Wednesday, 30 December 2015

The Lucifer Rising Suite

Pictured below, Bobby Beausoleil at his recording studio in the California state pen…. The soundtrack of my Christmas 2015 has undoubtedly been Bobby Beausoleil’s Lucifer Rising score which I listened to throughout the holidays and I expect will usher in the new year. Beausoleil’s score made a welcome return to circulation last year, the long out of print 2004 CD expanded to a 4CD set as The Lucifer Rising Suite which gathers together chronologically all the music Bobby composed for Kenneth Anger’s film(s) – the lost first draft of Lucifer Rising from 1967 and the completed 1980 film. It’s a weighty collection, the entire suite adds up to about 3 hours of music but it’s a terrific listen, from free-form avant-rock jams and electronic soundscapes, to tough blues workouts and beautiful space-rock. The 4CD set comes in a smart clamshell box and contains two posters and some excellent revelatory liner notes covering the entire history of the project. The liners are particularly rewarding with regard to the music Beausoleil recorded whilst incarcerated at Tracy, composed and realized against a backdrop of riots, lockdowns, and the difficulties of holding together a prison band in the face of inmate transfers, releases and so on. Truly remarkable stuff and absolutely essential listening.

Monday, 28 December 2015

Torso Art

I couldn't resit posting this rather lovely UK VHS sleeve for Torso which I watched earlier... This viewing was a strategic selection rather than a random one, following Baron Blood's rehabilitation yesterday, I wanted to give Sergio Martino's film another shot - I was disappointed by the film after picking up the Blue Underground Blu-Ray, I suspect it was to do with the slackening of the pace in the third act, but forewarned is forearmed and I enjoyed the film considerably this time round. Along with the identity of the killer, I had forgotten the brutality of the film, with those gorgeous and beautifully sculpted Italian starlets torn asunder by the ski-masked slaughterhouse running amok, the murder in the swamp being particularly grueling. Martino was 35 when he made the film and I got the impression he was less than sympathetic to the youth of the day and their wanton ways - the casual sex and drugs, and as the police inspector hints at one point, student agitation and unrest...

A good Torso sleeve is worth repeating and fortunately Iver Film Services furnished us with two distinct pieces of VHS artwork. The second sleeve is not nearly as pretty as the doll version but I do like the note on the back side of the sleeve assuring punters that the film comes with "Excellent English Dubbed Soundtrack".

Worth mentioning that both Torso sleeves were found at the Iver Film Services website, an excellent fan site devoted to one of the more ubiquitous UK VHS labels from the outlaw days of the Pre-Cert era. I used to have a few Ivers myself at one point - Octaman, Night of the Bloody Apes and Shriek of the Mutilated, and for me their finest hour was the bloody-silhouetted Texas Chain Saw Massacre sleeve (one of two versions that appeared in videoshops in the early 80's) - my personal favourite piece of pre-cert artwork. All this eye-candy and more can be found over at the Iver website so be sure to pay it a visit...

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Revisiting Baron Blood

Rada Rassimov in communion with Rada Rassimov in an astonishing shot from Baron Blood... I watched Mario Bava's 1972 picture earlier today and prior to this morning's screening, had someone mentioned the film I might have shrugged it off as a middling Bava picture. Perhaps it was the upswing from the old Anchor Bay DVD to the Arrow Blu-Ray, but I thought this latest revisit was absolutely wonderful. Evidently, I had been dozing on that first initial screening a few years ago because much of it I had forgotten. If you've only previously seen the Anchor Bay DVD, this is one to upgrade to Blu-Ray to fully appreciate some of Bava's densest compositions, with the Maestro making the most of the film's ready-to-wear castle, shooting actors through decorative iron railings and mining some genuine spatial surrealism from those tricky spiral staircases. And I very much enjoyed watching the Baron himself dash about like a resurrected Matthew Hopkins.

Strictly speaking I watched the film twice today - when I finished my first pass of the film I momentarily flicked on Tim Lucas' commentary to check if a certain shot was reused from Bay of Blood (it wasn't), and ended up re-watching the entire film with Tim's excellent comprehensive, detailed overview, which reveals a wealth of fascinating production history and wonderful factoids - if you're looking to discover Bava's fleeting cameo, the director's tip of the hat to a Rembrandt painting, or an amusing anecdote about Antonioni, be sure to tune in. And thanks to Tim I'll be rolling up the sleeves in search of a copy of 1941 Italian film The Iron Crown which comes recommended...

