Monday, March 19, 2012

KFP salutes Forgotten Fiends - Dargent Peytraud

Everybody knows the big guys - Myers, Dracula, the Mummy, the Wolfman, Freddy.  They have their own franchises, their own toys, and worldwide recognition.  The KFP "Forgotten Fiend" awards, however, are dedicated to the guys who didn't end up with action figures...  Who were in only one movie and yet their presence was so memorable that they MADE the movie.  The ones about whom you go away thinking, "Damn, that was a great villain!"

My first entry into this category is this guy, Zakes Mokae.  Or as I will always remember him, Dargent Peytraud from The Serpent and the Rainbow, a favorite horror movie of mine and one of the few Wes Craven flicks that I actually like.  In Serpent, Peytraud is the Bad Guys' Bad Guy - Scheming, brilliant, devious, mischievous, and often downright terrifying.  Even more frightening is the fact that he personifies the sort of depersonalized, bored government sadism typical of despotic regimes and French administration.  He's not out to control the world, just to keep Haiti held together with an iron fist, and if you threaten to upset his applecart even one iota, hold onto your nuts!

I'm hard to scare in horror movies - The Exorcist girl did nothing for me, Freddy and Jason are just goofy, and the less said about franchise characters like Chucky and the Leprechaun, the better.  When I look back over my movie history, I can really only think of a few movie villains that genuinely creeped me out.  There was the Tall Man from Phantasm, Max Schreck in Nosferatu, the ghosts in The Fog, the original Michael Myers, that thing at the end of [REC], and a few others... and among them is Zakes Mokae's Peytraud, the guy who can say, "See you in your dreeeeeeems, blanc" and really mean it.

I love a lot of things about Peytraud.  I love the way he talks.  I love the way he says, "Dreeeems".  I love the way he depersonalizes the hero as merely, "Blanc"...  Just one more annoyance to be swatted out of the way, unless you really irritate him enough to give you his full attention, and you really, really don't want that.  Dracula might toss you around and drink your blood, and the Alien might spray acid on you, but Peytraud will hammer a nail through your testicles just to convince you he's serious.  Throughout the whole movie, he marvelously communicates the aura of the guy that you simply do NOT screw around with.

His sense of mounting menace helps.  At first meet, you think he's just a bureaucrat, pushing papers at the ministry and being suitably brusque to foreigners messing in his country.  But hero "Doctah Alan" finds out quickly that Peytraud is no pushover to be intimidated by the presence of an American in his Third World.  The interactions between Bill Pullman and Mokae are electric and Mokae dominates every scene he's in.  For the actors around him, it's like trying to do "Death of a Saleman" starring William Shatner - You just know that everyone's looking at THAT guy, no matter what you do.

Peytraud is no one dimensional comicbook villain, though.  Probably what makes him so memorably scary and so freaky is his sense of demented fun - Sending a voodoo ritual into chaos for idle kicks and making people into zombies just for the hell of it.  He's not just frightening when he hammers in that nail, he's enjoying it - This is him finally getting to unwind and have some good times.  And later, when the hero realizes there's just no escaping the guy...  That he's perfectly happy to reach across the world just to fuck with his mind...  Well, that really caps him off as an ideal villain.  When he notices you, run.

It's a shame we never saw this guy again.  Serpent was never going to be a franchise (This was back in the magical days when every single property that came out was not necessarily immediately vetted for franchise and toy marketing potential).  But that's probably best - Overexposure would only have diluted his menace and malice, Freddy Krueger-style, until he became a shadow of his original self.  I'm quite happy that he's a perfect one-time villain and he can easily stand alongside the famous "movie monsters".  I can say with certainty that I would MUCH rather have to face off with Jason than Peytraud.  At least Jason will only kill me.  So thanks, Zakes, for giving us one of the best underappreciated villains in horror films!

And if you want to see a clip of just what makes this guy so amazing, watch and shudder.  He wants to hear you SCREEEM, blanc.

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Visual History of Pipes in Movies, pt 3

Kentucky Fried Popcorn presents a visual history of the role of pipes in movies.  What other choice could I make for the 40's but film noir?

Part Three - The 1940's

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Visual History of Pipes in Movies, pt 2

Kentucky Fried Popcorn presents a visual history of the role of pipes in movies.  And yes, I know the 30's didn't come after the 50's, but when I realized I'd missed a golden chance to do a Universal Horror toon, I couldn't resist.

Part Two - The 1930's

A Visual History of Pipes in Movies, pt 1

Kentucky Fried Popcorn presents a visual history of the role of pipes in movies.

