In 1982, Peter Brosnan heard a story about an ancient Egyptian City buried in California that had once been used for The Ten Commandments. For thirty years, he fought to discover it and make this film.
Yes, below the dunes, buried so no other movie would use it, is an entire City of the Pharaohs. The fight to get it consumed everyone in this movie.
Built in the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes, the set had 20 sphinxes and four 35-ton statues of Ramses. You have to give it to Brosnan, who didn’t give up even when it seemed like he’d never get the chance to see his dream come true.
This movie is the history of every setback over his life, which starts with he and his friends recording the site with film cameras and ends with his children recording him on an iPhone. This study of film history, legal woes and dreams come true is well worth the watch.
I could go on for days and days about these prides of German filmmaking. I’ve seen most of their works, but not all of them: but still more than probably any other human being on the planet. And I more than likely hold the world’s record for the most viewings of these five collaborations between the two of them—a tumultuous, symbiotic existence chronicled by Herzog himself in the 1999 documentary, My Best Fiend (which you can watch on TubiTV).
Considering Kinksi appeared in 137 films and, since the age of 19, Herzog has directed 73 and written 59 films—both across all genres, including documentaries—B&S About Movies could easily do two, month-long tributes to my two best celluloid heroes. And I could write most of those reviews by heart—without a third to fifth viewing of those works. And I’d sell my soul for a diminutive “under five” acting role in a Werner Herzog film. Just name the swamp or jungle: I’ll be there, Mr. Herzog. I’ll drag a boat for you. But I won’t chainsaw off a foot for you. I have my limits.
So, settle in with your rotisserie hotdogs, heat-lamped burgers, and ice-cold A&W Root Beers as we sit back in the station wagon bench seat to enjoy the Herzog-Kinski five-film oeuvre of Aguirre, the Wrath of God, Nosferatu the Vampire, Woyzeck, Fitzcarraldo, and Cobra Verde. And as the films roll: Keep in mind that each was made before the advent of digital technologies: everything was shot in-camera using practical effects with no process shots. And that makes these films ever more amazing.
Yeah, they don’t make ‘em like this anymore. And probably couldn’t if they tried—without the crutches of a filmless camera and digital after-effects.
Roll ’em, Dano!
Movie 1:Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972)
If you want to know where William Friedkin and Francis Ford Coppola picked up their narrative and cinematography ideas for their respective, crazed jungle romps, Sorcerer (1977) and ApocalypseNow (1979), then look no further than Aguirre.
Herzog is, first and foremost, a historian. If you review his resume, you’ll noticed he excells at the documentary format and is, in fact, one of the world’s greatest documentarian filmmakers. No stuffy talking heads need apply. And even in his narrative works, Herzog leans towards chronicling the lives of historical figures and events.
Here, he decided to examine the life of 1500s Spanish conquistador Lope de Aguirre, who broke away from the command of Gonzalo Pizarro to lead a group of men on a crazed journey down the South American Amazon River in search of the lost, legendary city of gold, El Dorado.
What makes this film epic is that it’s not shot on a soundstage. There’s no green screens or plate processings: it was shot along the Amazon in the middle of the Peruvian rainforests for a five-week shoot.
Wrap you head around that for a moment: Herzog convinced European actors and crew members to live in the jungle and travel along the most dangerous river in the world. And Herzog and Kinski clashed all along the way, with an unhinged Kinski terrorizing the crew and the local natives who assisted the production as crew and extras. Try to remake (oh, god, please don’t) this in today’s major studio system: You wouldn’t. You’d be in a green room emoting to green tennis ball stand-ins, amid the to-be-digitally-painted-later trees.
While Herzog repeated this crazed jungle exploration, somewhat, in his fourth film with Kinski, 1982’s Fitzcarraldo, he also parodied his debut film with Kinski in the frames of his 2004 mockumentary Incident at Loch Ness. That film concerns the “troubled” filming of Enigma of Loch Ness and includes “scenes” from the documentary Herzog in Wonderland. If you’re into meta-fiction, then that film’s film-within-a-film-within-a-film is just what the big red streaming button ordered. It’s the end-all-be-all of meta films, before meta became digital de rigueur, matched only by Spike Jonze’s Adaptation.
You can watch this debut Herzog-Kinski collaboration as a free-with-ads stream on TubiTv. You can also stream Incident at Loch Ness on TubiTv.
This second of five Herzog-Kinski romps is an impressionist-stylized remake of F.W Murnau’s unauthorized, 1922 black-and-white silent adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. But how did Herzog manage to make this film without the same copyright issues that plagued Murnau’s version? Simple. The day the copyright expired on Stoker’s novel and entered the public domain, Herzog began his adaptation.
