Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Olive Films - S.F.W and MAD DOG TIME on Blu-ray ""

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Olive Films - S.F.W and MAD DOG TIME on Blu-ray

S.F.W. (1994; Jefery Levy)
At one point in S.F.W., Stephen Dorff's character Cliff Spab stares into a bubbling glass of Heineken and flashes back to the climax of the hostage crisis hell he has recently escaped from. The sequence exactly mirrors one in Martin Scorsese's film TAXI DRIVER and I think it's fair to say it's a deliberate nod. While this film is no way on an equal playing field with TAXI DRIVER, you can certainly see a kinship that the two have between them. Whilst the end of TAXI DRIVER (spoiler alert) shows that Travis Bickle is celebrated as a hero by the media and the public at large for his one man massacre, Cliff Bab is similarly celebrated upon his release from a 36-day hostage situation. All that time, he and that other hostages are recorded onto videotapes and those tapes are broadcast on television. Thus, he becomes basically a reality show star and gains fame for his foul mouth and his veritable catch phrase "So F*cking What". The movie kind of picks up at the end of TAXI DRIVER and continues the scenario to answer the question, "And Then What?". So both films deal with the thematics behind media created celebrity and the impact and implications of that phenomenon. It is and will continue to be a topic worth examining especially today when celebrity is born out of all kinds of non-heroic things. It's an interesting idea certainly and the concept of this film was ahead of its time in some ways. It reminds me a bit of PUMP UP THE VOLUME as well as the end of TAXI DRIVER. One could also see things like NETWORK and THE KING OF COMEDY as peers (albeit much greater peers) to S.F.W. This movie is most memorable for the early role for Reese Witherspoon and or from Stephen Dorff during his 90s prime. Jake Busey is a nice backup to Dorff too and watch for Tobey Maguire in a bit part as a stoner loser waiting for a bus. The other notable thing about S.F.W. is the soundtrack which includes the likes of Radiohead, Soundgarden, Marilyn Manson, Suicidal Tendencies, Hole and Gwar.
The transfer on this disc is not bad, but keep in kind that there are decent sized chunks of it that play out as the videotaped footage from the hostage situation. I was reminded how old this film is by the way that that video quality looks in comparison to today's glut of found footage video movies. It's fun to look back on what "video" used to look like.
S.F.W can be purchased on Blu-ray here:

MAD DOG TIME (1996; Larry Bishop)
The 1990s saw a whole sackful of films and filmmakers trying to ripoff Quentin Tarantino (for better or for worse). THINGS TO DO IN DENVER WHEN YOU'RE DEAD, WAY OF THE GUN and GO come to mind as some of the more enjoyable examples of this trend. This movie was written and directed by Larry Bishop (son of Rat Pack-er Joey Bishop)and it fits into that category for the most part because of all the scenes of characters talking each other and also because of the violence. There's a whole lotta shooting going on in this one. And a lot of it is done from a seated position. As for the talking, well Bishop ain't no QT as a writer (but then who is). I personally think he puts enough of a stamp on the dialogue to make it interesting and it is certainly memorable hearing this group of actors deliver it. Here, Bishop seems to have called in every favor in the known universe to assemble one of the most ridiculous casts of the 1990s, especially for a few that so few people seem to have seen. First off you have Jeff Goldblum, then Gabriel Byrne, Ellen Barking, Gregory Hines, Diane Lane, Burt Reynolds and Richard Dreyfuss! Bit parts and cameos are filled with the likes of Kyle Mclachlan, Henry Silva, Michael J. Pollard, Billy Idol, Paul Anka, Richard Pryor, Rob Reiner and Larry's dad Joey Bishop. It's one of those casts that was really something back then which makes me all the more perplexed so few people saw it. I'm guessing it got little to no release and that's a big factor. It seems to have found some life on VHS though and has apparently become a kind of cult favorite over the past twenty years or so. With the ensemble that Bishop was able to put together for this thing, it is no surprise that a cult sprang up around it. I mean, how often do you get to see Goldblum play a scene with Billy Idol? Never. It never happens. Larry also seems to have perhaps called in a few favors on the soundtrack as well. It opens with a Sinatra song and moves on to feature other crooners like Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. among others.  Gabriel Byrne's character even sings "My Way" on stage at one point with Paul Anka. It's a good soundtrack for sure. I love this kind of music.
Crap, I should mention that movie's story centers around a mob boss named Vic (Richard Dreyfuss) who is released from the looney bin and conveys to his people that he is not mentally fit to be running things any more and attempts to bring in a replacement for himself (Larry Bishop). Vic's return is greeted with some conflicted points of view from the other rival criminals that are lurking about town and things get a little bit bloody.

The movie was quite poorly received when it came out. Infamously, Roger Ebert gave it a zero star review and said this about it:
"Mad Dog Time is the first movie I have seen that does not improve on the sight of a blank screen viewed for the same length of time. Oh, I've seen bad movies before. But they usually made me care about how bad they were. Watching Mad Dog Time is like waiting for the bus in a city where you're not sure they have a bus line.... Mad Dog Time should be cut into free ukulele picks for the poor."

That is nearly the harshest thing I've ever seen written about a movie in print and it sets up some up some pretty epic expectations for badness. If you check this one out, I doubt you'll hate it as much as Ebert did. Is it a bit of a self-indulgent mess? Sure it is, but it is clearly the vision of one guy and a passion project and I always seem to find things of interest in that type of film. I think that maybe the fact that Larry Bishop put himself in the movie makes the whole affair an easier for critics to get a bead on him. That and the fact that he is the writer and director and he has made a film that is not necessarily structurally conventional. Some may interpret that as him not knowing what he's doing. I can't comment on that specifically. but I do think that it is certainly worth judging for yourself.
MAD DOG TIME can be purchased on Blu-ray here:

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