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Thursday, November 24, 2022

HAPPY THANKSGIVING 2022

Some words of holiday advice:

1. You can survive your fucking annoying family. And if they piss you off too much, just remember that one day they will be dead.

2. Don't drink and drive, 'cause that shit's for amateurs and assholes. Stay at home to tie one on; why do you think Thanksgiving's an all-day festival of football, parades, movies, dog shows and marathons of classic TV reruns? It's a dazzling cathode ray cornucopia of stuff to keep the wasted off the streets and at home, puking, fucking and fighting right where they belong.

3. When seeing your old high school pals for what's probably the one time you'll see them all year, do not comment on how fat and/or old they look. That shit goes two ways, bunky...

4. If you must go to church during the holiday, make sure to go as hungover and reeking of booze as possible, that way next year they'll think twice before forcing you out of bed and into a place choked with incense and festooned with pictures of Jesus looking at your ass.

5. If your family gathering has a kiddie table, make sure to sit there and serve as a bad example to the next generation. Tell age-acceptable off-color jokes and stories. Teach the kids the lyrics to "The Diarrhea Song" (especially the version recorded by distaff punk/metal band Betty Blowtorch) and have them sing it loudly halfway through the meal. Introduce them to "pull my finger." In short, do your part to ensure your status as the fave older relative from the start; that way the kids won't feel so awkward in later years when they need somebody to take them to get an abortion or bail them out of jail without their parents being any the wiser. And believe me, they will pay back your "cool relative" kindness somewhere down the line.

6. Always, ALWAYS eat the turkey's tail. It's the perfect amount of dark meat, fat, and skin in one concentrated morsel and if slathered with the right amount of gravy it's a thing of joy forever (well, at least until it's digested and re-manifests itself as the next morning's enormous post-Turkey Day turd).

7. The true bombardment of Christmas-themed TV commercials commences right around Thanksgiving, so feel free to let loose with the Ribald Songbird action and desecrate the classic Yuletide tunes that have already been corrupted for TV adverts, only make them super dirty with usages of words like "cocksucker," "shit," and "pussy fart." Since you're gonna hear them a million times between now and the new year anyway, you may as well have some fun with them.

8. If you have to suffer through the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade — the Thanksgiving moment I dread most — don't try to be an asshole and bring to your aging parents' attention the fact that it's nothing more than a saccharine, three-hour commercial. They like it for the marching bands, big-assed balloons, and celebs lip-synching, and do not give a fuck about it's true purpose, so let them have their fun. And you can always have something to look forward to, namely the hope that the guy playing Santa at the end of the show will either be drunk or have a visible hard-on.

9. If you're staying at your parents' house with a significant other, try to remain as silent as possible if having sex under your folks' roof. I don't know why, but the idea of their kids having sex, even us grownup kids, seriously fucks with the heads of our progenitors. Then again, maybe you should fuck like monkeys on crack while at home...Aah, what the hell? Make 'em remember how it's done! And if they bitch about it, remind them of all the times they nagged you for grandkids and ask them if they forgot where said grandkids come from. That'll shut the geezers up in no time.

10. If the friends and loved ones you miss most can't be there this year, think of them fondly and rest assured that they're probably every bit as miserable as you are.

And with that, Happy Thanksgiving, and may the pecans in grandma's cookies actually be pecans and not roaches. (She doesn't see that well anymore, you know.)

Thursday, November 17, 2022

DEALING WITH LOGISTICS AND THE ONGOING MENTAL STRAIN OF BEING IN THE PERPETUAL DIALYSIS CYCLE

During yesterday's treatment, I approached Linda (the dialysis center's transportation booker) about changing to another car service, as I am fed up with the serially poor showing of the one assigned to me by the center. Perpetual lateness both ways, double and triple pickups to save money, rude drivers or drivers who cannot communicate in English, a driver who had a newspaper in one hand while the other hand was on the wheel as he read the latest Russian news, and of course the "Liquor Man," a driver who's a blathering and delusional sex pervert, all add up to a lousy customer experience (you should see the service's Yelp reviews), with, to be fair, the Liquor Man at least being sincerely friendly. Linda told me to find out what my insurance covers and we could take it from there, so I called my insurance's transportation section. I'm shit out of luck because my insurance only provides a limited number of rides per year, exactly twelve to be precise, while I require six per week, so so much for that. I'm stuck with Masada car service and all of its many drawbacks.

Today's day off from dialysis was marked by taking care of some business via phone. I spent most of the morning on the phone with my insurance company, searching for nearby dental offices that take Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and I have it narrowed down to the dental facilities at NY Langone hospital. Unfortunately all I could get was their answering machine, but I persisted and eventually got through. With my initial questions answered, I now have to suss out when I can go in for a checkup. Probably not until sometime next month.

The rest of today was marked by some minor grocery shopping before I collapsed into light depression sleep. Being trapped in the cycle of dialysis has really been getting me down, as my life is controlled by my treatment schedule, with no deviations allowed, but better this than a slow death.

After the sleeping, I was given inspiration from a woman's account of meeting the god Shiva while on a mushroom trip. She said that her mushroom connection with Shiva allowed her to grasp that anything can be a prison if you allow yourself to be sucked into the negative realities, and that if she just let go maybe she could move forward in a way that she could be happy with. Her words have inspired me to try to strive to let go of the here and now of my situation and just ride through it. It's going to be difficult, but I must do it of simply go mad. Wish me luck.

Lastly, nurse/spirit of benevolence Shaunda has arranged for me to be in on next Friday's first shift so I can leave early for the weekend, as mom is postponing Thanksgiving until I am done with dialysis for the week. (Same for Christmas.) That means I will be up at 4am for a 5am pickup, with treatment starting at 6am. Oh, yay...

Saturday, November 12, 2022

CLERKS III (2022)

Art imitates life.

