What She Said (2021)

This is how you do a tagline: “Everybody has an opinion. Nobody has WiFi.”

Sam (Jenny Lester, who wrote the script for this dark comedy) has decided to drop the charges against the man who assaulted her. Now, on Thanksgiving, perhaps one of the most stressful days of the year, her family and friends have joined together to stage an intervention.

Our protagonist, who has placed her life on hold for 18 months in and out of trials, wants to finish her dissertation. Yet when she receives news that the trial is postponed again, she hides out in her family’s remote cabin in the Virginia woods, ghosting everyone. But can the same people she wants to avoid convince her to come back to the city to complete the trial?

Lester explained her thought process behind the script — and the making of the film — by saying, “It is frustrating that in most portrayals of survivorship, we learn what someone has been through instead of who they are. As more and more women started sharing their stories (often anonymously) online over the past few years, the question that kept itching in my mind was, “Who was this woman before this event that is now synonymous with her identity? Who is she now as she picks herself back up and returns to her life?” As we approached our first feature, we knew we didn’t need to add another SVU version of survivorship to the zeitgeist, and instead wanted to focus on what is hopefully a very human story about a deeply nuanced and often flawed woman and her messy, misstepping, well-meaning chosen family that raillies around her. Putting together a predominantly female, enby, and queer crew and creative team to help tell it was absolutely paramount.”

Where most films that deal with this subject are either courtroom dramas or descend into revenge pictures. This shows the very human side of dealing with what comes after the attack, with Sam struggling to build new connections and continue the ones that she had before. Beyond the horrific emotions and pain that Sam has had to deal with over the last year and change, the fact that others want to tell her what to do may be just as damaging to her.

There are no easy answers, obviously, but this film raises plenty of questions to ponder over and consider. It’s not what I expected to watch for entertainment, yet it’s the kind of movie that will stick in my head and make me think back to it from time to time, which is one of the hallmarks of a film that just plain works.

Director Amy Northrup has an interesting resume, as she’s acted in several films and also works as an intimacy coordinator and facilitates classes on consent practices for filmmakers. This is her first full-length film. Of this effort, she said, “The ways we consume media affects how we see the world around us, and if the stories of sexual assault we see are homogenous, limited, and singular, it makes it infinitely hard to see the layers of impact, to believe the people in our actual lives who come forwared and say this happened to me. When all we see is perfect victimhood we turn around and demand it. This film, for us, was one version of a story that won’t meet that demand.”

You can learn more at the official website of this movie. It’s now available on VOD.

Malignant (2021)

From the first time Malignant was announced, it was called James Wan’s giallo film.

A few thoughts on that.

It’s a giallo film as much as Suspiria is a giallo. That’s because most people think, “Italian horror with red and blue colors equals giallo,” which is much like someone thinking that all hip hop is rap or all metal has blast beats, maybe. It’s a generalization and you know, you have to be fine with it. In a world where reviewers from publications as big as Variety can’t understand that Halloween is not a rehash of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, you have to expect that some movies need a handle for people to better understand them.

To the rest of us, those that haunted the aisles of the video stores minutes before closing, that carried lists of films in our wallets, that went from small town to town trying to find that magical movie drug that our store had no more supply of, I can tell you, if this movie had a Filmirage logo before it, the dubbing was off and a CGI Donald Pleasence or Donald O’Brien showed up, I would not be more surprised.

This isn’t a giallo. Sure, there’s a giallo looking killer with a weapon somehow more ridiculous than the one in Too Beautiful to Die that has identity issues and a history of family madness much like Madhouse, but nope. This is the kind of movie that Screaming Mad George would have done the effects for, that would have had a trailer for Fatal Frames before it, that should have a piece of masking tape with green magic marker that says “MUST BE 18 TO RENT” emblazoned on it.

