Monday, January 27, 2014

A Tweet-a-thon remembered

I think we can say that the 5th Annual 4DK Search Term Tweet-a-thon was a resounding success, due to the fact that, for 24 hours, my Twitter feed was converted into something that read like the last paragraph of a Jim Thompson novel. Now, I'm not saying that the proceedings are becoming predictable, but I think that by now we can recognize certain recurring features...

The usual suspects:

(BTW, in case you got the impression that 2013 was free of people searching for that scene in Doodh Ka Karz where Aruna Irani feeds her breast milk to a snake, that's just because I decided not to include them this year. There was actually more than ever.)

Horny people keepin' it real:

Historical inquiry:

Strange obsessions:


Bad ideas:


Wishful thinking:




Pleas for understanding:

And of course, plenty of pure WTF:

As always, other members of the blogging community joined in and pitched their own search terms into the cacaphony. Kevin of Exploder Button, in particular, came through like a god damn boss, flooding the Twitterverse with a near constant stream of query-based effluvia. Among my favorites:

Thanks to everybody who followed along. Now get your sweaty little fingers on those keyboards and start searching. Let's all do our part to make sure that 2015's Tweet-a-thon is the GREATEST OF ALL TIME!!!!

Friday, January 24, 2014

It's the 5th Annual 4DK Search Term Tweet-a-thon!

Every year at this time I survey the search terms that bring people to this blog and, alongside the thrill that comes with the attention of strangers, feel a deep regret for ever having typed the word "rape" into Blogger. Seriously, pervos, I'm contemplating using some kind of code from now on -- like substituting the word "soap" for "rape", or using "r*pe" instead -- just to get you off my scent.

Thankfully, my blog's search terms also contain much of what is pure antidote to such debasement; and by that I mean poetry! It may be crude, grammatically suspect and frequently horny poetry, but it is poetry nonetheless. Which is why, this coming Sunday, January 26th at 5pm PST, I will, just as I have for five years running, take to Twitter and begin tweeting the creme de la creme of my search terms at regular intervals -- a mission at which I will prove unstoppable until 5pm the following evening.

In order to instill the most profound sense of unease in my recent followers, I will not be labeling these tweets in any way or responding to any unrelated tweets during that time. To those bloggers, webmasters and content creators out there who would like to contribute some of your own analytic bounty to the proceedings, I plead with you to do so. Feel free to either designate them as you see fit or simply forward them to me at @fourdk and I will retweet them.

4DK's Twitter feed can be found here. I hope you'll all drop by to sample the madness.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Addict (Egypt, 1983)

Khaled, the title character of Youssef Francis’ The Addict, has the kind of idyllic family life that you only see at the beginning of a movie where things are about to go radically and rapidly south. So overwhelmed is he by the narcotic bliss of middle class complacency that he fails to observe even the most basic principles of driver safety. Out for a recreational spin with his wife and young son, he attempts to steer with the kid in his lap, while at the same time playing the harmonica and canoodling with his wife (no, I am not making that up). The result is a weird, fake (I think) slow motion car crash that sees Khaled thrown from the car while his wife and son, trapped inside, slowly roll into a shallow marsh. This somehow kills them, and the injured Khaled wakes up in a hospital ward as a screaming morphine addict. When the doctors try to wean him off the drug, he stages a violent escape to stagger wild eyed among the populace.

The Addict is what folks nowadays would call a “recovery narrative”, but what strikes me about it is how much it resembles a classic monster movie. Ahmad Zaki, a highly regarded Egyptian actor who has played both Nasser and Sadat, plays Khaled as a sort of reverse Jekyll and Hyde who, when deprived of his drug, transforms into a caterwauling, preverbal beast barely capable of human congress. He is, however, a tragic beast – in the mold of Karloff’s Monster or Laughton’s Hunchback – shambling about with a pathetic stoop, one arm stiff at his side, and a look of utter bafflement on his face. There’s even a scene where his doctor has to protect him from an angry mob. When Zaki really wants to underscore his anguish, he throws an arm across his forehead like a consumptive in a Victorian melodrama.