So, I finally got around to watching CLERKS III (2022), a film that makes it a score of 3 for 3 in the trilogy of CLERKS movies, by which I refer to the continuing streak of quality. The trilogy is now complete, after a sixteen-year gap between installments, and the characters still have not exceeded their sell-by date.

Writer/director/actor Kevin Smith mines his own experiences with having had a heart attack and funnels them to the screen through the eternally assholish Randall (the superb Jeff Anderson), who, upon surviving "the widowmaker," is hit with a creative epiphany that spurs him to write and direct the story of his and Dante's (Brian O'Halloran) experiences as video store and convenience store clerks. It's all an excuse to recreate the making of the first film, but what makes it sing are the emotional beats, of which there are plenty. CLERKS III delivers hear-rending (pun intended) gut punches while also depicting the heart attack ER experiences with 100% accuracy, and I say that with authority because I have been there. No lie, I teared-up several times during the the film, and I intend to watch it again.


The always welcome return of Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith).

Hilariously profane (as expected) and genuinely touching, this brings the humble CLERKS story to a full-circle end, tying everything in the neatest of bows. RECOMMENDED, though you absolutely have to have seen the previous two installments, as it is loaded to the rafters with narrative callbacks featuring situations and characters from CLERKS and CLERKS II.


Poster for the theatrical release.

THE FUN CONTINUES

I just heard back from my gastroenterologist. He told me that my issues with serial hiccuping and vomiting appear to be severe acid reflux, and on a scale of 0 to 4 with 4 being the worst, my reflux is Level 4.

My esophagus is fine, but a feature of my stomach’s entrance is not functioning properly and is not allowing food to pass into my belly. Instead it backs up and is pushed out, and the hiccuping is part of that.

Consequently, I have to go in for a manometry test on Thursday, December 1st, and that will entail a camera being shoved down my throat for a look around in my stomach while I am awake. Not fun, but we’re getting closer to a solution.

Wednesday, November 02, 2022

THE ONGOING FUN OF DIALYSIS AND ITS ATTENDENT CAR SERVICE TRIBULATIONS

Today was pretty much a shitshow across the board.

My car to dialysis is nearly an hour late. I called the dispatcher and they said it was a fuckup on the driver’s part. Another car was sent but no ETA could be given. I finally got picked up at 10:05, and the driver took different route “because traffic,” but we ended up stuck crawling on 3rd Avenue thanks to delivery truck gridlock. I didn't make it to the center until nearly 11, which meant that once I was prepped and the dialyzer was in action, my projected end time was for 2:40pm but it didn't end until nearly 3.

Along with my car being over an hour late for my morning pickup, the center was understaffed to a ridiculous degree. I have no idea why, but there were only four nurses to handle thirty patients, and I fell into the care of a visibly harried Tanya, as Shaunda was absent. She had several others to attend to before me, so my finish time would be close to 3pm. I endured the usual 3 hours and 49 minutes on the machine, and just before it was over I noticed goopy, coagulating blood on the mat below my fistula arm. 

I did not call for assistance as my treatment time was about four minutes from the end, but when she saw the blood, Tanya felt terrible. As she took care of it and cleaned me up, she admitted to half-assing my prep, having forgotten to apply the gauze wadding the goes over the band-aids that comer the needle entry points before binding ahead of the dialyzer starting up. She been so harried by running around from patient to patient, she simply forgot. I told her it was not big deal, but the poor sweetheart was beside herself.

Then, once released, I ended up in the downstair lobby and called the car service to inquire about when my ride home would arrive. I was told ten minutes, but when twenty had elapsed, I called again and was once more told ten minutes. The car ended up being forty minutes late, and I was positioned in the front passenger seat because I yet again got stuck with a triple pickup. Those are always awful, as they take forever because they always take the other passengers deep into Crown Heights of Flatlands and I am always the last to get dropped off, but also, especially when ludicrously late like today, the car ends up encountering the start of rush hour traffic, and god help us if we have to take the highways or any of the major avenues in my area. Needless to say, we were subjected to slow-moving congestion, a state made all the worse by the fact that one of the two passengers behind me was strongly redolent of stale urine.

After dropping off the other passengers in Crown Heights, the driver made his way to my neck of the woods, but the queue of cars waiting to take the exit for Park Slope's 3rd and 4th Avenues was about a half-mile long, so he instead opted to drive to industrial Gowanus and make his way to my area. I'm glad he did because while on the way we passed a building on some street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues called "The Vulcan," and its black entrance was decorated with what to the untrained eye looked like filigree decoration, but I, a geek, immediately recognized it as the Vulcan font from STAR TREK. I have no idea what it said, as I do not read Vulcan or any other fictional language, but now I intend to eventually swing back over there and photograph it so I can use a guide to translate it. It likely just reads "the Vulcan," but I am curious to have a concrete answer...

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

RIDIN' IN THE JESUSMOBILE

In the cab on the way back from this morning's esophageal barium test (to help determine the cause of my serial hiccuping and puking), the driver had the radio set to a Christian station that played some of the most treacly songs I have ever heard. We're talking stylistically arrested in the era of "You Light Up My Life," only the songs are recent.

The song that was playing when I entered the car went on and on about how "God is in the details" and no matter how horrible your life is, he never fails you. Then a deejay came on and said "Did you ever see something and just start talking to God?" He then went on at length about how he owes his mother for his ability to just spontaneously go on about God when faced with something horrific and/or distasteful. But then it was time for a commercial break, so he had to leave, but he promised to read us the letter he recently wrote to God about something he saw at Walmart. My ride home was brief, so I did not get to hear any of his missive. In the cab on the way back from this morning's esophageal barium test (to help determine the cause of my serial hiccuping and puking), the driver had the radio set to a Christian station that played some of the most treacly songs I have ever heard. We're talking stylistically arrested in the era of "You Light Up My Life," only the songs are recent.
 
