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Friday, June 25, 2010

"Popatopolis" review

Popatopolis (2009)

Director: Clay Westervelt
Writer: Clay Westervelt

Jim Wynorski

So I was in a strip club in the San Gabriel Valley when Stormy Daniels strutted in. She was the feature performer that night and you could get your picture taken with her for $20. Who was I to deny myself this pleasure? Also, I had just reviewed "The Witches of Breastwick" and I wanted to talk to her about the movie. Stormy was very open and honest with me about the making of this softcore flick. She told me she got paid $800. For comparison, she told me she gets paid $8,000 to direct a hardcore flick. I asked her about her Co-stars and she said that Glori-Anne Gilbert was a very sweet girl. I asked her why she thought Wynorski put her in the movie since I didn't perceive any charisma in Glori-Anne. She said that Glori-Anne was Wynorski's girlfriend. Ahh, it all makes sense now. She also talked about how Julie Smith was not happy that she was there and that Julie argued with Wynorski all the time. She also never received a DVD of the movie but she did get a VHS tape. It was an enlightening and pleasant conversation. Little did I know that four years later I would watch a documentary about the making of "Witches of Breastwick" which complemented my late night strip club conversation.

"Popatopolis" is a documentary about breasts, B-movies, porn stars, greed, and a man who epitomizes cut-throat filmmaking. I am referring to Jim Wynorski, the most prolific, (and shameless), B-movie maker working today. This documentary follows Wynorski as he goes through the motions of bringing his latest softcore flick, "The Witches of Breastwick", to life. But it's also about the rise and fall of Wynorski and how he has let himself get corrupted by the never ending checks flowing from the bottomless coffers of late night cable.

"Popatopolis" is a fascinating documentary. Speaking as a guy who has not only seen "Witches of Breastwick" but has sat through many Wynorski late night flicks, this documentary really pushed a button in me. I had an image in my head of the guy who cranked out "Breastford Wives", "The Hills have Thighs" and "Cleavagefield" and it was reinforced after watching Wynorski in action. Now I can safely say that Wynorski only cares about himself and his $65,000 check from Cinemax. There is nothing else in his life that matters. Making movies only irritates him as it slows down his ability to get paid.

"Popatopolis" starts off with Wynorski saying he's a big movie fan. He runs through his house showing off his video stashes in the kitchen and in the bedroom. The dichotomy of Wynorski as a movie fan and Wynorski as a director just doesn't make any sense. How can this guy profess to being a movie fan and still live with himself for cranking out some of the movies he's attached his name to? Has he not picked up any filmmaking techniques from watching countless films?

The only techniques Wynorski has picked up over the years is in the art of getting away with it. When Wynorski was working with Roger Corman, he actually made an effort to produce some quality B-movies. "Not of this Earth" and "Chopping Mall" were both fun B-movies. But left to his own devices, Wynorski just wants to get the annoying filmmaking process out of the way so that he can collect his money. Actors, actresses and the crew are only there to irritate him as he barks his way through the production.

"Popatpolis" shines a light on how much Wynorski cares, (very little), for the other people who make his movies possible. When the cast and crew arrive at the cabin for the shoot, they are surprised to find out that there are no amenities available. There are no towels or working can openers. Of course that doesn't matter since there's no food to eat anyway. I thought there was only going to be one bed to share and Wynorski was going to have all of the ladies pile onto his to save some space.

Speaking of ladies, the three babes in "Witches of Breastwick" are the topless muses that keep Wynorski's creative juices flowing. Julie Smith, Glori-Anne Gilbert and Stormy Daniels are the witches and they will pop their tops at Wynorski's command. Monique Parent also shows up at the destitute cabin and her top will be popped at some point during the shoot.

