Tuesday, November 20, 2012

One Track Mind or Why Walter Lure is One of the Coolest Guys in Rock & Roll

Every legend needs a foil, a sideman who is talented enough to stand out but instinctive enough to know when to pull back. Walter Lure was all that and more when he joined and became an integral part of seminal punk band, The Heartbreakers. The original line-up was the equivalent to the Olympics of NYC punk; founder Richard Hell, who had recently skipped out of Television, Jerry Nolan and Johnny Thunders, both from the groundbreaking and newly imploded New York Dolls. Then there was the dark horse of the group, fresh from a local band called The Demons, Mr. Walter "Waldo" Lure. Richard Hell didn't stay too long, with Johnny and Walter taking over vocal duties and Billy Rath joining in on bass. It was a band of stars, but the one that has my love and undying attention has got to be Walter Lure.

Lanky-looking, with sharp features (the best eyebrows in the rock&roll biz!) and often dressed like a businessman who said screw it and became an artist (quite appropriate since his day job involves working on Wall Street), there is only one Walter Lure. I first noticed Lure in the wee hours of night, right before sunrise, one booze-soaked night when my then boyfriend, now husband Chuck threw on his VHS copy of “Johnny Thunders: Dead or Alive.” While I was already familiar with Thunders and some of the work of The Heartbreakers (thank you Rhino Records), getting to see the band in action was a gift. Trash rock at its finest and while no one in their right or wrong mind could deny the star power of Thunders, it was the figure of his rhythm guitarist that caught my eye.

Anyone who has seen Lure can understand why. He's the figure of a wise-ass dandy who is a born and bred rock and roller. The man's got the musical chops down, knowing enough to be dangerous but also being wise enough to not wank his ability. Even better, the cat's got a wicked sense of humor and is still playing great music nowadays with his band The Waldos. Now an elder statesman of punk, Walter Lure still has more rock and roll authority in one of his neck ties than anyone you're gonna see at your local club.

So you can have your phoney boloney guitar hero wankers and punk rock poseurs, because anyone truly in the know should have a special place of reverie for the man. Walter Lure is more rock and roll than any butt-rock beer commercial band or Elvis-guyliner-sneering-friendly-for-commercial-airplay wharf rat. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Sick Sad World: Hank Kirton's Conservatory of Death

The Suburbs 2012 C.F. Roberts

When a sin goes too far, it's like a runaway car. It cannot be controlled.”
  • The Blue Mask” Lou Reed

If humanity was represented by a patchwork quilt, then there would be sections that
are interconnected by dried blood, bad history and other sundry biohazards. Throw in some black-as-an -oil-spill humor and some of the most simultaneously unflinching, lyrical and expertly crafted writing that I have read in a long time, then you are skirting right into the territory of Hank Kirton's novel, “Conservatory of Death.”

Conservatory” is a book that provides a view into a world littered with serial killers, perma-damaged childhoods and a snuff obsessed culture that would rather wallow and perpetuate in death than prevent it. There is a truth to this world view, which makes the proceedings all the more creepy. In fact the title is a reference to a series of Mondo Morte tapes, ala Faces of Death, Traces of Death, Death Scenes et al. These tapes are made and released by Swatt Winston, a young, stoned out man whose memories are occasionally flooded with shards of childhood trauma, all revolving around his cult musician father, Zachary Winston.

In Swatt's orbit, we meet his sister Betty, the formerly named Benevolent, a nurse who looks after elderly patients who are infirm and are on their way out. Then there is Chunk and Janet, a power-couple of serial murder, sexual torture and aching stupidity. Littering the background is an equally colorful crew of characters, including a long forgotten silent film star, a young writer mired in meth and hooking and one intensely vile, horrible old man.

This is a book that manages to find that precarious balance that so few works that dip into deep, violent territories do. Kirton's writing manages to be firm, uncompromising and yet at times, strangely beautiful and even poetic, when it needs to be. This is not a book for the squeamish but then again, good art should never make you just squeamish, but also curious and captivated. This is exactly what “Conservatory” will do.

All of the characters hold true, to the extent where you can easily picture every little unmentioned flaw, whether it is the vaguely stank smell of stale weed to fine facial lines and chicken pox scars. It is these details that will undoubtedly make the book a harder pill to swallow for some. Not unlike the real world, this is a book where everyone's got a demon, to the point where some folks will swallow them whole and become their demon. But this is why it is so good, because Kirton obviously knows his characters and displays an intrinsic degree of understanding with them, no matter how putrid or heartbreaking their actions may be. There's nothing worse than a writer going through the motions, much like a dead eyed stripper grinding against your leg, who looks like she would rather be clipping chewed gum out of her hair than to be within 50 feet of your touch-starved self. Thankfully, this is far from the case.

