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June 24, 2017

KEN TAYLOR'S 10 FAVORITE MOVIES

My generous longtime pal Ken Taylor pledged his support on Patreon at the MIDNIGHT MOVIES level of $35 per month. In signature Royal fashion, the overachieving Ken went way above and beyond in describing his favorite 10 films. I would argue if I disagreed with any of his picks but I couldn't have done better myself. So here, just in time for Gay Pride Day, are Ken's 10 favorite movies! All bow, or kneel if you will!

Fog-Over-Frisco

Ken says, Fog Over Frisco is a 1934 American Pre-Code Drama film. The screenplay was written by Robert N. Lee and Eugene Solow and was based on the short story "The Five Fragments" by George Dyer. William Dieterle directs. It stars Bette Davis as Arlene Bradford and Donald Woods as Tony Sterling. Part of the Warner Brothers release was filmed on location in San Francisco.

Arlene Bradford is a spoiled, bored, wealthy socialite who lives in a stunning Art Deco Manse on the craggy shores of Seacliff. She finances her extravagant lifestyle by exploiting her fiancée Spencer Carlton's (Lyle Talbot) access to her stepfather's brokerage firm, and using that connection to steal security bonds for underworld crime boss Jake Bellows (Irving Pichel). 

When Arlene disappears, her stepsister Valley (Margaret Lindsay) steps in to investigate with the assistance of society reporter Tony Sterling (Donald) and photojournalist Izzy Wright (Hugh Harbert).

Adolph Spreckels’ Manse — of the C & H Sugar fortune (currently Danielle Steele's home in Pacific Heights on Washington Street directly across the street from the north side of Lafayette Park between Octavia & Gough) was used in scenes that highlighted the comings and goings of automobiles from the manse’s garage through its Octavia Street egress. Eventually that egress was covered over, and the present day garage is accessed at the bottom of the manse’s grounds on Jackson Street, between Octavia & Gough.

Cole says, I can see why this is at the bottom of Ken's list; it wouldn't make its way into my best 1000 films. While I appreciate this film's pre-code application of high-rolling female characters — Bette Davis is the best the movie has going for it, but gets killed off half way through — 'Fog Over Frisco' doesn't come anywhere near 'Baby Face,' a pre-code classic that puts this movie to shame. 

One of the first rules of thumb I learned when I moved to San Francisco in 1986 was that you didn't dare call it 'Frisco.' That's still a big no-no for good reason; it sounds too much like Crisco, a once-popular lubricating substance used in the '70s at 'Crisco Oil Orgies.'

Anyway, give me Delmer Daves's 'Dark Passage' with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall any day of the week over this movie if you're looking for a cool noir set in San Francisco. Clocking in at 68 minutes, I don't think 'Fog Over Frisco' even qualifies as a feature-length movie. Sorry Ken; I calls it like I sees it. 

The-Postman-Always-Rings-Twice

Ken says, The Postman Always Rings Twice is a 1946 film noir based on the 1934 novel of the same title by James M. Cain. This movie adaptation stars Lana Turner as Cora Smith and John Garfield as Frank Chambers. The film is directed by Tay Garnett.

A hobo, Frank Chambers stops at a rural roadside diner for something to eat, and is mesmerized by Cora Smith’s beauty. He dines along with her much older husband Nick (Cecil Kellaway). Frank ends up working there and senses that Cora is not happy with her current situatio being married to her much older, unattractive alcoholic husband.

Frank and Cora start a mad passionate love affair and scheme a way to murder Nick so Cora will inherit the diner and be able to turn the ramshackle dump into a business of her dreams for the adulterous lovers to live happily ever after.

After their first attempt to murder Nick fails, they plan a second attempt which they succeed in, but not before catching the attention of a local prosecutor named Sackett (played by Leon Ames). Sackett deduces what took place but does not have enough evidence to prove any wrong doing. Sexual attraction is a muthafucker.

