MCN Columnists
Gary Dretzka

By Gary Dretzka

The DVD Wrapup: Tomorrowland, Aladdin, Dope, Big Eden, Requiescant, Alleluia and ore

Tomorrowland: Blu-ray
Aladdin: Diamond Edition: Blu-ray
Despite releasing Tomorrowland and Aladdin on Blu-ray almost simultaneously, Disney may not be asking consumers to draw any conclusions about the company’s past, present and future, but, what the hell, what better time? In effect, Brad Bird’s mystery-adventure Tomorrowland addresses a problem faced by Disneyland executives ever since it became obvious that tomorrow was going to arrive a bit sooner than Uncle Walt expected, way back in 1955. Tomorrowland’s concept of the future was so out of date by the mid-1990s, at least, that it had become quaint. Boomers still love it for its nostalgic references to a future now past, especially since the pandering to such corporate sponsors as Monsanto, American Motors, Richfield Oil and Dutch Boy Paint largely fell by the wayside. With the exception of the Space Mountain ride, however, the appeal to their children and grandchildren will depend largely on the popularity of the new Star Wars cycle and super-heroic contributions from Marvel. Tomorrowland, the movie, is informed throughout by Walt Disney’s true vision of a future in which brilliant scientists, visionary architects, benevolent corporations and an informed citizenry would join in creating a utopian society, not unlike Epcot Center … with a nod, as well, to Jules Verne and other prominent fantasists. Here, a disillusioned genius inventor, Frank Walker (George Clooney), and a teenage science enthusiast, Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), form an unlikely alliance in their pursuit of an ambiguous dimension known as, yes, Tomorrowland. With a nod to “The Twilight Zone,” however, they come to understand how anything done today to fix tomorrow could inadvertently spell doom or hope for all of humanity. Walker is old enough to remember attending the 1964 New York World’s Fair, which served as a proving ground for Disney Imagineers – “It’s a Small World” and “Audio-Animatronics” – and a showcase for NASA. Newton is led to his remote doorstep by the accidental discovery of futuristic artifacts from Cape Canaveral in her possession and a visit to memorabilia shop in Houston, managed by audio-animatronic robots. And, yes, this is where things get really complicated. The trail leads to a much older and completely paranoid Walker, who lives in a New York farmhouse filled with computers and fortified by elaborate security devices.

After an attack by steampunk security forces tipped off by the autobots, Frank and Casey are fast-forwarded to a wheat field within view of the decaying skeleton of an even more futuristic Tomorrowland than the one envisioned by Walt Disney. That’s because the Founding Father wouldn’t live long enough to see the completion of Disney World and Epcot Center, let alone the moon landing and, decades later, government-mandated diminishment of NASA’s space-shuttle program. Other, less benevolent fantasists have relied on very different blueprints for Utopia. In true Disney-movie fashion, Bird offers viewers alternative scenarios, as well as an opportunity for a teenager to repair what her elders nearly destroyed. To accomplish this, though, Frank and Casey must get over themselves long enough to see how salvation can only be achieved through a merger of near-opposites: science and humanity, hardware and software, the wisdom that comes with age and youth exuberance. If this makes Tomorrowland sound as if it owes less to Jules Verne than Philip K. Dick, well, that’s because it probably does. Bird’s The Iron Giant may have promised an old-fashioned Saturday-matinee experience, but kids failed to embrace its metaphysical, philosophic and humanitarian musings. Expecting an Erector Set version of Rodan or Mothra, adults waited until the DVD release to what made critics endorse it. Bird’s Tomorrowland, I suspect, will enjoy a better fate in Blu-ray than at the box office. It’s a serious film that imagines a dystopian future not at all in keeping with the Disney dream. Moreover, co-writer Damon Lindelof’s script isn’t compromised by concessions to those who might be expecting an entertainment on the order of Pirates of the Caribbean or The Haunted Mansion. It succeeds far more as a conceptual and visual experience. Also good are Hugh Laurie, Raffey Cassidy, Tim McGraw, Judy Greer, Kathryn Hahn, Keegan-Michael Key and Thomas Robinson in key supporting roles. The Blu-ray adds essential making-of and background featurettes; an animated story of how Tomorrowland came to be; Bird’s production diaries and personal recollections; and a couple of bits that kids should enjoy.

By contrast, the splendid “Diamond Edition” of the modern animated classic, Aladdin, offers something for everyone. Kids unfamiliar with the ageless fantasy/adventure will be blown away by Robin Williams’ brilliantly madcap interpretation of an over-caffeinated genie. Besides reacquainting themselves with Aladdin’s strikingly beautiful animation and engrossing story, adults can focus on Williams’ improvisational genius and wonderfully manic approach to the character. It also should be considered required viewing for anyone interested in someday seeing the live-action Broadway musical when it begins touring the hinterlands. Because Disney tends to play fast and loose with source material in the public domain, it would be nice to think that viewers would be drawn, as well, to the books and movies that influenced Aladdin, including “A Thousand and One Nights” and “The Thief of Bagdad.” In the excellent bonus package, producer/directors John Musker and Ron Clements, along with supervising animator Eric Goldberg, discuss what it was like working with Williams, whose voice acting could only be compared to a Force 5 hurricane for sheer improvisational fury. Sadly, there’s no video footage of Williams in action, just storyboards and audio recordings. Also recalled is long and difficult gestation period for the live-action production. It pre-dated the 1991 death of composer Alan Menken’s creative partner, Howard Ashman, and would be delayed to allow for technology to accommodate the artistic vision. The flying-carpet conceit was especially difficult to pull off in the early stages of development.  One of the important things to remember about Aladdin is how the decision to launch its feature-length sequel straight-to-video effectively opened the door to untapped profits, while also legitimizing the format as a creative option. By directly targeting very young audiences, The Return of Jafar and Aladdin and the King of Thieves could be produced, marketed and distributed without having to impress adults with sophisticated animation techniques and storytelling. It also laid the groundwork for a television cartoon series. Corporate and artistic synergy would never be the same.

