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Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Yes, you read it right. Ed Wood's infamous so-called "worst film ever made" is the latest film to join the assembly line of unnecessary remakes churned out by a creatively bankrupt film industry. I love me some piss-poor movies and PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE is one of my all-time favorites, containing more unintentional hilarity than most legitimate comedies as well as being the source of many iconic images found in the cheesy film pantheon. Tor Johnson, Vampira, Bela Lugosi, and the director's wife's chiropractor, along with those charming pie-plate-on-fishing -wire flying saucers all added up to jaw-droppingly inept fun, so why bother to remake a film that in every way is simultaneously terrible and a landmark? Unless it's totally rewritten, there's just no way to make this material viable. I is re-gusted, as they used to say on AMOS 'N' ANDY.

Friday, May 23, 2008


This awesome image is French illustrator Stephane Roux's cover for BIRDS OF PREY #118, featuring a definitive image of my favorite fairly new DCU character, Black Alice .

Created by Gail Simone — whom I must get around to interviewing one of these days — and first seen in BIRDS OF PREY #75 (January 2005), Alice is the bad news Goth chick writ large and sporting some serious mystical mojo. Now that Tony "Tailenders" Bedard is back to scripting BOP he'd better keep giving me regular dose of Alice; just this morning I put out a request to suggest to the powers that be at DC that Alice be given her own book, or mini-series at least, since magic-users (or borrowers, in this instance) in the DCU pretty much suck to read about, and her medicated teen angst makes for a fun contrast to Zatanna (only other DC mage nearly always worth reading about, even when she's betrayed by sub-par artists). If you aren't familiar with Black Alice, I urge you to give her a chance (and check out Tony's writing on BOP. Fun stuff!)

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Let's face it. Porn has existed in some form or another since the second humans — particularly male humans — climbed down from the trees, and while the human body is certainly a beautiful thing much of the imagery found in stroke material looks awkwardly posed and completely ridiculous, and can be unintentionally humorous depending on the image. That theory has been applied to other totally innocuous material for who knows how long, best exemplified by graffiti that adds huge, hairy-nutted spurting cocks to innocent billboards, posters and subway adverts, and countless other examples of rendering stuff meant for public consumption gleefully filthy (I probably owe the educational system of Connecticut a fortune to replace the dozens of school texts I rendered completely obscene between 1977 and 1983 in an effort to alleviate in-class boredom). A prime example of such merry smutting-up is this once-elegant poster promoting the arts :

This poster went up in my subway station just yesterday, and in less than twenty-four hours the dancer had been augmented with a crudely-drawn, Tom-of-Finland-enormous schvanztucker.

But now there's a new and downright hilarious twist on this favorite form of self-expression, and that's the brilliant art of "Ex-Porn," namely taking utterly pornographic photos and drawing over them, adding cartoony details that obscure the dripping genitalia and literally in-your-face sex acts, turning sheer filth into pictures suitable for inclusion in children's books. Case in point, this depiction of a cowboy and his Injun pals:

There's nothing naughty going on here; it's just a cowboy awaiting a hit off that peace pipe, while a brave lights a fire to keep everybody warm.

I won't spoil any of the rest of it for you, so just go to the site and witness the hilarity for yourself. And if you find this stuff as amusing as I do, be sure to leave comments so this genius will produce more. I think it'd make for a terrific coffee table book!


Last night I was chatting with a friend who's deep in the mires of grad school final exams and term papers and while describing the pressure of cramming for tests and composing essays on various subjects, she mentioned that she had to write a piece on a movie or a pop album that she was unfamiliar with and that the work she chose was Frank Zappa's "Apostrophe" album. Considering that she's a self-professed Zappa fan I was shocked to discover she'd never heard that particular album, one of the artist's most popular offerings. I mean, the lady got drunk all night with me on cheap tequila as I played hours of Zappa albums when I found out he'd died back in December of 1993, so how was it possible she'd missed "Apostrophe?"

Before I go any further I'd like to state that much of Zappa's body of work is among my favorite music and I devoured his recordings from the time I was thirteen through my fourth year of college, initially appreciating his ever-so-filthy and absurd lyrics and song-stories and later looking past the dirty stuff to pay attention to the intricate compositions and fine musicianship from Zappa himself and a legion of exceptional collaborators (where are you now, Ruth Underwood?). So when I speak about the ins and outs of Zappa albums, I have a pretty good grasp on the subject. No casual observer, me.

Anyway, once I got over my initial state of shock at such a major lapse in her Zappafication, even taking into account the guy's enormous catalog — fifty-seven albums released between 1966 and 1993, and that's excluding the many posthumous releases — , I offered to relieve some of her workload by writing her paper for her, but she politely declined and instead asked me to jot down some notes by way of something to get her started, as well as handing her a copy of the CD. So as I wrote the requested notes I found myself with enough material for a Vault post, and now that I've finally tackled one of the major Zappa LP's, I intend to cover as many as possible in the future. Thank Zoad I'm my own boss on this site and have no real deadlines! And with that, on to the review.

