Thursday, 5 July 2018

The World that summer....

Spotted over at the Internet Archive, Dark Side #20 - May 1992, or more specifically, the Video Nasties issue. I've mentioned this hallowed issue a few times on this blog, and yet I cannot stress enough the importance of this sacred text in this 15-yr old's film-watching life - before it came out, I had scarcely heard of Cannibal Holocaust or Last House on the Left, and then suddenly it was as if a wall had come down to reveal a completely different view. I remember well that glorious summer of '92, spending countless afternoons in darkened video shops hunting down the more tantalizing titles. As primers go, the Nasties feature is strictly entry level stuff - if you've landed on this page with little or no clue about the United Kingdom's Video Nasty phenomena, it's a decent enough whistle stop tour thru the Director of Public Prosecutions' hit list, but there are better studies out there - Davids Kerekes and Slater's 2000 book See No Evil: Banned Films and Video Controversy remains the definitive word on the subject. For more seasoned viewers, the Dark Side's roundup is worth reading as a vintage piece. Perhaps the prickly tone of many of the reviews was down to the reviewers having to contend with aging, fuzzy VHS copies (and fuzzy memories no doubt) - some 25 years later, with the advent of DVD and Blu-Ray, we've come to better appreciate the charms of Don't Go Near the Park and Snuff Worth noting too the idiosyncratic selection process - minor list entries like The Funhouse and Dead & Buried are awarded full-length reviews while more significant titles like Blood Feast and Fight For Your Life and relegated to a few remarks in an addendum section.

But that's not all. Elsewhere in this issue of The Dark Side is a terrific David Cronenberg interview, discussing his latest film Naked Lunch (which was lambasted in a later issue when it premiered on video), and it's followed by a Cronenberg filmography with some typically fascinating commentary by the director - mostly culled from Faber's Cronenberg on Cronenberg book it must be said: (On Scanners: "I was exploding heads like any other young, normal North American boy") Before I close, be sure to check out the excellent selection of books and fanzines the uploader has generously shared

Friday, 18 May 2018

Trailer insanity

Some ballyhoo from the trailer of the seedy 1968 Peter Cushing Horror, Corruption. Single guys are advised to check local listings... I'm currently watching, or rather cherry-picking my way thru Synapse's inaugural 42 Street Forever trailer comp, and the clip from Corruption always stands out for its fish-eye lens shots of a frenzied Cushing. I've often wondered what it must have been like to see a picture like Maniac at the Lyric Theatre on 42nd Street, when Times Square was at its most dangerous ("Maniac ! It will tear the life out of you!" warns the trailer's voicover.)

Meanwhile, the perennial favourite of trailer comps, I Dismember Mama / The Blood Spattered Bride trailer, is surely the most irritating promo in the annals of Exploitation Cinema. Watching the trailer just now I noticed that The Blood Spattered Bride title has undergone a subtle tweaking for the marquee seen in the master shot of the theatre, here playing as the The Blood Splattered Bride. My initial thought was that the film's Stateside distributor Europix Interational put it out as The Blood Splattered Bride, but the title card and poster art all have it as Spattered, so it looks like this snafu was confined to the trailer !

In somewhat related matters, earlier in the week I stumbled across this pic Kim Newman posted on his FB page, a snapshot of the Eros Cinema, Picadilly London during its grindhouse heyday. I'm carbon dating this picture to 1984 when Conquest was first released in the UK on a double bill with Forbidden World. It's always a pleasure to see grindhouse marquees at full swing, being from a younger generation, I sometimes find it hard to believe that something like Conquest (fond as I am of this underrated Lucio Fulci fantasy) actually played in a theatre, but here's the proof. And to get back on topic, notice that the marquee painter got the film taglines mixed up ! More pictures of the Eros can be enjoyed here. Incidentally, look out for the Eros Cinema's cameo in American Werewolf In London doubling as the porno theatre showing the faux-blue movie See You Next Wednesday 

Friday, 20 April 2018

Frank Doubleday (1945-2018)

Frank Doubleday as the sinister emissary Romero in Escape From New York... I chanced upon this scene in John Carpenter's film last night, (broadcast on the Syfy channel and looking horizontally squeezed to the point of being unwatchable), and I had to wonder if Carpenter had based Romero's striking look on Klaus Kinski ? I haven't listened to the film's commentary track in over 10 years but I don't recall it being mentioned. And I see a certain resemblance to Captain Howdy too, not to mention a certain similarity to Brad Dourif's character Piter De Vries (another emissary of sorts) in Dune, made a few years later. Rather than post a traditional still of the scene I found this beautiful piece of fan art, originally posted here

