Here we go with another ridiculous Films From The Cable Afterlife. As usual, we scour the cable movie listings and turn up some diamonds, and lots of the rough. For best results, watch both. Your life may improve! 8. Mystery Of Monster Island (1981) Fox Movie Channel, Wednesday, February 3, 4am Unbelievable pile of crap by Juan Piquer Simon, one of the worst directors of the 20th century (he's also responsible for X-rated chainsaw slasher Pieces, MST3K fodder Pod People and K-Tel Films release The Supersonic Man). How a major studio found their way around distributing this one is anybody's guess (a series of blowjobs, perhaps), but you will never see Terence Stamp look more embarrassed. Watch if you dare.
7. DOUBLE FEATURE ALERT Pumpkin Karver (2006) The Movie Channel, Saturday, January 31, 12am Pumpkinhead (1988) IFC, Saturday, January 31, 1:35am The stars have aligned: two pumpkin-related horror movies back-to-back on the same night. Different networks, but still, work with me here. Friday Night Lights' Minka Kelly stars in the serial killer/Juggalo-style horror dumper Pumpkin Karver, while Lance Henriksen conjures up a demon to kill bikers in Stan Winston's minor classic Pumpkinhead. It's "Pumpkininny!"
6. Booty Call (1997) Cinemax (@MAX), Sunday, February 1, 8:05pm; Cinemax (WMAX), Monday, February 2, 6:50pm; Cinemax, Tuesday, February 3, 8:30pm Boisterous, offensive and couthless, Booty Call is actually one of the funnier comedies of the late '90s, and deserves another look. Jamie Foxx and Vivica A. Fox (playing characters named Bunz and Lysterine, respectively), join Tommy Davidson, a fake Indian guy, a dog that barks "Nigga Please!" in subtitles (and one Gedde Watanabe, willing to take any role no matter the stereotype, saying "Nigga Preese" in a Chinese restaurant), some hilarious orange pants, an incident with Saran Wrap as dental dam and some dude named Ug Lee. There's no one who won't be upset in its 79 minute runtime, but I don't think it'd work any other way. Watch it and pick your jaw up off the floor.
5. Ladies And Gentlemen The Fabulous Stains (1981) Turner Classic Movies, Saturday, January 31, 2am I hope that now this one has finally made it onto DVD, and not from some bootleg version that's been duped a thousand times from a Betamax that caught it on Showtime in the '80s, that we can see this legendary unreleased film for what it is: kind of a stinker. Still, there's never been anything like it before or since, and it's a fun time with a message. Teenagers Diane Lane and Laura Dern start a makeshift punk band that lands an opening spot for the fake real punk band The Looters, featuring Sex Pistols Steve Jones and Paul Cook, The Clash's Paul Simonon and fronted by actor Ray Winstone. They create a media circus and have it all collapse on them within days, but it's a good enough time, also starring Fee Waybill from The Tubes and a special (awesome) appearance from Black Randy and the Metrosquad. Join the professionals!
More Cable Afterlife, because you demanded it. You beat down my door. You followed me home. You took my seat on the subway. You cut in front of me in line. You better watch ... these movies. On cable, this Friday through next Thursday, like always. (All times in EST.) 8. Shanghai Surprise (1986) Encore Love, Monday, January 26, 10:30am As Sean Penn gears up to possibly win an Oscar for one of his best performances (as the titular Harvey Milk), it's high time to see him in one of his worst, and I'm not talking about I Am Sam. No, this is the spectacular flop he made with Madonna while the two were married. I dare you to finish it. P.S. It's heavily steam. I've said too much. Or have I?
7. Bullet (1995) IFC, Tuesday, January 27th, 12am As for said Oscars, Mickey Rourke's on the ascent with his role in The Wrestler. Check him out as he was careening to the bottom, out-acted by Tupac Shakur in this ruff-n-tuff action thriller, directed by Julien Temple
6. Luv (1967) Turner Classic Movies, Thursday, January 29th, 8:15am Jack Lemmon's about to jump off a bridge when he meets old friend Peter Falk, who pawns off his wife (Elaine May) on him so that he can be with his girlfriend. You can't pass on that cast, nor will you want to miss this rarely-screened Clive Donner effort from the peace-n-love era. Expect awkwardness, and a cameo by a young Harrison Ford as a longhair.