Side One

1. “Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow" – 2:07
2. “Nanook Rubs It” – 4:38
3. “St. Alfonzo’s Pancake Breakfast” – 1:50
4. “Father O’Blivion” – 2:18
5. “Cosmik Debris” – 4:14

Side Two

1. “Excentrifugal Forz” – 1:33
2. “Apostrophe” – 5:50
3. “Uncle Remus” – 2:44
4. “Stink-Foot” – 6:33

Following hot on the heels of the previous year’s “Over-Nite Sensation,” “Apostrophe” is a favorite among Zappa enthusiasts thanks to being a concise showcase of all the qualities that make for the total package of the Zappa experience, namely strong and intriguing compositions and musicianship that form a hypnotic blend of jazz and rock, along with comedic, silly narratives and lyrics (with the ribald material kept to a surprising minimum this time out), delivered in a half-hour helping. The brevity of “Apostrophe” also renders the material much more accessible to the casual listener, allowing the loony narratives and cartoon voices to work in perfect confluence with the music, largely eschewing the lengthy and sometimes self-indulgent instrumentals on other Zappa offerings that only hardcore Zappa fans and musicianship scholars (both armchair and professional) are willing or capable of sitting through. And you can play this one for your kids and not have to worry over them asking embarrassing questions about what a “pre-moistened dumper” is or why it was significant that “daddy got a stinky finger in those days of long-ago,” to say nothing of them learning how to sing “Fuck me, you ugly son of a bitch” and “Stick out your hot, curly weenie” in German. (However, if you do want your kids to learn and ponder such mysteries I suggest you direct them toward the later Zappa albums “Sheik Yerbouti” and “Joe’s Garage, Act II.”)

Side One opens with four tracks — collectively known as the “Yellow Snow Suite” — that flow from one into another and tell the combined stories of Zappa’s dreamscape adventures as an Eskimo named Nanook, locked in vicious mortal combat with a fur trapper who assaults baby seals (“with a lead-filled snowshoe”), and the injured fur trapper somehow stumbling to the parish of one St. Alfonzo (whoever the hell he may be). Upon reaching this holy establishment, the fur trapper is suddenly forgotten in favor of Father Vivian O’Blivion’s lively preparation of pancakes for his congregation while simultaneously coming up with a new dance craze (“The Funky Alfonzo”) and pondering the previous night’s masturbatory tryst between a Leprechaun and a sock. Let me tell you, it’d all make for one hell of a bizarre animated short! The remaining track on this side is the soulful “Cosmik Debris,” in which Zappa’s character encounters a spiritual charlatan, “the Mystery Man,” who promises to help him reach Nirvana “for a nominal service charge.” Zappa’s character sees through the con-artist’s bullshit and reveals his own mystical abilities, easily hypnotizing the guy before stealing the Mystery Man’s rings and pocket watch. Hey, man, one good ripoff deserves another.

Side Two opens with “Excentrifugal Forz,” a mercifully brief (though good) example of the extended guitar masturbation that would become commonplace and cause portions of later Zappa albums to drag. That track is followed by the funky/trippy “Apostrophe,” a terrific instrumental piece that packs a mesmerizing groove and sounds a hell of a lot like what Funkadelic was up to back then (I actually burned myself a CD of nothing but "Apostrophe" on repeat and I someday hope to find a woman who is amenable to letting me eat her pussy throughout its running time; it's a long disc, so she may be unconscious when it's over). Up next is the mordantly hilarious “Uncle Remus,” told from the point of view of a black guy who’s pissed off about the economic disparity and racial tensions between blacks and whites, including comments on how it sucks to be sprayed with a hose during the winter and a description of his pre-dawn acts of vandalism such as driving to Beverly Hills to “knock the little jockeys off the rich people’s lawns.” The album’s closing track, “Stinkfoot,” returns to the dreamish territory of the opening track, in essence bringing things neatly to a full circle conclusion, and fills the listener in on the horrors of Bromadrosis, aka smelly feet. That bit of educational narrative segues into a noodly guitar bit eventually interrupted by the narrator’s dog, Fido, telling his owner “Once upon a time, somebody say to me, ‘What is your conceptual continuity?’” Once Fido voices his conclusion that “the crux of the biscuit is the apostrophe,” the philosophical (?) debate degenerates into the dog-owner’s litany of denial at the dog’s theory before the album fades out, leaving satisfied listeners scratching their heads and asking “What the fuck was that supposed to mean?”

Clocking in at just over thirty-one minutes in length, “Apostrophe” is a stone hoot from start to finish and absolutely counts as one of the essential Zappa works. Hell, I put it in my Top Five, nestled somewhere among “Over-Nite Sensation” (1973), “Sheik Yerbouti” and “Joe’s Garage: Acts I, II, and III” (both 1979), and the criminally-underrated “Thing-Fish” (1984).


The second of the post-network FUTURAMA features arrives on June 24th, and I can't wait to see it. I know it's not for all tastes, but it's definitely my favorite of the FOX-spawned animated stuff and any new installments are as welcome as a nude Monica Belucci with a couple of six packs and a Godzilla movie. There's an early review of THE BEAST WITH A BILLION BACKS here and it sounds pretty good, so mark your calendar and get ready for another excursion into sci-fi insanity with the Planet Express crew. And I'll go out on a limb and say it: of the sci-fi comedies that have surfaced over the decades, FUTURAMA is by far the best of the lot, leaving even the vaunted RED DWARF parsecs behind. And as for this new movie, the use of the classic cheesy, 1950's-style horny, bodice-ripping alien on the box art bodes well for sheer ridiculousness. Plus, the art's really good in a pinup kind of way.

