Holidays like New Years can have a lot of mixed emotions. For some, it's an exciting time for an alcohol and stupid party hat induced revery. For others, it's the lingering reminder of all the stuff you wanted to, maybe even vowed, to accomplish that never happened. Call it ghosts of holiday resolutions. It used to be one of the most dreaded of holidays for me, but over the past few years, that anxious knot has dwindled down to more of a thoughtful observation and a low burning sensation that inevitably bleeds into ambition. “Failure” is the best opportunity to recycle the past and focus on the fresh, pristine white page in front of you.
For me, this has been an amazing year of seeds planted. Some big projects were put on hold, but potential bigger ones have started to take shape. All the 2012 superstitious fears are laid to waste as life keeps on and on again with the big message here is to never let fear rule you. Remember kids, the worst strain of regret is for the things you never did. And before I devolve into doing some hideous karaoke version of the Butthole Surfers “Sweat Loaf,” here is a Mondo Link round-up for your reading and visual pleasure!
Happy New Years and let's make every moment smoke and sparkle in 2014!
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Sunday, December 15, 2013
In the late 1960's and early 1970's, there was something very special and weird in the cinematic waters. Underground cinema, thanks to mavericks like Andy Warhol, Jack Smith, the Kuchar Brothers and, of course, the granddaddy of them all, Kenneth Anger, was in a golden age and opened the gates up for more filmmakers to experiment. Throwing rocks at the windows of the mainstream, the seeds planted started to bloom. That said, there was no other film that quite blended the worlds of the art underground, traditional narrative, the irreverent spirit and juvenile sexual humor quite like Nelson Lyon's “The Telephone Book.”
Made in 1971, “The Telephone Book” is the type of film that you are never fully prepared for. It doesn't matter what you may have read about it, you will never truly understand what kind of ride you will be in for until you actually sit down and let the images unfurl in front of you. Even then, after the last frame is finished, you will be sitting there, possibly scratching your coconut head, wondering “what the hell did I just watch?” Of course, these are all positive attributes leading up to the fact that there is nothing quite like this film.
The center of this experimental whirlpool is Alice (Sarah Kennedy.) A blonde gamine with a spartan apartment wallpapered floor to ceiling with repeated images of human coupling. She does her morning stretches and listens to “dial-a-prayer” on the radio. Life is a series of weirdly sexualised but rarely sensual vignettes for Alice, with the apex being a chance phone call from the master of dirty phone calls. The velvet voice caller whirls Alice's universe, leading her on a wild goose chase for the elusive Mr. Smith (Mr. Mad from “Tennessee Tuxedo” himself, Norman Rose). Down the rabbit hole Alice goes, running into a ridiculous stag film star by the name of Har Poon (veteran character actor Barry Morse), a thwarted flasher/bargain basement psychiatrist (Roger C. Carmel, best known for his turn as Harry Mudd on “Star Trek”) and a creepy housefrau with sapphic intentions (Jan Farrand), all in the quest to find her dream obscene talker.
“The Telephone Book” is one kinetic comic book of a film. Not in the sense of the superhero “Zap! POW!” splendor, but more in the sense of vignette pacing and colorful characters. Like a doll eyed version of Candide, Alice is basically this ethereal girl chasing after the one man that's reached out to her and her dysfunctional id. Everything is played out so light, but with all of these strangely dark underpinnings. When Alice's friend (a pre-fame Jill Clayburgh), who goes unnamed and wears an eye mask throughout most of the film, asks her why can't Alice try to find her dream man at home via her own telephone, our heroine reveals that if she spends too much time at home, she fears that she will kill herself. Even after she meets her dream man, there are precise barriers that will prevent them from ever having a non-payphone based union. Then there is the question that is never really posed after the two have an all night phone fest in the absolute most bonkers section of the movie. The film, which up to that point has been in black & white suddenly switches to color, which is then criss-crossed with Len Glasser's crudely striking pornographic animation. The question, for me, is what is left? Presumably, Mr. Smith will keep tantalizing random women with his absurdest erotic phone calls, but what about Alice?
Will she keep chasing Mr. Smith or will the all nighter sonic eros-fest do her in? That's the problem when you reach the mountain is that you either have to find a new mountain or fall to the ground. “The Telephone Book” is such a good film that stubbornly refuses to make any of this easy for you, which is eternally an aces move. The way the film is edited is one hair away from feeling like a Burroughsian cut-up. At different intervals, documentary style interviews come up, talking to an assortment of reformed obscene phone callers. My personal favorite is the gentleman whose new kind of kicks involves farting down an deserted alley. Hey, at least it won't get you arrested!
Nelson Lyon created something really unique with “The Telephone Book.” Drenched in neurotic human sexuality but always a little too wry and caustic to ever be erotic, this is a film that straddles a line of being richly late 60's/early 70's and yet, due to its very own insane structure, is inadvertently timeless. Being sadly obscure for years, thanks to the continually stellar work of the fine folks at Vinegar Syndrome, we now have this film looking gorgeous and available both on DVD and Blu Ray.
