Wednesday, June 30, 2010

No More Popcorn: The Curious Legacy of Troll 2 - By Matt Wavrin

 Troll 2 (1990) occupies a unique spot in trash film history. Shot in Utah by Italians, it packs so much craziness into its 95 minutes that one is left with an overdose of genuine oddity. What is Troll 2? A condemnation of vegetarians, according to Rosella Drudi, who co-wrote the story with the film’s director, Claudio Fragasso (credited as Drake Floyd). Or is it about evil, vegetarian Mormons? Who knows? What is obvious is that the film bears no relation to the original 1986 Troll with Sonny Bono, and in fact contains not trolls, but goblins. All of this, and some serious homoerotic undertones to boot.

 In case you’re confused about the fact that they are indeed goblins, the name of the town to which the Waits family travels is called Nilbog (“Goblin spelled backwards!”). Troll 2 blurs the criterion for what makes a bad film, though it is indeed considered one of the worst of all time. In terms of technical matters, acting, and nearly every other superficial category, yes, it is a bad film. If one considers pure entertainment value, originality, daring, comedic value, and extreme weirdness as a high virtue, it is hardly a bad film, and its cult has only grown over the years.

This cult is of concern to Michael Stephenson, who played young Joshua, pisser of hospitality, in the film. His documentary, Best Worst Movie, shows the repercussions of being involved with such a travesty. The cast recalls the supreme embarrassment felt after seeing Troll 2 for the first time, and the film shows what has happened to the cast after two decades of shame. Fragasso seems to fashion himself a Fellini-esque auteur and believes his film to be great and detests the actors. The father in Troll 2, George Hardy, is a divorced dentist in Alabama and serves as the documentary’s star. Don Packard, who played the demented drugstore owner, confesses that he was actually going through some serious mental issues during the filming of the movie. Margo Prey, the Waits mother, is now a paranoid cat lady who wishes not to be involved with the film’s newfound popularity. What it all adds up to is that being part of a baaaad cult classic has its rewards and its pitfalls, such as being totally ignored in England and at a horror convention in the States. Yet there is such sweetness in Stephenson’s film—it is about the love of movies, no matter the artistic value. And that’s not something to piss on.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Frankenstein’s Daughter (1958) - Billups Allen

Frankenstein’s Daughter is one of those great, nonsensical science fiction movies from the late 50s where the science and motivation of the characters doesn't make much sense. Dr. Frankenstein’s grandson (which I believe isn’t possible as the story takes place in 1958) wants to continue his family’s eccentric work. But this particular Dr. Frankenstein, hiding in America under the moniker Oliver Frank (Donald Murphy), isn’t as much an insane genius as he is just a jerk. He is taking advantage of poor Professor Carter Morton (Felix Locher) by using his lab, screwing up his research, and drugging his daughter. It sort of serves Morton right for not asking for references. Frank cannot even produce a fake I.D. that says who he is. For a Frankenstein, he is a pretty lackluster mastermind.
When Frank drugs Morton’s daughter Trudy (Sandra Knight), she becomes this sort of Frankenstein’s monster/werewolf hybrid. She runs around town in a bathing suit terrorizing people. This is endlessly amusing to the local police department. When Frank is not drugging Trudy, he is sexually harassing Trudy’s friend Sally (Suzie Lawler). Frank turns Sally into the permanent monster that is inherently promised by a Frankenstein narrative. The monster is a man in a very masculine looking mask. There is noting remotely feminine about the monster, which is not created from the only daughter in the story, which is not Frank’s daughter anyway. A better title would be: Frankenstein is Sexually Harassing Someone’s Daughter’s Friend, Eventually Turning Her Into a Man. I guess that doesn’t fit on the marquee. On the plus side, Frank’s monster is better behaved than his creator; it knocks on the front door of the house before revealing itself. 
 If this sounds at all complicated, it really isn’t. Because of the thin plot, Frankenstein’s Daughter contains one of my favorite elements to be occasionally inserted into movies from the 1950s: a performance by a rock band. The Page Cavanaugh Trio, a white bred-pseudo rock group, does a couple of numbers to fill out the run time. It’s a nice break in the action for both the actors and the audience. I felt refreshed after their songs, fully prepared to return to watching people run around in masks. Frankenstein’s Daughter is misguided, 50s-sci-fi fun. There isn’t much to it, but it manages to entertain on a lot of levels.  

Frankenstein's Daughter - Monday, June 28th at 8:00 p.m.
It's MONDO MONDAYS at The Loft, celebrating weird, wild and wonderful flicks from the Mondo side of the silver screen! Admission is only $2.00, and don't forget to check out our yummy "Mondo Munchies" snack bucket ... fill a cup for a buck!