Julie Strain and Julie Smith, (Big and Little Julies), are given the chance to reflect on Wynorski and B-movies in general. Both of them seem a little melancholy over the state of the industry and how Wynorski has changed over the years. Big Julie can not even bring herself to refer to what Wynorski is filming these days as B-movies. She has to call them C-movies. Both of them seem slightly offended, (especially little Julie), that porn stars are now able to get into B-movies. Julie Smith has been working with Wynorski for awhile and even though she tries to defend him, it can't be denied that Wynorski's lust for profit means less interesting B-films and more mindless softcore sex flicks. Of course when Julie Smith shows up in one of Wynorski's softcore movies, I'm not complaining.

One of the most fascinating aspects of this documentary is watching Wynorski's directing style (or lack thereof). In one protracted scene, he tortures Julie Smith until she gets a line about a tow truck right. He makes her repeat the line over and over until she reads it exactly as written. Torturing his one good actress interests him and yet in other scenes Wynorski show no directing interest at all. There's another scene where Stormy, Monique and Glori-Anne are in a hot tub and Wynorski doesn't do anything to move the scene forward except sit on his rear end while the girls go at it. If these are the money shots in the flick, why isn't Wynorski offering any advice on how to make the scene better? This one scene, (and Stormy's sex scene against the tree), clearly illustrate how much Wynorski cares, (very little), about sex scenes. They seem to bore him so he just lets them play out naturally. It's up to the performers to improvise their way through them as Wynorski takes a nap and dreams of his paycheck.

"Popatopolis" highlights the real tragedy of Jim Wynorski. If Wynorski was just some guy using a fake name to film fake sex, no one would care about him. There wouldn't be a documentary about him. People who he's berated and screamed at for years would not be sticking up for him if there wasn't at least something there to like. B-movie fans can only bring themselves to praise the movies he made in the late 80's to mid-90's because every movie since then has been a rush job to get in the hands of his masters at Cinemax. He's an ambitious guy who has a manic need to make films but he can't seem to bring himself to expend too much energy to make the movies really enjoyable. We've seen him make good movies in the past and we know he has the skill to do it but his lust for more money overrides any and all other filmmaking needs.

"Popatopolis" is the best movie Wynorski has been associated with in fifteen years. It's a documentary that should be seen by B-movie fans. It is an honest look at Jim Wynorski and his mercenary filmmaking style. It may also scare you away from the B-movie world after seeing the utter lack of glamour associated with it's unrelenting production schedule. "Popatopolis" won't endear people to Wynorski but it does help to understand the mindset of a rapid fire filmmaker.

SCORE: 3.5 out of 4 Wynorskis in action

Wynorski gives the number one lesson in B-movie making: Pop that top.

13 comments:

Julie K Smith said...

THERE'S 3 SIDES TO EVERY STORY...AND I THINK IT'S ONLY FAIR, (SINCE U GOT A 'VERSION' OF A BACK STORY, FROM NONE OTHER THAN 'STORMY' HERSELF) THAT I 2 INDULGE U, AND WHATEVER FANS MAY READ THIS...THE T R U T H!!!! HERE WE GO... JIM THRU A FAIRLY BIG CHUNK OF DIALOGE @ ME 1 HR B4 SHOOT'N THAT SCENE!! HE LIED 2 ME BOUT THE FOUR PORN-STARS THAT WERE GONA B INVOLVED IN IT! STORMY IS A NICE GIRL, BUT I SHOULD HAVE BEEN TOLD IN ADVANCE BOUT IT! I THEN COULD'VE, AND WOULD'VE, SAID 'NO' 2 THAT PIC!! TOP IT OFF W/ NO FOOD, NO TOWELS, NO VEGGIES, NO PHONES, AND U GOT URSELF ONE ANGRY 'JULIE K'! ALTHOUGH I WAS FURIOUS ON MOST OF THAT PIC...I WAS A PRO, STAYED, FINISHED IT, AND ALL THAT EVER MATTERS @ THE END OF A FILM IS WHAT U SEE ON SCREEN!! TATA FOR NOW MY SWEETS...XoX

Dr. Gore said...