I can't wait!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


After nineteen years Indiana Jones is set to return and show ‘em what a real movie hero is all about, but I’m curiously ambivalent about the whole thing. To be one hundred percent honest, I lost interest in the franchise some nineteen years ago after the last installment and this time around I’m only going to see it solely for purposes of reviewing it here and sharing a night at the movies with a pack of my friends. (Most of the group committed to going on opening night are toothsome women who have made it clear they don’t care of the movie turns out to suck and are there solely to gaze up at Harrison Ford’s surly ass.)

The impending release of INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL METH, er, SKULL has gotten me to thinking about the three previous installments and their various merits (or lack thereof) and just why the character of Indiana Jones, a throwback to much earlier matinee fare, continues to endure in the hearts and minds of moviegoers, so I figure I’ll start with my own assessment of the character of Dr. Jones himself and then weigh in on the individual films.

Your history teacher was never this tough.

Indiana Jones is creator George Lucas’ version of the two-fisted heroes who populated the now-dead genre of adventure serials during the 1930’s and 1940’s — I know the genre existed both before and after those decades, but that specific period informed what Lucas was after — and unlike many such characters he wasn’t a soldier, jungle lord or sports star, instead being an egghead archaeology professor whose scholarly intensity was intriguingly offset by his ability to fight his way through outrageous amounts of danger that would have killed a lesser man. But while Jones can hold his own in a serial-style slugfest, he is by no means a particularly capable fighter like Buster Crabbe’s Flash Gordon or any of the classic-era Tarzans, instead overcoming through being able to take hellacious amounts of punishment, coupled with the never-say-die tenacity of a pit bull while relying on his decent marksmanship and mastery of the bullwhip that would make the most skilled flagellation enthusiast green with envy.

Indy waits for his dealer to fork over some primo buds.

But for me the most appealing aspect about Jones is his status as a scholar who is willing, no, downright determined to preserve the artifacts of the past at any cost, making him something of a two-fisted nerd. What bespectacled geek can’t appreciate that? And with his interest in the ancient world comes a respect for other cultures and their ways that’s refreshing and shows Jones to be a more progressive soul than many men from his time, and that is just cool as shit. But are his cinematic vehicles up to his seemingly limitless potential? Let’s look at them and see:


The film that introduced us to Indiana Jones came from out of nowhere to give the action/adventure genre a serious kick in the ass, having as much impact on films of its type as STAR WARS (1977) did upon space flicks, as well as instantly establishing itself as a landmark in movie history. Taking place in 1936, well before advancements in travel and communications rendered the world more accessible and therefore less “exotic,” RAIDERS follows Jones on a globe-crossing trek to find the lost Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis do, a breakneck mission upon which hangs the fate of the world. Seldom taking time to allow us to catch our breath, the film is an unquestioned tour de force of old school thrills and adventure that delights audiences from all walks of life. Everything about RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK works from start to finish; a script that understands and respects its influences, a successful and delicate balance between the blistering action and a very funny sense of humor, violent content that was surprising for a PG movie, a rousing score from John Williams, a real “sense of wonder” in regard to the Ark and its mystical significance once it comes into active play, memorable and “boo”-worthy bad guys (especially that asshole Belloq), the dogged-yet-weary hero, and Karen Allen’s inestimable contribution as Marion Ravenwood all add up to create movie magic. And let’s not overlook the fact that by the end of the story Jones and Marion have both witnessed absolutely concrete proof of the Judeo-Christian God’s existence, and that’s some pretty heavy shit no matter what era you may be from (plus that religious angle is refreshingly not shoved down our throats). There are very few films I can say this about, but after over twenty-five years of repeated viewings and careful consideration I honestly hold RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK up to be the rarest of the rare: a perfect movie.


Taking place a year before the events in RAIDERS, TEMPLE OF DOOM finds Jones in India, accompanied by a kid sidekick and pitted against the murderous and balls-out evil Thugee cult, a pack of lowdown bastards who seek possession of the sacred and powerful Sankara stones so they can rule the world. But the real heart of Indy’s mission is to rescue the children of a starving village whom the Thuggee have heartlessly enslaved to dig for some of the missing objects of power, a righteous quest if ever there was one. Greeted with scorn by many when released, TEMPLE OF DOOM is my favorite of the three original Indiana Jones movies because it is unrelentingly dark and terrifying, capturing the old school pulp/serial feel much more accurately than its predecessor and giving us a head villain of toxic loathsomeness in the form of the demonic Mola Ram (Amrish Puri).

Mola Ram introduces Harrison Ford to Callista Flockhart.

