Tag Archives: exploitation

TUGM Honored with Chicago Reader’s “Best of 2013” Award for Facets Night School

scumbabiesposterExactly a year ago, I programmed the summertime Facets Night School midnight lecture and movie series at Facets Multimedia. At the time, Facets had gained some stiff competition from local theaters wanting to expand their viewership into the midnight hours.

Although, a number of the other theaters provided some good fare, I think we were ahead of the curve. I wanted to show movies not shown elsewhere, taking the advice of an old high school tennis coach, “hit the ball where they ain’t.”  Insisting that the proposed movies and lectures “either question the sanity of the filmmaker or the viewer,” The Underground Multiplex and Facets were lucky to have this great schedule hosted by very talented and knowledgeable film geeks.

Now, Facets Night School–and thus, by association, The Underground Multiplex–have been honored by The Chicago Reader with their staff award for “Best Late Night Programming of 2013.”

My many thanks go out to The Chicago Reader and those who helped gain this award: Chris Damen, Bruce Neal, Dominick Mayer, Katie Rife, Jef Burnham, Michael Smith, Tyler Pistorius, Ron Degrauwe, Brian Elza, Jason Coffman, Peter Damm, Drew Francisco, Nate Wells, Dee Materis, Lauren Whalen. Special thanks to Facets and especially Phil Morehart and Susan Doll for the inspiration of Night School. And, of course, the fantastic Joseph R. Lewis for his awesome brilliance.

Legendary Lew

Kevin DuJan’s IMAX Sized Epic Roy Cohn FAIL: Bradley Balof’s Movies are NOT Porn.

Gay Porn According to Kevin DuJan

Gay Porn According to Kevin DuJan

A few days ago Nico Lang broke a story on The Daily Dot about conservative blogger Kevin DuJan outing Chicago Public School teacher Bradley Balof as a gay porn actor and claiming that teacher moonlights as a comic telling racist jokes about his kids.

As DNAInfo noted, this is coming from a blogger who claims President Obama is a coke-addicted gay man and called Michelle his “beard.” Classy guy, eh?

Well, since I’m quite an authority on unseen movies, I decided to put the gay porn film claims to the test. Balof is listed on IMDB as appearing in two features, Bowser Makes a Movie and Into It. I checked both of them out from a local Chicago video store (Specialty Video) and watched them. 

I’ve worked for two different video/specialty stores in the past that rented straight and gay adult films, so I feel I’m qualified to make the following observation. Based on what appears in the two movies in question:

Kevin DuJan would not know obscenity if Dick Cheney ass fucked him with a Willis Tower dildo on Navy Pier at high noon.

Is that clear enough, DuJan?

Let’s quickly go over the movies in question. Bowser Makes a Movie is a good-natured goofy indie comedy starring Nick Lewis as a perpetually fired young man, planning a money-raising scheme to fund a gay porno for a publishing company. Balof makes a brief appearance as a gay porn star named Vincent van Coq (it’s a movie, Kevin, not a documentary). There is simulated sex in the film and if rated would barely be an R. No nudity in this film whatsoever.

The only full frontal nudity in the film Into It appears in a brief scenewhere a lonely gay hustler Simon (Zach Welsheimer) prepares to take a shower. Balof has a supporting role as Brett, a hustler bounced out

Another alleged gay porn from the mind of DuJan

Another alleged gay porn from the mind of DuJan

of rehab and helping supply Simon’s roommate Rem (Richard Jones) with drugs. It’s a much more serious film with sexual frankness replacing any total nudity. (Sorry, Kevin, but here, you’re only going to see Bradley’s ass).  And although it doesn’t totally work, this is, at least, a sincere attempt to capture the lonely, unhappy lives of a few Chicago gay hustlers and the johns who hire them. If I had lent this movie to a rental customer stating it was gay porn, that person would return calling me a liar.

So Kevin DuJan’s major claim and the inference that a highly rated CPS teacher is harming children is nothing more than Roy Cohn-style horseshit.  DuJan better start backpedaling and apologizing for these stupid claims post-haste before he digs his hole even deeper. 

