Movie Review: Fritz the Cat

NOTE: This review is republished for posterity. This review first appeared as part of the “Resolutions” blogathon over at Silver Screen Serenade. You can find the original post here.

“Just because there are talking animals and it’s animated doesn’t always mean it’s a kids film (Fritz the Cat anyone?).” Rango review, August 6, 2013.

That’s the truth; had I known this film would be much easier to find than what I had originally thought, I would have watched it much earlier. I found and purchased a DVD copy at a secondhand store where it’s nothing but donations. I’m surprised that someone around town had a copy in the first place but as someone who wants the best for cheap without pirating, this was probably my only current chance to do so. In the back of my mind, I had heard of this film mainly for the fact that it was the first X-rated animated film in history. The back cover of my print lists it as “Not Rated” though the suggested viewing age is listed for other countries. Figured I had nothing to lose, I sat down and watched it.

A college-aged cat kicks around the 1960’s and gets into all sorts of hi-jinks.

Trying as best as I can to keep it G according to my profile on the LAMB website, what kind of adventures does Fritz get into? Sex and drugs overlaid with a soundtrack of rock and roll, staging a revolution, escaping the law, and blowing up a power plant.

The thing to keep in mind is that this is satire from the dialogue down to the animal symbolism. Two of the animals included are pigs (the police) and crows (African Americans). If anyone felt uncomfortable with the depiction of the crows from Dumbo, then this film will be a hard one to swallow. I even felt unsettled when the scenes were played. That’s not to say they were well done in the context of satire. The only animal I had difficulty understanding are the panthers/lions/whatever that are supposed to represent the Jewish. I am not sure what the symbolism is but if anyone has an answer let me know.

According to the DVD print I have, the top banner labels it as “Avant Garde Cinema”. That’s true in the sense that this film will catch you off-guard in terms of content and animation. There are some rather trippy scenes, namely when a crow Fritz befriends dies on the street and his life ticks away by pool balls and the entire introduction to Blue, the bunny on the motorcycle. Then of course there’s the idea of an X-rated animated film, something that was considered avant-garde back then.

How does it hold up today? If you watch it solely on the fact that it was the first X-rated animated film then I suppose it does well. Granted, we’re in the age where some of the humor in the film is not only politically incorrect and offensive as it was when it was first released but also that it’s been done later on in some animated shows (I’ll let you fill in the blanks). That said, the bite it has may not be as strong.

I’d recommend it for historical purposes. It’s one to keep away from the kids for sure.

7/10

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Movie Review: Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom

…I…I…I…nope nope no no no no no no no no no no no no no no. This is a deplorable and disgraceful thing to watch. Unless you are trying to complete the 1001 list, you can go on about your life without ever needing to see this.

In a series of episodes, young people are taken hostage and are subject to some truly awful things.

The happiest moment is the uninspired opening title sequence. The music is so cheerful and yet knowing about what lay within I grew very uneasy.

How do you get people willing to be in something like this? Unlike Flaming Creatures, where the film appeared to be an older version of something you would shoot on your cellphone after a night of heavy drinking and possible drug use, this is an actual serious movie. There is no happiness. There is no joy. There is no hope.

From pre-Fifty Shades stories to the terrible dinner over an hour into the film, you wonder exactly what was going through the actors’ minds. I imagine all thoughts fall under one simple category: WHY? Granted, this kind of stuff has and does happen in the real world but it is not brought to light unless those involved are into that kind of thing or have no choice and, like the poor people in the film, are held hostage. There are even scenes where people, stripped of all clothing, are shot multiple times and you see the wounds appear on the skin. I can’t tell if the special effects are really good for something made in this era or if they actual shot the actor and left them for dead.

I will allow myself, as much as it pains me, to briefly and bluntly tell you one particular scene. Whoever has the best pair of buttocks will be put to death. (insert incoherent shocked mind-rambling here)

The set design fits the mood well. Dark, unsettling, claustrophobic.

In the end, the question boils down to why in the world is this a must-see film before I die? Well, I say it’s because it shows that something like what goes on within the film can be done but only if it contains several layers of subtext. Now, the content that is contained in here from what I’ve read about Pink Flamingos (as I still need to see it) does carry over (especially the coprophagia) but that purpose is for bad taste. Salo is not about good or bad taste; there is no taste.

I suppose I should tell you when the best time to watch it is. If you’re a regular person (whatever that means), don’t let curiosity get the better of you. If you’re a film major or a 1001 completionist, at least see this once. If you need a companion to accompany you and give you solace as you watch this, make sure they have some mental prep as to what’s to come. The time of day does not matter as it is still scarring at 9 in the evening as it is at 5:30 in the morning. Let’s face it, this isn’t high on my list of faves on the 1001 and probably will never be. Unless something like this is on the 1001, you probably won’t see me review it unless I lost a bet.

Did I experience emotion? Yep. Is my mind and intellect broadened by this experience? Yep. Is this a hard watch? Yep. Now if you excuse me, I think it’s time for some heavy-duty brain bleach.

