Sex, Leins & Videotape #16: Paignton film critic Tom Leins investigates a bumper selection of box-sets -just in time for Christmas!
Shameless Screen Entertainment are the best kept secret in exploitation film, and over the last few years they have won themselves a loyal following with their lurid selection of retro fans’ favourites.
With a back catalogue that encompasses sleazy Italian Giallo, queasy Video Nasties and everything in between, the Shameless collection resembles veritable treasure trove of exotic Euro horror. However, their latest offering sees them change tack, with a plunge into post-apocalyptic carnage! The Bronx Warriors Trilogy (Shameless) comprises of The Bronx Warriors (1982), Escape From The Bronx (1983) and The New Barbarians (1982) -three slabs of post-apocalyptic mayhem courtesy of Enzo G Castellari -the man behind the original Inglorious Bastards movie.
The Bronx Warriors is a delirious mash-up of The Warriors and Escape From New York, set in a battle-scarred Bronx war-zone ruled by corrupt politicians. The hero of the hour is renegade biker Trash (Mark Gregory AKA Marco De Gregorio), an effeminate 17-year-old muscle boy whom director Castellari discovered pumping iron in his local gymnasium! The camera lingers on De Gregorio’s physique in quasi-pornographic fashion throughout, and he skips merrily through the fight scenes, rubbing shoulders with Fred Williamson and an assortment of real-life Hell’s Angels! Put simply, The Bronx Warriors is one of the most mind-bogglingly strange movies I’ve seen in a long time.
The sequel is an unashamed cash-in that falls well short of its deliriously strange predecessor, (and The New Barbarians is utterly unrelated to the Bronx mythology) but this deluxe box-set will thrill fans of cheesy 80s video shop nostalgia. Quentin Tarantino has paid lip service to Castellari many times over the years, culminating with his recent Inglourious Basterds flick. If he’s stuck for inspiration I would love to see QT deliver his own reinterpretation of The Bronx Warriors!
Next on the agenda is the stylish Gus Van Sant Double-Bill (Palisades Tartan), which includes two distinctive offerings from the veteran indie auteur. Based on the young adult novel of the same name, Paranoid Park follows the exploits of Alex, a young skateboarder who becomes embroiled in a murder investigation after a night jumping freight trains with an older delinquent named Scratch.
Although it is definitely in tune with Van Sant’s impressionistic latter-day sensibilities, Paranoid Park is a vast improvement on its lamentable precursors Gerry and Last Days. Treading a thin line between dreamy and dreary, it ultimately survives thanks to Van Sant’s knack for hypnotic visuals and quirky slacker dialogue.
The ‘B-side’ is Mala Noche, Van Sant’s little-seen 1985 debut movie. Effectively a template for movies like Drugstore Cowboy and My Own Private Idaho, the movie follows dreamy liquor store clerk Walt who becomes obsessed with handsome Mexican immigrant Johnny. Too raw for mainstream tastes, it is a worthwhile window into a young Van Sant’s narcoleptic imagination. All in all, an intriguing box-set, but probably not suitable for anyone whose appreciation of Gus Van Sant begins and ends with Good Will Hunting!
Wire In The Blood is arguably one of Britain’s most entertaining police procedurals, and this one-off special sees oddball police psychologist Tony Hill (Robson Green) leave behind the gloomy Northern crime scene that is Bradfield for Texas, where he is slated to appear as a star witness in the trial of Darius Wade, a deranged combat veteran accused of slaughtering his family.
The fish-out of-water dynamic that fuels Wire In The Blood -Prayer of the Bone (Revelation) isn’t entirely successful, but the Southern-fried mood gives the producers ample opportunity to have fun with Tony’s trademark hallucinatory sequences. Although it is scattered with neat moments, Prayer of the Bone ultimately feels too forced for its own good and won’t win the show any new fans.
For all its strengths, Wire In The Blood is a frustratingly inconsistent series, and Prayer of the Bone isn’t the show’s finest hour. That said, it is effortlessly watchable, and Robson Green’s quirky shrink remains an appealing central character. (In keeping with this week’s box-set theme, there is also a 14 disc box-set called Completely Wired out now!)