So for every review I see that says, “This has a bonkers third act!” or “It starts slow but hold on,” I wonder, have I done too many movie drugs? Have I inhaled too deeply on the fumes of not only the Argento, Fulci, Henenlotter and Raimi — hail to those mentioning Darkman — that keep getting called out in these reviews, but also Full Moon, D’Amato, Lenzi, Stuart Gordon and so many more? Hell yeah I have. And I have no regrets. Movies mean more to me than most people. They’ve treated me better than most people. And I get the feeling that this is the kind of movie for people like me.

Make no mistake — no movie has made me laugh out loud more this year than Malignant. And no movie made in 2021 will probably bring me so much joy because I kind of love that someone gave Wan $40 million to make a movie for people who say, why don’t they make stuff like George Eastman’s Metamorphosis or Tibor Takács’ I, Madman any more.

This is a movie that has a villain that feels like a character someone rolled up using the random character generator tables in an old school role playing game like Champions or Gamma World. “What’d you roll up,” we ask a young James Wan. “Well, he has a giant sword that he made out of a doctor’s award. And he can control lightning. And he dresses like he came right out of Strip Nude for Your Killer.”

“Cool.”

“I’m not done. He can also talk to people through radios.”

I mean, can you not see the lunatic zeal of that? And sure, the acting is so bad that you wonder that it just might be a directorial choice — and if so, I love it — but this is also the kind of movie where the fact that Seattle is built above another city gets called out and kind of forgotten — unless you consider that this movie was built on the ashes of stuff like GhosthouseCastle Freak and Basket Case — and there’s a moment where a character falls out of one part of the movie into another, effectively breaking the narrative just as surely as her body smashes through a house.

Is Malignant a transmission from an alternate universe where Wan never stopped making pure junk — and I say that with affection — like Dead SIlence*? Is it someone trying to not have to make Hollywood sequels and screaming for help? Who can say. It’s a mess, a glorious, ridiculous, unfocused mess packed with astounding levels of gore and several upbeat songs that don’t fit the film at all.

I’m shocked it didn’t have someone discussing who is more popular in Denver, Kim Basinger or Kelly LeBrock over a ham radio.

And in case it didn’t come through, I loved this giant steaming pile of movie junk food.

*I’ve done my best not to put any spoilers in here, but there’s a security footage moment in here that has puppet work as bonkers and gory as when the villain behind that aforementioned film turned a family patriarch into a human puppet.

Skinwalker: The Howl of the Rougarou (2021)

Small Town Monsters and director Seth Breedlove have made plenty of great films and series over the past few years — On the Trail of UFOs: Dark SkyOn the Trail of Bigfoot: The JourneyMOMO: The Missouri Monster, Terror in the Skies and On the Trail of Bigfoot — and now they’re giving us the first-ever look at what is often referred to as the Rougarou, which is a Cajun werewolf.

Literally any power you can imagine is given to this creature, which can do just about anything and be just about anyone. The mix of religion and the occult in the bayou really adds up to a potent blend of weirdness and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sure, this creature may be a story told to keep children out of the forests after dark, but many around southern Louisiana — several in this film! — have no issues saying that they’ve encountered an actual howling werewolf.

A cannibal tribe of shapeshifters who retreated deep into the forests where they slowly lost touch with their humanity? Man, I’m so down for everything in this.

Skinwalker: The Howl of the Rougarou is available to purchase or rent on a number of platforms from 1091 Pictures, including iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu and FandangoNOW. Small Town Monsters will also release a special edition Blu-ray ($18.99) and DVD ($14.99) from their official store.

Witches of Blackwood (2021)

Originally titled The UnlitWitches of Blackwood is all about a police officer named Cassie going back home to deal with the death of her father and being put on leave after witnessing the suicide of a young man. You know what I always tell horror movie protagonists: do not ever go back home to put the affairs of your family in order.

The town of Blackwood is now nearly empty save for the animal mutilations and feels haunted before the witches of the title make their presence known. Yes, this is folk horror, but Australian folk horror, so that’s a new one for me.

Directed by Kate Whitbread and written by Darren Markey, this is a journey into the past of not just the town, but Cassie’s entire family, illuminating the truths that she did not know about where her mother went, why she’s felt like she does not belong within our world and exactly why the man murdered himself in front of her.