Sackett devises a plan to turn Cora and Frank against one another by filing murder charges against Cora only. The couple do indeed turn on one another, however Cora's attorney Arthur Keats (Hume Cronyn) develops a clever ploy by having Cora not fully confess, a tactic that prevents the prosecution from obtaining any new evidence. Cora plea bargains by pleading guilty to manslaughter and receives probation.

Frank and Cora eventually reconcile their relationship, but Cora ends up in a fatal car crash with Frank behind the wheel. Frank escapes unscathed as Cora is pummeled over and over again as the car ends up at the bottom of a steep ravine. Although it was truly an accident, Frank ends up on death row for the murder of Cora Smith.

With Frank's last reprieve from being executed denied, Frank is incredulous at his cruel fate. However, when the authorities inform him of the irrefutable evidence that they have of his crime, Frank feels that this is his overdue punishment. 

The postman will always ring a second time, and the second ring will invariably be heard. After he and Cora escape legal punishment for Nick's murder; and now with Cora dead, Frank realizes that the postman has rung a second time for both Cora and himself. https://youtu.be/UKhQbwCsqtM

Cole says, John Garfield is at the height of his powers in this beautifully executed noir opposite the incredibly sexy Lana Turner. Rugged handsome meets divine beauty. This film’s seething eroticism always makes me squirm; so wrong and yet so right. You seldom hear director Tay Garnett’s name mentioned but he was a master craftsman. The proof is on the screen.

Sunsetblvd

Ken says, Sunset Boulevard is a 1950 noir co-written by directed by Billy Wilder and produced by co-writer Charles Brackett. It stars Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond and William Holden as Joe Gillis. https://youtu.be/l77KLoHn6kk

This truly classic movie has faded Silent movie star Norma Desmond hire down-on-his-luck screenwriter Joe Gillis. Norma draws our Los Angeles everyman into her fantasy world of making a triumphant return to the screen by having him write a movie script for her. Gillis ends up serving as a kept man in Norma's neo-Gothic Sunset Boulevard mansion.

Norma falls for the writer who never writes her comeback script. Still, she lavishes Joe with expensive clothing and gifts. When Joe’s younger girlfriend shows up at Norma's house, Joe ends up floating face down in her swimming pool.

Norma's delusional fantasies are kept alive by her faithful Butler Max,(Eric Von Stroheim) to the very end. Even when the police arrive to arrest Norma to book her for murder; Max leads her to believe that all of the reporters with cameras are actually a film crew there to film her comeback. Gloria Swanson makes her entrance down a grand staircase while uttering the famous line, "Alright Mr. De Mille, I'm ready for my close up." https://youtu.be/jMTT0LW0M_Y

Cole says, I wouldn’t dare argue with a single film on Ken’s list. This Gothic gem is a film you could take with you on a desert island if you could only watch one movie over and over until your dying day. The tone of Sunset Boulevard is so diabolically fascinating that you get lost in it regardless of how many times you’ve seen it. It is high camp and murder mystery done in a Gothic style with noir trappings. I especially love Eric Von Stroheim’s performance, which clearly informed Richard O'Brien’s inspired role in another movie on Ken’s great list, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

Women On The Verge

Ken says, Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown is a 1988 Spanish black comedy-drama film written and directed by Pedro Almodovar, starring Carmen Maura as Pepa Marcos and Antonio Banderas as Carlos. This film brought Almodovar to widespread international attention, and rightfully so!

This is a hysterically funny, convoluted script about a jilted lover Pepa, a TV actress in Madrid who starts taking sleeping pills to, you know, mask her pain. Pepa also makes gazpacho with pills as a key ingredient. The setting is mostly Pepa's penthouse overlooking a faux backdrop of Madrid. Pepa’s friend Candela (Maria Barranco) is frantically trying to escape Shiite terrorists that were holding her hostage. She had a mad, passionate love affair with an Arab.

There is an iconic red phone of desire with an answering machine that Pepa rips from the wall and throws off of the balcony, twice. 

