Friday, November 6, 2015


Hailing from the small town of Minot, North Dakota, Marneen Lynne Fields - often credited just as Marneen Fields - is today forging a career as a singer-songwriter and CEO of her own song publishing company, Heavenly Waterfall (her composition ‘Shadows’ is a great piece of smoky, blues-tinged nightclub pomp and pop that conjurs up images as diverse as vintage James Bond cool and dark David Lynch perversity). While music is her clear and driving passion, Fields also has to her name an impressive list of credits in front of the movie and television cameras dating back to the mid-1970's, both as an actress and, until the early-1990's, as a trail-blazing stunt woman working in a very tough and physically demanding field.

Aside from working on films such as The Gauntlet (1977) with Clint Eastwood and Joe Dante’s lycanthropy classic The Howling (1981), Marneen Fields performed stunts on a string of classic and fondly-remembered television shows like Wonder Woman, Fantasy Island, Battlestar Galactica and The Fall Guy. She also worked on a number of big screen disaster movies during the last few years of the genre’s great 1970's era. Exploitation fans might recognize her from the enjoyably seedy grindhouse flick Hellhole (1985), where she worked alongside an amazing list of cult and fringe favourites, including Marjoe Gortner, Ray Sharkey, Edy Williams, Mary Woronov, Robert Z’Dar and more!

While working on an upcoming article on 1970's disaster movies (which is due to appear in a futire issue of Weng's Chop), I recently had the chance to ask Marneen a few questions about her career as a stunt woman, actress and working on The Swarm, Airport '79: The Concorde, Beyond the Poseidon Adventure and more. The interview will run alongside the article, but as a little sneak peek, here is Marneen's recollections of working on one of the most-loved television shows of the 1970's, Wonder Woman (I imagine a turkey baked by Lynda Carter would be pretty tasty, as well):

"In Wonder Woman, during the 'Mind Stealer’s from Outer Space' episode I got beat up by Wonder Woman herself, Linda Carter. Linda threw me straight onto my back onto the hard wood floor as I performed front flips and falls all over her apartment in that scene. As a gymnast you always perform on mats and pads, and they’re there to cushion your landing if you fall off the balance beam. Being one of the first pioneer women of stunts, I did a hundred falls straight onto my back and stomach. I hit and roll across hard wood floors, cement sidewalks, and hard dirt fields in the name of film making wearing only a small child’s football girdle and some knees pads and elbow pads. The impact hurt like hell, and there were always bruises or some kind of minor injury! I worked on the Wonder Woman series close to Thanksgiving, and I remember Linda Carter carrying in a turkey she had baked for the entire cast and crew. That was the best turkey I’d ever tasted."

(Above: Marneen Fields in character on the Universal lot during filming of Airport '79: The Concorde. One of several great candid photos that will be featured in the article).

(Above: Marneen in a scene alongside Marjoe Gortner and Mary Woronov from 1985's Hellhole, an exploitation gem that sadly is not widely available. It was released on VHS but only seems to have made it to DVD on public domain labels in analog quality).
(Marneen Fields at the IMDB)

Sunday, November 1, 2015


Shout at the Devil. 
Looking forward to diving into Kier-La Janisse's latest work, Satanic Panic, which she co-edits and contributes to along with a number of other writers, including David Flint and Melbourne's own Alexandra Heller-Nicholas.
Attended the local book launch for Satanic Panic last night at The Backlot Studios. Kier-La gave a great little talk around the book's subject, accompanied by some slides and interesting clips (a few scary, a few hilariously entertaining - some of the them both at once). Satanic Panic looks at the presence and influence of Satan in 1980's pop-culture, everything from Dungeons & Dragons and horror movies to pulp paperback novels and The Smurfs. Not to mention The Parents' Music Resource Center (PMRC) and their campaign against the satanic presence in music, particularly heavy metal. There's also the much more real and darker side, with several gruesome and tragic murder and suicide cases, which at the time were played up as being highly satanic in motivation, rather than looking for any true underliying cause that lay much closer to home.
Following the talk, the audience was treated to a screening of Charles Martin Smith's Trick Or Treat (1986), a horror movie/heavy metal hybrid that was clearly inspired by the backwards masking and hidden messages in music controversy which was then very much in the public eye.
Another cool event by Lee Gambin and the Cinemaniacs gang, and a fitting way to kick-off Halloween weekend.

