From Jupiter's moon to a Chinese drug war: four beyond-the-mainstream treats for genre film fans
In one incredible sequence, the cop pretends to be Chang, a taciturn junkie with important connections, accompanying Timmy for a meeting with the flashy "Haha," named for his booming, staccato laugh. With a quick wardrobe change and seconds to spare, Zhang then morphs into Haha to meet with the real Chang. In the process, tiny cameras are deployed, drugs are snorted, and loyalties are stretched razor-thin. It's a tour de force — yet remarkably unforced — moment for both actor and director.
Back to censors for a minute, since their kind used notoriously brutal shears on the works of Italian horror legend Dario Argento during his late 1970s-early 80s heyday. With the advent of special-edition DVDs and the like, films like 1982's Tenebre have finally been seen in all their glory. But how often do you get a chance to see Tenebre on 35mm? Thanks to Los Angeles' Cinefamily, the film — more erotic-thriller giallo than standard spook show — will unfurl for one night only at the Roxie.
The movie follows the nightmarish exploits of American author Peter Neal (Tony Franciosa), who visits Rome to promote Tenebre, his latest murder mystery. It's not long before a Neal-obsessed maniac starts dropping bodies (weapon of choice: straight razor; victims of choice: scantily clad women). Along the way, there's a pulse-pounding Goblin soundtrack; a sultry supporting turn by Veronica Lario (as Peter Neal's ex-wife — in real life, she's in the process of divorcing Silvio Berlusconi); B-movie sensation John Saxon (as Neal's agent) looking natty in a fedora; and all the spurting gore and bad dubbing Argento fans demand.
Argento isn't explicitly mentioned by the subjects of Adjust Your Tracking: The Untold Story of the VHS Collector, opening Friday at the Balboa Theatre, but it's a sure bet they appreciate his work. Dan M. Kinem and Levi Peretic's documentary peeks into the tidy lairs of borderline hoarders (all horror and genre fans) who oversee their massive VHS collections with a mixture of pride, good-natured defensiveness, and culty spirit.
A few celebrities drop by (Troma's Lloyd Kaufman admits he prefers DVDs "because of the extras"), but this is mostly regular-dude turf, with a home-video history lesson ("Blockbuster ruined it for everybody") mixed into the nostalgia. High points include extended discussions of "VHS covers that lie to you," as in, when box artwork promises wonders that aren't actually in the film; and of Tales from the Quadead Zone, a (terrible) film so exquisitely rare it sparked an eBay bidding war and inspired at least one tattoo. *
EUROPA REPORT, DRUG WAR, and ADJUST YOUR TRACKING: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE VHS COLLECTOR open Fri/16 in Bay Area theaters. TENEBRE screens Fri/16 at the Roxie.