Tag Archives: musical

“I was just on my way out!” Remembering Voyage of the Rock Aliens with Michael Berryman by Kent Hill

Voyage of the Rock Aliens German DVD

For those who were there…we can all remember a time when cynicism was nowhere to be found regarding our cinematic adventuring. Even during the age which saw the birth of the event picture; there were still fertile grounds from which material, attempting to ride the coattails of popular genre could grow into something that was more an mere homage. Indeed, it may very well have been just another amalgam of concepts, already witnessed by inquisitive travelers on the beaten track; the low-budget, video store self-fillers that are now, in some cases lost to history. Still, these movies were crafted with charm, professionalism and good intentions. No one sets out to make a bad movie, and the giants of the industry, no matter their field of expertise, all played in the same sandbox at one time or another – a pit rich with invention, ripe with interpretation and deep with heart.

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So we come to the splendid curiosity which is: Voyage of the Rock Aliens – which is at once a musical, comedy, adventure, romance which doesn’t scrimp on the flavors you know and love when it blitzes together, forming a cocktail of joyous absurdity.

In brief: A group of music loving aliens are traveling through the galaxy, exploring and researching different forms of life and rock ‘n’ roll. After their on-board A.I. robot companion, 1359 (voiced by none other than Peter Cullin) chills out to a music video, featuring one of the film’s main theme songs featuring star Pia Zadora and a character named Rain, played by Jermaine Jackson, who take on a band of biker-nun looking cats, only to end with Zadora leaving Jackson in the dust as she takes off on the horse she rode in on. (This completely bizarre segue almost gives the entire plot of the film away, but, since you probably haven’t seen it…you’re safe.)

The aliens decide to focus their attention on the planet Earth. Soon after entering our world they meet Dee Dee (Zadora) and her boyfriend Frankie (Nightbreed’s Craig Sheffer) and his band, The Pack. These cats are gang-bangers from the eighties trapped stylistically in the fifties, and there is no shortage of that era’s nostalgia which seems to blend easily with the techno-pop styling of the Rock Aliens…?

Mysteriously it all turns out well. Frankie doesn’t want his band singing without him, so it is odd that we never get to see how devastating a musical talent Frankie actually is “with” the band. He does however manage to snag  himself a solo, show-stopping number which shows us how much Frankie identifies with big cats (specifically a panther) – but I won’t spoil that one.

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It is a wild old tale, with all the talent and experience you could want both in front and behind the camera. For a film buried so deep in the 80’s VHS jungle, VOTRA had some impressive people working on it, for instance Director James Fargo had directed everyone from Chuck Norris (Forced Vengeance) to Clint Eastwood (Every which way but Loose); Gilbert Taylor was the director of photography on Star Wars and the film’s editor Malcolm Campbell worked with John Landis at the height of his powers. Yes everyone from Oscar winners (Ruth Gordon)  to horror film icons. That’s right, horror icons. The film stars the man who knows that the hills have eyes, Michael Berryman, as an escaping inmate from the Speelburgh State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Simply known as Chainsaw, Berryman is an amazing screen presence with comedy, terror and a beautiful moment of tenderness at his command.

OKAY! So, if I haven’t tantalized your taste buds sufficiently to want to go and check this baby out, we have Chainsaw himself, Michael Berryman, who kindly offered me a fistful of remembrances of a movie I believe should be a cinematic audience sing-along spectacular of Rocky Horror proportions.

Some will look upon Rock Aliens as everything that was wrong with the eighties. But, instead of counting cinema sins why not, I challenge you, to embrace the warmth by the vintage hearth in which burns this vibrant flame, the quintessence of what our innocent youth saw as an excellent adventure…well before the music of Wyld Stallyns aligned the planets in universal harmony.

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KH: First allow me to thank you sir. It is gracious indeed for such an iconic performer of your calibre to grant us your time.

MB: A pleasure…

KH: So, you were once an inmate at the SPEELBERGH STATE HOSPITAL FOR THE CRIMINALLY INSANE?

MB: Yes, I was a patient at Speelbergh State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.  I had been a wood-cutter and chainsaw expert for many years before this film. Nobody knew this until I spoke up when I am to saw around one of the aliens. There was a 4×8 sheet of sheetrock between me and the other actor. He was to stand still while a real chainsaw cut around him.  I was asked to perform this feet. I refused. I told my director that if the actor moved, he could be fatally harmed. I asked that we use a green screen. The actor was ok with a chainsaw cutting around him through plasterboard. No way was I going to do this. So, they had a grip/prop manager do the sawing. Now I watched as he assembled a 4 cubic inch chainsaw and as he prepared to start the engine, I told him: ‘Do not pull the lanyard. If you do, the chain will jump from the bar, wrap around your wrist and sever your hand…you have put the chain on backwards!’ He then asked me to fix this mess. I secured the chain and wished him good luck as I walked over to the camera to witness an amazingly dangerous stunt. It was successful and we moved on.

