Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Movie Notes: Cut and Run (1985)

For reasons that I don't quite understand, Italy went cannibal crazy in the 1980s. Every other Italian horror film from that era is about cannibals in the Amazon, and the ones that aren't about cannibals are about zombies who also eat people. Italy's 'Cannibal Summer' was something akin to Beatlemania, but with guys in loin cloths running around and mumbling- so, basically like later-period Beatlemania. Ruggero Deodato directed the best of the cannibal films Cannibal Holocaust, but to be honest, saying 'best cannibal movie' is a lot like saying 'prettiest girl in the leper colony'.

Italian producers wanted Deodato to follow up Cannibal Holocaust with another cannibal film, but he felt that this would compromise his creativity. So, instead, he made a cannibal film in which nobody actually gets eaten, and there's more guns. I don't know... we can call this ''stretching his creative wings'', I suppose. Anyway, I rented Cut and Run expecting a cheesy 80s exploitation movie and, despite the fact that it was a cannibloitation film without actual people-eating, I was not let down.

Indeed, I knew what I was in for from the first frame...
Ah, New World Pictures! Makers of Warlock and Humanoids from the Deep. I sink into your films like they were a comfy 80s exploitation couch with gratuitous nudity. Your logo seems to say "Hello, astronaut! You're about to land on Planet Quality!"

Anyway, the film begins deep in the heart of the Amazon river basin, as a group of mom & pop cocaine manufacturers are attacked by natives who kill them via a combination of machetes, blow darts, and a mid-80s synthesizer score.
The men are killed violently, the women are stripped nude and then killed violently, and the art of synthesizer music is beaten and left for dead. Meanwhile, a plane lands in the background and a seedy looking character played by exploitation stalwart Richard Lynch signals to the group of natives. The presence of Richard Lynch indicates that, even if no people get eaten in this movie, plenty of scenery will be chewed.

At the head of the group of natives is 80s character actor Michael Berryman, whose stirring portrayal of a cave-dwelling mutant in the original The Hills Have Eyes propelled him to a string of films, like this one, in which he played mutants, and guest appearances in various heavy metal videos, in which he played mutants. Apparently, Berryman looks like he does due to a rare condition known as Hypohidrotic Ectodermal Dysplasia, which he has parlayed into a film career. So, mazel tov!

The film now jumps to Miami where a spunky investigative reporter is investigating a series of disturbing murders in which drug dealers are stripped nude and killed. Following the story, she interviews the strip club owner Vargas, who doesn't really know what's going on, but allows Deodato to film more nudity. The word on the street is that all of this is somehow related to the Jonestown Massacre. So we have a mystery of sorts here. Will it be solved during the movie? Mmmm, not if by 'solved' you mean 'ever make any friggin' sense'. Anyway, the voluptuous Karen Black cameos as the spunky boss of our spunky investigative reporter and tells her to get her spunky ass to Colombia pronto-like!

Meanwhile, in the jungle, a cartel of drug producers are making life miserable for the good-hearted, but godawfully over-emoting Tommy (Willie Aames) and the good-hearted, and frequently naked Ana (Valentina Forte). The evil drug lord Vlado is pimping Ana out to other members of the drug cartel, and she's taking a lot of showers to get over it, and you start to wonder if Deodato wouldn't be happier making movies for Cinemax. Also there's a love story of sorts between Ana and Tommy, which would be moving, except much of it takes place in the shower and he's an insufferable cry-baby. She keeps emoting in Spanish. And he's miserable
over her sex life. Oh, what a tangled web we weave when we're pimped out to South American drug lords!

Just when you're ready to scream ''Enough of this crap!!'', Michael Berryman and the savages show up to kill everyone. There is a heated battle with a lot of people getting hit with poison darts and a convincing decapitation, and finally the spunky reporters arrive in their spunky plane.

But, before long, it's too late- Valentina Forte gets killed, and the spunky reporter isn't willing to do nudity. Deodato's pallet is now seriously lacking in color. Thinking quickly, he shoots a scene in which a character get ripped in half like a wishbone for no real reason, pops open a beer, and basks in the glow of a job well done. All is right with the world.

Ah, but this doesn't solve the problem of nudity. So, answering his muse, Deodato sets another scene in the strip club, where Tommy's father meets with Vargas the pimp and finds out where the drug camp is. And so, we return to Nudityland. To a large extent, this scene makes no sense whatsoever, because the father sent the reporters to the drug camp in the first place and has a satellite link with them. Also, it's not at all clear why Michael Berryman is stalking the reporters through the jungle, but not killing them. But, at this point, we can't quibble over a little thing like logic.

Vargas pays dearly for giving the father this information- two drug dealers throw him in front of a train. Why do they care that this random fellow knows where their camp is? What do I look like? A mind-reader? I don't know!

Things get worse in the jungle, and finally we find out that the natives are working at the behest of Richard Lynch, who is a deranged Col. who orchestrated the Jonestown Massacre. Meanwhile, Tommy snivels, and cries, and all but begs for someone to smack him with a flyswatter.

Finally, the heroes get caught and tied to a tree, and Richard Lynch gets to make a long-winded speech about the evils of the media (Oh thank God! The movie's about something!). He clearly has issues with the television news and we're led to believe that this drove him to mix the Kool Aid at Jonestown. Before you can say ''Colonel Kurtz'' he starts rambling insanely while stroking a snake in a hammock. The next day, he makes another long-winded speech about society and lets his henchman cut his head off. The spunky reporters scream, the natives all scream, even Karen Black screams in Miami. Chaos ensues. In the melee, the heroes steal a plane and fly away. Hooray!

Okay, so they're alive, and how happy we all are for them. But, before they can get too comfortable, Michael Berryman jumps up in the back of the plane and menaces them with a machete. The reporter sprays him with a fire extinguisher, which is surprisingly effective actually, and then they shoot him and fly away. In the end, they've lived a little, laughed a little, screamed a lot, and learned something about the futility of the war on drugs and the voyeurism of the media. Oh, and crybaby Tommy reunites with his father, who if this were a better movie, would have kicked him in the nuts. That would be a happy ending!

Is it a good movie? Oh, bless your soul! Of course, it isn't! But, it paid Michael Berryman's grocery bills during one summer back in 1985, and that, my friends, is all we can ask for.

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