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Sunday, December 25, 2011

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM THE VAULT OF BUNCHENESS!!!

"Meh-tull!!!"

Meanwhile, in a basement in Wisconsin...

Okay, I need to know which one's supposed to represent the Virgin Mary...

Saturday, December 24, 2011

'TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE DOLEMITE

IN MY ROOM: THE ORIGINAL VAULT OF BUNCHENESS

I'm currently at my mom's house for Christmas and I can't help but get a bit nostalgic for the days of my misspent youth whenever I stay in what used to be my room during those coming-of-age years. So without further ado, here's look at the converted garage that served as my room during my high school years, breaks from college, and the year and a half in which I attempted to eke out a freelance art living before moving out for good in early 1990 and making my home in New York City. The place was the site of several significant life events, but it is virtually unrecognizable now.

Where that lamp and bed are is where my desk/bookcase used to be. The walls used to be festooned with movie posters, comics in mylar bags, and several vintage PLAYBOY centerfolds some of the early-'80's most zaftig Playmates. All I have to say about that last element is Karen Price, Miss January 1981. Yowza!!!

The medieval torture implement that passes itself off as a foldout couch. Quite far removed from the extremely comfortable frameless double-mattresses I slept on in here three decades ago. When I come home for visits, the morning after the first night I sleep on this fucking thing invariably results in an agonized lower spine.

All that remains of what was once a massive media library that I maintained from August of 1980 through when I moved out for good in early 1990. The bookcase/desk has been in my possession since 1973 and was great for storing comics and books. (The chair that came with it fell apart some twenty years back.)

The lowest point of the double door on the high wall is about eight or nine feet up from the floor, high enough to thwart my mother's snooping during my coming-of-age years. I'm not certain but I think there's still a suitcase up there that contains a couple of homemade bongs and water pipes. If it's still up there, that suitcase has not seen the light of day since the infamous "Weedfest" of the Summer of 1989.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

IT'S A JOHN WATERS CHRISTMAS!!!

Last night I went to the John Waters Christmas show at B.B. Kings, and it was fucking hilarious. (I hope it was videotaped for home video posterity.) My friend Lexi and her sister, Ginna, took me and we had VIP seats that included a meet and greet with the Master, so during the show's Q&A section I got to tell him a couple of good ones about some memorable experiences with watching his movies. After the show, at the meet and greet, I was first on line and Waters actually recognized me from the several times I've seen him at NYC signings.

Anyway, it's always a good thing when you can give your favorite living director and major influence on your worldview a Christmas present. He collects books on all manner of horrible things, so I gave him my copy of They Lived on Human Flesh, the exploitative bus station bookshop ripoff of Alive — the infamous true story of the Uruguayan football team that crash-landed in the Andes and survived by resorting to cannibalism — and he was delighted to get it because he didn't have it. He was especially pleased that it has pictures!

Friday, December 16, 2011

LOST IN THE SUPERMARKET-addendum: A WEEK LATER, ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE, AN EXPLANATION, AND SOME JUSTICE

Those of you who read my story from a week ago, the one about me being the victim of a so-called "sociological experiment," will be interested to know that the blog FUCKED IN PARK SLOPE posted a piece on that event's filming — the all-day process, not my specific moment — and it answers a number of questions as well as shedding some light onto just how shabby the production treated some of the neighborhood's locals. And remember how they paid me $300 for my mental/emotional anguish? According to the FUCKED IN PARK SLOPE article's feedback section, one of the victim's in this thing was only paid $50, while the article mentions some of the scammed receiving nothing and not even being told that they were being fucked with. And there's more, particularly the final outcome of all the misery inflicted upon the unsuspecting public, so go here to read it all for yourself.

Monday, December 12, 2011

70 YEARS OF THE WOLFMAN

Today marks the seventieth anniversary of the release if THE WOLF MAN, perhaps the seminal werewolf film and the movie from which most of the general public's knowledge of lupine lycanthropes is garnered. One of the very best of Universal's classic cycle of horror films from the 1930's and 1940's, this tale of one innocent man's horrifying curse still has considerable tragic power despite its age and the changing styles and tastes in filmmaking. If you've never seen it, you owe it to your film education to check it out immediately. Here's the trailer:

Friday, December 09, 2011

LOST IN THE SUPERMARKET

Holy fuckballs, what a story I have for you…

As regular readers of this blog are aware, I have been unemployed for going on two years, and my unemployment benefits ran out on the day before Thanksgiving. Since then I’ve hustled and brooded and been a nervous, despairing wreck, wondering about what fate has in store for me, especially when considering my very limited financial resources. In short: I’m forty-six, jobless, living in New York City (specifically in Brooklyn’s Park Slope), and nothing is happening in terms of a bright light on the job horizon.

On Friday afternoon I received one of the freelance checks I’d been expecting and in no time at all most of it was spent on my rent and the bills that have been gathering moss, so, with weary heart, I went to the local supermarkets to pick up the fixings for a sandwich that would approximate the outstanding sausage and peppers delight I’d experienced just one day previous. (There’s no companionship or sex going on in my life at the moment thanks to there being no merry and horny female present, comic books have lately been mostly an enormous disappointment, there have been no movies that pique my interest, so I’ve occasionally been taking meager comfort in food.) I first stopped at the Key Food on 5th Avenue, the one just a stone’s throw from Flatbush Avenue, and snagged some of their excellent sweet Italian sausages, after which I walked up the street to the Associated market located around the corner from my humble abode to pick up the rest of what I needed.

Upon wandering the store’s aisles, zombie-like, I got on line at the checkout counter and found myself directly behind some random guy and a woman who was annoyingly holding up the proceedings by trying to explain to the cashier that two of the four items she’d brought up were not the right ones on the sales circular, so she wanted to replace them. She explained this to the cashier in the most convoluted and time-consuming manner humanly possible, and myself and the guy in front of me were both about ready to pull our hair out as this decidedly one-sided exchange dragged on. “Great,” I thought to myself, “not only am I about to spend most of the last of my pitiful funds, I have to wait behind this walking annoyance while doing so.” Presently, one of the store’s employees came over to me and steered me off of the non-moving line and had me stand at the far checkout aisle, right behind two mothers with strollers who were unloading enough food onto the counter to feed all of the Occupy Wall Street crowd. That line was clearly not going to move either, so the staffer apologized for taking me off of my first position and promptly steered me back to where I was in the first place, and in the maybe twenty seconds that elapsed between my shifts in lines, three more people had gotten on line in front of me. So there I was, stuck with a choice of two lines, neither of which was making any kind of progress.

While stuck on line behind the lady who wanted to exchange her items that were not on the sales circular, my eyes began to glaze over and my mind focused on just how my life had suffered a slow and depressing reversal of fortune from the time when I first hit NYC as a wide-eyed college grad who’d landed a job at Marvel Comics — a dream job to one of my geekish ilk — through my being let go from that job thanks to the company’s Chapter 11 woes, on to my time at DC/Vertigo and the mishegoss endured there, followed by two years of unemployment before working at the barbecue joint and dealing with that place’s attendant issues, finally arriving at the dead end of my largely worthless job at the design ‘ho house and my subsequent unemployment in the wake of what was at the time its latest wave of brutal layoffs. I pondered how it could possibly be nearly two years — TWO YEARS — since that layoff and how my life had just lurched along as a shabby going-through-the-motions existence, and the more I considered all of that, the more morose and fed up with life I became.