KH: If you can recall, what did you think of Edward Gold’s script when you first read it?

MB: Edward Gold wrote a script that was, in my observation, a straight forward comedy/musical. I read it and found the references to E.T. and such to be ‘tongue-in-cheek’ humor. This film was designed to entertain, help you laugh, and the entire family could enjoy a great experience.

KH: You were just on your way out. I have had the privilege of having a former co-star of yours as a guest, Vernon Wells. When I spoke to Vernon, we talked about how (for a time) he hated the fact that he was type-cast. When Voyage of the Rock Aliens came along and you were tapped for the role of Chainsaw, were you content to play the part knowing you were perhaps cast as Vernon had been to be merely an incarnation of former characters?

MB: I was unaware of Vernon’s type casting…however, since I was in ‘Cuckoo’s Nest’, it seemed to fit that I play Chainsaw. I found it to be fun.

KH: You pass beneath the window of Academy Award winner Ruth Gordon after a Schwarzenegger Commando-style shopping spree for guns and grenades and such with Wallace Merck’s Breather, did you get to meet or chill out with Ms. Gordon or any other members of the eclectic cast?

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MB: I found Ruth Gordon to be an honest and total professional actor. She had the moxy that she was known for. It was sweet to watch her as our sheriff.

KH: Tell us about your battle with the Lake Creature?

MB: The battle with the Lake creature was simple, as I had to cut his tip off and then bubbles emerged…sweet and child-like.

KH: In the midst of the music and mayhem, you have a rather poignant and touching scene with Alison La Placa’s Diane in which she helps you fix your beloved chainsaw. It is capped with a moment of smouldering intensity on your behalf when you say, “For me,” allowing her to be the one to fire up the chainsaw following her service?

MB: Alison was a delight to work with during that scene…we had a sweet time with it. Chainsaw moved on and he leaves his ‘Excalibur’ behind! The passage through the portal expressed a positive exchange with her character and mine. We both made the decision to have her fire up the saw and discover a new beginning for us both. She was joy to work with.

KH: Do you think Diane and Chainsaw lived happily ever after, there relationship evolved after the two of you went for that walk?

MB: Of course, Chainsaw and Diane lived happily…forever!!       

KH: If you have any fond remembrances of tales from production, what would they be?

MB: One day we were at Stone Mountain. Pia’s husband arrived in a Bentley and had her try on 2 different mink stoles…some people mumbled about this but I saw her and him to be in an honest exchange…it was no one’s business but their’s. I found Pia to be a true professional and hard worker. She had no attitude or ego to complicate the day’s work. I was pleased to watch her performance. The shoot was a delight in every way.

KH: Thank you Mr. Berryman. From this fan of yours and the gloriously, toe-tapping, insane splendour that is Voyage of the Rock Aliens…I thank you again.

MB: Kent…Great memories! …Stay safe.

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She’s a little bit DANGEROUS! : The DANGER DIVA Interviews with Kent Hill

It was the night before I was given the opportunity to experience Danger Diva that I just happened to be watching Rock & Rule. Little did I know, nor did I expect, certain similarities to interlink in my consciousness as directly following  Clive A. Smith’s cult animated classic, I would be treated to a viewing of Shredder Orpheus’ all but vanished auteurs’ latest picture.

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I still have a copy of Robert McGinley’s 90’s skateboarding, rock ‘n’ roll, ancient mythological homage on VHS. Along with films like Slava Tsukeman’s Liquid Sky and James Fargo’s Voyage of the Rock Aliens, it remains an alternative delight. And, now, Robert  makes an alley-like but most welcome return to the director’s chair.

He brings with him what star Tim Gouran perfectly summed up as a bad-ass, rock ‘n’ roll, sci-fi movie in the form of DANGER DIVA. Set against the backdrop of a very William Gibson stylized future where the elite seek to further manipulate and control the masses. All the powers that be need is a symbol – a voice.

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Diva is a film rich and enthralling in spite of its low budget constraints. McGinley once more brings his unique storytelling, his passion for mythology, his love of classic science fiction, his rock ‘n’ roll sensibilities all to play in this dynamic and thought-provoking movie which, as I think good films should, lingers with you long after the credits roll.

