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Friday, April 30, 2010


Those of us who unashamedly enjoy pornographic entertainment are, if asked, certain to have a number of entertainers in that field that we consider our favorites. In my case, I discovered X-rated material in earnest at the tail end of the 1970’s, a glorious time for adult entertainment that yielded sweaty, fleshy, carefree smut with a smile, and my tastes in such stuff were molded by what I encountered during those formative years. Consequently, I can’t stand fake tits, “landing strip” or totally shaved pubic areas don’t appeal to me — too little girl-like — and skinny/under-nourished chicks just put me off (Sharon Mitchell being the lone exception to this rule; god how I love her cute face and Jewish schnozz).

I fell in love with the curvy figure as a small child of the late 1960’s/early 1970’s and that aesthetic has stuck with me ever since those heady days, bolstered by a heavy dose of the lush beauties illustrated by Frank Frazetta, so it should come as no surprise that my list of favorite porn stars includes such luminaries as redheaded dynamo Dorothy LeMay, zaftig Jewess Annie Sprinkle (nee Ellen Steinberg), pornographic Pocahontas Hyapatia Lee (who was admittedly not as curvy as I usually prefer, but she was simply beautiful), Candida Royale, pixyish Ginger Lynn (simply because she looked like a particularly naughty faerie princess), and of course Traci Lords. But none of those video sirens have the place in my heart and erotic imagination occupied by that awesome force of utterly female nature known as Vanessa del Rio.

Vanessa del Rio, circa 1976.

Looking like what would have happened if Wally Wood had a hand in the casting of Maria for WEST SIDE STORY, del Rio (born Ana Maria Sanchez in Harlem) was a mouth-wateringly well-drawn cartoon Hispanic sex goddess brought to vivid life and her exuberance in her performances drew viewers into the action like no porn player before or since. Her Amazonian, larger-than-life persona (aided and abetted by that voluptuous body) was not only alluring, it was downright fun, and the mark she made upon the genre remains indelible well after her retirement. I have been fascinated by all aspects of her for nearly thirty years, and while there have been a number of histories of the American porn industry and a smattering of biographies and auto-biographies of some of its stars, there has never been such a tome devoted to the mighty Vanessa del Rio.

Or so I thought.

In 2007, Germany’s Taschen Books released VANESSA del RIO: FIFTY YEARS OF SLIGHTLY SLUTTY BEHAVIOR by Dian Hanson, and with the release of this 396-page, sixteen-pound (!!!), ultra-deluxe signed hardcover edition — which also comes with a 140-minute DVD documentary — this fan’s prayers were answered. Originally selling for $1500 in a limited edition and a $400 version on del Rio's website , the book just came out in a version that goes for a mere $59.99. It's a huge — and I do mean HUGE — coffee table tome that's loaded with pictures spanning del Rio's career and is a funny, candid recounting of her adventures from her wasted days in Catholic school (where she gained a vehement hatred of nuns and says the church taught her "cruelty"), to her days as a hooker during the bygone glory days of the Deuce (that's Manhattan's once-fabled 42nd Street for those not in the know), and on through her reign as porn's premier wild-woman of color, and there's not a boring second in it. Cheerful, sweet and funny as hell, del Rio is the most fun of feminists whose candor may be shocking to some, but I love her for it and wish that she'd get into straight-up comedy because she's one of the rare porn stars who can actually act, especially in a humorous capacity. (The other porn star who comes to mind in this respect is John Leslie; I would kill to see him as the star of a sitcom!) The DVD interview/documentary that comes with the book is also a stone-cold riot in which del Rio regales us with stories from her life and career, much of which is side-splitting and all of it compelling (her story about her cat Tarzan's balls is priceless).

So I very highly recommend VANESSA del RIO: FIFTY YEARS OF SLIGHTLY SLUTTY BEHAVIOR, especially to her fans but also to anyone curious to read a very positive and fun look into the head of an ebullient ethnic porn icon whose earthy charm is just plain impossible not to warm to. HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION.

Ain't it the truth!

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Originally known as IN MEMORY OF THE WALTHER P-38 when first aired in Japan, this is the tenth of the made-foe television LUPIN III specials and is of a markedly different and dark tone than the rest of the lot thanks to its uncharacteristically graphic violence. The LUPIN III series are usually quite light-hearted romps, but this time around, Lupin and his associates are drawn into the world of an international cadre of assassins culled from the cream of the world's murderous crop, and this story is very intriguing for those used to the more breezy Lupin entries, simply so they can see how Lupin's universe is transformed with bloody depictions of poisonings, shooting, stabbings, and an up close and personal throat-slashing, none of which sits at all well with Lupin himself, a man who is by no means a killer. What goes on over the course of this story is stuff that Lupin's gunman buddy Jigen and their crew's master swordsman, Goemon, could handle without blinking an eye, but Lupin's definitely more of a lover and rascal than a fighter, as is made evident through his own approach to combat, which is basically to physically not be where blows, bullets or sharp implements of murder would come into contact with his person. But why do the assassins seek to lure Lupin to their hidden island in the heart of the Bermuda Triangle? What is the island's great secret? And why is Lupin so keen on obtaining the striking silver Walther P-38 pistol used to shoot (and presumably kill) his longtime pursuer and nemesis, Inspector Zenigata? I ain't tellin', so don't ask, but I definitely recommend this to all interested anime junkies.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Now that I'm "funemployed" and have some time on my hands, I have finally begun the Herculean task of sorting through and organizing the boxes and boxes and boxes of crap that have accumulated here in the Vault over the past thirteen years, the longest I have ever lived in one place for an uninterrupted period of time. There are artifacts, souvenirs, keepsakes and collector's items spanning my whole lifetime, but mostly there's stuff that I have acquired since leaving my boyhood home in Connecticut and setting out to find fame fortune in New York City, so you can imagine some of the stuff that's been hidden away for ages in boxes. Here's a trio of minor oddities that have been unearthed:

A sealed can of Popeye brand spinach, an item I had to have since I am a devotee of the one-eyed sea-faring badass.

An empty bottle of Kickapoo Joy Juice from the 1950's, a LI'L ABNER-related soft drink that took its name from the infamous high-octane liquor distilled in the woods by Hairless Joe and Lonesome Polecat.

Lonesome Polecat and Hairless Joe, brewers of potent potables.

This vintage bottle of Trader Vic's Pomegranate Syrup was one of the few items my dad did not take with him our house's dinky bar when he cleared out back in 1975, and it is now faded and what remained of its contents have crystallized at its bottom. I keep this not for sentimental reasons — Believe that!!! — but for the fact that its label is charmingly adorned with a topless island girl rendered in a cheesy early-1950's pinup style. This bottle was on my room's shelf at home during my high school years, followed me through my wild college days, and has been a fixture of the five apartments in NYC that I've lived in over the past two decades. I someday hope to be buried with it.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I just realized it's been a while since I did a recent comics roundup, so here's some of what's been in my stack of late.


Once again DC re-starts the Scarlet Speedster's monthly book from issue one, this time bringing back Barry Allen for no good reason. When all was said and done in regard to the recent FLASH REBIRTH mini-series, I was left underwhelmed, despite the capable scripting talents of GREEN LANTERN wunderkind Geoff Johns. I like what the guy does, but I very much doubt that even Alan Moore on his best day could make me care one whit about Barry Allen, one of the blandest of DC's Silver Age heroes (a very bland lot, so that's really saying something). I have been a fan of Wally West — Barry's sidekick as Kid Flash, who really came into his own during his stint with the Teen Titans — for a long time and welcomed him taking over Barry's mantle in the wake of Allen's "death" in CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS some twenty-five years ago. His run (no pun intended) as the Flash entertained me, so I really do not see the need to kick him to the curb and bring back Barry. Visually, the characters were virtually identical when in costume, so I doubt the switch was made for any kind of marketing reasons. If anything I would chalk it up to DC caving in to whiny fanboys who have moaned endlessly about “Why won’t you bring back the Flash I grew up with? Waaaaaah! Waaah!!!!” Whatever…Anyway, the first issue of the new series was okay, but there was too little to go on to register any real kind of verdict. The story sets up what looks to be another multi-issue arc, and as this is only the first chapter, it’s impossible to tell if it’s any good yet. I plan on giving this two more issues before I can really pass judgment, but I will say that the script was good and Francis Manapul’s art was very interesting.


