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 Café 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/


GRAPHIC THRILLS

Received a review copy of Robin Bougie's incredible new book Graphic Thrills from FAB Press in the post recently. A large 144 page trade paperback, Graphic Thrills takes us on a journey through the world of classic XXX adult film poster art from the 1970's and early-80's, before the home porn video market really exploded and the artwork was gradually replaced by generic VHS photo boxes. Featuring one poster per page, with a review and insightful notes on each title, Graphic Thrills is a stunning tribute to this golden age of adult entertainment, and a must-have for anyone interested in the history of the genre, and of exploitation poster art in general. The US $35.00 price tag might seem a little steep, but like all FAB Press books this is beautifully put together and printed on high quality glossy paper stock, well worth adding to your film or graphic art book shelf. A terrific effort from the author and publisher of the cult Cinema Sewer magazine (and series of compendium books, also published by FAB Press). A limited (500 copies) hardcover/signed printing is also available direct from the publisher.

http://www.fabpress.com/books/graphic-thrills-paperback.html 


Sunday, May 18, 2014

CREATURE FEATURE

I’d never even heard of this 2011 film until I read Stephen Bissette’s recent write-up of it in the second issue of Monster! Stephen’s enthusiastic (and extensive) piece got me curious enough to track down a copy of the film down and give it a go. 

Written and directed by Fred M. Andrews, Creature apparently has the dubious distinction of having the lowest-grossing ever opening weekend for a film appearing on over 1500 screens. While the cinema may not have been the right place for the movie to find an audience, it worked quite well as a late late Saturday night DVD, just what I needed to wash the grime and seediness of William Friedkin’s Cruising off of me (see previous post). 

Set in the Louisiana Bayou, Creature is an old-fashioned pulpy monster movie at heart, and built on a thoroughly cliched premise - a bunch of kids on a road trip decide to go off the beaten track in order to investigate the local legend of Lockjaw, a half-man/half-alligator who prowls the bayou. Andrews dresses up his basic idea with enough gore, lesbian sex, incest and Southern Texas Chainsaw Massacre-style inbreeding and family craziness to make it all luridly entertaining. There’s some really twisted and sick themes and images on display at times, and the titular creature is a pretty cool looking creation that seems at least partly inspired by the comic book character Swamp Thing (I’m beginning to see why Stephen liked it so much!).

Flawed, but still worth checking out if you are a die-hard monster movie fan, and especially if you enjoy that special steamy sub-genre of bayou exploitation cinema...


CRUISING

Well done to Fangoria scribe Lee Gambin and his Cinemaniacs crew for their screening of Cruising at the Back Lot cinema last night. A terrific venue - good screen, comfy seats and a nice ambience. The prefect place for cult film screenings!

Cruising is just as uncompromising today as it was 34 years ago, and was a pretty brave and risky choice for both director William Friedkin and star Al Pacino. Definitely one of the great New York movies, though also one of the toughest to watch. Classic soundtrack featuring Germs, Rough Trade, Willy DeVille, the Cripples and more, and I loved seeing Don Scardino (the male lead from one of my favourite horror films, 1976's Squirm) turn up as Pacino's neighbour. And Pacino's Amyl Nitrate fuelled dance is a sight to behold...

After the film ended last night, we were treated to an interesting screening of some short, silent footage of gay rights groups protesting the filming of Cruising in the streets of New York City, over which Lee delivered a talk on some of his favourite depictions of gay killers (and gay victims) in genre films over the years. It's the little extras like this (not to mention the give-aways they always have) that help make the Cinemaniacs screenings a genuine treat for the Melbourne film lover. Looking forward to their upcoming Friday the 13th marathon and screening of Walter Hill's The Warriors (1979).

https://www.facebook.com/cinemaniacsmelb



Friday, May 16, 2014

GOJIRA STOMPS AGAIN

Checked out an IMAX 3D screening of the new Godzilla movie last Thursday night…my initial spoiler-free impressions follow:

Godzilla, and his world and characters that populate it, have an intrinsic connection to Japanese culture, not to mention a particularly dark time in 20th Century history (the original 1954 Godzilla was a clear allegory for the atomic bombs dropped on Japan during the last days of World War II). As a result, I think any attempt by another country to present their take on Godzilla is bound to feel somewhat less genuine, or not quite “the real thing”…just as it would if Japan tried to make a Batman or Friday the 13th film. 

This new Godzilla is certainly miles above Roland Emmerich’s embarrassing attempt to Americanize the character back in 1998. Director Gareth Edwards has clearly taken his cue from the Steven Spielberg school of classic blockbuster movie-making, using films like JAws (even one of the main characters is named Brody), Close Encounters of the Third Kind and (naturally) Jurassic Park as his templates. While Edwards is to be commended for wanting to take his time and establish character, the problem is that his characters are, for the most part, not worth investing too much time or emotion in. They aren’t awful characters, just rather bland and uninvolving. But at least they aren’t the annoying cardboard cut-outs that populated Emmerich’s film. 