As to my comparisons to Rock & Rule – well fellow fans of that film, I think, will automatically understand where I’m coming from. Of course if you’ve not seen it, then you should – but not before you’ve had a listen to the lads, as it was a privilege to chat with both director and star as it is to bring to your attention this incredible picture which I urge you to seek out and experience for yourself.

VISIT: https://dangerdiva.com/

ROCK ON!

ROBERT McGINLEY

{Courtesy of: https://www.robertmcginleyfilms.com/films-about/}

Robert R McGinley is the writer-director of the feature films JIMMY ZIP and SHREDDER ORPHEUS. JIMMY ZIP, starring Brendan Fletcher, Chris Mulkey, Adrienne Frantz and Robert Gossett won the Best Dramatic Feature award at the Hollywood Film Festival and SHREDDER ORPHEUS is a Seattle cult classic featuring the late great poet, Jesse Bernstein. Both films underscore Robert McGinley’s ongoing interest in rites of passage stories that highlight “the hero’s journey.” Projects in development include the action drama BLOOD RUNS THICKER and the music driven cyber-punk thriller, DANGER DIVA.

Prior to his immersion in film-making, McGinley was the founding artistic director for the internationally acclaimed Seattle theater, On the Boards; a producer and presenter of contemporary dance, theater and music from around the world. In addition to his work as a filmmaker and theater producer, McGinley writes and performs poetry embellished by music and various incendiary arts.

TIM GOURAN

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Tim Gouran is known for his outstanding performances in numerous plays, including Of Mice and Men and ACT’s immense Ramayana production – not to mention his great works in filmography: Love my Guts, Gory Gory Hallelujah, Worst Laid Plans, Better than Love, Two Pictures and of course, Danger Diva

 

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again is a blast of serotonin in cinematic form, a pure ‘happy’ movie that may be even more fun than the first. I’ll level with you though: to enjoy it you’ll need to a) love the music of Abba, and b) not be one of those stiffly stiffersons who puckers their sphincter at the very mention of the word ‘musical.’ Both those boxes are heartily checked off for me, so it’s nothing but a glowing review on this end. Sunny Mediterranean skies, an unbelievable all star cast clearly having some of the most fun of their careers, all the glorious Abba music you want and a heartbreaking poignancy that both blindsides you and wasn’t quite all the way there the first time around, what’s not to love? Sure, it’s gimmicky, ditzy, silly beyond compare, but like Mrs. Mia Wallace would say, don’t be a 🔲. Staged as both sequel and prequel, this one zooms back to the raucous 70’s to show us just how Meryl Streep’s Donna found her way to that idyllic Greek island and stumbled into the hotel business. She’s played by Lily James here who is a true find, a charismatic beauty with a singing voice that could clear a cloudy day right out. The amazing, uncanny thing here is how they’ve managed find young actors who really do emulate their older selves, in the case of the three famous potential fathers she meets, and her two hilarious best friends, played again in the present by scene stealing Christine Baranski and Julie ‘Mrs. Weasley’ Walters. Amanda Seyfried has really come into her own as an actress, I’m always looking forward to whatever she does next because I know she’ll do it with grace and gravity, and her character blooms here as a strong pillar of the story as opposed to the fresh faced bride role she got in the first. Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan and Stellan Skarsgard return and give the film a shot of humour and warmth, while Andy Garcia charms everyone in a role which ties into a hit Abba song later in a way that’s so funny you don’t know whether to clap or roll your eyes. And yes, Cher is in it, her voice is still a powerhouse but she must have had so much work done that she’s more synthetic that organic these days, she’s gotta be in her early 70’s and looks like she just got done recording like her second album, it’s slightly terrifying. If you’re a true Abba buff you’ll appreciate two wicked cameos from founding members cleverly added. The film is fluff and sunshine for the most part, with emotion being relayed by the not always deep or resonant lyrics of Abba, let’s face it, they were a playful disco band. Curiously, there’s one song that really plumbs depths and reaches the most grounded and emotionally truthful height from both actors and audiences that these films have ever ascended to, and, not surprisingly, it’s the one song we get from Meryl Streep, who sadly has no more than a hyped up cameo, but five minutes of Meryl is enough to turn anything gold, really. This seems like an unreleased Abba song, one from mother to daughter sung to Seyfried, and anchors the film right into lucid pathos that I didn’t think was possible with a jumping bean of a flick like this. Like I said before, it’s love it or hate it. I grew up listening to Abba on vinyl, and these songs are a part of me. Every actor in the cast is someone I love to see, it’s set in one of the most beautiful locations in the world, uses the power of music to literally give nutrients to the soul, and is the perfect recipe for summer escapism.

