Saturday, April 08, 2006

Horror: Another Best Non-Fiction Nomination


Congratulations to VW contributor Kim Newman and his partner Stephen Jones are in order. Their softcover anthology HORROR: ANOTHER 100 BEST BOOKS survived the final cut of the preliminary ballot to be nominated this week in the Best Non-Fiction category of the Horror Writers Association's Bram Stoker Awards. The book's forerunner, HORROR: 100 BEST BOOKS, won this category in 1989 in a tie with HARLAN ELLISON'S WATCHING by Harlan Ellison.

I contributed to Steve and Kim's outstanding genre survey an essay about Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain's 1911 novel FANTOMAS. As Kim kindly notified me by e-mail, I can therefore "claim 1/100th of the nod." That's very kind... but for me, the real award was receiving the book and discovering that my first novel THROAT SPROCKETS had been chosen as one of the second 100 by Tananarive Due, a fellow novelist whose work I respect and whose enthusiasm I appreciate. It was an honor to be published in the company of so many talented colleagues, but to see my own work considered as part of a continuum that also included THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY, THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, ROSEMARY'S BABY and FROM HELL (to name a few) was one of the great thrills of my 30+ year career.

Here's hoping that Kim and Steve will be adding another Stoker to their trophy cases in the months ahead.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Day The Corman Blog Ended


It's been a wonderful week here, celebrating Roger Corman's 80th birthday and seeing so many other, like-minded people attending the party and throwing parties of their own. Those who backtrack will notice that I announced the Blog-A-Thon the day after I posted a complaint about being too busy -- and yes, conceiving the Blog-A-Thon committed me to additional daily postings. But I met all my deadlines, the last of them being my SIGHT AND SOUND deadline early this morning. For my 37th "No Zone" column, I decided to stick with my current diet and review Retromedia Entertainment's THE ROGER CORMAN PUERTO RICO TRILOGY.

I won't pre-empt my column by going into a lot of detail here, but Retromedia has taken a fair amount of online heat for this release, which I found rather admirable. I know from talking to disc producer Fred Olen Ray that great pains were taken to digitally reframe LAST WOMAN ON EARTH shot-by-shot, because just slapping soft mattes over the picture (as was done theatrically in projection) tended to crop actors off at the eyes or forehead. Fred and partner Steve Latshaw also did wonderful things to digitally refresh the color and, I think, the movie (scripted by Robert Towne, who co-stars as "Edward Wain") is made stronger by all this restorative attention. LAST WOMAN is now more noticeable than ever as one of the most important works of Corman's first decade -- it can even be viewed as the second film in an apocalypse trilogy with DAY THE WORLD ENDED and GAS-S-S-S-S!.

I had never seen the Corman-produced BATTLE OF BLOOD ISLAND before, and had no idea that it was based on a novella by Philip Roth. Corman should start dropping Roth's name in his list of celebrity discoveries, as this movie was made a few years before Roth's first novel was published. It's an engrossing, compact little movie, effectively plain-spoken in its drama and direction (by Joel M. Rapp, whom the IMDb incorrectly declares dead since 1972). There's a live toucan in this film as a supporting player, and a dead toucan turns up in LAST WOMAN... I hope they weren't one and the same.

CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA looks worst of the three, but that just means it's a bit greyish with soft contrasts; I didn't find it nearly as bad as others seem to think, and it's certainly not the worst I've seen. Retromedia had to use an original element, without the added TV scenes, so their pickings must have been severely limited. (The TV clips included in the supplements look clearer, but had they used a TV print for all the footage, it might have disrupted the continuity of the music tracks.) I get a big kick out of this movie; it fails to deliver to the monster audience, and it's too beatnik-sophisticated for kids and straights, but as I say in my S&S column, it's probably the closest thing to a Thomas Pynchon novel ever committed to celluloid.

The audio commentaries (one by Joel Rapp, the other two by Betsy Jones-Moreland and Anthony Carbone) are all fun, interesting, and well-moderated by Ray and Latshaw. (I love Tony Carbone's story about how Corman made LAST WOMAN ON EARTH in color because he was offered an experimental color film stock for free!) The additional TV scenes, directed by Rapp and Monte Hellman, are presented separately and are more interesting and successful in this context. A bunch of Corman trailers are added as a bonus. None of the films are given anamorphic transfers, but they all zoom up on a widescreen fairly well. But the best thing about this set is that it gives us a new way of looking at these three extremely different films -- as a "trilogy" -- and it packages them in a manner that makes the story of how they were made as important as the features themselves.

An undeservedly controversial release. I recommend it.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Everybody's Getting Into the Act!!!