I generally don't do obituaries on this blog, but a few days ago I learned that actor Frank Doubleday had passed away on the 3rd of March, so I'd like to use this post to mark his passing. Doubleday worked primarily in television, with few substantial film credits to his name, but thanks to John Carpenter, he has achieved a certain immortality - if his scene in Escape from New York is one of the more memorable moments in the film, Doubleday landed an equally if not more striking scene in Assault on Precinct 13, playing the Street Thunder gang member who shoots Kim Richards' 12-year old Kathy at point blank range - a wanton killing that still shocks today...

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

In Case You Didn’t Feel Like Showing Up

The news of Barbara Bush passing away at the grand old age of 92 has me listening to Ministry’s 1990 live album In Case You Didn’t Feel Like Showing Up this morning – the connection being that the former first lady had the dubious honor of being included in Al Jourgensen’s infamous roll call at the conclusion of a particularly savage rendition of Stigmata. I’m listening to the expanded edition of the album released last year as the 2-disc Live Necronomicon, and it sounds fantastic, a more faithful document of the original performance without edits or added overdubs. If the new edition can claim to be definitive, I still think the original album, even with its post-production adjustments remains a powerhouse of incendiary post-Industrial rock, and it’s worth keeping if only for the artwork – a pity Ministry didn’t retain it, opting instead for what seems like a meaningless tip of the hat to The Evil Dead’s Book of the Dead, but then again the band have always indulged in appalling artwork. Regrettable too that the release of Live Necronomicon didn’t prompt a DVD upgrade for the In Case You Didn’t Feel Like Showing Up VHS tape, an extraordinary film of the Indiana show, augmented with a battery of psychedelic effects, different film stocks and speeds, hyper cutting, and layered with all sorts of found footage and surreal imagery, pre-dating Natural Born Killers by some 14 years. Thankfully it’s available on youtube

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Face to Face with Derek Jarman

Derek Jarman is never far from my thoughts these days, the forthcoming BFI box will surely be, for me at least, the home cinema event of 2018. The BFI box has been delayed by a week so I’ve been trawling thru youtube for Derek Jarman related videos, and found the excellent BBC Face to Face interview Jarman recorded in 1993 before his death in February the following year. The 40min interview feels very much like a last will and testament, and sees Jarman looking back over his life in his usual erudite, and indeed honest fashion – interviewer Jeremy Issacs is perhaps a tad too preoccupied with Jarman’s sexuality at times, but Jarman discusses it and other related matters (being HIV+) with typical good cheer…

In related matters... I've been revisiting the 1995 Eno/Wobble collaboration Spinner this morning, and while it's one of Eno's better albums from an era which saw him slide increasingly into mediocrity. Despite Jah Wobble's fine contributions to the album I can't help but think of it as the poor cousin of Eno's magnificent soundtrack for Derek Jarman's final film Glitterbug, which Spinner is salvaged from (I use the word salvaged because Eno has expressed a certain indifference for the soundtrack). In fact the best stuff from Spinner is when Jah Wobble leaves the Glitterbug music alone (as in the gorgeous Garden Recalled). I'm hoping Glitterbug will be included in the BFI's second Jarman box (Artificial Eye's 2007 DVD of Blue/Glitterbug has gone OOP  clearing the way for the BFI), and it would be nice to see an optional subtitle where the various Super8 footage is annotated, similar to the original Arena screening back in 1994. I mention this because I shared a few comments recently on Facebook with the team lead on the Jarman-BFI box and requested this. One can hope !

Thursday, 15 March 2018


"Max, I would like you to try this on for size"... Listening this morning to Howard Shore's soundtrack for Videodrome, and quite an extraordinary 30-odd minutes of New Flesh it is too. The soundtrack contains all the music from Videodrome but augmented with additional electronic effects and processing. One might even call it an early example of remixing and reconstruction, which seems very appropriate to Videodrome's theme of mutation and "reprogramming". It's a surprisingly abrasive suite of music too, with torrents of electronic noise sometimes overwhelming Shore's central Videodrome theme music, and anticipates glitch music by a good decade - the opening few minutes of the soundtrack could easily be mistaken for an Autechre track as layers of sound squelch, squiggle and ricochet off one another to dizzying effect. Meshing with the cold, mechanical textures are Shores's beautiful use of strings, which remind me of Goreki's Symphony No. 3, as they soar into the upper register (and put to excellent use in the film's final sequence when Max Renn embraces "total transformation"). Incidentally, the album sleeve credits Alan Howarth for engineering duties, forging a link between Videodrome and the great electronic soundtracks of Escape From New York, Halloween II, Halloween III: Season of the Witch...