Some hated the idea of Indy having a kid sidekick but I dug Short Round (Ke Huy Quan) for his spunk that more than made up for his size, and for his nod to the young adventure hero common to the 1930’s/1940’s adventure genre when it was firing on all cylinders; he’s kind of an Asian version of tweener badass Terry Lee from Milton Caniff’s seminal adventure comic strip TERRY AND THE PIRATES , without the existence of which I seriously doubt there would ever have been a RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK in the first place. But the one complaint everyone has about this movie, one that I heartily agree with, is Kate Capshaw as the world-class-irritating Willie Scott, a cabaret headliner who finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time and ends up involved in one of the most horrifying adventures imaginable. Easily the weakest element in the film, Willie — and Capshaw’s performance — can’t help but remind viewers of just how great Marion Ravenwood was and since Willie’s in damned near every scene from start to finish there’s virtually no relief from how truly, godawfully annoying she is. Indy deserved better and so did the audience. But if you can ignore Willie, as I’ve learned to out of necessity, INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM is a terrifically visceral cinematic experience that allows Jones to shine as a hero who faces and utterly decimates the forces of blackest evil after trials that would have tested the hardiest of ancient mythological heroes and sent other men into the depths of barking madness. Also, once more Jones is faced with clear evidence that deities exist, this time around being Shiva and Kali, and that you don’t fuck around with such powers. Moreso than RAIDERS, this was the film that cemented Indiana Jones for me as a hero I could respect.


In 1938 Indy, accompanied by his long-estranged father (Sean Connery), searches for the Holy Grail before the Nazis can get their hands on it and use its power to further their cause (where have we heard that one before?). Though well-constructed — accent on the “constructed” — this is the Indiana Jones film that has earned my outright hatred for a number of reasons and though I have not seen it since it was first released I remember it like it was yesterday because I felt it was an insult to me as a ticket-buying film fan, and my distaste for it has not diminished one iota during all that time. Some say that EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC is the textbook example of just how bad a sequel to a hit movie can be, but I’ll sit through that lysergic head-scratcher many times over before I ever subject myself to this mess again. And why, you may ask, do I reserve such vitriol for THE LAST CRUSADE? Allow me to elucidate:

• The complete waste of Sean Connery in a part that could have been played by Joe Budidowitz. I’m willing to bet that the filmmakers realized the script was a listless dud that needed all the help it could get, so why not pair an old school action icon — the classic 007 no less — with his cinematic descendant and let the audience’s love of Connery lure them in? We don’t give a shit about the elder Jones and Connery pretty much played the part on apathetic autopilot, bringing to mind his lackluster turn as James Bond in the execrable DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1971).
• I was totally insulted by the obvious fact that this film was more or less a remake of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, only with different locations and the excitement surgically removed. The film goes through the motions in an embarrassing display of self-imitation and comes up with bubkes.
• Too much genuinely unfunny comedy.
• It’s established early on that the elder Jones has neglected his son for decades in favor of his obsessive study of the Holy Grail, so when he finally ends up face-to-face with the centuries-old and dying knight who was the keeper of the Grail the elder Jones should have logically taken his place and maintained the Grail for the rest of time, an act that would have satisfyingly wrapped up the character’s arc and seen his purpose fulfilled.

Indy sits in on the SPAMALOT auditions.

But that doesn’t happen, and instead we get the hoary trope of the sacred, ancient place collapsing, sealing away its mysteries for eternity; it’s the equivalent of getting a hot, willing woman into bed, working both her and yourself into an ecstatic lather and then having her suddenly announce she forgot she had to catch a flight to Marakesh, after which she fucks off out of your life, never to be seen again. All that setup for absolutely nothing and you’re left with a boner that has no place to go. When you look at it from that point of view, imagine how Old Man Jones would have felt.

Those are my major complaints about INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE, but it’s that last one that truly sank the film for me. There’s nothing I hate more than when a tale violates its own internal story logic for no good reason and fucks over its audience; this is popcorn cinema, for fuck’s sake, and I expect to be satisfied by its escapist fun, and that ending was about as unsatisfying for me as it could possibly have been.

Which brings us to INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL METH. Thanks to nearly two decades having passed and my strong dislike of the last installment, I can approach the new film with the lowest of expectations, secure in the knowledge that it will have to amount to an intentional act of foisting a steaming turd onto the world’s screens to in any way be as bad as the last one. That sort of gives me hope, but I’m going in stoic and will reserve judgment until later. Check back here on Saturday for the skinny on how it all went down.

And who knows? If KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL METH goes over well enough, maybe they'll restart the aborted Indiana Jones project, INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF NAMBLA.

Now that would be one hell of a scary adventure!


Bruce Lee is probably breakdancing in his grave at the moment. Break-his-foot-off-in-yo'-ass-dancing, that is.

It looks like the memory of the late, incomparable Bruce Lee will once again be attached to an ill-advised, totally ludicrous project, and if you ask me this one looks even more idiotic that either BRUCE LEE FIGHTS BACK FROM THE GRAVE (1976)

or THE CLONES OF BRUCE LEE (1977), both of which exist and suck like your grandpa during Fleet Week.

No, this isn't a Photoshop gag.

As if there wasn’t already enough proof that the entertainment industry has officially run out of ideas, now comes word that a Bruce Lee musical is the works, and I have to ask just who the audience is for such a production? There’s a great disparity between the audience that reveres the Dragon and the crowd that hankers for show tunes, and I completely fail to see how anyone could successfully integrate ass-whuppin’ and music hall foofery. I’d love to see a musical in which a young Bruce Lee tries to make it on Broadway and kicks the motherfucking piss out of showbiz rivals, unscrupulous producers, and the cast of CATS (simply on general principle), leading to a showstopping number in which Bruce kills all of the members of the Sharks and the Jets while mockingly singing “When you’re a corpse, you’re a corpse all the way” in that singular Elmer Fudd voice. I doubt that’s what would make it to the stage, but I’d definitely pay the exorbitant ticket price to see it. (Note to the producers: if you read this and decide to ripoff my concept, at least have the decency to hook a brutha up with some comp tickets, preferably orchestra center.)