The Hickman/Eaglesham FF continues apace, maintaining the high standard of scripting and art (with Paul Mounts continuing to work his coloring magic) set since the beginning of the team’s run, and this latest chapter takes us to the moon’s Blue Area for more encounters with a number of races who appear to be key to some sort of upcoming kerfluffle on a possibly cosmic level, the kind of thing that the Fantastic Four can handle like no other team of heroes in the history of comics. There’s a reason why I love them, and thus far this run only reinforces that love. This is the only Marvel book that goes straight toward the top of my “must reads” when I pick it up each month, so let that speak for itself.


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face: SECRET SIX is the best book that DC is putting out on a monthly basis and I fucking love it, mostly thanks to Gail Simone’s always strong and compelling scripting (I’ve never cared for Jim Calafiore’s art and would prefer someone with a less angular style, but I’m not reading this for the art). The latest issue is part two of Cats in the Cradle” and it takes up right where it left off last issue, with Catman being ordered to kill his teammates or a pack of kidnappers who think they have the upper hand will kill the infant son of himself and Cheshire. What the kidnappers don’t count on is that Catman is one very hard motherfucker, and his unexpected reaction to their coercion attempt sets him, one of the world’s master hunters and killers, on their trail. Demanding that the rest of the Six stay out of his way, Catman begins his hunt with a vicious and ruthless focus, first going after Claudio Rinetti, a world-class knife expert Mafioso of such utter wretchedness that the guy killed his own entire family at his sister’s wedding. Catman’s handling of Rinetti is not pretty to witness and may be the start of the character going in a very dark direction, something that is noted by Deadshot, who definitely doesn’t like where his comrade in crime may be headed… If you aren’t reading this series, you should be, so pick up and read the VILLAINS UNITED collected edition, along with the trade paperbacks of the SECRET SIX mini-series and the two collections of the monthly series. No bullshit, this is great stuff.


I’ve been hot and cold on this series since the beginning, and this issue from J. Michael Straczynski and Jesus Saiz knocked my socks off. Featuring one of the least likely super-teamings ever, namely the pairing of Aquaman and The Demon, this story can be summed up as “Aquaman and The Demon thwart H.P. Lovecraft’s Dagon and the Deep Ones from entering the DCU’s dimension,” and with Saiz’s stunning artwork on hand, this issue is a visual treat, especially if you’re a fan of Lovecraftian wigglies like I am.


Cover art by Jesus Saiz. Note: the scene depicted on the cover does note happen in the actual story.

Over the years I’ve watched Cliff Chiang’s art go from merely good to being counted among the best of what is currently out there, achieving that rare Jaime Hernandez-like no unnecessary linework thing that somehow provides all the details and atmosphere one could hope for, yet without the noodly and visually pointless bullshit that too many comics artists fall into. Cliff’s done a lot of really good work, but this issue and its superhero “girls night out” content is my favorite thing he’s thus far given us. The superhero girls night out thing has been done many times, usually providing nothing more than an excuse for the (usually mediocre) artist to draw hot superhero babes in civilian clubbing gear and engaging in behavior that has nothing to do with saving the world (the sequence of this type from Adam Warren’s EMPOWERED being the artistic and comedic benchmark for this kind of thing), but this time around it features Wonder Woman and the Barbara Gordon Batgirl being drafted into a night out at a dance club by an unusually insistent Zatanna. Why? Read the issue and find out for yourself. You will not be disappointed by what I’m naming as COMIC BOOK OF THE MONTH. Well done, Cliff!


Proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that comedy is a field best left to the experts, this would-be humorous non-tie-in to CAPTAIN AMERICA REBORN is a painful waste of time and trees that features various Marvel staffers and creators engaging in allegedly amusing banter as a “dark” version of Forbush Man — yes, Forbush Man, ferfucksakes — takes them to task for ruining comics and excising the fun from them. That tired schtick is there to bookend A psychedelic and apparently intentionally incomprehensible Mat Fraction-scripted “Doctor America, Occult Operative of Liberty” story (lysergically rendered by Brendan McCarthy) and an anachronistic tale of the Golden Age Deadpool, and neither is funny in the least (apologies to Stuart Moore; Sorry, Stuart…). The whole thing comes off as a one-note vanity project that may have seemed funny when the concept was hastily scribbled on a Post-It note, and I’m angry with myself for having wasted $3.99 on this mess. That’s enough to buy a can of Foster’s lager and a newspaper, both of which would provide more diversion than this horseshit.


While I am usually staunchly against Vertigo mini-series that run some of their series’ characters and concepts into the ground — THE DEAD BOY DETECTIVES? Seriously? —, I have been enjoying the hell out of this FABLES side project and recommend that you check it out when it receives its inevitable collected edition (probably about three weeks after it reaches its conclusion in serial form). In FABLES, Cinderella — yes, that Cinderella — was established as Fabletown’s answer to 007 and Modesty Blaise, and in this series she’s given a full-blown espionage adventure with Aladdin as her co-star, with results that blow away anything found in the most recent theatrical James Bond adventure, the wan QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008). Good stuff.


Geoff Johns’ run on GREEN LANTERN kept me glued to the page — not in the same way that I have found my self glued to the pages of such publications as MILFMAG or MAYFAIR — for the past few years, and after the excellent Sinestro Corps War arc, I was eager to see what he would do with Blackest Night, the event foretold in a TALES OF THE GREEN LANTERN CORPS short story by Alan Moore nearly thirty years ago. Of the many epic and cosmic long-form story arcs and crossovers in comics history, BLACKEST NIGHT had a lot of potential and was one of the most colossal and impressive in its scope. The problem with it was that it was simply too damned long for no good narrative reason, and DC milked BLACKEST NIGHT’s tit dry and left it bruised almost beyond recognition. Its tale of baleful prophecy, a death-toll amounting to billions on an inter-galactic scale, multi-hued groupings of ring-wielding characters, examinations of what the various hues meant, and seemingly endless amounts of multi-issue ring-slinging and in-combat trash talking could easily have been half its exhausting length, and less than halfway through it I began to get lost as to who was who and what was up with what. By the time Sinestro was revealed as the White lantern (for all of around an issue), was only reading it to see how it all turned out, and now that the smoke has cleared and the dust has settled, I have to say I’m greatly disappointed by the end result. The whole thing ended up being a bloated endurance test for the readers. If you’ve read comics for as long as I have, you know that the deaths of major characters are almost inevitably reversible, so when some of the heavy-hitters who were offed during BLACKEST NIGHT were resurrected, I was in no way surprised and did not really care about any of their resurrections.

Heroes resurrected: big fucking deal...

Especially vexing was the non-shock of seeing Hawkman and Hawkgirl (apparently once more Shiera, the outer space cop) back from the grave since their history has been defined since Day One in the Golden Age as one of a perpetual cycle of death and reincarnation, so where was the suspense in that? The only real item of interest to come out of all this over-stuffed mishegoss was Deadman being restored to living corporeal form, but other than that…Meh. Which brings me to the next step in the ongoing GREEN LANTERN chronicles (with, of course, ramifications for the DCU):


BRIGHTEST DAY kicks off with looks at what is currently happening with the resurrected characters and how some new mega-threat will draw them together as a group, while Deadman is transported from place to place while trying to figure out what’s going on. The first issue did not really hook me, which may be residual PTSD in the wake of BLACKEST NIGHT, but it’s still to early to make a call on this one. I’m not very hopeful, though, especially since BLACKEST NIGHT went over quite well, and nothing exceeds like excess…


Though still an example of the direct fallout from BLACKEST NIGHT, this issue of GREEN LANTERN simultaneously settles things back into Johns’ more normal scale groove, and after all that BLACKEST NIGHT sturm undt drang, I welcome it with open arms. This looks to be the start of a new group of Guardians of the Universe, this time culled from the diverse forces of the various ring-bearing factions, and a more uneasy truce and teaming I can scarcely imagine. I’m absolutely on board for this, especially if it means a regular dose of cosmic martinet Sinestro needling his former protégée, Hal Jordan. I’m interested to see how the love triangle between Hal, Carol “Star Sapphire” Ferris and ace pilot Cowgirl pans out, as well as witnessing what’s to become of the Red Lantern Atrocitus now that he’s a team player. But most intriguing of all to me is Larfreeze, the very personification of bald-faced avarice. How the hell can that guy work on as a part of any team, let alone the Guardians of the Universe?


