Monday, November 29, 2010
Press Release: Immediate Release
Comic Book Alliance charity offers Batman fans the chance to star in a comic alongside their hero
The Comic Book Alliance (CBA) “The Voice of the British Comics Industry” are
offering comic fans some very special Christmas treats this week with their very
first fundraising auction — including the chance to star alongside Batman in his
new comic, Batman Inc; along with other experiences that money can’t buy!
Grant Morrison (the award-winning writer who killed Batman and resurrected
him!) will write the winning bidder into an issue of Batman Inc. featuring their
name and likeness, courtesy of DC Comics.
Not only that, but Frank Quitely, winner of four 2010 Eagle Awards and one of
the hottest artists in comics (All Star Superman, Batman & Robin) will draw a
personalised portrait of a winning bidder! Quitely said "This is ideal. Some lucky
bidder gets to enjoy a cutting caricature of themselves, I get to exercise my cruel
sense of humour, and the CBA gets the money it needs to help it carry on its vital
work — everyone's a winner!"
Plus, there are dozens of signed books, comics and graphic novels from high
profile creators like Alan Moore (Watchmen), Garth Ennis (Preacher, The Boys),
Charles Vess (Stardust), and John Wagner (Judge Dredd).
And there’s original comic art and signed limited prints by the cream of British
artists including zombie art work by Charlie Adlard (The Walking Dead), Bryan
Talbot (Grandville), Sean Phillips (Criminal), John McCrea (Hitman), David Lloyd
(V for Vendetta), Mark Buckingham (Fables), Rufus Dayglo (Tank Girl) and
Garen Ewing (Rainbow Orchid).
The CBA supports and promotes comic creators, publishers, retailers and
distributors, both in the UK and abroad, At the heart of the Alliance, founders Tim
Pilcher, Shane Chebsey and GM Jordan have assembled an Advisory Board
made up of leading academics and professionals from a wide spectrum including
chat show host, turned comic book writer, Jonathan Ross and V for Vendetta
artist David Lloyd. In the last year the CBA has helped organise and promote
major exhibitions and sent thousands of free comic books to the troops in
Afghanistan and Iraq. The CBA also runs a website that helps the general public
find their local comic book retailer (www.comicshops.co.uk) and with over 1.5m
CBA Chair Tim Pilcher said “The UK has one of the most creative and extensive
comic publishing industries in the world—a legacy that has produced some of the
best artists and writers currently working in the medium. It’s been wonderfully
overwhelming to see so many of them generously donating their time and items
to this very worthy British cause and coming together to support the medium they
There are no reserves, and all bids start at just 99p, so there’s the chance to pick
up some real Christmas bargains for the comic fan in your life!
The auction starts at 19:00 on Thursday 2 December and runs until
at 19:00 on Saturday 11 December on www.eBay.co.uk: search for
the seller, comic_book_alliance or further details can be found at
www.comicbookalliance.co.uk. A full list of items available is below.
For further information, interviews, images, or quotes please contact:
Central Office: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tim Pilcher: email@example.com
GM Jordan: firstname.lastname@example.org
Shane Chebsey: email@example.com
Or visit: www.comicbookalliance.co.uk
Complete List of items in the Inaugural CBA Auction:
o An appearance in Batman Inc. written by Grant Morrison and drawn by
Chris Burnham. Courtesy of DC Comics
o Personalised caricature by Batman & Robin artist Frank Quitely
o Two pages of Fables original artwork by Mark Buckingham
o Spider-Man original artwork by Andie Tong
o The Walking Dead artwork by Charlie Adlard
o Daredevil limited edition print by Adi Granov
o Criminal original artwork by Sean Philips
o Tank Girl original artwork by Rufus Dayglo
o Peter Pan signed limited edition book, pus original artwork by Charles
o Original Letraset Manga Artwork by Nana Li
o Inspector Gadget original artwork by Dave Windett
o Whiteout signed print by Steve Lieber
o Yesterday’s Tomorrow’s hardcover signed by Rian Hughes
o Luther Arkwright signed limited edition print by Bryan Talbot
o Punisher original artwork by Laurence Campbell
o Warhammer 40K original artwork by Kev Hopgood
o War Machine original artwork by Kev Hopgood
o Marvel Heroes original artwork by Kev Hopgood
o G.I. Joe original artwork by Kev Hopgood
o Button Man 3: Killer Killer graphic novel and Strontium Dog script signed
by John Wagner
o Wasteland hardcover graphic novel signed by Antony Johnston
o Alan Moore: Portrait of an Extraordinary Gentleman signed by Alan Moore
o Rime of the Ancient Mariner graphic novel signed by Hunt Emerson and
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
o Smuggling Vacation and Day of the Deal graphic novels signed by Jason
o Day of the Deal exclusive “prison edition” graphic novel signed by Jason
o The Erotic Adventures of Space Babe 113, Complete set signed by John
o Iron Man & Black Widow limited edition print signed by Khoi
o Wormwood: The Last Enemy signed by Garth Ennis
o Wormwood: The Last Battle #1-3 signed by Garth Ennis
o The Boys Limited Anniversary Edition hardcover graphic novel set (1-5)
signed by Garth Ennis
o The Boys #39 Signed by Garth Ennis
o The Boys #40 Signed by Garth Ennis
o The Boys #41 Signed by Garth Ennis