As this photo (taken not far from my home) attests, "Cormania" was in full flight yesterday, as Roger Corman celebrated his 80th birthday. I'm not sure whether Pastor Walter Paisley plans to simply discuss the relevant passages of Scripture this Sunday... or screen the movies... or do a VIDEO WATCHDOG-style text-to-screen comparison from the pulpit, but it should make for a more-interesting-than-usual sermon, nonetheless.

But seriously, folks... wow. According to our current count, Video WatchBlog had 31 fellow participants in yesterday's "Roger Corman Blog-A-Thon." When I first posted my own Corman Birthday blog -- at precisely 01:02:03 on 04/05/06, natch -- I was only able to list 4 other companions in my cause. I was a little worried that the short notice might have backfired. But you good people kept me adding new blog links to the page right up to the time I went to bed last night. When we were only up to 16, Green Cine Daily commented about the response to my Monday request, "You wouldn't believe the turn-out." But together, we managed to effectively double that number. I'm proud of us.

Furthermore, yesterday's celebration resulted in Video WatchBlog's highest daily attendance of the year, and possibly since its inception: 1,983 hits between 01:02:03 and the following Midnight. That's not even a full 24-hour period.

I'm especially delighted by the fact that, in visiting and reading the various blogs generated about Roger, that everyone seems to have instinctively gravitated to a different period of his work, or at least different films. Everything from ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS to MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH to HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD rated in-depth discussion. There was very little, if any, repetition -- and it was all very interesting and heartfelt, even though some of it was critical.

I haven't informed Roger of the Blog-A-Thon; it's my intention to print-off copies of everyone's blog and send them to him as a big package next week. But Joe Dante told me that he phoned Roger and "mentioned the explosion of affection on the blogosphere." When Joe surmised that bloggers were observing the day as a milestone, Roger cheerfully answered, "Well, it is a milestone... for me!"

I'm sure you all join me in wishing him many more.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Roger Corman Swings (at 80)


ROGER CORMAN SWINGS (at 80)
Lyrics by Tim Lucas
(with apologies to Roger Miller)

Roger Corman swings like a pendulum do,
Vincent Price, Bruce Dern -- Shatner too!
Mobsters in Chicago, Richtofen and Brown,
Stock footage of a warehouse burning down.

Now, if you huff and puff and you finally shoot enough
You can make a whole movie in just two days, believe you me.
But here's a tip: before you take a trip, go up to Big Sur,
It's so pretty thur, oh...

Roger Corman swings like a pendulum do,
Dick Miller, Susan Cabot -- Dinocroc too!
See the Wild Angels go to Rock and Roll High,
Ray Milland rippin' out his X-ray eyes.

Now get your cameras ready, everybody go dutch,
Hang onto your wallet, we don't letting you spend too much
Add a social message, some boob shots, mind expenses
And no novocaine -- because it dulls the senses.

(OWWWWWW! Don't stop NOW!!!!!)

Roger Corman swings like a pendulum do,
They buried Babs alive and it's True! True! True!
Charles Dexter Ward and a sub-machine gun,
The rosy red cheeks of Angie Dickinson.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ROGER!

_______________

I should have thought of this myself, but Dennis Cozzalio kindly used his blog to ask any bloggers complying with my "Roger Corman Blog-A-Thon" request to contact me with their URLs. I appreciate that gesture very much. I have no idea how many other bloggers might also be commemorating Roger's octogenarian phase, but if you are one of them -- or if you know of one or found one in your travels -- send me the information and I will gladly post a link here. In the meantime, here are the authors, names, and links of some blogs who have already confirmed with me their intention to participate. These guys knocked themselves out meeting this absurd deadline, so please give them the benefit of your attendance today:

