Fritz the Cat (1972)

Oh boy, I’ve chasing this film for five years, and now that I finally managed to find it, I could now experience it in all its freaky glory…and it was amazing. I’ve said a few times on this site (and many elsewhere in life) that I’m a big fan of Ralph Bakshi, and the reason why is that unlike the other animators of his time, he was taking animation to stranger, more mature territory. Of course, he is most famous for Fritz the Cat, the first X-rated animated film, at least in America. Controversial on release, the film broke all the rules of cartoon films, and it proved that animation could explore adult themes and turn a profit, and thus a cartoon classic was born.

The story involves Fritz the Cat, a character created in the 1960’s by the cartoonist Robert Crumb, who also wrote the other characters in the film (as a side note, Fritz was one of Crumb’s most popular characters, and became a countercultural icon during the run of Crumb’s comics). Fritz is a hedonistic university student in the late 1960’s who constantly tries to get in bed with as many women as possible. After a night of sex, drugs and avoiding “the fuzz”, he drops out of New York University and embarks on a journey through New York City in order to find himself.

The film’s story was quite a wild ride. You have Fritz going through the entire city to get his funk on, and he gets chased by cops, gets caught in the middle of a riot (which he started), and ends up in the middle of the desert and hanging out with a group of dangerous revolutionaries. It’s a surreal tale of ecstasy and emptiness, with the kind of political commentary that characterises Bakshi’s classic works of the early to mid 1970’s. Fritz also offers a window into the radical time in which it was made in its own way, poking fun at both the radical left and the radical right, while painting a deliciously satirical, and poignantly accurate picture of the hippies of its time.

Fritz is interesting character, a freewheeling college student who doesn’t like the pretentiousness of the hippies (despite aping them with the whole “quest for truth” schtick). He starts out as a completely selfish character, and to be fair he sort of remains that way throughout the film. He may be crass and horny, but he’s smart in his own way. His philosophy seems to be that the only way to learn about life is to see it and grab it for yourself. In effect, he is an embodiment of the counterculture of his time, and his interaction with the world around him often leads to hilarious results.

I’ve always loved Bakshi’s animation style, mainly because of the penchant for artistic innovative he displays. In Bakshi’s directorial debut, you see a traditional sort of style, though with a looser style than one might see in Walt Disney’s films. In addition to that, the film makes use of backgrounds made with watercolour painting, and city skylines based on tracings from photographs. There’s a nice mixture of styles blended together in a way that brings out the seediness of Fritz’s world. The film also has an excellent psychedelic music score so infectiously ecstatic it that takes you into another state of mind.

The film may have garnered a reputation as a cartoon porno (which is funny considering the sex wasn’t really that graphic) simply because it was full of brazen nudity, but it’s really far more than that. It’s a satirical exploration of the depravity, confusion, hedonism and self-delusion that permeated the late stage of the 60’s-70’s counterculture. It was an innovative work of art that pioneered the concept of adult-oriented animation, and damned if I wasn’t entertained by it.

  • Score: 89%
  • Grade: A
Advertisements

Daughters of Satan (1972)

I’ve said it many times before on this site, but I find that horror movies tend to be pretty boring, especially the occult-themed horror films of the 1970’s. Daughters of Satan is no exception, suffering the same exact problems as Virgin Witch, which I already reviewed last month. In fact it’s a prime example of what I’m talking about. You have a horror film whose sole purpose is to sell a sultry, cliché infested fantasy by offering whatever people in the early 1970’s considered titillating, whose writers didn’t even bother writing a decent plot that stands out in a crowded market. This film’s story may as well be the story of a glut of other films of its time.

The story of this film revolves around James and Chris Robertson, a married couple living out in the Philippines who become involved with a cult after James brings home a painting that depicts the burning of a witch who looks like wife, Chris. The painting gradually takes over Chris’ personality, and joins with two reincarnated witches in order to destroy James.

I will be blunt, the story is completely daft. How on earth does a painting take over the personality of a woman just because they look alike? To many it screeches of lazy writing from a band of hacks. It also doesn’t help that the film is slowly paced, and most of the plot is actually boring conversation. If they’re going to make some cheesy occult horror film like one that’s already been repeated over and over again, they should have at least put in something interesting to keep you watching, because if I’m being very honest, who honestly enjoys watching this? If you do let me know in the comment section and make your case for why this is an underrated classic.

Most people who’ve heard of this film have probably know this as an early screen role for Tom Selleck, and honestly, he’s not bad in this film, although he does kind of take a backseat to the witches in the film, which doesn’t seem like the mark of a good film. The acting overall is very mediocre. None of the characters were even remotely convincing, and everyone in the film was a bore. Not an intolerable bore, but a bore nonetheless.

The presentation isn’t too bad, but it looks and sounds pretty typical for its time, and it certainly doesn’t get you interested at all, and that’s too bad because the way I see it, it’s basically just another Virgin Witch. They’re marketed the same, and one of the characters’ name is even a variation of Virgin Witch’s Christine. If anyone can help it, they won’t watch the movie because it’s boring. It’s not the worst film you can find. I’ve absolutely seen and reviewed worse on this site, but if you can help, stay away from the film. If you must watch it however, don’t pay for it. It’d be a waste of your hard-earned money, and I’m convinced most films of the genre are.

  • Score: 47%
  • Grade: D

Virgin Witch (1972)

There are some films that you watch, and when you’re done you’ll come to the conclusion that it was nothing special. Given how cinema has essentially become a mass-produced art form, you’ll find that a majority of films are like this, but it really is dependant on your tastes. Personally, I think this a particular problem in horror movies, the quality of which depends ultimately on how edgy and shocking they can be. Like many “occult-themed” horror films, Virgin Witch is neither of them.

The plot revolves around a young model named Christine, who is on the verge of getting her big break when she applies at and is accepted by the modelling agency of Sybil Waites, an older lesbian who has her eyes on her for a peculiar reason. Together with her sister Betty, Christine is invited to an old house in the country for a photo shoot, but Sybil is actually a witch, and she wants to induct her into her coven and is hoping to prepare her for a sacrifice.

Often accurately billed as an exploitation film, it seems like this film in particular was an excuse for the producer to get as many nude scenes with the lead actress as he possibly could. To me, the whole premise of the film seems like it was written by a horny teenage boy. It may as well have been, because those are the only sorts of people who could look past the film’s obvious faults.

What faults am I talking about? For starters, this is one of those slow horror films in which barely anything happens for a while. In fact, there’s barely any actual horror at all. The first half of the film is a boring skin flick seemingly with no plot, and the second half is a mediocre horror flick but it’s slightly better than watching the first film. It seems as if the producers didn’t know what they were doing because they were busy ogling the actresses.

By the way, the acting is pretty dull. The Michelle sisters seemed like a better sort for modelling rather than acting, not that this was a film they care to remember. The other characters aren’t exactly stellar either, but then again, I don’t think anyone had any real enthusiasm for the project. On a side note, am I the only one who thinks that the ritual looked somewhat robotic?

The film isn’t too bad in terms of the way it presents itself. I’d say this was one of those style over substance films, but it wasn’t particularly stylish. In fact, it was boring and banal right down to the bone, but the film itself wasn’t offensively bad. In fact, it might have been quite decent were it not burdened with the misfortune of bad writing, listless acting and lazy producers. It was basically a cheap film with the plot of an even cheaper pulp book. It’s not a very remarkable film even if you stretched the definition of remarkable as wildly as you possibly could.

  • Score: 47%
  • Grade: D