I'm sure it's no surprise to regular readers of this blog, but MADAME XANADU is one of my favorite books currently going, and it's up there with SECRET SIX as an instant must-read. Madame X's troubles with older sister Morgan La Fey continue, and she finds an unexpected helpmate in the form of Detective John Jones, a man of incredible abilities whose mind Madame Xanadu is unable to read, thus cluing her in to him being something other than human. (Longtime DC readers should know exactly who this guy is, but ain't sayin' nuthin.") I'm still hooked by what Matt Wagner and the superb Amy Reeder Hadley bring to me each months, so I'll be here for the foreseeable future. If you missed this when it started as a monthly, there are two collected editions of this series out now and I strongly urge you to pick them up.

Monday, April 26, 2010

KICK-ASS (2010)

So I finally got around to seeing KICK-ASS and I have to say that, overall, I thought it more or less sucked for a number of reasons. I read the source comics and didn’t much care for those either — save for one element that I will address shortly — but at least the comic stuck true to its basic premise, namely what would happen if some moron put on a costume and attempted to fight crime as a non-powered superhero in reality, with that reality being the linchpin upon which the entire narrative rests. In its translation to the screen, the realism that the comic book version of KICK-ASS strove for is kicked to the curb around a third of the way in, thus rendering the movie somewhat schizophrenic and “Hollywoodizing” the content to a degree that escalates into outright ridiculousness that is plainly insulting to the intelligence of its audience, a group that is more than willing to suspend its disbelief in the name of being entertained.

KICK-ASS introduces us to Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), a wimpy loser who is beset with bullies and a frustrating invisibility to the females in his school, in other words basically an update of Peter Parker, save for Lizewski’s interest in comic books and superheroes. After pondering why no one ever just put on a costume and started fighting crime in real life, Dave takes to the streets as Kick-Ass and immediately suffers a serious ass-kicking and stabbing from two thugs who harassed and mugged him while he was in his civilian garb. Coming out of the hospital with metal-reinforced bones and fucked-up nerve endings that allow him a very high pain threshold, Dave again makes the nighttime rounds as Kick-Ass and saves a man from being beaten to death by three street gang members while taking a lot of punishment in the process. This ill-advised bit of Good Samaritanism is recorded on an onlooker’s cell phone and immediately becomes an Internet hit, spurring Dave to set up a web page where people can contact Kick-Ass and request his aid. Meanwhile, another mysterious figure is murdering the mob forces of Mafiso Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong) and stealing considerable amounts of his cocaine and cash, which leads D’Amico to incorrectly figure Kick-Ass is responsible and sets out to eliminate the presumed thorn in his side. The real culprits are an ultra-violent take on Batman and Robin, namely former cop Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage) and Hit-Girl (Chloe Moretz), his eleven-year-old daughter, both of whom are highly skilled in hand-to-hand combat and use of a cornucopia of weapons, and they come into contact with Kick-Ass when they save him from being killed by drug dealers. An uneasy alliance between the “heroes” is established, and along with his crime fighting Dave enjoys the attentions of Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca), a cute classmate he has a crush on, but who thinks he’s gay and wants him as her “gay B.F.F.” Also, Dave, in Kick-Ass mode, is befriended by alleged fellow amateur superhero Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who is in actuality the son of Frank D’Amico, acting to lure Kick-Ass into his dad’s clutches. All of these plotlines eventually converge and the end result is a colossal train wreck on nearly every level.

The first third of KICK-ASS is firmly rooted in what we know as reality, but then it seems as if a totally different director and screenwriters were brought in to alter what remained to fit in with results garnered from audience testing. Where Dave was a complete loser in the comics, in the film he transforms into a kinda-cool dude who, after fessing up to his crush-object about not being gay and revealing to her that he is Kick-Ass, gets to fuck the hot girl in the alley behind the local comics shop/café (more accurately, he’s fucked by her, first in her bedroom and later in that oh-so-romantic alley). In the comics, Dave only reveals that he isn’t gay, which leads Katie to understandably explode in utter apoplexy, after which one of her hulking jock pals beats the shit out of Dave. That scenario, I believe. The other, not at all. And do not get me started on the moment during the film’s insanely violent climax when Kick-Ass — an ordinary teenage loser, let us not forget — arrives to rescue Hit-Girl (who is about to be blown into a million smoldering chunks by a bazooka-wielding hood) flying in a James Bondian rocket pack, equipped with twin helicopter assault guns that snap up from behind him and align themselves over his shoulders for tactical deployment. The sight of that made me exclaim aloud, “Oh, come on!!!” and changed my opinion of the film from one of mere indifference to almost-total hatred.

While the teenage characters’ performances are all pretty good, I was rather saddened by the waste of Christopher Mintz-Plasse in the role of Red Mist. He’s given little to do here that would have challenged a newbie actor, and fans of SUPERBAD’s McLovin will be sorely disappointed by how he was short-changed by this script. In the source comics, Red Mist is introduced as a mystery, so when the reveal about who he actually is and the reason for why he became Red Mist hapens, there's a real surprise. In the movie we know who he is from the second we see him, so that potential narrative shock is completely squandered. The comics were not great, but that plot point is one of the things about it that did not require "fixing" by the screenwriters in any way.

Chloe Moretz, rocking the screen as Hit-Girl, the ultimate pint-sized badass.

The one thing (or rather two things) that I genuinely liked about this movie is the presence of Big Daddy and Hit-Girl, a pair who were also the only things that kept me reading the comic book (I was about to give up on the comic, but then they showed up and I kept reading just to more of them). Simply put, the duo own the movie whenever they’re onscreen (which amounts to about a fifth of the running time) and Hit-Girl brings pain and graphic violence down upon the bad guys like a pint-sized Fury straight out of Greek mythology, with touches of Cynthia Rothrock and Tomisaburo Wakayama thrown in for good measure. Or, in non-chopsocky speak, the kid is a complete and utter badass in every way, and if this film makes enough at the box office to warrant a sequel, I suggest the leave out all of the original film’s characters, focus on her, and title the movie DON’T FUCK WITH HIT-GIRL. And while Hit-Girl steals the movie, Nicholas Cage’s Big Daddy charms as the sweet and doting father who forges his kid into a merrily willing participant in his vendetta against D’Amico, and while in his Batman-esque Big Daddy costume, he affects a hilarious Adam West-style of line delivery that had me cracking up. (To the best of my knowledge, the Adam West BATMAN show has not been seen in syndication for at least ten years, so I wonder if the under-thirty-fives in the audience will get the gag.)

To sum up, KICK-ASS is garnering all manner of critical acclaim for reasons that completely elude me, and I’m betting that no matter how I may rail against it, you mat be tempted to see it in the theater anyway. Please, dear Vaulties, I beg of you not to spend your hard-earned cash to see this for full or even matinee price. Wait for cable of a Netflix rental if you must see it, and keep in mind that it’s only worth it for Big Daddy and Hit-Girl. Otherwise, it’s an over-hyped waste of celluloid. If you're looking for a movie that takes the whole realistic non-powered superhero thing and does something both intelligent and genuinely worthwhile with it, check out the vastly superior DEFENDOR instead.