Monday, October 26, 2015


Last night's late late movie. I had forgotten just how deliriously entertaining this big-budget disaster flick from 1978 was, though perhaps not in the way that producer/director Irwin Allen had originaly planned. Of course, melodrama was a big, integral part of the classic 70s disaster movies, but The Swarm is so over the top, yet played so straight down the line by the big-name cast, I was expecting Leslie Nielson to walk in at any moment and tell someone to stop calling him Shirley.
Unlike his previous big disaster hits, The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno, where Irwin Allen directed the action sequences but handed over the drama to a seasoned director, in The Swarm Allen decided to handle all the direction himself, which was probably the wrong decision as he doesn't seem to handle an all-star cast as well as he handles the flipping of an ocean liner or the burning of a skyscraper.
Though The Swarm signalled the start of the decline of the 70s disaster film genre, it's still a lot of fun and rarely boring. Apart from wondering what must have been going through the actors' minds, my favourite moments are when the bratty kid and his two friends throw molotov cocktails at the beehive and then take cover under garbage cans, the sight of Olivia De Havilland looking on in horror as small kids are stung to death in the schoolyard (in slow-motion, no less), the hilarious giant bee hallucinations that some of the survivors of the sting experience, and the bee attack on the mountain train (in which Irwin Allen finds the perfect way to solve a love triangle between three mature age singles).


Sneek peak at a few pages from my article on Manson cinema, appearing in the just-published Weng's Chop #8 (now available in black & white and optional blinding color!).


Peek at the front cover for the upcoming issue of Monster! (#22), featuring my article on the monsters of Lost in Space. My sensors indicate it should be out around the end of the month.

Saturday, September 12, 2015


My interview with Melbourne writer (and Fangoria scribe) Lee Gambin, discussing his new book on movie musicals of the 1970s (We Can Be Who We Are) has now been posted over at the Love and Pop website.


Directed by Paul Goodwin, Future Shock! is a terrific new documentary which looks at the history and influence of the long-running weekly British comic book magazine 2000 AD (still being published after nearly forty years).
The film takes us back to the England of the mid-70s, a period of bleak prospects for the young, ‘Iron Lady’ Thatcher in office, crippling garbage strikes, a modern day Jack the Ripper on the loose in Yorkshire, and punk rock just waiting to explode. It was within this simmering cauldron that the controversial weekly comic book magazine Action was first born out of in 1976. Withdrawn from sale not long after its debut due to concerns over its strong depiction of violence (particularly in a youth gang story called ‘Kids Rule, O.K.!'), editor Pat Mills retreated (by his own admission and lingering regret) to the relative safety of science-fiction, where violence could be more tolerated since it was depicted in a fantasy setting.
2000 AD was a hit, mostly with its prime target audience of younger males, from the moment it appeared on the UK newsstands in February of 1977. The popularity of Star Wars later that year only helped its cause. Soon, older teenagers and even young adults started digging the combination of futuristic ultra-violence with stories containing clear and often clever observations and commentary on the social, political and moral climates of the times. This was particularly evident in 2000 AD’s most popular creation, Judge Dredd, who dishes out tough and merciless justice (“I am the Law”) in the futuristic dystopian American metropolis of Mega-City One. It was the curious and unique mix that came from English writers and artists doing their take on American culture and society, which made the Judge Dredd stories so fascinating.
Featuring interviews with Brian Bolland, Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Mills and many more artists, writers and creators, Future Shock! celebrates the history and success and great times of 2000 AD, but the downsides of the industry and working with the publisher (Fleetway Publications) are not left untouched. A familiar story within the comics industry, artists and writers had to sign the rights to their work away if they wanted to cash the check, and editor Pat Mills had to guide the comic’s survival through the wholesale poaching of much of its best talent by DC/Vertigo in the US.
Also discussed are the clear influences which Judge Dredd had on Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop (1987), as well as the two official live-action Dredd films: Danny Cannon’s awful Judge Dredd (1995) starring Sylvester Stallone (which flopped both creatively and commercially) and Pete Travis’ Dredd (2012) starring Karl Urban (which made even less money at the box-office than Stallone’s version, but was a terrific, violent and much more faithful adaptation of the character and his environment. One of the best and certainly most underrated comic book adaptations of recent years, and an amazingly trippy experience in IMAX 3D).
An informative and entertaining look at a comic book title that's been as highly influential as it has been maligned.