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Tripping thru the Rubble

Trying to scare up some artificial sunshine here on a pouring wet Saturday afternoon courtesy of Rubble Collection, a fantastic (and weighty) 20-CD collection of mostly British psychedelia from the late 60's. I haven't made it to the final disc in this mammoth set yet but what I've heard so far is quite wonderful, and revelatory considering many of the groups featured were either short-lived or never quite made it out of their respective corners of Albion. I'm currently on my second pass of CD2 as I pen this and two tracks I'm particularly digging - Defecting Grey, a wicked pastiche of The Pink Floyd courtesy of The Pretty Things and Lollipop Minds by the brilliant, could-have-been-a-contender combo Wimple Winch For anyone interested in Psychedelia the Rubble Collection is pretty much essential stuff and with the CDs housed in cardsleeves, and augmented by two books of fascinating liner notes, it's well worth picking up.

Worth mentioning the attractively trippy LSD-laced artwork which adorns the individual CDs contained within the Rubble box. Each of the card sleeves comes with a snappy title such as The 49 Minute Technicolour Dream, The Electric Crayon Set, A Trip In A Painted World and my favourite, the giallo flavored 8th volume, All the Colors of Darkness...

Friday, 18 December 2015

The Art of Exploitation

A double-shift at work today has resulted in some lazy but exquisite browsing at the ever fabulous Wrong Side of the Art, a colossal and rigorously organized archive of Cult, Exploitation and Fantastique Cinema posters scanned at high-resolution for your pleasure. An essential resource for bloggers, magazine designers and fine art lovers everywhere. The quartet of Blind Dead posters below is a fine example of the treasures that await. Step this way...

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Fripp Exposure

Robert Fripp at the The Hit Factory, New York 1978…. I mentioned last week that King Crimson’s Lizard suite was the one and only appearance in my record collection of Yes vocalist Jon Anderson and the same can be said about Daryl Hall and his stint on Robert Fripp’s stunning 1979 album Exposure. I haven’t been listening to much King Crimson lately, the void being filled by Exposure and Fripp & Eno’s Live In Paris set. But more so with Exposure, the album a brilliant meshing of commercial new wave rock with more experimental devices, and enough ideas to fuel half a dozen albums (I love the taped conversation littered throughout the album, the one used on NY3 is particularly nutty). Listening to Exposure this morning, I think the album would make a fine entry point into Fripp’s work, with its Frippertronic soundscapes, and a certain nod towards King Crimson past (the track Breathless sounds like a cousin of the title track from the album Red), and future, anticipating the kind of angular rock Crimson's 80's unit favoured. The current 2CD edition of Exposure comes highly recommended, the album augmented with different mixes and personnel to form a second alternative version of the album, and all of it packaged with excellent detailed liner notes.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Stranger’s Kiss

A 27 year old Stanley Kubrick filming Killer’s Kiss in 1955… I watched Kubrick’s second feature over the w/end and what an evolutionary leap in style and maturity from the godawful Fear and Desire. Watching the film jogged a memory of the 1983 film Stranger’s Kiss which intriguingly is based on the making of Kubrick’s film. I discovered this obscure film leafing thru the Time Out Film Guide and despite my best efforts I haven’t been able to track down a copy thru the usual unofficial channels or investigated the indifferent looking Italian, Spanish and Polish (?) DVDs. Still, I’m eager to see the film and Tom Milne’s review nicely sets up the trailer:
Fascinating film structured a little like a series of Chinese boxes. First comes the fiction of a young director in Hollywood (Peter Coyote) trying to set up an independent B movie about a young boxer's noir-ish efforts to save a taxi dancer from her villainous protector. This, given the date 1955 and a marked resemblance between the two plots, merges into a speculative 'history' of the circumstances surrounding the making of Kubrick's Killer's Kiss. Then life begins to imitate art as the villainous realtor backing Coyote's movie, in which his girl is playing the lead, realizes that she is falling for the actor playing the boxer; and art begins to give life a stage direction or two as Coyote encourages this perilous triangle in the hope of lending emotional conviction to his film. Marvelously shot and finely acted, it grips simultaneously as a critical extension of Kubrick's film, as a comment on movie-making mania, and as a dark thriller in its own right.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Napalm Death

Ken Sharp's photo of Napalm Death at the back bar of the Canterbury Arms, Brixton, December 1988... I was listening to Mick Harris' dark ambient project Lull earlier today (the gaseous drones of 1996's Continue album mingling rather nicely with the incessant rain hammering against the window). With Lull and the isolationist dubscapes of Harris' other group Scorn, I tend to forget that Harris was the "whirlwind tornado" responsible for the frenzied blast beats of Napalm Death's Scum and From Enslavement to Obliteration albums. Ken Sharp's brilliant photo captures Napalm Death in their short-lived From Enslavement unit with Shane Embury, Mick Harris, Lee Dorrian and Bill Steer. What a room !

