Saturday, June 25, 2016


I recently participated in a blogathon concerning a very specific genre of film.  In honor of this event, tales from the freakboy zone will be mutated into a film blog for the month of June.
Screenplay by: Roger Ebert
Directed by: Russ Meyer

"This is my happening, and it freaks me out!"
- Ronnie "Z-Man" Barzell


What can I say about a film that is cinema reflected, refracted, blended and magnified into a vividly colorful merry-go-round of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll?  For one thing, it is not a sequel to Valley of the Dolls, though it shares similar themes.  Mainly the core plot about three young women getting caught up in "the oft nightmare world of show business" as the beginning of the film states.  However, if you watch the screen tests on the DVD of BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, you will see that it was originally intended to be a sequel of sorts through the character of Anne Welles in VALLEY, who became Susan Lake in BEYOND.  Presumably, because of Anne's/Susan's storyline, Lyon Burke became Baxter Wolfe.

The plot, if one can honestly call it such, is essentially Josie and the Pussycats on acid.  An all girl rock band The Kelly Affair is tired of playing high school prom gigs, so lead singer Kelly MacNamera suggests they head to L.A. where her rich Aunt Susan just happens to reside.  Petronella Danforth (drums) and Casey Anderson (guitar) seem game, but Harris Allsworth (band manager/Kelly's "boyfriend") is skeptical.  A slam-bang montage of images fuels Harris and Kelly's L.A. pro/con list, one of my favorite scenes, and Harris is soon won over.  In what must be the quickest and most hippie road trip ever, the group arrives, and after meeting Susan Lake and her skeevy lawyer Porter Hall, they soon hit the L.A. music scene by snagging an invite to a far out party thrown by the teen tycoon of rock Ronnie "Z-Man" Barzell.
Pretty much. 
Z-Man's party makes me think of a drug-fueled version of those "At the Dance" skits from The Muppets Show, though the overheard conversation is a bit more eye-popping.  ("I was so anxious to get out of bed, I stepped on her face.")  It is at this wild party where we meet, not only the incense and peppermint of Strawberry Alarm Clock, but also most of the other key characters.  Lance Rocke is a young stud looking for his next sugar mommy, and soon sets his eyes and firm body on Kelly.  Emerson Thorne is a sincerely nice waiter by night and law student by day, who easily falls for Petronella.  Roxanne is a fashion designer who sensuously appreciates the feminine figure, especially Casey's.  Ashley St. Ives is a man-hungry adult film star who prefers a Rolls Royce to a bed, and she desires to catch Harris in her web, car, chandelier, beach, etc.  At a later party we meet Randy Black, the heavyweight champion of the world, who can philosophize as quickly as he can fight, and he sees Petronella as the ultimate championship prize.  Last, but not least, is Baxter Wolfe who once proposed marriage to Susan Lake, but the time wasn't right for either of them.
Marcia McBroom (Petronella), Dolly Reed (Kelly), Cynthia Myers (Casey)
Z-Man quickly changes the band's name to The Carrie Nations and usurps the role of manager from Harris, sending the band into the stratosphere of fame and fortune, and Harris on a downward spiral of booze and dope.  Through this kaleidoscope maze the characters deal with their relationship problems and personal demons.  All of the ungainly plot threads more or less lead to a private party at Z-Man's that goes from psychedelic wildness to a very bad trip.  I could tell you about all of the absolutely crazy things that happen in this film, but I hate the idea of spoiling the mind-boggling and jaw-dropping surprises that are waiting for you!
"And there are juice freaks, and there are pill freaks, and everybody's a freak."
- Casey
The acting has some surprisingly subtle moments, but, much like the film itself, there are a lot of magnified performances.  I suppose "over the top" could be a way to describe the acting, but to me that implies camp, and as bizarre as BEYOND is, it is played with a straight face.  No irony.  No overt winking-nods.  Even a melodramatic hospital scene, as unbelievably hilarious as it is, is acted in deadly earnest.  All the actors throw themselves into their unique parts in this unique film.

Roger Ebert, yes, that Roger Ebert, is the screenwriter of BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, which leads me to think that he shouldn't have been so judgy about other films for all those years.  Don't get me wrong.  I love this film and that includes the script, but I'll admit that the story is kind of a mess, much like this review.  Especially when a major character revelation occurs near the end.  The surprise is certainly a surprise since it comes out of nowhere and makes little sense with what we see earlier in the film.  Plus, it's a shame there wasn't room to explore the characters of Z-Man and Casey on a deeper, more emotional level.  Now I'm being judgy because once on Siskel & Ebert's show, Roger Ebert went on a mini-diatribe against John Waters, which ticked me off.  I'm shocked that vile moment didn't end my love of BEYOND, but thankfully I ultimately see the film as all Russ Meyer, who is co-credited under story by.