As with all of Herzog’s films, this is scored by the West German progressive rock group Popol Vuh who, when it comes to soundtracks, are that country’s greatest musical export, next to the commercially better known Tangerine Dream*. And as with Tangerine Dream, Popol Vuh released both independent studio albums and soundtracks. Seriously. The soundtrack is incredible. (I played the album until it split apart like a cinnamon roll.)
And we’ll leave it at that, as Sammy P, the bossman at B&S About Movies, did a commendable job at reviewing this masterpiece of horror. No disrespect to Max Schreck who scared the sand out of me, but Kinski giving a “voice” to the character really ups the game. A highly recommended horror watch if there ever was one.
You can watch this as a free-with-ads stream on TubiTv. And Kinski made a pseudo-sequel with Christopher Plummer and Donald Pleasence in Italy—1988’s Nosferatu in Venice, which you can also stream for free on TubiTV.
Movie 3: Woyzeck (1979)
Less than a week after wrapping principal photography on Nosferatu the Vampyre, Herzog, Kinski, and the crew from that film banged out this psychological drama in less than three weeks—the quick shoot courtesy of many of the scenes done with only one take. That’s Kinski. He doesn’t mess around, boy. He delivers on the first take.
The film is based on an unfinished play by one of Germany’s most revered poets and dramatists, Karl Georg Buchner. First premiering in 1913 in Munich, the play, under a variety of interpretations after his death, is one of the most influential and performed plays in Germany. The play itself is loosely based on the tragic, real life story of Johann Christian Woyzeck, a soldier who killed his girlfriend and was executed for the crime.
In this study of the tragedy of human jealousy, Woyzeck fathers a child out of wedlock. To earn extra money to take care of his growing family, he agrees to a series of medical experiments that tears at his mental state, leads to a series of apocalyptic visions—and tragic consequences.
Definitely one of the more obscure Kinski films for western audiences and intended solely for German audiences, it none the less became a commercial and critical hit throughout Europe and achieved an arthouse acceptance in the U.S.
You can watch Woyzeck as a free-with-ads stream on TubiTV.
The snack bar will be open in five minutes . . .
. . . And now, back to the show . . .
Movie 4: Fitzcarraldo (1982)
This brings back wonderful memories of my “saving the isle seat” for Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune and Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times for the weekly PBS-TV broadcast of Sneak Previews. And they raved about this movie. And I had to travel to a single-screen arthouse in the big city to see it. And it was worth every drop of gasoline to get there.
As with most Herzog films: This was based on historical documents regarding a Peruvian rubber baron and his real-life accomplishment of transporting a boat across the Peruvian jungles to rubber-rich lands. And as with most, well all, Herzog films with Kinski in the mix, this was rout with problems. But not all were Kinski’s fault. For example: Kinski didn’t cut off anyone’s foot: the Peruvian extra, who was bit by a venomous snake, cut off his own foot with a chainsaw to stop the venom spread and save his own life.
Jason Robards (Something Wicked This Way Comes) was originally cast and forty percent of the film was completed—then he came down with dysentery. All of the footage with Robards and Mick Jagger has to be scrapped and reshot. But Jagger had to leave to go on tour with the Rolling Stones. So Jagger’s character as Fitzcarraldo’s assistant was excised from the script. Could you imagine: a film starring Klaus Kinski and Mick Jagger? Wow. (They would have ended up killing each other. Neither would have been left standing. I wonder who the Stones would have gotten as a new lead singer?)
As with the impossible dreamer Lope de Aguirre, Irishman Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald sees “gold” in the Peruvian rubber industry and is determined to transport a steamship over a treacherous jungle mountain to reach a rich rubber tree deposit in the Amazon Basin. And yes: the cast and crew is manually hauling a 300-ton steamboat across the jungle. That’s how you rolled in the pre-CGI days, baby.
You can watch this as a free-with-ads stream on TubiTv. The troubled shoot was chronicled in the critically acclaimed 1982 documentary Burden of Dreams, which you can stream-with-ads for free (region-dependent) on Vimeo and as a PPV on iTunes and Amazon Prime.
Movie 5: Cobra Verde (1987)
For this fifth and final film in the Herzog-Kinski oeuvre, as is usually the case, Herzog drew from another historical document: British author Bruce Chatwin’s 1980 novel The Viceroy of Ouidah, which is an examination of the 1880’s slave trade through the eyes of the fictional Brazilian, Francisco Manoel da Silva (Kinski).