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Celebrating the Greater Sex

I'm marking International Women's Day today in the company of four extraordinary, inspirational woman from my record collection...

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Rattus Italiano

Some Bruno Mattei borrowed with thanks.... I've just polished off James Herbert's 1974 debut novel The Rats, and while there's no explicit association between Mattei's post-apocalyptic thriller and Herbert's novel, I very much approached the book as if it were an early 80's Italian splatter movie. I don't wish to belittle Herbert's skills as a writer, but imagining the film as an over the top Italian import acclimatized me to some of the more ludicrous parts of the novels - an infant torn to shreds in its cot, a nymphomaniac alcoholic stripped to the bone, and in one of the book's biggest set pieces, a London Underground station besieged by hordes of flesh-hungry rats. Mattei would need a considerably bigger conveyor belt for that sequence but the films of Mattei and his contemporaries are the perfect foil for Herbert's novel - neither of them apologetic about being in the Horror business. Thinking about it now, The Rats could have easily ran as a series in those early issues of 2000AD, perhaps Invasion, with rats replacing Volgans, the hard-as-nails anti-establishment Bill Savage the only thing standing in the way of the UK being reduced to a vermin-infested wasteland... Lair is next...

Friday, 2 March 2018

Criterion of the Living Dead

I watched Criterion edition last night and was very pleased with the presentation - to beat a cliche of the HD era - the film looks so fresh it could well have been shot yesterday. Along with along with Thundercrack!, the Criterion Night of the Living Dead is perhaps my most eagerly awaited title - I first heard speculation that Criterion were putting it out some years so this edition seems like a long time coming. The addition of the Criterion Blu brings an inevitable touch of sadness as it spells the retirement of my cherished Elite DVD, which has seen active duty for nearly 16 years, and a disc that still looked very impressive when I saw the film again last year. Now, I can almost hear the Criterion disc bellow: "Now get the hell down in the cellar. You can be the boss down there, but I'm boss up here!". Wonderful too, that the film with its coveted Criterion spine-number will introduce the film to viewers who may have previously shrugged off the film as B-movie trash, and its place in the Criterion collection will do much to banish memories of the shoddy treatment of previous home video versions, namely the horrendous colorized edition and the abomination that was the so-called 30th Anniversary with its added scenes - "anal-raped" as Todd Doogan memorably described this assault on Romero's film when writing about the various editions DVD editions of the film for The Digital Bits. So, all good ? Well not quite. The transfer may be outstanding but I'm less enthused about Criterion's packaging. I remain lukewarm about Sean Phillips' artwork (and in fairness, it's no easy task to come up with an original piece of artwork for this the umpteenth video release), but shame on Criterion for putting out the film in a thoroughly flimsy digipak sleeve, with the two discs stacked on top of one another. It's fortunate at least that it comes in a protective slipcase because, this one goes up pretty easy....

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Karloff's Heart of Darkness

"He's out there operating without any decent restraint, totally beyond the pale of any acceptable human conduct"... Boris Karloff goes native as Kurtz in the 1958 Playhouse 90 adaptation of Heart of Darkness. Another one of those mind-boggling rarities that turns up on youtube, this one is decidedly lo-fi but worthy of investigation. I've only watched a few moments of it here and there and it looks bizarre indeed. I'm coming at this from an Apocalypse Now angle (rather than Conrad), and it's worth noting that this adaptation was written by Stewart Stern who was the screenwriter for Rebel Without a Cause and The Last Movie, both of which involved Dennis Hopper, and a further connection to Coppola's film. Interesting to imagine what Apocalypse Now might have been like had Martin Sheen's long journey up to the Nung River led to an aging, depleted Boris Karloff (who would have been closer to Conrad's vision of Kurtz than Coppola's) and I do enjoy pondering an alternatively cast Apocalypse Now. Recently, I was hotly debating with some friends, the idea of Steve McQueen playing Willard, and while they flatly disagreed, I think McQueen would have been a better choice than Harvey Keitel or Al Pacino. But I digress... The Playhouse 90 Heart of Darkness can be viewed here: here

