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NASTY HABITS (1977)

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

CONTENTS
A Message About The Birds And The Bees From The Editor
The Controversy Of Sex:
Seven Sex Scenes That Riled Up Audiences And Critics Alike
Love Is The Drug: Sex and Death and David Cronenberg
On Booze and Libido
Grey Area: SECRETARY And The Limits of Control
A Filmmaker Needs An Army:
Director Sean Mullin on the Making of AMIRA & SAM
Juicing Up the Green Inferno
Video Vortex: The Hocus Pocus of AMERICAN COMMANDO NINJA
Class Act: KINGSMAN Kicks James Bond In The Upper Crust
The Last Word With AMIRA & SAMS Martin Starr

Editor-in-Chief
Devin Faraci

Managing Editor
Meredith Borders

Associate Publisher
Henri Mazza

Art Director
Joseph A. Ziemba

Graphic Designers

Zach Short, Stephen Sosa, Kelsey Spencer

Copy Editor
George Bragdon

Contributing Writers

Devin Faraci, Britt Hayes, Phil Nobile Jr, Scott Wampler, Andrew Todd, Bill Norris, Meredith Borders,
Stephen Thrower, Joseph A. Ziemba

Public Relations Inquiries


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TABLE OF CONTENTS

A Message About The


Birds And The Bees
From The Editor
DEVIN FARACI
Badass Digest Editor-in-Chief
@devincf
Read more at badassdigest.com

February is, historically, the month for love. And in


2015 its also the month for kinky sex, as Universal
releases 50 SHADES OF GREY (and you know,
we dont have an article about this in the issue, but
how weird is it that an explicit S&M TWILIGHT
fan fiction would become first a best-selling series
of novels and then a major motion picture? Maybe
theres hope for my hardcore Bazooka Joe comics
yet). In honor of Cupids month and the release of a
major bondage motion picture, this issue of BIRTH.
MOVIES. DEATH. is largely preoccupied with sex.
But through our own prism, of course. Which is
why were tackling Cronenberg and sex, two great
tastes that morph into an oozing mass together. We
also look at the history of controversial sex onscreen,
seeing how people got freaked out by flesh over
the last century. Lets put it this way: they used
to get mad about kissing. Then we take a look at
SECRETARY, which did BDSM well before 50

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

SHADES OF GREY and probably imprinted itself


on a whole generation. A whole generation who relies
on booze to get in the mood, and we examine the
relationship between alcohol and sex.
Its not all carnal knowledge this month: we take a
look at the new Drafthouse Films release, AMIRA
& SAM, which is a love story. And then theres
KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE, which is
low on onscreen sex but high on making sweet love
to your kickass pleasure centers. Also, CANNIBAL
HOLOCAUST, which -- admittedly -- is a little bit
outside of the larger theme.
So find your preferred partner and dive into
this twisted, sweet and sexy examination of
Cinematic Copulation. 6

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

TABLE OF CONTENTS

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

TABLE OF CONTENTS

The Controversy Of Sex:


Seven Sex Scenes
That Riled Up Audiences
And Critics Alike
THE BADASS DIGEST STAFF

@badassdigest

THE KISS
William Heise, 1896
1896s THE KISS (also known as THE MAY IRWIN
KISS) is acknowledged to be the first kiss shown on film.
Infamous for causing an uproar in its day, its a contextfree 47 seconds of an older couple canoodling before
the man plants one square on the womans lips. It might
surprise modern viewers to learn that the moment was
a recreation of the finale of THE WIDOW JONES, a
hit play of the day, and the filmed moment was screened
in order to publicize the show. (Does that also make it
the first spoiler in film history?) Whats most fascinating
about the event is that the uproar wasnt so much over
BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

TABLE OF CONTENTS

the onscreen kiss as it was over the fact that the people
engaged in the snogging were deemed too ugly. Sure, a
clergyman or two harumphed (one particular man of
God called the film a lyric of the stockyard), but the
only complaint that really seems to have taken root is by
a critic named Herbert Stone, who wrote that ...neither
participant is physically attractive and the spectacle of
their prolonged pasturing on each others lips was hard
to beat when only life size. Magnified to gargantuan
proportions and repeated three times over is absolutely
disgusting! For all the controversy this film apparently
caused, this is the quote you will find repeated over and
over in any historical account of the the publics outcry.
Nearly 120 years later, criticism of womens sexuality in
mass media still seems to center around how attractive
the female is or isnt. (Phil Nobile, Jr.)

seriousness. Certainly a more measured reaction than


one would have expected from a religious leader in 2014,
much less 1956. Even more surprisingly, other Catholic
leaders (in Paris and Britain) came out and publicly
disagreed with Spellman, and actually praised the film!
The ACLU sided with BABY DOLL, charging the
Catholic church with violating the First Amendment.
TIME MAGAZINE, curiously, sided with Spellman.
BABY DOLL made less than two and a half million
dollars at the box office; it did not turn a profit.
Its unclear how much the controversy hurt BABY
DOLLs legacy, but the film never gained the same level
of historical traction as Kazans other films of the era. Its
possible the furor might have kept it out of the television
rerun cycle that's so important in cementing the legacy
of older films, and a generation of people who know the
I coulda been a contender speech by heart have been
denied the pleasures of BABY DOLL. A shame, as its an
excellent film, with performances and dialogue that are
frequently more fun to watch than the revered, safer bets
from Kazans filmography that are taught in film history
classes. Thankfully, Warner Archive reissued the film in
recent years and its now available to stream or buy on
Amazon. Nice try, Cardinal Spellman! (Phil Nobile, Jr.)

BABY DOLL
Elia Kazan, 1956
Elia Kazans adaptation from a Tennessee Williams play
caused an absolute shitstorm when it was released. Given
the films billboard -- featuring a nubile blonde in a crib,
wearing a revealing nightgown while sucking her thumb
-- the uproar was perhaps to be expected? The films plot,
about a 19-year-old bride nicknamed Baby Doll (Carroll
Baker) who wont fuck her husband (Karl Malden) until
she turns 20, probably didn't quell anyones outrage.
And a scene in which her husbands business rival (Eli
Wallach, in his first film role) seduces her, and may or
may not have his hands under her skirt while doing so,
caused religious leaders, particularly Cardinal Francis
J. Spellman, to flip. So when the Catholic League
Of Decency gave BABY DOLL a C rating (for
Condemned!) the film was pulled from most theaters,
and the Catholic Church forbade its parishioners from
seeing the film under pain of sin.
But shortly after Cardinal Spellman's tantrum, the Rev.
Dr. James A. Pike, a Protestant Episcopal religious leader,
came out in support of the film! Denouncing Spellmans
condemnation, Pike wrote a long response in THE LOS
ANGELES TIMES, stating the church's duty is not to
prevent adults from having the experience of this picture,
but to give them a wholesome basis for interpretation
and serious answers to questions that were asked with
BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST


Martin Scorsese, 1988
You can see how Jesus Christ having sex (and children!)
with Mary Magdalene might raise a hackle or two,
but the response to THE LAST TEMPTATION OF
CHRIST was outrageously oversized. A guy drove a
school bus into a theater showing the movie. French
theaters were bombed. Death threats were made. And
everybody who got mad about the scene -- where the
Devil shows Jesus a vision of what his life could be
if he simply got down off the cross and denied his
Messianic destiny -- missed out on a truly beautiful
movie about the emotional weight of Christs sacrifice.
Martin Scorsese shows us not just that Christ gave up
his life, but the possibility of a happy, fulfilling life.
(Devin Faraci)