Hey,

The making of "Witches of Breastwick" may not have been the most pleasant experience but at least we got "Popatopolis" out of it. It was a very intriguing look at the ruthless mechanics of B-movie making. I don't know if Wynorski's way of doing it is the only way but it can't be denied he has the drive to keep things on track. Whether the track leads to something good is debateable.

Also was interested in learning that you think seduction is more arousing than the actual sex scene. So you're more a "9 1/2 Weeks" woman than "Basic Instinct"? You see Ms JKS, I'm a listener. I pay attention when it's important.

the sneering (homo-phobic) snob said...

Dr. Gore, with regards to the poster, could you mask that silly bastard Wynorski out of the image because i cant jerk-off to it with that bloody tosser still in the shot, thanks.

Michael Whiteacre said...

Not only did she stay and finish the movie like the pro that she is, JKS immediately agreed to my offer (I asked her during a break in shooting) for her and Taimie Hannum to do a pick-up scene for my movie, "Call Girl Wives." I haven't seen "Popatopolis," (although I hear I'm in it, as I spent a few days on set) and consequently I don't know what material of Jim directing or abusing Julie it contains, but one can be assured that, when she was under my direction (and providing my favorite performance of the movie, BTW) I treated her with kindness, respect and affection -- the same as she has always done for me on other sets and whenever we'd run into each other.


And her recollection about the amenities (or lack thereof) are similar to mine.

Dr. Gore said...

You know, I really can't see you treating women the way Wynorski does. When it comes to JKS, you'd have to be a fool to try to argue and yell your way through a shoot with her.

You most certainly are in "Popatopolis". The very last scene has Wynorski talking to you at the end of the shoot by a camera as he tells you something like, "And that's how you shoot a movie in three days." He then mentions how screwed he'd be if he took the first bet, (subtitles at the bottom of the screen tell us that the original bet was doing a movie in two days.)

Julie Smith is the voice of reason during the movie as she wishes Wynorski could behave differently but then resigns herself to the way he is. "Popatopolis" tries to celebrate Wynorski and his B-movie making ways but the grinding reality of his process makes him hard to sympathize with.

Still, the man loves Julie Smith and I can certainly sympathize with that.

Michael Whiteacre said...

I remember that conversation vividly. I had, at one point, lined up investors for one of the two-day productions for him. The original idea was indeed to shoot it in two days -- just as I, a novice, had done a few months earlier with "Call Girl Wives." I suggested he piggyback two shoots in four, maybe five, days, and shoot scenes as needed for either movie (the second movie was "Lust Connection,") whenever girls of "name value" were on set. This way one would end up with two stellar casts. Jim, for whatever reason (probably based on the particular way he puts a movie together as he goes) decided against that and shot out Breastwick in its entirety before moving on to the second movie.


You know, I've been on enough of those sets to sympathize with Jim to a large extent -- especially whenever one is dealing with a "mixed talent pool." But he's certainly not everyone's cup of tea. He's said things on set which I would never, but by the same token, I've found myself quoting him often. And he does say some hilarious shit at times. I guess I'll have to catch this one.

Jim Wynorski said...

Hey, Doc, just got another big check today from Cinemax- Julie K. and I will be off next week to Hawaii to scout locations for another couple 3-day wonders. See you all on cable. Jim W.


PS: Mahalo for removing your tops.

Dr. Gore said...

Jim,

Do you throw the Cinemax money in the air and then roll around in it while laughing maniacally? Or do you build forts out of hundred dollar bills with it and sit quietly in your castle?

Why bother scouting for locations in Hawaii? Don't you have a timeshare that you can film "Busty Cops get a Tan" in? I know I've seen the same waterfall in "Alabama Jones" and a few others.

And don't forget to bring some macadamia nuts in case the cast and crew gets hungry. But get the unsalted kind because the regular ones cost too much. You don't want to eat into your 1000% profit. Just make sure to splurge a little on Julie K. I think we can both agree that she's the best thing that's happened to you. Those Cinemax checks would not be so big without her.