If a sequel happens, change this ad's title to DON'T FUCK WITH HIT-GIRL and we're good to go.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Perhaps shockingly to some readers and those who know me outside of the Internet, my excursions into the realms of pornography have been sort of on hold as my "funemployment" continues, but I just received word of two new releases that just made me crack the hell up. First is DON'T TELL MY WIFE I ASSFUCKED THE BABYSITTER 2, obviously a much-called-for sequel to one of the classics of contemporary cinema.

Is it just my febrile imagination at work, or does the actress depicted look like a younger version of Brit-babe kitchen goddess Nigella Lawson? Just a little, no? Think about the tenderloin cinematic possibilities of a XXX version of NIGELA EATS. It wouldn't even need a title-change!

But the clear winner this week is the staggeringly matter-of-fact VAGINA THE MOVIE.

How the hell no one thought of that as a title for a porno movie before now is a mystery that will perhaps never be solved, but at least it now exists. Here's how the listing describes this no-brainer masterpiece:

After over 5,000 successful years on planet Earth, Vagina has finally been made into a full length motion picture!

Probably the most single loved thing ever, Vagina will draw you in and never let you go. See the insider story of Vagina firsthand and find out why people wear 'I Love Vagina' t-shirts. It's warm, it's moist and it loves to be loved! Vagina the Movie shows you how and why, much like a fingerprint, not any two vaginas are exactly alike. Now you can sample some of the best ones ever, a movie you can watch with most of the family.

By my armchair estimate, the excellence of vagina has been around for considerably more than 5,000 years, but then again this is probably not intended be a scholarly treatise or a documentary. In fact, I'm willing to overlook this inaccuracy thanks to the film's tagline that gets it absolutely right:

"Controlling the universe since the dawn of time."

No way am I about to argue with that one. It's a plain and simple truth, and I totally bow to the mastery of vagina. That said, I'm willing to bet that the video itself cannot possibly live up to its lofty, all-encompassing concept.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


So Friday evening rolled around and I set off to meet up with my usual crew of friends for the weekly gathering at a favorite Manhattan pub, still reeling from Thursday’s Popeye’s Chicken & Biscuits disappointment. While riding the R train out of Brooklyn, I considered that I would have around an hour to kill before most of my friends would show up at the pub, so I resolved to save some cash by eating dinner somewhere other than the comfy Irish shebeen whose overpriced food has of late become rather iffy in quality. But what to have? Suddenly I remembered: there was a Popeye’s location just a couple of blocks and one avenue away from the pub, and not only that, it was one of the best in the city, if not the best. Thus inspired, I got off the train at the 23rd Street stop and hauled ass to the temple of superior fried chicken.

The Popeye's Chicken & Biscuits on Third Avenue between 25th and 26th Streets in the East Side of Manhattan: perhaps the best example of this fast food chain in the whole of New York City.

Unlike the previously described reject from a Tyler Perry “comedy” that was closed down by the Health Department on Thursday, the Popeye’s on Third Avenue (between 25th and 26th Streets) is not located in some crappy “ghetto” locale and the sound of bad, blaring so-called R&B and current hip-hop is thankfully nowhere to be heard. I arrived around 6PM to find the place sparsely populated with customers who were waiting quietly and politely while the kitchen cooked up more of the crunchy delicacy, and I noted that the ethnic makeup of the majority of the patrons was Asian, perhaps the only crew as god at making fried chicken as my own dusky brethren. When I placed my order, the pretty Pakistani girl behind the counter comprehended my order with no need for me to repeat it four times, and when I received my meal it was correct down to the last crumb of the chicken’s breading. In fact, it was one of the best Popeye’s chicken dinner’s I’ve ever eaten, with every item being absolutely perfect in execution and flavor, and it was all just freshly dropped into the bins (thus still scaldingly hot).

Absolute perfection made edible: the four-piece meal combo, featuring mashed potatoes with Cajun gravy, mild dark meat chicken, and the best regularly available biscuit in the annals of fast food.

I took my time polishing off the meal, largely because the chicken would have caused third-degree burns if eaten immediately, and while I supped on the delectable mashed potatoes and Cajun gravy, the post-6PM rush descended upon the place and in no time a line stretched all the way to the door. Among the waiting patrons who’d just come in was a group of about five black youths, all around twelve years of age, and they were very well-behaved, but they had the misfortune of standing in front of one of the neighborhood’s many unstable and volatile outpatient junkies, this one being a hideous Irish-looking harridan of about sixty with a tangled and unwashed bird’s nest of white hair. I was sitting right next to where the boys and the junkie were standing and I could clearly hear all that the kids were saying amongst themselves, all of which was innocent and innocuous stuff that kids of their age chat about, but the junkie hag somehow got it into her head that this clearly rampaging pack of boogies were slanderously mocking her august personage. With no provocation whatsoever, the old bag began screaming at the startled kids, shrieking, “Who the hell are you to talk about me like that??? You’ve got a lot of fucking nerve!!! I bet you wouldn’t say that shit if your mutha was here!” The kid who seemed to be the group’s leader cut me a scared look that said to me “What the hell just happened here?” and I responded with a look that communicated “Ignore her; she’s crazy,” but the lady only continued her tirade. The kid politely said, Lady, we aren’t talking about you. How could we be? We don’t even know you!” to which the old bitch retorted, “Well, I know you,” the delivery of which was punctuated with an ominous tone. Flabbergasted, the kid dismissed her with a wave of his hand and proclaimed, “Tch! Forget you, man.” The blustery bum-ette attempted to continue making a scene, but, to his credit, the kid displayed far more maturity than she did and he and his pals ignored her as they awaited their turn to order. The whole exchange made me wonder if no matter where a Popeye’s is located, will there always be some sort of confrontation or explosion of interpersonal madness to serve as the meal’s disturbing entertainment? Who knows, and frankly, who cares? I got me some exceptional chicken that fortified me for a night out with a crew that really put away some beer and whiskey, so I was content.


Having grown up on the lurid (though well-made) fare put out by Britain's venerable Hammer Films, I expected a lot from this black and white tale of the horrors faced by the mostly British captives in a Japanese prisoner of war camp during the ass-end of WWII. Over the years I'd heard that it amounted to pretty much an old school exploitation flicks that wallowed in the kind of cruelty and human misery one would expect from such a film, but what I got when I finally saw it was an admittedly well-acted but tepid (by today's standards) potboiler that was worth sitting through and then moving on to whatever else the viewer had on their agenda for that day.

In a nutshell, THE CAMP ON BLOOD ISLAND takes us through the degradations that the prisoners endure at the hands of an uber-sadistic Japanese commandant and his cruel pack of giggling soldiers, while they continually sabotage the camp's radio system. That bit of sabotage prevents the Japanese from finding out what the prisoners have already discovered, specifically that the Japan has surrendered and the war is over. It's vital to keep that news from the commandant because he has publicly stated that if the Japanese win the war, the prisoners will be allowed to live and serve the Japanese empire, presumably in a slave labor capacity, but if Japan loses the war, all prisoners, be they man, woman or child, will be horribly put to death and the camp will be burned to the ground, leaving behind no evidence of the atrocities committed. Displaying the stiffest of upper lips, British Col. Lambert (Andre Morell) enforces strict discipline among his men while keeping the news of the end of the war from them, hoping all the while that the Allies will arrive before the camp's commandant is updated on the status of the war. The litany of suffering piles up in both the men's and women's camps, including petty bullying at gunpoint, men ordered to dig their own graves for the amusement of the Japanese and then immediately shot into the freshly-completed holes with machine gun-fire, a female prisoner prostituting herself to the Japanese in exchange for lighter treatment (which earns her the ire of the women imprisoned with her), the burning of the prisoners' long-withheld mail as a punishment, and so on, until an Allied plane is spotted coming down somewhere over the island. American pilot Lt. Peter Bellamy (Phil Brown) survives the crash and is immediately captured by the Japanese, an act that confuses him since the war is over. Before he can inform the Japanese of that fact, he is warned to keep quiet by a just-apprehended escapee, one of Col. Lambert's men, so Bellamy is soon cast among the British prisoners after a severe whipping by the Japanese commandant. With all the players in place, the prisoners realize that it's a mater of perhaps a day or two before the commandant gets wind of the war being over and embarking on the mass slaughter of the prisoners, so Col. Lambert alerts his men to fashion weapons out of whatever they can get their hands on and prepare for the fight of their lives; if they have to die, they'll take as many Japanese with them as possible, giving the bastards a good old-fashioned British "Fuck you, yellow scum." Meanwhile, Bellamy and the crew's Dutch radio expert — imaginatively dubbed "Dutch" — escape from the men's camp and set off to the women's camp in search of the one female prisoner (Barbara Shelley) who can guide them to a transmitter so they can call in the Allies for help. Many of the standard WWII movie tropes are then trotted out and things finally end with the eventual arrival of the Allies, but Col. Lambert is left to consider how many good men he lost due to the cruelties of the Japanese and his own stern demands.