Eventually, Khaled’s doctor, Doctor Ahmed (as played by another heavy hitter, Adel Adham, whom we last saw in Ayna Tukhabi’un Al-Shams) turns his care over to his physician daughter Layla (Nagwa Ibrahim). Layla, however, has wounds of her own to heal, having just had the surprise of seeing the fellow doctor she’s been maintaining a long distance romance with step off a plane with his new wife. All of the groundwork is laid for Layla to make as much of an addiction of Khaled’s treatment as he does of the morphine. And Khaled indeed makes for a challenge, escaping at the nearest opportunity by clobbering Layla’s female assistant and scrambling noisily through the streets of Cairo like a recently tasered bonobo. Layla is thus forced to scour the mean, mostly back lot bound side streets and back alleys of the city to find him. Once she does, she resolves to avoid a repeat performance by locking herself in with him in the facility in which he is undergoing withdrawal.

Aside from one graphic injection scene, The Addict spares us any of the actual, gritty details of narcotic addiction and withdrawal. We will see no projectile chundering or Trainspotting style bed shitting. Instead what we get is an eventual cut to a smiling Khaled wearing a crisp suit and speaking in complete sentences as Layla looks on approvingly. And, because this is a movie, they have fallen in love. Now all that remains is for Khaled to return to the scene of the accident to confront and expunge his guilt over it (even though, to be honest, it totally was his fault). But then arises the little matter of a box of Morphine, stolen from the hospital Khaled has just left; will the resulting suspicion shatter Khaled and Layla’s new love before it has even begun?

Director Youssef Francis was a painter and author as well as a filmmaker, yet there is nothing particularly painterly or novelistic about The Addict. It exhibit the same high level of technical acumen seen in most Egyptian commercial productions, if perhaps on a slightly more low budget scale, as well as a pastel color scheme that cements it firmly within the early 80s. What makes it, excuse me, addictively watchable, however, is the hysterically over-the-top quality which the performances of Zaki and Nagwa Ibrahim bring to it.

As enjoyable as it may be, though, one thing no one should ever do is mistake Zaki’s performance for an accurate portrayal of addiction. I mean, if narcotics actually had that effect on a person, how would all of that great jazz music ever have gotten made? Or this review. THANK YOU, DRUGS!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Gunmaster is coming!

Gaze now upon the magnificent teaser trailer for our next episode of Fighting Femmes, Fiends, and Fanatics, which gives long overdue focus to the lightfooted antics of Bollywood's dancing-est superspy, Gunmaster G-9!

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Search for Weng Weng (Australia, 2013)

To the cult film connoisseurs who will make up its core audience, The Search for Weng Weng has already become something of a legend. Directed by Andrew Leavold, founder of Australia’s largest cult video store and author of the indispensable blog Bamboo Gods and Bionic Boys, the film has been seven years in the making and at times seemed at risk of never being completed at all. There is no underestimating the power of obsession, however, as now, thanks to Leavold’s benign mania and the generosity of his supporters, The Search for Weng Weng is finally in the can and poised to make its festival debut.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I am among the many people thanked in The Search for Weng Weng’s closing credits -- and also that I see Leavold as very much a kindred spirit. Perhaps it’s in revolt against our own insignificance that chroniclers of international cult cinema like him and me weave entire histories from footnotes and, in so doing, strive quixotically to rescue our subjects from the grasp of obscurity. In any case, Leavold certainly presents himself a challenge with the diminutive Filipino spy spoof star Weng Weng, a figure whom, if anything, has become even more of an abstraction during the time it has taken Leavold to complete his film, thanks to numerous YouTube clips and novelties like The Chuds’ “Weng Weng Rap” going from being a human casting gimmick to a full blown meme and a punch line to a large number of people who would never, unless prompted, think to consider his humanity.

Though he likely needs no introduction to readers of this blog, I’ll simply say that the 2’9” Weng Weng, after being discovered by husband and wife producers Peter and Cora Caballes, became the star of a string of miniature spy spoofs that made him a sensation of sorts in the Philippines of the 1980s, while at the same time earning him a spot in the Guiness Book of Records as the most diminutive adult actor to appear as the lead in any film. When one of those films, 1981’s For Y’ur Height Only, got picked up for international distribution, Weng Weng, for better or worse, became for a time the most recognizable face of Filipino cinema outside the country’s borders. As Leavold notes in the introduction to his documentary, aside from these scant facts, little is known about the tiny performer beyond what we see on display in the handful of his films that survive; that being the image of a monumentally inexpressive, karate fighting homunculus with a tendency to punch his opponents in the groin before escaping between their legs.