Dope: Blu-ray
Having only becoming aware of Rick Famuyiwa’s urban rom/dram/com, Dope, after it was delivered to my home by mail, I was stunned at how fresh, bright and entertaining it was. Hindsight should have reminded me that I had enjoyed the writer/director’s debut feature, The Wood, but I don’t always check out the credits before watching a movie. Why spoil the surprise? As Dope unfolded, it sometimes appeared – and I use the word, “appeared,” advisedly – to reference themes first explored in American Graffiti, Risky Business and the coming-of-age comedies of John Hughes. The biggest difference is the setting: a dead-end section of Inglewood, known as the Bottoms. Malcolm (Shameik Moore) and his two buddies — lesbian Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) and mousy Jib (Tony Revolori) – probably wouldn’t be considered geeks in most high schools populated by middle-class kids with aspirations of going to college. But in this gang-infested section of greater Los Angeles, too many teenagers are given one choice in life – Crips or Bloods? – and anyone who doesn’t conform to the conventions of thug life is scorned, ridiculed or bullied. As representatives of African-American geekdom go, however, Malcolm isn’t in the same league as Steve Urkel or Donald Glover’s character in “Community.” His crimes include favoring 1990s hip-hop to anything that’s come after, say, NWA; dressing in clothes even M.C. Hammer wouldn’t have been seen wearing; getting around on a BMX bicycle; using a backpack to tote books, instead of guns and drugs; and committing himself to being accepted to Harvard. Even his school’s guidance teacher finds that dream laughable. Oh, yeah, he’s also a virgin. After sneaking into a party to which Malcom and his friends aren’t invited, a melee leaves them in possession of a fortune in the hot drug, Molly, belonging to a local gang-banger. With the owner in jail and a target put on their heads by rival dealers, the only way to avoid getting killed is to cut up the dope, sell it and return the money to whomever has the most powerful claim to it. Naturally, getting rid of the drugs isn’t as difficult as covering up the money trail. In cahoots with a hippy hacker, they devise a plan only a subscriber to Wired might be capable of pulling off. Famuyiwa’s success here includes making everything that happens to the geeks plausible, while also maintaining a vibe that any fan of Cheech & Chong, Snoop Dogg and Half-Baked can appreciate Also starring in supporting roles are rapper A$AP Rocky, Blake Anderson (“Workaholics”), Rick Fox and Zoë Kravitz. Not surprisingly, perhaps, the soundtrack is a gas.

Tibetan Warrior
When all of the celebrity advocates of the various Free Tibet movements put away their banners and return to work in their chosen artistic disciplines, hard-core activists know that the really hard work required to free a nation won’t bear fruit for many years to come, if ever. In certain parts of the Tibetan diaspora, Indian-born Loten Namling is as big a celebrity as Richard Gere or Steven Seagal. Without discounting any celebrity’s commitment to support the14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, Namling would have to drag his “Free Tibet” coffin from New York to Kim and Kanye’s driveway, somewhere in greater L.A., to assure any coverage from the American news media. It’s what he did three years ago, in Switzerland, attracting attention by pulling a black coffin-like box from the capital of Bern, to UN headquarters in Geneva, chanting prayers and playing the lute at stops along the way. His “Journey for Freedom: One Man, One Path, Free Tibet” excursion is documented in Dodo Hunziker’s feature-length documentary, Tibetan Warrior, which also follows the singer, musician, artist, entertainer and cartoonist on his mission to meet with the Dalai Lama, from whom he only desires “wisdom.” At the time, 45 Tibetans had set themselves on fire in a renewed to protest against the Chinese annexation of the Himalayan nation, in 1951, and long-standing denial of basic human rights to citizens left behind after the Dalai Lama and his inner circle split, in 1959. Born in Dharamsala in 1963, Namling eventually would be granted a meeting with the Dalai Lama, who praised the uncharacteristically humble activist’s passionate contributions to the movement, without offering any more advice than to be patient and try to understand how realpolitik has become the operative philosophy of Free Tibet leadership. Given the PRC’s standing in the worlds of commerce, international politics and military power, Namling was pretty much left holding his lute in one hand and his dick in the other. Even so, one doesn’t leave Tibetan Warrior depressed or pessimistic about Tibet’s future. If nothing else, it serves as a reminder of a cause that won’t be forgotten as long as artists are driven to extremes in the pursuit of freedom.

In the Courtyard: Blu-ray
Having already heaped layers of praise on Catherine Deneuve’s recent performances in a half-dozen excellent movies, there really isn’t all that much for me to add that would make American audiences flock to rent In the Courtyard. Besides being extremely moving, I would hope American actresses of a certain age might watch Pierre Salvadori’s bittersweet drama and be encouraged to demand the same opportunities here, as the still radiant Deneuve receives in France. Women directors have begun to cry foul over the lack of respect shown them by Hollywood studios … why not actresses whose only chance to shine comes in “important” movies, released in the holiday rush? Most of the movies in which Deneuve appears these days are intended to be enjoyed for their ability to entertain, not impress César Awards voters (although she’s been nominated four times in the last four years). In the Courtyard is a decidedly offbeat entertainment, in which a man and woman from completely different backgrounds find common ground in the pursuit of a common goal. In a sense, Antoine and Mathilde’s mission amounts to therapy, without the benefit of a shrink or a couch. Antoine is a middle-aged musician whose depression has become so pronounced that he no longer is able to make the journey from dressing room to the stage. Disheveled and absent any recognizable form of ambition, Antoine is further hampered by an inability to perform tasks associated with viable employment. In a Chance the Gardener conceit, possibly inspired by Being There, he is hired as caretaker of a residential building owned by Mathilde and her husband, Serge (Féodor Atkine). Recently retired, Mathilde kills time by fixating on dubious causes and obsessing over a crack she discovers in the wall of her apartment. The crack, which she believes to be the tip of a structural iceberg, so concerns Mathilde that she begins to rally support from neighbors, whose homes could be threatened, as well, if, say, the buildings were built over landfill. While she’s doing this, Antoine not only assumes nursemaid duties for the eccentric tenants, but also covers for Mathilde in her deteriorating relationship with Serge. Complicating things for Antoine is a fondness for crack cocaine and an inability to say “no” to the needier tenants. By this time, viewers may think they know where In the Courtyard is heading, but Salvadori neatly disguises the punch he reserves for the finale. If it comes off as being overly sentimental to some viewers, well, too bad for them. Watch it, anyway, for the acting clinic. The Blu-ray arrives with an interview with the writer/director.