Aloha.

Jim Wynorski said...

Hey Doc, just got your post in the email box, and had to laugh. You're right in many respects regarding the erotic three day wonders. They do pay the bills, yet are hardly the type of movies I appreciate.


But in my own defense, I will say that, despite my low budgets, I still try to make the best films I can for the time and money. By adding CGI, exotic locations and spending the extra bucks on better looking women, I think I've earned a certain respect with the late night cable crowd. In my less-than-humble opinion, the competition never even comes close to the production values I can deliver. The audience may not know my name, but they do appreciate the work. I assume that's why so many of my movies play on the pay services almost every single night of the week.


Yeah, I'd much prefer to be making a horror or sci-fi picture, but times in the movie business are always changing. It's not the 80's and 90's anymore. I still get to make shows like DINOCROC VS. SUPERGATOR and the upcoming CAMEL SPIDERS, but the time in-between those types of shows has expanded - and one has to change with the times to survive.


In conclusion, I will say that Julie K.Smith is definitely one-of-a-kind on so many levels. She's sexy, busty, smart and talented; but she's also got a great heart - which is what always draws me to her. I guess that's why half her filmography are shows I either produced or directed.


I guess that's it for now. Aloha back and have a good summer. Jim Wynorski

Dr. Gore said...

Jim,

It's good to know that at least we can find some common ground. I think we are both on the same page in regards to Julie Smith. As in hot, hot, hot. Fun to watch in all of her endeavors. And I will concede that you have an eye for buxom beauty. Wynorski flick is slang for large breasts.

And I think we are also in agreement that the sex scenes don't interest you too much. I didn't see much directing during the sex scenes in "Witches of Breastwick". Instead of focusing energy on CGI and how fat the monster should be in "Cleavagefield", I would humbly suggest spending some more time dreaming up erotic situations for (y)our favorite sex muse, (Ms JKS of course), to get into. A little more TLC in these carnal areas is what late night cinema really needs.

As far as your competition, I assume you're referring to your doppelganger Fred Olen Ray and his stable of Bikini movies. They are redundant for sure but he manages to get one or two decent sex scenes out of them. The other competition comes from the countless late night TV shows. Now there's something made for you. Get on salary at Cinemax and make a weekly series. You'll be bankrolling "Chopping Mall 2" before you know it.

I understand the B-movie business model. Fast, cheap and out of control. Of course that's not going to translate into good movies. Remember Jim, you're a movie fan. No one picks "Arch Stanton" as a pseudonym if they didn't know movies. Blessed are the risk takers. It wouldn't bankrupt you if you spent 5 days doing a movie. But it may cut into your Hawaiian vacation.

Julie K Smith said...

LALALOVES IT!!! DR.GORE U HAVE 'MANY' A GOOD POINT HERE! JIMMY 'D'...AFTER OUR HEART 2 HEART...I THINK WE CAN ALL AGREE... THAT LATE NIGHT, IS ABOUT 2 GET A MUCH NEEDED FACELIFT, AND MAYBE A LIL BOTOX! HERE'S 2 Y'ALL LOOK'N @ MORE,MORE,MORE OF ME,ME,ME...2 B CONTINUED!

JULIE K SMITH said...

Dr. Thought id stop & share w/ u the very good news regarding this horrific experience of a project...(POPPEDMYTOPATJIMFUCKINGWYNORSKI) I WON THE 'BEST VICTIM AWARD' @ CINEFANTASTY FILM FESTIVAL IN BRAZIL...HOW BOUT THAT FOR KARMA!!!! hehehe...& still he laughs all the way to the bank, but the simpathy from the public helps ...a bit! Thanx for the support w/ my new blogspot your my #1...always! XoX

Dr. Gore said...

Julie,

Glad to see something good came out of the "Witches of Breastwick". The Cinefantasy people know a good thing when they see it. Actually, "Popatopolis" was another positive to come out of the Breastwick trauma. And Wynorski laughs all the way to his golden limo.