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).


ELECTRIC BOOGALOO

A few very minor quibbles aside, thoroughly enjoyed last week's preview screening of Mark Hartley's new documentary Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films. It has a similar visual style and format to Hartley's previous two film documentaries (Not Quite Hollywood and Machete Maidens Unleashed), making for a neat trilogy of studies on exploitation film genres and filmmakers that had (at the times of their release) been somewhat underappreciated and/or undiscovered by all but the most devoted of movie cultists.

Electric Boogaloo is something of a cautionary tale, of two producers from Israel who lived the American dream until it became too big for them to handle. But for the most part, it is just an entertaining romp through an increasingly-distant period of prolific, low-budget maverick filmmaking. And while the studio are best loved for their exploitation output of the 1980's, lectric Boogaloo reminds us that Cannon Films, and their head honchos Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, did have their name on some genuinely good films (such as 52 Pick-Up, Evil Angels, Runaway Train and Barfly).

Anyone who spent their weekends in the 1980's at the local video store hiring out tapes like Missing in Action, Death Wish II, Invasion U.S.A., Masters of the Universe, Enter the Ninja, Invaders from Mars, Breakin' and Lady Chatterley's Lover is sure to enjoy lectric Boogaloo. At the Q&A after the screening, director Hartley announced that he has no more film-related works in mind for the future, in which case it is good to see him finish off with possibly the strongest of his doco-trilogy (I thought it was certainly better than Machete Maidens Unleashed, which Hartley admits was mostly a work-for-hire job, and it may even head Not Quite Hollywood, at least after an initial viewing).

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

HAND OF DEATH

Inspired by Stephen Bissette's recent piece on the film in issue 7 of Monster!, I sought out the 1962 John Agar monster flick Hand of Death and gave it a screening last night (my first - though I had heard and read about the film a number of times). Bissette’s article on Hand of Death looks at the similarities between the film’s monster, and the Thing from Marvel’s Fantastic Four comic book. Since the movie and the comic book both appeared around the same time, it’s interesting to ponder if one inspired the other creatively (Bissette’s quest for a definitive answer is ongoing, though like me he leans towards the ‘comic inspired the film’ side). Of course, the similarities could also be completely coincidental. But they are definately there, not just in the enlarged, rocky-like features which Agar’s character develops during the film, but in the way he slinks around in a coat and hat (which was usually Ben Grimm/the Thing’s amusing way of trying to walk around incognito in the early comics).

Thing similarities aside, Hand of Death is a strange little film and a fine addition to John Agar’s outre genre career. It looks more like a film made in 1956, not 1962. At 59 minutes, it barely qualifies as a feature, but it’s brief running time certainly works to its advantage, coming off like a weird tale from some pre-code horror comic published by Atlas or Harvey ten years earlier. Throw in the lovely Paula Raymond (granddaughter of pioneering Weird Tales pulp editor Farnsworth Wright), one-time Stooge Joe Besser (of the Three Stooges, not Iggy and), and an appearance from a pre-Eddie Munster Butch Patrick, and Hand of Death becomes an enjoyable bottom feature to any classic genre triple-bill from it’s period.
 
 

LAND OF THE GIANTS

Have recently started working my way through season one of Land of the Giants, the Irwin Allen fantasy series from 1968 - 1970. The episode I watched today (‘The Bounty Hunter’) guest starred Kimberley Beck, who later went on to star in Massacre at Central High (1976) and Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)! It was a clear attempt by Allen to replicate the successful formula of Lost in Space, but it never really came off (Fitzhugh was no Dr. Smith). I still enjoy Land of the Giants though, it’s colours and production design are pop-art vibrant, and I like the low-angle and off-kilt way in which they depict the giants, so recognizably human but with a ‘not quite right’ sense about them. And there’s a certain fetishism inherent in the scenes where the main leads (particularly the two females) are bound to a desktop or examination table with sticky tape then prodded and threatened by a variety of giant pencils, scalpels and fingers. Great animated opening title sequence and theme music by John Williams, with its jazzy and very Hitchcockian feel. The effects are the usual mix of rear projection, oversized props and unconvincing giant mechanical hands, but as a fan of Bert I. Gordon’s giant genre films (The Amazing Colossal Man, Attack of the Puppet People, etc.) I always find this stuff so much fun to watch.