Suddenly my death march down the dark corridor of memory was interrupted by a frantic-looking guy bearing a bottle of seltzer, and he looked at me with an expression of earnest need plastered across his face. He sheepishly said, “I’m sorry to be ‘that guy’ but can I please go ahead of you? I just have this one item…” After enduring the long lines and annoyance, I was irritated by his request, but I remembered the lessons learned as a wee lad at my mother’s side during many excursions to the market, and she always let people in this guy’s situation go ahead of her, simply because it was the polite and kind thing to do. A simple act of courtesy and kindness in this miserable world keeps us all civilized and all that, right? So I let the guy go ahead of me, for which he offered profuse thanks.

Then, as his one item was rung up, an alarm went off, a loud popping noise was heard (like a champagne cork) and the air around us was filled with balloons. Just as abruptly, the manager’s office door burst open and out flew a video cameraman, a crew member wielding a mike on a short boom, and a guy bearing one of those enormous simulated checks as seen in sweepstakes ads on TV and in magazines. Then a large, glad-handing guy breezed over and directly addressed the seltzer guy with, “Congratulations, sir! You are this store’s one-millionth customer…and you have just won FIFTY-THOUSAND DOLLARS!!!”

(pause for you to process this)

Yes, you read that right. The guy I had let cut the line in front of me with one measly item had just won FIFTY FUCKING GRAND, all because of my act of simple courtesy.

As the celebratory atmosphere began to spread and the sweepstakes officials shook the winner’s hand, the enormity of what happened poked me in the frontal lobe like a solid redwood truncheon. The understandably surprised winner reacted with “Awesome!!!” and welcomed the camera crew and sundry others with open arms.

The other shoppers who’d been on line behind me, some of whom were recognizable neighborhood locals and neighbors from the building next door to mine, at first stood there just as gobsmacked as I was, but they recovered more swiftly than I and began shouting statements along the lines of, “Oh, HELL no! That guy (indicating me) let the dude with the soda go in front of him, so he’s the real winner! This isn’t right!!!” As it all sank in, I said aloud, “This is a joke, right? Seriously, this has to be a joke…please tell me this is a joke…” My words were utterly ignored as the prize people began to usher the winner away for a photo op but before they could full get away, I centered myself and, with no yelling or cursing, announced to the camera in my most stentorian and serious voice, “People, here you see a prime example of exactly why being polite and considerate of others is pointless. I let this guy go ahead of me with his one item and now he’s fifty thousand dollars richer. I’m unemployed and struggling and I get zero. That it. I’m out!”

That only served to fan the flames of the onlookers’ outrage and they began hurling verbal abuse at the store’s manager, while I, feeling a galaxy-wide sense of complete and utter defeat, just waited for my groceries to be rung up. The cashier, who’s served me for years, saw how crushed I was and, looking like she was about to be physically ill, asked me “Are you okay?” to which I responded with “No, I’m most definitely not okay. I just want to take my groceries and go home…” That was certainly true. If I didn’t leave right then, I would have likely smashed my head repeatedly against the nearest wall in an expression of cosmic frustration. More shoppers came over and offered to tell the manager that the seltzer guy only won because I let him cut in front of me, but I had said my piece and was resigned to the simple fact that I had once again lost in the game of life and that again I’d unwittingly been drafted as a source of amusement for whatever cruel gods there may be.

Then a woman walked over and stated she’d witnessed what had happened and that she would try and have words with the manager and try to make things right, but again I stated my desperate desire to simply leave this death camp of my own personal existential mockery. She let that thought hang for a moment and then stated that I’d just been part of a taped “social experiment” and that her crew would pay for my groceries and hand me three-hundred dollars cash up front, so would I please step over here to sign some release forms?

Double-stunned, I followed her to the secluded aisle in back of the manager’s office and watched through what seemed to be someone else’s perception as she reached into her coat and produced a manila envelope positively bursting with crisp fifties. She counted out the aforementioned three hundred bucks and handed it to me, after which she asked me a number of questions as I filled out a release form and gave her my full contact information. “Well, we certainly didn’t expect the reaction we got of you,” she stated. “Were you angry as it was all happening?” I looked her square in the face and told her, “Lady, every word I said back there was true. I am unemployed, so when a guy I’d let go in front of me wins fifty G’s, you bet your sweet ass I was angry! I wanted to leave before I tore his fucking head off!!!” She laughed at that and then had me pose for two head shots, holding a piece of paper with my name written on it in strong-smelling marker and standing directly in front of the stacked maxi-pad display. She also made it clear that they needed all of my contact info in case they decided to use my footage for their show, in which case I will be paid at a professional actor’s rate. As we parted, she asked me not to talk to anyone local about all of this since they planned to spring the setup on other unsuspecting shoppers over what remained of the day. (I stuck to not posting about it until the market’s closing time, after which I felt it was kosher. Plus, I very much doubt they’d pull the same move in the same place the following day, so there you go.)

As I gathered my groceries, the staff of the market all came over and laughed as they apologized for setting up one of their regular customers, but I had free groceries and three-hundred bucks in hand, so I was far from mad any more. Then the seltzer guy came over, hugged me, and wished me the best, also stating that he hoped they used my footage because of the unexpected nature of my response. (I’m betting they expected the big, leather-clad black guy to flip out and act the fool in a stereotypical display of the kind of ghetto histrionics that appall/delight viewers, but what they got was obviously something they did not expect at all.) When I walked out, I ran into the film crew and they laughed their asses off as they high-fived me.

It wasn’t until I returned to my apartment that I remembered seeing notices up around the Associated yesterday, notices warning people not to park in front of the place because there was to be a film shoot there the following day. I didn’t pay much attention to them yesterday because the neighborhood is constantly the site of independent film shoots, Hollywood shoots, and frequent episodes of LAW & ORDER: SVU, and as a result of all of that I never give such notices a second thought, so I was the perfect mark for the show’s purposes.

Still quite stunned, I called a few friends and related this story, much to their amazement, and my old friend Jim Browski clued me in to the fact that the show in question is most probably something called WHAT WOULD YOU DO?, a reality show that places unsuspecting citizens in trying situations and lets the camera roll to see how they handle whatever predicament they find themselves in. I don’t have cable, so I’d never heard of the show, but I assure you I’ll let you all know if they decide to air this lunacy.

Friday, December 02, 2011

R.I.P. BILL McKINNEY (1931-2011), aka THE GUY WHO IMMORTAILZED THE PHRASE "SQUEAL LIKE A PIG"

The mountain man — or would that be "mountin' man?" — who became the bane of Ned Beatty's existence.

The mere mention of Bill McKinney's all-too-memorable performance in DELIVERANCE (1972) is enough to instantly send mens' butt-cheeks a-clenching, so I'll just leave it at that...

