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26.3.09

Pineapple (2008)





Director: Damian Skinner
Starring: Stephen Chester Prince, Eliza Swenson, Gabriela Ostos-Tamez, Lee Tergesen, Smackola
Rated R Running time: 85 minutes
Released by Desire/Maverick



This Austin-filmed indie tells the story of Andrew (Stephen Chester Prince), a white collar dad whose world gets rocked when he catches his wife sleeping with another man. With his ego bruised and his personal life in shambles, Andrew does what beaten down men usually do in times of extreme emotional duress -- he heads down to the nearest strip club. What starts as way to lick his wounds, drink a few beers, and watch some bootyshaking turns into something else when he becomes involved with one of the club's dancers, a sexy, but deeply troubled, woman named Cristal. They begin a relationship that's full of cocaine and rough sex, and it isn't long before Andrew's "normal" life begins to suffer. At first it's as simple as having a drained bank account and a constant hangover. He eventually contracts an embarrassing case of the creepy crawlies, and his domestic situation takes a turn for the worse. Ignoring both the affections of a sexy co-worker (Gabriela Ostos-Tamez) and advice from his buddy (Lee Tergesen), Andrew slips deeper and deeper into the seedy world of strippers and drugs. Eventually, Andrew runs afoul of a drug dealer (Smackola) , his sexual relations with Cristal become more and more violent, and he ends up having to decide whether or not living the wild life is worth all the trouble.

I found myself enjoying Pineapple's weird mix of melodrama and exploitation more than I probably should have. While the film doesn't really sell the decent-man's-descent-into-Hell angle, a steady stream of strippers, gangsters (however unconvincing), and lurid plot developments made me enjoy watching Andrew's life become a slow-motion train wreck. Eliza Swenson is easy on the eyes and disrobes frequently, and Prince does a respectable job as the unstable yuppie whose life is unraveling faster than he realizes. The rest of the performances are about what you'd expect from a very low budget flick. Skinner does a good job of stretching a dollar (I would bet a chunk of the price tag went to former Oz star Lee Tergesen), and gives the production a look that is a good deal better than some of its comparably priced peers. I suspect some viewers will be led to believe that Pineapple is a straightforward skinflick after seeing the DVD cover art, which depicts Swenson in full-on stripper regalia. Pineapple features a little too much heavy drama to satisfy the raincoat crowd, but is sleazy enough to keep exploitation fans happy. Skinner deserves a pat on the back for taking a cliched story and a low budget and making it into something that is more entertaining than most of the similarly-themed "erotic thrillers" that are clogging the market. 

23.3.09

Invaders of the Lost Gold (1982)



aka Horror Safari

Director: Alan Birkinshaw
Starring: Stuart Whitman, Edward Purdom, Laura Gemser, Woody Strode, Glynis Barber, Harold Sakata
Rated R Running time: 83 minutes
Released by Crash Cinema



This super cheap, Philippines-lensed quickie from Dick Randall lured me in with its poster, which depicts a nude Laura Gemser (Emanuelle in America), a group of gnarled Sgt. Rock-types, a piked skull and a Japanese flag. Combine that with a title that Randall's lawyers figured Spielberg couldn't sue over, and it's not really clear just what the hell kind of movie this is. But you know it has to be awesome, right? It starts well enough, with a platoon of WWII-era Japanese soldiers battling it out with some loinclothed natives. Spears and arrows fly, heads get lopped off, and the retreating soldiers stash a crate full of gold in a cave.

The trouble begins when we zip forward to modern (well, 1982 modern) days and the action shifts to Rex Larson, played by Edward (Pieces) Purdom. Larson is trying to locate the hidden treasure that was hidden years earlier. He meets with a couple of Japanese men who, presumably, are privy to the treasure's location. I say "presumably" because logic and continuity are not among director Alan Birkinshaw's strong points. Anyhow, we establish the fact that Larson is a first class a-hole who will stop at nothing to get his hands on the treasure. One of the soldiers kills himself, Larson shoots another, but the third (Harold "Oddjob" Sakata) agrees to help Larson find the gold. Larson calls up his friend Douglas Jefferson (David De Martyn) and gets him to fund the expedition. An all-star cast is selected to take the journey: Jefferson's hot blonde daughter, Janice (Glynis Barber); tough bodyguard Cal (Woody Strode); booze soaked jungle guide, Mark Forest (Stuart Whitman), and a couple of Mark's trusted jungle companions, Fernando (Junix Nocain) & Maria (Gemser). After what seems like an eternity for all of these people to get together, they hop on a boat and away we go!

It's not clear if these people know each other or not; sometimes there seems to be a connection, sometimes there doesn't. Normally this wouldn't matter, but Invaders of the Lost Gold never comes close to duplicating the excitement of the opening scene. In other words, there isn't enough going on to distract you from the film's choopy script, sloppy direction, and non-existent continuity. Instead of splattery action, we are treated to a drawn out whodunit as each cast member is knocked off, usually by being pushed off a cliff or fed to plastic crocodiles, by a "mysterious" killer. As long as you didn't sleep through the first twenty minutes, you should be able identify the culprit. So much for suspense. There are a few highlights -- Laura Gemser's skinny dipping scene which ends in her completely unexplained death, some of the funniest and most inappropriate dubbing you'll ever hear, and a stripper-packed bar scene near the beginning. Apart from a decapitation early on, gore is almost non-existent.  The film seems like something Randall threw together with a pile of old film stock and some actors who were cheap and available. It's unfortunate that such a good cast and a great location could be squandered so badly.