Thursday 2: Roxploitation
Subculture on Film
Presented by WHPK 88.5FM
Thursday, January 5 • 9:15 • 87m
A Hard Day's Night
Richard Lester, 1964 • The Beatles’ cinematic debut is closer in spirit to the nascent British New Wave than to the cheap vehicles typically churned out to capitalize on a musician's popularity—the Village Voice famously called it “the Citizen Kane of jukebox musicals”. Shooting in cinéma vérité-style black and white, director Richard Lester documents the group evading screaming fans, tormenting an anxious television director, restraining Paul's Irish nationalist grandfather, and performing some of their finest songs. The gags are witty, rapid-fire, and tinged with a peculiarly British brand of absurdism.
Thursday, January 12 • 9:15 • 78m
The Horror of Party Beach
Del Tenney, 1964 • Bikini-and-board-shorts-sporting teens cavort in the sand to the song stylings of a pinstripe-shirted surf/garage combo; meanwhile, just off-shore, a drum of toxic waste is tossed into the water, creating a big-eyed fish-frog-hominid hybrid. The creatures — sustained by teenage blood — go on a rampage, killing numerous local teenagers while pipe-smoking scientists race to discover their fatal weakness. Hypnotically primitive production values put this one into perpetual contention for All-Time Worst Film; its rough-hewn footage of the woods, ponds, and turnpikes of Connecticut is hauntingly beautiful in a quasi-documentary way.
Thursday, January 19 • 9 • 85m
Roger Corman, 1967 • In a pillow-littered villa high in the Hollywood Hills, Peter Fonda is given his first hit of LSD. His host is supposed to keep an eye on him, but doesn’t. So Pete wanders off into the Los Angeles night, spending a very peculiar evening running down the wildly neon-lit Sunset Strip, stumbling through random suburban homes, and hanging out in a laundromat. This film is striking not merely for capturing the extremes of connection and disconnection with the psychedelic experience, but in situating that experience in American reality—where sex, commerce, and Vietnam were always only a blink away.
Thursday, January 26 • 9:45 • 120m
The Harder They Come
Perry Henzell, 1972 • A robbery/murder rap hanging over his head, Jimmy Cliff’s Ivan is being hunted down by Jamaica’s police as the nation’s Public Enemy Number One. And if that isn’t enough to put his face in the spotlight, he’s also got the nation’s current Number One hit single! One of the all-time great meditations on the relationship between celebrity and notoriety, The Harder They Come is a singular vision, teeming with movement and color, of the Third World at that hopeful post-decolonization, pre-debt crisis moment when it seemed like anything could happen — crime, revolution, stardom.
Thursday, February 2 • 9:15 • 93m
Rock ‘n’ Roll High School
Allan Arkush, 1979 • Times are tough for the faculty of Vine Lombardi High School, as the rock-obsessed students drive principle after principle to mental breakdown. But Evelyn Togan vows to put an end to the students’ music craze. Miss Togan rallies the parents to her cause, and together they organize a ritual rock record burning—but the students do not take this egregious offense lightly. With the help of the Ramones, who are named honorary students, they take over the school in the name of ROCK. The students finally relent when the police arrive on the scene, but not before unleashing a jam-bopping, panty-dropping finale upon all present.
Thursday, February 9 • 9:15 • 106m
Adrian Lyne, 1980 • It’s LA in the late 70s, and their parents are off somewhere, “finding themselves” or cruising the singles bars. So the teens in this film — centered around the four female protagonists — run free. They have sex, get messed up on beer and ‘ludes, go to stadium rock shows, and compete to see who has the most sullenly wised-up attitude. Jodie Foster, Scott Baio (“Chaci!”), and Runaways vocalist Cherie Currie drift through this world of broken dreams and feathered hair, in a somberly glittering cinematic vision that’s bittersweet and even moving under its cold, hard, shiny surface.
Thursday, February 16 • 9:45 • 99m
Martha Coolidge, 1983 • A re-telling of Romeo and Juliet in early-80s LA, with Nicolas Cage’s Hollywood post-punk rocker and Deborah Foreman’s San Fernando Valley new-waver falling head-over-heels in love in the face of their friends’ efforts to break it up. Spot-on dialogue (he: “that techno-rock you listen to is [gutless]!”; she: “I’m so sure!”) and a visually ravishing sweep of the Southern California cityscape—slightly melancholy and scintillatingly beautiful, like a Pacific sunset reflected in the window of a Pizza Hut just lit up for the night—help Valley Girl to transcend the worn paradigm of the romantic comedy.
Thursday, February 23 • 9 • 94m
Penelope Spheeris, 1983 • As the Reagan-era recession scrapes bottom, punks colonize a suburban tract home abandoned by real-estate speculators. Though from dysfunctional families and calloused, these still innocent kids bond to fend off police, gun-toting yahoos, and feral dogs. This vision of the most “normal” suburban American landscape turned desert-sparse and shot through with harsh and violent undercurrents is tempered only by the inventiveness and surprising compassion of a youth subculture that survived and thrived there. From the director of the hardcore documentary, The Decline of Western Civilization.
Thursday, March 1 • 9:15 • 91m
Return of the Living Dead
Dan O’Bannon, 1985 • Uneeda Medical Supply of Louisville, Kentucky goes down in zombie movie infamy when Freddy, a punk bonehead, and Frank, his square supervisor, bust open a long-dormant biohazard capsule mistakenly shipped to them by the US military. From there, it’s downhill for humanity. Caught in the middle are Freddy’s punk friends, ready to party. O’Bannon (Alien, Total Recall) pushes the limits with preposterous character tropes, gore, and off-the-wall premises but manages the keep the whole film truly horrifying. The brutality is appropriately accompanied by cuts from a laundry list of punk idols. BRAAIINNSSSS.
Thursday, March 8 • 9:30 • 98m
Josie and the Pussycats
Harry Elfont, Deborah Kaplan, 2001 • As the millennium turns, the corporate interests controlling pop music for the purposes of subliminal domination lose control of the boy-band acting as their current vehicle and are forced to kill them. Their unwitting replacements: the Pussycats, a sharp, garagey pop-punk trio comprised of (the magnificent) Rachel Leigh Cook, Rosario Dawson, and Tara Reid. Josie and the Pussycats encapsulates a hyper-kinetic, bubblegum-snappy invocation of a music world of megastores and big-money pop that already seems long gone. Plus you get to see Reid pound the crap out of Carson Daly!
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