Thursday, December 01, 2011

CHRISTMAS EVIL-2011 EDITION

Yes, dear Vaulties, it's that time of year again and another Christmas CD has been concocted to counteract the annual force-feeding of treacly yuletide ditties that send me into a murderous state of apoplexy. The lineup hasn't changed much over the past couple of Christmas seasons, largely due to me not having found any new entries that really got me going, but many of the old perennials deservedly remain. In case you want to track all this stuff down online and download them for yourself, here are this year's selections:

Santa Says... -Spine Punch
Christmas Is A-Comin'- The Shitbirds
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town-John Spence
Frosty The Dope Man-Knock Out
We Wish You a Hump At Christmas-Ron and the Rude Boys (a very filthy bunch of Brits)
Lick My Balls-Dirty Christmas Project A Drunk And Horribly Inappropriate Christmas
Merry F'n Christmas-Denis Leary
Feliz Navidad-Christmas With Beer
Don't Mess With My Tequila-Backstreet Girls
My Mother Gave Me A Gun For Christmas (Waltz Version)-Pork Dukes
Jack Shit- John Valby
A Wee Little Christmas Ditty-Drunken Stupor (this is the one about drunk driving)
A Christmas Warning-El Privates (in which women are considerately advised to expect getting raped this holiday season...?!!?)
Can I Please Crawl Down To Your Chimney?-Kenne Highland & His Vatican Sex Kittens
Homo Christmas-Pansy Division (exactly what it sounds like and catchy as hell)
Tiny Tim's Revenge-Knock Out Christmas
Christmas is a Pain in the Arse-The Accelerators
Deck The Halls-The Kickin' Kazoos (an incredibly annoying all-kazoo rendition)
Fuck You Santa Claus (Eat Shit Santa Claus)-Filthy Elvis
You Ain't Gettin' S*** For Christmas -Red Peters
We Wish You A Merry Christmas-Aaron Tucker (as Arnold Schwarzenegger)
Christmas When You're Dead -Ralph Sinatra (sung from the POV of Frank Sinatra's corpse)
I'll Be Stoned For Christmas-John Valby (perhaps the most honest Christmas song ever recorded)
Daddy Drank Our Christmas Money-TVTV$ (yes, the dollar sign is supposed to be there)
A Merry Jingle-The Greedies
Merry Fucking Christmas-Mr. Garrison
Meth Lab Christmas-Acoustic Front
Anal Beads-Dirty Christmas Project (the gayest version of "Jingle Bells" imaginable)
Christmas With Bazooka Joe-The Fleshtones (this one gets extra points for originality/incongruity)
The Most Wonderful Time in your Rear-Dirty Christmas Project
Feck Off You Drunken Gentleman -Ron and the Rude Boys
Stomping Through A Pillaged Wonderland-Vykyng
Death to the World-Mike Puccio (from the album "Zombie Christmas")
Fuck Christmas-Eric Idle
Donny the Retard-Larry The Cable Guy

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

THE DRAGON LIVES AGAIN (1977)

"Her pussy's in this plot, too! She's using it to murder me!'
-the king of the Underworld, shortly after Bruce Lee saves him from being fucked to death by Emmanuelle. (Yes, you read that right.)

If you're a regular reader of this site, you know I love and cherish movies from many genres that could kindly be called "completely fucking ludicrous." With that in mind, please allow me to introduce you the what is hands down the most insane, ridiculous, stupid, and just plain downright shameless example of the deservedly maligned "Brucesploitation" genre. For those not aware of its dubious existence, the Brucesploitation sub-genre of martial arts films were cheapie cash-ins made in the wake of Bruce Lee's untimely demise, invariably starring dudes who bore a passing resemblance to the master at best, and none of whom were anywhere near being within the same galaxy of Lee's skills. The legion of those films are mostly boring and outright necrophiliac trash, but THE DRAGON LIVES AGAIN is both wildly entertaining and an intentional comedy, and as such it deserves to be not only rediscovered but also restored and remastered. In fact, I'll even go so far as to say that this film is more entertaining than any actual Bruce Lee movie. How, you may ask, is that possible? Allow me to explain...

Bruce Lee's priapic corpse arrives in the Underworld.

It's 1973 and the great Bruce Lee is dead. His corpse, equipped with cool shades and what appears to be a raging hard-on — no, really — arrives in what is apparently an Asian variant of the purgatory, and we are informed that when people die, their bodies and faces change so they no longer look like they did when alive and kicking (which is a convenient way of glossing over star Bruce Leung's utter non-resemblance to Bruce Lee). After arrogantly insulting the king of the Underworld and being given back his chucks (which were taken away when they were revealed not to be an impressive boner), Bruce wanders the local streets and encounters a number of majorly copyright-infringed characters in a noodle restaurant. We're talking Popeye (played by Chinese actor Eric Tsang) and Kwai Chang Caine from KUNG FU (played this time not by David Carradine, but by an actual Chinese guy) on the side of good, and Zatoichi, James Bond (!!!) and Clint Eastwood (played by a Chinese actor and dressed like the Man with No Name from the classic Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns).

Kwai Chang Caine, Bruce Lee, and Popeye...Motherfucking Popeye?!!? What the fuck???

Meanwhile, the aged and exceedingly horny king of the Underworld is having problems with his wives because they've gotten wind of Bruce Lee's newly-arrived presence and they, like every other woman in the Underworld, are devoured by lust at the mere thought of him, even Emmanuelle (who's apparently the concubine of the Exorcist). Yes, that Emmanuelle, and she even describes herself as "a silly little pussy."

NOTE: for you readers who may have come along after the dire days when decent porn was not as readily available as it is now, the Emmanulle character, initially portrayed by Sylvia Kristel, first showed up in a 1974 French softcore erotic film that went on to become a massive international hit, after which there followed a succession of sequels — around thirty-six at last count; no, seriously — the vast majority of which did not feature the original actress. From the dawn of home video and the ubiquity of cable TV, practically every kid I grew up with saw at least the first Emmanuelle movie and were mostly bored silly by it, its considerable amount of full-frontal nudity notwithstanding, so to those of us of a certain age the mere mention of that name is evocative of a key moment in our adolescent development. The point here being that in the world of cinema, the character of Emmanuelle was nearly as much of a household name as Bruce Lee, only reigning in the realm of tenderloin cinema rather than that of chopsocky, so her inclusion here as a usable pop culture icon makes a certain degree of sense. But I digress...

One of the king's two wives is especially into Bruce because she's a fan of his movies — how she saw them in the Underworld is not made clear — and she desires nothing more than to have him beat her with his "powerful weapon" (his chucks) and make passionate love to her...

It's at this point that I think it's appropos to note that I'm neither drunk nor making any of this up. All of this lunacy is actually in the movie.

Anyway, Bruce rejects the advances of the king's wives, thus greatly insulting them and spurring them to send Count Dracula (pronounced here as "Draculer" in the dub) and his gang of zombies to kick Bruce's ass. That only pisses Bruce off, so he dons his famous Kato outfit from THE GREEN HORNET (where he got it from and why he does this is anyone's guess) and hands out ass-whuppings like they were Halloween candy. And just when things look really bad for Bruce, he reveals the secret "Third Leg of Bruce" technique, in which he magically produces an extra leg with which to kick Dracula square in the face.

Also, the bad guys, led by the Godfather and the Exorcist (who has an atrociously bad French accent for no explained reason), want to recruit Bruce to help them overthrow the king, but cocksure Bruce doesn't give a fuck about that (or much of anything else for that matter) and seeks nothing other than a way back to the world of the living. As the bad guys launch assassination attempts against the king, including the aforementioned and memorable attempted murder by pussy, Bruce intervenes and is made captain of the king's personal guard (a plot point that goes absolutely nowhere). The remainder of the film is taken up by fight after fight after fight, in which the bad guys are killed off one by one, finally culminating in Bruce forcing the reluctant king to send him back to the world of the living, which the king does by drop-kicking him and sending him flying off into the distance as the newly-liberated denizens of purgatory cheer their thanks.

Wow. Just...WOW.