REEL WILD CINEMA! Now Available

Unrelated to the late-90's American cable show of the same name, Reel Wild Cinema! was an Australian fanzine which I published between 1997 - 1999, the six issues of which I have now compiled into a 184 page trade paperback compendium, and available through Amazon and Createspace.

PRESS RELEASE:

A compendium of issues 1 - 6 of REEL WILD CINEMA!, the 1990's Australian fanzine devoted to off-beat, cult and exploitation films of all kind, and from all eras, with a particular emphasis on covering genre films which had been released on home video in that country during the previous 15 years.

REEL WILD CINEMA!
was an A4 photocopied fanzine published by John Harrison out of the outer Melbourne suburban wasteland of Berwick, with six issues appearing between 1997 - 1999.

Devoted to all manner of cult and eclectic/off-beat films, REEL WILD CINEMA! rode the tail of the classic wave of cut & paste film fanzines of the 1980s and 90s, before the internet exploded and changed the landscape of fan publishing forever.

Contents Include:

Vintage & Obscure Exploitation VHS Reviews

Interviews (David Lynch, Debbie Rochon, Pat Priest, Steven Jon White, Bill Tung & More)

Hong Kong Action Flicks

Marjoe Gortner:
From Child Evangelist to Psycho Hippy

BLESS THE BEASTS & CHILDREN

EXCITING CINEMA Magazine

Italian Zombie Gut-Munchers

BEYOND THE DARKNESS

The World for Christ:
Inside Pete Walker's Dark House of Horrors

Classic XXX Grindhouse Sinema

CARNIVAL OF SOULS

Ron Haydock

Toni Basil

Taylor & Burton go BOOM!

80's Teen Sex Comedies

PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES

& Lots More!

Introduction by Michael Helms
(FATAL VISIONS Editor)

Reprinted in it's Original Old School Format!

ADULT READING!!

US $16.95

ORDERING DETAILS:




Saturday, August 2, 2014

THE WARRIORS

Despite the almost sub-zero temperature and near-torrential downpour last night, was a great turnout and enjoyable time at The Warriors screening put on by Cinemaniacs last night. The film itself was enjoyed by the sold-out crowd - most of them were no strangers to the film - and my intro seemed to go down well with them. Overall a great night, and the terrific turn-out in such appalling weather only helps prove the enduring appeal of classic cult cinema.

For any fans of the film, below is a transcript of my introduction, minus any sections that directly addressed the audience.

**********

Originally released in February 1979, The Warriors was based on a 1965 novel of the same name, authored by American Sol Yurick. Written when he was 40 years old, The Warriors was Yurick’s first published novel, and interwove elements of Xenophon’s classic Greek tale Anabasis with a fictional account of inner New York City gang warfare. Interestingly, AIP, aka American-International Pictures, the famous exploitation film studio of the 1950’s, 60's and 70’s, originally bought the rights to Yurick’s novel in 1969, but no adaptation obviously eventuated. It certainly would have been interesting to see what a studio like AIP would have done with Yurick’s source material, especially since this was around the time Roger Corman was directing some of his best films for the company, and often had people like Jack Nicholson, Bruce Dern, Susan Strasberg and Peter Fonda helping him out. Would have made for a potentially cool interpretation of The Warriors I think. After the property went unproduced at AIP, the rights were eventually picked-up by Lawrence Gordon, who had been one of the key executives at AIP at the time, and Gordon had David Shaber adapt a draft screenplay from the novel, which was then sent to Walter Hill for consideration. 

Hill, at the time, was an up-and-coming screenwriter with directorial aspirations, whom in 1979 was perhaps best known for writing the screenplay for Sam Peckinpah’s 1972 adaptation of Jim Thompson’s tough crime novel The Getaway, as well as serving as one of the producers on Ridley Scott’s Alien (Hill was initially approached as a potential director for Alien, but backed off, fearing he would not be competent enough at handling all the special effects requirements the film demanded. If Hill had taken a chance at directing Alien, it’s doubtful we would have ever gotten to see The Warriors. I imagine Alien would have turned out rather differently to what we ultimately got, as well ). 