Monday, December 2, 2013
As the ever looming specter of crass holiday infused commercialism and the Carnival of Souls-esque faces of your fellow shoppers appear on the horizon, I have been cocooning myself with the usual one-two punch of writing and culture. Hey, it beats the heck out of dodging the soulless playing grabby-grab to the tune of canned Christmas music straight out of Dante's lake of ice.
The latest for Dangerous Minds is up! Being a fan of Barnes & Barnes for years, it was great getting to delve into their long out of print but worth seeking out VHS, “Zabagabee.” “Zabagabee” is not just any garden variety music video compilation but instead is a treasure chest of strange celebrities, ranging from Larry “Wild Man” Fischer to Shirley Jones to Woody Herman, with each one bridging the music clips together. Barnes & Barnes have never really gotten the respect that they deserve, since the masses tend to always overlook artists that are perceived as “novelty.” If you're one of those, then maybe this piece and “Zabagabee” can both change your mind.
Speaking of music, I recently have rediscovered my love for the UK band The March Violets. Originally rising out of the post-punk ether along with contemporaries like Sisters of Mercy, this is a band I listened to a lot in my late teens, thanks in part to scoring a vinyl import copy of their album “Natural History” from a friend. Maybe the graying of days with the onset of Winter has something to do with it, but I had this urge recently to listen to them again and discovered that not only the original core of the band reformed but they have new material out! Even better is that what I have heard from their newest album, “Made Glorious,” is quite good. Also, the two forces of nature behind the March Violets, Rosie Garland and Simon Denbigh are highly impressive people. In addition to their musical talents, Garland is a published writer whom under the name “Rosie Lugosi” is a self-proclaimed “lesbian vampire poet” and Denbigh is skilled in the art of forging swords and armor.
After writing my tribute to the late, great Lou Reed, I finished it in the hopes of being able to stay away from anything death related for a long time. But that was not to be when I saw the news of uber-character actor Tony Musante passing away at the age of 77. Acting in everything from Argento's giallo classic “Bird With the Crystal Plumage” to HBO's “Oz,” Musante has a huge place in my heart for his role as captivating sociopath Joe Ferrone in 1967's “The Incident.” In a film brimming with great performances, Musante is king and once you see him in this film, you will never ever forget him. Musante was a master and will definitely be missed, especially in my household.
Keep an eye out for upcoming links and posts covering the fine directorial work of Eric Edwards, the beautiful mad genius of Michael Findlay, more cinematic goodies from Vinegar Syndrome and much, much more!
Sunday, November 3, 2013
The beast that is fandom can be a three-headed monster. It's one a lot of us have in our hearts, too. Feeling fascination and passion for art is nothing to be ashamed of. Naturally, it is one of the purest things that fuels one to create, whether it is writing, painting, etc etc. Where things can get sticky is when the ugliest of the three-heads emerges; the fan ownership.
I'm sure you have seen this pop up on assorted message boards and social media sites like Tumblr, YouTube and Facebook. Someone posts a clip from a movie or concert and then instantly gets irate if someone else posts the same clip. All this despite the fact that person #1 didn't direct, shoot, produce or star in said clip. I've even seen some “fans” go so far to put ugly, cumbersome watermarks on videos that they basically got from someone else. Which is even more ridiculous when you get into the whole bootleg realm.
Entitlement isn't always just for the fans. With writers and journalists, the pissing contest can extend to subject matter, as if only one person can cover one specific thing. How boring would that be? Information is for the masses and I am more than happy to wave my proletariat flag on that. If anything, I love seeing other writers tackle films that I have written about. Case in point, the always fabulous and ultra-bright Gore Gore Girl's meticulously thoughtful write-up of Radley Metzger's “BarbaraBroadcast.” Seeing a good writer explore any subject is a joy and anyone that gets territorial in a huffy, petty way is tantamount to a small-peckered man buying a Hummer. If you're confident with your ability, then you have nothing to worry about. Any artist/writer that feels threatened by another really needs to examine their own emotions of self-worth. After all, the outside world makes it hard enough on the expressive, so the time is nigh for artists to put aside the small-minded bullshit and support each other. Save the nastiness for the printed page, canvas, sound, stage and screen.
As for the fans, if one really wants to feel true ownership of something, then create your own art. It's relaxing, restorative and will make you look less like an entitled wanker.
Going back to “Barbara Broadcast,” it is the perfect film to start off the new monthly feature, Notes from the Back Room, over at Paracinema. There's a legion of titles that went through my head to start off these proceedings, but between Distribpix's recent super-lush release and an A+ cast that includes C.J. Laing, Wade Nichols, Bobby Astyr, Michael Gaunt and Annette Haven, the choice was obvious. (By the way, if you're Radley Metzger/Henry Paris admirer, you can also read my pieces on Camille 2000, Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann, Naked Came the Stranger and Opening of Misty Beethoven.)
If you're feeling some Halloween withdrawal, check out my review of the gonzoid-monster kid underground film, “Geek Maggot Bingo” over at Dangerous Minds. This could possibly be the most overlooked and unappreciated film in the Nick Zedd filmography, so throw on your K-Tel “Haunted Hits” compilation and your “Zacherley for President” button and enjoy the show.