Caught up with this amazing documentary a few night back. Directed by David Gregory, Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau is a riveting account of the attempt by visionary South African director Richard Stanley (Hardware, Dust Devil) to write and direct a radical new version of H. G. Wells' classic novel The Island of Dr. Moreau . What was initially to be a relatively small budget feature quickly mushroomed out of hand with the signing of Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer, and after only a tumultuous few days of filming in North Queensland, the enigmatic and sensitive Stanley found himself unceremoniously dumped from his dream project, the producers and studio (New Line Cinema) fearing he was ill-prepared for the realities of a big-budget shoot, not to mention working with the notoriously difficult Brando and Kilmer. John Frankenheimer was bought in to take over directorial duties on the film, which was universally panned when it finally hit the screen. Stanley's once-promising filmmaking career never really recovered, and the experience virtually sent him into hiding for a long time.
There's a lot more to the story, but best to see and hear it for yourself. If you love docos about filmmaking, and particularly about the chaos and uncertainty of filmmaking, and an artist's struggle to get his unique vision across in a big studio film, you will love Lost Soul. It's out in Australia from Monster Pictures, though I'm now keen to obtain a copy of the US release from Severin Films, which looks to have a lot of bonus material that is unfortunately missing from the local release (which only has the trailer as an extra).

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


Out now on blu-ray through Kino Lorber, The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein (1972) is a real hoot, one of the wildest riffs on the Frankenstein legend and the best pairing of Frankenstein’s Monster and naked women since Kiss Me Quick!(1964). Filmed in Portugal, the movie is wonderfully evocative of those delirious European horror pulps of the 1960's and early-70's, whose cover art promised lurid adventures of monsters and sex. Jess Franco captures some stunning individual shots in The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein, often using his favoured wide angle lens to create an even more disorienting and dream-like ambience. The movie is also an aural trip, the soundtrack full of jazzy drumrolls and complemented by the strange squawks with which blind bird woman Melissa (Anne Libert) communicates. Cast members include such Franco regulars as Howard Vernon and Denis Price (whom I always loved as the graverobber in Hammer’s Horror of Frankenstein), and of course the director himself shows up, playing Morpho the lab assistant.
The muscle-bound, silver/metallic blue-coloured Frankenstein Monster in the movie is an inspired creation...I’m tempted to customize one of my existing Frankenstein figures or kits to pay tribute to it.
At only 72 minutes, I was easily able to sit through the movie twice in a row, the second time listening to the audio commentary (from Video Watchdog editor Tim Lucas), which expounds a bit on the film’s roots in European pulp, and the controversy around Frankenstein’s Monster seeming to be partly mechanical (and tracing the roots of this idea back to the original Universal series of the 1930's).


Published in hardcover by Two-Morrows, Monster Mash by Mark Voger does not contain a lot that is new in regards to the monster movie craze that swept across America between 1957 - 1972. It’s an area that has been covered in many books, magazine articles and documentaries over recent years, that there is not a whole lot more to tell, at least seemingly on a surface level (though some fascinating individual tales may still be there to be discovered and told). Fortunately, author Voger realises this and concentrates on making Monster Mash as much of a visual feast as possible, and on this level the book succeeds wonderfully, with many large colour and B&W photos that should bring the era back to life for any nostalgic Monster Kid, and will help show the younger generations of horror movie fans some of the fun they missed out on.
It’s all here - the monster magazines, the fantastic television of the day, 8mm home movie reels, Aurora kits, bubble gum cards, Don Post masks, horror TV hosts, Boris Karloff, Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth, horror comic books and more. If it was monster related and kids spent their pocket money on it in the sixties, it’s bound to be in here somewhere, along with a few new interviews with people like horror host Zacherly, Famous Monsters publisher James Warren, Aurora monster kit box artist James Bama, and several cast members from The Munsters and The Addams Family.
Monster Mash takes you on a rather brief but enjoyable journey down a dark and stormy old memory lane.