1. Ray Young, Flickhead: http://flickhead.blogspot.com/

2. John McElwee, Greenbriar Picture Shows: http://greenbriarpictureshows.blogspot.com/

3. Dennis Cozzalio, Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule: http://sergioleoneifr.blogspot.com/

4. Robert Cashill, Between Productions: http://robertcashill.blogspot.com/

5. Aaron Graham, More Than Meets the Mogwai: http://awcgfilmlog.blogspot.com/

6. Peter Nellhaus, Coffee Coffee and More Coffee: http://www.coffeecoffeeandmorecoffee.com

7. Dave Bohnert, filmZoneX: http://filmzonex.blogspot.com/

8. Marty McKee, Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot: http://pimannix.tripod.com/craneshot/

9. Lance Tooks, Lance Tooks' Journal: http://lancetooksjournal.blogspot.com/

10. Robert J. Lewis, Nadaland: http://nadalander.blogspot.com/2006/04/happy-80th-to-roger-corman.html

11. Steven Wintle, House of Irony: http://houseofirony.com/2006/04/05/roger-corman-is-everywhere/

12. Neil Sarver, The Bleeding Tree: http://bleeding-tree.blogspot.com/

13. Drew McWeeny, Moriarty's DVD Shelf: http://moriartylabs.typepad.com/moriartys_dvd_shelf/

14. Marty Langford, VertiBlog: http://martylangford.blogspot.com/


15. "Dr. Gangrene," Tales From the Lab: talesfromthelab.blogspot.com/

16. Karl Bauer, KGB Productions, Inc: http://kgbfilms.blogspot.com/

17. Brian O., Giant Monster Blog: http://giantmonsters.blogspot.com/

18. Christopher Stangl, The Exploding Kinetoscope: http://explodingkinetoscope.blogspot.com/

19. Jerry Lentz, Jerry Lentz Radio: http://www.jerrylentz.com/Beverlygray.mp3 (a radio interview with Roger Corman biographer, Beverly Gray)

20. Aleck Bennett, The Squeaky Reel: http://squeakyreel.blogspot.com/

21. Steve Monaco, Couch Pundit: http://blogs.citypages.com/amadzine/2006/04/happy_80th_birt.asp

22. Anonymous, Given to Hyperbole: http://giventohyperbole.blogspot.com/

23. El Thomazzo, Olhar El├ętrico: http://eletriceye.blogspot.com/


24. Although not technically a blog, David Hudson's Green Cine Daily gave the "Roger Corman Blog-A-Thon" a very nice mention: http://daily.greencine.com/

25. Rod Barnett: http://blog.myspace.com/47619990

26. Mr. Ghoul: http://blog.myspace.com/mrghoul

27. Rhatfink: http://blog.myspace.com/rhatfink

28. Matt Zoller Seitz, The House Next Door: http://www.mattzollerseitz.blogspot.com/


29. Rod Barnett, Bloody Pit of Rod: http://pitofrod.blogspot.com/

30. Pete Roberts, Cult Clash: http://cultclash.iblogs.com/

31. Anonymous, That Little Round-Headed Boy: http://roundheadedboy.blogspot.com/2006/04/roger-corman-movie-poster.html

For those of you reading this entry after April 5, 2006, that's the date you'll need to look up to find the Corman Blog-A-Thon postings at each of the above addresses. Thanks to everyone who participated for making today's Blog-A-Thon a tremendous success!

"Look at it! It grows like a cold sore from the lip!" -- THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (1960)




Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Harmonic Corman Convergence?

Very early on Roger Corman's birthday, this Wednesday morning, at two minutes and three seconds after 1:00 a.m., the time and date will be:

01:02:03 04/05/06.

And it won't happen again for another hundred years. (01:02:03 in the afternoon is technically 13:02:03.)

Roger Corman's Hi-Definition Birthday


The following is a press release from Cataldi Public Relations that arrived in the WatchBlog's mailbox. I've altered the original text slightly to incorporate a few informative amendments and asides:

HDTV-owning horror fans will definitely want to mark their calendars (perhaps, in blood?) for Wednesday, April 5. Monsters HD, the 24-hour high-definition, all-monster movie channel from VOOM HD, will be marking the 80th birthday of the master of the low-budget flicks with a round-the-clock marathon of some of Corman’s classiest and kookiest celluloid. Monsters HD actually tackled all the remastering on this bevy of gore, 13 films in all including THE BRAIN EATERS, THE UNDEAD, THE SAGA OF THE VIKING WOMEN, DAY THE WORLD ENDED (in SuperScope!), HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP (1980 and 1996 versions!), PIRANHA (Joe Dante's classic, even better-looking than it is on DVD), TALES OF TERROR, and TEENAGE CAVEMAN (with a young, but not exactly teenage Robert “Man from U.N.C.L.E” Vaughn). Monsters HD is one of 15 high-def channels available on VOOM HD to Dish Network subscribers nationwide. For more fun, check out the network’s website – www.monstershd.com

Monsters HD also seems to have booked HOUSE (1986) and HOUSE II: THE SECOND STORY (1987) as part of Roger's B-Day schedule. These were New World pictures and the IMDb says that Corman was an uncredited executive producer on them. Anyway, I've seen almost all of these pictures on Monsters HD at one time or another and can recommend all of these. THE SAGA OF THE VIKING WOMEN looks amazing, and not only when June Kenney is strutting around in her Old Norse miniskirt and go-go boots. It's far, far superior-looking than the Region 2 DVD.