THE DRAGON LIVES AGAIN is balls-out insane from start to finish and this review doesn't even begin to communicate just how out of its mind the film actually is. It's low-budget to the nth degree, features one of the worst/best dubbed voice tracks on record, contains wall-to-wall fight scenes that look like they were choreographed by an eight-year-old, includes a surprising amount of nudity and sex for this kind of flick (which is what earned the film its R-rating), and is packed to the rafters with so much outright silliness and utter stupidity that I had a huge grin plastered across my face for most of its running time. Unlike many cheapjack kung fu films from its era, especially those found in the annals of Brucesploitation, the film is not dull for even two minutes and its loony, surreal cartoonishness moves along at a breakneck pace that suggests the filmmakers didn't want to allow viewers any time in which to actually contemplate just what kind of madness was unspooling upon the screen. No lie, THE DRAGON LIVES AGAIN gets my HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION as a must-see masterpiece of bad cinema, and if anyone knows where I can find a better print of it than the one included in the ULTIMATE DRAGON COLLECTION 10-film Brucesploitation set, please do not hesitate to tell me where I can find one.

Monday, November 28, 2011

MY FAVORITE MADMAN DIRECTOR CHECKS OUT: R.I.P. KEN RUSSELL (1927-2011)

And so, my favorite genuine madman of a movie director has gone on to his final rest. I've written at length on my love of Ken Russell's fucking berserk yet visually beautiful films, but when it comes to writing him a suitable eulogy I find myself utterly at a loss for words. Russell had been seriously debilitated by a series of strokes during the past decade or so and it was heartbreaking to see his great, admittedly twisted sensibilities rendered largely unable to communicate, either verbally or filmically. All I can say is that I loved his movies and I hope his passing was swift and as painless as possible. For a proper obit on the guy, I recommend the one found at THE NEW YORK TIMES.

Rest well, Uncle Ken. Your enlivening of the cinematic landscape will always be massively appreciated by many, myself absolutely included among that number.

8/4/2010-Fuck George Lucas: I got to meet Ken motherfucking Russell!!!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

HAPPY THANKSGIVING 2011 FROM THE VAULT OF BUNCHENESS!

For all you newcomers out there, here is my annual Thanksgiving piece. Enjoy!

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 encountering 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.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

COULD THIS BE THE WORST PORNO EVER?

Seriously, who the hell could rub one out to this? It looks horrible and hilljack enough to actually give the infamous BAT PUSSY a run for its money, and that's really saying something! And out of sheer morbid curiosity, I actually kinda want to sit through this, but I would have to have the right gang of friends along for the ride. I'd need the Fresno Fox, Greaseball Johnny, Fudgetub, Gigantress, Otter Girl, and Gilsonic to sit with me as its vile anti-charms unfurled across the screen. And exactly what is this supposed to be a parody of anyway?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A TURKEY DAY REMINDER

That dreaded day of possibly-dysfunctional family togetherness, interminable and expensive travel, the shameless three-hour commercial that is the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Roman Empire-level gorging, drunkenness, and football looms again, dear Vaulties. You will survive, hey hey. And to those of you who grew up in the Tri-State area, don't forget to dust off your DVD copies of KING KONG — original version only — SON OF KONG, and MIGHTY JOE YOUNG, plus a classic-era Godzilla movie of choice. You know why. If I may recommend the Godzilla flick, I'd go with GODZILLA VERSUS MOTHRA (which went by GODZILLA VERSUS THE THING when we were kids) or GODZILLA VERSUS THE SEA MONSTER. And if you have the MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 version of that last one, so much the better.

Monday, November 21, 2011

REALITY CHECK

Hey, folks. Time for one of my periodic updates on what's going on here in my world outside of the Internet dimension. In a nutshell, I'm not doing great but I'm trying my best to keep a positive outlook on things. Nonetheless, the current state of affairs has left me rather unmotivated to write for this here blog, so please bear with my present dry spell.

The year began with me breaking up with my girlfriend — who, let us remember, was not a villain — and I have to admit that I was romantically gun shy for quite a while after that transpired. I believe I'm ready to start dating again, or at least I feel okay with it on a conceptual level. The problem with that is that there are no prospects at the moment. Well, maybe there is one, just maybe, but I have to really think about that...

I skipped Halloween because I just wasn't feeling it this year. Also there were no parties and none of my friends were really doing anything. Plus, Halloween kinda sucks without a squeeze to share it with. I've done Halloween stag many times in the past but nothing compares to that glorious day when I have a comely female accompanying me in a costume that I get to chew off of her at the end of the night.

After a fruitless year and a half of job-searching, my unemployment finally benefits run out this Wednesday. I have some small money socked away and there are also other resources that I would prefer not to rely on but one has to do what one has to do. I've applied for a job that I am perfectly suited for but so far there has been no response, but it's still early in the game, so I am remaining positive.

I'm heading home for Thanksgiving and all I'm really looking forward to about that is the eating. (Like my fat ass needs any more poundage added to it...) While at home, I'll have to try and stay sane during the annual horror that is the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, that three-hour nightmare on wheels/thinly disguised long-form commercial that my mother insists on watching with the volume cranked up to 11. I'll also have to deal with her twitchy nervousness and hand-wringing over my state of employment, or lack thereof, while also fielding her endless directions about how to proceed in publishing or the comics biz, both areas that she knows absolutely nothing about, yet she refuses to cop to her ignorance. I swear, when she goes off in that mode, I just want to shove her head through the house's sheet rock with as much force as I can muster. She means well, but I wish she wouldn't act like an authority on something she knows nothing whatsoever about, especially not when it's a field that I was involved in as a professional for over a decade and something that I'm still involved with as a comics biz journalist.

In other news, I was tapped by my dear old friend Amanda to write the text for IDW's art book on her work. It was a breeze for me to write since I've watched her artistic progress with a keen eye since we were co-slackers in our tenth grade algebra class, and the project was a true labor of love. And who knows? Maybe my involvement with that book will open doors to the next phase in my journey.

And while I don't have actual plans for New Year's, I do have a dear friend coming down from Maine to spend it with me. I miss her being around in NYC, so even the briefest of visits will suit me just fine.

So that's where things stand at the moment. Stay tuned and thanks for your continued support.

Friday, November 11, 2011

11/11/11 — IT'S NIGEL TUFNEL DAY!!!

It's Nigel Tufnel Day, the sacred day that only happens one every century, and this is its inaugural year! (NOTE: If you somehow have no idea what the fuck I'm going on about, sit through THIS IS SPINAL TAP immediately!)

Remember Lenny and Squiggy from LAVERNE & SHIRLEY? Well, they put out an album in 1979 with their band, Lenny & the Squigtones, featuring one young Nigel Tufnel on guitar and here's photographic proof of this having happened. This band photo is the primary reason why I own that album. (I think I paid fifteen bucks for it at the late, lamented Footlight Records back around 1993.) Oh, and drummer Ming the Merciless? That's actually Peter Criss, sans Kiss makeup.

Lenny & the Squigtones, featuring a young Nigel Tufnel.

So, fellow lovers of quality metal, get off your asses, get out there, and represent! And remember, THIS DAY GOES UP TO ELEVEN!!!



Tuesday, November 08, 2011

"THE RESURRECTION OF GAHAN WILSON'S NUTS" at PUBLISHERS WEEKLY COMICS WORLD

In my capacity as a reviewer/feature article writer for PUBLISHERS WEEKLY COMICS WORLD, it was recently my great honor to have a talk with Gahan Wilson, one of my all-time favorite cartoonists and definitely a huge influence on how I see the world, regarding the Fantagraphics publication of a hardcover collection of the complete run of NUTS. NUTS was a series that ran in NATIONAL LAMPOON during the years before it became a pale shadow of its incredibly un-PC, scabrous self, and it is without question the most honest exploration of the confusion, disappointments and general all-around shit-end-of-the-stick that is childhood. For example, here's the strip that pretty much sums up what NUTS was all about in one shot:

Go here to read the article. And I strongly urge you to get a copy of the book for yourself and your kids or nieces and nephews, especially those who have just crossed over into their teens. They'll totally recognize every moment of the protagonist's agony as something they've experienced, and they may even be able to laugh at all of it now.