I've never been much of a war movie fan and I have certainly seen far worse films than THE CAMP ON BLOOD ISLAND, but this once shocking entry into the genre does not really hold up well today, what with it's moments of contrived "rah rah" heroism and almost laughably stiff British stock characters. This kind of thing has become so ingrained into the culture of cinema that one barely even needs to have seen a British P.O.W. flick to be familiar with the cliches because it's all been done to death, even before this film was made, and has since become fodder for endless parody, as was often the case on MONTY PYTHON'S FLYING CIRCUS. Ever wonder where Graham Chapman and John Cleese's letter-perfect British military officers came from? Look no further than films like this, war films that offer what were meant to be spirit-bolstering archetypes, but instead ended up as caricatures.

Also worth mentioning is the fact that all of the Japanese characters are played by British actors without the benefit of even the most rudimentary makeup attempts at making them look Asian, let alone specifically Japanese. They just affect stereotypical "Die, British pigs!" accents and speech patterns, which also were endlessly parodied by the Pythons, and at times the performances by the "Japanese" bad guys are just plain ridiculous. For those of an easily offended P.C. bent, I would advise giving this film a miss.

For all the stuff I've read over the years, THE CAMP ON BLOOD ISLAND's horrors are relatively mild (although I admit that I would not wish to endure any of them for real), and I was surprised by how relatively easy a time the female prisoners had. Considering that the commandant was recruited to his post on the island because of his reputation for gleeful sadism, I found it very hard to believe that he and his men didn't run roughshod over the girls in the worst ways possible (if you know what I mean, and I know that you do), instead of tolerating levels of insolence from the women that would have instantly earned the men a lead slug right in the face. That aspect may be due to censorship constraints of the time, but such treatment could have been tastefully alluded to without showing any actual nudity or on-camera rape. What happened to British female P.O.W.'s at the hands of the Japanese in real life was certainly no secret, and sacrificing that bit of awfulness greatly diminished film's much-vaunted realism.

Anyway, THE CAMP ON BLOOD ISLAND is worth checking out for Hammer fans who are familiar only with their legendary horror output, as well as for war movie completists, but anyone else may find it merely a passable way to kill eighty-eight minutes.

Friday, April 23, 2010


So yesterday I finished several hours of research, writing and searching the Internet for work, and after that I was fucking famished, so I hauled my ass over to Brooklyn's Fulton Mall area and its exquisite Popeye's Chicken location. Throughout the bus ride, my mouth watered at the thought of the cholesterol-laden favorite meal of Negroes across our fair nation making its way down my all-too-eager gullet, chased by a side of their signature mashed potatoes and Cajun gravy and one of the best biscuits in all of fast food-dom, and by the time I stepped off the B63 bus on Atlantic Avenue and worked my way North, I was more than ready to chow down.

When I turned the corner onto the block where Popeye's holds sway, I noticed the place did not have the usual random number of bums and other undesirables hanging out in front of it in hope of grubbing for change or patrons' leftovers as per usual. Nonetheless I made my way to the establishment's door, only to run smack dab into this:

I stood there aghast as I beheld the Health Department's bold-faced notice of closure for health code violations. The shut-down must have occurred mere moments before I got there because I could clearly see the disgruntled staff seated at some of the restaurant's tables while being berated by the place's irate Pakistani manager as the usually brimming bins of chicken sat there in all of their aluminum splendor, utterly bereft of deep-fried barnyard fowl, crispy pieces of low-class culinary delight that was most likely relegated to the trash. Thus denied my longed-for fried chicken of choice, I made my way back to Park Slope and settled for some Colonel at the vastly-inferior local KFC (which provided me with a better than average meal than what that particular KFC normally dishes out).

Now, the Popeye's in question is no better or worse than the average Popeye's outlet found in any urban area, and in fact I would rate it as seeming to be cleaner than most. Having intimate knowledge of how a restaurant's kitchen can fall prey to the most piddling citation of health code violations, infractions that can have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with cleanliness or the actually hands-on preparation and serving of comestibles, it is entirely possible that my semi-local Popeye's was closed for something as minor as the kitchen sink's hand soap being located three inches away from its allotted position. At least that's what I would like to think, but the one complaint that I had as a regular customer of the place is that is staffed by a pack of the most embarrassing and stereotypically uncouth and "ghetto" clowns imaginable, who largely ignore what the customers ask for (necessitating a check of the received order every time I've gone there), drag their asses with the service, loudly complain about how they don't give a fuck about cooking any more food for the day because they want to leave early so they can kick their baby-mama's ass (I swear I once witnessed exactly such a declaration), to say nothing of displaying a level of barely-functional stupidity that is an embarrassment to all primates that walk upright. Hopefully this closure will be temporary and instill some sense of professionalism, even on so relatively lowly a scale as that of a fried chicken purveyor, in the pack of dumbasses who run the fucking place.


Portrait of two kickass Asian heroes: the incomparable Ti Lung (L) as Magic Sword and David Chiang (in black) as Young Dragon. Damn, I love those guys!!!

There are a number of movies that just plain put me in a very psyched-up and good mood and the classic Shaw Brothers kung fu flick 7 BLOWS OF THE DRAGON is one of them. Released in China in 1972 and making its way over here in 1974 as part of the avalanche during the mid-1970's "chopsocky" boom, the flick is kind of an all-star Eastern variant on the whole Robin Hood-style heroic outlaws thing, and I just got my hands on a cherry widescreen DVD of it that includes the frequently hilarious English dubbing. Watching it a few nights ago, I once more reveled in its story of betrayal and the subsequent righteous vengeance for that lowdown treachery, so I figured I'd hip you to its old school goodness. Based on the classic Chinese novel THE WATER MARGIN, this is one adaptation of a literary cultural milestone that is about as far from stodgy and stolid as it can possibly get.

Our heroes, The Mountain Bandits. Yaaaaaay!!!

In 11th century China, the corrupt Sung Dynasty’s cruel oppression led 108 heroic men and women to become outlaws and fight the government as The Mountain Bandits, basically a Chinese analog to Robin Hood and the Merry Men whose wide range fighting skills made their British counterparts look like a pitiful wet Budweiser fart by way of comparison. Loved by the common citizenry and absolutely despised by the Sungs, The Mountain Bandits are clearly on an inevitable collision course with their governmental adversaries, so the story proper kicks off when Heavenly King, the leader of The Mountain Bandits, is killed by Golden Spear (Toshio Kurosawa), the highly skilled bodyguard of one of the corrupt officials.

Toshio Kurosawa as the deadly Golden Spear.

This being an old school kung fu story, The Mountain Bandits immediately set about plotting their vengeance but, being no fools, they realize they need someone as adept as Golden Spear to face him, so they decide to approach hardcore expert in damned near every fighting art that one could think of, Master Lu, aka Jade Dragon (Tetsuro Tanba, best known in to Western audiences as James Bond’s totally cool Japanese pal, Tiger Tanaka, in 1967’s YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE) to aid them.

