Tuesday, March 3, 2015

SIN STREET SLEAZE RONDO NOMINATED!

Honored to learn today that Sin Street Sleaze has been nominated for a Rondo award this year, in the Best Blog or Online Column category! Named after 1930's and 40's actor Rondo Hatton, the Rondos are the Oscars of the horror, science-fiction and fantasy film fields. This nomination will hopefully encourage me to actually update this blog a bit more regularly.
Rondo votes can be emailed to taraco@aol.com


MONSTER! #13

Contributor's copy of Monster! #13 slithered its way into my PO box recently, and is another 100+ pages of gruesome goodness. Apart from my article on the 1988 Dinosaurs Attack! bubble gum cards by Topps, and reviews of Mars Attacks!, The Giant Gila Monster and Snowbeatsthis issue also contains Stephen Bissette's examination of the filmic adaptations of Richard Matheson's novel I Am Legend, as well as a look at the series of Dracula and Frankenstein films produced by Hammer, making it a must-read for any fans of the legendary British studio.

https://www.createspace.com/5213838





Monday, March 2, 2015

SANCTUARY

Organised clutter and chaos of the office writing desk.


RIP DICK BAKALYAN

With all the news and post regarding Leonard Nimoy, the passing of Richard 'Dick' Bakalyan over the weekend - one year older than Nimoy at 84 - has gone largely unnoticed, though it's a name that unfortunately would probably not have gained much ink space anyhow. But Dick Bakalyan was great as a tough-guy teenager in such 1950's juvenile delinquency films as THE DELINQUENTS, THE COOL & THE CRAZY, JUVENILE JUNGLE and more. He was also in lots of western and war TV shows, episodes of BATMAN and THE MOD SQUAD, the classic war actioner VON RYAN'S EXPRESS, the post-apocalyptic PANIC IN THE YEAR ZERO!, and played a cop in Polanski's CHINATOWN.

When I was writing a film screenplay on spec some years back, the female lead, Laura, was a platinum-blonde, leopard print wearing hellcat with a fixation for all things 1950's, especially Dick Bakalyan. This was an exchange I wrote between Laura and her boyfriend, Jake, taking place in a desert motel while Laura is watching television.
JAKE
What’s on?
LAURA
Not sure, but I think it stars Dick Bakalyan.
JAKE
Who’s he?
LAURA
(genuinely surprised)
You never heard of Dick Bakalyan?
JAKE
Sorry. The real world always kept me too
busy to become much of a film buff.
LAURA
Well, he was in stacks of these movies in
the fifties. Juvenile Jungle....The Cool
and the Crazy....Hot Car Girl, which I
think this is. He was like a role model for
a whole generation of rebel wannabes.
JAKE
I thought that privilege belonged to
Mister James Dean?
LAURA
Nah, I always thought Dean was a bit
overrated. Too much of a poser, even
though he did at least die young.
(after a beat)
I don’t know. Dean was okay, I guess.
But I always thought Dick Bakalyan was
it and a bit. He had the real thing. Just
like you.
JAKE
Me? I’ve never watched one of those
films in my life.
LAURA
I know. That’s what makes you so great.
You’re not trying to be some phony clone.
You just are who you are.

LOVE GUN DELUXE

Have been spinning the recent 2-disc Deluxe Edition of Love Gun for the first time. Originally released in June 1977, with Star Wars fever fresh in the air, Love Gun has always been my least favourite of that initial run of six classic KISS studio LPs released between 1974 - 77. But even while I find it the weakest of the six, it's the one that captures KISS at the height of their popularity and power in the US, before things started going pear-shape for them the following year. The production (by KISS and Eddie Kramer) was a bit thin and lacked beef - it was the beginning of the band starting to lean away from hard rock and more towards pop rock.

