Review of Scooter McCrae’s ‘Saint Frankenstein’.

81041_310x459This review originally appeared on QuietEarth.us.

I don’t think I’ve ever reviewed a short before, but this one is worthy of special attention.

Back in 1994, filmmaker Scooter McCrae wrote and directed Shatter Dead, an allegorical, micro-budget zombie film in which the living dead are presented as essentially confused and disenfranchised wanderers, as opposed to flesh-hungry monsters. It’s a rough little film, shot on video, full of ideas and arresting imagery (it won a Best Independent Film award at the 1995 Fantafestival), it’s undone only in part by an extremely limited budget and some amateurish acting, yet for me it stands as a highly creative and influential work in the world of underground video and horror.

In 1999, McCrae started on his follow-up, the sleazy, violent and downright bizarre cyberpunk thriller Sixteen Tongues. With this work, McCrae would explore the effects of overstimulation in a highly sexualised, technocratic culture; one drenched in pornographic imagery and on the brink of social collapse. Sixteen Tongues is a very difficult watch; it’s full of creative concepts and interesting characters, but casts such a grim worldview and is populated by characters so unpleasant and disaffected that it’s simply exhausting to sit down and take it all in.

McCrae’s films seem characterised by an otherworldly, uncompromisingly transgressive quality which for many is an instant turn-off (there are also the low budgets) but for me they are something special; these are raw and absolutely original films – representative of what underground cinema is all about. Once one emerges from McCrae’s world, things don’t quite look the same.

1_saint_frankestein_melanie_gaydos_as_shelley

Melanie Gaydos as the titular Saint Frankenstein.

Naturally then, it was with some excitement that I read last year that McCrae was putting together a segment for an anthology film called Betamax, and that his addition would be called Saint Frankenstein. Unfortunately that project has not yet come together as planned, but having finished his film, McCrae has decided to present it as a standalone short, and it’s genuinely very good. So, history lesson over – let’s talk about Saint Frankenstein.

Saint Frankenstein is a 17 minute two-hander starring Melanie Gaydos and Tina Krause. It takes place in a dingy hotel room where a confident and flirtatious prostitute named Carla (Krause) visits an unusual client (Gaydos), receiving far more than she bargained for in the process. What starts off as a curious conversation piece featuring a hypnotic monologue from Gaydos – playing a brutally scarred and surgically disfigured Frankenstein’s monster – shifts part way through into an almost comic book-style romp. In blending literary references with fantasy, historical fiction, pseudo-erotic body-horror, and religious imagery, this is a film that is difficult to categorise, but suffice it to say, it’s very unusual, and a lot of fun.

In terms of quality of craftsmanship it’s important to note straight away that Saint Frankenstein is a big step forward from McCrae’s previous work. The film looks terrific, the work of a real professional. The way in which it is shot, the creative design elements and the performances all come together very well here, and yet, crucially, it contains the personal touch inherent in all of McCrae’s work.

10313760

Tina Krause as Carla.

The design and effects work by Dan Ouellette, Brian Spears and Pete Gerner is genuinely startling. Gaydos is a model and actress born with ectodermal dysplasia, a genetic condition which gives her an unusual, rather striking appearance, and in playing the character of ‘Shelley’ (an appropriate pseudonym if ever there was one) she is required to wear layers of prosthetic scars, including an autopsy scar down the middle of her chest, and stapled laceration running across the middle of her head – it’s really pretty savage. Gaydos’s performance is magnetic and downright eerie. Her character is presented initially as somewhat shy and withdrawn, but once introductions are made Shelley offers a remarkable soliloquy describing the events following the original Frankenstein story, and it’s at once compelling, chilling, and oddly heartbreaking. Although her voice is dubbed, Gaydos’s slow, deliberate movements express the pain and melancholy of her character rather beautifully. Shelley’s voice is provided by Archana Rajan, whose steady, controlled even tones manage to project a benign, almost playful quality, while at the same time feeling vaguely sinister and menacing. The film is worth seeing simply for this fantastic scene alone.

