Strip Search

Strip Search portrays two precisely parallel situations: an female American in China being questioned by the state police, and an male Arab in the States being questioned by the FBI. The "hook" of the film is that the dialogue is almost exactly the same in both situations, with both interrogators using an arrogant attitude and cruel tactics to humiliate the prisoner.

Most of the people who saw it misunderstood the point. The author of the film is not presenting a case that the FBI agent in the film is following actual FBI procedures, nor even that a rogue FBI agent could do so. Nor is he making a case that China treats American prisoners or any other prisoners in this manner. It's not a documentary. The point is that it is possible for a viewer to see the exact same fictional scene, one time feeling sympathy for the prisoner, the other time not. In other words, the film isn't about the characters at all. It's about your reaction to them. It is intended to provoke your thinking about this matter. If you watched the FBI agent interrogate the Arab without having seen the parallel story, would you have felt any sympathy for the Arab? Perhaps not. That is probably because you feel that the embarrassment of a few individuals is a small price to pay to defeat terrorism. Then why do you feel sympathy for the American woman in the exact same situation? After all, what's wrong is wrong, isn't it?

To make the point even more dramatic, the two interrogations produce different results. The Arab man is innocent. The American woman is really guilty of the action she has been accused of. This offers us one more dose of shame if we sympathized with the woman. Once more, the film is about us, and our reactions.

There is another point as well. Showing the American in China drives home the point that when we take away the rights of the Arab man, we take away our own rights as well. In two ways. (1) We cede additional powers to our own government when we allow them to abuse prisoners. The unjustly accused prisoner may someday be one of us. (2)  We assure that American prisoners will be treated with equal disrespect by their governments. If our government uses torture, it tells the world that the United States does not consider itself subject to the international agreements on this matter. That means Americans will be tortured when the shoe is on the other foot. When we take away rights, we give up those rights in parallel. This point is emphasized by the film's prologue, in which an American teacher asks his students whether they would be willing to give up their rights for a day in order to assure that terrorism would be defeated. After they agree,  he asks whether they would do it for ten years. The real questions are, of course, how many rights can be ceded, which ones, and for how long? The film doesn't really offer any answers; it merely poses the questions. You have to admit they are good questions.

The film is very short - only 55 minutes long including some documentary intercuts and some framing devices at the outer edges, so the interrogation section is only about 50 minutes long, meaning that it's a 25 minute movie shown twice. In other words, Strip Search is really more of a single provocative idea than a fully-realized script. Even at its existing length, I felt it was a bit too long. After all, the point is made instantly, and then the script has nowhere else to go, since the characters are basically undeveloped archetypes and not real people with whom we have established any connection. It doesn't help that dialogue is just basic hack work and that there are heavy-handed intercuts of American Presidents making idealistic speeches about freedom.

Oh, well, if you get bored with the manipulative gimmick after fifteen minutes, you can always enjoy the full frontal and rear nudity.

The Strip Search project underwent many changes, and I don't know all the details. It was originally intended to be a full-length Sydney Lumet film. The HBO site originally listed it at 120 minutes, and published a cast featuring Ellen Barkin, Rashida Jones, Oliver Platt, and others who didn't make the cut. I suppose those actors did perform in some scenes, because IMDb lists them as "deleted scenes," but I don't know why the network decided to pare the show down to just the 55 minute version.

Strip Search was the subject of considerable controversy in 2004 since it aired in the the May before a Presidential election. There was a substantial brouhaha after its first airing, and the second airing was cancelled. The film is rarely shown, and it has yet to come to DVD. There must have been substantial pressures exerted on HBO to cause the project to be pulled from their broadcast schedule, because they are tough-minded and independent and don't bend easily. And there must have been a substantial public outcry from their subscribers when they caved. I suppose we will have to wait for the disc to hear the full story and see the deleted footage. I for one will get the disk if it includes all a commentary, deleted footage and the complete history of the project, because all of that is far more interesting than the good but underdeveloped idea which finally ended up on screen.

Maggie Gyllenhaal







Looker is a truly preposterous 1981 thriller. The basic plot concerns several models who had similar plastic surgery and died under mysterious circumstances. The police think the deaths are suspicious enough to assign the case to homicide, and the one and only suspect is the women's common plastic surgeon. In typical movie fashion, the beleaguered doctor (Albert Finney) decides to abandon his practice to solve the crime himself. He manages to pull off a series of capers which which would impress James Bond, including reckless car chases which endanger the city, shoot-outs with automatic weapons, high-tech gizmos, stolen access codes, and disguises. In addition to his unlikely quest to expose the real killers, he also takes it upon himself to protect the one remaining model who falls into the same category as the dead girls. While he is conducting his investigation, he consistently fails to keep the police apprised of important clues and also fails to tell them that he is going to be the constant companion of the next potential victim. He doesn't even tell the police of her existence!