I admit I've only seen two other films directed by Russ Meyer: Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and Mudhoney.  I barely recall the latter, but Pussycat is rather awesome and would make a perfect companion to BEYOND for a Russ Meyer double feature.  Meyer definitely had his hands in all aspects of production to keep these films aligned to his very ample vision.  While Pussycat and BEYOND have different plots, they are both cut from the same template in magnified acting, visuals and music. 
Sincere apologies to my other favorite artists and soundtracks, but this is my desert island disc.
Speaking of music...Stu Phillips rocks!  His score cascades from melodious to dramatic to melodramatic to suspenseful to exciting to humorous and beyond, perfectly matching the eclectic moods of the film. The songs performed by The Carrie Nations are a groovy blend of rock and pop, with lead vocals provided by the incomparable Lynn Carey, who sadly does not appear on the vinyl soundtrack, but did cowrite a couple of the songs.  Her powerful voice can be heard on the CD, along with more of Stu Phillips' versatile score.  Rounding it all up is Strawberry Alarm Clock rockin' out a couple of tracks and The Sandpipers keeping the title song nice and easy for you.
The soundtrack so nice I bought it twice.
So hang cool, teddy bear, and experience the psychedelic trip of one of my favorite films, but remember...

"What I see is beyond your dreaming." - Cat Woman (no, not the Batman villain) 

Freak Out, 

P.S.  I've read about the use of the 20th Century Fanfare in a particularly violent scene within the film and how some see it as Russ Meyer making a statement about the mainstream studio industry or something.  Personally, I think it was used in that specific moment to let the audience know that we are back to the flash forward shown during the opening credits.  

P.P.S.  In case you missed my post where I elucidate the reasons why you shouldn't feed the plants...

Saturday, June 18, 2016

freakboy on film: THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (Nature's Fury Blogathon Edition)

I would like to take a moment and thank Barry P. ( of Cinematic Catharsis for inviting me to participate in his Nature's Fury blogathon.  My initial concern was the film I chose wouldn't fit within Barry's guidelines, but it thankfully squeaked by, mainly thanks to the fact outer space is never suggested in the plot. 

Screenplay by: Charles B. Griffith
Directed by: Roger Corman

"I didn't mean it."
- Seymour

It all starts in a rundown little florist shop on Skid Row.  Within its bleak walls, Seymour, a young nebbish man introduces a new species of plant to an unsuspecting population.  A cross between a butterworth and a Venus flytrap, from seeds that originated on a plantation near a cranberry farm, Audrey Junior, named after Seymour's sweetly offbeat coworker, is quite a remarkable plant. Delighted to have the plant named after her, Audrey Fulquard's feelings for Seymour seem to grow along with her namesake.  As Audrey Junior grows, it brings in customers, which makes Gravis Mushnick, the gruff proprietor, happy and mostly willing to overlook some strange goings-on in his little shop.

It's an acquired taste.
Meanwhile, Detective Sergeant Joe Fink and Detective Frank Stoolie, emulating Dragnet with their curt, rapid fire speech, are not overlooking the strange goings-on on Skid Row.  People are disappearing, from a drunken railroad cop to a sadistic dentist, and this eventually leads them to Mushnick's Florist.  On the evening Seymour's botanical genius is to be recognized by Mrs. Hortence Fishtwanger, from the Society of Silent Flower Observers of Southern California, the horrible truth literally blossoms in front of everyone as Audrey Junior's buds open, revealing the faces of the missing Skid Row residents. 

Maybe it's the plant's cross species, or the cranberry farm, but Audrey Junior can talk and enjoys humans as its primary food source.  Seymour, now being revealed as a murderer, goes on the run.  Detectives Fink and Stoolie, along with Mushnick, chase him all around Skid Row but lose him among the toilets.  Seymour then hurries back to the shop for a final confrontation with Audrey Junior by feeding the plant like it has never been fed before.  The end leaves a few questions behind.  Is Audrey Junior dead or is this just the beginning?  Are there other seeds from the plantation near that cranberry farm just waiting to be planted, needing to be cared for, and eager to consume humanity?  The world may never know...until nature's fury is upon us!