Yet while a Bruce Lee musical sounds like it would lick major balls, there’s no guarantee this travesty will make it to the Great White Way. Just look at the announced-but-never-launched musicals about Batman and Captain America and the way those fizzled out like a bad fart and pray the same happens to this bullshit.

From the Associated Press:

May 21, 2008 -- Does legendary martial-arts man Bruce Lee have a future on Broadway? It appears so, with the announcement yesterday by Elephant Eye Theatrical of "Bruce Lee: Journey to the West," a new musical slated for New York sometime during the 2010-11 season.

There's been no casting yet for the role of Lee, who died in 1973 at the age of 32, but the show will be directed by Bartlett Sher, who is winning acclaim this season for his direction of the Lincoln Center Theater revival of "South Pacific." "Bruce Lee: Journey to the West" will have a book by David Henry Hwang, author of "M. Butterfly" and a score by David Yazbeck, who wrote the music and lyrics for "The Full Monty" and "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels." The choreography will be by Dou Dou Huang, artistic director of the Shanghai Song and Dance Ensemble.

Besides martial arts, the musical will feature Chinese opera and pop music as it traces Lee's
journey to film stardom.


Here we go again. I just received this in my inbox:

Hello Dear,
I am Stella Sigcau, Am a citizen of Sierra-Leon but, was brought up in

My Father was a gold merchant and a farmer, he was killed by president
Robert Mugabe because of his suoport to the rival party. He left some
amount of money ($85,000,000.00 Eighty Five Million United States Dollars)
as an inheritance for me in an escrow account, in a bank in Monaco.

I want to know if you can assist me invest the funds. As soon as i
receive your acceptance, i will send you my birth certificate and my
international passport by attachment and thereafter, A change of ownership
will be done in your favour, for you to have total control of the funds
whereby, the fiduciary agent to the bank will contact you for more update
on how this funds can be able to transfer to your account.

Further details relating to this will be communicated to you immediately I
hear from you.Remember to include your complete contact, Direct Phone
Line, phone/fax numbers for an easy and confidential communication. Please
contact me on my privcate email address,


Stella Sigcau

Monday, May 19, 2008


Poster from the original theatrical release.

"What's that screaming? A good many dramatic situations begin with screaming..."

The death of
John Phillip Law last week, as well as ominous reports of a remake being in the works, got me to thinking about BARBARELLA for the first time in quite a while, and those thoughts were very pleasant indeed.

Back in the days when VCRs were not common to just about every household and DVD didn’t even exist, it wasn’t so easy to see certain cult films unless you were lucky enough to have a movie theater near you that ran such fare on a regular basis, and luckily for me I lived a town over from Norwalk, Connecticut’s legendary Sono Cinema, “Sono” being short for “South Norwalk”). Many a night of my high school and college years were spent in the dark there, experiencing classic and not-so-classic motion pictures on a dinky screen in a smallish setting that brought to mind the intimacy of a homemade, basement screening room, each celluloid treasure accented with often hilarious commentary from the audience and the inevitable contact high achieved from the simple act of breathing the theater's atmosphere.
More often than not, the films were run as double or triple features, usually in genre groupings of horror films, rockumentaries — there was a particularly amusing evening featuring THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME that’s great fodder for a post of its own —, and sci-fi flicks, and the oft-run sci-fi sets were guaranteed to feature at least one of the following films: THE ROAD WARRIOR, A BOY AND HIS DOG, DEATH RACE 2000, and BARBARELLA, each with a loyal following that guaranteed a sizable crowd. Being a regular attendee of these shows I saw all of those films several times, but these days the only one I keep going back to when I need a “feel good” movie is BARBARELLA.

Barbarella, as seen in the 1962 source comics; unfortunately, her romp with Diktor the robot doesn't make the transition to the movie.

One of the weirdest variations on Joseph Campbell’s heroic journey template and based on a 1962 French comic book by Jean-Claude Forest, the 1968 adaptation of BARBARELLA is very much a product of its time, being a campy and lysergic live-action cartoon, a WIZARD OF OZ-style quest story for grownups that revels in the “free love” ethos of the late 1960’s.

Jane Fonda as Barbarella: ready and waiting for her next close encounter.

A thirty-year-old and painfully hot Jane Fonda stars as Barbarella, a more-or-less space-cop of the year 40,000, on assignment to locate missing scientist Durand Durand (pronounced “Duran Duran,” and yes, it’s where the ‘80’s pop group got their name) on the mysterious and balls-out bizarre planet Lythion, but after crash-landing her cheesy-looking birdhouse/party balloon spaceship on the strange world our heroine finds herself bounced from one crazy and perilous situation to another, running afoul of homicidal children, hollow soldiers made from leather, and a lesbian/dominatrix queen of a city that makes Mos Eisley seem wholesome in comparison.

Barbarella lost in Sogo, one of the sleaziest cities in sci-fi history.

Along the way she also discovers the joys of flesh-to-flesh sexual encounters, a form of contact lost centuries ago in favor of palm-to-palm transference/psychic melding with the aid of pills, and Barbarella takes to Osh-Osh like a duck to water, eagerly jumping at every chance to get her hump on with various available males.

