The Hardcore Collection: The Films of Richard Kern – Review

The Hardcore Collection: The Films of Richard Kern

with Lydia Lunch, Emilio Cubeiro
Directed by Nick Zedd
(Third Wave Media)
by Scott Hefflon
(images borrowed from

Three bonus films on this DVD make this gritty classic worth picking up for anyone interested in New York City trash visionary Richard Kern. There are “annoying” music videos for “alternative” bands like Sonic Youth, Foetus, Cop Shoot Cop (and not included in this collection, Marilyn Manson, The Breeders, and King Missile – yes, “Detachable Penis”), “confusing” psycho-dramas (Lydia Lunch masturbates while a skinny, smoking guy puts on shoes and gets his rifle, strolling through the dingy apartment, and when he teases the barrel between her open thighs, the running white trash poetry reaching the phrase “it hurts like hell, and that’s better than nothing”), and comical/perverse shorts (that’s short for short films, in case you missed that brief and shining moment when a lot of us thought that “indie films” were gonna topple Hollywood, maaaan, cuz we had the ideas and low-budget grit was cool and fresh and dangerous, much like punk rock before it too was devoured and assimilated) filled with statements and urgency and all that (remember that most of these were filmed during the mid-’80s, the Reagan years, and there’s not a Eurofag in a turtleneck with a long cigarette and one of those silly hats to be seen). Um, and there’re a lot of naked chicks, in case yer having trouble reading between the lines here…

Richard Kern’s been praised (and vilified, but fuck those pussies) by far better and far worse “critics” than me, so understand that this lil’ review is nothing but a reminder of the classics that Film Threat released in the mid-’90s (now with three additional shorts), or maybe an introduction to a whole new world ya never knew existed. Better yet, a sickening underbelly that “the powers that be” keep hidden in the dark recesses, but now you’ve got the flashlight pointed down that moist, foul-smelling corridor, so whatcha gonna do? Hey, everyone discovers depravity in their own time, in their own way, and there’s no shame in getting squeamish at first, realizing that you’ve had your head up your ass all your life until this very moment… Don’t beat yourself up, kiddo (there are plenty of people trying to do that for you). What matters now is what you do now that you know, ya know?

“One afternoon in 1971, I skipped my 10th grade classes to hitchhike 30 miles to a mall in Rocky Mount, NC on Interstate 95. Heading north to get back home, a beat-up old car full of young NYC glam girls returning from Florida stopped for me. I piled in and was immediately captivated. Theirs was a world known to me only through magazines and movies. They told me stories of rock stars they knew and had sex with. They had weird haircuts. Vinyl hot pants, cut-off shorts, halter tops and platform shoes barely concealed their vitality. I sat there in the back seat; crammed between two cute ‘older girls’ (they were eighteen or nineteen) with my mouth hanging open like the hick that I was.”

See, even Kern himself pokes fun at his own introduction to the seething, slimy world of sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll. It was there long before him, and someone else’ll be doing it long after he loses his taste for it.

To sum up (like describing snow to a blind beach bunny who’s never left the tropics – simply put, can’t you two think of anything better to do, hotshot?): “Death Valley 69” is a Sonic Youth video showing all the gory carnage of Manson’s famous slaughter. There’s also live footage of the band, shots following a missile, and Lung Leg freaking out (don’t know what else she’s done in life, but this skinny, young-looking, mop-headed chick is sexy and demented in ways words cannot describe – think Ally Sheedy as the “freak” in The Breakfast Club, then give her a sharp knife, some real mental problems, and watch her get fisted as she cuts herself up).

“The Right Side of My Brain” is the Lydia Lunch poetry beating I mentioned before. Pre-buzzcut Henry Rollins fondles and smacks her around as well, and the final four minutes is Lydia’s croaking narrative as she fondles a tied-up Asian hottie. Like that’s ever a bad thing…

“You Killed Me First” is an ’85 film starring Lung Leg as the misfit daughter in an oppressive family. Painful to watch as it reminds any freak of their upbringing, ranting barely sensible rants against rules and control and God and hypocrisy and hate and pressure and all the normal shit, making crappy “art” your parents storm into your room to destroy, and then the daughter freaks, gets the family gun, and kills everyone at the dinner table.

“The Bitches” is basically a disturbing porn. As real industrial music clanks and slithers, two competing women striptease for an arched-eyebrow long-hair. Then everyone gropes everyone. Before you think it’s gonna be standard porn (now that jock bimbo cheerleaders have tattoos and piercings, this stuff earns its name as hardcore, and this shit’s from ’92!), one of the girls applies make-up to the guy as the other girl goes down on her and jerks him off. And then things get busy. Like Nine Inch Nails sparse sound collages (where do ya think Trent got the idea?), people fondle and pet and lick and laugh and the strobe flashes and the high-contrast black & white captures what a lot of men would consider their threesome fantasy: Two girls, one guy, everyone doing everyone and having a grand ol’ time. And then the girls put on their strap-ons. And the guy dons a nightie. He gets “cock”-whipped by one girl as the other sneers and fucks his ass, pulling out to slap “beef” on buttcheek every so often. The first “ejaculates” gallons all over the guy’s excited face and he sucks for more, his poutty Mick Jagger lips wrapping around rubber cock like a pro.