o Preacher: Books 1 & 2 Deluxe Hardcover Editions Signed by Garth Ennis
o Preacher: Dixie Fried graphic novel Signed by Garth Ennis
o JLA/Hitman Issues 1 & 2 (complete) signed by Garth Ennis
o Hitman: Ten Thousand Bullets graphic novel signed by Garth Ennis
o Hitman: A Rage in Arkham graphic novel signed by Garth Ennis
o Crossed graphic novel signed by Garth Ennis
o Battlefields: Happy Valley and Tankies signed books and script by Garth
o Territory original artwork by David Lloyd
o Abe, Temptation, Candleman signed books and original art by Glenn
o Horse print signed by Emily Hare
o Strange Embrace hardcover graphic novel signed by David Hine
o Daredevil European Tour limited edition print signed by Jeph Loeb & Tim
o Signed print by Hermann
o Hermann exhibition poster signed by the artist
o The Rainbow Orchid original art by Garen Ewing
o The Rainbow Orchid Book 1 & poster both signed by Garen Ewing
o The Rainbow Orchid Book 2 & poster both signed by Garen Ewing
o Bart Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror #9 signed by Gary Spencer Millidge
o Strangehaven graphic novel (Book 1), print and postcard pack signed by
Gary Spencer Millidge
o Strangehaven graphic novel (Book 2) and print pack signed by Gary
o Hitman original art by John McCrea
o The Authority original artwork and signed graphic novel by Simon Cobley
o Low Life (from 2000 AD) original art by Simon Cobley
o Starship Troopers cover original artwork by Jimmy Reyes
o The Red Seas graphic novel signed by the artist, Steve Yeowell
o Burke & Hare graphic novel signed by Martin Conaghan & Will Pickering
o Tours de Bois-Maury signed print by Hermann
o Merry Christmas Mr Zombo (from 2000 AD) Script signed and illustrated
by Al Ewing
o Blake’s 7 replica badge by Termight Replicas
Sunday, November 28, 2010
R.I.P. LESLIE NIELSEN (1926-2010), STAR OF THE NAKED GUN SERIES AND THE SCI-FI LANDMARK FORBIDDEN PLANET
Leslie Nielsen, one of the unlikeliest of actors to become a comedy superstar, has perished following complications from pneumonia. That news hits comedy fans right in the guts because Nielsen's role as Lt. Frank Drebin, the bizarre protagonist of the insanely short-lived (six episodes total) TV series POLICE SQUAD and the NAKED GUN film series, has become a milestone character in the annals of silly humor. Looking like your straightest uncle, Nielsen's seeming blandness worked in his favor and lent Drebin's exploits the perfect flavor for his over-the-top world. The classic Drebin bits are many, but my nomination for all-time favorite goes to Drebin's impersonation of Enrico Pallazzo, a renowned opera singer, in THE NAKED GUN (FROM THE FILES OF POLICE SQUAD (1988).
But to me Nielsen's most important contribution to cinema was his portrayal of Commander J.J. Adams, leader of the crew of the spaceship C-57D in 1956's still-stunning FORBIDDEN PLANET, an out-of-this-world take on Shakespeare's THE TEMPEST. The film was arguably the most visually spectacular of the 1950's science-fiction films and still ranks among the most respected of its lot, thanks to such memorable elements as its all-theremin score, the Krell city (a community space clearly designed for non-humanoid forms, a rarity in sci-fi movies and TV even today), the id monster (an animated horror that scared the shit out of me when I was a kid), Robby the robot, Doctor Moorbius, his foxy daughter Altaira, and much, much more, with Nielsen's Commander Adams serving as the intelligent and capable anchor for a crew that encounter far more than anticipated upon landing on the planet Altair IV. If you've never seen FORBIDDEN PLANET, please take my word for it and check it out immediately.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
According to Suzi, one of Reggie's notable behaviors was that he would "claim" various gay male friends of hers by laying his big, black body across whatever young swain he had chosen and not allowing said man to move away. Once Reggie had you, you were his bitch, and I was actually kind of disappointed that Reggie never claimed me during the many times I hung out at Suzi's, not even during last New year's Eve when I crashed on the extra-comfy fold-out bed in the living room. Reggie and I were very find of each other already, so I guess I should not be insulted and perhaps should instead take his lack of claiming me as his way of acknowledging my staunch love of pussy.
And now my fuzzy friend has joined the Choir Invisible, so I hope his (probably intentional) off-key howling completely fucks up any rendition of "Nearer, My God, to Thee" that he's called upon to participate in. I loved Reggie very much and consider him the litter-mate I never had, right next to my own late and greatly lamented pooch, Sam (aka "Humpy").
Goodbye, sweet Reggie. Your awesomeness and considerable canine faggotry will never be forgotten, and I hope you understood and appreciated the 40-ounce "for my dead homies" Budweiser pour-out I did in my bathtub in your honor. I will miss you, dear poodle, so never forget that you were deeply loved by both me and the human you lived with. You were a terrific presence and your untimely exit will leave an enormous void in the hearts and minds that you so unconditionally touched.
Oh, and when you meet that commie space-mutt Laika in the Afterlife, be sure to bark "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" as queenily as you can into his mug. He may have been the first into space, but you looked way more fabulous in your space helmet.