There’s a crazy mad chase scene around Madrid involving various modes of transport that has to be seen to be believed.

Be sure to watch this one for the ending.

Musical productions of Women Under The Influence have been performed on Broadway at the Belasco Theatre under direction by Lincoln Center's resident director Bartlett Sher. The show also played at the Playhouse Theatre, in London's West End, also directed by Bartlett Sher. http://top1-movies.com/movie/4203/mujeres-al-borde-de-un-ataque-de-nervios.html

Bitch Slap

Ken says, Bitch Slap is a 2009 Crime film/drama/comedy which serves up some pretty sick, twisted, humorous moments throughout a movie that had me howling!

It’s directed by Rick Jacobson and set out in the middle of the New Mexico desert. It stars Julia Voth as Trixie, Erin Cummings as Hel, and America Olivo as Camero.

The movie involves three REALLY HOT Bad Girls — a stripper, a drug runner, and a power broker. These ULTRA HOT Dominatrix gals arrive in the desert to extort $200 million worth of diamonds from an underworld drug kingpin, but things quickly spin out of control as allegiances change. One chic wields a Samurai sword, another a powerful automatic weapon, and the other carries a thick chain whip in one hand and in the other one a long club with a HUGE knob at the end that could knock someone's head off (and does!).

A sheriff in his patrol car arrives at the trailer hideaway where the three women are holed up. One of the hottest women comes out of the trailer, walks up to the sheriff's car, and comes on to him; he just can't resist. The hottie and the sheriff start making out. A second hottie emerges from the trailer, tells her girlfriend to step aside, and unloads her automatic weapon at the sheriff's head, blowing it off in all directions. Then she unloads on the sheriff's car, blowing it up. The two go back into the trailer and have sex, then when finished, exit the trailer and blow it up sky high as well. I was in sidesplitting laughter!

Talk about twisted Trailer Trash! At least they burned theirs by blowing it up!!

This is a BLAST of a movie!!

Cole says, while I enjoyed the overall tone of the movie, and especially the super committed performances of its three female stars (Julia Voth, Erin Cummings, and America Olivo), "Bitch Slap" is a mess. Rick Jacobson ("Ash vs Evil Dead" series) is a very skilled director, and his ability to rev up action sequences is impressive, but his screenwriting skills leave much to be desired. Jacobson steals liberally from Quentin Tarantino for this over-the-top sexploitation romp but isn't much for creating a story that sticks. Jacobson's time flipping device of constantly showing what happened six months ago, wears out its welcome quick.

For all of its ostensibly 3D-appropriate use of flying objects and big boobies, "Bitch Slap" doesn't hold a candle to Russ Meyer's truly transgressive "Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" — an obvious inspiration for this film. "Bitch Slap" is nonetheless ideally suited for a 3D treatment that would make it even more of a guilty pleasure. I would suggest Ken compare "Faster, Pussycat!" to "Bitch Slap." I think you'll find that Tura Satana, Haji, and Lori Williams create a lot more sexy heat and psycho bitch drama in Russ Meyer's classic sexploitation flick.

Caligula

Ken says, Caligula is an 1979 Italian American erotica historical drama film produced by Bob Guccione (the founder of "Penthouse Magazine"). He hired hired Gore Vidal as the film's screenwriter and softcore maestro Tinto Brass to direct the film.

The movie focuses on the rise and fall of the Roman Emperor (Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus) "Caligula." His father was Germanicus Julius Caesar. It is the only feature film produced by Penthouse Magazine. Guccione's intention was to produce an explicit pornographic film with a feature film narrative and high production values. He also cast Penthouse Pets as extras in unsimulated sex scenes filmed during post-production by himself and Giancarlo Lui. 

Caligula's release was controversial and met with legal issues over its violent and sexual content. It's uncut form (the ONLY one to see!!) still remains banned in several countries. Reviews were overwhelming negative (although Malcom McDowell's performance as the lead character was praised). Caligula is a cult classic and its political content is considered to have historic merit.