It is this type of literary purity, not to mention the wholly uniqueness of Kirton's voice that make this a standout work. “Conservatory of Death” is like a primal scream that collapses into a tear and blood stained whimper, all in the best possible of ways. Kudos to Jim Lopez at Antique Children for publishing such a brave, bold work.

If you love great fiction that is uncompromising and lovely in its language, no matter how extreme the situations can get, then do pick up Hank Kirton's “Conservatory of Death.” It is a novel that is not easy to forget, both due to the quality of writing and the tapestry of human violence and misery.

You can either buy "Conservatory of Death" directly here or via Amazon.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Soothing the Savage Snake Plant: Updates a Go-Go

The last time I was here, the weather was only halfway inhospitable and I had yet to be fully aware of the genius that is Mort Garson. After a long spell of three-digit weather and The Wozard of Iz, I am back with a small slew of updates and previews.

For you fans of all things "Dark Shadows" and Stanley Kubrick's THE KILLING, please check out the newest Video Watchdog. Issue 169 features a fantastic roundtable revolving around the groundbreaking Gothic soap opera, "Dark Shadows." The discussion includes such highly respected writers as Tim Lucas, Maitland McDonaugh, Richard Harland Smith, Kim Newman, as well as filmmaker Robert Tinnell and Dark Shadows historian, Darren Gross. Oh yes and I was lucky enough to be included to.

In addition that genre finery, you can also check out my review of one of my favorite films of all time, Stanley Kubrick's 1950's noir, THE KILLING. A film so great that it not only features such amazing actors as Marie Windsor and Elisha Cook Jr, but also the two titans of my film loving heart, Sterling Hayden and the man himself, Timothy Carey.

Of course, I have also been contributing to the finest fringe pop culture website, Dangerous Minds. If you love such wildly diverse figures as Chesty Morgan, John Dunsworth and Rowland S. Howard, then grab a fancy drink and read up!

There will be more article goodness coming up for the great VHS loving zine Lunchmeat and of course, this very site as well. In fact, there will be something coming very soon that is wholly unique, so stay tuned kitty-cats.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Don't you know that I'm a 2000 Man or My Life as a Film Writer

There are certain things in this life that are predestined for all of us. Some folks grow up loving to cook and become chefs. Others have no souls and grow up thinking Eric Clapton is the best bluesman out there. It happens. For me, art has been my Siamese-twin since birth. Whether it was putting on plays with household objects when I was little or educating myself about cinema, it's my old friend and my continual habit. Film writing, in a lot of ways, is one of my pre-destined paths. Writing is something I have always done, mainly because I have no choice. With anything creative, you do these things out of a sense of need and compulsion. Working in the arts in general can be a long road of rejection, mental blocks and loved ones who don't understand why you are not getting Stephen King sized book deals. Even worse, once you get into specific types of art, you then have to deal occasionally with petty peers and weird agendas. One person brands you as too intellectual while another thinks you're too crude and working class. For a piece of fiction I once submitted, I had an editor get offended by my story having a morally flawed but goodhearted hero. (Namely, a dandified gigolo named Renaldo.)

The thing they can never teach you in school about writing is that you can't please everybody and if you are foolhardy enough to try, you risk compromising your own voice but for the worst kind of results, the dreaded mediocrity. Granted, that doesn't mean disregard constructive criticism, because anything that can help you grow tighter with your craft is a gift that should be fully accepted. In addition to all of that, art is subjective and not everyone has to like what you do, either. This is normal but there is a difference between someone having a different opinion and someone being a dick. If it's the latter, learn to laugh at them, have a shot of something strong and use that vinegar to fuel something even bigger and better than what you originally created. Success is better than slashing their tires or investing yourself in the dark arts just to curse their joyless selves.

With film, what moves me are often the same things that move me about expression in general. A great film is a like a great song, story or painting. It should move you, punch you in the gut, give you a warm hug, leave you bleeding in an alley under the stars, make love to you, make you feel like the world is a little more jewel like or alternately, have you come crashing down to the realization of how jacked up the human condition truly is. Great art is like being in your favorite neon lit bar, the one that reeks of nicotine and stale beer, with the sound of someone crying behind you while a couple dance on obliviously to an old Slade tune, too lost in their good time and lust to notice the fringes of human sadness all around. Or great art can be a cute puppy. The beauty is that it can be all of these things and more, just as long as it doesn't just settle. Settling is the worst. It's almost better to hate something then to feel indifferently about it.