5. Funny Games (2008) Cinemax, Saturday, January 24th, 10pm It hasn't yet been determined if Michael Haneke's shot-for-shot remake of his own cinematic paradigm---the movie so brutal and heartless, it dares you not to watch and in effect judges you for how far along you've endured it---fulfilled whatever sort of Hollywood traction he may have been going for... because nobody's seen it, really. Here's your chance to.
January seems to be the month where cable TV networks, short on original series yet aware of an audience that's probably staying out of the cold, seem to air out their most interesting slates of movies and film programming. Films From The Cable Afterlife recommends a handful of these each week: some to watch, some to avoid. Here's some more suggestions for your pleasure, or lack thereof...
8. Prey (2007) Cinemax, Tuesday, January 20, 4:50am (and On Demand) People have remarked on the bad fortunes of The Weinstein Company ever since their acrimonious split with Disney (who walked away with their Miramax brand), but I say let 'em go. We haven't had this good of an exploitation studio since New World shuttered in the late '80s. Continuing with man vs. nature gore a la last week'sRogue, here's a safari horror flick in which Bridget Moynihan and Peter Weller, along with their children, are stranded in Africa and become Lunchables for a pride of hungry lions. Ivan Tors, we hardly knew ye.
7. Strange Hostel Of Naked Pleasures (1975) IFC, Saturday, January 17, 1:30am It's a Coffin Joe movie and it's outside the cycle of the three originals (At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul, etc.), but watch it anyway. It is loaded with the kind of brash, earthy shocks Mexico has staked its reputation on, and it likely will offend you. That title is no joke.
6. Assassination Tango (2002) Monday, January 19, 9:45pm; Tuesday, January 20, 4:20am My colleague Andrew Earles has been harping on this movie since its release, a bizarre, faux-seductive tale of hitman Robert Duvall (who also directed) stuck in South America, falling in love, and learning how to dance; a more ridiculous plot you couldn't ask for, and a more stilted, awkward performance by Duvall you won't find. Also starring the omnipresent Latin-American singer and actor Ruben Blades. This is a warning!
5. Bedazzled (1967) Cinemax (5STARMAX), Sunday, January 18, 2:40pm, 10:30pm; Cinemax (ActionMAX), Wednesday, January 21, 5am For the entire time I've been writing these weekly rundowns, I've been utterly frustrated at cable's propensity to air the forgettable remake of this soul-selling comic allegory instead of Stanley Donen's superior-in-every-way original. That wrong has been righted. You may have been stuck on an airplane or in a waiting room watching Brendan Fraser sell his soul to Liz Hurley, and yeah, that might have angered you. But you NEED to see the genuine article, starring Dudley Moore and Peter Cook, one of the funniest comedy teams ever to grace a stage. Everything about this movie is great. Go watch it now.
Films from the Cable Afterlife soldiers on for yet another week, highlighting special movies from special people. Laugh, cry, feel something, even if that feeling is embarrassment for having spent 90 minutes of your lives watching people get eaten by a tree. You heard right. Read on for the dirty details. (All listings in EST.)
8. The Guardian (1990) Cinemax (WMAX), Friday, January 9, 4pm; Monday January 12, 7:40am; Thursday, January 15, 2:45pm We're gonna bookend today's list with works from director William Friedkin, at his absolute lowest and his most recent heights. Might as well start from the bottom with this confusing, absurd horror tale about a nanny (Jenny Seagrove) who may just be some manner of wolf-like creature, as well as a druid. She's gonna sacrifice another baby, and hikers are going to get chewed up by a stump. One of the worst of the '90s, and it kicked off a string of forgettable, tawdry features from this one-time great. It would take years for him to get his groove back, but at least he turned it around on his own terms. Miguel Ferrer and Brad Hall co-star. Try not to kick a hole in your TV afterwards as you wonder how any network could bring itself to show this one three times in the space of a week.
