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page created: 12/23/05
originally published: 2/15/05

Jahnke's Electric Theatre

Jahnke's Electric Theatre #2
The Misfits

Jahnke's Electric Theatre - Main Page

Greetings cinephiles. Welcome to the second thrilling installment of Jahnke's Electric Theatre. Please help yourselves to champagne and popped corn.

So much for getting a tradition going. Here we are, just two weeks into this little experiment, and already the Hell Plaza Octoplex is temporarily closed. Yes, believe it or not, the luck of the draw was with me for the past two weeks. I saw nothing that was bad enough to be hung in the hall of shame. This is bad news for those of you who enjoy seeing me vent my spleen on something I truly despise, but good news for me.

Even better news is that this time around we've got two movies vying for your consideration in The A-Picture. I highly recommend both of these movies without reservation. Since they couldn't be more different, instead of pointlessly trying to choose one over the other to be this week's A-Picture, I'm doing a double feature this time around. One of them is now available on video. The other just opened theatrically in Los Angeles and should be rolling around to other major cities soon.

The A-Picture - I'm Not Scared

It's been awhile since I've seen a movie quite like this one. The scene is rural Italy, 1978. A ten-year old boy is playing around an abandoned farmhouse with his friends. He goes back alone to retrieve his sister's glasses and discovers another boy, about his age, buried in a deep hole, starving, half-blind, and shackled by the ankle. I'm Not Scared is a remarkably tense and creepy film, reminiscent of The Reflecting Skin and the original version of The Vanishing. It isn't quite at the level of those two modern classics but it's a powerful and well-made movie in its own right. This is my favorite kind of horror film... one that most people wouldn't consider a horror movie because it's just too real. The scares in I'm Not Scared are plausible and very close to home. (*** ½)

The A-Picture (Part II) - Inside Deep Throat

Filmmakers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato know how to make great documentaries. They know that half the battle is finding a subject worth exploring for an hour and a half. More importantly, they know that just because you've won half the battle doesn't mean you've won the war. Their latest, Inside Deep Throat, goes behind the scenes of the seminal (pardon the pun) XXX movie that briefly made porn not just mainstream but downright fashionable. The section on the making of the film itself is a highlight with hilarious interviews from most of the key players. The movie then goes into the impact and the aftermath of Deep Throat and it's a complicated, fascinating tale touching on feminism, censorship, the mob, even Watergate. Few movies have as succinctly or as vividly painted the changes in this country in the past thirty years. Inside Deep Throat is funny, lively and thought-provoking. And by the way, if you're not interested in the subject matter... first off, I don't believe you and secondly, I also highly recommend Bailey and Barbato's 2000 documentary The Eyes of Tammy Faye. (*** ½)

... And the Rest

The Five Obstructions

Love him or hate him, Danish provocateur Lars Von Trier is unarguably making movies unlike anybody else today. In this one, Von Trier revisits one of his own favorite movies, Jorgen Leth's short The Perfect Human, and challenges Leth to remake the film five different times following five different sets of arbitrary rules set by Von Trier himself. It's captivating watching Leth turning himself inside out trying to follow the rules. The Five Obstructions is probably of more interest to hardcore film aficionados than casual moviegoers (and of those, probably better appreciated by fans of Von Trier). But I found it very interesting and a testament to what a flexible format film can be in truly creative hands. (***)

Pennies from Heaven

Dennis Potter's original 1978 miniseries is probably the main reason I didn't see anything for the Hell Plaza Octoplex this week. I just didn't have the time since this clocks in at over eight hours. A full review of this will be appearing at The Digital Bits soon. Suffice it to say if you haven't seen any of Potter's BBC work, you should. It will blow you away. (*** ½)


Everybody loves the late Ray Charles and, to its credit, Taylor Hackford's biopic makes you wonder why because he was a bit of a bastard. Hackford does a good job balancing the highs of Charles' career with the lows of his personal life. And they may as well send Jamie Foxx his Oscar now to save some time during the telecast later this month. The highest praise I can give his performance is that not once during the film did I think I was watching Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles. Well, maybe just once, during a particularly ill-conceived dream sequence toward the end. And this isn't Best Picture material by a long shot. It's much too long and has a few amazingly clubfooted moments here and there. But it's no better or worse than countless other movies of its type, from The Buddy Holly Story to Sweet Dreams to La Bamba. At its best, when concentrating on the creation of that amazing music and focusing on Foxx's performance, it's very entertaining. (***)

Road to Singapore

Not real sure why I bothered to watch this one, other than I'd never seen a Bob Hope/Bing Crosby movie before and this one was the first in the series so I thought I'd give it a shot. It has not exactly inspired me to seek out the other five but it's pleasant enough. I think I only laughed a total of three times (and all of those thanks to Jerry Colonna) but I've certainly seen worse movies from this period. And in defense of Hope and Crosby (not that they need my defense), every critic I've read agrees that Road to Singapore is not the best in the series. (** ½)

That'll do it for this week. I'll be back in a fortnight with another satchel full of movies past and present. And if we're lucky, the Academy Awards will have ended by the time the next Electric Theatre goes out, so maybe I'll have some thoughts on that annual train wreck as well.

Adam Jahnke

Dedicated to Arthur Miller, Ossie Davis and John Vernon

"Electric Theatre - Where You See All the Latest Life Size Moving Pictures, Moral and Refined, Pleasing to Ladies, Gentlemen and Children!"

- Legend on a traveling moving picture show tent, c.1900

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