by Louis Fowler
Most weeks, I review more DVDs than the Indy can fit into print. You can look for extra write-ups here, on the IndyBlog.
I was going to start this review off with a little description of the significance that “420” holds, but then I caught myself. You’re reading an altweekly newspaper, of course you know what “420” means! So, that understood, upstart DVD label Apprehensive Films have packed tightly a trio of classic anti-marijuana scare films that will complement any juke-joint reefer shindig you might plan on attending in the near future. In Keep Off the Grass (1969) we learn that “blowing grass” might lead to good times, but it also leads to really bad black-light art found only in the seediest Santa Monica head-shops. In Drug Addiction (1951), the chronic leads kids to shooting up H and stealing knick-knacks from drug stores. And finally, the simply titled Marijuana (1968) features a gold-Nehru-suited (and obviously stoned out of his mind) Sonny Bono lecturing today’s hip, with-it, switched-on crowd on the hepcat dope scene. Puff, puff, don’t pass this up!
No other filmmaker has changed the course of Hollywood the way exploitation auteur Roger Corman has. Besides having kicked off the careers of everyone from Peter Bogdanovich and Martin Scorsese to Ron Howard and James Cameron, Corman is also famous for being one of the most successful filmmakers to work outside the studio system, producing the most classic B-movies of all time, including Death Race 2000, The Little Shop of Horrors and Rock and Roll High School, to name three. This documentary — the best outré film-doc since Not Quite Hollywood — is a rip-roaring, knuckle-cracking, chest-heaving look at the sensational career of the man and the legend. It’s a sweet, often tear-jerking tribute that is a must-watch for film buffs and B-movie nerds alike. Also released: the awesomely fun Roger Corman-produced killer insect thriller Camel Spiders, which finds the titular Middle Eastern menaces transported to the American southwest to wreak CGI-rendered havoc. It’s the best killer spider movie since Arachnophobia. (Note: Another Indy reviewer, Justin Strout, offers his take here.)
While a more appropriate title would be Beloved Actress Betty White Occasionally Shows Up In-Between Randomly Selected Footage of Animals, I really enjoyed this seemingly thrown-together documentary, because, hey, I love animals and I want to watch animals, Betty White or not. Still, it’s her name on the box and the movie takes great pains to let us know what a selfless warrior White is for the animal kingdom. And while that is interesting enough, the movie is mostly comprised of footage from various zoos and aquariums, national parks and wildlife refuges. You also get to see a penguin vomit up anchovies and squids, all in the name of science and preservation, which is still fun to watch. Not as fun, however, is the final chapter on animal abuse around the world, and, heartbreakingly, right here in America as dog-fighting victims are shown, but not before White has something to say about notorious scumbag dog-killer Michael Vick. You go, Betty!