The song that was playing when I entered the car went on and on about how "God is in the details" and no matter how horrible your life is, he never fails you. Then a deejay came on and said "Did you ever see something and just start talking to God?" He then went on at length about how he owes his mother for his ability to just spontaneously go on about God when faced with something horrific and/or distasteful. But then it was time for a commercial break, so he had to leave, but he promised to read us the letter he recently wrote to God about something he saw at Walmart. My ride home was brief, so I did not get to hear any of his missive. 
 
AS the car pulled up to my building, I thanked the driver, and she responded in a monotone that reminded me of the sound of someone who had been smoking bonghits of quality Indica. Oh, and I was shocked to note that the Christian station was WPLJ, perhaps THE rock station for the Tri-State Area during my youth.

Monday, October 31, 2022

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2022 - Day 31: THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA (1973)

                                                               Taking care of business.

 "The  Satanic Shite of Dracula," more like..

All good things must come to an end, and this film was one of the undeniable harbingers that Hammer's era of glory was well and truly over. As with  the previous entry, gone are the atmospheric Gothic sets and fog-shrouded forests and cobblestone streets, instead swapped out for the modern (translation: cheaper)  England, and with that loss the soul of Hammer bit the  dust.

 

Dracula (Christopher Lee) commands the audience to pull his finger.

For his last turn as Hammer's Dracula, Christopher Lee is given a dire script in which an apparently suicidal Dracula presides over a Satanic cult while seeking to take out humanity via a  super-powerful version of the bubonic plague whipped up by a biochemical  engineer in his  thrall. Peter Cushing's Van Helsing is along for the ride, but at  this point its all a case of too little too late.

A rarity in one of these films: an Asian vampire of the European variety (as opposed to the Chinese jiāngshī, of hopping vampire)

THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA is as lifeless as its titular character and could easily be ignored altogether if not for its historical position as  Lee's final outing in the role that made him an international star. An ignoble fate for the count, but it is what it is.

When you are bereft of ideas, it's time to break out the tiddies.

And wwith that we close out this year's 31 DAYS OF HORROR essays. See you next year and HAPPY HALLOW\WEEN, o my fellow Cine-Miscreants!

Poster for the U.K. release.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2022 - Day 30: ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948)

 

In a nutshell: Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi) wants to give the enslaved Frankenstein's Monster Glenn Strange) a more advanced brain, while Lawrence Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.), aka the Wolf Man, seeks a cure for his curse. Those goals bring the monsters into the path of legendary comedy duo Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, and hijinx ensue.


I gotta be honest. I never much cared for the films of Abbott and Costello, seeing them mostly when they ran on WPIX Channel 11 on Sundays when I was a kid, and I only review it now because I have been repeatedly asked to do so for the past several years, so I'm just getting it over with. In fact, the only cinematic comedy performers who were already antiques by the time I discovered them that I genuinely enjoyed were the Marx Brothers and Danny Kaye, by they are not germane to this essay. A&C always came off to me as something my grandparents might find funny, but I always hated Abbott treating Costello in a manner that today is rightly considered bullying, plus Abbott's characters were always assholes, so what was there to like? Pairing two comedians whom I could not stand with monsters that I adored was a recipe for disaster, but in watching this film again I earnestly hoped that over four decades away from it would give me a fresh perspective.

Do ya see those hijinx?

Nope.

If anything, my resentment of the film has only deepened, as I found little funny about it, and seeing the classic Universal monsters, once legit figures of terror, reduced to laughingstocks was galling to this 57-year-old monster kid. Even with modern horror characters, it's always a sign of over-saturation and a character/franchise being played-out when a horror icon becomes used as a comedic McGuffin or as a punchline, and in the case of this movie, we get three of the all-time greats rendered into stoogery. 

 

The Wolf Man emerges from the bathroom. Just imagine the kind of savage dump a werewolf would take.

It broke my heart to see these former titans of the gothic macabre being depicted as bad sitcom guest stars, with the Wolfman somewhat maintaining his dignity. His crashing through the castle window in pursuit of Dracula, thus possibly ensuring both of their dooms, was tone of the few elements in the film that really felt like something out of a classic Universal monster movie. The rest was a farce that, if I am being honest, has not aged particularly well, but that is okay if you are into that sort of thing. 

 

A brilliant visual gag and easily the funniest moment in the entire film. If you seen the movie, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

However, the honest bottom line is that I am simply not the audience for this film that most others hail as a classic, a classic that I say has not aged well. I'm just glad this was made before the Creature fro the Black Lagoon made his debut, otherwise he too would have been dragged down with his forebears. I recommend this for Universal Monsters completists only. 

Poster for the theatrical release.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2022 -Day 29: THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS (1962)

                                                                   Flower power...NOT. 

A cosmic event in the form of a meteor shower lights up the sky around the world, much to the initial delight of the billions of people who watch it proceed. 

 

"There's beauty up above/That you'd better NOT take notice of..."

Unfortunately, what no one could have predicted was those who watched being permanently struck blind by the spectacle. Consequently, most of the world's population stumbles about blind, with only a handful of lucky people who were either asleep during the event or otherwise prevented from using their eyes. Simultaneous to this catastrophe, previously harmless extraterrestrial plants of the order Triffidus Celestus, commonly referred to as Triffids and found in abundance all over the planet, uprot themselves, having gained the power of mobility, and in no time mindless hordes of the damned things are traipsing all over the place. The Triffids, mindless but legion, wield a deadly poisonous stinger at the end of a whip-like tongue, and their favorite food is man. With most of humanity blind and helpless, the nations of the world find themselves suddenly transformed into a banquet for carnivorous alien plant life that stalks prey not by sight but sound, and the narrative follows the tribulations of a handful of survivors amid the most bizarre of an apocalypse. 

                                                        The face (?) and sting of a Triffid. 

Our main protagonist is Bill Masen (Howard Keel), a merchant naval officer who underwent eye surgery, just before the meteors began to fall, so his bandaged eyes miss the once in a lifetime show, leaving him one of the handful of sighted people in all of England. 