EYES WIDE SHUT


Stanley Kubrick, 1999

KIDS
Larry Clark, 1995
Director Larry Clarks cinema verite approach inspires
immediate feelings of uneasy voyeurism, particularly in
the opening scene, which features 17 year-old Virgin
Surgeon Telly taking the virginity of a 12 year-old girl
-- a moment hell later describe in graphic detail to a
friend. Clark maintained that the actress was of age at
the time of filming, but her impossibly youthful features
make the opening scene feel particularly grimy -- a
feeling and tone commonly associated with Clarks films.
This opening sex scene is appropriately jarring for our
introduction to this world of rowdy and troubled kids, a
world thats inspired by the real-life experiences of writer
Harmony Korine, who was just 19 when he penned the
script. KIDS takes an honest and often disquieting look
at the realm of teens in the 90s, and the truth is that it
sadly wasnt (and sadly still isnt) uncommon for 12- or
13-year-old girls to hook up with 17-year-old boys. This
scandalous sex scene challenges us from the outset to face
the stark reality of youth culture. (Britt Hayes)
BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

When Warner Bros. announced that Stanley Kubrick


was returning to the filmmaking fold in 1996, there
was much rejoicing. And when it became clear that
EYES WIDE SHUT (the director's first movie
in over a decade) would be an adaptation of
Arthur Schnitzler's sexually-charged 1926 novella
TRAUMNOVELLE, rejoicing quickly turned into
feverish rumormongering: websites claimed Kubrick
was filming the world's first mega-budget XXX-rated
movie with stars Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman; that
one of the film's original co-stars, Harvey Keitel, was
fired from the production after ejaculating on Nicole
Kidman during filming; that the film's explicitness all
but guaranteed it would be unreleasable.
Virtually all of these rumors turned out to be bullshit,
save for one: the version of EYES WIDE SHUT Kubrick
turned into Warner Bros. days before his death in 1999
was, in a sense, unreleasable -- the MPAA slapped that
cut with an NC-17, restricting the film's chances at wide
release. Kubrick was contractually obligated to have final
cut on the film, but he was also contractually obligated
to deliver an R-rating. The studio's solution? Digital
obstructions (CGI potted plants, faux-spectators and the
like) were added into the film's infamous "orgy scene"
to obscure some of the scene's more risqu goings-on.
Kubrick purists were outraged -- and the Kubrick estate
was surely not amused -- but the solution worked, and
EYES WIDE SHUT received its R-rating.
The original, unedited cut was eventually released in 2007.
It's definitely the less silly version. (Scott Wampler)

TABLE OF CONTENTS

THE BROWN BUNNY


Vincent Gallo, 2003
Rarely has the controversy over a single moment from
a film eclipsed the whole as totally and as completely
as the onscreen blowjob in 2004s THE BROWN
BUNNY. Occurring late in the film, the scene in which
Chloe Sevigny fellates Vincent Gallos character on
camera has, ten years later, effectively transformed the
word combination brown bunny into Chloe Sevigny
blowjob. Is it simply because its an unsimulated sex act?
Is it because its a well-known actress performing that sex
act, in perhaps the last year before streaming video (and
the accompanying sex tapes) took over the web, negating
the naughty exclusivity of such a moment? Is it because
the penis belonged to a willfully reprehensible public
figure (who wished cancer upon Roger Ebert, following
the critics negative review of the film)? Who knows. Its
a moment that might have been taken a little more in
stride in a European arthouse film of the 70s. But in the
perfect storm described above, that blowjob scene both
sank the film and vaulted it into the annals of legend.
But the real shame of the event is that the actual film
was lost to the controversy. THE BROWN BUNNY
is a film you might hate, but there IS a film to hate
underneath all the scandal and hand-wringing. Gallos
film, following a somber individual on a cross-country
drive, speaks in a visual language of regret and loss,
filled with endless scenes of tedious repetition -- driving,
staring, driving, more driving. The images stay up on
the screen for so long they burn into your minds eye for
days afterward. What Gallo created is not a particularly
pleasant film to sit through, but its so much more than
its reputation conveys, and the experience of having seen
it is a singular, resonant one. Sadly, its an experience
most will never bother to know. Why watch the Chloe
Sevigny blowjob movie when you can just find the
scene on Google? (Phil Nobile, Jr.)

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN
Ang Lee, 2005
Substantially, BROKEBACK MOUNTAINs big
sex scene is no more graphic than the average PG13 sex scene. Granted, theres no romantic music. Its
cramped physicality evokes awkward first-time sex more
than choreographed Hollywood sex. Bucking another
convention, it isnt treated as a reward for courtship.
But in terms of skin shown, its pretty chaste. In most
movies, this scene wouldnt merit a double-take.
But for the first time in a major motion picture,
the participants happened to both be male, sullying
the all-American cowboy archetype with dirty ol
homosexuality, so of course Jack and Ennis lovemaking
sparked a furor in the religious Right. The usual
conservative pundits -- Fox News, Focus on the
Family, Rush Limbaugh -- spouted everything from
slur-infused jokes to invocations of the Hollywood
gay agenda boogeyman. Cinema chains, cities and
countries outright refused to screen it. If you believed
everything you read, youd think BROKEBACK
MOUNTAIN was singlehandedly responsible for the
downfall of modern society.
Unsurprisingly, the controversy extended into awards
season. Despite winning nearly every other award around
(and making bank at the box office), BROKEBACK
lost the Oscar to CRASH, an altogether safer choice.
Even Best Picture presenter Jack Nicholson was visibly
surprised. (Andrew Todd) 6
This month, the Alamo Drafthouse celebrates Sex&Movies.
Check drafthouse.com for listings.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Love Is The Drug:


Sex and Death and
David Cronenberg
PHIL NOBILE JR
Badass Digest Contributor
@philnobilejr
Read more at badassdigest.com

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

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In the early 80s, before horror directors looked like


horror fans, very few pieces written about David
Cronenberg passed up an opportunity to mention
just how normal he looked. Journalists lined up to
eagerly point out the juxtaposition of the filmmakers
milquetoast appearance and his nihilistic onscreen
viscera, as if they were the first ones to notice it.
Cronenberg would react politely each time, explaining
that, as a storyteller, he was never really all that invested
in mayhem or gore. Ever since childhood, he said, he
was interested in writing and in science. He was a quiet,
booksmart guy who figured out early on that his creative
preoccupations -- which were closely tied to his scientific
interests could get financial backing if they were
couched in the language of a commercial horror film.
Cronenberg himself would never be so reductive, but its
not a stretch to guess that his early interest in science,
and the way it creatively manifested itself, came from
watching his father die. As Milton Cronenbergs body
gave up on him -- organs would fail, bones would
break from rolling over in bed -- his mind remained
intact. Watching our dearest loved ones disintegrate in a
hospital bed is the purest horror most of us will ever feel.
Witnessing his fathers sharp mind become trapped in a
shell with a rapidly approaching expiration date was not
only a devastating loss for Cronenberg; it was a wake-up
call about the inevitability of disease and the certainty of
death. As Cronenberg has said, the idea that you carry
the seeds of your own destruction around with you,
always, and that they can erupt at any time, isscary.
Because there is no defense against it; there is no escape
from it.
An oeuvre was born.
David Cronenbergs early films are certainly rife with
biological mayhem, but hes not simply reliving his early
autobiographical trauma. That universal, existential
nightmare -- the idea that our consciousness, our
essence, is inextricably tethered to a rotting bag of bones
headed for the slab -- is really just an engine that drives
his true thematic thread: the pursuit of transcendence.
As an atheist, Cronenberg holds fast to the idea that
we are finite; we are corporeal beings who will one
day end. But as a storyteller, he seems to enjoy the
fantasy of being able to shed the physical, biological
restrictions of reality. Cameron Vales body bursts apart
-- and into flames -- in SCANNERS, but in the end his
mind has escaped, living on in another persons skin.
In THE BROOD, characters develop the ability to
send their emotions beyond their psyche, through their
skin, and out into the world. Seth Brundle goes from
categorizing his horrific transformation in THE FLY as
a bizarre form of cancer to declaring Im becoming
something that never existed before. At the end of
VIDEODROME, Max Renn is told youve gone about
as far as you can with the way things are...your body has
BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