Planning to see Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation later this week, so decided to binge-watch my way through the first four films in the series so far. That’s a lot of Tom Cruise, but fortunately Ethan Hunt remains one of his better and more bearable roles, and you can’t argue that he consistently manages to bring it when it comes to delivering a big action set-piece in these movies (usually doing a vast majority of the stunt work himself).
The really cool thing about Brian De Palma’s Mission: Impossible (1996) is that it is as much a De Palma film as it is an effective updating of a 1960's television favourite. De Palma’s infamous Hitchcock homages and camera tricks actually serve the film really well here, and the screenplay by Robert (Chinatown) Towne delivers a few genuine twists along the way. John Woo’s follow-up, Mission: Impossible 2 (2000) has lots of visual flash but very little substance. It was probably one of the last of the big action movies done in the style that had been so popular during the nineties, before everything started becoming more gritty and grounded post-9/11. M: I 2 does have a pretty jaw-dropping opening sequence of Cruise climbing the treacherous Dead Horse Point in Utah.
J.J. Abrams, who rebooted the Star Trek franchise recently and hopes to successfully do the same with Star Wars later this year, made his feature directorial debut with Mission: Impossible 3 (2006), which tried to focus as much on Ethan Hunt’s life away from the job as when he was on it. From the rapid editing to the more washed-out colour palette, you can tell this film was made in the immediate post-Bourne Identity years, and it’s my least favourite of the M:I films, though Philip Seymour Hoffman makes an interesting villain. I saw Brad Bird’s Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011) on the Melbourne IMAX screen and those shots of Cruise mountaineering about on Burj Khalifa tower in Mumbai, the world’s tallest building, were dizzying indeed, and the sequence still manages to produce white knuckles in the living room. A few other great action sequences and a couple of tense situations make Ghost Protocol my favourite of the sequels so far.
Unfortunately, none of the Mission: Impossible films play the classic Lalo Schifrin theme as well as the man himself did in the original 1966 - 1973 television series.


Caught up with Paul Thomas Anderson's 2014 film Inherent Vice last evening, and was seduced by it's strangeness and terrific ensemble cast (including Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Reese Witherspoon, Katherine Waterston and Benicio del Toro). Based on the 2009 novel by Thomas Pynchon, the movie is certainly in a genre of its own - a free-form stoner comedy noir set within the immediate paranoia of post-Manson LA in 1970 (where police were treating the gathering of more than three youths in one spot as a potential cult). It's one of those movies that will frustrate viewers looking for a easy narrative plot, but if you let yourself just get drawn into it, and lost within its familiar but off-kilt world, you can come out the end feeling rewarded for having stayed the two-and-a-half hour distance.
For me, Anderson has never come close to matching the brilliance of this sophomore film, Boogie Nights (1997), but Inherent Vice is certainly another worthy addition to the director's solid filmography.

Sunday, August 9, 2015


By Simon Strong

In the world of European genre cinema of the 1970's, few filmmakers trod the line between exploitation and art more finely than Polish-born director Walerian Borowczyk, whose work in the erotic horror field was best illustrated by the films he made in France during that decade and into the eighties, such as the portmanteau Immoral Tales (1974), Dr. Jekyll and the Women (1981) and Emmanuelle 5 (1987). His most controversial film, however, undoubtably remains La Bête/The Beast (1975), an erotic and dark fairy tale based loosely on the 1869 novel Lokis by Prosper Mérimée, and depicting the sexual relationship between a young woman and a particularly randy and well-endowed hairy beast who is prowling the countryside. While the sexual copulation between girl and beast is only one of sexual fantasy and imagination within the narrative, Borowczyk depicted it with near XXX realism, resulting in many people branding the film both beautiful and obscene. Naturally, it was banned in many countries, including Australia for several decades (it was another of those infamous films I had to contend with seeing via a fuzzy VHS dub bought off the shelves from Polyester Books. Umbrella Entertainment finally released the film legally on DVD in Australia in 2008).