Friday, November 26, 2010
Upon arriving, I finally got to see for myself the damage done when the next door neighbor's house was gutted by a fire some two months ago. Luckily the guy got out and was unharmed, but the house was rendered a charred and brittle shell and now lays fallow while the insurance company takes its sweet time in sorting out the particulars. My mom says that the huge industrial dumpster that now takes up space in the neighbor's driveway arrived the day after the fire, was more or less filled with debris by a cleanup crew, and has just sat there like a big red eyesore ever since.
What remains after our neighbor's house pretty much burned down about a month and a half ago. (He was unhurt.) If the wind that night had been stronger and blowing to the Southeast, this could have been my mom's house.
Seriously, the place was completely gutted and you could still smell the charring like it had happened yesterday.
As she gets older and money gets ever tighter, my mom has given serious thought to selling her house and moving into a condo, but no one's going to buy a house located next to a burnt-out husk that looks like something out of the bombing of Dresden, so I hope for her sake that the insurance company gets off its ass and sorts this shit out.
On the day before Thanksgiving, I skipped breakfast in order to make room for my favorite fast food repast whenever I hit Fairfield County, namely the drool-inducing foot-long chili dogs at Dairy King in Norwalk. As luck would have it, I arrived on the day of the chili dog special, which was a win for me because they are the sole food item on the menu that I go there for.
Another of the few aspects that make my visits to Westport tolerable are my visits with the Conners, the completely excellent and artsy parents of my dear old friend Amanda (known to you comics geeks out there as the sickeningly talented artist of DC Comics' Power Girl and her infamous collaboration with Garth Ennis, THE PRO). The Conners provide me with a haven from the expected dysfunction in the house where I grew up (or not), and I cannot express how much I appreciate them opening their home and hearts to me when I need a break. (For the record, this Thanksgiving's familial dysfunction at the Bunche homestead ranked at about a 4 on a scale of 1-10, so it was relatively mellow).
When I arrived at the Conners', Amanda's dad, Al (a fun and genuinely hilarious Sean Connery type from Louisiana), was busy in the kitchen, making an elaborate stuffing, while Eulayla, Amanda's utterly excellent and sunny mom, labored over a pencil/marker/watercolor portrait of her church's children's choir. I did a brief hit-and-run, dropping off another assortment of comedies and violent kung fu flicks on DVD for Al to enjoy (we are definitely kindred spirits), as well as picking up the last batch that I lent him and an intriguing dish that he'd made which fused Mexican and Cajun cuisine.
The view from Amanda's parents' driveway. Imagine growing up across the street from that!
That night saw me and my buddy Chris watching the four episodes of THE WALKING DEAD that have so far aired, and after that I turned in around 1:30 AM. (By the way, I'll get around to discussing the TV adaptation of THE WALKING DEAD when the season is over.)
I awoke around 6:30 AM after a fitful night of sleep on the medieval torture implement that is the fold-out couch in what used to be my bedroom, and all too soon my mom came downstairs, brewed herself a strong cup of Joe, and settled in for the three-hour pagan festival in honor of crass commercialism that is the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. My feelings about that show are well-known, so let it suffice to say that I focused on cruising the Internet and reading a book on lurid 1950's horror comics — the excellent THE HORROR! THE HORROR! by Jim Trombetta — as the saccharine floats and lip-synching disposable pop stars of the moment filed by. However, this year threw me a curve ball when the NYPD marching band showed up playing the theme music from the classic anime series SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO (1974, better known to American audiences when it ran here as the cult series STAR BLAZERS), a totally unexpected happenstance that may be the geekiest moment seen in that parade since the infamous and unintentionally hilarious PLANET OF THE APES float back in 1974.
The original theme song.
Seriously, never in a million years would I have expected to see that during the parade!
When the parade finally lurched to a halt, I watched the dog show that immediately followed it, while my mom spent the majority of those two hours putting the finishing touches on the meal that she began preparing at 8:30AM. When we took our customary places at the dining room table, we tucked into one of the best Thanksgiving meals my mom ever concocted, and that really saying something.
A selection of white and dark meat once the turkey was made more manageable for Round 1 of the shameless gorging.
Just a portion of the feast my mom prepared: extra stuffing (in the foil-covered pan, green bean casserole, a pan full of some truly obscene homemade gravy (with giblets), and noodles boiled in turkey broth/drippings and the bird's neck. Not shown: collard greens (aka "major league fart fuel"), fresh rolls, and extremely spicy jambalaya with Andouille sausage and shrimp.
The aforementioned tasty and intriguing fusion of Mexican and Cajun cuisine, prepared by Amanda's dad, Al.
Following the completely obscene gorging of Round 1, my mom and I retired downstairs to the family room, where we plopped down to digest, with my mom falling asleep into deep food-coma while I watched the classic Godzilla-and-pals-kick-ass-on-alien-invaders flick, MONSTER ZERO (1970).