changed a lot but its only the beginning...dont be afraid


to let your body die. Cronenberg, outspoken atheist and
staunch right-to-die proponent, dangles the promise of
a higher plane of existence in front of his protagonist,
who happily blows his own brains out as the film cuts to
black. Body horror gets thrown around to describe the
directors stock in trade, but over and over Cronenbergs
films concern themselves with moving out of the dying
flesh, transforming, transcending the finite flesh. The
body horror was always just a messy, voluminous side
effect; an afterbirth, if you will.
The gore tapered off as Cronenberg left behind the
fantastical, but that theme of humans needing to grow
beyond their bodies remained. And when you strip away
all the science fiction and body horror from that very
universal human urge to escape our own shells, what
devices are left to us on that front but drugs and sex?
Sex and drugs have been how we cope with death for
a really long time. They make us happy. They make us
feel better. They make us forget all about our pain and
misery for a little while. And for a scientific, atheist
mind like Cronenbergs, sex and drugs are the closest
things to attaining a higher plane of existence, of leaving
our physical selves behind. Though drugs and altered
states are a common thread in his work, hes more
interested in what sex does to us, what we do to sex,
and why its as crucial to us as it is. And time and again,
Cronenbergs findings come down to transcendence.
To be fair, the sex was always there: from his earliest
experimental features and the sexually transmitted
mania of both SHIVERS and RABID, to the kink of
VIDEODROME and the sexual awakening of Seth
Brundle in THE FLY, sex and death went hand-inhand for Cronenberg. SHIVERS in particular offers
a keen look at the directors less-than-prudish attitude
toward fucking ones way toward nirvana. In the film,
an apartment complex becomes infected with a parasite
that takes over ones libido and turns its victims into sexcrazed hedonists. At the end of the film, every human in
the complex has been infected and they set out smiling
over the end credits to spread the parasite across the
world. Its a near-certainty Cronenberg means for this to
be a happy ending: a world in which weve abandoned
all sense of self in the name of unending ecstasy? Who
among us wouldnt at least consider such an existence?
Even the largely asexual SCANNERS sneaks in a psychic
orgy, a scene in which a roomful of telepaths explore
each others minds, their blissful faces shining with
joyful discovery, very much advocating this new form
of free love.
For over 40 years, sex has been portrayed by the director
as a freeing experience, and its only when we deny
what we are that we run into trouble. The shared sexual
conquests of the drug-addicted Mantle twins in DEAD
RINGERS is less about perversion and kink than it is

about trying to make sense of the idea that a part of


you (in this case, a twin) exists outside your physical
body. The Mantles want to escape their shell like any
other Cronenberg hero, but their one self, as they
have interpreted their reality, happens to come in two
halves. Rather than leave a man behind, they willingly
plunge hand in hand into the abyss. NAKED LUNCH
and M. BUTTERFLY are an odd double feature in
the context of sex la Cronenberg. They feel like a
rather potent one-two punch, both arguing against the
toxicity of denying your own sexuality. Bill Lee and his
homosexuality as cover story in NAKED LUNCH
bookends intriguingly with the strange sense of denial
at the heart of M. BUTTERFLYs Ren Gallimard.
Both are curiously shoving an autobiographical story
into a detached third-person account -- NAKED
LUNCH through hallucinogens and M. BUTTERFLY
through a heartbreaking epilogue -- and both are
uncharacteristically (for Cronenberg) sentimentally
tragic at their conclusions. Cronenberg is no romantic;
its significant that he wrings so much sadness from these
two men denying their true sexual selves.

people so addicted to pleasure, so consumed with losing


themselves in each other, that their cravings and passions
give rise to an entire subculture in which violence
becomes sex, sex becomes violence, a secret society
where in fact anything physical or corporeal is instantly
sexualized. The characters in CRASH arent so much
following their bliss as engaging it in a high-speed chase,
and only finding it among the flesh-and-metal wreckage
at the end of that road. But these kinky disasters, so
jaded that theyve taken to sexually penetrating each
others accident scars, are at the end of the day chasing
the same thing as the infected sex zombies of SHIVERS.
Its the same thing were all chasing, every time we
indulge in a shot, or a line, or a sexual partner. They just
want to feel good, to feel bliss and ecstasy. They want
the rapturous, fleeting freedom of escaping oneself.
Cronenbergs sex-obsessed protagonists, often presented
by the director as addicts and/or artists, are simply
engaging in what Cronenberg once said is the ultimate
goal of any artist: ...trying to take control of life
by organizing it and shaping it and recreating it.
Because he knows very well that the real version of life
is beyond his control." 6

CRASH might be the directors perfect synthesis of what


all this sex and violence has always been about. CRASH
is filled with emotionally and/or physically broken

David Cronenberg's MAPS TO THE STARS screens this


month at the Alamo Drafthouse. Check drafthouse.com
for listings.

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

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On Booze and Libido


BILL NORRIS
Alamo Drafthouse Beverage Director
@wnorris3

"No. No use. Impossible. The will but not the way. The
spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Try again. No.
The booze, it must be. See Macbeth. One last try. No,
no use. Not this evening, Im afraid."
George Orwell, KEEP THE ASPIDISTRA FLYING
From the time of Shakespeare, wits have noted the
paradoxical effects of imbibing strong drink and the
resultant effects on sexual performance. As the Porter
notes of drink in MACBETH, It provokes the desire,
but it takes away the performance, and therein lies the
rub for those whod put a bottle of wine or tumbler of
whiskey up as an aphrodisiac: by the way it impacts
the body, booze may make you want to get it on, but it
may keep your freak flag flying at half-mast.
The Brain is the Sexiest Organ
In moderation, alcohol can enhance sexuality and
sexual performance. A couple of drinks can do
wonders; at a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .05
(about two standard drinks in an hour for a 160lb
man or a 140lb woman), alcohol starts to do a little
jig with the brain. In particular, the frontal lobe, the
portion of the brain tasked with decision making and
impulse control, gets disrupted. Sometimes, this leads
to bad choices; sometimes it leads to a lowering of
inhibitions and a night of consensual racy fun. But
as you drink more and your BAC rises, you reach a
state called Alcohol Myopia, which leads to a search
for immediate gratification of impulses and desires,
consequences be damned.
Moreover, the Amygdala, the portion of the brain
charged with warning you about danger, starts to slow
down at about .05 BAC. Coupled with the disruption
of the frontal lobe, more than a few drinks in an
hour can create a perfect storm, leading to immediate
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desire, action on that desire and post-coital regret.


Toss in the Cerebellums job -- primarily tasked with
preserving memory and, perhaps more important for
our purposes, controlling movement and coordination,
and your suave moves start to fall apart around a BAC
of .08, making you more clumsy than sexy.
But it is small amounts of booze that lead to alcohols
questionable aphrodisiac reputation. A couple of
drinks, consumed convivially, and with water on the
side, can indeed be a useful and helpful social lubricant,
lowering inhibitions and lending a sense of adventure
to the proceedings, while leading to sense of relaxation
in both partners and a lack of self-consciousness. But it
can also make you stupid, especially as you drink more,
and studies have shown that even moderate drinking
leads to a rise in risky sexual behavior, including
having unsafe sex and going home with someone youd
normally pass on.
Even worse, studies have consistently shown that
theres a sort of placebo effect working here -- subjects
whove been told theyre consuming booze when they
have not actually believe themselves to be drunk, and
demonstrate decreased inhibitions. Anthropologists
call this phenomenon the think-drink effect, and it
shows our ideas about how alcohol affects our sexuality
and guides our behavior more than actually being
intoxicated; it could be the belief that alcohol makes
you more relaxed and experimental rather than the
actual effect of drinking that gets you there.
But assume for the moment that youre in a stable
relationship, either happily coupled or with a
consistent friend with benefits. Surely a few drinks in
that scenario can only make for better sex? A few, yes.
More than a few, not hardly.
Warnings for Men
First, some good news. Because alcohol depresses
the central nervous system, moderate consumption
can have one terrific, tangible benefit for guys (and
their partners). Alcohol slows down pretty much
all of the bodys systems, and one impact is that, in
moderation, it can delay mens orgasms, leading to
longer performance. But, like all things with alcohol
and sex, moderating the intake is key here, because
there is a line, and when that line is crossed, orgasm is
not delayed by alcohol, but by a total failure to achieve
or maintain erection, a lack of sensation or arousal,
and lower pleasurability and intensity of orgasm if he
can get there.
Booze is a vasodilator, meaning that it expands blood
vessels. That sounds great for sex, but it reality, not so
much. The expanded blood vessels are a two-way street,
meaning that any blood that runs into fill them up can
also slide right back out. So while the spirit may indeed
BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