Class Of Nuke ‘Em High III: The Good, the Bad and the Subhumanoid: Blu-ray
Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV: Blu-ray
The Sand
One of the more endearing things about Troma founder Lloyd Kaufman is that he’s rarely at a loss for hyperbole. In his introduction to Madcow, he not only brags about it being the first Troma import from South Africa, but also that it was Nelson Mandela’s favorite film while in prison. I would have guessed Shaft in Africa, but even that presupposes his Afrikaner keepers at Robben Island allowed the future leader of their country a single night’s respite from the hideous conditions of his incarceration and that Mandela had been in jail when Madcow was released in 2010, which, of course, was well after he retired from the presidency. (For several idiotic reasons, the government didn’t even allow the introduction of television until 1976.) That said, Michael Wright and Michael J. Rix’s video original fits neatly within the confines of the Troma asylum, which, this week alone, has added Blu-ray editions of Class Of Nuke ‘Em High III: The Good, the Bad and the Subhumanoid and Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV to the cinematic commonweal. In it, a crazed scientist creates a half-man, half-cow creature which goes on chainsaw-wielding rampage at an African game lodge. It’s here that one of the world’s most physically gifted scream queens, Tanya van Graan (Starship Troopers 3: Marauder) stays busy, trying on lingerie and enjoying leisurely showers. Leading the campaign to corral the bovine killer is an investigator, who, in the right light, resembles Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad. While every bit as stupid as most Troma releases, Madcow falls short in the areas of technical proficiency and twisted topicality. Even so, it isn’t completely devoid of laughs and good ideas … or zombies.  In true Troma fashion, the principle cast went through “boot camp” at a dairy farm, so that “they could empathize more easily with the titular character.”

The only really positive thing to be gleaned from Class Of Nuke ‘Em High III: The Good, the Bad and the Subhumanoid, which picks up where the first sequel left off, is that the giant mutant squirrel, Tromie, returns for a cameo performance. Also back is former body builder and pro wrestler Brick Bronsky, this time in the multiple roles of Mayor Roger Smith and his good/evil twin sons Adlai and Dick Smith, and Baby Moishe Smith. Kidnapped at birth, Dick Smith becomes a crucial player in a plot devised by the mad Doctor Slag, PhD (John Tallman), and slutty/sexy Professor Holt (Lisa Gaye), first, to destroy his politician brother’s sterling reputation, and, then, turn Tromaville into a toxic wasteland. The Blu-ray arrives with director’s commentary, an interview with the tragically nudity-shy Gaye and trailers from the “Nuke ‘Em High” canon.

Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV opens with the notorious Diaper Mafia taking students of the Tromaville School for the Very Special hostage. After Toxie and his morbidly obese sidekick, Lardass, fail to prevent a powerful bomb from destroying the school, a dimensional portal is opened between Tromaville and its mirror image, Amortville. While father-to-be Toxie is trapped in Amortville, Tromaville comes under the control of his evil doppelganger, the Noxious Offender. Mayhem ensues. “Citizen Toxie” features the most formidable line-up of superheroes ever assembled, including Sgt. Kabukiman NYPD, Mad Cowboy, Dolphin Man, Master Bator and the Vibrator. Also reunited are Ron Jeremy, Lemmy Kilmister, Julie Strain, Corey Feldman, Hank the Angry Drunken Dwarf, James Gunn and Kinky Finklestein. For truly demented viewers, there’s a topless translator for the deaf and newsreel footage shot at the Playboy Mansion. The Blu-ray adds a new intro by Lloyd Kaufman, from Stan Lee’s Comikaze; commentaries with Kaufman, producer Trent Haaga and actor Michael Budinger, and editors Friedman and Sean McGrath; the 147-minute “Apocalypse Soon” making-of featurette; a montage of Troma achievements, scored to songs by Motorhead; “Troma’s Tribute to Lemmy”’ deleted scenes; outtakes; and an interview with Debbie Rochon. The only thing missing is a scorecard to keep track of the visual references and homages to classic film moments.

Requiescant: Special Edition: Blu-ray
Historians and critics have for years debated on the influence of left-wing philosophy – overt or subliminal – on genre films written and/or directed by filmmakers who would face the HUAC inquisition and be blacklisted for exercising their constitutional right to espouse radical political believes … or simply organize strikes against Hollywood studios. Released in 1967, but rarely distributed outside Europe, Requiescant (a.k.a., “Kill and Pray”) is a Spaghetti Western that wears its Communist Party sympathies on its sleeve for all the world to see. Director Carlo Lizzani (The Violent Four) even had the audacity to cast Pier Paolo Pasolini (Salò) in a rare acting role as a revolutionary priest. While staying within the parameters set aside for genre fare, Requiescant exhibits the same relationship to history accuracy as Quentin Tarantino reserves for his period provocations. Here,

Lou Castel plays a young man, who, after transplanted Confederates massacred his Mexican family and other settlers, was raised to be a pacifist by a travelling preacher. When his stepsister runs away to join a troupe of barroom entertainers, the pursuit reveals his natural talent as a sharp-shooter. After she’s discovered working as a sex slave in a town run by fascist landowners and their puppets, Requiescant not only vows to liberate her from bondage, but lead the oppressed Mexican laborers to the Promised Land. Or, something like that. Reality sets in when the entrenched minority take out their hostility on the most defenseless citizens. Even without the political messaging, Requiescant stands as a hugely entertaining and completely viable genre specimen, with a very cool backstory. The Blu-ray package adds plenty of background.

The Sand may not bear the Troma brand, but it plays in the same ballpark. The franchise it most closely resembles, though, Tremors. The movie opens during a beach party being held on an early-summer night, just as the booze is beginning to flow and bikini tops are disappearing like the ebb tide. Flash ahead a few hours and the kids are spread out in a tight circle around a lifeguard stand. As soon as the first topless bimbo puts her feet in the sand to find her swimsuit’s other half, she realizes that she’s stuck and can’t move. Others become trapped, as well, before being devoured by the creature or creatures living underneath the sand. And, so it goes. Isaac Gabaeff’s conceit doesn’t require punishing young people for exercising their rights as sexual beings, but to see if the can survive using their wits … or half-wits, as the case may be. For so familiar a premise, The Sand is far more entertaining than it has any right to be. Credit for that probably belongs to writers Alex Greenfield (“WWE Smackdown!”) and Ben Powell (The Aggression Scale).