If shorts can contain a second act, then Saint Frankenstein‘s unexpected shift in tone at around the halfway mark would certainly qualify. I won’t say much for fear of spoiling the story, but following Shelley’s strange confession, a reveal – quite literal – spurs things into action, and we’re faced with a confrontation which leads to a skillfully choreographed scene of violent action. Although no stranger to shooting action, it is again apparent that McCrae has pulled out the stops here, and in terms of nuts-and-bolts direction, the denouement of Saint Frankenstein is well ahead of the rough-and-ready style of his previous films.

The film features an original score, and this warrants mention as it’s composed by the legendary Italian maestro Fabio Frizzi (Zombie Flesh Eaters, City of the Living Dead). Frizzi’s haunting synth melody perfectly captures the mood of the film, and it’s hard to imagine these images having the same impact without his atmospheric, dreamy score.

saint_frankenstein_1_klein

The most satisfying element of the film for me is that it retains the hallmarks of a Scooter McCrae film (tension, unease, violence, strange and unpleasant sexual imagery, unapologetic and rampant weirdness) while building on his previous work, offering something altogether more sophisticated. If there were any complaint I could level at this work, it might be that it doesn’t approach the same social issues which so concern McCrae’s feature work. Shatter Dead, it can been argued, reflects the divide between rich and poor, quick fix cultism, and the desire for eternal youth and beauty which preoccupies western culture. Sixteen Tongues remains relevant today, prescient in its depiction of a world in which characters must use their credit cards to switch off ubiquitous screens projecting an endless loop of pornography, violence and religious propaganda, a concept well ahead of its time and one that’s been borrowed in years since by other sci-fi dystopia, including Charlie Brooker’s Black MirrorSaint Frankenstein, to its credit, is a simpler film, a brief glimpse of an alternative vision of a classic story, or as McCrae puts it, “The first chapter in an ongoing project dedicated to a modern rethink of the entire Frankenstein mythos.

If a sequel or feature adaptation is in the works – and here’s hoping that it is – we can be sure McCrae will infuse it with his typically heavyweight ideas, and if he commits to the same level of skill and care in direction as evident in Saint Frankenstein then we’re in for a real treat.

I’ve had the pleasure of trading emails with McCrae over the last few weeks, and he has generously agreed to an interview for this site, to discuss both Saint Frankenstein and his previous films. A superbly erudite and imaginative guy, it’s sure to be a fascinating read, so keep your eyes open.

Saint Frankenstein is now available to rent or buy and it is well worth the price of admission.

Advertisements

Thoughts on Gerard Johnson’s “Hyena” – From EIFF 2014.

This review originally appeared on Quietearth.us as part of my coverage of the EIFF 2014.

Hyena PosterBack in 2009 I covered Gerard Johnson’s first feature, Tony which I liked very much; a kind of low-key psycho-thriller set around a London housing estate and featuring a knock-out performance from Peter Ferdinando. With Hyena, Johnson is once again working with Ferdinando, who stars as the amoral police detective Michael Logan, working as part of a special drugs taskforce, whose extreme lifestyle of near constant drug and alcohol abuse and shady, underhand tactics threaten to upset what little balance exists in his life. The film is a significant step up in scope and ambition for Johnson when compared with Tony, and while I admire it for its confident stylistic flourishes, unflinching brutality, and for Ferdinando’s excellent performance, there are problems with pacing and character which ultimately undermine its strengths and have the effect of making it an oddly frustrating experience.

Set in London, the film follows Michael as he trades favours and information with gangs in exchange for drug money, clashes with his superior officers and hangs out with his disreputable colleagues on the taskforce, snorting cocaine, drinking huge quantities of booze and dividing up the spoils of corruption. After witnessing the violent murder, at the hands of Albanian gangsters, of the member of an established Turkish drug ring with whom he has close ties, Michael immediately and characteristically shifts his allegiance to this powerful new gang. By coincidence, he is ordered by his boss to investigate the Albanians’ operation, and look into evidence of sex trafficking, thereby blurring the lines between his role as cop and criminal. As the plot progresses, Michael must deal with an internal police investigation into his methods, and also come to terms with the consequences his actions have on the people who get caught in the crossfire.