 

After removing his bandages, he is horrified to see the state of the world, but he sets of in hope of finding other sighted individuals. He soon encounters Susan, a pre-teen girl who also has her sight, and he rescues her from being forcibly hauled off by some blind rando who likely seeks to enslave her as his personal human service dog (and possibly worse, if you get my drift). Masen and Susan form an unlikely pair but they are that that the other has, so their relationship becomes one of surrogate father-daughter survivors as they wander Triffid-infested Europe, facing many unspeakable horrors in the form of the killer plants and the utter collapse of human civilization. 

There's also  a B-plot involving a married pair of scientists (Kieron Moore and Janette Scott) wwho are doing research at a remote lighthouse.

Bickering boffins.

Their marriage has clearly seen better days, as the two constantly and viciously bicker while the husband salves his issues with drink. They are suddenly forced to cut their petty bullshit and band together to survive when they find themselves at Ground Zero for a Triffid incursion. Having defeated one of the plants, they set about figuring out how to wipe them out en masse, but they soon find out the hard way that Triffids can regenerate...

Based on the superb 1951 novel by John Wyndham — who also authored the equally excellent THE MIDWICH CUCKOOS (1957), which was adapted into the classic VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (1960) — THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS is technically a science-fiction film, but one of those that straddles the thin line between sci-fi and horror territory, though I consider it to be flat-out horror. It depicts what is basically the end of the world, giving us several set pieces in which utterly bleak hopelessness reigns supreme. As if the man-eating plants and blindness were not bad enough, we get a planeload of passengers who are blinded...as well as the pilots (zero points for guessing how that turns out), 

 

international communications mostly being dead, and, particularly awful, a French chateau that was serving as a safe haven for the blind until it is taken over by escaped convicts who all have their sight. They immediately grab the female occupants and commence a drunken orgy with rape heavily implied. It's bad enough to be sexually assaulted, but to have it happen when blind and defenseless is just... (SHUDDER

 Forced to dance with convicts before the screaming starts...

Fortunately (?) an army of Triffids arrives and soon overruns the place as our heroes escape, taking sighted French lady Christine (Nicole Maurey), along for good measure, thus completing a ragtag family unit of sorts.

The film is not without its flaws — such as the shonky Triffid puppets, but their craptasticness kind of works in their favor and lends them an undefined, otherworldly look and feel — but I have found it a compelling watch since first seeing it during a weekend afternoon screening on Secaucus, New Jersey's WWOR Channel 9, in the days before my mom got us cable. I must have watched it something like ten times, always mulling over the sheer terror of such an apocalyptic event and how human society would simply go straight down the bowl were such a thing to actually happen. That said, the film has been very hard to find on home video in a decent print, often turning up in washed-out transfers, so keep your eyes open for cable movie channels possibly airing it. It's a classic that is absolutely worth your time, and it will likely scare the shit out of the kiddies.

Poster for the U.K. release.

Poster for the U.S. release.

Friday, October 28, 2022

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2022 - Day 28: THE WWOLF MAN (1941)

NOTE: Alas, due to the torturous realities of my apparently endles cycle of dialysis/recovery/repeat getting to me and bringing on a period of depression, I have been unable to concentrate on this year's round of essays as intended. Thus, I have t cheat again with a rerun of an older entry, but at least it's a solid one, arguably the Ground Zero of the werewolf movie as we now know it. Please forgive and bear with me as I soldier back to to normalcy. I promise that the last three of this year's entries will be original essays.

— The Management

"Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and autumn moon is bright." Poor Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) finds this out in no uncertain terms.

There are very few horror films that could be considered as perfect in every way and 1941's THE WOLF MAN can be counted among them. Though the classic Universal horror entries that preceded it are seminal works that defined the genre for a couple of decades, all of them — with the notable exceptions of BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN and WEREWOLF OF LONDON (both from1935) — bore the earmarks of cinema that was only just finding its way after the advent of sound and the demise of the silent era. They tended to possess the feel of stage plays, often featured exaggerated/over-the-top acting and melodrama common to the era, and also suffered from issues of slow pacing (or at least slow when compared to what we're used to from the 1940's onward). THE WOLF MAN benefits from coming a decade after DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN in that it's a more modern and sophisticated piece. Though lacking that dark fairytale quality that flavored its antecedents, THE WOLF MAN more than makes up for that with moody atmosphere to spare, a pervasive air of impending dread, and a terrific and grownup script by Curt Siodmak that brings the audience characters whose actions and motivations are quite realistic, especially when seen within a horror movie context. 

I won't go into the full details  but all one needs to know is that THE WOLF MAN tells the story of a hapless innocent, Lawrence "Larry" Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.), who becomes afflicted with the homicidal curse of lycanthropy and how that condition inevitably leads to his tragic destruction. Siodmak's much-imitated script set in stone many of the werewolf tropes that we now consider the very DNA of the sub-genre, elements such as:
  • A protagonist that we cannot help but like and genuinely care about
  • Ye olde superstitions and pagan magic colliding head-on with disbelief wrought by modern science and psychology
  • Doomed romance
  • The involvement of wise/creepy gypsies (Yeah, I know that "gypsy" is now considered an ethnic slur, but I use it here rather than "Romani" because most folks who know the stock type in stories of this nature may be unfamiliar with the accurate ethnic/cultural designation)
  • Charms to ward off the curse that serve little or no purpose
  • Ill omens that all point to werewolf-related awfulness
  • Silver being the surefire way to kill a werewolf
  • All of the "modern" characters firmly believing that the afflicted's claims of being cursed with werwolfism are indicators of grievous mental illness
  • The protagonist's tragedy being compounded by his death inevitably being facilitated by a loved one

Larry stalks the moors.