be willing after a mess of cocktails, the body frequently


cant keep up with the spirits demands.
Even worse, chronic and acute alcohol consumption
have both been shown to decrease testosterone
production. This is primarily an issue for problem
drinkers, but it can work in smaller ways on any given
night when a drinker has crossed the line from giddy
to hammered.
Moreover, alcohol is well documented as a cause of
dehydration, and you need water in your system to
get wood.
Warnings for Women
First, some good news. For many women, moderate
consumption of alcohol has been shown to truly
increase desire. The theory is that, unlike in men,
alcohol stimulates production of two hormones,
testosterone and estradiol, that have been linked to
women feeling randy. But, again, there is a line and
it is easily crossed. As BAC rises, dehydration and
vasodilation can lay down a double whammy on the
ladies, leading first to vaginal dryness and decreased
blood flow to the genitals, and then to delayed or
decreased orgasms.
On the flipside, some women report that with
increased BAC, they feel more interested in sex, but
physiological studies that measure arousal do not
show this effect, so it may be a case of alcohols brain
impacts coupled with the think-drink effect that
creates this notion.
The Crux of the Matter
Booze can make things better in the bedroom for
everyone. A little bit of booze. Too many drinks can
lead to less fun, bad choices and a wrecked night
behind closed doors. So, consume in moderation,
down some water with your whiskey and get your
freak on.
A Classic Cocktail to Set the Mood
This drink is credited to Ada Coleman, head bartender
at The Savoy in 1925. Its a complex, elegant sipper and
one should be enough to stimulate some conversation
and get you in the mood.
Hanky Panky
1.5 oz. London Dry Gin
1.5 oz. Sweet Vermouth
2 dashes Fernet Branca
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with cracked
ice. Stir until ice cold and strain into a chilled cocktail
glass. Garnish with an orange twist, expressing the oils
over the glass. 6

Grey Area:
SECRETARY
And The Limits of Control
BRITT HAYES
Badass Digest Contributor
@missbritthayes
Read more at badassdigest.com

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

One of the greatest human flaws is our desire


to control the uncontrollable -- the heedless
determination to bend circumstances to our will, and
the relentless frustration and resigned despair when
life refuses to conform to our desires. We have many
ways of coping with these daily defeats: we can simply
accept that we have no control over others or the
situations that will arise regardless of our preferences
to the contrary; we can reject that which is inevitable
and attempt to force a different outcome, resulting
in further unhappiness; or we can seek relief through
various vices against our better judgment, redirecting
our energy and focusing on that which we can control.
In SECRETARY, Maggie Gyllenhaals Lee Holloway
seeks comfort in the form of self-mutilation,
ritualistically cutting her skin -- its a symbolic act
which allows her to feel as though she determines
her own fate, that she holds the power over what
happens to her life. She cuts to feel. She cuts to
stop the feeling. She cuts to distract herself from her
fathers alcoholism, and her mothers overbearing and
needless nurturing, from the well-meaning boy who
likes her and the pressure to settle. She cuts so she can
see her inner pain rise to the surface, so she knows
that she is here, that she is alive, and that her pain is
real. She cuts herself so that her outsides can reflect
her insides; the physical pain is both relief from and
evidence of her suffering.
E. Edward Grey (career sexual deviant James Spader)
hires Lee as his secretary at his private law office, and
through his measured pauses and calculated sentences
we come to understand that Mr. Grey also desires
control. We understand that his ex-wife emasculates
him and has perhaps driven him to engage in
dominant behavior as a defense mechanism, as a way
to ensure that his heart cannot be broken again. Both
Lee and Mr. Grey have constructed thick walls to
guard themselves emotionally, and while Lee tries to
supplant her inability to control her circumstances
with self-harm, Mr. Grey attempts to nurture his
inner wounds by establishing dominance over women
like Lee -- a woman who can hardly admit to herself
that she enjoys suffering because it always leads to
the relief that comes from cutting, from ultimately
submitting to the pain.
Years before FIFTY SHADES OF GREY tackled
the subject of dominance and submission, Steven
Shainberg gave us the poignant and darkly humorous
SECRETARY. Its an incredibly sexy and beautiful
film, a wonderfully and appropriately quirky story
about exploring sexual power dynamics in order to
reconcile our issues with control. The sexually-charged
interplay between Mr. Grey and Lee as he guides her

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

into submission, punishing her for her clerical errors


with stern lectures and spankings, escalates right
up to the edge of actual sexual interaction without
ever granting that release. Their relationship is the
embodiment of the practice of edging, masturbating
without ever allowing yourself to orgasm; similarly,
Mr. Grey engages Lee in dominant and submissive
roleplay (saddling her like a horse, instructing her to
crawl, verbally berating her for her errors) without
interacting with her sexually. Even still, their dynamic
is just as intimate as intercourse.
FIFTY SHADES OF GREY approaches the
dominant and submissive relationship by portraying
the submissive as utterly powerless and without
agency. In actuality, the submissive party is the
person with all the power, the person who asks to be
dominated, and the person who often initiates, and
both parties have equal agency -- either partner can
call the whole thing off at any time, for any reason.
This becomes problematic when SECRETARYs
Mr. Grey masturbates and ejaculates on Lees back,
essentially using her and treating her like a fragile,
crumpled wad of tissue. In this moment, Mr. Grey
has completely dismissed Lees desires, and she
becomes less of a willing participant and more like a
reluctant tube sock.
SECRETARY isnt solely about using sexual
domination as a means to rectify our everyday
powerlessness, but about the ways we can learn through
this roleplay to surrender ourselves and accept our
lack of control. Mr. Greys obsession with domination
is about both his prior emasculation via his ex-wife
and his need to mentally sculpt a woman to create an
ideal partner. Lees obsession with submission is just
as complex: she needs to loosen up and learn to let
go, but she also enjoys physical pain as a form of relief.
From this relationship, Lee gathers the self-esteem and
confidence she needs to be a more dominant human
being, expressing herself more directly than she ever has,
and refusing to bend to the will of others. Lee is able to
unite both her dominant and submissive sides, while Mr.
Grey simply refuses to submit -- to Lee, to love, and to
accepting that he cant possibly have control over every
aspect of his life or Lees, for that matter. She is still
a human being with her own wants and needs, with her
own desires and feelings.
Love is the ultimate act of submission -- allowing yourself
to love and allowing yourself to let someone else love
you. In order to love, we must surrender and tear down
the walls that we put up to keep people away from the
most vulnerable parts of ourselves. But those walls have
a tendency to keep the good out as well as the bad. Lee
finds it hard to open up to Mr. Grey, arriving on his

doorstep in the middle of the night when her father is


hospitalized, tripping over her own words: I wanted
you I needed you And thats when theyve both
reached a line that, for Mr. Grey, cannot be crossed; her
half-finished sentences betray her true feelings enough.
In the end, Mr. Grey must surrender himself to Lee
and allow her to love him, and submit to his love for
her in return. We cant do this 24 hours a day, seven
days a week, he says, and a teary-eyed Lee defies him:
Why not?