After his ranch is destroyed by drought and he murders a gold mining operator who exploits his workers, da Silva goes on the lam to become Cobra Verde, aka Green Snake, the most feared bandit of the Brazilian outback. After capturing an escaping slave and finding work with a local sugar baron, da Silva becomes a successful African slave trader—and comes to lead a native army to overthrow the local warlord king who supplies slaves to the Portuguese.
Critically well received throughout Europe, U.S. audiences came to discover this gem (IMO) on the home video market.
You can watch this as a free-with-ads stream on TubiTv. As with the troubled Fitzcarraldo production, this was also chronicled, with the 1987 European-Swiss TV movie Location Africa. You can watch it as a two-part free stream on You Tube.
Okay, people. Use the trash receptacles. Those drink cups and hotdog and burger foil wrappers wreck havoc on the bush-hog.
I was elated when it was announced that Werner Herzog and Nicolas Cage were making a film together: 2009’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. I thought for sure that Herzog found his new “best fiend” in Cage—a new muse more than capable of taking over Kinski’s crazy crown.
However, Herzog has embraced the documentary format as of late and has only made three narrative films since his Cage collaboration: My Son, My Son, What Ye Have Done (2009), Queen of the Desert (2015), and Salt and Fire (2016)—two with Michael Shannon, along with Willem Dafoe and James Franco. All four films are excellent and come highly recommended.
And I don’t see Cage, or Dafoe, Franco, or Shannon for that matter, going “Kinski” on Herzog. Well, maybe Cage. Just kidding, Nic. I am still your bitch**. And Kinski’s. And Herzog’s.
La Donna nel Mondo hustled its way into theaters months after the success of Gualtiero Jacopetti, Paolo Cavara and Franco Prosperi’s Mondo Cane. Where the first film was unfocused and just shows, quite literaly, a dog’s life, the sequel lives up to its name: you are going to see women all of the world.
We start in Israel, where we see women start training for their military service, which is soon juxtaposed with the island of Roger Hopkins, who has 84 wives and 52 children.
That difference bwteen women is the highlight of much of the footage, showing women longing for statues and their mates, who instead parade about in full regalia in New Guinea ritual.
There’s a trip to Cannes — this happens in so many mondos that I’ve lost track by this point — as well as a camera club (that’s where Bettie Page got her start, allowing men to pay her to take photos of her as she posed; incel weirdos did not get their start via the internet, dear friends), dude ranches where divorcees get the marital bliss they were missing, prostitution, Japanese women diving for pearls and getting their eyes more Westernized, plastic surgery, forced tattoos, Thalidomine babies and women screaming at God in Lourdes. There’s all that and so much more, all concentrating on, yes, the women of the world, but mostly wanting to show you plenty of flesh along the way.
This movie is dedicated to Italian exploitation films Belinda Lee, who died in a car crash that also injured her boyfriend Jacopetti: “To Belinda Lee, who throughout this long journey accompanied and helped us with love” appears on screen with ten seconds of silence. Jacopetti would be buried next to her thirty years later, never falling out of love with her, despite a lifetime mired in the sheer muck and grime of the mondo.
The difference between a mondo and the kind of movie that a school teacher would make you watch is that these movies may seem like they want to educate you, but they really want to brutalize you with “1,001 forbidden scenes” and blast you with “fantastic brute sound.”
It’s another Drive-In Asylum Double Feature! I’m beyond excited, because honestly, if I ever got to show one movie in a theater and talk about it or do the commentary track on a blu ray, it would be Cathy’s Curse, which is absolutely one of my favorite movies of all time.
Here’s what you need to enjoy the movies!
Cathy’s Curse: While you have so many options to watch this movie, you should own the Severin blu ray of this movie. Seriously. But that fucker now.
As you may know, we serve up cocktails with each movie. Here’s a recipe so you can enjoy the film along with me.
Fans of Liam Neeson’s series of “aged action star” flicks will enjoy Revenge, a gritty, graphic world where Death Wish collides with The Equalizer that serves as the tour de force industry calling card for working man French actor Stéphane Roquet in his debut as a screenwriter, director, producer, and cinematographer.
Jean-Yves Bourgeois mesmerizes in his acting debut (reminding us of that first time we saw Jason Statham in his leading man debut in The Transporter) as Detective Franck Beriat. Released after serving a six-year prison term for arresting—then killing—a pimp, he becomes an unlicensed private detective, talking only the cases he feels where he believes justice wasn’t served.