Friday, November 1, 2013
Literal death is something I loathe to write about. It's one of those things that overwhelms the bigger picture with big, broad strokes of sadness and loss. Yet, here I am writing about this very thing, since one of my biggest art heroes has passed away. Getting the news about Lou Reed hit harder than I expected. Other artists have passed earlier this year. Artists that I like and admire, but none were, to paraphrase Rodney Bingenheimer, godhead status. Lou Reed was and forever is, godhead status.
Growing up a complete fiend for anything Warhol and Factory related, it was inevitable that my interest would cross into Velvet Underground territory. Solo career wise, Nico was the one that entranced me first, but then Lou Reed's “New York” album came into my life and it was over.
One of the things I love about Lou's work is that even the weakest material still has something interesting and good about it. He managed to avoid the 80's pap-pop-sheen, a feat that even his occasional collaborator David Bowie did not. (Don't get me wrong, I adore Bowie, but the “Tonight” album alone is forever more cringe inducing than even a silly Lou song, like “Little Red Joystick” ever was.)
He angered interviewers, mystified fans and never sold out. Not to the rock critical elite, not to his devotees, not to anyone. As much as both Reed and Metallica fans bagged on their album, “Lulu,” it was the perfect living example of why that cat was brilliant. It's a great album with teeth and even better, its mere existence angered and upset both close-minded metal fans and even more uptight, bourgeoisie Lou Reed fans. Perfect.
Again, it leads up to my favorite adage ever. Don't give the people what they want. Give them what they deserve and Lou always gave us what we deserved.
Again, it leads up to my favorite adage ever. Don't give the people what they want. Give them what they deserve and Lou always gave us what we deserved.
Lou Reed was a musical maverick whose work changed the game and in its course, invented a whole new one. From “Do the Ostrich” all the way to “Lulu,” his body of work has a pulse and a soul from a man that wrote about the human condition and his own experiences with it. Lou Reed, you will always be missed in this household.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Being the fringe culture lover that I am, there's a special kind of thrill whenever a movie you love gets referenced in a song that you love. It doesn't happen too often, but one instance of this sonic-geekery kismet would be “Debaser” by The Pixies. Not only is this a great song but it is also the greatest song about “Un Chien Andalou.” Okay, it's probably the only song about “Un Chien Andalou” but still, it's one of the best songs by a fairly stellar band. (I'll save my paean to Kim Deal for a later date.) The manic way that Frank Black sings/yells “slicing up eyeballs whahohoho” is one of those things that makes me happy. Fun random trivia: Pixies drummer David Lovering is also a professional magician.
Over the weekend, my husband and I ended up getting massively hooked on a YouTube series entitled, “Unboxed, Watched & Reviewed.” Hosted by the fabulous Obulious Toobach (one helluva of a nom de plume, eh?), “Unboxed, Watched & Reviewed” first came to my attention thanks to the “What to Watch” feature on YouTube. The review in question? The 1976 “Taxi Driver” meets colonic horror adult film, “Water Power,” starring the inimitable and unforgettable Jamie Gillis. I hit play and was instantly hooked. Obulious is my favorite kind of fan; funny, a little snarky, smart and obviously loves fringe cinema. On top of that, his reviews are great, well edited and he traipses into territory that both angels and most film writers fear to tread. The man's cinematic testicular fortitude is impressive. Plus, any one that makes references to Gus Pratt and owns a “Liquid Sky”shirt is instantly cool in my book.
Speaking of film reviews, I was recently invited to contribute a list of some my personal favorite underrated horror films for one of the best film blogs out there, Rupert Pupkin Speaks. I got to contribute for the site awhile back for their “Top Underrated Drama” feature, so it was a pleasure getting to come back and give some love to films ranging from Michael Findlay's psycho-sexual “Janie” to the brother-sister vampire film, “The Black Room.” Hope you guys enjoy it!
There's been a lot of buzz lately about Lars von Trier's upcoming film, “Nymphomaniac.” The buzz in question has little to do with the all star cast (including this week's birthday boy and one my uber-acting loves, Udo Kier) but instead of von Trier's choice to include unsimulated sex utilizing body doubles being digitally added to the actors. Von Trier has done some good work and in fact, it was me citing “Breaking the Waves” that invoked some snobby Waspy academic ire during my FSU film school interview years ago, so he has a place in my heart for that. But this feels almost Castle-like in its gimmickry. Having your actors go the extra mile has been featured in films ranging from Gerard Damiano's classic “Devil in Miss Jones” all the way to Michael Winterbottom's flawed but interesting 2004 film, “Nine Songs.”
So using explicit sexuality is nothing new, even for von Trier, going back to his film, 1998's “The Idiots.” Which makes the whole digital body double thing sound incredibly silly. If you're going to be outre, be outre but do not half ass it. What's sad is that there are critics that will call this art, which is fine, but largely will never use the “A” word regarding the pioneers who were using explicit sexuality, like Damiano and many of his peers, decades ago. This is not von Trier's fault, but instead the old guard film critic attitude. All the more reason for a proper cultural revolution. Rip it up and start again.