“The Sewing Circle” is seven-minute “documentary” of Kimbra Pfahler getting her cunt sewn shut.

“X is Y” shows scantily-clad chicks with all kinds of guns spinning and crawling around and looking sexy and crazy, with irritating loops of “666” and “You have been disconnected” and the busy signal by Cop Shoot Cop.

“Fingered” is the most notorious of Kern’s films. The content of these 25-minutes has gotten him praised and attacked, and that means it’s powerful, ya know? Lydia Lunch plays a trashy phone sex bitch who gets a call from a “little boy” Joey who likes to watch mommy undress, but then starts tirading about what a “smelling cunt” his mom is, and how he wants to fuck her ass and makes all kinds of racial slurs, and the next call is from a dirty rocker who utters the classic “you were born to worship my fuckin’ cock and slurp on my knob and tongue my ball sack and take my load of spew right in your fuckin’ face.” Funny how a shirtless dirtbag in a leather jacket jacking off while leaning against a workbench, filmed in grainy black & white can pull off a line like that while rubbing his hairy belly, and all the shaved Adonis-dorks and their frosted-hair air-brush queens can only repeat “Oh baby,” and not even get that right…

So they meet, she gives him a grinding table dance, they go into a bedroom where he calls her every name there is while fisting her and spanking her hard, and on the way out, he cuts a pudgy middle aged guy’s throat for being on the sidewalk, and they head out to hicksville, where a yahoo buddy gets too grabby and gets stabbed in the leg, and later down the road, shithead decides she needs his cock, pulls over, and fucks her with a pistol, then dogs her on the hood of the car as she fires off six rounds into the air. They drive more, cuddle, talk dirty and insult each other, pick up a teenage hitchhiker and then molest and chase her around and slap and punch her tiny, bloody body as it squirms in the gravel. Then the cops show up and the credits roll. Simply put, you will not be quite the same after you see this ’86 classic. Erotic and horrifying and brutal and sleazily sexy and painful to watch and one of those rare experiences where you’re torn in so many directions, you need to take a brisk walk afterwards. That’s the end of side one…

On the flipside of the DVD are six more films, beginning with “Horoscope,” a five-minute daydream of a female office worker who breaks for lunch, goes home, and daytime TV coughs up two skinny naked guys (one painted gray-green like a statue) who dance for her until she joins in, writhing about on the hardwood floor, and then she wakes up (wearing something different than when she dozed off, I might add) and goes back to work.

“Submit to Me Now” is a collection of character developments or whatever. Each section is between 30 seconds to several minutes, and may involve one character with geckos crawling over her as lights flash and Zeppelin is ripped off, or a couple ’80s-looking strippers getting nasty as a rockabilly guy jerks off and some Goth chick drips wax from penis-shaped candles and Lydia sucks a blade and generally rolls around naked, humping a cane and staring meaningfully into the camera while jamming fingers into her mouth. Then more people dance and strip and spin and hang from the ceiling in bondage-wear and touch themselves as they bleed and wrap chords tightly around their heads and cry and freak out and carve their throats open and tear their nasty bits out and a woman in a fur coat and lingerie empties her pocket of knives, then cuts off all her clothing and begins cutting her flesh apart, gouging out and driving a stake through her stomach as she goes. Then a mop-top pretty (crazy-looking) boy escapes from a strait-jacket, and a hapless guy gets tied to the floor by a blonde-wigged woman who cuts his clothes off with a knife and starts driving sharpened stakes into his chest, guts, hands, face, and leg. Music for this 18-minute flight of madness is provided by a number of New York noise-makers: Chipsk, Scraping Foetus off the Wheel, Bewitched, Foetus All Nude Review, Lydia Lunch/Thurston Moore, and Black Snakes.

 “My Nightmare” is simply a fantasy of Kern’s. He wakes’n’whacks, and the scenes he’s picturing are of a sweet young thing stripping and doing a photoshoot for him, sometimes getting spanked half out of a schoolgirl uniform, sometimes peeing into a glass for him to drink from, sometimes lathering herself (and him) up, sometimes smiling coyly at the camera as he goes down on her, all the while cutting back to Kern still lying in bed, jacking away, from a variety of angles. In the end, she straddles him as he masturbates furiously, fondling one breast and then another as she sways and smiles, fluctuating between color and black & white, until he cums onto his belly, the camera looking down his chest first-person-style, and he fingerpaints his spooge a bit before getting out of bed. As he jogs to the door, he wipes his hands on his jeans, having not wiped at all as he got dressed, and opens the door for the girl he just whacked off to in his fantasy. They shake hands, she signs the model release form and goes into the bathroom to do her make-up, pushing him out as he follows. Later, he snaps photos as she sways around in less and less clothing, and when he attempts to “direct” her (laying his hands on that sweet ass and turning it this way and that, she keeps pushing him away until she finally slaps him, gives the camera the finger, and storms out. Music is by Jim Coleman, and that’s the only real difference between Kern’s and most of our fantasies. Oh, and Kern was smart enough to make his silent. The man’s a genius.

