QT5 - The Last Night: Fuller's SHARK!, BILLY JACK and the amazing film THE BIG BULLET!
Published at: Sept. 10, 2001, 8:35 p.m. CST by staff
Hodgepodge Whatever I Feel Like Night
"The thing is, I have a print collection alright, and sometimes I just get fed up with the whole Oppressive subgenre collection thing and I have a print that I just can’t wait to bring down here to Austin to show all of you."
"This storming shit is the bomb, this is cool as fuck, I feel like I should be introducing a haunted house flick right now, I should be playing Polanski’s CUL-DE-SAC, that would so be the bomb right now."
KABOOOOOOOMMMMM!!! As sheets of rain pound as God begins to weep for the closing night of the QT fest ending a 2 month drought in Austin!
"Ok, so I’ve got 3 really fun flicks to show y’all tonight and they don’t follow any sort of common elements, but I think this is going to be a really fun night. First I have Sam Peckinpah’s SHARK! Then I’m going to play BILLYJACK with the amazing Tom Laughlin AND HE’S HERE WITH US IN THE AUDIENCE RIGHT NOW!!!!! …. …… …… Ok, he’s not, but wouldn’t that be the shit, I almost believed he was here for a second myself… hehehe… And then we’ll wrap it up with a really great Hong Kong film THE BIG BULLET!"
"But first, we have Peckinpah’s "SHARK!" which is in the Public Domain… Peckinpah completely disowns the film, the Mexican producers evidently reedited the film and Peckinpah just hated it. Now the whole highseas adventure with the treasure boat underwater thing usually bores me, but this was an I.B. TECH print and I got it cheap so I thought, fuck it, it’s got good ol Burt Reynolds… I’ll buy it. So I watch it and it is a COMPLETE SAM FULLER FILM, he has all those great Fuller style zingers being thrown about, and it is just killer, it has great ending… I like it a lot. I like it more than NAKED KISS and SHOCK CORRIDOR which I like, but I don’t think those are the films they’re made out to be."
"Now, we’ve had a problem in recent QT festivals… Something that I’ve been a bit upset about. We’ve been pretty Burt-less. We started off great with QT 1 with WHITE LIGHTNING… Then in QT 2 we had NAVAJO JOE, and Burt was the fucking man in that flick! But we’ve been Burtless for a while now, SO IT’S TIME BABY!!! BURT IS BACK!!!"
"Like I said this is a SAM FULLER movie complete with one of his CrackerJack-Pull-It-Out-Of-Left-Field-And-Squeeze-It- Till-It-Twists-ENDINGS! A stuntman even died making this film, he died being EATEN TO DEATH BY A SHARK and FULLER KEPT THE FOOTAGE IN THE FILM! Now we’ve had a lot of Animal death represented on film at the QT fests and I’ve always been one of those Callous Kill Everything That Moves sorts of film lovers, but recently I’ve been having a bit of a change in heart towards the animal kingdom. I mean it was really being taken far last year, but ya know… This isn’t animal death, this is ANIMAL EATING MAN DEATH! This is FUCKING PAYBACK for all the lizards and bugs and dogs and that mongoose and monkeys and snakes and all the other fuzzy animals that we’ve seen DIE ON THIS SCREEN… This time baby, NATURE STRIKES BACK ALRIGHT?!?!?! Now I’ve watched this film a couple of times and can’t honestly tell you which of the attacks was the attack where the stuntman died, but I guarantee you one thing, after what I’ve just told you…. YOU’LL THINK THAT THEY WERE ALL REAL NOW!!!!!"
And with the audience roaring he tossed his mike up into the air and leapt off the stage as a loud…
BOOOOOOOOOOOOM thud hit the stage.
But first we had a large reel of trailers to unfurl…
SISTER STREET FIGHTER – "They won’t be hard to find, there’ll be a trail of bodies leading right to them!"
MILL OF THE STONE WOMEN – Man this trailer just reeks of creepy Hammer color!
WONDER WOMEN – "One man tried to stop them… They took him apart piece by piece!"
KITTEN WITH A WHIP – I love this movie to pieces! "She uses her sex the way an animal uses its teeth!"
WILD IN THE STREETS – This movie must be seen to be believed. Richard Pryor is so cool in it, and putting everyone over 30 in concentration camps used to be a great idea till I woke up 29.
FASTEST GUITAR IN THE WEST – Roy Orbison is the shit in this trailer, and that guitar… Rodriguez eat your heart out baby!
