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Monday, August 31, 2009

WORDS TO LIVE BY

As seen on the Lawrence Street R train platform:


Sunday, August 30, 2009

PORN TITLE OF THE WEEK!

This one speaks for itself:

Seriously, what more need be said?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

CONGRATULATIONS!!!

Sara and Pat: tying the knot today instead of staying at home and watching cartoons. Is nothing sacred these days?

My pals Sara and Pat are getting married today and I will be there to chronicle it and wish them well. So, congratulations you two, and it's about fucking time!!!

Friday, August 28, 2009

A HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE KING

Today is the late Jack Kirby's 92nd birthday and we comics-geeks owe the man in immeasurable and unpayable debt. Jack, we loved you very much and we miss you even more. Your like will never be seen again. Happy Birthday, o my King.

FIST OF THE NORTH STAR: MASTER EDITION VOL. 3 (2004)

FIST OF THE NORTH STAR Friday is once more upon us, and this entry is likely to be the shortest of the series for reasons about to become fully apparent.
The third Master Edition volume features the meat of the overlong Jackal arc and is notable only for some memorable bits of villainous cruelty and the sole genuine giant monster faced by Kenshiro.

Our hero, Kenshiro: no Bruce Lee influence here. Nosiree...

This arc's "big bad," Jackal, is one of those post-nuke gang leaders who pretty much infest this series and he's one of the least interesting, basically spending his time bullying his men (who would work for this asshole?), preying upon helpless villages for their food and water, and taking great glee in the torture and murder of children. In other words, he's cowardly, low-rent trash and certainly not a worthy opponent for a master of superhuman kung fu like Kenshiro.
Jackal: a thoroughly run-of-the-mill villain who wasn't interesting even when first seen nearly twenty-five years ago.
The Jackal arc gives us a look into the roots of Ken's annoying sidekick, Bat, when we are introduced to the residents of the isolated village where he and a gaggle of children were cared for by an aged adoptive mother figure, and it's through them that we see past Bat's seemingly self-serving attitude and bravado and discover that he left the village so his adopted brothers and sisters would have more food and water. And speaking of water, Jackal gets wind of the village having a well and immediately decides to take it for himself, and fuck what happens to the old lady and the kids. The situation builds as Ken uses his powers to give new life to the dried-up well and Jackal causes the deaths of some of the kids and the old lady. Thus motivated, Ken gives chase to an understandably scared-shitless Jackal, but Jackal's trail leads to a staggeringly secure prison designed to hold "Devil Rebirth," a King Kong-sized ultra-deadly martial artist who once killed 700 men with his bare hands in one fell swoop, so guess who has to fight him?

The bizarre and humongous horror of "Devil Rebirth."

It's all pretty silly stuff, even by the loony standards of FIST OF THE NORTH STAR, and if not for the few pages near the end of the volume that kick off the next arc, this volume could be completely skipped over without in any way impairing the flow of the overall narrative (episodic though it may be, it's really all one very long "warrior's journey" epic, so missing this volume is like missing two minutes of incidental dialogue in a LORD OF THE RINGS movie). But be that as it may, this arc is where we really start to see the proliferation of truly superpowered feats on the part of Kenshiro, including displays of super-strength and the first mention of the Hokuto Shinken-user's 100% mastery of the human body and mind (as opposed to Joe Sixpacks like you and I who purportedly use a mere 30%).
Let the outright superheroics begin: Kenshiro hefts a big fuckin' boulder like it was a sack of potatoes.

The last few pages introduce readers to the wandering wildman Rei, a massively popular character who proved vital to the series and became one of the classic tragic figures in '80's manga and anime, but more on him in the review of the next volume...
Next week: Volume 4, featuring the evil of the Fang Clan, the introduction of the warrior woman Mamiya, and the coming of Rei.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

KICKIN' IT OLD SCHOOL FOR HUGHES

I frequently think of my much-missed pal Steve Hughes as he makes a new life for himself with his wife Natuza and infant son Liam in Brazil, and every now and then something here in NYC reminds me of his Bronx-bred uniqueness.

Natuza, Hughes and wee Liam.