Shaber’s original screenplay for The Warriors, as first given to Hill, was by all reports a fairly gritty and realistic take on street gang culture, which Hill then reworked to incorporate some more fanciful and escapist elements in order to make it saleable to the film’s eventual distributor, Paramount Pictures. Paramount also balked at Hill’s original desire to feature an all-black cast, insisting he mix it up for commercial reasons.
   
Walter Hill often refers to Greek mythology when discussing the primary influence on The Warriors’ storyline, but I’ve always seen it as more in tune with classic American western mythology, with the ragtag team of wrongly accused trying to make their way through hostile land to the safety of friendly territory, encountering pockets of Mexican bandits, Native Americans and reward-hungry bounty hunters along the way, culminating in the inevitable stand-off (which in The Warriors, occurs in the sand at Coney Island Beach, not the middle of the Arizona desert). The narrative for The Warriors is extremely basic, but the great benefit of its simplicity is that it allows Hill to break the film down into a series of episodic confrontations, each one unique and stylized in its own way, without it appearing disjointed or detrimental to the flow of the film.

The superbly constructed opening credit sequence for The Warriors really sets up the premise, tone and main characters of the film in such a simple but concise way, that by the time the sequence is over and the film proper begins, we already have a sense of who our individual Warriors are, their personalities, their pecking order, where they are heading and the nature of their mission. The credit sequence also introduces us to many of the various street gangs that the Warriors will be confronting throughout the movie, and showcases the creative costume designs by Bobbie Mannix, who came up with a great range of iconic individual looks for the various cliques. Some of my favourite gang looks in The Warriors, apart from the Warriors themselves, are the Baseball Furies, with their uniforms, bats and KISS-like war paint, the greasy, low-rent Orphans, the silent, dungaree and brightly-coloured sweater-wearing Punks (their leader preferring roller skates to walking), and the trouble-making Rogues, who hail from Hell’s Kitchen and with their black leathers most resemble the image of the classic juvenile delinquency street gang. There’s also the all-girl gang the Lizzies, who don’t have any uniform as such, apart from some sexual ambiguity and their feminine wiles, which they use to easily lure a few of the unsuspecting - and unthinking - Warriors into their seedy jukebox den (interestingly, only the youngest Warrior, the graffiti artist Rembrandt, displays any wariness - even a hint of disgust - towards the Lizzies).

There are a number of enjoyable performances on display in The Warriors. In the role of lead Warrior Swan (at least, lead Warrior by necessity), Michael Beck exhibits a quiet but strong, square-jawed American stoicism. Beck was actually brought into the film by Walter Hill when he recalled watching him in a 1978 film called Madman, where he appeared alongside Sigourney Weaver (Hill had been watching Madman to gauge if Weaver was right for the lead role of Ripley in Alien. Of course, that Madman is not to be confused with the classic 1982 slasher film of the same name). Beck went on to movies like Xanadu, Megaforce, The Last Ninja and a couple of great TV movies in the mid-80s, Blackout and Wes Craven’s Chiller. I always remember how the cover of the VHS to Blackout - featuring a close-up photo of a man in a shiny leather gimp mask, and brandishing a large hunting knife - used to upset football great Ron Barassi when he was one of the customers at St. Kilda Video when I was working there in the late-80’s. It was Blackout and The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith - its cover featuring the silhouette of an axe dripping blood - that Barassi would always point out whenever he’d go on a rant about violence in movies, before he’d give-up and hire the Gene Hackman basketball drama Hoosiers for the umpteenth time. But I digress, though Blackout is a great little thriller, pretty intense for an 80’s television movie, and well worth checking out if you ever get the chance.