Billups Allen's interest in writing began composing lyrics for the band Shoutbus and later for the band Corn on Macabre. Lyrical duties led to writing poetry and short stories. Several of his short stories were published in a book entitled Unfurnished published by Florida’s now defunct Schematics Records. Allen currently lives in Tucson, Arizona where he writes Cramhole comic zine, writes reviews for Razorcake Magazine and the Tucson Citizen.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

PSYCHO - Justyn Dillingham

"There is not an abundance of subtlety or the lately familiar Hitchcock bent toward significant and colorful scenery in this obviously low-budget job." The world came to disagree with Bosley Crowther, grand poobah of the New York Times's film section for 27 years -- a man whose stuffy pronouncements irritated Pauline Kael so much that she made fun of him on virtually every page of her first book -- on the subject of Hitchcock's "Psycho," long since enshrined as a masterpiece and a turning point in the history of movies. But in some ways Crowther wasn't wrong. Hitchcock deliberately eschewed both subtlety and prettiness in the film; it was meant to hit audiences with all the grace of a murderer's knife, and audiences in 1960 reacted as if the knife had come slashing right through the screen.

To explain why audiences found the film so shocking, it is useful to explain what they might have come to the theater expecting. In general, there are two types of Hitchcock films. In the first type, an innocent man falls into dangerous circumstances and must fight his way out. He is mistaken for someone else, or wrongly implicated in a crime. This was the basic plot of "The 39 Steps," "Saboteur," "Strangers on a Train," "The Wrong Man," "The Man Who Knew Too Much," and "North By Northwest." In the second type of film, a puzzle falls into the lap of an innocent protagonist, and he or (usually) she must solve it. This was the plot of "The Lady Vanishes," "Rebecca," "Suspicion," "Spellbound," "Shadow of a Doubt," "Vertigo," and "Rear Window." Only once did Hitchcock sharply deviate from this pattern in one of his great films. In "Psycho," the audience is placed in the role of the innocent protagonist, and everyone we see on the screen is guilty. The entire film is a set-up, and the joke is on us.

For years, Hitchcock had made a game of toying with the audience's sympathies. He particularly seemed to relish pushing the audience to identify with his villains, like Claude Rains's sad-sack Nazi war criminal in "Notorious," so put upon and deceived by the film's heroes. Another favorite trick was to make the hero seem unscrupulous or weird. Hitchcock's heroes quarrel with their fiancées, peer into strangers' windows and joke about murdering their ex-wives. Hitchcock had never gone so far as he did in "Psycho," however, and the elaborate game he played with the press to drape a curtain of mystery around the film -- his playful attempt to "spoil" the film in his famous trailer, his injunction that no one be admitted to the theater after the beginning -- suggest that he knew all too well what a dangerous film he had made. At one point we watch a character watch a car sinking into a swamp. The car suddenly stops sinking, and we tense up -- will it sink? It does, and we feel relieved, just like the character. Then we realize that we've been tricked into identifying, however momentarily, with a person most of us would never want to share a hotel room with, to say the last.

The film's dangerousness lay in the way Hitchcock broke one taboo after another, with the casualness of a kid popping a sheet of bubble wrap. The opening scene shows a couple -- obviously unmarried -- lounging in a bed in a rundown hotel room. Later, for the first time in Hollywood history, a toilet is seen flushing. And then -- well, if you've seen it, you know what I'm talking about. (I've avoided talking about the plot as much as I can, since it's my experience that while everyone kind of knows what "Psycho" is about, a surprising number of people have never seen it -- perhaps, unfortunately, because they think they already know what happens.) But these small violations of Hollywood convention prepare us for what comes next, when the film plunges us into subjects so startling we can't even imagine the characters in other Hitchcock films talking about them. Much of that shockingness has been lost, partly because the film achieved what it set out to do. It's often been said that Hitchcock was successful because knew just how far he could go without alarming the censors. In this film, Hitchcock did go too far, and he got away with it because "Psycho" was enormously successful. At one point he considered releasing the film without the approval of the censors; a few years later, the censors themselves were out of a job, in part because of what Hitchcock had achieved in "Psycho."

Hitchcock was famously impatient with explanations. He thought they got in the way of the suspense. (In "North By Northwest," we never find out exactly what kind of agent Cary Grant is supposed to be mistaken for, or what the villains are trying to accomplish.) So it's a little puzzling that he ends -- or almost ends -- "Psycho" with a long explanation of what we have just seen. Perhaps he felt that the film would be too overwhelming and disturbing without it. He must have taken heart from the film's success, for his next film, "The Birds," contains no explanation at all for what has happened. There is no "villain" except the universe itself, and that film ends where it does because there is simply nothing else to add. And just as "Psycho" ends, Hitchcock pulls one last trick -- in the long, sinister final shot-- that suggests that even that explanation, after all, is a little phony, and that perhaps there is no explaining what we have seen. After all, that nice young man wouldn't hurt a fly.

 Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" is playing at The Loft Cinema, Wednesday, June 23, at 7 p.m. 

Justyn Dillingham is a 2009 graduate of the University of Arizona. His favorite film is “A Taste of Honey” (1961).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Name: Anthony Cutrone A.K.A Twan

LOFT Staff position: The popper of popcorn, the seller of tickets, the cleaner of theatres and the giver of love.

