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Thursday, April 28, 2022

DRACULA SUCKS (?)

Christopher Lee as Count Dracula: a standard of excellence trapped in a steadily deteriorating franchise.

Okay, here's where I commit horror fan heresy...

So, I finally made my way through all of the Hammer Draculas and, overall, I am not impressed. 

Now that I have seen all of them, the only things I felt they had going for them was Lee and Cushing — provided they were present — and roughly four good entries out of a total of nine films (with one bad one that's fun in spite of its considerably idiocy). If anything, the run is wildly overrated, which may be a reflection of the era in which they were released. And as they go on it's sad to witness, because Lee very obviously didn't want to be involved, but the studio more or less blackmailed him into participating by making it plain that people would lose employment if he didn't play ball. As franchises within a franchise go, the Hammer Frankenstein's are far superior.

I will expand on this in detail with this year's round of 31 DAYS OF HORROR Halloween horror movie essays.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

SERIOUSLY???

 

Christoper Neame as... Oh, read it for yourself...

During today's dialysis session I watched DRACULA A.D. 1972 (1972). Considered by many to be the weakest of Hammer's Dracula flicks, I didn't hate it and it's far from my least favorite of the run. That said, it's really, REALLY stupid and moving the setting out of the Carpathian mountains in the 1800's to Chelsea as the "Cool Britannia" era was on its last legs just does not work. Also, it includes as a secondary bad guy who sets the plot in motion, a modern Dracula cultist named "Johnny Alucard?" SERIOUSLY??? Gee, I wonder if he could be evil? (massive eyeroll)
 
Johnny. Fucking. ALUCARD. And the fact that Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) didn't instantly go "'Alucard,' my ass..." was just insulting to the intelligence of everyone everywhere ever.
 
Oh, go fuck yourself, screenwriter!

Thursday, April 21, 2022

THE PACHYDERM AND THE PITY: on DUMBO (1941)

I'm not crying...YOU'RE crying!!!

So...
 
I watched DUMBO (1941) again the other night, the first time I'd sat through its entirety in close to 20 years, and while I consider it to be among the strongest of Disney's early features, I doubt that I will be able to sit through it again any time soon, and if I do I definitely will not enjoy much of the experience. You see, I have adored elephants my entire life and if a nature documentary is on, I will stop whatever I am doing to observe the footage and any new information that may be imparted. Meaning that I get elephants for who and what they are, so witnessing the outright cruelties inflicted on wee Dumbo from virtually the moment the stork drops him off is an agonizing ride. 
 
Dumbo (and let us not forget that his actual name is "Jumbo Jr.") is relentlessly abused and bullied by all and sundry, with the sole exceptions of his mother and Timothy the mouse, and he's just a defenseless baby. When his mother justifiably rampages against a kid who's abusing her child, she is attacked and whipped by the circus's ringmaster and assorted roustabouts as they subdue her, and she ends up in chains, separated from Dumbo while he is forced into the humiliating and dangerous role of a clown, and the viewer's heart breaks. Then the "Baby Mine" number comes on, where Dumbo visits his mother during her imprisonment and the shackles prevent his mother from coming close to the window to actually see him, so all the she can do is extend her trunk through the bars of her prison to caress the wee, weeping baby while singing him a lullaby. For me, it's the Disney moment that wields the most emotional power. A real haymaker that just comes in and mercilessly shatters what remains of your broken heart into about a million shards. I wept for all I was worth while watching it. Utterly wrecked me.
 
And do NOT get me started on the murder of crows who befriend Dumbo and Timothy and sing the now-infamous "When I See An Elephant Fly." I wish Richard Pryor or Paul Mooney had commented upon that sequence. Watching it this time, I was shocked by its sudden intrusion of outright minstrel show antics in a tone completely at odds with the rest of the film. I have no illusions about such material in old Hollywood productions, but as seen here it was just odd, and it mars an otherwise excellent (if painfully miserable) classic. (Same goes for "What Made the Red Man Red" in PETER PAN, and that was arguably a better song.)

