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“DVD Is The New Vinyl”: Girls Gone Wild Edition

"DVD Is The New Vinyl": Girls Gone Wild Edition

As if filmgoers stopped watching DVDs and Blu-rays altogether around the Fourth of July, distributors tend to be a little lighter in early-to-mid July with their number and caliber of releases—though quality documentaries certainly prevail. However, if there’s one trend vamping through the first three weeks of notable discs this month, it’s wild women! From Rick Springfield‘s rabid fanbase of shrieking cougars to neo-Nazi teen girls, nymphomaniac trannies, nefarious lesbian prank callers, and Harmony Korine‘s bad bevy of bikini babes, let these ladies have their way with you… 

DVD is the New Vinyl is presented by Video Free Brooklyn, three-time “Best Video Store in NYC.” For more info, please visit the VFB website.

BEST OF JULY, PART ONE:

“An Affair of the Heart”
2012, dir. Sylvia Caminer
(Breaking Glass Films, available on BD, DVD)
There’s practically a caveat built into one’s enjoyment of this warmly entertaining, unexpectedly funny doc celebration of Rick Springfield and his (mostly aging) fans, which is that it’s not necessary to give a rat’s ass about the former “General Hospital” star and “Jessie’s Girl” hitmaker, still a studly, often-shirtless showman in his early ’60s. Testimonials from showbiz pals like Linda Blair and ex-MTV veejay Mark Goodman might seem back-pattingly promotional, but it’s within the Australian-born power-popster’s intimate connections with his multi-generational admirers (including a woman with congenital heart defects, another who found inspiration in the music after being sexually assaulted, and a teenage rocker-in-training who first “jammed” onstage with Rick at age three) that complicated dynamics emerge. Springfield opens up about his suicide attempt and chasing the highs of a well-worn career, but the transcendent universality of idol obsession lies in the loyal husbands of super-obsessives, at least two of whom here jealously know they’re second bananas to a man always there for their spouses in three-minute bursts of song.
The Skinny: Beyond the film’s primer or the subject’s five Top 10 hits in the U.S. (including, yes, “Affair of the Heart”), the best piece of Springfield trivia worth knowing is that, from ’73 to ’75, he starred as a mystery-solving, mystical version of himself in an animated spin-off of “The Brady Kids” called “Mission: Magic!,” his Aussie accent still intact.
Bonus Round: The DVD includes an hour of extra content, while the two-disc Blu-ray edition doubles that with footage from three of the film’s premieres, eight extended interviews, plus eight more conversations that didn’t make the cut. In one, Corey Feldman talks about collaborating musically with Springfield after meeting him as his co-star of 1998’s “Legion,” a made-for-TV movie about a futuristic special-forces team.
Makes a “Rock Docs Not Just for Fans” Triple Feature with:The Devil and Daniel Johnston,” “Anvil! The Story of Anvil

“Black Sabbath”
1963, dir. Mario Bava
(Kino Classics, available on BD, DVD)
No, don’t adjust your audio settings, that is legendary cine-monster Boris Karloff introducing himself and Bava’s anthology of expressionistic soundstage creep-outs in dubbed-over Italian. Presented in its original cut—not the lesser if rare, recut and rescored English-language version—the Euro-horror maestro’s vibrant-hued trio of suspense tales begins with the noirish “The Telephone,” about a frightened brunette in a sheer nightgown (Michele Mercier) being stalked with each ring of her rotary. Returning home as palid as a vampire, 19th-century rural paterfamilias Karloff lets a Russian count (Mark Damon) in on a family secret in the psychedelically gothic “The Wurdulak,” and you won’t ever forget the terrifying, sapphire-ringed corpse in the Chekhov-meets-EC-Comics conscience haunter “A Drop of Water.” Bava’s mastery of lush, atmospheric storytelling has made him one of the genre’s most influential forefathers, and compared to the inconsistency of today’s omnibus shockers (“V/H/S 2,” “The ABC’s of Death“), his trippy triptych remains near timeless.
The Skinny: In 1969, after noticing a theater across the street from their rehearsal room was showing “Black Sabbath,” an English rock band called Earth was inspired by the idea of making the musical analogue of horror films and changed their name. Just ask Ozzy!
Bonus Round: Simultaneously, Kino drops Bava’s black-blooded “Kidnapped,” a brutal 1974 psychological thriller about hostages trying to fend off against three violent, bank-robbing abductors on the road.
Makes a “Bava’s Eye-Popping Colors” Triple Feature with:Blood and Black Lace,” “Danger: Diabolik

