"Swamp Thing" (1982)

This is not the first time I have viewed Swamp Thing, but the newly-released DVD marks the first time I have actually been able to see it. Written and directed by Wes Craven, Swamp Thing is based on a DC Comic book by the same name. Dr. Alec Holland is hidden away in the swamps of South Carolina working on recombinant DNA and a way to breed plants with a survival instinct. The bad guys attack when he has finally been successful, and he is accidentally doused with his own formula. Thus Swamp Thing is born. He has a thing for government agent Adrianne Barbeau, and devotes his time to protecting her from the bad guys, who are still after the formula.

Watching this film when you can actually see it, rather then seeing nothing but hazy shadows and swamp gas makes all of the difference in the world. It is beautifully shot, and has a good enough plot, and good acting. In other words, what I had thought of as a badly filmed piece of schlock with the infamous Barbeau exposure missing forever turned out to be a nicely done bit of horror/suspense. Barbeau's nude bathing scene is long and decently lit, and there is some nudity from anonymous strippers that I had never even heard of before this DVD version. This marks the fourth recent release of an old B movie with great image quality (see Toxic Avenger, The Erotic Adventures of Zorro and Bluebeard). I wonder what they have learned that seems to escape the major studios with their recent releases.


Adrienne Barbeau (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10) Stripper (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

Johnny Web
"Breaking the Waves" (1996)

What does a movie have to have in order to be a great movie? Are there minimum requirements? For example, how important is technical achievement? If we filmed Branagh's Henry V and left the lenscap on, would it still be a good movie? What if we had the world's greatest cast in the world's greatest play and simply filmed it on stage from the front row with a hidden camera? Would that be a good movie?

I don't know the answers to these questions, but they all pertain to this movie. It's a powerful story, and it's brilliantly acted. But it couldn't be worse technically. It's filmed entirely with a hand-held camera and that camera was held by an unsteady hand which often moved too fast from face to face. The lighting is poor and inconsistent. (For example, people's clothes seem to change in the middle of a scene, because the uncontrolled lighting changes the colors from one set-up to the next.) The cuts are done by simply stopping one scene and abruptly starting another, the same way that scenes would change if you edited a movie entirely in the camera. Some scenes are so bereft of color that they seem to be in B&W, or rather B&G (black and light green). In some close-ups, Emily Watson's hair is the same color as her eyes. (I think they are supposed to be auburn and blue, respectively). There are so many squinty-eyed facial close-ups that I half expected to see Lee van Cleef and Eli Wallach getting ready to draw. Half of the camera set-ups are out of focus at one time or another. The movie is interrupted with chapter headings, which are syrupy color-saturated scenes with a top 40 rock hit playing in the background, and are completely inconsistent with the tone of the rest of the movie.

Why go on? You get the point. Technically, it might be the worst movie ever released. Plan Nine From Outer Space looks like Juraissic Park next to this thing. The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, made 75 years earlier, is much better technically. And I'm not joking. Reviewers glossed over this point. People euphemistically called it "experimental" or "cinema verite", but the simple truth is that the emperor has no clothes. You could do better in your basement with a home camcorder and your drunken college buds. But could you make a better movie? Absolutely not. Not that many people have ever made a better movie.

Which brings us back to the original questions. Rating technical achievement on a scale of 1 to 100, Juraissic Park is 90+, and Breaking the Waves is probably less than 1. Does that mean Juraissic Park is ipso facto a better movie? I don't think so. The technical component is, as I see it, only a means to an end. The real evaluation point of the film medium is its ability to involve us in the story and move us in some way - to laughter, or tears, or enlightenment, or fright. This movie succeeds for many people, so the technique didn't get in the way of a lot of award nominations.

Having said that, let me add that it's too long and slow for me, and I could have done without the last 15 seconds, which are cornier than a drive through Iowa. And I don't think the odd and pretentiously declasse pseudo-documentary technique makes it better. Quite the opposite. But the film still touched many people very deeply, and is a deeply spiritual movie in its own way. (Note: many religous people objected to the content, and many feminists objected to the exploitation of a simple, submissive woman.)