The Raid
The Avenging Fist
Fans of Chinese action director Tsui Hark will want to check out Go USA’s upgraded edition of The Raid, the wartime comedy/adventure he made in 1991 with Ching Siu-Tung (Chinese Ghost Story). As far as I can tell, it wasn’t accorded a release here, but follows quickly on the heels of the company’s Blu-ray of The Taking of Tiger Mountain, which it resembles in certain key ways. While “Tiger Mountain” is based on Qu Bo’s 1957 novel “Tracks in the Snowy Forest,” The Raid was inspired by the Hong Kong manhua (a.k.a., manga) “Uncle Choy,” published by Michael Hui since 1958. Hark uses art from the comic book in his opening credits and transitions. The story is set in 1930s China, after Japanese occupation forces installed the dethroned Emperor Pu-Yi (The Last Emperor) as the symbolic leader of the Manchurian puppet state of Manchukuo. He is portrayed as being complicit in the testing of poisonous gas as a weapon by the Japanese, against Republican-era resistance forces. After their leader is killed in the attack, he is replaced by Lieutenant Mang Tai-Hoi (Paul Chun), who considers Uncle Choy to be too old to help the movement with his ever-present wooden box, containing garlic, red pepper and dynamite for emergencies. Left behind when Mang launches his search for the Japanese armaments factory, Uncle Choy discovers a dao sword and heads for the front lines. He isn’t aware that his niece is hot on his heels, wielding a qiang sword she fully intends to use against the Chinese. If this description doesn’t sounds particularly comedic, it’s only because the slapsticky brawls, missed connections and close brushes with disaster are yet to come. Uncle Choy may look like a harmless old codger, but he’s a hardened veteran of post-dynastic battles and a brilliant swordsman. Just as “Tiger Mountain” occasionally played to the cheap seats, The Raid was designed for consumption by mainstream Chinese and Hong Kong audiences. A scene in which Chinese soldiers infiltrate the kitchen at a banquet honoring the emperor runs the emotional gamut from hilarity to horror, when the faux chefs screw up the preparation of delicacies none of them could have mastered in time for the meal. The interaction between Pu Yi, Japanese commander Masa (Tony Ka Fai Leung) and the treasonous movie star Kim Pak-fai (Joyce Godenzi) similarly confuses love, obligation and deceit. When necessary, Hark doesn’t hesitate playing the kung fu card, though.

Andrew Lau has been a major force in the Hong Kong action scene for nearly as long as Sark. The Avenging Fist, released a year before the highly regarded Infernal Affairs trilogy cemented his reputation as both a director and cinematographer, is a film that crosses so many genre and demographic borders that it could have required passports, as well as tickets. We’re reminded upfront that the human brain rarely uses more than 20 percent of its intellectual potential and, within the remaining 80 percent of capacity could lie answers to questions we’ve yet to ponder. The Avenging Fist plays out against a sci-fi background, likely influenced by Blade Runner and The Fifth Element, while everything in the foreground appears to have been borrowed from video games, wuxia fantasies, graphic novels and billboard ads for nightclub apparel. Sometime in the not-so-distant future, Power Gloves not only will hold the key to tapping into the 80 percent of unused brain power, but they will also enable the wearer to take over the minds of other people, presumably of the criminal persuasion. Dark, Thunder and War 21 are the names of three young police officers who volunteer to test the program. War 21 uses a glove to capture Thunder and disappear into the void for the next 20 years. They return to the scene of the experiment to attempt another coup, this time with a small army behind them. Realizing that he can’t take on the forces of evil himself, Dark (Sammo Hung) discovers a fighter 20 years his junior, Meganova (Wang Lee Hom), who appears to possess Thunder’s fighting DNA, but mistrusts everyone older than he is. Dark is forced to go to great lengths to convince Meganova that his power should be used for good. Only some decent action sequences prevent the story from imploding any further than it does.

Skin Traffik
For a hundred different reasons, making movies in Hollywood for American audiences has become an unattainable dream for most homebred filmmakers. Just as the major studios have come to depend on the international box-office for the bulk of their box-office returns, direct-to-video specialists know that their search for profits lies abroad, as well. Unlike the studios, however, high-profile franchises don’t grow on trees. Fortunately, audiences around the world also respond well to genres that A-listers feel are beneath them. If there’s still a stigma attached to features made specifically for the DVD, Blu-ray and PPV market, it hasn’t diminished the aspirations of a new generation of filmmakers who’ve learned how the play  the angles. Skin Traffik is a perfect example of this growing trend. By all of the usual standards, even those once used to judge drive-in and grindhouse fare, it isn’t very good. What multi-hyphenate filmmaker Ara Paiaya’s movie lacks in critical praise and mall appeal, though, it more than makes up for in action. Made at a fraction of the budget expended on each installment of The Expendables, Skin Traffik delivers wall-to-wall action and a list of stars who, while they may have lost their luster here, are remembered fondly for blasts from the past. It explains why the film’s hero, portrayed by the prolific Brit B-movie star, Gary Daniels, plays second fiddle in the marketing materials to such war horses as Mickey Rourke, Eric Roberts and Daryl Hannah – last seen together 30 years ago in The Pope of Greenwich Village – Dominique Swain, Michael Madsen and Jeff Fahey. With a cast like that, there’s hardly any need for a screenplay … which, perhaps, is why Paiaya handled that chore, too. For the record, Daniels plays a hitman who retired after blowing an assignment in the worst possible way. Living in a tough section of a big city, Bradley decides that enough is enough after witnessing a prostitute being beaten by a pimp three times her size. Sensing that the prostitute’s partner will face a similar fate, simply for witnessing the thumping, Bradley takes her under his wings. This makes him a target for the pimp’s bosses and the Executive, who control the importation and exploitation of women smuggled into the city for one purpose, only. It’s on the higher branches of this twisted tree that Bradley locates Skin Traffik’s marquee attractions. If all that weren’t sufficiently crazy, Rourke reportedly gained 50 pounds for his role.