Hyena club raid

“The Korova milkbar sold milk-plus.”

To begin with the positive: Hyena looks and sounds pretty terrific. The style of the film is established from the opening scenes of Michael and his crew gearing up for a raid and bursting into an underground nightclub while bathed in electric blue neon, savagely beating the clientele in a balletic slow-motion montage. The direction is energetic and confident, with hand-held camera work giving a sense of urgency to events. Matt Johnson provides a low-key, pulsating electronic score which nicely complements the overall atmosphere, and could stand as reason alone to check out this film. Ferdinando is excellent in the lead role, his knack for totally inhabiting his characters provides Michael with a realism not often seen in cinema and the film is stronger for his presence. The supporting cast provide admirable performances also, especially MyAnna Burning as Michael’s occasional girlfriend, and Elisa Lasowki as a victim of the Albanian sex trafficking system, whose plight gives Michael reason to question the moral vacuum he inhabits. The colour palette of the film is all intense blues and reds, which could be read as representing Michael’s duality, his position in the police, heaven and hell, or it may just be a stylistic choice, but either way it works to give the film a distinctive look and feel, and this is where Johnson succeeds admirably. The world the characters inhabit seems complete: scary and tough.

The problems with Hyena stem mainly from the nature of the main character, with whom I really found no sympathy. It is impossible when watching this film not to consider the parallels between it and Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant (and I make the distinction between Ferrara’s original and Werner Herzog’s playful remake) since they tread such similar territory.

When I met Johnson after first seeing Tony he spoke of his next project as a “British ‘Bad Lieutenant’… a ‘French Connection’ in London,” and Hyena is undoubtedly, demonstratively indebted to both those movies. The main difference, however, is that while Keitel’s lieutenant undergoes a powerful catharsis and redeems himself, Ferdinando’s Michael goes through the motions, but never really seems to learn anything. Ferrara’s film was lightening in a bottle and probably that director’s finest work, so it’s not exactly fair to compare the two, but looking at them together illustrates Hyena‘s real problem; we never really care much about Michael or see a side of him which lends us to sympathize with his situation. Johnson and Ferdinando don’t give the character any kind of back story or reason for his addictions and corruptions, and the languorous pacing of the film means that while we spend a lot of time watching him, he basically remains a mystery in terms of motives and history (while of Keitel’s character we can at least be sure that he has lost God). This may, of course, be the entire point. To know nothing of a character can give us the chance to learn as we go along, but the way Michael is written keeps us from ever getting into his head; he expresses regret and emotion one minute, but then seems to get on with the business at hand immediately afterwards, leaving us wondering if he’s really human.

"Turn off ma gasss, Bunty!"

“Turn off ma gasss, Bunty!”

The film is a little under two hours long, and as sign of how episodic and baggy it feels, it really does feel like two hours. The festival guide suggests (rather ominously) that the film’s pacing is “organic and adventurous”, but this could easily be a euphemism for ‘drawn-out and ill-considered’, as the narrative never seems to take off and fly, presenting instead a series of confrontations and set-pieces which work well individually, but do not weave together to form a satisfying story. Towards the end of the film Michael rescues a young woman who has been forced into prostitution, and attempts to save her in his clumsy efforts towards salvation. This plot device is as old as the hills, and it really doesn’t feel fresh when it’s used here.

The film is pretty unflinching in its use of violence, not gratuitously so, but enough to give the gore-hounds a certain satisfaction. One memorable scene involves a group of gangsters holding a conversation as they lean over a bathtub to slice a victim’s corpse into parts – the kicker being that the men are naked as they do so, yet appear so relaxed that they might well be playing cards – and it’s scenes like this which give the film an occasional darkly comic edge. The same cannot be said for an agonisingly ill-judged and needless rape scene which fails to elicit the intended response simply by dint of the fact that its graphic detail distracts us from the role it plays in the plot, essentially providing reason to mistrust the film, rather than follow it.

