Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Friday, January 23, 2009
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
I was drawn tonight to refresh my memory of François Truffaut's TWO ENGLISH GIRLS [Les deux Anglaises, 1972]. It gave me a knot in my stomach, as I suppose its intense yet restrained emotions always have. Afterwards, I decided to surf the net and see what its two lead actresses, Kika Markham and Stacey Tendeter, were up to these days -- we don't hear much about them here in the States. Happily, Kika (who played Ann, the sculptress) is still active onstage and in films and television, but I was disappointed to see that Stacey (who played Muriel, the sister with the eye problems) hadn't been in active in films since 1988 and that the IMDb had no personal information about her at all, not even a birth date. Further research uncovered the unhappy news that Stacey died last October 26 at the age of 59, a victim of breast cancer. I don't recall reading about this tragedy anywhere at the time; not even the website dedicated to her has yet broken the news, still referring interested casting directors to her agent. Sad.
I think TWO ENGLISH GIRLS is one of Truffaut's masterpieces, and his most wrenching. It's a tribute to the intimacy he made me feel with so many of his performers that I always feel a unique shade of sadness when one of his stars leaves the world stage. Now I'm off to bed, feeling it once again.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
"The Dardos Award is given for recognition of cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values transmitted in the form of creative and original writing. These stamps were created with the intention of promoting fraternization between bloggers, a way of showing affection and gratitude for work that adds value to the Web.
"The rules are: 1) Accept the award by posting it on your blog along with the name of the person that has granted the award and a link to his/her blog. 2) Pass the award to another 5 blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgement, remembering to contact each of them to let them know they have been selected for this award."
I thank Pierre for his thoughtful consideration, as expressed here, which moves me on to Condition #2. I can't guarantee that any of these bloggers haven't already been recognized by Dardos and the spreaders of its happy contagion, but the object of this exercise is to help get the word out about people doing quality blogging. With that in mind, I hearby Dardose...
Stephen R. Bissette's Myrant. Even if there was a tin cup attached to his blog, Steve would give you way, way more than your money's worth. An unpredictable mixture of personal diary, sketchpad, auction house and burning Bush screeds, it also presents some of the most insightful essays on horror and cult cinema found anywhere online. In addition to everything else he does, I blame him for inspiring me to start Video WatchBlog.
Glenn Kenny's Some Came Running. Glenn says His Lovely Wife is a fan of mine, so it's the least I can do. Just kidding. This infectiously readable blog was set up overnight in response to Glenn's sudden firing as PREMIERE's film blogger sometime near the outset of the Great Film Critics Massacre of 2008, and I've been part of his daily audience ever since. I was about to blog in memory of Kathleen Byron the other day, till I saw this and realized I couldn't possibly improve on it. Here he proves himself a master of saying a lot in very few words -- must be that PREMIERE training. Plus he loves import discs and other filmo-fetishistic weirdness. And when Glenn writes about music, I'm always gasterflabbed by how many other interests we have in common. The only non-VW contributor among my choices, though not by conscious design.
Maitland McDonagh's Miss FlickChick. Maitland, the author of MOVIE LUST, FILMMAKING ON THE FRINGE, THE 50 MOST EROTIC FILMS OF ALL TIME and the ever popular BROKEN MIRRORS/BROKEN MINDS: THE DARK DREAMS OF DARIO ARGENTO -- was another casualty of the Massacre, forfeiting her position as TV GUIDE's senior movies editor after 13 years of solid service. Since last October, she's been steadily blogging, mostly about scary movies, always in her uniquely smart, uniquely alluring way. Even her account of a day trip to the Bronx Zoo captured something of her trademark vibe: "Suffice it to say that the highlight of my day was having a hissing cockroach crawl across my hand and hiss in my ear."