THE WOLF MAN is arguably the most influential werewolf film ever made and its impact continues to reverberate some seventy-four years after its debut. Though Jack Pierce's pioneering makeup effects have long since been eclipsed by superior techniques in prosthetic effects, animatronics, and digital wizardry, it says a lot that THE WOLF MAN would still be an effective film if the wolfed-out version of Larry had been achieved with naught but some glued-on barbershop floor sweepings and creative lighting today. The film's true strength lies in its script and soul, so if you have not yet experienced this Rosetta Stone of lycanthropic pop cultural lore, I strongly urge you to see it for yourself as soon as possible. In its sequels, Larry proved to be immortal and THE WOLF MAN itself also endures.

Poster from the original theatrical release.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

REGARDING MOONSHINE, or "When A Meme Bears Absolute Truth"

 

TRUTH. The real shit can strip paint. I have witnesses to a friend of mine taking a deep belt of moonshine, after which he sat for a moment before letting out a wild scream and running off into the pissing rain. He was gone for maybe two hours, during which time he accosted a female friend of mine and stole her apartment keys, and when he came back he was covered from head to to in thick mud.

(UPPER) WEST SIDE STORY 1994

A true story of boy meets girl, they hit it off, boy loses girl:

Sometime during the '90's, probably 1994, when I lived on Manhattan's Upper West Side, I once spent a night at a neighborhood bar that had an excellent jukebox, which I of course programmed with loads of tunes. The cute bartender, whose name is lost from my memory, enjoyed my selections, so I figured I would chat her up. We got on well and had a great time, with her occasionally matching me with a shot. Eventually the extended version of this song came on and, transported by good vibes and good tequila, I serenaded her with it, much to her delight.


What most of you don't know is that when I want to I can sing in a beautiful tenor tone, and even used to sing in mu junior high's chorus, so I can nail a song when so desire.

Anyway, when the record ended, she pulled me down from the bar top (where I pretended to be a swashbuckling romantic pirate while singing to her) and kissed me long and deep. Bear in mind that I had only known this woman for a few hours, so this was gravy on a great night. And it should be noted that the kissing happened in front of her just dropped in brother, and he was quite appalled at the torrid PDA.

At the end of the night I asked if I would see her again if I dropped by, so she wrote down her work days and told me to return. Sadly, when I returned a few nights later, she was not present. When I asked the bartender where she was, I was told that she had been "let go." Alas, I neglected to give her my number, as I did not want to ruin a fun evening by coming on too strong and seeming desperate. Tragic, and she was punk rock Velma cute.

Just another of many crazy bar incidents during my Manhattan years. Looking back on that time now, I realize 29-year-old me would never have predicted the state of himself 28 years in the future. If he had, he just might have cranked his booze 'n' drugs adventuring up to 11. Good thing he never knew...

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2022 - Day 27: DR. JEKYLL AND SISTER HYDE (1971)

 

In Victorian London's Whitechapel section, our story is told in flashback, as Dr. Henry Jekyll (Ralph Bates) commits his recent experiences to paper, by way of explanation and confession before the police come sot take him away. The brilliant doctor seeks an "elixir of life" that will grant greatly extended longevity, if not outright immortality, but he needs fresh female reproductive organs for his experiments. To achieve this ghastly end, he at first employs the services of Byker (Philip Madoc), a shady local morgue worker whose banter with the doctor contains more than a hint of inferences of necrophilia, and who knows the historically infamous "resurrection experts" Burke (Ivor Dean)  and Hare (Tony Calvin), a pair of the scurviest gravedrobbers imaginable. They make their questionable living by supplying recently-interred corpses to medical schools, and now Dr. Jekyll, and, again, Burke's banter with the doctor implies "sepulchral sexy-time." No, Jekyll isn't that fucked-up, but he feverishly works 'round the clock in his apartment's lab for days on end, arousing the interest of an incredibly intrusive neighbor family, a trio of characters like something straight out of a sitcom and led by man-hungry Susan (Susan Brodrick), who has her sights set of the studly Dr. Jekyll.

While fielding constant interruptions and intrusions from Susan, Jekyll somehow manages to make progress with his experiments, successfully extending the life of a fly to over the human equivalent of 200 in human years. But the experiment yielded an unexpected side-effect, specifically that it caused the fly to transform from male to female. With that, Jekyll shifts experimental gears and instead focuses on creating what is in effect a sex change serum, meaning his quest requires ever more reproductive organs from deceased women. His timing is bad, however, as there is a shortage of freshly-dead girls, so, at their suggestion, Burke and Hare simply murder what is needed, and the doctor takes the bits that he requires, leaving everything else for sale to eager medical schools, all with no questions asked. Anyway, while dodging the advances (annoyances) of Susan, Jekyll succeeds in his task, tests the formula on himself, and transforms into toothsome , randy, and evil Martine Beswick, who immediately begins manually exploring her newly-minted tiddies. (In actuality only one tiddy, but I'll take what I can get. 

Sister Hyde (Martine Beswick) checks out her newly-minted bodaciousness.

When the neighbors get wind of a woman in the doctor's apartment and mention that they are curious about her, Jekyll notes that she is his sister, "Mrs. Hyde," a recent widow.

As the corpses of young women begin to pile up, the hunt is soon on for "the Whitechapel Murderer" (translation: "Jack the Ripper"), while simultaneously the activities of Burke and Hare are uncovered and the pair at met with grim fates at the hands of a lynch mob. But more serum is needed to refine the process and hopefully make it more controllable for the user, so Jekyll, getting personally proactive, sets out at night into London's  pea soup fog in search of prey.

                                                 Dr. Jekyll takes matters into his own hands. 

But Jekyll still needs fodder for his deviant delvings and the authorities have a pretty good description of the killer, so Jekyll gets around that by transforming into Hyde and murdering his mentor, the lust-driven Professor Robertson (Gerald Sim), who suspected Jekyll as being the killer, but was thrown off the trail by witnessing a woman leaving Jekyll's abode while observing the residence during a police stakeout, after which he tells Jekyll of his knowledge of her existence, thus ensuring the horny old sod's demise in Hyde's homicidal arms. Then, as Hyde, Jekyll hits the nighttime cobblestones in search of a victim. 