Barbarella makes a new friend.

It’s the sex angle that really earned BARBARELLA its place in film history and in the hearts of moviegoers everywhere, but don’t think for a second that it’s pornographic or prurient in any way; Barbarella herself is a capable woman who happens to be an innocent whose elation upon her sexual awakening is a joyous thing that she’s happy to share as often as possible, and there’s something charmingly sweet about that. She’s definitely a male fantasy of a kindly and beautiful sex goddess, pure of soul and utterly unashamed of her frequent states of nudity and partial undress, rounded with a goofily cartoonish, wide-eyed quality that’s positively endearing, and I honestly can’t think of anyone other than Jane Fonda who could have made her work. People tend to make note of Fonda’s more serious work, but when she’s given a solid comedic role she always makes to most of it — even in the horrendous MONSTER-IN-LAW — and she’s seldom been funnier than in her played-totally-straight turn as Barbarella. But while there’s skin on display, there are no “pickle and donut” shots, making for one of the most sexuality-friendly films ever made. One never feels there’s “dirty” intent in the film — even though some overly-sensitive and PC souls might find the film a bit exploitative — but the fact that it’s Jane Fonda in the part, and clearly in on the joke, elevates the material above its Euro-nudie brethren. Sexy? Hell, yeah! Dirty? I've seen dirtier episodes of TWO AND A HALF MEN, and that show follows nearly forty years after BARBARELLA.

A disappointed Barbarella, just after burning out a torture device designed to kill its victims via orgasms. No, seriously.

The film’s attitude is tongue-in-cheek from the first frame to the last, with not a trace of seriousness in its head, coming off as a slightly risqué parody of the Buster Crabbe FLASH GORDON serials, and its sweet-faced, fun-filled vibe brings a smile to my face every time I see it. I enjoy all of the characters, and the movie is chock-a-block with memorable sequences featuring wild costumes and strange sets, kind of like the insane, knockabout LOST IN SPACE television series if it had somewhat of a budget and weren’t geared toward the kiddies, but had been crafted specifically for hippie stoners instead of merely being enjoyed by them. I mean, check out these images from Barbarella's dreamy-eyed zero-G striptease as the animated opening credits join her in her floating undulations (click on the images to enlarge):

BARBARELLA could almost be described as an underground comic book brought to life, only thankfully minus the off-putting misogynistic rape and violence found in many such works, and director Roger Vadim should be congratulated for making what could easily have been a complete mess work as well as it does, with the contributions of Fonda — whom he married during shooting — being impossible to overestimate. It’s by no means a “great” film, but it’s definitely worth checking out at least once and as anyone who’s seen it can tell you, it has a way of ensnaring you again and again if it turns up on cable. It’s a film that radiates positive feelings, and I’ll take as much of that as I can get.

Poster from the post-STAR WARS re-release, painted by famed fantasy illustrator Boris Vallejo. Question: why is Pygar the angel, the guy in the diaper with a gun, depicted without his wings?

The film was even re-released during the sci-fi craze brought on by STAR WARS (1977), with the stupid poster and promo title of BARBARELLA: QUEEN OF THE GALAXY (which is sadly how it's been known ever since), and re-rated from an R to a PG despite no trimming of its blessed nudity, and I wonder what it would get if reissued today; PG-13 movies have allowed for a certain amount of gore and violence, but that rating is rather stingy when it comes to skin, once more bolstering the idiotic theory that it's okay for the youth of this country to see scads of carnage and harm, but not tasteful depictions of sexuality. I say it's all a matter of context; I wouldn't want my kids to see porno because, with rare exceptions, it's not about a loving, sharing experience between individuals and focuses on closeups of genitalia that John Waters famously likened to "footage of open-heart surgery," but I wouldn't have a problem with them seeing BARBARELLA, especially provided that I was there to responsibly answer any questions they may have (I'd say it's most suitable for anyone ten and up, but that's just my opinion). And as for the announced remake, I'm very curious to see how a story like Barbarella's will be retooled to be acceptable in contemporary America's hypocritically sex-negative climate, especially when she'll most likely be played by one of those nauseating, under-nourished, factory-issued "starlets" with zero talent that currently infest the screen. Mark my words, even with the reported involvement of Robert (PLANET TERROR) Rodriguez at the helm, I have no faith in it; we're sadly past the peace-and-love sentiment of the sixties, much of it killed by post-Viet Nam-era cynicism and the rise of AIDS, so I don't see how a BARBARELLA remake can possibly work work now. Thank Zoad that the original's still out there.

Oh, and here's a bonus for you fellow Barbarella die-hards out there:

From the 1977 graphic novel BARBARELLA AND THE MOON CHILD, Barb and her son, Little Foxy. Hey, with all the "sharing" Barbarella got up to, a kid was inevitable.

And two designs by Jean-Claude Forest from the proposed 1980's Nelvana animated series that never got off the ground:


Before I do my usual intro/back info bit, I'll cut right to the chase: SHARK ATTACK 3: MEGALODON is an unmitigated piece of shit, but what a glorious turd it is. I went into this one having stumbled across a clip from it on YouTube, and if ever there was a clip that sold me on a movie, it was this one:

Wasn't that exactly what one wants to see in a shark movie?