Sunday, October 6, 2013
The nature of transgressive cinema has shifted over the years, ranging from the early days of adult cinema to the underground post-punk film scene in the 1980's. Over the past decade, the term has been switched over more to the horror genre, often dealing with an assortment of titles that have been filed under the “torture porn” moniker. (A term itself that has some issues, since the images that come to my mind involve either leather, chains and greased up car batteries or sitting through the IQ-hating “Debbie Does Dallas.”)
With films like “Hostel” and more recently, “A Serbian Film,” being hotly contested, the whole matter has pushed fans and writers alike to ask, “How far can too far go?” My question, though, is what will be the new definition of “transgressive cinema?” In this day and age of, to quote a pretty good Jane's Addiction album title, nothing's shocking, what new frontiers of transgression are there to pursue?
The only path to really pursue at this juncture is, in my opinion, is to be pure DIY. Trying to ape someone else or worse, one up them, is a losing game. Aping puts you at the risk of looking like a pale imitator and one-upping is impossible in this age of war and POW video footage all over the net. So the only truly shocking option is to just do your own thing. After all, while original ideas might be hard to come by, original approach is always possible. Creative transgression is ready for a new landscape, one that will not be defined by certain acts, but instead a harder to pinpoint approach and atmosphere. Of course, it is all a wait and see sort of affair.
Speaking of wait and see, there is an upcoming Kickstarter coming up for “German Angst,” an anthology film featuring work by famed cult director Jorg Buttgereit (“Nekromanatic,” “Schramm,” “Captain Berlin”), Andreas Mitchell (“Tears of Kali”) and Michal Kosakowski (“Zero Killed.”) The trio of shorts will involve stories ranging from mind altering drugs, sex clubs and neo Nazis. The biggest news out of all this is that “German Angst” will be the first new material from Buttgereit after several years out of the filmmaking game. The project sounds highly promising, with their Kickstarter page going live in the next few days, so keep on the lookout.
October is a great month for newness, since the latest print issue of Paracinema is out and it has been well worth the wait. There are some terrific articles featured, including pieces on everything from the aforementioned “A Serbian Film” to “Penitentiary III” to the later years of action heroes and even racial politics in post-Reagan teacher features. There's enough wit, humor and film smarts to make even the most jaded fringe-cineaste smile. On top of all that, it also has my own article on Stephen Sayadian's “Nightdreams” and “Dr. Caligari,” so if you're a juice dog then you know you gotta giddy-up on that action.
If creatures like vampires are more your thing, then you can get into the Halloween mood and listen to me speaking (aka ranting and rambling) with the great Frank Cotolo on his podcast The Cotolo Chronicles. This past Thursday we talked about the king vampire himself, Dracula and his many incarnations. Listen and thrill and put on your favorite plastic black cape and enjoy!
There will be more things to keep you entertained in the near future, say stay tuned cats and kittens!
Saturday, October 5, 2013
Cult Epics of the great Rene Daalder's post-apocalyptic musical of sorts, POPULATION 1. This trailer was one of those magical moments where the tidbit you're given is so good, so electric that your heart races a little faster and you are absolutely compelled to see this film. Luckily for me, not only did I get to see it, but I also got to review it for Issue #164 of Video Watchdog. (A fine issue by the way and one that you can still get a copy of on Video Watchdog's website.)
Anyways, I still love this film so much and really, Daalder's name should be much bigger because the man is brilliant. If this film does not convince you, then locate yourself a copy of MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH. I digress. Below is my original review, so read and enjoy!
Anyways, I still love this film so much and really, Daalder's name should be much bigger because the man is brilliant. If this film does not convince you, then locate yourself a copy of MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH. I digress. Below is my original review, so read and enjoy!
The death of the American dream is a black cloud that has loomed over many a weary mind, but never has it been explored in such a vivid and surrealistic way than in Rene Daalder's brilliant POPULATION 1. Imagine a collage art film with melded imagery from a rustic, pie-eyed America, musical numbers utilizing influences ranging from Rene Magritte to the German Expressionists and a post-punk video art sensibility, then you would be somewhere near the ballpark of POPULATION 1.
In a surprise move, this was the first finished project Daalder made after helming the cult classic, MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH. The latter is more traditional on the surface, but has a sad-eyed cynicism towards humanity and a streak of uncompromised intelligence that marries these two seemingly different films together. In lieu of a passive Andrew Stevens, we get Tomata Du Plenty (best known for being the front man for the synthpunk group The Screamers) as the last surviving man after nuclear holocaust. He is America's son, literally, as we get to see him lose his mother, a ruddy-cheeked rural Statue of Liberty (Maila Nurmi), to a giant flood. Along his journey, he becomes a matinee idol and falls in love a gothic 20's vamp (Sheela Edwards). The Great Depression hits, splitting them apart, when she is forced to become a taxi dancer for money. Their paths continue to diverge and cross throughout WWII, where she becomes a popular pin-up and USO singer. Love's bloom never fades, even after she is ultimately robbed from him, along with the rest of the population. Tomata is left amongst the rubble, dancing and singing in his red walled bunker, never wavering in his optimism and patriotism. All this despite him being surrounded by his twin ghosts of America and Sheela. But the darkness of the human condition will always bleed through when things are at their worst and the ending of POPULATION 1 is no exception.