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Walking In the Keep

For anyone in the UK and Ireland looking to catch up with Michael Mann's 1983 film The Keep, the film will be shown on Film4 tonite at 1:35am. I think I'll avail of this opportunity myself to revisit the film ahead of the almost-finished documentary A World War II Fairytale: The Making of Michael Mann's The Keep. And seeing that it's Christmastime I can pull a connection out between Mann's film and the festive season - it's slight, but go with me on this one. Part of Tangerine Dream's soundtrack incorporates the music of Walking in the Air, the signature music from the animated Christmas film The Snowman. Mann liked this music so much he requested its composer Howard Blake to record a version of the song for The Keep but with Blake busy with other projects, Mann asked Tangerine Dream to incorporate Walking In the Air into their soundtrack. A weird turn of events but then again, everything associated with The Keep is rather weird...

Friday, 11 December 2015

La Hora del Fantasma

My friend James Gracey (author of the excellent Behind the Couch blog) posted a rather doom-laden image earlier on Facebook and I'm responding in kind, feeling rather doom-laden myself on this Friday morning. I don't have much information on this eerie photograph by Spanish photographer Joaquín Pla Janini, entitled La Hora del Fantasma, probably dating from 1930. My guess is that Pla Janini was looking to re-create the dark mystery of Arnold Böcklin's famous painting The Isle of the Dead which depicts an oarsman and a white-robed figure in a small boat approaching a rocky island. Also worth seeking out Pla Janini's triptych Les Parques, a variation on La Hora del Fantasma and featuring in one panel the white robed figure, this time skull-faced standing on the craggy shoreline with a number of naked male bodies writhing among the rocks - a powerful image which anticipates the homoerotic death tripping of Kenneth Anger's Scorpio Rising... A good overview of Joaquín Pla Janini's work can be viewed here

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Vintage Times Square

Times Square circa 1968 and Wild In the Streets appropriately enough is playing at the Embassy... I've posted the link to this thread before but for all you Times Square hustlers and junkies who might have missed it, be sure to check out the Vintage Times Square thread over at the excellent Skyscraper City Forums. This is a favourite thread of mine to browse, 13 pages of fantastic street photography, and it proved a very useful archive of imagery when I was reading John Rechy’s classic 1963 novel about gay nightlife, City of Night. Check it out here

Croatia Crash Cover

The paperback cover for Ballard's Crash, or Sudar as it's called in Croatia... This 1988 edition of the book must rank as one of the strangest covers used for the novel, making a clean break from the usual automobile motif. The artwork is by Igor Kordej who went on to illustrate New X-Men, and I can't help but wonder if this depiction of a robot in passionate embrace with a flame-haired woman was a left-over from a previous assignment, looking more like something ripped from the pages of Heavy Metal. Still the meshing of lust and metal, the eroticism of technology is appropriate enough...

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Season of Glass

Listening to Yoko Ono’s 1981 album Season of Glass, the cover image featuring John Lennon’s bloodstained glasses… Ono’s album was released just six months after her husband’s murder and it’s all the more surprising for its restraint – on first approach one would expect the kind of heavy Krautrock jams and abrasive vocal improvisations heard on Yoko’s Plastic Ono Band album, but instead Season of Glass is fitted out with a series of late night introspective moods and colors which not only touches on Lennon’s murder (4 gunshots open the track No, No, No) but the Lennon-Ono relationship as a whole – my favorite track on the album Even When You're Far Away, I’d wager is Yoko’s take on the strange turn of events that was the so-called Lost Weekend (“It's just the way it happens to be”). Incidentally, the track Panty Lies off Sonic Youth’s 1995 album Washing Machine bears more than a passing resemblance to the aforementioned No, No, No

Monday, 7 December 2015

Stepping Razor Red X

I had penciled in two Bruce Springsteen documentaries for the w/end but when my connection failed to deliver the goods, I turned to a music documentary from my own collection, the 1993 film Stepping Razor Red X, a film on the life of reggae firebrand Peter Tosh. Forfeiting a conventional biopic narrative for an abstract, fragmented structure, the film is as confrontational and aggressive as its subject, with Tosh's own voice-over (courtesy of some recordings known as the Red X tapes) railing against the poverty of Trenchtown and the violence of apartheid. The film also builds a compelling case that Tosh's murder at his home in 1987 was politically motivated rather than a simple armed robbery. Tosh's music is well represented too with plenty of excellent live footage. Superb stuff. Finally, one interesting connection to muse over - the film was written and directed by Nicholas Campbell who might be better known as one of David Cronenberg's regular players, appearing in Fast Company, The Brood, Naked Lunch, and perhaps most memorably as Frank Dodd, the Castle Rock killer who becomes a victim of his own handiwork in The Dead Zone...