As the only central female character in the film, Deborah Van Valkenburgh’s Mercy, whom we originally meet as seemingly the gang mole to the Oprhans, does a terrific job of holding her own against a cast of high-testosterone co-stars. Mercy is the only character for whom we get any real clear motivation or depth, when she tells Swan that she can see what her future holds – five kids, cockroaches in the cupboards and a miserable life of poverty and boredom in the slums of the Bronx – and she wants to enjoy any excitement in her life while she still can, before she gets swallowed up by that stifling world that’s waiting for her a few years down the road. She uses her body and her sexuality as a means for escape and attention, and because that is all men have ever wanted from her, until she meets Swan and senses some gentleness within him, even though he is reluctant to show it at first. There’s a wonderful little moment on the train when Swan stops Mercy’s hand from trying to straighten her disheveled hair when two neatly-dressed young couples – obviously on their way home from a prom - sit down opposite them. It’s a nice way of having Swan show Mercy that she should never feel ashamed of who she is. Van Valkenburgh certainly has an exotic and uniquely beautiful look to her (she stated once that Walter Hill cast her in the movie because she was the ‘unobvious’ choice), and it was always a treat to see her show-up in things like Streets of Fire (another Walter Hill film), the early-80’s television sit-com Too Close for Comfort, and she even popped-up in Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects more recently.

Future Oscar winner Mercedes Ruehl appears here in an early role – you’ll spot her sitting provocatively on a Central Park bench – and of course, David Patrick Kelly, in his debut as bad boy Luther, creates what is undoubtedly one of the great creeps of 70’s cinema, an anarchist who instigates mayhem and murder merely because – much like Heath Ledger’s Joker - he finds it fun and simply enjoys getting caught-up in the chaos that ensues. Short in stature, with his ratty hair and excited, cackling high-pitched voice, Kelly delivers the most infamous line in the film - “Warriors, come out to play-ayyy” - spoken while clanging together three small glass bottles he has attached to his fingers. According to Hill, Kelly improvised this sequence, collecting a few empty 25 cent midget soda and beer bottles from under one of the Coney Island attractions, and recreated the voice that a creepy neighbor terrified him with when he was a kid.

For me though, my favourite character in the film has always been Ajax, as played by James Remar, the cocky and supremely self-confident Warrior who is cynical of the gang’s initial mission, prefers brawn to brain, and goes along only because he has been chosen to by their war chief Cleon, and because there is always the prospect of “breaking a few heads" or "laying some strange wolf” along the way. He’s certainly not the nicest character, but he’s someone you’d love to have on your side in a rumble, and Remar manages to make him amusing despite his lesser qualities.

One of the strongest elements of The Warriors is its visual style, and its use of authentic New York locales – including a dirty and deserted Coney Island - makes the city almost as much of an integral part of the film as the characters themselves (the only actual set built for the movie was the bathroom at the train station). A mixture of comic book fantasy and modern film noir, it also achieves a perfect balance of 70's urban grit with moments that foreshadow a slickness that would not really become popularised until a few years later, when the huge success of MTV and music videos started influencing the look of mainstream, and even independent, cinema in a pretty substantial way. This is particularly true in The Warriors in the way in which the soundtrack numbers are incorporated into the action, chiefly via a female radio DJ - who was played by the late actress Lynne Thigpen but is seen in the film only via close-ups on her mouth - who acts as a kind of Greek Chorus throughout the film, broadcasting coded news about the hunt for the Warriors, and spinning some cool wax with subtle titles like Nowhere to Run, performed by Arnold McCuller. Elsewhere on the eclectic soundtrack are the likes of Genya Ravan, lead singer of the 60's all-gal rock band Goldie and the Gingerbreads, Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh, and Desmond Child, who performed with a band called Rogue at the time, but found his biggest success co-writing hit for other musicians, like I Was Made for Lovin’ You by KISS, Dude (Looks Like a Lady) by Aerosmith and Livin’ On a Prayer by Bon Jovi. The pumping, synth and guitar melding opening theme music, along with the other instrumental tunes in the film, were composed by Barry de Vorzon, a veteran of television and film soundtracks whose career encompassed everything from Stanley Kramer’s Bless the Beasts and Children to Mr. Mom, Night of the Creeps and The Exorcist III. His most recognisable piece of music is no doubt that opening piano theme from The Young and the Restless, which was originally composed for, and used in, Bless the Beasts and Children in 1971, before it was recycled, and found it’s own slice of dubious immortality, on that long-running daytime soap.