The beauty of cinema is that for being a relatively young form, the options of what you can explore are almost endless. The only limitations are time, money and your own tastes. The best thing about the latter is that, much like your palate, it will change and evolve. I hated westerns as a kid but as I got exposed to films by guys like Sergio Leone and titles like “The Great Silence,” that changed quite a bit. The best surprises can sometimes come from within.

My biggest goal as a writer is to bring you into these worlds, sometime as an act of love, warning, preservation and maybe a bit of all three. The work has to be like a bright neon light, attractive to some, too much for others but always colorful. (And attractive to moths. I love moths.) But not only that, I hope to help, dandelion style, spread the seeds of all the great art out there. For me, that's what a writer who delves into cinema, music and art in general does. If you don't love what you do, then stop doing it because life is too damn short. But if you do love it and need it, then you owe it to yourself to damn the torpedoes, storm the barn and keep creating.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Comic Book Heroes & Movie Dreams

I've always had a weird relationship with comic books. The only one I ever cared about when I was little was this issue of Ren & Stimpy, since I was completely obsessed with the show. (To this day, I still refer to Ren Hoek as one of my totem animals and a have a weakness for shivery little dogs with bad attitudes. Oh, and Billy West.) As I got into my late teens, I discovered Neil Gaiman's “Sandman” comics, thanks to some hip friends, and really enjoyed that. My college years were littered with interests in the old underground comics (including landing a repro of an old issue of “Zapp”), the uber-fantastic Dame Darcy and Daniel Clowes. (Again, the last two all thanks to having some friends with good taste.) At one point, I even worked at a comic book store, were I was more immersed in the world of superheroes and skin-tight suits than, say, the alt-comics of “Love & Rockets” and Jhonen Vasquez.

The job, due to non-comic book reasons, was horrible, but it was interesting to get a close up view of the culture around it. It was a mixture of stereotypes (right down to guys who didn't know how to react to me due to the whole being a girl-thing) to smart, pseudo-punk rock types. (Including one guy that tried to best my knowledge about Glen Matlock. It didn't go well....for him.) Jeweled-toned covers featuring jocular uber-mensch and tiny waisted heroines with breasts that would make Russ Meyer faint soon became a part of my daily periphery. This surreal world was something that would become more of my life later on, as I became friends with people that were huge comics fans, including one of my best friends, an ex-boyfriend and my husband, Chuck, who has been into comics off and on for years and years. (Naturally, he has the best taste of them all!)

With all of that, I'm still not a huge fan of the superhero comic world. It's nothing personal and in fact, I would liken it to the band Tool. I respect them, completely understand the appeal but I am not personally wooed. I don't mind it being in my presence but do not be offended if I am secretly pining for some Hernandez Brothers and Peter Murphy on the stereo. There are, of course, exceptions and I'm a firm believer in not shutting yourself off to one genre or the other. You never know what you will miss. For example, I love “Watchmen” more than Chuck Berry loves traumatizing groupies and in fact, would easily put the film version in my top 10 favorites list. Alan Moore is a genius and not only that, he's my favorite kind of genius--the cranky type.

Now with all of the hype and hoopla surrounding the 2012 film, “The Avengers,” I think it is high time for me to pitch out to the world my own personal superhero film. We are talking a film so cataclysmic in its assemblage, so epic in scale that it will make tires explode and noses bleed. So here it is, my veritable dream-team of superheroes. Plot? It's not important since with a cast like this, all you need to do is simply bask in the brilliance and watch the screen crack and sizzle.

Without further ado...

  1. Commander USA. 

 2. Rorschach & The Comedian


4. Jon Mikl Thor (aka the only TRUE Thor)

5.Captain Invincible

6. Captain Berlin

7. Vlad the Impaler

8. Lemmy

9. Dali

 10. William Howard Taft

Looking at that list, it looks a bit like “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” meets cirrhosis of the brain. Well, to quote that old chestnut....I'd rather have a bottle in front of me, than have to have a frontal lobotomy. Sure, the resulting film might be technically horrible, but it would be so captivatingly bad that it becomes brilliant. Let this stew as you go pay for overpriced popcorn and sit through 80 commercials just to get to the trailers. 

