Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Penalty for Early Withdrawal: "Teenangel" (1976)

From the Golden Age of Porn (the 1970's) comes a San Francisco-based story with an all-wrong title and a hilarious coda.

Jim (Frank Ford, an awful actor with a Keith Carradine thing going on) and virgin Sharon (Sharon Demsted) are recently married. They move into a creaky walk-up apartment, and Sharon plays the dutiful housewife waiting for her mechanic husband to get home. One day, when Sharon is out buying groceries for what seems like the hundredth time, Jim sleeps with Kim (Melba Bruce), a newspaper girl who had come to collect on the month's subscription rate. Sharon walks in on them, calls a cab, and disappears from the movie! Jim's best friend/Vietnam War buddy Pete (Link Beemer) then invites Jim over with a proposition. We find out Sharon attempted suicide, Jim was fired, and now he's hard up for money to pay the hospital bills. Pete has a foolproof bank robbery plan ready to go, as soon as they have sex with a couple of Pete's prostitutes (Desiree West and Georgette Teaps). A transistor radio fills in the rest of the story.

I don't want to give too much away, but what transpires in Pete and Jim's bank robbery had me laughing out loud. It is hilarious, and what happens to all the characters after this film is over might have made a better story if that unrealized sequel had been made. Miller's direction is odd for a porn film, his shooting of the sex scenes is standard, the editing is not very good, but out of nowhere will appear an over-the-head shot, or interesting juxtaposition in the group sex scene. At first, the choice of music had me believing there was some thought put into it: when Jim and Sharon first make love on their wedding night, the orchestral score transforms into dirty-sounding porn music. I thought maybe the film makers were saying something about what was happening to Sharon, but I was wrong when another piece of music was introduced in a sex scene. Do you want to know what the unsexiest porn music I've ever heard is? Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells" from the horror film "The Exorcist." This normally chilling piece takes all the sexy out of a sex scene.

Ford is terrible, really a wretched actor. Demstad's idea of a virgin is being a dope. Bruce is alright as the paper girl, but Beemer has a lot of trouble with his lines. The script is so odd. You think we might meet Sharon's sister, since she is a topic of conversation between the couple, but she never shows up. I'm not even sure who the "teen angel" of the title is. Sharon, who is much too old to play an innocent teen, disappears after walking in on Jim and Kim. Kim is a secondary character, hardly the stuff of a title role. The other two women featured don't have spoken lines and certainly are not teens. This is also known as "Sex Angel," "Love Angel," and "Virgin Honeymoon;" all titles that do not do the story justice. I have a feeling "Jim Is a Dillhole Bastard" would not have brought any of the raincoat crowd into the theaters, but then again. On a side note, I don't know what film the folks over at VCX were describing on the back of the DVD cover, but their synopsis is way off and may have been meant for a different film entirely

"Teenangel" (it's one word in the opening credits) is an odd relic. It's pretty rough to watch and thankfully short, but it's unintentional weirdness almost makes it work. (* *) out of five stars.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Usually an English Language Remake Follows a Foreign Film, Not Vice Versa!: "Reckless" (2015)

This Dutch remake of "The Disappearance of Alice Creed" is a nicely paced thriller that falls short of perfect thanks to a few too many false endings and convolutions.

Laura (Sarah Chronis) is a real estate tycoon's daughter, kidnapped by the masked Victor (Tygo Gernandt) and Rico (Marwan Kenzari). Victor and Rico have a full-proof plan, and will split the four million Euro ransom. They keep Laura in a small padded room in a decrepit apartment, chaining her to the bed and dealing with her father (who is never seen; this trio is the only cast) with untraceable cell phones. The apartment becomes claustrophobic as the three characters begin manipulating each other, with shocking revelations about how each of them is connected to the other.

I'm afraid I can't share too much more information about the plot because some of the connections are integral to the film. I will say that Lursen does a great job directing, and the editing from Job ter Burg is perfect. The film is small, but Jasper Wolf's cinematography is clear, and I love how harshly he lights Chronis. Technically, the film is marvelous, and ter Burg and Lursen ratchet the suspense up until it is almost unbearable. The gross toilet in the apartment almost deserves a cast credit, considering how important a role it plays to the plot. The locations are cold and overcast.

The cast is very good, with Gernandt and Kenzari shining as the criminal pair. Chronis does spend most of the film chained to furniture, but she is still able to convey a strong-willed character even when she doesn't have the ability to speak. All three literally shed their inhibitions and clothing during the film (with one memorable scene between Laura and Rico), but the cast doesn't seem self-conscious. A few too many false endings rear their ugly heads toward the end, and I thought the coincidences were a little far reaching. Either way, the journey there, and watching the characters try to survive and still get a ton of loot in the process, is both entertaining (as it were) and a little bittersweet.

I haven't read or seen "The Disappearance of Alice Creed," and I probably should. In the meantime, "Reckless" provides some solid thrills. I recommend it. (* * * *) out of five stars.