Melissa Can’t Explain It at All: The Real Reason Why Melissa Joan Hart’s Kickstarter Project Failed

darciSeveral days ago I argued that Hollywood stars should be forced to used Kickstarter to fund their projects. It was in response to Ken Levine’s post decrying Zach Braff’s use of the fundraising site for his latest proposed project.

One Hollywood star who took up the Kickstarter idea was Melissa Joan Hart, who was best known for starring in ABC’s “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.” She just canceled her Kickstarter for a proposed film project called Darci’s Walk of Shame after raising only 2.6% of her goal of $2 million.

We didn’t launch it correctly. What we failed to do was let the fans know exactly what the project was. If we were to go back, what I would do is either shoot five minutes of the movie or have a full cast. We thought we could do it based on ‘Hey, here’s Melissa. You’ve liked what she’s done, check out what she’s going to do next.

Hart, along with entertainment writers blogging on this catastrophe, emphasized the promotional approach as to why the fundraiser failed. Seemingly taking the cues, she explained to the Los Angeles Times:

“We didn’t give them the two things it takes to sell a movie: a poster and a trailer,” she said. “I really think that’s where we missed the boat.”

That might be true for sci-fi, horror and sexploitation. Indeed, a poster was a starting point in developing some classic films from American International Pictures.

But we’re talking a different type of movie here, and the big problem was that it had to be explained to someone other than a Hollywood exec who can just throw a check your way and think nothing else of it. Hart had to explain it to us. Most of us don’t have the expendable cash to give for what comes off in the Kickstarter description as a vanity project.

Other entertainment blogs can talk about her lack of a trailer, poster, her non-cult celeb status or even the goofy promise of following an investor on Twitter for a year, but what was the real reason this Kickstarter failed?

The premise sucked. It sucked lemons. HARD.

I urge you to click here and read the description for yourself if you haven’t already. If I had any potential money invested in this particular project, I would have asked the following questions:

1) “Darci Baker is a thirty-something schoolteacher who’s really looking forward to traveling with her boyfriend to attend her sister’s wedding in Thailand.”

Was there any footage of how Darci was able to afford a trip to Thailand on a teacher’s salary, or did she have a second and/or third job we don’t know about?

2) And why Thailand? Is that why the goal was set at $2 million? How is the exotic locale going to play as a character and not just wallpaper in a movie about a woman who travels thousands of miles to have a one-night stand? And in that context, why choose a country notorious for its sex trafficking? Will Gary Glitter make a cameo?

3) In the description, Darci is 30+ years old, lost her job, lost her boy friend to infidelity and somehow still has to explain herself to her family and friends about not having a casual fling? Is this a supposed model for independent women? Are you sure she’s 30? With this build up, the film that should have been pitched was Darci’s Walk of Fuck Y’All, I’m Gonna Make Jenna Jameson Look Like a Nun.

4) So what’s the conclusion after the “Walk of Shame?” Darci says a few lines and that’s it? Because that seriously should mean the end of the movie and she can run off with that waiter and open a Thai dating service. (Was I close to guessing the end of the movie?)

This premise was a turd so terrible that Meryl Streep couldn’t get it funded if she offered to drop salary for it. The Kickstarter went exactly as it should have and helps prove the point I made earlier that the stars should come to us directly for their next pitches. Hart came to us and we responded with a resounding ‘NO!”

If Katherine Heigl made other movies just like the description of Darci’s Walk of Shameas IndieWire suggested, it should give Hart hope. Some Hollywood dumbass with a checkbook is bound to come up with the green for this lousy idea. Who knows? Maybe the publicity with this Shitstarter is enough to get a cable TV movie deal in the works. That way, the investment pain is spread evenly and “silently” to all cable subscribers.



The Gay Community Needs to Embrace the Cult Movie “Ben & Arthur”

Sam Mraovich as Arthur in "Ben and Arthur"

Sam Mraovich as Arthur in “Ben and Arthur”

In a couple of days, one of the local Chicago theaters will be presenting its yearly screening of Mommie Dearest to a (no doubt) enthusiastic crowd. Wire hangars will be handed out and I’m sure there’ll be plenty of laughs galore with Frank Perry’s infamous film.