Is Emily Watson the greatest actress in the world? I don't know. I've seen her in other movies and she's been good but never this good. This is one of the greatest performances I've ever seen, maybe the best ever by a woman. Perhaps she will never again equal what she did here. Maybe she was just born to do this, Brando playing Stanley Kowalski. But whether the woman was flying at her natural level or just soaring on a once in a lifetime gust of wind, she did a helluva job in a role that required her to do a great range of emotions and many pseudo-monologues. In prayer, for example, she spoke both her own voice and God's imagined responses. And she had to do all this through the voice of an off-kilter woman with an outrageous Northern accent.

The plot: Watson's character is a member of a reclusive and xenophobic community. She is perhaps a bit daft, or perhaps a bit slow, or perhaps just a simple person who wants to do what she thinks is right. Her community thinks she is a few bricks shy of a load. She has to plead with the local church elders to allow her to marry an outsider. When she does marry her strapping oil rig worker, this virgin finds absolute and immediate physical and spiritual delight with her husband. But their happiness is shattered when Jan is injured in an industrial accident, and may never walk again. For reasons not explained to us, the bedridden Jan decides that his wife needs to sleep with other men and tell him about it. Her submissiveness to his will sets up further tragedy.

A simple summary doesn't really give you a feel for it. You have to feel the motivations through the Watson character, and you have to feel with her that she is always trying to do the right thing, out of love. She somehow pulls that off and allows you inside her completely, becoming achingly vulnerable in every way. Astounding.

Emily Watson (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

"Breakfast of Champions" (1999)

A screen adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut's eponymous novel. It seems to me that Vonnegut is nearly impossible to adapt to film. His bittersweet novels are deeply cynical without nihilism, matter-of-fact about absurdity, and scathing without condemnation. The word "wry" was probably created just for Vonnegut. He also uses a lot of verbal tricks to carry his tone consistently. So it goes.

How to get this feel in a movie? I don't think it has been done yet. Slaughterhouse Five and Mother Night were mediocre movies, and Slapstick was a complete fuck-up starring Jerry Lewis, Marty Feldman, and Pat Morita. The latest attempt, Breakfast of Champions, will not please Vonnegut fans, who will be disappointed by the screen realization of such Vonnegut staples as Kilgore Trout. Neither will this weird film motivate many people to read Vonnegut, who is actually not all that weird, but rather just seems to know more than we humans do. So it goes.

But if you just take it the film on its own, you may see some positives. The photography is very clear, colorful, and imaginative. That is the strongest point. Some moments are funny. Kinda. In a try-too-hard kinda way. But overall it is arty, disjointed and eccentric, and won't please many of you. I'm a big Vonnegut fan, and I generally like Bruce Willis, but I didn't much care for this flick, and hit the FF a lot. So it goes.

IMDb viewers rate it a weak 4.4 out of 10, while only 19% of reviewers gave it a positive spin, according to Rotten Tomatoes.Here's the Rotten Tomatoes summary

The film also bombed at the box office. It took in $175,000 in a limited run (14 weeks, but very few screens), and probably disappointed the investors who covered the $12 million budget.

Here's Glenne Headly in her underwear. There is no nudity in the film. So it goes.

Shannon Elizabeth
(1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
Comments by Sasquatch:
"American Pie" has probably been thoroughly covered, but I recently saw a collage in the Fun House and felt inspired. This is only my second attempt at doing vidcaps but I'm pleased with the results. Hopefully the Fun House audience won't be to harsh. However, if anyone does feel the urge to start tossing rocks or rotten produce...I urge you to take aim at the folks that want to make the "American Pie" sequel!
WhyScan's Page Three Report
If Page Three is unfamiliar to you, this link describes the Page Three tradition.
Today's Page 3 girl....Melanie, 20, from Watford. (1, 2, 3, 4)
Kari Wuhrer
(1, 2, 3, 4)
Many Fun House readers know that I am a huge Kari fan, so seeing the occasional Kari tribute should be nothing new...But today is a little different. Well, for me anyway...because before today I had not seen 3 of these 4 images! Woo-Hoo!