Upon its release, The Warriors proved to be a decent sized hit with youth audiences, earning just under 22-and-a-half million dollars during its original theatrical run in America, which was certainly a great return for a film that only cost between 4-to-7 million to produce. The film’s subject matter saw it being blamed for a number of sporadic outbreaks in vandalism and violence - including three killings - involving people supposedly on their way to or from early screenings. This prompted Paramount to pull the film’s advertising from television and radio, and reduce the prominence of the newspaper ads to feature just the title, rating and session times, until the furore over the incidents had died down. Of course, this only added to the allure of the film, and its status certainly grew when it hit home video in the early-eighties. Critical reappraisal, in volumes like Danny Peary’s classic 1981 study Cult Movies, has helped The Warriors find a devoted core audience that has continued to expand over the ensuing years, the last decade in particular seeing the emergence of off-shoots like video games (with many of the original cast members returning to provide the voices), action figures and comic books based on the film and its characters.

Despite the success of The Warriors and the minor controversy it created, it surprisingly did not lead to a rash of similar movies, though you can probably see elements of its influence in some early-80’s exploitation cinema like Escape from New York, Class of 1984 and Enzo Castellari’s Italian production 1990: The Bronx Warriors. There was Philip Kaufman’s The Wanderers, of course, released the same year as The Warriors, which centered around the greaser gang sub-culture in early-60’s New York, but that film was already well into production by the time The Warriors was released, although the two films would often be mistaken for each other due to the similarities in their titles and general gang theme.

In 2005 Hill set to work assembling a director’s cut of The Warriors, and it wouldn’t be exaggerating to say it was one of those director’s cuts that is universally reviled by most fans of the film, and even those who don’t hate it still feel like it does nothing to expand or add to its appeal. Apart from adding an illustrated prelude which retold the tale of Xenophon and his march to Persia in 401 B.C., Hill’s director’s cut also tried to amp-up the comic book feel of the movie by having the last shot of every scene in the film freeze frame and then dissolve into a faux comic book panel, complete with description boxes and dialogue balloons. This creative decision really does the film a disservice, even if it really is the way Hill originally envisioned the film. The passing of 25 years can alter an artist’s interpretation of their original vision in so many ways, and not only do these comic book panel freeze frames slow down the wonderful flow of the film and meddle with its near-perfect pace, the clearly cheap modern computer graphics used to create and colour the illustrations are completely at odds with the look and feel of the rest of the film. And of course, much like George Lucas with his original Star Wars trilogy, it is this far inferior director’s cut of The Warriors that is the only version of the film currently in print on DVD or Blu-ray. The director’s cut is still worth getting if you see it cheap enough, if only for the cool making-of featurettes included on it, but if you want to see the original theatrical cut you might have to track down a copy of the old CIC VHS.

I think The Warriors, when presented in its original version, still stands up incredibly well as an exciting, entertaining and vibrant piece of late-seventies pop cinema. I would also personally rank it as Walter Hill’s best film as a director. Hill has made a lot of terrific - and at times extremely tough - cinema, including Hard Times with Charles Bronson, his 1980 western The Long Riders, which cast real-life acting brothers as historical outlaw siblings, and his 1981 Vietnam-in-the-bayous thriller, Southern Comfort. And of course, 48 Hrs. provided him with a major box-office hit that launched Eddie Murphy’s cinematic career. But I still find The Warriors to be the film of his that speaks strongest to me. 




Wednesday, July 23, 2014

GRAPHIC THRILLS by Robin Bougie






















2014/Published by FAB Press

A large 144 page trade paperback, Robin Bougie’s lovingly-assembled Graphic Thrills takes us on a journey through the world of classic XXX adult film poster art produced between 1970 to 1985, the years widely considered to be the golden age of the genre, before the home porn video market really exploded and the artwork was gradually replaced by generic VHS photo boxes (just as the movies themselves made the eventual transition from being shot on film productions to one-man camcorder cheapies). 