Sodoma: The Dark Side of Gomorrah
Gommorah, Matteo Garrone’s agonizingly realistic dissection of life among young aspirants to Naple’s vicious Camorra crime won the highest praise from American film critics when it opened here in 2008. Far less forgiving than such American gangland dramas as The Godfather, Goodfellas and Scarface, which romanticized certain aspects of organized crime, Gommorah proved to be too much for audiences here to handle. It was a huge success in Europe, however, where mob chieftains tend to maintain a lower profile than their American counterparts. Although it inspired an Italian TV mini-series, Gommorah was an unlikely candidate for parody. And, yet, that’s what Vincenzo Pirozzi and Corrado Ardone do in Sodoma: The Dark Side of Gomorrah, in which three guys named Ciro, Marco and Ettore attempt to land steady employment in the more quasi-legitimate areas controlled by the Camorra. Unfortunately, they hitch their wagon to a gangster who none of his peers takes seriously, but is dangerous enough to get them killed. One of his schemes is to dispose of toxic waste in the fires of Mount Vesuvius, which, come to think of it, isn’t such a bad idea. Although Al Pacino permitted the filmmakers to use several scenes from ”Scarface” to be inserted, free of charge, and it was named Best Comedy at the 2012 New York City International Film Festival, Sodoma: The Dark Side of Gomorrah’s reach isn’t likely to extend past hard-core fans of Italian genre movies and Gomorrah, in particular.

Big Eden: 15th Anniversary Blu-ray Edition
Now celebrating its 15th anniversary, Thomas Bezucha’s fairytale rom-dram Big Eden was released at a time when gay-themed movies were beginning to find acceptance here, if not in the mainstream, exactly, but as a commercial alternative to pictures in which LGBT characters were marginal players, at best. Its distributor, Wolfe Video, hadn’t waited for the term New Queer Cinema to be introduced by critic B. Ruby Rich, in 1992, to establish itself as a purveyor of videos to the emerging niche audience, largely through mail-order sales. By the time Big Eden made its way from the festival circuit to VHS and DVD, most independent video stores (remember them?) had reserved several shelves for gay and lesbian titles, not all of which maintained a tight focus on issues related to HIV/AIDS and exiting the closet. It would take the popular and artistic success of Brokeback Mountain and Milk for Hollywood to slowly open its door to LGBT-themed dramas. As appealing as it is, watching Big Eden today is a slightly disorienting experience. When New York artist Henry Hart (Arye Gross) learns that his grandfather has had a stroke, he rushes back to his wonderfully scenic Montana hometown, leaving his sales agent to oversee an important gallery opening. Just when we begin to gird ourselves for an onslaught of homophobic dialogue and the sound of closets being reopened, Bezucha reveals a Rocky Mountains Brigadoon that might have been founded by retirees from the Castro District. Not only is he welcomed with open arms by his grandfather and old friends, but he’s embraced by the preacher and local lay-abouts who might have been charter subscribers to Bear magazine. The principle issues faced by Henry involve determining how he will be welcomed by his childhood friend and first lover, Dean (Tim DeKay), now a father with two kids. He also must learn how to interpret the mixed signals sent to him by a handsome Native American, who cooks gourmet-style meals for his grandfather and him, but is too shy to admit his culinary interests to the guys who hang around the general store and post office. It’s harder for him to come out as gourmand than a gay man. Apart from a few tender kisses and a couple of gender-neutral waltzes, Big Eden would easily qualify for a “PG” rating. As Bezucha recalls in a newly recorded interview, the big achievement here was demonstrating that such a non-exploitative entertainment could exist alongside sexually explicit material and serious drama, without watering down the narrative.

Alleluia: Blu-ray
Angst: Blu-ray
Loosely based on the story of Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck, already dramatized in Leonard Kastle’s disturbingly twisted 1969 romance, The Honeymoon Killers,  Fabrice Du Welz’ artistically gruesome Alleluia instead restages the crimes in Belgium and France. The couple’s victims are located through postings on social media. That’s how the desperately lonely corpse washer, Gloria (Lola Dueñas), connects with the candle-worshipping shoe salesman, Michel (Laurent Lucas), for a first date that goes as well as anyone could have hoped. When the morning comes, however, it’s clear that the single mother of a pre-teen daughter probably has bitten off more than she can chew. After Gloria agrees to cut Michel a check to cover a phony debt, we’re not surprised when the cad takes a powder. Not about to take this affront lying down, Gloria decides to track Michel down and demand retribution. Instead, they enter into an arrangement that includes working more elaborate cons on even more gullible women. When Michel is asked to move in with the women, he insists that his “sister,” Gloria, be given a room of her own, from which she’s driven mad with jealousy over the loud love-making taking place next-door. It’s enough to drive a proud woman to consider, well, murder. And, so it goes, until their path leads the Big Score: a magnificent farm owned by another single mother, who also makes the mistake of making too much noise during sex. Although the killings are quite graphic, Manu Dacosse’s exquisite cinematography allows Du Welz to juxtapose sex and violence in a way that demands we consider the killers’ point of view before our revulsion over their actions.The superb Cantalonian actress, Dueñas (Falling Star, Volver) contributes to our confusion by almost making her monstrous character sympathetic. The Blu-ray adds commentary with Du Welz; a making-of featurette; deleted scenes; cast and crew interviews; and a short film film by Du Welz.

Gerald Kargl’s newly uncut and uncensored Angst also is based on an actual crime spree, this one perpetrated by Austrian mass murderer Werner Kniesek, in 1980. With slight variations on Kniesek’s spree, Erwin Leder (Das Boot) plays a maniacal killer, Psychopath, who, after being released from prison, feels driven to commit the same sort of crimes that put him there in the first place. He simply feels more comfortable behind bars than anywhere else. After one unsuccessful attempt to strangle a cab driver, Psychopath picks a random house to invade and slaughter everyone who makes the mistake of coming home before he changes his mind. Like Alleluia, Angst is so compellingly shot and composed that its artistry momentarily disguises the carnage taking place on screen. As if to argue that slasher films shouldn’t be able to get away with such diabolical tricks, Angst was effectively banned from view for three decades … everywhere. Fully restored, after 30 years, it hasn’t lost any of its ability to shock. As such, the natural audience for Angst probably will be limited to serious fans of John McNaughton’s unforgettable Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. Kargl shares the spotlight here with the Oscar-winning Polish animator/cinematographer Zbig Rybczynski (“Tango”) and onetime Tangerine Dreamer Klaus Schulze. The Blu-ray package borders on the epic, requiring an appreciation of central European psycho-horror most humans simply don’t possess. For those who do, however, it includes a new Interview with Leder; less recent ones with Rybzcynski and Kargl, by Jorg Buttgereit (Nekromantik); commentary by Kargl and film critic Marcus Stiglegger; and an introduction by Gasper Noé (Irreversible).