You can learn more at the movie’s official website and Facebook page.

The Woman in the Window (2021)

Between Nocturnal AnimalsSharp Objects and this, is Amy Adams kinda becoming a giallo queen? Or just a woman in danger of being killed and/or going insane? Umm, isn’t that a giallo queen?

You know what also seems like a mystery worth digging into? The writer of the book that this was based on, A.J. Finn, is really a book editor named Dan Mallory who may or may not have lied in regards to — according to this New Yorker article — having a doctorate from Oxford, multiple family and personal cancer battles and he death of his still-alive father, mother and brother. Plus, there are allegations that he took on the identity of his brother to send emails about a fake cancer condition — fake online identities are part of the story of The Woman in the Window — and that pretty much the entire story of The Woman in the Window didn’t come from his imagination.

The article then presents us with a summary of a story: “An American woman in mid-career, a psychologist with a Ph.D. and professional experience of psychopathy, is trapped in her large home by agoraphobia. She has been there for about a year, after a personal trauma. If she tries to go outside, the world spins. She drinks too much, and recklessly combines alcohol and anti-anxiety medication. Police officers distrust her judgment. Online, she plays chess and contributes to a forum for stress-sufferers, a place where danger lies.”

Yes, that could be this movie. But it’s also the 1995 Sigourney Weaver-starring film Copycat.

And it’s also very similar to Sarah A. Denzil’s Saving April, including an identical ending.

So yes, the world has many magical moments and I believe in the collective unconsciousness, but this is too much to bear.

Maybe we should just discuss the movie before I’m tempted to dish on my own experiences with people who continually reached out to me with personal narratives that were easily disproven.

Anna Fox lives alone in Manhattan after separating from her husband Edward who lives somewhere else with their daughter — can you guess this plot twist? — and her agoraphobia, prescriptions and alcohol abuse keep her inside the house. Yet one night, she meets her new next-door neighbor Jane Russell (Julianne Moore) and her son Ethan, who seems abused.

Then, like Rear Window, she watches Jane die at the hands of her husband Alastair (Gary Oldman). When she calls the cops, she meets Jane again, who is now Jennifer Jason Leigh and reality starts to be untrustworthy for our protagonist.

You know how in Scream they make fun of the cliches of slashers while still following them? Like somehow it’s just fine to make the same narrative choices as long as you reference them? That’s what Anna’s collection of Hitchcock films is all about. So if you show scenes from SpellboundDark Passage and Laura — as well as Rear Window — you can take as much as you want. Someone get Argento and DePalma on the phone and let them know that critics who took them to task just for referencing so much Hitchcock that if they had only had some clips and hammered home references, all would have been fine.

There’s also Anna’s slightly sleazy boarder David Winter (Wyatt Russell, somehow always a jerk in movies) and the police who are no help — hello, this is a giallo — with Detective Little (Brian Tyree Henry) only coming around to Anna’s truth by the end of the film.

You know, they should just make the life of Dan Mallory into a movie.

But then everyone would think it was ripped off from The Talented Mr. Ripley.

It Came from Below (2021)

Jessis’s father died in a spelunking trip gone wrong when alien creatures attacked everyone. No one believes that to be what actually happened and, as usually happens, everyone pays the price. And by price, I mean some truly gruesome sound design that really is the star of this movie.

Either I’m getting old or people are making movies way too dark these days. Probably both. Either way, the end of this movie just got less claustrophobic and more confusing, which can’t have been the intent.

This was directed by Dan Allen (Unhinged), who co-wrote the film with Sam Ashurst, who has also directed a few motion pictures of his own like A Little More Flesh and Needle Drop. I wanted to like this more than I did, but when the brave explorers showed up to a cave with absolutely no real equipment knowing that a people-eating monster could be inside, I kind of stepped back.

It Came from Below is available on digitally from Uncork’d Entertainment.

