Eclectic DVD recently brought a slice, or rather 20 slices, of Los Angeles underground-film history to light with its release of Cut Shorts:A Collection of Short Films and Music Videos by David Markey From 1974–2004. Markey, a Los Angeles native who started making Super-8 movies when he was 11, is best known for the punk-inspired, cult-classic feature Desperate Teenage Lovedolls (1984) and the documentary 1991: The Year Punk Broke (1992), about his time on tour with Sonic Youth and Nirvana. The short works collected on this DVD, some of which are making their home-video debuts, illuminate Markey’s rise from preteen auteur to do-it-yourself darling of the art-rock set. It is not, strictly speaking, a story of maturation and refinement: Markey’s ultralow-budget camp aesthetic emerges almost fully formed in his earliest effort, The Devil’s Exorcist (1974), a goofy Super-8 horror show in which a zombified adolescent terrorizes the schoolchildren of Markey’s multiracial Santa Monica neighborhood. Backyards, parking lots, vacant fields and alleys make up the film’s urban milieu, while sun flares and camera-light leaks resonate with the memories of a thousand endless California summers. By the ’80s, the neighborhood kids that form the heart of Markey’s amateur troupe grew up into skaters, potheads and punk-rock singers, and Markey’s work took on a darker, more agitated tone. In Plasticland, a teenager’s bedroom plays host to strange rituals of apocalyptic patriotism, while in Stoner Park, a band of happy-go-lucky stoners defend their community center from marauding Satanists. Despite the hardscrabble feel of his work, Markey sometimes drifts into self-indulgence, as in a series of shorts, including Lou Believers and Rap Damage, that turn entirely on the hammy antics of Sonic Youth front man Thurston Moore acting like an ass on Hollywood Boulevard or Venice Beach. Even here, Markey never completely loses our sympathy, if only for the strong sense of location that permeates his every grainy frame.
Other recommended new releases: Border Incident (DVD); Each Dawn I Die (DVD); Lady in the Lake (DVD); On Dangerous Ground (DVD); Tsotsi (DVD).
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Also released this week: DVD: Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.: The Complete Series; Anathema: A Moment in Time; Asphalt; Bullets or Ballots; The Cavern; City for Conquest; Don’t Move; Dr. Mabuse; An Early Frost; Edison Force; The Gambler; ‘G’ Men; H2O; Harry Knuckles and the Pearl Necklace; His Kind of Woman; Louisiana on My Mind; One Life, One Chance; A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, Volume 3 & Volume 4; The Racket; Road House: Deluxe Edition; Road House 2; San Quentin; The Second Chance; A Slight Case of Murder; Some Like It Hot: Collector’s Edition; The Suite Life of Zack & Cody; Sybil; That’s So Raven; Warning Shadows.