It's irritating that the baddies, armed with all sorts of futuristic technology, are unable to dispose of one flabby little guy. Bad guy Tim Rossovich, a former NFL player, should be able to dispose of Albert Finney with his bare lands, let alone with a perception-altering light gun. Albert Finney is not a very athletic guy, and he looked downright puny in the action sequences. Yet Rossovich fails to kill Finney repeatedly despite having him outgunned and also having paralyzed him several times with the hypnotic weapon.

Far more irritating is the fact that the film never offers any explanation of why the models were killed in the first place! Once it establishes a premise for the doctor's Mission Implausible, it goes off in a completely different direction. Since it becomes an "evil corporation" movie, I suppose the company killed the girls just because it was (summon Richard Burton's ghost to say ... ) eee-villlll!

The editing of the narrative is so choppy that the film seems to be a shortened version of a far longer work. I don't know that to be the case since there are no deleted scenes on the DVD, but it is a reasonable assumption based on such matters as these:

(1) The surgeon's partner is introduced as a possible red herring killer - even says he's going to date the girls after Finney operates on them, but he never appears again after the opening scenes. This is particularly confusing since the police should have considered him the #1 suspect in the murders, since his romantic proclivities would make him, not Finney, the central link between the women. There had to have been some reason why that character was introduced in the first place, but as the film stands he serves absolutely no purpose other than confusion..

(2) There is one sequence that goes as follows: (a) On a Saturday night, Finney is pinned down in his office by two guys with automatic weapons - all seems bleak and hopeless for him. (b) With the camera on Finney as he cowers beneath a sink, one of the off-camera guys says "to hell with him, we have the girl," and the assailants simply leave, obviously having no interest in killing him. (c) A word slide appears that says "Sunday." (d) Suddenly it is daylight and Finney is in a car, being chased by the two men, whose interest in killing him has apparently been restored. It seems quite clear that other things must have happened between the beginning and ending of this sequence, but the audience (unlike the doctor) is left in the dark.

(3) There is an undeveloped sub-plot about a presidential candidate who will (presumably) use marketing and computer technology for the evil purpose of winning elections. Vestiges of this thread pop up from time to time, but without anything to tie them together. The candidate never appears except in a video-within-the-film.

I wasn't the only one who was baffled by the editing. After I wrote the words above, I read the NY Times review written by Vincent Canby, which said, "The plot is pretty silly but Mr. Crichton's handling of it is even sillier, though it is bold. When his characters get themselves into a tight spot and, against your better judgment, you wonder how they'll get out, the director just cuts to another scene in which the tight spot has been forgotten. His chases have no climaxes. They simply end. Mr. Crichton has fun sending up television commercials in one extended sequence, but his direction of the rest of the film is so sloppy one suspects that if he himself were a plastic surgeon, two ears might wind up on one side of the same head."

I assume that all the missing pieces are on the cutting room floor. If I really wanted to test my theory about the severity of the editing, I could listen to writer/director Michael Crichton's commentary, but the film is just not significant enough to warrant such a time investment.

As Canby noted, there are sequences which are quite enjoyable, although they are comic rather than thrilling. There are some funny send-ups of commercials, but the best scene is the final shoot-out. The action occurs during a live demonstration video in which digital actors are being superimposed on the sets. Finney and the bad guys wander in and out of the sets, thus unintentionally and unknowingly interacting with the digital actors. At one point, there is a dead and bloody Tim Rossovich lying on the breakfast table while a digital family discusses their Oat Bran. All of this is broadcast as a demonstration of new technology to a hoity-toity group of corporate fat cats, who are confused and shocked, and express their reactions with stock black-and-white-era crowd dialogue like "Say, what's he trying to pull?" Somebody apparently failed to tell the author that the 1930s had ended.

Looker does have a good cast (James Coburn is the Dr. Evil character to Finney's Austin Powers), and it does have one element which makes the film much more interesting now than it was 25 years ago. Unlike the typical film about science-based paranoia, this one imagined most of the future details quite accurately. For example, it posited a day in which live actors would be replaced by their digitally-simulated counterparts to more effective product marketing. We can see many examples of this today, one recent one being the creepy recent popcorn commercial which brings Orville Redenbacher back to life. The script also posited a time when omnipresent computers would replace TVs as the primary delivery vehicles for visual stimuli. That seems obvious today, but was not in 1981 when the first PCs were basically used for word processing and performing simple math. The future it imagined in 1981 is very similar to the world in which we live, and it's interesting to see how well it predicted the future.