Music (2021)

I get it. I am not always all that aware of the music of today because I tend to thing everything should sound like Black Sabbath or The Rolling Stones around the time of Some Girls. I may be able to tell you all manner of arcane facts about the music of my youth — don’t get me started on the KLF or any associated bands — but most music today slips in one ear and out the other.

That said, I kind of liked what I heard from Sia. And I really enjoyed the fact that she remained anonymous so often, having actresses play her in videos and rarely showing her face.

So when she made an auteur project — a $16 million dollar movie written, directed and of course featuring her — I was pretty surprised. It’s one thing to not know how to read music, but all of this at once?

Sia said in a BBC interview, “For me, the process was basically, I work out the movie. I’ll act it out, I’ll have the dialogue already in my head… I can’t be bothered to learn Final Draft.”

Oh no, I thought. But part of me was like, oh yes. Because if there’s one thing better than a great movie, it’s a spectacular explosion of a film fueled by ego and hubris.

Some of the issues become apparent when you see how all of the place the process of creation was. The proagnist Zu was going to be Shia LaBeouf, then Jonah Hill, then after seeing Kate Hudson sing, she got the part. Speaking of the casting, most of it was done over social media. And then, after forty days of shooting, it took three years to edit this film.

Sia would tell Rolling Stone, “I couldn’t seem to find the right editor – someone who understood the magic I was trying to make happen.”

I would argue that this editor does not exist.

Maddie Ziegler may have starred in a series of Sia’s videos, but was she meant to play an autistic girl and go full blown like she does here? How about the fact that the movie shows a potentially dangerous physical restraint method called crushing? Or the fact that Leslie Odom Jr.’s character seemingly exists only to help white people get past their issues?

Also, there are flashing lights throughout this movie, so many of the autustic people who it could reach can’t watch it!

I know quite a few autustic people and not a single one of them are infants, despite this movie showing me they can be, as it veers between gritty drama and Bjork video. I take that back. Bjork makes good videos.

For everyone that ever made fun of The Apple or Can’t Stop the Music or Staying Alive or any number of horrible music-themed movies that I can’t help but love, I will use this as the example for what a truly bad movie is. Because man, I can remember songs from Xanadu and Sextette and I promise you that not a single moment of this film except for its endless montages of screaming headphone wearing children will stick with me. This movie has made me hate Sia, hate her music, hate children, hate communities and hate stages with floral arrangements like at the end of this movie.

Honestly, if you told me this was a right wing religious film, it would have made so much more sense to me. Actually, I’ve watched plenty of those and they’re way more entertaining than this.

Also: Sia plays herself and has this scheme where she’s using drug dealers to buy painkillers to send them to needy places in the world, which seems like the same kind of dumb idea as this movie, as if someone could have perhaps not been impulsive and tried to think of a better way to do things.

Somehow, this was nominated for both a Golden Globe for Best Picture and the Razzie Award for Worst Picture, which is the kind of thing only Pia Zadora has accomplished.

Man, this article feels like clubbing seals and shooting fish in a barrel. Realizing that doesn’t mean I’m going to start being nice though. That said, I wish I had seen this movie during its IMAX premiere because I thought no movie could be as loud and face destroying as watching the fecund Zack Snyder Watchmen from the front row and I feel that this is the movie that could erase that from my brain.

It’s like when you get a song stuck in your head and the only way to get it out is to start humming Glenn Frey’s “Smuggler’s Blues.” Because then, you have “Smuggler’s Blues” stuck in your head. And that’s a losing proposition but one you can’t refuse. It’s the politics of contraband. It’s the smuggler’s blues.

Jurassic Shark 2: Aquapocalypse (2021)

“There’s bad and then there’s boring-bad and this is just bad, which is a nice thing to say.”
— Sam Panico of B&S About Movies in his review of Brett Kelly’s Jurassic Shark

Great poster . . . one day, the film will live up to the one-sheets. Nah!

In our never-ending quest to review every shark flick ever released, we just have to. . . .