                                             Mrs. Hyde (Martine Beswick) stalks the night.  

But the maniac's identity has been figured out by a blind hurdy-gurdy player who has observed events on the streets with his keen ears throughout the narrative. He is coerced into giving up Jekyll to the police, and in no time Jekyll's home is invaded by cops. Jeky'll escapes, but by this time his control over the transformation is random at best, with Hyde struggling for dominance, but during a perilous escape attempt that finds Jekyll hanging for dear life from a building's sill, he changes into Hyde in front of dozens of witnesses (including Jekyll's nosy neighbors), but, deprived of her masculine half's strength, Hyde loses her grip and perishes upon impact with the street, the corpse being a disturbing fusion of both male and female aspects. And so ends the bloody trail of the Whitechapel Murderer.

Simultaneously, so ends this dull, plodding slog of a film.

I first saw DR. JEKYLL AND SISTER HYDE in edited form at some point in the late 1970's and thought it pretty good at the time. But that was as perceived v=by 11-year-old eyes, so I had no idea that a lot of the film's fat had been excised for commercials. Seeing it uncut at age 57 was a chore, and I could not wait for it to end. I was something like fifteen minutes in when I said aloud "Boy, this movie is BORING!"

Basically the J&H story and kind of a proto-slasher, as it blends Jack the Ripper and Burke and Hare into the mix, this late Hammer entry came during a period when the company's signature red paint blood and risque heaving bosoms were being rendered obsolete thanks to more explicit fare from other international studios, so my guess is it was made as a bid to up their sex & violence ante by way of the then-shocking sexual reassigment angle, only using it as hoped-for titillation, but in actuality very little of any interest is done with it. In that department the film fails utterly, as, despite the presence of her royal fineness Martine Beswick veteran of two classic James Bond films (FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE and THUNDERBALL, to be precise), there is fuck all that's sexy going on here.

The characters, nearly the entire lot of them, are pretty much ciphers about whom it is impossible to care and who just play their roles while offering nothing else, with the notable exception of Gerald Sim's super-horny Professor Robertson. The guy is very clearly shown to be a poon-hound of the highest calibre, and he's a delight whenever she's on screen. At least the film wields considerable visual atmosphere, with a Victorian London of cobblestones, unsavory street people, dark shadows cast by gaslight, bawdy whores, an apparently mad homeless woman who sings to herself throughout the narrative, and pea soup fog, along with the sumptuousness of Jekyll's fancy tenement digs that come complete a full science lab whose aesthetics are at odds with every other set in the movie.

But perhaps the biggest disappointment of the film is that it was written by Brian Clemens, the co-creator/producer/writer of THE AVENGERS — the classic British spy TV series of the 1960's, not the Marvel superheroes — a man who often wrote with great cleverness, frequently with a touch of the surreal and bizarre. Even his weakest AVENGERS script blew this turgid turd straight out of the water. Thankfully, Clemens would redeem himself during his time at Hammer by writing, directing, and co-producing CAPTAIN KRONOS — VAMPIRE HUNTER, which was shot in 1972 but released in 1974. It bore all of the earmarks of Clemens at his best and weirdest, but more on that one some other time (possibly next year).

With all of that said, I am sad to note that DR. JEKYLL AND SISTER HYDE is without doubt the weakest Hammer film that I have seen so far, and I am most of the way through their entire roster. We shall see if anything from Hammer can rank lower in my estimation of their individual efforts. At least the censored version for TV was shorter and moved more briskly, thus, perhaps inadvertently, preventing the TV version from committing the cardinal sin of cinema by boring the viewer.

This film should have been released in today's climate of gender politics. There would be riots in the streets. 

Poster for the U.S. theatrical release.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2022 - Day 25: CURSE OF BIGFOOT (1976)

Dear Vaulties —

Sometimes when working on these 31 annual essays, life gets in the way and I find myself with not as much time to watch old scary movies and teevee shows as I would like, which makes it necessary to cheat by rerunning an entry from the archives, which is what happened with today's entry, but at least you are getting a classic. This one is a rerun of a piece posted seven years back and I'm running it again because I was recently asked if there was a movie that could rival MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE for sheer cinematic incompetence, and I immediately cited this study in torpidity. The piece speaks for itself, so enjoy!

In the glorious days of pre-cable TV wherein one could find any number of local movie shows, cash-strapped regional stations would occasionally fill out their film schedules with bottom-of-the-barrel and most likely public domain flicks that would be broadcast at Jesus o’clock in the morning and be viewed mostly by insomniacs or the heavily self-medicated. These celluloid stink bombs would mostly come and go, being run only once, but every now and then there would be one that stood above the pack and would be remembered for all time as a movie so mind-bendingly terrible that it was literally unbelievable. In the days of my misspent East Coast youth, no film exemplified this misbegotten breed like 1976’s CURSE OF BIGFOOT, a movie that ran with surprising frequency on New York’s WOR-TV (aka Channel 9) and became a minor cult classic to myself and several of my like-minded friends. We first witnessed its anti-spectacle in the late 1970’s and we’ve been devoted to it ever since, it being the first film I ever saw that led me to describe it as being so boring, worthless and bad that it somehow manages to transcend its own awfulness and become a thing of perverse fascination.