Y'see, I met the guy when he was a freshman at college in the fall of 1986 and I was a perpetually stoned R.A. ("Resident Assistant," or the person parents trust to make sure their young are shepherded by an upstanding member of society), and he and I hit it off at first because we seemed to have had our existences switched; I grew up a rock 'n' roll-loving black guy in uber-white Westport, Connecticut while Hughes grew up Irish in the Bronx during the nascent days of the hip-hop movement and is in many ways "blacker" than me. As our friendship grew to the point where I now consider him a brother in all but blood, our musical tastes influenced one another and we both learned to appreciate genres and the obscura of those genres that we would never have experienced had we never met all those years ago. Hughes would probably never have heard Wildman Fisher's "I'm A Truck" had it not been for me, and I would certainly never in a million years have heard "Knowledge Me" by Original Concept.

"Knowledge me, Amin!": Long Island's Original Concept.

Hughes was may gateway into old school rap and such, so when I saw the following ad campaign adorning space on my local subway platform I immediately photographed it so I could send him a little piece of home.

It's an image of deejay par excellence Grandmaster Flash, representing on behalf of fellow foster children for the Little Flower adoption group, and the idea that the man behind the epochal "Grand Master Flash on the Wheels of Steel" turning up on the subway, for a very good cause, just makes my day. And I hope this makes Hughes' day as well.

MOVIES THAT STICK WITH ME LIKE NAPALM

Once again a Facebook quiz hands me fodder for a Vault post, and this one's right up my alley (and hopefully yours). The object this time was to think of the first fifteen movies that come to mind that will always stick with you, and that does not necessarily mean films you consider your favorites. We're talking movies that you just cannot get out of your head for whatever reason, so after you read this and come up with your own list, please send it it because I'd love to read which movies had a lasting effect on my dear Vaulties. Anyway, in no particular order and for better or worse, here's how I answered this one last week:

1. IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES (1976)

Proof positive that art and explicit/un-simulated sex can work well together, this film is an intense and disturbing look at the obsessive love affair between a former prostitute (now a maid) named Sada and a hotel owner. I first saw it during a revival showing while I was in high school and its escalating catalog of sexual outrageousness did not titillate me in the slightest, in fact it had quite the opposite effect. It doesn't take long for the audience to twig to the fact that Sada's out of her mind to a dangerous degree and her lover's no slouch in the kink department himself, so images such as Sada having a hard-boiled egg shoved up her cooch and having to "do as the hen does" to get it out when it becomes stuck, as well as her lover contemplatively licking his fingers after giving her some digital affection during her period, should not come as a surprise when they occur, but they have the power to unsettle because this is what would usually be termed a full-blown and classy "art" movie. There's plenty of other sexual wackiness on display, all of it quite clearly unsimulated, and it's amazing to see the the participants turn in excellent performances during all of it (especially that bit with the egg). But it's the film's ending that is utterly jarring, and it reduced my pal Eddie to a quivering wreck who curled up in the back seat of the car in the fetal position as we drove home after seeing it (this happened in the early 1990's when I saw it for the second time). Seriously.

2. ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (1932)

In a nutshell, this is the best version of H.G. Wells' THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU ever made and its blasphemous depiction of a balls-out-mad scientist's surgical experiments in genetic manipulation is still flesh-crawling over seven decades after its release. Banned in the UK for close to fifty years for its grotesquery, sadism and in-your-face suggestion of the possibilities of a sexual union between humans and animal-men — by consent or far worse means of achieving it — this is one sick, sick, SICK mamma-jamma and is the film the expression "the natives are restless" comes from. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

3. CAFE FLESH (1982)

This is a hardcore X-rated flick, but ignore the explicit porn; the concept and story are downright chilling, especially in the wake of the AIDS epidemic. Following the unexpected results of a germ warfare culture unleashed during WWIII, the human race is left virtually unable to be physically intimate without becoming violently ill, leaving only a small number of "sex-positives" able to get it on, and those unfortunates are rounded up and pressed into service to satisfy the unsatisfiable needs of the worldwide "sex-negative" audience. The title venue is where the film's creepy and depressing drama plays out as an emcee reminiscent of Joel Grey in CABARET (only about a hundred times more disturbing, which is really saying something) introduces several surreal pornographic scenarios that mix bizarre sets with utterly joyless sexual performances. None of it is erotic in the least and when taken as the "adult" science-fiction parable that it is, it's quite scary and Lynchian in execution. The explicit sex only makes the proceedings that much more sad, and the R-rated version loses a lot of the original's nihilistic strength, so stick with the X if you opt to experience this one.

