Alan Smithee Podcast 77: Barbarella (1968, Roger Vadim) / Galaxina (1980, William Sachs)

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In this episode of An Alan Smithee Podcast, Andrew and I run wild across the universe with a couple of loose space babes. They both start out a little cold – one of them’s made of metal – but after we shove our opinions down their throats regarding how badly their movies suck, they warm up to us plenty. It’s called “negging,” refer to your pick-up artist manual for a detailed explanation. Then, of course, I take things too far and ask Fonda if she’d tortured any POWs with the pan-and-scan version of Barbarella lately, turning the mood. Stratten also cools down a bit once she remembers she’s been dead and murdered for 30 years.

This is one of those times when our nominally “good” movie is only less worse than the “bad” one, but the pairing of these two broads was too good to resist. It’s a head-slappingly silly mistake, because Barbarella is probably one of the more infamous bombs of the 60s; a seemingly imaginative yet actually highly calculated attempt to cash in on several cultural fads of the time: sci-fi adventure, comic book camp, “free” “love” and Henry Fonda’s acting progeny. You can’t blame Dino De Laurentiis for thinking that these gimmicks would mesh together, and perhaps they would have if the story or script had anything remotely interesting about them. Terry Southern and Roger Vadim have a lot of potentially clever ideas that flitter and flame out within seconds, proving that drugs tend to hamper otherwise good writers more than they help them.

Flash Gordon is practically a masterpiece of production design and witty dialogue by comparison, to give you some idea of how badly Barbarella misfires. At least Dino learned something in the interim. Actually, Flash Gordon actually came out the same year as our second feature of the episode, Galaxina – a title inspired by Barbarella, if not the story. Or lack thereof.

Galaxina is just as vacuous and lazy in terms of actual content, but with far less talent involved. Robots learning to love is one of science fiction’s oldest tropes, so Sachs (who wrote as well as directed) wasn’t necessarily in a bind to begin with. You’d think if the star of your film was Playboy Playmate of the Year 1980 Dorothy Stratten and she’s the robot who learns to love, you kind of have your work cut out for you and can simply enjoy peppering the dialogue with double entendres and concocting sexy scenes of awkward robolove between man and machine. Yes, you’d think. Apparently Sachs felt that such material was beneath him, and basically ignores Stratten for the first half of the film while he establishes, re-establishes and re-re-establishes a trio of bumbling space jockeys in what feels like a failed pilot written by someone who couldn’t get a job on Saturday Night Live even after Lorne Michaels left.

The infuriating catch to this lack of Stratten-sleaze is that when she finally makes the scene, we don’t get so much as a side boob and the proto-Spaceballs parodies are only getting worse. The cleverest thing in the whole waste of celluloid is an alien hooker with three boobs, strongly suggesting that at least one person who worked on Total Recall has seen Galaxina. Given how clumsy and rote the predictable parody scene of Alien is, it probably wasn’t Dan O’Bannon’s idea to include an homage in kind. Who did Sachs think he was, not delivering on the tagline that in the 31st century, man finally created a machine…with feelings!(?) This bozo wrote and directed The Incredible Melting Man. If you’re going to make an exploitation film, know your audience.

Galaxina “introduces” Dorothy Stratten as per the opening credits, even though she’d starred in the softcore lesbian erotic thriller Autumn Born, a film which undoubtedly featured her in the nude and was probably better written as well. Stratten belongs to that unfortunate club of actors and actresses more famous in death than life, and will go down in movie history only for this and Star 80 – the 1983 biopic depicting her murder, in which she’s played by Muriel Hemingway. Pairing that with Galaxina as the good-movie counterpoint would’ve been smart, but hey, we’re not all that smart sometimes.

NEXT EPISODE: BLUES BROTHERS SPECIAL! THE BLUES BROTHERS (1980, JOHN LANDIS) / BLUES BROTHERS 2000 (1998, JOHN LANDIS)

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Episode 49: Blackmail Is My Life (1968, Kinji Fukasaku) / Dr. Giggles (1992, Manny Coto)

As you may have heard, America’s economy is in a state of deep hurting. This affects professionals of all kinds, especially small business owners and private practitioners. Fortunately for the characters in both our movies this week on An Alan Smithee Podcast business is always booming when your line of work is illegal, and if you’re criminally insane money is just a social construct for meatbags.