-Nate Hill

Paint Your Wagon

I’ve never understood the cloud of negativity surrounding Paint Your Wagon, a terminally eccentric, raucously bawdy musical western epic in which old school tough guys Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood get to sing, or at least do their best. Sure it’s a giant unwieldy spectacle, not all of the songs make a three point landing and it runs on far too long, but it’s such an interesting piece from many perspectives, it doesn’t deserve even half the shade thrown on it by critics over the years. I like it specifically because of how odd and random it is at times, how it meanders and lingers across the gold rush frontier town it takes place in, following the paths of it’s strange characters diligently. Marvin is the life of the party as Ben Rumson, a booze soaked, misanthropic prospector idling his way through the west in a haze of hangovers and hijinks. Eastwood is Pardner, a soft spoken stoic type whose life is saved by Ben, and the two strike a bond that’s eventually tested by Elizabeth (Jean Seberg), the beauty who loves them both. The trio makes the best of life in a rough n’ tumble settlement called No Name City, a feverish shantytown on the precipice of nowhere, populated by scoundrels, miscreants and hooligans. And that’s pretty much it, the story punctuated by a whole gallery of songs, some brilliant and others excruciating. The best is a haunting, melancholy melody by Marvin called ‘Wandering Star’, which is so good it could be listened to on repeat. ‘They Call The Wind Mariah’ is a gorgeous tune belted out by a young looking Harve Presnell as Rotten Luck Willie, a slick kingpin who basically runs the township. ‘There’s a Coach Comin In’ rouses spirits, and the titular theme is well staged too. Unfortunately all of the songs sung solely by Eastwood are a slog through the mud, as he bleats like a goat and gets saddled with the most boring tracks like ‘I Talk To The Trees’, the sappy ‘Elisa’ and ‘Gold Fever’, a musical sleeping pill. Whenever Marvin is around it’s a banger of a party, he goes the extra mile to keep the energy levels unbridled, while Eastwood is a little sleepier. There’s no way the film deserves the dodgy reputation it’s been slapped with though, a lot of it is fun as all hell, the big budget is spent well on fantastic production design, epic sets and big names who earn their keep, Marvin in particular.

-Nate Hill

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: still truly scrumptious all these years later 


Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is the greatest musical ever made. Fight me. In all seriousness though it stands as a nostalgic beacon of my childhood in a genre that I just never took to, save for a few others in the same boat (The Sound Of Music is class, but that’s a another story). I grew up with Chitty, watched it from a very young age when I was still impressionable, and since then I’ve probably seen the thing over a hundred times as the years passed, with new eyes each time I revisited it at a later age. It’s a miraculous marvel of visual storytelling, a film that truly employs the sentiment “they don’t make em’ like they used to.” They really don’t though, films with this much hands-on imagination, passion for storytelling and ear for music just aren’t a common thing in our newfound age of computer dominated franchise giants. This is a film that is fuelled by wonder and whimsy, a monumental undertaking when you consider it’s length and scope, a pure oasis of childlike escapism, and a thoroughbred bona fide classic. Based on a short, slight storybook by Ian “James Bond 007” Fleming, this is one of the extremely rare occurrences in which a film adaptation surpasses it’s literary source material in every way. How does it achieve this you ask? Two words: Roald Dahl. Dahl, a beloved novelist himself, concocted a scrumdiddlyumptious screenplay that let what was conserved and clipped in the book run positively wild for the film, not to mention dreamed up some achingly beautiful, endlessly catchy songs that have since become timeless. The titular machine is a souped up jalopy that has a few gizmos under it’s hood including the ability to fly and float on water, lovingly built up by master inventor and father of the year for the next ten centuries, Characticus Potts, played by Dick Van Dyke in the performance I’ll always remember him for. After a sincerely charming opening act set in rural England, it’s off to fairytale land as he, his two darling children Jeremy and Jemima (Heather Ridley and Adrian Hall) and lovely Truly Scrumptious (Sally Ann Howes) embark on a dazzling adventure to Germanic country ‘Vulgaria’ to rescue eccentric Grandpa Potts (Lionel Jeffries) and get into all sorts of mischief. Vulgaria is ruled by buffoonish tyrant Baron Bomburst (Gert ‘Goldfinger’ Frobe) and his leggy wife (Anna Quayle), but the real threat is the single scariest villain in cinematic history (don’t even dare argue with me on this one), Robert Helpmann’s Childcatcher, a demonic willy wonka who is pure unbridled nightmare fuel whenever he shows up. The mind boggles at the sheer ambition on display in terms of set pieces here, from the Pott’s gorgeously rickety, unfathomably cozy windmill castle of a home to the Baron’s ornate palace and everything in between, it’s a visual triumph in every way. Better still are the songs, which, excluding one dud from Howes, are all instant classics. Me ol’ bamboo, Toot Sweet, The Roses Of Success, the titular tune that heralds Chitty herself, and particularly a demented little number called Posh sung by Grandpa as his peculiar outhouse of a man-cave dangles on a tow rope below Bomburst’s mini Hindenburg, they’re all fuckin beauties that I’ve been singing along to since I was a wee lad. Added is the giddy presence of people like James Robertson Justice, Desmond ‘Q’ Llewelyn and Benny Hill (as a German, no less) to gild the lining of an already nutty good cast. This film is immortal for me, a jewel in my DVD collection, a nostalgic gift wrapped delicacy to come back to time and time. No matter where I am in my life, the Potts will always be hurtling through the English countryside and soaring over those white cliffs of Dover singing to high heavens about their phantasmagorical machine, and I can sit down and rejoin them any time I like, which I will do over and again as long as time permits. 