Love Gun still has its highlights for sure. The title track has been overplayed in the ensuing years, but Paul Stanley’s album opener ‘I Stole Your Love’ is a masterpiece of swaggering seventies cock rock, and Ace Frehley finally gets his chance to sing a lead vocal, on what would become his signature tune, ‘Shock Me’. In fact, while Frehley would become more prominent as a singer songwriter on the next two KISS LPs - 1979's Dynasty and 1980's UnmaskedLove Gun is probably his best overall album performance as a lead guitarist. His guitar certainly helps lift filler tracks like ‘Got Love for Sale’, ‘Tomorrow and Tonight’ and ‘Hooligan’ out of the doldrums. Gene Simmons’ best known contribution to Love Gun was the sleazy pop smut of ‘Christine Sixteen’, which I’ve never been much a fan of. His sleazy side is much better projected in ‘Plaster Caster’, his ode to the notorious Chicago groupie/artist Cynthia Plaster Caster (who found infamy in the rock underworld by making plaster casts of the genitals of visiting musicians). Simmons also contributes a true underrated gem in ‘Almost Human’, projecting his demonic persona in a track full of funky bass and drums, a blazing sawmill lead from Frehley, and those distinct, high female-esque backing vocals during the chorus and fade-out. No wonder it brought the house down when the band finally performed it live for the first time on the KISS Kruise in 2013.

The re-mastering on this deluxe CD keeps the integrity and sound of the original recording intact, yet it also adds a subtle enhancement to the backing rhythm guitar tracks, adding another interesting layer to some of the cuts (particularly ‘Almost Human’). I can't imagine the album ever sounding better or crisper than this. The 2nd CD in this set features a mixture of unused Gene Simmons demos (the best of which is ‘Much Too Soon’), original demos of several songs that ended up on the album, a radio interview with Simmons recorded in Montreal on the Love Gun Can-Am Tour, the almost laughingly unnecessary ‘Love Gun Teaching Demo’, and vintage live recordings of ‘Love Gun’, 'Christine Sixteen’ and ‘Shock Me’, all from a Maryland show in December 1977. Cool stuff for the fan to have, but hardly something to keep on regular rotation.

Completing the package is a nice booklet filled with some rare pics from the era, a sketch of the original proposed album cover (the iconic completed art was contributed by Ken Kelly), and an introduction by Def Leppard frontman Joe Elliott (a strange choice to me, as neither Elliott or Lep have ever cited KISS as any kind of real inspiration or influence on them). It seems to be more a convenient commercial tie-in for the recent KISS/Leppard American tour, rather than any genuine tribute.

The only thing this re-issue is really missing is a replica of the original firing cardboard pop-gun which was included in the original 1977 LP pressings (there was in fact supposed to be a small fridge magnet replica of said gun included in this set, but most people - myself included - have found it to be missing).

SPOOKY SPROCKETS

Setting up the old Royal Sound projector on the tiki bar, so I can watch a few of my vintage Super 8 horror movie digest reels - researching the subject for an upcoming article in Monster!


NOREM'S MONKEY BUSINESS

Recently, I had the pleasure of handling and examining up close some original Earl Norem pencil sketches, which the great artist did in the mid-1970's for Marvel's Planet of the Apes comic magazine. Done on incredibly thin tracing paper, it's wonderful to see these delicate pieces preserved and have the opportunity to study the artist's dynamic pencil work in person. My favorite of the pieces I saw today were these two - sketch for the cover of issue #28 (depicting a dynamic showdown between General Ursus and a mutant/Terminator-like hybrid), and an original sketch idea for issue #8, which was eventually dropped in favour of an illustration depicting a tense scene taking place outside the decayed subway train, rather than inside it. Though the original sketch idea was later used as the template for the cover of Marvel's color reprint comic, Adventures on the Planet of the Apes , it's a pity that Norem never got to actually paint this scene for the intended magazine, as I find it a really striking composition, and I would have loved to have seen it done in Norem's lovely and lurid, gaudy pulp magazine style.






Monday, December 29, 2014

HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD

Mean zombie kid wakes-up hungry for lunch in Bruno Mattei’s Hell of the Living Dead (aka Virus aka Night of the Zombies). I love this 1980 Dawn of the Dead knock-off from Italy (it even uses Goblin’s classic Dawn score, and apes the opening SWAT segment from Romero’s classic). Lots of gory, kooky fun but also has a real grotty, oppressive atmosphere to it. Great cast of sweaty faces, though Margit Evelyn Newton certainly pretties up the Papua New Guinea jungle setting (the film was actually shot on the outskirts of Barcelona, with obvious stock footage used to create the jungle ambience). I love how Newton’s reporter character, and her male cameraman, both figure that knee-high leather boots make suitable attire to go prancing around the hostile jungle in, and no one is spared a grisly death (Newton’s death being particularly gruesome). Like Fulci’s Zombie (1979), the film ends with the living dead infecting major cities, seemingly sealing humanity’s faith (or at least leaving the door open for a sequel).