Other stars include Teresa Ann Savoy as Drusilla, Helen Mirren as Caesonia, Guido Mannari as Marco, John Gielgud as Nerva, Peter O'Toole as Tiberius, and Giancarlo Badessi as Claudius.

The film's unbridled debaucheries occur between combinations of people of the same sex, as with several men and a few women thrown into a mix of group sex. Huge clustered orgies occur throughout the film that make it difficult to discern between who is doing whatever to whoever as long as there was only another naked body involved. Everyone seemed perfectly content to start having sex with whomever they happened to be next to. 

At the pinnacle of sexual depravity was none other than Caligula himself. When he learns that a young couple are engaged to be married he takes them into a room and convinces them that they are to be honored with a personal wedding gift from their leader. Caligula rams his right fist with a HUGE dome ring on one finger (you know where) defiling the young man as his fiancée is forced to stand and watch in utter horror!

I thought I had witnessed the highest possible type of debauchery, by the goings-ons at various venues in NYC (the Mineshaft and the Anvil to name two of the most notorious) starting somewhere around the mid 70s and into the early 80s. Not even that era of anything goes came close to Caligula's reign of sexual depravity!

Be sure to look for the stationery unicycle bike (in the main orgy room) with "certain attachments" that cover the entire circumference of the bike's wheels that go around at whatever speed a woman (or a man) chooses for pedaling on that particular 'exercise' machine!!! Why didn't we have those back in the 70s?

Caligula's Circus took place on top of "Ager Vaticanos" (The Vatican), and some believe it is where St. Peter was martyred by Nero Augustus Caesar on a cross turned upside down while on public display. St. Peter's remains lie within the Basilica’s catacombs. It makes one wonder if any of Caligula's chambers (catacombs) underneath and throughout Vatican City have ever been used for any of the church's modern day sexual scandals? https://youtu.be/-qB3El5K_Pk

Cole says, Nasty, nasty. I can’t believe you can watch ‘Caligula’ on YouTube these days. When I first saw it at the Ken Cinema in San Diego with my girlfriend Lori, I remember being shocked to my core. Fisting!? What the hell was that? The scene were the soldiers jerk off in a big gold bowl before applying the communal jizz as lotion to the female object of their affection was a revelation of infinite proportions. I love that critic such as Roger Ebert were disgusted and revolted. I recognized the artistry of this instant classic when I was 19. ‘Caligula’ is one badass piece of erotic historic cinema. Yep.

History-of-the-world-part-i

Ken says, History of the World Part 1 — Despite being titled 'Part 1,' there is no sequel; the title is a play on ‘The History of the World, Volume 1’ by Sir Walter Raleigh. Mel Brooks wrote, produced, and directed this 1981 parody. Brooks also stars in the film, playing five different roles no less. The large ensemble cast includes Sid Caesar, Shecky Green, Gregory Hines (in his feature film debut), Charlie Callas, and Brooks regulars Ron Carey, Dom DeLuise, Madeline Kahn, Harvey Korman, Cloris Leachman, Andreas Voutsinas, and Spike Milligan. Royce D. Applegate, Beatrice Arthur, Hugh Hefner, John Hurt, Phil Leeds, Phil Levinson, Jackie Mason, Paul Mazursky, Andrew Sachs, and Henny Youngman all make cameo appearances. Orson Wells narrates.

The four main segments consist of stories set in the Stone Age, the Roman Empire, the Spanish Inquisition, and the French Revolution. Other intermediate skits include reenactments of Moses delivering the Ten Commandments, and The Last Super. 

