Friday, January 27, 2012

Worth Mentioning - Want to see some trouble?

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

This week's viewings lead Cody to celebrate space-based exploitation while Jay visits Prison Wives.


After being awoken from cryosleep to deal with some enemy spacecraft, intergalactic troubleshooter ("the best troubleshooter in the Federation") Mike Colby is informed by his robot sidekick that their ship has been re-routed to the remote planet Xarbia in response to a report of a lab accident. This dashes Colby's hopes of finally getting back home. "Maybe next year, sir."

Colby arrives at the research facility on Xarbia - inhabited only by a couple scientists, their research assistants, and a few guys on security and custodial duties - to find that the bacterial genetic engineering experiments done there have created a new lifeform called Subject 20. Subject 20 has massacred the lab animals and set itself up into an incubator as it continues mutating. What it may become, the doctors have no idea.

Colby's solution is to destroy Subject 20 with acid and move on... But a beautiful lab assistant convinces him to stay and let Subject 20 live a while longer. Mere minutes longer proves to be too much, as Subject 20 gets loose in the facility and starts picking people off one-by-one.

Forbidden World, a.k.a. Mutant, is obviously a "mockbuster" (in the parlance of our times) of Alien, with some Attack of the Crab Monsters and The Thing from Another World mixed in, but rises above the standard cheap knockoffs with style, low budget ingenuity, and best of all, by fully embracing the fact that it's an exploitation movie.

The style comes from director Allan Holzman, who shows real talent, proving that producer Roger Corman was right to let him direct a feature. Holzman makes interesting choices and sets the look of the film apart from others of its type by mixing the shadows with a lot of colorful lighting. His choice of composer also sets it apart, getting a very cool score from his new wave rock band member girlfriend Susan Justin.

My favorite example of low budget ingenuity in the film is in its set design. The movie was shot in and around Corman's office building, with the hallways given a spacey look by covering them with egg cartons and styrofoam food containers. This is obvious when you really look at the walls, but it's also awesome.

The exploitation element is clear as soon as the title sequence, when the camera focuses on a woman's ass as she walks down a hallway. This woman is one of the two beautiful, provocatively dressed research assistants, Barbara Glaser and Tracy Baxter, played by June Chadwick and Dawn Dunlap. On his first night at the facility, Colby is seduced by Barbara. The next morning, he nearly has sex with Tracy during her daily nude steambath. (This despite the fact that her boyfriend, played by Valley Girl's Michael Bowen, was just turned into a puddle of goo by the mutant the night before.) Later in the film, Tracy gets attacked and is helped by Barbara, both getting mutant goo on them in the process. The next time we see them, Barbara and Tracy are having a serious discussion while showering together. Absolute genius.

I just rented the movie, the director's cut Mutant version, but after watching it I had to put it on my "must own" list.

A story is told on the audio commentary that Roger Corman, distressed that this "serious science fiction film" was getting laughs at a test screening, walked up to a laughing man in the audience and punched him in the face to get him to stop... I know I've heard the story of a producer punching a laughing audience member before, but I'm not sure it was about this movie and it wasn't necessarily even about Roger Corman. Did producers used to make a habit of punching people at test screenings?


Roger Corman produced several remakes of his own productions in the '90s, and among them was a remake of Forbidden World/Mutant.

The story was given a rewrite and its third title, but the remake doesn't stray far from the beats of the original over the course of its 72 minutes. Unfortunately, it lacks the style and gleeful exploitation of its predecessor. There's no steambath, no shared shower, no skimpy clothing or inappropriate horniness. The closest it gets to the first movie's level is a brief sexual dream sequence. Instead of colorful lighting, there's bright white light blasting through rooms that are smokier than a Tony Scott set.

There are a couple notable cast members: the Beastmaster himself Marc Singer as the hero and Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston as a scientist.

When Singer's character is woken from his cryosleep at the beginning to deal with some enemy spacecraft, the same battle footage from Forbidden World/Mutant is used, which was actually stock footage from yet another Corman production, Battle Beyond the Stars.

Jay's mention:

PRISON WIVES (2009) - TV show

Prison Wives is a show which ran for one season back in 2009. It tells the story of women who marry men that are incarcerated, mostly for murder, and who usually have sentences of life without parole.

It's not a mind-blowing show and the setup gets old fast, but that was also brought on by me blowing through the entire run of 12 episodes or so within a span of three days. The basic setup is: woman tells how she fell for incarcerated man, man's crime is re-enacted, woman visits man in prison but the camera isn't allowed in, woman talks about wanting to get him out on parole, cops tell us he is a terrible person.

What I learned from this show is that some women will drive to the prisons and sleep in their cars the night before visitations because if they don't the spots will be taken up ahead of time. Other women will move constantly, uprooting their children, to be closer to the inmate as he is transferred from prison to prison. Most of the ladies believe their man are changed from the crime they committed and a lot of them do their own legal work in order to get new trials or parole.

Most of the men are in for murder, but a few aren't. Almost all of the cases display women who met their man AFTER he was locked up. There are a few that differ from both scenarios. In one case, an Oklahoma man faces 60+ years for cooking and selling meth and gets into a relationship with an ex-girlfriend whom he almost married years ago. Another has life without parole for armed robbery, but his wife does a great job of investigating and it almost looks like she is going to prove he is innocent. In the end, though, we aren't sure, but he does get a few charges thrown off his record. These two stories were the easiest to relate to. Some of them are just bizarre, such as the one episode that features a man on the outside and a woman on the inside. The guy comes off as more than a bit strange, and the details of the murder she was involved in are some of the more sickening.

This isn't an amazing show, but it was definitely an educational look at women who fall for men in prison. I recommend checking out a few episodes as it is streaming on Netflix.

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