Copyright 2012 Heather Drain

Sunday, April 15, 2012

You Can Murder a Man, But Never His Spirit: Philippe Mora's MAD DOG MORGAN

There has always been a certain appeal about the Outlaw. The elements of violence and crime appeal to our baser human nature while the anti-establishment and anti-authoritarian aspects play to anyone with an individual’s spirit. Americans and Australians are two countries that have always had a major love affair for the outlaw, especially given that both places were formed by people getting away from less than ideal circumstances in their home countries. In fact, the British used the American South, much like Australia, as a place to ship off criminals. That said, there is something a little extra special about the Australian outlaw or as they were called back then, “bushrangers.” A lot of them had extremely legit reason to rebel and one of the best examples is “Mad” Daniel Morgan, whose store was beautifully retold in Philippe Mora’s film Mad Dog Morgan.

Morgan (Dennis Hopper) is a moral man with a quick temper, something that is immediately evident within in the first five minutes when he punches the crap out of a guy who is picking on one of the Asians working in the work camp. This simple act sets up the man’s inherent nature perfectly. After witnessing one of his friends get shot in the head in a particularly gory scene, he flees a hate crime as a mob of whites burn down a Chinese encampment. It’s a nasty bloodbath and one in which you never really see any legal action brought down, which is important given what happens to Morgan. After stealing blankets and some clothes, he is arrested and sentenced for 12 years in a penal colony that is basically Hell on Earth.

This strong yet sensitive man is physically beaten, gang raped and branded with the letter “M” for malefactor. The cycle of human abuse continues for six years when he is released on parole for “good behavior.” The damage is done, however, and the die is cast for his life as an outlaw. After all, when the rules are being made by plump, upper-class white men who view anyone that defies them as “half-animal,” you’d be tempted to break them too.

The law is quick to look for Morgan after he steals a horse and gets shot for his troubles, though he still manages to elude them. Laying in the grass and dirt bleeding, he is saved by Billy (David Gulpilil), an Aboriginal bushman and fellow outcast. After the white man tried to kill his tribe and then his tribe went after him for being mixed, Billy retreated to the wilds. Turns out that the nature of the earth and animal are easier to deal with than the nature of man. The two misfits quickly bond and soon go into the business of being a bushranger together, with Morgan pretty much taking the active role while Billy plays look out.

The more Morgan and Billy outwit, outrun and often outshoot the law, the more infuriated the police become until there is a 1,000 pound reward and trust is a rare commodity. But how long can any man, especially one as volatile and spirited as Dan Morgan, keep running? 

Mad Dog Morgan is, simply put, a beautiful movie. It’s a thoughtful work without ever resorting to either sermonizing, demonizing or worst of all, the arch-demon of pretension. Daniel Morgan the historical figure is a folk hero but Dennis Hopper’s Morgan is both hero and a good, flawed soul forced to resort to violence and a life of crime in an absolutely unforgiving landscape. This is a man who didn’t act out of greed or sociopathic thrills, but instead survival and a rage towards a system that had little heart towards its lower classes. It’s very revealing that the real villains in the film are the upper classmen who can afford to look down on men like Daniel because they’ve never had to really struggle. He’s the one outraged at real injustices, like racism and workers being treated like near-slave by bosses whose pockets are lined with gold and nary a drop of their own sweat.

In fact, something that both the Hopper version and the real life Morgan did was they would force a lot of work camp bosses to give their employees extra money, food and rest breaks. This is the act of someone who is fundamentally not a bloodthirsty bastard but someone who could have done even more good if he had been born in a better time and in a better land. Classism still exists without a doubt but nothing can compare with what a lot of people’s ancestors went through 100, 200, 300 and more years ago.

Visually, this film is a love song to rural Australia, boasting some color rich cinematography from Mike Molloy, who has worked on films ranging from Performance (1970) to the extremely underrated Rocky Horror not-a-sequel-but-equal Shock Treatment (1981). The landscape looks alternately lush and harsh, which sums up the reality of Australia as a whole.

The pacing is very reminiscent of the works of Werner Herzog, where it is leisurely without being lazy or inconsiderate of the viewer. It is the porridge that Goldilocks chose. The same can be said for the music, which is a mix of a rich score by Patrick Flynn and some amazing aboriginal music and sounds courtesy of David Gulpili.