4. FRESH (1994)

By far the best of the 1990's spate of "in the hood" movies, this one proves quite conclusively that the most dangerous and effective weapon is a keen mind. If you haven't seen this one, add it to your Netflix queue immediately. And, no, I won't tell you about the plot. (You'll thank me for that when you experience it for yourself.)

5. MATANGO (1963)

Released in the States under the idiotic title ATTACK OF THE MUSHROOM PEOPLE, this story of the horrible fate that befalls a group of shipwrecked yachters is the creepiest movie Toho ever released and can rightly be described as a study in slow-burning madness and psychedelia. Short on action or gore, MATANGO delivers effectively where it really counts and is eerie as a motherfucker.

5. MANDINGO (1975)

If you were horrified by the more vile truths about some of our fair nation's history that were made plain in ROOTS, don't ever watch this slavery-era soap opera. I find it to be an apocalyptic moment in the annals of bad taste cinema and as such I find it so over-the-top that it's frequently hilarious — the acting by Susan George and James Mason is impossible to keep a straight face through — but its frank depictions of the worst realities of slavery is no laughing matter and is indeed horrifying to witness. I don't think mainstream Hollywood has produced a major motion picture as vicious or offensive before or since, and if this were released today there would be full-on race riots in the streets. Click here to read an earlier, more in-depth Vault post about this one.

6. A PATCH OF BLUE (1965)

A real tear-jerker, this is the story of a girl who endures so much awful shit that you'll want to reach into the screen and rescue her from the Hell that is her life. Selina D'Arcy (Elizabeth Hartman) is the sweet and innocent daughter of a horrible, aging prostitute (Shelley Winters, who won a well-deserved Oscar for her villainous performance), and her squalid existence is made all the worse by her having been blinded by acid while still a child. While her fat whore of a mother plies her trade (to diminishing returns), the virtually helpless Selina sits in the park and makes bead necklaces to help support the family, and it's there that she meets Gordon (Sidney Poitier), an older man who teaches her the basics of self-sufficiency. It's an innocent relationship and the first in which Selina has known kindness and friendship since she was a little girl, but Selina is now a young woman and problems begin when she falls in love with Gordon, who is black... This could have been a run-of-the-mill weepie but its narrative is powerful and at times overwhelmingly sad, especially Selina's unspeakable back story, so go into this one with a full box of tissues close at hand. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

7. TARZAN AND HIS MATE (1934)

The second of the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movies, this is loaded with sex and violence and will come as a shock to those who didn't think such stuff got made back in the days. I've covered this one before at length, so you can read that article for all the particulars. Just take my advice and Netflix this to see why it's still considered the best Tarzan movie ever made. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

8. STRAW DOGS (1971)

This is director Sam (THE WILD BUNCH) Peckinpah's meanest movie, and that's really saying something. In no way recommended for "date night," this tale of a wimpy American mathematician and his sexy young wife facing the scurvy inhabitants of the wife's home village in Cornwall is very, very nasty and lends credence to some critics' assertion that Peckpah's films reveal him as a misogynist, largely thanks to an emotionally complex and very questionable rape sequence that will leave most viewers quite put off. This is just about the last movie you'd expect Dustin Hoffman to have been involved in, but here it is.

9. CUT-THROATS 9 (1972)

One of the many violent and gory westerns to follow on the heels of Sam Peckinpah's artistically violent and gory THE WILD BUNCH, this is the most disturbing, violent and unpleasant western of all time. It's a study in brutality for the sake of brutality, and it's so grubby and vile that I wanted to take a long, hot shower after seeing it. I'm light-years away from squeamish, but this is a film so overflowing with negative energy that I hope I never have to endure it again. And it was slow-moving on top of it all! Also, would you believe that when this was first released in the U.S. moviegoers were given a "terror mask" to shield their eyes from the film's gruesome anti-splendor?

10. MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE (1966)

Justly considered to be one of the very worst films ever made, this was fodder for one of the all-time classic installments of MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000, but I had the misfortune of first encountering it as a kid when it ran on Channel 9 and as a result was ruined for life. If you must see this, only watch it in the MST3K version. You have been warned!

11. AT MIDNIGHT I'LL TAKE YOUR SOUL (1964)

Creepy, sleazy B&W Brazilian horror that introduced the world to Zé do Caixão, known in English as "Coffin Joe." Just trust me on this one, as it's too deceptively complicated to break down in short form.

12. DESCENT (2007)

Not the one with the chicks who meet something horrible while spelunking, but the one with Rosario Dawson, particularly the unrated version...Yeesh! I covered this one at length here, so check it out.

13. GULLIVER'S TRAVELS BEYOND THE MOON (1965)

I believe I was either three or four when my dad took me too see this and I will never forget how ominous the dark, empty theater seemed, a vast, foreboding space pregnant with possibility that my own experiences had not yet prepared me for. In later years I would accept that uncertainty as par for the course when going to the movies, the tension heralding either a glorious flight of escapist fare (like THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK) or a total fucking dud, compared to which getting punished would have been preferable (FLESHBURN being a perfect example). As the film exploded across the screen, I had no idea that I was receiving my first exposure to the wild & woolly world of Japanese animation, but I did know that I loved the colorful images, solid story, and the genuinely dark undertone that simmered during the second half. GULLIVER'S TRAVELS BEYOND THE MOON is the story of Ricky, a homeless street urchin in an unspecified European (?) city who sneaks into a theater showing a film adaptation of GULLIVER'S TRAVELS and gets promptly thrown out on his ass by a surly usher after hearing the hero's inspirational words about sustaining himself through impossible odds with the power of hope. In short order Ricky is joined in his aimless wanderings by a talking dog and a living toy soldier, and this bizarre trio then falls in with Gulliver himself, now a misanthropic recluse who seeks to explore outer space in a homemade rocket ship. The heroes blast off into the void, running into Cupid — who grants them each one wish and is voiced by a grown-up Darla Hood of LITTLE RASCALS fame — and finding themselves embroiled in a conflict between two factions of sentient machines, one kindly and inquisitive, the other a warlike force of conquest-minded juggernauts who state their intentions in the song "Rise, Robots, Rise," a number so grim for a kiddie movie that I remembered certain images from it decades later like I'd just seen them yesterday. This truly dreamlike film ends with one of those "it was all a dream" scenarios, but it doesn't disappoint because Ricky's adventures were simply too fantastic to have been anything else, especially considering that the whole adventure may have been induced by a concussion he suffered during a hit-and-run car accident. Once impossible to find, GULLIVER'S TRAVELS BEYOND THE MOON is finally available on DVD, although in a shitty, washed-out transfer.

14. ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968)

The ultimate tale of a woman utterly betrayed by her selfish husband.

15. GOJIRA (1954)

This first Godzilla film introduces the iconic monster as the anthropomorphized horror of the atomic bomb as relayed by the only people on the planet to ever actually experience such a nightmare firsthand. Incredibly bleak, its disturbing and depressing aspects are so severe that they couldn't even be squashed by the considerably tamer American version, GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS. Not what fans of the later entries in the series would expect at all, this is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

And here are my answers when asked a few weeks ago:

1. THE STREET FIGHTER (1974)

The film that gave 1970's martial arts movies their reputation as virtual bloodbaths and one of the most entertaining films in the genre, this one stuck with me for its still-shocking brutality and Sonny Chiba's ultra-intense screen presence. Go here for more on this epic of ass-whuppin'. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

2. I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (1978)

Originally released as DAY OF THE WOMAN, this nigh-unwatchable gang rape/revenge Chernobyl of unpleasantness is not my idea of entertainment, but I will defend its existence and the director's intent. Most female viewers are strongly advised to give this one a miss and with very good reason, as is explained in detail here.