Written by Melbourne-based, North England-born Simon Strong, Unquiet Dreams isn’t the definitive biography of Borowczyk, or the most in-depth study of his work, which the author freely admits to in his introduction. Rather, it comes across as a greatly-expanded idea similar to those souvenir program booklets which I used to religiously buy whenever I went to the movies when I was a kid, where each booklet was devoted to the one particular film, and featured photos, synopsis and production photos. The classy and classical front cover (featuring Polish artist Wladyslaw Podkowinski’s Frenzy of Exultations) hides an interior that is influenced in design by the arty smut film magazines of the period, such as Continental Film Review and Adam Film World. Within the contents of the book, Strong offers up the expected filmograpy of Borowczyk’s work (including his early shorts), as well as profiling several of the filmmaker’s leading ladies (such as Marina Pierro and La Bête’s Sirpa Lane), and takes a look at Argus Films, the company which distributed a lot of Borowczyk’s films.

One of my favourite aspects of Unquiet Dreams, and one which will no doubt help broaden the book’s appeal beyond those interested specifically in Borowczyk, is the way Strong includes little follow-up chapters that expand to investigate a particular topic’s depiction in the wider exploitation film market. For example, the book contains a ‘Zoophilmography’, in which films that broach the subject of bestiality are looked at (including titles like Tarzan and the Ape Man [1932], Tanya’s Island [1980] and Rinse Dream’s cult XXX film Café Flesh [1983]). Another chapter of the book, after examining  Dr. Jekyll and the Women, then goes on to cover other ‘Jeksploitation’ films, such as Hammer’s gender-bending Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971) and the David F. Friedman produced sexploitation quickie The Adult Verison of Jekyll and Hyde (1972), starring Rene Bond.

Published by the LedaTape Organisation, Unquiet Dreams features an abundance of colour and black & white photos and poster art within its 136 pages. A worthy and recommended addition to your euro-trash cinema bookshelf.

Sunday, August 2, 2015


Spent the pre-dawn hours this morning watching the great Andrew Prine going psycho in John Peyser's The Centerfold Girls (1974), which came out locally on blu-ray last week. Part sexploitation, part American giallo, part psycho slasher, it's the kind of scuzzy, seedy grindhouse fodder that early Australian video labels like Star Base, K&C and Media thrived on in the early-eighties. It lays on the three big Bs of exploitation (Babes, Boobs and Blood) in ample doses, has a groovy soundtrack that's both cheesey and sleazy, and a pretty effective and shocking climax, filmed in a section of Canoga Park that had recently been levelled by a fire, leaving a very stark and surreal landscape in its wake.
Interestingly, the movie is almost like an anthology film, with each of the titular centerfolds that Prine's character tracks down and terrorizes having their own insular story (the end credits emphasize the anthology feel, with the cast listed by story). One of the stories has a somewhat Manson-esque/Last House on the Left vibe to it, and the film as a whole wallows in that peculiar and distinct seediness that many of the rougher American exploitation flicks from this period possessed.
The transfer on Glass Doll Films' blu-ray release of The Centerfold Girls isn't as sharp or vibrant as their other great new release, 1973's Bonnie's Kids, but it still the best the film has ever looked and Glass Doll have done a fine job with the packaging and extras.


Chuffed to see a quote from myself on the back cover of Robin Bougie's Graphic Thrills: Volume Two, the follow-up to his classic first collection of poster art from the golden age of erotic cinema (1970 - 1985). Volume Two is due out in October from FAB Press in the UK, both as a softcover and a limited, signed hardback edition.