Saturday, February 27, 2010

Image from PRIX DE BEAUTÉ (1930)

There are many striking images of Louise Brooks in this movie -- happy, serious and tragic -- but I found the simple yet profound introspection of this one particularly striking. This movie was made on the cusp on sound (a silent version also exists), and it may be the movies' earliest attempt to depict the private relationship between an individual and their music. (The film could actually be described as a chronicle of the ironic role played by a favorite song in a woman's short life.) I was very moved by this camera composition, shot by the great Rudolph Maté, and by the actress's willingness to be this naturalistic and intimate with the camera when most other women in her profession were still striking melodramatic poses. This shot actually reminds me of certain similar moments involving Soledad Miranda in EUGENIE DE SADE and Thora Birch in GHOST WORLD. A full review is forthcoming in VIDEO WATCHDOG #156; available on Kino on Video, $29.95.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Get Rondo-ized!

"Don't hurt that Rondo, Rondo!" VW publisher Donna Lucas takes a protective stance outside the auditorium where the 6th Annual Rondo Awards were held at WonderFest in 2008.

In an effort to spread awareness of VIDEO WATCHDOG's various nominations for the the 8th Annual Rondo Awards, Donna and I (with the approval of our writers) have decided to make available -- for a limited time -- the complete texts of the four nominees for this year's Best Magazine Article award.

Stephen R. Bissette's "Let the Twilight In", an in-depth study of TWILIGHT and LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, can be read here.

Eric Somer's "Down the Block from Bergman: THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT and Beyond," an examination of the influence of Ingmar Bergman's THE VIRGIN SPRING on Wes Craven's THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, the recent remake, and other horror films, can be read here.

Kim Newman's "DVD Spotlight: MYSTERY AND IMAGINATION, a detailed history of the 1966-70 British TV terror anthology, can be read here.

And Shaun Brady's "Weird Scenes Inside the Fun House: The Making of MALATESTA'S CARNIVAL OF BLOOD," a production history of the 1972 Pittsburgh-made surrealist horror film, can be read here.

And here is a link to a special Rondo link page now added to our website, which also features direct links to a five-part HD video of my Q&A with INFERNO star Irene Miracle and composer Keith Emerson, which has been nominated for Best Fan Event.
Also, please don't forget to consider any of our many hard-working contributors for your vote in the Best Writer and Best DVD Reviewer categories, and remember that both our cover artist Charlie Largent and our art director Donna Lucas (whose layouts make VW's feature articles soar) are eligible in the Best Artist category.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Rondo Awards: 7 VIDEO WATCHDOG Nominations!

The nominations for the 8th Annual Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards were announced this evening, and I'm proud to share the good news that VIDEO WATCHDOG has been nominated for seven awards this year, including Best Magazine. Also, though I've been delinquent in my duties here for most of the year, Video WatchBlog has been nominated once again for Best Blog.

I'm especially proud of VW's showing in the Best Article category, with two first-time feature contributors netting half the nominations. The VW nominees in this category are:

"Down the Block from Bergman: The Last House on the Left and Beyond" by Eric Somer, VIDEO WATCHDOG #151.

"Let the Twilight In" by Stephen R. Bissette, VIDEO WATCHDOG #150.

"Mystery and Imagination" by Kim Newman, VIDEO WATCHDOG #151.

"Weird Scenes Inside the Fun House: The Making of Malatesta's Carnival of Blood" by Shaun Brady, VIDEO WATCHDOG #153.

Also nominated for Best Magazine Cover is Charlie Largent and Donna Lucas's cover for VIDEO WATCHDOG #147. Charlie's name alone appears on the ballot but all of the text and vertical stripe material is added by Donna after Charlie turns the central graphic in.

Though it's not a VW nomination per se, I'm also (even especially) elated to see that the INFERNO midnight screening at LA's New Beverly Cinema last October -- where I hosted a screening of a beautiful 35mm print of Dario Argento's masterpiece and interviewed the film's star Irene Miracle and its composer Keith Emerson before a sold-out audience -- has been nominated for Best Fan Event.