I have worked at THE LOFT since: 2008, after the summer of touring the west coast and being unemployed. Thank the stars for the LOFT!

I grew up in:  A house, but I was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona.

My birthday/age is: 02-02-1987, Groundhogs Day. 9lbs and beautiful. Thanks Mom and Dad! 

When I am not at THE LOFT I: Collect records, taste beers, chill with my cat Ripley A.K.A. Ripples, read (lame), watch movies, sleep, attend school, make films, dream of once again making music, roller blade, but usually I’m at THE LOFT. If I’m not working, I’m watching movies on the big screen.

I work at THE LOFT because: I am addicted to movies. It’s a serious condition, which there is no cure. It’s the best job and I work with the best people. It’s the best place in Tucson.

A few of my favorite films are: Jaws, The Thing (1981), Body Double, 400 Blows, Millers Crossing, The Conversation, Magnolia, Breathless, Mean Streets, Rififi, Memories of Murder, Hidden Fortress, Manhunter, Robocop, Taxi Driver, Eyes Wide Shut, Once Upon A Time in The West, Alien and Aliens, Terminator and T2, Thin Blue Line, Rear Window, Teen Wolf, Close Encounters, Star Wars Trilogy, Big Trouble in Little China, Let The Right One In, Blade Runner, Midnight Cowboy, Blue Velvet, City Lights, Z, Commando, Fright Night, The Brood, Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

My favorite directors are: Kubrick, Carpenter, Kurosawa, De Palma, Godard, Scorsese, Morris, Herzog, Coen Brothers, P.T. Anderson, Coppola, Bong Joon Ho, Cronenberg, Jean Pierre Melville, Mann, Tarantino, Polanski, Hitchcock, Spielberg, Paul Verhoven, William Friedkin, Sergio Leone, James Cameron, Lucio Fulci, Lynch.

My favorite LOFT experience was: Watching Fright Night at 3:00 A.M. during Scream O’Rama and when Mark Ibold, the bass player for Pavement and Sonic Youth came in to watch The Messenger.

My favorite thing about the Loft is: It’s a non-profit, the Beer, the staff, the movies, the regulars, the secret portal in the up stairs theatre and the feeling of being a part of something magical.

Make up your own question here:  If train A leaves Chicago traveling 100MPH and train B leaves New York traveling 150MPH and the distance between the two cites is 600 miles how far from New York will it be when the two trains meet?

To get in touch with me send me an email:

Monday, June 7, 2010

The New Barbarians: Warriors of the Wasteland (1982) - Billups Allen

There are so many awesome things going on in this movie that I can’t keep up. Decapitations. Impractical weaponry. Futuristic codpieces. The opening is a model of a cityscape becoming engulfed with nuclear fallout while a cheap keyboard drum machine churns out an 80s action theme. This Italian pseudo- Road Warrior story is a typical low budget apocalyptic nightmare from the 80s.
After the 2019 nuclear war (heads up), a band of settlers are roaming, attempting to survive on their hunter-gatherer skills. On their tail are The Templars. The Templars want to wipe out humanity. They never say why they want to wipe out humanity, but they make a point of mentioning it often. As self-proclaimed  “ministers of revenge,” the Templars are doing a lousy job; there seem to be pockets of humanity all over the place. They drive techno cars endowed with a variety of weapons that impale, shred, and burn victims who are too stupid to run in a canted line. Fortunately for the Templars, battles take place on flat ground so everyone can run in a straight line away from their tyranny. 
The film’s protagonist is an ex-Templar named Scorpion (Giancarlo Prete). The Templars want him dead. They never say why Scorpion is an ex-Templar, but the Templars do attempt to rape him in one of  the strangest scenes I have ever seen. Out of nowhere, Black Caesar star Fred Williamson appears in this mess as Nadir. Nadir and Scorpion don’t get along either, but they spend a lot of the movie showing up in the nick of time to rescue one another.
The 1950s were wide open to science fiction films thwarting the conventions of science since no one had ever been into space. People knew better in the 80s, but there was “what if” nuclear paranoia leaving the decade wide open to post-apocalyptic nonsense. Most of these movies are worth watching for one reason or another. Loaded with unnecessary stunts, terrible acting, horrible special effects, and an excessive amount of headbands, The New Barbarians: Warriors of the Wasteland is the cream of the crop.
The New Barbarians: Warriors of the Wasteland - Monday, May 31st at 8:00 p.m.

It's MONDO MONDAYS at The Loft, celebrating weird, wild and wonderful flicks from the Mondo side of the silver screen! Admission is only $2.00, and don't forget to check out our yummy "Mondo Munchies" snack bucket ... fill a cup for a buck!

Billups Allen's interest in writing began composing lyrics for the band Shoutbus and later for the band Corn on Macabre. Lyrical duties led to writing poetry and short stories. Several of his short stories were published in a book entitled Unfurnished published by Florida’s now defunct Schematics Records. Allen currently lives in Tucson, Arizona where he writes Cramhole comic zine, writes reviews for Razorcake Magazine and the Tucson Citizen.