Richard Harland Smith of Movie Morlocks. For my money, RHS is, hands-down, one of the most talented and original writers about genre film working today -- and sometimes he actually does this for my money. In a saner world, he'd have a lucrative job as one of the nation's leading opinion-makers. As it is, he's one of a revolving group of bloggers at TCM's Movie Morlocks, and his remarkably candid, personal reading of THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN is a recent advertisement of his uncompromising ability.
Sam Umland's 60x50. I often think I need to stop visiting the film blogs I frequent and start tracking down more music blogs. Sam explains that his 60x50 is "an experiment in invention and discovery, inspired by an observation made by William Stafford in WRITING THE AUSTRALIAN CRAWL. The purpose of this blog is to demonstrate Stafford's insight that a writer 'is someone who has found a process that will bring about new things he would not have thought of if he had not started to say them.'" Prompted randomly by the date on the calendar, Sam not only writes short thematic essays on popular music, but excavates meaning from obtuse rock lyrics, explores commonly misheard lyrics, and is always coming up with something insightful and rewarding.
Just click on the italicized blog titles, and you'll be taken right there.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
A resident of Guelph, Ontario and the author of the authoritative THE HONG KONG FILMOGRAPHY 1977-1997 (McFarland and Company), John first appeared in VW in the Letterbox of our third issue, adding some valuable information to our coverage of Wes Craven's THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. He then addressed himself to the task of making it impossible to work without him and, by our 12th issue, he had ascended to the position of full-fledged contributor. Amazingly, though we have been working closely together for the past (gulp) 18 years, John and Donna and I have never met. (I'm still hoping to meet Donna someday... Just kidding! But when we're in the midst of working on a new issue, like now, it's kind of close-to-the-truth kidding.) The one time when we were in John's neck of the woods, back in 2000, turned out to be one of the rare times he had to be somewhere else. Hopefully, we'll be able to thank him in person someday for all that he's given to VW over the years.
After a period when he wasn't able to contribute as a writer as often as he would have liked, John is turning in more and more reviews these days, so stay tuned to forthcoming issues for his takes on different movies. In the meantime, visit his Hong Kong Digital site, which you can reach over there >>>> on my list of permanent links.
I'm happy to report that John's HONG KONG FILMOGRAPHY is finally due to be published in softcover by McFarland in March. You can pre-order your copy here. If you can't wait or prefer the hardcover edition, this is where you want to go.
"She was a bookbinder by profession, and then she had an uncontrollable urge one night to take all her clothes off and paint herself blue! It was probably a throwback to the Roman invasion of Britain -- you think 'woad,' y'know?... She was great, blowin' bubbles onstage and shit. She was an impressive woman... six foot two with a 52-inch bust... An overwhelming sight for the youngsters in the crowd."
So remembered Lemmy (bass, vocals), when interviewed for the 2007 BBC Four documentary HAWKWIND: DO NOT PANIC, directed by Simon Chu. The entire program is accessible at YouTube in nine segments; the segment specifically relevant to Miss Stacia is Part 5 (0:24-2:02), though she does appear briefly elsewhere.
A 1974 PENTHOUSE interview with Stacia, who often danced topless and sometimes completely unclothed, gave her true Amazonian proportions as 42-28-39. Nevertheless, surviving film footage leaves no doubt that she was a staggering, opulent apparition in action and the perfect visual complement to Hawkwind's boistrous, chugging brand of sci-fi rock (some of which featured the collaboration of novelist Michael Moorcock). The fans who knew Hawkwind only from records and those who saw them live certainly have different tales to tell. To the best of my knowledge, no footage from Stacia's fondly remembered tenure with the group (which included the legendary "Space Ritual" tour) has ever been released on tape or disc.