3. MANDINGO (see above)

4. THE FLY (1958)

A terrific (if improbable) sci-fi/horror hybrid, this one has an ending that fucked me up for life, and I bet it did the same to you.

5. A PATCH OF BLUE (see above)

6. THE ICE STORM (1997)

I grew up two towns away from where the events of this narrative take place, and I can tell you for a fact that the movie is a perfect evocation of the time and location of that horrible locale.

7. FORBIDDEN ZONE (1980)

A positively lysergic live action cartoon that's not for the kiddies, featuring Herve Villechaize, more impressively bizarre characters than any one movie has the right to include, and the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo (that's band frontman Danny Elfman as Satan in the photo). This utterly sticks with me as a very surreal dream rendered visual outside the subconscious and it's one of my all-time favorite movies, though not for all tastes. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

8. DESCENT (see above)

9. THE STORY OF RICKY (1991)

Insane and extra-ultra-violent, this is one of the most faithful comics adaptations ever (it's adapted from the manga series RIKI-OH). And how could a movie not stick with you when it features a guy pulling out his own intestines so he can attempt to strangle the hero with them?

10. CHRISTIANE F (1981)

I saw this one in high school with my friend Cat, both of us lured in by its promise of seeing David Bowie perform (he has virtually zero screen time), and the heroin horrors it graphically depicted are single-handedly responsible for keeping me (and Cat) away from smack for life. Aggressively unpleasant from start to finish and quite scary to impressionable youngsters, this should be mandatory viewing for school kids from the age of ten and up.

11. GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES (1988)

Animated by the same people who gave the world the joyous MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO and KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE (but not directed by Hiyao Miyazaki), this is a strong contender for the title of "Most Depressing Film of All Time." This makes SOPHIE'S CHOICE look like YELLOW SUBMARINE by comparison.

12. LISZTOMANIA (1975)

Ken Russell's utterly mad interpretation of the life and career of composer Franz Liszt , featuring (among a cornucopia of tripped-out and loony imagery) the Who's Roger Daltrey in a dress, sprouting a twelve-foot dick. Why this isn't out on DVD in the United States is a mystery to me, especially considering that the majority of Russell's films are readily available.

13. SHOGUN ASSASSIN (1980)

The perfect blend of incredibly beautiful cinematography and the goriest swordfighting in motion picture history, this masterpiece of carnage seamlessly splices the highlights of the first two LONE WOLF AND CUB movies and comes up with a winner. Another of my all-time favorite movies, this had a huge impact on me and made me want to learn how to swordfight, and not like one of those flitty Three Musketeers guys either! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

14. IMPETUS FIRE 2 (1990)
Sadly there's no photo available for this one, and that may be a good thing. Also known as A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN AND HER EIGHTEEN TRICKS and the far less subtle STUNTS WITH CUNTS, this is a grainy and wholly un-erotic hardcore film wherein a Filipino woman does things with her vagina that will astound and amaze. I've shown this to a room full of lesbians and hardcore feminists and they were each utterly fascinated, some commenting "I never knew it could do that!!!" The woman in question is a performer in some grubby back alley live sex show, but at no point does she engage in straight sex; instead she puts her most sacred of orifices through some shit that will make your jaw drop as your hair stands on end in disbelief, including writing precise calligraphy with a vaginally-wielded sumi brush, breaking inserted pieces of whole sugarcane, firing darts at party balloons via a blowgun, playing a toy horn and many other feats of wonder. However there are two bits that permanently burned themselves into my memory:
  1. The woman whips out a forearm-length piece of wood and whittles on it with a buckknife to prove that the knife is sharp enough to carve lumber, after which she inserts it blade-first into herself and moves it about, suffering no injury whatsoever. And this is achieved in one non-stop shot.
  2. The knife thing was bad enough for all manner of psychologically disturbing reasons, but I was far more fascinated when she filled her Lady Place with at least fifteen live and wriggling tadpoles and spat them out one by one.
I defy any man on this planet to surpass this woman's skills with his Johnson and gong. IMPETUS FIRE 2 is a real brain-melter and can be had here.

