Double feature

Two movies about whimsical characters who operate twisted fantasy worlds that mangle their guests. Spot the differences!

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Tim Burton, 2005)

I’m as skeptical of post-Ed Wood Burton as the next guy, but this was an absolutely terrific movie, stamping all over that Gene Wilder “classic” like a Terminator robot on human skulls. The story is fairly universally-known now, but Burton makes the wise decision to lard it up with all the little anecdotes from Dahl’s original story (like the Indian prince who wants a palace built out of chocolate) and a faithfully funny backstory for Depp’s Willy Wonka. And my absolute favorite bit – Danny Elfman uses the actual Dahl lyrics for his Oompa Loompa songs. (Yes, the “oompa loompa doopity doo” stuff was invented for the Wilder movite.) Like only the adenoidal former frontman for Oingo Boingo could, he matches the lyrics with a “Bohemian Rhapsody” power ballad (“Mike Teavee”), Polyphonic Spree psych-pop (“Veruca Salt”), and disco (“Violet Beauregarde”). Only two complaints. First, the CGI is necessary to recreate some of the fantastic scenary, but sometimes it’s distractingly obvious, like during the gondola ride or the Violet Beauregarde scebe. Second, the kid who plays Charlie has no discernable personality or charm. He’s wide-eyed and nice, I guess, but he’s boring.

Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS (Don Edmunds, 1974)

Perhaps Bernie Goldberg is right, and our culture has really coroded these past few decades. How else to explain why this slasher/porno set in a Nazi death camp – please, go ahead and re-read that description – is now only kind of disturbing? Ilsa, played with ever-shifting accents by Dyanne Thorne (British, German, and San Fernando Valley), is a busty torture fetishist who, lucky for her, has been promoted to commandant at a skimpy concentration camp. She has a pretty good racket going, trying out twisted new weapons or diseases on the women while screwing the attractive male prisoners, and castrating them if they fail to bring her to orgasm. But the chips start falling when 1)the Germans start losing the war and 2)a new American prisoner uses his incredible sexual stamina to manipulate Ilsa out of her iron grip (puns intended!) on the camp. The most skin-crawling detail is probably the fact that the death camp set is the set from “Hogan’s Heroes,” which is damn fitting if you’ve ever seen Auto Focus.

3 thoughts on “Double feature

  1. Charlie isn’t supposed to have any personality; he’s the everyboy, and the opening narration pounds this in (he wasn’t especially smart, or rich etc.). If the script gave him anything interesting to do, I’m sure Freddie Highmore could handle it (remember Finding Neverland?).

  2. May I congratulate you on finding and watching Ilsa, one of the shining stars of the exploitation firmament.

    Your complaint about the not-sufficiently-disturbing tone of the film is one that many B movies fans have come to in recent years. I’m not interested in the moral/cultural ramifications of that sort of thing, but as an artist it saddens me that the armies of hacks who put in gore and blood and death reflexively have cheapened the people who made genuinely unsettling and creepy films by the judicious use of those techniques…and I know that Ilsa isn’t judicious, but something like Night of the Living Dead is, and it too is no longer nearly disturbing enough.

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