Speaking of Mr.Gulpili, he is extremely likeable and charismatic as Morgan’s sole true friend and watcher. Sadly, he’s probably best known in the States for doing films like Crocodile Dundee (1986), but he has actually had an impressive career. In addition to his turn here, he starred in Nicholas Roeg’s early classic Walkabout (1971). Much like this movie, he deserves more love over here.

That said, this is undoubtedly Dennis Hopper’s show, which is a blessing for us because he is unflappingly great as Morgan. Everyone and their momma knows that he can pull off wild-eyed and insane better than anyone this side of Klaus Kinski, but what Hopper nails beautifully is the vulnerability of this man. One of the most standout moments is when he wanders alone in a little tavern and is approached sexually by the bar maid there while her creepy mother sits alone in the corner. “Mad Dog” is a total gentleman and gently turns her down; explaining that the only woman he has ever seen naked was his late mother. He then quietly exits. The subtle emotion in Hopper’s face is perfect, capturing the mixture of temptation, trauma and loss. If this had been a Hollywood picture, he not only would have bedded her but probably would have lived happily ever after and had a brood of little “mad” spawn running around, stinking up the front yard. Dennis Hopper is one of the best actors to have come out in the last 50 years and that talent shines brightly in Mad Dog Morgan.

Mora, who is best known for his delightfully fun and occasionally campy films like The Return of Captain Invincible (1983) and one of my personal faves, Howling II: Stirba-Werewolf Bitch (1985), handles the material like a total professional. Balancing art and history can be a sticky wicket, as evidenced by a legion of films that have gotten it wrong, wrong, wrong. (Yes, Kevin Costner, someone is giving you the side-eye and it’s me!) But Mora demonstrates nothing but respect and creativity towards the material, with the highlight being one effective and nightmarish vision of Morgan’s.

Mad Dog Morgan is a film ripe for rediscovery and while others waste their time with bad Hollywood Oscar-baiting tripe, do yourself a favor and pick up the real deal. This is a brilliant, brilliant film.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Shadow Worlds of Cinema: An Interview with Susie Bright

Every art movement worth its salt is going to have its share of detractors and controversies. Chances are if a work of art has caused at least one parent's group ire, then it is something worth checking out. (And if it's caused a riot, then it is a masterpiece. But that's for another article.) The best kind to stoke the fires of status quo morality is often “lowbrow” art. Whether it is horror comics, pulp novels, heavy metal music or fringe cinema, these are often the works that are critically panned, if paid attention to at all, they repulse the ethically insecure and when they're really good, give the social rebel hope.

One of the writers that has been an essential part of these needed fringe worlds of art is the one and only Susie Bright. A name that should already be familiar to most that will read this article, she has been a keen figure in the world of feminism, zines, erotica and LGBT rights. Something that not everyone reading this might know, though, is that she has written a number of great film articles and reviews. It feels like that the cult film world has not given this woman enough credit and that day is changing now, especially with her recent book, SusieBright's Erotic Screen: The Golden Hardcore & The ShimmeringDyke-Core. This e-book is indeed shimmering, making it a must read for anyone who has a deep love or at least, a curiosity, about a time period when cinematic erotica had a number of ambitious artists and filmmakers involved.

If you are looking for something prurient, go elsewhere, since this feast is more focused on great writing, cinematic history and peeking into cultural corners. I loved this, since it fed my inner Murray Head. (“I get my kicks above the waistline, sunshine.”) 

Ms. Bright was extremely kind enough to agree to answer a few questions, via e-mail. Enjoy!

First of all, I love the quote on your blog from Rolling Stone, “Could not be accused of shutting up.” A magazine that toothless should be grateful to have someone smart and with actual informed opinions talking! There is a fine art of the un-quiet, which shines in your book, “The Golden Hardcore & Shimmering Dyke-Core.” Being an open and honest writer, did you ever feel any resistance from editors and/or publishers?

Oh, all the time; but I consider that a healthy tension— to a certain degree. If someone fawns all over you, there’s probably something amiss.

But you are probably asking something more difficult, which is, “Have I ever been discriminated against?”

Yes, all the time. The prejudices are well known.

I rarely hear the blunt rejection to my face-- it’s usually told second-hand, or in hoary euphemisms. I remember one editor got very drunk and called me in the middle of the night to weep and confess every awful prejudice that had been uttered against my work in their publishing chambers. Feminist, whore, queer, nigger-lover, communist, pervert, etc.
And that’s from the “liberals.”

