Dungeon Classics #28: Dead Man

FilmDungeon’s Chief Editor JK sorts through the Dungeon’s DVD-collection to look for old cult favorites….

Dead Man (1995, USA, Germany, Japan)

Director: Jim Jarmusch
Cast: Johnny Depp, Gary Farmer, Crispin Glover
Running Time: 121 mins.

A meek accountant called William Blake (Johnny Depp) travels through the old West. His destination is a place called Machine where he is supposedly hired for a job. But is this journey real, or is it a metaphorical journey undertaken by a dead man? He is in hell, a fellow passenger assures him. Things don’t get better when he arrives in Machine. There is no job for him, and he is soon forced to kill a man in self defense, which leads to him becoming a wanted man. He is then taken on a journey to nowhere by an Indian called nobody who believes he is the poet William Blake. Underway, he meets a long list of stupid white men to kill, played by well known actors/artists, including Lance Henriksen, Michael Wincott, Iggy Pop and Alfred Molina. Dead Man is a so-called acid western, a subgenre of the western that ‘subverts many of the conventions of earlier Westerns to conjure up a crazed version of autodestructive white America at its most solipsistic, hankering after its own lost origins’ (Wikipedia). It is another mesmerizing piece of art by writer-director Jim Jarmusch. The beautiful black and white imagery, accompanied by a moody electrical guitar score composed and performed by Neil Young, serves to create a truly unique atmosphere. Dead Man is best described as film as poetry. The images are the words and – like the poetry of William Blake – powerful words they are.

Dungeon Classics #27: Clerks

FilmDungeon’s Chief Editor JK sorts through the Dungeon’s DVD-collection to look for old cult favorites….

Clerks (1994, USA)

Director: Kevin Smith
Cast: Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Marilyn Ghigliotti
Running Time: 92 mins.

Writer-director-comedian Kevin Smith once said in an interview that Reservoir Dogs influenced him to make Clerks. “A bunch of guys talking about movies and making dick jokes, that counts?!?” So he maxed out his credit cards, sold his comic book collection and filmed at night at the quick stop grocery store where he worked. The protagonist is Dante ‘I’m not even supposed to be here today’ Hicks. An appropriate name because Dante literally thinks he’s in hell. He hates the store, the stupid customers and basically his whole existence. His partner is the foul mouthed Randall who ‘runs’ the video store next door, which means bitching about movies, abusing customers and playing hockey on the rooftop. Clerks follows Dante’s and Randall’s misadventures as they deal with weird customers, (ex-) girlfriends and two deaths happening that very same day. Now Smith is no Spielberg, but two things he can do: write a screenplay that is funny as hell and find the boys and girls who know how to deliver these great lines. Clerks started a whole franchise of Kevin Smith comedies with many of the cast members frequently returning. Some movies are good (Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back!), but like with Bond Girls, the first one is still the best. Clerks is clever, original and very, very re-watchable.

Dungeon Classics #26: The Running Man

FilmDungeon’s Chief Editor JK sorts through the Dungeon’s DVD-collection to look for old cult favorites….

The Running Man (1987, USA)

Director: Paul Michael Glaser
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maria Conchita Alonso, Yaphet Kotto
Running Time: 101 mins.

The Running Man is an adaptation from a book by Stephan King (published under his pseudonym Richard Bachman) and it’s another cult classic from Schwarzenegger’s golden years. It is about a futuristic game show (the film is set in 2017-2019) in which contestants have to escape violent hunters – who go by names such as Buzzsaw and Fireball – who try to kill them. Ben Richards (Schwarzenegger), who was framed by the totalitarian government for a mass killing at a protest, is forced to participate. That’s bad luck for the hunters! The film is shot as a typical American game show and it’s very enjoyable. Truth be told, the film didn’t age extremely well, but in Schwarz’s eighties/nineties action movie benchmark, it still manages to almost score a position in the top tier. And that is saying something! When Arnold Schwarzenegger ran for governor, he rode around in a campaign bus and named it after this film. Unfortunately, this was the final movie for Richard Dawson (who plays gameshow host Kilian) and Erland van Lidth (who plays hunter Dynamo).

Dungeon Classics #25: RoboCop 2

FilmDungeon’s Chief Editor JK sorts through the Dungeon’s DVD-collection to look for old cult favorites….

RoboCop 2 (1990, USA)

Director: Irvin Kershner
Cast: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Belinda Bauer, Tom Noonan
Running Time: 117 mins.

Irvin Kershner is a director who is good in dark sequels that feature tormented cyborgs, he proved with The Empire Strikes Back (1980). RoboCop 2 doesn’t quite approach that extremely high level, but it also didn’t deserve the harsh criticism it received. Peter Weller is excellent once again as the human-machine cop who’s dealing with remnants of his former life. The events take place shortly after the first film and crime in Detroit has gotten even worse. RoboCop has to single handedly end a drug epidemic as the cops go on strike for being squeezed out by evil corporation OCP. The script of this movie was written by Frank Miller (Sin City), so that adds to the darkness. It is too sadistic at times, but seeing RoboCop in action with his tough-as-nails human partner Lewis (Nancy Allen) is as thrilling as it was three years earlier. And although the special effects are pretty outdated (check out the Apple-interface on cyborg Caine!) the movie, with all its apocalyptic Detroit factory settings, still looks good.