Tetsuro Tanba as Jade Dragon.

If they succeed in wooing Jade Dragon, by default they also get the elder master’s supremely badassed bodyguard, the handsome and devil-may-care ladies’ man Young Dragon (David Chiang), in the bargain, and with those two on their side The Mountain Bandits theoretically cannot lose.

My kind of hero: Young Dragon (David Chiang), spending his off-time hanging out at the local whorehouse where his charm has bewitched the entire staff.

When two disguised members of the Bandits arrive in the Northern Capital to approach Jade Dragon, Young Dragon sees through their disguise and has them detained while the authorities are summoned. While awaiting the constables, Jade Dragon senses the goodness in the captives and allows them leave before the authorities arrive, but that act of respect comes back to bite Jade Dragon on the ass when it is witnessed by the steward of his house. While Jade Dragon has spent his every waking moment in hard martial training, he has ignored his hot young wife, and she found adulterous comfort in the slimy steward’s arms, so witnessing Jade Dragon letting the Bandits go is just the thing that will allow them to get rid of him for good. When the authorities arrive, the steward accuses Jade Dragon of treason and the elder master is immediately arrested and sent to jail, there to await capital punishment. When Jade Dragon dissuades his bodyguard from fighting the authorities, naively thinking that he can find a way out of his predicament on his own and trusting in the aforementioned corrupt Sung assholes, it soon becomes clear that there is no way out and that the officials intend to make an example of Jade Dragon to illustrate what happens if any sympathy is shown to the wanted outlaws. Gravely concerned for his master’s life, Young Dragon attempts to rescue the elder warrior but is unable to successfully take on the scores of soldiers set against him (though he does fight like a man possessed), so, in an act of desperation, he runs to The Mountain Bandits for help. The bandits are only too happy to help and the rest of the movie details a few failed rescue attempts before our heroes succeed in freeing Jade Dragon. As the heroes make their way out of the city, Golden Spear is deployed and vows to bring down all and sundry, but most especially Jade Dragon, who was revealed earlier to once have been Golden Spear’s greatly respected friend. The forces of the corrupt government and our heroes face each other on a battlefield and five elite members of The Mountain Bandits — Leopard (Yueh Hua), Tigress (Lily Ho), Black Whirlwind (Fan Mei-Sheng), Magic Sword (the exquisite Ti Lung) and Fearless One (Wong Chung) — are chosen to take on the cream of the enemy crop while Golden Spear and Jade Dragon engage in tragic final combat.

The duel of the masters commences.

What ensues is old school kung fu superheroics at their best as The Mountain Bandits fight the good fight and hand out ass-whuppings like Halloween candy.

Tigress (Lily Ho) takes a Sung asshole to school.

7 BLOWS OF THE DRAGON is unpretentious chopsocky of a breed that more or less died out with the passing of the 1970’s martial arts boom and the advent of post-MTV quick-cut editing and CGI in place of honest-to-goodness shots that allowed audiences to watch quality martial artists work the fight choreography in lengthy, minimum bullshit takes. Plus, since this is a prime example of a classic Shaw Brothers picture, there are gorgeous period sets and costumes, along with the icing on the cake: the seasoned directorial hand of Chang Cheh, my all-time favorite old school kung fu film director. Chang was a man who usually insisted on presenting a strong and involving story in which his heroes endure all manner of unfair and downright evil torments until they strike back with extreme prejudice, and you always knew when you were watching a Chang flick because the fights were punctuated with then-copious amounts of bright red stage blood. Compared to the gory excesses of such Chang epics as FIVE DEADLY VENOMS (1978), TEN TIGERS OF KWANGTUNG (1979, which features a guy’s head getting literally kicked off at the end) and the superb and justly classic SUPER NINJAS (1982, in which the main bad guy is torn in half at the waist at the end), 7 BLOWS OF THE DRAGON is fairly tame, although it does comes through when the vicious and righteous retribution is unleashed.

A typical quiet Chang Cheh moment of introspection.

That said, the film is still suitable for the whole family and would probably earn a soft PG-13 if submitted to the MPAA nowadays, although they have been known to slap needless R ratings on many martial arts films over the past three-plus decades, a move that makes me wonder if the brain-dead fucksticks at the MPAA even bothered to watch the movies in question. Even by my own relatively lenient standards regarding what is suitable for kids to see, 7 BLOWS OF THE DRAGON counts as something that could run uncut on afternoon TV (and I think it did during the 1980’s on New York City’s late, lamented Saturday afternoon DRIVE-IN MOVIE martial arts movie showcase on Channel 5), and even its adultery subplot is pulled off without a trace of tits or reproductive bits shown. Yet the film was tarred with a completely undeserved R rating when released to theaters here in the States, a certification that must have confused regular grindhouse attendees who were used to ultra-violent stuff like LIGHTNING SWORDS OF DEATH (1974) and the deservedly rated X for violence THE STREET FIGHTER (1975).

Whatever the case, 7 BLOWS OF THE DRAGON is a fun, colorful classic that solidly delivers from start to finish, and the goofy English dubbing works to add to the entertainment, providing viewers with such ludicrous lines as "The Mountain Bandits are here!!!" when Jade Dragon is rescued from execution, and "Watch out! The Double-Kick of Death!" (used to described what is clearly a three-tiered technique).

"Watch out! The Double-Kick of Death!"

When I first saw the film on VHS sometime in the mid-1980’s with two equally chopsocky-minded friends, the dialogue and cartoonish dialogue had us laughing our stoned asses off, and to this day that stuff just makes me smile. When stacked against several of the more famous Shaw Brothers classics, 7 BLOWS OF THE DRAGON rates as somewhat lesser by comparison in the eyes of many who are well-versed in the genre, but take my word for it and check it out. It’s an absolutely perfect Saturday afternoon popcorn flick.

Oh, and I forgot to mention: the title has absolutely nothing to do with anything that happens during the course of the story, an aspect that only bolsters the film’s sheer awesomeness because at no point will you feel ripped off by the absence of the titular seven blows. But who needs seven blows when you’ve got the Double-Kick of Death? HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Theatrical poster from the American release. Note the unnecessary R rating.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


The gang is back again...for the very first time!

Even when this long-running manga/anime series trots out a potential dud, I will always give LUPIN III a chance. First appearing as a manga in 1967 and created by a cartoonist with the unlikely pen name of "Monkey Punch" (real name Kazuhiko Kato; his editor suggested he use the name briefly, but then LUPIN III hit big and he's been stuck as Monkey Punch ever since), the series follows the globe trotting adventures of Lupin the Third, the world's greatest thief, and his equally larcenous associates as they perpetually challenge themselves by plotting and pulling off the most impossible of heists (they once memorably made off with the Statue of Liberty during its refurbishment), forever doggedly pursued by the obsessed Inspector Zenigata of Interpol. The popularity of Lipin's waaaaaay over-the-top comedic adventures is such that since its inception there have been three television series, one live-action movie (the less said about that, the better), five theatrical animated features and twenty-three feature-length animated television specials, and the series shows no signs of giving up the ghost, despite the most recent television special (which aired in February of 2010) being entitled THE LAST JOB. That's pretty amazing when you consider that the entire run of LUPIN III tells more or less the same story over and over again — Lupin and his cohorts either plan an insane heist or are thrust into pulling off an insane heist, sometimes helping out innocents in need, with each adventure feature tons of derring-do — so it's up to the filmmakers to keep things fresh by crafting stories that show off the fun interactions of the five main cast members and allow their voice actors to bring these characters to life with personalities every bit as indelible as a Bugs Bunny or a Homer Simpson. But while the characters are quite familiar in the series' country of origin and abroad (to non-Japanese anime junkies, anyway), little or nothing is known about the origins of the Lupin Gang or how they all met. That lack of information is addressed in LUPIN III EPISODE 0: FIRST CONTACT, a television special from 2002, and speaking as a Lupin fan of some twenty-five years, I have to say I was not disappointed.