Some brilliant lines of dialogue as well (“Buildings have people in them, I think we’ll go and investigate”), my favourite being this exchange between two technicians checking the safety dials at a chemical plant:

Tech 1: “She may not know much about chemistry, but in bed her reactions are terrific.”
Tech 2: “I’m not surprised, with that cute little ass of hers.”
Tech 1: “I’m a tit man, myself.”

NEWTON COMICS

Thoroughly enjoyed, and highly recommend, Daniel Best's new book on the history of Australia’s Newton Comics. Melbourne based, Newton Comics burned brightly but briefly in the Australia of the mid-70s, introducing many Aussie kids of that era to the Marvel roster of superheroes for the first time. Certainly it was the first time kids like me got to read some of those classic early origin stories and art by the likes of Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby, even if it was only in black ...& white. Newton Comics also offered cool extras like pull-out posters, iron-on transfers, prizes and swap cards (to be placed in an album that seemingly no one who sent in their hard earned dollar for ever received).

Newton Comics - The Rise & Fall tells the early history of Marvel Comics in Australia, as well as the story of Maxwell Newton, the enigmatic publisher who ripped-off Marvel and managed to put over 180 different comic books on the newsstands within a year before it all crumbled around him (could you imagine someone today daring to thumb their nose at the mighty Marvel legal machine?).

Best’s book also contains a complete illustrated bibliography of Newton titles (including stories contained in each issue, details of posters and swap cards attached, etc.), as well as promotional items (would love those Planet of the Apes giveaway samples) and lots of documents that reveal Newton’s legal troubles. There’s even a reprint of an original Apes script submitted to Newton, when the company briefly considered writing and illustrating their own stories (something that would have come out of necessity, since Marvel were highly unlikely to keep providing original art when the payments to them were not forthcoming).

A great nostalgia piece as well as an excellent reference work, my only gripe with Newton Comics - The Rise & Fall is that I wish it were a hard copy book that I could keep on my shelf. But hey, for a measly $5.00 you can’t complain.

Now excuse me while I go scan eBay to search for all those Newtons I had as a kid and never held onto (though they certainly aren’t as cheap as they used to be, with some copies in nice condition selling for three-figure sums in the early 2000s).

You can order the book here:
http://ohdannyboy.blogspot.com.au/…/newton-comics-rise-fall…


Saturday, December 27, 2014

LITTLE SHOPPE OF HORRORS #33

Latest issue of Richard Kelemensen's Little Shoppe of Horrors turned up in the post recently and looks like another beauty. This issue contains an interview I conducted some years back with the late Australian actor Charles 'Bud' Tingwell, talking about his role in the 1965 Hammer Horror classic Dracula - Prince of Darkness.

www.littleshoppeofhorrors.com 


AMERICAN HORROR

It’s taken me long enough, but I recently decided to start watching American Horror Story, naturally starting from scratch. So far I have gone through the first season (Murder House) and am about half-way through the second (Asylum). I don’t think Asylum is as effective or engrossing as Murder House, at least thus far. The characters aren’t as interesting and the plot tends to go way over the top due to its sanatorium setting. Murder House had a bit more subtlety to it, a more pervasive mood of the supernatural, and characters that I felt more invested in. But Asylum still has it’s great moments, and a pretty creepy performance by James Cromwell, and Jessica Lange is exceptional in both seasons...I’m looking forward to eventually catching-up with third (Coven) and especially the current fourth season, Freakshow.

Especially nice to see Jennifer Salt as one of the producers and writers on the show...I always thought the former actress was pretty cute and radiated an early-seventies naturalness about her, particularly as Cornel Wilde’s daughter in the 1972 telemovie Gargoyles, which was a bit of a late, late show weekend favourite when I was a kid.