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

Lee stages a strike at Mr. Greys desk, refusing to


eat, drink, or move until he finally relents. In this
moment she is both dominant and submissive
because one half cannot function without the other
to make it whole. People are not simply either/or,
sub/dom -- love ultimately functions in that grey
area in between. 6
SECRETARY screens at the Alamo Drafthouse this
month as the Drafthouse celebrates Sex&Movies.
Check drafthouse.com for listings.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Weekly emails.
Fun rewards and surprises.
FREE membership.
FREE movies.
JOIN THE RANKS AT THE BOX OFFICE OR AT:

DRAFTHOUSE.COM/VICTORY

2005 - El Paso and Abilene Texas are nuked, starting WWIII


and throwing the US into chaos. (SOUTHLAND TALES)

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A Filmmaker Needs
An Army: Director
Sean Mullin on the
Making of AMIRA & SAM
MEREDITH BORDERS
Badass Digest Managing Editor
@xymarla
Read more at badassdigest.com

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

TABLE OF CONTENTS

AMIRA & SAM is Drafthouse Films latest release, a


beautiful, hilarious film about two outsiders who find
their place with each other. I got a chance to speak with
first time feature director Sean Mullin -- a veteran like
Sam, a Captain of the Army and Ground Zero first
responder whos also worked as a stand-up comedian
and improv actor. That balance between hilarity and
solemnity is what works so well in AMIRA & SAM, and
its what makes Mullin such an interesting subject.
Q: Sam is a different kind of veteran than what we
usually see onscreen. Can you talk about how
important that was to you?
A: Absolutely, I think that was the initial premise: to
make a film about a veteran that hasnt been seen
before. I think every veteran role is usually in a war
movie, and its always about a veteran with posttraumatic stress, at least every one that Ive ever seen.
So I wanted to flip that premise on its head and
ask the question, What happens if a veteran comes
home, and hes fine, but the country lost its mind?
In many ways, its an exploration of the idea that the
country has PTSD after September 11th, and Sam
was fine. And I thought, in the way that I look at the
world, that was inherently comedic. Some people
might look at it as dramatic, but I thought there was
some really great comedic potential in that.
Q: There are some autobiographical elements to Sams
character. How hard was it to cast that character?
A: Its funny, Martin joked with me at least three or four
times during the shoot. He would just look at me and
say, Sean, how many times did they have to tell you
that you couldnt play this role before you cast me? It
was pretty funny. But no, I never, ever wanted to cast
myself in the part. But, that being said, I did want to
find somebody -- I have a background in stand-up
comedy and improv theatre, and I studied at UCB,
the Uprights Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York
City in the first few years that it was built, and I was
there basically around the same time I was working
at Ground Zero, and Id spend twelve hours a day
at Ground Zero in the New York National Guard,
and Id spend my nights doing stand-up comedy and
improv theatre, so it was kind of a balance between
the two worlds. So when I was casting Sam, I needed
somebody who had the gravitas and the stoicism of a

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / JANUARY


FEBRUARY 2015
2015

vet, that Martin definitely had, and at the same time


the timing and the humor, and really, Martin is a rare
beast. He possesses both. And hes never had a lead
before! Hes never been a lead actor in a film, which
blew me away, so it was really an amazing opportunity
for me to give him that chance, and for him to give
me the chance of directing my first feature. So as with
any independent film, a director, when casting it, the
key is that everybody involved needs to be getting
something out of the relationship -- as with any
relationship, you want it to be mutually beneficial.
And I think for him, this being his first lead in a film
was really exciting, and also frightening in some ways,
and the amount of trust that he placed in me was
something that I was extremely grateful for. But at
the same time, it was a two-way street. We both had
something to gain from the relationship.
Q: With casting Dina for Amira, how did you know
when you hit upon the right chemistry between the
two characters? Im assuming you cast Martin first.
A: I did cast Martin first, and then the chemistry was
something that I just had a hunch about. Because
we didnt have time to get them together; we cast it
so quickly, and the way it came together -- its the
typical hurry up and wait thing with independent
films, where it took me a few years to get the whole
thing together, but once we did get Sam and had our
dates, we just didnt have time. So Dina and Martin
actually didnt have a chance to meet until we were
in rehearsal, so I just took a leap of faith that their
chemistry would be amazing, but I based that leap
of faith on what I had seen of Martin over the years,
and then this audition that Dina had. She put herself
on tape, and her audition was so incredible, it was
one of those real kind of Hollywood moments where
you see an actress and youre like, Wow, thats her.
Thats Amira. I dont even think I made it through
the whole audition; I think I stopped it about halfway
through and called my producers and said, I found
Amira, and weve got to go with her. And then I
met her in person, and shes just such a lovely, smart,
warm, strong, engaging human, that I just knew, I
just knew that she and Martin would hit it off. I knew
theyd hit it off, but I had no idea the kind of magic
that theyd actually produce.

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Q: Are we going to get to see that tape?


A: Yeah, its going to be a DVD extra, so thats one more
reason to pick up the DVD!
Q: You have this long, one-shot scene with Amira and
Sam, where they first share Sams bed, and its the
crux of the movie. Its sort of the moment by which
the movie lives or dies. Did you rehearse it? Can you
talk about staging it and filming it?
A:Yeah, hands down, thats the most important scene
in the film, and I always envisioned it as a director as
one take with no cuts, because every time you cut,
you have the opportunity to lie, and a moment like
that had to be 100% authentic. Everything had to be
just right, and the audience had to experience them
falling for each other in real time, at least in my mind.
I didnt want to have to cut around anything, I just
wanted them to see it unfold. And theres a tension
that exists with long takes -- thats almost a sevenminute scene, and so, over the course of those seven
minutes, you really see them falling for each other.
So we got no coverage of it; its the only shot we got.
It wasnt the only take -- we got twelve takes, and we
used the ninth. Well, it was the ninth or twelfth that
we used. So it took most of the day to get, but its the
most important scene in the film. And once we had
that, I knew that we were onto something.
Q: Theres a sort of running joke in David Wains THEY
CAME TOGETHER about romantic comedies,
where they keep saying New Yorks a character in the
movie! But the city really does feel like a prevalent
part of this movie in a way thats more organic than
it often is in romantic comedies. How did you go
about making the movie feel like an authentic
New York experience?
BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

A: You know, I lived in Manhattan for eight years, and


I lived in all the grittiest parts. I spent my time in the
areas where most people probably dont spend their
time. And so theres this huge swath of Manhattan
that I would just never visit, basically fifteen blocks
north and south of Times Square. I would always
spend my time in the grittier parts, and when I was in
graduate school, I bartended, and some of the places I
bartended werent the nicest joints. And also I drove a
limo part-time out of Queens, so my fifteen-hour day
included an hour commute out on the subway, and
then a twelve-hour day, and then an hour, hour and
a half back on the subway up near Columbia where I
was going to grad school. So I just drove all over -- I
drove to Staten Island, I drove to Brooklyn, all the
parts of the city that dont get represented. I feel like
a lot of times people who make films in New York, at
least romantic comedies or big, broad, studio films,
they havent really lived in New York. And especially
being down at Ground Zero, I feel like New York
is such a part of who I am. My father was born in
Brooklyn. I went to undergrad at West Point, which
is right up the river, so when I was at West Point, I
used to sneak on down to the city all the time, and
go get drunk in shady joints. So the citys a really big
part of who I am, and then going to grad school in
Columbia, as well, Ive just spent a large part of my
life in New York. I know it very well.
Q: Are there any films that really informed you when
you were writing and making AMIRA & SAM?
A: Yeah, absolutely. From a love story standpoint,
theres a film from 1955 called MARTY with Ernest
Borgnine, which is one of my all-time favorites. Its
about these two kind of outsiders that everyones