Then again, character depth and development in a Godzilla film is something that should be considered a bonus rather than a pre-requisite. These movies are all about the stomp and the spectacle, and in this regard I think Edwards has pulled-off some pretty stunning set-pieces. A lot of critics have found fault with the film’s sparse sprinkling of action during its first two acts, and while it would have been nice to see a bit more of actual Godzilla action, I found its more relaxed pace to be a nice change in an age when blockbusters are expected to start with a big CGI razzle dazzle and never let-up. And I really liked the way they handled the Godzilla ‘character’, drawing on various past incarnations to create a nice balance of monster and hero. I really liked the design as well - a slight revamp but unmistakably Godzilla. The enormous prehistoric (and nuclear-fed) MUTOs - Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms - look rather generic and unremarkable in comparison, though they do come across as genuinely threatening in a couple of scenes.

While it didn’t quite live up to the promise shown by its terrific and highly-effective trailers, I still found Godzilla to be a pretty entertaining and satisfying attempt to do a classic monster movie, and has a rousing final act that certainly looked pretty grand up there on the giant IMAX screen. 

Received a free Godzilla IMAX poster upon entry as well...always nice to see a bit of old-fashioned promotion going on.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

VALE H. R. GIGER

It's fair to say that Ridley Scott's Alien (1979) would be nowhere near the film it is were it not for the illustrations and designs which Giger put together for it (which included the adult alien, the facehugger, chestburster, derelict spaceship/pilot and more). His designs mesmerised me as a 15 year-old, seeing them in the pages of magazines like Cinefantastique and Starlog around the time ALIEN was released, and I quickly went on to learn more about him after buying Giger's Alien, as well as the making-of book (The Book of Alien). Giger's work was beautiful yet ugly, horrifying yet sexual, disturbing yet endlessly fascinating. And the man himself, with his pale skin, grey locks, black clothes and often draped in a full length black leather coat, was almost as transfixing and interesting as his work.


Sunday, May 11, 2014

PINK FACTORY

Enjoying an evening coffee (from a suitably naughty cup) while I peruse my article on tragic 70's porn starlet Rene Bond in Pink Factory, the newly published one-shot special from the people behind Crime Factory magazine. Received my hard copies of Pink Factory today and it looks fabulous, the layout designers did a top job and I am very pleased with how my piece turned out. Devoted to the depiction of sex and erotica in various media (cinema, fiction, pulps, comic books, etc.), Pink Factory titillates, educates, engages and occasionally disturbs and horrifies, and features some great pieces of writing from Cameron Ashley, Andrew Nette, Michelle Alexander, Liam Jose and more.

Ordering details here:

Sunday, May 4, 2014

SEEDY BRAIN

Every time I watch Joseph Green’s The Brain that Wouldn't Die, I remain amazed at just what a lurid and demented little gem it is for 1962 (not to mention for 1959, when the film was actually lensed before sitting on the shelf for a few years). It’s a perfect combination of outrageous low-budget horror and sexploitation roughie - the seedy ambience that pervades throughout is as thick as pea soup. Virginia Leith delivers a terrific performance, considering she is limited to being just a head sitting in a tray of chemicals for most of the running time. There’s also a giant monster in a cupboard and a surprising amount of blood and gore on display. A lot of the film’s sleazier highlights - including a catfight amongst strippers in a low-rent strip joint, star Jason Evers checking out asses in tight dresses as they strut down the street (accompanied by wailing jazz), and a visit to an Irving Klaw-esque pin-up photo studio, were cut from subsequent television prints for years. The first time I ever saw it was on local late-night television in the early-90's, in what turned out to be a pristine uncut print. The European cut of the film featured some snippets of nudity, which is included as a bonus feature on the film's DVD release (on an MGM sci-fi four pack).

Saturday, May 3, 2014

MS. 45

Sat down and watched Drafthouse Films’ recent Blu-ray release of Abel Ferrara’s Ms.45 (aka Angel of Vengeance, 1981) last night. Haven’t watched this film since the mid-90's so it was great going in reasonably fresh as I had forgotten just how effective and shocking a couple of the scenes were (the killing of the sleazy photographer came as particularly jarring, even though I knew what was going to happen, I had forgotten how sudden and stunning it was).


