Kid Vengeance - Joseph Manduke (1977)

I don’t say this very often, but holy shit is this movie ripe for a remake. An obscure western where Lee Van Cleef opposes the titular pre-teen and a hulking black man named Isaac? Yeah, you might say it’s got that je ne sais quoi. Maybe it’s all marketing, but to be honest, it’s probably the prospect of watching a pint-sized Lief Garrett grab his shovel and go gangbusters on some sorry outlaw.

But before it’s rampage time, our plucky young lad learns to hunt, tracking a hare over rock and placing an arrow straight through its heart. As it shudders there next to the brush, he turns and asks of his doomed father, “Do you ever get used to killing?” When you’re Kid Vengeance, the obvious answer is “Heck yes,” which brings us to the real meat and potatoes of this late night gem. As has been proven time and again, the greatest luxury afforded by revenge flicks is the ability to shamelessly revel in gratuitous violence. Remember the scene in Dirty Harry where Clint is chasing a hijacked school bus, and how after the killer smacks that kid in the face, he could be graphically dismembered and even your mom would still be all, “F YEAH!”? This movie is like that, but all the time.

Now, for those with a refined sense of morality, don’t worry, ‘cause these corpses have it coming. Try to relieve the Kid’s very dead parents of their wedding rings and you probably won’t make it through the 94 minute run time. We’re not talking execution style or anything like that, the Kid doesn’t roll that way. He’s got his wits about him and can sneak a snake into a saddlebag like a pro.

Sure you can buy this movie for a buck at Walmart, but give the writers some credit – they know how to tug at those heartstrings and give a boulder to the head the weight of 10 Erin Brockoviches. Each scene is shaped with such good intentions that it’s easy to overlook Van Cleef’s shitty Dennis Hopper impersonation and focus on how great this movie would be if someone lengthened the set-ups and just ratcheted up the red.

DVD edition: A Van Cleef double feature that came backed with God’s Gun (co-starring Jack Palance). It was a dollar and is so chincy my PowerBook won’t recognize the disk for the proper screen grab treatment.

Worst Kid Vengeance IMDB Message Board Post – There are no message board posts. How are there no message board posts?!

What to Watch For: Did I mention there’s a side plot with brothers who try and steal gold from Isaac’s mine? And how one of them is so blind without his glasses he accidentally kills one of his own kin? Blatant plot device, but damn if it doesn’t hurt when they go.


The Belly of an Architect - Peter Greenaway (1987)

In this day in age of rancid franchises and gimpy indies, watching a Peter Greenaway film is like discovering God for the first time and welcoming into your eyes and ears and skin the hard blue light of salvation. Yes, Greenaway is British and yes, his films are nothing if not overtly pretentious, frequently hilarious, weird, strange, highly stylized arthouse fare. Possessed of a quick eye, keen ear, and brass balls, he likes to dance and don’t care who knows it.

Thus it comes as little surprise that 1987’s Belly of an Architect serves up the goods and serves them up right. Brian Dennehy is Stourley Kracklite, an aging Chicago architect invited to Rome to drink a little wine, get a little loose, and maybe just unveil a fresh creation or two in a much-anticipated exhibition devoted to the honor of real-life French draftsmen Etienne-Louis Boulee. Chloe Webb, the deader half of Sid and Nancy, is Louisa, Kracklite’s wife and a regular Michelin man when it comes to waxing stray johnsons. Add a rival architect named Caspasian Speckler, a grand sampling of Rome’s finest scenery, moving voiceovers on illness, mortality, the meaning of the sacred in modern society, the disjunction between thought and language, and the nature of ritual, a dazzling 80s synth score, and there’s definitely something in the air tonight.

If the plot sounds a bit slim, it is. As with any of the subjects he has chosen, Greenaway is not so much interested in examining the architecture world or its inhabitants as he is on using style and narration to meditate on art itself. At the same time, the show must go on and the film makes due time for all manner of sexual antics and substance abuse. Between stirring montages of plinths, pillars, and promenades, Dennehy brawls, bawls, falls asleep in his own vomit, and begins making hundreds of photocopies of his very own stomach in an effort to discover the true relationship between inner and outer illness, all while the dashing Caspasian and Chloe Webb explore the finer points of global diplomacy on the chaise lounge.

What does any of this have to do with the transformative power of art and the relevatory nature of the image? If your like your snuff raw, not much. Surprisingly, Belly boasts very little blood to speak of. If you don’t mind a little contemplation, though, and even enjoy seeing a fat man have sex from time to time, Greenaway’s film will offer a wealth of stimulating thought nuggets on which to dine, from the famed modernist insight that every act of creation is also an act of destruction to the more contemporary observation that drinking and profanity often go well together. This is cinema. This is art. Do yourself a favor and don’t be left out in the cold: crack open a bottle, unbuckle your pants so that your stomach hangs out like pregnant woman's, and enjoy the ride. Highly recommended.