The Jail: The Women’s Hell
Blue Rita
Hyde’s Secret Nightmare
Day 6
If there’s one thing more exploitative than a women-in-prison movie made in the Philippines during the 1970s, it’s a women-in-prison movie, made 30 years past the sub-genre’s Golden Age by the “Ed Wood of Italian filmmaking,” without Pam Grier. At the time The Jail: The Women’s Hell was filmed, writer/director Bruno Mattei probably already was being tormented by an undetected brain tumor. In the interviews included in the bonus package, one of the common recollections is a temper that erupted like storm clouds during the monsoons. When Mattei wasn’t screaming at cast and crew, however, he was as sweet and supportive as could be. Made in 2006, “The Jail” looks as if it were shot 35 years earlier, on a budget that made Roger Corman seem generous, by comparison. If the great 2-foot-9 Filipino actor and martial artist Weng Weng hadn’t died in 1992, he almost certainly would have been recruited for a cameo, at least. Otherwise, every women-in-prison trope and cliché found in such immortal titles as The Big Doll House, Women in Cages, The Big Bird Cage and Black Mama White Mama is repeated in “The Jail,” only several times cruder and without a hint of irony. In other words, it stinks … and not in a good way. The only actor resembling a star is Yvette Yzon, who, while not nearly as statuesque as Grier, probably logged more minutes of nudity in one film than the African-American dream-girl did in all four of her Philippine-made nightmares. Here, the jungle hellhole to which naughty women are sentenced is known as the House of Lost Souls. If anything, the warden is even more sadistic than earlier incarnations and the violence is significantly more offensive. Featurettes include “Acting for Bruno,” with Yzon and Alvin Anson, and “Prison Inferno,” with producer Giovanni Paolucci and screenwriter Antonio Tentori.

Spanish exploitation king Jess Franco made his share of women-in-prison epics during a career that spanned nearly 50 years and included more than 200 directorial credits. In fact, it would be difficult to name a subgenre of films that Franco didn’t exploit to varying degrees of artistic clarity. Blue Rita stands today as a prime example of soft-core Euro-porn from its mid-1970s heyday. Despite a plot that borders on the ridiculous, it excels in most of the areas that distinguished the category – including the early “Emmanuelle” chapters and films of Radley Metzger – from comparable American fare, which frequently amounted to nothing more than hard-core films edited to eliminate penetration and close-ups of genitalia. Blue Rita is set in a swinging strip nightclub, awash in psychedelic colors and featuring truly gorgeous dancers, who perform as if Twyla Tharp and Bob Fosse were taking notes in the audience,. When she isn’t dancing or diddling her dollies, the titular owner of the Parisian nightclub, Blue Rita (Martine Flety), is an operative for a Soviet spy ring. The club’s basement doubles as a dressing room for the dancers and a torture chamber for prisoners of interest to her handlers. To make the men talk, Rita doses them with a slimy green liquid that causes them to go into sexual withdrawal. Taunted with the promise of unlimited pussy, the prisoners inevitably spill the beans. Rita’s getting too old and tired for the game, so her bosses send in hot lesbian operatives to keep her from flaking out on them. Meanwhile, Interpol agents are anxious to infiltrate the operation. As these things go, Blue Rita is more erotic than most specimens in the subgenre. The musical score and cinematography are also good.

Domiziano Cristopharo dedicated his creepy 2011 psycho-thriller, Hyde’s Secret Nightmare, to Italian filmmaker Joe D’Amato, who was every bit as prolific as Franco and worked in as many different sub-genres. Inspired, as well, by the giallo movement, Hyde’s Secret Nightmare falls neatly in the same erotic-horror niche filled by D’Amato’s more popular offerings. At first, I was working from an assumption that the title was steering fans of the Jeckyll & Hyde legend to yet another entry in the repertoire. Instead, it refers to one Eva Hyde, who, as portrayed by the astonishing Roberta Gemma, embodies the film’s dark world of crumbling and corrupt institutions. Sadly, the horrors visited in actual nightmares rarely are relieved by dramatizations of sexual ecstasy, experienced by a woman who easily qualifies as one of the sexiest women on planet. Not all of the eroticism is limited to the female form, but the men are just plain weird. As nightmares go, however, Cristopharo’s doesn’t make much more sense than the ones we endure nightly, which too often are devoid of nudity. The DVD adds deleted scenes, a photo gallery, bloopers, a DVD-ROM comic and the “confessions” of Cristopharo and Gemma.

Also from Italy comes Day 6, in which writer/director Varo Venturi goes deep on the subject of alien abductions. I might have suggested keeping “Alien Exorcism” as the final title for this extremely complex exploration of the subject, but, having never seen a UFO or met an alien, what do I know? Massimo Poggio is reasonably convincing as Dr. Davide Piso, a scientist who uses hypnosis to get into the heads of thousands of people who claim to have been abducted. He’s come to the conclusion that some extraterrestrial races have been installing their active memories into the brains of humans they’ve abducted. It allows them to “live” through the victims in this dimension, while also tapping a uniquely human energy source: the soul. As if that weren’t nutty enough, after 18-year-old Saturnia insists on being hypnotized by the scientists, she assumes the personality of Hexabor of Ur. This alien entity traces his roots to Mesopotamia and considers himself a demi-god. Saturnia also appears to belong to a family of wealthy black aristocrats. The flakey stuff appears to be verified by new data and theories that push the boundaries of our belief system. The producers want us to believe that this merger of horror and sci-fi represents a new sub-genre: “sci-real.” A lengthy featurette uses scientists, theologians and scholars to further explain the points being made in Day 6. It’s more interesting than the movie, itself.