Leavold, over the course of numerous visits to the Philippines -- whose bustling streets he films with an affectionate eye for gritty detail -- structures his excavation of Weng Weng’s past as a classic detective story, with us learning each new revelation, one piling on top of another, as he does. His interview subjects include many figures familiar to Filipino exploitation enthusiasts -- producer/director Bobby Suarez, the One Armed Executioner himself, Franco Guerrero, Silip’s Maria Isabel Lopez -- but it is often the grunts on the ground -- the stuntmen, gophers and grips -- from whom he gleans the most salient clues, among them an editor he stumbles upon completely by chance who turns out to have worked on most of Weng Weng’s movies. There are also, as with most investigations, a fair share of intriguing detours, the most surreal being a visit to the mansion of Imelda Marcos that sees the scruffy Leavold given the VIP treatment at a gala reception for the former first lady’s 83rd birthday. A tour of the grounds, conducted by Imelda herself, follows, during which we’re given a loving look at the glass entombed corpse of her dictator husband.

While displaying a healthy sense of humor about his own nerdy fixations, Leavold’s approach to his subject is refreshingly free of the snark one might expect, and is instead unapologetic about being what ultimately amounts to a serious, compassionate and rigorously competent work of investigative journalism. Given the lack of detail he starts with, the extent to which he is able to color in the broad outlines of Weng Weng’s life and career is remarkable. And despite some picaresque details -- like the possibility that Weng Weng may have actually been employed by the Filipino secret service -- the portrait that emerges is, not surprisingly, the more melancholy one that one might expect in a real world in which child-like, 2’9” tall men don’t typically get to woo a succession of beautiful women and fly around in jet packs.

At the same time, and by necessity, Leavold presents a larger portrait of the Philippines’ home grown, Tagalog language film industry that makes his film a welcome counterpoint to Mark Hartley’s fine Machete Maidens Unleashed (to which Leavold also contributed), which focused almost exclusively on the country’s American co-produced contributions to the international exploitation market. Given special focus are the concurrent waves of 1960s James Bond inspired spy pictures, like Tony Ferrer’s long running Tony Falcon series, and irreverent spoofs -- Dolphy vehicles like James Batman being an example-- that dovetailed into the Weng Weng phenomenon. He also touches interestingly upon those aspects of Filipino culture that immunized the makers of Weng Weng’s films from the kind of censure that, in the U.S., greeted Tod Browning’s Freaks, a frequently touched upon film that also exploited its featured performers’ real deformities.

One thing that Leavold comes up against repeatedly in his interviews is the sense that, to many in the Philippines today -- and especially among its cultural proponents -- Weng Weng and his films are something of an embarrassment (in fact, the incredulity of his interview subjects begins to become something of a running gag). A particular sore point seems to be the fact that, at the much touted 1982 Manila International Film Festival, despite the works of the country’s most respected filmmakers being on offer, the only Filipino property to be purchased for distribution outside the P.I. was For Y’ur Height Only. However, it is in this light that I think Leavold’s documentary offers a testament to the worthiness of international pop cinema (or what some, Leavold included, might call “trash” cinema) as a focus of close investigation.

