at "What are you talking about, man? You're not a fucking sportswriter!" For Thompson buffs only, methinks.

Freeze Me
I'm pleased to report that Rareflix made good on my rentals, as dodgy as parts of their Web site seem. Their self-mailers aren't as slick as those used by Netflix, but the idea is basically the same -- even if the DVD's they stock are not. "Freeze Me" is a Japanese suspense film bordering on gore. It's the story of a young salary woman who is haunted by a rape in her past. Her assailants return when one of them is released from prison, one by one re-entering her life, much to her dismay. However, one by one, she manages to dispatch them, stowing their bodily remains in industrial-sized freezers that she stores in her apartment. "I'm opening a restaurant!" she chirps cheerily to one delivery man. Cinematically, the movie is well done, and there's a nicely tender and committed subplot involving her current lover that weaves in and out of the more horrible, staggered death scenes. But the highlight was how the cold provided by the freezers begins to affect her physically -- mirroring the increasingly deadening cold she feels emotionally as she reclaims her life for herself. Well done, and not as much of a slasher film as it could've been.

The Astro-Zombies
Another Rareflix rental, this is a loose retelling of the Frankenstein myth as seen through 1969 B-movie eyes, shades of the Milwaukee-based late-night horror program "Shock Theater" hosted by Tolouse NoNeck. Scientists are developing a technology with which a man's thoughts can be transmitted to another man's brain via radio waves and other means. They hope that this can ease space travel, as astronauts become host "zombies" controlled by people back on Earth. A slightly Soviet vixen Satana, played by Tura Satana of "Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" fame -- and who also reprised her role in the 2002 TV reinterpretation "Mark of the Astro-Zombies," which I haven't seen -- strives to steal said technology for her foreign masters to use against the United States. In fact, the movie is largely made up of scenes featuring the Frankenstein-like laboratory and the noir-esque political proclivities of Satana and her henchmen -- some of which take place in a night club featuring a body-painted dancer. The Astro-Zombies themselves are few and far between. I only remember several scenes in which the Astro-Zombies are involved, largely in stalking and slaying scenes that weren't overly surprising. And it's interesting to note that even though dead bodies were harvested to create the Astro-Zombies, the director opted not to use your traditional zombie or undead makeup magic to portray the Astro-Zombies. Instead, the zombies are recognizable because they wear slightly oversized skull-shaped masks with plastic sheeting covering the mouth region. It's never made clear whether these masks are space helmets or some sort of helmet necessary for the transmission of the supposedly controlling brain waves, but it's a cheesy approach to costuming, regardless. They must have only had one, because I don't think you ever see more than one Astro-Zombie at a time. In the end, the Astro-Zombies escape Satana's control and run amok briefly before being put down once and for all. And yet again, the B-movie day is saved -- from the undead as well as from the Russians.

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