Besides, when you have Mark Polonia, who we jam on over here at B&S About Movies (who treaded these waters before with the bonkers Shark Encounters of the Third Kind) making a (unofficial) sequel to Brett Kelly’s nine year old film, who we also jam on at B&S (who slopped these waters before with Ouija Shark), well, we just have to. . . .

Do we have to tell you the CGI shark is bad and that the acting — babbling about the dangers of bio-engineering — is bad? That’s there not one practical, in-camera gunshot, blood drop, or explosion effect to be had? That the wide-to-close up continuity is beyond fubar’d? Yeah, we just have to. . . .

So, anyway, if you missed the Brett Kelly instigator: The (50-foot) megalodon unleashed by an oil rig frackin’ up the ocean floor in the first film is back, still swimming around the rig . . . one of the most understaffed rigs in the history of the fossil fuels industry because, well, the budget could only afford a cast of four. Well, there’s the folks in that local fishing village, flailing about as only bad “look at me” extras can.

“Dude, is the ’90s video game-era shark even original this film?”

Eh . . . with so many of these CGI “Shark Weak” films produced, these selachimorpha romps are probably recycling at a rate that would give Roger Corman pause. At least that shark jumping out of the ocean to clamp down on a CGI’d T-Rex poking along the beach — in a 50 million year flashback — looks new to the game. Why yes, that’s Polonia and Kelly — and sometimes Brett Piper — familiar stock players Jeff Kirkendall and Titus Himmelberger in the cast. At least, as Sam pointed out in his review of Brett Kelly’s Jurassic Shark, Mark Polonia’s sequel isn’t padded by twelve minutes of credits against fifty minutes of actual movie. To that end: we’ve only got two minutes of credits against a not-to-painfully quick 68-minutes . . . not counting the two minutes of opening titles of a shapely bikini babe wading in the water . . . who then swims for a minute, before her chomping. See, you can handle a 65-minute movie. . . .

Eh, stop your snobby bitchin’, ye film critic.

As is the case with any Brett Kelly flick (I liked Countrycide), or Polonia Brothers shingle swinger (which had the balls to mesh the shark genre and Amityville franchise via Amityville Island), or Brett Piper joint (who’s a god around here*) that comes down the streaming pipeline, we had a lot of ’60s retro drive-in fun. They all studied at the Dennis Divine School of Cinema**, so we likey.

In the middle of July, we rolled out a “Shark Weak” of reviews. During the earliest days of the site, we also rolled out a “Bastard Son of Jaws Week” and “Exploring: Ten Jaws Ripoffs” featurette. Yeah, that’s a lot of digital chum to swallow, but you can do it! Click those hyperlinks! Yeah, we know that Brett Kelly’s Raiders of the Lost Shark and Mark Polonia’s Virus Shark aren’t amid those reviews. Look, we are Polonia and Kelly fans, not masochists . . . but for more Polonia-related reviews, check out our reviews of  Amityville Deathhouse, Amityville Exorcism, Empire of the Apes, Outpost Earth, and Return to Splatter Farm.

You can learn more about many of their films by visiting the Facebook page and official site of Wild Eye Releasing. Jurassic Shark 2 — as has Virus Shark — will probably end up on Tubi soon enough. But for those who can’t wait, it started streaming this week on You Tube and Amazon Prime. (Clicking either link will launch the official Wild Eye trailer.) Meanwhile, over at Asylum Studios, they’ve just released their own CGI shark fests that are Swim and Shark Season (I liked Swim; Shark Season not so much.) See, told you we are on a quest aboard the U.S.S B&S: all unofficial “Amityville” and “Jurassic” and “Shark” films will be watched!

* What? You never read our “Drive-In Friday: Brett Piper” night tribute? Bad B&S reader. Bad boy!

** What the hell, son? You never read our “Drive-In Friday: Dennis Devine” night tribute, either? You got sum hyperlinkin’ to do!

