Watching Dario Argento’s PHENOMENA (1985) with Jennifer Connelly (!!) as a movie star’s daughter who sleepwalks and has a psychic link with insects

and Donald Pleasence (!!!) as the entomologist who enlists her talents to catch a psycho killer

and, for some reason, a chimpanzee
PHENOMENA is clunky, but the gimmick is interesting, and the Swiss locations are gorgeous and unusual.

The scene chemistry between Pleasence and Connelly is interesting. It’s not avuncular, and it’s not creepy; it’s a little distant but respectful.
Jennifer Connelly is bullied by her boarding school classmates and amasses a goddamn enormous horde of flies to unnerve them and this movie was a formative inspiration for the webnovel WORM, wasn’t it?
Another interesting gimmick: seeing a character who’s a movie star’s kid far away from the movie star world.
Okay, now we’re into the investigation part and *this is a freakin’ TV pilot, people.*

Odd friends Donald Pleasence and Jennifer Connelly should be using her insect powers to solve crimes every week! She’s the superhero, he’s the guy in the chair!

(Literally. A wheelchair.)
ME. “PHENOMENA: THE SERIES! A forensic entomologist teams up with a teenage girl who has a psychic connection to insects! It’s BONES meets THE BEASTMASTER meets BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER!”
PRODUCER. “Get the fuck out of my office”
NOOOOOO the bad guy locked the chimp out of the house and stabbed Donald Pleasence

you know all those scenes where the bad guy is driving away but the good guy is clinging to the roof of the car and the bad guy is trying to shake him off

Dario Argento just did that

where the good guy is a chimp

what even is this movie
this is like in FIREPOWER or TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA where the wrong hero gets killed

now the two-hander is Jennifer Connelly (who has psychic insect powers) and a suddenly homeless chimp
Now Jennifer Connelly is trying to get out of town and is staying with a creepy lady whose son is sick so all the mirrors are covered

as you do

and who has a life size doll

and who is trying to give Jennifer Connelly pills
Jennifer takes one but then spies maggots around the house, which clues her in, so she makes herself throw it up, bolts from the bathroom, grabs the phone, gets clubbed —

This movie feels like it jumped straight from Act One to Act Three
Connelly is clubbed unconscious, left inside, locked in, steel shutters dropping over the windows.

The lady holding her prisoner goes outside, and is met by a detective, who asks about her sexual assault by a mental patient —

Man this movie is like an act every scene rn
DARIO ARGENTO. “So Jennifer Connelly is trying to get a phone but it falls into a dark hole!”
ME. “So she pulls it up by the cord, right?”
DARIO ARGENTO. “No, she crawls after it.”
ME. “What”
ME trying to live-tweet Act 3 of PHENOMENA.
*Jennifer Connelly gets the phone but then gets grabbed by
* the detective, who’s bloody and chained to a wall, so she freaks and
* falls into a septic tank full of rotting corpses as the psycho lady laughs and tries to drown Jennifer Connelly in corpses but then
* the detective breaks his thumb to escape and mutilates the psycho lady with the open end of the handcuffs and
* Jennifer Connelly flees, finding a young boy in an oubliette but
* he turns around and is monstrously deformed and attacks her so she
* runs outside, jumps in a boat
* whereupon the kid pursues her to the boat and tries to kill her with a pneumatic harpoon, but
* Jennifer Connelly calls ALL THE INSECTS which sting him to hell
* and then she escapes
* and blows up the boat, blows up the boat, swims under the fire, BUT THEN
* she gets grabbed by the deformed boy, escapes, trapping him in fire in which he burns to death and then
* she swims ashore just in time to meet her dad’s representative, who is coming to take her home, but then
* because the psycho lady still lives
* and now the psychic lady is crushing Jennifer Connelly’s throat, slowly beheading her with a huge piece of steel
* when out of nowhere Jennifer Connelly is saved by

...are you ready for this
you are not ready for this
* Jennifer Connelly is saved by THE MOTHERFUCKING CHIMP


the chimp that is inexplicably in this movie jumps up out of nowhere and CUTS THE PSYCHO LADY TO PIECES WITH A STRAIGHT RAZOR!!!!!!
Here is how fast all of that completely insane shit happens:

PHENOMENA is an hour and fifty minutes long.