Assembled chronologically, and featuring one poster per page, with a review and insightful notes on each title (often including quotes from some of the performers or filmmakers involved), Graphic Thrills covers such well-known landmark titles as Deep Throat (1972), Behind the Green Door (1972), The Devil in Miss Jones (1973), Insatiable (1980) and CafĂ© Flesh (1982), but the bulk of its pages are devoted to more obscure movies such as Barbie’s Fantasies (1974), Midnight Hustle (1976), Hot Cookies (1977), Hot Lunch (1978), Pussycat Ranch (1979), Honey Throat (1980), Carnal Olympics (1983) and many more. For uniformity of design, all of the posters in the book are American one-sheets (typically around 27 x 41 inches in size).

Some of my favourite titles featured in Bougie’s study are the ones which capitalised both on popular social trends (i.e. - CB radios in 1977's Breaker Beauties) and mainstream cinema hits (like the Rollerball riff Rollerbabies, the Shampoo parody Blow Dry, the Westworld/Futureworld spoof Sex World, and the obvious Star Wars cash-in, Star Babe). Along with all the fun, however, some genuinely noteworthy and/or controversial classics are included, such as Alex de Renzy’s Babyface (1977) and Pretty Peaches (1978), William (Maniac) Lustig’s The Violation of Claudia (1977) and Roberta Findlay’s The Playgirl (1982). And of course, familiar names like John Holmes, Seka, Vanessa Del Rio, Jamie Gillis and others pop-up regularly on the poster credits (as does the obvious visage of Farrah Fawcet on the poster for 1978's Little Orphan Dusty).

Accompanied by an introductory essay that provides the reader with a nicely concise rundown of the history of pornographic cinema during the years which the book covers,  Graphic Thrills is a stunning tribute to this immensely popular ‘porno chic’ period of adult entertainment, and a must-have for anyone interested in the history of the genre, and of exploitation poster art in general. The artwork on some of these posters  is incredibly beautiful - like the best vintage paperback covers, they are gaudy, titillating and lurid but often remarkably well-realised, and it’s a pity that many of the artists who provided the work remain unknown. Author Bougie briefly discusses the frustration of trying to track down any information on many of these artists - people who in most cases probably did not care or want to be remembered for their work in this field, but at least the results of their genuine talents can now be appreciated by collectors and celebrated within the pages of this book.

The US $35.00 price tag might seem a little high, but like all FAB Press books Graphic Thrills is beautifully put together and printed on high quality glossy paper stock, and Bougie has clearly taken a lot of time and effort to clean-up and restore each poster for maximum visual impact. A terrific effort from the author and publisher of the cult Cinema Sewer magazine (and series of compendium books, also published by FAB Press), and well worth adding to your film or graphic art library shelf (or just to your collection of dirty books hidden under the bed) . A limited (500 copies) hardcover, signed edition is also still available while stocks last. I believe a follow-up volume is in the works.











































Tuesday, July 15, 2014

MASTER OF JAPANESE MONSTER MAYHEM

I missed out on the original hardcover printing of Master of Monsters, August Ragone's 2007 book on Eiji Tsuburaya, so was great to see it getting a recent softcover reprint. It's a stunning and very photo-heavy bio of the special effects maestro behind most of the classic Japanese monster and sci-fi movies of the 1950's and 60's - including Godzilla, The H-Man, Battle In Outer Space, Ultraman, War of the Gargantuas and so many more. Definitely worth seeking out if you are a fan of Japanese fantasy cinema or old-school special effects, the amount of rare behind-the-scenes photos included is remarkable.

http://www.chroniclebooks.com/titles/eiji-tsuburaya-master-of-monsters-paperback.html


AN EXCITING NEW DAWN (OF THE APES)

A few minor quibbles aside, I think Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is fully deserving of the mostly great positive reviews it has received so far. I was a little worried that 2011's much better than expected Rise of the Planet of the Apes was going to be a one-off fluke, especially since director Rupert Wyatt wasn't returning, but incoming director Matt Reeves - along with returning screenwriters Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver - has crafted what I think is a superior sequel, filled with terrific action, spectacle, drama and genuine emotional conflict. Koba - as played superbly by Toby Kebbell in motion capture - is probably the most frightening ape in the history of the series, and provides some moments of real tension and fear. And I loved how Michael Giacchino’s score had moments that reflected Jerry Goldsmith’s classic 1968 soundtrack (particularly in the sequence where the apes first make their way into San Francisco).