7. Sisters (1973) IFC, Friday, January 9, 8pm; Saturday, January 10, 4:30am
Early, suspenseful Brian DePalma, back in his hungrier days. It's no Phantom Of The Paradise, but really, nothing is. Margot Kidder stars as a demure French girl with a horrible secret: Her formerly conjoined twin sister, hiding in the closet with a knife. Reporter Jennifer Salt is unlucky enough to witness the murder, and her investigation robs her of her personality. The scene in the mental institution where she squares off with a germophobe is positively unnerving, and overall this thing is far, far better than what the genre deserved.
6. Old Dracula (1974) Retroplex, Tuesday, January 13, 6:20pm David Niven takes a turn as the count, desperately trying to revive his wife Vampira after centuries in the coffin. The blood transfusion she receives turns her into a African-American. Dracula is bummed and she's out gettin' her thing on in the clubs of an avocado-green London. Can't make this up; couldn't even try. Clive Donner directs, from a particularly low point in his career. Look for Linda Hayden, the knockout Sabbath fan from Blood on Satan's Claw, presumably naked... again.
5. Terror On The 40th Floor (1974) Fox Movie Channel, Friday, January 16, 2am Legendary made-for-TV stinker, in the footsteps of The Towering Inferno. Office revelers John Forsyth, Don Meredith and Joseph Campanella are among the B-list talent stranded in a burning skyscraper at Christmas Eve. Will they survive? Will you?
Back for 2009, here's some more Films From The Cable Afterlife, properly hung over for the New Year. It's a short week, so let's just get this over with and celebrate the end of a stinker, and hope for change as well as variety in our cultural diets. (All listings in EST.)
8. The Dead One (2007) TMC, Thursday, January 8, 4:30am It's not just your junk that's up for grabs when Wilmer Valderrama rolls up to your crew in this do-not-pass-DVD, go-directly-to-cable stinker. Fez puts on mariachi makeup by accident, then gets in an accident and sent to the Aztec god of death, to do HIS BIDDING. Oooooooooooh!
7. Skinwalkers (2007) TMC, Thursday, January 8, 6:10pm A product of a robust yet bloated market, Skinwalkers was yet another failure of a horror film, given theatrical release by Lionsgate. This one's about werewolves, and while the effects were decent, there's no buffing up the acting and the plot is nearly identical to that of Dane Cook's Employee Of The Month. Here' hoping the economic downturn keeps dog dirt like this out of production.
6. American Perfekt (1997) Showtime (SHO Beyond), Wednesday, January 7, 8:15pm A flip of a coin is all it takes for criminal psychiatrist Robert Forster to abandon all of his plans and go on a wild vacation with some psychotic women and a whole heap of trouble. Are Fairuza Balk, Amanda Plummer and Naked's David Thewlis interesting enough to get you to tune in? Flip a coin to find out!
5. Doomsday (2008) Cinemax, Monday, January 5, 10pm Last year, director Neil Marshall (The Descent) took a dump in the Thunderdome, and here it is, having baked in the sun for many months. Rhona Mitra leads a cast of Bob Hoskins and Malcolm McDowell in a post-apocalyptic run 'n' gun of Scotland.
Here's the last Films From The Cable Afterlife of 2008. Looking back, there were some great movies shown that I hope I turned you onto, and hopefully some more that you found on your own. Overall, I gotta let it be known that cable as a medium for showing movies is starting to slip. Movie packages change hands and the more creative programmers out there fall to the wayside, buried in an avalanche of cheap-to-air space fillers, the kind of sub-direct-to-DVD garbage that's 10 times worse than the lousiest drive-in/grindhouse garbage it replaced.
Movies are also getting squeezed out of formerly great networks like Sundance and IFC in favor of original programming (thanks guys, I needed to be reminded to recycle) and the on-demand diaspora only pushes a tighter net of weak movies into a narrower frame. You'd think that the shrinking margins facing cable would cause these networks to step up, but the thrills that movie channels once provided are competing with all manner of media and piracy issues, and fighting a losing battle. Only Turner Classic Movies, and to a lesser extent Fox Movie Channel and IFC, are keeping it real, showing a tacit dedication to their implicit tasks at hand.