Other than the food, the most important element to a good Thanksgiving, in my opinion, is the annual running of the giant monster flicks, a tradition adored and still held by many of us who grew up in the Tri-State Area during the 1970's. Started by some incredibly merciful programmer at NYC's Channel 9 in the pre-cable days, the way it worked was that they would run the original KING KONG, SON OF KONG and MIGHTY JOE YOUNG on Thanksgiving as a marathon to keep the kids from being bored while the adults got shitfaced and treated one another with viciousness that would have done Edward Albee proud. The day after Thanksgiving also gave us kiddies something to watch in the form of an impromptu Godzilla flick mini-marathon, among which could often be counted (among others) a rotation of KING KONG VS. GODZILLA, GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER, GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER, and of course MONSTER ZERO. Those flicks were a ton of fun, but they also kept us well out of range of hungover and volatile parents and attending relatives as they suffered for the indulgences of the previous day. If I could have gotten away with it I would have done the full and proper two-day marathon treatment, but as has been the case for many Thanksgivings over the past fifteen years, both my mom and I have chosen to spare ourselves the presence of guests in a successful bid to keep ourselves as comfortable as possible and not have to get dressed up or anything, so there was no company and no kids that needed the old school Channel 9-style distraction. Also my mom is not into the giant monster stuff (though she is the one who introduced me to the genre when I was four), so there was no way I would have been allowed to get away with more than one token rubber suit/city-stomping opus, so I chose MONSTER ZERO as this year's flick because I watch KING KONG at least twice per year anyway and I hadn't seen the Godzilla classic in quite a while.
After that, I pretty much spent the rest of the evening reading while my mom went back for Round 2, something I didn't feel peckish enough to do until just around midnight ("Brown Sugah!!!"). And with that, Thanksgiving 2010 came to a pleasant end and I returned to the walls of the Vault, whereupon I promptly crashed hard for two solid hours.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Some words of holiday advice:
1. You can survive your fucking annoying family. And if they piss you off too much, just remember that one day they will be dead.
2. Don't drink and drive, 'cause that shit's for amateurs and assholes. Stay at home to tie one on; why do you think Thanksgiving's an all-day festival of football, parades, movies, dog shows and marathons of classic TV reruns? It's a dazzling cathode ray cornucopia of stuff to keep the wasted off the streets and at home, puking, fucking and fighting right where they belong.
3. When seeing your old high school pals for what's probably the one time you'll see them all year, do not comment on how fat and/or old they look. That shit goes two ways, bunky...
4. If you must go to church during the holiday, make sure to go as hungover and reeking of booze as possible, that way next year they'll think twice before forcing you out of bed and into a place choked with incense and festooned with pictures of Jesus looking at your ass.
5. If your family gathering has a kiddie table, make sure to sit there and serve as a bad example to the next generation. Tell age-acceptable off-color jokes and stories. Teach the kids the lyrics to "The Diarrhea Song" (especially the version recorded by distaff punk/metal band Betty Blowtorch) and have them sing it loudly halfway through the meal. Introduce them to "pull my finger." In short, do your part to ensure your status as the fave older relative from the start; that way the kids won't feel so awkward in later years when they need somebody to take them to get an abortion or bail them out of jail without their parents being any the wiser. And believe me, they will pay back your "cool relative" kindness somewhere down the line.
6. Always, ALWAYS eat the turkey's tail. It's the perfect amount of dark meat, fat, and skin in one concentrated morsel and if slathered with the right amount of gravy it's a thing of joy forever (well, at least until it's digested and re-manifests itself as the next morning's enormous post-Turkey Day turd).
7. The true bombardment of Christmas-themed TV commercials commences right around Thanksgiving, so feel free to let loose with the Ribald Songbird action and desecrate the classic Yuletide tunes that have already been corrupted for TV adverts, only make them super dirty with usages of words like "cocksucker," "shit," and "pussy fart." Since you're gonna hear them a million times between now and the new year anyway, you may as well have some fun with them.
8. If you have to suffer through the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade — the Thanksgiving moment I dread most — don't try to be an asshole and bring to your aging parents' attention the fact that it's nothing more than a saccharine, three-hour commercial. They like it for the marching bands, big-assed balloons, and celebs lip-synching, and do not give a fuck about it's true purpose, so let them have their fun. And you can always have something to look forward to, namely the hope that the guy playing Santa at the end of the show will either be drunk or have a visible hard-on.
9. If you're staying at your parents' house with a significant other, try to remain as silent as possible if having sex under your folks' roof. I don't know why, but the idea of their kids having sex, even us grownup kids, seriously fucks with the heads of our progenitors. Then again, maybe you should fuck like monkeys on crack while at home...Aah, what the hell? Make 'em remember how it's done! And if they bitch about it, remind them of all the times they nagged you for grandkids and ask them if they forgot where said grandkids come from. That'll shut the geezers up in no time.
10. If the friends and loved ones you miss most can't be there this year, think of them fondly and rest assured that they're probably every bit as miserable as you are.
And with that, Happy Thanksgiving, and may the pecans in grandma's cookies actually be pecans and not roaches. (She doesn't see that well anymore, you know.)
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Ingrid Pitt, one of the signature women of the Hammer horror stable and the hands down epitome of the female vampire archetype, has gone on to the Great Beyond, and I almost would not be surprised if she turned up strolling down some foggy road in the English countryside in a day or two. Let's face it, coming back from the dead, usually in slinky diaphanous nightgowns or various states of undress, was her particular schtick in a number of vampire flicks, and she was compelling while doing her sinister thing.
Pitt, as seen in THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD (1971).
Though her vampire output was sparse, it was nonetheless indelible, as is seen in such perennial favorites as COUNTESS DRACULA and THE VAMPIRE LOVERS (both 1970), and a memorable segment in THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD. (Yeah, I know her character in COUNTESS DRACULA was not technically a vampire, but close enough for rock 'n' roll.) She was also in THE WICKER MAN (1973), one of the undisputed masterpieces of British horror cinema, so the lady was a legend and I am sad to see her go.