Dawn is one of the all-too-rare sequels that not only tops an already-excellent film, but expands on the concept and scope immeasurably, in much the same way as The Dark Knight did after Batman Begins. Nothing will ever top the classic concept, look and feel or the original film series - they were what I grew-up with and were instrumental in me developing a love of genre cinema - but I'm impressed and pretty happy with the way the Apes saga has been successfully re-imagined for a new generation, while still being able to stay respectful to its roots and satisfy so many of the original fans.

Already excited by the prospect of where this series will head next...


MONSTER MAG RESURRECTED

Monster Mag is back! This notorious UK poster magazine was published by Top Sellers between 1974 - 76, and featured articles on horror cinema on one side, opening up to a giant poster on the other side, for young horror kids to tape to their bedroom walls and horrify their parents and visiting relatives.

Usually featuring a strong Hammer content, the second issue of Monster Mag ran afoul of UK censors when customs intercepted copies shipped from Italy, where the magazine was printed. Most copies of the second issue were destroyed, making it one of the most valuable monster movie magazines around (subsequent issues had 'For sale to adults only' noted on the cover, in a bid to placate censors). 

Now, Dez Skinn - who took over as publisher on the last few issues before moving onto Hammer's House of Horror and Starburst magazines - has produced an (almost*) exact reprint of the ultra-scarce second issue of Monster Mag, with plans to reprint some of the other more notorious issues in the near future (next up is the planned but never published XX issue, featuring a poster of a bloody and bare chested Yutte Stensgaard from Lust for a Vampire).

My copy of issue 2 arrived today and it's a beauty. I was too young to have bought this publication at the time, and have never come across any back issues during my many bookstore and online digs. The format is larger than I anticipated (though I believe the dimensions of the magazine changed over the course of its 17 issue run). The images aren't as gruesome as I expected, no doubt time has diminished its impact. But the fold-out poster of the funnel mouthed creature from The Mutations is great, and this is certainly a cool relic of early-70's UK horror publishing, without the exorbitant 2014 collector's prices.

* The reprint does have a website address listed on its interior masthead, along with a 'Digitally remastered by Dez Skinn' credit, to stop unscrupulous dealers trying to fob it off as an original printing.

http://www.classichorrorcampaign.com/2014/06/01/monster-mag-has-risen-from-the-grave/

Monday, June 23, 2014

SCHOOL'S OUT

Watched the new doco on Alice Cooper, Super Duper Alice Cooper, over the weekend. A decent overview of the career of  Cooper, both the band and then the man who took the name, with some great vintage clips and photos, but not much in the way of new stories or information that even a casual fan (like me) hasn't already heard/read many times before.

One thing that really disappointed me about the documentary is that it pretty much cuts off at the beginning of the 1980's. While the most creative and interesting years of his career and life were certainly the late-1960's to mid-70's, Cooper still had a pretty decent career throughout the later half of the 1980's. 

I've always enjoyed his 1986 album Constrictor, Cooper's first collaboration with Rambo-like guitarist Kane Roberts. Beau Hill's production is a bit thin and sounds rather dated now, but overall I think it has a much stronger selection of tracks than his big 1989 comeback album Trash. Apart from 'He's Back (The Man Behind the Mask) - the theme song for Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives - Constrictor also had such fun and catchy tracks as 'Thrill My Gorilla', 'Life and Death of the Party', the S&M paean 'Trick Bag' and 'Teenage Frankenstein', a great ode to 50s B horror...



COME OUT TO PLAY...

Happy to announce that I have been asked to introduce the upcoming Cinemaniacs screening of Walter Hill's 1979 cult classic The Warriors at the Backlot Studios in Southbank at 8pm on Friday, August 1st. Can you dig it? Even happier to announce that it is the original theatrical version which is being screened, not the awful Director's Cut with all the fake comic strip panels inserted into it. The Director's Cut is the only version of the film currently available on disc, so if you want to see this great urban fantasy on the big screen in the form it was originally made to be seen in, then make sure all you Warriors come out to play-ay on August the 1st...the Backlot is a terrific venue for these screenings and I believe tickets are selling fast!

https://www.facebook.com/events/309415515881005/