I guess the main thing to say at this point is, “Who cares what ‘THEY’ say?” The old gatekeepers to the publishing empires are irrelevant today.

My latest book in point: No one in mainstream publishing would’ve bought the rights to “Erotic Screen”-- they can’t even wrap their minds around a topic like that, the golden age of porn and the origins of indie erotic film making.

But it doesn't matter. I know who my audience is; they’re eager for it, and I can self-publish and reach them myself. By the time it becomes “big news,” I will have established the beachhead. I already have. 

Honestly, nothing new ever happens waiting for the Big Boys to “discover” you sitting on a soda fountain stool. You have to come up with your own little revolution and then watch and see what happens!

-Also, what kind of reception did you initially get from other writers?

Oh, I’m in a longtime supportive community of working writers. People who’ve been supporting their families for decades with their writing are not prissy about anything. "If you’re working, good for you—" that's the attitude among the craft. There’s few writers that haven’t tackled sexual subjects at one time or another.

Jamie Gillis

-Classic era adult films are the living definition of fringe cinema and like all fringe cinema. A lot of it does not deserve to be put in the back room ghetto. Being an artist and being marginalized because of your own private milieu is incredibly unfair. How did a lot of the actors and directors that you knew in this field handle this critical prejudice?

Well, I think many of the names you know today, like Nina Hartley or Annie Sprinkle--- or the late John Leslie or Jamie Gillis— are household names because they have been outspoken and militant, in addition to prolific.

The people who are articulate, charismatic, dogged, lucky… they’re the minority. But you could say that about every actor working anywhere.

Most people in porn, like everyone else in the Hollywood colony, just drift in and out, rather unheralded, never becoming famous. It is a tough business where you often feel used and thrown out like yesterday’s dishwater, after a very brief period of time. I would say the same holds whether it was TV sitcoms or porn flicks.

People think porn is some nether world that has nothing to do with the rest of show business, but it’s quite the opposite.

 John Leslie

-Any post-Silent film worth its salt will have some sonic goodness and the classic films of this era are no different. (Directors such as Cecil Howard, the Dark Brothers and Stephen Sayadian are especially standout in this arena.) What are some of your favorite soundtracks of the adult era?

Oh, definitely Night Dreams. (Editor Note: Indeed! Any film that features Wall of Voodoo's “Ring of Fire” is something very, very special. Also, Mitchell Froom's excellent soundtrack for Rinse Dream/Stephen Sayadian's Cafe Flesh is worth checking out.)

 Speaking of Cafe Flesh....

-Were there any adult films that you were initially excited about, only to be disappointed with?

When a director is good and does something new, there’s so much pressure to pump up the volume, just churn stuff out. How many people can be Andy Warhol? I really can’t think of any!

Almost all my fave directors got burnt out at some point and did less than stellar work in their later years, unless they had refreshing break!

In that vein, what are some of the most overrated titles? (In my opinion, Debbie Does Dallas would be the ultimate. How titles like FIRESTORM and MEMORIES WITHIN MISS AGGIE are semi-obscure and that smut-for-mongoloids is famous is beyond me.)

Yeah, Debbie is one of those Texas cliches that is “all hat, no cowboy.” It’s all “title” and no film. Someone poured ten times the marketing budget into that film than they did on the actual production.

Actually, it presages the current porn vogue for jumping onto current events and trends, be it the Sarah Palin parody, Nailin' Palin, or Avatar. Debbie was an attempt to jump on the tremendous heat behind the Dallas Cowboys, the biggest thing in the sports world at the time.

Firestorm is one of Cecil Howard’s greats, and luckily, he kept all his rights, kept masters of all his films. Thank god. He and Radley Metzger were unique that way.

If someone made a porn film right this minute starring a Jeremy Lin lookalike, just imagine the pandemonium. I’d go see that!

As for Miss Aggie, that was Damiano’s third film, his followup to the excellent Devil in Miss Jones, and really when he felt like he was moving into mainstream theatrical film territory.

During those times, the money was accessible, and it was a HUGE production— all the stops pulled out. They thought that the Ratings Board and the puritanical rules regarding film were coming to pieces-- that sex and drama put together in professional creative manner was here to stay!

Well, unfortunately, they were wrong. The 70s were the biggest high water creative mark for American films since before the Hays Office meltdown.

And they were crushed. It wasn’t just porn, it was everything that brought indie cinema into fruition in the 70s: Scorsese, Cronenberg, Altman, Fonda, Hopper and the whole bit. Those famous names survived and adapted, but the revolutionary erotic spirit… not so much.

