Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Yes, in addition to my Centipede Press book on VIDEODROME, I have another book streeting on September 16. It's not entirely mine, but I am one of the many contributors to THE BOOK OF LISTS: HORROR (edited by Amy Wallace, Del Howison and Scott Bradley) along with Stephen King, Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury, VW's own Ramsey Campbell, Kim Newman and Richard Harland Smith, Johnny Ramone, Karl Edward Wagner, John Skipp, Eli Roth, Edgar Wright, Steve Niles, F.X. Feeney, James Gunn, Poppy Z. Brite, Jorg Buttgereit, Paul M. Jensen, Lisa Tuttle, Stephen Volk, Jack Ketchum, Barry Gifford, Richard Stanley, Ann Magnuson, Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni, Thomas Ligotti and many other luminaries. There's also an Introduction by the legendary Gahan Wilson. Scott Bradley tells me that I wrote the book's single longest article, which is titled "10 Horror Films That Aren't Horror Films," and Gahan singles it out for special mention in his Intro, so I feel very pleased about being a part of this project. It's a pleasure to share a forum with so many colleagues, friends and heroes -- not least of all Ann Magnuson, who I don't know, but for whom I've harbored a secret crush for at least twenty years. I'm told that her list is called "Ann Magnuson's 22 Sexiest Movie Monsters (Human and Otherwise)" and I'm looking forward to reading this core sample of her erotic imagination. THE BOOK OF LISTS: HORROR also has a MySpace page, which you can access here, and Richard Harland Smith shares a list of his own early favorite entries from his contributor's copy here.
Speaking of the VIDEODROME book, I received a call from Centipede's Jerad Walters over the weekend and he tells me that the first printing is now in hand. I'm expecting my personal copies to arrive within the next few days. I will be signing pages for a very limited hardcover printing, coming later, but signed copies of the VIDEODROME softcover will be available through Video Watchdog. There's a full-page ad in our next issue, #144, with full details -- and we'll also be presenting that ordering info here and on the VW website once our initial order is received.
Monday, September 08, 2008
VIDEO WATCHDOG contributor Brad Stevens informs me that Masters of Cinema's new Region 2 DVD release of Georges Franju's JUDEX is missing some minor footage that is present in Sinister Cinema's DVD-R/VHS release of the film's US theatrical version, as originally distributed by Continental Releasing. There are seven cuts in all:
1- 52m 58s. 33 seconds are missing; the end of the shot showing a man walking away from the camera; the whole of the following shot, showing the doctor walking behind a pair of children; the start of the next shot of the doctor.
2- 53m 11s. After the woman tells the children "This isn't a sight for you," they walk away. In the MoC edition, the shot ends here; in Sinister's tape, it continues for an additional 5 seconds with the boy turning around and shouting at the woman.
3- 53m 23s. The whole scene (46s) showing the man getting into a car and talking to the nun has been cut.
4- 54m 37s. A 35s shot has been cut; this shows two men carrying a stretcher into a room and placing a woman on it.
5- 55m 8s. Shot slightly shortened.
6- 57m 20s. A 3s shot showing a man getting out of a car is missing.
7- 58m 1s. 4s of dialogue is missing after the man says "It's quite a walk, you know."
The same cuts (amounting to roughly two minutes) are present in the earlier French release, with which the Masters of Cinema disc shares the same transfer. As both releases were licensed directly from the film's producer and struck from the original negative, it appears -- judging from the fact that all of the gaps occur within a 5m section of the picture -- that the negative suffered some damage during its decades of storage.
Mind you, the cuts are not disruptive or critical, and these Region 2 releases do offer the best quality for this important title we are likely to enjoy. That said, the completists in our audience may still wish to acquire the Sinister disc while it's still available as a reference copy of what now appears to be lost footage.
Update 9/9/08 2:13am:
Glenn Erickson of DVD Savant responds: "Your description of missing bits from the DVD of JUDEX doesn't read like the result of film damage. The choice of connecting tissue omitted indicates that someone trimmed 'unnecessary' footage to perk up the pace (the slow, 1901 pace we love). This happens more often than one would think, and to the original negative sometimes... a distributor or other nefarious party suddenly decides to 'improve' the film. First it's the 'unnecessary' beginnings and endings of scenes. Soon thereafter, they're cutting METROPOLIS in half! I remember the kid yelling... I hope the little pieces aren't gone forever."
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
I'm very pleased with the way this issue turned out. When Dabbs Greer died last year, I cast my net looking for an unpublished interview to pay proper tribute to this fine character actor, and found one in the hands of our valued occasional contributor, M.J. Simpson. Unfortunately, Mike didn't have any photos to illustrate the interview (which was conducted in 1999), so I had to assign myself to do screen grabs from a wide variety of his work, ranging from movies like IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE, THE VAMPIRE and Joe Dante's RUNAWAY DAUGHTERS to his extensive TV appearances in shows like TWILIGHT ZONE, THE OUTER LIMITS, THE WILD WILD WEST and THE RIFLEMAN. It was hard work, but fortunately I had a lot of this material on hand and the piece is now very handsomely adorned. It's a terrific interview that reveals the ubiquitous Mr. Greer as a very savvy fellow whose memory was understandably selective but who had some great stories to share. I wish he was still around to see how well Mike's interview turned out.
Doug Winter is also trying something new in his "Audio Watchdog" column by focusing for the first time on a feature film: Anton Corbijn's Ian Curtis biopic CONTROL -- and he will continue to follow this very interesting vein in our next issue's column, in which he will write about the music of Curtis' seminal post-punk group Joy Division (which became New Order following the suicide of Curtis in 1980). It might be fair to say that Joy Division's music falls outside the scope of fantastic cinema, but it has been a seminal force in terms of the expression of horror, existential dread and anomie within the arts, and has left its mark on film and other areas of the arts other than music. I consider this VW's first step in the direction I outlined in our current issue's editorial, where I talked about wanting VW to go back somewhat to its original roots as a place where our contributors can more deeply explore their current obsessions, and write about films available on video from stances other than "the DVD review."
My own contributions to the issue include my promised full-length reviews of Zulawski's THE IMPORTANT THING IS TO LOVE and Dallamano's VENUS IN FURS (both subjects of recent bloggery here), as well as a full-length review of Tinto Brass' THE VOYEUR and my Blu-ray coverage of CLOVERFIELD.
Plus there's Ramsey Campbell on Cecil B. DeMille's SIGN OF THE CROSS, Bill Cooke on the Hammer ICONS OF ADVENTURE set, Kim Newman on SIMON KING OF THE WITCHES, the Umlands on BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: RAZOR, John Charles on CHALLENGE OF THE MASTERS with Gordon Liu, more from new contributor Michael Barrett, and (whew!) pretty much something for everybody... so reserve your copy now!
Friday, August 29, 2008
VIDEO WATCHDOG #143, with the Rodd Dana cover, is now back from the printer... for the second time! The shipment was actually delivered yesterday and, a short time into the mailing process, I discovered that the issues were cut a fraction of an inch too tall to fit into our deluxe VW binders! We immediately halted the mailing (none of these copies were actually sent out) and our printer recollected the entire order, cut every issue down to its intended size, then redelivered half the order last night and the other half this morning. So the mailing of #143 is now back on track, and copies should begin reaching our First Class and Air subscribers sometime next week.
Finally, for those of you who have taken an interest in my Vita Nuova, yes, I'm still vegetarian and still swimming three times per week. I don't see either of these things as a fad, but as facets of a new approach to living. I've lost twenty-odd pounds in the past month and am now wearing a belt I haven't been able to pull around myself in at least eight years -- on the third notch. I'm pretty happy about that, though not exactly satisfied, which seems to me the healthiest outlook to maintain.
Friday, August 22, 2008
1971, Dark Sky Films, DD-2.0/16:9/LB/+, $14.98, 98m 54s, DVD-1
Despite its scary title and the violent, druggy, sexist, black magic trappings of its original promo campaign, this isn't a horror film at all, nor a particularly exploitative one; it's actually part character study about a homeless, mostly likeable, cigar-smoking practitioner of White Magic who lives in a storm drain and a satire of the myriad cults arising from the ashes of psychedelicized Los Angeles of the early 1970s, informed to some extent by the gnostic legends of Simon Magus.
Andrew Prine stars as the affable Simon, who starts out with little more than his own seemingly insane self-beliefs and a bag of cheap trinkets (including a "Pentagram of Solomon," a likely nod to low-budget producer Joe Solomon), but quickly ascends the power chain of LA, using genuinely caring relationships with naïve streethustler/minion Turk (George Paulsin─picture Peter Noone with a Jack Nicholson grin) and the pill-popping daughter of the district attorney (Cincinnati-born Brenda Scott, looking intensely vulnerable and distracted), to reach effete socialite Hercules Van Sant (Gerald York). Stiffed with a bad check by one of Hercules' party guests, Simon proves his abilities with a death curse and soon has enough cash and clients to buy into some real accessories, like an oval mirror that allows him to venture onto the astral plane like a Dr. Strange of the counter-culture, and set about his ultimate plan to expose the corrupt nature of the city at large, its officials as well as its lawbreakers and flakes.
There's a jokey Black Mass scene featuring Warhol acolyte Ultra Violet, some non-sexualized nudity and one or two nearly bloodless stabbings, and a goat─but it's all fairly mild, eclipsed by the humor of scenes like Simon's solution to Turk's priapic problem. Scripted by Robert Phippeny (THE NIGHT OF THE FOLLOWING DAY), an alleged warlock himself, the film's cleverly etched characters, general air of hedonism, and baroque dialogue ally it with the more personal works of screenwriters Charles B. Griffith and Robert Thom. There's far more talk than action, explaining the unusually long running time, but hit-and-miss as it is, it can't be faulted for not talking straight. Alternately interesting, intelligent, moving, rambling and incoherent but, as one character says, "At least it's different!"
The anamorphic 1.78:1 mono transfer is colorful and well-balanced but with variable sharpness traceable to limitations in the original cinematography. The supplements, overseen by Michael Felsher, interview an affable Andrew Prine (16m 53s) and director Bruce Kessler (11m 58s), adding on a 1m trailer and a 58s radio spot accompanied by a lobby card slide show. The Prine interview makes the editorial mistake of illustrating his reference to a naked "ditz" on an altar in the Ultra Violet sequence with footage of Brenda Scott in a similar situation, inadvertently denigrating his ex-wife and a serious actress. For a backstage peek into the casting of the blonde on the altar, see Roger Ebert's profile of producer Joe Solomon in the classic reference book KINGS OF THE B'S.
I noticed though your comment about an editorial mistake in SIMON SAYS where Prine refers to a “ditz on a platform” as being mistakenly played under a shot of Brenda Scott from the film which you felt added an unintended backhanded comment about Scott from her former husband.
What was left out of the final featurette due to some audio issues and some fragmented sentences from Mr Prine during the interview were some more direct references to that exact scene in the film where Simon seduces Scott’s character and gets her naked on the platform/slab in his abode. Prine was asked by the interviewer to restate the answer and that’s the take I used in the final featurette, which was more concise but did leave out a few details which were garbled by a microphone squelch in the previous answer. As a result, some of the contextual info surrounding his discussion of this scene was lost. I can assure you he was not referring to Scott personally but her character, and was also not referring also to the later scene(s) with Ultra Violet. I noticed at the time, that this “ditz” reference could be taken somewhat out of context, which is why I chose to use this bit to lead into Prine’s discussion of his fond memories of working with Scott on the picture which I felt would clarify his relationship with her and make it clear that his previous comment had only been about the characters.
If the context of his remarks come across as unclear, it was certainly not intentional in any way, but I stand by my editorial decisions in this piece, and hope that this email puts any confusion to rest.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Thursday, August 14, 2008
With frosted sand-colored hair and a cocoa-butter complexion, Laura Antonelli is at her most delectable in Massimo Dallamano's VENUS IN FURS, a contemporary adaptation of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's definitive S&M novel. The Velvet Underground captured the spirit of the book better; in Dallamano's hands, it's the Salem cigarette ad-looking story of Severin (Régis Vallée), a perverse would-be philosopher about sexual matters who is happy for reasons buried deep in his childhood only when he's made to feel miserable... up to a point. He meets his match in Wanda (Antonelli), a former stripper and erotic exhibitionist whom he meets at a Spanish resort. Once they discover they're... er, compatible, they marry, move into an Italian villa, enter into a cosplay game of mistress and chauffeur, hire a couple of lesbian maids, and -- this being a product of macho Spain and Italy -- Severin eventually learns the hard way that man was not meant to serve as his woman's bitch. At times it seems more like a writ of bitterness from someone who hasn't quite gotten over a bad divorce, rather than something based on the gospel of whips and leather. It's not great, but there are various delights to be found here, including Gian Franco Reverberi's infectious Eurotrash score (it sounds like the sitarist was imported from the VAMPYROS LESBOS sessions), a classic beauty in its prime, and scads of the most deliriously quotable dialogue you've ever heard. To wit:
1. "If deep pleasure is born most of all from suffering, then this is the woman of whom I've always dreamed!"
2. "It's very difficult to act like a prostitute when one is in love."
3. "You're all the same, you men! When you love a woman, you want to lock her up in the most secret cell of the Pyramid of Chaos."
4. "Women are always forbidden the most amusing things."
5. "Wanda, will you marry me?" "Yes, yes, I will marry you, because I want to betray you, bring you to desperation! I will make you unhappy, you'll see!"
6. "Such happiness as this... almost makes me unhappy."
7. "Sometimes women are whores uselessly, and the vulgar side of this is its uselessness."
8. "You're too beautiful to belong to just one man." (Did I hear an "amen" in the house?)
9. "All I can say is, after two months, you've become like any other husband!"
10. "I must resign myself to being normal."
Need I say more? VENUS IN FURS is available from Xploited Cinema in two different editions: the preferable 16:9 Shameless Screen Entertainment PAL Region 0 import for $24.95 (82m 3s -- trimmed of roughly 55s of a red-tinted scene by the BBFC), and the fullscreen IVC's Japanese NTSC Region 2 import (83m 26s, unmatted fullscreen and reportedly uncut, but if so from the wrong projection speed, with one instance of optical fogging) for $39.95. The material missing from the Shameless disc has been posted on the label's website for free viewing by those claiming to be 18 years of age or older, and involves an extension of a non-explicit rape scene in which the violation becomes pleasurable to the victim. (The tinting on the scene emphasizes that it's a fantasy of Severin's, rather than something that actually happens, making the cut seem particularly gratuitous and ill-considered.) The Shameless disc includes a widescreen trailer featuring alternative takes and shots, some including nudity, not found in the feature version itself.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Monday, August 11, 2008
I'm going through a weird, distracted phase that's tied up with some important changes I've made in my life and my attempts to map out my future. I mentioned a blog or two ago that I've started swimming; I'm now doing it three times per week and have already dropped more than twelve pounds. Also, about three weeks ago, in fact to the day, I decided to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle and I'm liking that -- although the soup aisle at the grocery store (my former idea of health food), now throws up more "Forbidden" signs than are found in the archives of the Catholic Legion of Decency. I always loved the foods I am now swearing off, and to be perfectly honest, I'm not completely happy about my decision to live without them, but I am, I think, settled. Once you get into this, you realize it's more than just a dietary decision; it's also a code of morality. Until I can learn to cook for myself, which I don't foresee in the immediate future, thank God for the folks at Morningstar Farms.
I started working on a new novel this past week, made respectable progress (maybe 20 pages), hit the right tone, then realized it was not what I should be writing at this time. I hope to get on with the right project sometime this week.
In the meantime, and I recognize the danger of this, I feel myself losing a lot of old interests. I must have more than a month of ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOURs and WHAT'S MY LINE? episodes piled up on my DVR hard drive, but the prospect of dubbing them over onto my DVD recorder to get the commercials out of them is something I'm not ready to face and presently have no interest in doing. I don't understand why I ever collected anything. I have stopped watching more movies at or before the halfway-point this past week than I can count; these are movies that I've sometimes seen and know I like, but it seems a movie has to be really extraordinary to hold my attention these days. Fortunately, there was one: Lech Majewski's THE GARDEN OF EARTHLY DELIGHTS (2004), which streets tomorrow on the Kino on Video label. I think this movie is an absolute masterpiece, and it's also the first movie I've seen since my first viewing of Sergio Leone's ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST at the age of 12 that I like so much, I'm actually wary of seeing the director's other works. I feel like I want to be faithful to this one, it's so good. I was faithful to ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST for at least 10 years; then I bit the bullet and saw Leone's other films, all of which had their own qualities but none of which ever equalled or surpassed my introduction to his work. Kino sent me three other movies by this amazing director -- THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO HARRY, THE ROE'S ROOM and GLASS LIPS -- and I apologize, but they'll just have to wait till I'm over this one.
In other news: To my surprise and honor, a young punk band from the Glendale, California area has adopted the name of Throat Sprockets. Lead singer Miss Lonelyhearts tells me "I think it's the best band name since Led Zeppelin!" If you go to their MySpace page, you can hear/download their first offering, "Keep Your Distance."
And finally, Jerad Walters of Centipede Press tells me that he has received the first six advance copies of my VIDEODROME book from its Hong Kong printer. He says "They look magnificent!" Hopefully the book's Amazon page will soon be corrected to reflect its "in print" status. In the meantime, you can order the book directly from the publisher here. Copies begin shipping in three weeks. Donna and I have not made arrangements with Centipede yet, but I imagine we will also be selling the book through Video Watchdog.