A boy and his plant

THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS is a nutty film filled with nutty scenarios and nutty characters.  Jonathan Haze as Seymour is somehow likable in a dorky way, even as he finds "food" for his plant.  Jackie Joseph as Audrey is delightfully quirky and funny, especially when interacting with Seymour.  Mel Welles as Mushnick is blustery, but not without his charms.  Dick Miller as Burson Fouch, a flower-devouring customer, is dryly funny.  Myrtle Vail as Seymour's hypochondriac mother is endearingly bizarre.  Then top the whole nuttiness off with an elderly florist customer (Leola Wendorff) who seems to have a family member die every day, a sadistic dentist (John Herman Shaner), Detectives Fink & Stoolie (Wally Campo & Jack Warford), and the uncomfortably tense Mrs. Fishtwanger (Lynn Storey).  Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the little known actor, Jack Nicholson, as Wilbur Force, a masochistic dental patient.

The darkly comic screenplay is by Charles B. Griffith, who also provides the voice of Audrey Junior and appears as a couple of side characters.  Adding to the eccentric mix is legendary B-movie director Roger Corman, who achieves low-budget excellence with THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, especially since it is said that the film was shot in two days.  The perfect compliment to this eccentric film is the funky, jazzy score by Fred Katz.  He implanted each selection with a memorable flair and the entire soundtrack can be enjoyed on its own merit.

Music to grow plants by.

I first saw THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS many years ago, before experiencing a local production of the stage musical and its cinematic counterpart.  Given my mood, or perhaps the day of the week, I may say that I prefer the non-musical 1960 version more than the later adaptations.  If you should catch me in that mood, or on that day, I would probably tell you the reason is because the original is a strange little film that shouldn't be any good, but is, in my opinion, deliciously twisted and fun.  Though, I would then whisper discreetly how Rick Moranis as a musically-inclined Seymour will forever hold a special place in my heart, but that is another post for another day...or mood.

So pour yourself a glass of Dr. Phlegm's Cough Syrup and chow down on one of my favorite films, but please remember...

"No novocaine  It dulls the senses." - Wilbur Force

Freak Out, 

P.S.  I searched the Internet and the notes on the soundtrack, but couldn't find a specific way to spell Seymour's last name.  It varies from Krelboyne to Krelboin to even Krelboined.  Well, I guess there's just no accounting for people's tastes, as Seymour once said to Audrey Junior.

P.P.S.  I am going to take a moment and shamelessly plug my little, and inexpensive, e-book about a small town experiencing some strange disappearances...

Saturday, June 11, 2016

freakboy on film: PARTY GIRL

I will be participating in a blogathon concerning a very specific genre of film.  In honor of this upcoming event, tales from the freakboy zone will be mutated into a film blog for the month of June.
Screenplay by: Harry Birckmayer & Daisy von Sherler Mayer
Directed by: Daisy von Sherler Mayer

"I would like a nice, powerful, mind-altering substance, preferably something that would make my unborn children grow gills."
- Mary

Some things you should know about Mary...
Her mother was a woman with no common sense.
She really enjoys a falafel with hot sauce, a side order of Baba Ghanoush and a seltzer, please.
She might be an existentialist. 
She is not a waitress.
She knows how to throw a party.
She desires to find meaning in her life, which takes her to a library.

PARTY GIRL, at the core of its strange, indie heart, is a film about growing up.  When we first meet Mary, she is holding an illegal party and is subsequently arrested.  After being bailed out by her menopausal godmother Judy, she inadvertently starts down a party-filled road to maturity. This road includes a drug/alcohol-fueled learning of the Dewey Decimal System, having (safe) sex in the Romance Language section, and selling off her designer, and well-organized, wardrobe to pay the rent.  All of this, and more, leads Mary to wanting to become a librarian.
No, not Syphilis. 
There are many quirky characters and some good performances in this film, Sasha von Scherler as Judy and Donna Mitchell as Rene (an alcoholic club owner) are particularly memorable, but let's face it, this is Parker Posey's film.  As Mary, she is frustrating, funny, and commands attention in every scene, even when Mary's not there.  It is no surprise that Posey became the indie queen of the 1990's, and Party Girl, in my opinion, sets the bar pretty high.  

To be honest, Parker Posey is one of those rare actors I'll sit through anything for.  Once you have suffered through the cloying You've Got Mail and the insufferably long Superman Returns just for a hint of Posey brilliance, you are a dedicated fan.  She was easily the best part in either of those films, which leads me to believe that big-budget, mainstream affairs don't know how to fully utilize her eccentric acting style.  Well, except for maybe Josie and the Pussycats, but I'm blind to any faults in that admittedly bizarre spectacle, and Posey is purr-fect in it, but that's another post for another time.
You don't need Leo (Guillermo Diaz) to spin this awesome disc, but I'm sure he would!

Another aspect I love about Party Girl is its music.  Funky and danceable, from The Wolfgang Press to Run DMC to Deee-lite, the various artists and songs are nearly side characters in their own specific ways.  The "original motion picture soundtrack" is worth looking for, even though it tragically does not include "Lick It" performed by Karen Finley.

