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No Blade of Grass (1970) – This movie is pretty damn weird.  Think The Walking Dead without zombies and cast with British actors.  Wait.  The Walking Dead is cast with British actors.  Never mind.  So this virus begins killing all the wheat on the planet which leads to global collapse but the British keep on drinking tea, eating rare meat and thinking God and Queen will save their asses.  When it’s clear God and Queen are totally useless we watch a London family take off for the hills of Scotland where an Uncle will supposedly take them in on his unaffected farm.  As soon as they leave the city they’re in Mad Max territory.  Biker gangs, rapist, once good folk doing awful things to survive.  Where does all this leather come from so quickly?

Director Cornel Wilde has a bold, unflinching concept to work with but his effort here makes him look like a hack.  His movie Naked Prey from just a few years before seemed to indicate otherwise.  Every scene that strikes a tone of genuine shock or skill is bookeneded by weird moments which can only be described as tone deaf in its Britishness.  A mother and daughter are raped at the hands of a passing motorcycle gang who then kill their attackers.  Afterwards the event is merely mentioned in passing embarrassment, as if it was some kind of social faux paux made at a dinner party.  I guess it’s a British thing.  “Sorry about that rape business dear, keep calm and carry on.”  Wilde lathers on heavy-handed moments of eco-preaching, constantly cutting away to moments of toxic sludge pouring into rivers or industrial stacks billowing black smoke into the atmosphere.  The graceless and blunt editing, as well as some bizarre moments of foreshadowing  help nothing at all.  His intentions are good but his methods are as subtle as a fork in the eye.  Impossible not to watch but impossible to like.  Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the non-staged child birth scene.  Ugh.




Danger: Diabolik (1968) – This movie is almost as weird as the one above.  This time it’s a 1960’s Italian comic book movie.  Diabolik is a piece of cult goofiness which shares the same rarefied air as its over worshiped cousin, Barbarella.  Stylistically it’s an Italian answer to the swinging 60’s incarnation of Batman.  Who asked Italy to do such a thing.  So who is Diabolik (John Phillip Law)?  Imagine if Robin Hood dressed like a ninja but instead of stealing from the rich to give to the poor he keeps his plunder because it turns on his girlfriend.  Why does Diabolik steal $10 million?  So he and his babe can have a shag on it.  Take that Woody and Demi.  He also lives in a really psychedelic underground liar with secret entrances, a car elevator and a giant rotating bed.

This could have been a lot of fun, and for a few scattered moments it is, but the filmmakers relish the fact that Diabolik the character is a dick.  We’re supposed to root for him of course because he’s an anti-authority figure who laughs in the face of the system which control the rest of the world.  He constantly mocks those who wish to stop him and gets away with anything and everything he wants.  At one point he pretty much snaps his fingers and blows up every tax establishment in the country.  But Diabolik is nothing more than a jerk who steals things and shags his gal pal.  He’s more Alain Delon than Austin Powers.  Though Austin Powers and Diabolik would surely have attended the same parties.  I guess that flew with the hip kids back in the day but now it just seems shallow and pretentious.  Despite the overall lackluster nature of it you can see this movie popping up all over pop culture.  The Wachowski kids clearly loved this thing.  I’m pretty sure the stoicism of The Matrix was born here.  The Beastie Boys video for Body Movin’ is basically made up of footage from this movie.  And Mission: Impossible III hijacks some of Diabolik’s clever gags for stealing stuff.  Sitting here thinking on it it seems more fun now than it was when we all watched it.  Weird.




Altered States (1980) – Now this movie is completely fucking weird.  Scratch that.  It’s batshit crazy.  Ken Russell, a filmmaker I’ve never followed, was known to make disturbing, nutzoid movies and States doesn’t disappoint.  I have no doubt David’s Lynch and Cronenberg love this and make their families watch it every Christmas.  Riddled with buggy montages, a mind bender story and a nerve racking film score, States stars William Hurt as a scientist working in the field of….something.  He basically believes that the all of human experience is locked away in our genetic code, a massive hard drive for our evolutionary memory.  Using sensory deprivation in cahoots with some whacked out, Mexican-Indian, spirit bending shrooms, Hurt’s scientist believes we can experience our primordial being while in a hypnotic state, then going so far as to believe we can actually physically manifest our earliest selves.  What’s all that mean?  Well, at one point Hurt takes some serious trippy dope, locks himself in a black box and emerges as a Pleistocene era humanoid who runs amok.  And it just gets weirder from there.

The physical effects on display here are uniquely impressive and while yes, States is goofy as all Hell on paper, it’s director and performers are completely convinced of its legitimacy as a story.  Russell channels into that place where only the truly cracked dare to go, unleashing phantasms of nightmarish imagery and religious symbolism as Hurt trips fantastic on his quest to know the origin of it all.  If you want to get an idea of what you’re in for simply do a google image search for ‘altered states movie’ and take a peek.  If that image of a 7 eyed goat doesn’t pull you in, nothing will.


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