I challenge cable programmers to show a little more pride in their work come 2009, and that they rise to the expectations of their viewership, the lazy, unmotivated herd that deserves to have their realm shattered by unbelievable examples of cinema. This time we're going to look exclusively at IFC and Turner Classic Movies for an example of two networks who get it right. 8. Twentieth Century (1934) Turner Classic Movies, Thursday, January 1, 7:15am One of the rules of Cable Afterlife was "nothing before 1967, please" but you know what? WHO CARES. Howard Hawks' knock-down drag-out comedy deserves to be appreciated by a new generation. Fussy director John Barrymore and his even fussier protégé actress Carole Lombard, who he made a star for nothing in return, slug it out on a train ride. It's hilarious and bitchy and biting, and the best we can do today is crap like Bride Wars. Please, do yourself a favor and watch this.
7. Heaven's Gate (1981) Turner Classic Movies, Wednesday, December 31, 2am A few years back I found myself stranded in a condo with my family in Naples, Florida over Christmas vacation. It was raining, and I didn't have access to a rental car (not that there was anything to do anyway). In an ultimate act of masochism, I brought my GreenCine rentals with me, and decided to roll through the early oeuvre of Michael Cimino, from Magnum Force and Thunderbolt & Lightfoot to The Deer Hunter and this, the movie that bankrupted United Artists and sullied Cimino's career once and for all. TCM presents the long, restored version of this giant catastrophe, peppered with moments of unfettered brilliance and an extravagance that you don't see much in films anymore. It's hard to sympathize with anyone in this movie, the ultimate '70s downer and one so large it carried through to the '80s. Rich kid baron Kris Kristofferson shuns his Harvard graduating class and protects the interests of immigrants in this overblown retelling of the Johnson County War. Ugly, mean, bitter and melancholy, with great turns by Christopher Walken and Sam Waterston as the ultimate heel/coward. This year sucked anyway. Watch it run down the drain the right way.
6. Surf Movie Marathon Turner Classic Movies, Tuesday, December 30, 6:30am-8pm TCM is down to show surf movies without fail every few months, and it's always nice to get a massive dose of such irreverence thrown at you in such a manner as this; over 12 hours of beach action, slumber parties, Von Zipper chop-busting, very off-color race gags (an Asian guy named "Cholly"? Come on!), and killer musical appearances by garage and R&B bands of the '60s. Running top to bottom, we have the following:
• Pajama Party (some nonsense about an alien learning about girls, bound to be fun with Tommy Kirk and Annette Funicello on board) • Winter A Go-Go (teen turns abandoned ski lodge into music venue) • For Those Who Think Young (teens fight developers who threaten to shut down a beachside hangout; starring Paul Lynde, Nancy Sinatra, Bob Denver and Tina Louise) • It's A Bikini World (rad drag-racing beach/surf monster with Deborah Walley, Sid Haig, The Animals, The Gentrys and The Castaways) • Ride The Wild Surf (more surf-oriented than most, with Fabian and Shelley Fabares hitting the waves in Hawaii) • Don't Make Waves (Tony Curtis and the late Sharon Tate mix it up with The Byrds out by the shore) • Beach Party (the original; Frankie and Annette battle Von Zipper, with Dick Dale shredding on guitar) • Muscle Beach Party (the kids fight the bodybuilders, featuring music by Brian Wilson, Little Stevie Wonder, and Dick Dale, with extra insults by Don Rickles)
These movies are where pop culture exploded into music, and provided some of the fuel to fire up the '60s youth rebellion. Must-watch, even if you think you're beyond this type of cheese.
5. Never Die Alone (2004) IFC, Saturday, January 2, 12am Chilling, violent modern film noir, based on street-hustler-turned-Iceberg Slim-protégé Donald Goines' novel. DMX's finest role, and David Arquette is no slouch either. You probably missed this joint when it hit theaters, so catch up now and feel the burn.
Have yourself a cable-ridden Christmas. Watch your fill of crap. Every now and then a great movie falls in your lap. (All times in EST.) 8. Glow Ropes: The Rise And Fall Of A Bar Mitzvah Emcee (2007) TMC, Monday, December 22, 11:35pm Faux documentary regarding what the title implies. Piss-poor acting and pacing, but man, such a great idea. I should have copyrighted my concept for this movie when I came up with it. Someone's reading my thoughts!