The film opens with a journalist convincing Jigen, Lupin's super-humanly accurate and quick-drawing gunman associate, to tell her the story of how he and Lupin's crew first met, a tale she's arranged to publish as a potential best-seller. What follows details Lupin's Manhattan-set quest to steal the Clam of Hermes, a hermetically-sealed metal tube containing a scroll that reveals the secrets of alchemy, but once he steals it from the mafiosi Jigen works for, he must also obtain the key to open the tube. When Jigen fails to gun down Lupin, he refuses to let anyone else kill the famous thief because that pleasure must be his in retribution for Lupin sullying his reputation, thus setting in motion several confrontations in which the slouch-hatted gunsel comes to grudgingly respect his devil-may-care prey. As all of that is going on, Inspector Zenigata arrives in New York in search of Lupin's female counterpart, the famously busty international cat burglar, Fujiko Mine, who also has her eyes on the Clam of Hermes and its key. Then, just when things could not possibly get more potentially convoluted, modern day samurai and master swordsman Goemon Ichikawa enters the picture, also in search of the key, which is kind of odd since Goemon is a highly skilled and honorable practitioner of the swordsman's way, so what the hell does he want the key for? Throw in the hapless New York police force, pissed-off goombahs, car chases, a cool jazz soundtrack (one of the trademarks of the series), and action out the wazoo, and you have one hell of an origin story. The only question is this: is Jigen telling the journalist the truth, or is the entire tale one gigantic load of world-class bullshit?

I have not sat through all of the LUPIN III films, but I have seen enough to differentiate the cream of the crop from the dross, and LUPIN III EPISODE 0: FIRST CONTACT acquits itself admirably. The characterizations and voice acting are dead-on — particularly fun is Zenigata getting one of his rare portrayals as something more than just a goofy idiot — and the letter-perfect New York setting is extremely well-handled, so if you're an old friend of Lupin and his pals or if you're new to the game and want to experience an entertaining primer/gateway into the whole crazy thing, you could hardly ask for a better place to return to or get started from. And once you've watched it, make sure to sit through it again with the excellent and very informative commentary track by Reed Nelson of Lupin the Third.Com. RECOMMENDED.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Three new bodies. Fresh, live, young bodies. No families or friends within thousands of miles, no one to ask embarrassing questions when they disappear. Victor wondered which one Mrs. March would pick. The little Mexican, the girl from Vienna, or the buxom blonde? Victor knew his pick, but he still felt uneasy, making love to an 80 year old woman in the body of a 20 year old girl; it's insanity!
-the film's narrator

One of the staples of my movie education during the glorious pre-cable days of my youth were mad scientist movies, and few of them came any madder than this bit of no-budget lunacy. Originally released as MONSTROSITY, this flick is one of those mostly undistinguished and rather generic black & white oddities that would have deservedly languished in obscurity of not for some of the utterly bonkers elements found in its plot.

The film tells the story of an nasty old woman who lives with an overage and unappealing and overage gigolo and seeks to transplant her still nimble and thoroughly evil brain into the body of a young hottie, at first relying on her live-in mad scientist's experiments with freshly-dead nubile young women to yield results. Initially testing his procedure using the brains of animals transplanted into human bodies, the scientist generates a mutant dog/man for no apparent reason other than to serve as an odd-looking and none-too-bright servant, but that avenue of "science" proves a bust when it is determined that the nerve endings of the dead are too far gone to allow a brain transplant to take. With that stumbling block realized, the evil old lady takes out and ad for a new cleaning woman and soon ends up with the three girls described in the narration quoted at the beginning of this post. In short order, the poor Mexican girl is deemed not pretty enough for the old bag's needs and falls prey to the mad scientist, who takes out her brain and replaces it with that of the resident housecat. Why? Your guess is as good as mine but it was apparently for shits and giggles, laughs that were guaranteed when we got to see the "Mexican" actress imitate a housecat in human form and scarf down a live mouse.

As if the general creepiness of the old lady's mansion and the presence of the mutant dog man wandering about the grounds were not enough to cause the remaining pair of girls considerable unease, the disappearance of their Mexican colleague and the old lady locking them in their rooms to ensure that they don't attempt to escape soon twigs the girls to the fact that all is not kosher. During an escape attempt, the British girl is accidentally partially blinded and the remaining blonde bombshell is swiftly prepped for surgery. Having previously signed a legal document, it is revealed to the blonde that her signature was needed so the old lady could legally declare her the heir to her vast fortune (she's described as "one of the richest women in the world," but we are never told where her fortune comes from), and once the old bitch's brain is in her new young (and not coincidentally hot) body she'll pretend to be the young woman, who will be the only survivor when the mansion, its inhabitants and the old lady's body are destroyed in a planned nuclear explosion. But what the old lady does not anticipate is the hatred that she's engendered in the scientist and her gigolo after untold years of abuse; both men were willingly strung along in hope of getting a piece of the inheritance when the transplant occurred, but with the blonde now legally declared the sole inheritor, they've had enough. As the blonde and the old lady are strapped to the operating table and anesthetized, the scientist wreaks horrible (and ludicrous) revenge upon the old woman, leaving the blonde untouched but transplanting the old lady's brain into the housecat, leaving the old lady's intelligence exactly as it was but now trapped in the non-speaking and comparatively impotent body of a common tabby. Reasoning that he'll still have access to the money if he keeps the blonde alive and drugged, the scientist readies to embark on a new life of leisure, but his plans are thwarted when he enters the atomic brain-swap chamber (pictured above) for a final cleanup and ends up locked into it by the pissed-off housecat. The cat then activates the machine, reducing the mad scientist to a skeleton and setting off the chain reaction that will destroy the house. The blonde manages to escape, as does the cat, whom, the narrator informs us, plans to follow the girl and someday, some way, get revenge. THE END.

I've seen countless movies about brain transplants and laboratories that blow up at the end of the movie, but never have I seen such a scenario involving the machinations of an evil housecat who is equipped with the brain of a horny octogenarian. The image of the cat pressing the auto-destruct button with its paw is hilarious, and the idea of said housecat embarking on an implacable quest for vengeance is the cherry atop a glorious cake of implausible ridiculousness. I know one is supposed to completely suspend disbelief for this kind of flick, but even by the standards of D-grade movie science, this just takes the cake. I mean, when the cat's brain was stuffed into the Mexican chick's head, did the doctor account for all the leftover cranial space by filling the rest of the skull with cotton wadding? Would the tiny cat's brain still wobble about a bit, regardless of the stuffing? And when the doctor puts the old lady's brain into the cat's head, how could her brain have possibly remained cognizant, let alone even remotely functional, with a good 85% or more of its mass excised in order to fit into such a vastly smaller skull? Frankly, I don't care. I just love that the screenwriter had the balls to come up with it and not give a flying fuck about even the smallest shred of logic. RECOMMENDED.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


“Guns are for cowards”
-Arthur “Defendor” Poppington

When I first heard about DEFENDOR sometime last year, several of the reviews described it as a straight-up comedy, something I readily bought into thanks to the film’s concept and the ludicrous DVD packaging image of a loony-faced Woody Harrelson decked out from head to toe in a zero budget superhero suit consisting of black tights, drawn-on Lone Ranger-style mask and a huge, crudely applied duct tape “D” emblazoned on his chest. Thinking I’d watch this alleged yuck-fest before seeing the similarly-themed and far more high-profile KICK-ASS, I ordered a used copy from Amazon and popped it into my DVD player, fully expecting to laugh at the antics of some delusional clown running around his city waging an inept one-man war against crime. From its opening sequence, it was readily apparent that DEFENDOR was something entirely other than just a comedy, and what I got from it was an unexpected surprise.

