Up In Flames
Released by: Impulse Pictures
Released on: August 19th, 2014.
Director: John Seman
Cast: Kelly Mint, Erica Havens, Heather Young, Frank Marks, Fred Lee, Bob Robins John Seman
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The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers remain some of the most recognizable underground comix characters to come out of the movement in the late sixties and into the seventies. Created by Gilbert Shelton in 1968, the series revolved around three friends – Freewheelin’ Frankie Freek, Phineas Freak and Fat Freddy Freekotowski – who have a penchant for sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. John Seman’s sixty-minute feature, Up In Flames, was directed in 1978 and is an unauthorized cinematic adaptation of the series, but it also works in Robert Crumb’s Mr. Natural character.
When the movie begins, The Freak Brothers are in trouble – they haven’t paid their rent in a while and the landlady, Delores (Colleen Anderson credited as Kelly Mint), has had enough of their shenanigans. Now the names have been changed a bit for the movie, as the Freak Brothers are now comprised of Vinnie, Frank and Fat Freddie. It’s also worth noting that Fat Freddie isn’t fat at all, in fact he’s a bit of a beanpole. But these are, for all intents and purposes, the characters from Shelton’s comic book series.
At any rate, in order to come up with the cash that they need to stop the landlady from kicking them out onto the streets, they decide to go out and look for work. Fat Freddy lands a gig working for an old man named Mr. Natural (played by director Seman) who pushes his vitamins the way a dope pusher would peddle weed. Freddy isn’t the only employee though, Mr. Natural has two lovely ladies on his payroll and when their sales don’t take off the way he wants, they pay him back in booty. Mr. Natural then gives Freddy some ‘vita-beans’ that will help him score with chicks the way he can.
From there, Frank puts on his finest white leisure suit and sets out to woo Delores in hopes that his lovemaking abilities will convince her to forgive their debt. He succeeds in getting into her pants but once it’s over with, she’s back to business. Better luck next time, Frankie. Delores, on the other hand, some more than a little intrigued by the foxy lady who rents one of the other rooms in her place. While all of this is going on, Vinnie takes up painting and soon finds a client (Erica Havens) that is after more than just his brush skills It doesn’t go his way, but then, it doesn’t go her way either – before it’s all over, Mr. Natural will win the day!
The film was previously released by Something Weird Video on volume nine of its Dragon Art Theater line where it was double featured with A Star Is Born. SWV says it was made in 1973, but the IMDB and Impulse Pictures’ DVD packaging peg it was 1978. The movie isn’t particularly funny and the cast rather lackluster (though Colleen Anderson is definitely fun to look at and pretty enthusiastic in the sack) but it is an interesting relic of sorts. The title clearly meant to cash in on the success of Cheech & Chong’s Up In Smoke but it isn’t really all that similar in any other way. The drug jokes in the movie are pretty scattershot – some are amusing, others are just bad – and there’s really not much in the way at all of actual production values. Worth seeing more as a curiosity item than anything else.
The fullframe transfer on this DVD is in okay shape if you don’t mind the print damage. It boasts reasonably good color reproduction and pretty solid detail but expect scratches and specks throughout the movie. All in all, however, the movie is definitely watcahble. There are no issues with compression artifacts, macroblocking or edge enhancement, whatever defects there are can be attributed to the source material.
The Dolby Digital Mono track, in the film’s original English language, also sounds fine. The score is properly balanced and the dialogue is easy enough to understand. If there’s some occasional minor flatness, that’s just part of the fun of a movie like this.
Outside of a static menu offering chapter selection, there are no extra features on this DVD relating to the feature but we do get a preview of Impulse’s 42nd Street Forever: The Peepshow Collection – so yeah, some bonus 8mm porn, that’s never a bad thing.
The Final Word:
Up In Flames isn’t very good at all. The sex is mediocre, the direction and production values less than inspired and the cast are just sort of grubby looking. Having said that, fans of underground comix, particularly Shelton and Crumb’s work, will want to see this just to satiate their curiosity.