The Blood on Satan’s Claw, a 1971 horror melodrama from English genre studio Tigon, lacks the moral underpinnings of Michael Reeves’ cautionary classic Witchfinder General but resembles it in setting and atmosphere. Where Witchfinder General was all about the villainous official played by Vincent Price who saw witchcraft in every corner – or, cynically, used accusations of witchery to advance his own personal and political aspirations – The Blood on Satan’s Claw clarifies the relationship between wickedness and virtue by showing how evil, in the guise of rebellious children and especially a seductive teenager, can be vanquished by vigilance and bravery on the part of Christian men. It’s the kind of movie where the cranky old judge who ducks out of town at the first signs of a supernatural dust-up returns in the final reel, empowered to vanquish the devil himself. Continue reading →
I hadn’t realized that music-video director extraordinaire Mark Romanek was attached to helm Universal’s big-deal remake of The Wolf Man. But, well, not any more …. Hey, remember that Utah-based cottage industry built around editing violent and salacious bits from DVDs in order to protect the sensibilities of family-minded locals? One of its mini-moguls has been arrested for allegedly paying to get blow jobs from 14-year-olds (original reports said this guy was one of the founders of the core Clean Flicks operation, but apparently he’s just a second-stringer and the famous original Clean Flicks is now apparently suing him over the misunderstanding) …. In other decency news, the FCC (citing a 2003 episode of NYPD Blue) has just declared your butt a sex organ …. Also, You Suck at Photoshop …. And, finally, enjoy words from Ghostface Killah and Harlan Ellison (not at the same time or in the same room, mind) on getting paid.
With the arrival of this new R-rated promo-clip montage, it becomes obvious that Warner Independent is still trying to figure out what the fuck to do with Michael Haneke’s sure-to-be-unpleasant Funny Games remake.
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead opens with one hell of a flourish. No sooner have the lights gone down than you’re greeted with the spectacle of Philip Seymour Hoffman vigorously fucking Marisa Tomei from behind. Hoffman is watching the coupling in a floor-to-ceiling mirror; the effect is not much less sordid than the similar scene in American Psycho. (Tomei goes on to, essentially, spend her screen time in the next few reels of the film topless — with the sudden arrival of this, Feast of Love, American Gangster, Into the Wild and In the Valley of Elah, not to mention the towel-free shenanigans of Viggo Mortenson in Eastern Promises, it looks like I picked the wrong year to start complaining about a lack of nudity on the part of Hollywood movies.) Their furious, awkward rutting behavior is sort of a metaphor for the whole film, which is about a certain animalistic low-mindedness and love of money — behavior that stinks like a rotting carcass. After a first-reel heist-gone-wrong sequence, the action rachets down somewhat, but much blood (along with some other bodily fluids) will be spilled once the film starts cranking again toward its Shakespearean conclusion.
Ladies and gentlemen, Sidney Lumet has entered the building, and he wants you to know he’s still a badass.
The first half of Feast of Love is a near-riot of sex and skin. Every few minutes, it seems, a different youngster is pulling off her blouse or dropping his trou. Nearly everyone in the film is depicted banging or getting banged by someone else, and there’s an athletic undertone to the various pairings-off that suggests the vitality of youth — one woman seduces another on a softball diamond, a couple does it on a football field (and, later, in front of a video camera). Like director Robert Benton’s earlier Twilight, it’s specifically an old man’s movie, and one that contemplates the bodies of beautiful young people in order that it may more fully appreciate the predicament old people find themselves in.
The MPAA tag explaining the R rating it gave to Superbad is almost hilarious in its exhaustiveness. (It’s also one of the longest I’ve ever seen.) “Rated R,” it says, “for pervasive crude and sexual content, strong language, drinking, some drug use and a fantasy/comic violent image – all involving teens.” I imagine those last three words italicized and written in boldface, though the MPAA doesn’t actually do it that way. They seem written to be spoken aloud with a sudden exhaling of breath, or through gritted teeth, as if in a last-ditch effort to dissuade anybody’s mom or dad from accompanying them to a screening of Superbad. Won’t somebody think of the teens?
Not so many years ago, Clerks was threatened with an NC-17 because somebody at CARA thought one scene contained too much talk about blow jobs. But that film’s dick-sucking diatribe seems downright quaint compared to the awesome sustained vulgarity of Superbad, which opens with star Jonah Hill discussing a (fictional?) online porn site called “Vag-tastic Voyage” and ends with a lengthy (and, amusingly, kind of disturbing) cartoon-penis montage. However, the MPAA ratings board seems to have gotten tired of hearing how repressive it is, and has gone into a sort of crouched, defensive position, giving a rating to stuff like Hostel 2 (“rated R for sadistic scenes of torture and bloody violence, terror, nudity, sexual content, language and” — wait for it! — “some drug content”) with a wrinkled nose and a sigh.