APES ON FILM: PUMP UP THE EURO KINK!

Posted on: Apr 5th, 2021 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

 Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

 

 

 

MADAME CLAUDE – 1977
2.5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Françoise Fabian, Dayle Haddon , Murray Head , Klaus Kinski , Robert Webber, Ed Bishop
Director: Just Jaeckin
Rated: R/Unrated
Studio: Cult Epics
Region Free
BRD Release Date: February 9, 2021
Audio Formats: LPCM 2.0 Mono/DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono/Dolby Digital 2.0
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC. New 4K HD Transfer (from original 35mm negative) supervised by cinematographer Robert Fraisse
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Run Time: 109 minutes
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Following up on his globally successful films EMMANUELLE and THE STORY OF O, French director Just Jaeckin offered up this ostensible “thriller” based on a true story about a very successful Paris Madame whose stable of women service ambassadors, world leaders, and other government higher-ups caught in a web of intrigue that could topple her empire. The problem is that the plot fails to intrigue and serves mainly to string together a series of sex scenes played out to Jane Birkin’s trilly singing and Klaus Kinski’s forehead menacing the ladies. Along the way, Murray Head (yep, that “One Night in Bangkok” guy) chews scenery, Francoise Fabian smokes too much, Dayle Haddon tries to remember her motivation, Robert Webber collects a paycheck, and Ed Bishop skulks about, looking lost. None of which serves the premise of the film, and Jaeckin’s missed opportunity– to tell the story of Madame Claude herself.

Fabian’s character is interesting enough to be the focus of the film, but it’s not. Instead, the barely credible story of Head trying to blackmail princes and prime ministers and getting caught in a CIA operation takes center stage. Much preferable would have been Jaeckin’s intimate tale of a women so divorced from society and the concept of romantic love that she builds walls between herself and the world, letting only one or two men into her private life (but calling all of her clients “friends”) – and even then she hasn’t the ability to make love to them herself, pawning them off on her new recruit, Haddon. Haddon’s Elizabeth is a doll for Claude to play with, acting out her fantasies of trust and sex and love – everything she has put behind her and can’t face…but clearly she craves contact and relief from the isolation to which she’s consigned herself. Can she learn to trust again? That’s the story I wanted to see, and what the director and writers missed.

Cult Epics’ Blu-ray presentation is the best it can be – sourced from a new 4K scan of the original negative – however, the picture is disturbed by infrequent digital density anomalies. The visuals are otherwise acceptable, but I was expecting more from a new transfer. Audio is pleasing, except for Birkin’s singing. Serge Gainsbourg’s score is memorable if a bit dated. Both the original French audio with English subtitles as well as the English dubbed versions are present. Supplemental features include an audio commentary from author Jeremy Richey, a new interview in HD with Jaeckin, a vintage French theatrical trailer, Cult Epics trailers, and a double-sided sleeve for the first printing only.

Madame Claude is a bunch of sexy people playing contrived spy games, but could have been so much more. A remake of the film has just been released and I’m curious to see what story that version will tell.

 

PUMP UP THE VOLUME – 1990
3.5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Christian Slater , Samantha Mathis , Ellen Greene , Annie Ross
Directed By: Allan Moyle
Studio: Warner Archive Collection
BRD Release Date: February 15, 2021
Region: A, B
Rated: R
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Run Time: 102 Minutes
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At the climax of Allan Moyle’s PUMP UP THE VOLUME, Christian Slater’s Happy Harry Hardon, teen pirate radio provocateur, urges his suburban high school audience to take the airwaves for themselves, to make their own voices heard, and to tell their own truths. He couldn’t possibly have predicted the utter wasteland of self-proclaimed media moguls, influencers, and voices-of-their-generations spawned by reality television, and later by the open mic night that is YouTube and the internet. Luckily, there are some lights shining in that darkness if you’re willing to look for them.

Honestly, it’s hard to hate a movie about teens speaking truth to power at great personal peril. Especially when the soundtrack is jammed with amazing songs; this film introduced Leonard Cohen to a much broader audience, and if for nothing other than that it gets a salute from me. Slater acquits himself well, but several other performances are shaky including Samantha Mathis as the object of his affection. The adult characters are more aptly called caricatures, drawn from extremely broad stereotypical cloth; the clueless parents, the young teacher who “gets it,” the evil school principle, and the snidely guidance counselor. Authority is much harder to topple when it’s relatable, apparently.

Warner Archive’s new Blu-ray presentation is a fine watch, though sadly void of supplemental features. Only the theatrical trailer is included. Picture is well saturated and appropriately grainy, with dense blacks. Audio is a joy, especially while Harry plays Cohen, the Beastie Boys, Peter Murphy, Sonic Youth, the Pixies and more greats.

The problem with PUMP UP THE VOLUME is that it never truly punches through the archetypes it portrays into the hearts of its characters the way THE BREAKFAST CLUB did, and it’s not as cleverly written or as paradigm-shifting as HEATHERS. It’s a good film and worth watching, but it’s not the classic it might have been.

 

Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video*WatcHDog, and more.

*Art Credit: Anthony Taylor as Dr. Zaius caricature by Richard Smith

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