Today, Stacia Blake lives in Ireland where she pursues a career as a fine artist. She maintains a website with a gallery of her acrylics and watercolors, some of which are available for purchase. More information (and speculation) can be found on her Wikipedia page here.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Friday, January 16, 2009
You can read a full NEW YORK TIMES obit here, but Mr. Seaver was invaluable to my literary upbringing and consciousness as the editor-in-chief at Grove Press during their 1960s heyday. During those years, he approved or perpetuated Grove's sponsorship of such writers as Samuel Beckett, William S. Burroughs, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Henry Miller, Marguerite Duras, Hubert Selby Jr., and even the Marquis de Sade (whose works he personally translated). He also translated many books for the company, notably THE STORY OF O by the pseudonymous Pauline Réàge, which he pseudonymously translated under the alluring name Sabine d'Estrée. When he left Grove to become an editor at Viking Press, with his own subimprint ("A Richard Seaver Book"), he took Burroughs with him; it was at Viking that Burroughs published the important trilogy of works that began with CITIES OF THE RED NIGHT. Seaver was also responsible for a valiant attempt to find an American audience for the great Irish comic novelist Flann O'Brien. He later founded Arcade Publishing. According to the NEW YORK TIMES, he completed a memoir of his life in publishing shortly before his death.
Richard Seaver was one of progressive publishing's great brand names, perhaps its last great brand name. Anything that bore his byline or endorsement was certain to be challenging, elevating and pleasurable, always well worth reading.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
I've written quite a bit about McGoohan recently, though, while he was still among us. There was my cover story on THE PRISONER for VIDEO WATCHDOG #142, and my review of his early film THE QUARE FELLOW for last month's SIGHT AND SOUND; his Disney serial DOCTOR SYN - THE SCARECROW is in my "to review" stack for VW; and his performance in Disney's haunting cat fantasy THE THREE LIVES OF THOMASINA has been on my mind the last couple of weeks (I need to watch that one again). As everyone else is saying, McGoohan was THE PRISONER and, as not enough people are saying, he was also John Drake in the greatest espionage series ever, DANGER MAN aka SECRET AGENT.
He was a brittle, charming, mysterious, ruthless, deeply principled actor, capable of turning from kindly to harsh in the steely flash of an eye. His early work shows him in the Richard Attenborough mold (he must have studied BRIGHTON ROCK closely as a young man) but he quickly took charge of his own career and succeeded in shattering those perimeters to become his Own Man. What is left to be said? At his best, he was unbelievably compelling; even at his worst, he was endlessly fascinating -- his audience would delight in constructing theories about why he was off. You would think the abundance of quality work he left behind would satiate us, but he leaves us standing, applauding, wanting more. That, young actors everywhere, is how it's done.
Thursday, January 08, 2009
Donna and I are only now starting to work on VIDEO WATCHDOG #147. The feature article in this issue will be another of our popular Round Table Discussions, this one devoted to Dario Argento's THE MOTHER OF TEARS, one of the more controversial horror releases of recent years. In this case, our round table is composed of , including input from Kim Newman, Richard Harland Smith, Brad Stevens, yours truly and -- happily making her first VW appearance since our 8th issue, back in 1991 -- BROKEN MIRRORS/BROKEN MINDS author Maitland McDonagh!
On a more personal note... I've been preoccupied over the past four months with writing a short story for an anthology of fiction based on the music of Nick Cave. I've never had much luck with writing short stories, and I guess this still holds true, since this one ultimately swelled into a novelette of five chapters, running close to 17,000 words -- just a couple of pages shy of novella status. I loved working on it and feel very pleased with the result, and am now contending with the usual post-partum depression though my nest is anything but empty. I've sent the story to the anthology's editor and will tell you more about it if and when it's accepted.
In the past couple of weeks, my daily e-mail arrivals have dropped from an average of 40-50 per day to maybe 10. I blame Facebook.
I don't think Don Siegel would have approved of Facebook.
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Saturday, January 03, 2009
Born in Hertfordshire, England in 1924, Purdom's early work as a Fox contract player landed him minor bits in TITANIC and JULIUS CAESAR but, more importantly, put him in the right place at the right time. In 1954, when Mario Lanza put on too much weight to carry THE STUDENT PRINCE, director Richard Thorpe put Purdom in the lead, and when his JULIUS CAESAR co-star Marlon Brando pulled out of THE EGYPTIAN, Purdom rode that opportunity to a brief-lived stardom. His star then descended fast: He was named the 1954 recipient of the Golden Apple Awards' "Sour Apple" as "Least Cooperative Actor" and, by 1957, he was back in England working on the TV series SWORD OF FREEDOM. Two years later, he was doing anonymous voice work for THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK.