One more thing about this film, and this is purely opinion, but I wonder if Mary's mother was Holly Golightly and this is an unspoken sequel to Breakfast at Tiffany's.   I saw Party Girl first, so when I finally experienced Breakfast at Tiffany's, I was struck by a similar vibe between these two films, but thankfully Mustafa (Omar Townsend) in Party Girl isn't a cringe-worthy caricature portrayed by a Caucasian.  Perhaps the cinematic connection I imagine is simply because Holly's and Mary's stories are essentially the same.  A young woman, living in a self-created party world of sorts, finds her true self and falls in love in the process, albeit in different ways and in different decades. It's just a thought to chew on.

So, pour yourself a cocktail (or mocktail), imitate a cat puking, be on the lookout for a young Liev Schreiber and party with one of my favorite films, but FYI: 

"I expect you on that dance floor in five minutes and please change into something more festive!" -Derrick (Anthony DeSando)

Freak Out, 

P.S.  PARTY GIRL inspired an extremely short-lived television series in 1996, starring Christine Taylor (The Brady Bunch Movie), John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch), Swoozie Kurtz (Sisters), Merrin Dungey (Alias), and Matt Borlenghi (All My Children).
I remember enjoying the handful of episodes, but it couldn't quite live up to the film, which is probably why the series didn't find an audience.

P.P.S.  In case you missed the post where I go on and on about Gentlemen Broncos...

Saturday, June 4, 2016

freakboy on film: GENTLEMEN BRONCOS

Later this month I will be participating in a blogathon concerning a very specific genre of film.  In honor of this upcoming event, tales from the freakboy zone will be mutated into a film blog for the month of June.

Written by: Jared Hess, Jerusha Hess
Directed by: Jared Hess 

"Remember who you are and what you stand for." - Judith

First, GENTLEMEN BRONCOS is not a porno, even though the title sounds like one.

Second, and I should have stated this first, I hate Napoleon Dynamite, with a passion.  Maybe if I had waited to watch it until all the insane hoopla had died down, like I did with Nell, I would have enjoyed it.  I seriously couldn't open a newspaper or magazine without seeing stories about people dressing up like Napoleon for class pictures, proms, and even adult proms.  Ugh, but enough about that.

Despite the creative connection to that other film and a tepid review I read, I knew I wanted to see Gentlemen Broncos.  Maybe it was because of Sam Rockwell, who entertained me in Galaxy Quest or Michael Angarano, who was an amusing addition to Will & Grace.  More than likely it was because the plot concerned a writer, which I guess I call myself, on a good day, when nobody is around.

The plot follows the ups and downs in the life of Benjamin Purvis as he deals with the crazy aftermath of attending a writer's workshop.  Judith, his loving and creatively eccentric mother, wants him to keep following his sci-fi literary dreams.  Tabatha Jenkins & Lonnie Donaho, his beyond quirky new friends from the workshop, desire to see Benjamin's words adapted to the extremely independent big screen.  Dr. Ronald Chevalier, Benjamin's literary idol, just wants to plagiarize Benjamin's epic masterpiece Yeast Lords to save his own failing career.  Dusty Crissop, Benjamin's angel, is around to lend a helping hand, even if it doesn't initially seem so.

Seriously, it’s not a porno.
I could go on and on about how much I love this film!  Michael Angarano as Benjamin is relatable, funny, and sweet. Jennifer Coolidge as Judith is low-key funny and touching. Halley Feiffer and Héctor Jiménez as Tabatha & Lonnie walk that fine line between hilarious and annoying, which is hilarious.  Sam Rockwell, in a sort of dual role, as fictional characters Bronco/Brutus just kills in every sci-fi scene. Jemaine Clement as Chevalier is so smugly arrogant that you want to scream and laugh.  Mike White as Dusty is as weird of character as you would expect Mike White to play.

Yet, in hindsight, the one aspect I love/adore most about Gentlemen Broncos is the mother-son relationship between Benjamin and Judith.  The final scenes of them give me a severe case of the feels and cause a happy grin to spread slowly across my typically stoic face. 

So grab a popcorn ball, or two, and feast upon what has quickly become one of my favorite films, but be warned...

"Cyclops there.  Cyclops there.  Cyclops there.  Turrets.  Moon buggies.  Oh, my holy crap.  Surveillance does.  I hate those." 
- Brutus

Freak Out,

P.S.  Click Gentlemen Broncos to listen to my cobbled together playlist on Spotify, because this awesome film deserves an awesome soundtrack!  Even an incomplete one!

P.P.S. Please be on the lookout for my very specific film blogpost (and other groovy posts from other groovy bloggers) in the near future...(hosted by Barry P.