Lucio Fulci: So Much More Than The Godfather Of Gore

Lucio Fulci “was sort of an Italian Hershell Gordon Lewis,” Roger Ebert wrote in 1998, dismissing The Beyond as a plotless and dim-witted movie full of bad special effects and worse dialogue. It’s not surprising that Ebert didn’t like The Beyond – he thought Friday the 13th was disgusting enough trash to warrant a letter writing campaign, after all – but what is surprising is how much Fulci’s legacy is framed more or less as Ebert had it, just with a positive inflection.

Ciara wrote about Lucio Fulci’s masterpiece Don’t Torture a Duckling for Fangoria on its fiftieth anniversary! You can read it here.

Entering The Twilight Zone

Despite the near-constant refrain that this or that season of television is really more like a “ten-hour movie,” the birth of TV as a medium is tied much closer to radio than cinema. Genres that developed on the radio jumped to TV, from sitcoms to soap operas and game shows to police procedurals. Like radio, early television drama was broadcast live, often performed twice, once for the East Coast and again for the West Coast. “Like a child in hand-me-down clothes, television inherited the best and worst that radio had to offer, from the Ed Wynns and Jack Bennys, who made millions of Americans laugh every week, to the blatant commercialism that drove the system,” Jeff Kisseloff writes in the introduction to The Box, his oral history of early TV. “Television did it all, but radio did it first.”

I wrote about The Twilight Zone for Current Affairs. You can read it here!

Pieces Isn’t Exactly What You Think it Is

Pieces had an all-time great tagline: under a picture of a chainsaw and a woman’s lifeless body, the poster reads, “Pieces: it’s exactly what you think it is.” You know the whole story immediately. You know exactly the kind of cheapo exploitation horror you’re in for. It’s a slasher movie about women being chopped to pieces.

I wrote about the Spanish giallo Pieces for Crooked Marquee! You can read it here.

The People’s Tramp [Current Affairs]

Even if you’ve never seen a silent movie, you know Charlie Chaplin’s The Tramp. His too-big trousers and too-tight jacket, his bowler hat, his toothbrush mustache, his cane, his too-big shoes pointed at right angles to his body: you can recognize him from his silhouette. Samuel Beckett doodled him in his manuscripts, and Pam on The Office dressed up as him for Halloween. You can buy a poster of the Tramp in every pop-up poster shop in the world. He is the most iconic figure in classic cinema, one of the most iconic figures in any visual art, and was certainly one of the most beloved.

A hundred years or so later, it’s fascinating to consider that The Tramp was a character living in extreme poverty and frequently homeless—that is, the kind of character who has almost no place in the biggest, most popular movies of our time, even as homelessness and extreme poverty are as endemic as ever.

I wrote about Charlie Chaplin for Current Affairs! You can read it here.

In Defense of Chasing Amy, 25 Years Later [Crooked Marquee]

Chasing Amy does not exactly hold an esteemed position in the cultural memory. Partly this is because of Kevin Smith’s current station: the director of  films no one likes, and the author of the worst tweet ever. But the bigger problem is that its logline makes it sound genuinely offensive: Holden (Ben Affleck) falls in love with lesbian Alyssa (Joey Lauren Adams). And she falls in love with him right back. 

I wrote an impassioned defense of Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy on its 25th anniversary over at Crooked Marquee! You can read it here.

The Plumber Is a Sour Clash of Class and Gender [Certified Forgotten]

After directing Australian New Wave classics Picnic at Hanging Rock and The Last Wave, Peter Weir made The Plumber, a television film that — like Steven Spielberg’s Duel — was released theatrically in overseas territories. It’s a forgotten middle child of Weir’s filmography. Not a ground-breaking piece of art like the dreamily stylish Picnic at Hanging Rock nor a universal cultural touchstone like later Weir films Dead Poets Society or The Truman Show. But beyond its beginnings on television, the pleasures The Plumber offers are more off-kilter. It goes down satisfyingly sour. 

I wrote about Peter Weir’s TV movie The Plumber for Certified Forgotten! You can read it here.