I had always hoped to meet her at a horror convention but she tended to attend those mostly in the U.K., so I looked online and was happy to find that she had a mail order autograph site that featured a really good selection of color 8x10's, including the good nudie stuff from her macabre outings. I was going to order one during the summer, but instead I opted to wait and get one as a Christmas gift to myself. So much for that...
Monday, November 22, 2010
Sunday, November 21, 2010
However my mind is still on ribald subjects, with great anticipation of this Thursday's impending feast thrown into the mix of my imagination, so I found this little item that effortlessly fuses the two.
This whole tableau is quite nice, but her glasses push it straight into the stratosphere!
Friday, November 19, 2010
There have been a number of times over the years where I'd realize that some area of my experience or interest had more or less become considered either passe or something still held only in the hearts and minds of those who were there for it. If you're of an age with me, you no doubt remember all manner of pop culture stuff that united us as Americans of an era, stuff like:
- The days when there were only three television networks.
- HAPPY DAYS, when it was a genuine national phenomenon and pop culture juggernaut, and not just an edited-for-time mainstay on Nick at Nite.
- The mind-bending wholesomeness of Donny and Marie.
- The embracing of and inevitable shunning of disco.
- The original STAR WARS coming from out of nowhere and literally kicking our collective ass.
- The all-too-brief martial arts boom, often blanket-termed as either "kung fu" or "chopsocky."
- Pet rocks.
- Dick Clark.
- MTV, when it actually ran music videos.
- Blaxploitation movies.
Odds are, if you know even the slightest thing about the blaxploitation movie boom of the 1970's — which lasted in earnest from roughly SHAFT (1971) through sometime late in the decade — you've heard of Pam Grier, the thesp whose name has become virtually synonymous with the genre, she of the lovely face, knockout figure, Jupiter-sized 'fro and (for the genre) the rare ability to act. Since her 1970's heyday, Grier has been internationally recognized as a pop culture icon and she even starred in Quentin Tarantino's JACKIE BROWN (1997), a film Q.T. made specifically so he could work with her. All of those basics bring the layman to the present, around four hours ago to be exact, so here's what happened.
I went around the corner from my apartment to the local Associated supermarket — often referred to by me as "kiss my big black ass-sociated" in much the same vein as my friends Nicole and Jennifer referred to the Gristede's market that they grew up near as "greasy titties" — to pick up enough provisions to hold me over until I head back up to Westport for the annual Thanksgiving hoo-haa, and as the cashier rang up my purchases, she saw my t-shirt and asked me whose image adorned it.
I figured that the cute little Latina couldn't see the full image, it possibly being semi-obscured by my loose-hanging scarf, so I pulled the scarf to one side and stated, "It's Pam Grier," with the same matter-of-factness I would have applied to saying "the sky is above us." The girl stared blankly at me as though waiting for further explanation, and finally volunteered, "I have no idea who that is is." I literally let out a howl and wailed, "Oh, my heart breaks!!! This is Pam Grier! You know, Pam Grier! PAM GRIER! The actress? Star of COFFY, FOXY BROWN and JACKIE BROWN? Hello, is this thing on?" The girl looked at me like I was crazy (she's right) and then halted my rant with "Do you know who Biggie and Tupac are?" It was my turn to look at her like she was barking mad, and I responded with, I'm old enough to be your dad! Of course I know who they are!" She looked at me sweetly and said, "Oh, I'm so glad. My heart was about to break!" At that, a fifty-something black dude who was on line behind me looked at her, shook his head and simply added "Mph, mph, mph," just like like my dearly departed granddaddy Ozane would have.
When I closed the door of my apartment behind me upon returning to the Vault, I was gobsmacked. How does someone not know who Pam Grier is, especially with the availability of her films on DVD? I just could not process such a happenstance, and then it hit me. I'm now officially a relic, a still-living museum piece who was once jokingly nicknamed "grandpa" by some soon-to-be lifelong friends who were three years my junior some twenty-four years ago. It was a sobering thought but now that I've mulled it over, I guess that's just how the wheel turns. Hopefully my brief rant will spur the cashier to hit the Internet and see just who the hell this Pam Grier that the old guy was raving about was. If she deigns to use Netflix and rent COFFY, FOXY BROWN, JACKIE BROWN, or even THE ARENA — a latter-day nudity-laden peplum flick and sort of proto-Xena story, starring Pam as an African princess who's forced into gladiatorial slavery during the days of the Roman empire — then I will have unintentionally awakened her to one of the great pop culture female empowerment role models of the late-20th century. So I guess it's not a total loss for Ol' Man Bunche.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Not only am I currently in love with this incredible mix melody, I also can't help but imagine the little girl's vocals issuing from the mouth of Lummox, the title character from Robert A. Heinlein's THE STAR BEAST. If you've read that book and know the character, am I right or am I right? Man, I wish there were a ten-minute version of this charming little tune!
Thursday, November 11, 2010
This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the release of Alfred Hitchcock’s landmark film, PSYCHO, one of the all-time classics of horror and suspense, and the film that can arguably be considered the granddaddy of the “slasher” genre. Can you believe it? Fifty years! When I told my mom about that, she couldn’t believe it had been so long since she’d seen it during its original run, and she once again regaled me with the tale of how after seeing that movie, she refused to shower in the house unless another person was around.