THE DIABOLICAL DR. Z – Ummm, did you read that title… of course you must see it!
PSYCH-OUT – "Reality is a Bad Trip… Love is Beautiful!"
HARDCORE – This movie is hard to take some nights… But George C Scott is the man in it. "Turn it off… TURN IT OFF hhuhhuhuhhh Turn it… offffff"
EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC – Well the trailer is really cool… too bad the film isn’t.
FANTASTIC FOUR - FUCKING A!!!! God I have to call Roger Corman and see if a print of this movie exists at all on 35mm… That would so be the bomb to watch at Butt-Numb-A-Thon!!!!
And now for our first feature presentation!
Well color me happy. I really wasn’t expecting much of anything out of this flick… While Quentin may prefer this over NAKED KISS and SHOCK CORRIDOR, I can’t go there with him. Both of those movies are just fantastic… though still not my favorite films of Fuller’s career… Hell, they aren’t even in my top 5 Fuller flicks. (For those interested: 1: PARK ROW, 2: PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET, 3: WHITE DOG, 4: STEEL HELMET and 5: THE BIG RED ONE) But I would agree for the Artsy Fartsy Fuller fans, NAKED KISS and SHOCK CORRIDOR are tops… But I’m with the Sam Fuller that wanted to give you an erection in the first 5 minutes! Now Fuller gives us a nice shark attack in the first 5 minutes, but it ain’t all that… Not in comparison to that last Shark attack which is just fucking brutal… I mean, what a way to die… it isn’t technicolor dramatics with Robert Shaw spitting up blood… Nothing romanticized about it… That was death up there, and it was fucking scary.
BUT… lest you think that all this film had going with it is that final shark attack… NOPE…
Burt Reynolds plays a down on his luck American thief scoundrel scum of the earth Han Solo type in this flick, who teams up with a little Runt/thief kid… and because this is a Sam Fuller flick you know this kid isn’t just gonna be a cute distraction…
Then there’s Barry Sullivan, who apparently is Quentin’s namesake, who… well you’ll see. But here’s a sampling of some dialogue that will point out exactly HOW SAM FULLER this flick is…
The alcoholic doctor upon drinking with the sweaty god that is Burt Reynolds, "What a wonderful world it would be if alcohol flowed through our veins!"
Here’s a great friggin line when Burt tells the Professor and his babe that the gig is up and he’s in on the take, "We’re gonna be one happy family. One happy father. One happy mother and one HAPPY SON OF A BITCH!"
And then when the little thief boy has his head split in two by some assassins and Burt is trying to get the doctor, he tells the fatty behind the bar, "Go Get The Doctor!" To which the Fatty responds, "He’s Up Stairs Having His Weekly DTs!"
Finally we get to the end… the big showdown, game over… climax… And the one with the gold says to Burt… "We’re a couple of bastards Kane, Only… I’m the Rich One!"
NOW THAT’S A LINE!!!
Sure this film doesn’t pop like a great film… the cinematography is a bit cheap looking at times… But the spirit of Fuller is throughout. And you can feel it when you look at the kid character, the doctor and Burt… You feel it as the film ends. The film has Fuller Balls… and that’s quite enough in an age of films without any at all.
Next up was BILLY JACK…
My Dad begins groaning right away. He hates BILLY JACK. This has been one of those films that I’ve never seen solely because Dad hates it so much that I figure… well it has to suck.
Well Quentin took the stage again… The rain and lightning still bombarding the Drafthouse as if telling him… DON’T LEAVE!!!
He tells us that Tom Laughlin first became the character Billy Jack in the film BORN LOSERS, a film he directed under the alias of T.C. Frank. Now apparently BORN LOSERS was pretty well received and Warner Brothers decided to produce Laughlin’s BILLY JACK. The studio released the film and it bombed… Didn’t perform at all… Somehow though Tom Laughlin managed to get his film back from the studio, it seems even in the early Seventies Warner Brothers had trouble with marketing… and Laughlin set about releasing it himself.
Now Quentin told us that he 4-Walled the film. Meaning that Laughlin took the film, and then would go city by city… Renting out… basically renting the theater for the week, and then cut together some cool TV spots which he paid the local stations to air… pushing the "Fighting the man, counter culture" message and just papered the local stations with the film’s ads. It became the biggest reversal of a film’s fortunes since BONNIE & CLYDE… another film that the studio hadn’t a clue about.
Quentin also feels that this film "should’ve been dated" what with all the peace-nik hippie love-in happiness stuff, but that the whole "Action Film About A Pacifist" angle plays today amazingly.