Monday, November 07, 2011

ANNIE SPRINKLE'S HERSTORY OF PORN: REEL TO REAL (1999)

WARNING!!! If the frank discussion of some of the grottier elements that can be found in porno offends you or grosses you out, you are strongly advised to give this entry a miss. And bear in mind that this warning is coming from me, so take that for what it's worth.

"Pornography is the mirror in which we can see our reflections. The same image may appear beautiful one day, and ugly the next, be liberating one year, and offensive later. How wonderful to have the opportunity to take a look. To learn and, perchance, to dream. Making porn is a lot harder than you might think. I've never even come close to capturing the magnificence of my best sexual experiences. One thing is for sure: in just twenty-five years, we have come a long way. The answer to really bad porn is not no porn, but to try to make better porn. No matter where we stand, pornography reflects us all."-Annie Sprinkle

As is probably apparent to my regular readers, I am unashamedly fascinated by pornography, not merely as a means to a solo orgasmic end, but mostly as an earthy, fleshly reflection of who and what we are as sexual human animals. And while I have been known to enjoy such material for its most obvious intended use from time to time, I’m always interested in learning about the history of the medium, a form that goes back as far as the moment when the first cave-person fashioned a curvy goddess statue from crude earth or put pigment to cave wall to depict primitive images of copulation.

So anyway, about a week back I stopped by a kiosk in Manhattan's Union Square where a couple of guys sell assorted "gray market" DVDs, and the more erudite of the two, remembering my interest in documentaries on the history of porn, offered me what he believed to be an overview of American tenderloin cinema as hosted/narrated by veteran porn star Annie Sprinkle. I accepted the disc, ANNIE SPRINKLE'S HERSTORY OF PORN, and took it home, allowing it to sit atop a "to be watched" stack for a few days before I threw it into my player for a late-night screening. (And it really was a screening and not a moment of "relaxing the gentleman's way;" I was on the phone with my equally-insomniac friend, Daisy, as I watched the first half of it, so there was no five-knuckle shuffling going on.)

Our humble raconteur and documentary subject, Annie Sprinkle (née Ellen Steinberg).

For those of you out there who have no idea who Annie Sprinkle is, she's a notorious bisexual porn star/prostitute/stripper/performance artist who was born Ellen Steinberg in Philadelphia and has re-invented herself several times throughout her career, now enriching the world with performance pieces and other works that disseminate perhaps the most sex-positive vibes in American society's hypocritically puritanical sexual landscape. For what it's worth, I really like Annie's sweet and adorable persona and the joy and utterly shameless happiness in sex that she merrily espouses like some kind of bubbly and lewd Yoda with big ol' titties, so I was totally down with her acting as a guide through the history of American porno's golden age.

Such a journey, however, was not what I got when I started watching ANNIE SPRINKLE'S HERSTORY OF PORN. It instead turned out to be a very thorough and heartfelt video autobiography/career retrospective beginning with Annie's time in assorted porn that began as conventional beast-with-two-backs reels and going up through her then-current role as a DIY sex-educator/sexual shamaness-goddess, and I could have dealt with that just fine if it had not been comprehensive enough to include footage from some of Sprinkle's more, er, "specialized" efforts. To be fair, Sprinkle herself does warn the viewer that if there's anything onscreen that they may not want to see, they can simply "cover your eyes and it'll pass, and please try to keep an open mind until the very, very end," and it's advice I wish I'd heeded in more than one instance. You see, Sprinkle's work in straight porno was already rather raunchy even by the somewhat nebulously-defined standards of the genre, and some of it could be considered "nasty" in terms of her very game willingness to do just about anything on camera, but as of the late-1970's she adventurously veered waaaaay into fetish stuff that Sprinkle claimed led to most mainstream porno directors no longer hiring her because she'd gained a rep as being "too kinky." Included during the fetish overview are segments including the following:
  • Sprinkle's signature golden shower antics
  • dwarf-fucking (the guy in that equation, Luis De Jesus, played the vile Ralphus in the "classic" grindhouse gore opus BLOOD-SUCKING FREAKS)
  • Annie shoving a toothbrush into the orifices not found on her head (don't worry, it wasn't the brushy end)
  • Annie getting seriously rodgered with a hefty kielbasa
  • heavy-duty bondage and rape-fantasy stuff
  • Annie getting fisted (stumped?) by an amputee
  • close-up removal of swamped, bloody feminine hygiene products
  • Annie being graphically fisted herself and then graphically fisting some splayed-out skinny guy with her mitt lodged up him well past her wrist, after which she introduced his sundered butthole to an enormous dildo at least two feet in length and about as wide around as a can of Chock Full O' Nuts coffee
  • an absolutely revolting "rainbow shower" segment in which our girl pukes all over some scruffy meth-addict-looking dude, barfing into his open mouth and jerking him off with fresh hurl as a lubricant (Sprinkle somewhat defuses that last bit by stating that they actually used canned soup, which is apparent when one goes back and really examines the footage, but nonetheless yecch...)
Maybe I'm just too "vanilla" but none of the stuff on that list strikes me as erotic in any way, which is not to say I wouldn't have watched it for its curiosity value if I had been truly forewarned. And, to tell the truth, I had already seen examples of all of that kind of stuff since I hit college, so none of it was new to me. (Though I had avoided the menstrually-related material; I'm not squeamed-out by period stuff thanks to the realities encountered when involved with girlfriends and also due to most of my friends being female and very candid about their "lady business" — there is nothing in that department that I have not heard about firsthand and in medically-graphic detail — but I don't find such stuff appealing as my porn fodder of choice.)

Anyway, following that overwhelming fetish-pummeling, Sprinkle's focus mercifully shifts to 1982's DEEP INSIDE ANNIE SPRINKLE, which she claims was the first porno film conceived from a woman's point of view, and from which she moved into crafting a more female-centric pornographic experience. Then, as the 1980's got going and the era of "new age" healing and philosophy dawned (which, if you ask me, was little more than a re-discovery of the Eastern stuff the '60's counter-culture dabbled in, only now seasoned with dashes of neo-paganism), Sprinkle hooked up with a Tantric adept who guided her into her first deeply spiritual experience with sex and sexuality. She emerged from her time with him a woman energized and transformed, who sought to share her epiphany with all whose hearts and minds were open to it, as well as seeking to educate the people on safer sex so awareness would be raised and the very act of loving would not continue to be a sensually-disguised Grim Reaper in the age of AIDS. That era in Sprinkle's development can be seen as akin to a narrative in which the protagonist, having undergone the assorted tests that would forge them into a hero that rang true to Campbell's theories on "the heroic journey," comes back to the world they left behind in search of adventure and learning imparted through said trials, returning with a beatific sense of wisdom and self. Some would find such espousing of these sentiments to be just so much self-serving hippy-dippy bullshit but I definitely get where Sprinkle's coming from when she discusses it, and my buying into what she has to say on the subject goes back as far as when I read her excellent and highly recommended book, POST-PORN MODERNIST (1991).