To me, it’s hard to believe there was ever a time when PSYCHO wasn’t around. I’m forty-five years old and during my lifetime PSYCHO has gone on to become a part of world cinema’s DNA and has been a point of reference and jokes more times than I can possibly count, such was its impact. Yet somehow there are still people out there who have managed to reach adulthood without having seen it, and one of those people is my toothsome girlfriend. Having devoted much of her growing-up years to being a diligent student (unlike me, who loathed virtually every moment of my organized schooling), she has missed innumerable classic (and not-so-classic) films that you or I would take it as a given that the average person would have experienced, so you can imagine how I’m champing at the bit to fill her head with a literal cornucopia of cinema from all genres and decades. With that goal in mind, when I heard that Manhattan’s Film Forum was running a screening of PSYCHO in honor of its golden anniversary, I fairly leapt at the chance to finally see it projected and haul the girlfriend along.
Once I’d procured tickets, I made sure to advise the girlfriend about not letting anyone spoil any of the film’s particulars for her, and things were going well in that department until one of her grad school courses ran footage from the sequence where Norman sinks Marian Crane’s car into the marsh behind the Bates Motel. When the girlfriend told me that she’d seen that bit, I was a little annoyed but not as much as I could have been because when taken out of context that scene reveals nothing. Also, when the segment was about to be discussed in class, one of her classmates was kind enough to stand up and announce to the class that out of kindness to those who had never seen PSYCHO, they should keep mum on the details of the story. That was very gentlemanly of him, but I soon reached a state of apoplexy when the girlfriend told me that right after that guy’s consideration of the few PSYCHO newbies in the class, some galloping asshat stated flat-out that Norman was the killer. When she told me that during our pre-screening dinner, I nearly hit the roof.
Undaunted, we made our way to the Film Forum and met up with my pal Suzi. As the girls hit the ladies’ room, I stood up and asked the audience if there was anyone in attendance that had not yet seen the film, and when a few hands shot ceilingward, I asked the audience not to give anything away. They all nodded in knowing agreement, and when the girls got back I settled in and absorbed PSYCHO on the (relatively) big screen for the first time. (I have seen the film many, many times since the late 1970’s and know it inside and out, but I was genuinely excited to see it projected and with an eager audience.)
If you’ve read this far despite the spoiler warning, then it’s safe to assume that you’ve already seen the movie, so I won’t bother to recount the plot. Instead, I’ll just make some observations.
- PSYCHO hit the screen barely three years after the real-life horrors discovered at the Wisconsin home of one Ed Gein, so that brain-meltingly awful event was still fresh in the shocked and disbelieving minds of the American public, thus lending the film an extra visceral mule kick to the guts.
For those not in the know (and making a very long, complex and downright fucking horrible story short), Ed Gein was the textbook example of the town "quiet soul" that everyone knew and thought was a little odd but harmless, only to have it revealed that he was not only bullmoose crazy, but also capable of acts of such outright stomach-churning blackness that even hardened homicide detectives found his acts literally nauseating. Among other elements lifted from the
Gein case for author Robert Bloch's source novel of PSYCHO can be found a grown man's very serious mother issues, questionable hobbies and handicrafts, and a marked gender-confusion, so the moviegoing audience no doubt remembered those details as they watched Hitchcock's creepy low-budget flick unspool across the nation.
- The sheer genius of letting us get to know and care about Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) only to kill her off about a third of the way through the narrative is still staggering and must have been a real kick in the head to the 1960 audience.
- Though he's creepy from the moment when we meet him, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) is so awkward and childlike, we find it easy to believe he's not the killer.
- My favorite scary moment in the film is when Arbogast (Martin Balsam) is murdered on the stairway while snooping at the Bates house.
- The legacy of PSYCHO is vast and the funny thing is that its sequels are actually pretty good, unlike the majority of proper slasher flick sequels. Especially of interest are PSYCHO II (1983), which chronicles what happens when Norman is released after having spent twenty-two years in a mental institution, and PSYCHO IV: THE BEGINNING, in which Norman relates his disturbing origin story. Both are well worth checking out.
- In recent years a number of classic films containing creepy and visceral material have been given ratings for their current releases on DVD, and PSYCHO has been slapped with an "R." The same rating has been applied to ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968) and considering the admittedly arbitrary criteria by which the MPAA determines what does or does not deserve a "restricted" label, I find it baffling that both films now bear that distinction. There's more "adult" material in ROSEMARY'S BABY, but nothing that would not garner a PG-13 were it to come out today, and other than the two murders, neither of which is gory, there is no content in PSYCHO that deserves any rating harder than a PG. And I'm willing to bet that the ratings on the DVDs serve no purpose anyway, because both are acknowledged classics and have both been run on non-cable television for ages in versions that were damned near uncut, so I very much doubt that any garden variety ten-year-old would be denied their purchase.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
At an unspecified point in the future, the only renewable energy resource is human excrement, so the government anally implants citizens with an identity ring that takes note of when they drop a deuce, and the citizen's contribution to the fuel supply is rewarded with a narcotic Juicy Bar, an addictive taste treat that looks like a popsicle made from Windex. Unfortunately, a side-effect of Juicy Bars is that they can turn those who eat them into borderline-retarded blue mutants who can now only metabolize Juicy Bars for nourishment, and when the government cuts off distribution of the bars to the mutants, they band together under the leadership of the Diaper King and ravage armed Juicy Bar shipments as the ultra-violent Diaper Gang. In the aptly-named Shit City, Juicy bars are abundant, so the gang has plenty to plunder.
