September 14th, 2010

STYLE WARS (1984) **

My wife got this flick off of Netflix.  When I saw the title, I thought it was going to be some sort of Project Runway shit.  As it turns out it’s actually an OK PBS documentary about graffiti artists, rappers, and breakdancers in New York City in the 80’s.


I wanted to like this flick because it was a good time capsule of the breakdancing era.  Sadly though, not much screen time is given to the breakdancers as the graffiti dudes get most of the spotlight.  Graffiti “tagging” or “bombing” is something I just never understood.  What’s so great about stealing spray paint from K-Mart and doodling on a wall?  As far as I’m concerned, you should be locked up for petty theft and defacing public property.  I think it’s kind of funny how this flick tries to glorify the graffiti taggers and legitimatize their vandalism as an “art form”.  Having said that, I did like the part where they talked to TAKI 183, the guy who inspired the movie Turk 182!  There’s also a great scene where a one-armed graffiti artist admires the poster for Beastmaster too.


Given my feelings on the subject matter, it’s no surprise that my favorite parts of the film had to do with the angry citizens complaining about all the vandalism.  The funniest dude is Mayor Ed Koch.  He’s not as good as he was on The People’s Court, but he does get some funny jabs at the graffiti taggers’ expense.


I think if Style Wars spent as much time on the breakdancing and rapping as it did the graffiti shit, I would’ve liked it a lot better.  Then again, maybe not.  If you’re a vandal that just got out of Juvee Hall for defacing a subway car, you might not feel the same way though.

THE HEAT’S ON (1943) *

Mae West stars in this terrible musical comedy as a Broadway starlet stuck singing in an unsuccessful albeit racy Broadway show.  To drum up publicity, her producer William Gaxton calls in the local League of Decency to shut the production down.  Much to their surprise (but not the audience’s) the show is closed for good and Mae leaves to star in a rival producer’s show.  Predictably, Gaxton’s somehow able to get Mae back for his new play which becomes a smashing success. 


Jeez this movie is lame.  Too much of The Heat’s On revolves around a lot of awful musical numbers sung by some Cuban broad.  In fact, Mae doesn’t have many opportunities to sing as there’s a bunch of other singers whose constant warbling only helps to pad the running time.  And the comedy isn’t much better.  Gaxton isn’t very funny and more time is spent on him wheeling and dealing than with Mae doing her shtick.


And I think that’s the most disappointing thing about the movie.  Despite her top billing, the statuesque West has little more than a supporting role.  And I know the censors loved to fuck with West’s suggestive dialogue but they really took the scissors to this one.  She has none of her trademark double entendres in this movie and isn’t given very much to do until the flick’s almost over.  She does sing a few shitty numbers but that’s about it.  West must’ve thought this was a real turkey too because she didn’t make another film for 27 years.


As everybody knows, back in 1957 Rock n’ Roll was dead and Calypso music was the next big thing.  Barney Pearl (Michael Granger), the cocky owner of a juke box company goes out and muscles in on a small Calypso record label and takes control.  When the top star Johnny Conroy (Johnny Desmond) has enough of Pearl’s shady dealings and quits, it leaves Pearl scrambling to find another Calypso star.  Johnny later goes independent and starts his own “Calypso Carnival”, which naturally is a big success.


Calypso Heat Wave is a completely crappy Calypso musical that is only amusing for showing the world an alternate reality when Calypso music was bigger than Rock n’ Roll.  Other than that, it sucks hairy donkey testicles.  The music is absolutely atrocious.  Seriously, wait until you get to the scene where four of the whitest white guys you’ve ever seen sing “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”.  If that doesn’t make your eardrums commit hari-kari, I don’t know what will.  There’s also a less than stellar version of “Day-O” in there too.


On top of that, the acting is awful and the plot is dull.  I guess the only memorable part is seeing Maya Angelou (who is referred to as “Miss Calypso”) singing a shitty song.  You also get to see future actor Alan Arkin fronting a terrible band called The Tarriers as well as a before-he-was-in-Remo-Williams Joel Grey. 


Director Fred F. Sears and producer Sam Katzman also collaborated on the schlock classic The Giant Claw the same year.