Hyena thugs

“Very sexy.”

Hyena, then, is a film which it is easy to admire in many ways, but very difficult to actually like. Johnson is clearly a talented director, getting the best from his cast and crafting a seedy and unpleasant world for them to stumble around inside, but the question remains: Who is this film really for? Police procedural thrillers thrive on anti-heroes and no-nonsense detectives, but Hyena‘s central character is not well formed enough for us to understand him as such. Horror fans will enjoy the gore and dark humour, but such scenes are relatively intermittent and not the focus of the narrative. Those seeking a Ferrara style redemptive drama will enjoy the obvious nods to his best work (Ms. 45, King of New York and Bad Lieutenant) but the film lacks the structure and pace required to work as such a genre piece, and moreover it is void of the catharsis and moral vision which those films held at their core. As we watch Hyena unfold, we also watch it start not to work, and while I enjoyed the film as a visual experience and a chance to enter a world I know nothing about, I found very little there to care about. It pains me to say it, but I’m not sure who I would recommend this film to. At the same time though, I’m really looking forward to seeing what Johnson does next.

Thoughts on Nick Johnstone’s “Abel Ferrara: King of New York”.

I love reading film biographies, and have recently read Cronenberg on Cronenberg and Lynch on Lynch (both edited by Chris Rodley, both excellent) as well as Woody Allen on Woody Allen (edited by Stig Bjorkman, also great). I’m gearing up to check out Fassbinder: The Life and Work of a Provocative Genuis by Christian Braad Thomsen, but frankly it looks rather daunting. I was pretty tickled to see that there was a book written about the American film-maker Abel Ferrara, still most famous for his controversial and seminal thriller Bad Lieutenant. The film was recently remade by Werner Herzog in a rather curious move, one which prompted Ferrara to damn him to hell, although Herzog’s response to this was better than any film could have been when he simply stated, “Wonderful, yes! Let him fight… I have no idea who Abel Ferrara is!”

Image

Abel Ferrara.

Ferrara is a director who I’d often pictured as an incoherent and barely functioning drunk, terrorizing his cast and crew while openly weeping at icons of the Virgin Mary and smoking crack, and yet, after recently purchasing a whole stack of his old films, I found myself getting really into his whole style and wanting to know more about him. When I found a copy of Nick Johnstone’s book, The King of New York – named for Ferrara’s first high-profile film, starring Christopher Walken as a savvy New York gangster – I immediately bought it and excitedly settled down to learn whether my bizarre impressions of this very private and complicated director were in any way founded… I am unfortunately still none the wiser. In a nutshell, the text simply explains, in stultifying detail, each plot-point of all of his films. In my review of the book below I go into more detail about how not to write a film biography. This originally started as an Amazon review, but quickly turned into a blog entry because I had so much to say on the subject…

Here are my thoughts on Johnstone’s book:

Image

£0.01 from Amazon. (P&P £2.99)

Abel Ferrara (b1951) is a film-maker whose work is undeniably controversial, always toeing the line between art and exploitation. Some of his films are more successful than others (to put it mildly), but they all contain a certain unique blend of outrageous imagery, a slightly sleazy and shambolic quality, a dark, often absurd sense of humour, and a thinly veiled, deeply artistic sensibility. The care and craft brought to his films is exemplified by the intelligent scripts written by his long-time collaborator Nicholas St. John, and the effective performances by actors like Harvey Keitel, Christopher Walken and Willem Dafoe. Ferrara remains a very strange character in the landscape of cinema however, building a career out of low-budget pornos, before moving on to art-house shockers like Driller Killer (1979) and Ms. 45 (1981), and finally finding a certain recognition and taking on bigger budget, glossier (some might argue way overblown and unsubtle) projects like Fear City (1984) and King of New York (1990). The zenith of his career is undoubtedly Bad Lieutenant (1992) – still one of the most agonizing and emotionally distressing depictions of addiction and Catholic guilt (his twin obsessions over the years) ever committed to film. After the critical success of Lieutenant he directed the big-budget sci-fi horror Body Snatchers (1993) and, following its relative failure at the box-office, has since remained steadfastly on the fringe, making occasional low-budget movies which seem somehow more experimental (The Addiction – 1995, The Blackout – 1997) and less focused and immediate (New Rose Hotel – 1998).