That film was released over 30 years ago. Since then, there hasn’t been any film released that could qualify as “midnight movie” material that approached a gay sensibility–until Ben & Arthur.  Both Cracked Magazine and Rotten Tomatoes have urged readers to pick up on this movie and make it a cult sensation. I agree. Not only is the time right for this movie to fill theaters with enthralled partying fans, it has the makings of being one of the greatest midnight cult movies ever, rivaling even cine-phenomena like The Room and Troll 2. Seriously. And the gay community should be front and center in pushing this wild movie for the following reasons:

1. Exploitation movies are generally straight-based.

Let’s face it: exploitation movies are usually made to appeal to horny guys who like lots of firepower and babes. Ben and Arthur has plenty of gunplay and horny guys (on the screen, at least) with one of the leads looking good with his shirt off (hence the promo picture). There’s the added bonus of a wrestling tussle between Ben and his wife. In fact, B&A is meant to be, in part, an action film which is part of the fun, especially when the movie looks as though it was shot over the course of a weekend.

2. Its main theme of gay marriage rights is still relevant today and probably will be for a while.

Produced in 2002, Ben and Arthur deals primarily with gay marriage, which–at the time–was only legal in Vermont via civil unions.  Ten years and eleven state legislative passages later, gay marriage looks increasingly possible for the entire country. The controversy, however, seems destined to hang on while significant opposition continues. This helps keep the movie fresh thematically and even when it passes all 50 states, Ben and Arthur can be viewed through a nostalgic lens, just as I do with movies from the late 1960s and early 1970s.

3. The movie is on the level of anything Ed Wood could have mustered, so it has perennial entertainment staying power.

Ben and Arthur is not just about bad acting or bad writing. Everything
about it is bad, no exaggeration. Out of focus cinematography, actors flubbing lines with no second takes, non-existent continuity, horrible sound mixing–there are no instances of competency apparent during any minute of this film.  Robert Altman said that movies are meant to view more than once and each viewing of Ben and Arthur provides an audience with a newly discovered flub. It’ll easily take several viewings to catch them all. This makes it a rarity, even among bad movies.

4.  Ben and Arthur is one of the most subversive gay-themed films ever.

Sam Mraovich’s film is meant as an earnest plea for the plight of those LGBT folks who want equal marriage protection and, by extension, full civil rights. Fair enough. However, the movie goes completely off the rails and becomes sanctimonious when it excuses such actions as domestic violence, arson and murder. Arthur comes off as one of the most hilariously unpleasant and incompetent characters in the history of gay-themed films. He incapable of taking the proper steps to help protect his new hubby and is, in general, a whiny insensitive asshole. Other characters are lying, murdering charlatans, but he is definitely the worst of the lot. Instead of using sentimentality (a fatal flaw in so many bad socially-minded gay features), Ben and Arthur tries becoming ambitious and eventually becomes unnecessary brutal. It’s a civil rights film, a romance, a revenge picture, an action film, a religious allegory, a fetishistic film, an erotic thriller–and fails at all of them.

So if you’re looking for camp value, you’ve got it. If you want a movie that is misogynistic, homophobic and insulting to religious persons and still hilarious to watch with a bunch of “enhanced” friends. You’ve got to take this movie to heart. It’s one of the greatest cult sensations in recent years.

You can make history with us tonight by attending the first-ever Ben & Arthur interactive screening. Tyler Pistorius, Demetra Meteris and I will be on hand for all the running commentary madness and hilarity.


Tonight at midnight at Facets Multimedia
1517 W Fullerton
Chicago, IL 60614
Admission: $5, FREE with Facets Membership. Get one here.

Lew Ojeda

The Amazing, Incomparable “Ben & Arthur” Presented by Legendary Lew is Coming to Facets Night School!

Your life may never be the same after this. Coming Saturday night, May 11th at 11:59pm to Facets Multimedia. Lew Ojeda, Tyler Pistorius and Demetra Materis will be your guides to a fine evening of wild, interactive entertainment.