7. Meatballs (1979) SHO Family, Sunday, December 21, 6:25pm Don't shower, don't shave, don't even bother changing out of your night clothes. Anytime Meatballs is on, it's totally chill to drop everything and vegetate. Bill Murray keeps it together through the loosest narrative possible, and Chris Makepeace all but defines emo as "Wudy The Wabbit."
6. Aliens vs Predator: Requiem (2007) Cinemax, Monday, December 22, 12:45am Squick factor 10! Aliens, predators and "Pred-Aliens" land in Colorado, destroying humans and face-humping pregnant women and little kids. Features Fox TV stars from Rescue Me and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I dare you to tell me what's happening in the rubber-suit fight scenes. You can't sit far away enough from the screen.
5. Kuroneko (The Black Cat) (1968) IFC, Sunday December 21 8am Samurais murder two women, whose spirits live on to avenge their deaths. Fits in nicely with similar Japanese horror offerings Kwaidan and Onibaba. Get ready to get skeered.
Lost your job, did you? Enjoy the few weeks left in your cable subscription before it gets shut off. Films from the Cable Afterlife is like a drink to help you forget, Dean Martin-style, yet another plunge into the moldy basement of movies on TV. Do you care that this column is pay cable-centric? Want to know more about the seedy underside of basic cable as well? Let us know by e-mailing email@example.com or leaving comments below! In the meantime, here's some films you would do well to watch. (All times in EST.)
8. DOUBLE FEATURE ALERT: Beyond The Fog (1972) Turner Classic Movies, Saturday, December 13, 2:15am Horror House (1969) Turner Classic Movies, Saturday, December 13, 3:45am Busty British women (Jill Haworth appears in both features), blood and a vengeful female god wait for you on Snape Island, while "teenager" Frankie Avalon waits out a long, dark, stabby night with other "teenagers" in an old house. Here's prime UHF fantasy fodder, drilling sex and death into the heads of the burnouts who might have crammed into a fleabag theater on the Deuce to cop drugs, and to the sugar-addled kids who would catch on via Saturday afternoon Suspense Theater matinees on TV. And with a major network repealing standard primetime hours, let's hole to see more desperation programming like this to counter the real schlock: reality TV.
7. The Ruins (2008) Cinemax, Sunday, December 13, 10pm, assorted times during the week, and On Demand Unless you catch Holocaust/white people-learning-'bout-life weepie The Boy In The Striped Pajamas, you may not find a worse feature film this year than this adaptation of Scott B. Smith's gripping horror novel. Prose turns to feces, an ill-gotten gift festers under idiocy and poor direction for all to see. Witless Yankee co-eds on spring break in Mexico run off, wholly unprepared, for an endless hike into the jungle to visit some ancient ruins. While there, they're assaulted by the natives when they try to escape, and are entwined by blood-sucking, viral vines that pick them off one by one. Only the brave and dulled of spirit will be able to make it past the point where the vines start "talking."
6. Pact With The Devil (aka Dorian) (2001) TMC Xtra, Tuesday, December 16, 2:05am Hey, howzabout a straight-to-video, "modern" update of The Picture Of Dorian Gray? No? Too bad. Malcolm McDowell chews on the set as the demon that keeps the painting in play. Not for the weak or listless.
5. Areola 51 (2008) Showtime (Showcase), Tuesday, December 16, 2:15am Normally I don't revert to Skinemax as a valid choice. Nor have I watched this heartwarming tale of a woman abducted and serviced by "fem-aliens" (though you might). I just wanted to address the fact that there's a movie called Areola 51. Proceed with your life.
Films From The Cable Afterlife empties out the traps of uncut cable movies, and sorts out all the irregular or otherwise remarkable movies that got left behind by the crush of time and popular favor, that defined the medium of modern television and fed into its cultural whims with both flash and zen. Write your thesis on any of these chestnuts. (All listings in EST.) 8. CQ (2001) IFC, Friday, December 12, 12:30am How do you make the European swinging '60s unbearable? Ask Roman Coppola about this abomination, his first (and last) feature film, starring a wimpy Jeremy Davies stranding his long-time girlfriend for an Italian actress once he gets asked to drop the douchebag at film school and come to the studio to do it for real. So pointless, it's like a void; other movies become terrible in its proximity.