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Fellini Satyricon

Enjoying a late night screening of Satyricon, and watching the film for the first time with the English dub, I was pleased to hear the unmistakable voice of Michael Hordern. I wonder did any other noteworthy players lend their vocal talents to the film ? I could have sworn I heard the voice of Ian McCulloch in a small incidental part earlier in the film, but perhaps I was wrong - I seem to remember McCulloch's interview in the October 1992 issue of Dark Side, where he discussed his three-picture sojourn in Italy (Zombie Flesh Eaters, Zombie Holocaust and Contamination), and there was no mention of working with Fellini (surely not something one would omit from a self-appraisal). Incidentally, whilst browsing Satyricon's credits over at the imdb, I spotted two interesting credits: the The Minotaur was played by the great Anthropophagous Beast himself George Eastman, and a credit for music recording goes to electronic composer David Behrman. I know Tod Dockstader contributed some electronics to the soundtrack, but seeing Behrman name attached to the film was a pleasant surprise. Strangely though, there's no mention of Behrman's work on Satyricon on his official website... I'm starting to think that Fellini is a dirty word these days !

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

1/2 Mensch

I was lucky to score this nice clean copy of Einstürzende Neubauten’s 1985 film 1/2 Mensch from Discogs last week, with the 2005 Potomak DVD now out of print, it was time to cash in my old VHS rip for the real deal. The Potomak DVD comes with an Authorized by the Band label at the foot of the cover, and it’s an important distinction from the disastrous (and unauthorized) Cherry Red DVD released the same year (and still in circulation sporting the same cover!) The Neubauten-sanctioned DVD still has the characteristic softness of a VHS transfer but what sets the disc apart from previous editions is the audio which sounds truly incredible even on my rudimentary set-up. The film itself is marvelous, director Sogo Ishii had shot some concert footage of the band on their Japanese tour, but expanded the film to include Neubauten performing in a dilapidated Tokyo ironworks which was due for demolition. This portion of the film feels like an Industrial re-write of Pink Floyd’s Pompeii film, and there are interesting parallels between both films, not least of all the emphasis on music-making gadgetry – those tracking shots snaking around Pink Floyd’s bank of electronic and amplification equipment, Dave Gilmour extracting as much unconventional sound from his guitar as possible during Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun, are echoed by similar shots of Neubauten’s bewildering arsenal of noise-making devices, with Einheit and Unruh harnessing percussive and textural sounds from drills, jackhammers, metal grinders, a close-miked-shopping trolley, a large gas cylinder, and at one point an unwieldy aluminum air duct. Interspersed amongst the factory footage are videos of tracks from the Halber Mensch album, including a striking sequence featuring the avant-garde Byakko-sha dance group, appearing as bio-mechanical zombies with a taste for metal fetishism – a startling vision which must have left an impression on Shinya Tsukamoto. The DVD comes with no extras – a Blixa Bargeld commentary would have been ideal, but the set comes with a CD of the music performed at the ironworks.

Friday, 16 February 2018

David Shire's Apocalypse Now

Currently listening to David Shire's unused score for Apocalypse Now which was recently released on CD by La-La Land Records... I'd consider myself something of an Apocalypse Now scholar but I must admit Shire's score passed right under my radar, so this is a wonderful surprise, and a fascinating piece of Apocalypse Now lore. Unlike Alex North's unused music for 2001 (which I could never integrate into Kubrick's film), Shire's all-electronic score is not that far removed from Carmine Coppola's soundtrack - it's perhaps a little too dynamic for the pace of the film (think Tangerine Dream's music for Sorcerer), but there are a few uncanny moments where Shire's score anticipates the music the Coppolas' composed for the Kurtz compound sequences - this may well be owing to a similarity in synthesizer equipment but it lifts Shire's music to a level beyond a mere rejected score. Fascinating too to imagine what kind of a film Shire was writing for considering the score frequently sounds like it strayed from something more phantasmagorical, and there are sections of music that reminded me of The Fog and Escape from New York, and at one point Christopher Young's Hellraiser ! La-La Land's CD is augmented with an excellent 25 page thick booklet packed with notes on the score, and apparently this release has a limited run of 2000 units so get your copy as soon as you can...

Monday, 5 February 2018

Another 100...

My top 100 Favourite films list posted recently generated some interesting discussion when I posted it on Facebook (prompting one person to ask in earnest where was Burial Ground, gasp!) so I thought a 100-200 list would be fun, and with no stubborn, immovable feasts to worry about (Apocalypse Now et al), the selection of films is far more fruitier and eclectic. This came together very quickly so it will be interesting to see if it holds up in a week's time - but I've scanned thru the list a few times and it feels rights... Honorable mentions go to Dead Ringers, The Cars That Ate Paris, Twin Peaks Fire Walk With Me, The Carny and Gummo - all would have had a place on the list had I seen them within the last decade...