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really forgotten about, and theyre pushed together


by their circumstances. So that was a big inspiration,
and I went to rewatch it recently, and Martys a vet,
which I hadnt remembered. Its not a big part of that
film, but theres this monologue that he gives about
him coming home from the war and thinking about
taking his life. Its this really serious monologue that
he gives, and its something that just slipped by me.
So yeah, MARTY really informed me, and Id say that
the original ROCKY, the first one in 1976. Youve
got Adrian, who never talks, and Rocky who talks
but doesnt make too much sense, and theyre these
two kind of, again, outsiders who just find each other.
And Im always fascinated by that, by love stories that
are about people who are on the fringe of society. Id
say the third influence would be this movie called
ONCE, this Irish film from 06, a few years ago,
about these musicians who are on the fringes. So
Im always drawn to people who are misunderstood,
you know? I feel like that makes the most powerful
romantic films, when you get two people who are
misunderstood by everybody, but somehow, they
understand each other.
Q: When youve sat in on audience screenings, is there
one joke or moment that you really hoped would
land that youre gratified to discover really does land?
A: You know, its funny, yeah. The film plays better
with audiences than I ever really hoped for. You were
there at the Austin screening -- I felt like we had
wall-to-wall laughs. It was pretty incredible. So the
film plays great as a comedy. Ive kind of been talking
about this one moment recently: the difference
between a screenplay and a film is really evident
in the film where [Amira] gives the prostitute line,
shes at the party -- you know that moment, right?
Whats interesting about that is that on the page,
that line is okay, its kind of funny, maybe, not really
-- maybe youll give a little chuckle or a little smirk
if you read the script, like Oh, a prostitute, thats so
funny, whatever. But when you see it in a theater
with an audience, its hands down the biggest laugh,
consistently. Ive seen the film now at 14 festivals, we
actually won six best film awards at festivals this fall,
which is awesome. And so, yeah, I was able to see the
film with thousands of people now, and that line gets
a huge laugh. And the reason it gets a huge laugh is,
again, the difference between a film and a screenplay.
In the screenplay, youre reading it, its on the page.
But when youre watching the film, we introduce Sam
and he kind of gets kicked in the face at work, and we
introduce Amira and she gets kicked in the face
at work, and so were rooting for both of them
individually. And after that long bed scene, were
now really rooting for them as a team. A primal

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

instinct kicks in, and were rooting for them together.


And theyre at the party, and theyre kind of kicked
again. Its just this kind of primal bark that comes out
of the audience, you know? And its not because of
whats on the page, its because of the performances.
Q: Is there one thing you really hope audiences take
away from this film?
A: I would say just the idea that perceptions always
need to be challenged, and stereotypes need to
be challenged. The thing that interests me about
storytelling is finding characters who live in this world
between perception and reality, right? The way that
people are perceived is not the way they really are, and
theres a tension that exists between that, and I feel
like these characters live in that middle zone. And as
a writer and a director, and a storyteller in general, I
feel like if I can use this film in any way, it would be
to have audiences rethink their perceptions of veterans
and immigrants. Because theres this narrative thats
being pushed by the media that every veterans a loose
cannon and every immigrants a criminal, and thats
just bullshit.
Q: You were an Army officer. Are there any similarities
between being an Army officer and directing a movie?
A: Absolutely. I mean, more than you would think. I
would get that a lot -- I remember when I first went
to Columbia, I told them that Id gone to West Point
and I was a Captain of the Army, and they were like,
What are you doing here? and I told them, like,
Well, fuck you. Im here to make movies. When
youre in front of your crew and youve got a plan and
youve got to execute that plan, and things are going
to go wrong and you need to lead without being an
asshole, I mean, thats really the first commandment
of any sort of leadership: inspiring your troops. Its
very similar to being in front of your platoon and
having a mission and knowing that things are going
to go wrong. I think it was Eisenhower that said
When it comes to battle, plans dont mean shit, but
planning means everything. And thats very similar
to filmmaking, I feel like. And there are quotes
about the army throughout film history where you
have directors comparing themselves. Orson Welles
said, A writer needs a pen, an artist needs a brush,
but a filmmaker needs an army. Of course, nothing
compares to war, thats obviously in its own world,
but when it comes to the leadership skills needed,
I dont think theres a better film school in America
than West Point. 6
Drafthouse Films presents AMIRA & SAM at the Alamo
Drafthouse this month. Check drafthouse.com for listings.

Juicing Up The
Green Inferno
STEPHEN THROWER
Author of NIGHTMARE USA, THE UNTOLD
STORY OF THE EXPLOITATION INDEPENDENTS,
BEYOND TERROR; THE FILMS OF LUCIO FULCI,
and co-founder of the group Cyclobe

With a film as cruel and upsetting as Ruggero


Deodatos CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST it can
seem trite to discuss the beauty and creativity of the
soundtrack. Here, after all, is a movie whose bad
reputation rests on its capacity for grimy, traumatic
realism, and the killing of live animals on camera. And
yet, as anyone whos seen the film will attest, the score
provides a vital emotional register for the film; one
could go so far as to say that Riz Ortolanis music is the
conscience of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST.
Riziero Riz Ortolani was born on the 25th March
1926 in Pesaro, Italy and died in Rome on the 23rd of
January 2014. He studied at the Conservatorio Statale
di Musica in Pesaro and got his professional start as a
musical arranger for the Italian TV network RAI. His
first major success came with the international boxoffice smash MONDO CANE (1962) directed by
BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

Gualtiero Jacopetti, Franco Prosperi and Paolo Cavara.


This was the film that birthed the mondo movie craze
of the 1960s and 1970s; a genre which presented a
hotchpotch of outrageous, amusing or sickening clips
filmed mostly in third-world locations. Masquerading
as serious documentaries, the voyeuristic (and often
fake) mondo movies fulfilled a role that the internet
delivers today; a platform for the grossest, wildest,
most bizarre images the world has to offer. Ortolanis
lush, melodious title theme lent a grandiose sweep to
the titillatory travelogue, and such was its quality that
in 1963 it was nominated for the Academy Award for
Best Song (with the addition of words by British lyricist
Norman Newell). The score was also nominated for a
Grammy in 1964. Evidently comfortable working with
Jacopetti and Prosperi, Ortolani went on to score the
same directorial teams LA DONNA NEL

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MONDO (1963), AFRICA ADDIO (1966), and


their confrontational but massively misjudged slavery
expos GOODBYE UNCLE TOM (1971).
Elsewhere in Italian cinema, Ortolani was in demand
for his ability to combine brooding modernist string
arrangements with jazz-inflected cues. He created two
magnificent scores for Lucio Fulci, ONE ON TOP
OF THE OTHER (1969) and DONT TORTURE
A DUCKLING (1972), delivered classy material
for Umberto Lenzis SO SWEET... SO PERVERSE
(1969) and SEVEN BLOOD-STAINED ORCHIDS
(1972), and provided memorable soundtracks for
such disparate Italian thrillers as Armando Crispinos
THE ETRUSCAN KILLS AGAIN (1972), Flavio
Mogherinis THE PYJAMA GIRL CASE (1977)
and Maurizio Pradeauxs DEATH STEPS IN THE
DARK (1977), the latter of which strongly anticipates
his work on CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. His chief
collaborations, however, were with Antonio Margheriti,
Damiano Damiani and Pupi Avati. For Margeriti he
wrote an incongruous but deliciously cool jazz score
for THE VIRGIN OF NUREMBERG (1963) and
intense, neurotic string arrangements for CASTLE OF
BLOOD (1964), WEB OF THE SPIDER (1971) and
SEVEN DEATHS IN THE CAT'S EYE (1973). For
Damiani he scored eleven projects, including four of
the directors signature dramas about corruption in the
Italian establishment: CONFESSIONS OF A POLICE
CAPTAIN (1971), HOW TO KILL A JUDGE (1975),
THE BODYGUARD (1977) and THE WARNING
(1980). From the 1980s onwards he became the
composer of choice for Pupi Avati: horror fans revere
his brilliant theme for Avatis ZEDER (1982) but may
be less familiar with the many other scores he wrote for
the Emilia-Romagnian director, including their first
collaboration, AIUTAMI A SOGNARE (1981) and
Ortolanis last recorded work, the TV mini-series UN
MATRIMONIO (2013).
Nothing else in the composers career, however, packs
quite as much punch as his work on CANNIBAL
HOLOCAUST. Ruggero Deodato recalls that although
he approached Ortolani on the basis of his work on the
1960s mondo movies, he was worried that the composer
would balk at the extreme nature of the film! Luckily for
Deodato, Ortolani watched a rough cut of CANNIBAL
HOLOCAUST, declared it a work of genius, and agreed
to start work immediately.
In any other context, Ortolanis instrumental title
theme would sound like a sweet and lovely easylistening number, perhaps awaiting the tender
ministrations of Europop warbler Demis Roussos.
The only hint of strangeness is the synthesised choral
melody line, which has a muffled, slightly corroded
quality; a fading dream of comfort instead of the
real thing. Title sequence aside, there is almost no

