Monday, January 01, 2007

VWb's New Year's Day Parade

HAPPY NEW YEAR! It's New Year's Day and my health is feeling (dare I say it?) on an upward swing, so I thought I would celebrate both facts by recommending a few items which have come to my attention over one transom or another. In case you're wondering, sending something over my transom (Tim Lucas, Video WatchBlog, PO Box 5283, Cincinnati OH 45205-0283) is no guarantee that I will like it or mention it here -- I'm a busy fellow, can't do all I'd like to do, and tend to gravitate toward known quantities that already interest me. These entrepreneurs lucked out, however, and I commend them and their projects to your support.

Mirek Lipinski, whose LATARNIA INTERNATIONAL forums are an essential meeting ground for the serious discussion of all things fantastic, is starting off the New Year in a most impressive and unexpected way. In this age of rampant blogging, Mirek is going back to print! He is launching KRIMI CORNER, a by-mail-only newsletter devoted to detailed coverage of the West German crime cinema based on the works of Edgar Wallace and his son Bryan Edgar Wallace. The first issue consists of only four pages, but they are four quality pages, encompassing an introductory essay about Wallace père, a checklist of Edgar Wallace krimis produced by Rialto Film, and an in-depth, illustrated review of Retromedia's double-feature DVD, THE MONSTER OF LONDON CITY and THE SECRET OF THE RED ORCHID. It's well worth the $2.00 asking price, and five-issue subscriptions are available for $8.00; it's mailed folded in a standard mailing envelope, unless you prefer it mailed flat in a manila envelope at an additional fifty cents per issue. Order with checks, money orders, or well concealed cash from M. Lipinski, PO Box 2398, New York NY 10009, or send PayPal payments to Mirelski@aol.com. The first issue gave me a lot of pleasure, and I'm looking forward to the pleasure the future issues will provide me as they accumulate in a binder. It's such a pleasure to see something like this printed on paper, that can be read in any room in the house, or outside the house! Bravo, Mirek!

Regular readers of VIDEO WATCHDOG may recall that, several issues ago, we covered the release of something called "The Monster Box," a box set of actual size reproductions of 8mm horror movie box cover art from the 1950s and 60s. Now, Mixed Nitrate -- a division of Pulp Novelties, the company behind the original release -- has issued "The Monster Box, Vol. 2" which consists of 25 additional vintage 8mm movie covers. Among the classic covers included in this latest selection are THE BLOB (pictured above), FRANKENSTEIN'S NEW BRAIN (scenes from THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN), ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE, and THE WEREWOLF, as well as a few titles that reach into the late '60s and early '70s like FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED, FRENZY, SQUIRM, and EQUINOX. I found particularly interesting the "weird menace"-style artwork given to DOCTOR X (featuring a mad doctor seemingly patterned on Everett Van Sloan), THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (an artist's rendition of a scene from THIS ISLAND EARTH!) and THE WOMAN IN THE COFFIN ("Beautiful Girls Stolen for Experiments," says the box... evidently this was a condensed version of the Baker & Berman film BLOOD OF THE VAMPIRE). A fun nostalgia item, "The Monster Box,Vol. 2" and its predecessor are both available here.

Some weeks ago, a fellow named Jeremy Richey sent me a link to his new blog The Moon in the Gutter. I responded as I always do to such links, by telling Jeremy that I would visit his site as time permitted and would comment only if I found his work there of personal interest. In the short time Moon has been up and running, Jeremy has proven himself an outstanding online essayist about film and music, and I find his choice of topics fascinating, as well as the angles he takes in approaching them. Check out what he's doing here.

Some of you may be aware of my long-running obsession with the San Francisco-based psych group Jefferson Airplane -- in addition to penning the liner notes for the "Ahuka's Choice" archival live sets and reviewing some of their bootleg albums for the Fly Jefferson Airplane site, I've written two drafts of an unproduced biopic screenplay about them (a four-hour miniseries chronicling the band's full history, and a feature-length draft focusing on Grace Slick).

This background is preamble to my recommendation -- to those kindred spirits among you -- of a new, telephone directory-sized book called TAKE ME TO A CIRCUS TENT, written and compiled by Craig "The Airplane Man" Fenton. This compendium from Infinity Books (which takes its title from a line in the song "3/5ths of a Mile in Ten Seconds") consists partly of interviews with band members and associates, more than 260 answered questions about Airplane arcana, 90 archival photographs (one particularly rare one contributed by me), and -- of particular interest -- a complete run-down/description of every documented live setlist in the band's history, including their 1989 reunion shows. Fenton actually times every song performed, gives authenticated names to various instrumental jams and improvs, mentions guest musicians (like Nicky Hopkins on piano at Woodstock), and notes the first and final live performances of individual songs. He also presents his choices for the band's ten best-ever live performances. The book could have used the attention of a proofreader in terms of spellings and grammar but, as an informational source, it's absorbing and can hardly be faulted. This is the kind of fan scholarship that infects with its rabid enthusiasm, and I recommend it. You can order TAKE ME TO A CIRCUS TENT from Amazon.com here -- or from Craig's own website, where you'll also find "Jeffersounds Audio," a healthy number of downloadable mp3s of live performances by various incarnations of the band, as well as band members' solo and secondary group projects.

In closing, on a different note, I wanted to mention that, last night, Game Show Network ran two 1968-era WHAT'S MY LINE? episodes with mystery guests Gerald R. Ford (then Congressman, not yet US President) and James Brown (then "soul singer," not yet Godfather). This was less than 40 years ago, and both men appeared surprisingly young and vital, yet they died at ages 93 and 73, respectively. A sobering reminder of how short our time on life's stage really is... so as we embark upon 2007, let's join together in our resolve to seize our days and make the most of them.

Or, as Donna says, "Don't expect parades when you're gone. Make the most of what you have now. This is as parade as it gets."

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