Everything from Jennifer Connelly getting the phone to the razor-wielding chimp happens, in blindingly rapid succession, in *the last fourteen minutes.*
Up until that point the movie is surprisingly chill for a flick about an insect lord hunting a psycho killer but then LORDY does it go off the goddamn rails.

I wish I could see that last fourteen minutes with a crowd. It’s just nonstop fever dream insanity!
Dario Argento is an absolutely beautiful madman; I was screaming “WHAT?!” at my TV every five seconds for a while there.

PHENOMENA (1985): not what I’d call an especially coherent picture, but you can be damn sure you won’t forget it.

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More from @hradzka

31 Oct
Today’s background movie is ELECTRA GLIDE IN BLUE (1973) with Robert Blake as a tough but sensitive motorcycle cop who wants to move up to homicide. Really good so far!

Nothing much happens in the first half hour but establishing Blake as a gentle weirdo — but that’s adorable.
ELECTRA GUIDE IN BLUE has one of those scenes where a cop’s instincts about a case are ignored — except instead of the usual tough cop being ignored by wussy superiors, he’s a sensitive cop whose instincts are ignored by the tough guys!
It’s a dynamic you’ve see a million times, but swapping the personalities on either side makes it fresh and compelling.
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8 Oct
The plot to kidnap (and potentially kill) the governor of Michigan isn’t just the feds rolling up a dumbass to pad their statistics. It’s one to note.

Remember: never never never trust the journos; always always always read the actual affidavit.
The FBI’s go-to play is:

1) find a dumbass who is potentially dangerous but at this point just runs his mouth
2) indulge him and rev him up
3) introduce him to a friendly undercover FBI agent offering to sell him explosives

This is not one of those.
This one is unusual in that they had a group of guys, several of whom were already ideologically into the idea of violence and hadn’t managed to talk themselves into actually acting yet.

They were, however, fervent. Plausibly dangerous dudes, shit-talking themselves up.
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7 Oct
Reread BATMAN: YEAR ONE and was amazed anew by just how insanely tight the writing on that is. It’s four issues! The *entire trade paperback* is under a hundred pages!!!
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Note: not only did we not see Gordon come down hard on Morgan, the character Morgan is never introduced.
Issue one: Jim Gordon meets his partner on the second scripted page, has had *three distinct scenes with him* by page FIVE, gets jumped by the partner and other crooked cops at the bottom of page seven, gets beaten up on page eight, gets revenge on pages fifteen through eighteen.
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13 Sep
Watched STATE'S ATTORNEY (1932) based on the recommendation of @NitrateDiva and LORD ALMIGHTY JOHN BARRYMORE IS WILDING

Bachelor mob lawyer Barrymore defends hooker Helen Twelvetrees, shacks up with her, then switches to prosecutor and goes straight but keeps Twelvetrees

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to which he replies, "That makes things much easier!"

cut to: a parked car
headlights pass as they sit up and she talks a drunk Barrymore into going to find a judge or the mayor and get married

which they do

Barrymore then goes to tell Twelvetrees and then elects to sleep it off at a bachelor hotel
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9 Sep
This will in no way be controversial
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...but the later provisions are hilariously undercutting, because they give wiggle room in hilarious ways!
So: to be eligible for Best Picture (this doesn't affect any other Oscar nominations; wait a few years for that), a movie must meet TWO out of FOUR standards for inclusion.
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27 Aug
It’s been one of those days and folks could use a break from it all

So how about a story of absolute badassery that has something for everyone

It is from one of my favorite books to keep in a place one occasionally sits with time to spare

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I will share the story of Jean-Louis.
Jean-Louis was a mixed-race Haitian, and in 1795 (with Haiti and indeed the whole island of Hispaniola in just *a wee bit of turmoil*) the eleven-year-old orphan took advantage of an opportunity to get the hell out & head to France, which he did by enlisting in the 32d Regiment.
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