The Wizard of Ozploitation

The Wizard of Ozploitation (photo)

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We had someone else in mind for the role, and she elected not to do it because her mother thought BMX riding was a working-class fad, and she didn’t want her nice middle-class daughter in such a film. So we were auditioning others, and then Nicole came in, did a magnificent reading, and one of the producers said to me, “But you can’t cast her, she’s taller than the two guys.” Who cares? Just look at her, she’s luminous! You see the size of that hair in the picture on the blog! Now that hair, which looks like some sort of enormous Afro, that’s the size it is because there’s a backdraft blowing. Her hair wasn’t really that large and poofy. The two improv comics I cast as the crooks — John Ley and David Argue — would refer to her as “The Mop” or “The Beanpole.” [laughs] We all loved her.

Which of your movies would you say are the most undervalued?

I’d certainly say “The Siege of Firebase Gloria” is the most neglected. It’s highly valued by those who have seen it. It’s Quentin’s favorite film of mine. It’s even appreciated by Vietnam veterans who say it really captured a lot of their experience in the ’68 Tet Offensive. “Dead End Drive-In” was totally dismissed critically in Australia at the time of its release, and given a premiere at a theater that was still under construction. It got critical acclaim in America, but then, naturally, like a lot of New World [Pictures] pickups, it vanished. Luckily, it’s been rediscovered with a new DVD transfer from Anchor Bay. So those are two.

I’ve made 38 crimes against cinema, and I’m about to do 39. It really depends on your viewpoint. People either get the wry underbelly of my genre work, which is not necessarily just self-referential, [or they don’t]. For those who do, there’s maybe a few more nuggets of gold [among] the formulaic movies that others might be able to see. I also have an affection for “Tyrannosaurus Azteca,” which is a camp dinosaur picture that the SciFi Channel repeated 20 times since its premiere last year.

You’ve directed sequels based on films you had no involvement in, such as the upcoming “Porky’s: The College Years.” Is it challenging or liberating to work with previously established properties?

I always put my own spin on things. When I was asked to make “Night of the Demons 2,” I wanted to make it more outrageously funny than number one. I’m a little peeved that no one asked me to make the recent remake of “Night of the Demons.” Maybe I could’ve brought a certain something to that with $5 million dollars instead of, like, $1.4 million, which is what I had to make “Night of the Demons 2.” It had, amongst its stars, Christine Taylor, who was unknown at the time, but then developed a nice career and is now married to Ben Stiller. She’s a great comedienne.


The “Leprechaun” pictures, that’s an interesting story. Basically, the producers] had a disappointment with number two. It hadn’t done the numbers that they wanted, so they were just going to make a three-part franchise, and that would be it. They said, “Look, set it in Vegas, shoot it at the Ambassador Hotel in L.A.,” and we ended up [shooting part of the film] without permits in Vegas to pepper it with the leprechaun in real Vegas backgrounds. We tried to do 14 days, plus our one guerrilla day, with seven people, avoiding the cops in Vegas. It turned out to be the bestselling direct-to-video of 1995. So they said, “You gotta make another one,” so we made “Leprechaun in Space,” which is an even broader, wilder pastiche than number three. I don’t know which of the two you prefer — opinion divides.

“Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!” opens in New York and Los Angeles on July 31st.

[Additional photos: “BMX Bandits,” Nilsen Premiere, 1983; “Leprechaun 3,” Trimark Pictures, 1995]

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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Byrning Down the House

Everything You Need to Know About the Film That Inspired “Final Transmission”

Documentary Now! pays tribute to "Stop Making Sense" this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Cinecom/courtesy Everett Collection

This week Documentary Now! is with the band. For everyone who’s ever wanted to be a roadie without leaving the couch, “Final Transmission” pulls back the curtain on experimental rock group Test Pattern’s final concert. Before you tune in Wednesday at 10P on IFC, plug your amp into this guide for Stop Making Sense, the acclaimed 1984 Talking Heads concert documentary.

Put on Your Dancing Shoes

Hailed as one of the best concert films ever created, director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) captured the energy and eccentricities of a band known for pushing the limits of music and performance.

Make an Entrance

Lead singer David Byrne treats the concert like a story: He enters an empty stage with a boom box and sings the first song on the setlist solo, then welcomes the other members of the group to the stage one song at a time.

Steal the Spotlight

David Byrne Dancing
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Always a physical performer, Byrne infuses the stage and the film with contagious joy — jogging in place, dancing with lamps, and generally carrying the show’s high energy on his shoulders.

Suit Yourself

Byrne makes a splash in his “big suit,” a boxy business suit that grows with each song until he looks like a boy who raided his father’s closet. Don’t overthink it; on the DVD, the singer explains, “Music is very physical, and often the body understands it before the head.”

View from the Front Row

Stop Making Sense Band On Stage
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Demme (who also helmed 1987’s Swimming to Cambodia, the inspiration for this season’s Documentary Now! episode “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”) films the show by putting viewers in the audience’s shoes. The camera rarely shows the crowd and never cuts to interviews or talking heads — except the ones onstage.

Let’s Get Digital

Tina Weymouth Keyboard
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Stop Making Sense isn’t just a good time — it’s also the first rock movie to be recorded entirely using digital audio techniques. The sound holds up more than 30 years later.

Out of Pocket

Talk about investing in your art: Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz told Rolling Stone that the members of the band “basically put [their] life savings” into the movie, and they didn’t regret it.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Stop Making Sense when “Final Transmission” premieres Wednesday, October 12 at 10P on IFC.

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