Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Mondo Round-Up: Goodbye 2013

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!

Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated Dramas & Underrated Horror

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Lust, Mad Love & Dirty Talk: Nelson Lyon's The Telephone Book

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! 

Early on, Warhol Factory Superstar/cult writer, the inimitable Ondine pops up behind a desk, serving as what could only be described as the loosest definition of a Greek chorus ever. His segments are not very long and sparse, which is too bad since Ondine was an incredibly compelling personality. Speaking of fabulous Warhol related figures, Ultra Violet shows up as a whip wielding tigress at Har Poon's studio, looking sexier than any of the nude girls there in her shiny black clothes and surly expression. Rounding out the 6th degrees of Andy is go-go dancer Geri Miller, who was also in Paul Morrissey's “Trash.” Geri does her famous dance starkers for Mr. Poon's amusement, shimmying like both her rent and life depend on it. The ultimate Warholian move unfortunately is lost, with there originally being intermission footage of the man himself munching on popcorn.


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. 

Visually striking in ways you could not even dream of, such as the unforgettable sight of a youngish and aroused William Hickey, and the attitude of a thumb delightfully up the nose towards the status quo, “The Telephone Book is a subterranean gem.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Mondo Round-Up: Grooving in Green Edition

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!