Be Well Come once again to Reaper Rick’s movie reviews. This issue I review one movie that falls under the category of, “OMG, I can NOT believe this,” but before that treat I work on several gay-themed movies. I did not start out to review three films with a gay undertone, but after the first two were reviewed I decided to dig deep into my cinema obscura file to find a trio of such films. I hope you enjoy all of them.
Natalie Portman’s 2010 portrayal of an obsessed dancer in “Black Swan” won her a Best Oscar. This movie also starred Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, and Wiona Ryder. Do not let the fact that this film deals with Ballet in any way keep you from viewing it. Yes, it does indeed focus on the ballet Swan Lake, but that is a mere cover for the actual plot of this film. “Black Swan” is a terrifying and horror-filled psychological thriller which will keep you guessing throughout the film.
Portman plays a ballerina, and like most people who decide to take up this profession, she is totally obsessed with dance, to the point of ignoring almost all other aspects of her life. To make matters worse—for her—she is trying out for the lead role in a new production of Swan Lake.
For those of us who are not Ballet aficionados, this tale is about two swans—one white and pure, the other black and evil—but they are in reality the same creature. Portman dances the role of the white swan perfectly, but her teacher, who is also directing the ballet, feels she does not possess a dark enough nature to be the black swan, and one person must dance both parts. Frustrated and paranoid that another dancer will steal the role from her, Portman pushes herself relentlessly to embody the black swan.
Portman’s mother (Barbara Hershey) is an obsessive, over-protective woman who gave up a promising ballet career of her own to raise this, her only child, and is now reduced to living vicariously through her daughter’s triumphs on the stage. Not surprisingly, all of this pressure causes Portman to develop some nervous and destructive habits. She tends to scratch herself repeatedly, apparently without even realizing it (often while asleep) to the point of drawing blood, and the pressure mounts when she is unexpectedly chosen to dance the lead role in Swan Lake.
Now even more paranoid, Portman feels her alternate, or stand in (Mila Kunis), is trying to steal the lead role away from her, and begins to have horrifying hallucinations. Portman has no time for friends or relationships, so when Mila offers her friendship Natalie is immediately suspicious, but since her mother insists she cannot take time away from training to go out with Mila, Portman takes off with her new ‘friend’ just to spite her mother. In a bar, Mila spikes Portman’s drink—so she can loosen up and have some fun—and they end up back at Portman’s place, where they engage in some lovemaking, possibly the first sexual encounter Natalie’s character has ever participated in. Or was this merely a hallucination as well?
With opening night of the ballet looming, Portman pushes even harder to become the Black Swan, and her hallucinations grow so intense that she can no longer separate reality from fantasy.
Portman is marvelous in her portrayal of a dancer, who above all else desperately seeks perfection, even to the point of dementia. The photography throughout the film is stunning, the music is breathtaking, and this movie will constantly surprise the viewer. Portman definitely deserved her Oscar in this role, and I give “Black Swan” Four and a Half Howls of Pleasure .
The movie “Gods and Monsters” is from 1998 and stars Ian McKellen (“X-Men” and the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy), Brendan Fraser (“The Mummy” series), and Lynn Redgrave. This is a somewhat fictionalized version of what happened toward the end of James Whale’s life, adapted from a 1995 novel by Christopher Bram called, Father of Frankenstein. Whale was a stage and film director in the 1930s and 1940s and is best remembered for his movies, “Frankenstein,” “The Invisible Man,” and “Bride of Frankenstein.”
“Gods and Monsters” takes place during the 1950s, when Whale has been retired from film directing for over ten years. He is a lonely old man who lives with his housekeeper, played by Redgrave. He is also openly gay and was such throughout his Hollywood career. An artist of some talent in his youth, Whale is attracted to a gardener (Fraser) who tends his property and asks the young man if he would pose for a portrait. They strike up an unusual platonic friendship over the next few months, and when Fraser discovers Whale is gay, even though a trifle homophobic, he continues to sit for him as Whale does sketches of his face.
Whale, who is recovering from a recent stroke, feels that he is losing his ability to think coherently. He now has trouble sleeping, and suffers from horrible visions of his past when he fought in World War I. (Although it is not mentioned in the film, Whale was captured during the war and spent nearly two years in a German POW camp). The friendship with Fraser takes on an almost ‘lover-type’ relationship as they quarrel over Whale’s overt homosexuality and then ‘break up.’ But after the young man watches “Bride of Frankenstein” on T.V. one night, he returns to Whale and reinstates their friendship on the condition that the director ease up on the ‘gay stuff’ when they are together.