Image

“Video Nasty.”

 Above: Original poster for ‘The Driller Killer’ (1979). The cover for the video cassette drew so many complaints that it is often considered single-handedly responsible for the UK Video Recordings Act of 1984. The film was banned in the UK until 1999.

Image

“Emotionally distressing.”

Above: Harvey Keitel is the ‘Bad Lieutenant’ (1992).

Nick Johnstone’s book, Abel Ferrara: The King of New York, therefore, had a lot to cover in charting the career of this underrated and often misunderstood director, yet somehow he seems to completely fail in ‘getting to’ Ferrara. It’s obvious that he’s a fan, this is demonstratively clear from the praise he heaps on Ferrara in his opening chapter. Johnstone quickly establishes the key influences on Ferrara’s work as R.W. Fassbinder, Pasolini, Polanski, Godard and Scorsese. He discusses the themes in Ferrara’s overall body of work to very nice effect and sets the book up in an agreeably conversational, slightly gushing manner. The style of Johnstone’s prose is, unfortunately, a little pedestrian, and as he repeats his assertions about artistic influences, reoccurring themes and visual motifs over and again, we begin to get the impression that he’s actually run out of material. I must admit that I had not connected the work of Ferrara with that of Fassbinder, and thought it was very astute of Johnstone to point out the overlapping themes in their work, but after it’s been mentioned around ten times in the opening chapter one can’t help but feel hammered down by what was otherwise a fine observation. Similarly, Godard and Pasolini are brought into the conversation so often that it begins to read like an exercise in ‘spot the reference’.

The main bulk of the book is remarkably slim on material, comprising almost entirely of scene-by-scene synopses of each film in chronological order. Here is where Johnstone genuinely runs out of inspiration and reveals himself unable to go beyond the most basic observations of the language of cinema. After reiterating his earlier points on style and form – although valid and, initially, quite interesting – he suddenly gets bogged down by his reverence for the subject. It’s certainly worth pointing out a visual trick, such as the use of colour schemes to chart a character’s journey (red for a ‘descent into hell’, white for ‘salvation’ or blue for ‘authority and sterility’), but this is hardly unique to Ferrara’s work, nor is the use of mirrors and reflections to show a character questioning their sense of self and their motivations, yet these techniques are discussed with a sense of awe and wonder. Johnstone goes so far as to point out the intertextual references in every film, which becomes very tiring (yes, film-makers like to acknowledge their influences, we get it) and he seems to delight in highlighting the trademark ‘nipple-shots’ (!) which Ferrara includes during scenes of sex and nudity in his work, which has the unintentional effect of making the book seem slightly grubby and adolescent. Further to this, the (literally) narrative approach taken in explaining the material is extremely frustrating, as anybody who isn’t completely familiar with Ferrara’s entire body of work will find spoilers littering the text. I’ve seen most of the films covered, but found myself skipping the chapter on Snake Eyes to avoid this. (The TV episodes of Miami Vice and Crime Story which Ferrara directed are also covered in great detail.) Each moment of each film is recounted and explained in terms a child would understand, and far from writing from the perspective of an academic or even a ‘film buff’, Johnstone comes across more like a clever teenager who’s discovered a selection of 18-Rated movies and is trying to relate them to his friends in as much detail as possible – bragging about the apparent subtleties he’s picked-up on…

Fear City Poster

“No subtleties here.”

 Above: Poster for ‘Fear City’ (1984).

Ms. 45 Poster

“Very sexy.”

 Above: Poster for ‘Ms. 45’ (1981) – Still Ferrara’s strongest, most satisfying and stylish film.