IMDb voters score it 5.7 which is about the right territory. It would be a C- on our scale, meaning that the comedy and the prescient view of the future make it watchable, despite the lackluster writing and editing of the thriller plot and the action sequences.

Of course, it also has Terri Welles topless. She was the Playboy Playmate of the Month in December of 1980, just before this film was released. Girl couldn't act a lick, but what a body!!

It also has former Partridge Family member Susan Dey tastefully naked.

I'll have film clips tomorrow. Here are the collages:

Susan Dey



Terri Welles






Tuna and I have already discussed this at length. The new captures come from a recent HD clip. Here is the film clip, captures below.

Maggie Gyllenhaal



* Yellow asterisk: funny (maybe).

* White asterisk: expanded format.

* Blue asterisk: not mine.

No asterisk: it probably sucks.


Catch the deluxe version of Other Crap in real time, with all the bells and whistles, here.







Immoral Women

Immoral Women (1979), originally Les Heroines du Mal is a trilogy of erotic tales directed by Walerian Borowczyk. Polish born, he started his film career in Poland illustrating posters and doing short animations. After moving to France, he continued the illustrations and animated shorts until finally moving to real films. His films were controversial. with sexual subjects, women who get what they want, and lots of borderline bestiality.

Immoral Women leads off with Margherita, staring Marina Pierro. She is in love with a pauper, and finds a way to parley the attraction of an artist and a rich banker into enough cash for her and her lover. No animals enjoyed themselves in this segment, but she found a unique application for giving her cherry to men.

The second segment is titles Marcelline and stars Gaelle Legrand. It is easily the best rabbit sex film I have seen so far this year. When the rabbit eats her, she is all smiles. When her parents make a stew of the pet rabbit and feed it to her, it is payback time.

The final segment is titled Marie and stars Pascale Christophe. She is kidnapped for ransom, but her husband doesn't seem eager to ransom her. Her Doberman feels differently, and searches all of Paris until he finds her, but after her kidnapper raped her. Rover makes short work of the kidnapper, and then re-circumcises hubby to death.

All three women show everything. There is also plenty of male full frontal nudity.

IMDb readers say 6.2. I am a little surprised to see it that high. I didn't find any of the three tales engaging, but did appreciate the soft focus photography and the attractive women. While I didn't find any one segment better than another, there are enough plusses in the trilogy to rate a C.

The DVD transfer is another great job from Severin, but I would have liked more in the way of special features.


Marina Pierro






Gaelle Legrand






Pascale Christophe














The 2007 Goya Awards

Part 1: Alatriste


Empiezo este especial con una de las superproducciones españolas de este año: "Alatriste" película inspirada en la saga de novelas tituladas "Las aventuras del capitan Alatriste" de Arturo Perez Reverte.

En la España Imperial del siglo XVII, Diego Alatriste (Viggo Mortensen), valeroso soldado al servicio de su majestad, combate en una guerra en las frías tierras de Flandes. En una emboscada de los holandeses, Balboa, amigo y compañero de armas, cae herido de muerte. Alatriste escucha de los labios de su amigo una última petición y promete cumplirla: cuidará de su hijo Íñigo y le alejará del oficio de soldado. A su regreso a Madrid, Alatriste se encuentra con un imperio moribundo. La misma España en la que Quevedo y Góngora escriben sus versos, Velázquez pinta sus cuadros, y Lope de Vega estrena sus comedias, se desmorona ante la impasibilidad de su Rey. La corte de Felipe IV, dominada por las intrigas y la corrupción, es manejada a su antojo por el Conde Duque de Olivares (Javier Cámara), con el apoyo de la Santa Inquisición. El propio Alatriste, que malvive vendiendo su espada, se verá implicado en una de estas intrigas cuando es contratado junto a otro mercenario, el italiano Gualterio Malatesta (Enrico Lo Verso), para dar muerte a dos misteriosos personajes que viajan de incógnito a Madrid. El destino de Alatriste quedará marcado cuando, intuyendo algo turbio en el siniestro encargo, decide perdonar la vida a los dos extranjeros y enfrentarse a un Malatesta que pretendía terminar el trabajo. Esa noche se ganará un enemigo para toda la vida. Cuando Alatriste descubre a quién ha salvado la vida, entiende que tendrá que enfrentarse a fuerzas demasiado poderosas para combatirlas con la espada. Pero no estará solo, la bellísima María de Castro (Ariadna Gil), sus inseparables compañeros en el campo de batalla y sobre todo Íñigo (Unax Ugalde), ahora casi un hijo para él, serán el apoyo incondicional del Capitán y personajes claves de esta gran historia de aventuras.

