Episode 4: Death Wishes
As a listener to both Killer POV and Shock Waves, and a reader of the blog Rupert Pupkin Speaks, I was thrilled to hear that Elric Kane and Brian Saur were teaming up for a new podcast named after Elric’s catchphrase. The beauty of podcasts such as these is that they feel as if you are in the room with the hosts, engaged in an intimate conversation among friends. Of course, the downside is that you’re not engaged in the conversation, and if you speak, you’re speaking to yourself. Well, that’s true no more. With this series of Pod-Commentaries, I’m pitching in my two cents, starting at the very first episode and playing catch-up from there. I hope you’ll lend these fellows your ear, and then lend me your eye.
In the fourth episode, our hosts discuss the film I DON’T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE (2017) and each offer a suggested pairing to go along with it. Following this, they move onto their “Five Films Because…” list on the subject of revenge.
I Don’t Feel at Home… Pairings
Brian: THE SILENT PARTNER (1978)
Elric: BIG BAD WOLVES (2013)
My pairing for I DON’T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE is a guerilla-style indie film from 2010 called WALDO THE DOG. Filmmaker Kris Canonizado gives us a bizarre story about the thin lines between friendship, love, and obsession in which a homeless man in a dog mask befriends a young woman that he has protected from an assault. It’s bad enough that the audience knows Waldo was only there to witness the attack because he has been stalking Jaquelyn for some time; it’s even worse when the bigger picture is revealed. It’s a troublesome picture in some regards (though to explain why would give too much away), but its intense themes make you feel and make you think in ways that you’re not prepared for. Chosen because it matches I DON’T FEEL AT HOME’s dark humor, replaces karate with semi-professional wrestling, and swaps out the quest for revenge with a (misguided) quest for forgiveness.
Brian: DEFIANCE (1980), THE OUTFIT (1973), THE NEW KIDS (1985), SEVEN MEN FROM NOW (1956), DEATH WISH 3 (1985)
Elric: KATALIN VARGA (2009), SAVAGE STREETS (1984), COFFY (1973), GET CARTER (1971), ROLLING THUNDER (1977)
SAVAGE STREETS likely would have made my list if Elric had not already chosen it, but none of the other choices were at the forefront of my mind, so I mostly had free reign with this one.
1) MEMENTO (2000) – This early mystery from Christopher Nolan stars Guy Pearce as a man obsessed with getting vengeance for his wife’s murder, but his severe short-term memory loss makes that an extremely difficult proposition. Unable to form any new memories, or recall anything that happened more than a few minutes ago, he has to devise a complex method of note taking in order to speak with his future self. Told in a distinctly nonlinear style to mimic the confusion that Pearce’s character feels, MEMENTO may require a second watch to fully grasp all of the nuances. Stylish, unorthodox, and wildly original, there’s a reason that this is one of my all-time favorite films.
2) CAPE FEAR (1991) – This could just as easily be the 1962 iteration, so if you’re a purist, plug that one in here instead; but Martin Scorsese’s remake of CAPE FEAR is the one that I grew up with—I saw it in the theater multiple times as an unattended minor—and so this is the version that I hold nearest and dearest. Violent offender Max Cady (Robert De Niro) has spent the past 14 years in prison with one thing on his mind: vengeance. His own attorney, Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte), was convinced of Cady’s guilt and so conspired to have him put away. Now a free man, Cady sets out to stalk, terrorize, and ultimately destroy Bowden and his family. In revenge films, it’s often the ‘good guy’ who is seeking vengeance because he has been done wrong, believing that the ends will justify the means. In CAPE FEAR, though, it is the ‘bad guy’ who has been wronged in a way, because the good guy once believed that the ends would justify the means. Perhaps you can’t blame Bowden for cutting a few corners to put an obviously guilty man behind bars, but it’s an interesting reversal of expectations that opens up the floor to discussions and repercussions.
3) DEUCES WILD (2002) – Sometimes I feel alone in my love of this film from Scott Kalvert, who had previously directed THE BASKETBALL DIARIES (1995), as well as the Marky Mark workout video a few years prior to that. Set in 1950s New York, DEUCES WILD follows a youth gang called the Deuces who are struggling to keep drugs out of their neighborhood, but rival gang the Vipers have other plans. The Deuces have pretty deep stakes in this battle, as their leader’s brother was the victim of an overdose and they want blood from the dealer who supplied him the drugs. I’ve always had an affinity for these sorts of movies so I probably enjoy it more than most will, but you can’t deny the great cast of Stephen Dorff, Brad Renfro, Faruza Balk, Norman Reedus, Matt Dillon, Debbie Harry, James Franco, Balthazar Getty, and more.
4) FREAKS (1932) – Tod Browning directed this vintage thriller that is an art film disguised as an exploitation film. When the beautiful trapeze artist Cleopatra begins to romance little person Hans, the rest of the sideshow performers suspect that her motives are not pure. And when you cross one of these freaks, you cross them all. FREAKS uses real sideshow performers, but Browning treats them with respect, likely due to his own carnie background. The lead-up to the climax features some truly chilling imagery, even if the finale strays a bit from the reality that the rest of the movie is otherwise grounded in.
5) VIGILANTE (1983) – William Lustig directed this gritty city tale about a small group of blue collar workers who have grown tired of the crime pervading their streets. They form a vigilante group to make a stand against the drugs, the gangs, and the violence, and attempt to take back their city. When Eddie Marino’s family is murdered by the Headhunters, he joins the group that his coworkers have created and vows to avenge their deaths. If having Robert Forster in the forefront isn’t enough to get you to watch this, how about eternal badass Fred Williamson as the head of the vigilante crew? An oddball structure may be a turn off to some, but it sure does keep things interesting.
And that wraps up my contribution to episode 4 of the Pure Cinema Podcast. Thanks for reading, and I’ll be back soon to offer my two cents on episode 5.