For what it’s worth, the chapter on Ms. 45 (my favourite of Ferrara’s films) is actually pretty good, and the section on Bad Lieutenant is suitably comprehensive, featuring a sourced interview with the script-writer, Zoë Tamerlis-Lund (who also plays Keitel’s drug dealer in the film), which is surprisingly insightful. Lund, an actress, writer and musician, is probably most famous for her role in Ms. 45, in which she plays the central character, Thana, to brilliant effect (the character is mute throughout the film), and in the interview she comes across as very intelligent and articulate – she died in 1999. Johnstone also briefly hits his stride with his analysis of The Addiction, probably Ferrara’s strangest and most misunderstood film (a vampire story about morality, guilt and, yes, addiction – which like Cronenberg’s The Fly is often misinterpreted as an allegory about the AIDS crisis) which he seems to take more time and thought over. I was actually quite startled at how profound the writing was in this chapter, as Johnstone seems to dissect the strange mindset of the addict in an almost eerie way; indeed, it turns out that he is himself a recovering alcoholic.

Image

“Got a light?”

 Above: Zoë Lund and Harvey Keitel in ‘Bad Lieutenant’.

Image

“Holy shit!”

Above: Zoë Lund in ‘Ms. 45’. The alternative title was ‘Angel of Death’.

Addiction Poster

“Intense.”

Above: Poster for ‘The Addiction’.

Film critic Peter Bradshaw placed ‘The Addiction’ at the top of his list of the best films ever made for Sight & Sound in 2002, right above ‘Annie Hall’.

Addiction Street Trash

“Don’t mind me…”

Above: Philosophy student and vampire: Kathleen (Lili Taylor) approaches her first victim, a homeless junkie, in ‘The Addition’.

There is an unfortunate sense of imbalance, however, when it comes to discussing Ferrara’s remake (or reimagining) of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (simply titled Body Snatchers). The Ferrara version has close links to both the original 1956 Don Siegel film and the 1978 remake directed by Philip Kaufman. However, Johnstone dismisses the ’78 version completely in his analysis here (because Ferrara doesn’t mention it in press interviews) and instead makes blithe comparisons to the original film. It’s clear he strongly dislikes the Ferrara version and considers it a complete waste of time and money, but then he barely gives it due consideration, and rather petulantly sums it up as ‘crap’. Sure, it’s not a great movie, but for a writer who seems to genuinely enjoy a film as openly derivative and trashy as Fear City, it feels as though he lets his emotions get the better of him (somewhat ironically) in dedicating only three pages of the entire book to Ferrara’s most expensive and high-profile film to date – one to which Roger Ebert gave a glowing review. (Ebert famously hated the Kaufman version.)

Image

“WAAAAAHHHHHHHEEEEAAAHHHHHH!!!”

 Main image: Carol (Meg Tilly) alerts the other pod-people with a mechanical scream in ‘Body Snatchers’ (1993). 

Insert: Brooke Adams performs a similar move in the 1978 adaptation. Ferrara and St. John drew inspiration from several plot elements of the Kaufman version (including the creeping tentacles of the pods) but add to the paranoid atmosphere by setting the film on an American military base.