7. Stealth Fighter (1999) Cinemax (OuterMAX), Saturday, December 6, 11:05am; Cinemax (More MAX), Thursday, December 11, 12:05pm Director Jim Wynorski is a late-era Roger Corman protege, having polished up turds like Chopping Mall and The Return Of Swamp Thing since the mid '80s (and sitting in the chair for Skinemax crud like The Witches Of Breastwick and The DaVinci Coed). He's a huge fan of stock footage, and crams it into just about all of his movies, regardless of how well it matches with the rest of the film. Stealth Fighter features Ice-T pulling a Broken Arrow and stealing military aircraft. Costas Mandylor, Erika Eleniak, Ernie Hudson and Tom "Tiny" Lister co-star. A career ender, except for Ice-T, whose revenue streams in the jiggling buttocks of his wife, CoCo, are so strong that they may pull us out of this recession.
6. We Jam Econo: The Story Of The Minutemen (2005) Sundance Channel, Thursday, December 11, 6:35am For the first half of the '80s, San Pedro's Minutemen traveled the U.S., dodging loogies and bumming out the punks waiting to see Black Flag with tense, jazzy punk rock rooted in the struggles of the working class. Tough guys hate this band and rock the Red Hot Chili Peppers instead, but as for the rest of us, their story is a bittersweet chronicle of life on the outside, and dreams dashed away (singer/guitarist D. Boon died in an auto accident at the end of 1985, promptly ending the group). Plenty of famous folks are on hand to reminisce about the greatness of this band, and if you don't know, now ya know.
5. Harry And Son Showtime (SHO Family Zone), Sunday, December 7, 9:30pm I'll just point you to Cintra Wilson's masterful take on the career of teen actor Robby Benson and let recent Hilarious Cable Info-Bar entrantHarry And Son do the head-scratching for you. "About as sexy as a pair of white socks" indeed, but all the same, a fascinating and bizarre cultural phenom from the days of Styrofoam McDonald's containers.
From Black Friday to the Thursday following, Films From The Cable Afterlife fleeces you for your time and effort as you sit on your couch, absorbing the lost stocking stuffers from video's filthy past, and all of the discomfort that comes with it. Roll up your sleeves, because this brain drain time suck isn't going to unclog itself.
8. Channel Of The Apes Fox Movie Channel, Thursday, November 27 thru Sunday, November 30 Good god. It's every Planet Of The Apes movie, along with all of the serialized episodes of the TV show. All they're missing is the animated series. Seriously though, this is a perfectly valid way to spend 96 hours, especially as you get to the less successful iterations of this sci-fi chestnut. If you can make it through Life, Liberty And Pursuit On The Planet Of The Apes, you have what it takes... to do what, I have no idea
7. Under Pressure (1997) HBO Signature, Monday, December 1, 1am; HBO2, Wednesday, December 3, 4:40am Look for the name Craig R. Baxley, a '70s stuntman-turned-director of action schlock, for a promise of wild times within. Miles away from leading Carl Weathers through Action Jackson and "The Boz" through Stone Cold, we have this fetid little steamer, with rogue fireman Charlie Sheen snapping in a Los Angeles heat wave and taking his next-door neighbors hostage. Also starring Mare Winningham and Cheers' John Ratzenberger, last seen horrifyingly animated in a commercial for Pitney-Bowes self-postage machines.
6. Hammer House Mystery: Mark Of The Devil (1984) Fox Movie Channel, Monday, December 1, 4:30pm Handsome actor Dirk Benedict (Faceman!) is slowly covered in demonic tattoos that foretell heinous murders and crimes. Did he commit 'em? Who cares! It's a rare chance to see such talent dying on the vine; made-for-TV shocks from the UK's greatest horror studio.
5. Tim (1979) FLIX, Monday, December 1, 2:30pm Mel Gibson, right after Mad Max, goes for the Dewey Award as a learning-disabled gardener who begins a tender (or is it?) relationship with a female client (Piper Laurie). Wait for the scenes where he's wigging out. The Other Sister's got nothing on this one.