Next he told us that Pauline Kael said that Dolores Taylor’s description of her rape was the best explanation of what a woman feels after a rape in film history.
Next he told us about BILLY JACK’s superpowers… Specifically the ability "to magically appear from nowhere when needed." And that on account of his pacifist leanings, he’d take off his boots and socks before laying into the folks who’s asses he needed to kick. Apparently when Quentin was a kid… watching Billy take off his boots and socks meant… "It’s about to get good!"
Next Quentin did a couple of Tom Laughlin BILLY JACK speeches from TRIAL OF BILLY JACK and BILLY JACK and he did them DEAD ON! The audience was pumped to see BILLY JACK and when I looked over at my dad, he was just grimacing… He really hates this movie it seems…
The room went dark and the trailers start…
BROTHERHOOD OF DEATH… Oh man, this movie again! Yeah! Find a copy on EBAY, pure gold… this movie rules!
TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 – The first movie effects department that I ever visited was for TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2! I was just a Junior High punk, but man did the sawdust get in me. Better than many give it credit for!
BLACK BELT JONES – Possibly the greatest movie ever made.
GODZILLA VS MEGALON – I take that back, this is the greatest movie ever made.
BENEATH THE VALLEY OF THE ULTRA VIXENS – No wait… Without a doubt, this is the greatest movie ever made, especially when you’re watching it as part of a 24 hour film festival and you’re the director of a Minneapolis Science Fiction Convention with a huge smile on your face with drool dripping from your chin.
INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN – This trailer rules… It details the history of Rick Baker’s work up until that time. Completely focuses on Rick Baker as the star behind the movie… We don’t get this type of thing at all anymore.
VOYAGE TO THE END OF THE UNIVERSE – I have the one-sheet movie poster, but I’ve never seen the film… The trailer looks great. Must see.
MESSAGE FROM SPACE – as Quentin said, a film that ripped off STAR WARS shamelessly, but that Lucas ripped off for EMPIRE STRIKES BACK!
CHAMBER OF HORRORS - One of the greatest trailers ever, as it parodies the MPAA to hilarity. It introduces us to the SOCIETY FOR THE PROTECTION OF THE EASILY SCARED and tells us of their latest advances… the Fear Flasher and the Horror Horn!
A double bill trailer in N-E-R-V-O-R-A-M-A!!!
WEREWOLF IN A GIRL’S DORMITORY – you’re there! And CORRIDORS OF BLOOD – Hell, it’s Karloff and Lee… what the hell do ya want?
Now for the Feature Presentation….
I completely understand my father’s hatred for the film, but don’t agree with him at all.
First there is the entire Hippie Commune Freedom School thing. For my father… An honest to goodness Hippie that traveled the country throwing Light Shows with his MIND’S EYE Light Show Company with a lil Harry in tow… The idea of showing Hippies as emotionally flawed troubled youths is offensive.
Sure he was a Hippie, strange shirts, pants and all that… Long hair and beards… Counter Culture loving trippy light show producer… But he was also a business man… He was also a home owner… He also interacted with other hippies with Phds and they all smoked pot and threw great parties… but they weren’t the caricatures that the Hippies in BILLY JACK were. They still had manners and respect for others and could listen to someone before screaming out ridiculing remarks.
My father was a Hippie in a functional state. For me, I look at the Hippies in BILLY JACK as being the New Mexico/Arizona Commune Hippie Radicals. It’s kind of funny really. My father is someone that has spent his entire life looking at Hollywood and Pop-Culture studies of various minorities… be it the Black stereotypes from the thirties and forties… to the presentation of the Nazis and Japanese in the comics, radio plays and films of the World War 2 years. However, here we have stereotypes of his own minority group… To me… Equally telling as well as amusing, and his response is hatred for the film.
However, I look at the movie and see a counterculture Superhero in BILLY JACK… Everything about his garb and body language makes this a SuperHero film. I’d have loved to of read BILLY JACK comic books drawn by John Severin. That would have so been the bomb in the seventies. OHMYGOD, I’ve taken to using Quentin’s "Bomb" usage… DAMN YOU QUENTIN!!!
This is not an accurate portrayal of the period, but it is a comic book portrayal. I mean, even Kenneth Tobey (god I love this actor) as the Deputy who’s daughter is pregnant and joins the freedom school against his wishes… Well Kenneth is a harder than hard… Unreasonably aggressive hardass bastard in the film. So much so, that you just need him to be evil so BILLY JACK is forced from Peace to Action!