Monday, November 17, 2014

WEIRD LOVE

    ‘Sex, Drugs and Ronald Reagan!’ 

    Great Sunday afternoon reading in Weird Love #2, which reprints some of the more controversial and outrageous stories from vintage romance comic books, predominately from the 1950's, Highlights of issue 2 include 1953's ‘Yes, I Was an Escort Girl’ and the jaw-dropping ‘Too Fat for Love’ from 1950. The groovy counter-culture era is also represented in 1972's ‘Mini Must Go!’, and there’s a Ronald Reagan ‘Dream Beau of the Month’ profile taken fro...m the pages of Sweethearts #111 (May 1952). I never read romance comics as a kid (like most boys, I was all about superheroes, horror, sci-fi, crime and war), but as an adult I can appreciate not just some of the lovely art but the sheer sensationalism and luridness of many of their stories. More than any other comic book genre, it seems the romance titles of the 1940s/50s came closest to reflecting the same skewered and wholly unrealistic window into (then) contemporary modern mores and values as the classic social guidance and classroom education films did at the time.




MONSTER! #10

    Issue 10 of Monster! arrived this week, and is a meaty 100+ page Halloween special. My contributions to this issue include an article on Don Post masks and a review of Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982). Also included in this bumper crop of creepy goodness are reviews of a couple of classic Joe D'Amato sleazefests (Anthrophagus and Absurd), Antonio Margheriti's Castle of Blood, and 1970s genre telemovies (The Norliss Tapes, The Night Stalker and its sequel The Night Strangler). Articles run the gamut from Hammer’s Cornwall horrors (The Reptile and The Plague of the Zombies) to Steve Fenton's continued coverage of ferocious cinematic felines (focusing on Far East productions here) and Stephen Bissette's terrific and well-researched look at ghost and horror comic books of the early 1960's (especially appealing to me since he mentions one of my favorite cover artists, the amazing L. B. Cole). Co-Editor Tim Paxton also continues his expansive coverage of Indian horror cinema (a genre I really need to explore in depth at some point).
    All this for only $5 and a bit of change! What monster lover can afford to be without it? Available from Amazon...




FRIEDKIN'S SEEDY L.A.

    Decided to revisit William Friedkin's To Live and Die in L.A. (1985) in the wee hours this past Sunday morning. As much as I loved aspects of Killer Joe (2011), I still think this is Friedkin's last truly great film (to date), as well as being one of the classic crime thrillers of 1980s American cinema, and a film that seems to perfectly capture the essence of L.A.'s seedy underbelly during that decade. Reagan's America and the extremes of excess and desperation which its economy spawned are so well reflected in the film, and William Peterson makes a charismatic and engrossing, yet reckless and unlikeable, Secret Service anti-hero. In one of his earliest roles, the future CSI star really delivers a performance full of cocksure arrogance, and I'm glad Friedkin left the film's original bleak ending intact (at the request of producers, he did film a happier ending, which would have robbed the film of much of its satisfaction and kick. The happy ending is included on the DVD as a special feature). Willem Dafoe also shines here as the main villain, a charismatic, complex and brooding artist who moonlights as an expert counterfeiter. Supporting roles by Dean Stockwell, John Turturro and late action/exploitation star Steve James add weight to the story, and it seemed an inspired choice to have 80's new wave pop group Wang Chung (Dance Hall Days) compose and perform the soundtrack. The film looks beautiful as well, and is wonderfully edited (particularly during the counterfeiting sequence and a white-knuckle car chase into oncoming traffic). I've never read the novel by Gerald Petievich which the film is based on, but I must remember to hunt it down someday.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

GONE GIRL

Despite venturing into some progressively more outrageous territory the further it goes along, I thought Gone Girl was another very solid effort from David Fincher, an engrossing mystery that draws you right in thanks to Fincher's deft hand, nice performances from Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Carrie Coon and a rather unsettling Neil Patrick Harris. Though not as confronting as Se7en nor as stylish as Zodiac, Gone Girl also benefits from some terrific sound design and a strong ambient score composed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. If you haven't read Gillian Flynn's 2012 novel from which it is adapted (scripted by Flynn herself), then the less you know going in the better (I had not read the book nor was I familiar with the story other than the overall set-up).