I’ve never read as much into this film as a lot of other people have over the years since its original limited release (where it was given a mostly negative reception). To me, Ms.45 is a pure exploitation film in the best, violent 42nd St grindhouse tradition, which is why I immediately turned over the reversible cover in the Blu-ray so that it reflects the movie’s original lurid poster art. But it’s one exploitation film which also harbours some genuine arthouse sensibilities, and ideas and themes which, if not explored deeply in the actual film, at least give cause for viewers to think and debate. Of course, much of its arthouse veneer comes purely from the presence of the stunning (and tragic) Zoë Tamerlis in the lead role as Thana, a mute and shy young New York garment district seamstress who undergoes a stunning physical, psychological and behavioural transformation after being raped twice in one day. Tamerlis' exotic, European looks and sense of chic style which she adapts as the film progresses, really bring a level of class to the film - she clashes boldly with the drab griminess of the rest of the film, and James Lemmo’s camera lens loves her. Tamerlis is much more than just visually arresting, though. The range of emotions and inner turmoil which she is able to convey without uttering a sound is impressive. It simply wouldn’t be the film it is without her, as much as it wouldn’t be the same film without Ferrara in the director’s chair.

As close as Thriller: A Cruel Picture (1973) and I Spit on Your Grave (1978) come, Ms.45 remains the most important and well-constructed of the rape and revenge films of the 1970's and 80's, and Drafthouse have done a great job with this BR release. There is a softness to much of the 1080p hi-def image, probably a result of the original film stock, and in this case it actually helps preserve the seediness of the movie (an element which is so important to its effectiveness). The sound is great as well - the gunshots are loud and Joe Delia’s soundtrack alternately wails terror and pulsates with sleazy New York dance. Special features include the original trailer, a couple of short docos on star Tamerlis (who would die in Paris of drug-related heart failure at the age of only 37),interviews with composer Joe Delia, production designer Jack McIntyre and director Ferrara (charismatic with his thick Bronx accent and use of phrases like "Dig It!"). The 30 page booklet contains some of Tamerlis’ writing and essays on the film by Kier-La Janisse and Brad Stevens.

Definitely one of the Blu-rays of the year so far...


Sunday, April 20, 2014

EVILSPEAK

Though its never been completely dead, the underground horror film fanzine scene has been going through something of a healthy growth spurt of late. A few factors can account for the number of new titles popping-up: a new generation of younger fans are growing-up with their own things to say, nostalgia for the days of the early 1980's fanzines (xeroxed at work and distributed usually by hand and not instantly available for the entire world to read), and an ever-growing fascination for Gen VHS and the whole fanzine network of reviews and distribution (via dubbed trades) that is intrinsically tied into it (at least when you are talking about the early horror/exploitation/trash VHS releases).

Recent months have seen the first appearance of Sleazefiend Magazine, the latest satisfying dose of Dave Kosanke’s Liquid Cheese, the reborn Monster! and the resurrection - available by subscription only - of Gorezone, the one-time 1980's sister publication to Fangoria. There is also Evilspeak, the debut issue of which filtered into my PO box last week.

Named after a cult 1981 horror film starring Clint Howard, Evilspeak is an 80 page A4 magazine, published in black & white but on decent quality matt paper. The only touch of colour is the red on the cover, which is used to nice effect and helps draw attention to the striking piece of art by Don England, which reminds me of some of the cover art used in the 1970s by zines like Gore Creatures/Midnight Marquee. The interior of Evilspeak is heavily illustrated with photos, art, VHS covers, etc. The reproduction is a little dark at times, but the overall layout is appealingly clean and not messy or overly cluttered.

In terms of content, Evilspeak is pretty much rooted in the 1980s, with articles on Evilspeak the film (written by Dave Kosanke), a tribute to the late genre writer Chas. Balun, a look back at Fantaco’s Gore Shriek comic book, Drive-In Creature Features 1979 - 1982 (taking in The Dark, Without Warning, The Funhouse, The Boogens and Humongous), the underrated 1979 psycho-sickie Tourist Trap, Humanoids from the Deep, interviews with Ulli Lommel (The Boogeyman), Elm St. actresses Heather Langenkamp and Amanda Wyss, and lots more. The 1980s time barrier is broken with pieces on The Demon Lover, Paul Naschy’s Horror Raises from the Tomb and the Eddie Romero Filipino horror films of the 1960's and 70's (such as The Mad Doctor of Blood Island and Brides of Blood).

Enthusiastically written across the board (there’s also a piece entitled Drive-In Terror, written by long-time fanzine writer and filmmaker Donald Farmer), Evilspeak has launched well, and I hope it gets the chance to stick around for more than a few issues, as I think it has the potential to develop into a cool and interesting semi-pro zine (I hope it continues to publish pieces on printed horror pulp from the 70's/80's - be it comics, magazines or lurid paperbacks) .  

Bonus points for the Beast of Blood cardboard mask which came with my issue (limited, I believe, to the first 250 copies)! 

Visit the Evilspeak online store for copies of the magazine (and t-shirt, should you dig their logo):