To join in the fun, bring:
your cell phone
sugar packets
a stuffed toy cat

Facets Night School’s Dominick Mayer Purrs Over Rene Cardona, Jr. and Night of 1000 Cats

This Saturday night those of you who crave pussy in your midnight movies will see plenty of them on the screen when Dominick Mayer, editor and critic for HEAVE Media, presents “Knockoff Henchmen, Helicopter Seduction and Night of a 1000 (sic) Cats. ”  The movie has been widely available for years on VHS and DVD, but never like this, for Mayer was able to obtain a rare 35MM extended version of the film. With it’s extra 20 minutes and presented in glorious, eroding MagentaColor®, this promises to be the ultimate in grindhouse viewing. You’ll be able to feel the mildew and wonder if the guy sitting in your row will flash you in the men’s room.

Here’s my interview with this very learned fellow:

LL: Night of 1000 Cats was made by Rene Cardona, Jr., the great Mexican exploitation director who should as well known as Ed Wood but isn’t. Could you give us a little about him?

DM: Honestly, the more I try to find about Mr. Cardona, Jr., the more questions I ultimately end up facing. I can tell you this: He was a ridiculously prolific filmmaker, putting out 99

Rene Cardona, Jr.

Rene Cardona, Jr.

films as a director between his credited start in the 1964 and his death in 2003. Many of his films are out of print or hard to find; on this spectrum, Cats is definitely more obscure than something like Guyana: Cult of the Damned or Tintorera (the latter a delightful Jaws ripoff that you should find if possible), but at least it can be tracked down with relative ease. “Obscure” is relative here, though; he’s very much an unsung talent.

LL: What drew you to this movie? I know this film was one that I strongly considered for Night School.

DM: A few years ago, a friend of mine bought it out of the dollar bin at F.Y.E. largely because of the mistranslated title; the American DVD release boasts the deliciously trashy title Night of a 1,000 Cats, and if you pronounce the number as “one thousand,” the appeal of such a film pretty much sells itself.

Dreaded kitties waiting for their next beautiful meal

Dreaded kitties waiting for their next beautiful meal

That said, once we actually threw it on, I was totally blown away. It’s an amazing piece of exploitation trash, and from a filmmaking acumen (or lack thereof) standpoint, it’s fascinating on the level of something more reputed like The Room. More than anything, I wanted to show a theater full of people this thing, provide what context I can and, more than anything, watch people who haven’t seen it react to it. To cycle back to your intial question, this has that intangible “youhave to see this” factor to which exploitation cinema aspires.

LL: I’m excited that you’re presenting the 35MM print of this film. Have you seen it and do you know what differences there are between this and the DVD/VHS released versions?

DM: First off, huge thanks to a gentleman named Harry Guerro for being goodly enough to share his personal print with us. Anyway, I can’t say I’ve seen the 35mm print; it’s because of night of 100 catsJason Coffman‘s offhand mention of seeing it in Philadelphia at Exhumed Films’ 24-Hour Horrorthon last year that I was even aware such a thing existed. I figured this was a bargain bin curio and no more, so I’m thrilled to be screening it. All I know is that there’s about 20-25 minutes of footage in the original version that doesn’t exist on DVD. A bonus if you’re reading this and on the fence about coming: to the best of my knowledge, this is the first-ever Chicago screening of Cats in its purest form.

LL: How would you compare this with other horror films about killer animals?

DM: How many others make you wonder if the animals onscreen are actually in mortal peril? Because this one totally does. It also has maybe the least intimidating evil animals in horror history.

LL: What do you hope viewers will take away from this movie?

DM: If a stranger lands his helicopter in your backyard and asks if you want to see his castle in the middle of the forest, the correct reaction is to politely demur. 

Thanks, Dominick!

Facets Night School Presents: Knockoff Henchmen, Helicopter Seduction and a “Night of a 1,000 Cats” (IN RARE 35MM)
Saturday night April 13, 2013 at Midnight
Facets Multimedia
1517 W Fullerton
Chicago, IL 60614
Admission: $5, FREE for Facets Members (become one here)
One FREE small popcorn for students with valid student ID

Facets Night School Presenter Jef Burnham Talks Muscles and Sweat for His Screening of “Hercules, Samson and Ulysses”

This Saturday night at midnight Facets Night School features media scholar and film critic Jef Burnham as he presents “Puritanical Peplum Panic: Hercules, Samson & Ulysses as Religious Battle Crossover.” If shirtless muscled hunks are your thing, you’ll certainly get moist with this screening (that is, until you hear the dubbed voices).