I'm a lifelong lover of sharks (especially Great White sharks), creatures whose forms are about as perfectly suited to what they do as is possible for any living being, those activities including swimming, eating, and making little sharks (to paraphrase Hooper). You enter into their territory and you may end up a case of "today, a robust scuba diver; tomorrow, shark shit," and there's no malice intended; you just happened to be within reach and of a size to fit into the shark's gaping, razor-toothed maw, and dem's da breaks. Consequently, these ravenous fish have held humans in a state of simultaneous fear and respectful awe, making for ideal MacGuffins in any number of true-life nautical accounts and fictional concoctions, the most famous of which is undoubtedly JAWS (1975), the classic film made from Peter Benchley's bestselling and rather unremarkable novel.

Once JAWS lucratively tapped into the audience's primal fear of the implacable force that lurks beneath the waves, it was a given that there would be a swift succession of sequels and crappy knockoffs, each likely to earn back their makers at least some cash, provided there was lots of onscreen carnage involving screaming idiots who were to fucking stupid to get out of the water. Most of these films brought in the flesh-and-bone-rending violence and gore to audiences with a sub-R rating, meaning lots of shrieking, crimson-clouded water, and the occasional bonus of a rubber leg or head slowly sinking to the ocean floor, but this was all driven home quite effectively through sound effects and editing, along with our innate identification with the characters — read generic "shark fodder" — getting sloppily devoured. But no matter the level of gore, the shark attack genre keeps occasionally resurfacing some thirty-three years after JAW set the standard, but its progeny have mostly chosen to ignore anything resembling quality filmmaking and have turned the shark into a straight-up sea monster out to eat people while acting as some sort of deep sea understudy to the Grim Reaper. Which (finally) brings me to SHARK ATTACK 3: MEGALODON, in which the shark is not just a monster, but a balls-out, "Holy motherfucking shit, that thing is big" giant monster; not IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA huge, mind you, but big enough to count.

IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA (1955): the biggest goddamned tentacled wiggly ever to terrorize San Francisco.

If you've seen JAWS you already know the basic story: a big-assed shark menaces a beach resort that's kept open by a corrupt official even after the local authorities and a marine biologist urge him to close it, resulting in a bunch of intrepid worthies setting off to kick its ass while accompanied by a score that's just a note or two shy of outright copyright infringement. That's it really, but this time around it takes place in Mexico, has way more cursing and gratuitous nudity, and there are two sharks, one at a scale comparable to the windup critter in JAWS, and another that's supposedly close to seventy feet in length, both of whom growl. These fish are Megalodons, gargantuan ancestors to the awesome Great White, so by making the monsters in this flick ultra-ginormous the awesomeness factor is increased considerably. Well, in theory anyway, since this production is too cheap to afford much by way of effects, so a good 98% of what we see of the sharks comes from stock Great White footage probably culled from Discovery Channel "Shark Week" outtakes that are slowed down somewhat to convey ponderous size, with the remaining 2% featuring either cheesy puppets or borderline-bogus CGI representations. Fortunately there's a fairly high body count comprised of people we just don't care about, coupled with lots of terrific set pieces that make the most of the sharks' enormity. I mean, what's not to love about a shot like this:

The whole film wallows in being an idiotic, shameless ripoff, and therein lies its charm: it knows exactly what's it's doing, and it simply doesn't give a fuck who notices. The story's a total joke, the performances bite the big one, and you'll sit there smacking your head every five minutes while watching it, but it's an enjoyable time waster that's the cinematic equivalent of a six-piece order of Chicken McNuggets; it ain't necessarily good per se, but it's fun while you're ingesting it.

Oh, and another added bonus is seeing a pre-DOCTOR WHO and TORCHWOOD John Barrowman — Captain Jack Harkness on those shows — as the Roy Scheider stand-in one of the greatest from-out-of-nowhere lines in film history. How his co-star, Jenny McShane — who looks not unlike a white version of the mouth-watering Leila Arcieri — , kept a straight face during that scene is beyond my ability to process.

Bottom line: it's crap, but it's more entertaining than any number if b-g-budget Hollywood blockbusters, so if you're in the mood for something completely ridiculous, TRUST YER BUNCHE!!!


While working at my current nine-to-five job (here at the design 'ho-house) I've been shocked to discover that many of the under-thirties on the staff just don't think the original STAR WARS (1977) was all that big of deal, despite the fact that they eat up much of the subsequent genre offerings like a smorgasbord. They explain this away as STAR WARS having had a huge impact at the time, but it doesn't grab them the way it did my generation because sci-fi spectacles brimming with kickass visuals are now par for the course, rendering their predecessor a sort of "you had to be there at the time" movie experience for them. Thirty-one years ago that concept would have been blasphemous to me, but I guess I can understand it, so for those of you in that camp, please feel free to skip this post. But, for the rest of you...

Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) and some guy.

Chewbacca. Enormous co-pilot of the Millennium Falcon, staunch ally, incomprehensible growler that everyone understood anyway, and "walking carpet," a fun and lovable space alien who has certainly earned his place among the immortal screen characters.  And underneath that mask and furry costume can be found a 7' 3" Englishman with a sweet face and a kind nature, one Peter Mayhew.

Peter Mayhew minus the shag rug: let's face it, kids. This guy rocks.

Happy birthday, dude. You may not have met all of your millions of fans, but you made all of us very happy, and that means something in this turbulent existence. May you live to enjoy many, many more birthdays.