Mosquito: 20th Anniversary Edition: Blu-ray
Manos: The Hands of Fate: Blu-ray
The Return of Count Yorga: Blu-ray
When it comes to killer critter movies, I’ve always been of the opinion that mosquitos had a leg up on the myriad bugs, fish, mammals and other mutated and irradiated species enlisted for the sake of a few minutes entertainment on drive-in screens around North America. (Have they caught on anywhere else?) Through tens of millions of years, mosquitos have evolved into the prototype of the ideal movie monster. They have a history of transporting murderous diseases and possess stealth-like qualities that would be the envy of any military aircraft. Even when they’re easy to squash, the droplet of blood left behind tells us that much of the damage already has been done. A couple of nights ago, after watching Synapse Films’s Mosquito: 20th Anniversary Edition, I dreamt about mosquitos for the first time, maybe ever. The movie, itself, wasn’t particularly scary – only marginally better than the above-average Syfy thriller – but that’s how the power of suggestion works. Here, an alien space craft drops its waste into a lake in a national park that is popular with campers and chainsaw-wielding survivalists. The interstellar toxins are absorbed into the eggs distributed by motherly mosquitos, causing mutations in their larvae. The alien mosquitos, which, of course, feed on human blood, now are the size of drones capable of delivering packages for Amazon. In addition to not being particularly fussy about the orifices from which they draw blood or inject semen, the alien mosquitos truly are a force with which to be reckoned. The final showdown is about as frantic as one might expect, with Gunnar Hansen (the original Leatherface) reprising his iconic talent in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Pop-culture fiends also might recognize Ron Asheton – a founding member of the Stooges – as Hendricks the Park Ranger. The Blu-ray adds audio commentary, deleted/extended scenes, behind-the-scenes footage, a stills gallery and “Bugging Out!: The Making of Mosquito.”

If Peter Bogdanovich hadn’t chosen Red River as the last movie to be shown in the Anarene theater featured in The Last Picture Show, he might have turned to Manos: The Hands of Fate, which was shot in nearby El Paso. As bad as any movie ever committed to film by Edward Wood Jr., “Manos” has at least as many legends attached to it as any film made by Orson Welles. The biggest whopper involves writer/director/producer/co-star Harold P. Warren, who is commonly dismissed as a west Texas fertilizer salesman on an ego trip the size of the Lone Star state, itself. In fact, Warren was manager of the American Founder’s Life Insurance Co., in El Paso, as well as an inventor and supporter of the local theater community. If he sold fertilizer, he was very good at his job. “Manos” was the result of a bet Warren made with screenwriter Stirling Silliphant, who was in the neighborhood during a “Route 66” shoot. He felt as if he was eminently qualified to make a horror film and could do it on a budget of approximately $20,000 in 1966 currency. Of course, it would require skimping on everything from production values to using IOUs to pay the cast, but he did it. After debuting in El Paso and playing a handful of theaters in west Texas and New Mexico, “Manos” pretty much disappeared from the face of the planet. It would be re-discovered 20 years later and handed over to the geniuses behind “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” on which Joel and the ’bots included it among the worst movies they’d ever seen and accused Dr. Clayton Forrester and TV’s Frank of purposefully setting out to torture them. Thus, a cult classic was born. Not that it matters much, but the story involves an innocent family that becomes lost on a road trip through Texas and finds shelter at a remote farmhouse. The only apparent resident of the property is a strangely deformed man named Torgo, who insists he is watching the place for “The Master.” Turns out, the Master has lured the mother and daughter to the house to be used as sacrificial vessels for his harem of demon-worshipping wives in diaphanous gowns. The rest is sheer madness. Nearly lost, the original 16mm Ektachrome film elements have finally been unearthed and restored by Florida State graduate Ben Solovey, financed by a Kickstarter campaign. The Blu-ray adds commentary with actors Tom Neyman and Jackey Raye Neyman-Jones; the unrestored “grindhouse edition”; and featurettes “Hands: The Fate of ‘Manos,’” “Restoring the ‘Hands of Fate’” and “Felt: The Puppet ‘Hands of Fate’.”

While not in the same category of badness of “Manos,” horror-specialist Bob Kelljan’s The Return of Count Yorga demonstrates just how little creative effort is required in the creation of a sequel to an AIP flick, Count Yorga, Vampire, that became a surprise hit in 1970. In the original, a dashing vampire takes up residence in a mansion in a contemporary L.A. setting. As played with great gusto by Robert Quarry, the count has no trouble finding acolytes and nubile victims, in quarters of sunny Los Angeles no one could imagine being called home by a vampire lord. For the quick-turn-around sequel, Kelljan relies on the curative powers of the Santa Ana winds – huh? – to bring Yorga back to life and encourage him to return to L.A., this time in a rundown orphanage. Of all the women available to him as bridal material, Yorga chooses future Polaroid pitchwoman Mariette Hartley as being the most worthy. It also stars George Macready, Roger Perry and Craig T. Nelson in his screen debut. The Scream Factory Blu-ray adds commentary with film historian Steve Haberman and actor Rudy De Luca; a photo gallery; and marketing material.

Delusions of Guinevere
In her feature debut as writer/director/producer/actor, Joanna Bowzer sketches a sympathetic if darkly realistic profile of a former child star, Guinevere James, who, at 29, can’t deal with the fact that she is no longer a valuable commodity to casting directors. Hint: seriously overweight, she isn’t particularly adorable or talented, anymore. When Guinevere (co-writer Ariana Bernstein) receives an invitation to a 20th-anniversary special for her signature Gelee commercials, she is forced to deal with the conflicting feelings that come with reuniting with old friends and realizing that some, but not all of them have enjoyed successful professional afterlives. Despite her bad luck at auditions for which she arrives alarmingly unprepared, Guinevere thinks that enough people will remember her from her glory years to still be considered valuable to potential employers. It isn’t until Guinevere takes her geeky neuroses to You Tube that she begins to feel comfortable before an audience of her peers. The videos become so popular that social-media critics dub them, “Breakfast at Guinevere’s.” Attracted to her newfound fame, the same casting directors who couldn’t find a way to resuscitate her career begin to sense that they can parlay her Internet persona into something bigger. Maybe, maybe not, but it’s the first encouraging news Guinevere has heard in many years. As is suggested by the title, Delusions of Guinevere, the semi-talented actress will be given every chance to ignore the solid advice of friends and her former agent, now retired, and blow the opportunities presented her. Bowzer’s observant direction helps the movie maintain an even keel, even when some of the characters’ actions throw logic to the wind.