Madeline Kahn is at her best as Queen Nympho; she’s one of the most hysterically funny comedians in the entire movie! My favorite scene is when her personal handmaiden brings her to the lineup of frontally nude soldiers for her to pick her numerous escorts for the midnight orgy. https://youtu.be/Gt7U0XycEJE

Cole says, I’m especially glad that Ken put this Mel Brooks classic on his list. I remember watching this hilarious movie at the Campus Drive-In where I got my first job in San Diego (a block from my first apartment there) when I moved there to attend SDSU. I remember watching scenes from ‘History of the World Part 1’ over and over on the gigantic drive-in movie screen like it was last week. What fun!

RHPS-CharlesAtlas

Ken says, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a 1975 musical comedy horror film directed by Jim Sharman. The screenplay was written by Sharman and Richard O'Brien, based on the 1973 musical stage production of the same title. (O'Brien stared as Riff Raff, a ‘handyman,’ in both productions). 

The movie is a parody tribute to the science fiction and horror B movies of the 1930s through the early 1970s, with special inspiration taken from a little-known comedy entitled ‘Kiss Me Quick.’ It stars Tim Curry as Dr. Frank N Furter (a scientist from Transsexual, Transylvania), Susan Sarandon as Janet Weiss, Barry Bostwick as Brad Majors, along with cast members from the Original Royal Court Theatre, Roxy Theatre, and Belasco Theatre Productions. It was filmed at Bray Studios and on location at Oakley Court Country Estate, United Kingdom.

Initially, The Rocky Horror Picture Show was critically panned, although it gained popularity as a midnight movie when audiences began participating with the film at the Waverly Theatre in New York City in 1976. Smaller cities across the country followed suit. 

Nothing much more needs to be said except, "Time is fleeting," "so come up to the lab and see what's on the slab! "I see you SHIVER with “antici………PATION." https://youtu.be/jinU-iDxLSk

Cole says, Yes indeedy! I’m thrilled that Ken put this amazing movie on his list. I went for months in high school where I constantly switched between the Rocky Horror soundtrack with Elvis Costello’s first album (‘My Aim Is True’) and the soundtrack from ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll High School.’ The great Lou Adler produced the record, and it is one of the all-time great soundtrack albums ever recorded.

As for the movie, I’ll never forget when I was 14, living at 1124 West Grace Street #7, and my high school pals Anne Kinneman and Jimmy Giddings came over on a Friday night to raid my kitchen for the supplies we needed to take to the movie. I knew nothing about the audience participation aspect of the film, so it came as a big surprise when Anne and Jimmy ran down the list: rice — check, newspaper — check, a spray bottle filled with water — check, a lighter — check, toilet paper — check, playing cards — check. Anne and Jimmy were boyfriend/girlfriend at the time and had been to see it a couple of times before so they were old hands. I had more fun that night than I’d ever had at the movies before or since. Needless to say we returned to the old Biograph Cinema many more times to participate in the fun. ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ probably did more to help people get over queer discrimination than any laws ever written. So there.

Nosferatu

Ken says, Bram Stoker's Nosferatu is a 1922, German Silent movie starring Max Schreck as Count Orlok. Eerily enough, Schreck in German translates to terror.

Bram Stoker's wife Florence sued the German movie production company (Prana Film) for copyright infringement due to film director F.W. Murnau's adapting Stoker's Dracula even after he had been denied permission. Although Murnau told his screenwriter Henrik Galeen to make some location modifications, eliminate several characters, and change Count Dracula's name to Count Orlok, Stoker's heirs proceeded with the suit, which in turn bankrupted the Prana Film Company. "Nosferatu" was the only movie the production company ever made.

Nosferatu was filmed on location in Northern Slovakia, in the High Tatra Mountain Range bordering Poland, and around Transylvania. Indoor scenes were filmed in Berlin studios.

Even though the production of Nosferatu has a complicated legacy due to Murnau’s shameless plagiarizing of Bram's novel; it was received as a seminal movie. Even by modern special effects standards, Nosferatu's 'stop motion technique' (to make it appear that Count Orlok's coffin lid was levitating along with his body) is pure movie magic.

Schreck's makeup was so convincing that many people of that era thought that he was a vampire in real life. 