101 - American Friend, The
102 - Bad Timing
103 - Barry Lyndon 
104 - Beyond, The
105 - Big Trouble In Little China
106 - Black Sabbath 
107 - Boiling Point (Kitano)
108 - Boot, Das
109 - Brazil 
110 - Curse of the Cat People
111 - Citizen Kane 
112 - City of God
113 - Cockfighter
114 - Coming Home
115 - Cook, The Thief, His Wife And Her Lover, The
116 - Cool Hand Luke 
117 - Cruising
118 - Dances With Wolves
119 - Dead Zone, The
120 - Deep Red 
121 - Deer Hunter, The 
122 - Diva
123 - Dune 
124 - Eaten Alive (Tobe Hooper)
125 - El Topo
126 - Empire of Passion
127 - Enigma of Kasper Hauser, The
128 - Europa
129 - Evil Dead, The
130 - Filth & The Fury
131 - Forbidden Planet
132 - Frankenstein Must Be Destoyed
133 - Full Metal Jacket 
134 - Ganja & Hess
135 - Gimme Shelter
136 - Glengarry Glen Ross
137 - Godfather Part 2, The
138 - Gospel According To St. Matthew, The
139 - Haine, La
140 - Happy Together 
141 - Hidden Fortress
142 - Hired Hand, The
143 - Hour of The Wolf
144 - if…
145 - In The Mood For Love
146 - Iron Rose, The 
147 - Ivan's Childhood 
148 - Jackie Brown
149 - JFK 
150 - Killing, The
151 - Last Tango In Paris
152 - Lawrence of Arabia 
153 - Lemora
154 - Macbeth (Welles)
155 - Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome
156 - Man Bites Dog
157 - Manhunter
158 - Mean Streets
159 - Medium Cool
160 - Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence
161 - Monsieur Verdoux
162 - Mystery Train 
163 - Nashville
164 - Nosferatu: Eine Symphonie des Grauens
165 - Nostalghia
166 - Offence, The
167 - On the Waterfront 
168 - Onibaba
169 - Paths of Glory 
170 - Picnic At Hanging Rock
171 - Pink Flamingos
172 - Pink Narcissus
173 - Planet of The Vampires
174 - Poor White Trash (Part II)
175 - Pusher 3
176 - Querelle 
177 - Re-Animator
178 - Red Desert
179 - Red River
180 - Repo Man
181 - Repulsion
182 - Return of The Living Dead, The
183 - Robocop
184 - Route One USA
185 - Santa Sangre
186 - Searchers, The
187 - Seventh Seal, The
188 - Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
189 - Shining, The 
190 - Shooting, The
191 - Short Cuts
192 - Slacker 
193 - Summer of Sam
194 - Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song 
195 - Tempest, The (Derek Jarman)
196 - Throne of Blood
197 - Touch of Evil
198 - Vanishing Point 
199 - Werckmeister Harmonies
200 - What Have They Done To Your Daughters ?

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Laserdisc Collecting: The Thing (Japan, 1985, CIC)

Presenting the 1985 CIC Japanese laserdisc of The Thing. I’m afraid my copy didn’t photograph all that well but you get the idea. The Thing has been on my mind lately. I finally managed to watch my copy of the Arrow Blu a few weekends ago and was thrilled with the presentation. I hadn’t expected the transfer to be that much of a leg-up from the previous Blu, but I found the Arrow a much richer viewing experience, especially the final act which I’ve always thought something of a damp squib, but on this screening I thoroughly enjoyed the marriage of John Lloyd’s terrific subterranean production design and Dean Cundey’s fantastic lighting. But back on topic: last night I chanced upon the 2013 documentary Drew: The Man Behind The Poster, profiling the career of American film poster artist Drew Struzan, and in the segment I caught, Struzan was discussing his artwork for The Thing (the iconic painting of the shards of light emanating from the hooded figure). I was wondering if Struzan was responsible for the artwork on the Japanese laserdisc, which shows the shape-shifting alien in all its surreal gloopiness, but the credit goes to British artist Les Edwards whose original painting the laserdisc sleeve was derived from. Looking at the back sleeve, I was reminded of the still of Childs and Palmer, a scene which isn't featured in the film or found in the deleted scenes that come with the home video editions...