DEFENDOR’s narrative is revealed via a mostly linear series of flashbacks as its protagonist undergoes court-mandated therapy sessions administered by a kindly psychiatrist (the always reliable Sandra Oh), evaluations designed to determine if he is fit to be released back onto the streets after assaulting an apparently innocent store-owner. Arthur Poppington (Woody Harrelson) is a middle-aged mildly-retarded employee of his city’s municipal works department (he holds the reversible “STOP/SLOW” sign at construction traffic areas) who leads a double life as “Defendor,” a low rent, comic book-influenced protector of the innocent who seeks to bring down his mysterious arch-nemesis, “Captain Industry,” armed only with a studded truncheon, strategically thrown marbles, a jar of live wasps and a borderline-obsolete VHS camera with which to record evidence against the thugs he accosts. During the course of one of his nightly patrols as Defendor, Arthur encounters a corrupt drug enforcement cop (Elias Koteas) who is in the process of forcing an underage crack-addicted whore (Kat Dennings), who identifies herself as Angel but is actually named Katerina, to give him head. Arthur comes to the girl’s rescue and beats the shit out of the bent cop, making an enemy in the process and getting busted, thus making him a known entity down at the local precinct and inadvertently making it necessary for the girl to hide out until the crooked cop calms down (he and the young hooker have an unpleasant history).

The girl promptly moves into Arthur’s semi-squalid makeshift apartment (he lives illegally in a municipal works workshop) and, in the course of getting to know and form a touching friendship with the kind-hearted and honest man-child, Kat discovers his mission against Captain Industry and leads Arthur to believe that she knows where Captain Industry is, slowly doling out information at the price of forty dollars per day. The “Captain Industry” that Kat sends the hapless Arthur after is in actuality the bent cop, a guy Kat figures Arthur doesn’t stand a chance in hell of taking out, but she figures it’d be a good and convenient way for her to revenge herself against the bastard while also giving Arthur a living target for his rage. But what Kat does not know is just how corrupt the cop is, specifically that he’s deeply involved with a Serbian crime lord who runs drugs and traffics in sex-slaves, aided by a crew of brutal and heavily-armed bikers. As Arthur discovers more and more of the mobster’s doings, things swiftly rocket way out of his already tenuous control and the sincere and childlike would-be superhero finds himself square in the sights of the gangster, who orders a hit on the city’s protector… But exactly who is the mysterious Captain Industry? Is he merely a figment of Arthur’s developmentally challenged mind? Just what was it that motivated Arthur’s crusade against Captain Industry? And what led Kat to a life of teenage prostitution?

While it certainly has moments of humorous content, don’t let the poster image make you think for an instant that DEFENDOR is a comedy. The film is most definitely a drama and at its heart it’s a character study of a man whose innocence and sincere desire to be a socially helpful “good guy” touches and affects all of those who come within his misguided orbit. I’ve long held Harrelson to be among the most underrated and misunderstood actors of his generation, and the performance he gives as Arthur only adds to my opinion; his work here is deeply moving and rich with nuanced character that broke my heart as I watched Arthur’s largely impotent (to say nothing of physically damaging) struggle against society’s evils. I did not laugh at Arthur, but rather I shared in his frustrations and concerns, and I genuinely wanted to see him win out against odds that were so heavily stacked against him. Kat Dennings is very good as the teenage whore who definitely does not have a heart of gold, and she’s totally believable as her character is caught up in Arthur’s infantile altruism. The rest of the cast turns in fine performances, and the whole film displays a level of realism that I did not expect it to contain; when Arthur gets into set-tos with the creeps he seeks to thwart, he suffers serious injuries that land him in the hospital a few times, and the movie’s violence is not of the usual cinematic fantasy variety, but is instead of the bone-breaking, tooth-dislodging kind that’s all too recognizable from reality. While Arthur’s efforts are noble, they earn him ass-whuppings of the sort that no one in their right mind would wish to incur, but then again Arthur is clearly not mentally competent to fully understand the potential lethality of his mission. A defense of vigilantism this ain’t, and for that writer/director Peter Stebbings deserves to be commended.

Not at all the light diversion I expected to sit through, DEFENDOR is simply a minor gem that will hopefully find its audience on DVD. TRUST YER BUNCHE and give it a look, but keep in mind that while it has some feel-good elements, this is the first film in recent memory to make me cry.

A street artist's display of respect.

Monday, April 19, 2010


Abel Ferrara’s infamously gonzo BAD LIEUTENANT (1992) is a classic of extreme bad taste and offensive behavior, as well as being one of the unexpected classics of the 1990’s, so damned near everyone was quite skeptical when German director Werner (NOSFERATU, THE VAMPYRE) Herzog announced that he would be coming up with a film to continue what would be a potentially dubious franchise. But what no one expected was what ended up unleashed onscreen when BAD LIEUTENANT-PORT OF CALL: NEW ORLEANS opened and proved to be a festival of outrage with its own singular flavor, well crafted across the board, and containing one of the best performances in Nicholas Cage’s checkered career.

Cage plays Terence McDonagh, an already somewhat bent workaholic detective in post-Katrina New Orleans whose questionable aspects escalate to the Nth degree once he becomes addicted to painkillers prescribed in the wake of a back injury. Having access to the evidence room, McDonagh regularly supplements his drug intake with whatever illegal pharmaceuticals are available, plus whatever goodies he finds during the course of his daily investigations, plunging himself into depths of altered lunacy that would have turned Hunter S. Thompson green with envy. At its heart the most pitch black of black comedies, the film is an over-the-top and thoroughly compelling narrative of one man’s odyssey of incredibly fucked-up behavior, fueled by copious amounts of coke-snorting, petty theft, compulsive high-stakes gambling, sexual coercion of shaken-down clubgoers, harassment of senior citizens, blunt-smoking and hallucinations guest-starring iguanas.

Just another stakeout with Lieutenant McDonagh.

While this maelstrom of out-of-control madness swirls insanely, our hero investigates the execution-style murder of an African drug dealer’s family while simultaneously dealing with the issues of his loving and equally coked-up hooker girlfriend (Eva Mendes). It’s a complete and utter shitstorm that resolves itself in several moments that had me loudly exclaiming, “This has got to be a dream!” and at no point was I bored. In fact, about the only way I could have been more entertained by this film is if it had been directed by British madman Ken Russell — he of LISZTOMANIA (1975) and THE FALL OF THE LOUSE OF USHER (2002) infamy — as opposed to Werner Herzog.

BAD LIEUTENANT-PORT OF CALL: NEW ORLEANS can’t really be discussed at length without giving away an intricate web of seemingly disparate plot elements that do turn out to go somewhere, so I’ll simply offer a few things to note:
  • If Nicholas Cage has turned in a better performance, I would like to know about it. Cage is an actor who is widely despised for reasons that continue to elude me; I like the guy a lot (perhaps because of my natural affinity for Italians?) despite many of his movies being clunkers, but an actor should not be held accountable for a film’s script deficiencies, so I hope people will give this movie a chance.
  • Eva Mendes somehow manages to be appealing, despite her character, Frankie, being a majorly drug-addicted whore.
Ah, romance...
  • Val Kilmer, though underused to an extent, is fun as McDonagh‘s partner.
  • My girl Fairuza Balk turns in a brief appearance as Heidi, a corrupt and kinky highway cop pal of the protagonist, and her look while wearing naught but black undies and her highway-fuzz boots is quite memorable. More prominent roles for her, please!
Ah, the all-natural wonder that is Fairuza Balk. Leave the boots on, baby...
  • My favorite actress who serially performs roles of skanky hags, Jennifer Coolidge (best known as the “M.I.L.F.” in AMERICAN PIE), is seen here in fine anti-glamorous form as the protagonist’s father’s beer-swilling girlfriend. I’ve been an avid Coolidge fan since BEST IN SHOW (2000) and welcome any opportunity I get to see her work her singular sleazy magic. This is her most interesting turn since Eugenie the ‘ho in POOTIE TANG (2001).
White trash goddess Jennifer Coolidge gets her drink on.
  • Contrary to its packaging’s description, the film is in no way an action movie. It’s a character study. Other than one brief firefight, there is no gunplay whatsoever to be had.
So, long story short, put this very bad boy at the top of your Netflix queue. TRUST YER BUNCHE!!!