“Combat Girls”
2011, dir. David Wnendt
(Artsploitation Films, available on DVD)
Bad apples don’t fall far from their rotting trees in this unflinching, tragically moving drama about racist youth in suburban Germany hoping the Third Reich will rise again. Covered in swastika tattoos and planning to get inked next with Hitler’s mug, twenty-year-old Marisa (a riveting Alina Levshin) is her ex-Nazi grandpa’s little “Kriegerin” (the film’s original title, meaning “warrioress”), a volatile force even next to her skinhead boyfriend and their hooligan gang of fuming fascists. Also getting her hate on while coming of age is sheltered teen troublemaker Svenja (Jella Haase), less ideologically inclined than Marisa but acting out in defiant rebellion of her parents. An initially belligerent, then reluctant friendship bonds the two girls, but it’s actually the surprising emotional connection the older xenophobe makes with a persecuted Afghan refugee boy (Sayed Ahmad Wasil Mrowat) that lights the short dramatic fuses within the all-too-real subculture of neo-Nazism.
The Skinny: Wnendt explains the film’s impetus in his director’s statement: “In the summer of 1998 I worked for a film project in [the German region of] Lausitz. While I had conversations with adolescents, I noticed that many of them have extreme, right-wing opinions. Remarkable was the fact that many girls there have this opinion. That was the reason and point of origin for my long research to go deeper into this topic.”
Bonus Round: Artsploitation regularly designs their packages with cool, reversible inserts and booklets with critical essays in the Criterion vein, but there’s also a mixed-bag of an interview with Levshin, combining footage from a disappointing Q&A in San Diego with a more direct, sit-down interview.
Makes a “Criminally Angry Youth” Triple Feature with:Romper Stomper,” “La Haine

“Heavy Traffic”
1973, dir. Ralph Bakshi
(Shout! Factory, available on BD)
Lovably crude in so many ways, Bakshi’s semi-autobiographical, animated trip through the asphalt jungle (following the unlikely success of his X-rated ‘toon debut “Fritz the Cat“) might be on the nose with its penny-arcade pinball motif as a recurring metaphor for inner-city life, but its smutty and surreal sense of humor ages well as a Hubert Selby-esque document of NYC’s gritty, groovy Seventies. Michael Corleone is an aspiring cartoonist who lives with his exasperating parents (an adulterous Italian pop, a nagging Jewish ma) in a politically incorrect wasteland of danger and desperation called the Lower East Side, where everyone’s an addict, whore, thug, bigot, or outrageous stereotype. The narrative is a shaggy mutt sniffing garbage cans, as Michael takes to the streets, shacks up with Carole—a tough-and-sexy black bartender who is making the legless bouncer Shorty homicidally jealous—and then there’s the insatiable transsexual Snowflake who gets off on being brutally assaulted. It’s a dark and grotesque carnival, but the film’s best moment is also its most jubilant: Michael’s pencil-drawn ode to “Felix the Cat” animator Otto Messmer, which dances to the tune of Chuck Berry‘s “Maybelline.”
The Skinny: Tits constantly fall out of every woman’s shirt and a random pervert spins on his own erection before blasting off through the ceiling, yet The New York Times’ Vincent Canby ranked “Heavy Traffic” on his Ten Best Films of 1973.
Bonus Round: Nah, it’s a bare bones Blu-ray. But here’s a quick link to the best song on the film’s soundtrack, a hip retro cover of “Scarborough Fair” by Sergio Mendes and the Brasil’ 66.
Makes a “Bakshi’s Naked City” Triple Feature with:Hey Good Lookin’,” “Coonskin

“Spring Breakers”
2012, dir. Harmony Korine
(Lionsgate/A24, available on BD, DVD)
With respect to James Franco‘s cornrowed, grill-mouthed, award-worthy showmanship as Alien, the most subversive quality of Korine’s zeitgeist-fellating, sunburnt cartoon of a crime comedy is that it wound up in mall multiplexes across America, but at least this overrated goof exists in the world. In his earnest, gently eccentric commentary, Korine talks about making a frantic, impressionistic “post-articulation” that explodes time with its cyclical dialogue, similar to loop-based electronic music. Britney Spears acts as a “pop culture umbilical cord” for the film, Alien was originally based on the beach bums Korine rode the bus with, and after visiting several strip clubs while location scouting, he chose one that reminded him of a cock-fighting pit. “I think someone found a finger there while were shooting,” the recovering bad-boy auteur says about a park locale where a body had been recently fished out, and swears his “good friend” Gucci Mane, the hip-hop maniac who costars as the ultimate rival gangsta, “only functions if he smokes a good ten blunts before breakfast.”
The Skinny: Although cleared up in a GQ interview last year, this disc finally puts to rest the rumor that Franco’s antiheroic persona was inspired by Riff Raff, when it was actually a Florida rapper named Russ “Dangeruss” Curry.
Bonus Round: Also on the disc is a behind-the-scenes featurette that’s surprisingly self-serious, another about the soundtrack and Cliff Martinez‘s score, a deleted scene in which the bikini-clad gang of four bully a poor guy into stripping, expletive-riddled outtakes, and some irreverent Vice-produced promotionals. Sprang Brayyyyk forever, y’all.
Makes a “Girls Gone Wild” Triple Feature with:Thirteen,” “Foxes

WORTH A SPIN:

“Boy” (2010, Kino Lorber, on BD, DVD) – New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi (“Eagle vs. Shark“) co-stars in this delightful coming-of-age dramedy as the deadbeat dad of the eponymous narrator, an 11-year-old Maori who loves Michael Jackson and escapes into tall-tale fantasies as kicky, quirky and wistful as the films of Wes Anderson.