Poster for the original theatrical release.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

DOCTOR WHO: "THE LEGEND OF THE SEA DEVILS" (2022)


Regarding "The Legend of the Sea Devils," they had me with "pirate Sea Devils in the 19th Century." That said, while the story had its moments, and the improved Sea Devil makeup (with blinking eyes that I believe were CGI) was quite fun, not much was done with the return of this little-utilized threat from DOCTOR WHO's classic era. 
 
Unlike the Daleks and the Cybermen (and to a lesser extent, the Sontarans), the Sea Devils previously were unseen after 1972's "The Sea Devils" and 1984's"Warriors of the Deep" until the latest episode, so they have not had the opportunity to become stale from over-saturation. Therefore, the return of a beloved foe promised a lot, especially with the scenario in which they were resurrected, but we only really got one chief Sea Devil with whom the Doctor and friends interacted, and we did get to see a good number of the chief's crew, but they had no lines. And maybe I blinked, but what became of the Godzilla-sized sea monster that the Sea Devils controlled? I don't recall it being decisively dealt with by the conclusion. And do not get me started on the utter squandering of Madame Ching, a famous historical pirate
 
This story had a lot of potential that would have benefited from making it a two-parter, as there have been many stories in the rebooted series that got the two-part treatment without warranting it. The very idea of the Sea Devils as pirates in a flying pirate ship calls for epic treatment, but this being the BBC, I guess that just wasn't gonna happen. Too bad, really...


Monday, April 18, 2022

RIDING WITH THE LIQUOR MAN

 It's no secret that I know a lot of real characters, and during my nearly two years of being driven to and from the dialysis center, I have met several car service drivers who qualify for their own sitcoms. My favorite of these is a 49-year-old dumpy Russian-Italian Jew who speaks fluent (if heavily accented) English, and it's always a delight to get him for the journey. We chat about what's on our minds in all areas of discussion, and today found him once again lamenting the sorry state of his romantic life. He's told me many times about how his wife ran off and left him to raise their three kids and how he wants a girlfriend more than anything. He'd recently been simping for some much younger woman, and from what he has told me of their interactions it seems as though she's stringing him along for the attention, but he's convinced he can get somewhere with her.  I suggested that he back off and see how she responds to not being the focus of his attentions, and when he did that he had a rude awakening when she basically forgot all about him.

Anyway, today's conversation was about that situation and how frustrated he is, especially since he is a self-proclaimed "pleasure giver." He then launched into what can only be described as a heartfelt and scholarly discussion of the fine art of orally pleasing women, and the detail he went into led me to believe 100% that he knew what he was talking about, him looking like a cave troll notwithstanding. Not being the prettiest of specimens myself, I'm aware that a guy who's not conventionally attractive can get over when he applies himself, but I was in no way prepared for the turn that the conversation took.

After comparing notes on the fine art of "whistling in the wheat field," he turned to me and said "We know each other pretty good, right? Well, check this out..." He then reached up to a compartment on his rearview mirror and pulled out a business card, the business card seen below. 

He handed it to me and claimed that before he married his wife, he met a number of unsatisfied housewives who were aching for sexual release with the aid of a man who knew what he was doing with his tongue and fingers, so he hooked up with some of them and, according to him, they enjoyed his services so much that he was able to parlay his skills into a paying gig. He claimed that these women would recommend him to their friends and would make decent money as a "liquor man" for hire, only giving up his hustle when he married his now-fled wife. He also told me that while he is not in favor of being on the receiving end of ass play, he claims to have once had a housewife who paid him a grand to let her play with his prostate. He said the thousand-dollar fee broke through his inhibitions and while he would not do it again, he said he enjoyed it because her prostate stimulation skills were unexpectedly on point.

Once we reached my building, he told me to keep his card and that he was getting new ones printed up that will have his current contact info. He wanted me to ask if any of the women I know would be up for his services, and these days he's so lonely he'd gladly do it for free.