Saying a piece of art is unlike anything one has ever seen is about as cliché as your drunken Uncle's stash of nudie playing cards. But for this instance, I feel like it can be 100% accurately written. It is rare for something so experimental to have such a cohesive heart. This is even more amazing when delving into the films origins, which go back to an unfinished project in the late 1970's called MENSCH. A good portion of the musical numbers, especially those utilizing a large, impressive looking sound stage, is from MENSCH. At that stage, there was little to no narrative and more of an emphasis of an old school musical sensibility, albeit one put through a post-modern art blender. The funding eventually ran out and with that so did access to the sound stage.
Cue up a few years later, with Daalder and company coming up with the a well-fitted narrative skeleton to gel perfectly with the visual muscle that was MENSCH. The sound stage being no longer an option, they managed to build a great post-nuclear bunker set within Tomata's apartment. What started off as a free form video project in one decade became a truly innovative cautionary tale in another. The use of chroma key in particular, while taken for granted now in the digital age, still looks incredible. The whole film is ripe with layers upon players of imagery, mixing old public domain westerns and burlesque shorts into Tomata's apocalyptic world. The pioneering spirit that went into this project, along with the wholly successful merging of the actual story along with the experimental visuals is something that every budding artist/filmmaker should instantly take to heart.
Another great brush stroke is the use of animation mixed with the live-action performers, often looking like a cross between rotoscoping and pop art. Nowhere is this used better than in the “Jazz Vampire” number. This is the first real introduction to Sheela, who is already looking like an art deco horror hostess, but then is further vamped out through some stylish animation. She's given big canine fangs, gets surrounded by black bats and then finishes the song with spitting up a small gush of red cartoon blood onto the screen.
Performance wise, it would be near impossible to think of a more perfect vehicle for the multi-talented Tomata Du Plenty. Small and almost frail looking at times, his big energy and ebullient charisma is in full bloom here. Looking like a young Sinatra, Du Plenty is a figure you cannot take your eyes off of and will instantly fall in love with. His character has all the pluck of a Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland “let's put on a show” film mixed with a true chaotic crackle. His character is someone who loves what's best about their country and yet gets lost in the rubble of bad humanity decisions. It's a gift to have this film in print, especially given how little footage exists of Tomata, save for a handful of Screamers live footage (some of which is on this set) and an even smaller amount of interviews.
Right along side Tomata, is Sheela Edwards, a raven haired force of nature who also happened to briefly be a member of the Screamers. There is very little information about her, which is a real shame because she is fantastic here. Distinctive looking, gorgeous and with a volatile voice that is harsh, edgy and yet, really lovely, she is a huge stand out. The entire “Taxi Dancer” number alone should have made this girl a star.
The rest of the cast is pretty colorful, with Fluxus artist and overall genius Al Hansen and Carel Struycken, whom would later on get some bigger recognition for his work in TWIN PEAKS and the ADDAMS FAMILY movies, being stand-outs in their small roles. In more bits of casting weirdness, Avengers singer Penelope Houston is briefly featured, as well as the Mentors front man Il Duce, looking surprisingly halfway healthy and humanoid. (Anyone familiar with the Mentors and their GG Allin-esque work will understand exactly where I am coming from on this. For anyone who isn't, feel free to check out the episode of Jerry Springer where he and members of GWAR have a debate. It's brilliantly ridiculous.)
Music wise, POPULATION 1 is like if Berthold Brecht put on a post-apocalyptic Broadway show with a punk rock DIY ethic. The concept of the musical number is generally an artificial one. Nine times out of ten, most people are not going to randomly break out into song. However, with the emphasis on wild visuals and experimental video techniques, the musical numbers here feel as natural as a heart beat. Having such energetic and kinetically charismatic performers like Du Plenty and Sheela don't hurt either.
For a relatively obscure film that has been resting in the weeds of cult film for the past few years, Cult Epics has done an absolutely stellar job here. Just having it legally available at all is sweet, but there is so much icing with this release. For starters, the print looks incredibly bright and crisp. Given that a bulk of the media here is based in video, not film, makes it even more amazing. The 1.33.1 aspect ratio is pristine, as is the audio, boasting a Dolby digital 2.0 stereo sound. All and all, it's a near perfect presentation.
But to keep the viewer feeling spoiled, there are more useful extras here than you can shake a post-punk stick at. Disc One features the original trailer and a re-cut one that is concurrent with the DVD release. There's also a great clip of the Screamers doing their song ,“Vertigo,” live at the Whiskey from 1979 and some rare audio tracks featuring Tomata and Sheela performing some of the songs from the film. The real gift here is the clips from the unfinished MENSCH. Not only do you get to see some of the genesis of POPULATION 1, but you also get an extension of Penelope Houston's scene, including a song that didn't make the director's cut. There's also a whole scene with Al Hansen singing and playing the accordion that definitely should have made the cut. There's also a still gallery and the trailer for the “Palace of Variety” multimedia art performance, which was coincidentally the Screamers' last live show.
Disc two features the Frans Bromet short mockumentary, JE MAINTIENDRAI, with the director visiting his old friend Daalder in Hollywood. Featuring POPULATION 1 co-stars Hansen and Carel Struycken, with the latter wearing his costume from his role as “the Brute” in the SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB movie, the loose plot is centered on Daalder making a slavery film set in the urban decay of Los Angeles as the background. It's cute and features some amazing footage of a now long gone LA.