15. THE MAN WHO LAUGHS (1928)

An eerie and compelling silent film whose protagonist's image was ripped off shamelessly to create Batman's arch-nemesis, the Joker. Seriously, just look at the sensitive and artistic hero's face. Straight-up nightmare fuel, right?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A BRIEF ASIDE

To "Firefly"-

I hear you, sister. Believe me, I hear you.

ATTACK OF THE MONSTERS (1969)

Though I've been a diehard giant monster fan my whole life I can't really say I was a Gamera booster during the formative years of my addiction, despite repeated doses of the character's films on the Tri-State Area's venerable 4:30 MOVIE during the 1970's and early 1980's. Many of my fellow daikaiju addicts absolutely loved the Gamera series at the time, but before moving to Connecticut I had lived in San Francisco and so had been exposed to the charms of ULTRAMAN before seeing Gamera, and while the ULTRAMAN televison series was certainly made as a low-budget kid's show, it had a charm and imagination sorely lacking in the Gamera movies. The Gamera films to me seemed like nothing more than cynically-churned-out product to cash in on the success of the contemporary Toho Godzilla films, plus their aggressively kiddie-oriented tone (after the first two films) drove me fucking crazy as a child, especially once the protagonists became precocious kids in those disturbing short pants common to the genre. And as if that weren't bad enough, Gamera itself, once a feared (though rather tatty) city-destroyer, was re-tooled into the ultimate in kid-friendly nausea, namely "Gamera, the Friend of the Children," complete with a jaunty and utterly sickening signature tune sung by a chorus of untranslated Japanese rugrats. Pee-yuke.

The one thing the Gamera series did have going for it was a stable of opposing monsters that gave those found on ULTRAMAN a run for their money when it came to being both laughable and ludicrous. But the thing that distinguished one batch of those monsters from the other was that you laughed with the monsters on ULTRAMAN, while you invariably laughed at those who fought Gamera (then again Gamera itself was a giant, flying, saber-toothed turtle, so I guess I shouldn't have expected anything different). Gamera took on such beasts as Barugon (not to be confused with Toho's Baragon), which was basically a humongous iguana that could emit a death-ray rainbow from its back (???) and wielded a tongue that shot a freeze-ray; the evil space-squid Viras that looked like Gumby on LSD, the super-sonic; death-ray-emitting and vampiric Gyaos, and a couple of others of considerably lesser note, but none of Gamera's opponents was anywhere near as endearingly idiotic as Guiron from ATTACK OF THE MONSTERS. Amazingly silly in concept, Guiron is the one Gamera baddie that absolutely everyone remembers, and its memorable status is helped immeasurably by the film being perhaps the best of the original Gamera series. (NOTE: the Gamera series was given a much needed and completely kickass reboot in the mid-1990's, but that's fodder for a whole post on its own.)

ATTACK OF THE MONSTERS is a study in simplicity. The story involves three kids, Akio (Nobuhiro Kajima), his apparently American friend, Tom (Christopher Murphy), and Akio's younger sister, Tomoko(Miyuki Akiyama), and their adventure when they witness a flying saucer landing nearby. The kids investigate the saucer and the boys enter it, unwittingly finding themselves trapped when the ship takes off, guided by remote control. Poor Tomoko is left behind and tries to tell her assholishly dismissive mother what happened, but she's continually brushed off as having too much imagination and believing in foolishness (this subplot will piss off every right-thinking person on the planet). The only grownup who believes her is local comic relief cop Officer Kondo (Kon Omura), but his belief in her word is little consolation as she worries for her brother and their friend.

The brain-hungry space-chicks get down to business.

The boys' flight beyond the sun is tailed by Gamera but the saucer's propulsion system kicks into overdrive, leaving Gamera sucking fumes, and in no time the boys have crash-landed on a barren alien world (a crash that happens offscreen, presumably to conserve the obviously limited budget). While checking out the abandoned city they landed in, the kids encounter Flobella and Barbella, two space-cuties who seem friendly at first but are soon revealed to be brain-eating cannibals whose people fled their planet when they lost control over the monsters they had created. One such monster, an outer space analog to the Earth's own killed-by-Gamera Gyaos (you can tell it's a "space" version because they spray-painted the leftover Gyaos suit silver), flies aimlessly around the place, blowing shit up with its orally-emitted beams, so since they have nothing better to do, the space-chicks send the remaining monster under their control, Guiron, to kill the Space-Gyaos.