3/10

1001 MYMSBYD selection

Movie Review: Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny

 

This beats Citizen Kane by miles. Such beautiful cinematography, such distinguished acting, such dexterity of the narrative and commentary on the season, it’s never been seen before.

OK, OK, I kid. The Star Wars Holiday Special is much better than this, um, thing. After seeing the best of Rifftrax of this, I figured I should see this unriffed and share the magic of it with others.

Plot? You’re on your own.

Santa is trapped in the hot Florida sun and cannot get his sleigh out of the sand. Santa, do you even lift? Seriously, just brush away the sand and go. But no, we spend five minutes with random kids who just so happen to have these animals out on the beach with no success.

So, to pad the film, I mean pass the time, Santa tells the story of Thumbelina. Apparently, Santa is so thorough that he even includes movie credits. Stay with me here: The movie has a narrator who tells the story of Santa who is describing the movie Thumbelina which is told by a distorted, uncaring narrator at an exhibit in Pirates World, which even has backstories explained by some of the characters. Insert Inception kick here.

And then there’s the bunny. I hear tell that the Ice Cream Bunny is closely related to Frank from Donnie Darko, so I’m told. For no other reason at the end, he just shows up with his fire engine and takes Santa away. OK, but has Santa ever seen a portal?

I invite you to look at the tagline on that poster. Talk about false advertising. The only part that’s true is “breath-taking”, as in “Seeing the quality of this thing with you own eyes is not only breath-taking but also soul-taking.”

This is one to watch with friends with a really good sense of humor and loyalty but proceed with extreme caution. If not, go for the actual Rifftrax session. Watching this alone, like I did, will test your patience and your sanity. Tread very lightly.

1/10

Movie Review: The Swarm

Where do I bee-gin? One night, years ago, my dad brought home Them!, the classic giant ant movie. A few weeks later he came home with this one about killer bees and we stopped taking it seriously and resorted to riffing it. Last night, I watched this again; I still prefer Them! over this disaster flick.

Killer bees attack people.

I’m not exactly too fond of bees or small flying buzzing things. Back then, you couldn’t convince me to star in this picture. True, the bees had their stingers removed (or most of them anyway) but that wouldn’t be enough.

I’m not a big fan with the editing style found in today’s action/disaster films. Sure, you can communicate the intensity of the situation by cutting quickly to different parts of the scene or even have the camera shake for realism. In exchange, the viewer cannot register those half second edits in the same time that they’re on screen. By the time they do, several edits will have passed and it’s a game of catch up. Here, there’s none of that, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. Yes, you can see the bees attack in slow motion and that works for those scenes. But when we see people hold conversations, there are few, if any, close-up reaction shots of characters in relation to the conversation’s content. It’s all so distant that it’s hard to emote with any of them.

There are some subplots with the town’s residents but they never are resolved as they die by being stung to death or in a fiery train wreck. I never expected them to go anywhere however it’s a poor resolution. Yes, this happens with any drama you can think of but it can be done well. Here, it’s not. There is not enough time to care about them and when that happens, those eight words (nine if you separate the contraction) pop into my head: “I don’t care what happens to these people.”

There are some things still left unexplained. How exactly did Crane know about this? What scientist would perform experiments on their own antidote on themselves without ANY prior testing? How exactly did they get to their final solution? We had no clue, no set-up that the final solution would be the “be all, end all” so why bother? Probably because they had ten minutes left from the 156 running time and something had to happen.

Speaking of running time, the print I watched was the extended unrated cut. The original PG cut is only 116 minutes. Thing is, the extended version is the only one available for home media. Why not release the original?

Considered one of the disasters of 1978 (as in “failure” not “from the disaster genre”), I guess it’s no wonder it bombed at the box office. Even then, it’s in consideration for a remake; hopefully it’ll be better crafted. If you do watch it, do so with friends; it’s more fun that way.

5/10

Movie Review: Young Frankenstein

 

This was how I spent my time in an art class final in high school. What happened was that we took the final as a regular test ahead of time and spent the actual final day in class as party time. It ended up that we didn’t finish the film but it was my first foray into Mel Brooks.

A descendant from the Frankenstein (“Fronk-en-steen” when spoken) inherits the family castle and, despite his initial dislike, ends up following those footsteps.

Gene Wilder and Marty Feldman really carry the whole movie through their acting. With Gene, he carries over some of his eccentricity from Willy Wonka. Just Marty Feldman’s physical appearance makes him a perfect fit as Igor.

Blucher (neigh!)

Seeing how today the idea and execution of parody in film has declined in quality, it’s refreshing to see how it was done decades ago. Here, Mel Brooks has taken great care to make the film’s world as true to the source material as possible. From using equipment from the 1931 adaptation of Frankenstein to employing period-style credits and transitions, it’s quite affectionate.

Blucher (neigh!)

It did seem to drag on a bit towards the end. It was a long while before the monster came to life and by that point I’m wondering how much longer it would take before the end of the film. Then again, the pacing does fit with the time period of the source material.

A nice Halloween flick, perfect for this time of year.

7/10

1001 MYMSBYD selection

400 Nominations for AFI Top 100 for both years

Blucher (neigh!)