Much like Cameron Mitchell, Purdom found Rome to be a rich playground of opportunity for actors disregarded by Hollywood. His Italian career began with Riccardo Freda's TRAPPED IN TANGIERS (1957) and would eventually encompass some of the best, worst and most intriguing Italian pictures of his time: FURY OF THE PAGANS, NEFERTITI OF THE NILE, Sergio Corbucci's 1966 remake of THE MAN WHO LAUGHS, Pupi Avati's THOMAS E GLI INDEMONIATI, Jess Franco's LOS OJOS SINIESTROS DEL DR. ORLOFF and UN CAPITAN DE QUINZE ANOS, DR. FRANKENSTEIN'S CASTLE OF FREAKS, Massimo Dallamano's THE CURSED MEDALLION, MR. SCARFACE, Umberto Lenzi's riotous CITY OF THE WALKING DEAD aka NIGHTMARE CITY, PIECES, ATOR THE INVINCIBLE, AFTER THE FALL OF NEW YORK, ANTHROPOPHAGUS 2 aka MONSTER HUNTER and the TV-Movie SOPHIA LOREN: HER OWN STORY, in which he played actor-director Vittorio de Sica. In 1984, he directed his only film: DON'T OPEN 'TIL CHRISTMAS, a low-budget "slashing through the snow" item in which he also starred.
Purdom also narrated the English version of the film SWEDEN, HEAVEN AND HELL -- which happened to be the subject of two feature articles in VIDEO WATCHDOG #145, still on sale at newsstands at the time of his death.
The IMDb credits Purdom with the familiar quote, "One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important" -- suggesting that he was the sort who preferred a lifetime of work to a "career."
Thursday, January 01, 2009
I've not been able to find out much about Roussel online except for a brief interview by Gerald Peary, which purports to be the only one she ever granted. (Colin MacCabe's book on Godard quotes her, in English, from another interview published in France.) Besides that, the IMDb shows that she has continued to work, for the last decade exclusively in French television. The IMDb lists a December 26, 1962 birthdate for her, while the French website for her current French teleseries DIANE, FEMME FLIC ("Diane, Lady Cop") records her natal day as February 26, 1961. Prior to HAIL MARY, she played small roles in Godard's PASSION (1982) and FIRST NAME: CARMEN (Prénom: Carmen; 1983, in which she's excruciatingly lovely as a swan-necked violinist), but the role that first caught my attention and led me back to these others was Luciano Odorisio's SACRILEGE [La monaca di Monza, 1986], in which she plays the 15th century historical figure of Sister Virginia Maria de Leyva -- the haughty, landowning nun at the nunnery at Monza who publicly offended a neighboring young nobleman, who had his comeuppance by seducing her repeatedly, corrupting her sisters, and undermining her authority in the eyes of the church.
Godard (who has cited Roussel as one of the three faces of his cinema, along with his ex-wives Anna Karina and Anne Wiazemsky) cast her in his films at a point when his work became obsessed with composition and the schism between the static nature of great paintings and the necessity of motion pictures to move. Roussel was the perfect Muse for this era of his filmmaking because her beauty is absolutely in keeping with that of the models who posed for the great paintings of antiquity. Godard underscores this fact in the PETITES NOTES... featurette that accompanies HAIL MARY on the New Yorker Video DVD by dissolving between one of Roussel's screen tests and a Leonardo da Vinci sketch of the Virgin Mary:
Monday, December 29, 2008
There were never such devoted sistas...
Caring, sharing every little thing that they are wearing...
Lord help the mista who comes between the Sushi Sistas!