Popatopalis (2009)



Jim Wynorski is a B-movie legend. The man behind the 80's classics Chopping MallDeathStalker II, and Not of This Earth, certainly needs to be held high in the pantheon of directors that includes Roger Corman, Lee Kaufman and other greats. So what happens when a venerable director such as Wynorski decides to go completely bare bones and make his next film with essentially a crew of two and in only THREE days? As the documentary Popatopalis shows us, it goes about as well as one can expect, which is not well. Somehow, by nook and by crook Wynorski manages to pull it off, and the story is fascinating.

Jim Wynorski is pissed. He's waiting in a parking lot for an actress who is over a half an hour late. He laments even casting her. Although as we soon learn, the casting process was little more than having the actress slip on a tight T-shirt and run around a tennis court. Such is the way things are with a Wynorski production.

He sets his next film the completely ridiculously titled The Witches of Breastwick (yup it's a parody title of a 20+ year old film) in a remote cabin. Hence his idea to gather all the actors in one cabin and have them live there. Makes sense, until you realize that this particular cabin not only has no food, it also lacks other important things - like towels. Don't even begin to start thinking about hair and make up either, it's come as you are and there's only one small mirror.

The Cast is gradually introduced, usually through a series of follies that some how manage to piss Wynorski off. Like getting lost on the way to the cabin or being unable to back a Trans-Am up a driveway. It's a mix of Wynorski vets, newcomers and much to their chagrin, hard core porn actress Stormy Daniels.

Many of the folks around Wynorski lament the fact that his movies have come to casting certain types of ladies, like Daniels, instead of the typical B-movie starlet. However as frequent Wynorski collaborator Julie Strain points out, there really are no typical B-Movie actresses anymore. You are either "A" or "C" - which is not necessarily true. I'm sure Debbie Rochon or Tiffany Shepis would disagree.

The presence of Daniels also leads to the saddest part of the documentary in which everyone, including Wynorski himself laments on how the quality of the films he makes has certainly decreased. There's no denying the fact that early films like Chopping Mall are certainly better, quality wise than Witches. But is that a product of the movie making culture of of Wynorskis own complacency? It's a point that's certainly up for debate.

It would be remiss of me not to point out the lovely interview the documentarians do with Jim's mother. A sweet old Jewish woman who can barely figure out how to hang up the phone let alone wrap her head around the fact her son films lesbian, threesome, hot tub scenes.

I watch a ton of documentaries, probably more than actual films, but I don't often write about them. Popatopolis is the exception. It's wonderfully done. If you are looking for a funny, yet heartfelt look behind the scenes of  the side of an industry you don't really hear about - check Popatopolis out.

Popatopolis is now available for instant streaming on Netflix.


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