There's an entire Screamers live show included, which is incredible. Despite their big cult status in the West Coast punk scene, there is not a lot of documentation, video and otherwise, of their performances. So this is fantastic, as is the recent and fairly comprehensive sit-down interview with Daalder himself. He gets to talk about his time apprenticing Russ Meyer, leading to him contributing to the Sex Pistols film, THE GREAT ROCK & ROLL SWINDLE, he briefly talks about MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH and of course, POPULATION 1.
In addition to that, there is a sweet tribute to Tomata, focused mainly on the paintings he created after his work with the Screamers. There's a tasty sample of a documentary about Al Hansen entitled THE MATCHSTICK TRAVELER and some outtakes from the VAMPIRA documentary. To finish it all off, there's a never released music video for Penelope Houston's song “Girls,” capping off one sweet-sweet set.
POPULATION 1, in an age of hyper-scare about the end of the world, whether it is from a millionaire religious fundamentalist or a state of perpetual war, still holds a power wrapped in a startling and beautiful visual skin.
Sunday, September 29, 2013
Liberosis? You might be thinking, “excuse me, I've already been tested for that,” but no, it's not a disease. Instead, it is a word that popped up on a site I follow called The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. (After all, sorrow is rampantly common in this world, so the one that is obscure is to be contemplated and shared.) They list Liberosis as the following;
n. the desire to care less about things—to loosen your grip on your life before you reach the end zone, to stop glancing behind you every few steps, afraid that someone will snatch it from you—rather to hold your life loosely and playfully, like a volleyball, keeping it in the air, with only quick fleeting interventions, bouncing freely in the hands of trusted friends, always in play.
This definitely caught my eye. It's a desire I think deep down a lot of us can empathize with. Not about the things that actually matter to us, but on the fears that hold you back. I've heard people express wishes like “I wish I could be an artist” or “I would love to write.” My answer is usually “well then, do it!” Failure is something no one wants to experience and even the biggest masochist in the world doesn't always want to be told no. That said, a feeling that's darker and more tinged with a melancholy punch is that special breed of regret. The dreaded “What if?” variety. Rejection is that slap in the face that stings initially but you will heal from it. Often, more quickly than you think. But the “what if?” head trip is a powerful, toxic beast that's not worth the stomach and heart ache.
The band were instantly awesome and not above taking the piss out of the interviewer, including one of my favorite replies ever. When asked if they do drugs, singer Lynne Von responds, “No. We can't afford drugs.” Even better, the little tidbits of music you see them do live is actually good. It's rough in the way that quality blues-rock should be. The blues, before it became co-opted by bad butt-bar-rock beer commercials and Eric Clapton, were a rough, raw and real form of music. Between the scraplings we're given here and the tiny handful of clips that have surfaced on YouTube, Da Willys really were the real deal. Probably too real to ever make it to the mainstream, but then again think about how many forgettable bands make it to the land of milk and honey, all for naught? After all, which band would you rather listen to; Glass Tiger or Da Willys?
Singer Lynne Von is still active musically and has even Dj'ed a few events, while drummer Peter Landau is now a working writer and mighty good one at that. Guitarist Leon Ross passed away back in 1992 and the titular Willy is now living in Pennsylvania. There's also a great Flickr gallery of band photos and fliers, featuring art by both Landau and Von, often reminiscent of underground comic book artists like R. Crumb.
File under you can never tell what people are going to respond to, my “Witchcraft 70” piece on Dangerous Minds has been doing exceptional, especially for a piece on a decades old mondo film about the “dark arts.” So big thanks to everyone who has been digging it. I'm sure the horned one appreciates. it. There's more work on the near horizon, including something old and something new.
Saturday, September 21, 2013
The past few weeks have been extremely exciting for fringe culture fans everywhere. For those in the know, the uber-fantastique film festival, L'Etrange just wrapped up, with one of its best line-ups ever. The festival included showings of Frank Henenlotter's incredible looking documentary “That's Sexploitation,” John Waters “Desperate Living” (my personal favorite of his), tributes to “Last Horror Film” star Caroline Munro and even a showing of Erich von Stroheim's “Foolish Wives.” Of course, the granddaddy move was the focus on the work of Stephen Sayadian, with each film being presented by the man himself. Getting to see an artist I admire greatly get this kind of recognition is a huge joy. For the curious, there's also a good interview up on Twitch.
My only problem with a lot of the press, which has honestly been wonderful, is that I think we can officially kill the term “porn” when talking about an artist like Sayadian. If you're gonna call films like “Cafe Flesh” porn, then you better call “In the Realm of the Senses” and “Anatomy of Hell” porn too. Now, there's nothing inherently wrong with porn in and of itself. Not at all, but there is an ocean of difference between films like “Nightdreams” and say, “Anal Angels 9.” If guys like Sayadian or say, Gerard Damiano, were European and had bigger budgets, the porn term never would have been applied. It's a classist move, after all no one calls Egon Schiele a pornographer, even though he featured erotic themes in his artwork. To me, nudity and sexuality do not make automatically make something pornography.