Ha ganado:

  • Mejor Dirección Artística
  • Mejor Dirección de Producción
  • Mejor Diseño de Vestuario

y nominada a:

  • Mejor Película
  • Mejor Director: Agustín Díaz
  • Mejor Actor: Viggo Mortensen
  • Mejor Actor de Reparto: Juan Echanove
  • Mejor Actriz de Reparto: Ariadna Gil
  • Mejor Guión Adaptado: Agustín Díaz Yane
  • Mejor Montaje
  • Mejor Fotografía
  • Mejor Música Original
  • Mejor Maquillaje y Peluquería
  • Mejor Sonido
  • Mejores Efectos Especiales


It was a great year for Spanish cinema, and I'm kicking off this special report with one of the most heralded and awarded Spanish films of 2006: "Alatriste," a film inspired by a series of Alatriste novels by Arturo Perez Reverte

 In the imperial Spain of the seventeenth century, Diego Alatriste (Viggo Mortensen), a valiant soldier in the service of his majesty, fights in a war in Flanders. In an ambush of the Dutch, Alatriste's friend and comrade-in-arms falls, mortally wounded of death. Alatriste pulls himself to the lips of his friend, hears a last request, and promises to fulfill it: he will take care of the man's son and will move the boy away from the army headquarters. In his return to Madrid, Alatriste views a dying empire. The same Spain in which Quevedo and Góngora write verses, Velazquez paints, and Lope de Vega creates comedic plays, will crumble from the fecklessness of its king.

The court of Felipe IV, dominated by intrigue and corruption, is manipulated by the Conde Duque de Olivares (Javier Camera), with the support of the Inquisition. Our hero Alatriste, will become involved in one of the court's intrigues when he is contracted, along with a mercenary, the Italian Gualterio Malatesta, to kill to two mysterious people traveling incognito to Madrid. The destiny of Alatriste will be set when he suspects something shady is involved in the sinister order to kill the travelers and decides to let them live, thus pitting him against Malatesta, who tries to finish the assignment. The two men will become enemies for life.

When Alatriste discovers whose life he has spared, he knows that he will be pitted against forces too powerful to defeat with his flashing blade, but he will not be alone. The gorgeous Maria de Castro (Ariadna Gil), his inseparable companions from the battlefield, and the lad he raised as his own son will offer unconditional support to their noble Captain.

This won Goyas for:

  • Best art direction
  • Best set design
  • Best costumes

It was also nominated for:

  • Best film
  • Best director: Agustín Díaz
  • Best leading Actor: Viggo Mortensen
  • Best supporting actor: Juan Echanove
  • Best supporting actress: Ariadna Gil
  • Best adapted screenplay
  • Best editing
  • Best cinematography
  • Best original score
  • Best hair and make-up
  • Best sound editing
  • Best special effects


Scoop's notes:
  • Viggo speaks fluent Spanish, although he had to learn a new accent for this movie.
  • With a budget of $28 million, Alatriste is the most expensive Spanish-language film ever made

Elena Anaya










The Haunting of Morella


The Time Machine is back to 1990 for the late Lana Clarkson in "The Hunting of Morella." Lana, who died of gunshots in the home of Phil Spector in 2003, shows off her robo-hooters. Spector's trial on murder charges will finally start this spring. Apparently he will claim that Lana committed suicide.

Caps and two clips.







The Hunger


A rich man (Kenneth Welsh) comes in contact with renowned chef Craig Yu (Jason Scott Lee) and offers him the chance to read the Shih-Tan, a secret book of forbidden recipes, if he agrees to cook one of the recipes when he is done. Craig can't resist the opportunity, but when he finally has the book in his hands, he can't believe the main ingredient.

Gregoriane Minot-Payer






Notes and collages

The Ladies of Sci-fi/Fantasy

The Terminator

The Terminator was produced on a limited budget before CGI made special effects so amazing. Even though its two sequels had a lot more money and technology thrown on them the original film is still the best because of the story and the editing of the action.

A fun anecdote about the film is that the Governator was offered the role of the hero but he wanted to be the villain ... and the rest is history.

Linda Hamilton










Marie Forsa in Girl Meets Girl

Some great colleges from Masters of Horror:

Leela Sevaasta

Some great colleges from Masters of Horror:

Robin Sydney

From left to right, Jayne Mansfield, Amber Tamblyn, Petra Nemcova, Mischa Barton



Rachel Miner in a zipped .avi videp from NY-LON. This somehow snuck onto our Top Twenty Nude Scenes of 2004, in the #20 spot. It is a nice nude scene, but has subsequently been forgotten. Rachel Miner seems to be keeping quite a low profile herself.

Beau Garrett (zipped .avi) and Lucy Ramos (zipped .avi) in Turistas