2016/10/30

Palatable: Body Bags

Body Bags (1993)
Directed by John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, Larry Sulkis
Written by Billy Brown, Dan Angel
Produced by John Carpenter, Sandy King, Dan Angel
Starring Alex Datcher, Robert Carradine, David Naughton, Stacy Keach, David Warner, Debbie Harry, Mark Hamill, Twiggy, John Agar, John Carpenter
In his first speaking role since his underwhelming cameo in The Fog, Carpenter humorously, hammily hosts the frame story of this playful, triplex horror anthology as an undead coroner expressing a morbid fondness for wordplay and anatomical gore. Assigned to her first night shift at an isolated Gas Station on the outskirts of Michael Myers' hometown, Datcher's a comely collegian contending with her inexperience and strangers creepy and clownish during a spate of serial murders. His receding hairline spurs a vaingloriously insecure bachelor (Keach) to patronize an agency touting by telecast their top-grade crinal restoration procedure; though their treatment augments his Hair to flowing locks, this restoration is but a side-effect of its pestilential objective. A car crash deprives of a major-league heavy hitter (Hamill) one vital Eye, but a successful opthalmic transplant performed by a pioneering surgeon (Agar) replaces it with another of heterochromatic hue; maddened by visions of his donor's atrocities, the batter terrorizes his loving wife (Twiggy). These segments were initially intended to be episodes of an eponymous series pitched to Showtime as a rival to HBO's thematically and stylistically conformable Tales from the Crypt. Though the network scuttled the series, it cablecast this feature-length alternative. Carpenter's portions are respectively exciting and as pleasantly risible as ruffling, but Hooper's offering is the longest and least of the three, and hardly as interesting as Eric Red's kindred and coeval Jeff Fahey vehicle, Body Parts. Nevertheless, if the frights and frolic of Bags aren't satisfactorily frequent to sustain the interest of Carpenter's or Hooper's devotees, it may for them be redeemed by its cast of fan favorites and a copiousness of cameos: Hooper, Wes Craven, Sam Raimi, Roger Corman, Tom Arnold, et al. Hardly a career highlight for any of its participants, this peripheral curiosity is nonetheless essential viewing for completists of its star moviemakers.
Recommended for a double feature paired any Creepshow feature or Tales from the Darkside: The Movie.

2016/10/29

Palatable: Two-Lane Blacktop

Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)
Directed by Monte Hellman
Written by Will Corry, Rudy Wurlitzer, Floyd Mutrux
Produced by Michael Laughlin, Gary Kurtz
Starring James Taylor, Dennis Wilson, Laurie Bird, Warren Oates
During the cultural flux of the '70s' dawn, the twisting tangents of two laconic gearheads -- a driver (Taylor) and mechanic (Wilson) of an ugly yet optimized 1955 custom Chevy -- who subsist on their winnings from drag races legitimate and otherwise converge and coincide awhile with those of a comely, capricious hitchhiker (Bird) and a mendacious, middle-aged braggart seeking attention and competition as he oberrates in his cherry '70 G.T.O. If it isn't the deathless classic its cult audience avers, this filmic snapshot of its aimless age is as redolent as any, an immersive dream for motorheads. Stiff delivery from the young amateur leads nearly nullifies their considerable screen presence, so it's just as well that the characterization of their meandering souls convey more silently than explicitly, at least regarding matters that don't pertain to automotive prowess or maintenance. However, Oates is as smashing as ever, toothily charismatic while spouting braggadocio as the huffy mythomaniac who plies prevarication with a conviction concomitant of lust for attention and approbation, a perfect antipode to Bird's pretty drifter, who pines only for whoever won't treat her as a desideratum. Nothing planned within an immediate span comes to fruition for these ramblers of the open road who only reflect the irresolution of their zeitgeist, but no matter: Hellman's direction and editing are so gracefully unobtrusive that his viewers can almost forget they're watching a movie...or that this era of incomparable individualism and prosperity in which automobiles empowered the realization of freedom passed proud and strident decades ago.
Recommended for a double feature paired with Vanishing Point.