But the government isn't having that, so their resident very mad scientist, Dr. Strange, creates Geko, an inhumanly agile, motorbike-riding super-cyborg who's equipped with enough ordnance to overthrow a small country. Geko regularly annihilates droves of the Diapers, but their numbers seem limitless so his fight goes on and on.
Into this maelstrom of violence ride the diminutive Aachi and his bald, shirtless friend, Ssipak, two biker punks who make a living by hanging around public lavatories and ripping off Juicy Bars from citizens while they're still on the bowl and selling the bars on the lucrative black market. After getting beaten up by prison-based gangsters whose territory they've horned in on, the pair find Jimmy the Freak, a flamboyant pornographer who's making an "artistic" film about a girl whose anus saves the world (don't ask), and the two get him Carlos Castaneda-level fucked-up on Juicy Bars in order to remote control his body and wreak vengeance upon the the crime boss whose boys had earlier assaulted them and made off with their ill-gotten loot. As the Diaper Gang also zeroes in on the crime boss and his Juicy Bar ring, all hell breaks loose, landing Jimmy in the clutches of the Diaper King, while the boys meet Beautiful, an avaricious porn actress who sought the lead in Jimmy's new film (and turned up her nose at his anally-oriented film concept, instead suggesting he focus on her world-saving tits).
During the Juicy Bar-spurred madness, Jimmy explains to the Diaper King that all he needs to do to get all the Juicy Bars he and his people need is to find someone who takes exceptional dumps and implant them with several of those anal identification rings. In theory that would cause a decent dump to yield vast amounts of the bars, and Jimmy points the Diaper Gang in the direction of the perfect subject, namely Beautiful. Once kidnapped by the gang, Beautiful is unwillingly stuffed with the identity rings, only to be rescued in the nick of time by our heroes (at the insistence of the smitten Ssipak).
Beautiful, getting anally stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey, just as our heroes arrive to literally save her ass.
With Beautiful now amounting to the goose that laid the golden eggs, the trio turn her defacatory yield into an avalanche of Juicy Bars ready for black market distribution and in no time the crew find themselves Tony Montana-level wealthy, which allows them to live out their dreams of tacky opulence.
But such a state of affairs was not meant to last and the forces of the government, the Diaper Gang and the utterly mad Dr. Strange each converge to claim Beautiful (who has plans of her own for her cash cow ass) and shut down the crew's operation. While a cornucopia of mayhem and violence erupts from every conceivable direction, it's a race against time to save Beautiful from a horrid existence of rectal slavery as Aachi and Ssapik must simultaneously contend with the legion of Diaper Gang Mutants, the guns-a-blazin' fury of Geko, evil government officials, and some special threats dreamed up by the psycho doctor.
AACHI & SSIPAK is a delirious, beautifully-designed and colorful head-on collision of a NATIONAL LAMPOON sensibility, a HEAVY METAL-style anarchic and dystopian future, and the kind of wild sci-fi fun to be found in 2000 AD magazine during its classic period. It's also a real treat for film buffs because it references and pays homage to many of the films that it was influenced by, but, unlike a Quentin Tarantino crib-fest like KILL BILL VOL. 1, it never becomes a feature-length checklist of the filmmaker's sources.
By far the best and most entertaining Asian animated movie I've seen in ages, I cannot recommend this highly enough for those of a mind to check it out. The only problem with doing so is that AACHI & SSIPAK is not yet legally available on DVD here in the States, obtainable only via "gray market" DVD if you know where to look, and on YouTube. At last night's screening, the show's host stated that the film is supposedly slated for legitimate release on DVD next year, so keep your eyes open. Until then, go here for the first fourteen minutes of the film. You will NOT be disappointed, so make sure to watch this as large as possible. (I would have embedded it, but embedding of this material was disabled by request.)
Tuesday, November 09, 2010
Since as far back as I can remember I have loved science fiction stories, and one of my early favorites is the exquisite FANTASTIC VOYAGE, directed by Richard Fleischer, a guy whose career couldn't have yielded a more diverse filmography if he intended it to. Think about it: Fleischer also helmed 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA (1954), THE VIKINGS (1958), DOCTOR DOOLITTLE (1967), TORA! TORA! TORA! (1970), THE NEW CENTURIONS (1972), SOYLENT GREEN (1973), MANDINGO (1975), and a pair of back-to back Robert E. Howard barbarian turds, CONAN THE DESTROYER (1984) and RED SONJA (1985). I mean, the leap from DOCTOR DOOLITTLE to MANDINGO alone is mind-boggling, and worthy of some kind of "Hunh? What the fuck?" award. And while Fleischer's films vary widely in quality and watchability, FANTASTIC VOYAGE is perhaps his most special effort, standing the test of time and not appearing one bit hokey despite the passage of four decades and advancements in special effects technology since its release. No joke, dear Vault reader, over the years this became my favorite science fiction film of them all.