It’s probably impossible these days to convey to those who weren’t there for it just how much of the 1970’s seemed like 
everybody was stoned, including the president, and this perceived pot haze clouded pop culture with many strange fads and manias, among which could be counted “weird phenomena” stories of shit like the Bermuda Triangle, U.F.O.’s and other assorted strangeness that became mesmerizing after a few bowls of Indica. But the heavy-hitter of the genre had to be the nation’s fascination with Sasquatch, more commonly known as “Bigfoot,” a shaggy forest-dwelling specimen of cryptozoology who memorably teamed up with the Six-Million Dollar Man. I don’t recall exactly when the Bigfoot craze caught on but I do remember the country being inundated, seemingly overnight, with books, cheapjack horror movies, TV specials and pseudo-documentaries about the hairy bastard, and while I dig the idea of the missing link/nature spirit or whatever the fuck Bigfoot was supposed to be, I must admit that I never really got exactly why the creature was so popular. There was never much by way of concrete proof of its existence, the most famous example of which is the short out-of-focus 1967 film purported to be of an actual Bigfoot crossing a road that looks to me like some Amazonian woman in a rented gorilla costume; I say “woman” because in the famous out-of-focus still shot of Bigfoot taken from the film it looks like Bigfoot’s rockin’ a decent rack.

The alleged real-life Bigfoot from the famous 1967 film. Is it just me, or does it look like Bigfoot's sportin' titties?

But whatever the case, Bigfoot became an indelible part of the Seventies zeitgeist and low-budget filmmakers were only too willing to crank out shitty flicks to cash in on the craze and rook moviegoers out of their hard-earned greenbacks. None of the Bigfoot movies were any good, in fact most of them were downright terrible, but not one of them even begin to approach the nadir of quality that is CURSE OF BIGFOOT, a work that appears to have been cobbled together from a poorly-made and totally-unrelated-to-Bigfoot attempt at a horror film, a scene taking place in a classroom that looks worse than one of the educational flicks they used to run in health class, a staggering amount of seemingly random stock footage and, last but certainly least, what meager footage was available from an apparently unfinished 1958 would-be monster movie entitled TEENAGERS BATTLE THE THING. A true oddity, the film was not inaccurately described on the Internet Movie Database’s “user comments” section with the headline “A Sasquatch could make a better movie,” a sentiment I share after having sat many times, slack-jawed in disbelief, through this sole effort of director Don Fields.

NOTE: as of this point, this review becomes an in-depth examination of CURSE OF BIGFOOT's anti-grandeur, so if you want to see it for yourself and save the threadbare surprises I advise you to stop reading right now and get your hands on the DVD or check it out in chapters on YouTube.

The legs of Bigfoot as seen during the pre-credits sequence. Note the stunning cinematography.

The film opens with a glimpse of the distant past that wouldn’t have passed muster on IT'S ABOUT TIME as a narrator “ominously” fills us in on a strange creature that would kill cavemen for no apparent reason. That creature was known as…(Wait for it!)…Bigfoot!!!



Oh, shit! It's Bigfoot!!!

Suddenly, in what is unquestionably the film’s only almost-exciting moment, a monster meant to be Bigfoot runs face-first and full-tilt into the camera and mauls an unseen caveman to death (unseen save for an arm with crepe hair crudely glued to it, that is), causing chocolate syrup to run down a boulder in a poor substitution for stage blood. The titles then roll and list a cast of non-stars (such as Ken Kleopfer, Ruth Ann Manella, and Bill Simonsen as Dr. Bill Wyman) as the camera for some reason delights our eyes with what appears to be elementary school documentary footage of Native American cliff-dwellings and caves which has squat to do with Bigfoot.

The film then shifts to a nigh-interminable sequence featuring a nighttime scene in which a woman scolds her dog for barking at what she assumes is some wild animal but is in actuality the slowest-moving, most nondescript and bogus-looking monster in recent memory.



Exactly what the fuck is this monster supposed to be? Anybody?

The monster lurks in the bushes or aimlessly shambles along while the camera can’t make up its mind as to whether it wants to show us the monster, the dog, the woman or random shots of the house or the dripping spigot to which one would attach a garden hose. After what feels like a short suspense-free eternity, the monster finally makes it to within arm’s length of the woman and makes his move, but we don’t get to see what happens because the footage abruptly comes to a halt when it’s revealed that we’ve been watching a movie along with a classroom full of teenagers who have themselves been watching the pitiful horror movie; the film has been shut off by the class’ professor who states something to the effect of “Well, I think you all get the idea,” thus simultaneously leaving his students and the audience feeling distinctly gypped.

This teacher’s acting is smarmy to the nth degree and comes off just as vile and unctuous as any seventies-era gameshow host, only minus any shred of charm. Of far more interest (?) is the classroom full of students, comprised of a bunch of young actors whose faces betray the unmistakable look of being both bored and stoned, providing a screen image that in more artful hands would have been intentionally meant to comment on what was likely the mindset being experienced by the viewing audience.



The stoned and bored-looking students: an ironic comment on the audience?

Alas, the film does not give us time to consider such an artistic possibility and instead allows the teacher of what is apparently a myths & legends course to whip out a placard with an illustration of Bigfoot emblazoned upon it and expound upon the existence of the hairy bastard.



"And for those students who speak Ebonics, this here nigga is Bigfoot, muthafukkas!!!"

So begins a veritable Cannes Film Festival of stock footage meant to convey the search for Bigfoot, footage including incongruous shots of assorted radar arrays,

maps and shit,

light aircraft flying at an altitude guaranteed not to allow a clear look at anything other than miles of tree cover, let alone a Sasquatch,

and copious footage depicting the logging industry.



I shit you not; the fucking logging industry!!!

To further drive home his point — nebulous though it may be — the professor then regales us with the "true encounter" had by two gurk-gurks out driving aimlessly through the backwoods. After about three solid minutes of shots of their truck slooooooowly meandering over small hills and around trees, the yokels spot...Bigfoot!

The Hairy One casually saunters across the road and vanishes into the brush, causing the stunned (stoned?) drivers (about whom we know absolutely nothing) to stop the truck and get out to investigate. The pair consists of a dude who looks like a long-lost member of SCTV's MacKenzie Brothers

and a mulleted wonder who's pretty much the living embodiment of the mid-1970's burnout who hung around shopping malls, parking lots and fast food joints looking to score some weed or underage pussy.

