Daily Archives: August 19, 1988

Cane Toads: An Unnatural History/Films by Jane Campion

One hundred and two cane toads were brought into Queensland, Australia, in 1935 with the hope that they would get rid of sugar-cane grubs. The toads quickly overran the countryside, eating everything except cane grubs. In this documentary featurette, filmmaker Mark Lewis extracts as much grim humor as possible from this problem–which persists–with all its grotesque ramifications. (The strange mating habits of cane toads are described in detail; their poison has not only caused ecological disaster in the area, but also has served as an illegal hallucinogenic drug; many children treat the toads as pets; and so on.) On the same program, and much more interesting as filmmaking, are three highly original independent shorts by New Zealand filmmaker Jane Campion, all of them made while she was attending the Australian Film and Television School: Peel (1981) and A Girl’s Own Story (1984) are about family quarrels and transgressions; the remarkable Passionless Moments (1984), made with Gerard Lee, is a series of fictional miniessays that defy description. All three Campion films are strikingly photographed and edited, and comprise the most interesting Australian independent work that I’ve seen. (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Saturday, August 20, 6:00 and 8:00, and Sunday, August 21, 4:00 and 6:00, 443-3737)… Read more »

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master

Robert Englund is back as Freddy Kreuger in the fourth installment of the popular horror series; Finnish director Renny Harlin directed from a story by William Kotzwinkle and Brian Helgeland. Having missed the three previous installments in the cycle, I found much of the story only semicomprehensible–even after a few explanatory plot points were thrown my way about 40 minutes into the film–but it’s hard to think of many other movies where narrative is so thoroughly beside the point. This is a series of extravagant visual set pieces, one right after the other, drawing upon such sources as Keaton’s Sherlock Jr. and Through the Looking Glass, with the usual collection of Silly Putty special effects that one expects from current horror films. Harlin’s arsenal of conceits and visual effects–pirouetting overhead angles, dancing trigonometry formulas, a pizza flavored with tiny human heads, a lot of fancy play with a water bed, and much, much more–keeps it consistently watchable and inventive. With Lisa Wilcox, Andras Jones, Tuesday Knight, Ken Sagoes, Danny Hassel, and Toy Newkirk; and the combined special effects talents of Steve Johnson, John Buechler, Kevin Yagher, and Screaming Mad George. (Bolingbrook, Chestnut Station, Forest Park, Golf Mill, Orland Square, Plaza, Woodfield, Dearborn, Hyde Park, Norridge, Evanston, Evergreen, Hillside Square, Bel-Air Drive-In, Double Drive-In)… Read more »