FYI: For our many European readers: Tubi is not available overseas without a U.S.-hosted proxy server. Please refer to You Tube or search on other streaming services. Wild Eye films are widely distributed, so you will surely find a streamable online copy in your country.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Like a Dirty French Novel (2021)

We first reviewed the writing and directing work of self-taught award-winning filmmaker Mike Cuenca with last year’s music ensemble drama I’ll Be Around. We enjoyed that eclectic-eccentric character study, so seeing Cuenca’s name on the one-sheet advanced his latest film to the top of the review stacks. Equally intriguing: Cuenca shot the film in one whirlwind week during the height of the Winter 2020 COVID lockdowns.

Note the homage of the Velvet Underground’s “Some Kinda Love” (lyrics) for the film’s title and tagline/streaming one-sheet.

If the title’s not giving it away, Mike Cuenca’s taken his same abilities at adeptly interweaving plots and characters — only in the context of a film noir, with the proceedings less James M. Cain commercial (The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity) and more non-mainstream David Lynch (think Lost Highway). Upping the ante: Cuenca’s drafted the pandemic into the plot, which serves as the catalyst (in lieu of greed or sexual weakness) to a surrealist nightmare. While it plays, at first, as a disconnected anthology about unrelated people making due during the pandemic with a weak through line, it all comes together in a plot that’s nicely psuedo-Giallo’d along the way. While non-linear — and we know how that rubs the wrong way with some viewers — give it time: the dots connect.

What are the “dots” as it were?

A mysterious woman in the deserts surrounded by a cult-masked group. There’s two gun-toting thugs executing a kidnapping plot. A mysterious woman makes a phone call that sexually intrigues and frightens a man at once. A rare comic book is at stake. There’s a meeting in a city park with a person that may be “love,” but more wishful-illusion than reality.

Quentin Tarantino scripting meets Lou Reed’s lyrics/the festival one-sheet.

For a film shot-on-the-fly with no budget under pandemic restrictions: just wow. This film is twisty-scripted, nicely shot, Giallo-expertly lit, and the acting — which I’ll assume was done sans paychecks by the cast for the love of the craft with the need to create “something” to quell the lockdown madness — is well-concentrated, with everyone on-point with their characters.

Like a Dirty French Novel is everything you don’t expect to see in a streaming indie flick — and we love the film for it. The caveat is that I enjoy non-linear films: again, they are not for everyone. Truth be told: If not for Mike Cuenca impressing me with I’ll Be Around last year, I might have looked this one over and reviewed something else because, not all filmmakers can pull off multi-character plots and non-linear tales. Mike Cuenca, can.

If this is what he can do on the fly sans a budget, I look forward to what Mike Cuenca will do with a budget — possibly a studio shingle behind him — in a post-pandemic world.

Mike Cuenca is a writer-director to keep an eye on. He’s two-for-two in my review books.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

S**t & Champagne (2021)

There’s not too many films that sell me within a minute of its two minute trailer with a want, no, a need, to see the movie it shills. Oh, do I ever want to stream this movie.

Don’t worry. This p**y’s got teeth!”

If Quentin Tarantino decided to make another retro-homage to his video store memories of old — only trading out the blaxploitation-slanted Jackie Brown or grindhouse-inclined Rick Dalton with a doesn’t-take-any-guff drag queen by the name of Champagne White for a celebration of ’70s Russ Meyer sexploitation flicks — this brilliant, deliciously decadent feature debut by the creative tour de force that is D’Arcy Drollinger is that movie.

Practicing his craft with a series of campy stage productions at The Oasis, a famed San Francisco alt-lifestyle nightclub that he owns and operates, Drollinger (who’s portrayed Frank-N-Furter in productions of the Rocky Horror Show) takes those stage-steps to its ultimate, theatrical destiny as the writer, director and star of S**t & Champagne. During interviews, Dollinger describes his labor of love as “dragsploitation” and name-checks Pam Grier’s Foxy Brown and Linda Blair’s Savage Streets, along with the Zucker Brothers’ slapstick comedy films, as well as the ’70s TV series Wonder Woman and The Bionic Woman as his inspiration.