It's not every midnight movie, even in Los Angeles, that draws a crowd that snakes around the block -- and that night, the audience was packed with celebrities like directors Ernest Dickerson, John Gulager and David Gregory, writers F. X. Feeney and Richard Heft, West Coast horror cognoscenti galore, and legendary actor Clu Gulager right there in the front row! You can see the whole Q&A on YouTube by searching for "INFERNO Q&A." It was one of those evenings when magic really was all around all of us who were there, and I am overjoyed to see that magic spreading to the Rondo nominations! Rondos for Keith Emerson and Irene Miracle... how cool would that be?

Congratulations to all the nominees! You can find your Rondo Awards ballot and a full list of nominees here. Now vote!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Larry Blamire Tells Some of All

Larry Blamire. Writer, director. Actor, artist, activist. Lyricist, lore-icist. Husband, healer, skeleton wrangler. Callamo mountaineer, science doer, protector of deer. VIDEO WATCHDOG cover boy. (Yeah! Don't forget that!) Flim-flam man, flip-flop model. A median who has worked his way up from the early, lowly level of comedian. Glib habitué of screening rooms, Bronson Cave and barbecue pits.
But what drives him? What pushes him on to conquer mountain after molehill? Where will it all end, and will there be some goofy gag that we can only see if we sit through the end credits?

The undeflectible interrogators at Bantam Street recently cornered the handsome cotton-haired director of the classic LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA and the soon-to-be-released classics THE LOST SKELETON RETURNS AGAIN and DARK AND STORMY NIGHT and refused to let him out of the hot seat until he had answered every last one of their questions.

Unfortunately they only came up with four and they weren't very good ones, but Larry -- being a professional -- gamely gave them his all. Then his al, and finally his a. If this had been ROLLING STONE, the cover would have read "Blamire Remembers" and the world would have wept.

But enough preambulating. Here's the goods.

Larry comes clean about his favorite classic TV show here.

Larry tells us the latest beans or spills the dope about upcoming Bantam Street projects here.

Larry takes us behind the scenes of his songwriting process here.

And finally, Larry confesses why he's taken to carrying a spoon with him at all times here.

So far, he's taking the Fifth on everything else, but I understand he's being grilled 'round the clock like an olive bread panini, so stay tuned to the Bantam Street website for more thrilling revelations as they are extemporized.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Stacie Ponder Interviews Me

... about blogging, horror and French head cheese on her outstanding blog Final Girl. Click here for the goods.