I see it opening up again only now, when technology has just ripped apart the old expectations again.

 The Man, Gerard Damiano.

-On a more positive note, did you encounter any films that you went into expecting the worst and walked out being pleasantly surprised?

Oh sure, all the time. I would say I was surprised by virtually every film I saw theatrically. When I saw video innovators like Chris Rage, and Rodney Werden, and the lesbian stuff my comrades were making, it was "goosebump time."

-One of the titles you have a lot of love for in the book is Smoker, which got a DVD release last year. Unfortunately, VCA, which is also responsible for the substandard DVD release of the sci-fi/art film classic Cafe Flesh, has excised over 20 minutes of footage.

Yes. It reminds me of all the silent films that were destroyed in the 20s. (Ed. Note: Not to mention a lot of the pre-Hays code talkies. See, CONVENTION CITY.) I'm writing about this for Volume 2 of The Erotic Screen.

In the days of the Meese Commission scare, it is halfway understandable, but in these days of the Whitman's sampler of lurid hell you can find on the net and in ones local video store legally, what is your theory of why many film companies are releasing these films censored and with battered prints to boot? Is it laziness or fear or just a complete lack of caring about their archive?

When Russell Hampshire, the owner of VCA (the biggest XXX video distributor at the time) got of of jail on obscenity charges following the Meese Commission bust, he told his lawyers, “I never want to go to jail again. EVER. Tell me what to do.”

His lawyer, Paul Cambria, wrote a memo

Followed to the letter, the advice from the memo would destroy most of their back catalog.

And they did.

There were voices who said, “But this is art! Someday the Criterion Collection is going to want this! Scholars will study it!”

But they were ignored with the same mandate.

This really is just like what happened in the Silent film days after the Justice Dept went after them.

The rest of the companies, besides VCA, hadn’t been forced to send anyone to jail. So they just decided to wing it and see if anything happened. Nothing did. They kept their catalog intact and only VCA destroyed theirs. Since VCA had so many classics, it was a holocaust.

-Working and writing about these films, did you ever receive any backlash from some of the more politically correct members of the feminist community?

Oh yes. See my memoir. Endless, endless, ad hominem attacks, multiple assassination attempts (no fooling), unrelenting smear campaigns. What a complete waste. What did the feminist movement get out of it? Look at the horrible state we’re in now, fighting for fucking birth control all over again.

-Every interview needs at least one fun and semi-cheesy question and this one is no exception. What is your classic era dream team? (Actors, actresses, directors, writers, composers, etc etc)

Oh gee! Well, Radley directing Sharon Mitchell, I’d like that. Jamie Gillis with Robert De Niro. Chris Rage making a Disney movie.

 The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann

-The decline of the classic era is often attributed to the rise of video. However, filmmakers of all types have been able to use professional video equipment to make some unique and good movies. I've always felt that it is more supply and demand. If the public at large demanded better movies (of any genre), then the people with the pocketbooks would be forced to financially back more intelligent and creative efforts. However, that's just me being opinionated, so what are your feelings on this?

You’re right. You see that in gay movies, where there IS a more discriminating audience, and they get better movies.

-Where there any particular artists that you always wanted to meet and/or interview, but never did?

Damiano! Alex D’Renzy. And it’s weird that I washed Linda Lovelace’s car in high school, but never saw her again. When I was 15, I had no idea I’d be covering her career someday.

Andy Nichols in Cafe Flesh

-Any ongoing, new or vintage projects you would like to mention or promote?

I'll be publishing The Erotic Screen, Volume 2, at the end of this year. It will include such classics as "Stalag Porn," and "The G-Spot Fraud Detection Squad." If you'd like to be on the mailing list for its debut, mail me at susie@susiebright.com

I cannot thank Susie enough for taking the time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions. Feel free to check out her Amazon store for an assortment of her available works and of course, her website.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Feeling like Poor White Trash? Not Any More!