Just a caveat: Outside of a couple drag-kings and men playing men, no one is actually a playing a “drag queen” as a character: they’re all females, got it? So plant your suspension of disbelief firmly between the teeth and gums, and enjoy.

From The Oasis Nightclub showing/courtesy of Theater Eddy’s.

Champagne White, actually Champagne Horowitz Jones Dickerson White (“So, I’ve been married a few times, it’s none of your fucking business!”), is a stripper, ahem “exotic dancer,” in 1975-era San Francisco. After witnessing the murder of Rod, her walrus-stached and polyester suit-clad fiancé (Mario Diaz), then having her “adopted half-sister,” Brandy (Steven LeMay), die in her arms, by the same thugs (the chemistry-perfect Adam Roy and Manuel Caneri) who murdered Rod, the cork, as it were, pops on the whoop-ass.

As Champagne descends into San Francisco’s sex and drugs and murder-ridden underbelly — complete with a back-to-school clothing ring stumbled upon by the retail-managing Rod — a world rife with one-liners and song and dance numbers, she comes face to face with underworld king, well, queen pin, Dixie Stampede, the corporate-owning mogul of the world-famous Mall-Wart (expertly played by Matthew Martin, who gives Dollinger a run for the award-winning thespin’ money). Along the way, Champagne finds romance with an oh-so-’70s-splotitive detective named Jack Hammer (a slicing it nice n’ thick Seton Brown) as she battles the Keystone Cops-ineptness of Dixie’s minions (I’m really diggin’ on Adam Roy’s — in his film debut — Jim Carrey-comedic vibe with his Tony character; here’s to seeing him in more roles; a Kung-fu fightin’ Manuel Caneri portrays his boss, Johnny the Gun).

In 2016 The Oasis gang put on a drag-king version of one of the original Star Trek episodes, “Mudd’s Women,” with actress Leigh Crow (center) as Captain Kirk. Also known throughout the Bay area as a popular Elvis impersonator, Elvis Herselvis, she stars in S**t & Champagne as Al, the owner of the Shaboom Boom Room,

Yeah . . . I had a lot of fun watching this: It is quite clear the cast is cognizant of their material’s John Waters, Mel Brooks (think of a glitzier-slanted High Anxiety), Russ Meyer (one of Drollinger’s stage productions was Above and Beyond the Valley of the Ultra Showgirls, if that’s a clue), and Charlie’s Angels (even campier) roots. They’re having a lot of fun . . . more fun than any Don Edmonds flick of old starring the awesome Dyanne Thorne.

D’Arcy Drollinger has made it quite clear: his celluloid jam is the ’70s drive-in exploiters of yore, which, for many of us, were absorbed during the VHS ’80s. So, if you feel a warmth in the ol’ analog cockles for sexually-liberated bachelorettes (or multiple divorcee/widows!) who work their long blonde hair and even longer, silky legs, à la Cherie Caffaro’s James Bond’in Ginger McAllister from Ginger (1971), The Abductors (1972), and Girls Are For Loving (1973), or Joyce Jillson working it in Crown International’s Superchick (1973), as well as Francine York and Tura Satana kicking it Ted V. Mikels’s The Doll Squad (1973), and 1967 Playmate Anne Randall takin’ names in Andy Sidaris’s Stacey (1973) — each which, ironically, foretold Charlie’s Angels — then you’ll appreciate Dollringer’s over-the-top homage. Is there a tip o’ the hat to Chesty Morgan’s Doris Wishman two-fer of 1974’s Deadly Weapons and Double Agent 73? You bet!

To that “’70s” end: A special shout-out is necessary to Production Designer Olivia Kanz, Art Director Elena Nommensen (the upcoming Venom: Let There Be Carnage; the great Texas-bred horror shot, The Devil’s Passenger, and looks awesome horror-western, Ghost in the Gun), and Costume Designer Maggie Whitaker, as this film is a retro-junkie feast of the senses that looks way more expensive than its production budget probably allowed.