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

music in the first half of the film, as Robert Kermans


investigator treks into the jungle looking for a lost
documentary expedition. For Kermans scenes with
the Amazonian Yacumo and Yamamomo tribes theres
just a simple non-committal drum pattern; emotional
overtones are suppressed. All of this changes in the
second half, which concentrates on the material shot
by the doomed documentarians, retrieved by Kerman
still fortuitously in its cans. Now, as the emphasis
shifts to the found footage, Deodato pushes the music
high in the mix and uses it ironically. It has been laid
over the images by an enterprising editor, we are told,
to juice things up for the benefit of TV executives
viewing the material for possible transmission. Its a
bitter joke about the medias manipulation of reality
which is more relevant than ever, given the tendency
of even the most sober news networks to prostitute
documentary footage with mood music, stylised
graphics and histrionic voice-overs.
Adulteress Punishment sets the tone for the horrific
scenes. A powerfully ominous synthesiser riff underpins
the gravest of string arrangements, drooping with a sense
of portent and tragedy, an orchestra with the weight
of mankinds wickedness on its shoulders. Massacre
of the Troupe features Ortolanis most alarming
and intense string arrangement, with microtonalism
rendering his massed unison chords and glissandii subtly
deranged, fraught with unresolvable tension. Crucified
Woman meanwhile adds an aching elegaic tone to one
of the most appalling and brutal scenes, with strings
accompanied by the subtle incongruity of country-folk
acoustic guitar and bass, reminding us that the film
is intended as a diatribe against, among other things,
American involvement in the affairs of the Third World.
A prominent feature of Ortolanis approach to
CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST is the use of synthesisers
and electronic percussion, in particular a device
called the Syndrum, a touch-sensitive drum pad
triggering electronic sounds, used on a great many
pop and disco records of the period, most famously
Rose Royces Love Dont Live Here Anymore
(1978) and Anita Wards Ring My Bell (1979).
It also featured, in a very different context, on Joy
Divisions first album UNKNOWN PLEASURES
(1979), specifically the tracks Insight and Shes Lost
Control. In Ortolanis hands the Syndrum takes the
notion of the tribal drumbeat and imbues it with a
morbid, stomach-churning sleaziness. Ortolani had
already embraced synthesisers on THE PYJAMA
GIRL CASE two years earlier, but they play a much
more striking and oppressive role here, with a brutal
quality that underlines the savagery of the cannibals
and the callousness of the white protagonists, not to
mention the technological modernity that enshrines
documentary images of slaughter.

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CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST is packed with cynical,


mean-spirited characters, so it is not toward their
emotional lives that Ortolani turns for inspiration.
Instead the music acts upon the presumption of a moral
response in the viewer. Along with horror an incredible
sadness permeates the compositions, as though a
sorrowful omniscient eye is being cast over the human
animal. Ortolani once described his score as a religious
adagio and there is indeed a metaphysical aura,
something of the pulpit to the stern and critical position
it takes. At an emotional level one can hear common
ground with Samuel Barbers famous Adagio for Strings
(1936) or Remo Giazottos Adagio in G minor (1958),
although Ortolanis penchant for stridency gives a colder,
more ascerbic slant, as does the near-absence of vibrato
in the violin technique.
Deodatos directorial approach, on the other hand,
has no religiosity; under his control the film is a hardto-swallow mixture of amorality and moral censure.
The mismatch sticks out like a peeled thumb; theres
no credible way to square Deodatos amoral strategy
of killing animals on camera with his tub-thumping
anger at the immorality of Western media, or to
correspond his relentless depiction of sexual violence
against native women with his assertion that the film
has the sanctity of Amazonian tribal culture at its heart.
Only as a dissertation on manipulation does the film

have credibility. Deodatos ironic use of music results


in a fractured relationship between film and audience
not unlike Jean-Luc Godards use of Georges Delerues
compositions in CONTEMPT (1963). Ortolani scores
as though addressing the Fall of Man; Deodato remains
detached, applying the cues metatextually. His use of
music, though structurally disciplined and coherent, is as
cynical as the rest of his conception. The dissonance of
these two approaches -- Ortolani sincere and emotional,
Deodato ironic and intellectual -- adds yet another level
of discomfort to CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST.
Why did Deodato wish to make such a horrifying
and distressing film? If one believes recent interviews
its because he was concerned about the oppression of
indigenous peoples by white cultural incursion and felt
critical of the Italian medias bloodthirsty reporting of
homeland terrorist atrocities. Riz Ortolanis reason for
agreeing to score the movie remains obscure, but one
thing is for sure; his engagement with the images was
heartfelt. Thanks to his moving and indelible music,
CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST inspires intensely complex
feelings; of compassion mixed with horror, and despair at
the depths of human depravity. 6
The CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST soundtrack is available
for the first time ever on vinyl from Mondo on February
14th. Go to www.mondotees.com for more information.

100

per
tIcket

Tickets may be purchased online at


blantonmuseum.org/gala_afterparty
For more information, call 512.475.6013
or email gala@blantonmuseum.org
art on the edge
HoSt commIttee cHaIr
Kate perez

Blanton GALA AFTER-PARTY


Saturday, February 7 | 8:30pmmIdNIGHt
blaNtoN muSeum oF art
MUSIC by MEMPhIS TRAIn REvUE
dj mel
Complimentary cocktails & light bites

art on the edge


HoSt commIttee
A.J. Bingham
Alexandra Beck
Meghan and Stephen elwell
Lindsey Gehrig
Shaady Ghadessy
emily House
Laura Villagran Johnson
Yvette e. ruiz
Kevin Smothers
ryan Steed and Taylor Terkel

Media Sponsor:

Blanton Museum of Art | The University of Texas at Austin | MLK at Congress | 512.471.7324 | www.blantonmuseum.org

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Video Vortex:
The Hocus Pocus Of
AMERICAN COMMANDO
NINJA