Coming out during the height of the worldwide James Bond craze, FANTASTIC VOYAGE straddles the line between espionage thriller and updated Hugo Gernsback fodder with its tale of Cold War technology put to literally fantastic use. The United States and the Soviet Union have both developed the capability to miniaturize matter to damned near any scale desired, a feat that has staggering tactical implications such as shrinking an army — including weaponry and assault vehicles — smuggling said army into any desired theater of conflict totally undetected and enlarging said army, surprising the hell out of the enemy and devastating them utterly. The only hitch is the process has one problematic flaw: the smaller you shrink something, the faster it reverts to its original size, which rather puts the kibosh on one's plans for conquest unless your target is right across the street in the local 7/11. Luckily for the US, a scientist named Jan Benes has figured out how to make the shrinking effect last indefinitely and escapes from behind the Iron Curtain (with the help of the CIA), hauling ass to America, where the Soviets attempt to assassinate him. Fortunately for the story the attempt fails, but it leaves Benes comatose and with an inoperable blood clot in his brain.
Enter the C.M.D.F. — the Combined Miniature Deterrent Force — , a top secret organization that's got an underground complex with a fully-operational miniaturization setup ready to rock, and a team of skilled medical professionals who are ready to do the tiny thing and be reduced to microscopic size, entering Benes' brain via a wee submarine (the Proteus) and excising the blood clot via laser surgery.
A good plan in theory, but once within Benes' bloodstream the mission swiftly goes to Hell in a handcart as the Proteus crew must face unplanned and dangerous detours through the heart, the inner ear and lungs, voracious and deadly anti-bodies (think about it: the shrunken humans are a foreign invader, so the body leaps to its own defense), and a nail-biting race against time since the miniaturization effect wears off in one hour. If they aren't out of Benes' body within that time frame, things will get very, very messy indeed... Oh, and did I mention that the crew comes to realize they have a saboteur in their midst?
The Proteus crew (L-R): CIA agent Charles Grant (Stephen Boyd, aka Messala from BEN-HUR), medical assistant Cora Peterson (Raquel Welch, the goddess who singlehandedly shot sales of Jurgens lotion through the roof), surgeon Dr. Peter Duval (Arthur Kennedy), pilot Captain Bill Owens (William Redfield), and Dr. Michaels (Donald Pleasance, best known as Inspector Loomis in the original HALLOWEEN). If you've seen more than three movies in your lifetime, you know exactly who the bad guy is on sight.
FANTASTIC VOYAGE is surprisingly believable (I can ignore the scientific inaccuracies such as the team being able to breathe the full-scale air molecules collected from Benes' lung during an emergency pit stop, a point not mentioned in the script) and as serious as a heart attack from start to finish, and the wise choice of not having a bombastic score adds to its tone. The protagonists are not James Bond-era super-spies, but rather a group of intelligent, skilled professionals who think quickly when the shit hits the fan, with the CIA agent being along for the ride as security (he's somewhat out of his depth when it comes to the medical aspect of the mission and very reluctant to be miniaturized). There's no romance, no attempts at the camaraderie/bonding bullshit one might expect from a "team" story," and the plot is driven by the time limitation and the tension built by that, the crew focused on their objective. The perils they endure aren't filled with action movie histrionics, but are instead events that happen organically and put the viewer firmly into the somewhat claustrophobic proceedings. The Proteus is not some tricked-out, inner-space STAR WARS precursor, but is exactly what it's supposed to be: a compact submarine designed to get the crew from point A to their destination as expediently as possible. No torpedoes, no blasters, no buzz saws, zip. Just motion, and that's okay by me. And the surgical laser is never used for any purpose other than as the surgical device it was hauled along for (well, yes and no; watch the movie to see what I mean). The lack of standard Hollywood, "crowd-pleasing" horseshit may not fly with some viewers, but in my opinion it gives the narrative a strength and realism found in few other sci-fi flicks. FANTASTIC VOYAGE treats its audience with an assumption that the viewer isn't an idiot, and I've loved it for that since I was five years old.
Another thing the film absolutely drives home in a way that too few "fantastic" films do is the unbridled sense of wonder at being one of the first people ever to see the wonders of the human biological system from within. The incredible vistas found in Benes' body — and by inference all of us — are both psychedelic and breathtaking, with free-floating lava lamp-style globules all over the place along with forests of assorted tissue, and this stunning visual impressed me more than any of the far-flung alien worlds encountered in any sci-fi flick before or since.
Sure, the "swimming" effect was achieved by suspending the actors on wires and the sets festooned with sparkly strands of brain matter and such look like something from an episode of LOST IN SPACE — as well they should since Irwin Allen scavenged them to use on that series — , but keep in mind that the stuff that could easily be handled these days via CGI was pretty much state-of-the-art for 1966 and still looks pretty damned good.
FANTASTIC VOYAGE was recently reissued in a very nice special edition DVD, finally on its own after years of being paired on a double-feature disc with the appalling VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA (the movie sucks out loud, but the spinoff TV series was loads of goofball Irwin Allen-style fun), but I'm still hoping it will eventually get the full-on royal treatment it deserves and be honored with one of those drool-inducing Criterion Collection editions. But, whatever. Just as long as people can see this before the announced remake due to unspool onto the big screen in 2010, brought to us by Roland Emmerich, the asshole who unleashed INDEPENDENCE DAY, the unspeakable American GODZILLA, and the laughable 10,000 B.C. In his hands there is simply no possible way that a FANTASTIC VOYAGE remake can be any good, and I weep at the prospect of such an abortion happening at all. Thankfully the classic original is still here to thrill and delight with wonderment, so TRUST YER BUNCHE and make your kids sit through it just like my former-biology teacher mother did, an act that inadvertently hooked me on sci-fi flicks for life. Thanks, Mom!