Wednesday, April 9, 2008

DOWN WITH MEDIOCRITY! ADVENTURE WITHOUT SHAME!... An Introduction and a Mission Statement

Well, here it is. And after much procrastination, it would seem the only sane thing to do is to just sit down and do it. I'll spare you all by refraining from quoting that oft-used line from GODFATHER PART III. Nevertheless, whenever I put any distance between my writing and myself, it seems a little itch in the back of my lizard brain starts screaming. So, here I am again, writing. But not just writing, writing in a more free-form setting and on something I truly love. More on that in a second.

For those of you who don't know my background, or who are just catching up again, I'll lay down some of the details. My name is Scott W. Davis. I have been a fan of film since my earliest days. I love films from all walks of life. Any budget, any era, any culture, I love it all for what the art stands for. I have written on the subject professionally in the past. Starting on middle and high school newspapers, then onto the college paper (The Hamline Oracle, should anyone want to do digging - I don't necessarily recommend it) and magazine. My most well-known gig was as the editor of the website, Horror Express. The website is still there, although I am not. I was also a contributing writer to CultCuts. Again, same story. I do recommend everyone check those sites out for the continuing work they put out. Some of my previous reviews have been quoted in the past. You can see my name on the back of Jim Hemphill's film, BAD REPUTATION and Horror Express got a nice "thank you" in the end credits. A review I did for LUST FOR DRACULA was quoted in Shock-O-Rama's one year anniversary reel, which is available on the Internet and on multiple DVDs. It's also come to my attention that I was quoted from a CultCuts review I did for HELL HOLE HIGH, although I can't find a copy of the DVD.

I will not go into details about why I am not with these sites anymore, but I left on my volition and there was no ill will I am aware of. The reasons why I left both sites were due in large part to personal problems - me needing time to get my act together. I am still not sure I left the sites in as professional a manner as I would have liked, and I certainly hope they forgave me for slacking off in the waning months. That is part of the reason for the more free-form approach here. I will have a big position again soon, one that paid would be swell too (hint, hint/poke, poke). However, I wanted to do something a little more stress free, where I update the thing myself - sometimes with big things, sometimes with little things.

The topic is more entertainment-oriented as well. Lately, I hate movies. And I hate movies because I love movies. Let me explain.

2007 was a banner year for cinema, as far as I'm concerned. As I was compiling my personal best and worst lists (oh yes, that's the type of person you're dealing with here), I noticed that never before had I had so many high-ranking films on my best list. However, my worst list was also severely overcrowded. It was not crowded with films that were as wretchedly awful as BATTLEFIELD EARTH. That film was at least amusingly insipid (And if you thought that was bad, I live in an area where one can check out the Scientology training videos - Wow!). No, I am talking about movies that are worse than bad movies. I am talking about mediocre movies. I cannot abide, and will no longer stand for mediocrity in my entertainment. These films walk the line, without taking any chances, their bloated budgets coasting by like so much unclean air. The scripts are filled out like a template as ready-made as the one I used for this blog. The thing is, if you are dealing with something generic or coasting on the success of another, more original film, shouldn't you stand out? No, these guys do not consider such things. They keep their head down as much as possible, not even choosing to amplify anything in their film that might make their film more successful both critically and financially over time. We can all bemoan the poor choices made by some of the most derided directors out there. But what of the ones that have no style whatsoever? The hacks and hired guns like Shawn Levy (NIGHT AT THE MUSUEM), Tom Shadyac (EVAN ALMIGHTY), Brian Robbins (NORBIT), Sean McNamara (BRATZ) or Brett Ratner (RUSH HOUR 3)? Let me tell you, I would take IN THE NAME OF THE KING any day over that garbage.

So, here I celebrate the films that do take a chance. And keep in mind that there are numerous ways to stand out. Sure, there's the part of me that loves a good Goddard film. I can be an elitist as much as the next armchair critic. But that is not what I will be expounding the virtues of on Adventure Without Shame. No, I will be talking about my one true love - the one that has never let me down. Namely, cult cinema. It came to me as I was watching yet another film that left me feeling rotten. The film was Frank Darabont's THE MIST. Now, before everyone gets up in arms, I will point out the irony of this. THE MIST is far from being a bad film. In fact, it is very well made and took huge chances were many films do not. But looking upon my favorite genre of horror, I was getting sick and tired of having to choose between films that are as generic as Brand X or films that have to go out of their way to be dark and depressing such to get their message across. No animosity towards Darabont or his film, but THE MIST did provide the catharsis for Adventure Without Shame. I needed cheering up later on and couldn't get to sleep. I popped in a film I had wanted to watch for years but never got around to it. The film was GATOR BAIT, an ultra-cheap 1970s film starring the late, great Claudia Jennings. I had a fantastic time with this film. Part of the time laughing at the inanity of the proceedings, another half being both entertained and enthralled by not only the action but the character depth boiling just beneath the surface. Dammit, this is what I love about film.

I love action, entertainment, a sense of the absurd, a rollicking good time. But I have a deep appreciation for these films that goes beyond those of the casual viewer. So, here at Adventure Without Shame, I will not only be talking about the beauty of what are often called B-movies. I will also be analyzing them in a manner which only a film studies minor can. Because there is stuff there. Maybe it was intentional, but it is there all the same. Just because one can have a full meal with one of these films does not mean they are all filled with empty calories. Often, they are treated as such and it is time for this disrespect to cease. You're not just going to get good times and satire here, although that will happen too. Nope, you're hopefully also going to get some depth.

One more thing, it is important to note where the name Adventure Without Shame comes from. It was a tagline to one of my favorite films of all time. It was the type of film one usually calls a guilty pleasure, although I would like to try to remove some of that guilt here. The film was GWENDOLINE, or as it was known in it's cut down U.S. form, THE PERILS OF GWENDOLINE IN THE LAND OF THE YIK-YAK. The film combined INDIANA JONES, BUCK ROGERS and softcore eroticism It had adventures across the Orient, cannibals, underground cities, pagan rites, alien civilizations, frequent nudity and a sense of fun and whimsy that you are hard pressed to find anywhere else. It also had a pedigree that ensured entertainment. It was directed by Just Jaeckin in yet another attempt to emulate the success he had from EMANEULLE. It starred Tawny Kitaen just before she did BACHELOR PARTY and her co-star was a swaggering guy named Brent Huff (who can also be seen in 9 DEATHS OF THE NINJA and a couple other notable cult items). The poster trumpeted "Adventure Without Shame!" and that's exactly what it delivered. I have looked at that poster multiple times over the years, around the time I would re-watch GWENDOLINE for the umpteenth time and would use that phrase occasionally. It is only lately however, being fed up with cookie-cutter entertainment, that I truly realize that "Adventure Without Shame" is not just a tagline, it's a philosophy. It's a way of life, a manner in which we should approach life and art.

That is what we will hope to accomplish here. So, say it with me, people...



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