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Portland’s forgotten movie history, from B to Z to WTF?

Portland’s forgotten movie history, from B to Z to WTF? (photo)

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Portland loves wallowing in crap.

At least, its moviegoers do. From regular screenings of Tommy Wiseau’s cult disasterpiece “The Room” at Cinema 21 to the Hollywood Theatre’s monthly B-Movie Bingo series, this is a city that appreciates Z-grade cinema. It’s not just hipster irony, either. Low-budget, creatively questionable filmmaking has a long, dubious history in the Rose City. With all due respect to Gus Van Sant, Portland independent film does not begin and end with Drugstore Cowboy. It’s just that a lot of the other movies to come out of here have not been — how shall I put this? — good. Or not good enough to remain in the public consciousness very long, anyway.

But quality should never be a burden to entertainment. Portland’s forgotten films deserve rediscovery — if for no other reason than they’re incredibly fun to mock. We enlisted critic, filmmaker, blogger and local schlock movie historian David Walker to help dig up just a few of these hidden turds…er, sorry, “treasures.” Track ’em down if you dare.

Courier of Death (1984)

Plot: A courier (Joey Johnson) overnights packages of certified vengeance to the gangsters who killed his wife, all while wearing a sweet Canadian tuxedo.

David Walker: “This is the work of Tom Shaw, considered by many to be the Ed Wood of Portland. Shaw only made two complete feature films, but he owned a ton of equipment which was used on many other films, including the early works of Gus Van Sant. Much of Shaw’s money came from porn, as he owned several porn theaters in the area during the 1970s.”

What the Internet Says: “This movie could have also been called “Stupid Conversations in a Small Plane”!” – www.deathindustries.com


Ironheart (1992)

Plot: A kung-fu fighting L.A. cop infiltrates a Portland sex trafficking ring in order to avenge his partner’s death.

Walker: “This stars Britton Lee, a local martial arts instructor who also executive produced the film. His brother Julian also made Fatal Revenge several years earlier, but that film never went anywhere, as opposed to Ironheart, which beat a hasty retreat to the world of direct-to-VHS.”

What the Internet Says:
“Tough uncompromising martial arts trained cop turns up, speaks bad english and does stuff that does not make sense. Its utter tripe. But he does have a nice car.” – IMDB.com


Brain Smasher…A Love Story (1993)

Plot: Andrew Dice Clay, in the unawaited followup to 1990’s Adventures of Ford Fairlane, plays a nightclub bouncer protecting Teri Hatcher from ninjas who are actually monks, or something.

Walker: “This was made here during the height of the early ’90s filmmaking boom, which included films like The Temp, Dr. Giggles, Hear No Evil, Frozen Assets, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3, Free Willy, and a bunch of other stuff.”

What the Internet Says: “It has a little of everything in it. Love, romance, guys in masks, large, scary strippers, ultimate power, and that one chick whose name I can never remember.” – Amazon.com


Unhinged (1982)

Plot: College girls on their way to a jazz festival get caught in a rainstorm, take shelter in a creepy old mansion and — as usually happens to college girls in creepy old mansions — get killed off one by one. Lesson: Don’t listen to jazz.

Walker: “Written, produced and directed by Don Gronquist, this is one of those early 1980s horror films that benefited from the explosion of home video. I heard it was banned in England, but that’s still just a rumor. Gronquist wrote and produced Rockaday Richie & the Queen of the Hop in 1973, the first all-Portland production to land an international distribution deal.”

What the Internet Says: “I dozed off at one point, but sat bolt upright with eyes wide when the second shower scene rolled around. Alas, alack, these are mere links in an overall rusty chain that is Unhinged, which comes off as part Bluebeard, part Sleepaway Camp, part Psycho and all garbage.” – www.worldsgreatestcritic.com

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.