The friendship continues as Whale becomes more and more demented, until he finally attempts to anger Fraser into a manic rage, because he wants the gardener to kill him and thus end his suffering. Fraser naturally refuses, but finally sees how much emotional pain Whale is experiencing.
Whale still has friends in the movie industry who would have been more than happy to offer him assistance and/or companionship, but he refuses to see any of them as he is too embarrassed by his mental and physical decline to face anyone, except his new young friend. While on the surface this may appear to be merely a movie about an old queen who has seen better days and now cannot bear the fact that he is losing his grip on life, what we really witness is the slow deterioration of a once brilliant man who realizes his mind is slipping away and is helpless to do anything about it. I cannot give away the ending, as that would be too much of a spoiler, but this movie is worth watching through to the finish.
Ian McKellen is brilliant as the deteriorating British film director, and while Fraser is a bit wooden throughout most of the movie, Lynn Redgrave is classic as the loyal servant who secretly loves Whale, even though she is well aware that he is gay. For overall great acting and an interesting story line, I give “Gods and Monsters” Three and a Half Howls of Pleasure .
To find out more about director James Whale, please see the Featured Article, ‘James Whale—Monster Maker,’ in this issue of Horrotica.
For the next review we must take a short trip in the ‘Way-Back’ machine to a time when Big name stars shone brightly on the big screen. “Reflections in a Golden Eye” was released in 1967, and while some of you may have never heard of this picture, I’m sure that you will at least recognize some of the stars who appeared in it, including Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando, Brian Keith, and Julie Harris. Some may also remember the director, John Huston. This movie is an adaptation of a book by Carson McCullers and takes place on a southern Army post around 1948. Brando and Keith are both colonels in the Army who live next door to each other, with their wives, on the Army post grounds, but there all normalcy ends.
Brando is married to Taylor, who is having an affair with Keith, whose wife (Harris) is recovering from a mental breakdown which occurred after their daughter died some three years ago. She was so distraught after the death, Harris cut off her nipples with a pair of garden shears. Both couples sleep in separate bedrooms. Taylor is possibly having her affair because Brando is impotent (at least with her), most likely because he is a latent homosexual who is attracted to an enlisted man named Williams who tends Taylor’s horse. Williams spends his evenings looking in the windows of Taylor’s home and at night he breaks into the house and sits next to her bed so he can watch her sleep, and then periodically goes through her underclothes and fondles them. He also likes to go horseback riding in the woods during the day, naked, and then sunbathes (also naked) on a big rock. Brando discovers this diversion and spends a lot of time following this enlisted man, both during the day and at night.
The total dysfuntionality (I just made that word up) of this group of sexually frustrated people is fairly amazing, and for them all to be brought together on the screen back in 1967 is even more amazing. Tensions teeter on the edge as Brando slips deeper into a repressed funk as his attempts to impress Williams fail, since he is too interested in Brando’s wife. Brian’s wife Julie keeps insisting she sees someone sneaking in and out of the Brando house, but everyone thinks she is having another breakdown, so she is sent to an institution.
Then one evening Brando actually sees Williams come into their house, and mistakenly believes that he is coming to meet Brando for the long-awaited sexual encounter. As the colonel waits in the darkness of his bedroom for his supposed lover, he is shocked when the enlisted man actually sneaks into his wife’s bedroom, instead.
Brando, as always, gives an excellent performance as a man who slowly sinks deeper and deeper into depression and sexual frustration. Taylor plays a scatter-brained wife who is only interested in her own happiness and never misses an opportunity to ridicule Brando’s lack of sexual prowess. For a great cast and marvelous directing, plus an intense story, I give “Reflections in a Golden Eye” Four Howls of Pleasure .
Now we come to a movie I forced myself to watch twice, because I couldn’t believe much of what I saw the first time. I have come to understand that this has become a ‘cult’ film and there are quite a few movies like it floating around, and while never personally a big fan of anime, this flick is anime gone mad, and that should give you a clue as to where it originated—Japan. “Tokyo Gore Police” is from 2008 and was directed by Yoshihiro Nishimura. This total Gore-Fest stars Eihi Shiina as the member of a privatized police force, and takes place sometime in a nightmarish future when self mutilation and cutting is so commonplace they advertise specially made cutting blades on television, and show students laughing and having fun at ‘cutting parties.’ One of several downsides to this movie is that it has English subtitles, but on the plus side there isn’t that much dialog anyway, so you don’t miss much by reading the captions.