The only other Dracula movie to precede Nosferatu was titled "Dracula's Death," which was filmed in Hungary in 1921. The now-lost film, was loosely based on Bram Stoker's "Dracula."

Silent Film, with English subtitles:  https://youtu.be/FC6jFoYm3xs

Cole says, I’ll never forget seeing Nosferatu at Saint John the Divine on Halloween with my wife and our friends Ray and Heather to live accompaniment on the Cathedral’s pipe organ (with its 8,514 pipes). This incredibly spooky film was made all the more eerie in this amazing church, where Nosferatu is shown every Halloween. If you’re ever in NYC on Halloween, this is the event to catch.

Swept-Away-1974

Ken says, Swept Away is a 1974 Italian comedy-drama film written and directed by Lina Wertmuller. (Translated Full English Title: Swept Away... by an Unusual Destiny, in the Blue Sea of August).

It stars Mariangela Melato as Raffaella and Giancarlo Giannini as Gennarino.

The story is about a role reversal of the classes. Snooty Raffaella vacations with her husband on their yacht in the Mediterranean with their upper class friends.

Raffaella savors bossing around her underclass deckhand Gennarino.

She chides him for his dedication to Communism while the two are swept far out into the sea in a dingy after she oversleeps.

Naturally Raffaella refuses to listen to Gennarino's advice about how they could be carried out to sea. 

Gennarino slaps Raffaella into submission. A hot steamy, forbidden romance develops with Gennarino as Raffaella’s new master. Forbidden love blossoms on an uninhabited isle. Needless to say I always get hot and bothered throughout most of the movie, whenever I watch it. This is my favorite movie ever! In Italian with English subtitles: https://youtu.be/OzAEF5g35uw

Cole says, Lina Wertmüller’s inspired social satire is wrapped up in political titles, however false, that people identify with or use to paint others with as friend or foe. Italian dogma of communist, fascist, and capitalist ideologies figure prominently into the upper and lower class characters that Wertmüller presents with a take-no-prisoners sense of irreverence and sexual frankness.

Four upper class couples are out for a day’s adventure on a yacht served by a macho crew whose pique of discontent about their disrespectful overlords comes through Giancarlo Giannini’s hangdog deck hand Gennarino Carunchio. Gennarino is equal parts caricature and flesh. Giancarlo Giannini’s virtuosic performance borders on farce without ever crossing the line into exaggerated pantomime. It’s no wonder that Wertmüller relied on the gifted actor as a muse for other films such as “Seven Beauties” and “Love & Anarchy.”

Mariangela Melato’s rich snot Raffaella cares too much about the environment to be the capitalist devil that Gennarino pins her as. Still, she wears her entitlement on her sleeve. Mariangela slings insults and complaints at the boat crew she considers less than human. When the pasta isn’t cooked al dente she throws a fit befitting a three-year-old with a toothache. Sweaty t-shirts are also a bone of contention for Mariangela whose piercing green eyes closely resemble those of her sworn rival Gennarino.

Tensions between Raffaella and Gennarino reach a primal equanimity after the two become stranded on a remote island where Gennarino proves his ability to provide food and shelter. Wertmüller’s satire pitches and peaks in Gennarino’s demanding process of taming Raffaella into his love slave. The roles of master and slave get reversed. Wertmüller’s forceful transfer of power between man and woman is as truthful and cunning as anything in the films of Catherine Breillat or Luis Buñuel. The scene where Raffaella demurely requests anal penetration is especially hilarious. Gennarino’s purposefully proletariat response speaks volumes.  

“Swept Away” is as relevant today as it was when it was made. The power that lovers wield is as psychologically transient as any political ideology of the day, and just as predictable. It could well be the ultimate date movie for the intellectually and sensuously adventurous.  


COLE SMITHEYYou too can have your favorite 10 films featured on ColeSmithey.com. Just click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon at the MIDNIGHT MOVIES level of $35 per month!

PATREON BUTTON

 

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