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I am pleased as punch at Spectacle’s excellently curated ‘Anti-Valentine’s Day’ series, starting Feb. 1st with amazing 60s gender battle ‘The Laughing Woman’. Ranging from psychotic obsession to pure loathing, the four films are excellent antidotes against saccharine concepts of ‘love’ and ‘romance’ that get pushed on well-meaning folk from January onward.

If you’re a fan of Jodorowsky, I highly recommend catching ‘The Laughing Woman’ (also released as ‘The Frightened Woman’, to give you an idea of the power plays going on within the film). It’s gorgeously shot and beautifully set-dressed, each room’s color and design carefully composed. It’s also equally comfortable with sky-high symbolism:

THE LAUGHING WOMAN (Piero Schivazappa, 1969) from Spectacle Theater on Vimeo.

Why yes, that is a giant psychedelic automated vagina-door he walks into! This movie also features the artiest and most ridiculous cutaway for implied sexy doings I’ve ever seen – I couldn’t figure out a way to shoehorn it into the trailer but go see this movie if only to catch it: man at the wheel, stopped at the train tracks, the woman’s head dips out of sight; cut to – a small, brightly decorated train slowly rolling by draped with Mod ladies casually blowing wind instruments IN CLOSE-UP.  And still the description does not do the sheer ludicrousness of it justice. This is shortly followed by them driving along again, only to bank right AND DRIVE INTO THE LAKE BECAUSE IT’S AN AQUACAR. Absolutely outstanding. Oh, also there’s lots of interesting gender politics and psychological torture and whatnot, but mainly, there’s a 60s sportsaquacar and now I must own one.


Adding to the visual excellence is the score – by turns ominous, silly, and catchy as all get-out.  It’s extremely 60s – electronic organs, backing chorus, and wah-wah- guitar all over the place, with an adorable ‘theme song’ apparently sung by a French woman reading badly translated Italian to English lyrics. The grimy version pulled from the film is heard in the trailer, but due to a wonky transfer it seems to be sped up a bit from the original. If you visit Spectacle Theater’s page for the movie, you can download the amazing score for yourself and take a listen.

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After great delay and much personal annoyance, I’ve decided this week’s movie will be 1989′s ‘Warlock’, in which a 17th century witch-hunter tracks an escaped witch to modern-day L.A., and with the help of a sassy young lady tries to stop him from gathering the Grand Grimoire, the evilest book ever that also contains the True Name Of God (go figure).

I’ll be honest, 40% of the interest was hearing Richard E. Grant, known for playing bitingly sarcastic Englishmen in ‘Withnail & I’ and ‘Hudson Hawk’, speak with a soft Scottish accent. It’s amazing how completely an accent changes a person’s entire mein. I first noticed the effect in ‘How Green Was My Valley’, the story of a Welsh mining community which, faced with financial difficulties and a mine collapse, constantly sound like they’re asking polite questions about tea. Here, the man who spit out ‘I’ll torture you so slowly you’ll think it’s A CAREER!’ to Hudson Hawk never once raises his voice trying to tie thumbscrews to an angry wizard.

The script was penned by the same fellow behind other enjoyable but uneven fantasy scripts like ‘Waterworld’ and ‘The Chronicles of Riddick’ (directed by the same). This is the sort of movie my 12-year-old self would have loved watching some late afternoon on USA Network, which speaks to its charm, silly effects and fun details (Mennonite hex signs!), but also to its glossing over of logic and skimpy plot points. So, the demon needs the witch’s help getting the most evil book in the world together, and yet the witch is less powerful than and limited by the same stuff as the demon? Huh.

As an added bonus, the film features a cameo by Mary Woronov, aka Calamity Jane, as a fake spiritual healer that gets turned into Jocelyn Wildenstein.

While searching for the trailer, I found these delightful gems from the 70s, replete with gravelly histronic voice-over, the promise of nudity, and cheesy catchphrase (“It’ll take your breath away. All of it.”)

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