When a femme fatale hires Franck to track down her missing sister—a case that reminds him of the murder of his prostitute-cum-C.I girlfriend that landed him in prison—the assignment turns into a one-man war against a crime syndicate run by an arrogant lawyer.
Bottom line: you’ll be seeing more from Stéphane Roquet behind the lens and Jean-Yves Bourgeois in front of it. They’re the next Luc Besson and Jason Statham. In case you haven’t guessed: I love this movie; it’s a French version of a Takashi Miike yakuza-revenge flick.
In the international marketplace since 2016, Revenge is now available in the U.S. for the first time as a free-with-ads stream on TubiTv. If you prefer an ad-free experience, you can stream the film through Vudu or You Tube Movies. To learn more about the film and the Industry Works Studios roster, you can visit their website and You Tube page.
About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.
Disclaimer: We weren’t sent a screener or review request for this film. We discovered it on our own via social media and truly enjoyed the film.
“Right here, in our own backyard, in the more civilized parts of the world, are practiced some of the most uncivilized acts ever conceived!” Antonio Scarpati directed this, a one and done view of the world in 1965, in the time before the internet when life was cheap. Acually, life has always been cheap.
Joel Holt, who would go on the narrorate Paris Topless and two of the Olga movies — as well as direct part of The Wild, Wild World of Jayne Mansfield — is the voice that will take us through this world.
You may notice that nearly none of this movie is real. Like when we’re in Central Park, the rapist is Richard B. Shull from Sssssss and Spring Break. And when we see a photographer taking photos of nude models, that’s Sammy Petrillo, who once teamed with Duke Mitchell to make Bela Lugosi meets a Brooklyn Gorilla. While gay men dance on rooftops, Sammy is taking snaps of girls acting as if Irving Klaw was nearby.
This is a sick world, a place where prostitiutes do heroin while a roomful of people dance the Twist, where Lucky Kargo (The Hookers, Venus In Furs) gets in a brawl with Sam Stewart (Bad Girls Go to Hell), where performance art is really people beating up one another and fat people always get a laugh.
Reality TV has replaced the mondo, but the same scum always rises to the top. I don’t say that as a bad thing. This one is faker than the other, but has that ever stopped me from watching one of these.
This documentary explores the rise and fall of the the violent Italian poliziotteschi genre, which may have started with Dirty Harry and The Godfather clones but emerged as its own unique film form that was uniquely able to address red terrorism and organized crime.
There’s a lot to learn here, including how the idea of shooting without permits and live sound led to the creativity that these movies all have. Plus, you’ll hear from the stars and makers of these films as they explain how these low budget rushed movies were made.
Nearly everyone you would ever want to hear from in this style of movie is here, including Franco Nero, John Saxon, Henry Silva, Antonio Sabato, Fred Williamson, Richard Harrison, Chris Mitchum, Enzo Castellari, Joe Dallesandro, John Steiner and Claudio Fragrasso.
I learned a ton about why Italian movies have dubbed sound and quick zooms that I would have never known if I hadn’t seen it. Throw in some great anecdotes and an explanation of how peblum led to spaghettio westerns which led to giallo which then led to these films and I was hooked.
“To the worm in the cheese, the cheese is the universe. To the maggot in the cadaver, the cadaver is infinity. And to you, what is your world? How do you know what is beyond the Beyond? Most of us don’t even know what is behind the Beyond.”
Mondo Bizarro blew my mind and it hadn’t even started yet.
Much like all of the Lee Frost and Bob Cresse mondos, this is a mix of both documentary and faked footage. Sure, that one way glass in a changing room is fake, but hey, Frederick’s of Hollywood is real, even if it shows up in so many mondo films that I lose track of which one is which.
This one also has a man sticking nails in his skin and eating glass, the hippies of Los Angeles, Germans watching a Nazi play (Cresse must have been, umm, Cresse-ing his jeans, seeing as how he played a German officer in Love Camp 7 with such aufregung.
The duo also used a high-powered lens to capture what they describe as a Lebanese white-slavery auction. Never mind that it’s obviously Bronson Canyon, the setting for everything from Night of the Blood Beast to Equinox, Octaman and, most famously, the entrance to the Batcave in the 1960’s TV show.
Make no bones about it. This is junk. But it’s entertaining junk.
You can get this on the same blu ray as Mondo Freudo from Severin.
Playboy Playmate Nikki Leigh hosts this series of trailers for movies that Full Moon may or may not own the actual rights to. The in-between segments are worthless, but this is packed with some great trailers, including one of my all-time favorites, 1967’s Teenage Mother.