Friday, May 16, 2008


Nobody loves a little good, old-fashioned blasphemy like yer Bunche, and with that in mind I direct you Zlad's uber-stupid and hilariously cheesy "I Am the Anti-Pope," a straight-faced satirical "eff you" to the Papacy. I'm not even going to write about it, instead allowing the excellence to speak for itself.

Zlad flashes the horns.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


1968's BARBARELLA is a one-of-a-kind cinematic confection, namely a borderline skin flick that you could sit your grandma through, and while it's deservedly famed for the in-her-prime mouthwatering lusciousness of Jane Fonda playing the clothing-challenged title character, her sweetly sex-positive space adventuress — or "fully-rated astro-navigatrix" for you nitpickers — was nicely offset by her ethereally kind and laid-back pal, Pygar the blind angel, memorably essayed by Californian bohunk John Phillip Law. In the story Barbarella restores the recently-blinded-by-torture angel's will to fly by using the mighty healing power of pussy, but now Pygar soars no more.

Pygar meets Barbarella, the lucky bastard.

Based on a saucy French graphic novel, BARBARELLA featured lysergic, candy-colored imagery, old school serial-style thrills (think FLASH GORDON with curves), and all manner of naughtiness that got adolescents going in a big way, and Law's quiet, thoughtful performance provided major eye candy for the ladies (and some of the dudes) in the audience.

Pygar in the original BARBARELLA comics.

The same year found Law portraying another European comics character in Mario Bava's sleek and sassy DIABOLIK (aka DANGER: DIABOLIK!), a film apparently influenced by the visual style of the Adam West BATMAN television series, but with far superior art direction and even more outlandish situations thanks to it being geared for an older audience.

Law as the vinyl-clad super-criminal, Diabolik.

DIABOLIK also displayed a strong 007 influence as the film dripped with cool cars, an anti-hero was was too cool for the room, a smokin' hot femme fatale, opulent sets, a bitchin' electric guitar-driven score by the incredible Ennio Morricone, and crazy bits such as Diabolik and his woman getting it on atop a pile of just-stolen cash,

and intentionally suggestive/goofy camera compositions like this one:

Law also played Sinbad in the second Ray Harryhausen Arabian Nights offering, THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1974).

But while it's a good flick that's loaded to the gills with monsters and Caroline Munroe's bronzed twins practically spilling out of her bodice, Law's Sinbad couldn't help but pale in comparison to Kerwin Matthews' performance in the all-time classic of film fantasy THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958). But who cares? It's still a fun movie, so check it out anyway. And, in a bizarre twist of fate, the death of John Phillip Law makes it two Harryhausen Sinbads who have perished in less than a year, the other being the aforementioned Kerwin Matthews. Weird...

And with that, I say rest in peace, Mister Law. You were one cool dude, and you looked suitably kinky in head-to-toe vinyl, or rubber, or whatever the hell your Diabolik getup was made out of.

From the Associated Press:

Actor John Phillip Law, angel in 'Barbarella,' dies at 70

May 15, 4:15 PM (ET)

LOS ANGELES (AP) - John Phillip Law, the strikingly handsome 1960s movie actor who portrayed an angel in the futuristic "Barbarella" and a lovesick Russian seaman in "The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming," has died. He was 70.
Law died Tuesday at his Los Angeles home, his former wife, Shawn Ryan, told the Los Angeles Times. The cause of death was not announced.

With vivid eyes, blond hair and imposing physique, Law was much in demand by filmmakers in the late 1960s and early '70s.
He gained wide notice in 1966 with Alan Arkin, Carl Reiner and Theo Bikel in "The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming," Norman Jewison's Cold War comedy in which a Soviet submarine runs aground off a peaceful New England island town. He played the sweet Russian youth who falls in love with a local American girl in the film, which was nominated for four Oscars including best picture, actor (Arkin) and director.

French director Roger Vadim put Law's looks to good use in his 1968 science fiction film, "Barbarella," which starred Vadim's then-wife, Jane Fonda, as a sexy space traveler in the faraway future. Law wore wings to portray Pygar, a blind angel.
"I've had more kicks out of playing far-out things," Law told the Los Angeles Times in 1966. "It's like putting on a funny face and going out in front of people and going, 'yaaaaaa.'" Messages left Thursday for Fonda's New York publicist were not immediately returned.

Law was World War I ace Baron Manfred von Richtofen in the 1971 "The Red Baron" and Charlton Heston's son in "The Hawaiians," a 1970 sequel to "Hawaii," based on James Michener's sprawling novel "Hawaii."
In Otto Preminger's 1967 film, "Hurry Sundown," he was a war veteran struggling to preserve his farm against a land speculator played by Michael Caine. Fonda played Caine's wife. He continued his career in a variety of U.S. and foreign films and television over the past 30 years, including appearances in "The Young and the Restless" and "Murder, She Wrote."

Law was a California native, born in 1937 to actress Phyllis Sallee, and her husband, a police officer. He told the Los Angeles Times he did some extra work in films as a child. He said he put acting ambitions aside in his teens, but his interest was renewed in a college drama class.
He worked in the theater in New York for a while before breaking into the movies, spending some time in the Repertory Theater of Lincoln Center, whose directors included the great Elia Kazan.