Friday, January 23, 2009

Criterion's WHITE DOG reviewed

... by me, in the current February 2009 issue of SIGHT AND SOUND... and also here on their website.

Not Yvonne Craig!

Yvonne Craig responds:

"I don't know who it is - Anne Helm and I used to resemble one another, but these aren't my legs or Anne's, so I don't know who it is. Sorry!"

What a disappointment!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Yvonne Craig, the Early Years?

Yesterday, Tom Sutpen's essential photo blog If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger,There'd Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats posted the above 1958 album cover as part of their ongoing series "The Art of Pop." There was no comment posted about it, so I simply looked at it, smiled, and continued to scroll through the latest additions. However, seeing the album cover a second time today, I did a double take and thought to myself, "Wait a minute... that's Yvonne Craig!"
Yvonne's autobiography FROM BALLET TO THE BATCAVE AND BEYOND makes no mention of posing for this album cover, but that's understandable: it would have been no more than a day's modelling work for her and thus imminently forgettable. Also, she had just left the Ballet Russe and made her first picture, Republic's EIGHTEEN AND ANXIOUS, so this album cover would hardly have been considered a résumé highlight even at the time. But what a fascinating curio! I've written to her, care of her website, and sent the pic to a couple of friends who also might be able to ask her about it, just to get official confirmation. Assuming it is her, however she may feel about it, it strikes me as cute and cool... and automatically worth four times whatever it was worth before as a collectable.
Update: It's not her.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Good Night, Stacey Tendeter

Stacey Tendeter as the uncompromising Muriel, embraced by Jean-Pierre Léaud, in François Truffaut's TWO ENGLISH GIRLS.

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

I've Been Dardosed

Pierre Fournier, the mastermind behind the wonderfully obsessive Frankensteinia blog, kindly wrote the other day to inform me that I'd been chosen as one of his five tag-ees for the Dardos blogging Award. I'm not sure where the Dardos Award originated because I'm pretty far down the line of recipients, as far as I can tell, but here's the legend behind it:

"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

Happy Birthday to John Charles!

VIDEO WATCHDOG's un-pho-to-graphable associate editor John Paul Charles turns (cough, cough) years old today, and is no doubt celebrating with a movie. It's bound to be either Asian in origin or very, very bad. If he's really living it up today, it might even be both.

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.

Saluting Miss Stacia

Miss Stacia (Blake), stage dancer with the rock band Hawkwind (1971-75).

"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.