For, indeed, Filipino masters like Lino Brocka might have striven earnestly to show the rest of the world -- or, in most cases, the more or less affluent, predominately white attendees of western art cinemas and film festivals -- what life is like for the Philippines’ impoverished masses. Yet it just might be that a film like For Y’ur Height Only offers us a clearer and less exclusive window into the hearts and minds of those masses. What we then see is both a cheerful lack of pretension and a pronounced generosity of spirit, combined with what Imee Marcos calls the propensity of Filipinos to “turn pain into ridicule”. Given how poignantly The Search for Weng Weng drives this point home, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to consider documentaries like it and Machete Maidens Unleashed as standing alongside “serious” works like Eleanor Coppola’s chronicle of the production of Apocalypse Now, Hearts of Darkness as essential filmic records of the Philippines’ cinematic history. You, of course, might not agree, but that shouldn’t stop you from seeing this film at the soonest opportunity.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Face of MOSS

As you may have noticed, the Mysterious Order of the Skeleton Suit has many faces. For an outfit that prefers to operate under a veil of secrecy, they have a surprisingly pronounced social media presence, providing a steady stream of propaganda through accounts on Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter. Yet, while you have been distracted by those sources of amiable noise, they have metamorphosed, like a scary butterfly, into their most fearsome and all-encompassing iteration yet.

Thanks to the efforts of His Most Supremely Skeletal himself, Teleport City’s Keith Allison, the new MOSS site offers one stop shopping for much of the best cult cinema writing on the net, aggregating reviews and articles from the entirety of MOSS’s member blogs, podcasts and sites. In addition to 4DK and Teleport City, these include my brother from another mother and our joint podcast The Infernal Brains, the Cultural Gutter, the Horror!?, Exploder Button, Deadly Doll’s House of Horror Nonsense, Fist of B-List, Hammicus, Greatest Movie Ever, Monster Island Resort, Permission to Kill and, last but not least, holding down the Bollywood beat, Beth Loves Bollywood and Memsaab Story.

Let me stress that what MOSS is offering with this site is one hundred percent content. We won’t be bombarding you with listicles or nerd baiting crap about cats with tie-fighter markings, nor will we trouble you with trapdoor links to other link infested sites. If you are familiar with any of the writers and podcasters I’ve listed above, you’re probably aware that what connects us is a tendency to be substantive to a fault, no matter how outwardly trivial our subjects might appear. Now all of the products of our obsessiveness are there for your perusal, either indexed or randomized, in one place. And now that the feelings of being overwhelmed that I felt during its formative stages have started to subside, I now see it for the truly amazing thing that it is. I almost want to wallop myself with a mallet and become an amnesiac so that I, like you, can discover it anew. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Nyi Ageng Ratu Pemikat (Indonesia, 1983)

Nyi Ageng Ratu Pemikat is an odd film. Odd not just because it is an Indonesian action fantasy directed by Sundel Bolong’s Sisworo Gautama Putra and starring Suzzanna and Barry Prima, which are characteristically odd, but also odd in contrast to the expectations that such films typically raise. The best I can put it is that, for a large part of its running time, Nyi Ageng Ratu Pemikat is like a steamy plantation romance with all of the sex taken out. Its most erotic moment sees Suzzanna felating her own finger, followed by a shot of two frogs fucking.

I’ve often said, though perhaps not out loud, that Suzzanna and Barry Prima deserve a place alongside Tracy and Hepburn in the pantheon of great screen couples, even if they were usually cast in opposition to each other. Such pairings usually featured Prima as the righteous muscle farmer pitted against one of Suzzanna’s patented wild eyed devil women. In Nyi Ageng Ratu Pemikat, however, we get the rare treat of seeing both cast as protagonists, a pair of star-crossed lovers who come up against obstacles both worldly and otherworldly in their quest to be together.

Nyi Ageng Ratu Pemikat, which I watched bereft of the sweet mercy that subtitles might have provided, is based on an Indonesian comic book called Nyai Rangsang, which in turn might be based on the life of Indonesian national heroine Nyi Ageng Serang -- though, if it is, I feel comfortable in saying that it is very loosely based on same. In any case, the first act sees Suzzanna’s 19th century heroine, as we are so accustomed, repeatedly subjected to the worst depredations of men. In most Suzzanna films, this would be balanced out by her becoming some kind of blood thirsty vengeance demon in the second half, but in Nyi Ageng Ratu Pemikat, well… perhaps I should just continue with the summary.