I swear, you can't make this shit up.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

YET ANOTHER OBSERVATION ON THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956)

Man, slave girl Lilia (Debra Paget) goes through some shit in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956).

First she gets conscripted as a sex slave/flagellation victim by Egyptian master builder Baka, then when he's killed by Moses she ends up as the property/sex slave of scumbag Dathan (Edward G. Robinson) for several years, and finally, once the Jews make their way out of Egypt and she is reunited with her true love, Joshua the stone cutter (John Derek), she is ordered by Dathan to be tied down on the altar of the golden calf as a human sacrifice the minute Moses fucks off up the mountain to receive the titular laws from Gawd and the Jews suddenly throw a wild party/orgy that apparently includes every form of wickedness and perversion known to man. She gets saved from that sorry fate at the last possible second, but the poor girl simply could not catch a break during the movie's 3 hour and 40 minute running time.

ANOTHER OBSERVATION ON THE TEN COMMENDMENTS (1956)

This time around with THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956) finds me paying closer attention to certain plot details. For example: In the scene where the vile Dathan (Edward G. Robinson) has acquired the slave girl Lilia (Debra Paget) as part of a massive and lucrative "thank you" package from soon-to-be pharaoh Rameses (Yul Brynner), and he has her dressed in sexy finery by his house slaves. He orders a purple flower removed from her hair and replaces it with a "more appropriate" white one, a clear symbol letting us know that she is a virgin. Now she is not only very much unwillingly Dathan's property to do with as he pleases, but her compliance to his sexual whims will prevent Joshua the stone cutter (John Derek), from being sent to an horrific life in the copper mines (a promise that is never kept, unbeknownst to her), so she utterly surrenders her dignity and weeps while swearing to Dathan that she will do anything to save her love's life. 

It was always obvious to me what Lilia was being leveraged into, but this was the first time I noted the flower as a virginity signifier. Makes the scene that much more tragic, once one grasps that rather obvious symbol that I somehow missed for over forty years.

AN OBSERVATION ON THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956)


Watching THE TEN COMMANDMENTS from an adult perspective — and a dirty-minded one at that — is a totally different experience than it was when I was a kid. Seeing this sequence again right now, I only just noted that Baka (Vincent Price) had those tethers at the ready in his lounging area when about to whip Joshua the stone cutter (John Derek) to death. Baka was clearly a slimy motherfucker, as evidenced by his conscripting slave girl Lilia (Debra Paget) into unwilling sexual slavery and his statement that he would only keep her "for a little while," then return her to her life of everyday slavery "a bit more worthy." If he had those tethers ready, what the hell kind of scene was he into, and how many previous slave girls (and boys; he seemed like he would be rather fluid) must he have whipped into oblivion?

Friday, April 15, 2022

THE FREEDOMOBILE

9:14am Currently in the car to the dialysis center. 

Got one of my favorite drivers. She’s a Russian who’s fluent in English and has Captain America’s shield on her steering wheel. She’s friendly and doesn’t play the awful Freedom FM radio favored by most of the Russkie drivers. (In case you don’t know, Freedom FM is a local Russian language station that plays stale ‘80’s hits interspersed with awful Russian pop music that stopped evolving somewhere around 1977.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

ON WEATHERING THE HORRORS OF NYC LIVING

While I was ruminating on this morning's subway horrors — a mass shooting on the train, a mere four stations south of the one at the end of my block — several friends contacted me to see if I had been anywhere near the incident and find out if I was safe. (I was bundled up in bed when it all went down.) While responding to one of them, this is what I told her:

The crazy thing about NYC living is that once you have been here for as long as I have, it's kind of like being an animal in a jungle. You just go on about your business, fully accepting of the fact that someday, with zero warning, your number may be up. It's kind of like adopting a zen readiness for death, so one has no fear should it come, and one just soldiers on until one can no longer do so. It's kind of freeing, really, and I have that way of thinking deeply ingrained into me after 32 years in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Believe me, it has come in handy many times, most notably on the day of 9/11, which speaks for itself.