Then there is the improv Comedy stuff, which… well my dad doesn’t care for Improv all that much, so this was like a red hot needle to his eye… But I really dug it.
And so did a large portion of the audience. I mean when one hippie screams out in the film, "Because her brain was damaged by the heathen devil weed Marijuana!" The audience just lost it.
Not a great film, but a fun one for me.
Next was THE BIG BULLET… The final film of QT5.
The room was beginning to feel hunger pangs… We could all feel that it was winding down… that the fest was over and our day in day out orgy of films was coming to an end. Our little family was feeling a sense of impending finality to the event.
When Quentin took the stage he was jazzed by how well the audience took to BILLY JACK, however at the same time you could detect a lack of energy in him for the first time in the fest… He wasn’t so manic in this introduction. He was becoming more… Sedate. I think if there was another day of the fest, and this were not the FINAL FILM… his energy would be as high as ever. Quentin loves these fests. He gets a charge out of entertaining an audience, educating film fans and sharing his loves. In a way I get the idea that in a different world he wishes that this was what he would do for a living. BUT he also adds to the history with his own work. A piece at a time, crafting it slowly and carefully…
As I sat there I realized that this may be the last QT fest in a while… He’s set to begin shooting two films in a row… with all the press and publicity that circles those… will he have time between for Austin and his fest? I hope so…
As he pulled up the mike, "Alright I’m really happy about how ol BILLY JACK was accepted here. Next I have THE BIG BULLET, it is a newer Hong Kong flick, well it’s five years old, but I think you’d be surprised how old most of the Hong Kong films that are finally seeing release in the states really are. But THE BIG BULLET stars Lau Ching Wan. I feel that Lau Ching Wan is the coolest actor since the earliest days of Chow Yun Fat. I mean, the last five years I really haven’t gotten anything from Chow, but in acting, Lau Ching Wan would eat apples off his head. This is one of those Cop Gangster Hong Kong films, essentially it’s a Hong Kong version of SHARKEY’S MACHINE."
He mentioned a few more items but I didn’t catch the Asian names… I have nearly no ear for them. But he stopped for a bit as if he was going to get all poignant about the end of the festival, but he admitted, "I’m just going to get off stage, or I’ll just get too emotional up here." The audience gave him huge applause and as it settled. We saw everyone looking at each other like… Well… This is it.
The lights darkened and our attention again turned to that magical Drafthouse Screen and were again greeted with a short array of trailers…
THE ADVENTURES OF BATMAN AND ROBIN Serial - Ahhh, floppy eared Batman Rules!
DR WHO & THE DALEKS – The only Dr Who that I have ever liked.
GETTING OFF – Guess what this is about… Come on, I dare ya. The projectionist actually started censoring the trailer as the first penis started being chugged upon by a rather randy lady.
BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN – Now this is a movie!
BLOOD & BLACK LACE – An ok thriller… Didn’t sit well with me.
EMMANUELLE IN AMERICA – Man she’s hot.
And our final feature presentation… THE BIG BULLET
This film kicks your ass around your ears!
Holy shit what a ride. This is exactly what the SWAT script by Ron Mita and his writing partner was like all those years ago. Different story, same aesthetic... Too bad Sony fucked it all up.
First off, I think this is the first film where I have seen Lau Ching Wan in the starring position. This feels like the ultimate DIRTY HARRY film.
You know how Harry is constantly getting his balls busted by his superiors… Imagine if instead of demoting him, they transferred him to an Emergency Response Unit… And suddenly he had 4 other cops to deal with at all times, and one of them was a dead on Lt Exley from L.A. CONFIDENTIAL.
This was one of the best damn Cops and Gangsters flicks I’ve ever seen… so damn visceral… so damn good at building characters quickly… and the action, dear Christ… what action. When that one guy gets his hand shot off, and the chase into a mass of people… and then man… Man… The ending …. Wow.
My brain sort of shut down, because I was just left with a numbed grin upon my face and a minor/major case of the ‘ohshits’!
The film ended and folks began to head off into the night. I was majorly depressed about it all coming to an end. There is a feeling I have of why can’t this be what the movies are. Why can’t this happen every night all year long. It’s like having the most eclectic cable movie channel with an audience and beer.
That’s right… It’s heaven.
Well, Now I bid you adieu, till the next QT 5… There will be One more report related to QT 5, and that’s my review of Quentin’s script to KILL BILL, and how these films reflect upon it. That will be coming soon! I hope… hehehe…