From there, Sprinkle expanded her horizons by identifying as a lesbian and becoming an artist who appeared in pornographic "art" films and performance art pieces, such as the now-infamous "Public Cervix Announcement," in which she would appear seated onstage, sans undergarments, schlamp a speculum up herself and let intrigued audience members check out her cervix, up close and personal (which is unfortunately not covered in this documentary). She then addresses the fact that she's getting older (she was forty-our at the time) and approaches that aspect of life as another avenue or exploration and the gaining of wisdom and self-understanding. There's even a "how to make a porno" fantasy sequence in which Sprinkle appears as an aging mermaid who initiates a younger mermaid into the pleasures of the flesh and eventually dies, but not before happily passing the torch on to the younger generation, secure in the knowledge that those who succeed her will only expand upon what she has imparted. Though kind of goofily presented, that coda was actually quite beautiful and filled with more genuine meaning than anything found in any three-thousand garden variety porno flicks that one could provide as counter-examples.

This career retrospective/gentle manifesto could not possibly be more sexually explicit if it tried, and some of its content will most likely be objectionable to some members of the audience, but I, for one, greatly appreciate and admire the efforts of this porn icon who used her position as a "sacred whore" of the media to enlighten and inform. What some would condemn as a sordid career path can be seen here by the open-minded as a celebration and exploration of the limits – or rather the non-limits — of human sexuality and the positive power of self-reinvention, and if anyone is going to be a guide through those waters, I'm glad it was Annie Sprinkle. Armed with a cheery, sunshiney sense of humor and an air of earthy, womanly sweetness, I can't help but find her utterly appealing and quite adorable, and in every way the welcome antithesis to the faceless, emotionless replicants who infest the porn landscape and render it so largely joyless. If only there were more individuals with her warmth involved, maybe the porn industry would not be as reviled of an entity as it unfortunately is.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

HILARIOUS SCAM EMAIL

As noted several times over the years on this blog, I constantly receive emails that attempt to prey upon perceived fears and try to separate me from what little money I have or attempt to get me to fork over all my information, passwords, you name it. Well, this morning's attempt takes the cake and I will let it speak for itself, unedited, other than to note that save for its subject, the email itself was blank and I had to open an attachment to read the actual letter. Check this shit out:

Subject:
FBI OFFICIAL NOTICE///FBI OFFICE GET BACK TO US IMMEDIATELY IF YOU DONT WANT US TO ARREST YOU AND JAIL YOU FOR YOUR OWN G0OD

Anti-Terrorist and Monetary Crimes Division
Fbi Headquarters In Washington, D.C.
Federal Bureau Of Investigation
J. Edgar Hoover Building
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, D.C. 20535-0001 Website: www.fbi.gov

Attention, this is the final warning you are going to receive from me do you get me?

I hope youre understand how many times this message has been sent to you?.

We have warned you so many times and you have decided to ignore our e-mails or because you believe we have not been instructed to get you arrested, and today if you fail to respond back to us with the payment then, we would first send a letter to the mayor of the city where you reside and direct them to close your bank account until you have been jailed and all your properties will be confiscated by the fbi. We would also send a letter to the company/agency that you are working for so that they could get you fired until we are through with our investigations because a suspect is not suppose to be working for the government or any private organization.

Your id which we have in our database been sent to all the crimes agencies in America for them to inset you in their website as an internet fraudsters and to warn people from having any deals with you. This would have been solved all this while if you had gotten the certificate signed, endorsed and stamped as you where instructed in the e-mail below. this is the federal bureau of investigation (FBI) am writing in response to the e-mail you sent to us and am using this medium to inform you that there is no more time left to waste because you have been given from the 3rd of January. As stated earlier to have the document endorsed, signed and stamped without failure and you must adhere to this directives to avoid you blaming yourself at last when we must have arrested and jailed you for life and all your properties confiscated.

You failed to comply with our directives and that was the reason why we didn't hear from you on the 3rd as our director has already been notified about you get the process completed yesterday and right now the warrant of arrest has been signed against you and it will be carried out in the next 48hours as strictly signed by the fbi director. We have investigated and found out that you didn't have any idea when the fraudulent deal was committed with your information's/identity and right now if you id is placed on our website as a wanted person, i believe you know that it will be a shame to you and your entire family because after then it will be announce in all the local channels that you are wanted by the fbi.

As a good Christian and a honest man, I decided to see how i could be of help to you because i would not be happy to see you end up in jail and all your properties confiscated all because your information's was used to carry out a fraudulent transactions, i called the EFCC and they directed me to a private attorney who could help you get the process done and he stated that he will endorse, sign and stamp the document at the sum of $120.00 usd only and i believe this process is cheaper for you. You need to do everything possible within today and tomorrow to get this process done because our director has called to inform me that the warrant of arrest has been signed against you and once it has been approved, then the arrest will be carried out, and from our investigations we learnt that you were the person that forwarded your identity to one impostor/fraudsters in Nigeria when he had a deal with you about the transfer of some illegal funds into your bank account which is valued at the sum of $10.500,000.00 usd.

I pleaded on your behalf so that this agency could give you the 11/06/2011 so that you could get this process done because i learnt that you were sent several e-mail without getting a response from you, please bear it in mind that this is the only way that i can be able to help you at this moment or you would have to face the law and its consequences once it has befall on you. You would make the payment through western union money transfer with the below details.

NAME: CHI JACOB
ADDRESS: LAGOS NIGERIA
TEXT QUESTION:FOR
ANSWER: YOU
AMOUNT: $120
Senders Name======
Address:=============

Send the payment details to me which are senders name and address, mtcn number, text question and answer used and the amount sent. Make sure that you didn't hesitate making the payment down to the agency by today so that they could have the certificate endorsed, signed and stamped immediately without any further delay. After all this process has been carried out, then we would have to proceed to the bank for the transfer of your compensation funds which is valued at the sum of $10.500,000.00 usd which was suppose to have been transferred to you all this while.

Note/ all the crimes agencies have been contacted on this regards and we shall trace and arrest you if you disregard this instructions. You are given a grace today to make the payment for the document after which your failure to do that will attract a maximum arrest and finally you will be appearing in court for act of terrorism, money laundering and drug trafficking charges, so be warned not to try any thing funny because you are been watched.

THANKS FOR YOUR CO-OPERATION.

ROBERT MUELLER II

WASHINGTON DC
Anti-Terrorist and Monetary Crimes Division
Fbi Headquarters In Washington, D.C.
Federal Bureau Of Investigation
J. Edgar Hoover Building
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, D.C. 20535-0001 Website: www.fbi.go

Friday, November 04, 2011

JUST A RANDOM THOUGHT

Oh, what I would give for the Ed Wood-era Bela Lugosi to have done a dramatic reading reading of the Beach Boys' "Sloop John B" with his signature "Bevare of the big green dragon that sits on your doorstep!" and "Pull the string!!!" histrionics...



Thursday, November 03, 2011

A MINOR REALITY CHECK

Dear Vaulties-

I don't want to go into detail for fear of jinxing things, but I've made possible inroads to what looks like a promising job prospect. It's still early in the game but please send me as much positive energy as you can spare. I assure you I won't waste it.

-sincerely,

Yer Bunche

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

GET READY FOR...DANGER 5!!!

This debuts on YouTube on November 21st and, needless to say, it's right up my alley!

ANOTHER BURNING QUESTION ANSWERED

The magnificence of Ah-nuld as the now-iconic T-101.

The other day, I had TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES playing in the background for noise and it made me wonder: if Cyberdyne Systems, the company that built the Terminator (and its identical assembly line brethren), was based in the United States, why was the T-101 model issued with an Austrian accent? I posed that query on Facebook and no sooner than I asked, my friend Mindless Kirby responded with a link to deleted footage from TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES that answered that very question in grand style:



Now what I want to know is why in hell they opted to delete this from the final cut of the film?