“Cohen & Tate” (1989, Shout! Factory, on BD) – Icily controlled Roy Scheider and moody loose cannon Adam Baldwin are hit men played against each other by their abductee, a nine-year-old kid in witness protection, in Eric Red’s criminally underseen action-thriller—a riveting twist on O. Henry‘s “The Ransom of Red Chief.”

“End of Love” (2012, Gravitas, on DVD) – Mark Webber wrote, directed and stars in this sweet, sad, beautifully modulated drama, about a struggling L.A. actor and single dad still coping from the death of his wife. Shannyn Sossamon co-stars as a possibility for optimism, but Michael Cera steals it in a brief cameo as a party-hound version of himself.

“56 Up” (2012, First Run Features, on DVD) – One of the greatest and most humane experiments in the history of cinema beats on, as director Michael Apted checks in on the fourteen British volunteers (well, thirteen this time around) whose lives have been tracked on film every seven years since 1964’s “Seven Up!“.

“The House I Live In” (2012, Virgil Films, on DVD) – America’s bullshit drug war is impressively, meticulously exposed as such in Eugene Jarecki‘s heartbreaking but riveting investigation, which would be worth seeing alone for the eloquently scornful testimonies of “The Wire” creator David Simon.

“Hands of the Ripper” (1971, Synapse Films, on BD/DVD combo, DVD) – That’s Jack the Ripper to you, but it’s his traumatized daughter Anna (Angharad Rees) whose seemingly possessed impulses drives Peter Sasdy’s lavish yet savage Victorian-age chiller, arguably the grisliest production from Hammer Studios.

“The Life of Oharu” (1952, Criterion, on BD, DVD) – Renowned for his floating-camera formalism and proto-feminist takes on the struggles of women, Japanese master Kenji Mizoguchi (“Sansho the Bailiff,” “Ugetsu“) exquisitely adapts a 17th-century novel about a prostitute reflecting on her former life as a lady-in-waiting (Kinuyo Tanaka).

“Punk Vacation” (1987, Vinegar Syndrome, on BD/DVD combo) – The burgeoning boutique label continues their trend of giving classy treatments to exploitation rarities with this schlockily entertaining, straight-to-video thriller about “punks” (anyone vaguely new wave or goth) facing off against local yokels.

“Shun Li and the Poet” (2011, Film Movement, on DVD) – After immigrating to Italy, a thirtysomething Chinese mother and barmaid (Jia Zhangke regular Zhao Tao) discovers a platonic bond with a weathered Slavic fisherman (Rade Sherbedgia) in Andrea Serge’s sneakily affecting, gorgeously shot elegy of lost souls.

“Wild Bill” (2011, New Video Group, on BD, DVD) – Acclaimed in its native Britain but barely seeing a U.S. release, the solidly entertaining directorial debut of “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” star Dexter Fletcher concerns—in, funny enough, an East End crime caper—an ex-con (Charlie Creed-Miles) and his social-realist struggle to rebuild his family and stay out of trouble.

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Comments

David Dean

Many thanks for the "Best of July" plug for "Affair of the Heart," Aaron. (I'm the editor of the film.) And bonus thanks for actually watching the bonus features.

James Kang

These things are great. Keep 'em coming, Aaron.

Why is July a slower month for DVD releases? Does anyone know? Is there a good reason for that? August looks like a great month, at least as far as Criterion releases go.

El Hanso

Interesting choices. Some (quite a lot) I'm so far totally unfamiliar with.

But I've seen Combat Girls and it's actually not that good. The actors are decent and Alina Levshin is fantastic, but the whole film is full of clichés, is so naive and suffers from an obvious narrative. It looks as if the filmmaker had to use every little detail, secret symbols or aphorisms, he found and crammed it into the movie, mostly as tattoos on the main character's body. And as an portrayal of Neo Nazi youths I found it to be quite problematic. I'm not saying the depiction was unrealistic, but it seemed one dimensional and too easy. Young Neo Nazis portrayed as unemployed losers, school drop-out, post-teen virgins, or wannabe rebels. Listening to silly video and "let me tell how it used to be" propaganda from a creepy grandpa who just hangs with the "kids." That's too superficial and easy for my taste.

Gabe Toro

Great piece. Will look for Combat Girls. Been waiting FOREVER for Cohen and Tate.

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