Greg Shaw and the Roots of Rock Fandom

Three years ago, Suzy Shaw and Mick Farber produced a book called WHO PUT THE BOMP: SAVING THE WORLD ONE RECORD AT A TIME (Ammo Books, 301 pages, $34.95), which collected the cream (or creem) off the top of the late Greg Shaw's seminal rock fanzine WHO PUT THE BOMP (1970-79). To be honest, I still haven't seen that book, so I must imagine its pros and cons from the largely enthusiastic customer reviews at Amazon.com, and some idea of that book is probably necessary to reach a fully accurate assessment of the recently released follow-up volume, BOMP 2: BORN IN THE GARAGE, subtitled "Greg Shaw and the Roots of Rock Fandom 1970-1981," edited by Suzy Shaw and Mike Stax (Bomp & Lit Publishing, 312 pages, $15.95). That said, I found myself completely and utterly absorbed in reading its articles and perusing its discographies, first as a reader and music buff, but foremost as a former fanzine publisher myself.
I don't know how the first BOMP book handled the backstory of the fanzine that, along with Paul Williams' CRAWDADDY!, launched serious rock criticism and inspired the likes of CREEM and ROLLING STONE, but BOMP 2 does a very thorough and self-contained job. The Foreword is by rock reissue producer Alec Palao (you can thank him for the ZOMBIE HEAVEN CD set), which in itself already says something about the fertile impact of WPTB on its readers; he reminisces about his early exposure to photocopies of the zine circulated among friends, which he consulted like "an oracle, where discographies are ancient runes, and the fragments of commentary, pearls of an ancient, knowing wisdom." The introduction by Kinks biographer Jon Savage deals more specifically with WPTB as a product of Greg Shaw (1949-2004), and as a product of its time, a time that also saw the issue of such classics of rock archaeology as the NUGGETS compilation, an album that might have been unthinkable without the audience Shaw had organized. In just a few pages, Savage covers a lot of frontal ground and also subtle subtext, such as how Shaw's enthusiasm was dissipated over time by the fluctuations of what was happening in music in the present tense, as a business and as a mutating beast of the music he loved. Then there's Mike Stax's amazing 12-page overview of Shaw's entire publishing history, including WPTB, the APA zines METANOIA, LIQUID LOVE and ALLIGATOR WINE, and the newsstand-circulated BOMP (including its unpublished 22nd issue).
Ken Barnes follows this with a detailed history of his own long involvement with Shaw and his creation, and other key personalities behind the scenes, capturing perfectly the feel of a time when records were a rare addiction and knowledge of bands like The Velvet Underground or The Seeds was like a secret handshake among a cognoscenti only able to identify itself being cultivated by rallying points like WPTB -- an audience largely recruited from the subcultures of comics and science fiction fanzines. Much of what Barnes writes about Shaw strongly resonated with my own memories of meeting and working with Frederick S. Clarke of CINEFANTASTIQUE, which was in its own way a cinema analogue to what Shaw was doing for rock. Artist William Stout (who also provides a magnificent cover) writes about Shaw's tenebrous involvement in his past life as the artist for some classic bootleg album covers, such as TALES FROM THE WHO. And then Greg's widow, Suzy Shaw, offers her own compelling, frank memoir of Greg and what has happened with the Bomp empire (which went on to include its own record label) since his death. All this accounts for only the first 40 pages of the book, which amply rewards your $16 investment (cheap)!
What constitutes the bulk of the book are scanned pages from WPTB's ten-year history, focusing on material germaine to what Shaw considered the bread and butter of his musical ethos: garage rock: The Kinks, The Small Faces, The Seeds, The Flaming Groovies, The Shangri-Las, The Cryan Shames and Dave Edmunds -- but also curiosities like Shindig, producer Jack Nietsche (Ken Barnes delivers the definitive study of this guy), Dutch rock and Beatles novelties. There's a LOT of information here, perhaps not ideally organized for quick retrieval, but the book certainly projects a world you can get lost in.
As a former fanzine publisher myself, and as someone who used to swap my rags for a great many sf zines, I was especially moved by what this book recaptures of that subculture in terms of its fannish mindset and cartoons (many of them by William Rotsler, who I didn't realize at the time was the director of MANTIS IN LACE, THE GIRL WITH THE HUNGRY EYES and many other genre-tinged sexploitation flicks) -- some of which my experienced eye recognized as having been traced onto mimeograph stencils! That said, for many readers, the most compelling aspect of this retrospective may well be its collection of Shaw's editorials (which chart the growth of his brainchild as well as the scene it helped spawn, and the friction between his quixotic musical sensibilities and what was happening in music at the time) and -- something evidently omitted from the first volume -- samplings from WPTB's legendary letters pages, which includes correspondence from such luminaries (and later luminaries) as John Peel, Lester Bangs, Lenny Kaye, Greil Marcus, Kim Fowley, Richard Meltzer, Ed Ward and Jay Kinney. (Might that letter from Tom Miller on page 160 actually have been written by the future Tom Verlaine?)
Any book that brings back to my nostrils the fragrance of mimeo sheets, typewriter ribbons, staples and fresh vinyl warrants my highest recommendation. I guess I'll be heading off to Amazon for Volume 1.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Post Mortem with Mick Garris

In this premiere webcast, presented in five segments, Mick Garris interviews Oscar-winning hair-raiser Rick Baker, most recently responsible for Benicio del Toro's makeup as THE WOLFMAN. Quality hosting by Mr. Nice Guy, who takes a more conversational/less intrusive-interrogative approach, and handsomely produced and directed by Mr. Even Nicer Guy, my pal Perry Martin. Check it out.