Monday, October 31, 2011

HAPPY HALLOWEEN FROM THE VAULT OF BUNCHENESS!!!

31 DAYS OF HORROR-DAY 31: HORROR OF DRACULA (1958)

Along with THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957), this was one of the films that heralded Hammer Studios as a revolutionary force to be reckoned with in the post-war horror cinema landscape. Less a faithful adaptation of Bram Stoker's classic novel, DRACULA, than a mid-20th century re-jiggering of many of its elements for an audiences that might find Universal and Lugosi's take on the Count to be a tad stage-bound and genteel, HORROR OF DRACULA is the simplest iteration of the classic vampire yarn's tropes imaginable and can be seen as the template for how to tell a vampire story to a modern audience until stuff like FRIGHT NIGHT and Anne Rice happened.

Recounting the plot is pointless as it's all essentially a template that boils down to a bitter war between Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) and Count Dracula (Christopher Lee), with good inevitably triumphing over evil; something we've seen before, certainly, but it's the atmosphere, the look of the film, and the brisk telling of the tale that make this iteration of it a classic. Dracula's castle is a triumph of set design and realization, his dark-haired and very hungry bride is quite memorable, and the events that transpire once the undead suckface reaches England are just a horror fan's banquet of the basics done right. We also get the one-two punch of Lee and Cushing in career-defining roles that they would both go on to repeat several times (in some cases to diminishing returns, if truth be told), and or many Lee's Dracula is the definitive screen version of Bram Stoker's arch-vampire, and I can totally understand why. He's very tall, urbane, imposing and regal as all get out, but once his facade of aloof nobility is seen through and the vampire stands revealed, Lee's Dracula very much takes the fight to his human opponents and gets very physical indeed, seeming all the while to actually revel in being darkly, irredeemably evil.

I mean, look at this fucking guy! I'd be scared of a vampire if I ran into one in real life anyway, but Lee managed to fairly radiate a palpable, primally-chilling malevolence that even later vampires that had shape-shifting makeup and animatronic technology to bolster them could not begin to approach. Lee's Dracula was a menace of the first order that needed to be expunged from the face of the earth, and Cushing's Van Helsing was just the dude to handle that thankless task. Though a man of cold, hard science and rationality, Van Helsing was smart enough to call a spade a spade when he saw one and thus he dealt with Dracula with the single-minded focus of a master surgeon eliminating a particularly stubborn cancerous growth.

HORROR OF DRACULA is absolutely worth your time if you've never seen it (and even if you already have), both as a textbook example of how this kind of thing can be done right and with no extraneous bullshit, and more importantly as a reminder that vampires are supposed to be fucking scary, not sparkly and all Emo, unlike those found in a certain tamponathon franchise whose name I will not besmirch this review with.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

31 DAYS OF HORROR-DAY 30: ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (1932)

Not to go on All-Fours; that is the Law. Are we not men?
Not to suck up Drink; that is the Law. Are we not men?
Not to eat Fish or Flesh; that is the Law. Are we not men?
Not to claw the Bark of Trees; that is the Law. Are we not men?
Not to chase other Men; that is the Law. Are we not men?
- “The Law,” from “The Island of Doctor Moreau” (1896) by H.G.Wells

After several years of having no choice but to enjoy its lurid charms via a "gray market" DVD of a print of it culled from Turner Classic Movies, one of my all-time favorite flicks, 1932’s (or 1933’s, depending on your source of info) ISLAND OF LOST SOULS, is finally available on legitimate DVD from those loving preservationists over at Criterion, and I pre-ordered it the second I heard of its imminent release.

ISLAND OF LOST SOULS is a fantastically sick and twisted little movie that got in there just before the infamous Hayes Code was instituted and took away all the really nasty sex, violence and evil shit that made moviegoing worthwhile.

Will H. Hayes: the human douche nozzle who ruined old school Hollywood.

After the Hayes Code was in place, Hollywood cleaned up its act considerably, under threat of serious penalties, and didn’t really get its balls back until the 1950’s, a shot in the arm that led to the freer expression of the Sixties and Seventies (and then, for the most part, films pussied-out again bigtime, but that’s a subject for another post).

Anyway, I first saw ISLAND OF LOST SOULS during my formative years but I was too little to fully grasp exactly why it had been banned in the United Kingdom for some twenty-five years after its release. It was a black & white flick about some queeny guy with a mustache and a white suit who lived on a remote island and made really lame-looking human/animal hybrids. There was no graphic violence, no cussing, and certainly no naked ladies, so what was the big deal?

Oh, the wisdom that comes with growing up and seeing the same movie through eyes that had gone on to witness films such as DAS CAVIAR DINNER and BARNYARD BANG...(Don't ask.)

For those not in the know, the movie’s based the 1896 novel quoted at the start of this post, and it centers around a guy who gets unwillingly stuck on the island of one Doctor Moreau (Charles Laughton, utterly burning down the house with a spectacular display of major league gayness and questionable sanity), a medical genius who has somehow managed to create a horde of grotesque and disturbing “men” from a variety of wild animals.

Doctor Moreau (Charles Laughton) and friend.

The products of apparently anesthesia-free radical surgery and ray treatments, Moreau’s creations are rather a sorry lot who have been conditioned to live by a series of laws intended to curb their innate animal behaviors and mold them into regular Joes. Don’t ask me what the purpose of such experimentation is; I guess simply to be able to say that he was able to do it? To fulfill some crazed need to play God? Fuck if I know, but one thing becomes clear very early on: Moreau is barking mad, his cultured exterior masking a whip-wielding psychotic who appears to get off on the suffering of his “children.”

Just another fun-filled day on the Island of Doctor Moreau. NOTE: the dude with the serious sideburns is none other than Bela "Pull the string!" Lugosi as the Speaker of the Law. Yowza!

Being stuck on Moreau’s creepy, vine-tangled and fog-enshrouded island is bad enough, but our uninteresting castaway is set to be married to an equally uninteresting fiancée (who of course sets out to find him), so Moreau decides to give his most successful creation a field test. The Doc unveils Lota (Kathleen Burke), a sultry brunette in a pre-Dorothy Lamour “exotic” island girl getup (this was back in the days when hot, non-Caucasian chicks were considered exotic) who has never seen a fully human male other than the Doc and his assistant (actually a big deal; those two seem like an obvious couple to me, and as this was a pre-ccode film, they very well could have been), and hopes sparks ignite between Lota and the stranded cipher.

Kathleen Burke as Lota, the Panther Woman: say hello to your grandpappy's stroke-material.

As the viewers figure out before our boring hero does, Lota is revealed to have been altered from a panther into a prime piece of surfer-boy’s masturbation fantasy — no "pussy" jokes, please — but her shy and tentative attempts at “making friends” with the castaway go straight down the toilet once he notices her hands are reverting to their original clawed configuration and is understandably freaked the fuck out. Moreau orders poor, terrified Lota back to “the House of Pain” for a surgical touch-up, and awaits the arrival of the fiancée so he can turn one of his male hybrids loose on her. So not only do we get crazed punishment with a bullwhip and twisted medical experiments, we are also treated to Moreau’s intention to see if regular humans can successfully mate and possibly reproduce with his semi-human creatures, many of whom resemble a bunch of hairy, shirtless skells of the type that staff many restaurants in parts of Brooklyn and Queens. And when you think about it, the castaway would have gotten off (pun intended) relatively easy in the bargain since Lota is a bit of a looker (though the scratches would suck), while his virginal fiancée would have been relegated to savage rape by a literal man-gorilla (or something; it’s not made fully clear just what the guy is). It’s just plain sick, offensive, and gross.