And you bloggers, don't forget to join in the Roger Corman Blog-A-Thon tomorrow! I know this is short notice, but that's what's so Roger about it. Post an essay, a review, a tribute, a Top 10, a haiku, a fitful epigraph from the pages of Poe, a relevant still you've right-clicked off someone else's blog -- anything! Just do it and get it up on the screen. Don't worry about money. ("There is no money, Montresor. You haven't worked in seventeen years.") Monsters, social commentary, and breast nudity are all the currency you need. Now get clicking because we're opening on more than 500 screens Wednesday -- and I'm talking hardtops! Impressive, huh? And think of the points you'll score when you tell everybody you wrote your great Corman blog in a single day... or an hour... or less than five minutes. If you're reading this, you're already at your machine. You're already in the saddle, man. No hassles...

"We wanna be free to ride our machines without being hassled by The Man! And we wanna get loaded! And we wanna have a good time! And that's what we are gonna do! We're gonna have a good time... We're gonna have a party!" -- THE WILD ANGELS (1966)

Monday, April 03, 2006

It's Roger Week at Video WatchBlog


This Wednesday, April 5, Roger Corman will celebrate his 80th birthday. One of the strange customs I discovered upon entering the world of blogdom is that, occasionally, the International Brotherhood of Bloggers (if there is such a thing) will suggest that everybody blog on the same topic on a given day. For instance, Dennis Cozzalio at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule is currently requesting that all bloggers participate in an Angie Dickinson "Blog-A-Thon" on April 19.

With this in mind... and, hey, I realize this is short notice... but I'd like to see a Roger Corman "Blog-A-Thon" this Wednesday. That gives you about as much time as Roger had to make THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS. It doesn't have to be ambitious, just post a rough-and-ready blog in the true Corman spirit. It's the least we can all do for a man who has given us 50 years of entertainment... the man who infused exploitation with social commentary... the man who kept Vincent Price and Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre working when no one else would... the man who discovered everybody from Jack Nicholson to James Cameron to Jennifer Love Hewitt... the man who made Dick Miller a star... the man who sent Angie Dickinson the script for BIG BAD MAMA... the man, when all is said and done, who changed the face of Hollywood.

Every post I make here at Video WatchBlog this week is going to be on the subject of Roger William Corman. I feel it's the least I can do.

Anyway, fellow bloggers, there's the gauntlet. Consider it thrown down. I've got my eye on all of you. Don't make me pluck it out.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Busy Busy Busy

I'd like to be here blogging, but at present, I'm busy selecting, editing, and still writing material for the next issue of VIDEO WATCHDOG; it seems there is already enough material on hand for the next three issues. I'm going to go ahead and edit/prepare everything, so we can do two issues back-to-back if that's advantageous.

I've also promised to deliver tomorrow some liner notes and graphics to Digitmovies for their upcoming Bava Anthology soundtrack CD of I VAMPIRI (Roman Vlad) and CALTIKI THE IMMORTAL MONSTER (Roman Vlad and Roberto Nicolosi), which I think will be another two-disc set, and another two-disc set of Enzo Masetti's dazzling music for HERCULES and HERCULES UNCHAINED. I'm told we can all toss out those old vinyl and CD boots of the Masetti scores; Digitmovies has received original studio tapes from CAM that unearth at least 75 minutes of music per film!

In addition to all this, my next "No Zone" column for SIGHT AND SOUND is due next Friday... I have no idea what I'll be reviewing yet. It seems I don't have time to watch anything in the evenings, except that blessed half-hour of old WHAT'S MY LINE? reruns on Game Show Network at 3:30 a.m. eastern. That's our decompression time.

All of this work needs to be done and out of the way within the next two weeks, at which time it's back to work on the Bava book.

Fool that I am, with my plate already piled so high, I started working on a new screenplay last week. I had received some promising news from my screenwriting agent, and that encouraging word was enough to spark me in that direction. I've had the idea for this film for awhile now; it was just the vaguest outline, really, but once I started putting it "on paper" (so to speak), I found that my ideas were more developed than I realized; the characters sprang readily to life, themes were becoming pronounced, and I was able to knock out a pretty solid opening 10 pages in half a day. Just to sit down and produce some fiction made me feel like a complete human being for this first time this year. But this was the same sort of energy that propelled Charlie Largent and me through our initial draft of THE MAN WITH KALEIDOSCOPE EYES (then called SUNSHINE BLVD.) in less than two weeks; I know how rare that level of energy and inspiration is and I have the greatest respect for it. It's the rush I live for, as a writer. I'd love to press on with this script, because it's best to get these ideas down while they are young and vital and flowing, but I don't know where I'm going to find the time.

But I will.