The mid-1970's burnout, far removed from his natural habitat of shopping malls and parking lots.

These two veeeeeeeery sloooooooowly search the brush for any sign of Bigfoot, traipsing through brambles, random branches and such, wasting nearly ten suspense-free minutes during which time we get a brief glimpse of the monster's right foot that stiffly twitches.



The right foot of...Bigfoot!!!

Sadly, our intrepid explorers don't get to see that horrifying sight and instead continue to wander about aimlessly. Finally the burnout hears the sounds of his pal being horribly mauled — which is conveniently not depicted for the edification or entertainment of the audience — and runs to his friend's aid, but too late: the lost MacKenzie lays dead and the burnout reacts with less emotion than he would have expressed if he'd spilled his bong in the rear of his bitchin' customized van.


The lost Mackenzie Brother lays dead, viciously mauled by a rapacious Bigfoot...


...while his burnout pal reacts with a depth of emotion that fairly screams "Bummer, dude."

That sub-IN SEARCH OF re-enactment goes on for so long that you'll swear you'd felt your facial hair grow, an effect compounded by whatever intoxicants may be running rampant through your system. Which reminds me that I neglected to mention that CURSE OF BIGFOOT should not be attempted without beers, hard liquor or copious amounts of weed within easy reach.

Before we're given a chance to regain our composure following that exercise in flesh-crawling horror/boredom, class resumes with the bored/stoned students identifying old woodcuts of mythic beasts while turning in performances that would have embarrassed the cast of Mrs. Gage's fifth grade production of WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? But then things take a turn for the worse when the professor's special guest shows up, a creepy bespectacled guy who claims to have firsthand experience with a vicious Bigfoot, an event from some fifteen years previous.

"Kids, I had an encounter in the woods with Bigfoot, and...Hey! Stop laughing! This shit's serious!!!"

Following what's supposed to be an ominous lead-in (that isn't the least bit ominous) to the tale he's about to tell, the movie suddenly turns into footage from an unreleased no-budget horror flick from the 1950's, TEENAGERS BATTLE THE THE THING (1958). Complete with obviously different film stock and another opening narration, it's a jarring effect that not only makes the viewer think they've downed some off-date Piel's but also leads one to conclude they've been trapped in a cruel cinematic Moebius strip that will randomly re-start the film over and over again for all of eternity, with each new beginning helmed by a completely new director.

Of far less interest than the patchwork incoherence/boredom festival/endurance test of the film's earlier segments, the 1950's mini-movie is merely a deadly-dull account of a teacher and his students discovering a mummified Bigfoot in a hillside cave and what happens when said critter gets loose. There's a little bit of dimestore mayhem before Bigfoot meets an untimely and uninteresting death by immolation, but before we're finally granted the mercy of the familiar words "The End" we're forced to endure scene after scene of some boring Eisenhower-era white folks wandering around some nondescript hills for what you'd swear was the entire running time of the U.S. version of BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ.



Can your heart stand the excitement?

Even when the monster goes on the rampage, not one single thing of interest happens, and when "The End" does finally pop up the film just abruptly comes to a complete halt. No cutting back to the anguished Bigfoot massacre survivor, no summing up from the professor, no comments from the class, no twist ending, no anything. The shit just ends and the viewer is left to sit in silence for a few moments, reeling from the cumulative boredom and confusion, but thankful that they didn't spend the cash to see it in the theater. Yes, you read that right: CURSE OF BIGFOOT was apparently actually released onto the big screen, probably to the drive-in circuit, a wasteland where the attendees were more often than not too concerned with getting stoned or fucking to care if the movie being shown was the cinematic equivalent to an empty McDonald's Big Mac container.

But believe me when I say I'd have loved to have seen this monument to how 
not to make a movie if it had played theatrically in Fairfield County during my youth. Films of this ilk are best enjoyed with an unwitting audience of liquored-up grindhouse regulars who enliven such flicks with their non-stop barrage of often vulgar commentary and impromptu insinuation of themselves into the movie's events with observations such as "If I was in this movie I'd've kicked that muthafukkin' Bigfoot muthafukka right in the fuckin' nuts!" which would probably have been answered back with "You wouldn'ta done shit 'cuz Bigfoot would be too busy bonin' you up the ass!" We may not have seen it projected, but my friends and I had a field day with CURSE OF BIGFOOT whenever it aired on Channel 9, and just the other night myself and my friend of twenty-six years, Chris, sat through it yet again and laughed ourselves silly. There are those who slag off Ed Wood and his films as being the worst ever made, but at least Wood had a unique vision all his own and legitimate desire to make viable movies; CURSE OF BIGFOOT appears to have been cobbled together from spare parts with naught on its mind save ripping-off the moviegoing public, and it certainly succeeds at that dubious goal, and what entertainment can be garnered from its towering ineptness was almost certainly not intentional.

Bottom line: CURSE OF BIGFOOT is exactly the kind of film that should be considered when trying to define "the worst movie of all time," a flick lacking any of the things that make a movie legitimately entertaining in the first place, such as characters you care about in any way, thrills, romance, a coherent plot, gratuitous titties, graphic violence, talking dogs, 
anything. Being wholly without merit, CURSE OF BIGFOOT is recommended only for those who have worked their way through the Thirty-Six Chambers of Bad Moviedom and attained the Zen-like mastery needed to weather its complete and utter inertia. That said, I would also recommend it to those who think they may be ready to handle it; if you newcomers can make it all the way through CURSE OF BIGFOOT's eighty-eight minute running time you may find yourself among the growing legion of moviegoers who love it for a number of indefensible reasons, and may even find yourself attempting to lure the innocent down the path of ruin that you yourself have trod upon, becoming sort of a bad movie "pusher," if you will. A pusher just like me. (He smiles evilly.)