Well, enough of the lead-in. Shiina plays Ruka, a member of the special police squad who track down mutated killers called engineers. The only bright spot in this movie is that Yuka is pretty cute in her short skirt, knee-high boots and black trench coat—and the only weapon she carries is a katana, and she is well versed in its use. In fact, the entire police force carry blades, as well as sub machine guns, and they dress in uniforms fashioned after ancient Samurai battle armor.
Ruka is also seeking the man who sent an assassin to kill her father (who was a police officer before the force became privatized) when she was still a child. On top of that, she is trying to overcome the fact that while still quite young, she was forced into prostitution after her father was killed.
From the opening bullet-filled, blood-drenched scenes, this movie is literally awash in blood spray and sickening gore. The engineers are mutant killers who can only themselves be killed if you destroy a key-shaped tumor lodged near the base of their brain, and apparently the only way to destroy the tumor is to slice their heads down the middle and cut the tumor in two. I suppose that is why all the cops carry katanas. And yet, even with this knowledge, most of the cops still tend to shoot these engineers with a thousand or so bullets before they remember that they need to split their heads open to kill them. Another fun fact is that when an engineer is wounded, the wounded area becomes some sort of outlandish weapon, like a flesh and blood chain saw or sub machine gun, or something even worse. Are you following all of this so far?
Aside from the nearly unrelenting blood and gore presented in this movie, since it is after all, Japanese, there are also plenty of sexual interludes. The viewer is exposed to everything from a twitching, battery powered vibrator, to a club where most of the patrons wear outlandish rubber outfits. And I have to mention here just one more fetish-loaded scene. The captain of the police squad has an unusual pet: a woman who wears a tightly laced white rubber outfit, complete with a hood and collar, and is led around the station on a leash. But that’s not the best part. She is also a quadruple amputee; her limbs are cut off just below the shoulders and just below her hips, so she hobbles around the station on four chrome stumps, when she isn’t giving the captain a blow job while he sits at his desk. So this movie has something for just about everyone—even those with an amputee fetish.
Back at the rubber club, one of Ruka’s squad members goes inside to get his rocks off. Unfortunately for him, it’s not his rocks that get bitten off (and yes, that is exactly what I mean). So when a bare-breasted hooker (whose nipples have been removed (?), leaving large metal sutures and open incisions over her breasts) bites off his most sensitive private part he naturally becomes incensed, so pulls out a baby Uzi and proceeds to cut her in half at the waist with bullets from his gun. He then staggers down the hall while clutching his blood-spurting groin. Little does he know that the hooker was also an engineer, and as he sits amid a growing puddle of blood she back-crawls into the hallway dragging the lower half of her body, which has now turned into a giant Venus fly trap type of thing which has huge teeth.
As the cop screams in terror, she scuttles toward him and latches onto one of his arms with her new Venus fly trap-cum-pussy and rips it off, while blood sprays everywhere. (And no, I am Not making any of this up. I’m not even sure I could make it up, but someone certainly did). The blood-spurting cop is saved from death, however, by the main engineer—a madman who wants to build a world of super-killers. He makes the cop an engineer and sends him back to the station to destroy the engineer-killing cop squad.
So the cop slash engineer waddles into the police station, his lost arm now a three foot long katana blade, and his missing organ now a three foot long, blood-dripping cock-shaped weapon which shoots bullets from the tip. Again, I am not making this up. A bunch of cops attack their former partner by shooting at him (even though they should know by now that bullets cannot kill an engineer [and did they perhaps mistakenly think that some clown who waddles in with a sword for an arm and a gigantic cock that shoots bullets was somehow not an engineer?]) as he shoots bullets from his cock-gun and blood sprays everywhere as cops die all over the place. Suddenly Ruka appears and neatly slices the guy’s head in two, thus ending the blood bath. After this, the movie gets pretty weird.
Well, enough show and tell. This movie is a grotesque, depraved, twisted horror-show, filled with violence, gore, blood and death, and is so unbelievably bad that you cannot help but laugh out loud at many of the bizarre situations. Some people will no doubt Love this movie, but hopefully most viewers will simply accept it as the total farce it is supposed to be and laugh at it right along with the producers. The movie is so overloaded with visual carnage and fetish-oriented sexual displays that the viewer tends to lose sight of the plot line, weak though it may be.
In all the years I have been reviewing movies, this has never happened to me before. “Tokyo Gore Police” is such a total freak show that I can only give it a *ZERO* rating. This is one you will just have to see for yourself and make up your own mind about. It is available through NetFlix, so some night when you have nothing better to do except get shitfaced with a bunch of friends, dial up this flick and have a ball!
Now I have to go wash my eyeballs with bleach and try to remove the images this movie left imprinted on my retina. See you next time, if I can still see anything by then.