Are you a fan of great film writing? How about Southern Exploitation, Cajun Style? Even better, the man himself, Timothy Agoglia Carey? Then stop whatever you are doing and pick up the newest issue of Video Watchdog! The power of Timothy Carey dancing compels you!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Dignity is Not For Sale: In Praise of BASTARD ART

I'm not entirely sure when Sex Gang Children and their charismatic leader, Andi Sex Gang, first came into my life but ever since, the magic and texture behind this man has entranced me. Often sounding like the exotic love child of Bowie and Brecht, but firmly remaining to this day his own man and artist, Andi Sex Gang is undoubtedly one of the most underrated figures in music. All of that despite his band charting repeatedly on the UK indie lists in the 80's and then going on to work with the legendary Mick Ronson. (The latter must have felt invigorated to work with someone truly unique,vital and not expecting him to rehash the Diamond Dogs blues.) 

The journey of any artist with bone-bred integrity and an unwillingness to whore is going to be a rocky one and Andi is no exception. Luckily for us all, his life and musical journey has been covered in one hale and hearty documentary, BASTARD ART. Before getting to watch this film, I was just excited to know that someone took the time and energy to cover the man. After watching this film, I was excited to know that a guy like Andi Sex Gang is featured in a well made, lovingly researched and incredibly accessible documentary. It's the perfect mix of being thorough and surprising enough to woo the hardcore fans but pieced together in such a way that it will lure anyone unfamiliar with Sex Gang Children.

In BASTARD ART, we get to see Andi go from a little boy with a natural instinct for song writing and singing to a squatter in the punk scene. In fact, it was his friend from that same scene, George O'Dowd aka Boy George, that gifted the band name, Sex Gang Children, to him. (A name undoubtedly with origins from music savant Malcolm McClaren, who had worked with a pre-Culture Club George.) From there, we get interviews with former band mates, friends and musical peers. But most importantly, we get and receive a bounty of interview footage from the man himself, Andi Sex Gang.

He is the star of the show, not just because he is the subject matter, but because his natural charisma, smarts and sheer will of survival draws you to him. There are performers that are good artists but have rocks for personality but that is far from the case with Andi Sex Gang. The amount of bowling balls this man has had to jump, ranging from bad music deals, facing fake criminal charges that ranged from rape to carrying explosives and an industry that acts more like the ravenous center in the lake of ice in Dante's Inferno, is harrowing. Weaker souls have been eaten by that very machine, but weak is not a word associated with ASG. Scrappy and tenacious, absolutely, but not weak.

Director Vince Corkadel, who has worked previously with both Andi and Sex Gang Children, has a lot to be proud of here. The key to any truly great music related documentary is having the music paint the right picture over the canvas of information. For me, there are few things more frustrating than a documentary about a musician that features little to none of their music. It would be like watching a bunch of people talking about a painter and never showing even a scrap of one of their paintings. Beyond frustrating, but BASTARD ART is a film that thankfully does not suffer that fate. 

As far as pacing goes, it's tight and flows very well. There are zero lulls and it does exactly what this type of film should do; leaving you wanting more and wanting to devour more of the great art featured. Safe to say, BASTARD ART is one of the best documentaries to have come out in the last few years. What's inspiring about this is that guys like Corkadel and Larry Wessel (ICONOCLAST, featured here) have proven that one can make a vital and culturally rich documentary while sticking to a true independent, DIY approach. This is no Miramax or Sundance indie, which is safe in its bigger budgets and often homogenized layers. Instead this is a film born out of pure love, determination and years of hard work and research.

No matter what labels people will throw on the works of Sex Gang Children and Andi, none can ultimately stick, proving not only the folly of “genres” but also the folly of trying to box in an artist you love. A guy like Andi Sex Gang, who continues to be as prolific and active as ever, will set fire to that box, and like a pale faced shaman with a mind of darkness and heart of light, will continue this fight of life. And nowhere is this ever more present than in BASTARD ART. 


Copyright 2012 Heather Drain

Back from the Ether & Ready For the Beach!

Greetings and salutations, my beloved and neglected readers and fellow fringe culture enthusiasts!

It's been much too long since the last post, but never fear, there are some big articles and little indulgences, all itching to be cooked and served. This includes more film and music articles, interviews and other random sundries.

To keep you a little sated until then, here's the trailer for the wonderfully goony BIKINI BEACH. Ever notice how much these films bordered on sun-drenched DaDa? While BEACH BLANKET BINGO is the masterpiece of this subgenre, BIKINI BEACH is a lot of fun, featuring tall drink of water Jody McCrea as Deadhead, Stevie Wonder, a surfing gorilla, Frankie Avalon in frightening limey drag as "The Potato Bug" and the first appearance of the ultimate Mondo Heather heart throb Timothy Carey as South Dakota Slim. It looks like a winner because it IS a winner!

Surf's Up!