Here's the breakdown: #1...A very lovely see-thru. #2...Pokies, and legs. #3 For those out there who think the caboose is the best part of the train...I dare you to show me a better derriere than the one in this scan! #4...An old favorite: vidcaps from "Sensation", by Hugo. Actually, I've never seen these frames before either, so I guess that makes 4 for 4!

Claudia Pandolfi
(1, 2, 3)
Excellent topless paparazzi pics of the Italian actress, by Piccap.
Heather Langenkamp
(1, 2)
An interesting find for fans of the various "Nightmare on Elm Street" movies. Just after the first movie in '84, Heather got nekkid as seen here in these 'caps from "Nickel Mountain". Not too shabby up top, but as you can see in #2, she was in desperate need of a few sit-ups.
Nikki Cox Excellent vidcaps by Schorle from "Unhappily". From the looks of these 'caps, those puppies are begging to get out!
Cherie Lunghi and Veronika Logan
(1, 2, 3)
Lesbian lovin' from "The One You Love", by Watty.
Saskia Wickham Vidcaps of the British actress from 1994's "Royal Deceit".
The Funnies
Bomb squad Divorce settlement
Redneck road signs Remote Control
Santa "Taking care of business" Rednecks and farm animals
With a very special thanks to Number is a little something for those of us who have come to know "The Simpsons" as one of the greatest television shows ever!

At the beginning of every episode of The Simpsons our friend Bart is seen copying something on the blackboard over and over .... presumably 100 times. Some enterprising Simpson watchers claim to have compiled the definitive list of the things that Bart has written. I don't know how accurate this is .... but here goes!

I will not carve gods. I will not spank others. I will not aim for the head. I will not barf unless I'm sick I will not expose the ignorance of the faculty. I saw nothing unusual in the teacher's lounge. I will not conduct my own fire drills. Funny noises are not funny. I will not snap bras. I will not fake seizures. This punishment is not boring and pointless. My name is not Dr. Death. I will not defame New Orleans. I will not prescribe medication. I will not bury the new kid. I will not teach others to fly. I will not bring sheep to class. A burp is not an answer. Teacher is not a leper. Coffee is not for kids. I will not eat things for money. I will not yell "She's Dead" at roll call. The principal's toupee is not a Frisbee. I will not call the principal "spud head". Goldfish don't bounce. Mud is not one of the 4 food groups. No one is interested in my underpants. I will not sell miracle cures. I will return the seeing-eye dog. I do not have diplomatic immunity. I will not charge admission to the bathroom. I will never win an emmy. The cafeteria deep fryer is not a toy. All work and no play makes Bart a dull boy. I will not say "Springfield" just to get applause. I am not authorized to fire substitute teachers. My homework was not stolen by a one-armed man. I will not go near the kindergarten turtle. I am not deliciously saucy. Organ transplants are best left to professionals. The Pledge of Allegiance does not end with "Hail Satan". I will not celebrate meaningless milestones. There are plenty of businesses like show business. I will not re-transmit without the express permission of Major League Baseball. Five days is not too long to wait for a gun. I will not waste chalk. I will not skateboard in the halls. I will not instigate revolution. I will not draw naked ladies in class. I did not see Elvis. I will not call my teacher "Hot Cakes". Garlic gum is not funny. They are laughing at me, not with me. I will not yell "Fire" in a crowded classroom. I will not encourage others to fly. I will not fake my way through life. Tar is not a plaything. I will not Xerox my butt. It's potato, not potatoe. I will not trade pants with others. I am not a 32 year old woman. I will not do that thing with my tongue. I will not drive the principal's car. I will not pledge allegiance to Bart. I will not sell school property. I will not burp in class. I will not cut corners. I will not get very far with this attitude. I will not belch the National Anthem. I will not sell land in Florida. I will not grease the monkey bars. I will not hide behind the Fifth Amendment. I will not do anything bad ever again. I will not show off. I will not sleep through my education. I am not a dentist. Spitwads are not free speech. Nobody likes sunburn slappers. High explosives and school don't mix. I will not bribe Principal Skinner. I will not squeak chalk. I will finish what I sta "Bart Bucks" are not legal tender. Underwear should be worn on the inside. The Christmas Pageant does not stink. I will not torment the emotionally frail.

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