-Nate Hill

The Phantom Of The Opera: A Review by Nate Hill

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I’ve never seen The Phantom Of The Opera on stage, so so I have nothing to really compare Joel Shumacher’s 2004 cinematic vision to, but I know that it was one of the most glorious and formative theatre going experiences for me, so much so that I think I probably went and saw the thing like eight times when it came out. I had never heard a single of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music before then and had not a clue as to what the story was. My extant of Phantom knowledge at that point was only of a chalky faced, emaciated Lon Chaney Jr. skulking around a silent black and white frame.
   I was cosmically blown away by the magic of it, the story, the songs, the rich production design and especially the two elemental lead performances from Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum. Again, no idea how the stage actors compare to these two, but Gerard and Emmy’s take on the Phantom and Christine are now scorched into my psyche as the definitive versions. Butler nails the formula perfectly: scary when he needs to be, tender when he wants to be and always a formidable force of dark romanticism and tragic damnation. Rossum is like an angelic comet as Christine Daae, with the best singing voice of the cast and a presence that will bring the viewer to tears and make you instantly fall in love with her.
   Christine works in the prestigious Opera Populaire as a chorus girl, until she is shunted into the limelight when their prima donna of a star singer (a flat out brilliant Minnie Driver) walks off in a huff. Rossum then proceeds to move heaven and earth with her rendition of ‘Think Of Me’, accompanied by some of the most incredible camera work I’ve seen, sweeping through the elegant halls along with her crystal clear voice.
   The mysterious Phantom watches her from dark alcoves and hidden buttresses, entranced by her talent and brimming with love sickness. He has love in him no doubt, but we all know there is hate there too, catalyzed by an unfortunate deformation and a cruel past that has left him in exile. He basically runs the show from the shadows though, with utmost class and heaps of theatrical menace.
   Christine also has eyes for her childhood friend Raoul (Patrick Wilson). Wilson is the only player who seems a bit out of his depth, perhaps because he hadn’t yet found the assurance in stride and charisma he has in his roles these days. Miranda Richardson is excellent as ever in an understated turn as Christine’s aunt and teacher. Jennifer Ellison is her friend and fellow singer Meg. Ciaran Hinds and Simon Callow are inspired as the comic relief duo who purchases the opera house, and watch for Kevin R. McNally as well.
  Every song is a winner, every frame composed of grandiose ambition and every ounce of vocal strength thrown forth by the cast, particularly Rossum and Butler who go a mile and then some, holding their own individual presence as well as pulling off the sorrowful chemistry between the Phantom and Christine. There’s a few key sequences that should go down in the history books on how to stage a scene, including a dazzling masquerade ball, a wintry swordfight in a cemetery, the aforementioned Think Of Me, and my personal favourite: a mournful black and white prologue set decades after the story, kicking the film off with a rousing flourish of motion and music. I’m sure there are scores of people who swear by the stage production and want nothing to do with this, or simply weren’t wowed to the levels I was. That’s fine. For me though, I don’t see any version ever topping this jewel of a film, and the classic two disc dvd sits proudly on my shelf, daring any other rendition, cinematic or otherwise to give it a run for it’s money.