The closing three films are supposedly exclusive to this DVD, but I seem to recall seeing them all. Film Threat probably released them on some other VHS release I had which has since been stolen by some dumb bitch I drank with or fucked (preferably both) who thought it looked daring and cool but wouldn’t get it even if I explained its historical significance.

“Manhattan Love Suicides” chronicles a series of twisted relationships in NYC which all end in grisly death. The first segment, “Stray Dogs” is a ten-minute piece accompanied by J.G. Thirlwell (the guy from the many forms of Foetus, in case you haven’t picked up on that yet) in which a twitchy male fan follows home an artist who finds him repulsive. The fan gets sad and jealous and filled with rage and, well, literally goes to pieces, bloody body parts falling off, much to the artist’s annoyance. But the artist finally sketches him, and the credits roll. Never did get that one…

Next up is the six-minute “Woman at the Wheel.” To the accompaniment of Wiseblood, a woman in a blonde wig picks up first a poor guy (Nick Zedd) who wants to drive and they swear at each other until she throws him out, and then a rich guy drives and they swear at each other until she hits him over the head with a bottle and dumps his ass. Then she drives out of the city, out to the wasteland or something, where she gets pestered by some jerks. She turns around and runs them over, fantasizing about having an orgy with them, and then she, um, screams and drives into a wall at what looks like 20 mph.

The next segment has always been a favorite of mine, just cuz it makes sense to me (funny how that helps, huh?). The eight-minute “Thrust in Me” is a collaborative effort by Kern and Nick Zedd. Zedd stars as Man/Woman in this Dream Syndicate-musiced piece that cuts between the unhappy woman (Zedd) and the angry man (Zedd) as she mopes about the apartment reading “How to Be Your Own Best Friend” and “Suicide” and he walks into people on the street and they walk around him cuz he’s just so angry and annoyed at having to take another breath in this shithole world… The music drones on, she goes into the bathroom and cries (or whatever women do in there), and he stomps through parks and graffiti-lined alleys, scowling at everything and kicking trash. She draws a bath, sticks the Jesus-adorned cover of Collection of Selected Prayers to the plaster-cracked bathroom wall, strips, and climbs into the tub (Zedd is replaced with a woman, at this point) as he walks into an argument between a whore and her pimp (he pushes the pimp to the ground as the whore cackles) and stomps on. She slices her wrists open and bleeds to death beneath the pained eyes of Christ as he storms up the stairs and into the apartment, paces, has a drink, takes a dump, realizes too late there’s no toilet paper, wipes his ass with the cover of Jesus’ benevolent face, and is about to leave when he notices his girlfriend dead in the bathtub. So, after a moment of shock, he does what anyone would do, he whips his dick out and face-fucks his dead girlfriend. We get to watch from a variety of angles as he thrusts in her (hence the title) before he comes all over her face (we switch back to what looks like a profile shot of Zedd in a wig again, but who knows?) and shot after shot of comeshots coming all over the place, again in a dramatically-lit profile shot with all scenery blacked out so you can really enjoy every detail of 20 seconds of near-comic spurting, in theory, totally hosing the dead woman’s face. Then Zedd stands on his roof, overlooking the city like maybe Batman or someone, but we usually don’t think of Batman as having recently face-fucked his dead girlfriend. Credits roll.

The final 10-minute segment is “I Hate You Now,” perhaps a twist on the tale of the guy with the watch who sells his watch to buy her a comb for her hair, but she sold her hair to buy him a chain for his watch, so they’re both fucked. But in this case, he sells pot and she burns her face with an iron (cuz his face is all deformed and freaky-looking) but he gets mad and pushes her to the floor, and then goes to lift weights (of course, cuz that’s what you do) but drops them on his neck and dies and she screams a lot and gets the frying pan she cooked eggs for him in after they fucked in the opening scene and she strips off her nightgown and steps into the greasefire and dies. Loudly.

“Submit to Me” opens with luscious Lydia fondling her ample bosom as The Butthole Surfers feedback everything they can find and various men and women dance and strip and masturbate and roll around tied up, screaming and freaking out and beating the shit out of each other and bleeding and shit for 10 minutes.

“The Evil Cameraman” is another closer depicting Kern as a pervert photographer, tying up women and sometimes getting slapped for fondling their buttocks. Some girls are very docile as he binds, gags, and bags their heads, others put up a bit of a fight as he suspends and rotates them like chicken on a rotisserie. The story quick cuts (unnecessarily) two years, and the perv is still up to his old tricks, thumbtacking a woman to the wall with red ribbons, but later showing her his big, floppy dick with a swastika “tattoo” black-markered on his belly and she freaks. And our final girl is a pain in the ass to work with despite the wad of cash, and she lets him slowly strip her and cut off her clothing (he uses an elaborate crank’n’pulley set-up to slowly stretch her panties after cutting weakening holes in the fabric, slowly pulling the material tighter across her round ass until it finally tears and falls away, Kern’s eyebrows jumping as he closes in for a bite of that bottom, but she kicks him in the chest and storms off as the credits roll. Foetus provides the soundtrack.