Drollinger, left, a stellar James Arthur as club-pal Sergio, and a just nails it RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars’ Alaska Thunderf**k as Dixie Stampede’s retail minion, Janis.

So, what’s the deal with the title . . . and the coprophilia of plot? Well, to hear Drollinger tell it, many of those films and TV series of the ’70s always had a subplot with the bad guys shootin’ up prostitutes or those “too smart for their own good,” with heroin, then selling them into white slavery. But heroin “isn’t funny.” So he developed the “Booty Bump”: a new, fab drug raging across San Francisco that causes, well, a very bad case of diarrhea.

Considering the just-go-for-it scripting and over-the-top thespin’ of the material, I can see Drollinger’s comedic point. However, I feel the coprophilia “drug addiction” sub-plot is actually to the determent of the brilliance of the material, as not everyone thinks defecation is funny. Part of my inner critic wishes the film was simply titled Champagne White (the title of the originating stage play) and another “comedic” drug addiction, à la a Kevin Smith or Cheech and Chong joint, was developed for the story, instead of an overly-extreme Todd Phillips (think The Hangover series meets the retro Starsky and Hutch) or Judd Apatow (think The 40-Year Old Virgin meets Pineapple Express) raunch-approach.

Does that mean I am hating on the film? No, not at all.

If Dollringer sold this script to a major studio shingle, and Phillips or Apatow took hold of the production reigns, how could you not see Amy Schumer as Champagne, Eddie Izzard as the terrorist-pimp-retail mogul Dixie Stampede, John Goodman as Al, the owner the Shaboom Boom Room, Jim Carrey as Tony, Bruce Willis as Johnny the Gun, Steve Carell as Jack Hammer, and a cameoin’ Nick Cage as Rod? Sounds like a friggin’ Coen Brothers “Raising Champagne” joint, right? But, hey, I’m the smarmy critic who loved George Gallo’s ’70s retro-remake (that everyone else seems to hate) of camp-meister Harry “Tampa” Hurwitz’s The Comeback Trail (2021), so what in the hell do I know about film.

Well, I know that Drollinger’s 44-keyin’ is that good . . . and I’m already jonesin’ for D’Arcy’s next flick. I want more Champagne! Anne Randall’s Stacey Hanson was a private eye who sidelined as race car driver. Perhaps an Andy Sidaris homage: Champagne Express. Make it happen, D’Arcy!

Yeah, this is a great film, but the title — and the meaning behind it — may turn away streamers. But, to be honest, isn’t the fact that this is a “dragsploitation” movie already turning the weak of humor, away? That’s their streaming loss. S**t & Champagne isn’t a drag . . . it’s a full-on retro-celluloid hip thrust that sold me within one minute of its two-minute trailer.

Making its debut as a festival rollout from June through September, S**t & Champagne was acquired for international distribution by Utopia Media, which also brought the British rock document on Suzi Quatro, Suzi Q, to the world stage. Utopia’s other award-winning documents are Martha: A Picture Story, concerned with Martha Cooper, a New York-based, trailblazing female graffiti artist and street photographer, WITCH – We Intend to Cause Havoc, about the ’70s Zambian progressive-rock band of the title, For Madmen Only: The Stories of Del Close, regarding the influential comedy writer, and Sara Dosa’s really fine The Seer & the Unseen.

Utopia is headed by Robert Schwartzman — of the band, Rooney, and a writer and director in his own right — who made his feature film directing debut with the really fine comedy, The Argument, released last September. You can learn more about the launch of Utopia Media with this February 19, 2019, article at Deadline.com.

Release Information: You can enjoy the VOD release of S**t & Champagne exclusively on Altavod on September 7. If you’re an AppleTV subscriber or Amazon user, you’ll be able to stream it on October 12, 2021. For those who prefer a hard copy, a special edition Blu-ray of S**t & Champagne will also be available for purchase from Utopia Media exclusively at Vinegar Syndrome.

You can learn more about the film’s digital roll out at its official website and Facebook. You can also follow D’Arcy Drollinger at his official site.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.