Having struggled through the book (minus the Snake Eyes chapter), what struck me most was the lack of input from Ferrara himself. Each chapter begins with a sourced quote from Ferrara about the film being discussed, along with additions from St. John and occasional press soundbites, yet he remains a curiously absent presence throughout the book (there is virtually no biographical information), and as a result of this, Johnstone’s pontificating on form and subtext seems less convincing and more like hearsay. Perhaps if Ferrara were a less private individual and more apt to give interviews and explanations of his work, Johnstone would have found himself on firmer ground and had more to work with. It’s possible that Johnstone approached Ferrara for an interview and was turned down, which would explain his reliance on sourced quotes, speculation and endless repetition. When reading a book dedicated to the work of a single director, the most interesting thing to hear about is their working process. Film-makers often have a unique and distinctive approach to collaborating with their cast, their writer, DP and crew, and with a genuine firebrand auteur like Ferrara you can bet there are a million great stories… of which we hear none. When you watch a film like Bad Lieutenant and witness the extent to which Keitel commits himself to the role, it leaves you wondering how the director managed to convince him to take on the part, and the nature of their relationship during the shoot. Zoë Lund is an actress and writer who had a troubled life (there is vague talk of ‘drugs’ from, of all people, John Cale) and collaborated with Ferrara on his two most successful films, and yet we’re privy only to one short interview with her, and we don’t even hear about how they met. The best anecdote in the book has Ferrara meeting a group of press in a hotel room and mischievously climbing into a wardrobe to give his interviews through a makeshift confessional box. It’s amusing, but it hardly tells us anything about Ferrara other than the fact that he’s eccentric.

Ms. 45 Image

“I’d give it a minute if I were you, Abel’s giving a press conference inside…”

 Above: Zoë Lund as the mute seamstress Thana, in ‘Ms. 45’.

Mentally and physically abused by the ‘MEN’ in her life, she takes to the streets with .45 magnum…

Transformation

“A transformation.”

Trauma and emotional scarring lead Thana to become an angel of retribution.

Something about the book which bugged me – something which goes beyond the blandness of commentary and analysis – is the fact that Johnstone keeps making mistakes about which actors play which roles. In King of New York, Laurence Fishburne (over)plays a sassy gang leader named Jimmy Jump, and Wesley Snipes is a tough rookie cop called Flanigan. Their characters are pretty distinctive (Fishburne chews the scenery so much he actually has to be seen to be believed!), but Johnstone manages to get them confused several times, discussing the wrong actor’s performance in a role, and then actually switching them around again, talking about the same actor playing another character. I had to re-read these parts to make sure (and any editor worth their salt should have noticed), but it’s clear that he couldn’t remember who played whom, and didn’t bother to go back and check out the credits to make sure. The book was written shortly after both Blade and The Matrix were released, so it’s not like we’re talking about Bud Cort here. He also manages to confuse a startled extra at the beginning of Body Snatchers with a character played by Forest Whitaker, who appears as a major character later on in the film, thereby questioning the logic of having Whitaker ‘forget’ that he’s already met the lead character before. The extra was a black guy too. I’m not saying that Nick Johnstone is racist, by the way, just easily confused and perhaps slightly lazy. There are also various grammatical mistakes along the lines of: “In this film… blah blah, which happens in this film.” and “In his review of… blah blah, which he wrote in his review.” This is ultimately the concern of the editor though, since nobody can write an entire book without making a few mistakes.

Fishburne Career Highlight

“Needs to be seen to be believed.”

 Above: Laurence Fishburne gets fresh in ‘King of New York’.

Fishburne Gangsta Elite

“Been spendin’ most my life living in a gangsta’s paradise.”

Above: Laurence Fishburne during the explosive drug-deal scene in ‘King of New York’.

Wesley Snipes 2

“Could this be non-vintage Bollinger?”

Wesley Snipes plays it cool in ‘King of New York’.

King of New York Poster

The poster makes it pretty damn clear!

In better understanding how this book came to be written, and why the author seems so lost, I had a look at his other credits, which include an unofficial biography of the actor Johnny Depp, and a book about the late Amy Winehouse. (I shudder to think what these books must be like!) The fact that Johnstone seems to specialize in this kind of celebrity filler stuff suggests that Abel Ferrara: The King of the New York was an attempt to write something of substance about a film-maker whom he admired. However, to quote from his chapter on Body Snatchers: “It’s poorly thought out, empty and mind-numbingly dull.

Abel 1

Above: Abel Ferrara with his entourage.

For a great interview with Zoë Lund about Bad Lieutenant and her script writing process:

http://zoelund.com/filmvid/SensesOfCinema/interview.html

For more info on Ferrara and his future projects:

http://abelferrara.com

Driller Artwork

Above: Artwork from the film ‘Driller Killer’.