Speaking of thrilling artists, the news of Alejandro Jodorowsky's new film, “The Dance of Reality” has emerged, along with a trailer that looks like it is going to be yet another masterpiece from the man. The imagery already brings to mind both “Santa Sangre” and “Viva la Muerte,” which was helmed by Jodorowsky collaborator and fellow Panic movement founder Fernando Arrabal.
Another new development, at least on my end, was a highly rewarding trip to the local used bookstore. After looking through the Art books for a minute, I immediately bee lined it to the film section. For a minute, it appeared be the usual one-two-three punch of dry academic journals on Truffaut and general movie review guides, but then I saw it. A hardback copy of “Sex in the Movies” by Jeremy Pascall and Clyde Jeavons, a book I have read about for years. In fact, it was recommended to me by one of the most brilliant film writers I have ever known, so I knew it was a must have. Now, if that felt like kismet, then what I found almost right next to it was like running into a dear old friend. Another hardbound book entitled “Cut! The Unseen Cinema” by Baxter Phillips. This book is very special to me since it was one that I studied from page to page as a young girl. Covertly, of course, since it is brimming with nudity and violence, as well as images of religious/political subversiveness. On one hand, I was probably way the hell too young to be reading it but on the other hand, I am grateful for the exposure. It was this book that planted some of the key seeds for my development as a film writer. Titles that are huge to me now are mentioned in that book, including Ken Russell's “The Devils” and Walerian Borowcyzk's “La Bete.” I haven't looked at “Cut!” since I was a kid, so finding it again feels like love.
As for the film writing, if you haven't already, please check out some of the latest for Dangerous Minds. I got to explore the rare landscape of kung fu prurience with “Vixens of Kung Fu: Tale of Yin Yang,” which features an all star cast and some of the dodgiest martial arts this side of your Low Mein buffet. On top of that, I also write about the Mondo occult relic, “Witchcraft '70," which is goony in a swanky-devil-scare sort of way.
Hope everyone reading this is having a wonderful and safe weekend. Fall's almost here and what better way to celebrate it than watching Iggy Pop on German TV lip syncing around a bunch of confused looking models? Enjoy!
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Speaking of music, one of those dreaded yet masochisticly compelling Rolling Stone lists popped up the other day, this time covering the top 25 soundtracks of all time. In fairness, it wasn't as heinous as I was expecting, but there were some glaring omissions, to say the least. Music and film are like peanut butter and chocolate. The combination, when done well, is luscious and kinetic.
Since part of the reason I write in the first place is some strange moral compulsion to right the cultural wrongs of the world, I figured I would contribute my own personal list of superb soundtracks. The key difference with this list, other than being naturally quality, is that I refuse to put anything in numeric order. How art hits you can be really mercurial, all depending on your mood, the position of the moon, how the postman looked at you, etc etc. So with all of that in mind, here's just a taste of some of my favorite movie music!
“Repo Man.” Alex Cox's cult film, in a lot of circles, is almost better regarded for its soundtrack than the film itself. (Though don't get me wrong, the film is great. How could anything with Harry Dean Stanton, Fox Harris and Zander Schloss be bad?) Staring off with the mean title track by Iggy Pop, the rest of the album is a like a paen to early 80's West Coast punk, including such titans as The Circle Jerks, The Plugz (God love Tito Larriva!), Black Flag, Suicidal Tendencies and Fear.
Speaking of punk rock soundtracks, I would be remiss to not mention either “Return of the Living Dead” or “The Great Rock and Roll Swindle.” The former was actually my early introduction to bands like The Cramps and The Flesheaters. That alone is terrific, but it also features the indomitable The Damned, 45 Grave and an early incarnation of synth-outfit SSQ, which later on morphed into the solo career of Stacey Swain aka Stacey Q. It's a great soundtrack for one of the most fun and well-made non-Romero zombie films.
“The Great Rock & Roll Swindle,” a film whose origins begin with being the aborted Russ Meyer project “Who Killed Bambi?” ended up being one fascinating mess of a music film. There are moments of greatness within the film, with some of the the highlights being Steve Jones romping in a neon bed with a half-naked lovely in gold undies to “Lonely Boy,” only to have coitus interruptus via a talking dog (!), the tribal-disco fusion band, The Black Arabs, doing a “Stars on 45” type medley of the Pistols hits and, of course, Sid Vicious beautifully butchering the old standard “My Way.” The latter has become particularly iconic and a great example of how one can really deconstruct something old, hence making it new. Especially when it is the musical equivalent of using a ball peen hammer and some crazy glue. Which is never, ever a bad thing!
Of course, Tenpole Tudor's "Who Killed Bambi?" does have a huge place in my heart.
One of the most striking soundtracks to have emerged in the last thirty years is absolutely Mitchell Froom's work for Stephen Sayadian's post-nuclear masterpiece, “Cafe Flesh.” Released as “The Key of Cool,” Froom's score, much like the images and story it is accompanying, are not easily forgotten. It's jazzy, infernal and is in dire need of being back in print. One of my dreams is for not only “Key of Cool” to get a nice, new re-release, but for “Cafe Flesh” itself to get the loving, uncut and remastered treatment it so desperately deserves.