The unforgettable visage of Guiron (or "Knife-Head," as the kids who weren't paying attention liked to call it during my youth).

Guiron's a squat-bodied, dog-like living knife that uses its face as a brutally effective cutting edge, and when that isn't enough it can also launch shuriken (that's "ninja throwing stars" to us gaijin) from sockets located above its eyes. Guiron kicks Space-Gyaos' bargain basement ass in no uncertain terms and, demonstrating an aspect that distinguished Daiei Studios' Gamera flicks from the more upscale Toho efforts featuring Godzilla and pals, uses its blade-face to semi-gorily chop the fallen enemy into several pieces. Beginning with the second Gamera movie, WAR OF THE MONSTERS (1966), Gamera engaged in cartoonishly bloody combat with its foes, even spewing blue/gray monster blood from its own wounds, so this came as no shock to Japanese audiences, but it was quite a surprise to see on American TV in a slot reserved for heavily-sanitized children's programming. Anyway, there's a bunch of mishegoss where the boys try to run away from the cannibalistic aliens, but then Gamera shows up and engages Guiron in some spirited and ridiculous combat before the evil aliens are killed and the boys get to go home (much to the relief of Tomoko, whose tales of a close encounter are satisfyingly vindicated at last). And upon going home, Akio relates that what he's learned from the adventure to another "star" (apparently the screenwriter didn't know or care about the difference between a star and a planetary body), namely that mankind must strive to do better and work to no longer have wars or traffic accidents (the kid is apparently obsessed with traffic accidents since he mentions them at least three times during the film's running time; since his dad is never seen or mentioned, was his father the victim of one such accident?).

The battle between Gamera and Guiron has justly gone down in giant monster history as one that is spectacular and crowd-pleasing in its silliness, and it even includes Gamera executing moves straight out of an Olympic gymnastics routine involving swinging around bodily on the uneven parallel bars (although Gamera uses a singular bar).

No, you are not hallucinating.

It's simply something you have to see to believe, and I defy you to keep a straight face or not exclaim "You've gotta be fucking kidding me!" when you see it for the first time. But while that bit may stop audiences dead in their tracks, the scene that made me scream "No way!!!" at age eight was when Gamera picks up the flying saucer after it had been sliced in twain by Guiron and spot-welds it with his flame-breath into good enough shape to comfortably support the boys as he carries the saucer back to the earth.

Apparently Gamera is expert at impromptu body work.

So when all is said and done, ATTACK OF THE MONSTERS is a fun way to spend roughly eighty minutes, and even the kid characters in it are tolerable (for once). And long after the days when it ran in after-school time slots, the film resurfaced in a pointlessly and terribly re-dubbed version when it (and apparently the rest of the original series Gamera films) fell into the hands of TV producer and film distributor Sandy Frank and was re-titled GAMERA VS GURION for VHS release. The movie would probably have gathered moss on the nation's home video retailer's shelves had it not been scooped up for an epic session of verbal abuse in a 1991 installment of the frequently hilarious cult TV showcase for truly awful movies, MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000.

As seen on MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000.

If you ask me, the other Gamera films were the ones that really needed the MST3K treatment to make them bearable, especially the turgid GAMERA VS BARUGON, but the MST3K handling of GAMERA VS GUIRON makes the most of a film that is both silly as hell and entertaining, so it was a win/win. But it was good to see the film in its initial American version again and it was well worth the five bucks it cost to add it to my library of giant monster movies.

And I have to ask: why the fuck did Sandy Frank feel the need to re-dub all the Gamera movies that fell under his company's banner? The new dubbing is truly appalling, far worse than even some of the most poorly-dubbed kung fu films I've seen (it's worse that the dubbing found in SHAOLIN KUNG FU MYSTAGOGUE, and that's really saying something), so does anyone out there have an answeras to why it was done? Please write in and let me know!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

THE GREATEST SONGS IN HUMAN HISTORY: "PFFT YOU WERE GONE"

Gordie Tapp and Archie Campbell, eloquent troubadours of the broken heart.