Hiroki Matsukata, star of Blackmail Is My Life, reflects early in the film how lucky he is to be living in the economic salad days of 1968 Japan. Everyone’s got walking around money and nothing supplies guilt-ridden vice like disposable income. For Matsukata, nothing supplies steady business like recreational bad behavior and with so many others on the supply side of bad behavior, he can blackmail those who supply the gambling and prostitution rather than their average joe customers. Matsukata and his gang have a lot of fun and games under the colorful lens of director Kinji Fukasaku until our merry backmailers bite off more than they can chew: the trick to trickle down economics is not to squeeze too hard those at the top. The schemes employed aren’t exactly a how-to guide for a new career but there are some valuable tips for swinging boomtown living.

While blackmail has always been a niche market, in 1992 the demand for one-liner spouting serial killers was at an all time low. Oversaturated by the likes of Freddy and Chucky, most consumers no longer were looking for quippy puns after being stabbed and analysts declared the industry dead. Then out of nowhere, ads began appearing in the back of Spider-Man comics for a bold new physician named Doctor Giggles who was producing astounding breakthroughs in the excessive use of medical-related post-mortem one-liners. As the bad guy from Darkman, Universal Pictures gave Larry Drake the coveted once in a lifetime role to immortalize the renowned Doctor Giggles in the film Dr. Giggles, thus inspiring a generation.

Prosperity, perversion and MURDER are just around the corner in this episode of An Alan Smithee Podcast.

NEXT EPISODE: ALAN SMITHEE PODCAST 50TH EPISODE SPECIAL! TOP 5 BEST AND WORST MOVIES & DEATH OF A GUNFIGHTER (1969, ALLEN SMITHEE) & THE BIRDS II: LANDS END (1994, ALAN SMITHEE)

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Episode 24: Hour Of The Wolf (1968, Ingmar Bergman) / Caligula (1979, Tinto Brass)

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This week in An Alan Smithee Podcast we get dreary and dreamy as Ingmar Bergman makes a horror movie. Hour Of The Wolf is full of creeptastic images and nightmare logic without ever being jump-out-at-you scary…A better film about going crazy than a true shocker.

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Oddly, Hour Of The Wolf barely features the “hour of the wolf”! You know, the time between four and five AM when that term paper is due and you’re contemplating suicide in the darkest time of your soul before the next day breaks? What a gyp! Oh well, still a cool movie with many clear influences upon David Lynch and other mindfuck auteurs.

Speaking of fucking, this week’s bad movie Caligula featured hardcore pornography and that’s not even one of it’s good points. According to legend, Gore Vidal willingly sold his epic historical biopic script of Rome’s infamously crazy fourth Caesar to Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione with full knowledge that he’d include actual fucking. What was he thinking? Did he really expect some kind of real movie to result?

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What we have instead is the germ of a good idea buried under ten tons of incoherent editing (including the awkwardly gratuitous sex) from Guccione and subpar direction from famous Italian titty director Tinto Brass (“Salon Kitty”). On the other hand, Malcolm McDowell is crazy as he ever was and almost makes the experience worthwhile. Also starring Peter O’Toole, Helen Mirren, John Gielgud and other English actors whose careers inexplicably survived this boondoggle.

While once as synonymous with notorious bombs as Battlefield Earth, people have forgotten about Caligula in recent years and just how bad it really was. We haven’t.

Also, check out this all-star parody trailer for a Caligula remake, the casting of which is partly ignorantly foreseen in our episode:

NEXT WEEK: BLUE COLLAR (1979, PAUL SCHRADER) & THE HAND (1981, OLIVER STONE)

Episode 23: Yojimbo (1961, Akira Kurosawa) / Bad Magic (1998, John & Mark Polonia)

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This week Andrew and Matt soak up the essence of 20th century commercial filmmaking as Akira Kurosawa crafts the template for a zillion action movies about lone badasses with Yojimbo, starring the greatest ever Japanese thespian of dramedy and slicing off dudes arms with swords: Toshiro Mifune. Goons with novelties are dispatched hilariously and all works out most satisfactory.

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Then it’s down past the end of the other spectrum to a spectrum somewhere in the bowels of hell with .

The Polonia Brothers

The Polonia Brothers are possibly the most amateurish, zero budget horror movie makers (“movie” is really a stretch here, this is only an hour long) whose videos somehow inexplicably found their way to shelves. Beyond any budgetary or suspension of disbelief our feeble human minds can comprehend, we were somewhat driven to Lovecraftian madness by the knowledge that movies like these can have their own imdb pages, and that Feeders was somehow the 1996 Blockbuster “most rented independent title.” Only in the 90s?

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The 20+ year saga of The Polonia Brothers is indeed a strange one and listeners can expect more where that came from in future episodes!

NEXT WEEK:

GOOD MOVIE: HOUR OF THE WOLF (1968, INGMAR BERGMAN)

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BAD MOVIE: CALIGULA (1979, TINTO BRASS)