Lynyrd Skynyrd: Gone With the Wind
Despite repeated efforts to limit Lynyrd Skynyrd’s reputation to the Southern bands that followed in the enormous wake of the Allman Brothers, its songs continue to be played repeatedly on classic-rock stations and streamed to playlists assembled by three generations of fans. It almost doesn’t matter that most listeners are unaware of the plane crash that decimated the core of the band in 1977 or which incarnation of the unit is reprising the stirring rock anthem, “Free Bird.” I may not be anxious to ever hear “Sweet Home Alabama” again in my lifetime – ditto, Neil Young’s “Southern Man” – but I’ve never tired of hearing “Gimme Three Steps,” “Simple Man,” “Saturday Night Special,” “I Know A Little,” “You Got That Right” and “That Smell.” If “Free Bird” pops up on one of my satellite-radio stations, I’ll sing along to it, again, for the thousandth time. It may not be my favorite band of all time, but their music makes me smile. In Sexy Intellectual’s Lynyrd Skynyrd: Gone With the Wind, rock historian Tom O’Dell puts the group under the same microscope he used the analyze the careers of musicians ranging from Lennon, McCartney, Jagger and Richards, to Sandy Denny, Van Morrison, Amy Winehouse and Queen. Rather than rely exclusively on his own opinions, O’Dell has always used multiple sources and archival material to tell the story. Here, he’s accumulated seldom-seen film, new and vintage interviews, contributions from an esteemed panel of members past and present, location shoots, rare photographs, news reports and harrowing first-hand descriptions of the fateful plane crash. He reserves the tight focus for founding member, Ronnie Van Zant, which is as it should be. At 163 minutes, though, “Gone With the Mind” may be too long a slog for those whose only recollection of Lynyrd Skynyrd is the abbreviated version of “Free Bird,” used on AM stations, and “Sweet Home Alabama.”

PBS: Indian Summers: Blu-ray
Danny Kaye: Legends
The Saint: Seasons 1 & 2
PBS: Frontline: Drug Lord: The Legend of Shorty
When Calls the Heart: Year Two: The Television Movie Collection
Any faithful viewer of “Masterpiece Theater” probably could write a passable term paper on the tumultuous periods of time described in such British mini-series as “The Jewel in the Crown” and “Indian Summers.” Throw in such movies as Before the Rains, Sharpe’s Challenge/Peril, Staying On, A Passage to India, Gandhi, Water and Earth and you could probably fake a pretty good master’s thesis … unless, of course, your professor has seen the same movies and TV shows. Americans have left it to Hollywood to describe how the Southern aristocracy and their slaves functioned in anticipation of the Civil War and Reconstruction. For the time being, at least, Django Unchained and 12 Years a Slave will have to stand as legitimate attempts to explain how things went so wrong for so long in the Land of the Free. The 10-part “Masterpiece” series “Indian Summers” is set against the sweeping grandeur of the Himalayas and tea plantations of Northern India, in the summer of 1932. Gandhi is once again in jail, but such an inconvenience isn’t enough to prevent representatives of the British Empire from pretending they’re in the Scottish Highlands on holiday. They gather once or twice a day at an exclusive club, where “dogs and Indians” are specifically excluded. Nonetheless, the stirrings of rebellion can be felt throughout the Raj, both on an empirical and personal basis. American audiences will be happy to learn that the history lessons are kept in the margins of the narrative, which seems more interested in reminding us of its kinship to “Downton Abbey” (in a good way). Julie Walters could hardly be more despicable as the manager of the club and puppet master pulling the strings on romances, affairs, scandals and exclusionary politics. Also good are Chloe Webster, Henry Lloyd-Hughes, Nikesh Patel, Jemima West and Rick Warden. The Blu-ray set adds an interesting making-of featurette.

MVD Visual’s second compilations of highlights from “The Danny Kaye Show” — “Danny Kaye: Legends” — brings together six classic episodes of the high-profile variety show, which ran from 1963-67 on CBS. Among the A-listers whose talents are on display here are Louis Armstrong, Lucille Ball, Tony Bennett, George Burns, Shirley Jones and Liberace. The collection also features performances by the Righteous Brothers, French songstress Mireille Mathieu, Vikki Carr, John Gary, Imogene Coca and series regulars Harvey Korman, Joyce Van Patten and orchestra leader Paul Weston. Even allowing for the 20/20 hindsight provided by nostalgia, “Legends” is an entertaining package.

When Shout! Factory/Timeless Media released “The Saint: The Complete Series” – all 5,560 minutes of it – patient fans knew that it would be available within a few months at more affordable prices, in seasonal installments. In something of an unusual move, “The Saint: Seasons 1 & 2” contains all 39 episodes from the first two stanzas. A timeless figure of intrigue and adventure since his creation by Leslie Charteris in 1928, Simon Templar has thrilled adventure aficionados with his exploits in a variety of media, including novels, movies, radio and TV, starring Roger Moore in the title role. Guest stars include Oliver Reed, Julie Christie, Honor Blackman and Shirley Eaton. Almost 50 years later, they hold up very well.

While Mexican law-enforcement officials and DEA agents worked feverishly to locate and arrest the most-wanted outlaw in North America –or, said they did — filmmakers Guillermo Galdos and Angus Macqueen got as close as anyone’s come to Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the drug kingpin known as “El Chapo.” The “Frontline” presentation, “Drug Lord: The Legend of Shorty” touches all of the usual bases, speaking with key U.S. and Mexican officials tasked with finding Guzmán, while also landing rare interviews with his mother, senior members of his Sinaloa cartel and traffickers who operate by sea, air, land and underground tunnels. At one point in their search, the filmmakers found themselves locked up in a garage with a trafficker and hundreds of bricks of methamphetamine, ready to shipped to addicts across the border.

It seems as if I receive DVDs from Hallmark’s period series, “When Calls the Heart,” every other week. “When Calls the Heart: Year Two: The Television Movie Collection” is comprised of second-season titles “Trials of the Heart,” “Heart and Soul,” “Heart’s Desire,” “Awakenings & Revelations,” “Heart and Home,” “Coming Together, Coming Apart” and “With All My Heart.” Exclusive featurettes include behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with cast and crew. “When Calls The Heart: Follow Your Heart” represents the beginning of new season. While Jack and Elizabeth’s relationship has cooled following their arguments in Hamilton, Jack is hot on the trail of a counterfeiter in Hope Valley.

Also new this week are “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Complete First and Second Seasons” and two sets from the “My Little Pony” family: “Equestria Girls” and “Equestria Girls: Friendship Games.” Both contain feature-length movies and bonus goodies.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon