Friday, July 11, 2008
This is wonderful news, very exciting -- and we get to share our elation with cherished VW contributor Ramsey Campbell, who has been nominated in two important categories!
Here is the complete list of nominations (with VW-related nominees bolded) as found on the IHG website.
INTERNATIONAL HORROR GUILD AWARD NOMINATIONS for WORKS from 2007
LIVING LEGEND AWARD
Grin of the Dark. Ramsey Campbell (PS Publishing)
Generation Loss. Elizabeth Hand (Small Beer Press)
The Missing. Sarah Langan (HarperCollns)
Season of the Witch. Natasha Mostert (Dutton)
The Terror. Dan Simmons (Little, Brown & Company)
The Imago Sequence and Other Stories. Laird Barron (Night Shade Books)
Plots and Misadventures. Stephen Gallagher (Subterranean Press)
Shadows Kith and Kin. Joe R. Lansdale (Subterranean Press)
Masques of Satan. Reggie Oliver (Ash Tree Press)
Dagger Key and Other Stories. Lucius Shepard (PS Publishing)
Procession of the Black Sloth. Laird Barron (The Imago Sequence: Night Shade Books)
The Man in the Picture: A Ghost Story. Susan Hill (Profile)
Softspoken. Lucius Shepard (Night Shade Books)
The Scalding Rooms. Conrad Williams (PS Publishing)
"The Janus Tree". Glen Hirshberg (Inferno: Tor)
"Lie Still, Sleep Becalmed". Steven Duffy (At Ease with the Dead: Ash Tree Press)
"The Bone Man". Fredric S. Durbin (Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, December 2007)
"Closet Dreams". Lisa Tuttle (Postscripts 10: PS Publishing)
"Digging Deep". Ramsey Campbell (Phobic: Comma Press)
"Honey in the Wound". Nancy Etchemendy (The Restless Dead: Candlewick Press)
"The Tank". Paul Finch (At Ease with the Dead: Ash Tree Press)
"Splitfoot". Paul Walther (New Genre 5, Spring 2007)
"The Great White Bed". Don Webb (Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, May 2007)
Inferno. Ellen Datlow, editor (Tor)
Summer Chills. Stephen Jones, editor (Carroll & Graf)
American Supernatural Tales. S.T. Joshi, editor (Penguin)
Strange Tales Volume II. Rosalie Parker, editor (Tartarus Press)
At Ease with the Dead. Barbara and Christopher Roden, editors (Ash Tree Press)
Frankenstein: A Cultural History. Susan Tyler Hitchcock (W.W. Norton & Company)
Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark. Tim Lucas (Video Watchdog)
Warnings to the Curious: A Sheaf of Criticism on M.R. James. Rosemary Pardoe & S.T. Joshi, eds. (Hippocampus Press)
Sides. Peter Straub (Borderlands Press)
The Science of Stephen King. Bob Weinberg & Lois M. Gresh (John Wiley)
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction
Scalped: Indian Country. Jason Aaron (writer) R.M. Gu�ra (artist) (Vertigo/DC Comics)
The Nightmare Factory. Thomas Ligotti (creator/writer), Joe Harris & Stuart Moore (writers), Ben Templesmith, Michael Gaydos, Colleen Doran & Ted McKeever (illustrators) (Fox Atomic/Harper Paperbacks)
The Blot. Tom Neely (I Will Destroy You)
The Arrival. Shaun Tan (Arthur A. Levine Books)
Wormwood Gentleman Corpse: Birds, Bees, Blood & Beer. Ben Templesmith (IDW)
Didier Cottier for Exhibit at Utopiales, Nantes, France, November 2007
David Ho for his body of work
Elizabeth McGrath for "The Incurable Disorder", Billy Shire Fine Arts, December 2007
Chris Mars for "New Salem", Jonathan Levine Gallery, October 2007
Mike Mignola for cover & illustrations: Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire (Bantam Spectra)
My congratulations to Mr. Straub and ALL the 2007 IHGA nominees!
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Some will inevitably disagree, but I prefer HELLBOY II to the original: it's true that Hellboy himself is less the center of attention, but he and all the characters are more fully realized here, and the world (or should that be "worlds"?) they inhabit seems infinitely more byzantine. The entire cast is at the top of their game, sporting some truly amazing makeup; while Ron Perlman and Doug Jones continue to delight as Hellboy and Abe Sapien, Selma Blair in particular mines appreciable new depths as firestarter Liz Sherman, now secure in her otherly domesticity with the big lug she calls "Red." In addition to some new key characters (like the ectoplasmic Johann Krauss), the film introduces a legion of new monsters and creatures so numerous and inventively designed that their burgeoning presence lends luster to the opening Universal logo, the family crest of the most iconic movie monsters.
But such small matters fade into insignificance in the light of HELLBOY II's well-balanced package of action, horror, spectacle, warmth (even where its cold-blooded characters are concerned) and humor. Highlights include an attack by a terrifying new breed of monster called Tooth Fairies (feeding on calcium, these cute little devils go for your teeth first); a visit to the Angel of Death; Hellboy's midtown encounter with a towering Lovecraftian monstrosity called an Elemental, a descent into a Troll Bazaar under the Brooklyn Bridge (I couldn't help comparing this sequence to the cantina scene of STAR WARS, not my favorite film series, and thinking to myself "I would even watch a STAR WARS film by this guy!"); and an instant-classic scene in which the lovelorn Abe Sapien and Hellboy cry into their beer while binging on sappy love songs. No one who has ever been a teenager can fail to feel the subtext as these two outsiders grit their teeth and purge their hearts to a Barry Manilow number. And when the song reappears to guide us through the end credits, we feel in the presence of a gifted filmmaker who has also become a great showman.
HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY opens in theaters across America on Friday, July 11.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Comedies, romances, war and adventure pictures followed in quick succession, preparing Dr. Reinl for his rendezvous with destiny. In 1959, he directed the first of the West German Edgar Wallace krimis, THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE FROG. Many of the basic tenets of the krimi were established by Reinl in this film and his subsequent contributions, THE TERRIBLE PEOPLE (1960) and THE FORGER OF LONDON (1961) -- particularly those in the realms of casting and atmosphere. Beginning with THE TERRIBLE PEOPLE, Reinl usually cast his second wife, Karin Dor, whom he had married in 1954, as the leading lady in his thrillers; she quickly became known as "Miss Krimi" to theater goers. It would seem that Reinl's personal hero was Fritz Lang, as he was lured away from Rialto Film's Wallace series to helm the best of CCC's Dr. Mabuse sequels: THE RETURN OF DR. MABUSE (1961) and THE INVISIBLE DR. MABUSE (1962). He also made an odd non-associated German thriller, THE CARPET OF HORROR (1962) around this time, which actually had more to do with poison gas than carpeting.
While Rialto's Wallace directors generally stayed faithful to the studio and series, Reinl prefered to remain a free agent and drifted freely from CCC back to Rialto (where he inaugurated their successful Karl May Western series with 1962's wonderfully entertaining THE TREASURE OF SILVER LAKE) and back again to CCC, where he contributed to their competing Bryan Edgar Wallace series with the outstanding THE STRANGLER OF BLACKMOOR CASTLE (1963). Between 1963 and 1965, he made another oddball krimi starring Klaus Kinski (THE WHITE SPIDER), returned to the Wallace series with the violent ROOM 13 and series standout THE SINISTER MONK (which in many ways foreshadowed Argento's SUSPIRIA), and then directed the three films that collectively compose what is arguably the pinnacle of his career and the Karl May series: the WINNETOU trilogy starring Lex Barker and Pierre Brice. Reinl's sweepingly romantic, unabashedly heroic view of the Old West was a significant influence on the operatic Italian Westerns of Sergio Leone. The final film in the WINNETOU trilogy, released in this country as THE DESPERADO TRAIL, has the personal distinction of being one of only two Westerns that have ever brought me to tears -- though I can't be sure the English dubbed version would affect me the same way.
Reinl was rewarded for this success by being permitted to indulge himself in a fantasy assignment: a lavish, two-part, color and stereo sound remake of Fritz Lang's DIE NIEBELUNGEN, featuring Uwe Beyer as Siegfried and Karin Dor as Brunhilda. (Sadly, I have never seen it, but some have called it a masterpiece.) By this time, Reinl's marriage to Dor was turning rocky; they made one last film together, DIE SCHLANGENGRUBE UND DAS PENDEL ("The Snake Pit and the Pendulum") before divorcing in 1968. This horror film, heavily influenced by Bava's BLACK SUNDAY and one of the most eerily atmospheric of its period, also starred Christopher Lee, Lex Barker and krimi favorite Dieter Eppler -- and it is known here in America by many other lurid titles, including BLOOD DEMON, CASTLE OF THE WALKING DEAD and THE TORTURE CHAMBER OF DR. SADISM.
The remainder of Dr. Reinl's career is an intriguing conglomeration of trivia. He made another Karl May film (1968's IN THE VALLEY OF DEATH), three of the best Jerry Cotton thrillers starring George Nader (DEATH AND DIAMONDS, CORPSE IN A RED JAGUAR and DEADLY SHOTS ON BROADWAY), a film in the "Dr. Fabian" comedy series, and in 1970, he directed the film based on Erich von Däniken's best-selling CHARIOTS OF THE GODS. In a career highlight, it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary. Six years later, he helmed a sequel of sorts, MYSTERIES OF THE GODS, also based on a book by von Däniken. It was in the year of this last international success, 1976, that Reinl met and married his third and last wife, Daniella Maria Dana, who reportedly stabbed him to death on October 9, 1986. One last film, a documentary about Sri Lanka, was issued to theaters posthumously.
As a young viewer discovering Reinl's work on video, I always imagined -- from the doctorate he so often insisted on attaching to his name -- he must have been a humorless, Kissinger-like fellow and a tyrant on the set, rather in the mold of his hero, Fritz Lang. However, more recently, the TOBIS/UFA DVD import discs of the Edgar Wallace krimis have included archival interviews with Harald Reinl that show him to have been an outgoing, gregarious and quite humor-driven man, well-liked by his cast and crews. I'm happy to honor him today as an outstanding contributor to the fantastic cinema of the 1950s and 1960s, a chief architect of the krimi and the post-Lang Mabuse thriller, and as something he is too seldom acknowledged as being: one of the great Western directors of all time.
Monday, July 07, 2008
Here, as promised, is Guillermo del Toro's acceptance of the George Pal Memorial Award at the 34th Annual Saturn Awards, preceded by a short video prologue and introduced with what I believe are universal sentiments by writer-director Frank Darabont.
I photographed this material myself, and I should forewarn you that the picture goes black for a short time between Guillermo's introduction and his first words onstage. That's because I had to put the camera down and pay the man his due by clapping my hands together.
Not included in this clip is my relevant after-party banter with Guillermo, which went something like this...
TL: Guillermo, did you ever meet George Pal?
GDT: No, I never did, I am sorry to say.
TL: I met George Pal once.
GDT: Do you want me to hit you over the head with this fucking award?
We also recorded Guillermo del Toro's speech upon receiving the George Pal Memorial Award, and Frank Darabont's extraordinary introduction of him, which I'll be posting here anon. The version on YouTube is only a fragment of the actual speech.
Saturday, July 05, 2008
The cover story is Justin Humphreys' touching and informative memoir of AIP screenwriter (and New World director) Charles B. Griffith, illustrated with many rare and original photos, which provides a wonderful complement to our Roger Corman round table of a few issues ago. The issue also includes several reviews that are feature-length in themselves: Bill Cooke on the FOX HORROR CLASSICS box set (the Laird Cregar/John Brahm set, as we know it around here), Kim Newman's coverage of CHARLIE CHAN VOLUME 4, and my own detailed assessment of the entire SPIDER-MAN trilogy (actually a quartet, as SPIDER-MAN 2.1 is also included) on Blu-Ray. Also featured: Frank Darabont's THE MIST, THE INVASION, and a generous helping of British horror, including BLOOD OF THE VAMPIRE and three Amicus titles.
This issue is a particularly happy occasion for us on a behind-the-scenes count: it marks our return to our original printer, Crest Graphics, for the first time since VW #109. While the print quality of VW #112 through 140, done by another local company, was never less than crisp and sparkling, I was personally never very happy with the paper quality, the heavy gloss on the covers, or the way their web press caused the pages to audibly crackle when turned. This new issue is much more like the way I prefer to envision VW: lighter but still readable cover gloss, sturdier paper, pages that turn without sound effects. In fact, owing to a miscalculation on our part, this new issue was printed on heavier stock than it should have been -- 70 lb. instead of 60 lb. -- so there will be a slight reduction in weight with the next. This one is going to cost us a little more than usual to mail, but boy, does it feel like a magazine! And so will the next one, I'm sure. We've always loved and missed our friends at Crest Graphics, and we're delighted to be back with them. I think when our seasoned subscribers slip this latest issue from its envelope, they'll feel back in the presence of an old friend, too.
Thursday, July 03, 2008
Lunch with Joe Dante, his partner Elizabeth Stanley and charmin' Charlie Largent at Musso & Frank's Grill on Hollywood Boulevard -- just a stone's throw away from the Monkees' star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. (We have photos of Donna's visit to that sacred shrine, too, if you're interested.) They make a terrific corned beef sandwich there, an open-faced job so big I couldn't finish it. I remember Joe taking home half a club sandwich, come to think of it.
I wish Joe was prepping Charlie's and my Roger Corman biopic script, THE MAN WITH KALEIDOSCOPE EYES, but the budget still isn't in place. He's currently in pre-production on two new horror movies, BAT OUT OF HELL and THE HOLE (which I told him will be called ONIBABA in Japan). Joe and Elizabeth aren't giving up on our project, though; they say they have never heard any complaints about the script, but the general (incorrect) feeling is that the story is too Hollywood-inside to be a commercial success. As we all know, it's only insiderly because it happened to famous people like Roger and Jack Nicholson and Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper and Nancy Sinatra (quite a cast of characters, wouldn't you say?); the movie's message is as benign as it is universal. At the very least, it's a future cult comedy waiting to happen, the kind you'll watch again and again as you surf it up on one of your cable movie channels. A major Oscar-winning actor-director has expressed interest in playing Corman, too. If you're looking to invest in a terrific film project, let one or all of us know.
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Who's on first?
On June 20, Donna and I visited Bob and Kathy Burns, whose peerless collection of fantastic film memorabilia provided a wonderful evening of nostalgic distraction. Here I am holding one of Glenn Strange's original Frankenstein boots -- and Glenn's own shoe is still inside it! The outer part feels like felt and the sole feels like wood!
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
Monday, June 30, 2008
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
The Franco retrospective (which consists of 68 films by my count!) will run from today, June 18, through July 31. Here is a link to a complete alphabetical listing of the films being shown, their showtimes and locations, posted by Robert Monell at his website I'm In a Jess Franco State of Mind.
I certainly wish I could be there for this exciting event and send my best wishes to Jess and Lina for this long overdue celebration of their life of work.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
"The Avanz DVD is most certainly a bootleg," he writes, "since it has burned-in subtitles and it looks like it's taped from TV." (Indeed, the Avanz disc transfer features a rotating TV station bug that reads "Ciao!" I cropped these out of the screen grabs in my previous posting.) "I have been in contact with Avanz," Andreas continues, "and the Italian company that hold the rights to the film, regarding an upload of the whole movie on Google Video that I found. The reply from Avanz confirmed my suspicions: 'We're not original licenser and almost public domain... a rights holder might have permitted it...' 'Almost public domain'... there is no such thing as 'almost' public domain. The worldwide rights holder is the Italian company that produced the film and they are still around, and it is with them Klubb Super 8 made a deal for our legitimate release. It would be great if you could somehow point this out in your blog. I have made an comparison of the two DVD's, check attached files."
Sunday, June 15, 2008
When you work in the business of film and video reviewing, there's a constant and sometimes oppressive pressure to cover only what is new. More and more often of late, I've been fighting this sense of regimentation by watching what I want to watch, what I'm most drawn to. The movies I find most enticing at any given time may not be new releases; they may not even be official releases -- indeed, they may not have been released at all. There is, and always will be, a tremendous allure about those unsanctioned titles which can only be seen through the efforts of a dedicated subterranean community. Fortunately, each issue of VIDEO WATCHDOG can support only so much of my own writing, which leaves me a certain amount of time each month in which to truffle out the kinds of movies that can only be found by those who are willing to dig. It is the pursuit and study of these random obsessions that keep me excited about what I do.
That love was just a game
A Swede maybe, frozen to death possibly.
I was recently able to realize a long-held dream of seeing Luigi Scattini's mondo film SWEDEN, HEAVEN AND HELL (1968) in English. Judging from the copy I obtained, it must have had an official DVD release in Japan, because it was in English with fixed Japanese subtitles. I looked around the internet in search of the actual disc, but couldn't find it at any of the usual outlets, so I can only surmise it has gone out-of-print.
Could it be really true
My love meant nothing too
And I was only just a passing affair?
Marie Liljedahl - A Swede in danger?
Supposedly a documentary about the peculiarities of Sweden and its people, SWEDEN, HEAVEN AND HELL is a patently false construction -- for example, a segment on a Swedish biker gang ends with the cyclists dismounting to chase a young woman through the woods, whom they catch and then proceed to gang-rape in a coyly filmed and very short sequence. Close-ups of the supposed victim reveal her to be actress Marie Liljedahl, a fact which, at the time, would have been apparent only to those few who had also seen INGA, EUGENIE... THE STORY OF HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION or GRIMM'S FAIRY TALES FOR ADULTS.
Edmond Purdom's narration of a later segment about a secret lesbian club (where we witness the congregation of what Mr. Purdom calls "human wreckage") mentions that the earlier segment's rape victim is among the women onscreen -- hinting that all lesbians share a history of traumatic contact with the male sex -- but Ms. Liljedahl is nowhere to be seen among their number. Other segments profile a kind of permissive barge cruise where teenagers can lose their virginity and gain sexual experience with multiple partners; a nightclub featuring a topless rock band; the birth of a baby destined for adoption; a home for unwanted children; Sweden's supposed epidemic tendencies to alcoholism and suicide; a tour of a Swedish atomic shelter (which looks rather like the dressing room area of a sports arena), and a group of teen girls who run semi-naked through the snow after opening their pores with a nice schvitz in a sauna.
Brother and sister, man and wife -- or are they?
Yes, it was true that
You never did care...
Da dee da dee-dee ( Mah-ná mah-ná), Deet dee-dee deet...
It's during the almost embarrassingly innocent sauna scene that Piero Umiliani's hit song "Mah-ná Mah-ná" is heard for the first and only time in the picture. To be sure, a large measure of this strange film's pull on my imagination stems from my purchase of the 45rpm single -- a song wholesome enough for Cincinnati's Larry Smith Puppets (and later, the Muppets) to pantomime on television -- when I was in my early teens. The Ariel Records label mentioned parenthetically that the song was from the movie SWEDEN, HEAVEN AND HELL, about which I knew nothing, but I can vividly recall the tingles of teenage complicity and transgression I felt when the film eventually opened at Cincinnati's Twin Drive-In Theater, carrying an X rating. I suppose I had already transgressed along similar lines when I bought Nilsson's "Everybody's Talkin'" from the MIDNIGHT COWBOY soundtrack, but there was nothing conspicuously adult about that song. There was something vaguely creepy about discovering "Mah-ná Mah-ná"'s ties to an X-rated movie; it was such an otherworldly novelty record, an instrumental from a film peopled with unprofessionals, my brain boggled as it pondered what racy spectacles the song might accompany onscreen. Easy Tempo's soundtrack CD contains a list of the musicians who performed Umiliani's score (including none other than Gato Barbieri) and reveals that the vocals were by Sandro Alessandroni ("Mah-ná Mah-ná") and Edda Dell'Orso ("Deet dee-dee-deet") -- both of whom contributed significantly to Ennio Morricone's unparalleled score for Sergio Leone's ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST the very same year. Indeed, there is a track on the album called "La Signora Cameriera" featuring a distinctive whistle by Alessandroni that evokes "Cheyenne's Theme" from the Leone masterpiece.
What do Swedish policewomen do when off-duty? Nude modelling, of course.
Umiliani's alternately spritely, mournful and longing lounge score (currently out of print, but downloadable from emusic.com here) lends a haunting ambiance to what otherwise would be a peculiarly arid sketch of European despair. Perhaps its most compelling cue is a bluesy torch song called "You Tried To Warn Me" (amusingly listed in the end titles as "You Tried To Worm Me"), sung by Lydia MacDonald. The song's melody is repeated serially throughout the picture, even instrumentally reprised within other cues, though its lyrics make no specific comment about anything in it. Other reprised melodies, like that of "Solitudine," have a greater bearing on the picture, their symphonic strains of overbearing sadness going some way towards describing in music the supposed Swedish sense of malaise -- that bizarre nullity of spirit that blooms only in the land of the midnight sun, compelling the natives to marry their siblings, drink antifreeze, jump off the roofs of buildings, and dance with members of the same sex.
Cavorting at the lesbian bar.
And, though you're gone,
I'll still keep on loving you.
Sweden's Love Boat. Or is it?
With its POV shots of boats meeting the horizon lines of glittering waterways, cars venturing along barren country roads, soulless architecture and a cast of (mostly) nameless people, some of whom are shown leaping to faked deaths from window ledges or sharing a bottle of Aquavit with strangers in a public pissoir -- all set to unexpectedly gripping music that counts, along with 5 DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON, as Umiliani's masterpiece -- SWEDEN, HEAVEN AND HELL is one of those movies that best come alive when watched in solitude in the after-midnight hours. After watching the movie, I seriously considered giving it another spin right away, knowing that a second viewing would inevitably take me to even stranger corners of the night and my imagination. It struck me, unexpectedly, as a Ballardian picture, empathic but strangely clinical, the kind of movie that entices one (at least entices me) to think about exploring it further -- not in the form of a review, but in a work of experimental short fiction. It's not so much about Sweden, I gather, as it's about a place in the imagination called Sweden.
J.G. Ballard's Sweden. Or is it?
Could it be really true
My love meant nothing too
And I was only just a passing affair?
Going to the drive-in. Or am I?
Now that I've finally seen SWEDEN, HEAVEN AND HELL via this DVD-R disc, I find myself wishing all the more ardently that I could have seen it in 35mm when it played at my local Twin Drive-In Theater in 1970. I wish I could find and interview the Ohioans and Northern Kentuckians who went in my stead, like one of those man-in-the-street interrogators from the SCHOOLGIRL REPORT films: What was the experience like for them? Was it what they expected? Why did they go? Because of the hit song? Because of the X rating? Did they curse to themselves when they realized that it wasn't going to be quite the sensational exposé they had been led to expect? Did they snicker or feel revulsion at the grinny brother and his shy-looking sister who (we're told) met belatedly in life, fell in love, and had to leave Stockholm for the anonymity of life in a smaller town? Did they see through the phony parts, which supposedly caused a public uproar when the film was finally televised, many years later, in Stockholm? Did they inadvertently learn something about Sweden, its progressive views on sex, its socialist society, despite Scattini's fictions and manipulations? Did they recognize themselves in it?
A Swedish girl broods in her room -- as I once did. Were they showing "Cincinnati, Heaven and Hell" only four blocks away and she couldn't go?
If I think hard enough, I am there... semi-reclined in the driver's seat of a 1967 Camaro at the Twin Drive-In on that lost evening -- which I actually spent approximately four blocks away, "in my room, in my room," even then grinding my teeth at the thought of the experience I was missing, so close yet so far away. As the film ends, cheap images of atomic devastation followed by splicy, jumpy footage of teenage girls sunning their naked bodies on a riverbank -- nubile representatives of a reborn Sweden -- the closing song ("Sleep Now, Little One") cuts out on my window speaker. It is abruptly replaced by the Twin's stock intermission/exit music, which always began with either The Box Tops' "Cry Like a Baby" or The Beatles' "Lady Madonna" joined in progress. The movie is over, I tell myself; it will never play here again. I sit patiently, savoring the moment, letting the cars around me ignite and jockey for positions in the exiting queues, all of their drivers somehow more eager than I to break away from this shared spell of mystification and return to their mundane lives.
Yes, it was true that
You never did care
And, though you're gone,
I'll still keep on loving you.
It occurs to me, as I watch their Mustangs and Thunderbirds and Ramblers inching away and suddenly bolting onto Tennessee Avenue like racehorses, that I will, in all likelihood, never know any of the people with whom I just shared this singular experience, which makes them indistinguishable from the people who appeared in SWEDEN, HEAVEN AND HELL, whom I will also never know. Sometimes, years later, a revelation may crop up in conversation at a party or around a watercooler -- "You were there too?" -- but it occurs so rarely that those other cars might as well be filing out of a theater somewhere in Stockholm.
Knowing that it will be some time before the exits are cleared, I decide to stretch my legs. I get out of my car, light a cigarette and look up at the stars -- the stars that Cincinnati shares with Stockholm and the little Swedish town where the incestuous lovers have hidden themselves away from worldly scrutiny, while consenting to celebrate their love openly in a motion picture that will be shown all around the world. I think about how a movie like SWEDEN, HEAVEN AND HELL is like a message in a bottle, sent from one culture to another... I've found it, I've seen it, but now what do I do with it? A train whistle blows in the distance and wonder where it is going at this hour. Will it cross the Erie Canal? Both Sweden and Cincinnati have an Erie Canal...
Suddenly, a car horn intrudes upon my reverie. The lot is now empty and a man is waving impatiently to me from the theater gate; he wants to close up. I drop my cigarette, replace the speaker on its stand and climb back into my Camaro; I start up the engine and enjoy the slow sensation of my tires rolling over the gravel and the condoms and the popcorn boxes on the way out, my headlights bouncing off the arrows leading to the exit. I take the right turn on to Tennessee Avenue slowly and gracefully. A left turn would take me home.
Cincinnati's Tennessee Avenue... or somewhere in Sweden? You tell me.
I drive past the Porter's Paint store ("Cover the Earth"), past the McDonalds, past Natorp's Garden Center -- looking for back roads at the outskirts of my neighborhood that might click with the torch song from the movie that is stuck on automatic replay in my head.
You tried to warn me...
I continue to avoid the roads that would take me home until well after 3:00 am, celebrating the fact that it is still the weekend, that it is still 1970, knowing that the sun must inevitably rise on Monday and the commencement of a new working week. I know that, as surely as Monday slips into Tuesday, Tuesday into Wednesday into Thursday, my memory of SWEDEN, HEAVEN AND HELL will slip into those fuzzy banks of the brain where we file those unexpectedly important moments we didn't share, the things we finally cannot be sure actually happened. I muse to myself: I'll never see that movie again. They never show X-rated films on television.
As long as I continue driving, holding my responsibilities at bay, my memory of this peculiar and strangely longing, lonely film will stay as fresh in my mind as it will ever be. And so I drive on, reflecting on the places I may never go, on broken hearts and lives half a world away, as I hum once again Umiliani's song about a love affair entered into with reckless abandon.
You tried to warn me.
POSTSCRIPT (6:16am): It must be serendipity... The first response I received to the above fever dream came from reader Lars Erik Holmquist at Stockholm University! Lars wrote to inform me of the happy news that SWEDEN, HEAVEN AND HELL has just been released on DVD in Sweden, where it never received a theatrical release! Here is a link to Klubb Super 8's sales page for the disc, which includes audio tracks in English, Italian and Spanish -- in which the narration is respectively read by Edmond Purdom, Enrico Maria Salerno and... I don't know who. Lars tells me that he contributed some of his paper collection on the title to this release, which features a stills and poster gallery as well as pictorial adornments on the packaging. Lars also sent me these links (here and here) to pages from his own blog, Terror in the Midnight Sun, where he blogged about SWEDEN, HEAVEN AND HELL himself.
POSTSCRIPT (9:42 pm): Reader Miles Wood informs me that SWEDEN, HEAVEN AND HELL was in fact released on DVD in Japan on the Avanz label, back in 2004. An Avanz sales page suggests it may still be available.