JOSEPH A. ZIEMBA
Alamo Drafthouse Art Director and Programmer
@JosephAZiemba

TABLE OF CONTENTS

It's common knowledge that the most important ninja


skill is stealth. It's a lesser known fact that stealth can be
achieved while wearing green parachute pants.
In the 1980s, filmmaker Godfrey Ho was responsible for
the creation of approximately one-hundred-and-fortythree patchwork ninja movies. They have titles like
NINJA AMERICAN WARRIOR, BIONIC NINJA
and NINJA DEMON'S MASSACRE. The method of
attack was simple. Ho and his partner would purchase
a movie that had nothing to do with ninjas. Then
they would insert newly-shot scenes of ninjas, add
unlicensed songs, and attempt to create a narrative
through dubbing. In DIAMOND NINJA FORCE,
a softcore POLTERGEIST rip-off was combined
with scenes of Richard Harrison talking on a Garfield
telephone and dismembering ninjas while most of
ARCHITECTURE & MORALITY by O.M.D. played
in the background. No matter the "genre," Ho's ninja
movies are fascinating and stupefying. They don't have
the ingrained passion of other multi-sourced collages,
like RUN COYOTE RUN or DESPERATION
RISING. But they do guarantee an exhilarating state of
anti-consciousness that's rivaled only by Turkey's most
ruthlessly deranged filmmakers.
So what happens when Godfrey Ho puts down his
35mm film camera, picks up a camcorder and makes
a legit shot-on-video (SOV) ninja movie that contains
zero recycled footage?
It's called AMERICAN COMMANDO NINJA. It's
also called a life-changing free-for-all with an agenda of
desecration against your senses.
A non-American, un-commando, sometimes-ninja
named Larry wears electric blue short-shorts and
Hawaiian shirts, usually at the same time. Larry spends
his time sitting in front of paintings, making objects
move with his thoughts and sparring with ninjas
who might be ghosts. Meanwhile, a scientist named
Tanaka has created a formula that will revolutionize
"germ warfare." A gang of evil ninjas who practice
"hocus pocus" are out to get that formula, as are some
American gangsters. Larry will not stand for this! And
so, he assembles a team of martial arts warriors to help
Tanaka. One of the warriors wears a denim jumpsuit
with rhinestones. The other wears Union Jack shortshorts. They do not change these clothes before fighting
ninjas.
As long as you don't think about it, the plot of
AMERICAN COMMANDO NINJA is easy to
understand. That's probably because it has the same
general structure as CLASH OF THE NINJAS and
dozens of other Godfrey Ho productions. But the plot
isn't the focus. It's not the thing that causes you to
convulse and sweat because your body doesn't know

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

what to do with itself in the face of such misguided


confidence. That honor goes to the execution.
Watching AMERICAN COMMANDO NINJA is
like drinking a suicide soda that was built from three
thousand flavors. It makes your eyes burn and your
insides buckle, but there's no other experience like it.
And there never will be again. Because Ho's technical
decisions are as ridiculous as the fashion choices of his
cast. When Tanaka drives a car slowly on the highway,
digs a hole, or sits on a couch, one-fingered guitar
shredding accompanies him. When Larry jumps off of
a table, climbs a tree, or lights a candle, he does so in
slow motion. As a climactic battle rages between Larry
and a ninja, we cut to Larry on a dinner date. There's a
constant influx of unknown characters, illogical jump
cuts and nonsensical conversations. Everyone speaks
English, but that means nothing to us. How can it?
When Larry defeats a ninja, he glances at his friend's
crotch and says, "You're quite a guy!"
This movie can't be criticized. It's an hypnotic,
unbeatable snapshot of SOV madness that stands
alone. Or it did stand alone, until Godfrey Ho made
a direct sequel called SILENT KILLERS. The sequel
reveals the effect that Tanaka's deadly formula has had
on the world. It also reveals the same locations with the
same cast wearing the same clothes. Plus bumper boats.
It should also be noted that AMERICAN
COMMANDO NINJA is the only ninja movie in
existence to showcase a fist fight between a man and
La-Z-Boy recliner. 6
AMERICAN COMMANDO NINJA screens this month at
the Alamo Drafthouse. Check drafthouse.com for listings.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Chiller is the leading network devoted exclusively


to the horror/thriller genre, delivering edge-of-your-seat
entertainment 24/7/365.
Chiller features exciting series, spine-tingling reality, and
thrilling moviesfrom cult classics to cutting-edge premieres.
Our growing slate of Original Programs includes wickedly fun
pop-culture specials and visionary feature films.

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Class Act:
KINGSMAN Kicks James
Bond In The Upper Crust
DEVIN FARACI
Badass Digest Editor-in-Chief
@devincf
Read more at badassdigest.com

Its easy to spoof James Bond. Theres been a cottage


industry of it for fifty years, with most of the worlds
filmmaking nations getting in on the action. In 1964,
two years after DR. NO exploded on screens, there
were no less than four Bond spoof films, and the ball
has kept thundering ever since. Everybody from Woody
Allen to Mike Meyers to Sean Connerys brother has
gotten in on the act over the years.
Its much harder to homage James Bond. Its because
the best of Bond -- the classic gentleman spy era -- is
so broad already that it almost counts as a spoof of
itself. Whats more, Bond is rooted so deeply in postColonial class structure and racial attitudes that maybe
homaging this stuff isnt for the best. Even the latest
Bond films, the reboots starring Daniel Craig, have
BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

consciously moved away from much of what makes


Bond Bond (although with SKYFALL theyve begun
to move towards embracing some of the fun they left
behind along with the neanderthal attitudes).
Matthew Vaughn has solved this problem in
KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE by simply
making the movie about those very retrograde
attitudes. Its a film that attacks Bonds snooty upper
class airs right in the bollocks, making the argument
that being a gentleman spy isnt about breeding, its
about bettering yourself. Anyone can be a gentleman
because its an attitude, not a genetic gift.
This attitude lets Vaughn (and co-writer and longtime
partner in cinematic awesomeness Jane Goldman) have

TABLE OF CONTENTS

their cake and eat it too -- KINGSMAN is a pop movie


spectacle jammed with gadgets and high fashion, cool
villain lairs and badass spy action. This is Vaughns
second adaptation of a highly-flawed Mark Millar
comic book, and while he wasnt exactly able to get past
the nihilism of KICK-ASS in KINGSMAN, Vaughn
makes KINGSMAN very much his own, and uses it to
speak to larger class issues -- as well as poking some fun
at the modern technology that has been breaking down
our everyday civility.
All of that is, of course, secondary to the fun, and
Vaughn brings plenty of it. Theres something eternally
cool about a guy in a nice, tailored suit using the
minimal number of moves to take out thugs, and
BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

KINGSMAN is full of such scenes. The action is


thrilling -- theres a lengthy battle in a church thats
going to rocket to the top of your best scenes of the
year list immediately.
While the Bond films promise to get back to big, fun
antics with SPECTRE -- reintroducing Bonds old
nemesis Blofeld in the process -- Matthew Vaughn
has beaten 007 to the punch, making a gentleman spy
film that romps through the good times of the 60s
while maintaining a very 21st century approach to
class. Thats the most impressive gadget of all. 6
KINGSMAN screens this month at the Alamo
Drafthouse. Check drafthouse.com for listings.

The Last Word


With AMIRA & SAM'S
Martin Starr
Q: What's your earliest movie memory?

Q: What is the movie you believe everyone should see?

A: Watching the action-packed kids movie


BLANK CHECK.

A: GROUNDHOG DAY.

Q: What's the first movie you saw that made you


understand that movies can be art?
A: Certainly my idea of art has evolved, but I think it
would be BLANK CHECK.
Q: What is your guilty pleasure movie?
A: Any cheesy feel-good movie.
Q: What type of role do you want to play before
you die?
A: A real badass villain.
Q: What was your most magical cinema experience?
A: Magical? Uh, TOY STORY was pretty wonderful.
Or do you mean working on a movie with a
magician? I haven't had the fortune of that experience
so far.
BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

Q: Only one of your movies can continue to exist after


you're gone - which one is it?
A: That's already come out? ADVENTURELAND.
That hasn't? AMIRA & SAM.
Q: If you weren't born to act, what else would you
be doing?
A: I'd clearly be a veterinarian. Friend to all animals. A
superhero to wounded pets.
Q: Why do you make movies?
A: It all started quite simply for me as a child riding the
high of making people laugh.6

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

BIRTH. MOVIES.DEATH. / FEBRUARY 2015

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