Be that as it may, Legendary Lew, host of “Mediatrocities,” recently took a cold shower and interviewed Jef regarding this film and the action subgenre of “sword and sandal” movies, sometimes referred to as “peplum:”

LL: What about “Hercules, Samson and Ulysses” do you think will appeal to a midnight movie audience?

JB: I think it’s an ideal midnight movie because it’s fast-paced and action-packed– just the kind of picture to keep you awake in the waning hours. It’s got big, unlikely battles between even bigger men and that, in my book, makes for a helluva good time. Plus, it’s mercifully short and the importance of that when 1:30 rolls around cannot be underestimated! But most importantly, it’s a curiosity. It stands as perhaps the only film in cinematic history to rely on a bare-knuckle brawl between prominent figures from two, arguably opposing, religions for its primary draw. It’s the economically-driven, battle-centric crossover film at its most daring.

LL:  What can you tell us about the genre of Sword and Sandal epics?

JB: We’ll be talking a lot more about that Saturday night, of course, but in short, “Sword and Sandals” pictures, otherwise known as Pepla (or peplum in the singular), are Italian productions typically set in ancient Greece, Rome, Judea, etc. featuring an endless onslaught of scantily-cladHercSamUl gentlemen fighting it out with, well, swords. They also often wear sandals as it happens. The genre really achieved international popularity in 1958 with the release of director Pietro Francisci’s “Hercules,” starring Steve Reeves. And the Hercules series remains easily the most recognized of pepla to this day. Francisci followed that up with another Steve Reeves/Herc film, “Hercules Unchained” (1959), which was notably featured on season four of “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” And 1963’s “Hercules, Samson and Ulysses” is in fact the third film by Francisci to feature the character of Hercules, only this time around the roles were recast, as well as the locations when pals Herc and Ulysses find themselves stranded in Judea. So not only is the picture absolutely one-of-a-kind as a sort of religious-crossover-actioner, but it’s actually the product of the very man who popularized the genre!

LL:  These films evolved at a time when homosexuality in film was definitely closeted. Given that you have 3 sweaty shirtless hunks bandying about, would you consider this a homoerotic movie?

JB: Oh lordy, yes. (Of course, applying the term hunk to Ulysses in this film may not be entirely appropriate. The term I’d personally choose for his character in this film would probably be “dweeb.”) Hercules and Samson come dangerously close to kissing on more than one occasion. HercMoviePosterThey’re just all over each other! Truthfully though, were the film not homoerotic, I wouldn’t have even considered it for this Session. After all, it’ll be the third film in a row I’ve presented at Facets Night School about scantily-clad, muscular warriors, following “Yor, The Hunter from the Future” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare.” And I couldn’t rightly stop at two, could I? Had to make it a trilogy! Yor, Thor, and Hercules.

LL: What do you hope viewers will take away from watching “Hercules, Samson and Ulysses?”

JB: For starters, of course, I want everyone to have a good time. It’s a wacky movie with greased-up musclemen pummeling the bejesus out of each other! How could they not? But in my lecture, I’m also looking to build a sort of brief history of the battle crossover picture that hasn’t ever really been discussed before, because I for one have never heard this film discussed among the likes of the more recognizable battle crossovers “Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man” and “Freddy vs. Jason.” And of course, it would be great if people walked away with a renewed interest in pepla… or at least the urge to buy a copy of “Hercules, Samson and Ulysses” of their very own.

My thanks to Jef Burnham for the interview!

Head out to Facets Multimedia for this wild presentation.
Puritanical Peplum Panic: Hercules, Samson & Ulysses as Religious Battle Crossover
Saturday night, April 6th at Midnight
Admission: $5. FREE for Facets Members! Become one here.
One FREE small popcorn for students with valid student ID.