And I love it.

Can you imagine being in the theater in 1932 and having your sensibilities offended by sadism, unholy “scientific” delvings, and intimations of bestiality and rape? That stuff’s still heavy nearly eighty years on, so seeing ISLAND OF LOST SOULS in those days must have been a serious brain-melter. Even the Doc’s well-earned and horrifying fate comes off as weak in comparison (thematically, anyway; being vivisected sans anaesthesia by a bunch of clumsy manimals would really bite the big one).

Lesson to be learned: be kind to animals!

So what was the delay in releasing this dark and sleazy classic to DVD? Today’s youth needs to see that it wasn’t all Busby Berkeley creating a religion for show tunes devotees or the Our Gang kids putting a positive spin on juvenile truancy, and that when their elders piss and moan about how today’s cinema is leading to moral turpitude they’re talking out of their asses. I’d love to see a contemporary director even attempt to go where this dusty old hairball did and not be publicly executed by watchdogs for decency in film. Good luck with that one, bucko. And any movie that serves to inspire some of Devo's classic work — specifically "Jocko Homo" and the title of their first album, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! — is automatically okay by me, but this movie earned its place in my heart on its own very twisted merits.

"Us not that smart but us read CINE-MISCREANT!"

Saturday, October 29, 2011

31 DAYS OF HORROR-DAY 29: THE SEVENTH CURSE (1986)

Betcha didn't expect to find a Chow Yun Fat movie on this list, didja? Believe it or not, this Category III cult fave was my first exposure to the excellence that is Chow Yun fat. Directed by Ngai Kai Lam, the same loon who gave the world the mind-bendingly gory and ultra-violent RIKI-OH (aka THE STORY OF RICKY), THE SEVENTH CURSE is an odd amalgam of its era's typical Hong Kong action flicks, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK-inspired death traps, martial arts mayhem, and INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM with some broad comedic bits thrown in. At its heart, it's a straight-up horror movie, but one that had its primary flavor somewhat diluted and derailed by too many disparate elements in what I'm guessing was an attempt to have it appeal to too many audiences at once or else alleviate its considerable "darkness."

WARNING: HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!!!

The vile sorcerer Aquala (Elvis Tsui).

While on an expedition in Thailand to find herbs with which to hopefully cure AIDS, a bespectacled police physician, Dr. Yeun (Chin Siu Ho, best known in the West for his roles in THE TAI CHI MASTER and FIST OF LEGEND), encounters "the worm tribe" and disrupts evil sorcerer Aquala's human sacrifice of a beautiful girl, "Betsy" (Sau-Lai Tsui), to the horrifying animate skeleton/shape-shifting monster "Old Ancestor."

"Old Ancestor" in its less-robust form.

Aquala (Elvis Tsui) is a black magician straight out of the Mola Ram school of heavies and he wields an assortment of baleful skills, chief among which is the "little ghost," a foul creature that he produces from inside his cape that flies through the air, viciously attacks its targets, and eagerly sucks their blood.

The ravenous wrath of "little ghost."

So, with that in mind, you can guess he's not at all pleased with Yuen fouling up his ritual, thus prompting him to hit the good doctor with a horrible "blood curse" that causes parts of his victim's body to agonizingly burst and spew thick red paint blood. (It's phony-looking but that only adds to the charming gross-out effect.) Though seriously injured, the doctor helps Betsy escape back to her tribe, so she kindly strips naked and cuts into one of her own breasts to supply the doctor with a cure that will hold his curse at bay for one year.

There's nothing like a little utterly gratuitous nudity.

When the year runs out, Yeun is confronted by a member of Betsy's tribe (Dick Wei) who summons him back to Thailand so he can try to effect a cure for both the doc and the girl, whose face has become disfigured in the wake of Aquala's curse. Following the advice of his occult-savvy pal, Wei Si Li, aka "Wisely" (Chow Yun Fat), Yeun returns to Thailand and accompanies the tribesman on the quest for the antidote, dogged along the way by the cute but incredibly annoying unnecessary comic relief reporter Tsai-Hung (the gorgeous Maggie Cheung). The trio encounters all kinds of nastiness, gore and sadistic violence and when the irritating reporter ends up in Aquala's clutches, the heroes aim to rescue her and the tribe's children, who have been taken so their blood can serve as the base for a magic potion, extracted from a stone crusher/juicer that squishes the kiddies into liquid goo (in a scene like something out of a child's nightmare). And after that there's still the matter of curing the doc and Betsy's curses, plus kicking Aquala's evil ass and wiping out the Old Ancestor once and for all, so you could say that the doc's dance card is pretty full.

THE SEVENTH CURSE is very lively from start to finish but it does suffer from the aforementioned elements that throw a bit of a monkey wrench into its proceedings.The comedy, mostly stemming from Maggie Cheung's reporter character, doesn't work and when it happens it transforms the film into a whole other movie entirely. The action and martial arts sequences are well done but they also seem to belong another film, especially the RAIDERS-style death traps and the blatant swipe of RAIDERS' gigantic rolling stone ball, this time with the ball being swapped out for the huge dislodged head of an ancient idol. The schizophrenic tonal shifts are all the more unfortunate because the horror story at the film's core is quite strong and would have made for an instant classic had all the needless bullshit been excised entirely. It's dark stuff of a rather Lovecraftian order and as such should have been treated with the seriousness of a heart attack.

But all of that can be overlooked when a movie is as balls-out entertaining as this one is. The hero's a bit bland but everyone else in the cast more than makes up for his relative lack of character. As monsters go, Old Ancestor's kinda neat, what with starting out as a dirty-fighting skeleton and later morphing into a cross between the Alien and the winged form of Princess Dragon Mom from INFRA MAN and all, and the little ghost is one vicious little bastard whose malevolence far outweighs the in-your-face obviousness of it being a cheaply-made prop that looks like a dime store baby doll as altered with some liquid latex and a hot glue gun by an LSD-addled member of the Manson Family. And let us not forget the presence of thirty-year-old Chow Yun at as the appropriately-named Wisely. He's the kind of character who's mellow and urbane but knows all kinds of obscure shit about the black arts for no particular reason, so he's quite handy to have around when this kind of shit is going on. And does he fight the film's Big Bad with a crucifix, holy water, counter-spells or even exorcism? Fuck that shit; that stuff's for pussies. In this narrative, using that crap's like showing up to a knife fight armed with nothing but your flaccid dick in your hand. Wisely knows better, so he shows up at the last possible minute, armed with a motherfucking missile launcher and two loads that he uses to blast Old Ancestor into showering chunks that have not a hope in hell of re-animating. The first missile blows a huge hole clean through the monster, allowing it to observe its own beating heart before it's hit by the second shot, which scatters its remaining mass like a handful of thrown jacks. And when all is said and done, Wisely isn't even impressed with himself.

Chow Yun Fat, in an early moment of awesomeness, shows us how to properly sort out unholy creatures from the underworld.

I would have preferred a whole film about just Wisely and could have totally done without that bland-assed Dr. Yuen, but I guess a Wisely-versus-monsters flick would have been over two seconds after Wisely found out about the given threat and called a tactical thermo -nuclear strike to deal with it, after which he'd simply chill out in his study with a tumbler of Scotch as he waited or the radiation to die down. Oh, well...