I've been told over the years that I'm a complete and total failure as a black man for a number of reasons and one of those reasons is my undying love for that paragon of redneck humor, HEE HAW. Inexplicably running from 1969-1992, that weekly show was an hour-long showcase for the country music world's best and brightest to strut their stuff, but while that was all well and good what made me a fan for life were the incredibly lowbrow blasts of cornpone humor that were basically a self-deprecating form of minstrelsy about white folks. My late granddaddy Ozane — himself a self-described "Injun" who was also a Lawrence Welk booster — was the member of my family who turned me on to this stuff (much to my mother's eternal chagrin) and while we both enjoyed the drawled antics of the borderline-mongoloids on display, we laughed our asses off whenever Archie Campbell showed up in farmer gear to sing "Pfft You Were Gone."

Depending on where you look, "Pfft You Were Gone" is credited to Buck Owens, but I'd be willing to bet a finger or two that Archie Campbell came up with it in the first place, by virtue of him having a career as a country music humorist well before HEE HAW as well as him having recorded the song on one of his albums back in 1966, three years before the advent of HEE HAW. And while I do remember Buck Owens singing it a couple of times, it was nearly always Archie Campbell who would give voice to the plaintive lyrics, usually accompanied by Gordie Tapp.

"Pfft You Were Gone" pokes fun at one of the most venerable of country music subjects, namely that of a man being left by his wife for whatever reason, and over the years the song provided a virtual laundry list of causes for the unnamed wife's desertion. And funny though the template version of the song is, it only got better when damned near every guest ever to appear on HEE HAW got a shot at singing along with it. Many were the country stars and Hollywood celebs who donned overalls and stood before that famous picket fence to bemoan being jilted, including Connecticut Eye-Talian Ernest Borgnine,

— yes, I said ERNEST FUCKING BORGNINE!!! — but my personal favorite was when ultra-serious and deep-voiced Ponderosa patriarch Lorne Greene willingly sent his dignity rocketing straight down the bowl by accompanying Campbell.

As the years went by, the lyrics became more and more absurd, and I earnestly hope that some day a triple album will be released of nothing but multiple versions of "Pfft You Were Gone," just so I can sit there and laugh like a moron while wishing Granddaddy Ozane were still with us. Anyway, here are the song's initial lyrics, from which sprouted a musical kudzu of silliness:

Down here on the farm the weather gets messy

Laying around with nothin' to do

When you went away, you took my cow Bessie

I miss her darling, more than I miss you


You took off your leg, your wig and your eye glass

And you shoud've seen the look on my face
I wanted to kiss, I wanted to hug you
But you were scattered all over the place


Chorus: Where, where, are you tonight?
Why did you leave me here all alone?

I searched the world over,
And thought I found true love.
You met another and
Phht! you were gone.

I know that you loved me, here's my way of knowing
The proof's hanging out right there on the line

When I see the snow and feel the wind blowing

Your nightie's hugging them long johns of mine


The noises you made at our supper table

Your habits, my dear, were surely absurd
But how many times do I have to tell you

Soup is a dish to be seen and not heard


Chorus:
Where, oh where, are you tonight?
Why did you leave me here all alone?

I searched the world over,
And thought I found true love.
You met another and
Phht! you were gone.

Remember you phoned me a-sobbin' and cryin'

The dog bit your maw, and drug her around

You said she looked pale and thought she was dying

I said "Don't worry, I'll buy a new hound."

I had six kids and you had eleven
And we had a boy, and they grew like flowers

I wish you'd come back, without you ain't heaven
'Cause your kids and my kids are beatin' up ours

Chorus: Where, oh where, are you tonight?
Why did you leave me here all alone?

I searched the world over, And thought I found true love.
You met another and
Phht! you were gone
I searched the world over,
And thought I found true love.
You met another and
Phht! you were gone...

Johnny Cash joins Archie Campbell: the only possible way to improve upon this perfect song.
(Well, Johnny Cash or Devo. Or maybe the Mentors.)