The soundtrack for Richard Elfman's “Forbidden Zone” was an absolute staple of my latter high school years. While I loathed high school, this film and soundtrack both were one of the balms that got me through. At the time, I had only seen the film once, renting a severely out-of-print copy from the long defunct Hauser Video, but it was love at first site and sound. It is a great insect-in-the-amber document of the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, right before they became less Cab Calloway and more New Wave as Oingo Boingo. Anyone who loves black & white film, expressionism, old music, nudity, dancing frogs, Susan Tyrell, Herve Villechaize, the Kipper Kids, my beloved Joe Spinell and Danny Elfman dressed up as ole scratch himself the way that I do, must pick this up.
Absolutely one of the most underrated films and soundtracks ever has to be Bob Rafelson's “Head.” Better known as the one film the Monkees ever did, “Head” is one of the most exquisitely edited, subversive, dark humored rock films ever. It initially flopped, with one of the biggest factors being their fans expecting something just like the TV show: cute, zany and fairly safe. Instead, they got the ole “the money's in, we're made of tin” soft shoe, Vietnam war footage and Timothy Carey at his most intense and out-of-bounds. (Okay, what am I saying? Carey was always that magnificent!) The music matches the proceedings inch by inch, with the absolute highlight being the haunting “The Porpoise Song.”
Some honorable mentions that I will write about at a later date include:
“Urgh! A Music War”
“Bram Stoker's Dracula” (Not counting the Annie Lenox song. The score itself is gorgeous and much better than Coppola's muddled effort.)
Anything Italian between the late 50's and mid 80's
Anything with the names Les Baxter or Angelo Badalamenti attached.
There's obviously way more, but consider this piece to be a little bit of a taste of the proper. Now as a bonus, here are two of my favorite songs from a movie.
The first is Mort Garson's theme from Larry Hagman's “Son of Blob.” I have no idea how the film is, but I do know that this song is a little slice of esoteric heaven to my ears. I never need happy pills as long as I have access to this delight. Also, Mort Garson was a genius whose library is itching to be rediscovered.
The second is from the original “In the Heat of the Night.” Featuring the uber-fantastic Anthony James, “Owl on the Prowl” is like a hillbilly version of Sam the Sham's “Little Red Riding Hood.” In other words, awesome. (Also, this is for a friend of mine, whose taste surpasses even my own.)
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Sunday, September 1, 2013
“Edgy” could be one of the most overused adjectives in the history of cultural writing, along with “brilliant” and “understated.” Granted, I am as guilty as anyone else, but words are really just mere vessels for our intentions and ideas. One man's edgy is another one's boring and one of the things I have observed over the years is that most things labeled “edgy” are often the furthest thing from the truth. Sure, a lot of folks clamor for it, but when they actually get it, they will go out of their way to run from it. Case in point, lots of people wet their collective panties over Wes Anderson, an overly arch, white bread faux-indie filmmaker if ever there was one, but a guy like Alejandro Jodorowsky, a born & bred maverick, still has problems garnering funding for his projects. Then again, I'm someone who firmly believes in the adage, “Give the people what they deserve.” Any artist that honors that is someone who will always be my valentine.
Speaking of which, I got to check out the Crass episode of the web series “The Art of Punk” and was instantly inspired by band founder Penny Rimbaud. Unlike some of the other episodes, you actually get to hear some of Crass' music as well as see the intense and vital visual side. Rimbaud is my kind of hippie. Mentally sharp, cranky and individualistic to his core, Rimbaud is as uncompromising now as he was in the 1970's. The other “Art of Punk” episodes are definitely worth checking out, including ones on Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys. The former is a super-gem thanks to some interview footage with the great Raymond Pettibon.
Going back to Rimbaud and Crass, I love it that one of the most seminal “punk” bands was founded by an older, commune living activist. Given how popular the phrase “never trust a hippie” was, there is something just so beautifully subversive about that. Not to mention, one thing that gets lost on a lot of folks is that punk originally was purely about DIY. Before it got codified by the mainstream and put in an “angry,skinny,white hetero male with spiky hair” box, punk was actually a musically diverse movement. In the UK alone, bands like Crass would have never been confused with say, The Damned or Big in Japan. Not just because Crass was so incredible, but because a lot of these bands stood out from the pack. The US scene was equal as well, with early proto-punk bands like The Stooges and later on, the massively underrated Destroy All Monsters, standing as unique giants along side bands like Suicide, the New York Dolls, The Fast and Jayne County.
One of the many reasons why I love the concert film”Urgh! A Music War”so much is that it is a semi-perfect document of punk and post-punk before it became completely signed, sealed and delivered by both the mainstream record companies, as well as the more sheep-like “fan”contingent. You have such equally great but different bands as Wall of Voodoo, The Cramps (those last two alone sealed my affection for the film), X, The Fleshtones, John Otway and the still incomparable after all these years, Skafish. (We'll just ignore the fact that UB40 is also in the film. Hey, the devil works in many ways.)
Now more than ever, the air is ripe and the time is more than right for a new cultural revolution. Movements like Dada, the Beats and Punk have all laid out the groundwork to show us that it can be done. Like the song goes, let's rip it up and start again.