Sunday, 6 December 2015

In the Company of Danielle

Danielle Dax in all her Gothic finery... I watched The Company of Wolves earlier today (on a double-bill with Valerie & Her Week of Wonders), and not having seen the film close to 10 years I was looking forward to this screening. But the film left me vaguely dissatisfied - despite the exquisite art direction (which looks like it came from a Brothers Grimm engraving), I found the film rather bloodless. But my interest was piqued as the end credits rolled when I spotted among the cast names the English experimental singer, musician and artist Danielle Dax who plays the wolfgirl. I know Danielle Dax's work with the eccentric post-punk band The Lemon Kittens but her unexpected appearance has inspired me to delve into her solo career. Skipping back to her scene in the film accompanied by Neil Jordan's commentary, I was hoping for an interesting anecdote about Dax's involvement with the film but sadly Jordan says nothing worthwhile...

Nine Garmins of the Ninja

A cheerful publicity still from the 1985 film Nine Deaths of the Ninja, with cast members sporting the latest Garmin wrist watches... If Star Trek predicted flip-phones and The Next Generation, tablets, this atrocious entry in the 80's ninja cycle has a claim on portable GPS devices, with the trio below taking time out seemingly every few minutes to attend to their high-tech watches relaying vital mission information via a chorus of bleeps. Garmin fans however should give the film a wide berth, it's simply not worth wading thru the stilted line readings, arthritic martial arts, and pneumatic hairdos. I know because I watched the film last night in a fit of madness, when I could have watched one of the dozen or so still-sealed DVDs I have sitting on my shelf. On the other hand if you're the kind of Trash addict who must see everything, the film at least features one of the most absurd villains I've seen in many a long time - imagine a cross between Dr. Strangelove and Paul Partain's Franklin from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre... Someone actually fronted money for this thing ?

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Czech Folk Horror

Weekend reading... Tucking into my copy of the recently published Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies and it's shaping up to be an excellent, illuminating collection of essays and inquiries into the elusive genre of Folk Horror. With the initial opening chapters under my belt, I've skipped ahead to my friend Kat Ellinger's essay on Czech Folk Horror which serves as a brilliant introduction to a particularly magical strand of European Cinema. Beautifully written too - Kat writing about Valerie and Her Week of Wonders says: "Stylistically, Jaromil Jireš employs a strong rural aesthetic with national folk elements using the natural beauty of the countryside and rustic village location to achieve a strong organic feel as well as melting in sumptuous Gothic tones". Elsewhere Kat shines a light on some lesser known classics of the Czech Folk Horror tradition including Juraj Herz's 1978 film of Beauty and the Beast which is a discovery for me and am currently seeking the film out thru unofficial channels... Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies comes highly recommended and has that lovely intimate feel of a small press publication. Copies of the book are available here and worth adding that 100% of all profits from sales of the book will be charitably donated to environmental, wildlife and community projects undertaken by The Wildlife Trusts.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Lawrence's Ruins

Below, a tiny detail from the George Lawrence's famous 1906 photograph of San Francisco in ruins... I'm currently listening to the Grateful Dead's Aoxomoxoa LP, and musing on the album's provisional title Earthquake Country (a better, less fussy title I think) yielded Lawrence's vast panoramic shot of the devastated city taken some six weeks after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck on April 18th 1906. Nowadays cityscape panoramas are a dime a dozen but Lawrence's photograph still impresses with its clarity and scope and all the more amazing that it was taken from "Lawrence Captive Airship", which was simply a kite sent soaring over the bay. The Wiki entry has an excellent blow-up of George Lawrence's photograph here. An even bigger copy of the picture (11mbs) can be found here

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

It feels like... times have changed

A fatally wounded Slim Pickens knockin' on Heaven's door in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid... I mentioned to someone last week that Peckinpah's film was my all-time favourite American western and with that in mind, I revisited the film earlier today, and one screening later the film is now elevated to my all-time favourite Western, American, Italian or otherwise, elbowing The Good the Bad and the Ugly from the top slot. Today's screening was fortuitous for one particular reason - among Pat Garrett's legendary cast is Gene Evans whom I watched just yesterday in Sam Fuller's 1952 film Park Row. And watching the film again today I couldn't shake the idea that Kris Kristofferson in 1973 would have made a tremendous Jim Morrison, far better that Val Kilmer I think. And I love Peckinpah's cameo as a man who refuses a drink. Favourite line of Rudy Wurlitzer's brilliant dialogue is courtesy of R.G. Armstrong playing another of Peckinpah's brutish God-fearing men, "I got my shotgun full of 16 thin dimes. Enough to spread you out like a crazy woman's quilt."