Part One - The 1950's

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Battle beyond the Stars (1980)

NetFlix 2.9/5
IMDB 5.1/10
My Rating: 5/10

A young hero must voyage into the galaxy with his talking organic space ship to recruit mercenaries who can save his peaceful planet from the war-mongering armadas of Sador.

Back in 1980, we were still basking in the warm afterglow of the Millenium Falcon, in the heady days when Star Wars was THE coolest space franchise in existence and George Lucas was a trusted god to young lads all over America as the distiller of our dreams.  Star Wars ripoffs were being rushed to the drive-ins as fast as they got back from the Fotomat, and it seemed like every weekend had some new Space/Star/Blasters/Quest film running at the dollar matinee.  Into this mix came Battle beyond the Stars, from none other than B movie legend Roger Corman.  I'll probably be lynched by nostalgia-soaked fans of Shad and Nell, but I have to be honest - I thought it was a pretty incredibly goofy movie at age 14 and time has not been kind to it.  That said, it is still a hoot to watch for its pure insanity and I guarantee you won't go away unhappy, at least.

The basic plot is thus - Intergalactic bad man Sador (Hammed to the hammiest by a gloating John Saxon) comes to innocent, hippy-esque planet Akir to demand that they surrender or die.  The natives of Akir have no weapons and live by some sort of nonviolent code so it's a wonder they aren't invaded every week, but there you go...  We don't spend a lot of time on Akir, which is a shame because every panorama of the planet looks like a 70's album cover and I kept wanting to flip the TV screen open so I could read the cosmic lyrics and wonder at all the mystical new harmonies and coded meanings in the songs, man.

Alas, right off the bat we're visited by the floating Blue Head of Death, otherwise known as John Saxon, and there's some random killing and chaos just to ensure no one laughs at the giant head in the sky.  Sador gives everyone time to surrender before he destroys the planet, and an emergency council convenes to send idealistic young Frodo, err, Shad, off on an adventure to save the world!

Shad's quest will take him all over the universe in search of skilled mercenaries to defend his planet, but let's pause for a moment and bump right up on the movie's weirdest casting, hero Shad, otherwise (and inescapably) known as John-Boy Walton.  Like William Shatner and Captain Kirk, Richard Thomas was John-Boy, the naive but well-meaning writer/countryboy from Waltons' Mountain.  Modern generations have likely never even seen the Waltons so it won't be a problem for them, but for those of us in the theaters in 1980, it was like casting Ernest T. Bass as Ben Kenobi...  Just one long, open-jawed, "What were they thinking?"  The unknown Mark Hamill could embody every young lad's aspirations, but Shad was...  John-Boy.

Stepping past that, Shad ventures forth in a talking spaceship named Nell to have his adventure.  Nell is a female ship.  Nell is a very female ship.  I'd love to have been present in the design stages of this to hear whose idea it was to, hey, "Try sticking some breasts on that space ship, and maybe make the rest of it look like a skinned rabbit".  Nell may possibly be the most unusual looking spaceship in film history.

Shad explores the galaxy in his skinless talking space organ and this is the meat of the movie, pardon the pun...  It's Magnificent Seven in space, as he recruits badass after badass to come save Akir.  Robert Vaughn, Sybil Danning, George Peppard, and various actors in rubber alien masks all sign up for the cause.  Robert Vaughn gets special credit for his portrayal of world-weary mercenary Gelt, who has the wealth of planets but no safe place he can relax over a meal.  Sybil Danning, by contrast, gets notice for managing to keep her marginal clothes attached for the entire movie, and how she accomplishes this magnificent feat is anyone's guess (IMDB says lots of hidden sticky tape was involved).  Her character is loads of fun - A fearsome space Valkyrie out to prove herself, and I suspect a lot of young lads had their first case of lust/crush when she appeared back in 1980.

Once the crew is assembled it's non-stop action to the end as all and sundry take on the imperial fleet of Sador.  Star Wars, it is not, but for a $2 million dollar budget, it's an amazing accomplishment.  The space battles are fun, the alien makeup is wonderfully cheesy, and the whole thing is infused with that sense of, "Well, why not throw in a talking alligator?" that made so many of the 70's drive-in films so deliriously enjoyable.  Battle beyond the Stars might not have been the next Star Wars (It had the dire misfortune of coming out in the same year as Empire Strikes Back), but as late night TV entertainment, it's definitely worth seeing.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Coming Soon

I realize things have been a little quiet here these past few weeks.  I've been doing a lot of behind the scenes fiddling with graphics apps to make the web comic bits easier and faster to turn out.  We're not dead, though - Look for a new review in the very near future!