We open on a triple tragedy, with Suzzanna’s long suffering mom, neglected by her cruel husband (H.I.M. Damsjik), dying in her bed as, meanwhile, her pregnant sister, abandoned by her unborn baby’s father, performs a violent abortion on herself with a pointy bedpost (Nyi Ageng Ratu Pemikat don’t mess). Afterward, the grieving Suzzanna is cast out into the stormy night by her father. Later, she is forced to marry a wealthy plantation owner who attempts to rape her on their wedding night. Suzzanna flees and, rather than be captured by her husbands’ pursuing minions, throws herself from a cliff into the raging river below. Her husband, attempting to catch her, plummets after her and dies. Later, a passing sorceress saves Suzzanna by levitating her out of the rapids using spooky hand gestures. She takes her back to her magic cave and performs a number of rituals on her which include making a diamond disappear into her forehead and sticking a needle into her cheek to seemingly no effect. Suzanna also appears to place a red hot ember against her vagina. From my vantage point, none of this had any bearing on what occurs throughout the rest of the movie.

Suzzanna eventually ends up as the kept woman of Sastro, the troll-ish plantation supervisor played by Soendjoto Adibroto, whose name we will never spell out again. The posh lifestyle attendant to this role is reflected by Suzzanna in her many amazing costumes and ornate head adornments. Unfortunately, her heart truly belongs to Broto, the studly young farm boy played by Barry Prima. Suzzanna first meets Broto when he saves her from a gang of workers who are attempting to rape her, and defends him when Sastro almost runs him and his mom down in his carriage. Suzzanna soon falls into a passionate, Vaseline lensed romance with Broto. And who can blame her? Young Barry Prima is looking especially delicious here, as we will now contemplate:

Ha ha, bros! Now you’re all gay. (While 4DK continues its long standing effect of making its straight women readers even more heterosexual.)

Sastro eventually becomes aware of Suzzanna’s dalliances and turns to a completely other sorceress for help, who has a female chorus line at her beck and call to perform the necessary disco dancing aspects of her rituals (it’s telling that, in a movie where Suzzanna plays a mortal protagonist, we need two fiery eyed witch women to compensate). Potions are devised and voodoo dolls are pricked and, just to pick up the strays, Sastro takes to roaming the plantation grounds with a deadly blowgun.

One day, Broto follows Sastro as he carries the corpse of one of his victims to the sorceress’ cave, where he turns it into a gold plated zombie. Sastro sees that the walls of the cave are lined with poor souls who have similarly been turned into such creatures. Then a quarrel breaks out between Sastro and the sorceress which ends with him tearing off her head, which flies away of its own accord. A black cat then bursts out of the sorceress’ entrails and attack Sastro, which is extremely gross and legitimately surprising.

I should also mention that, just in case Sastro doesn’t seem reprehensible enough to you at this point, he also hobnobs with those bastard Dutch. (Be forewarned that I fully intend to use my one quarter Dutch heritage as license to malign that people at every opportunity. However, should you who are free of my native blood dare to call my people “tulip chewers” – which I’ve just learned is one of the only extent slurs for Dutch people – you will taste my fists. “Tulip chewers” is our word!) This leads to Suzzanna receiving the unwanted attentions of a Dutch nobleman played by an actor whom, due to my not knowing his name, I will simply refer to as Indonesia’s Tom Alter.

Nyi Ageng Ratu Pemikat roars to a close with the desperate Sastro taking Suzzanna hostage and Barry Prima’s Broto risking all kinds of death traps to save her. This section also offers us some nice martial sequences as both Barry and Suzzanna fight their way out of the cave, sending golden zombies and evil minions alike flying hither and thither. Oh, and then we get some nice exploding lair action to put the icing on the cake, which is not the kind of ending I would have expected from this film given the tear-plumbing melodrama that it started out with.

Nyi Ageng Ratu Pemikat is one of those films about which there appears to be a lot of information on the internet, until you find that each site simply re-pastes its meager Indonesian Wikipedia entry. What I did learn from that entry is that Nyi Ageng Ratu Pemikat was Indonesia’s third highest grossing film of 1985. Despite arousing suspicion that the author of that entry suffered some confusion around the movie’s actual release date, I can totally understand it being that popular. I admit to being baffled by Nyi Ageng Ratu Pemikat at first, but, by the end, I was so on board with it that no amount of counter-hexing could break its spell. Score one more for Indonesia.